Today is our 4,272nd day in Afghanistan.
We'll start this morning as we always do; with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing war, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2,233
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,097
We find this morning's Cost of War
passing through:$ 1, 448, 689, 975, 000 .00
A mixed bag today. But seeing that we just had flag day, we'll start with a story about etiquette and protocol. One of the things I teach through Scouting is good citizenship, and included in that is the proper care and feeding
of the US flag. Which is why I agree with Brevard county on this story. I also find it rather dismaying that there are more frequent announcements at sporting events and other gatherings on how to behave during flag ceremonies. Remember when people used to just know this stuff?
BREVARD, FLA. — It’s both what students do — and don’t do — when facing the American flag that unsettled Brevard School Board member Andy Ziegler.
“It really bothers me when I go to school events like graduations and see hats not being removed, and no hands over hearts,” Ziegler said. “It seems like nobody understands flag etiquette.”
He was so disturbed that he brought up the matter to fellow school board members. Board chair Barbara Murray said the district should develop an in-house directive to guide school administrators on teaching flag etiquette.
“There is confusion on protocol on how to act when the flag appears, and when it is presented,” Murray said. “It is obvious that students simply do not know how they are expected to act when it comes to flag etiquette.”
Lt. Col. James DesJardin, the Senior Army Instructor for JROTC at Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High, said that many students simply do not understand the symbolism behind the American flag.
“I think that is a piece of the education process that is missing,” DesJardin said. “We teach the 130 kids in our ROTC program each year, but it needs to be part of history classes, civic classes -- you name it.”
Murray cautioned against developing a district-wide flag policy, saying education was the better approach. Current rules call for students to show respect for the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance, but allows students who do not wish to stand for personal or religious reasons to stay seated, stand quietly without reciting the pledge or leave the classroom.
“There will always be people who exercise their freedom of speech,” Murray said. “But the flag etiquette education should be emphasized for all students.”
This is not the first time a flag issue has caught the attention of the school district. In March 2012, Brevard Public Schools received angry calls following a decision to delay flying flags at half-staff for Brevard Sheriff’s deputy Barbara Pill, who was killed while working. The school district waited for the official command from the governor before lowering its flags.
“As much as I would do anything to show respect for a fallen hero, there is a proper procedure,” said Ziegler, referencing the half-staff debate. “There is a proper flow of authorization. That, to me, is the exact opposite of showing disrespect. Respecting the flag means to follow the chain of command.”
Educating students in public schools, according to Ziegler, is just one step in reestablishing flag etiquette for the general population.
“To respect your country is to respect your flag,” he said. “Somehow we have to bring that back into our schools.”
There was talk yesterday about our "achilles heel" conservative issues. While I don't believe that respect for our national symbols is a partisan issue, in some liberal circles it is...and if that makes me at outlier, so be it.
Speaking of Scouting...most nations in the world have a Scouting program. While we all like to think the USA leads the world in everything (Ha!) the World Scouting Organization is currently based in Geneva, Switzerland. It's the WSO that officially sanctions scouting organizations throughout the world, and allows them to use all the symbols, requirements, and hallmarks of Scouting. To that end...a new program has started up, in Afghanistan.
Of course, American soldiers, many of whom are Alumni and Eagles, are giving a big helping hand. I'm working with Boston Minuteman Council's International Representative right now, and I'm hoping we can help these Scouts somehow, despite being about as far away as you can get.
KABUL, Afghanistan –- Mohammad Aziz Ayob adjusts his Boy Scout scarf, leans over and settles a sapling into the dry Kabul soil as two NATO helicopters pass overhead, the clack-clack of their blades echoing off the neighboring mountains.
Bobbing green shirts and matching caps may seem a bit incongruous in a war zone, but organizers of Afghanistan's nascent Scouting program say its emphasis on community service and self-reliance is sorely needed in a society scarred by decades of violence.
Ayob, orphaned as a child and raised by his aunt, can barely afford to attend high school and worries about finding a job. Such concerns melt away, however, when he dons his Scouting shirt.
"I love my uniform; it makes me feel proud," said Ayob, 18. "Scouts are like my family."
The group's motto, "Be prepared," takes on special meaning here, where members risk death to attend meetings, earn "rule of law" merit badges and learn to identify roadside bombs in first aid class.
While Boy Scouts plant trees on streets traversed by Islamist suicide bombers, Girl Scouts in this conservative Muslim nation are more cloistered, volunteering in hospitals, for instance, rather than working in the open.
"With Taliban problems, it's hard to let the girls do everything," said Mohammad Tamim Hamkar, Afghan Scouting's program manager.
Camping and hiking are also restricted for boys, given the security concerns. Campfire singing stopped after mullahs accused the Scouts of worshiping fire. Allowing gays to participate in Scouting isn't even an issue in Afghanistan, where the very concept is taboo and open discussion of it is all but unthinkable.
Though less visible, girls often make better Scouts than boys, organizers say, even when it comes to tying knots, because they have fewer outlets for activity in such a male-dominated society.
" 'Meek' Afghan girls are empowered by the Scout uniform," said Keith Blackey, 68, an American advising the Afghan Scouting program, who previously helped develop Scouting in Iraq. "It's like a superhero putting on a cape. Then they take it off and they're meek again."
Scouting was introduced in Afghanistan in 1931, and its golden years were in the 1960s, said Gul Ahmad Mustafa, national training commissioner. Things foundered during the Soviet occupation and later the Taliban era, when traditional Scouting was banned. At times, Scouts were directed to spy on their parents or, later, to clean mosques and fill ablution pots. The international Scouting association delisted Afghanistan in the 1970s.
Finally this morning...I'll leave you with an odd story out of Spain. We're all aware of the growing obesity crisis in our own country, and I'm sure you've heard of the military here having to relax some standards in order to recruit from the newer, flabbier generation of potential soldiers. While this is somewhat less prevalent overseas, Spain has a similar problem with one of their submarines.
HARTFORD, CONN. — A new, Spanish-designed submarine has a weighty problem: The vessel is more than 70 tons too heavy, and officials fear if it goes out to sea, it will not be able to surface.
And a former Spanish official says the problem can be traced to a miscalculation — someone apparently put a decimal point in the wrong place.
“It was a fatal mistake,” said Rafael Bardaji, who until recently was director of the Office of Strategic Assessment at Spain’s Defense Ministry.
The Isaac Peral, the first in a new class of diesel-electric submarines, was nearly completed when engineers discovered the problem. A U.S. Navy contractor in Connecticut, Electric Boat, has signed a deal to help the Spanish Defense Ministry find ways to slim down the 2,200-ton submarine.
The agreement with Groton, Conn.-based Electric Boat calls for Spain to pay $14 million over three years for an assessment of the problem with the S-80 submarine program and the scope of the work that would be required to correct it, the Spanish Defense Ministry said in a statement to The Associated Press.
Bardaji, now a senior fellow with the Strategic Studies Group think tank in Madrid, said officials will review options provided by Electric Boat. But he said the preference has been to extend the length of the submarine’s hull, perhaps by 5 to 6 meters, to increase buoyancy.
Otherwise, the weight of the submarine would have to be reduced, and he said the Spanish Navy would not want to compromise features such as the combat system or an air-independent propulsion system.
The Isaac Peral, named for a 19th century Spanish submarine designer, is one of four vessels in the class that are in various stages of construction. The country has invested about $2.7 billion in the program. The first was scheduled to be delivered in 2015 but the Spanish state-owned shipbuilder, Navantia, has said the weight problems could cause delays of up to two years.
The 233-foot (71-meter)-long submarine will carry a crew of 32, along with eight special forces troops, and weapons systems for surface and anti-submarine warfare.
The Defense Ministry said technical problems are normal for projects of this scale.
I know, light on veteran's issues today. But nevertheless....certainly a few interesting things.