21 May 2010

Three-Shot Burst of Red Bull News and Views

Earlier this week, my buddies and I got to play with all sorts of Army toys, including the Squad Automatic Weapon ("SAW"), the M-240B ("Em-two-forty-bravo"), and even a brand-spanking new tripod-mounted .50-cal M2 ("Ma-Duece") machine gun.

Reflecting the concept that one should conserve one's ammo by displaying a little trigger discipline, here's a short burst of Red Bull news and views:


According to this Associated Press article, some 2,700 soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division have been alerted for potential deployment to Iraq andKuwait sometime in summer 2011. In 2007, 4,000 "Red Bull" soldiers--including the 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry "Ironman" Regiment from the Iowa Army National Guard--achieved the distinction of the longest deployment of any U.S. Army unit to Iraq.

The AP article offers interesting perspectives of a few our fellow Red Bull soldiers, many of whom have faced multiple deployments and separations from family:
In Rochester, Fire Battalion Chief Eric Kerska, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, announced the expected deployment at a news conference on the scene of a fire-training exercise. A house engulfed in flames crackled in the background as Kerska talked about the mission.

“Our soldiers are the best our great state has to offer, and we are committed to ensuring they are prepared for this likely call of duty,” he said.

This would be Kerska’s third deployment. He served during the first Gulf War and returned to the region in 2005.

“On the one hand, I really don’t care to go back a third time,” he said. “But on the other hand, it would be kind of nice to tie a bow on that thing and say, ‘OK, we’ve got it done right.’ ”


As part of the newspaper's evolving "A Soldier Writes" feature, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Mark Larson recently wrote a thoughtful description of the challenges faced in training and evaluating Afghan soldiers:
The Afghan soldier was giddy. Only seconds before he had spotted the improvised explosive device lying along the roadside. His sharp eye had ensured that the convoy was called to a halt before rolling through the blast zone. Yet his enthusiasm was such that he jogged up to the I.E.D. and triumphantly picked it up.

The U.S. trainers could only shake their heads. The Afghan National Army unit would be marked as having failed the “React to I.E.D.” validation exercise. Instruction would be given. But because of the strict training timeline, the unit would have to move on to the next validation exercise. If it passed the minimum number (and had fulfilled other minimum requirements), it would be given approval to deploy.
Larson and a couple of buddies are apparently launching a blog, called "A Handful of Dust," about their adventures and mis-adventures in Kabul. It's obviously still a rough work, and full of youthful hijinks and high-spirits. While Larson's words in the New York Times indicate some real depth and insight, his words at his blogs indicate a potential vibe along the lines of "Lawrence of Arabia meets amusement park ride."

In other words, keep an eye on it. And keep your hands inside the car at all times.


Once upon a few nights ago, just before Sherpa's bedtime, he was checking on the next day's Red Bull Rising post. Imagine his gobsmacked expression when he saw that Foreign Policy magazine blogger and former Washington Post reporter Tom Ricks had written about an RBR post titled "Semper Fi, Moon"! (The headline popped up in the Red Bull Rising blog-roll sidebar, where Ricks's blog regularly appears under the heading "Afghan Intel and Insight.")

Ricks, who grew up in Afghanistan, had used "Semper Fi, Moon" as a stepping-off point for a brief reflection of happier memories of Kabul. If you hadn't heard, Anti-Afghan Forces (A.A.F.) are on the move and the attack this week, as U.S. and Afghan forces prepare for a campaign in the southern region later this summer or fall. There have been suicide-bomber attacks on NATO convoys and U.S. bases in the capital of Kabul. Soldiers and civilians from many countries have been killed.

In light of such events, it's good to remember that love and innocence exist in the world, too. They're just harder to see.

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