“Be wary around your enemy once, and your friend a thousand times.”

Support takes on many forms. If one were to ask if Turkey is providing assistance to the Islamic State in the form of weapons, training, and financing, I’ve seen no evidence to validate that. There is, however, much more to the point that seems to imply that yes, Turkey is supporting ISIL through inaction and as a roadblock, preventing anti-ISIL Kurdish forces in taking part in the fighting of North central Syria. Even more dangerous, there may be a few very good reasons why the Turks would want to see ISIL forces succeed, in as far as it reaches their own borders.

Ian Traynor with The Guardian recently posted an article on the growing dissent brewing in Turkey as government officials remain aloof towards towards the siege “a stones throw from their borders”.

To understand the conflict you’re going to need to understand the strategic importance of Kobane, a significant location to Kurds throughout the region. Kobane is an important point on the map because it represents the northernmost town in central Syria, literally on the border between Syria and Turkey.

Recently, the city has represented a vital choke point for fleeing refugees to Turkey. In late September, a key bridge from the Euphrates was taken which allowed ISIL forces to encircle the region. Within days, at least 50 villages were taken which sent tens of thousands of fleeing villagers on a mass exodus to Turkey. The brunt of these flowed through Kobane.

Second, as the map shows, it is a valuable Kurdish town in that it is the centermost Syrian Kurdish city. It would be, and has been an effective staging point for People’s Protection Units (Kurdish militia) forces to attack from to assault ISIL near a central region. Without it, central Syria is effectively lost to the People’s Protection Units and ISIL forces would have free reign. This also isolates the far Western cities of Efrin and Cindires for the Kurdish militias in the East far more than they were so before. Along with this, losing Kobane means that many of the logistical networks holding up Kurdish fighters in the major Syrian city of Aleppo would be lost. If Kobane falls, Kurds will have no logistical supply location between East and West Syria except when they travel through Turkey. They must go deep through Turkish lands to be able to supply and help protect their other cities, which now are surrounded by ISIL forces.

Lastly, shoring up resistance in Kobane will free up ISIL fighters as their central region will be much more solidified with one less town to fight against. You can see this illustrated clearly in the map below. The purple region in the north central part of Syria just went from, “ISIL is attacking this” to “This is no longer a problem for ISIL”. This means they have a relatively secured path from Aleppo to Mosul all the way to Fallujah in the central part of Iraq. This Sunni Triangle will now be a massive and much more secured region for the insurgency forces, if Kobane is lost. By some reports, there have been as many as 9,000 jihadist forces involved of the siege. Once these forces are no longer involved in the fighting of Kobane, they will be free to augment forces and carry out operations elsewhere.

Now the city is embattled on the edge of Syrian Turkish border. The battle has been declining for Kurdish and FSA against ISIL militants Outnumbered, by most estimates 6:1 the Kurdish defense forces are in a losing battle for the future of Kobane, even with coalition air raids. The tide only seems to be turning a major corner after weeks of desperate and heroic fighting by the defenders and countless American and coalition air strikes. This being the case, many are asking, why the Turks are literally sitting sidelined for this fight, only a mile outside the battlezone of Kobane, where they have the potential to prevent a possible massacre as well as deliver a major defeat against the ISIL insurgency.

Traynor’s Guardian article displays some disturbing truths about the precarious stance of the Turkish government.

What’s important to know is that, while Kurdish forces are gaining great notoriety for their ability to maintain Northern Iraq and Syria, they have not been well liked throughout the region and primarily in Turkey.

If you look at the region many would consider Kurdistan, the region populated mostly by those of Kurdish ancestry, you’ll see that a massive block of Turkey is actually populated predominantly by Kurds. Kurds also comprise between 10% and 25% of the population and have been subjected to official repression for decades. Over the past three decades, Kurdish nationals in Turkey have been fighting for independence and equality with the rest of their fellow Turkish citizens. One group above all others, has been leading the fight toward independence in the form of an actual insurrection against the Turkish government.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, commonly referred to by its Kurdish acronym, PKK, is a Kurdish militant organization which from 1984 to 2013 fought an armed struggle against the Turkish state for cultural and political rights and self-determination for the Kurds in Turkey. The PKK’s ideology was originally a fusion of revolutionary socialism and Kurdish nationalism, seeking the foundation of an independent, Marxist–Leninist state in the region known as Kurdistan. The name ‘PKK’ is usually used interchangeably for the name of its armed wing, the People’s Defence Force (HPG), which was formerly called the Kurdistan National Liberty Army (ARGK). The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization internationally by several states and organizations, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the United States, and the European Union.

For that reason, Turkish views of many Kurdish fighters are less than admirable. This is personified most by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he equated the Kurds of Kobani and their defenders with the islamic jihadist insurgents.

“It is wrong to view them differently, we need to deal with them jointly.”

Yet more concerning is that the ISIL Crisis is uncovering what appears to be signs that the fanatical jihadists aren’t being viewed with such vehement scorn as they are viewed from the West.

“A significant part of the Turkish public believes the Sunnis of Syria and the Middle East are fellow victims of injustice and that Isis represents a legitimate Sunni grievance,” the International Crisis Group said this week in a report from Ankara.

Expert on Islam, Sam Harris, recently explained why this may happen by describing some very troubling patterns that modern liberal tolerances haven’t yet come to deal with about the religion. He stated that when we try to truly study and understand muslims, we see the fundamentalist leanings are much larger a percentage of the total population than at first we wanted to believe. His view is that, while most muslims by a wide margin are not fanatical terrorists, the number of those sympathetic to the jihadist’s call may be higher than many believed. It’s important to remember that not all muslims are like those we experience in the West, those who are well educated and well socialized to American and Western values. The values that much of conservative Islam hold are not congruent with life in much of the rest of the world. For that reason, many of us have come to the belief that muslims across the world are like the muslims we know in our cities and that we know as friends. When you change locations however, you see a culture which is much different, and where values we hold are viewed as intolerable. He describes running throughout much of the Middle East a deep inner circle of Islam, one which “wakes up every day wanting to kill apostates and hoping to die if they don’t” as the jihadists. Outside of this group are the islamists. They as convinced of the idea of martyrdom, but aren’t willing to to kill themselves to see others brought down. They are willing to fight and want to see an end to democracy and the instillment of an Islamic theocracy. They’re just not going to blow up a bus to do it. Harris fears that between these two groups, you have a section that represents as much as 20% of the Islamic population. Outside of this population you will see the conservative branch of Islam. These groups completely don’t agree with the acts and atrocities of groups like ISIL, but in much larger numbers than we have led ourselves to believe, still have extremely intolerant views “towards women’s rights, toward homosexuals that are deeply troubling… and they keep women and homosexuals immiserated.”

An International Crisis Group added that private polling within Erdoğan’s religion-based Sunni Muslim AK party revealed sympathy for Isis. With his constituency seeing the Islamic State as anything other than a murderous jihadist horde, “This makes it hard for a Turkish government to directly attack Isis.” reported the International Crisis Group.

The New York Times also recently reported that as many as 1,000 Turks have joined ISIS, according to Turkish news media reports and government officials there. Recruits cite the group’s ideological appeal to disaffected youths as well as the money it pays fighters from its flush coffers. Turkish fighters recruited by ISIS say they identify more with the extreme form of Islamic governance practiced by ISIS than with the rule of the Turkish governing party, which has its roots in a more moderate form of Islam.

In response to numerous factors, Turkey has gone to great lengths to secure their Southern border. This, only after, thousands of Turkish recruits made their way through, along with perhaps thousands more international travelers. Regardless, now military forces are no longer allowing passage into Syria. This has the effect, however, of essentially blockading Kobane from the rest of their Kurdish allies.

Looking back at the map of the Middle East which focuses on levels of high Kurdish population, you’ll see that Kobane indeed rest on a very narrow “peninsula” of Kurdish population stretching from their main population center in Turkey to Syria. Also present in Syria is a very strong region of Syrian Kurds protected by the People’s Protection Units, and further to the East, the Kurdistan Regional Government, Iraqi Kurds who have a long history of support against fanatical islamists. These two groups, along with the PPK in Turkey all wish to take part in aiding the stranded fighters in Kobane. To do this, however, they must either go through the extremely occupied region of central Syria or through Turkey. The Turkish blockade of northern Syria, however, is in effect, a second siege preventing potentially thousands of willing supporters for the Kobane defense effort.

While I can see the Turkish stance as being, perhaps, logical from their point of view, the facts of the matter are that it has outraged many thousands of Kurds living in Turkey presently. Over the past few weeks, thousands have gone into the streets across to protest Kurdish inaction and what they view as preferential treatment for the fanatical islamist regime. In actions across Turkey, at least 30 people were killed and hundreds more injured as protests turned to riots.

The last week has meant much for the future of the Middle East. A small town on the Syrian border has made present yet another ethnic divide ripping the region apart. Instability has spread to showcase a future for Turkey where militant collapse in their Eastern half, the same type of collapse which saw ISIL go from a backwater terrorist faction, to the modern State of Terror. In a report by the AP, the situation has just gone from isolated protesting in the streets to an all out conflict, reminiscent of beginnings of civil wars from Libya, and now most notably, Syria.

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — In a sign of further turbulence for the U.S. led-coalition against the Islamic State group, Turkish warplanes have struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in southeastern Turkey, media reports said Tuesday.

It was the first major airstrikes against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, since peace talks began two years ago to end a 30-year insurgency in Turkey. It added to tensions between the key U.S. coalition partner and PKK, a militant group listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. that is also among the fiercest opponents of the Islamic State group.

The return to violence between the two parties suggests that Turkey’s focus may not be on the Islamic State group, even as it negotiates its role with the U.S. and NATO allies fighting the extremists. Turkey has provoked frustration among allies, by saying it won’t join the fight against the Islamic State militants unless the U.S.-led coalition also targets Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

The article mentions Turkey negotiating its role with the U.S. and NATO over how it will be engaged in the war against ISIL. The Turkish government agreed on Monday to let US and coalition forces use its bases, including a key installation within 100 miles of the Syrian border, for operations against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. Apparently, there was even a promise by Ankara to train several thousand Syrian moderate rebels in the fight, as well. Many hailed this as good news, seeing another major regional player now joining the battle against ISIL. I have to wonder.

Given the apathy and resentment shown by Turkish officials to the plight of foreign Kurdish fighters, even to the point of allowing jihadi fundamentalists to occupy a key region a stone’s throw away from their own border, along with their complete inability to take direct action against the terrorist organizations, along with signs that a major segment of their population may be sympathetic to the goals of the islamists, I have to wonder what motivations are behind any actions to allow American or any other Western intervention in the conflict.

To pose my own pessimistic view, one which I hope others will consider given the information I have shared, I think it is because Turkey may want an American security blanket against it’s own insurgency which looms around the corner. The rise of Kurdish prestige and victories over the last year has galvanized their spirit and the renewed call for Kurdish nationalism. As I have said before in this post, the nation with the largest single stake in the future of the Kurds is Turkey. Kurdish autonomy has spread throughout the region, giving rise to the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq and another like it in North Eastern Syria. This zeal is going to invite more Kurds to carry on the torch of autonomy and independence which has no one to hurt than Turkey. In the political environment that is the Middle East, one of ever growing chaos, reorganization and upheaval, I have to wonder if Turks true focus is ISIL at all. I truly wonder if really, the recent allowance to allow coalition forces to use Turkish military bases and train Syrian defense forces was really only an effort to ensure their assistance in the event of a future Kurdish uprising. Turkey has long been a friend of the United States amidst much less moderate neighbors. Now, however, it seems that conservative Islamic factions within Turkey have grown tired of their Western friendly policies and are now acting in accord with ISIL forces, even if indirectly. This won’t sit well with the Kurds of the region who, until only yesterday, enjoyed a brief two year lull in a 30 year feud with the nation. Now, it seems, they are hedging on the possibility of Kurdish uprising with the presence of US and NATO allies to keep Turkish lands within the sovereign control of Ankara.

The Enemy of My Enemy

There is a Arabic saying that translates “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has unanimously gained no friends across the world. No nations and no allies have come out to show support for the fanatical regime, even among fellow Islamic terrorist organizations. In the case of Turkey, however, there hasn’t really been much done to show that they actually do view them as enemies. Instead, they seem to be looking at others as potential risks within their own borders. They’ve seen a problem which has existed for decades, namely the Kurdish population within Turkey and seen its sudden rise to popularity in the world’s stage, as well as its rise to power in military and political efficacy. This can only mean bad things for the future of Turkey. For all these reasons, one has to wonder if the Turks really see ISIL as their enemy or merely as the enemy of their longstanding enemy, the Kurds. If we view it in that light, we can see how it shouldn’t surprise anyone how much help Turkey has provided, if by nothing else than timely inaction, to the Sunni jihadists. Perhaps it is simpler than this. Perhaps, in light of President Erdoğan’s statement that, “It is wrong to view them differently, we need to deal with them jointly,” exactly that is being done; allow the two enemies of Turkey to fight each other to their mutual oblivion.

To be clear, Turkey has never aided ISIL through troop support, nor is there any evidence that they have provided weapons, financing or aid of any kind, but their policy of preventing the success of Kurdish forces, primarily in the battle for Kobane, as well as their inability to prevent the same sort of assistance being given to Islamic State fighter, they have given more indirect assistance than one could have imagined possible in keeping these terrorist’s alive. For those of us watching this conflict in the future, I am reminded of yet another Arabic saying, oddly fitting this time:

“Be wary around your enemy once, and your friend a thousand times.”


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Hacktivists and ISIL – What they’re doing. What they should do.

Why won’t internet vigilante groups like Anonymous target terrorist organizations like ISIS?

There actually are plans which are being laid out. Jasper Hamill, with Forbes, recently uncovered a plan by Anonymous cells to target what it considers to be nations funding or arming the terrorist organization ISIL.

The hacktivist group Anonymous is planning to launch a series of digital attacks against nations it accuses of funding or arming the radical Islamic terror group ISIS.

Sources within Anonymous told me the campaign will be called Operation NO2ISIS and will target three states suspected of offering support to the [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant].  Government websites will be blasted with DDoS attacks with Anonymous planning to “unleash the entire legion” upon its enemies.

One of the targets will be Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim nation that has long been suspected of supporting ISIS and other hardline terror groups. However, the Saudi government has dismissed Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s claims that it arms and funds ISIS, describing the “false allegations” as a “malicious falsehood”. The Saudis are thought to be terrified of blowback from the wars in Iraq and Syria, so have taken steps to ban private individuals from donating cash to ISIS militants.

The first thing to understand about Anonymous is that they are not really the type of group to “plan” things. They are opportunists who move when a vulnerability is found in a target of interest. They move in cells that are not truly organized where there is any sort of  true “membership” in the group. There are just communities of individuals who sometimes align together when any one of them arrives at a plan and convinces enough to help. There is no group consensus on matters like this, no voting, no true leadership, no responsible parties. They come to quick verdicts based on limited information and then take action based on that. They simply share information on what they could do and individuals will carry out an attack of their own free will. When enough do so, with some coordination involved, it can have the impact of a large scale attack. Once an operation is completed, the group disintegrates, never to be seen from again. In that case, you will have groups which can, at will, determine a party’s guilt or innocence based as much the narrative surrounding an issue and popular opinion, rather than anything we would call due process.

Secondly, if they can’t find a route to the actual perpetrators of a particular crime or social injustice, they are have shown a willingness to conduct actions against others who have a relation to the guilty. In the case of ISIL, the direct perpetrators can’t be targeted more than hacking twitter accounts, nor can the individuals who fund them. In this situation, Anonymous has made threats that it will, instead, carry out attacks against the nation of Saudi Arabia, and others, as a means to attack ISIL indirectly.

Taking that into consideration, if the group planning on coordinating an attack against the nation of Saudi Arabia, and others, are successful, they will be doing so against the wrong group. Those funding ISIL are surely, in part, from Saudi Arabia. There are many wealthy individuals there who channel funds to the terrorists through underground, illegal, and backwater channels. They are individuals, citizens of Saudi Arabia, but not state actors. That said, they are not the state of Saudi Arabia. If it could be proven that the king of Saudi Arabia himself were taking part in these funding operations, then that would be a different matter. So far, though, we have no evidence that that is the case. Furthermore, there is little Saudi Arabia can do to prevent its citizens from funding operations. Like the United States, there is little more that could be done beyond banning, and policing what little actionable evidence arises.

Ergo, when Anonymous, or any other group of individuals targets a nation like Saudi Arabia, they are doing so as non-state actors in a direct attack to a sovereign state. That is, by definition, an act of terrorism, obviously to much more minor degree than what we are seeing in Iraq or on 9/11, but still classified as an act of terrorism by the facts. The fact that there is no due process involved, investigation can be extremely biased, and targets are often not the actual cause of the crime, but simply the nearest person who can be reached, I wish that groups like Anonymous would not involve themselves in acts like this. Trolling the Scientologists or prank calling racist radio talk-show hosts is humorous and serves a good and decent function to the world. A direct attack, even a “harmless” denial of service attack, on a sovereign nation, however, paints a very hypocritical picture and will, in the end, invigorate even more hate and hostility against American and other allied forces’ (including Saudi Arabia Proper) efforts to broker a deal to take down the fanatical terrorist threat.

Instead, I wish they would move themselves toward uncovering more about the clandestine operations of ISIL. Once case in point used Google Maps to determine the location of ISIL training facilities in Mosul.

Operations like this are tailor made for groups like Anonymous. Social intelligence forces could easily be made to take advantage of ISIL’s use of social media. They’ve put a lot of information about themselves out there. If only enough smart people with enough time on their hands were to direct their efforts towards uncovering it, it could help forces out there taking action against them such as the Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi Army, Free Syrian Army, or even coalition military airstrike. Forces like the Kurdish defense forces are in desperate of advanced technological analysis and utilizing social capabilities could augment their offensive capabilities greatly. I’d personally like to see news reports of weapons caches, logistical networks, key individuals and other key information being surfaced by the larger community and being acted upon by State actors rather than by non-state actors. They’ve acted in this way before, namely in taking credit for the “hacktivism” which helped solve the notorious Steubenville rape case. One provides a constructive direction in which Anonymous helps the greater cause of the rest of the world, the other does only minor damage to ISIL while severely damaging international relations everywhere else.


  1. Anonymous Hacktivists Prepare For Strike Against ISIS ‘Supporters’ – Jasper Hamill, Forbes – 6/14/2014
  2. ‘Anonymous’ Hacker Group Goes After ISIS, But the Implications Could Be Costly  – Victoria Taft, Independent Journal Review – 9/14/2014
  3. Page on bellingcat.com – 8/22/2014

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Should US infantry be sent back to Iraq to fight ISIL?

Bringing in US ground forces to pacify the population and control the insurgent spread is probably not the best choice for Iraq.

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There does need to be ground troops present to fill the political vacuum in the region. Aerial strikes aren’t enough to solve the problem of Islamist saturation. In a recent report by the Guardian, Syrian Kurdish fighters are saying that the air strikes are not currently effective enough. The article states that the strikes being implemented by the US, UK, France, and Arab allies aren’t able to interrupt ISIL operations enough to prevent them from taking over the town of Kobani, a city bordering Syria and Turkey.

“Air strikes alone are really not enough to defeat Isis in Kobani,” said Idris Nassan, a senior spokesman for the Kurdish fighters desperately trying to defend the important strategic redoubt from the advancing militants. “They are besieging the city on three sides, and fighter jets simply cannot hit each and every Isis fighter on the ground.”

What the Kurdish Peshmerga have said, is that the ISIL forces are simply too numerous and spread out too much for the aerial strikes to have a meaningful effect. Nassan continues by describing how ISIL insurgents are evolving their techniques to react to incoming air attacks.

“Each time a jet approaches, they leave their open positions, they scatter and hide.”

Continuing on, Nassan makes the clear point that, in the absence of ground forces, aerial attacks are only a deterrent or a distraction.

“What we really need is ground support. We need heavy weapons and ammunition in order to fend them off and defeat them.”

Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani, seen from near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc

Militarily speaking, fortified ISIL locations are being destroyed and they are losing men and materiel. More importantly, key strategic points in the ISIL logistics network are being taken down, weakening all other offensive capabilities. The problem is that there is not adequate ground forces covering the advance. If, in all other locations around the city ISIL is able to continue their advance, even creeping at a house an hour, those destroyed defensive locations are not going to mean much, as they would eventually move well behind the effective lines of battle. Without a follow-on force to retake the ground that ISIL temporarily lost, they will be able to return. The situation for the Syrian Kurds in Kobani is now getting desperate. Some reports have shown that a Kurdish fighting woman suicide bombed near a group of ISIL fighters. Use of such tactics shows the extent of the desperation, that Kobani defense fighters have accepted a certain degree numerical casualties, but that they are willing to make the sacrifice if they believe they can guarantee a certain level of Islamist fatalities. While grim, this tactic also doesn’t solve the problem of not enough men to occupy the town. While suicide bombing does provide a high level of killing power, it also robs the defenders of one more person capable of retaking the city later. Saturation of infantry forces is key to retake, occupy, and defend the city currently under siege and ensure a prolonged counter-insurgency victory.

There are, however, troops in the region which can already provide that level of support.  Not that anyone wants to really accept this part, but the Syrians are there, too, namely, Assad’s forces along with the Free Syrian Army. The problem here is that, while there is actually a surplus of fighters in Syria, the intricate web of alliances and enemies makes it advantageous for most involved to let each handle ISIL in their own territory. Quite honestly, they are behooved to see ISIL gains in other territories as it will mean a weakened enemy for them later. For that reason, good fighters, such as the Syrian Peshmerga don’t have adequate support from numerically larger forces, such as the Free Syrian Army, or Assad’s government, nor do troops in the FSA benefit from Kurdish training, experience, and international resources. Together, their combined infantry would not suffer ISIL resistance long, the poltical make up of the groups, however, almost guarantee this to be an impossibility.

Focusing again on Iraq specifically, they are the Iraqi military and the Kurdish Peshmerga. These troops need to be trained up, armed, and more importantly, in the case of the Iraqi Special Forces, freed up politically to fight. There are pockets of great fighters in Iraq, namely those Iraqi Special Forces, which were originally pulled from the greatest and most experienced troops in the Iraqi military specifically trained for the role of countering insurgency. These forces have been made the private security for Iraqi political elite and kept away from the roles they were designed to do. If you want to understand the failures of the Iraqi military, look at how the ISF has been used for the last three years. Beyond just the ISF, the Iraqi military still outnumbers anything that ISIL might be able to field by at least 20:1 within Iraq. Point in that situation is that there is not a deficit of capable troops. What is lacking is political will and direction to use them.

For that reason, there really isn’t a reason for a massive deployment of American combat troops in Iraq. There is just a need for some sort of direction and capability in leadership for the offensives to take place between the troops of Iraq. Secondly, the American military presence will only do more harm down the road. After ISIL is taken care of, if ever, then it will turn into another occupation where Iraq’s people will go right back to hating us for all the evils we brought down upon them. Next, it will only continue the practice of allowing Iraq to continue on perpetually neutered. The country needs to stand on its own. It needs to feel independent. It will never do that if some foreign force continues to dictate their day to day life as has been the case for centuries. They need to believe in themselves, as a nation, and be the crucial leader in solving this problem… their problem. Lastly, the Americans shouldn’t have a direct ground presence because to do so will only bring back those old whispers of “American Imperialism.” So that I am clear, we didn’t leave Iraq on our own terms. We were asked to leave by the same Iraqi democracy we set out to build. One gets what one asks for, but the point is that when asked to leave, the Americans did leave. We never took Iraq from the Iraqi, but when we could have kept it, we left it alone and in the care of those same Iraqi. In that moment when the last truck rolled over the border into Kuwait it said to the world that we are not the imperialistic dictators that others have made us out to be, especially those living in Iraq. To send troops back in, especially on a permanent basis, would damage that message throughout the world.

That isn’t to say the US should do nothing. Strategic bombing is doing a good job of collapsing vital points in the ISIL military framework. They are being pushed back and recent acts of violence are proving their desperation. More so than that, there is a major land force being deployed to the region. The US Marine Corps has already began deployments in the creation of a new rapid defense force which was invited to be stationed in Kuwait, not Iraq or Syria.

The US Marine Corps is preparing to deploy about 2,100 grunts to be based out of Kuwait in a new unit configuration designed to respond to crises in the region, according to Corps officials.

Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) Central Command will be equipped to perform noncombat evacuation, humanitarian assistance, infrastructure support, tactical aircraft recovery, fixed-site security and theater sustainment missions, said Brig. Gen. John Love, assistant deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations.

The report obtained by The Associated Press in advance of [June 19, 2012] release provided precise numbers on U.S. forces in Kuwait, a presence that Pentagon officials have only acknowledged on condition of anonymity. Currently, there are about 15,000 U.S. forces in Kuwait at Camp Arifjan, Ali Al Salem Air Base and Camp Buehring, giving the United States staging hubs, training ranges and locations to provide logistical support. The report said the number of troops is likely to drop to 13,500.

Along with this, another 1,500 Marines are being sent into Iraq to join others present there already to protect strategic assets owned by the United States, such as American owned industry assets and embassy locations, as well as to train the Iraqi and Peshmerga forces.

Given these initiatives, I feel that the American presence is good thing. It is toned back from the last decade, but lighter and faster to be more prepared to handle future situations far more easily than was the capabilities over the last six months. Situations like what is happening in Iraq right now, can be handled in much earlier stages, without the need for massive deployments, A political breakdown in the nation won’t leave Americans without aid, such as in Benghazi, and new threats can be challenged as they arise throughout the region. Given all that, they won’t be able to fully occupy anything. The task force simply isn’t that large. It will be able to project force and react quickly, but it will take the local nations to take charge of their own futures.

Keeping the American ground forces in the background of the current Iraq conflict is, in my opinion, a good thing. Having them as a final wall against the encroachment of ISIL threats forces the impetus of action on the local national forces. Building a strong and independent Iraq should have been achieved before we were asked to leave. The blame there goes both on our own governmental failings as much as it falls on the Iraqi. Allowing themselves to become so structurally weak and impotent, while being also so arrogant as to dismiss coalition forces in the first place had a very major role in the circumstances that we have arrived at today. Bringing in several regiments of American military infantry support to clean up the mess won’t, however, do anything to solve the long term problems of this new war. For that, the local infantry capable forces are going to need to band together and prepare an offensive and coordinated strategy to end this threat.


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How do we destroy ISIS?

Wait.

This may seem like an utterly barbaric thing to say, but ISIL is progressing itself down a course which it cannot survive. If this course is allowed to progress, I believe, it will force actions in others to a point that the Islamic State’s true source of power will be broken and take with it the seeds of fanaticism in much of the Middle East, as well. If, however, this course is interrupted by too much outside interference, it will only  feed the mentalities that birthed ISIL and exacerbate the turmoil for perhaps another generation entirely along with spreading fundamentalism further.

Here are the reasons I believe this.

1) ISIL isn’t well accepted by the broader population muslims. One might be surprised to find out that almost all other Islamic bodies have completely disavowed the Islamic State. Be it an Islamic nation or even, other groups which have been labeled as terrorist organizations, the Islamic State has no noteworthy allies. They are an extremists branch. Yes, they do have many adherents, but within the entirety of Islam, they are still a minority.

2) Their main source of recruiting is among the young, undirected, and not very theologically grounded youth of world wide muslims. This means that they have a young culture, prone to fits of irrationality and capable of extreme violence with less regard for life than militant groups with an older average age. This means that as more young people join in with ISIL, we should expect to see these young people committing more and more violent acts as mob mentality takes over the loose military structure of the Islamic State’s army.

3) Point two is illustrated by their recruiting methods, hyper violent shows of force and subjugation of individuals who do not adhere to a particular brand of Islam. This type of sensationalist recruiting is directed at exactly the type of individual pointed out in point two and further leads the culture of barbarity by potently pulling out those fanatics within the broader population of point one from international sources.

4) They have grown in regional influence much faster than they have gained the logistical support and structure to adequately govern it. This means that they are spread thin, less so since so many have joined in more recently, but there is very little experience available to govern a logistical area of operations about the size of the state of Pennsylvania or the nation of Portugal. With such a small and randomly assorted officer corps, leadership in ISIL will be lacking and strategic weaknesses are going to form, if they haven’t already.

Considering these points a few things will probably happen. The IS will continue to get worse, as time goes on. This will force some sort of reaction by the world community. A coalition of 10 different Islamic States in the region has already been formed to help combat ISIL. What this coalition will look like and what actual counter-offensive they pose is yet to be determined, but some of the faces now sitting at the same table would have floored many a political expert even just one year ago. With hopes, they will at least increase security to prevent new recruits from joining with ISIL, closing up holes for their funding, and perhaps even coordinating attacks and direct action. If nothing else, they have already made a token effort and sent a message to more than 300,000,000 muslims that this brand of Islamic fundamentalism is not acceptable. Further actions will only make the the Islamic State more desperate as they no longer will be able to take advantage of many of the tactics which have served them over the last few years.

Once they become desperate, we should expect to see a few things. They will be ugly, probably worse than what we have seen, so far. Something important to remember, though, is that ISIL insurgents are outnumbered by the local population in the regions they control by, in some places, 10,000 to 1. Many of these people are absolutely not happy about Sunni Arab fundamentalist rule by force. Many currently only remain subjugated by fear. Under these conditions, and with a few key losses to remind the oppressed of ISIS’s very real vulnerabilities, I can’t reasonably see the populations like the Kurds, Yazidi, and citizenry of Mosul not rising up. There has already been articles of Yazidi militia forces forming, getting trained, organized and armed, to combat alongside Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Frankly, ISIL’s extremely barbaric methods, along with their overzealous sudden expansions have left them with many enemies and spread incredibly thin. If anything, their barbarity has acted as a recruiting device and rallying cry for the enemies they wish to conquer.

(This image is actually a parade of Shia militia, raised from Iraqi citizens to fight ISIL, marching in Baghdad.)

Add to this recent losses on three fronts. In Syria, their actual base of operations, Assad, the dictator Western media outlets were busy painting as the worst thing in the Middle East eight months ago, has made several concessions including the promise that he is willing to make further compromises in the hopes to receive help from abroad against the Islamic State threat. What that means, we can’t be certain. The Iraqi army has had a few important victories in regions of significant importance to ISIL in Iraq, namely near Falluja, a very potent center of Iraqi fundamentalism going back to 2004. The Kurdish Peshmerga has also done marvelously in the North by taking control of several strategic assets in coordination with American bombing. While, in reality, these events alone don’t win a war, the broader picture is that it does do something very important. If ISIL’s main source of growth is through the promotion of a nation for Allah, how could Allah possibly allow them to lose? I’m not making a personal religious statement, but echoing a point I have heard said by others. It is a logical fallacy that must be overcome by anyone who seeks to join, and many, are now simply unable to.

That said, it is my belief that, with even minimal support by the Americans, ISIL’s days are numbered. What’s more, at the end of this process, we would have an Islamic ran cultural restoration to promote, project and protect a much less fanatical and barbaric form of the religion. Perhaps most importantly, the Middle East will, together show that they don’t want fundamentalism to rule, which will be a cultural message with much deeper lasting effects. If you want fundamentalism to die out, you have to have it hated by the community.

What we shouldn’t do, and this is just my opinion, is go in full steam and guns blazing as the American victory over terrorism. It isn’t that I don’t think we have skin in this. I was an American Marine deployed to the region currently owned by ISIL in 2005 and 2007. Trust me that I know what our responsibilities to the region are, the sacrifices we’ve made, and the risks that we face if the Islamic State isn’t destroyed. Simply put, though, seeing our failures first hand has made me very reluctant to believe in another American led coalition to solve all of the problems of the Middle East. I don’t really think that the Americans micromanaging this one is going to get very much done. It didn’t ten years ago. I feel that, if anything, it will do more to send the message that maybe ISIL is right, at least to those who are vulnerable to their propaganda. “Maybe the Westerners really are trying to take over the Islamic world.” The last thing we should do is make over a billion people sympathetic to the terrorists by our continued over involvement in their affairs. What we need to do is, from a distance, bide our time and provide support, not a grandstanding leadership role, to the Islamic nations so that they along with the oppressed minorities in Iraq and Syria can come together and break the back of fundamentalism. Only then when the source of this fanaticism truly be cut off by a profound cultural change rather than outside interference.


Blues

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Jon’s Memorial Day Message

So I hope everyone is enjoying their Memorial Day, but I have been bothered a lot by some of the things that have been going on. I see on the news and hear from my friends of how they are going to be enjoying Memorial Day with their
family and friends at the lake and doing other things, and that’s ok. Everyone should embrace the opportunity to spend time to with the family away from work. But when an area 10th grader blasts his ignorance when asked what Memorial Days to them …”To party and get out of school.” I feel the need to make sure that people keep a little perspective.

Memorial Day is about remembering those who have died in service to their country. It’s not about the day off, or the family. It isn’t even about the veterans, those who have served or are serving now. It is about those who died.  So please, at some time during the day, do your somber duty as free citizens of the United States and say a small prayer or give some thought to those who gave us our freedom with theirs. Give up some time while you are at the lake or the BBQ or just relaxing on the couch. Think about those men and women who gave up all of their tomorrows so that you and I could enjoy ours.

Thank you to everyone who read what I have to say and know where I am coming from.

Semper fi. Happy Memorial Day.

-Jon

Lance Corporal Hatak Yearby – Marine Corps, Killed in Action, Iraq 2006

Master Sergeant Brett Angus – Marine Corps,  Killed in Action, Iraq 2005

Staff Sgt. William Douglas Richardson – Marine Corps, Killed in Action, Iraq 2005

Update: Women in Combat Operations

This is an update to a earlier post I made a while back Women in Combat Operations in which I expressed some of my mixed feelings, both for and against the future of women serving in combat centered missions. In any case, I am glad that actions are being taken by the Pentagon and the Marines one way or another.

This Monday Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, announced that actions were going to be taken by Marine Corps command to study how women would be able to adapt to the combat environment by introducing a select number of women into the  infantry officer school at Quantico, Va., and ground combat battalions that had once been closed to women.

This new effort will, as I understand it, focus on female officers. As my post said many of the women I dealt with in military were officers. One in particular stood out for excellence among Marines, male or female. I think this is an important prospect for the military. It will be putting the women who are the most dedicated, most ambitious and hopefully the ones who will serve the greatest example to future Marines, notably the women.

Although there is great controversy over this debate, much of it in my previous article, and it will likely be a very long time before we see a completely coed military, I think this is a good move for the Marines as they wean into a future that will have to incorporate women more thoroughly.

Women in Combat Operations

Females are serving across the world in full combat ground positions. The debate over the equality of this situation is coming back to the main stage here in the United States.

There is a debate going on right now concerning women’s equality, particularly in the military. As it stands, women are not allowed to take place in strictly ground combat occupations. This doesn’t mean that women in the military are always safe from combat, but it does mean they cannot join some MOS’s (Military Occupational Specialty or military job) like infantry, artillery or to be an officer of those units. Women are also not eligible for the draft, if that were to happen.

There are many who believe this is not in line with our current view of a need for sexual equality. At President Clinton’s request, the Department of Defense reviewed this issue in 1994. DoD noted that America’s prior drafts were used to supply adequate numbers of Army ground combat troops. Because women are excluded by policy from front line combat positions, excluding them from the draft process remains justifiable in DoD’s view. Although no conclusions were reached, DoD recognized that policies regarding women need to be reviewed periodically because the role of women in the military continues to expand. This week Marine Corps command has release statements stating that it is planning on receiving an undetermined number of women candidates for it’s infantry officer training program. What this will mean for the future of the military and women’s roles within are undetermined, but it definitely shows signs of movement on an issue that hasn’t seen the light of day for quite some time.But where they have still not expanded is into the role of combat infantryman.

Sgt. Theresa Lynn Flannery during an attack in April 2004 near Najaf, Iraq, as other soldiers used a wall for cover.

Most see no reason for this injustice. It must just be some dusty old tradition right? I think there is a better reason than that. Women are just not made for combat. If you say that then you must never have been married to a woman. But in all seriousness, what do you think makes us so different that men could “handle the stress” better than women? Men are just stronger than women? Perhaps, but as another article of mine shows the last decade of warfare has taught us one thing, we need more boots on the ground. In a Marine Infantry squad, there are few “heavy lifting” activities that I experienced where some women’s smaller (it’s statistically true women are smaller than men) frame may have slowed them down. That still leaves at least 10 slots left in the squad that anyone no matter how small would be good for. I would also like to point out another small fry who showed what the littlest member can pull off in an infantry situation. Check out the history of Audie Murphy. This is guy who was too small to join the Marines and then became the most decorated soldier of WWII. So you can see that I don’t put much weight in the argument that women, on average, are too small to do the job.

To maintain fairness I want to put out two differing points of view, both from my own personal perspective of real live cases I witnessed. I want to do this not because I don’t have a point of view, but because I want readers and debaters to see, as fair as I can, as much information possible so that you can arrive at a decision of your own.

For women in combat:

Be honest. Do you think that is a face too weak to do the job?

I want to talk about an officer I knew while in the Marines. She was one of the best Marines I ever knew. Seriously, top 3, including men. Her name was Capt. Dienhart. She was a company commander for an engineering support squadron I worked for. She was in command of over 120 mostly male Marines. Even here in the Marines, the most famous boys club in the world, she had respect. Why? She could out do any one of us. She made it a point to be able to do more push ups than us (and not girl push ups either), she could do more pull-ups than any of us ( and I am not talking about flexed arm hangs) and she ran the 18 minute 3 mile. And when I say us, I mean the group of 450 19-24 year old male Marines in the squadron, not an easy group to beat, but she did almost every time.

The only time I really got to know her was when I was a marksmanship coach for the squadron. I was her pistol instructor and helped her through her annual qualification. I used “instructor” and “helped” loosely because she was, on top of everything else, one of my best shooters ever. She had the form down, was very patient and methodical and had the strength to hold the weapon with control that and delivered precise and accurate shooting. In the Marines, marksmanship is kind of a big deal, so for her to deliver precise, consistent shooting, not just a few good shots was impressive for myself and the other Marines.

The women rewrote the book for me on what women in the military are capable of. I don’t know if she has any inclination to be part of a combat MOS, but I feel that the leadership and professionalism she showed while in a non-combat roles shows that woman have the capability and potential to serve in such positions in the future.

Against women in combat roles:

Marine atop gun turret.

Many of you ladies reading are about to get very upset. I am sorry if you feel I am not being fair to the gender, that is not my intention. Remember that what I am writing about is what happened to me and is all very true. I am trying to provide all points of view on the subject so please try to keep an open mind throughout.

In truth, I don’t see any reason that women can’t do anything in the military that men can do. My mom always had fun pointing out that there wasn’t anything a man could do that a woman couldn’t do. What I think is the key determinate in this argument isn’t what women can’t do, it’s what men can’t do that is holding women back.

Men can’t get pregnant. (Oh dear God he went there!) Now this sounds like someone attempting to throw up a catchall to prove that all women shouldn’t ever be able to join the armed forces. It isn’t. But it is a fact, women alone can conceive and carry a child and this fact has grave repercussions in the military world. Let me explain.

Suppose that you are getting ready for a deployment to Afghanistan for a 7 month tour. You will be sent to some very dangerous areas where you need every member of your team. Your unit isn’t in combat roles, but there is still a lot of work to be done and the presence of threat is very close, as it is a combat zone. Now, two weeks before you deploy everyone is arriving from pre-deployment leave and PFC Sarah has news. Everyone is happy for PFC Sarah, sort of, because they know that will be deploying a man down. You can’t deploy when you are pregnant after all. So now a team of 10 is a team of 9. That means that for the next 7 months, everyone will have to work harder and have less security during risky operations or difficult procedures. But hey, we are just breeding one more warrior in the fight against terrorism right? It’s ok we can manage.

But what if it happens, 4 more times? That is exactly what happened during my second deployment to Iraq. In a platoon with 9 women, 4 became pregnant within weeks of leaving. 1 was actually sent home from Iraq in the first week of the deployment when her mild case of mono turned out to be a severe case of pregnant. So now the platoon was down to just 4 women left of the original 9.

That may not seem like a great deal, but not only did this mean of all their work was split between those who remained, but they were also not able to fulfill a very important role. We worked at an entry control point to a major base. There was a great deal of local civilian traffic here. Everyone who came an went had to be checked, including the women. Do you think the U.S. government wanted those dirty male Marines all over the local populace? No, we needed females to do it. And many times we had to call in just to have someone check if someone had a weapon under their clothing. Ah, SOP how I miss you.

This wasn’t an isolated issue either. This freak epidemic of mass pregnancy happened throughout the squadron both times we were deployed. I liken it to a college where you don’t have to take finals if you are pregnant and then two weeks before finals you have 5 of 9 women in a particular class (and more than 20% overall) of the women show up pregnant. Would you think it was an accident? Would you think they were all accidents? Others were sent home in the middle of an Iraq deployment because they became pregnant in Iraq (please trust me when I say that it is not a romantic place, so it is curious to me that this could happen at all.) Female Marines who are or were recently pregnant are also given different standards to uphold than their non-pregnant counterparts. This makes sense with limits, being that there is some point where they must be deployable at some predetermined point in the future. For example I had a Sergeant who was very much overweight and never took part in scheduled physical training. The reasoning, she had had a kid. “But wait, her kid can talk.” Where is the line? When are we supposed to start upholding standards?

As for me, I don’t think it is that hard not to get pregnant. With today’s health care and knowledge it seems impossible to me that this many people could accidentally become pregnant preceding a time of great personal struggle. My wife and I agreed long ago that we would not have children until we were in a house, graduated from college and both had good jobs. It has been nearly eight years and we are still not ready, but we are also not pregnant. I think for that reason I have little sympathy for those who become accidentally pregnant. I feel that having children is never truly an accident and the fact that when this happens it leaves a lot of good people, men and women, down a (wo)man.

I couldn’t agree with you more sir.

In my mind there has to be some sort of accountability in the military community to combat this growing form of malingering in the ranks. The civilian population also needs to see that this is indeed a problem and an epidemic for the military. Efforts to address this evoked civic outrage two years ago when Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo threatened court martial for four soldiers who became pregnant, as well as the male soldiers who fathered the children after disobeying expressed orders to avoid such happenings. The National Organization for Women (NOW) said the policy to reprimand them was “ridiculous.” “How dare any government say we’re going to impose any kind of punishment on women for getting pregnant,” NOW President Terry O’Neill said. “This is not the 1800s.”

I would like to agree with Ms. O’Neill. In the civilian world that I now enjoy and that Ms. O’Neill seems to be only experienced with, someone telling Jennie and I we can’t have children is unacceptable. But in the military it is different. It may seem draconian, but that life is much more extreme. It’s more violent, dangerous, harder and we need each other more. We are Marines (soldiers, sailors, airmen, coasties.) We aren’t accountants, teachers or postal workers. When we lose a person we can’t hire someone on for a few months until Sarah is back. When we lose someone it is a loss, and to those who are left to complete the mission, it might as well be a casualty.

Tech. Sgt. William Greer / U.S. Air Force

In conclusion, I feel that women in the military have outstanding potential. I have seen some of the most amazing feats of excellence performed by female Marines. My conclusion however, is that the achievements and virtues of these and many other individuals, do not represent the whole. As a whole, they aren’t ready for the responsibility of combat MOS’s. When 1 women is unable to deploy it’s a tragedy for it’s unit, when 60% are unable to deploy it’s a statistic, and a damning one. For as long as women in the military can not accurately be relied upon to deploy in sufficient strength and readiness, to complete the mission through the course and then to return home to their family life as men do, they as a group are not ready for the difficulties and responsibilities of combat warfare. In such theaters when you lose someone, it isn’t just a burden, like it was for our platoon, it places everyone else in danger. It leaves open the likelihood that others will never see their families so that some could start one of their own. When there are women  who choose to use pregnancy as a tool to avoid duty they do a grave disservice to the Capt. Dienharts of the armed services, who have earned the right to serve in any manner they should wish.  When this pattern ceases to be a problem, I will be one of the first ones cheering for some more fresh boots in the thick of the fight.

-Jon

I have tried to provide links to both parts of the debate so that you can make up your own mind on where you stand on the issue. If you know of another good link to either side of the debate, please post it in the replies. Any retaliatory remarks will not be posted as I tried to be fair. And please, let’s not make this about rape. People love to site that “what-if” because of it’s moral impossibility to judge, however rape accounts for such a low amount of pregnancy cases be they civilian, military or otherwise that I will not justify it as a meaningful addition to this debate.

Facts Regarding the Women in Combat Roles. Women in Combat: Issues for Congress, The Impact of Pregnancy on U.S. Army Readiness 

Arguments for:

Five myths about women in combat Great article written by a female Marine Corps Major. I really liked this article and agree with most of what she says in it (except  myth 3, sorry ma’am).

Military.com posting a poll that American’s support women in combat roles.

Now that the gay thing is resolved, can we let soldiers be openly female in combat?

Remove ban on women in combat

G.I. Jane Breaks the Combat Barrier

Women in Combat: Study Recommends Ending Military’s Last Male Bastion

Arguments against:

Soldier’s Duty Is Country First, Pregnancy Later

Knocked up and deployed: An Army captain’s view

Navy gives new urgency to retaining pregnant sailors

More women in combat means more mothers with PTSD

A discussion group on “Service Member Pregnancy During Deployment”

Senators Demand General Rescind Order on Pregnant Soldiers

Remember also that my personal point of view is currently more against a change in the current system. This is mostly due to my personal experiences and for that reason I admit that I may have some biases preventing me from fairly showing both sides.

Military Intelligence is an Oxymoron? I Think Not.

I was in class some time ago when a professor made a joke about the meaning of the word oxymoron. For those unaware, an oxymoron is a figure of speech that combines contradictory terms. She gave examples like “Act Naturally” and “Aunt Jemima Light”, but then she mentioned another that struck a chord with me. As she snickered away, the last one she said was “Military Intelligence.” The class full of college freshmen, not unlike myself at the time, laughed at that one too. The professor knew that I was a Marine and that I had served two tours in Iraq, one of which ended less than six months before, so she knew this was a mistake I would not take lightly. I saw the look on her face as she saw the look on mine when she suddenly remembered.

She gathered herself and attempted to move back to whatever lesson was slated for that day. Whatever it was, that wasn’t the lesson they would be receiving.

“Ma’am,” I interrupted.

“Are you aware of what it takes to re-calculate the trajectory of an object traveling at 3,110 feet per second for a three inch change in elevation at 5 times the length of a standard football field when factoring in for wind speed and direction, as well as factoring for differences in elevation?” (Marine recruits do in week six of their basic training.)

Trajectory 2

“Furthermore, I feel that it is important to note that by the time many military people have reached the age of twenty-two they have become experts in occupations and fields of study that takes years for civilians to achieve.”

This is true, be it Infantry (0300 Military Occupation Specialty series), Engineers (MOS 1300 series)  a data network specialist (MOS 0650 series) or (here’s a fun one) 2834– Satellite Communications (SATCOM) Technician. Most have, by that time, achieved the rank of E-4 or E-5 and been given responsibility of a small team of 4 up to a squad of 13 (that’s like an assistant manager for people in college working at the fry kitchen.) Let’s also not forget that many have learned to perform their job under harsh climate, horrible living conditions and the threat of someone shooting at them.

“And while wars like Iraq and Afghanistan have gone on for far too long, you may be hard pressed to find a military battle since Korea that ended in an American defeat. As you may also know, since so many students declined military service because you don’t like taking orders, the military is not free to go about and do as it will freely. They are following orders. Orders given to them by politicians. Politicians…you voted for.”

“And as an additional note, I am making an A in this class, as well as all my others.”

Calculation sheet used to make marksmanship “less complicated.”

I felt I made my point clearly, in spite of my lack of modesty. The issue stuck with me though. It does bother me that so many people perceive the Military as being synonymous with adjectives such as boorish, crash, or doltish, i.e. stupid. Oh they always thank us when they see us at work, church, or the bar. “I sure do respect what you boys did for us over there,” but they still don’t believe we could carry on an intellectual conversation with anything beyond a six year, much less anyone else. We’re sadly typecast into roles around being disciplinarians, authoritarians, or the types of guys who will be “kicking in doors” for the organization. If roles such as these do not exist, we’re looked over in a manner that is becoming societally unsettling. We couldn’t add to a company for our empathy, our artistic abilities, for our overwhelming scope with respect to the world and it’s people. We are forever known by one overriding perception; the military is made of people who went straight to the military and have received little or no college education, and since a college education is the equivalent to educated, that doesn’t shine a very bright light on military folks. That is all most civilians will ever have to go on.

What the average person doesn’t understand is that most MOS (Military Occupational Speciality) schools require a grade of 80 or above on each and every test or you fail out of the course (and mine was much harder than anything I took in college.) Few are aware of the massive education system that exists within the military for its members. They also don’t know that by the time a military person is nineteen, many have been deployed overseas, where they did the most extreme version of their particular specialty in the world. I was a Data Network Specialist. That is the equivalent to the company network administrator who sets up the computers, runs the switches and servers for five hundred people. Yeah, the Marines have computer nerds too, but our computer nerds can shoot an open sights rifle from five hundred yards away, run three miles in less than twenty minutes and have green belts in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (that’s like mixed martial arts, except the ultimate goal is that the other guy stops fighting for good.) The only other difference between what I did in the military and what a civilian does is that I also dug the three mile trench for the fiber optic cable as well as replaced a relay station when it was hit by rocket fire. My friends and I ran code and we ran convoys.

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By the time I was twenty one I was on my second deployment and headed a small team. I worked as a part of a security team and in a week learned over four hundred words in Arabic that I needed to communicate with locals. That is enough to have a conversation with someone, which I was forced to more than I would like. It had it’s upsides, though. For instance, if you need to communicate with Iraqi army personnel, who just so happen to be curious how much you would sell your iPod for if you might get a good deal for your sister-in-law on the Iraqi arranged marriages market, or if anyone around had heard of a men with bombs (pronounced ka-na-buhl in Arabic. Go ahead, Google it if you don’t believe me.) When I was twenty-two I was responsible for ensuring that over $3 million worth of gear in the form of new laptops, switchboards, servers and accessories safely and completely changed hands along with all necessary updates, installs and user modifications.

Air Force officials are seeking volunteers for future training classes to produce operators of the MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Lt Col Leslie Pratt)
Air Force officials are seeking volunteers for future training classes to produce operators of the MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lt Col Leslie Pratt)

What I think is interesting is that in the military, this isn’t that special. Many military people reading this are saying to themselves “I had it harder” or “my job was a lot worse than that” and they would be right. I suppose you could ask an engineer about how to build a house, or like ours who build forty living spaces in a week. You could also ask a 40 year old department manager what it takes to handle fifteen thousand units through the warehouse in a month, or you could ask a 26 year old army logistics chief to do the same thing. For those real academics out there I will ask it this way “If two vessels are traveling towards each other, one heading east at 40 knots with a 10 knot headwind and the other traveling west at 32 knots and a 6 knot headwind and they are 4200 miles apart, how long before they meet? A butterbar ensign in the Navy could tell you that. Oh, but a civilian in my job made three times my salary, and if he ever got shot at doing his job it was a news breaking event. That’s different. So what I am curious about is “What ignorant person thinks people like me are stupid?”

As a special note, I graduated three years after that conversation with that professor and the class. I earned a degree in a school where a four year degree, which takes most students five, in three and half. I also graduated cum laude in the top 15% of my class. That is out of the 50% or so that made it to graduation from when they laughed at a funny joke about people like me and our inferior intelligence. Since then, I’ve worked in a Silicon Valley startup and am now teacher and a writer, with one book under my belt and another on the way. Although my family and others in my life were instrumental in pushing me through every step of the way, I know that really set me apart in achieving all of this was my intelligence, my military intelligence. 

– Joncropped-maxresdefault.jpg


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