16 September 2010

AAFES Bans Video Game... Possible Punishment For Owning Medal of Honor?

Somehow this little gem from last week slipped past me. Last week AAFES (Army & Air Force Exchange Service, the military’s version of Walmart) announced it was banning the new Medal of Honor video game set to be released next month from its stores and GameStop’s operating on Army and Air Force bases. Honestly, I’m really not into video games. But anyone that’s spent more than five minutes around a Soldier in the US Army will realize that the overwhelming majority of our Soldiers are. But again, taken at face value the banning of selling this game by AAFES is no big deal. Most Soldiers who want this game will just go off base to purchase the game. Another good link to see how Soldiers feel about this decision by AAFES is available here.

Again, not a “gamer”. And I realize that saying this is no big deal opens me up to all sorts of criticism. But I’ll go ahead and say it anyway, this is not a big deal. I have lost friends and close comrades overseas. The game is set during early 2002’s Operation Anaconda; and while OEF continues to trudge on, how is this any different than a video game of WWII, Korea, Vietnam or any other war game or shooter? And anyone stupid enough to think that a video game is really like actual combat is just that, stupid. I am yet to meet a single Soldier who joined the Army because combat looked pretty cool in a video game. Not saying it hasn’t happened, but I am yet to meet this person.

Here’s where it may get better. Today a good friend (who is very well connected) told me that certain bases will make having this game on base a punishable offense. Not like, you have to rake some leaves or mow some grass kind of punishment, but paperwork in your permanent file kind of punishment. I have no idea whether this is actually going to happen, but if anyone else has heard about this, feel free to share. I’ll provide updates to this post if anything changes here.

Also, if playing a video game as Team Muj is insensitive, reprehensible, etc., would the Army also be right to ban training like Mirror Image because you learn how to think and act like a terrorist/insurgent/Mujahideen?

What do you think?

02 September 2010

Operation New Dawn or Yet Another Dawn?

First off, it’s great to be back in the US. After nearly three years of deployed time in Iraq, I’m fairly confident this was my last trip there. Obviously, after devoting the better part of my 20’s to either prepping for a deployment, or actually deployed, I have a fairly vested interest in Iraq; and also the American perception of our efforts in Iraq. Over the last week, there has been a tremendous amount of coverage regarding the formal end of combat operations in Iraq yesterday, 31 August. Yesterday Operation Iraqi Freedom ended and today brought the first day of Operation New Dawn and a new USFI Commanding General. Having worked extensively with the Diyala Provincial Reconstruction Team, I gained a solid and comprehensive understanding of the way ahead in Iraq. For the most part, I am a fan; it’s not perfect but I am just happy the State Department is finally taking the lead in Iraq.

Back to the topic at hand, the major headline in the news has been the end of formal combat operations and a transition to Stability Ops today (here, here and here). The reality though is that we really transitioned to stability ops as a force preemptively in December 2008 when conventional forces were bound to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). After SOFA, our ability to execute offensive operations was severely hampered by the Iraqi Security Forces, and pretty much the entire Government of Iraq (GoI). The post-SOFA reality for US Forces is that it has become more dangerous to operate with each passing day as our intelligence assets are pulled further away from its most important asset, the host nation population. Without good Human Intelligence the rest of our “int’s” become weaker and our ground forces suffer exponentially.

The other significant news last week was 4-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team’s execution of the last “combat patrol” in Iraq, which in all reality was a ground movement of their Strykers to Kuwait for movement back to the States. 4-2 SBCT was the last Brigade Combat Team in Iraq; now all that’s left are Advise and Assist Brigades. I love a good re-branding. A bunch of extra Field Grade Officers added to a Brigade Combat Team does not significantly alter the fact that these Brigades are still combat formations.

The reality: next week will be the same as last week for those living and serving in Iraq. There is still a lot of work to be done in Iraq. There is a significant ongoing SOF counter-terror mission that should not cease any time soon; evidence can be seen here. A new Iraqi government is nowhere in sight. Corruption and graft continue to plague the country. There is work to be done but we need a willing partner moving ahead, something that has been missing in Iraq for a long time.

01 September 2010

Misunderstanding Sets Back US-Pak Relations

I had to share this amusing (but unfortunate) story involving the temporary detention and interrogation of a delegation of Pakistani officers at Dulles yesterday. Sadly, the incident highlights the fact that a misunderstanding and poor decision-making by a flight attendant and security guards can set back relations between two countries. Despite the billions of dollars we donate annually in aid to Pakistan (particularly in the wake of the recent flooding), this incident is being viewed within Pakistan as a major "humiliation" that resulted from the "paranoia permeating US airports."

From the Washington Post:

"A delegation of senior Pakistani military officials visiting the United States for a major defense conference headed home in protest Tuesday night after they said they were interrogated and rudely treated by security officials at Dulles International Airport.

The nine-member group of high-ranking Pakistani officers boarded United Airlines Flight 727 from Washington to Tampa late Sunday but were pulled off the plane after one of them "made a comment to a flight attendant," said Mike Trevino, a United spokesman.

United did not provide details, but Pakistani officials said the remark came from a general in the delegation who - weary of a long day of travel that began in Islamabad - said, "I hope this is my last flight," or words to that effect.

That sparked a call to Dulles law enforcement officials, who detained the delegation for 2.5 hours and refused to allow the officials to contact their embassy or the U.S. military officials who had invited them to visit, according to a Pakistani military official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Pakistanis were finally released after police at Dulles determined they did not pose a threat. But instead of proceeding to Tampa, the delegation was ordered to return to Pakistan by their military superiors in Islamabad, in protest of their treatment, the Pakistani official said, adding that they were "verbally abused." The group of officers spent the next 48 hours in Washington, waiting for the next available flight home, and were scheduled to depart the United States on Tuesday evening.

The Pakistani officers were originally en route to U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa to attend the annual conference of the U.S.-Pakistan Military Consultative Committee, said Maj. David Nevers, a Central Command spokesman. He said Centcom officials hoped to reschedule the conference."