A lot of people have written to me on the email side asking why I have backed off so much on publishing. I think I hit a peak back in August with the Georgian / Russian Crisis with about 7-8 posts a day. Unfortunately the time I have to devote to publishing articles on the site has drastically reduced. I have to pick and choose important issues to tackle. But I see this as a good thing. The reason for that is the actual reason why I am so busy, and that is the United States Army's School for Advanced Military Studies (SAMS).
I count myself extremely lucky and blessed to have been chosen to participate in this course. I won't lie, the academics of it make my head hurt everyday, but I have never learned more about the military, the nation, and myself in any other course I have been a part of.
SAMS is celebrating it's 25th Anniversary this year, and it has been an illustrious 25 years. SAMS over the last 25 years has graduated much of our Army's best leaders. I can truthfully say that every boss I have had in 12 years of service that I sought to emulate and thought of as the epitomy of an officer was a SAMS graduate.
As I walk by the pictures in the lobby of the graduating classes of the past, I am honestly humbled to be a part of this course.
The purpose of the course, in my own words, is to educate junior field grade officers to be better leaders and staff officers within our United States Army. Most importantly to me, to be better leaders. To stretch your comfort zones of academic understanding to be able to handle the complex and ambiguous problems that we are facing now and in the future.
We also saw recently the expansion of the program from one seminar in the winter start class to two. The August start class is also expanding, and its a great initiative. In my personal opinion, the more officers we can educate in this fashion, the better our Army and Nation will be.
I hope that some of this helps explain things, I hope it sheds some light on this tremendous program, and I hope it encourages other young officers to apply for the course. It's hard work, but the rewards in my personal growth and learning make all of the headaches worth it.
To close I'd like to quote General Graf Von Schlieffen from his guidance to the German General Staff Officers that I believe sums up SAMS well, "Work relentlessly, Accomplish much, Remain in the background, and be more then you seem."
I've worked with AER a number of times, and participated in the Army Blogger's Round Table today with the AER's Deputy Director of Finance, COL (Ret) Andrew Cohen. I have a number of issues with the article, and also some notes from COL Cohen to try to dispel the rumors stated in the AP article.
"During those years, the charity packed away $117 million into its own reserves while spending just $64 million on direct aid, according to an AP analysis of its tax records."
COL Cohen spoke directly to this point a number of times. The first part was that the $117 was not correct, and they were not sure where that number came from. The article claims it is from tax records but does not elaborate nor offer empirical evidence. On top of that, COL Cohen stated that the operational funds that were being "held" were to a tune of $190 to $200 million. The reason for maintaining that reserve was to ensure that AER would remain solvent. With the way the markets have been acting lately, I really can not blame them. For every dollar that AER has taken in, a total of $1.48 has been spent on no interest loans and grants for soldiers. With a negative delta of spending, having a reserve sounds like a good idea. In addition if AER started to dip directly into that reserve at current intake of funds and current output of funding they would at best estimates remain solvent for another 9-10 years. Again, with the way the markets have been acting, I don't see a problem here.
"The massive nonprofit — funded predominantly by troops — allows superiors to squeeze soldiers for contributions; forces struggling soldiers to repay loans — sometimes delaying transfers and promotions; and too often violates its own rules by rewarding donors, such as giving free passes from physical training, the AP found."
Well Ill address this in two parts. The first is from COL Cohen. He stated a number of times that AER does not condone behavior of this sort, and even has a third party watch dog organization in position to watch for this. From my own personal perspective, I have never seen this. Now, I wont lie, I have heard stories from the past that things like this happened. But, I have been on active duty for close to 12 years now, and have never seen any of these activities occurring.
"Neither the Army nor Sgt. Major of the Army Kenneth Preston, an AER board member, responded to repeated requests for comment on the military's relationship with AER."
Well I cant speak for the Sergeant Major of the Army but COL Cohen said today that a press release was sent back to the AP. They don't know if it is going to be published or not by them, but I will be watching very closely to see if the AP publishes it.
One of the other issues that is brought up was the accusation that AER was cutting back on their scholarships. in 2008 AER gave out 12 million in scholarships. This year because of market losses they are cutting that to 8 million. Now this is not reducing from current scholarships but rather cutting the amount of money to new scholarships. I know Ive been watching my investments lately, and I know how much I have lost, I'm not surprised a foundation has lost money also.
In closing, Ive seen AER do a lot of good things for soldiers over the years. I will guesstimate I have had to bring a soldier to AER about 50 times. In that 50 times we had an issue once, that through command involvement, and after action reviews was fixed and didn't happen again. If you're going to do an expose of fund raising entities, I could come up with a very long list of others around that nation that should be done before AER. Why the AP went after AER I'm not sure, in truth, I'm pretty baffled.
Russia and Georgia have agreed on a mechanism to try to prevent any flareups around the breakaway South Ossetia region from turning into full-scale clashes, international mediators said on Wednesday.
The mediators hailed the accord as an important step forward in efforts to reduce tensions in the area, which sparked a brief but devastating war between the two last August, but diplomats warned that it needed to be tested on the ground.
"We think this is an important step to security and stability," European Union special representative for the issue Pierre Morel told a news conference, while United Nations mediator Johan Verbeke hailed "a significant first agreement."
However, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried struck a note of caution, while agreeing the development in the fourth round of mediated talks between the two countries in Geneva since October, was "positive and practical."
There was a lot of news this weekend about the Taliban. The most prominent was that they were trying to strike a cease fire with the legitimate government of Pakistan. Now I heard all kind of issues with this, but the one I felt was the most important was not mentioned.
Within most insurgencies there comes a time when they must choose between continued fighting and trying to subvert and undermine the legitimate government inside the norms of that country. Most of the time this takes the shape of making a cease fire, establishing their legitimacy, and then moving on to taking part in the legitimate government processes of the democracy....namely elections and voting.
The Taliban have been working for the past few years on establishing themselves as a shadow government. Courts, policing, and administrative functions have all been established within Taliban controlled areas. Now....a cease-fire. If the next step is a legitimate electoral process, well they could achieve their aims without a shot being fired.
That worries me. The question becomes....what happens next?
Taliban fighters wearing suicide vests attacked the Justice Ministry and another government building in Afghanistan's capital Wednesday, killing 17 and wounding 46 and forcing workers to flee from building windows.
The brazen assaults in the heart of Kabul came ahead of a visit by Richard Holbrooke, President Barack Obama's special envoy to the region.
At least five men armed with assault rifles and grenades attacked the Justice Ministry, said Mohammad Ali, a ministry employee. Two assailants died in the ensuing firefight with security forces. At least three employees were killed, another witness said.
Afghan Justice Minister Sarwar Danesh told The Associated Press by mobile telephone that he was holed up in the building, where a number of gunmen were also hiding.
"There is still fighting. They used grenades and AK-47s," Danesh said. "There are workers still inside the building in their offices."
Troops surrounded the ministry with guns drawn. An AP reporter could hear gunfire inside the compound, though it was soon drowned out by the sirens of arriving ambulances and fire trucks.
A ministry worker said he scrambled out of a second-floor window to escape an advancing gunman.
I was invited to participate in their membership drive, and normally I don't do things like this, but this one caught my eye. First off, their leadership is phenomenal. Then you have the simple fact that as I investigated what they stood for, this is a truly first class organization. Great exhibits, great mission, great leadership, and they are highlighting our young Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. After reading on them, I had to take part.
Now I'm also never the type who sits here and asks for support. BUT, if you were looking at joining an organization like this, I highly recommend them. This is something that I think is good for our Soldiers, our Veterans, and especially for the American People.
Kyrgyzstan's government submitted a draft bill to parliament Wednesday that would close a U.S. base that is key to the American military campaign in Afghanistan.
The move came a day after President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said the base would be shuttered and shortly after the Central Asian nation secured billions of dollars in loans and aid from Russia, which resents the American presence in a country that Moscow regards as part of its traditional sphere of influence.
The possibility poses a serious challenge to the new U.S. administration and President Barack Obama's plan to send up to 30,000 more American forces into Afghanistan this year.
Earlier Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan said the United States had received no formal notification of the closure.
Talks are due to continue on keeping the air base in the country, despite the Kyrgyz president's announcement, the embassy said in a statement.
The government said the decision to order the closure of the Manas base was made because the base has fulfilled its purpose of supporting military actions in Afghanistan.
OK, Congratulations to the PITTSBURGH STEELERS. Even as a die-hard New England Patriots Fan I respect the heck out of the Pittsburgh Steelers. You guys played a heck of a game, and to sum up the words of the MVP, "It's all about the team!" I couldn't agree more:)
Best Commercial: Its a toss up between the Pepsi commercial and Doritos in my opinion. Romantic: Budweiser Horses Close second: E-Trade singing babies What the heck?: Hulu Commercial with Alec Baldwin as an Alien.
As we saw yesterday the election within Iraq went off without any issues. My hat is truly off to the Iraqi People. Just as they did in 2004/ 2005 when I was there, they acted with intelligence, courage, and tenacity. They went to the polls, they secured themselves, and in the end their voices have been heard. Seeing the pictures of Iraqi men and women proudly displaying their purple finger from voting brought back many fond memories.
One area that I did want to clarify, is that I read in many major news outlets, that in the north of the country, specifically Nineveh Province, that many did not vote last time due to violence. Well, I hate to differ with the news reports, but being that I was there, we had record turn out in the city of Mosul. The people of the city of Mosul came out in tremendous numbers even though the battle for Mosul had just ended weeks before. I was extremely proud of them, as I am again today.
The Iraqi People everyday, take more and more steps towards a free society and away from fanaticism and tyranny. I am very proud of them, and my most heartfelt congratulations go out to them on this momentous weekend.