Cynical Synapse

Sun, 16 Aug 2009

High Tech Training Preps Guardsmen for Deployment

Filed under: Global War on Terror, Government, Michigan, Military, Patriotism — cynicalsynapse @ 8:58 am

Michigan National Guard Soldiers react to a suicide bomber during training.

Today’s Army National Guard is an operational force, not just a strategic reserve like in the Cold War days. The Army has three high-tech training locations: the National Training Center (Fort Irwin, CA), Joint Readiness Training Center (Fort Polk, LA), and the Combat Maneuver Training Center (Grafenwöhr, GE).

Now the National Guard has XCTC—eXportable Combat Training Capabilty. The system uses global positioning system (GPS) and electronic data interface (EDI) backpacks, along with the military’s version of Laser Tag, known as MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System). Computers tracking everyone on the training battlefield and video taken during training events combine to allow Soldiers and their leaders to see and discuss what went right and what can be improved—the after-action review (AAR).

Michigan Guardsmen slated to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan within the next year were selected to participate in XCTC training scenarios during Annual Training, the two-week active duty training all Guardsmen participate in each year. From the Detroit Free Press:

“We are learning a lot of stuff and expanding on what we were taught before,” said Lillian Hayes, 32, of Detroit, a and member of the 1225th CSSB who spent a year in Iraq and seven months in Bosnia. “We are learning different movement and techniques.”

Video on Camp Grayling's XCTC training.

While Michigan has prided itself on quality pre-deployment training for it’s citizen-Soldiers, XCTC took it up a notch. The video and computer-supported AARs were as good as the Army’s top training centers. More importantly, though, XCTC has Iraqi and Afghan nationals who work with troops to overcome cultural barriers. From the Freep:

“I’m giving them cultural exposure and letting them know what to expect,” said Najib, a cultural liaison officer for the National Guard who did not want to use his last name because he has family living in Afghanistan.

During each exercise, Najib advised soldiers on how to speak to and greet Afghan citizens. He also explained the difference between certain tribes and acted as a translator for one training scenario.

“It makes a difference because what I do here can save the life of a soldier and a civilian,” Najib said. “When there is a lack of sensitivity, it’s a chance you could be raising conflicts with civilians.”

We’ve been at war almost 8 years now. The Michigan Guard averages about 1,000 Soldiers deployed at any given time and I’ve been proud of every one of them. I’m also proud of the training we give them before they go.

Fri, 14 Aug 2009

Michigan: Just Say No to Gitmo!

Filed under: Budget, Economy, Global War on Terror, Government, Michigan, Politics, Safety — cynicalsynapse @ 3:26 pm

Standish Maximum Correctional Facility

Officials from the federal Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and Bureau of Prisons toured the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility in rural northeast Michigan today. The site appears to be on the shortlist for housing Guantánamo detainees. The US Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, KS, is the other likely candidate.

From Michigan’s perspective, which I’d agree with, the first choice is prisoners from other states. California is likely to send prisoners to Michigan but no deals have yet been finalized. Michigan offered prison beds to every state in the union. It seems California is a front-runner for Standish Max beds. Under a federal court order to cut 43,000 prisoners, California has 45 days to detail its plan, making Standish seem an even more likely choice. I just hope we get cash up front, considering California’s budget fiasco. Their IOUs won’t do Michigan any good.

Location of Standish, MI

As part of eliminating state budget deficits, Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) ordered the closing of 8 more Michigan correctional facilities. Standish is one of those. With 17% unemployment in Arenac County, home of the prison, it’s no wonder townsfolk want to keep the prison open. With 350 employees, Standish Max is the area’s largest employer. “I’ll take the Guantanamo Bay people in a second, they’re all criminals and it keeps 350 people in jobs. (I’m) 100 percent for it,” said one Standish resident.

There is a fundamental—and significant—difference between those currently imprisoned at Standish Max and the detainees. Those at Gitmo are jihadists; extremists for whom every fiber of their being seeks the downfall of western civilization, starting with the Great Satan, the United States. These 200-odd fanatics are the worst of the worst; Guantánamo’s head count is down from over 700. The detainees need to be considered every bit as deranged as the worst sociopath you can imagine. Think 200 Hanibel Lectors in bucolic northeast Michigan.

Underscoring the risk, US Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-2), a Michigan gubernatorial candidate, requested to take local leaders to tour Gitmo. Hoekstra is opposed to moving the detainees to Michigan. Facilities at Guantánamo were built to house the terrorists. While Standish has not had any escapes in its 20 years, it might not be up to this threat. If one of these Islamists escapes from Standish Max, there’s nothing but open terrain and innocent people. Even if Gitmo suffered an escape, there’s no place to go.

As for jobs? Gitmo is a military facility staffed by military personnel. A federal takeover of Standish Max would likely yield some local jobs and local contracts for services. But the corrections officer jobs would be gone unless other states send prisoners to Standish.


Wed, 12 Aug 2009

Congressional Double Standard Grounded for Once

Filed under: Behavior, Budget, Congress, Economy, Flying, Government, Hypocrits, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 7:07 am

Last fall members of the House Financial Services Committee berated the Big 3 CEOs for their private jets. In his roast, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) said “There’s a delicious irony of seeing private luxury jets flying into DC, and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hands, saying that they’re going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses.” Then, early this year CitiGroup planned to buy new corporate jets. Public outcry caused the Treasury Department to pressure Citi to cancel the jets’ order.

Here’s the disgusting irony, Mr. Ackerman. The House ordered 3 more corporate jets than the Air Force said it needs. They did this just months after blasting automakers and Wall Street for the very same thing. Now, in the big scheme of things, this added cost of $550 million demonstrates earmarks are alive and well and Congress has no intention of reigning in their spendthrift ways. How about walking the talk, Mr. Ackerman? In case you don’t remember, here’s what you said to the Big 3 CEOs:

Couldn’t you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled to get here? It would have at least sent the message that you do get it.

Since Congress isn’t in session, apparently the spinmeisters must be on vacation as well. Not finding a way to adequately defend this particular wastral move, House leaders withdrew the added jets. I suspect this wasn’t out of respect for their constituents. Rather, it’s more likely House leaders realized the luxury jets didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in making it through the Senate. The charlatans continue their smoke and mirrors.

A case can be made the jets will eventually be ordered to replace older aircraft in the fleet. It can also be claimed the new planes are more efficient and less costly than the older ones. The problem with that goes back to something else Rep. Ackerman said to GM CEO Rick Wagoner.

Wagoner’s private jet trip to Washington cost his ailing company an estimated $20,000 roundtrip. In comparison, seats on Northwest Airlines flight 2364 from Detroit to Washington were going online for $288 coach and $837 first class.

I wonder the same thing Mr. Ackerman zapped the Big 3 with. Why can’t our elected representatives travel like their constituents, using commercial flights?

Tue, 11 Aug 2009

Was Hillary Sleep-Deprived Again?

Filed under: Behavior, Duh, Government, Paradoxes, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 10:57 am

I had serious reservations about candidate Hillary Clinton. She left her name on the Michigan primary ballot, but said Michigan’s vote would “not going to count for anything.” Then she hoped Michigan would make the difference between her and Barack. Talk about two-faced! Add to that her sleep-deprived memory of coming under imagined sniper fire when landing in Bosnia in 1996. Are the duties of First Lady so intensive they cause sleep deprivation?

During the presidential campaign, candidate Clinton trashed Obama’s foreign policy experience. With Hillary’s total lack of foreign policy experience herself, I questioned Obama’s naming Clinton Secretary of State. The woman seems such an opportunist that thrives on a facade of mistrust.

So, the country’s top diplomat acted outright nasty yesterday in the Congo. Hillary snapped at a Congolese student’s question. Either the French-speaking student or the translator erred with the question. Either way, Hillary suffered a meltdown at hearing husband Bill’s name:

You want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not secretary of state, I am. If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband.

If Secretary Clinton can’t handle the pressure of a student’s question, how could she function in a real international or diplomatic crisis? At best, her reaction was unprofessional and disrespectful. At worst, this incident clearly shows her incompetence and ineptitude. She should do the graceful thing and resign. The US does not need a sleep-deprived Secretary of State who obviously has issues.


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