Oct 03

Over the last few years, the Fayetteville Observer--newspaper of record for Fort Bragg and the 82nd Airborne--has written several award-winning series on the mental health of soldiers and their experiences returning from war zones.

For the most recent edition, “The Last Battle”, writer Greg Barnes reached out to me to expand on my thoughts from the guest post “Checking the Mental Health Block” I wrote for VAntage Point. I also spoke about being a junior leader dealing with mental health problems in my platoon.

Check out this valuable series on a topic far too neglected in our current political climate.

Sep 03

(To read the rest of our series, “The Case Against War with Iran”, please click here.)

Over the last few months, Eric C and I have spent countless hours turning the IPB section of our series, “The Case Against the War in Iran”, into an paper titled, “The Costs of War with Iran: An Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield”. After three months of work, that paper was just published on The Small Wars Journal on Friday. We’ve rewritten and updated almost every section, so check out our new takes.

I’ll repeat the point that concludes the article because the first comment on the post reflected my worry. More than anything, I want this paper (and hopefully a follow up op-ed) to inspire this discussion: Americans, what are you willing to sacrifice in a war with Iran? And I want politicians to answer this question: What do you think it will cost to go to war with Iran?

Also, thanks to Doctrine Man for linking to our most recent (and controversial) article, “Our Communist Military”.

To everyone who has Facebook’ed, Tweeted or commented on the recent posts, again thanks.

Jun 27

On Thursday morning, I started seeing inklings that the “Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation” recommended an overhaul to combat pay to reward junior soldiers for their sacrifices. If this sounds a lot like my Washinton Post opinion piece from last year, “I didn’t deserve my combat pay” well it should. As CNN’s "Security Clearance" blog tells it:

As part of its findings, the report cited a 2011 opinion piece in the Washington Post in which Capt. Michael Cummings wrote, "I didn't deserve my combat pay."

Cummings described the living conditions at Victory Base Complex in Iraq, "The water was always warm. The chow hall had a Caesar salad bar, a sandwich bar, an ice cream freezer, and shrimp & steak Fridays. My personal room had a working air conditioning unit and internet connection. VBC hosted multiple PXs, coffee shops and nightly dance parties. I could buy pillows, microwaves, televisions or any video game."

The report (which can be found here; our quote is in the “supporting research papers”) also details a different issue regarding combat pay that I hadn’t thought of: the giant benefit of Combat Zone Tax Exclusion for high ranking officers. I hadn’t thought of this, but it furthers the main thrust of my original Op-Ed: most generals and colonels receive way more compensation (in better conditions) for deployment than junior soldiers (in the suck).

Together--because really Eric C and I write everything together no matter whose name is on the piece--we are extremely excited about this development. To borrow a California surfing term, we’re stoked.

The big question is, am I optimistic that--even after the Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation agreeing with our op-ed--the Pentagon and Congress will address these important issues? I am not for four reasons:

1. Most vocal pro-military types will resist any change to military compensation if it means any troops lose money. So even though conservative Republicans champion fiscal responsibility and cutting through “Bureaucracy”, they won’t jump to support this commission’s report. Republicans will also reflexively resist any proposal coming from President Obama.

2. Democrats will avoid anything that looks like it harms troops to because of their historically (false) reputation for being weak on defense and/or hating our troops. So the minute someone accuses Democrats of “hating our soldiers”, they will back down.

3. The military hates change.

4. Officers will suffer the most from these changes. Since officers (generals) run the Pentagon, they will fight it. Further, pro-military associations--like the Association of the U.S. Army and countless others are lead by retired Generals and Colonels, who will also resist this change.

So Republicans, Democrats, current officers and retired officers will all resist changing combat pay. Basically, no one will lobby for this commission’s reports, no matter how sensible. And (prediction alert!) if no one lobbies for legislation the odds it will happen are low.

That said, we love the fact that we might have influenced the debate, even a bit. Having gotten our names in one possibly influential report, we plan in the next few weeks to try again, this time on the topic of Iran. Stay tuned.

Apr 19

Quick heads up:

Michael C just had a guest post published at The New York Times "At War" Blog titled, "One Soldier’s Experience With One Nation Under Contract."

Check it out.

Mar 22

Quick heads up:

Eric C just had a guest post published at Killscreen titled "Review: Oiligarchy." Killscreen is quickly becoming our new favorite website and gaming journal, so we are absolutely thrilled to be writing for them.

Check it out.

Mar 18

Quick heads up:

Michael C just had an op-ed published today at the Washington Post, titled "I Didn't Deserve My Combat Pay."

Check it out.

Thank you to Stars and Stripes, The Lincoln Journal Star, Bangor Daily News, The Delaware Online, The Oregonian and The Charlotte Sun for reprinting the Op-ed.

If we see interesting responses to Michael C's post, we'll probably post them here. Like this one, from the forum on the Military Times.

Updates:

We got a Small Wars Journal shout out today as well. Check it out here.

Another forum tackles Michael C's op-ed here. A mostly good discussion, I feel we should clarify: Michael C was an infantry officer.

Just found a post by Richard Morris, an author, responding to Michael C's piece with his own memories from Vietnam.

The WaPo ran a letter responding to Michael C's Op-ed.

Check out this comment thread at gatorsports. It supports what Michael C wrote.

The Daily Caller has a response piece, titled "I Deserved My Combat Pay" by Paul Hair. We'll respond on Monday.

And another forum, run by The Baltimore Sun, with some feedback...

Feb 22

First off, and I don’t know why we’re leading with this, but Ryen Russillo read an email ("What may be the best from all season") from Michael C on ESPN’s NBA Today podcast, so check it out here. (Click to 14:30 to hear the email. The episode is from the 21st.) Basically, Michael and Ryen collectively dog on Ice Cube for counting stats in a pick up game.

Next, Eric had a follow up piece to an earlier one over at Write to Done, titled, “The Second Golden Rule of Writing.”

And both of us co-wrote, “The 8 Most Greatest Tips To Write Unstoppably Killer Headlines Guide Ever” for Problogger. If you read blogs on blogging, you’ll get how ridiculous the titles get. We wrote this in response to that.

Finally, Eric C had an email get answered over at Daily Blog Tips. Again, it is focused on blogging.

Have a good one.

Feb 08

Quick heads up:

Michael C just had a guest post published over at VAntage Point, the VA's blog, run by two of On Violence's favorite bloggers/writers, Brandon Friedman and Alex Horton. Titled "Checking the Mental Health Block", here's an excerpt:

“Next,” said the voice from a tiny cubicle.

A sign facing the door labeled it “Office #5.” It was just one tiny office among six others, with only a thin partitions separating them. I walked in. Behind the desk sat a kind looking lady–imagine a standard issue government employee and you got it–who motioned me to sit in the chair next to her desk.

A few minutes before, I’d received my redeployment paperwork, a glorified checklist. Once I filled it out, it meant I was home, safe and sound. I handed it to the mental health worker.

If you’ve spent more than a minute in or working with the Army, then you know what “checking the block” means...

(Click here to read the whole thing.)