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Ask a Vet
Author: TriSec    Date: 05/03/2016 01:43:42

Good Evening.

Yes, you read that right. Tuesday mornings are such a whirlwind around the TriSec compound, that AAV is often a slap-dash afterthought. (I hope it didn't show too badly.)

So trying something new...I've got a glass of wine and an hour. Maybe I'll be more thoughtful on a Monday night.


We'll start out by taking a brief look in the rear-view mirror. I frequent many websites, and a first-hand account of an early action in Iraq struck a nerve with me today.


On the 2nd May, at 0200 hours, the Royal Air Force Cantonment at Habbaniya was invested by Iraqi troops and hostilities broke out. The aerodrome and emergency landing ground were shelled, and 22 out of 29 serviceable aircraft were damaged. Our casualties were over 40, including four pilots and two observers. Iraqi aircraft unsuccessfully bombed and machine-gunned the camp.

On the same day, all available aircraft attacked the investing forces, and No. 4 Flying Training School carried out 400 sorties on this and the three subsequent days, dropping approximately thirty tons of bombs. Aided by extra guns, the enemy shelling continued desultorily during this period, but without making it impossible for aircraft to use the landing-grounds, although a further number were destroyed and damaged on the ground. Wellingtons from Shaibah bombed enemy troops and positions and attacked their aircraft at Raschid aerodrome.

Blenheims did valuable reconnaissance of the pipe-line around Rutbah, where a large oil fire was observed, and also of the towns of Mosul, Kirkuk, Baghdad and Sulman Pak. On the 6th May, reconnaissance showed that the enemy positions near Habbaniya had been abandoned.

During the operations, the greater part of the Iraqi Air Force was put out of action. We lost seven aircraft in the air and seven on the ground. It is probable that the Iraqis expected air assistance from the Germans. Pilots returning to Habbaniya from Hit during the night of the 5th/6th May reported that fires were lighted at their approach and all along their route. Others were lighted round Habbaniya which had the appearance of guiding marks. An Arab questioned at Hit thought that our aircraft were German.


The "Wellington", "Blenheim" and "German" references should give this away as being from 1941. The more things change, I guess. Or is that "doomed to repeat it?"

Moving on, it will be Tuesday by the time you read this, and another voting day in our long national nightmare campaign. One of my primary news sources, Military.com, has refrained from endorsing one candidate over another. Instead, they've penned a thoughtful piece bemoaning the increasing lack of veterans running for public office. I suppose I take the opposite tack; military experience might be nice, but our elected offices were designed for civilians. Military service should not be a requirement, as many of our differently-winged friends often think it is. Of course, the opposite of that sentiment is that those who never served seem to be far more likely to casually send soldiers off to fight, where someone who has been there might think differently...but I digress.


Decades ago, serving in political office was a natural next step for those who served in the military.

Today, the veteran-turned-politician is a far rarer breed, at least at the national level. Stats show a steady decline in the number of veterans elected to Congress, raising concerns an important perspective increasingly is missing from the halls of Capitol Hill.

It's an alarm former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, rang at a networking event for vets on Capitol Hill last month.

"At a time when everything is hair-triggered, everything is nitroglycerin, and miscalculations can lead to a lot of trouble, we need veterans' input," he said, referring not only to the veteran void in Congress, but also the Executive Branch and beyond.

The 2012 election marked the first time in 80 years that neither major party presidential nominee had served in the military. Two years later, the 114th Congress was sworn in with the smallest proportion of veterans on record.

According to an October 2015 Congressional Research Service report, the high point was reached in the 92nd Congress (1971-72) when 73 percent of Congress had served in the military. Today, veterans make up 20 percent of the Senate and just 18 percent of the House of Representatives.Part of the reason is simply that, in the era of the all-volunteer force, far fewer Americans are veterans than during the post-World War II period.

"There are simply fewer veterans among the general population. Today, veterans only comprise about 9 percent of the adult population and after Vietnam, fewer members of the political elite looked to military service as a career path," said the American Enterprise Institute's Rebecca Burgess, co-author of a report examining veterans in public office.


Of course, that's often through no fault of their own. The same story goes on to identify what the biggest challenge might be to a veteran seeking office:


Jon Soltz, an Iraq War veteran and chairman of Votevets.org, a veterans group that supports progressive candidates for office, said part of the problem is military service is often not conducive to running in the modern political landscape.

Soltz said long deployments often prevent servicemembers from establishing a presence in a community or district, which is critical in terms of fundraising and developing a public profile with voters.

"They are at a disadvantage because they do not have the political and financial connections at the grassroots level that non-veterans do. That said, being a veteran also gives you a lot of pluses in terms of being respected," he told FoxNews.com.

In order for more veterans to make their way into public office, they may have to start small.


I won't necessarily make a blanket statement that you should "vote veterans", as many of them often fly a different wing and may be diametrically opposed to many of the things we believe in. But if you have a vet running in your area - at least give him an honest look.

I'll finish up today with a local story. You've maybe heard of New Balance shoes? They're all-American...still made right here in this Commonwealth in the old mill town of Lawrence, one of the very few footwear manufacturers remaining in these United States. You'd think they'd be a shoo-in (pardon the pun) for a big, juicy Government Contract...except the Pentagon has declared the shoes "not fit for military duty".


LAWRENCE -- Can Americans trust the Pentagon to pick out a pair of sneakers?

Fifteen years in development at a cost expected to reach $1.4 trillion over its lifetime, the Department of Defense's next generation fighter jet has yet to get off the ground in more than a test flight or to fire a single shot in combat.

Newsweek magazine recently mocked the jet, the F-35, as "the plane that ate the Pentagon's budget."

Years of indecision and false starts also has delayed action on the next generation of handgun to replace the Army's much maligned M9 pistol. A few weeks ago, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley blamed the Pentagon's bureaucratic procurement system for the delay and sought permission to shop for the sidearm himself.

The military's "fragmented approach" to buying camouflage uniforms is putting troops at risk and wasting millions of dollars, the Government Accountability Office recently alleged. The office urged the services consolidate the effort.

All this comes on top of other procurement boondoggles by the military over the last decade or two, including that it has paid $7,600 each for coffee makers, $435 each for hammers and, probably most famously, $640 each for toilet seats. Add this to the list: The Pentagon has begun buying rocket engines made in Russia.

Now the Pentagon has stepped into more procurement quicksand, this time here in Lawrence, where it touched off a war of words with the New Balance footwear company, the Lawrence City Council and U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Lowell, by alleging the company's athletic shoes are not fit for military duty. The company is not allowed to sell shoes on military bases, which it says will cost it the sale of many as 225,000 pairs to recruits and soldiers annually.

It was a snub heard 'round the world, sparking allegations that the Department of Defense prefers shoes made in Vietnam and Malaysia rather than in American hometowns like Lawrence, and amplified by New Balance's decision to retaliate by taking up arms against President Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership. The trade pact would lower tariffs on goods imported from 11 other nations, which New Balance says would flood the market with cheap foreign-made athletic shoes.

Rob DeMartini, New Balance's president and CEO, said he agreed not to oppose the trade pact in exchange for assurances from Michael Froman, the Obama administration's top trade official, that he would ease the impact by helping the company get a Defense Department contract to produce up to 225,000 pairs of athletic shoes a year for military recruits and soldiers. That never happened, the company said, then unleashed its attacks on the trade pact after years of reluctant silence.

"I'm definitely not a defense appropriation or procurement expert, but in the seven years I've been working on this, I've seen nothing but a bureaucratic nightmare, where middle managers at the Pentagon are making decisions that affect real jobs and real lives in America," said Matthew LeBretton, a New Balance vice president. "There's something really wrong with the system."

LeBretton refuted DoD allegations that New Balance shoes are too expensive, noting that the company offered to supply the shoes at cost in an effort to keep its assembly lines humming and its supply lines full. He also disputed Pentagon claims that the test shoes it provided were not durable; published reports say the shoes were given to just six service members who were asked to run 30 miles over two months and then fill out a questionnaire.


I'm not that young that I can't remember when the military used to always buy "American Made". I had many family members and contemporaries wear the uniform - and they all learned useful skills for civilian life, primarily on things "Made in the USA". Sad but true, preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States is often carried out with things made elsewhere these days.

16 comments (Latest Comment: 05/03/2016 19:11:37 by Mondobubba)
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