Saturday, April 30, 2011

University of Central Florida Reception Celebrates Detective Barry Pruette Memorial Endowed Scholarship

From left to right: Laura Pruette, Chief Robert Merchant, Dean Michael Frumkin, Chuck Grist
It was an honor to attend a reception at the University of Central Florida's College of Health and Public Affairs. The event was hosted by Dean Michael Frumkin to celebrate the establishment of the Detective Barry Pruette Memorial Endowed Scholarship.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this was an effort of a decade by the citizens of Altamonte Springs, the officers and employees of the Altamonte Springs Police Department and the City of Altamonte Springs, and the Altamonte Springs Rotary Club. Finally, the money was raised to create this memorial scholarship which will be perpetual in Barry's name.

Along with several university officials like Dean Frumkin, Criminal Justice professor Dr. Ross Wolf, and Katie Korkosz, Assistant Director of Development and Alumni Relations, numerous Altamonte Springs Police representatives attended. These included Chief Robert Merchant, Deputy Chief Mike Deal, retired Deputy Chief Jack Martin, retired Lieutenant Stan Phipps, and of course, yours truly, a retired Altamonte Springs Master Police Officer. Barry's widow, Laura, was also present.

Thanks to everyone involved for their efforts in making this scholarship a reality.

Charles M. Grist

Sunday, April 24, 2011

No "Boots On The Ground" In The New Middle East Wars

I don't know what's wrong with some of our Congressmen, but the effort to become more involved in the Libyan civil war - and perhaps even the Syrian civil war - is misguided at best.

There isn't a problem supporting real democratic resistance movements in other countries, but you better know who you are dealing with. I suspect that the rebels in Libya are just using us because we are letting them do so. As in Egypt, once the dictator is gone, the fundamentalists will usurp the rebel leadership, and a new "baby Iran" will likely be born. (The members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood are finally showing us who they really are, and none of them is a Thomas Jefferson.)

If the United Nations wants to send African or Middle Eastern troops into these countries, so be it. It is, after all, their neighborhood. But American soldiers must never be involved in civil wars or nation building ever again. Not only is another country's civil war none of our business, it is a thankless job anyway, and any success will always be tenuous at best.

There are few reasons to ever have American boots on the ground in the Middle East. One would be the threatened takeover or destruction of the Saudi oil fields. The other would be an all-out war that threatened the survival of Israel.

The decision to involve our nation in the Libyan civil war is one of the worst decisions ever made by a president in American history. There was no clear and present danger to America or our allies. We do not know who the rebels are or what they represent, and there is ample evidence that jihadists from Iraq and Afghanistan are among the fighters.

Tell your Congressional representatives to keep our troops out of these Middle East civil wars.

NO boots on the ground....

Charles M. Grist

Easter At War

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

For the most part, holidays at war are pretty much like every other day. You're looking for the enemy; they're looking for you. In Vietnam back in 1971, the Easter Bunny would have been crazy to look for us in a jungle filled with North Vietnamese soldiers.

Today, there are tens of thousands of our young troops standing guard, walking patrol, and serving in harm's way throughout the world. As we remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf, let us also remember the sacrifices that have been made by our troops since the founding of our great nation.

May God bless them, and may God continue to bless America.

Charles M. Grist

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Minnesota Soldier Killed In Afghanistan

Specialist Joseph A. Kennedy
Army Specialist Joseph A. Kennedy, 25, of St. Paul, Minnesota, died April 15th in Helmand province in Afghanistan of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with small-arms fire.

Kennedy was assigned to the Second Battalion, Second Infantry Regiment, Third Brigade Combat Team of the First Infantry Division at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Our condolences to the family, friends, and fellow warriors of Specialist Kennedy.

Charles M. Grist

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Please Support The Detective Barry Pruette Memorial Endowed Scholarship

Barry Pruette
My fellow officers and I started this scholarship in Barry's name to provide assistance to young men and women from all walks of life who want to become law enforcement officers, whether local, state or federal. The original motto was "Education, Diversity, Professionalism."

Late last year, we finally reached our goal of $25,000, ensuring that the scholarship will be awarded in perpetuity. The following news release was published in "For The Record," a publication of the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Central Florida.

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"A scholarship awarded to criminal justice students at the University of Central Florida in Orlando to memorialize Altamonte Springs Police Detective Barry Pruette will now be awarded in perpetuity thanks to the generosity of the Altamonte Springs Police Department and Altamonte Springs Rotary Club.

The organizations established the Detective Barry Pruette Memorial Scholarship in 2001 to honor Pruette, a highly respected member of the department who died two years earlier, at age 42, from a heart attack. Pruette served the department in many roles, including patrol officer, traffic officer and detective. He was especially passionate about working as a field training officer, helping to mold new officers.

Each year since 2001, the Rotary Club has funded a $1,000 scholarship to an undergraduate or graduate criminal justice student in Pruette’s memory.  In 2007, the club began making contributions toward an endowment fund for the scholarship as well. Police department employees followed suit and began making contributions through lump-sum gifts or payroll deductions. In late 2010, the organizations reached the requisite $25,000 in donations needed to endow the scholarship at UCF. The scholarship is now named the Detective Barry Pruette Memorial Endowed Scholarship.

'It’s a great collaboration,” said college Dean Michael Frumkin. “It allows us to support the preparation of future police officers. Their effort is absolutely amazing.'"

*  *  *  *

Although the scholarship is now a perpetual one, the annual endowment will be based on the interest received. Therefore continued donations will help to increase the principal upon which that interest is based.

If you wish to donate to the scholarship fund, please send your check to the "Detective Barry Pruette Memorial Endowed Scholarship" c/o The UCF College of Health and Public Affairs, Department of Criminal Justice, P.O. Box 161600, Orlando, Florida 32816-1600.

Thank you, and please pass this on.

Charles M. Grist

The Internet War On Terror - Beware: The Enemy May Try To "Friend" You

To those of you who enjoy social networks such as Facebook, may you heed this warning.

I recently received a “friend” request from a man in an apparent position of responsibility in Iran. Knowing that the use of sites like Facebook can be fatal in a dictatorship like the Islamic Republic of Iran, I researched the postings of this man.

One of the first things I found on his page was a video showing “Israeli Terrorism Against Palestinians.” The video appeared to show dozens of casualties, including men, women and children who had been killed or wounded – allegedly – by an Israeli attack.

Now I couldn’t find any video footage that showed Israeli civilians being murdered by Hamas rocket and mortar attacks. Nor did I see any mention that recent attacks by Israelis resulted from an endless bombardment by terrorists in the West Bank. Like all people, the citizens of Israel have the inherent right to self defense.

To the guy in Iran, the terrorists of Hamas, the fugitives of Al Qaeda, and to those who condone attacks against Israel or the United States, I suggest that you remember this very important lesson: If you wage war against us, we will seek our justice. Unlike you, we don’t try to harm the innocent. If your families are accidentally injured or killed because of the war you brought upon them, then their blood is on YOUR hands.

To my friends on the Internet, I say be careful. Don’t “friend” everyone who makes that request of you. In your desire to get along with the world, make sure you don’t invite the enemy to sit next to you in your very own living room….

Charles M. Grist

Friday, April 15, 2011

Posthumous Medals of Honor Awarded to Korean War Veterans

From Fox News:

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President Obama To Award Two Posthumous Medals of Honor to Korean War Veterans

by Sarah Courtney
Fox News
April 15, 2011

Nearly 60 years after they heroically served in the Korean War, President Obama will honor two soldiers at the White House next month with the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government.

Private First Class Anthony T. Kaho'ohanohano, and Private First Class Henry Svehla, who both served in the U.S. Army, will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously in a ceremony attended by their families May 2nd.

Kaho'ohanohano selflessly held-off enemy forces solo while his company changed position. After running out of ammunition and grenades, he fought face to face with enemy combatants until his death. In a statement the White House said, "His heroic stand so inspired his comrades that they launched a counterattack that completely repulsed the enemy."

Private Svehla charged into battle while serving in the Republic of Korea, causing many casualties to the advancing enemy. Of his heroic actions, the White House said in a statement, "When an enemy grenade landed among a group of his comrades, without hesitation and undoubtedly aware of the extreme danger, he threw himself on the grenade."

Siblings of Kaho'ohanohano and Svehla will attend the White House and join President Obama in honoring their brothers' service and sacrifice.

Most recently, President Obama awarded Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta the Medal of Honor.  He became the first living service member from the Iraq or Afghanistan wars to receive the high award.

The qualifications for medal of honor recipients include bravery above and beyond those of one's comrades as well as risk to one's own life. "There must be incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct, and each recommendation for the award must be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit," says the White House. For those reasons, most recipients of the highest honor are awarded posthumously.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Iowa Soldier Killed In Afghanistan

Specialist Maher

From the "Honor the Fallen" website:

Army Specialist Brent M. Maher was killed on April 11, 2011 during Operation Enduring Freedom.  Maher, 31, of Council Bluffs, Iowa was assigned to the First Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment of the Iowa National Guard, Shenandoah, Iowa.

Specialist Maher died in Paktia province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Our condolences to Specialist Maher’s family, friends, and fellow warriors.

Charles M. Grist

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Florida Soldier Killed In Afghanistan

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Spc. Keith T. Buzinski, 26, of Daytona Beach, Fla., died April 7 in Logar province, Afghanistan of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

For a current list of all casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, go to the "Honor the Fallen" site at .

Charles M. Grist

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Part II - Radical Iraqi Cleric Muqtada Al Sadr Threatens Violence

Muqtada Al Sadr with his inner circle
With regard to my recent post of April 6 on radical Iraqi cleric Muqtada al Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia, here is an update today from the Associated Press:

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Iraqi cleric threatens action if U.S. forces remain
BAGHDAD – A powerful anti-American Shiite cleric threatened Saturday to reactivate his feared militia if American soldiers remain in Iraq beyond this year, after a U.S. offer to keep troops on if they are needed.

Muqtada al-Sadr issued a statement to his followers on the eight anniversary of Saddam Hussein's ouster that stopped just short of calling for violent action against U.S. forces. He accused "the occupation" of inciting panic, corruption and unrest among Iraqis.
His statement was read aloud at a huge protest of tens of thousands in Baghdad's Mawal Square, near al-Sadr's stronghold in an eastern Baghdad slum. The cleric is in Iran, where he has been studying religion for the last several years.
"What if the invasion forces will not leave our lands?" al-Sadr asked in the statement, which was read at the protest by his aide Salah al-Obeidi. "What if the U.S. forces and others stay in our beloved lands? What if their companies and embassy headquarters will continue to exist with the American flags hoisted on them? Will you be silent? Will you overlook this?"
"No, no America. No, no America," the crowd shouted in reply.In January, al-Sadr visited his ancestral home in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad, and told followers to embrace a peaceful approach to diplomacy as his political wing gains power in Iraq's government. But he also said that should the U.S. troops remain in Iraq past 2011, followers might retaliate "by all means of resistance."
On Saturday, al-Sadr elaborated on that point explaining he would quickly train newly armed followers and bring his feared Mahdi Army militia out of retirement. "We will have to adopt (this) approach if they will not leave our country," he said.
The Mahdi Army ran rampant in Baghdad, Basra and other Iraqi cities at the peak of Iraq's violence a few years ago, raiding homes and killing Sunnis in the widespread sectarian fighting that brought the country to the brink of civil war. Al-Sadr froze the militia after it was roundly defeated by Iraqi forces in Basra in 2008, dramatically reducing violence in the country.
Under a security agreement between Washington and Baghdad, U.S. troops are scheduled to leave Iraq at the end of 2011. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who needed al-Sadr's support to keep his job after his party failed to win a majority in national elections last year, has said repeatedly he believes the American forces will no longer be needed in Iraq by next year.
But many Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers want U.S. troops to stay, fearing Iraq is still too unstable to be able to protect itself should Iran begin to play a more active role in the country after American forces leave.
Visiting Iraq this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Obama administration is willing to keep troops in Iraq past 2011. After meeting with al-Maliki and other leaders during his two-day visit, Gates signaled that scenario was becoming increasingly likely.But demonstrator Haidar Nuaman, 25, said al-Sadr's statement shows that many Iraqis won't stand for a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq.
"It seems that the government does not know what to do. Muqtada's is an important voice to stand against any intention by the government to extend the presence of forces," he said.
On April 9, 2003, a U.S.-led coalition ended Saddam's nearly quarter-century regime in Iraq, deposing his government after he fled Baghdad.
Saddam's fall was celebrated by millions of Shiites, Kurds and even Sunnis across the country, whose joy was immortalized in images broadcast worldwide of Iraqis beating a huge statue of the dictator with their fists, feet and shoes after American Marines pulled it down.
Many of those pictures were rebroadcast on Iraq state TV on Saturday. Images of men pulling the head of the Saddam statue down the street were followed by a map of Iraq and the slogan: "The day of change, the place of change."
At a Baghdad speech to his Shiite Dawa party that Saddam terrorized for years, al-Maliki did not mention the anniversary but lamented the day that also marked the assassination of one of al-Sadr's relatives. Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr was killed by Saddam's forces in 1980, and al-Maliki's message Saturday likely will be welcomed by the Sadrists.
"It is good to remember this anniversary in order not to have criminal in power again," al-Maliki said.
Many Iraqis are frustrated with al-Maliki's government, however, including some who have compared him to Saddam because of his often heavy-handed leadership.
"Toppling Saddam Hussein's regime was a dream," said Ari Harseen, a senior leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. "Since then we've gotten some of our rights, but we still have fears about the future as there are still Saddamist thoughts in some governmental institutions."
Associated Press Writers Mazin Yahya in Baghdad and Yahya Barzanji in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq, contributed to this report.
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Once America has left Iraq, old grudges and ancient rivalries will continue to fester. It will not be an easy time.
Charles M. Grist

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

America Winds Down In Iraq - The Mahdi Army Waits In The Shadows

Muqtada al Sadr, leader of the Mahdi Army
When I was in Iraq in 2004, there were two major uprisings by the Mahdi Army, a violent Shiite militia led by anti-American cleric Muqtada al Sadr. Many Americans and Iraqis were killed by his black-uniformed militia members. Eventually, Al Sadr moved his militia back into the shadows. He participated in the new Iraqi government, and his Shiite wing was instrumental in selecting many of the leaders of that government.

Then good old Muqtada went to Iran where he has continued his religious education. His ultimate goal is to become an ayatollah like his late father. In his quest to increase his status in Iraq, his mentors are the Iranians, and their influence has been substantial from the beginning of the war. Many of the rockets and mortars my fellow soldiers and I dodged during our tour were supplied by the Iranians.

Only about 47,000 American troops remain in Iraq, and those will be gone by the end of this year. When two U.S. soldiers were killed in southern Iraq in early April, it was likely the Mahdi Army was behind the attack. Militia members - with Al Sadr's blessing - say they will continue to target Americans until all have left Iraq.

Once all Americans have pulled out, watch for Muqtada al Sadr to make his move. A democracy will not work for a terrorist like Al Sadr. He and his fellow hardliners will endeavor to turn Iraq into the Arab equivalent of the Persian religious dictatorship in Iran.

It was a foregone conclusion that America would never have a long-term presence in Iraq - any more than we will have post World War II-styled military bases for decades in Afghanistan. We are the "infidels" to the leaders of both the Sunni and the Shiite factions. Yes, we removed the Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, the mortal enemy of Iran. In many ways, I guess we did Iran a favor. Now they can deal with Muqtada and the sixty percent of Iraqis who are Shiites. Once again, time is on the side of the Muslims. It is their part of the world, and we are only temporary interlopers.

As the Middle East continues to erupt, Islamic fundamentalists will take advantage of turmoil in each country in turn. It is already happening in the post "democratic" revolution in Egypt that Barack Obama encouraged. Fundamentalists are encouraging rioters in Bahrain to keep up the struggle against that government as well as the Saudi Arabian troops who have entered the fray. When they think the time is right, the Mahdi Army and Muqtada al Sadr will make their move in Iraq.

Then we will see if the democracy we fought to establish there is strong enough to survive.

Charles M. Grist

Monday, April 4, 2011

Afghanistan - America's Decade In A "Half War"

The Taliban

"The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue."  Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-Tung) on guerrilla warfare

When America first entered Afghanistan, we did so with about a hundred special ops troops. We knew that Osama Bin Laden was at Tora Bora, but we didn't drop the 82nd Airborne in to surround the place. We let the Northern Alliance, the guerrillas who opposed the Taliban, lead the way. As a result, Bin Laden and his cronies escaped to Pakistan where they live in relative harmony today, the rare drone attack notwithstanding.
The biggest mistake we made was not using the full power of the U.S. military to destroy Al Qaeda in the beginning. Had we done so, we could have brought our troops home in victory, having punished those who attacked us on September 11th.
Instead, we began to fight a guerrilla war in a country that was only slightly above the stone age. The average Afghan was tribal and really only cared about those in his family or village. He was incapable of understanding the lofty ideals of Jeffersonian democracy. As in wars past, our presence in Afghanistan became the issue. Remembering foreign invaders over thousands of years, many Afghans classified us with the colonial powers of the past.
Because the Afghan war quickly became a politicians' war (as in Vietnam, as in Iraq), American troops are dying in valleys that have never been cleared since the beginning of the war. The Afghan president criticizes our motives and our nation, even as he and his drug-dealing relatives shove greenbacks into their pockets. New guerrillas are created every day in the bee's nest of Pakistan, and no war can ever be won as long as the enemy has a safe haven to train, resupply, and recruit.
Our troops have performed in a heroic manner in every way. As in Iraq and Vietnam, they have made friends, shown the people the best that America has to offer, and they have killed, wounded, or imprisoned thousands of bad guys. But, in the end, America cannot be involved in nation building in a place like Afghanistan. When we leave, it will be the strong who will survive. That may very well mean the Taliban, their buddies in Al Qaeda, the drug lords, or a combination of all of them. The culture of corruption is part of the Afghan way of life. Only the Afghans themselves can ever change that.
Afghanistan is another of America's "half wars". We may prosecute such wars with good intentions, but when we have no endgame, we are stepping into one of those infamous quagmires. We cannot "impose" democracy on people who don't really understand what it is. And we certainly can't fight a war without a clear definition of victory.
We went to Afghanistan to get Al Qaeda, but we let ourselves get sucked into the vortex of a guerrilla war where the definition of victory is lost in the fog and mist of those mountain valleys.
Now all we can do is maintain the status quo until Obama's withdrawal date, and the Taliban and Al Qaeda will wait patiently for us to leave. After all, they've been doing this type of thing for thousands of years.
About the time I arrived in Vietnam, America had begun withdrawing under President Nixon's "Vietnamization" plan. As we conducted our patrols in the jungle, we wondered who would be the last soldier to die in Vietnam.
The troops in Afghanistan are probably asking themselves the same thing.
Charles M. Grist