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Author: TriSec    Date: 10/26/2021 00:45:33

Good Morning. (by the time you read this.)

Alluding to my Saturday blog, we are certainly going around in circles these days.

Without too much thought on your behalf, you can already note my opinion on stories like this one, as well as from another branch of service, so I won't write about that today.

So how about some thoughts on rarely-considered aspects of being in the military. Did you ever wonder what might happen to a service members personal belongings when they get deployed for months, or even years? Like you and me, some of them might place things in storage for the duration. Of course you'd expect things to remain 'safe' while you are off in harms' way, but it doesn't always work that way.

Two days before his deployment to the Middle East in 2019, Air Force Technical Sergeant Charles Cornacchio was in uniform when movers came to his home at Hanscom Air Force Base to pack up his belongings and take them to a storage facility.

After the truck was loaded, the company — Father & Son Moving & Storage of Billerica — demanded more than double the price it initially quoted, according to Cornacchio. But he said he agreed to pay because he felt his property was “pretty much being held hostage” and he needed to resolve things quickly before leaving the country hours later. He said he paid $2,190 for moving costs and six months’ storage.

As the 18-wheeler drove away, Cornacchio said, he remembered thinking, “Man that’s everything I own, but my dog.”

Soon, all of it would be gone.

Five months after storing Cornacchio’s property in two vaults at its Billerica facility, Father & Son sold it at auction to the highest bidder, according to court filings.

The unauthorized sale triggered a lawsuit against the company last year filed by the Justice Department for violating a law that prohibits storage companies from selling the possessions of military members on active duty, unless they obtain an order from a federal judge. Last month, Father & Son agreed to pay $60,000 to Cornacchio, along with a $5,000 fine to the government, to settle the allegations that it violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

Meanwhile, an exhaustive search to recover Cornacchio’s property ultimately led to a dead-end at the sprawling Brimfield flea market.

I'm rather embarrassed that this happened in this Commonwealth. The company is "Father & Son", and that is a live link to their website if you'd care to make your thoughts known to them.

Unfortunately, exploiting members of the military has long been common practice among those that would profit from such behaviour. While the military has yet to directly address such issues, they have at least recognized them and created a website of sorts for families being disrupted by the duties of the service.

The military rolled out a new website service this week for military families on permanent change of station, or PCS, orders that shows whether moving companies are regularly on time or have been suspended at some point.

Troops and their families can use the site's public data on the moving company performance, as well as new statistics on the website showing the average number of moves for any given time of year to better plan PCS moves, according to U.S. Transportation Command, which created and is hosting the service.

"That allows customers to understand what they're getting into based on the time of year that they plan on moving, and they can work with their local units to adjust that accordingly to what best fits them," Col. Joel Safranek, director of the command's Defense Personal Property Program, said in an interview.

The service is part of an effort by Transportation Command to modernize its approach to dealing with troops, treating them as customers. The goal is to ease the military moving headaches exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic, which has caused a shortage of workers, backed-up ports, and delays.

"If you want to go to dinner and you go to Google Reviews or something, right, you will be able to see reviews on that restaurant, to include things like, 'Hey, Friday night at 6 o'clock is probably busy,'" said Safranek.

The new "customer-facing dashboard" is aimed at providing a similar service to families.

"They can also click a transportation service provider, a TSP, and they can start to see data on each and every TSP," Safranek said.

That data includes on-time rates and any letters of warning or suspension.

However, families who find they’ve been assigned moving companies with red flags in their history may face new hurdles to doing anything about it.

So yes, even though families can at least see what companies suck ass, they really still can't do much about it - although I suppose knowing what lies ahead might be beneficial.

But let us shift gears for a moment. Reading the next story, I'm reminded of a Cub Scout parent from five or six years ago now. A combat veteran, he had served in Afghanistan. We were having a pretty common game, tie a balloon to a scout's ankle, and everybody run around stomping on balloons until the last one unpopped is the winner.

The parent in question looked nervous for a minute, then fled the room. I eventually tracked him down outside, smoking a cigarette. He apologized and merely stated that "I can't tolerate loud noise anymore."

There was no explosion in Cape Town, no suicide bomber ripping through this quiet little cafe. No matter. My reaction was the same. The blast I heard, echoing through the area, immediately brought me back to that patrol. With coffee splashed on the table, my heart rate shot through the roof, my vision narrowed, I went into scan-the-area mode, and after a moment I realized I’d stopped breathing.

It quickly dawned on me that nothing had happened. The bodily reaction gradually subsided. Unfortunately, something worse replaced it.

As I began to more clearly process thoughts, I was brought back to another event in Afghanistan. One evening, almost six years to the day before my Cape Town experience, I sat in our command post on base, planning an operation. A distant explosion disrupted my focus. It clearly came from off base, and I knew it meant nothing good.

I headed down the hall to our combat operations center and stepped into a hive of activity. From our watch officer: “Route Clearance Platoon hit an IED—not looking good.” A drone feed displayed on a TV screen against the wall. On the black-and-white image, all I could see were a massive crater and the charred remains of an armored vehicle.

Route Clearance Platoon, or RCP, supported all the troops in our area. These guys risked their lives every night for us. While we actively sought to avoid IEDs, their job was to find and eliminate them. That night, they got hit. They lost two soldiers.

The rest of the night and morning became a recovery operation: securing the site, evacuating the dead and wounded, and, eventually, towing what remained of the armored vehicle back to base. For many of us, this would be the worst night of our lives. And, at least personally, these terrible memories remain inextricably linked with distant explosions.

When I hear a far-off boom, I imagine the worst.

It is the longest war in American history. But it will last for far longer - as Dr. Maddow told us long ago, "The war in Afghanistan won't be over until the last tortured veteran dies screaming in his sleep, perhaps seventy years from now."


7 comments (Latest Comment: 10/26/2021 15:48:13 by BobR)
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