Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I am Steamed

Okay, so what I want to know is where are all the damn Hollywood types? Freakin' Martin Sheen can take time to meet with Psycho Cindy and yet... I haven't heard ONE WORD from these Communists about how they are going to leverage their fame and fortune for Katrina aftermath! Where is Michael Moore and Babs? Where is Afleck and his buddies? AWOL. Who is stepping up? Corporations like Wal-Mart, the citizen-soldiers (National Guard), Churches, and NGOs... nope, it is easier to just blame Bush than do any real work yourself. Boy, I am sooo steamed. More on how you can help tomorrow!

UPDATE: It appears that some folks are starting to come out and lend a hand. Myself, I'll be tuning in to see Tim McGraw.

The Right to Bear Arms

I enjoy guns. I got my first .22 rifle at the age of nine and never once shot anyone that I didn’t mean to shoot. Our Constitution is still weathering an assault on many fronts. The First Amendment should have been the second, and vice versa. The gun control lefties probably don't know how to respond to the numerous reports of looting coming out the the hurricane aftermath. It appears that some folks simply aren’t going to stand for it. Good for them. You are all in my prayers.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

August Book Recommendation

Man, I absolutely love to read! I have pretty eclectic tastes and read at least a book a week. I typically stay away from the ‘self-help’ genres (excluding finance), but recently finished “Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul” by John Eldredge. I have long believed that a man’s character is forged in the fires of adversity. Unfortunately, adversity is going the way of the Dodo bird; replaced instead with self-esteem, political correctness, and overbearing compassion/empathy for mediocrity. The military was my ‘forge’ earlier in life and war only stoked the heat. There are still lingering questions, however, about what else I am called to do. Mr. Eldredge takes a look at these sorts of ideas.

Check out Amazon to read the inside of the jacket cover (and order the book). In addition, this short excerpt from the first chapter (pages five and six) may rouse your curiosity:

Whatever these [early] explorers were after, they were also searching for themselves. Deep in a man’s heart are some fundamental questions that simply cannot be answered at the kitchen table. Who am I? What am I made of? What am I destined for? It is fear that keeps a man at home where things are neat and orderly and under his control. But the answers to his deepest questions are not to be found on television or in the refrigerator. Out there on the burning desert sands, lost in a trackless waste, Moses received his life’s mission and purpose. He is called out, called up into something much bigger than he ever imagined, much more serious than CEO or “prince of Egypt.” Under foreign stars, in the dead of night, Jacob received a new name, his real name. No longer is he a shrewd business negotiator, but no he is one who wrestles with God. The wilderness trial of Christ is, at its core, a test of his identity. “If you are who you think you are…” If a man is ever to find out who he is and what he’s here for, he has to take that journey for himself.

He has got to get his heart back.

Good stuff. Please give it a read and let me know what you think!


Pretty busy at work today, but I have been thinking about an issue regarding long-term retention in the U.S. Army... In the meantime, check out this article regarding some insurgents. Still gotta wonder how may we have over here.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Excellent Piece

Wow. I really don't understand the left. I have spent my life in service to others (or have made the attempt). I just read an excellent piece by The Gold Falcon in his Jump Blog that made me understand them a bit better. Check it out!

Financial Planning for Joe Part II

Last week we took away two very important items from the post: 1) Don't wait to start saving, and 2) Defining goals is the first step.

The absolute hardest part for anyone is simply getting started. I’ll have some ideas in the future, but for now, I think that I need to reinforce take-away number one… DON’T WAIT TO START SAVING. For this we are going to temporarily put aside the Thrift Savings Program (mainly cause I don’t know an incredible amount about it) and focus on saving some of your earnings. Why is it so important to start now rather than later? Compound interest!

A formal definition of compound interest is - interest computed on the accumulated unpaid interest as well as on the original principal. For example, I have $1000 invested that earns 10% annually. Setting aside paying taxes, I will earn $100 in interest the first year. That $100 is reinvested into the original $1K and now stands at $1100. At the end of year two, I will earn $110 in interest and now have $1210. Not investing one more cent for 10 years yields $2,593.74. Not touching it for 40 years yields $45,259.26. Not too shabby for not lifting a finger that whole time… and all it cost me was $1000!

Now, let’s look at what can happen if you constantly invest some portion of your income consistently into an account that can’t be taxed until much later. I plan to talk extensively about Individual Retirement Accounts in later posts. Okay, the law currently allows me to invest $4000 annually into my IRA. If I automatically transfer about $333 of my paycheck into my IRA each month, I hit this number pretty easily. Seems like a lot, I know. Here are how the numbers shake out assuming that: you are 20 years-old, will retire at 65, will always invest $4K a year, and get a return of 10%... $3,163,181! Wow! If you wait till you’re 30, you end up with $1,192,507. Wait till 40, $432,727. See what I mean? These lower numbers may seem big now, but down the road this will be peanuts! $400K at retirement will ensure that you hand out carts at Wal-Mart.

I see my parents struggle. They have followed the formula of their parents… they pay in cash, they don’t trust banks let alone investment brokers, the have always live frugally. Unfortunately, they are now realizing that they will have to work into retirement. They own everything outright, but don’t have the cash coming in to maintain them in their twilight years. Initially, they waited because they were raising a family and there was less information about finance available. We have investment possibilities that weren't available to folks a generation ago. Joe, you just can’t wait. The price that you will pay is waaay too steep. Let your money do the work for you, so that you can relax later!

Want to have fun that illustrates what you can do? Check out this
Compound Interest Calculator.

More Cindy

This makes me sick. Can't these SOBs just mind their own damn business? I may just boycott the theaters (though I can't say I won't rent a movie now and then).

At least some in the MSM...

are getting it. Jonah Goldberg, writing in the Arizona Daily Star today says that “If the war on terror has created more terrorists and made the world hate America more, then why has Muslim and Arab opinion of the U.S. improved? The news gets even better. Support for terrorism and Osama bin Laden has been plummeting across the Arab and Muslim World, save for in Jordan where the large Palestinian population plays a larger role.” Indeed.

Looks like things are actually getting better… and all of our traditional allies in “Old Europe?” Well, looks like they are going to get their due times deux.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Thank You Cards

Okay, so I'm spending the day working on Thank You cards from the wedding. It is somewhat time consuming as I'm working diligently to make each one personal. Very cool, but is limiting my blog time. I hope to have the next installment of Financial Advice for Joe either late tonight or sometime tomorrow.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Speaking of Demining...

A quick war story. Early on in Enduring Freedom, the UN was taking the lead in the demining effort, particularly in the Bagram/Kabul area. They had run out of fuze and were really up a creek… losing time and money fast. Fortunately, the head dude was a former British Marine and knew to come to the Operators for help. Me and my team managed to get a pallet of Miller Genuine Draft flown up from the American Embassy commissary in Islamabad (thanks to some 96th bubbas). My Brit buddy then traded the beer to the Her Majesties Royal Engineers for fuze and he drove on with the demining effort. I saw a story about him later in Outdoor Journal or some-such. Damn, I really miss that stuff. Talk about getting some shit accomplished! I never went to be not feeling like I earned my pay. By the way, my wife is always astonished to learn about these stories as she finds it miraculous that I remember to take out the trash. Poor thing, she still hasn't met the 'horse trader' in me.

USCENTCOM Afghan Good News

Just received a news release from the CENTCOM PAO with good news out of Afghanistan. Hat tip to SPC Flowers.


Aug. 27, 2005
Release # 050827-05

Training ignites first Afghan Army demining operation

By U.S. Army Capt. Cenethea Harraway
Office of Security Cooperation-Afghanistan Public Affairs

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan National Army recently put their training to use as they successfully conducted the first ANA-led demining operation in Afghanistan . The mission highlighted not only the expanding military capabilities of the ANA, but the government’s commitment to achieve a mine-free Afghanistan for future generations.

With the approval of the Afghan Ministry of Defense, the ANA leadership took charge and organized two days of real-world demining operations at the Area Military Depot of Pol-e-Charkhi. HALO Trust, a British-based non-governmental organization dedicated to humanitarian mine clearing, identified the area as containing mines.

“Getting the soldiers to work in a real minefield immediately after training was essential to instill the courage and confidence needed to do their job,” said French Army Capt. Thierry Sagon, the primary instructor for demining training.

The demining operation consisted of three main areas: the entry control point, the demining zone and the company area of operations.

At the entry control point, each two-man demining buddy team received a safety briefing and protective gear. They were also listed on an accountability roster by name and blood type. Each buddy team was comprised of a first-degree and a second-degree deminer. A first-degree rating qualifies deminers to search for mines and provide initial detection. Second-degree deminers, who are also rated as instructors are qualified to identify and determine which neutralization method is best for disabling each mine or munition. The ANA company leadership provided the overall command and control for the operation.

Safety was emphasized over speed, with the operation occurring in a secured environment under daylight conditions. A medical evacuation team was on site as well. In the demining zone, three two-man buddy teams took positions 50 meters apart and worked in corridors 80 centimeters wide. Since manual demining can be tedious, repetitive and dangerous, the teams were rotated every 20 minutes as a safety precaution.

During the second day of the operation, the Afghan demining teams discovered an improvised explosive device and a Russian anti-personnel mine. Applying their knowledge and training, the deminers quickly assessed the situation and determined that the IED could be safely detonated in place. They marked the anti-personnel mine’s location and left it in place for later destruction.

The Afghan demining teams cheered and applauded their first live detonation. Yet their confidence and elation did not distract them from the gravity of their work. Only two months prior, 90 members of the engineer company from the 3rd Brigade, 201st Corps’ 4th Combat Support Kandak (Battalion) completed advanced demining training and earned their first and second-degree ratings.

Members of the French Army’s Engineer Mobile Training Team conducted the training as part of Operation Epidote, the name France has given to its entire training mission in Afghanistan.

“It was very necessary for the Afghan Army to be involved today and to show that they can learn and execute technical skills,” said Lt. Col. Gaetan Sevin, chief of the French training team. “We do not alter our standards of training. The Afghan soldiers are trained just as we are in France . We are very pleased with the outcome and have much confidence in the abilities of the soldiers.”

The 4th Kandak’s Engineer Company was the first ANA unit to complete the comprehensive two-month demining training. According to the French instructors, they trained in realistic, difficult situations to master the drills and procedures needed to work in a live minefield. The training focused on mine identification, detection, clearance, neutralization and removal methods. The students learned to identify 60 types of munitions and 35 different mines.

“I am very happy our soldiers were able to get professional demining training,” said Lt. Col. Aminjan, commander of the 4th Kandak. “Last year, our unit deployed to the Ghazni province and could do nothing when we faced real minefields and explosive materials. Thanks to the French trainers and Coalition forces, we now have the skills and moral courage to locate and neutralize the mines to help protect our people.”

The French instructors lead the way in ANA demining training with support and donations from Coalition forces and other non-governmental organizations such as the United Nations Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan.

Despite progress made by mine action organizations, Afghanistan still remains heavily contaminated by mines and other explosive remnants from years of war. These mines continue to have a devastating effect on the Afghan people and impede economic development.

“Today was not about just finding mines or munitions, but rather their ability to apply their knowledge and skills in a real-world environment,” Sagon said. “They organized and executed the operation in entirety. They did a great job.”

The demining mission marked a huge step and a new direction in operational abilities for the ANA.

“The training and today’s demining operation will help us in our military duties,” said Capt. Shenwari Hanifullah, the ANA engineer company commander. “More importantly, it will help us to protect the people of Afghanistan.”

Good stuff. BTW, the French military guys (enlisted and lower officer that is) that I have worked with have always been pretty cool. Like most in the Warrior Caste, they typically have a different world-view.

I Love Peggy Noonan

A phenominal writer, Mrs. Noonan never ceases to make a murky situation clear. I believe that this was why she was a favorite staffer of President Reagans. Mrs. Noonan's syndicated article this week concerns BRAC. Enjoy.

Friday, August 26, 2005

When Greenspan talks...

Prudent people listen. As an economist by training (the Austrian school if you must know), I can tell you that most will ignore the sage at their own peril. If you have an ARM, you should consider refinancing or selling. Just my two cents.

250,000th R&R Soldier

The Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System has the following about the 250,000th R&R Soldier.
Corporal James Holcombe, the 250,000th R&R Soldier, arrives at the Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport from Iraq for his two weeks of rest and relaxation. Scenes include Soldiers leaving to go overseas, CPL Holcombe arriving, taking pictures with volunteers from the USO, shaking hands and talking to volunteers and VIPs in the conference room, a speech from Lieutenant General R. Steven Whitcomb, Commanding General of Third U.S. Army/US Forces Central Command (CENTCOM)/Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC), a speech from Georgia State Senator John Douglas, and a presentation of plaques. Video from Third Army Public Affairs.

The video of him is here. Lucky S.O.B.! I didn't get any R&R, leave, or otherwise for a whole year! Check it out.


More success stories courtesy of the CENTCOM PAO. Highlights include:
Phase III of the $10 million Najaf Teaching Hospital project began this week with a symbolic “ground-breaking” ceremony on the second floor of the hospital. This phase of the project includes civil, mechanical, electrical and plumbing rehabilitation throughout the facility. The contract also includes a physicians’ residence building, sewer treatment plant, a morgue, storage and garages, and remodeling of the main entrance to the hospital.

Five hundred children in a community west of Al Hillah will start school in a newly renovated school, thanks also to the Coalition forces in the Central-South Division, who finished work on the Abu Gharaq School this week. Other Coalition forces built a playground Aug. 19 for the children of the Tesin Orphanage in Kirkuk. Soldiers built the playground out of discarded auto parts, welding the various parts together. Coalition civil affairs Soldiers spent a busy day with the local leaders, delivering school supplies and then assessing the Musala and Al Sader Primary Schools.

Where Has the Day Gone!

Seriously, I just looked up and see that it is 13:30 here! Damn. Anyway, I've been in a bit of a foul mood because the first thing I saw on the Boob Tube this morning was Psycho Cindy. Please, someone make her go away!

Thursday, August 25, 2005


to Mr. Mike Mahar for snapping my picture. I can now be viewed in my profile. Mike, look forward to an extra nut in your stocking this year!

Dump Social Security

I am on-my-knees-thankful that GW won the last election. Unfortunately, he and his advisors really missed the boat with Social Security reform (privatization). Let’s face it, SS (whether you can make some small choices or not) is nothing more than a scheme of forced savings and socialized investment. The current system of debt finance is different from the original "pay as you go" system, and this may seem like a good thing, but for the individual citizen, it doesn’t make any difference. Under the privatization scheme we were to pay two times. Once for the public system and once for the new and improved private system, with no way to opt out. We were told that if we could just hold out for the thirty years it would take for the conversion that the system would be saved.

Saved? Why in the world would we want to save it in any form?

The whole argument of the left is that social security is needed because people are not intelligent enough to save money or make decisions about their financial future. If this is true, it is because it is another example of how our education system has failed us. People don’t understand how to save and/or invest because of our schools. Not surprisingly, it isn’t taught because our teachers don’t know anything about it either. Know any public school teachers? Do you know that each state has its own pension plan for teachers? No need to invest… the state has your back! (This is why I am so into helping to show Joe what I know!)

Anyway, I digress. I like what Professor George Reisman of Pepperdine University says about this subject:
The government's very considerable savings from reduced pension obligations over an initial phase-out period totaling almost forty years from start to finish, should be earmarked for reductions in the Social Security taxes of the workers who will never be able to enter the system, i.e., in the above scenario, workers aged 34 and less at the time of the reform's enactment. As these workers advance in age, new workers will be entering the labor market. There will thus be an increasing number of workers to bear the burden of the Social Security system's final phase. This will permit Social Security tax rates to be steadily reduced on this group, until they disappear altogether.

The end of Social Security would be the end of something that should never have been started in the first place. The root of the system is the philosophy of collectivism, in that it forces everyone into a giant stewpot as it were, in which individuals are compelled to support the parents and grandparents of total strangers, whether they want to or not, in exchange for themselves later on being compulsorily supported by the children and grandchildren of total strangers.

And, of course, standing between the generations has been a mass of politicians and government officials who have used whatever excess has existed of these forced exactions over current pension payments, to fund ordinary, current government spending.

So dump it! The fundamental question remains: is it efficient and/or moral for the federal government to be managing your savings habits? If the answer is no, what do we do? I’m not smart enough to figure it all out, so I just say DUMP IT! Anyone who believes that this will mean widespread poverty of elders in the U.S. need to visit a third-world country and get an idea of what poverty really means (and it isn’t a car and television). Just dump it.

This badge...

may be in Jack Army's future.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Wednesday Night Kick Ass Photo

I have a ton of pictures, some are mine and others come from the pros in Combat Camera. I'll post some occasionally to keep things spicy! Enjoy!

Hmmm... wonder what these guys are doing...

Radio Host Michael Graham

I love the guy (here on WMAL-AM) and he was recently fired for speaking out about CAIR. The Washington Times got it right. Now Drudge is saying that:
KFI-AM Los Angeles HIRES Talk Show Host Graham FIRED By WMAL After Islam Remarks...

"KFI has an extended offer for Michael Graham to fill in at the station because KFI still values free speech,' says KFI pd, Robin Bertolucci..."
Damn right.

USCENTCOM News Release

The USCENTCOM PAO office just sent me a news release. I reprint it here and will link to it once it is posted. Ballcap tip: SPC Flowers


Aug. 24, 2005
Release # 050824-03

Tripartite Commission meets in Islamabad

Islamabad , Pakistan — The Tripartite Commission, comprised of senior military and diplomatic representatives from Afghanistan , Pakistan and the United States , held its 12th meeting in Rawalpindi , Pakistan today.

This meeting was the first in which Afghanistan and Pakistan were represented at the four-star general level. Delegates included Gen. Bismullah Khan, Chief of the General Staff of the Afghan National Army; Gen. Ahsan Saleem Hyat, Vice-Chief of the Army Staff of the Pakistan Army; and Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, Commander, Combined Forces Command–Afghanistan.

The session began with a series of briefings focused on enhancing regional stability and furthering security measures taken by Afghanistan , Pakistan and the Coalition in advance of the Afghan National Assembly and Provincial Council Elections on Sept. 18, 2005. The parties noted recent improvements in cooperation and information-sharing and reaffirmed their commitment to enduring operations against Al-Qaeda and associated militants.

During the plenary session, the parties agreed that the participation of Generals Bismullah Khan and Ahsan Saleem Hyat signified an important step toward enhancing strategic dialogue and understanding between Afghanistan and Pakistan . Gen. Bismullah Khan, Gen. Ahsan Saleem Hyat, and Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry met separately following the conclusion of the plenary session.

The delegates examined ways to deepen their level of military-to-military relationship in the interest of long-term regional stability. All parties noted the significance of the first bilateral Afghan-Pakistani staff exchanges, which took place July 14, 2005, in Kabul and Aug. 9, 2005, in Islamabad .

This plenary session was also significant in that representatives of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force attended the session as observers. All parties welcomed the NATO/ISAF observers and look forward to their participation in the future meetings given ISAF/NATO’s expanding role in Afghanistan .

The Tripartite Commission will meet again in October 2005.

This is interesting news for me for a couple of reasons. The first is that I served under LTG Eikenberry when he was an infantry battalion commander and am glad to see him doing so well. He is an extremely intelligent guy with absolutely no sense of humor. The second is that I have spent a great deal of time (in the past) in Pakistan. While I plan to post more detail about my experience in Pakistan in the future, it is important to note that Gen. Ahsan Saleem Hyat was hip-deep with the Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI). They all are. The ISI is filled with bad people that are more inclined to support extremists than liberty.

Don't Let your Dingle Dangle

I live in Virginia. I really like and have voted for John Warner and George Allen. However, I think that they have been allowing their dingle dangles to dangle in the dirt (as the old cadence says).

George Allen recently went on record saying that he thinks the President should meet with Scary Cindy. His release quoted him as saying:
"Personally, I would have just met with Mrs. Sheehan several weeks ago when she first made this solitary request."
Quite frankly, he may be right. I wonder what would have happened if the Prez had just met with her right off the bat. Would she have garnered the same amount of press? Should we care? Fortunately, the right-thinking blogsphere has done a magnificent job of exposing her for the hypocrite that she is. Still, one wonders why Allen feels the need to get his view out. Clearly, he is posturing for a Presidential run. I'm not sure that he would be a good candidate. Dammit! Quit helping the moonbats!

Then, I see an article today in the D.C. daily rag (the Washington Post) that John Warner says that:
"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and a senior aide improperly manipulated [emphasis added] the national base realignment plan announced earlier this year to compel the movement of more than 20,000 defense jobs away from the Washington area."
What? Manipulated? Seriously, the greater metropolitan area is absolutely bloated with Defense and now Sen. Warner sounds like a conspiracy theorist. I understand that he has a job to do for the Commonwealth of Virginia, but this sounds somewhat crazed. I have harped about the size of staffs... we need to cut back. I actually agree with Sen. Warner, in that, simply moving these jobs will not solve the problem. The real problem involves McManus' Law. This Law states that a bureaucracy will grow to the size of the building that it is housed in. Moving Defense positions to other areas will only create a vacuum that will be filled by... you guessed it, more positions.

Ah well, at least we don't have to deal with Chuck Hagle.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


More success stories from the Public Affairs Office at the United States Central Command. Now, if only the MSM would pay a bit more attention.

Switched to Haloscan

Sorry, I just switched my comments to Haloscan so that I could have a trackback ability and I've lost all my comments. Feel free to let me know if you find any of this stuff interesting.

Stress Levels

This may sound funny, but I often prefer the stress of being “in the box” to that of being home. Some of this may be because I have been a soldier since I turned seventeen. Allow me to elaborate.

When deployed there is a massive amount of stress in day-to-day life, but it is a different kind of stress. Yes, the prospect of death or dismemberment is stressful, but I always felt like I was trained to deal with it. I’m sure many of you have heard this analogy: combat for a soldier is much like a professional athlete finally getting called off the bench to get into the big game. BTW, the left would have you believe that we are ‘children’ that have been duped by an evil administration… however, we call ourselves ‘professionals’ (the Silent Professionals in the case of SF). A soldier may worry and fret (read fear), but that is what keeps you alive. It is hard work. It is really damn hard. It is also exceedingly rewarding. I believe that we in the military (especially the special operations community) are wired differently. We are adrenaline junkies. We are dedicated. We are (largely) selfless in our sacrifices. I don’t worry that I will get hurt or die, I worry about my buddies to my left and right. I won’t let them down.

Another source of stress is caused by just being away from home and missing your friends and family. Eventually, you use this ache to get through a tough day. There is also the stress of Hysterical Idiots of Generally Higher Rank (HIGHeR)… even the idiots think that there are idiots above them. For example, once I was at Camp Victory in Baghdad - back when it was first named. I was headed to find some chow when some REMF numbskull called me out for having my ball-cap hat on (I replied that it was my uniform) and kicked back on my head (revealing my roguishly long hair). This dude then heatedly explained that I was setting a poor example for Joe… and why wasn’t I wearing any rank (I only was in uniform because I had to be at this Camp). This may sound petty, but I don’t need this particular flavor of discipline. Ah well, I just said “Roger that” and kept moving on (without adjusting anything).

Another stressor is purely the lack of privacy. Sure you get a little, but it really wore on me as time went on. Of course, I didn’t have it as bad as all the dudes in tent-city, but it was bad enough at the time. You really get close to your buddies. It is awesome, but you are with them ALL THE TIME… for months at a time. It is hard. Add to this elixir the extreme heat, perpetual dust, and body armor… and you can start to feel the fun!

So, those are just some of the stressors, but it is still okay because it is your job. You are getting a great paycheck (relatively as you don’t pay federal income tax), you get to eat three times a day (some guys get KBR chow and have steak and lobster tail once a week), you don’t have to worry what you’ll wear each day, you have sporadic phone and internet access (some more than others), and you are with some of the very best friends you will ever have!

Now you get home. In my case, back to the civilian job and life. Now I seem to have less control over my life than I did before. Here is a short list: shopping; laundry; cooking; paying bills; making time for the gym; traveling all over the country to visit family (which is awesome, but tiring); getting all your benefits started up at work; driving without looking for snipers and bombers; explaining what it was like ‘over there’ to everyone who asks, constant contact with everyone and anyone due to land-line, cell, and blackberry; not utilizing profanity at every opportunity; watching the MSM and (what seems like) half the country inexplicably get it all wrong; etc.

Sure, this is all stuff that we all deal with day-to-day here in the world, but it is some of the reasons why I didn’t completely mind being gone. The bottom line is that I feel like I have more control and can better focus on my job when I’m abroad. Sorry. The thing that I really miss the most is being surrounded by people who are just like me. *sniff*

Mudville Gazette

Monday, August 22, 2005

Financial Planning for Joe - Part I

I know Joe. I was, am, and always will be Joe. I know that drinking beer and chasing girls is synonymous with Duty, Honor, and Country. I blew all the money I made on my first tour. I had nothing to show for my first four years (except making E-6). I even had a buddy with a B.A. in Finance try and help me out. I was young, dumb, and invincible. The truth is that my buddy wasn't too specific and I wasn't going to puzzle out his advice when I could head to town. I've taken a lot of financial lumps... including a divorce that left me living in my truck. I understand my old buddy's motivation, I'm just gonna bring it down a couple levels. Let's get started with the counseling.

Alright Joe, you've made a serious commitment... you've joined the military. Maybe you have just joined and maybe you are getting ready to retire. Hopefully, no matter where you are in the journey, you have a plan. If you don't, this post is for you.

Once upon a time in this country you would finish your schooling (at some level), find a steady job and stay with it for thirty or forty years until it came time to retire. You then received a gold watch and a nice little pension. Hopefully in this time, you've put away some money and own your home. Unfortunately, this little piece of Americana belongs to my grandfather. You probably already know this. The problem is, despite (or possibly because of) all the literature out there, you don't know what the hell is supposed to replace this formula. It is confusing! Don't worry, you have plenty of time to figure it out... er, actually, you really don't have any time to waste. Waiting is costing you BIG bucks and hopefully this post will get you started down your road to financial success.

The first part of any planning process is to know the Commander's Intent. In this case you are the commander. It is up to you to call the shots, and frankly, no one else can or will do it for you. So, my first question to you is:
What is your vision of the future? Your intent?
Each person (or couple) has a different vision for their future. Some (apparently most) want to own a house. Personal or children's education, travel, aging parents, nest egg, retirement... some of the reasons people need to learn to save. So the first thing you have to decide is what it is that you desire for the future. What is your purpose?

For the sake of example, I will go with purchasing a house. What is that going to take? Clearly, where you live is an important factor in whether you can afford anything. Being stationed in the San Diego area may make buying a nearly impossible option. Regardless, the next question that you need to ask yourself is what it will take to make happen? How much is needed for a down payment? How much can I comfortably afford to spend on mortgage and taxes each month? Is my credit history good or do I need to put some work in to improve it? Should I use my Veteran's Administration home loan now or later (more detail on VA loans in future posts)? The more questions that you can answer, the better off you'll be.

Having more that one goal is not only understandable, but required.

The take-away from this post? 1) Don't wait to start saving, and 2) Defining goals is the first step.

Advice I Understand

Advance apologies to any female readers... A buddy of mine just gave me some newlywed advice that I can FINALLY grasp. I mean, I really get it now! I reprint it here... Thanks LE.

Your Primary Objective: Have Sex With Your Wife

#1 Your in-laws are perfect because they made your wife what she is. Failure to recognize this fact is a direct violation of your primary objective.

#2 Always support your wife, even when she's dead wrong. Opposition is a direct violation of your primary objective

#3 We means You when discussing chores around the house. Failure to grasp these subtle language variations is a direct violation of your primary objective.

#4 She absolutely did tell you and you forgot. Even if you were asleep! Failure to recognize this fact is a direct violation of your primary objective.

#5 Your money is hers. All you need is her love. Failure to recognize this fact is a direct violation of your primary objective.

#6 If you are ever caught ogling another woman your response should always be: “I was just thinking how much better your ____ is than hers”. Failure to properly “spin” is a direct violation of your primary objective.

#7 You get a corner of the garage to call your own, the rest is hers for you to maintain. Failure to recognize this fact is a direct violation of your primary objective.

#8 Eventually you will have sex as frequently as you attend church. Be sure to thank GOD for allowing you to marry your wife. Failure to pay homage is a direct violation of your primary objective

#9 R-E-S-P-E-C-T will guarantee many happy anniversaries. Failure to remember why you got married is a direct violation of your primary objective.

#10 If your primary objective ever changes, you are not paying enough attention to her. Beg forgiveness. She is worth it.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Financial Planning

Our society does an appalling job of preparing people to be financially independent. Most high school and even college graduates that I know are almost completely illiterate when it comes to finances. It is not surprising then, that the military is even worse off. There are several contributing factors:
1. Your typical Joe is between the age of 17 and 21. This is the first steady paycheck coming in and his life (and financial future) stretch out before him. There is no sense of urgency or need for planning.
2. Make the military a career and you get a paycheck for life! This is true, just ask my old Sergeant Major who drives a big-rig.
3. Schools may teach you math and how to balance a check, but there is little formal training on investment, so all young people suffer. Writing a simple budget is a rarity in the lower enlisted.
4. Frankly, there is always war and rumors of war. “Live for today” is the motto of the young soldier.
5. The only two alternative savings pushed in the military are the Thrift Savings Plan and automatic purchase of EE U.S. Savings Bonds.

While I am no expert, I have learned some hard lessons and am enjoying delayed success. Therefore, I will periodically be posting my thoughts on a variety of financial topics that are geared toward the beginner investor. I will be looking at it from the view of the new recruit to the grizzled, graybeard veteran (in his thirties, lol). I will appreciate any views, corrections, or comments that would better help convey some basic financial truths. Man, I’d better get squared away! Have a great weekend.

Friday, August 19, 2005

BRAC Blues

I am not a big conspiracy theorist, but when it comes to Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and money, there may be something fishy. While I'm not necessarily screaming corruption, there are always decisions made that completely disregard the soldier. For example, BRAC really began around 1988 and, according to some, has had a positive affect on those affected. Wow. This is a really big statement. Here is one example where it appears the enlisted got the shaft.

Just south of Washington, DC in northern Virginia, there is an area of Alexandria that dates back to 1652 and is known as "Old Town." There used to be an Army post called Cameron Station that was only a few miles away from the Old Town area. It consisted mainly of long brick buildings and had a huge commissary. One source described it in part as:

The first round of base closings in 1988 addressed Cameron Station, long the home of the Defense Logistics Agency. All 165 acres were declared excess, and the Station's major activities were relocated to Fort Belvoir in 1995. Cameron Station ceased its mission on September 30, 1995. 101 acres of Cameron Station were sold to a private developer in December 1996. The remaining 63 acres were transferred to the City of Alexandria Parks Department.

The really crappy part of it is that, while there are dozens of military installations in the greater metropolitan area, there is very little enlisted housing. Guys that I know in the 3rd US Infantry (The Old Guard) say that E-4s are basically forced to live off post. Trust me that they are happy to do it, but it seriously costs an arm and a leg. The last ONE bedroom apartment that I lived in cost $1K a month (plus utilities). Truth is that according to the August 1st issue of the Army Times, the housing situation is getting worse. In an article titled "The trouble with BAH,"

Although the Basic Allowance for Housing has been hiked more than 50 percent over the past five years to fully cover average rental costs, service members across the country say the allowance still doesn't measure up.

This is not breaking news to enlisted folks. Housing allowances in the DC area are among the highest in the country. So what am I getting at? My point is that, in the case of Cameron Station, there was an excellent opportunity to mitigate some of the struggles of the enlisted folks. Instead, someone got a seriously sweet deal and the developer put up luxury townhomes that are, to be fair, quite nice. Sorry Sergeant, we don't have any on-post housing available.

My biggest concern is thethee new/current BRAC recommendations include shutting down Walter Reed Army Hospital and that the same opportunity will be lost. Granted, the Hospital is in a crappy part of town and I personally wouldn't want to live there, but the fact is that no one is going to look out for the enlisted folks. Housing is just another sacrifice that the enlisted and lower commissioned have to bear. Bummer.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Gotta Love the AP

Going through some of the Associated Press Breaking News stories, I came across some that illustrate the disconnect between the MSM and the people. Here are some good ones:

Army Reservist Convicted of Assaulting Afghan Prisoner Escapes Jail Time... still got his pee-pee wacked.

Roberts Wary of Rankling the Press in 1983... whew, glad he didn't.

U.S. Soldier Buried in Mexico After He Was Killed in Iraq... cause we needed some negative spin.

Iraqi Lawmakers Seek Constitutional Compromise With Sunnis; Four U.S. Soldiers Killed... fair and balanced... good news and bad.

Intelligent Design Debate Heats Up... and here I thought it was the humidity.

'Peace Mom' Leaves Camp, Her Mother Ill... is this good news or bad news to the MSM?

Man, I could do this for hours! Morons.

Change in Culture

So General Kevin Byrnes, the (former) commander down at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, was relieved of command this month. This may seem like old news, but it deserves a closer look. According to the Army Times (you may need a subscription):

Since the Aug. 9 announcement of Byrnes’ relief, many in the Army community had questioned why the popular and highly respected general had received a punishment that, on the surface, seemed disproportionate to his alleged offense.
“The allegation against Gen. Byrnes involves a consensual, adult relationship with a woman who is not in the military, nor is a civilian employee of the military or the federal government,” according to an e-mail statement from Byrnes’ lawyer, Lt. Col. David Robertson, an attorney in the Army’s Trial Defense Service. “Gen. Byrnes and his wife separated in May 2004. They remained separated until their divorce became final on 8 Aug 2005,” Robertson wrote to Army Times, indicating that the couple maintained separate domiciles and did not appear together at official Army functions following their separation. Byrnes, who was due to retire in November, did not respond to a message left on his answering machine seeking comment.

“You’ve got to wonder, what the hell’s the story,” a TRADOC source said. “And why 90 days before a change of command? Why not let him change command and then hold up his retirement?”

Incredible. According to these standards, any number of General Officers throughout history would have been axed! General Dwight D. Eisenhower allegedly had an affair with his driver Kay Summersby. The truth may never be known, but he would have been hung in today's environment. We even had a later President get a BJ in the White House.

The left would no doubt quickly point out that we have evolved and that 'exploiting women' is no longer acceptable (unless they are interns). They may also point out that now-a-days the KKK no longer enjoys the tactic approval of a large group of people (excepting Robert Byrd). I agree that we have improved in a number of areas, but the thing is, 1) all of this is alleged, 2) It was not an employee of either the government or military, and 3) he was separated from his wife, with a clear intent by both parties, to divorce.

I am not condoning adultry... my first marriage ended due largely to infidelity on the part of my (then) wife. I do think that the military needs to meet an exceptionally high standard of conduct. Truthfully, making this all public has only hurt our reputation in a time when we could use a leg up! I have spoken to several senior officers from TRADOC and by all accounts, this alleged affair did not affect the workplace at all, firing him right before retirement made it a black eye.

It is already really damn difficult to make it in the increasingly "zero defect" mentality of the current military. Now there is yet another layer of standards that are not required in any other job outside of the military. Now a guy who has done all the right things to end a marriage is cast aside with no meaningful remorse. Trust me when I say that his peers are all running for cover. They have no choice.

No doubt there is more to the story, but then again, this is the same senior leadership that won't allow a soldier to have a beer, nudie mag, or any fun in the warzone. You arrogant bastards! Again, the Army on the tactical level is absolutely kicking ass... in spite of the disconnect at the senior levels. Keep up the good fight!

Stuck in a SCIF

Man, I've been stuck in a SCIF (Sensative Compartmentalized Information Facility) for awhile... I didn't even see sunlight at any time yesterday. Bummer. Now I'm free! I have some stuff I've been mulling over.

I'd like to take this opportunity to give a vigirous handshake to Jack Army for inspiring me to start a blog and for helping to spread the word. Anything that I can do for you, brutha, just let me know.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


The Public Affairs Officer (PAO) usually manages to get some of the good stuff out and into the hands of the MSM... where it is fumbled long before the endzone. We'll see if they continue to send out the Good News each week.

The USCENTCOM PAO wrote me an email and assured me that they plan to keep the good news rolling out. I have included a button along the sidebar that will guide you to their website.

Lessons "Noted?"

While a massive topic, I have to say that the military (as an institution) does a terrible job at learning from our mistakes (and successes). Moreover, we are completely aware of it! We have been doing it forever. Typically, we call these gems of wisdom "Lessons Learned" when they are more aptly termed "Lessons Noted." Fortunately, I am not referring to the tactical level guys... the division level and below. The guys at the tip of the spear figure it out and are excellent at adapting to an evolving battlespace. Thank God.

The problem lies with the top... all the way from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) down to Corps level. The brass just can't seem to grasp that an increasingly volumetic and bureaucratic staff is the bellybutton of the problem. From what I can see, the Joint Staff (in the Pentagon) is dedicated and hard-working... but so are ants. There is no time for meaningful transformation when it is ticket-punching time. This is the case with most staff functions. Fortunately, there are increasing efforts on many fronts to get this war "more right" than the last.

When the military was unable to keep up with ways to exchange data and lessons, the fighting man found a way to do it himself. Information collaboration websites like this and (now taken down) provide forums for junior leaders to learn from one another. This example illustrates the technological comfort level of our troops. These spontaneous improvements are driven by a number of factors, primarily the prospect of soldiers being wounded or killed. Inevitably, DOD and/or the Services will heartily embrace these innovations and thereby effectively kill them.

The Department has other ongoing efforts that may yet bear fruit. Think tanks are working dilligently on culling together some hard-earned lessons and DOD has numerous internal efforts. Once such effort is the new Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG). I don't know much about it, but found this bit interesting.

But more than anything, [Col. Robert Shaw, commander of the AWG] will be looking for exceptionally bright soldiers who can think on their feet. Candidates will be put through a rigorous 21-week assessment course to determine if they have the skills and intelligence Shaw is looking for.

So far the response has been positive. Shaw said a major even took herself out of the astronaut program to try out for the group.

Another assessment? Sounds like fun! Anyway, I'm open-minded to methods used for progess, but this may be just another good example of good intentions. "Asymmetric" anything is quite a broad brush to paint with. I realize that I sound sceptical (bitter even?) but I have seen so many excellent ideas and initiatives go wrong! Here's to getting it better than before.

*steps off soapbox*

Monday, August 15, 2005

MSM Encounter

This past weekend my (second) wife (Sexy Squirrel) and I traveled out of state for a wedding. One of Sexy's oldest girlfriends was finally getting married and Sexy was to stand up with her. The groom's family was great, but his sister is a television journalist at a local station in Washington, D.C.

When the sister found out that I am a vet she made it a point to "praise" me and all my buddies for our great work, even though she didn't "agree with the reasons we went there." Damn. Now why did she have to go and qualify her "praise?" I explained that the vast majority of the military deeply believed in what we are doing over there and she argued with me! She cited a recent Washington Post article that featured dissenters. I kept my cool and offered that the MSM is always willing to shine their benevolent light on dissenters and broadly ignored any good news. Again, she argued with me!

I actually pretty much just let it go. What could I do? I decided that I wouldn't waste my time on her as she clearly had uncannily full knowledge of all world events... even though I was the first OEF and OIF vet that she had met. Wow, I'm getting my blood pressure up all over again.

I let it go because I am a gentleman and am able to foresee that creating problems with this family now may make things uncomfortable in the future.

I guess that I wish that I could have had more of a conversation with her (preferably one way). I found her exclamations of support for the troops (she even has *gasp* a yellow ribbon magnet on her car) to be disingenuous. As far as I'm concerned, you can't support the troops if you don't support the mission. My feeling is that all the negativity and obstructionist posturing of the MSM (and the left) is killing more Americans. You cannot have it both ways. I will elaborate further on this thought in the future.

Another problem in my new "friend" the journalist's eyes was that we were creating even more anger in Iraq. Guess what! Once we crossed the berm and finished slapping around the opposing Iraqis, we found that we were fighting foreigners. Seriously, we ran counter-intelligence and counter-insurgency missions on a regular basis and found that there weren't any Iraqi suicide bombers. The Iraqis were now free! These folks aren't about to kill themselves for anyone! The Iraqis were more interested in making a better life for themselves and their families. I'm sure that there are exceptions that prove me right, but the fact is that the insurgency isn't what it appears on the Boob Tube.

The left (including the journalist) passionately believes that if we could just sit down with these people, that we could come to an understanding. They believe that diplomacy and cooler heads (read compassionate and understanding liberals) can reason with those that wish us harm. They could not be any further from the truth. These folks are absolutely intent on killing us. The Hollywood star doesn't realize it, but his/her movies fuel this hate! They aren't enamored by that stirring nude scene... they are out for blood over it! They will firebomb video stores that sell it. For example, I was once in Pakistan (following Friday prayers) and saw a mob throw rocks through a video store window because of the 'suggestive' American video poster that was displayed. For some reason, their lack of self-control in looking at sinful pictures is not their problem. How nice for them. I can think of a whole segment of our country that is certain that their trials and tribulations are not a result of their own choices and lack of discipline. They are called "democrats."

Whew. Nice to vent a little bit.

I should also disclose that I speak Arabic, have lived abroad in the Middle East, have an Arab wife, and enjoy storing nuts in trees.

I forgot to mention

I got married recently! Her name is Sexy Squirrel and she rocks. This is what I have learned about marriage so far... heh heh.

Zipping Across the Highway

*clapping hands*

Alright people, let's get settled down. I am the Fastest Squirrel and I am the newest SF blogger on the net. For some background, I spent eleven years on active duty and went "part time" in 1999. I started out in the infantry and went to Group as a young Specialist. Anywhoo, I'm now a government contractor and get to continue to travel the world while making better money. I have deployed (in uniform) to Afghanistan and Iraq for a total of two years and spent additional time abroad as a contractor.

I grew up on a farm in Iowa and, when not outdoors, could be found immersed in books. Biographies, history, fiction, it really didn't matter. The tradition in my family was always that the men did a tour in the military and then came back to take over the reigns. I found that I enjoyed (and was quite good at) actually being a part of history, so I stayed in. There is a saying in the Community that you haven't really earned your tab until you have at least one ex-wife under your belt... well, I stayed until a divorce helped me to decide to get out. I decided that I wanted to have an active part in my son's life and that I could accomplish that better as a civilian. I have no regrets as I still serve as a weekend warrior. I live in northern Virginia.

Like most Operators that I know, I am politically inclined to be a libertarian. Unfortunately, the national movement for libertarians seems to attract a bunch of fruits and nuts that are primarily interested in legalizing dope. I dislike them. Clearly, I skew to the right.

I am still trying to figure out this blogging thing, but am excited to be here.