31 January 2014

Veteran's Art Shown at Nat'l Guard Memorial Building

Artist Dominic Fredianelli with one of his paintings. PHOTO: NGEF
Visual artist and veteran Dominic Fredianelli, one of three Michigan National Guard soldiers featured in the 2011 documentary "Where Soldiers Come From," recently exhibited his work during a National Guard Education Foundation (N.G.E.F.) legislative workshop reception in Washington, D.C.

The NGEF organization is separate from but co-located with the National Guard Association of the United States, and shares occupancy of the National Guard Memorial Building at One Massachusetts Ave., Washington, D.C., where the event took place.

A gallery of photographs from the event were posted on the NGEF Facebook page here.

According to press materials:
While serving in the National Guard, Dominic deployed to Afghanistan with Michigan's 1431st Engineer Company and performed route clearance duties for nine months as part of the Global War on Terrorism. After returning home, Dominic turned to art as a way of grappling with his experiences during the war. He has completed murals at the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago, at UC-Santa Barbara and at Finlandia University. He continues to create art that speaks to the mental, physical and psychological impact of combat on today's military veterans.
Fredianelli is currently a student at the Corcoran College of Art and Design.

29 January 2014

Special 'O-Dark-Thirty' Spotlights Summer Workshop

The Veterans Writing Program, Washington, D.C. has released a special edition of its print and on-line literary journal, "O-Dark-Thirty." The issue's content was created in a summer writing and film-making seminar on the Mount Vernon campus of George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

The 2013 event was part of a veterans writing initiative sponsored by the university's writing program.

More than 40 military service members, veterans, and family members from around the nation participated in the week-long residential seminar. There, they crafted films, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and plays.

The resulting special issue is available on-line as a free PDF download here. The issue features seven works of non-fiction, six poems, and two plays. This is the second time plays or scripts have been presented on the pages of "O-Dark-Thirty," which has been published since spring 2013.

Instructors at the seminar included:
The allied non-profit Patton Veterans Project, New York, N.Y. also supported the event via its I Was There Film Workshops.

The non-profit organization was founded by Benjamin Patton, the youngest grandson of World War II Gen. George S. Patton, and author of 2012's "Growing Up Patton." The organization's work focuses addressing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.) and Traumatic Brain Injury (T.B.I.) through film and narrative. At the June 2013 seminar, film-making instructors also included Christina Raia, Minos Papas, Sean Mannion, and Alex Arbogast.

Seven short films created by seminar participants can be viewed on-line here.

A website for the Patton Veterans Project is here. A Facebook page is here.

A website for the Veterans Writing Project is here. A Facebook page is here. The organization's "O-Dark-Thirty" literary journal website is here. Single issues or 4-issue subscriptions are available here.

The cover of the special "O-Dark-Thirty" issue was designed by veteran Janis Albuquerque.

27 January 2014

Tom Ricks Calls for Readers' Essays on Future Wars

In parallel to a similar brainstorming effort by his employers at the New America Foundation, blogger-journalist-author Tom Ricks has solicited essays from readers of his blog, "The Best Defense," found at the Foreign Policy magazine website. The theme or topic? "What we should be thinking about the war after next."

Writes Ricks:
I am going to run some solicited essays on the subject. But I also want to open the blog up to others, so I am now announcing the Best Defense future of war blog post contest. This is open to all readers. 
Please keep your submissions relatively short—I want posts, not War College essays. It might be best to write about a topic with which you are personally familiar, or have studied. But if you want, you can write under this title: "What we should be thinking about the war after next."
Ricks is part of a mental task force that also includes the foundation's Peter Bergen, Rosa Brooks, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Sascha Meinrath. Bergen, the organization's director of national security studies, established in an earlier Foreign Policy blog post the intellectual engine that is driving its exercise in military futurism:

"Some argue that when U.S. combat troops finally withdraw from Afghanistan in December 2014, the nation will no longer be at war, and the 2001 AUMF [Authorization for Use of Military Force] should be repealed—or be deemed to have effectively expired." Bergen wrote. "Others argue that the end of the conflict in Afghanistan will not mark the end of U.S. efforts to use military force against terrorists in other parts of the globe, and that we need some sort of new AUMF to structure (and constrain) such future uses of force."

Click here for Ricks' original call for submissions. A No. 1 winner will be the guest of New America Foundation during an upcoming confab among experts. Runners-up will receive an autographed copy of a book by Ricks or Bergen.

Send submissions to: ricksblogcomment AT gmail.com

24 January 2014

Frowns Got You Down? Send in the Clowns!

On his blog, Iraq War veteran, Navy mil-spouse, and illustrator Aaron Provost recently posted a whimsical version of an amphibious beach assault.

The work, titled, "An Oil Painting of Clowns Storming Normandy Beach," was the result of a Christmas-gift commission the artist couldn't refuse:
I was contacted by the wife of a brother from my old Iraq unit one day asking if I would be interested in doing a painting commission for her. Of course I was interested in the work, and even more so because of who it was for. 
When I heard the subject I was a little thrown. "An oil painting of Clowns storming Normandy beach" had me furrowing my brow a little to figure out the significance. Then she told me the story of him hearing the phrase after watching an April Fools' video gag of guys asking for fake items at a department store, and how he laughed and talked about it for days and weeks after. She said she just wanted to hear him laugh like that again after a really rough year. I was all smiles after that.

So regardless of my own misgivings about clowns (THEY’RE TERRIFYING), I set to work. She wasn’t expecting to have the piece until sometime this year, but I was able to knuckle down and get the painting off in time for Christmas morning when he received it.

A lot of work, a lot of hours, and a probably a few nightmares, but it was all for a smile.
Provost does a lot of creative and fun work, often with military themes. And, like any working artist, he has an on-line store.

In December, his hand-grenade throw pillows were mentioned in this Red Bull Rising post. His black-and-white art print of a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) truck is another favorite. And check out his most recent illustration, "Combat Diver," available as either an art print or original.

Via his business Facebook page, Provost recently mentioned an offer of free shipping until Sun., Jan. 26. Time to hit the beach—and his on-line store!

22 January 2014

Doonesbury's Mil-blog Digest to Cease Operations Soon

After seven years of presenting original writing from military service members—and reposting content from their blogs—the editor of Doonesbury's "The Sandbox" warned this week that the website will cease publishing new content "at some point in the not-too-distant future."

At the same time, editor David Stanford issued a call for past and potential contributors to share some last thoughts on war and coming home:
[B]efore we get to that moment I would like to extend an (urgent) invitation to everyone who has posted on the site over the past seven years: If there is one more story you’ve been meaning to tell, one final reflection on your deployment, or your reintegration, or anything else—please send it to me soon at themanagement@doonesbury.com. [...]

And if you are a deployed soldier, returned vet, caregiver, or family member, and you have been meaning to write something for The Sandbox; well, it’s not too late. But it will be soon...
Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau has long been a supporter of military veterans, and has regularly illuminated stories involving deployments, PTSD, MST, and other difficult topics for non-military audiences. Those efforts include platforms such as "The Sandbox."

Launched in October 2006, the Doonesbury website billed itself as a "GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire." Where once mil-bloggers offered a first-person alternative to war zone journalism, however, observers have noted a general trend away from blogging in recent years. In a possible parallel, the annual Milblogging.com conference was placed on hiatus last year, along with its related "Milbloggie" awards. That said, the Milblogging.com index continues to add new military blogs on a regular basis, and regularly posts items about military blogs and social media.

Plans call for the "The Sandbox" site to be made into a permanent on-line archive. A 2007 print collection, "Doonesbury.com's The Sandbox: Dispatches from Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan," also continues to be available via booksellers.

20 January 2014

In Eastern Iowa, Two Exhibits Explore Military Themes

Two current art exhibits in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, present a mix of difficult and challenging images related to military service.

Dan Eldon's "Touching Hands"
The first, an exhibit of the photojournalism of Dan Eldon, depicts the U.S. military in 1990s Somalia, along with scenes of poverty, starvation, and violence. The 23-year-old Eldon was one of four journalists stoned to death by a Somali mob, shortly before the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu. That battle was later depicted in both the book and movie "Blackhawk Down."

Eldon's multimedia journals have themselves been talked about as potential feature-film material.

The Eldon photos are part of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art's' ongoing series "The Restless Nation: American Art from the Collection." Alongside artwork on themes of "The Nation Votes" and the "The Nation Settles," Eldon's work explores a theme of "The Nation Wars." Approximately 20 photos are presented.

Photo: Survivors Empowered Through Art, Inc.
The second Cedar Rapids exhibit opened this week at the recently renovated Veterans Memorial Building. There, a Wisconsin-based organization called Survivors Empowered Through Art (SETA) presents a collection of artwork related to sexual assault in the military.

Featured in the exhibit is "Stepping Stones," a path of internally lit glass blocks, on which are illuminated the words and works of survivors of Military Sexual Trauma.

“Our art shows both the struggles of being sexual assault survivors and the journey to healing,” SETA founder Rachel Beauchene recently told the LaCrosse (Wis.) Tribune. “We hope to raise awareness about the epidemic of sexual assault in the military as well as the long-term effects of sexual trauma."

“The art encourages viewers to see sexual assault through a different perspective,” she said.

For more information about the life and work of Dan Eldon, including some on-line photographs, visit here.

For more information about SETA, visit the website here. A Facebook page is here.

17 January 2014

Young Adult Novel Inspired Soldier to Write His Own

A former high school teacher of English and 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division citizen-soldier, Trent Reedy remembers getting the "stampede" call to go to Afghanistan in 2004.

He now lives in Oregon, and writes fiction aimed at young adult audiences. The deployment changed his life, with some help from a magical book and its author. Earlier this week, he retold that story to CBS This Morning.

"I was angry about the September 11th attacks, and ... I made the terrible mistake of blaming all of the Afghan people," Reedy said in the 5-minute feature interview. During a low point, Reedy's wife sent him a copy of Katherine Patterson's "Bridge to Terabithia," a 1977 book that was also a 2007 movie.

"I learned from the Bridge to Terabithia in that war zone that art and music and books aren't extras—they're essential," Reedy said in the television interview.

Reedy was part of Task Force 168, made up of approximately 600 soldiers assigned to the Iowa National Guard's 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment (1-168th Inf.). The battalion was broken up during the 2004-2005 mission, and deployed as smaller units across Afghanistan. Reedy, along with approximately other 50 personnel, was deployed to Farah, in Western Afghanistan near the Iranian border. There, they provided security for a Provincial Reconstruction Team (P.R.T.).

Reedy writes on his website:
In a difficult time, when food rations were low and I was feeling very scared and lonely, I read this wonderful story of true friendship. It reminded me of hope and peace and beauty. That same day, I stood at my guard post, looking over the top of the wall that surrounded our tiny compound. 
Across the street, I saw a little Afghan girl in a dirty dress with no shoes. She dragged a small cardboard box with a piece of string. It was maybe her only toy. As I looked at her and remembered all the Afghan children I had seen, I thought about how much they were like the kids in Bridge to Terabithia. They seemed to be full of imagination. They wanted to have fun and friends. A chance to grow up safe.
Later, Reedy was inspired to write to the author of his lifesaver book. "Even though I drove through a strange foreign city, with body armor and an M-16 assault rifle, all I could think about was the beauty and richness of your book of your novel," he wrote. "Thank, Ms. Patterson, for bringing such joy, to this teacher-made-soldier, on this long tour, in this bleak desert country ..."

The two developed a correspondence. "He was in Afghanistan, for heaven's sake," Patterson told the CBS program. "He needed mail. He needed encouragement." Reedy would later attend the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, Vt., where Patterson was a trustee. He earned a master of fine arts (M.F.A.) in writing for children and young adults.

During the deployment, Reedy and his fellow soldiers encountered a young Afghan girl with a cleft lip. They raised funds to get civilian transportation to bring her to their base, where medical personnel were able to correct her birth defect. She would become the basis for the main character of his first novel, "Words In The Dust." The book, which tells the story of Zulakha, an Afghan girl struggling to achieve an education, was published in 2011 and is available in paperback and audiobook. The hardcover was even selected by NBC's The Today Show's Al Roker as a monthly book pick for kids.

In 2012, Reedy published a second young adult novel, "Stealing Air," about some Iowa boys who attempt to build their own airplane. It, too, is available in paperback and Audio CD.

Finally, arriving in bookstores later this month, is Reedy's "Divided We Fall," the first book of a dystopian trilogy centered on the story of a fictional Idaho National Guard soldier.

If that character wears a particular patch on his shoulder, it could be a further connection to Reedy's Red Bull past.

The author maintains a Facebook page here.

The author's website is here.

15 January 2014

Be Resolved: Share Your Military Stories in 2014

With the blog now in its fifth year, the missions of Red Bull Rising continue to be:
  • To illuminate ways in which citizen-soldiers past and present--as well as their families--can be remembered, supported, and celebrate.
Often, pursuit of these missions means encouraging others to record and share their military experiences, whether in writing, in conversation or oral histories, or through the visual or dramatic arts.

On a recently revised and updated "Get Published" page, you'll find more than 10 venues through which to potentially publish your essays, fiction, photography, poetry, and more. Want to make a killer New Year's resolution? Promise to check out these publications, with an eye toward reading, writing, or creating something new to share with the world!

Venues discussed in more detail here include:
  • The Blue Falcon Review: A Journal of Military Fiction
  • Blue Nostalgia: A Journal of Post-Traumatic Growth
  • Blue Streak: A Journal of Military Poetry
  • The Iowa Review's Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans
  • The Journal of Military Experience
  • O-Dark Thirty: The Veterans Writing Project journal
  • The Pass in Review journal
  • Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors
  • So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library
  • The Stone Canoe journal's Institute for Veterans and Military Families Award
  • The War, Literature & the Arts Journal

13 January 2014

Contest: Help Title an Anthology of Military Fantasy

If your reading or writing interests tend toward military fantasy—that's a sub-genre defined as "stories that involve soldiers, swords, and spells," by the way, and not "how to build democracies in the Middle East"—anthology editor John Joseph Adams wants to hear from you!

This news tip comes via the "War Stories" military science-fiction anthology featured on the Red Bull Rising blog last November.

In addition to assembling themed collections of genre fiction, Adams also edits Lightspeed and Nightmare magazines.

On his website, Adams explains his latest project:
Back in June, I sold an untitled anthology to Baen on the subject of "military fantasy." And what is that, you might ask? Military SF, of course, is a long-time staple of science fiction, but fantasy fiction often has just as many battles and military engagements and yet we rarely hear the term "military fantasy." So I proposed an anthology that would focus on those fantastical battles and the soldiers that fight them.

In any case, the contracts were signed, the contributors started writing their stories, and all was well. The problem was: I couldn’t think of a title for the d--- thing.
Adams is conducting a contest for a winning suggestion of an anthology title. "The ideal title would be short and to the point, and say both 'military' and 'fantasy' equally," he writes. "I’ve been thinking something that takes a well known military phrase or title and gives it a fantasy twist could work."

Click here for the special e-mail form through which to make entries. Contest ends Jan. 31. As prizes, Adams is offering:
  • A hardcopy of the anthology after it is published.
  • A one-year ebook subscription to Lightspeed magazine.
  • Acknowledgement of the winning contribution in the book itself.
To get the blood and creative juices flowing, Adams suggests examples such as "Blood & Magic," "Tactical Magic," and "Military Magic," although he notes that "magic" need not appear in the title at all.

To further describe the "military fantasy" sub-genre, Adams points to literary settings such as:
Good writing and hunting, you shield-maidens and dragon-riders! Tally ho!


Illustration: "The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy" by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727-1804)

10 January 2014

'Blue Nostalgia' Explores Military Trauma, Growth

Presenting first-person non-fiction narratives of trauma and growth, "Blue Nostalgia: A Journal of Post-Traumatic Growth" explores themes related to combat, sexual assault, and homecoming. The recently debuted journal joins three other publications by the Kentucky-based non-profit organization Military Experience and the Arts (M.E.A.):
The term "nostalgia" used in the title refers to a medical diagnosis of homesickness, prevalent during the American Civil War.

Blue Nostalgia is a product of the MEA's Veterans' PTSD Project. The 81-page first issue presents the stories of seven veterans. For a free downloadable PDF version of the issue, click here.

"Surviving war and rape is hell, and [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder] is very difficult; yet these authors have found a way to grow. Exposure therapy or writing about trauma helps foster strength in PTSD survivors. We create the environment in which growth can occur," writes Managing Editor Joseph R. Miller in his introduction. Later, he continues:
PTSD may not be the right diagnosis for every one of these authors; the common bonds between our authors are survival, loss, difficulty in life after the military, and the shared strength of accepting the way violence has shaped them. Tragedy and trauma in uniform takes many forms, and each author’s path toward growth is both an idiosyncratic representation of self and a story of survival. 
Our authors have found growth through things as diverse as faith in Jesus Christ to the love of their children, among other routes. They all have taken ownership of their traumatic pasts through the process of writing and revision. The road has been hard, but by writing they have faced their memories. We hope that what you read will forever be a source of growth and strength.
Art teacher, Gulf War veteran, and Maryland Army National Guard soldier Ron Whitehead designed the journal's cover.

08 January 2014

Book Review: 'Six Word War'

Review: 'Six Word War'

"Some sad. Some funny. All true."

Compiled by two West Point graduates, "Six Word War" is a short collection of poetic phrases submitted by their readers, each distilling a military service member's Iraq or Afghan deployment experience into just six words. Things like:
  • "Six men enter, five men leave."
  • "Joined Navy. Spent year with Army."
  • "Avoid potholes. They tend to explode."
  • "Some smells you will never forget."
  • "Battle Captains: Responsibility without any authority."
  • "Kids grow fast in a year."
The project was inspired by Smith Magazine's popular "Six Word Memoirs" project. Now published after Kickstarter effort last summer, the glossy and hard-covered "Six Word War" delivers 100 pages of pithy insights, strange tales, and both good and gallows humor. There are even a few color photo illustrations.

The book's website explains:
Instead of a book about Iraq or Afghanistan that tells one soldier’s perspective, Six Word War is the first ‘crowdsourced’ war memoir that will tell a story different than any other ever told about war. For the first time in history, one book will contain the collective experience of our military at war in their own words.

Sometimes veterans have funny stories to tell and sometimes they’re tragic. Not every story on its own could justify an entire book, but that’s what we think is incredible about this project. The thousands of stories that we’re gathering tell the real story of Iraq and Afghanistan—a story that couldn’t possibly be told by one person.
A related website continues to collect 6-word submissions here. The editors say they plan an expanded future edition. A Facebook page is here.

06 January 2014

TV Review: Fox's 'Enlisted' Sitcom Debuts Fri., Jan. 10

Back before the wars—it was the 1990s—I was part of a great team of Army communications soldiers working in an Iowa National Guard engineer unit. We had a crusty section sergeant who had come up through the field artillery, who made us watch "MASH" (1970) as an annual training film. The team also liked to listen to NASCAR races on the radio, and to call up absent team members to play "what's that smell?" A good sense of humor will get you through a lot; a shared appreciation of absurdity will get you through even more.

So I was surprised when I asked Sgt. Mike his opinion of "Three Kings" (1999), a favorite movie of mine. Set during the Gulf War, it's an eclectic mix between a war and bank heist movie—sort of an updated "Kelly's Heroes" (1970). Mike had been in Iraq, after he'd enlisted into the active-duty Army. I figured "Three Kings" was right up his A-frame. I was wrong.

"Stupid movie," he said. "It made us all look like a bunch of fools."

Last summer, I had a similar experience when I posted via social media the official teaser to the TV series "Enlisted." I'd been hungry for a new ration of military comedy, and I thought it looked promising. Many of my Army buddies and Facebook friends, however, took it personally. They hated it with a passion like Thermite.

That's when I realized that, when less than 1 percent of a society's population serves in the military, the whole thing regarding the difference between "laughing with" and "laughing at" takes on orders of magnitude.

Enter the Sgt. Mike Test: "If you're not laughing with us, you're laughing against us."

The Fox TV Network sitcom "Enlisted" debuts this Fri, Jan. 10, at 9:30 p.m. EST/8:30 p.m. CST. If things like lack of proper haircuts, headgear, uniform, and military bearing drive you the bad kind of crazy, you probably won't get past the pilot. And that's too bad, because some of its producers are pursuing surprisingly noble purposes, as well as few laughs.

In press materials, show creator Kevin Biegel writes:
I don't believe you can do a show about the military in 2014 and not deal with things like PTSD or losing a loved one. We have to write about those things, they have to be part of this world. Both because it's the right thing to do, and because its my duty to be respectful to the men and women who do this job. I'm embarrassed we got some technical stuff wrong in the pilot, but I think you'll see we course-corrected and got squared away very quickly.
The official website for the "Enlisted" TV show is here. A Facebook page for the TV show is here. The original teaser trailer is posted below, and at this YouTube link.

The story follows three biological brothers assigned to the same rear-detachment unit, the fictional 18th Infantry Division at the equally fictional Fort McGee (aka "Fort McGeezer"), Fla. Infantry soldier Pete Hill (Geoff Stults) got kicked to the rear after punching a TOC-roach field-grade in the face while downrange in Afghanistan. Snarky middle-brother Derrick Hill (Chris Lowell) joined the Army just to look out for the youngest of the three, the energetic but often wildly inaccurate and inappropriate Randy Hill (Parker Young).

The plot of the pilot feels similar to those of "Stripes" (1981) or "Major Payne" (1995): A ragtag group of nerds, ne'er-do-wells, and screw-ups decides to play by its own rules to disrupt an antagonist's prized war games.

There's a shaggy-dog-story twist, but it's probably still not enough to make up for the behavioral problems, technical errors, and uniform infractions breezily depicted in the pilot. Seriously, we're not talking about missing Reflective Safety Belts. We're talking about soldiers walking around in public with blouses unzipped and no headgear in sight. While waiting to greet their soldier brother, back from Afghanistan. They look like fools, and not in a funny way.

The pilot decidedly does NOT pass the Sgt. Mike Test.

After the pilot, however, the producers apparently brought in some consultants. Episodes 2 and 3 show improvements, although it's still not quite "squared away." Better to say that it's moved slightly beyond the "crawl" stage of the familiar "crawl, walk, and run." By Episode 4, it might have begun limping its way to greatness.

Every storytelling exercise is a negotiation, between what works to entertain and inform, and what just gets in the way. Packing a narrative into a TV show or movie (I'm looking at you, "Lone Survivor") is like packing a rucksack: Some things are going to be left behind.

Bottom line: Soldiers and veterans are more likely to enjoy early episodes of "Enlisted," but only if they squint past some of the storytelling. For example, Episode 2 ("Randy Get Your Gun," airing Jan. 17) tells a funny story about how middle-sibling Derrick must convince his younger brother not to imagine those paper targets as real people, in order that Randy might pass his annual rifle qualification. To get to the punchline, however, viewers will have to get past seeing a zero range that's run more like a carnival game: Unlimited ammunition! No safeties!

Veterans will also likely recognize the barracks hijinks of their youths in Episode 3 ("Prank War," airing Jan. 24). To do so, however, they'll have to mentally replace the idea of a unit guidon—a foreign concept to TV-watching civilians—with a particularly embarrassing "platoon flag" designed by Randy Hill.

These MIGHT pass the Sgt. Mike Test—IF he was to be convinced that the shows' intended comedic target was "Stupid Stuff that Soldiers Do," rather than "Stupid, Stupid Soldiers."

Episode 4 ("Pete's Airstream," February date TBD) finally takes a shot at the higher stakes mentioned in Biegel's press release. Oldest brother Pete Hill suddenly seeks solitude by living in a trailer off-post. While the urge doesn't feel completely earned—there is a suggestion-without-explanation that he is suffering from PTSD—the platoon's eventual response is sweet, appropriate, and right on target.

The danger, of course, is that dealing so lightly with heavy topics might con the public into thinking that problems like PTSD can go away after 22 minutes of laughs. You know, like some sort of military "Facts of Life" (1979).

If "Enlisted" is really in it for the long haul and the good fight, however—and if it's given a chance by veterans, viewers, and network viziers—it could do some real good in the world. It could help fill in some of that civil-military divide. It could help prove, once again, that "humor is a combat multiplier" (No. 26).

And THAT would make Sgt. Mike very happy.


Disclaimer: A preview DVD of four "Enlisted" episodes was provided to the Red Bull Rising blog for review purposes. The original trailer is posted below.

01 January 2014

Will 'Tactical Fortune Cookies' Work in Garrison Life?

A couple of years ago, while preparing for deployment to Afghanistan with the Iowa National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division, I wrote a few blog posts about tactical fortune cookies.

During breaks in pre-deployment training, the story went, my buddies and I would often lunch on Chinese food. Afterwards, we'd read aloud the predictions found in our complimentary fortune cookies, adding the words "on the deployment" to each. Hilarity ensued.

As I wrote at the time: "Yes, it's awfully similar to the sophomoric practice of adding the words '... in bed.' We have no problem with that."

Good jokes and old habits die hard. To this day, I continue to collect those little slips of fortune-filled paper.

As the pendulum begins to swing back from the regular overseas deployments of an Army at war, to the cut-budget, cut-throat, spit-and-polish chickensh--tery of an Army stuck at home, I thought I'd revisit our pre-deployment practice of quoting cookies. This time, however, with the words "in garrison."

I am pleased to report that the cookies continue to deliver worthwhile results.

Some messages, for example, sound like the comments snarky raters might write on job performance evaluations. Perhaps these should be filed under "damning with ambiguous praise"?
  • "You always find yourself at the center of attention ... in garrison."
  • "You have an active mind and a keen imagination ... in garrison."
  • "You are a bundle of energy, always on the go ... in garrison."
  • "You have the ability to do several things at one time and do them all well ... in garrison."
  • "You are sociable and entertaining ... in garrison."
Some sound more like philosophical (or maybe political?) advice:
  • "He who walks with wolves, learns to howl ... in garrison."
  • "What you plant now, you will harvest later ... in garrison."
  • "A modest man never talks to himself ... in garrison."
  • "Some folk want their luck buttered ... in garrison."
  • "At 20 years of age, the will reigns; at 30, the wit; at 40, the judgments ... in garrison."
Finally, there are those that sound full of doom and foreboding. Take these as warnings:
  • "You will attend a party where where strange customs prevail ... in garrison."
  • "That one is not sleeping, does not mean they are awake ... in garrison."
  • "People learn little from success, but much from failure ... in garrison."
  • "No man is free who is not master of himself ... in garrison."
  • "Heroism is endurance for one moment more ... in garrison."
Happy New Year! May you find contentment in your cantonment in the months to come!

As always, thanks for your readership of the Red Bull Rising blog! Best wishes for a happy, peaceful, and prosperous 2014!