Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Salute

A salute is a gesture or other action used to display respect. Salutes are primarily associated with armed forces. It is a unique exchange of greetings between military personnel. In military traditions of various times and places, there have been numerous methods of performing salutes, using hand gestures, cannon or rifle shots, hoisting of flags, removal of headgear, or other means of showing respect or deference. Only officers are saluted, and the salute is to the commission they carry from their respective commanders-in-chief representing the President, not the officer themselves. When the presence of enemy snipers is suspected, military salutes are generally forbidden, since the enemy may use them to recognize officers as valuable targets.

Proper execution is described in the top photo. While I was in basic training a lifetime ago, the execution of an improper salute was strongly looked down upon. That means push-ups. I learned quickly how to do it properly, again, as described above. I have been in Iraq since early February of this year, 2009. So far I can't count the different return salutes I have received after rendering the proper courtesy. Some are completely perpendicular to the ground as the elbow seems sewn to the officer's side. Often, the thumb is protruding which was the most common mistake among new recruits. Many times, the fingers are not held tightly together and it seems more like an odd wave than a salute. Some salutes resemble karate chops as opposed to the salute. Some are executed with lightening speed, as if the officer wants to get it over with as quickly as possible. Some of them resemble a British salute which is executed with the palm outward. All of these, and the many other variants, are wrong. I'm not sure what the solution to this is. If we walked around constantly correcting our superior officers, not only would we be wasting our duty time, but we would also be alienating a large portion of the commissioned population - not in our best interest. Perhaps this is a view of how the basics of Soldiering have been allowed to fall by the wayside in an effort to fill our ranks. Something so simple, yet so difficult to master. In case you can't read the photo above, here are the instructions for the salute.
1. Raise right hand sharply, fingers and thumb extended and joined, palm facing down.
2. Place tip of right forefinger on the rim of visor slightly to the right of the right eye.
3. The outer edge of the hand is barely canted downward.
4. Hand and wrist are straight.
5. Elbow inclined, slightly forward.
6. Upper arm is horizontal (parallel) to the ground.
7. To finish, the arm is simply dropped to the side.
Any questions?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Meeting the media

One of the advantages of being the Media Embed Coordinator is meeting the media. Here

I am with ABC's Martha Raddatz at the Joint Visitors Bureau on Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq. She was here talking to members of the 1st CAV (among others about other things) regarding a battle fought in Sadr City in April 2004. Some of those troops are still in the unit but instead of being privates and specialists they're NCOs. She wrote a book about the battle called "The Long Road Home." According to some of the Soldiers who were there and read the book, it is accurate. I started reading a copy that was laying around the office and it disappeared. I guess I'll have to pick up copy of my own. Maybe I can get a bit part in the movie . . .

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Naming the weapon

"This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine." This is an often-quoted line from a Viet Nam-era film where the Marines were instructed to name their weapons with a girl's name. In our unit, at least among some of the males, we have elected to name our rifles and our sidearms.

Each Soldier will have their reasons for the names they have chosen. Some may use a mother's name, a sweetheart's name, an old flame or whatever. My rifle, a brand-spanking new fresh-out-of-the-box M4, I have named after my oldest daughter, Thalassa `Alohilani. I also have a sidearm, an M9 Berretta. That one is named Nikki, after a special friend near Dallas, TX. I didn't name my 2nd weapon after my 2nd daughter is the fact that she is married to an Airman in the U.S.A.F. Security Forces. I figure he can do her the honor of naming his weapon after his wife. This little bonding thing is just another way we deal with the everyday stresses of being away from our homes, families and friends.

Friday, January 23, 2009


One way to deal with things that annoy you throughout a deployment, is to establish a routine in order to mitigate the problem. Especially if it is something you can't avoid. In my case, there is a phenomenon that, while living in Hawai`i, I never had to worry about - static electricity. It seems that everything here shocks me. Soldiers are masters of adapt and overcome. We are also, however, on the hard-headed side, so the actual adaptation sometimes takes a while. I was once told it takes approximatly 21 days to form a new habit. Well, since arriving here at Fort Dix, NJ I have been shocked well more than 21 times on various door knobs, bed frames or other metal objects I may come into contact with. That includes people too. I shake someone's hand or happen to touch someone while they're handing me some paper or some equipment, and I get shocked. Getting shocked 21+ times shows the hard-head part. As far as adaptation, I now take my key everywhere I go. On my routine shower or latrine trips (at all hours) I habitually touch my room key to door knob before I touch it. Whenever I am putting on or removing my snivel gear, it also creates lots of static electricity, so much so that when the key touches the door knob, I actually get a sizeable flash or an arc of electricity that is often audible. My unit members have heard my often acrimonious reactions to getting zzzapped by various pieces of furniture or equipment. I can't wait to get to theater, where I simply don't recall getting shocked like that when I was there the first time. If I could find a way to harness my own static electricity . . .

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Equipment and Such - Warrior Puzzle

Despite the fact that our Soldiers are the best-trained and best-equipped warriors on the planet, there are some things about the gear that we get issued that is most frustrating. While meant to improve the way we do things, it sometimes seems as if the designer made the stuff so that it would provide little annoyances to the averge G.I.

For example, when opening any random MRE dinner pouch, let's just say, ravioli, the pouch tears unevenly and when pulling the top portion completely off, it invariably splatters into the face of the Soldier, who is only trying to get a meal.

What prompted this blog was the construction of our new body armor. While is it incredibly effective in saving lives our troops, putting the pieces together seems more diffcult than "taking the hill." It is, at the beginning, like Christmas when you get a bike or some other toy that has "some assembly required" on the box and it turns out that "some" means just short of "invent." Fortunately, some very experienced Soldiers in our unit who were more than happy to assist those for whom this is a first deployment as well as the first time with body armor. Gathering together and putting together this Warrior's Puzzle became another bonding activity which brought out the strengths and experiences of different Soldiers. Once completely put together, the body armor makes one feel like Robo-Cop or a Starship Trooper. Fully loaded, a Soldier might resemble the computer-generated robot from the NFL games.
Whether it is body armor, MRE packages or other pieces of equipment, I always have the feeling that someone, somewhere (the designer/s) is sitting in his Lazyboy laughing when he thinks of a ravioli-spattlered troop or the expression on the face of someone who looks at a pile of gear saying "What do I do with all this?"

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oh Christmas Truck, Oh Christmas Truck . . .

It's amazing the decorations people come up with at Christmas Time. I wonder how this things drives, but a Police friend of mine assures me it does.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winning & Losing vs Victory & Defeat

I'm finally contributing something of some relative value to the blog. As with many of us we have lives (of sorts) outside of the military. SFC Burke is a high school English teacher, SGT Risner is a musician, etc. While I was still a TPU (Weekend Warrior), and in college I coached youth soccer for the American Youth Soccer Organization. My miltary training and civilian experience meshed well together for that activity. I also got a Volunteer Service Medal for it.
During this time, I also studied coaching and other sports in college as well as continuing practice in Martial Arts that began in 3rd grade. All of this has contributed to my views on the concepts of winning & losing as opposed to victory & defeat. Many people put winning ahead of everything, even their ethics. Winning becomes an all-consuming goal without regard to others (or even self). Some view not winning as a complete and utter failure, not only of the task, but a personal, internal failure of the self. Here is my take on it. It's just my opinion, with which you are free to disagree (about which I won't care, since you're probably just dumb).
Winning, losing, victory and defeat are separate yet related and, in some cases, can occur simultaneously or are mutually exclusive in a manner that some may find surprising. For example you can be defeated and win at the same time or you can achieve victory and lose along with it. Victory excludes defeat and losing excludes winning. Here is why I think so. If you try your best at everything you do, whether it's a sport, your work efforts and ethics, and do your best to do these things above board and honestly, you will always win. You may not always achieve victory, but you will never lose even in the face of defeat. I used to tell parents of the kids I coached that I could guarantee that we would win every game - even if we were a little behind in the score when time ran out. If winning (or victory) becomes such an obsession that it blinds you to ethics and compassion, you will be victorious, but will still lose. Everytime. When you cheat to achieve victory, you lose. Everytime. If you live, work and play fair, you win whether or not you are defeated. In short, winning and losing is all in how you play, work and live. Everytime. Victory and defeat is a mere result - for example, the scoreboard. Many professionals (in athletics, business and even the occasional military member) look at the bottom line of career advancement, money and fame, which can not replace ethics and integrity. You'll never see a price tag on them, no half-off sales on doing the right thing. Even if you keep the underhanded things in the dark, the person in the mirror will always know. Keeping these ideas in mind can help you to not stress over defeat and not obsess over victory. You can guarantee yourself a check in the win column. Everytime.