Monday, September 26, 2011

Women voting? How scandalous!

I'm going to break from what I usually blog about to share a news article that I woke up to when I checked BBC online this morning. In a shocking (to me anyway) move towards reform the king of Saudi Arabia announced that women would be granted the right to vote.

Women will be allowed to vote in municipal elections as well have the right to be appointed to the Shura Council. Was this done due to pressure from the West or was it a way of attempting to avoid an "Arab Spring" movement in Saudi?

I wonder how the religious police and conservative citizens of the country will handle this.

Next thing you know they'll be showing off ankles and such

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

One more thing to inflate my ego

Had the pleasure of running into one of my NCOs from 1-14 Cav today during lunch. He was my senior HUMINTer after SSG Tirador was lost and did an outstanding job of focusing the Squadron's HUMINT soldiers and improving the team while at the same time keeping Brigade off our back and then later was instrumental in establishing the base defense cell for FOB Cobra. I have no doubt that my intelligence section would not have as successful as it was without this NCO and it was great to get to spend a few minutes reminicsing about the deployment.

One of the subjects he brought up was this individual who we managed to capture in the beginning of February 2010 with the assistance of the Special Forces team at FOB Caldwell. I mentioned the capture in this blog post where I commented that I was wondering if the capture would accomplish anything.

The detainment at the time was a great moment for my section and the troop responsible for the southern portion of our OE (operating environment) where this individual was conducting attacks. At the beginning of the deployment we had a sudden spike in attacks in the Niddawi tribal area that at first I believed to be due to the insurgents increasing their attacks due to my squadron being the new kids in town. Our sources quickly pointed the finger at the above mentioned individual as being the cell leader in the area and who had recently returned from being in prison. Our local security force partners were unwilling to assist us with this individual partly due to him being a relation of one of the powerful sheikhs in the area and refused to believe that this individual was a bad guy.

We worked the issue for months gathering as much evidence as we could to include plenty of HUMINT as well as SIGINT. It helped that one of our sources happened to be a low level member of our bad guy's cell. The Special Forces team was essential in our targeting because they had access to UAV systems that we did not and what systems we did have were being utilized in the northern portion of our OE; this team also did much of the grunt work in gaining the warrant for this individual's arrest. The detainment came late one night in early February with the Special Forces conducting the raid along with the Mandali city SWAT and our A troop providing the outer cordon.

As for the effect, IED attacks in the Niddawi tribal area dropped considerably and the majority of attacks that occured after the detainment were most likely the result of the tribal turmoil in the region and not terrorist/insurgent related. It was a good capture.

Which brings me back to my run in with my old NCO. He happened to mention, which I did not know at the time, that not only was our target one of our "top 10" and a brigade target, but apparently he was a Theater level target as well, meaning that he was on someone's radar up at Corps. How true that actually is I have no idea and will likely never know, but having captured a Theater level target, something few battalions ever do, is one more thing I get to brag about.

Friday, September 16, 2011

TDY and Twitter comments

Anchorage, AK...minus the moose dodging

I've been TDY to Anchorage, AK obeserving CoIST training on FT Richardson for the past week which is why there have been a lack of updates. 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division appears to be taking the whole company intelligence cell concept pretty seriously; they've already had a mobile training team up here several months back, had more training at the Joint Readiness Training Center in FT Polk, LA, and then have brought the MTT back here this week for some more advanced training. It's good to see an organization embracing the concept which will no doubt be extremely helpful in their upcoming Afghanistan deployment.

Continuing along with my Afghanistan train of thought, there was an all day assualt in Kabul conducted by Taliban fighters. What I find most interesting about this attack was not the attack itself, but the information ops (IO) conducted immediately after and even during the fight. The NATO public affairs office posted a YouTube video of the attack and the response to it. Normally it takes days or even weeks NATO/ISAF/US forces to put out our spin on events so somebody was really on the ball.

Even more amusing is the Twitter battle that occured between the ISAF press office and a Taliban sympathizer. Does this seem a bit childish? Hell yeah it does, but shit-talking across trench lines between combatants is also childishly absurd and yet a time honored warrior tradition. I would have loved to engaged in this kind of modern trash talking with some of the punks we faced in Iraq in '09-10.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hemorrhaging officers: Part III, This Captain's Story

There is a bit of news that I have let my family and most of my friends know (and have even made it official by posting it on Facebook) but have failed to mention on this blog, although I've hinted at it a bit...

I have decided to leave the Army next year.

There are several reasons for the decision which I will get into but for the most part the reasons fall in line with why my fellow captains as well as mid-level NCOs are leaving. If you feel inclined you can read about why the future of the Army is choosing to leave the service in a couple of my blog posts here and here. If you don't feel like going back and reading, the top 3 reasons given for leaving the service were:

1) lack of career control
2) quality of life
3) military bureaucracy

So why am I leaving?

Like I said, it's a number of reasons but the biggest one for me is that it's time to move on. I never saw myself doing a full 20 years in the Army and I'm actually a bit surprised that I've made it 8 years. My current job is dull, fairly uneventful, and boring and while there is the benefit of not deploying I feel like there are interesting jobs that I could be doing that don't deploy me. Instead, the Army has stuck me in an office with little responsibility, almost as if I've been put in a corner and told to wait until I'm needed for another deployment. Can I find something else, either on FT Huachuca or another post? Sure, but 8 years is a good time to leave; if I were closer to 10 years it would just be stupid to leave.

Another primary reason is the lack of feeling valued by FT Huachuca and the Army in general. Huachuca was no where near the top of my list of duty stations to be stationed at when Branch sent me the list of positions/duty stations and asked me to send them back my wish list. I had been here twice already for officer basic and the career course and I really wanted to see what else the Army had to offer. I could have left the Army after my last deployment in '10 but I chose to PCS to Huachuca because Branch told me I was being sent here to be an instructor. This made sense since I had 7 years in the Army at that point and 3 deployments to Iraq; the system was taking advantage of my experience and training while at the same time giving me a much needed break from constant deployments. There was just one problem...

...the G1 section (personnel) at Huachua decided to divert me from being an instructor and instead send me somewhere into the bowels of USAICoE (United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence). To add to the insanity, when I signed in with HQ USAICoE, nobody could tell me which directorate or organization I was supposed to be assigned to...they weren't expecting me. Phone calls were made to G1 but the calls went unanswered, so the commander of HQ USAICoE (a captain, go figure) decided I should go to G3 to assist with the upcoming Intel Warfighting Seminar. Looking back I'm pretty sure he was trying to help a friend of his up at G3 who was swamped with this project and needed bodies, but he shouldn't have that kind of power nor should he have done that to someone who was permanent party. If I'm assigned to G3 fine, I'm assigned to them, but don't just start tossing officers willy nilly all over the place just because you can't get ahold of G1.

So, being the good soldier that I am I went over to G3 to find out from the captain working the IWS exactly what my duties would be. I still hadn't inprocessed post yet and so I assumed that my duties wouldn't begin until that was completed the following week. How wrong I was.

The captain I was being assigned to (being assigned to another captain should have set off all kinds of warning lights) sat me down to get to know me and asked me when my career course date was. Clearly she thought I was just a holdover waiting on a course and she seemed to become rather confused when I told her I graduated the MICCC back in '08. Undaunted by her confusion of a permanent party captain being assigned to help a temporary project she then told me my duty would be to assist another captain (former Air Force officer who switched to Army and who was waiting on a career course slot, i.e., a holdover) in vacuuming and cleaning up classrooms for the IWS. You read that correctly, a captain in the United States Army who is a veteran of 3 Iraq tours with a primary look for major less than a year away and who was supposed to be an instructor was going to be assigned as essentially a janitor. WTF over?

It got worse. She then asked me if I had any family. After telling her that I did not she said, "Good, because you won't be seeing them much. I'll need you to come in this weekend to help stuff gift bags for the IWS. Next week you'll work on creating name tags."

Beyond baffled, and still playing the good soldier, I went over to the classrooms to be cleaned and helped the other captain for a couple of hours until lunch time. After lunch it was determined that I was actually supposed to be assigned to the Training, Doctrine, and Support Directorate...this bit of information had actually been emailed to the HQ commander that morning but he had failed to read it. This was a Thursday and it actually took until Monday for the XO of TDS to figure out where to officially put me due to me not being on any gains roster and not being expected. Honestly, how incompetent are the personnel sections at this post?

I was assigned as the executive officer of the Training Division, one of several divisions under the TDS directorate. My new boss told me he was glad to have me, but that there was no space to put me. I would spend the next several months cubicle hopping and jumping on open computers before a permanent space was found for me. This wasn't too much of an issue since in the first 7 months in the division, I spent 3 months on temporary assignments to FT Benning, GA and FT Bliss, TX. As it appears to me, my experiences and expertise are not as valued so much as having a body in which to send on taskers.

So there you have it. From my perspective FT Huachuca, and thus the Army, only values my ability to push a vacuum around and having a pulse so I can fill taskers given to the directorate. It's really not surprising that after hearing my story the brigade commander stated, "No wonder you are getting out."