Month: December 2011

End of the Iraq Campaign

The other day I shot out a tweet about the end of the Iraq Campaign.  I said that I had some thoughts on it.  I will share those, but first I thought it was worth mentioning that the war is not over.  The war, is the Global War on Terrorism.  The campaigns of this war are Afghanistan and Iraq.  The Iraq campaign has ended.. not the war.
Having said that…
Here are some thoughts on the Iraq campaign as we knew it and as it has now changed.  First of all let me speak to the man power issue AKA Soldiers.
While many soldiers will be returning to either their state side assignments or homes as the case is for our Reserve component soldiers, the United States military will not be leaving Iraq anytime soon.  Following the end of combat action in World War II the United States committed to the stabilization of Europe.  We are still there.
After the “cease fire” in Korea on 27 July 1953, the United States Army moved to the DMZ and there it has remained.  Vietnam has been a different story, but history, even recent history including the 1991 Gulf War proved that we were in the “Stabilizing” business.  The Army has maintained a presence in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait since 1991.  The infrastructure, personnel, and ability to quickly mass forces in that region are in place and will not move any time soon.
So now that we know a bit about history and how we do our business, it is clear to see that although the campaign is over and the bulk of the combat forces will be redeploying to their next assignments, we are hardly out of Iraq.
The Iraqi government, military, and civil authorities are now in charge, but we will maintain our watchful eye on a region of the globe that is extremely volatile.
So here are my thoughts.
I served in Iraq at the beginning of the campaign.  Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 1 in 2003.  Each new phase of OIF was marked with a number.  I was part of OIF 1, OIF 1 was the Liberation of Iraq and later OIF 2 was the second deployment of combat units and Transition of Iraq, OIF 3 began the rebuilding and Governance of the country, then the surge (2007), all phases of OIF since have led to stability in Iraq.
What I saw in opening phase of OIF was a country that was in need of change.  30 + years living under the control of a dictator and his mob had taken its toll on the country.  The people were beaten down and looking for nothing more than getting on with their lives in peace.
My Battalion was assigned a sector just outside Baghdad, a farming community that hated the Saddam regime.  They wanted to farm and live.. and beyond that really had little to worry about.  They loved us and appreciated the ousting of Saddam.  The town connecting to Hilla is Haswa.  It is the most dangerous place I have ever seen.  Haswa, unlike Hilla, was not a friendly place.  It was a haven for insurgents.  We found countless cache’s of weapons and munitions in Haswa along with “bad guys” that really did not appreciate our disruption of their gang activity.
They had very little loyalty to any one good or bad and no real cause other than to cause harm.  They had a problem with us treating the population of Hilla medically and assisting with the opening of Schools and care facilities.
The city of Baghdad was pretty much the same, as could be said for many of the hot spots that you have heard about on the local news.  Pretty much thugs trying to impose their will on the people seeking peace and those that were sent there to make sure it happened… Us.
By the time we redeployed on Easter of 2004, the area we operated in was starting to adjust to their new way of life.. Freedom.
Still the thugs tried to keep the people down and gangs grew out of the instability.  Back here in the states, the news called them Sunnis and Shiites.. but religion (at least in Iraq) played very little if not any part in combat operations or why ‘they’ were fighting.
From the way I saw it the only thing that separated the Sunni from the Shi’ite was a highway.  They had different color flags and the tops of their Mosques (used many for storage.. not prayer) were colored either Green or Blue.
The reason I think stabilization is so important is because of the tribal nature of the people of Iraq.  I think that they now have had a taste of freedom and democracy.. in what ever form they are happy with, but just like in Germany, they will need to have a force their to ensure they stay on the right track.
The other consideration here is the we have a platform in Iraq to project force.  Strategically, Iraq is right smack dab in the middle of the some of the hottest spots on the planet.  Say what you will… this is the business we the people (via our representatives) have gotten us into.  I am not going to debate that with anyone.  I have been to war and do not wish that on anyone.  It seems to be a necessary evil, proven to be that way since the beginning of time.  As long as there are governments, terrorist, and those that oppress others.. well we will have to fight them.
So what do I think about the end of the Iraq campaign.  I think it is a little late in coming, but at the end of the day, its all just dates on the calender.  We will not leave Iraq for a long time.  We will maintain a presence in the region for years to come.  Combat forces will be moved to the Afghanistan campaign and we will continue to fight the Global War on Terrorism until our Government or the people have truly had enough.  I do not see that happening for some time either.
Every day soldiers ruck up and deploy in support of the GWOT.  I pray that they all return home in one piece physically, I am certain that they will never be the same.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Pulk Project

This year our troop has decided to expand our winter camping skills by making a piece of gear that will assist in a better cold weather camping experience.  We are building Pulk Sleds.
A Pulk sled is a sled that is used to haul gear, tools, wood, whatever in the snow.  There are many designs out there and many price ranges.  We thought we could make them a lot cheaper and get more out of it in the long run.  So the search began for a sled that would work.  We did not want to break the bank on the sleds.  I saw a few YouTube videos of people making Pulk sleds out of ordinary kids plastic sleds.  We figured.. this would work for us.
But I wanted one for me that would last longer and be sturdy enough to take my load.  I purchased the Jet Sled Jr. from Shappell. Jet Sled Jr.  It is a sled designed for ice fishing and conversion to a Pulk sled.  The cost was $29.99, so that’s not to bad.  But for the sleds for the Troop a bit to much for our budget.  Back to the kids sleds.   I found a good sturdy sled at Big 5 Sports for $15.  Then we took the design that would stay within our budget and meet the needs of the Pulk sled.
So here is the list of materials needed to build the sled.Flexable Flyer
1 Sled.  We bought the Flexible Flyer Winter Lightning sled – $15.00
100 Feet of synthetic rope (100 feet will make about 4 sleds)- $8.00 ($2 per sled)
6 snap links -$5.88 for all 6
1 10 ft. length of 1/2 inch PVC – $1.68
Total cost of the materials – $25.00
Start by cutting the PVC pipe in half.  Run a length of rope through the PVC and tie off each end with a loop.  Run a snap link through each loop.
Drill holes at lengths where you want to have tie downs.  Run the rope over and under, tieing a knot so the loops maintain their shape.
Tie loops at the front.. connect the PVC arms and you are finished.
A $25 Pulk sled.
The Scouts of the Troop will be making 2 per Patrol, and if they want to go out and make their own, like I am.. they are welcome to.  This is a great project that is extremely simple but will add to our winter camping experience.
I will do a video on the making of my Pulk sled, and will more than likely shoot some video of the Scouts making their sleds.  And of course you will see them in action in January.
Here are the pictures of the “Prototype” sled that I made to show the Scouts what we are talking about.

So there it is… A pulk sled!  A fun project.. can’t wait to get it in the snow.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

December 7th

December 7th, 1941 is a day much like September 11th, 2001.  They are days in our history that live in our hearts and minds.  70 years ago today we were attacked thrusting us into war with Japan.
At 12:30 PM on December 8th, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered those words that we hear every year on this day in remembrance of the attack on Pearl Harbor;
Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
Much like the attacks on September 11th we should always remember those brave souls that died on December 7th at Pearl Harbor.  We should take the time to thank veterans of the Second World War, they are getting to be fewer and fewer each day.
Take some time today to reflect on just how good we all have it.  Sitting at our computer or smart phone reading blogs and going about our daily lives.
Today, as was the case 70 years ago, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines lean forward doing our Nations bidding. Provoked or not, these brave men and women serve so we may have the Freedom that we enjoy.
As a Veteran that has served in armed conflict and lost some dear friends along the way.. every day to me is both Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
December 7th, 1941… a day that will live in infamy.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Boy Scout Creed

Within minutes of the last post being published I got an email asking for the contents of the “Boy Scout Creed” pictured in the post.
Here is the complete text of the “Boy Scout Creed” by Ludvig S. Dale

To be trustworthy in all things.  Loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous and kind.  To learn obedience and practise cheerfulness and Thrift.  To be brave, clean and reverent.  Above all to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.  To “Be Prepared” at all times to do my duty to God and my country, and to do a Good Turn to someone every Day.

Ludvig S. Dale was the National Recruiting Officer for the Boy Scouts of America in 1914.

I love to see these older pictures and learn about Scouting’s rich history.  Makes the future of Scouting so much brighter.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Inquiring minds want to know…

As always, the conversations that we have with our Scouts are so telling and rekindle hope that these young men are going to bring so much to our future.  Last night I told the Troop of our pending move.  I did not want to get into the weeds with the boys, but made an open invitation to both the Scouts and their Parents that if they wanted to talk about our situation I would love to sit with them and discuss the matter.
A few parents came up after the meeting and asked about the move and why, and then gave us a vote of confidence and assured us that we were doing the right thing.  Then the best part of the night happened.  Two new Scouts asked if they could have a Scoutmaster Conference.. one of those “Stop the World” conferences that we promise we can have any place, any time.
These two Scouts crossed over into the Troop in November.  They wanted to know if I could share with them the reason why we were asked to leave.  They wanted to know if the Troop was going to be ok and if I was going to stay.
The discussion led me to talking to them about principles and values.  You see, I told them, this issue has become one of integrity.   We believe as Boy Scouts (and Scouters) that to be good men, we must have integrity.  We find that in the 12 points of the Scout Law and the Promise that we make when we say the Scout Oath.
A man of integrity must be Trustworthy.  This is the bedrock of forming values.  Without Trust and Honesty you can go no further in a relationship.  These two Scouts wanted an honest answer and I could only give them the answer (s) that I was given.  I asked them what they thought about the explanation.  Neither one thought it was sufficient and did not understand why were asked to leave.  I then explained that arguing or debating a principle issue can only really be done effectively when both parties have principles strong enough to fight for or debate about.
Here is where the discussion really got good.  We talked about where these principles come from.  Church, Family, Beliefs, The Scout Oath and Law.   They explained to me what they thought of principles and shared with me their values and how they got them.  They come from good homes, parents that care about them and desire the very best for them.  They have learned in their short 11 years to be kind, respectful, and inquisitive.  They are curious about how things work in their world.
We sat for about 25 minutes and talked about the current issue as well as their goals and dreams in Scouting.  I really appreciate the Scouts and their candor.  I was happy that they took the time to learn more and that they are not afraid to ask when they feel the need to know.
These guys are going to go far in Scouting and life.  Having discussions like last night are really why I love being a Scoutmaster.
When was the last time you really sat and talked with a Scout?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Scouts Own

“Where two or more are gathered in his name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20)
This passage has been stuck in my mind and my heart for some time now.  You see, Church to me is less in the building as it is in the community and in the heart and mind of the believer.  I was dragged into a debate the other day about salvation and church.  I won’t recreate the debate here, but the gist of it was that a coworker of mine seemed to think that if you did not attend one specific church, well than.. you are doomed.
The basis of his argument tended toward the brick and mortar of the church, and in my opinion, less with the matters of the heart.  We agreed on each and every point that should lead us to a good life and a possible salvation, but in the end could not come to resolution on which building we should worship in.
I shared with him the idea that I did not need a church house to be “saved”.  I have everything I need in my heart and mind.  Well this blew his mind.  I talked to him about Scouts own services… held in the woods.  “Can’t be done” he said.. “No substitute for ‘the real thing'” he went on.  I told him that I am a lot more connected with my God when we are out in the woods than I ever have been sitting in the pews at church.  Watching as our young Chaplains Aide conducts the Scouts own service is more spiritual to me than hearing someone go on and on about how I should live my life and oh by the way.. dig deep when the collection plate comes around.
I have heard wisdom beyond their years come from a Scout as he talks about what living the Scout Law means.  I have seen as both young and old men tear up at the sight of Gods majesty as we reflect on his power and wonder sitting at a vista along the trail.  I know God and He knows me and He gets to decide who joins him in heaven.
I have sung praise in snow banks and got on my knees in prayer led by a Scout that does not recite a prayer, but talks to Our Father from the heart.  This is Church… this is where I know God.
We were on a camp out one gorgeous Spring when our Chaplains aide spoke the words, “Where two or more are gathered in his name, there am I among them”.  I looked at one of the Assistant Scoutmasters that was standing next to me, we nodded in agreement.  I then panned the group of Scouts that sat quietly listening to their friend talk about a Scout being Reverent.  I honestly felt the presence of my God right there.
Now I am not saying that churches are not an important part of people’s lives.  But Brick and Mortar buildings only stand to facilitate what goes on inside them.
My coworker is a good Christian man, I am sure that his heart is in the right place.  But sometimes don’t you think the mind should follow.
My sister and I talked the other night about church.  We were both raised in a family that never missed a Sunday.  We believe and participate fully in the sacraments.  As we have aged, we both have spent less time in the building, but our faith has grown stronger.  It was interesting to talk with her about how she feels about this.  There is some guilt about not being in the building, but fundamentally we both feel stronger in our faith.
I suppose I have separated my faith from the business of the church.  I can’t stand the politics and the drama, I refuse to participate in a show.  I want spiritual food and I find that within the context of the Scouts own and my relationship with our Lord.  I have heard some churches refer to the “personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour”.. I have one of them, do I need the building or is two or more of us gathered in His name enough?
It is a debate in the mind now, one that I seem to be winning.  I believe.. sometimes I think the show that runs at 8 and 11 on First street misses the point sometimes.  It’s not a curtain call, its our spiritual well-being that I seek.  I find it in the woods.
This is a heavy topic, I want to know what you think, how you feel.  I don’t want to debate you… but I am interesting in hearing your take on this issue.  Leave a comment.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Can’t or Won’t?

It’s that time of the year again, when we talk about Troop budgets, recharter, and PLC meetings to execute another great year of Scouting.
The other night at our Troop’s committee meeting we looked deep into our budget to see where we could save the Scouts some money.  The discussion led to us never willing to compromise our program because of money.  If we need it, we will find a way to get it.
It was then that I heard a parent say that some of the boy’s “Can’t” come up with that kind of money.  I reminded them that a Scout is Thrifty and that the money is there.. they need to go get it.  Any Scout that fails to participate in Candy sales, Pop corn sales, and Wreath sales, should never complain about not having money.  We have Scouts in the Troop that go out every year and sell enough popcorn to pay their way, if one can.. they all can.
I refuse to buy into the idea that “Times are tough” and so there are no resources out there.  BULL.  We do not live in the most wealthy community.. and still retail spending is up 20% from last year.  Unemployment is down significantly, and yes there are other Scouts that get it done.
So it’s a matter of “Can’t or Won’t”. 
I never allow a Scout to say they “Can’t” do something.  They CAN DO anything they want to.. they need to try and they need to put their minds in a condition that never allows them to give up.  If one person says no to Popcorn, then keep asking the next 10 people that come by.
“Can’t” is not acceptable.  In the world we live in you can do what ever you set you mind to.  Failing yourself when you say “I Can’t” becomes habitual.
Parents that tell their kids that they “Can’t” do a certain thing are not helping.  I have seen to many parents that will not let their kids try.  No matter the condition, “Can’t” is unacceptable.
I have a few autistic Scouts in my Troop.  They CAN do anything they want to.  The sky is the limit.. NOT Autism.
When they try and succeed.. they win and that builds confidence in them.
So when I hear a Scout or the Parent of a Scout say that they can’t afford something, I have to ask.. “Can’t or Won’t”.  There are too many ways for a Scouts to pay his way through Scouting.
Mowing Lawns, Raking leaves, Shoveling Snow, selling Popcorn, Wreaths, or what ever your Troop does, Baby sitting, collecting cans and scrap metal, walking dogs, painting fences, the list goes on and on… and by the way.. this list is a list of some of the things that Scouts in my Troop do to pay their way.
So you Can’t or you Won’t… which is it?

Henry Ford once said, “whether you believe you can or you can’t, you are right!”


Have a Great Scouting Day!