A young man's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk...and apparently, back again.

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Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

The details of my life are quite inconsequential, really. Summers in Rangoon...luge lessons...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Addiction to PowerPoint

I'm not out to post a Times story every day, but just can't pass this one up.  If you haven't seen it yet, some awareness has finally crept up on the part of the establishment that PowerPoint is used, overused, and abused to a staggering degree in military briefings.  My only beef is that this story should be classified as at least a decade outdated...we were deriding PowerPoint Rangers (while trying to avoid becoming one) and complaining of Death by PP in the 90's, for cryin' out loud!

There's a side to the program's growth from useful tool to ubiquitous presence to mandatory SOP that's not thoroughly covered here, and it's an age-old tale.  Senior officers want the neatest (and often quickest) way to receive information, mid-level officers want to deliver via that method (and impress their bosses), junior officers emulate their seniors in turn, SNCOs follow in turn, and so on, and so on...until before you know it, any Lance Cpl giving a 5-minute brief to his platoon mates on avoiding STDs is using, yes, PowerPoint.

It's at least a sweet bit of vindication for those of us who wailed way back then that not everything can be broken down and then taught in vague bullet points...some things actually are more complex, or simple, than that.

We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The United States Mets Corps

Mets and Marines Share a Day

I can't help but love the fact that my favorite baseball team shares a tight bond with military veterans, and the Marine Corps in particular.  The story linked above ran in the NY Times last week, describing the most recent day at Citi Field (it still seems very weird to not say "Shea") to honor military service, and in particular, tremendous sacrifice.  It's worth a read.

I had the opportunity to chat with Mets owner Fred Wilpon for a few minutes before a game in 2008, as the Mets recognized the election of Gil Hodges to the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame.  While baseball was on my mind, meeting the needs of veterans was on his, and we spoke about his vision for doing more.  I may have plenty of gripes about Mr. Wilpon as an owner -- as any fan of a suffering franchise with high expectations would -- but as a gentleman who cares for the nation's wounded warriors, he could not be more sincere.

Some of the Mets' most legendary figures had a connection to the Marines, but none more so than original Met player and famed manager of the 1969 Miracle Mets, Gil Hodges.  Every player from that team speaks with utter reverence about the man's legendary leadership abilities, forged in the Pacific battles of World War II before he found fame as a Brooklyn Dodgers great.  None speak more respectfully of him than 'The Franchise', Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver.  A Marine himself, like late teammate Tug McGraw, Seaver credits so much of his success to the guidance of Hodges, and the discipline of the Marines...

The linked blog post below from 2009 shared one anecdote from Tom Terrific's USMC service...

Seaver said that his service in the United States Marine Corps Reserves — which began when he was 17 at the strong suggestion of his father — imposed discipline on his pitching.

“It helped me focus,” he said. “It applies to whatever you do and to pitching in front of 45,000 or 50,000 people or to 3,000 or 5,000. The discipline helped me to enhance an art form.”

In 1967, his rookie year, he was fulfilling his reserve duty at Fort Schuyler in the Bronx. One day, he told an officer, “`I’m pitching Sunday. I work for the New York Mets.’ He said, ‘What time do you have to be there?’ I said, ‘1:30.’ And he said, ‘I’ll let you off at 12 o’clock.’ I thanked him and drove over the Throgs Neck Bridge.”

That game appears to have been the back end of a Fathers’ Day doubleheader against the Cubs when The New York Times reported that Seaver reached Shea during the first game. He pitched a complete game for the fifth of his 16 wins that season.

Seaver Has Perfect Memory of Nearly Perfect Game

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Going native...where it ain't native

Just a typical ski day in Colorado's Summit County in April...

I have been assured by a knowledgeable source that this may be the most original outfit that the wacky beach at Arapahoe Basin has ever seen...but to me it was just keepin' it real, AfghaniDan skier style.

Even the local sheriff couldn't refuse a request from her seemingly insane "Afghan" guest...

And the womenfolk know to cover up properly...though a burqa would have been more appropriate!

This is all too real...celebrating making it down a double black with a kerchief blowing into my face the entire time.

That does it.  I'm starting the Afghanistan Olympic Ski Team up, despite my own many skiing inadequacies. Someone's gotta do it, right?

All for Nothing?

(Note: I debated starting a new blog to document my second deployment to Afghanistan, but was encouraged by friends to resume this one. I hope readers come was inspiring how many of you followed the last time, and that motivated me stay up all night posting photos on lousy connections.)

As I immerse myself in mandatory pre-deployment training in North Carolina, a good friend and fellow traveler of Afghan lands sent me this piece concerning the Korengal Valley -- the very one Operation Mountain Lion was focused on back in 2006. I covered in this blog our initial establishment of a forward operating base (the "lumber yard") there by 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines; the Afghan National Army commando kandak; and units of the US Army's 10th Mountain Division. They are the soldiers who continued to build the FOB and to conduct operations in the valley, coming soon under relentless enemy attack that never abated since that time. The friend who sent me this, an outstanding photographer who has been recognized many times over for his work, embedded initially as a freelancer and returned under contract work for major magazine features...and in the course of his work, survived a few firefights in the Korengal.

Please read the feature. I'm left with the feeling that although it's explained well why the operational shift is being made -- and although many of us were certain that the locals of such fierce regions as that one would NEVER accept an 'outsider' force of any nature in their valley -- the dry facts of it just don't tell the story. Soldiers bled there, died there, and endured yearlong deployments under constant close-range attack there over the past 4 years...and now we pull chocks to focus elsewhere. It may be the right decision...but it's hard to accept that all of that may well have been for nothing.

[Ed. note: I disagree with the use of "blunder" to describe the effort to stabilize the Korengal under Afghan gov't oversight. It could have turned out very differently, based on how the locals weighed the benefits versus the costs. An operation that fails to produce its intended fruits of labor does not necessarily a blunder make, Mr. Jaffe...try 'miscalculation'...which happens in warfare, especially in COIN.]

U.S. retreat from Afghan valley marks recognition of blunder