25 August 2011

Take the Red Bull Festivus Quiz!

On Aug. 25, 1917, the U.S. National Guard's 34th Infantry Division was organized at Camp Cody, N.M. As the organizational birthday, it is the division's official "unit day."

Call it "Red Bull Festivus." Fun for the whole platoon!

And, during downtimes between the Feats of Strength and the Airing of Deployment Grievances, you can also impress your friends with this Trivial Test of Red Bull Trivia:

1) Which American regionalist painter designed the Red Bull patch?
a. Grant Wood
b. Marvin Cone
c. Thomas Hart Benton
d. John Steuart Curry
Answer: B.


2) What does the shape of the black background on the 34th Inf. Div. patch signify?
a. A tribal shaman's medicine bag
b. A canteen
c. A Mexican jug called an "olla"
d. A keg of beer
Answer: C.


3) What is the official motto of the 34th Inf. Div.?
a. "Redezvous with Destiny"
b. "On the Horns of Victory"
c. "Insquequo bos devenio domus"
d. "Attack! Attack! Attack!"
Answer: D! D! D!


4) In the division's current formation, which of the following units does NOT wear the Red Bull patch?
a. 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division (1-34th BCT), Minnesota National Guard
b. 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division (2-34th BCT), Iowa National Guard
c. 32nd Brigade Combat Team, Wisconsin National Guard
d. 34th Combat Aviation Brigade ("CAB"), Minnesota National Guard
Answer: C. The 32nd BCT is named after the 32nd Infantry "Red Arrow" Division.


5) What was the nickname of the 34th Inf. Div. prior to "Red Bull" designation of World War II?
a. Prairie Division
b. Sandstorm Division
c. Hawkeye Division
d. Plowshare Division
Answer: B. It was sandy and windy in 1917 New Mexico.


6) Which celebrated military unit with non-Midwestern roots fought alongside Red Bull soldiers in World War II Italy?
a. 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry
b. 100th Infantry Battalion
c. Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade
d. Abraham Lincoln Brigade
Answer: B.


7) Prior to fighting in World War II Normandy, Holland, and Germany, which Red Bull unit had previously served in the Cow War?
a. 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment (1-133rd Inf.)
b. 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment (1-168th Inf.)
c. 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment (1-113rd Cav.)
d. 34th Veterinary Special Troops Battalion (34th V.S.T.B.)
Answer: C.


8) In World War II, volunteers from the 34th Inf. Div. served as a majority of the 500 original members of which of the following modern U.S. Army formations?
a. Rangers
b. Pathfinders
c. Sappers
d. Green Berets
Answer: A.


9) Which of the following is not an accomplishment of the 34th Inf. Div., whether in whole or in part?
a. First U.S. unit to arrive in European theater, World War II.
b. First U.S. unit to arrive in North African theater, World War II.
c. Most days of combat in World War II.
d. Longest-deployed Army unit to Iraq, Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF). (1-34th BCT)
e. First U.S. National Guard brigade to act as a "battlespace owner" in Afghan theater, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). (2-34th BCT)
Answer: E. It was second such unit. Vermont National Guard's 86th BCT was the first.


10) Which American Civil War volunteer unit, which maintains lineage within the 34th Inf. Div., was the first to offer its services to President Abraham Lincoln?
a. The First Iowa Regiment
b. The Second Iowa Regiment
c. The Third Iowa Regiment
d. The First Minnesota Regiment
Answer: D. Now the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry (2-135th Inf.), Minnesota National Guard.


11) What is the special designation (the "official nickname") of Iowa's 133rd Infantry Regiment?
a. Ironman
b. Ironmen
c. First Iowa
d. Hawkeye
Answer: C.


12) What is the special designation of Iowa's 168th Infantry Regiment?
a. First Iowa
b. Second Iowa
c. Third Iowa
d. Lethal
Answer: C.

22 August 2011

The Arts of War and Parenting

The 2011 Iowa State Fair ended yesterday. A couple of different days during the fair's 11-day run, Household-6, the kids, and I braved the heat, the crowds, the animals, the carnival rides, and the foods-on-a-stick. With Lena, now age 6, and Rain, age 4, we've moved beyond strollers and backpack kid-carriers. We travel more lightly now, if not exactly more efficiently.

In conducting our state fair maneuvers, I was repeatedly surprised how much Army techniques and tribal wisdom are applicable to parenting on the march:
  • "No battle plan survives contact with your kids."
  • Everyone in your squad should know the plan.
  • Move in buddy teams. Always maintain visual contact.
  • Conduct periodic tactical halts. Check buddies, equipment, supplies, and morale.
  • Always brief a "lost soldier" plan.
  • Always brief primary, alternate, and emergency means of communication.
  • Identify rally points.
  • Check fluid levels before, during, and after operation. Report all classes of leaks (I, II, and III) to a supervisor immediately.
  • Know your pace count. Recognize your kids' pace count may be 4 or 5 times your own. Your fastest speed is that of the slowest member in your squad.
  • "Strategy is for amateurs. Logistics is for parents."
  • Basic combat load is one day's supply of water, wipes, cleanser, and clothes.
  • Hasty decon is a squad-size operation which sustains the combat potential of a contaminated force by limiting spread of contamination.
  • "This is my kid. There are many like him, but this one is mine."
  • "I am responsible for everything my kid does and fails to do."
  • "Never leave a kid behind."
And, finally, to paraphrase the ancient military philosopher Sun Tzu:
  • "The supreme art of parenting is to subdue the enemy without fighting."

18 August 2011

Tips on Post-Homecoming Etiquette

At risk of being labelled a summer curmudgeon--particularly as the "Red Bull" soldiers of 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry Division (2-34th BCT) continue to bask in the humid afterglow of last month's return from Afghanistan--here are a few post-homecoming etiquette suggestions for your consideration. While I'm at it, maybe I should also pitch a "Master Sgt. Manners" advice column to Stars and Stripes?

Untie Those Yellow Ribbons

If you chose to tie plastic yellow ribbons on every old oak tree, lamp post, and fire hydrant along the avenue, grab some scissors and cut sling a few days after your soldiers have finally come marching home. Don't get me wrong: It is a lovely and heartwarming touch. At some point, however, it transgresses into vandalism. True patriots clean up after themselves--particularly after tying their ribbons around someone else's old oak trees.

If you don't want to clean up, next time, consider using biodegradeable ribbon. Or perhaps crepe paper?


Don't Join the Flag Police

Too many people want to jump all over the American flag. More accurately, they're eager to build themselves up by tearing others down. They want to dictate to people when to display the flag, when to raise it, and when to fly it at half-staff, and for how long. Then they post their flag-raving stories via Facebook, their victims' virtual scalps presented as evidence of their patriotic purities.

Yes, there's a U.S. Flag Code. Yes, federal and state governments can determine when and for how long flags displayed on public property--that's public property, not private--should remain at half-staff. Don't kid yourself, however: You're not defending freedom by seeking to enforce your own flag standards. You're squashing it.

Want more people to display the flag? Lead by example.

Meanwhile, don't tread on me.


Homecomings Last a Long Time, but Homecoming Signs Shouldn't

Homecoming is a journey, not a destination. It may take weeks, months, or years for a soldier or family to fully move forward. What's the expiration date on a "welcome home" sign, however? About as long as post-election campaign signs, "congratulations on your graduation" banners, and those 6-foot-tall "it's a boy/girl" plywood cutouts that are shaped like cartoon storks.

Every U.S. soldier in basic training learns this mantra while practicing individual movement under fire: "I'm up ... they see me ... I'm down."

That works for signs, too.


Don't Know What to Say? Say "Welcome Home."

Johnny or Joanie may have been home from a deployment for months before you get an opportunity to see them in person. They've had things to do, you've had things to do. Don't worry about it. Ask any Vietnam-era veteran: It is never too late to greet a soldier with a hearty and heartfelt "Welcome Home!"

11 August 2011

Write What You Mean, Mean What You Say

During tactical pauses from writing and research on all things Red Bull this summer, I've distilled an ever-growing stylesheet down to some particularly pithy points. While most of these pet peeves apply writing to as a civilian, at least one regards official mil-writing Style. Enjoy!

Combat soldier: At some basic level, all troops are trained and equipped to ... let's see, how to put this diplomatically? Oh yeah: "To hurt people and break things." Yes, even doctors and medics. That's why the term "combat soldier" is redundant and silly and redundant. And an insult to soldiers.

Combat operations: File this Orwellian term in the wastebasket of history, along with "police action." Soldiers in Iraq are still in harm's way, despite declarations that combat operations are complete.

Crash: If an aircraft falls to the ground because it was shot down by a weapon, is the event still accurately described as a "crash"? Perhaps "attack" is a better word-choice.

Gun: An artillery piece. If describing anything else, big or small, be specific: "rifle," "pistol," "machine gun," etc.

I.E.D.: There's no avoiding "Improvised Explosive Device" as both the signature threat of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but do avoid the dehumanizing word-soup of RCIED, VBIED, VOIED, and the like. By the way, "improvised mine" also works as a description. There's no "IED" in "M-RAP," is there?

Killed: Not "K.I.A." Not "passed away." Not "died as a result of his/her wounds." Don't slip down the sugary slope of good intentions and happy unicorn language. The dead deserve more respect than that.

M-RAP: It's a "Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected" vehicle. It's an adjective, not a noun. And it's a generic term, not a brand name.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.): If you don't have a medical, law enforcement, or family source indicating that a given individual has been diagnosed with PTSD, don't fall into the trap of making the diagnosis yourself. In other words: Veteran arrested on intoxication, domestic abuse, weapons and/or other charges does not automatically equal a diagnosis of PTSD. If you do mention PTSD in news content, make sure to include concrete descriptions of symptoms and behaviors, as well as contact information and resources available. At all costs, avoid contributing to the "all soldiers come back with mental health issues" stereotype.

Roadside bomb: If the explosive device went off underneath a vehicle, it can't be said to have been located at the side of the road, can it?

Soldier: Despite what your sergeant major or public affairs officer says, no one who uses English outside of the Army capitalizes "soldier" on all references. It makes you look Stupid.

Suicide vest: Is the intent of the wearer more to blow him- or herself up, or to inflict injury or kill others? If the latter, consider "explosive vest." Here it is in a sentence: "The bomber wore an explosive vest."

Utilize: Means "to use in a way other than originally intended or designed." Use it correctly. In most cases, soldiers will not.

Warrior: "Soldier" is fine, thank you. Anything else is hype or bluster.

05 August 2011

Upcoming Red Bull, Iowa Guard Events

Here's a quick list of upcoming dates of potential interest to 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division soldiers, veterans, and families, as well as others. Please note that registration and hotel deadlines for some September events is as early as Aug. 15.

Happy 150th Birthday, 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment!

10 a.m., Mon., Aug. 8, historic Dodge House, 605 3rd Street, Council Bluffs, Iowa

From an Iowa National Guard press release:
Public and media are welcome to attend this event. A cake-cutting will be held, and there will be uniform and equipment displays from both the Civil War and the unit’s most recent campaign in Afghanistan. The 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry was originally organized by Col. Grenville Dodge as the 4th Regiment, Iowa Volunteer Infantry and mustered into federal service on Aug. 8, 1861 at Camp Kirkwood, located just south of what is now Council Bluffs. [...]

The 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry began the first of two Afghanistan deployments after they were ordered into active federal service March 5, 2004 and released on Sept. 1, 2005. They were again deployed to Afghanistan, mobilizing in July 2010 with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division as part of the Iowa National Guard’s largest call-up since World War II. The unit returned home to Iowa in July 2011.

Happy 94th Birthday, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division!

Aug. 25: The 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division's official unit day--its "birthday." Celebrate accordingly. And responsibly. "Attack!"


34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division Association annual meeting (Sept. 9-10)

Hotel and events center: Stoney Creek Inn, 5291 Stoney Creek Court, Des Moines, IA 50131; Phone: 515.334.9000; 800.659.2220 (toll-free). Group rate: $86 plus tax.

For full details on this event, including membership and registration forms, see the Summer 2011 association newsletter here (PDF).

Aug. 15: Registration and hotel deadlines for the 34th Infantry Division Association annual meeting in Johnston, Iowa.

Friday, Sept. 9
0800: Registration & hospitality rooms open
0900: "Gathering of the Red Bulls." Presentations of photos and videos by current Red Bull solders

- Lunch at local restaurants, personal expense -

1300: Tour of 34th Infantry Division Memorial and Gold Star Military Museum's 34th Infantry Division exhibit, Camp Dodge Joint Maneuver Training Center, 7105 NW 70th Ave., Johnston, Iowa 50131
1600: Ice cream social
1700: Social (open bar)
1800: Evening (heavy hors d'oeuvres)
Saturday, Sept. 10
0730: President's Breakfast (Invitation)
0800: Late registrations, Hospitality room open
0900: Association business meeting
1100: Briefing on Afghanistan 2nd BCT Deployment

- Lunch at local restaurants, personal expense -

1300: Tour of U.S. Army FATS Range & Weapons Firing
1300: Special meeting for Afghan & Iraq Veterans
1700: Social (Cash Bar)
1800: 34th Inf Div Assn Memorial Service, John Deere Room
34th Banquet. Guest speaker: Col. Ben Corell, commander, 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT), recently returned from Afghanistan. Door-prize drawings and DJ following.

26th Annual Iowa National Guard Alumni Day

Sept. 17: 0730-1500, Bldg. S-70 ("Freedom Center"), Camp Dodge Joint Maneuver Training Center, 7105 NW 70th Ave., Johnston, Iowa 50131. Point of contact: Cindy Lane, 800.294.6607 ext. 4413; cindy.lane1@us.army.mil


Second Annual Iowa Remembrance 5k Walk / Run

Aug. 18: Hotel deadline for Sept. 18 "Second Annual Remembrance Run" at Comfort Suites at Living History Farms, 11167 Hickman Rd., Urbandale, Iowa 50322. Phone: 515.276.1126. Group rate: $83 plus tax.

Sept. 9: $25 T-shirt registration deadline for Sept. 18 "Second Annual Remembrance Run." Cost after Sept. 9, with no guarantee of T-shirt: $30.

Sept. 18:"Second Annual Remembrance Run," an 5k walk / run event to remember and honor Iowa's Fallen, 10 a.m., Saylorville Lake, Sandpiper Recreation Area, Polk City, Iowa. Pre-registration is required. This event will also provide an opportunity to welcome back service members who recently returned from deployment, including the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division.

For an online registration page, click here.

For a Facebook event listing, click here.

01 August 2011

Two Not-So-Shaggy Dog Stories

When I embedded as media with 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division units in central and eastern Afghanistan last May, one day's escort was showing me around one of the larger coalition military bases. The base was big enough to comprise a number of "camps" inside the security perimeter. (Think villages or suburbs inside a larger city.) While I had a pretty long leash, journalistically speaking, a couple of the camps were strictly off-limits. Blank spots on the map, because of the secret-squirrel stuff happening inside.

"That one over there is Special Forces," my handler said, waving as we drove by. "They won't talk to you."

Knowing my growing interest in military therapy and service dogs, he added: "They keep dogs there."

My ears pricked up, and the escort sensed it. "Don't even think about it," he told me. "The dogs are Special Forces, too. They won't talk to you, either."

We laughed to ourselves, and continued on our way.

I was reminded of the conversation while reading this once-around-the-world narrative from the Aug. 8 New Yorker magazine. The article regards the nighttime U.S. helicopter raid into Pakistan May 1, in which a U.S. Navy SEAL (which stands for "SEa, Air, and Land") team killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. According to the article, U.S. President Barack Obama subsequently visited with team members at a May 6 meeting at Fort Campbell, Kent.:
When James, the [Red Squadron, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment] commander, spoke, he started by citing all the forward operating bases in eastern Afghanistan that had been named for SEALs killed in combat. “Everything we have done for the last ten years prepared us for this,” he told Obama. The President was “in awe of these guys,” Ben Rhodes, the deputy national-security adviser, who travelled with Obama, said. “It was an extraordinary base visit,” he added. “They knew he had staked his Presidency on this. He knew they staked their lives on it.”

As James talked about the raid, he mentioned Cairo’s role. “There was a dog?” Obama interrupted. James nodded and said that Cairo was in an adjoining room, muzzled, at the request of the Secret Service.

“I want to meet that dog,” Obama said.

“If you want to meet the dog, Mr. President, I advise you to bring treats,” James joked. Obama went over to pet Cairo, but the dog’s muzzle was left on.