09/20/2004: Mike Hollihan had a regular reader and commenter....
named "Lance", who claimed to be (and I had no reason to doubt his word there), a Tennessee Army National Guard member who was eager to be deployed to Iraq. Presumably he's there now; one of the unfortunate side-effects of Mike's hanging up his blogging spikes, at least for now (Mike's permalinks have been bloggered just about forever, so scroll down to the 8/24 post titled "Sorry to Have Bothered You")--besides my having to read the Memphis papers because Mike is no longer reading them for me--is that we're not getting regular updates from Lance; I'd be curious to know if he's still as enthusiastic about the deployment as he was while he was still stateside.
Anyway, I thought of Lance and his (and, according to him, his unit's) eagerness to deploy as I read this: Strains Felt By Guard Unit on Eve of War Duty
The 635 soldiers of a battalion of the South Carolina National Guard scheduled to depart Sunday for a year or more in Iraq have spent their off-duty hours under a disciplinary lockdown in their barracks for the past two weeks.I mention my military service here from time to time; in case you've only recently started playing the home game (Hi, Angel!), I served for 4 years as an officer in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps--yep, I was a Navy lawyer. As such, I was rather intimately involved in military discipline matters.
Trust me, when a unit spends two weeks preceding an overseas deployment to a war zone in "disciplinary lockdown", that unit is not exactly a paragon of exemplary morale. There's something seriously wrong there, and despite the battalion CO's attempt to put a positive spin on the situation:
McCarty, the commander, disagrees with those assessments. Overall, he said, the unit's morale is not poor. "The soldiers all have their issues to deal with, and some have dealt with it better than others," he said in an interview in his temporary office.I think there is a serious question of whether this unit is combat ready.
The problem, he said, is that he has to play the hand dealt him -- of assembling a new unit and getting it to work together while following a training schedule that has kept them going from dawn to long after dark, seven days a week, since mid-July.
"We are not here for annual training and then go home" -- that is, the typical schedule for National Guard units in the past -- said McCarty, assistant deputy director of law enforcement for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in civilian life. "We are here to prepare to go into a combat zone."
I hope for their sakes my misgivings are unfounded. To me, this is just an academic exercise. To these soldiers, it's a matter of life and death--literally.
Len on 09.20.04 @ 08:58 PM CST