Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Yesterday, the base was closed due to 2-6 inches of snow that fell Monday night. Kinda wish I could of stayed an extra day in Tempe, AZ with my 84 year old Mother whose birthday I came back for 36 hours to celebrate. Mom, like countless other older Black Americans, grew up during the era of Jim Crow and Civil Rights. So I can only try to imagine how this event felt to her and others of that generation. "Kumbaya" won't happen overnight but the seeds are being sown. Back in mid December, I had gotten some nasty comments on my blog that were like these incoherent rants from someone who knows me but preferred to post behind "ANONYMOUS". After attacking me about being an individual, writing a book, yadda, yadda... they then felt that my celebration of Obama as a man of color and being the next commander in chief was racist. This "ranter" kept on wanting to make the point of saying "Obama was raised by his white family and that his black family did nothing." I think this "scaredy cat" needs to check their own racial politics or lack of them. H/She has sadly revealed their wealth of ignorance. Maybe it's better that they hid under "ANONYMOUS".

Anyway, moving on...

I am so grateful that Mom was able to witness this historic event yesterday. Wished the same for my father, who had passed on 25 years ago. I so wish I could of gotten to Washington to share in this collective experience. Instead I caught it alone in my barracks room on the web via a streaming site that carried CSPAN. Hands down, I felt that CSPAN had the best video pool coverage of the Inauguration without the stupid/inane chatter that came from the network reporters. Sometimes less is more. One of best things I felt was the call-ins from across the country that reflected the mosaic of opinions. Some were poignant, stupid, hilarious, democratic, republican but overall one could not deny the impact of Obama's presidency had on all people. The NYTimes has an incredible multimedia page devoted to reader photos taken since January 18th leading up to the Inauguration. Great snapshots in time...

Well, back here at Bragg, the place was like a ghost town yesterday. Just like the night Obama won, it was silent-there were no collective cheers heard from other rooms/shouts of joy or cars honking nor did I see any celebratory signage. Those in the know, will probably give each other that look or nod of "yes we did" and keep it moving. What will be noticeable in the days ahead, is the chain of command walls that are all over the base in official buildings. GWB's mug will go down as will most of his underlings and Obama and crew will go up. I also will be curious to see how soon it will be. Today? Or will it be on some classic military bureaucracy s***; "Sir, the pictures of Obama & Co are still at the printers and won't be here til next month..."

The issues of A and I are on Obama's list but the economy is priority and hopefully, our deployments to A and I will start to have a better clarity in reducing our involvement. To those who doubt Obama's toughness, peep an excerpt from his speech yesterday; "We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you that, our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us and we will defeat you." Spoken like a true leader.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I'd heard about this doc for the past year now. This is the place my unit is tentatively scheduled to go next month for training. I highly recommend watching it or seeing when it plays on the National Geographic Channel or when it comes to a theater/film festival near you.


I hope my new Commander in Chief will find a solution and get us home. BTW, today was another reminder of these wars close to home at Bragg when on NPR news, they announced several soldiers from the 82nd Airborne had been killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. A couple of the 82nd Brigade Combat Teams just left for Afghanistan last month.


This new recruiting initiative by my employer brings me back to 2003 when I went on the US Army "Taking it to the Streets Tour". My employer spends alot of money marketing their brand and do a pretty thorough demographics analysis. For example, the country is divided up into recruiting battalions or divisions and then are broken down into districts or something like that. My employer tries very hard to recruit all ethnicities/demos but honestly, you don't see too many Asians or S. Asians -anyway, if the districts are falling short in one ethno-demo, they make an effort to narrow market/advertise in hopes of reaching their ethno-qouta. The "Taking It To The Streets" tour was targeted towards Blacks and Latinos in under performing high schools(a lot of options there right?) My employer hired several Ethno-owned ad agencies-the ones that mostly do all the colored ads for MickyD's, Burger King, etc. that you see on TV-to coordinate this TTTS tour. So we went around the lower half the country in tricked out pimp my ride hummers complete with playstations/video monitors and alot of freebies. We were dressed up in timberlands, black fatigues and black shirts that had my employer's brand name on it. We were to be the sidekicks to the recruiters when they came to these schools to discuss career ops in the Army. I guess the ad agencies and my employer thought that by pairing homeboys with recruiters, it would make the Army appear less threatening and more hip/cool. So we show up at a high school, give these pseudo recruiter speeches in a language the kids could understand while the recruiters chilled in the background. We pass out promo brochures, free copies of the Army's first person shooter game, and other trinkets to these kids...Damn that was 6 years ago.

Looking back and now seeing where I am-my perspective on that campaign and what the Army is doing now is kinda mixed. Given the current economic downturn and the high cost of education, it's a perfect storm for my employer to get a lot of folks in and in some cases quite a few who don't have the luxury of being discerning about the big picture such a commitment entails. I think like any big corporation, if one is not aware of the hustle/game-one will get got and taken advantage of. It is also easy for a lot of us-who are a few rungs up on the socio-economic ladder to thumb our noses at practices that my employer takes to get people signed up. But here's something to think about, alot of these kids/young adults might not of had the same ops as you and I and therefore do not know or aren't aware of the big picture or have the ability/means to make better choices. So they join the army/military to hopefully create/make options for themselves-so they can possibly get a leg up on that ladder like you and I and hopefully climb. I consider myself a liberal but I also know that label is easy to hide behind and throw rocks with nothing on the line, it's like a dog all bark, no bite...comfort is king and we pick our battles-God forbid we get caught out there...I'm not one to laugh at anyone's misfortune at this dark period in our country's economic life but this recession/depression will least for some, bring a few of them down a couple of notches. And maybe possibly it will open their eyes see how the other side has to get by. HUSTLE IS THE NEW WORD-cause that is what each and everyone of us is gonna have to do/refine/create or find in order to be comfortable...Health/dental benefits, a check on the 1st and 15th, housing and educational opportunities in such things as the corporate hierarchy, foreign policy implementation, college tuition and physical fitness during this economic downturn against the backdrop of 2 wars might be a tempting offer instead of unemployment/eviction/foreclosure and possibly a brush with petty crime. Interesting choices...

New Army recruit joke: "How do you know a recruiter is lying?"
Ans. "He or she moves their lips."

The article below reminded me of that 2003 Army tour.

January 5, 2009

Urban Tool in Recruiting by the Army: An Arcade

PHILADELPHIA — Amid the last-minute shopping bustle, the voice in the Black Hawk helicopter simulator shouted with an urgency that exceeded even the holiday mall frenzy.

“Enemy right! Enemy right!”

Triggers squeezed. Pixels exploded. Shopping waited.

At the Franklin Mills mall here, past the Gap Outlet and the China Buddha Express, is a $13 million video arcade that the Army hopes will become a model for recruitment in urban areas, where the armed services typically have a hard time attracting recruits.

The Army Experience Center is a fitting counterpart to the retail experience: 14,500 square feet of mostly shoot-’em-up video games and three full-scale simulators, including an AH-64 Apache Longbow helicopter, an armed Humvee and a Black Hawk copter with M4 carbine assault rifles. For those who want to take the experience deeper, the center has 22 recruiters. Or for more immediate full-contact mayhem, there are the outlet stores.

The facility, which opened in August, is the first of its kind. It replaces five smaller recruitment stations in the Philadelphia area, at about the same annual operating cost, not counting the initial expenses, said Maj. Larry Dillard, the program manager. Philadelphia has been a particularly difficult area for recruitment.

The Army recruited 80,517 active personnel in the fiscal year that ended in October, slightly surpassing its goal of 80,000, though as in recent years it fell below its goal of having 90 percent of recruits be high school graduates.

In recent years the Army has tried a number of ways to increase enlistment, including home video games, direct marketing promotions, a stronger online presence and recruitment-themed music videos. In 2007 it added bonuses of up to $2,000 for Army reservists who signed up new recruits. Civil liberties groups have criticized the Pentagon for its efforts to reach high school students.

But while recruitment remains strong in rural areas where there are military bases, it is weak in cities like Philadelphia, Major Dillard said. “The question is, how can we get our stories out to urban centers where most of the population lives, but where we don’t have a big presence?” he said. He added that the center did not recruit anyone under 17.

On a recent afternoon, about a dozen more-to-less-likely recruits stepped away from the mall’s screaming markdowns to try the simulators and play free video games, including Madden football and Rainbow Six: Vegas.

Mikel Smith, 19, and Jovan McCreary, 21, sat at Alienware game stations, maneuvering the camouflaged antiterrorist troopers of Rainbow Six through a series of casinos under siege. Muzzles flared on screen; sounds burst in their headphones.

“We’re just here to play the games,” said Mr. Smith, who said he was not considering enlisting in the Army. At the sign-in desk, where visitors fill out an information sheets and receive bar-coded photo identification cards, he indicated that he did not want to be contacted by a recruiter.

Beside Mr. Smith, Mr. McCreary leaned back in his black mesh chair. “I got the same game at home, but it’s better here,” he said. He, too, was not interested in the Army Experience Center’s other purposes. “We’re going to college next year,” he said.

First Sgt. Randy Jennings, the supervising officer on this day, said the center’s intent was not just to recruit personnel, but also to inform young people about the Army, in an area where they have little contact with service members. Most recruits live near rural bases.

If the program is deemed a success, the Army might replicate it in other cities.

“We want to put people in the Army, but that’s about our third priority,” Sergeant Jennings said, gesturing to a kiosk with descriptions of 179 jobs in the Army, including details on salaries and benefits. “Most people think joining the Army means being a grunt, and that Iraq equals death. We try to show them that there’s more to the Army than carrying a gun. If people come in here and they learn that but they don’t join, that’s O.K.”

Most of the staff — both military and civilian — wore casual clothing; there was no hard sell. Conversations with recruiters might take place in an adjacent room or the central lounge area, where there were comfortable leather chairs and a soundtrack of Jane’s Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But on this afternoon, the only action was on the video games and simulators.

The three simulators play out missions to support the delivery of humanitarian aid in Iraq or Afghanistan; unlike in the video games, the participants do not come under fire.

In recent years, the Army has had great success with using video games like America’s Army to attract recruits. But for the Army Experience Center, the results so far have been less than spectacular. Since it opened, about 35 visitors have enlisted. That is slightly below the previous recruitment rate at the five smaller stations, Sergeant Jennings said, at a time when the slumping economy would be expected to drive more people to enlist.

“We’re not at the point where we can say this is an effective strategy,” Major Dillard said, adding that the Army had not set a numerical threshold for success for the center.

“We won’t be measured by the number of people we put in the Army,” Sgt. Jennings said. “We’re basically a learning lab for the military, a way for us to interact with kids and find out what they’re interested in. People are going to join the Army, whether we had this or four or five recruitment stations.”

At another video console, Graceson George, 29, a graduate student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago, led a squad of Army special forces through the battle zones of the game Ghost Recon.

He said that he was considering enlisting, but that he had spinal problems that might limit his ability to serve.

“I just wanted to see exactly what they provide,” Mr. George said. “We got a briefing on what the Army is all about. It’s a great experience serving this country, and it takes commitment and determination. They said there were other areas I can get involved. So I said, give me time.”

Mr. George said he did not think the video game accurately conveyed the combat experience.

“In this one, you can die as much as you like, but in real war it’s not possible,” he said. “The reality of military service is beyond what you think. Here you can go back and replay, but in real life if you get shot you get shot. So it’s an entertainment, but it makes you think.”

He turned back to the combat on the screen. In the cocoon of the headphones, he did not hear the sound of prices hitting the floor.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

We'll soon be called employees

Happy New Year. 2009. The George W. Bush, "We Be Thugging It Tour " is coming to a close and will be under new management. Barack Hussein Obama is about to take the show on the road...What's the deal Chief?

Not sure where I am going with this post or what I am trying to say...random musing...I was in a finance/benefit meeting where we(soldiers) will soon be referred to by the Army as employees. Thought that was kinda funny but it dawned on me and a fellow soldier, that we are employees who work for one of the most biggest and possibly feared/hated companies in the world. The regular Army is like corporate America; hostile takeovers whether provoked or deserved, employee health, dental and pension plans, a dress code and a variety of characters that make one's day better or worse...The Army is an "ubercorporation." So then, what's the difference between a businessman and a soldier besides a paycheck?