Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Remember Our Troops At Christmas

The above magazine cover appeared ninety-three years ago today. An American soldier is offering sustenance to a child in a foreign land, protecting her, and making it possible for her to live in freedom.

In Iraq, Afghanistan, and other lesser known battlefields throughout the world, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are standing guard, facing the enemy in combat, and protecting the innocent. Without the dedication, professionalism and sacrifice of these extraordinary warriors, it would not be possible to enjoy our own Christmas in peace and safety.

As we celebrate this holiday, giving gifts to those we care about or enjoying a festive holiday meal, remember our troops. Pray for their safety and for their safe return from harm's way.

Merry Christmas to all active troops, reserve and National Guard troops, military retirees and veterans, and to their friends and families.

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Remember Pearl Harbor

It has been sixty-nine years since the Japanese attacked our forces at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. America rallied to defeat the empire of Japan and its allies in Germany and Italy. We are still grateful to the "Greatest Generation" for their strength, determination, and courage in the struggle to save the world from tyranny.

Today we have thousands of young Americans risking their lives to defend our country once again. As we salute the veterans of World War II, let us not forget the courage and sacrifice of our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and on lesser known battlefields throughout the world.

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving, 2010 - So Many Reasons To Be Grateful

Even as America struggles through the most challenging times since the Great Depression, there are so many reasons to be grateful.

Here are a few of mine:

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I'm thankful for my family - my wife, my sons, my daughters, my grandchildren, and my countless relatives who are scattered throughout America from the Atlantic to the Pacific;

I'm thankful that my parents, John and Claire Grist, taught me the values that they did. They are no longer with us, but I hope that I did not disappoint them;

I'm thankful that God has given strength to those in my family - and those throughout America - who have suffered great challenges, both financial and medical, during this last year. They have shown strength and resolve in dealing with their difficulties;

I'm thankful that my son, John, survived his near-fatal automobile accident and will share his Thanksgiving with us as he recuperates. He almost lost his right foot and part of his leg, but the air bag saved his life. I am also grateful for the skill of his surgeons;

I'm thankful that I was able to retire this year and spend some quality time with my beloved wife. My own parents were not so fortunate. My mother died before my father retired;

I'm thankful for our founding fathers and for their vision in creating the United States of America;

I'm thankful that Americans, in the form of the Tea Party movement, have risen to the occasion - as their ancestors did - to put the brakes on the decline of our wonderful country. The bad times are not over, but we shall stick together, and America shall remain the greatest, most inspirational country in history;

I'm thankful that I was able to spend many years as both a soldier and a police officer, serving with some of the finest, bravest, most selfless Americans that I have ever known;

I'm thankful that God allowed me to survive the wars in Vietnam and Iraq without so much as a scratch;

And, finally, I shall always remain grateful for the thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, who continue to fight the good fight on our behalf, who stand guard at scores of posts throughout the world, and without whom we would not be able to enjoy Thanksgiving in peace and safety.

*  *  *  *

May all Americans - both at home and abroad - enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving and a safe, joyous holiday season.

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remember Veterans Day And All Who Served


Thank you to all those who have served America from the American Revolution to this very moment. Even as you continue to serve in Iraq, Afghanistan, or lesser known battlefields throughout the world, know that we are with you in spirit always.

The following video was sent to me by a fellow retired soldier:



Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happy 235th Birthday to The Few, The Proud, The Marines

I have had the distinct pleasure to serve alongside Marines in two separate wars: Vietnam and Operation Iraqi Freedom. I'm an old Army guy, but one of my favorite books in high school was "Battle Cry" by Leon Uris, a novel about Marines in World War II.

I must admit that during one of my in-country R & Rs in Vietnam, I linked up with a Marine in Vung Tau. We tore the town up, and both of us ended up passed out from too much Vietnamese beer. In Baghdad in 2004, a Marine officer signed out an M79 grenade launcher to my Protective Service Detail when I was unable to get an M203 assigned to my team. For this reason alone, I love the Marines...

The Marine Corps is celebrating its 235th birthday, and this old soldier wishes them well for the next 235 years.

Semper fi, Marines. We thank you for your courage and your continued sacrifice on our behalf.

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Last Vietnam-Era Draftee Retires From the Army

From Military.com and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

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Army Bids Goodbye to Last Draftee

September 30, 2010
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

He was a kid who didn't want to be a Soldier. There was a war in Vietnam and a peace movement in America.

But then he got the government's letter and soon found himself on a cold December morning in 1970 in front of a post office in Sumter, S.C., listening to a Soldier read names until he heard his: "Clyde Green!" With that, the 20-year-old kid climbed on the bus headed to a U.S. Army base.

"I didn't want to join the Army," Green said last week. "The Army came and got me."

When he retired as a chief warrant officer in a ceremony this morning at Fort McPherson, Ga. --- after 39 years, 9 months and 15 days of continuous active duty --- he became, by the best accounting, the last U.S. Army draftee who fought in Vietnam.

"It's hard for us to speak in absolutes," said Richard Stewart, chief historian for the U.S. Army Center of Military History. "We're not good at keeping records like that. As soon as we say he's the last, another four will pop up. But he's certainly one of the last."

Finding a purpose

It is hard to imagine now the days when soldiering wasn't always by choice, when supporting the troops could involve a great deal more than car decals and applauding troops in uniform in airports. Often, it meant you might be one of them. It also meant you might go to war and it meant you might not come back.

Green, 60, is perhaps the last human link to those days.

The Army ended the draft in 1973 and at least one other draftee is still on active duty. But he was drafted later than Green and didn't serve in Vietnam. Green couldn't imagine serving in Vietnam either. At the time, his brother Willie was already in the Army, serving in the Signal Corps and stationed at Fort Gordon in Augusta. But Green wanted no part of this man's Army.

"When I got that letter, I thought my whole world was ending," he said.

The bus ride, induction and boot camp in Fort Knox, Ky., in January confirmed there was, indeed, a new world order and Green was at the bottom of it --- freezing his fanny.

"It was cold and really tough at first," he said. "But then I kind of got where I enjoyed it, once I figured out who was in charge."

The discipline of military life he had feared became a comfort.

"I liked the order," he said. And his uncertainty about what to study in college was suddenly a riddle solved: "I really liked the idea of military intelligence."

For the next four decades the kid who grew up on a farm in South Carolina, whose dreams had once stretched no farther than Orangeburg and South Carolina State University, traveled the world and lived a Soldier's life. Over time, the reluctant draftee became the career Soldier.

Attitudes change

He rose from enlisted man to chief warrant officer in military intelligence and served extended tours in Italy and South Korea. He visited 41 countries and posted in places --- the Middle East, Asia and East Africa --- he barely knew of, along with two stretches in the place he can least forget: Vietnam.

Green served his first stint there from June 1971 to May 1972 as an "intelligence Soldier," deciphering information gathered in the field. He examined captured equipment to determine, for instance, how many rounds an enemy anti-aircraft gun could fire. He interrogated captured enemy Soldiers in a war that a growing number of Americans opposed back home.

That experience, as a Soldier serving his country without any choice and risking his life, without much appreciation, still stings.

"At the time, we weren't really loved by the American people," Green said. "I never personally experienced it, but there was hostility. It was a different time. People weren't as supportive of the military."

It would be 23 years before Green returned to Vietnam. By then he had fought in his second war, the Persian Gulf in 1990. And he found America a different place for a returning Soldier, even an old draftee, by then a bit grizzled, who had served in Vietnam.

"If you were in uniform in public, people would come up and start talking to you," he said, "and tell you what a good job you're doing."

His second trip to Vietnam came with the Vietnam Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (MIA/POW), to seek any prisoners of war still in captivity and determine what happened to more than 1,700 Americans still missing in action in Southeast Asia. From 1995 to 2001, he and his team searched, scoured for remains and interviewed scores of witnesses.

They found no POWs but determined the fate of three MIAs, one of them an Army captain who served in Green's unit when he was in Vietnam the first time. They didn't find Capt. Frederick Krupa's remains, but they determined he was killed.

"He was shot in a helicopter and fell out during an extraction, so we were able to list him as KIA [killed in action]," Green said.

'Served ... with distinction'

At today's ceremony, Lt. Gen. Richard P. Zahner will praise the man believed to be the Army's longest serving draftee as a Soldier who "has served his country with distinction and has touched the lives of countless men and women in uniform," and who has contributed immeasurably to the Army's Military Intelligence in his 30 years as a warrant officer.

Green's family from all over the country will be there: his sons Brian, 29, and Stephen, 27, and wife of 34 years, Veria. He'll live at Fort McPherson for two more months --- "I have to pay rent now" --- in what, fittingly, is the oldest house on base, built in 1887.

After that, he has a farm in North Carolina where he might settle, unless Veria wins that argument and they move to Arizona.

"I hope I can talk her into it," he said.

And if he doesn't, it won't be the first time Clyde Green's plans for the rest of his life changed.

*  *  *  *

To think that this guy was drafted two years AFTER I enlisted in the Army. The big difference is his commitment to continued service, unlike me who had three breaks in service.

Congratulations to my fellow Vietnam vet for a long career of service.

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Army Staff Sergeant Awarded Posthumous Medal of Honor

SSG Robert Miller Awarded Medal of Honor
From the Orlando Sentinel:

*  *  *  *

Fallen hero receives Medal of Honor

By Mark K. Matthews, Orlando Sentinel Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Calling his sacrifice the "true meaning of heroism," President Barack Obama on Wednesday presented the Medal of Honor to the Oviedo family of Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, who died in January 2008 protecting a patrol of American and Afghan soldiers.

"It has been said that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point," said Obama, addressing a solemn crowd in the East Room of the White House. "For Rob Miller, the testing point came nearly three years ago, deep in a snowy Afghan valley. The courage he displayed that day reflects every virtue that defined his life."

On hand to accept the military's highest award for valor were his parents, Phil and Maureen Miller, who stood stoically as the decoration was presented and their son's heroism was recounted. Afterward, they stepped outside to read a brief statement on a chilly Washington afternoon.

"We want everyone to know he loved what he was doing. He was good at what he was doing. And he believed he was working for a good cause," Maureen Miller said.

Added her husband: "As a child, Rob was full of energy and constantly on the go, and he enjoyed learning new things. He showed all of us what America's youth is capable of doing when given the opportunity."

Their son is buried in Central Florida; his family moved to Oviedo soon after Robert Miller graduated from high school in Illinois, where he grew up.

Miller, who died at 24 on his second tour in Afghanistan, is only the third service member from that conflict to receive the Medal of Honor. The Green Beret earned the distinction when his team of eight U.S. Special Forces and about 15 Afghan troops, with Miller on point, was caught in a ferocious ambush by insurgents in northwest Afghanistan.

His side outnumbered by 6-to-1 or more, Miller held his ground against a barrage of automatic fire -- calling out positions and helping his fellow soldiers find cover. Then, making himself a target to more than 100 enemies, Miller charged the insurgents in a rush that ultimately cost the life.

"Rob made a decision. He called for his team to fall back. And then he did something extraordinary. Rob moved in the other direction -- toward the enemy, drawing their guns away from his team and bringing the fire of all those insurgents down upon himself," Obama said.

The military credits Miller with killing at least 10 insurgents and wounding dozens more, as well as saving his team. His brothers-in-arms were on hand at the White House ceremony and stood silently and unsmiling when Obama recognized their efforts and fallen comrade.

"One of his teammates surely spoke for all of them when he said of Rob, 'I would not be alive today if not for his ultimate sacrifice,'" said Obama, who then addressed his parents.

"Today and in the years to come, may you find some comfort in knowing that Rob gave his life doing what he loved -- protecting his friends and defending his country."

*  *  *  *

Our condolences to his family, friends, and fellow warriors. America is blessed to have such sons....

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Breaking Bread with Heroes: The 2010 Military Writers Society of America Awards Banquet

Me with author and Iwo Jima veteran Tom McGraham (right)
During the recent annual convention of the of Military Writers Society of America, I was very grateful for the opportunity to spend some time with a few of America's most prolific military writers, many of whom are veterans of our nation's wars.

Attending the banquet was certainly rewarding just because my book, My Last War, received the first place gold medal in the "memoir" category. Meeting such an extraordinary group of authors and American warriors was the icing on the cake.

The picture above shows me with Tom McGraham, Marine veteran of Iwo Jima, who received his own award for his non-fiction book, The Road to Iwo Jima, an emotional journey through one of the deadliest battles ever fought by the Marines.

Seated at our table was another extraordinary man and fellow award winner, Navy Chaplain Father Ron Moses Camarda, a veteran of the 2004 battles in Fallujah. Father Camarda has immortalized his tour in his book, Tear in the Desert, which tells the stories of the soldiers and Marines with whom he shared the strength and power of God.

Everyone who attended this event was a veteran, family member of a veteran, or a proud supporter of America's veterans. The three-day convention in Pittsburgh was a walk through history that was expertly executed by the officers and staff of the Military Writers Society of America.  You can check out their website here.

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering September 11th 2001


UPDATE:  Please go to THIS LINK for the update for September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

We will all remember where we were on 9/11. We will remember the horror, the lost lives, the resulting anger, and the resolve that those responsible would be punished.

In the war on terror that has existed since that day, America's warriors have deployed from our shores to Afghanistan, Iraq, and lesser known battlefields throughout the world. We have captured or killed many of those who were responsible for the murder of our countrymen. A few of these Al Qaeda killers, including Osama bin Laden, have evaded us - so far.

The legacy of this terrible event was to imprint upon our minds that we are indeed involved in a world war that is the ultimate guerrilla war. The fundamentalist Islamic radicals that have become our enemy will not rest until their distorted and evil way of life is forced upon all of us. Like the fascists before them, they believe they can defeat us. This will never happen.

The American way of life will endure because of the spirit of our people. We have sacrificed too much over too many generations to let the latest army of bullies steal our treasured liberties.

So help us God....

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

First Living Soldier Since Vietnam Awarded Medal of Honor

SSG Salvatore Giuna
From Sharon Weinberger, contributor to AOL News:

*  *  *  *

Medal of Honor Goes to Living Soldier; First Since Vietnam

(Sept. 10) -- The White House announced today that President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration, to an Army sergeant who will be the first living soldier to receive the honor since the Vietnam War.

The president personally called Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, an Army specialist in Afghanistan at the time the events took place, to let him know of the decision, the White House said in a statement. He was awarded the medal for placing his life in danger when he and fellow paratroopers were ambushed by the Taliban in 2007.

"When an insurgent force ambush split Specialist Giunta's squad into two groups, he exposed himself to enemy fire to pull a comrade back to cover," the White House statement about the award reads. "Later, while engaging the enemy and attempting to link up with the rest of his squad, Specialist Giunta noticed two insurgents carrying away a fellow soldier. He immediately engaged the enemy, killing one and wounding the other, and provided medical aid to his wounded comrade while the rest of his squad caught up and provided security."

Awarding the Medal of Honor to Giunta, 25, carries symbolic weight beyond the individual decision to award it to a living service member. Only a handful of the medals have been awarded, even posthumously, to service members who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A more detailed description of Giunta's heroic actions has been pieced together through interviews with him and other soldiers present that day in 2007, when they were ambushed by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley.

Giunta "was knocked flat by the gunfire; luckily, a well-aimed round failed to penetrate his armored chest plate," The Washington Post reports. "As the paratroopers tried to gather their senses and scramble for a shred of cover, Giunta reacted instinctively, running straight into the teeth of the ambush to aid three wounded soldiers, one by one, who had been separated from the others."

A New York Times Magazine article, which provided a blow-by-blow description of the ambush and ensuing battle, described Giunta as a "quiet Iowan lofted into a heroism he didn't want."

Fewer than 3,500 Medals of Honor have been awarded since 1863.

*  *  *  *

Job well done, soldier.....!

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Airman Receives Medal of Honor - 42 Years Later

From the Philadelphia Enquirer via Military.com:

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Airman Killed in Laos to Get Medal of Honor

September 04, 2010; Philadelphia Inquirer
 
Richard Etchberger died in Laos in 1968, saving fellow Americans at a top-secret radar station overrun by North Vietnamese commandos.
 
Etchberger, who grew up north of Reading, Pa., was nominated that year for the Medal of Honor. But there was a problem: The United States was not supposed to have troops in Laos. President Lyndon B. Johnson declined to award the medal.
 
On July 7 of this year, Etchberger's son, Cory, received a phone call. "Will you please hold for the president?" a woman asked.
 
President Obama then told Cory Etchberger that his father would finally receive the Medal of Honor.
 
"It's been a long time coming," Obama told Etchberger, 51, of Schwenksville, Montgomery County.
 
Cory Etchberger, who recounted the conversation with Obama, was 9 when his father died at Lima Site 85, which directed bombing missions into North Vietnam and Laos.
 
Richard Etchberger, a chief master sergeant in the Air Force, was selected to work at the radar station and was converted into a civilian employee of Lockheed so his presence in Laos would not technically violate that country's neutrality.
 
The radar station directed 507 strike missions against North Vietnamese targets from November 1967 until March 11, 1968, when enemy soldiers engaged the facility in a fierce battle, according to the Air Force.
 
Under withering fire, Etchberger loaded wounded comrades into slings to be raised into a rescue helicopter before coming aboard himself. He was mortally wounded by an armor-piercing bullet that had ripped through the chopper. He was 27.
 
Etchberger was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross in a secret Pentagon ceremony. His family, except for his parents, who were sworn to secrecy, was not told what really happened.
 
The mission was declassified years later, but Etchberger was not eligible for the Medal of Honor because of a time limit. In 2008, Congress approved a waiver.
 
His family will attend a White House medal ceremony on Sept. 21.
 
This article is from Military.com.

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Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Friday, September 3, 2010

Afghanistan: A Tragic Past, A Violent Present, And A Hazy Future

The global intelligence experts at Stratfor have produced an excellent essay on the past, present, and likely future of Afghanistan. If you want to understand that troubled nation, read this:

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Militancy and the U.S. Drawdown in Afghanistan

September 2, 2010
By Scott Stewart

The drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq has served to shift attention toward Afghanistan, where the United States has been increasing its troop strength in hopes of forming conditions conducive to a political settlement. This is similar to the way it used the 2007 surge in Iraq to help reach a negotiated settlement with the Sunni insurgents that eventually set the stage for withdrawal there. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, the Taliban at this point do not feel the pressure required for them to capitulate or negotiate and therefore continue to follow their strategy of surviving and waiting for the coalition forces to depart so that they can again make a move to assume control over Afghanistan.

Indeed, with the United States having set a deadline of July 2011 to begin the drawdown of combat forces in Afghanistan — and with many of its NATO allies withdrawing sooner — the Taliban can sense that the end is near. As they wait expectantly for the departure of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan, a look at the history of militancy in Afghanistan provides a bit of a preview of what could follow the U.S. withdrawal.

A Tradition of Militancy

First, it is very important to understand that militant activity in Afghanistan is nothing new. It has existed there for centuries, driven by a number of factors. One of the primary factors is the country’s geography. Because of its rugged and remote terrain, it is very difficult for a foreign power (or even an indigenous government in Kabul) to enforce its writ on many parts of the country. A second, closely related factor is culture. Many of the tribes in Afghanistan have traditionally been warrior societies that live in the mountains, disconnected from Kabul because of geography, and tend to exercise autonomous rule that breeds independence and suspicion of the central government. A third factor is ethnicity. There is no real Afghan national identity. Rather, the country is a patchwork of Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara and other ethnicities that tend also to be segregated by geography. Finally, there is religion. While Afghanistan is a predominantly Muslim country, there is a significant Shiite minority as well as a large Sufi presence in the country. The hardcore Deobandi Taliban are not very tolerant of the Shia or Sufis, and they can also be harsh toward more moderate Sunnis who do things such as send their daughters to school, trim their beards, listen to music and watch movies.

Any of these forces on its own would pose challenges to peace, stability and centralized governance, but together they pose a daunting problem and result in near-constant strife in Afghanistan.

Because of this environment, it is quite easy for outside forces to stir up militancy in Afghanistan. One tried-and-true method is to play to the independent spirit of the Afghans and encourage them to rise up against the foreign powers that have attempted to control the country. We saw this executed to perfection in the 1800s during the Great Game between the British and the Russians for control of Afghanistan. This tool was also used after the 1979 Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and it has been used again in recent years following the 2001 U.S. invasion of the country. The Taliban are clearly being used by competing outside powers against the United States (more on this later).

But driving out an invading power is not the only thing that will lead to militancy and violence in Afghanistan. The ethnic, cultural and religious differences mentioned above and even things like grazing or water rights and tribal blood feuds can also lead to violence. Moreover, these factors can (and have been) used by outside powers to either disrupt the peace in Afghanistan or exert control over the country via a proxy (such as Pakistan’s use of the Taliban movement). Militant activity in Afghanistan is, therefore, not just the result of an outside invasion. Rather, it has been a near constant throughout the history of the region, and it will likely continue to be so for the foreseeable future.

Foreign Influence

When we consider the history of outside manipulation in Afghanistan, it becomes clear that such manipulation has long been an important factor in the country and will continue to be so after the United States and the rest of the ISAF withdraw. There are a number of countries that have an interest in Afghanistan and that will seek to exert some control over what the post-invasion country looks like.

The United States does not want the country to revert to being a refuge for al Qaeda and other transnational jihadist groups. At the end of the day, this is the real U.S. national interest in Afghanistan. It is not counterinsurgency or building democracy or anything else.

Russia does not want the Taliban to return to power. The Russians view the Taliban as a disease that can infect and erode their sphere of influence in countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and then move on to pose a threat to Russian control in the predominately Muslim regions of the Caucasus. This is why the Russians were so active in supporting the Northern Alliance against the Taliban regime. There are reports, though, that the Russians have been aiding the Taliban in an effort to keep the United States tied down in Afghanistan, since as long as the United States is distracted there it has less latitude to counter Russian activity elsewhere.

On the other side of that equation, Pakistan helped foster the creation of the Pashtun Taliban organization and then used the organization as a tool to exert its influence in Afghanistan. Facing enemies on its borders with India and Iran, Pakistan must control Afghanistan in order to have strategic depth and ensure that it will not be forced to defend itself along its northwest as well. While the emergence of the Pakistani Taliban and the threat it poses to Pakistan will alter Islamabad’s strategy somewhat — and Pakistan has indeed been recalculating its use of militant proxies — Pakistan will try hard to ensure that the regime in Kabul is pro-Pakistani.

This is exactly why India wants to play a big part in Afghanistan — to deny Pakistan that strategic depth. In the past, India worked with Russia and Iran to support the Northern Alliance and keep the Taliban from total domination of the country. Indications are that the Indians are teaming up with the Russians and Iranians once again.

Iran also has an interest in the future of Afghanistan and has worked to cultivate certain factions of the Taliban by providing them with shelter, weapons and training. The Iranians also have been strongly opposed to the Taliban and have supported anti-Taliban militants, particularly those from the Shiite Hazara people. When the Taliban captured Mazar-e-Sharif in 1998, they killed 11 Iranian diplomats and journalists. Iran does not want the Taliban to become too powerful, but it will use them as a tool to hurt the United States. Iran will also attempt to install a pro-Iranian government in Kabul or, at the very least, try to thwart efforts by the Pakistanis and Americans to exert control over the country.

A History of Death and Violence

It may seem counterintuitive, but following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the casualties from militancy in the country declined considerably. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies Armed Conflict Database, the fatalities due to armed conflict in Afghanistan fell from an estimated 10,000 a year prior to the invasion to 4,000 in 2002 and 1,000 by 2004. Even as the Taliban began to regroup in 2005 and the number of fatalities began to move upward, by 2009 (the last year for which the institute offers data) the total was only 7,140, still well-under the pre-invasion death tolls (though admittedly far greater than at the ebb of the insurgency in 2004).

Still, even with death tolls rising, the U.S. invasion has not produced anywhere near the estimated 1 million deaths that resulted during the Soviet occupation. The Soviets and their Afghan allies were not concerned about conducting a hearts-and-minds campaign. Indeed, their efforts were more akin to a scorched-earth strategy complete with attacks directed against the population. This strategy also resulted in millions of refugees fleeing Afghanistan for Pakistan and Iran and badly disrupted the tribal structure in much of Afghanistan. This massive disruption of the societal structure helped lead to a state of widespread anarchy that later led many Afghans to see the Taliban as saviors.

Following the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, the communist government in Kabul was able to survive for three more years, backed heavily with Soviet arms, but these years were again marked by heavy casualties. When the communist government fell in 1992, the warlords who had opposed the government attempted to form a power-sharing agreement to govern Afghanistan, but all the factions could not reach a consensus and another civil war broke out, this time among the various anti-communist Afghan warlords vying for control of the country. During this period, Kabul was repeatedly shelled and the bloodshed continued. Neither the Soviet departure nor the fall of the communist regime ended the carnage.

With the rise of the Taliban, the violence began to diminish in many parts of the country, though the fighting remained fierce and tens of thousands of people were killed as the Taliban tried to exert control over the country. The Taliban were still engaged in a protracted and bloody civil war against the Northern Alliance when the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001. During the initial invasion, very few U.S. troops were actually on the ground. The United States used the Northern Alliance as the main ground-force element, along with U.S. air power and special operations forces, and was able to remove the Taliban from power in short order. It is important to remember that the Taliban was never really defeated on the battlefield. Once they realized that they were no match for U.S. air power in a conventional war, they declined battle and faded away to launch their insurgency.

Today, the forces collectively referred to as the Taliban in Afghanistan are not all part of one hierarchical organization under the leadership of Mullah Mohammad Omar. Although Mullah Omar is the dominant force and is without peer among Afghan insurgent leaders, there are a number of local and regional militant commanders who are fighting against the U.S. occupation beside the Taliban and who have post-U.S. occupation interests that diverge from those of the Taliban. Such groups are opportunists rather than hardcore Taliban and they might fight against Mullah Omar’s Taliban if he and his militants come to power in Kabul, especially if an outside power manipulates, funds and arms them — and outside powers will certainly be seeking to do so. The United States has tried to peel away the more independent factions from the wider Taliban “movement” but has had little success, mainly because the faction leaders see that the United States is going to disengage and that the Taliban will be a force to be reckoned with in the aftermath.

Once U.S. and ISAF forces withdraw from Afghanistan, then, it is quite likely that Afghanistan will again fall into a period of civil war, as the Taliban attempt to defeat the Karzai government, as the United States tries to support it and as other outside powers such as Pakistan, Russia and Iran try to gain influence through their proxies in the country.

The only thing that can really prevent this civil war from occurring is a total defeat of the Taliban and other militants in the country or some sort of political settlement. With the sheer size of the Taliban and its many factions, and the fact that many factions are receiving shelter and support from patrons in Pakistan and Iran, it is simply not possible for the U.S. military to completely destroy them before the Americans begin to withdraw next summer. This will result in a tremendous amount of pressure on the Americans to find a political solution to the problem. At this time, the Taliban simply don’t feel pressured to come to the negotiating table — especially with the U.S. drawdown in sight.

And even if a political settlement is somehow reached, not everyone will be pleased with it. Certainly, the outside manipulation in Afghanistan will continue, as will the fighting, as it has for centuries.

Militancy and the U.S. Drawdown in Afghanistan is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

*  *  *  *

With Obama's announced drawdown of troops to begin in July, 2011, we are only fighting a holding action. This means that "victory" (in the true sense of the word) is unlikely in such a short time frame.

The enemy knows this, and they will simply  wait us out.

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Last Combat Brigade Leaves Iraq

This article from AOL documents the exit from Iraq of the last combat brigade, the 4th Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division.

However, as long as one American soldier remains in Iraq, there will be an insurgent (foreign terrorist, disenchanted Sunni, or radical Shiite) trying to kill them. DO NOT FORGET THOSE TROOPS WHO REMAIN BEHIND.

It ain't over 'till the fat lady sings, i.e. until the last soldier leaves Iraq.

No matter what you feel about America's conquering of Saddam Hussein, the fact remains that we will ultimately leave a country that has been given a chance at liberty and self-determination.

What they do with that opportunity after we are gone is up to them.....

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Last US Combat Brigade Pulls Out of Iraq

Rebecca Santana, Associated Press

EDITOR'S NOTE: The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division was officially designated the last combat brigade to leave Iraq under Obama's plan to end combat operations in Iraq by Aug. 31. Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana joined the troops on their final journey out of the country.
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KHABARI CROSSING, Kuwait (Aug. 18) -- As their convoy reached the barbed wire at the border crossing out of Iraq on Wednesday, the soldiers whooped and cheered. Then they scrambled out of their stifling hot armored vehicles, unfurled an American flag and posed for group photos.

For these troops of the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, it was a moment of relief fraught with symbolism. Seven years and five months after the U.S.-led invasion, the last American combat brigade was leaving Iraq, well ahead of President Barack Obama's Aug. 31 deadline for ending U.S. combat operations there.

When 18-year-old Spc. Luke Dill first rolled into Iraq as part of the U.S. invasion, his Humvee was so vulnerable to bombs that the troops lined its floor with flak jackets.

Now 25 and a staff sergeant after two tours of duty, he rode out of Iraq this week in a Stryker, an eight-wheeled behemoth encrusted with armor and add-ons to ward off grenades and other projectiles.

"It's something I'm going to be proud of for the rest of my life - the fact that I came in on the initial push and now I'm leaving with the last of the combat units," he said.

He remembered three straight days of mortar attacks outside the city of Najaf in 2003, so noisy that after the firing ended, the silence kept him awake at nights. He recalled the night skies over the northern city of Mosul being lit up by tracer bullets from almost every direction.

Now, waiting for him back in Olympia, Wash., is the "Big Boy" Harley-Davidson he purchased from one of the motorcycle company's dealerships at U.S. bases in Iraq - a vivid illustration of how embedded the American presence has become since the invasion of March 20, 2003.

That presence is far from over. Scatterings of combat troops still await departure, and some 50,000 will stay another year in what is designated as a noncombat role. They will carry weapons to defend themselves and accompany Iraqi troops on missions (but only if asked). Special forces will continue to help Iraqis hunt for terrorists.

So the U.S. death toll - at least 4,415 by Pentagon count as of Wednesday - may not yet be final.

The Stryker brigade, based in Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and named for the vehicle that delivers troops into and out of battle, has lost 34 troops in Iraq. It was at the forefront of many of the fiercest battles, including operations in eastern Baghdad and Diyala province, an epicenter of the insurgency, during "the surge" of 2007. It evacuated troops at the battle of Tarmiyah, an outpost where 28 out of 34 soldiers were wounded holding off insurgents.

Before the Aug. 31 deadline, about half the brigade's 4,000 soldiers flew out like most of the others leaving Iraq, but its leadership volunteered to have the remainder depart overland. That decision allowed the unit to keep 360 Strykers in the country for an extra three weeks.

U.S. commanders say it was the brigade's idea, not an order from on high. The intent was to keep additional firepower handy through the "period of angst" that followed Iraq's inconclusive March 7 election, said brigade chief, Col. John Norris.

It took months of preparation to move the troops and armor across more than 500 kilometers (300 miles) of desert highway through potentially hostile territory.

The Strykers left the Baghdad area in separate convoys over a four-day period, traveling at night because the U.S.-Iraq security pact - and security worries - limit troop movements by day.

Along the way, phalanxes of American military Humvees sat at overpasses, soldiers patrolled the highways for roadside bombs, and Apache attack helicopters circled overhead as the Strykers refueled alongside the highway.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gus McKinney, a brigade intelligence officer, acknowledged that moving the convoys overland put soldiers at risk, but said the danger was less than in past.

The biggest threat was roadside bombs planted by Shiite extremist groups who have a strong foothold in the south, McKinney said.

But except for camels straying into the road, and breakdowns that required some vehicles to be towed, there were no incidents.

The worst of the ride was conditions inside the Strykers - sitting for hours in a cramped space - and the temperatures outside that reached 50 Celsius (120 Fahrenheit).

The driver's compartment is called the "hellhole" because it sits over the engine and becomes almost unbearably hot. The vehicle commander and gunner can sit up in hatches to see the outside world. At the tail end are hatches for two gunners. Eight passengers - an infantry squad in combat conditions - can squeeze in the back.

Riding as a passenger felt a bit like being in a World War II-era submarine - a tight fit and no windows. The air conditioning was switched off to save fuel on the long ride south to Kuwait. Men dozed or listened to music on earphones.

When the convoy finally reached the sandy border, two soldiers, armed and helmeted, jumped off their vehicle and raced each other into Kuwait.

Once out of Iraq, there was still work to be done. Vehicles had to be stripped of ammunition and spare tires, and eventually washed and packed for shipment home.

Meanwhile, to the north, insurgents kept up a relentless campaign against the country's institutions and security forces, killing five Iraqi government employees in roadside bombings and other attacks Wednesday. Coming a day after a suicide bomber killed 61 army recruits in central Baghdad, the latest violence highlighted the shaky reality left by the departing U.S. combat force and five months of stalemate over forming Iraq's next government.

For Dill, who reached Kuwait with an earlier convoy, the withdrawal engendered feelings of relief. His mission - to get his squad safely out of Iraq - was accomplished.

Standing alongside a hulking Stryker, his shirt stained with sweat, he acknowledged the men who weren't there to experience the day with him.

"I know that to my brothers in arms who fought and died, this day would probably mean a lot, to finally see us getting out of here," he said.

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Well done, 4th Stryker Brigade.....

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Seven Green Berets Awarded The Silver Star

The following article is from CNN:

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7 Special Forces soldiers to get Silver Star for Afghan valor

Larry Shaughnessy
CNN Pentagon Producer

Fort Bragg, North Carolina (CNN) -- It's been clear for months that the fighting in Afghanistan is more intense than it's been since the war there started nearly nine years ago. Yet, from the midst of those increasingly violent firefights come some amazing stories of heroism.
 
On Monday, seven soldiers will receive public recognition for their actions during a Silver Star ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
 
The medals -- the third-highest award for valor in the Army -- are being awarded for five separate battles over a span of more than two years.
 
Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Gonzalez and Sgt. 1st Class Mark Roland were part of Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (SFODA) 732.
 
On June 11, 2007, their unit was sent to help a group of Afghan soldiers who had been pinned down by an enemy attack. When the unit arrived, they and their fellow soldiers were immediately enveloped in the same ambush by a much larger enemy force.
 
Even though the enemy was firing from just 10 feet, Roland immediately climbed out of the relative safety of his armored vehicle and started attacking enemy fighters in a nearby wadi, or dry streambed.
 
He and his fellow soldiers killed two of the enemy and cleared the rest of the wadi of enemy attackers, all while under fire from snipers. Their actions meant the enemy was no longer a threat to his unit's rear flank.
 
About the same time, Gonzalez saw that four Afghan soldiers were pinned down by enemy fire. He jumped out of his vehicle and ran nearly 40 yards through enemy fire.
 
"Without regard for his life," the Army account read, "over the course of three trips through enemy fire, he rescued all four soldiers and brought them back to the safety of his armored vehicle." He did it all while under fire from enemy sniper and machine gun fire.
 
After clearing the wadi and getting back in his vehicle, Roland saw eight Afghan soldiers who were pinned down by enemy machine gun fire. He got out of his vehicle, ran through enemy fire and moved four of the Afghan soldiers back to his vehicle and directed the other four to another armored vehicle.
 
All told, the actions of Roland and Gonzalez -- both of whom had already received the Bronze Star for past battle -- and their fellow soldiers defeated the ambush and led to the death of 60 enemy fighters including two Taliban commanders, according to the Army.
 
Staff Sgts. Mario Pinilla and Daniel Gould also had Bronze Star medals to their name, and Gould had also received the Silver Star for past heroics. They were both serving with Special Operational Detachment Alpha 7134 near Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan.
 
The two were checking reports of Taliban movements near the village of Faramuz when they were ambushed near a river. Pinilla saw one of his fellow soldiers pinned down by enemy fire and already shot twice. Pinilla grabbed a large machine gun, ran through enemy fire, shooting back the entire time, then dived to the ground to block the enemy fire from his wounded colleague, according to the Army.
 
During a 10-minute firefight, he was shot twice. Eventually, more soldiers showed up to help Pinilla and the other wounded man. The Army account says even though he was wounded, Pinilla didn't stop fighting.
 
"While his fellow detachment members fought to get to him back to safety, Sergeant Pinilla drew his 9mm Beretta and continued engaging the enemy's ambush line, despite being critically injured," the account reads.
 
Gould also put his life on the line to save a fellow soldier.
 
When the Taliban ambushed the unit, he got into an intense half-hour gun battle with the enemy. His helmet was shot off his head, and he was hit once in his body armor.
 
During the fight, he saw one of his teammates, who was much closer to the enemy, get shot and critically wounded. According to the Army, he used a large machine gun to neutralize the enemy that was the greatest threat to the wounded man, giving a medic a chance to go help the soldier. Then, knowing then man need to be evacuated, Gould joined the medic first in dragging the wounded soldier through nearly 50 yards of enemy fire, and then carrying the wounded man the last 40 yards on his shoulders until they all reached safety.
 
An enemy unit ambushed Master Sgt. Julio Bocanegra's convoy on August 26, 2008. During the attack in Paktika province, Bocanegra noticed that a group of four Afghan national policemen were pinned down by the enemy, their pickup truck blocking the route for the rest of the unit. According to the Army, Bocanegra jumped out of his vehicle and ran through a hail of fire to reach the Afghan police, all but one of whom was wounded. The Army account spells out how he helped get them to safety.
 
"Sergeant Bocanegra then disregarded the enemy fire and picked up one of the wounded and placed him into the vehicle which [was] continuing to receive effective fire. Continuing to ignore the danger to his life, Sergeant Bocanegra then picked up a second policeman with multiple gunshot wounds to both legs and placed him into the vehicle," the account said.
 
Bocanegra, with the help of the one policeman who had not been shot, got the third wounded officer into the Afghan police pickup truck and moved them all to safety. All three Afghan police officers and three soldiers who had been wounded in the fight survived their injuries.
 
Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Clouse, an Army veteran, was working with a Marine special operations unit and was walking along a boulder-strewn path when one of his teammates was badly wounded. He immediately provided medical attention to that man. Then, according to the Army, another teammate was wounded.
 
"SFC Clouse ran through the kill zone to render further medical attention under head machine gun fire that struck the back of his body armor," according to the Army summary of the battle. The second man's life couldn't be saved.
 
The summary says Clouse continued providing advanced combat first aid amid intense enemy fire.
 
"Reacting to the calls for assistance from other wounded, SFC Clouse again ran through the kill zone to provide medical assistance," according to the report.
 
One enemy sniper bullet destroyed Clouse's weapon, but he kept on. All told, Clouse provided medical assistance to four American wounded and one Afghan soldier who'd been wounded in the attack and helped moved them to safety.
 
Sgt. 1st Class David Nunez was in a convoy of U.S. Special Forces and Afghan national army soldiers traveling through the village of Shewan in Ferah province on May 29, 2008.
 
As many as 60 insurgents attacked the convoy, disabling Nunez's vehicle with a rocket-propelled grenade. The vehicle started burning, and Nunez was worried that other soldiers were still in the vehicle, according to the Army.
 
"Without regard for his own life, [Nunez] began to discard ammunition and explosives from the rear of the vehicle in order to ensure others were not injured. During this entire period of time, SFC Nunez was engulfed in flames. Ignoring his wounds and the intense concentration of enemy fire, he continued to assist the convoy pinned in the kill zone until he eventually succumbed to his injuries," the battle account reads.
 
Nunez's obituary noted that he had already received a Bronze Star, an Army commendation medal and numerous other decorations.
 
After Monday's ceremony at Fort Bragg, his record will be upgraded to include the Silver Star for "his bravery in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflect distinct credit upon himself, this command and the United States Army."
 
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America is blessed to have such warriors defending our freedom....
 
Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Saturday, August 14, 2010

War Video: How NOT to Plant an IED/Roadside Bomb

This was forwarded by a friend in Kentucky.

NOTE: This video is intense:

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HOW NOT TO PLANT A ROADSIDE BOMB/IED RULES:

Rule #1: After putting the bomb in a hole, don't tamp the ground too much.
Rule #2: Don't forget rule #1

The attached video of thermal footage was recorded from an AC-130 gunship from a mile or more away. No rounds were fired by the aircraft. The problem solved itself with no American intervention.

Some jihadists were trying to bury a roadside bomb made from a 155 mm artillery shell. Evidently they lost the instruction manual.

The result could not have happened to a more deserving group of people.

The plus for them is that they get to meet those virgins.

However, finding their own working body parts may be a problem!

PLEASE HIT THE "PLAY" BUTTON BELOW:


video

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The Lord works in mysterious ways...

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sergeant Awarded Silver Star for Valor

An Army sergeant has been awarded the third highest medal for valor in combat for his actions during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2009. The following story is from the Army News Service.

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August 03, 2010

Army News Service
by Don Kramer

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- A modest NCO received the Army's third-highest award for valor July 22 during the welcome-home ceremony for 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Staff Sgt. Jarrett D. Brown of 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment 'Buffaloes,' received a Silver Star on Watkins Field at the beginning of a busy ceremony that included the brigade's redesignation and change of command. The acting commanding general of I Corps, Maj. Gen. John D. Johnson paused the proceedings to pin the medal on Jarrett's chest and congratulate him for his conspicuous bravery on Aug. 24, 2009.

On that day, Brown was serving as assistant M-240 machine gunner during a patrol in the Arghandab River Valley, a hotbed of Taliban resistance at that time. The patrol was ambushed and hit by a combination of fires from machine guns, small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.

Brown exposed himself to enemy fire to direct his machine gunner to cover a fire team caught in the open, while also firing his rifle. He then directed suppressive fire on the enemy's heaviest weapons.

As the platoon consolidated, Brown's gunner collapsed in the 100-degree heat. He grabbed the machine gun and dragged the gunner to a concealed position, from which he delivered accurate support by fire.

When it became clear the platoon's situation was untenable, the platoon sergeant ordered the squads to break contact. Brown alternately provided covering fire and moved, dragging his gunner with him. When he saw an enemy fire team creeping to within 30 meters of the platoon, he threw his gunner behind the last concealment available, abandoned his own cover and engaged them, killing one and wounding a second enemy fighter.

Brown set up the M-240 and provided suppressive fire as the rest of the platoon covered about 100 meters to better cover and began a faster, bounding egress. He followed them, still carrying his gunner. The platoon came under heavy fire once more before making it back to the Joint District Coordination Center. Brown returned fire and identified multiple targets for other platoon members. His response created space for close-coordination aircraft to be called in to neutralize the enemy and allow the platoon to finally return to safety.

Brown's first action once the platoon was safe was to find medical assistance for his gunner.

Brigade Commander Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV attributed the success of the Destroyer Brigade during its deployment to the countless unselfish acts of individual Soldiers in dangerous situations -- as Brown did.

"The success of the brigade has been due to the willingness of individual Soldiers to be so untiring as they got ready for war and so staunch in their desire to do their duty in harm's way," Tunnell said.

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Well done, Staff Sergeant Brown.

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Happy 220th Birthday to the U.S. Coast Guard

Happy Birthday to the warriors of the U.S. Coast Guard! Here is a link to a great tribute by USAA .

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

You Could Have Heard A Pin Drop

While there are some (on the left and in the current administration) who think America should apologize to the world, the following history lesson suggests otherwise. Suggest you pass this one on:

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Subject: A Pin Drop

JFK'S Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early 60's when De Gaulle decided to pull out of NATO. De Gaulle said he wanted all US military forces out of France as soon as possible. Rusk responded, "Does that include those who are buried here?"

De Gaulle did not respond. You could have heard a pin drop.

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When in England at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of 'empire building' by George Bush.

Powell answered by saying, "Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom  beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."

You could have heard a pin drop.

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There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American. During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying, "Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intend to do, bomb them?"

A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: "Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?"

You could have heard a pin drop.

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A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S. , English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of officers that included personnel from most of those countries. Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks but a French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, "Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?"

Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied, "Maybe it's because the Brit's, Canadians, Aussie's and Americans arranged it so you wouldn't have to speak German."

You could have heard a pin drop.

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Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane. At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on.

"You have been to France before, monsieur?" the customs officer asked sarcastically.

Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously.

"Then you should know enough to have your passport ready."

The American said, "The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it."

"Impossible. Americans always have to show their passports on arrival in France !"

The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look... Then he quietly explained, ''Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn't find a single Frenchman to show a passport to."

You could have heard a pin drop.

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We ARE the greatest nation in the world. Our ideals, our sacrifices, and our Constitution have made it so. Perhaps the rest of the world should apologize to America....and thank us as well....

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"My Last War" Wins Gold Medal from Military Writers Society of America

I am pleased to announce that my book, My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran's Tour in Iraq has been awarded a gold medal in the "memoir" category of the 2010 Awards by the Military Writers Society of America.

The MWSA's annual banquet and awards ceremony will be held at the end of September. I will be honored to receive this from such a prestigious group of military authors, and I look forward to meeting some extraordinary men and women.

Thanks again to all of you for your support.

Charles M. Grist - http://www.mylastwar.com/

Saturday, July 31, 2010

New "Army Strong" Video

This new commercial reinforces how great it is to be an American and how lucky we are to have such men and women serving in our military.

These soldiers are reciting the Soldiers Creed, such a valued part of a soldier's life that I placed it at the beginning of my book:

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I am proud to have served in and retired from the U. S. Army.

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

War Video: Americans & Afghans Ambushed by Taliban

From 2009:

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Hang in there guys...

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Help for Homeless Veterans

It is tragic that so many of America's veterans have become homeless. I was contacted by Brandon Fischer at VA Benefit Blog.com who asked me to provide this info to you:

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From VA Benefit Blog.com

Veterans make up about one-third of the homeless population, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, and the Department of Veterans Affairs is determined to end this within the next couple of years. Thus on June 3, the VA and HUD announced that they are administering $58.6 million to local housing agencies in order to provide permanent housing to homeless veterans.

The grant — HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) — is part of a $75 million investment targeted at providing services to homeless veterans. They hope that with the $58.6 million in housing vouchers they can provide housing and assistance to nearly 8,000 veterans.

VA Sec. Eric K. Shinseki said, “The most effective option to providing veterans permanent shelter is HUD-VASH — the nation’s largest permanent housing initiative for veterans,” and that the VA and HUD are making a “critical, long-term investment toward ending homelessness among veterans.” This is on top of the VA loan program that is already in place.

How it works:

Public housing agencies that work directly with homeless veterans will team up with local VA Medical Centers to ensure that those veterans who do need housing assistance will receive it. HUD will distribute the housing vouchers to these agencies, and in turn, veterans will receive more permanent housing and other necessary services.

The need is based on several factors, such as the number of homeless veterans a community reports and how closely located they are to a VA Medical Center. Case managers at the VA Medical Centers then work with the veteran once they are given the voucher and make sure that they actually find appropriate housing. Those veterans who do participate in housing assistance via HUD-VASH “rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent.”

Coming soon is an expected announcement that HUD will initiate a second round of funding for another 1,355 rental vouchers and 400 more project-based vouchers to be announced later this summer. Currently this is the third year that HUD-VASH has been operating with a total investment of $225 million, which will provide 20,000 housing assistance vouchers.

For further information on this post, contact Brandon Fischer at Brandon@vabenefitblog.com .

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Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Please check out their website.

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Saturday, July 24, 2010

North Korea Threatens "Nuclear Response" to Military Exercises

The loons in North Korea are at it again:

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North Korea Vows 'Nuclear' Response to US Drills

AOL News
Lauren Frayer
Contributor


(July 24) -- North Korea threatened today to use its "nuclear deterrent" in a "retaliatory sacred war" against military drills by the U.S. and South Korea, set to kick off this weekend in retaliation for Pyongyang's alleged role in the suspicious sinking of a South Korean warship.

The military exercises are slated to begin Sunday in the Sea of Japan, involving 20 ships – including the USS George Washington, one of the world's largest aircraft carriers – plus 100 aircraft and about 8,000 American and South Korean troops. Lasting through Wednesday, the drills demonstrate tight military cooperation between Seoul and Washington, who blame North Korea for torpedoing the Cheonan warship in March, killing 46 sailors. The U.S. has also announced new sanctions against the North.

For Pyongyang, the drills are an "unpardonable provocation," its state media reported today. The communist North denies any role in the Cheonan's demise, and has threatened all-out war if it's punished.

"The army and people of the [North] will legitimately counter with their powerful nuclear deterrence the largest-ever nuclear war exercises," state media said today, reading a statement from North Korea's National Defense Commission, headed by leader Kim Jong-Il.

Pyongyang's latest threat is its most strongly-worded – referring for the first time to the reclusive state's nuclear capabilities – after days of similar comments from its delegate to Asia's biggest security forum, held in Vietnam this past week. At the Hanoi meeting, North Korea abandoned the use of its official media as a mouthpiece, and had its spokesman lambast the U.S. and South Korea while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was in the very same room.

Clinton took the floor as well, calling North Korea an "isolated and belligerent" nation that's embarked on a "campaign of provocative, dangerous behavior." She said the stability of all of Asia depends on whether North Korea changes its behavior.

"It is distressing when North Korea continues its threats and causes so much anxiety among its neighbors and the larger region," Clinton said Friday. "But we will demonstrate once again with our military exercises ... that the United States stands in firm support of the defense of South Korea, and we will continue to do so."

Both Clinton's comments and those carried by North Korean state media today were reported by several news outlets.

The U.S.-South Korean drills, announced earlier this week by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, are another example of how Washington has raced to Seoul's defense after the Cheonan's sinking. The U.S. also backed Seoul's efforts to bring the matter to the U.N. Security Council, which issued a statement earlier this month condemning the ship's sinking but stopped short of assigning blame.

The weaker statement was due in large part to the influence of China, Pyongyang's only powerful ally, which has not fully accepted an international panel's conclusion that North Korea torpedoed the Cheonan. China has also criticized the upcoming U.S.-South Korean military exercises, with a foreign ministry spokesman expressing "deep concern" earlier this week.

China's hesitancy to blame the Cheonan's sinking on a North Korean torpedo is now surprisingly being echoed by some inside South Korea as well, according to a new report by the Los Angeles Times. Even though Clinton has called the evidence against Pyongyang "overwhelming," the paper quotes some South Korean opposition leaders as questioning that. They say it's unlikely the impoverished North Korean regime could have pulled off a torpedo attack, and find it strange that the South Korean president issued his findings on the very day campaigning began in local elections.

The two rival Koreas are technically still on a war footing since their 1950-53 war ended with an armistice but not a peace treaty. But tensions over the Cheonan have brought the peninsula closer than ever to renewed all-out war.

Officers from the American-led U.N. Command, tasked with observing the shaky armistice, met Friday with members of the North Korean military and informed them that the Cheonan incident violated the armistice's rules. They scheduled another such meeting for later this month.

Lauren Frayer is a freelance journalist and former Associated Press correspondent who has reported from Washington, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Iraq and Pakistan.

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Another crisis raises its head for the Obama administration. Standing strong in the face of such threats is the only logical response...

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Friday, July 23, 2010

Portraits of the Fallen by Kaziah Hancock

A gift from the heart of an extraordinary woman. Check out Project Compassion:

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Thanks, Kaziah, for being a great American, unique of spirit, filled with love...

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nothing Ever Stays the Same: Army Makes Changes to Basic Training

The Army has announced some changes to basic training. The following article is from the Army News Service:

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The Top Ten Basic Training Changes

July 20, 2010
Army News Service
by Kelly Schloesser

This year, Basic Combat Training has gone through a transformation. Here are some of the changes you'll see in new Basic and OSUT courses, as of 1 July 2010:

1. BCT has become more challenging...not "softer." BCT has been extended from nine weeks to 10. The Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills (WTBD) have been refined, and are now geared toward training fewer and more relevant tasks well. These tasks and battle drills correspond with the current operating environment, and we are using training that is geared toward the generation of Soldiers entering our Army during this time of war...and those must be adapted to all the Occupational Specialties. (Find the WTBD on the, Army Training Network)

2. Rifle Marksmanship is more extensive, with more hours on the range, more bullets fired, and Soldiers using both Basic and Advanced techniques. Soldiers now fire 500 rounds (750 for infantry) during basic, and also have to "certify" as part of the Combat Field Fire phase based on the new Rifle Marksmanship Strategy. While all BCT Soldiers fire "slick" (no equipment) through qualification tables (BRM) to allow for familiarity with the weapon, equipment is worn during the difficult and combat-related Advanced Rifle Marksmanship (ARM) period.

3. Combatives are more relevant...and tougher! New instruction has been added which teaches Soldiers to fight from their feet, not wrestle and grip on the ground. Soldiers now attend 22 hours of instruction, which is double the previous requirement at BCT. Additional techniques - wearing full kit - have been added that is more relevant to what Soldiers might be asked to do in a combat situation.

4. Most up-to-date medical training in Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) and Combat Lifesaver (CLS). Medical experts have taken combat lessons and updated the first aid training Soldiers receive. There's no longer an IV "stick. Why? Because doctors say it's counterproductive on the battlefield, and useless for treating heat injuries. New techniques for preventing heat injuries before they happen are now taught.

5. Physical Training is standardized, with scientifically proven techniques that improve conditioning and help prevent injuries. Those returning from combat say "drop the long runs, the repetitive sets of pushups and sit-ups, and volleyball games; instead focus on training the right muscles and energy systems needed in the fight! Prepare your body for walking patrol with SAPI and equipment or hauling your injured buddy out of harm's way!" FM 22-20 has been replaced with TC 3.22-20, and that applies to Soldiers in Basic Combat Training and the entire Army (and, you can get this Training Circular as an app starting in August)!

6. No more bayonet assault course against rubber tires...but lots more pugil and combatives against a thinking opponent. The bayonet assault course has been a staple of bayonet training since WWI. But that's when bayonets were prevalent on the battlefield! The last time the US had a bayonet assault was in 1951, and the rifle we now use in combat isn't meant for bayonet charges. Now, Soldiers will see more pugil drills in pits and on obstacle courses. This, combined with additional hours in combatives, will "warriorize" our Soldiers.

7. Expanded Values and Culture Training. Soldiers will still receive instruction in the Seven Army Values, but that instruction will focus on applying those values in combat, in garrison, and during off-duty time. That's to build a better Soldier...and a better citizen! And all Soldiers will now be issued a The Army Soldier's "Blue Book" (also available as an iPhone or Droid app) that links our present-day Soldier to his predecessors, and describes our professional requirements.

8. We're treating the Soldier as a "Tactical Athlete". The Surgeon General of the Army will begin supplementing initial training units with physical therapists and athletic trainers to prevent injuries and ensure better conditioning. Additionally, we're instituting the "Soldier Fueling" initiative, to teach and enable Soldiers to develop a nutritional lifestyle to counter our societal challenges.

9. We've instituted Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF). Every Drill Sergeant has received Resiliency Training, and all new Soldiers take the Global Assessment Tool upon entering Basic. Additionally, all AIT Platoon Sergeants receive 10 days of resiliency training.

10. We're connected to Social Media, and on web pages. IMT does fall under TRADOC, but no decision is made without Soldiers input. Visit our social media sites and tell us what you think. We'll listen!

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As long as the training remains tough and continues to produce top-notch warriors, we support it 100%!

Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/

Thursday, July 8, 2010

War Veterans Get Some Help With PTSD Claims

Here is an article from AOL on recent changes which will make it easier for war veterans to make claims for post-traumatic stress disorder:

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Post-Traumatic Stress Rule Change Could Ease Vets' Access to Benefits

Hundreds of thousands of veterans of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam could be affected by new government rules meant to make it easier for them to apply for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder benefits.

The Veterans Affairs Department regulations would throw out a requirement that vets document the specific events that led to their condition, such as bombings, firefights or artillery shellings, the New York Times reported Thursday. PTSD, as it is called, is characterized by irritability, flashbacks and a lack of emotional responsiveness in the wake of witnessing or experiencing past trauma.

The regulations could take effect next week and may cost the government as much as $5 billion over several years as disability claims are granted, congressional analysts told the Times.

Veterans have complained for decades about the difficulty and amount of time required to track down old combat records. Some veterans groups also say current rules discriminate against those who were deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan -- many of them women -- but did not serve in combat roles.

Under the new rule, the Times said, the government will grant PTSD compensation to veterans who can prove they served in a war zone in a job consistent with the traumatic events they say caused their condition. It would also permit compensation for vets who had a strong reason to fear traumatic events -- or stressors -- even if they didn't actually experience them, the report said. The Defense Department will continue to review all compensation claims submitted to the military branches, yet there are concerns that the liberalization could lead to a flood of fraudulent ones.

But Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement to the Times, "This nation has a solemn obligation to the men and women who have honorably served... and suffer from the emotional and often devastating hidden wounds of war. The final regulation goes a long way to ensure that veterans receive the benefits and services they need."
 
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For further info go to the Veteran's Administration website at http://www.va.gov/ .
 
Charles M. Grist
http://www.mylastwar.com/