Wednesday, October 14, 2009

More bloggers

Some more IA bloggers that I've added to the bloglist on the right:

48 Mondays: a reserve PAO

ultdusta: with post titles like "Pink Tactical Girl Bike" and "Rotting Testicles"

aaronbedy: another PAO, who is an attorney on the outside

A Chop In The Sand: the name says it all

And the granddaddy of cynical Navy IA bloggers, The Augmentee, has come back online after going on hiatus for a few months.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Calling all three of my readers...

Not often that a 4-star asks for your opinion on something. Admiral Harvey says, regarding individual augmentees, that "I know there is more we can do to improve the IA process for both our Sailors and their families. I’d like to get your thoughts and ideas (from both our AC and RC Sailors) on this subject."

Given the types of google searches that bring the occasional reader to these parts, I'm sure that you have $0.02 to give to the man. And just a touch of a personal note to add: a young Commander Harvey once asked me how I would improve a certain evolution (the details of which I ought to refrain from recording, more for my sake than for his). I gave him my recommendation, and within 15 minutes it had been implemented. If you have anything constructive to say about improving the IA process, don't ever claim that the Navy didn't give you a forum to air your recommendations before a person with the power to make it happen and (in my experience) a proven willingness to act on a good idea.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

In memoriam

Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Darren E. Tate, an individual augmentee assigned to Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan, died of pneumonia on July 8 at Bagram.

Another sailor was assigned the duty, but Darren accepted it instead because his friend’s wife was experiencing complications from pregnancy and Darren told him he would take his place. ... He persuaded his mother to mail about a dozen boxes of clothes to him in Afghanistan so he could distribute them to farmers he had befriended.

He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star. Godspeed, AOAN Tate.

Update: July was not a good month for CSTC-A: on July 6 another IA to CSTC-A, EOD2 Tony Michael Randolph, was killed by an IED.

Another way to stay in touch

This sounds promising. Google Voice is available by invitation only. But they are letting anybody with a ".mil" e-mail address get a Google Voice account invitation. According to SGT Dale Sweetnam, who is working with Google as part of the Army's "Training with Industry" fellowship:

When you deploy, your life is put on hold. While you live and work in a different world, everyone else moves on with life back home. Your family and friends keep moving, and this sometimes means it's just not possible for them to stay awake until 2 a.m. to receive a phone call. Calling Iraq or Afghanistan is seldom an option.

Google Voice provides a solution to some of these problems. Service members can set up an account before they deploy. Or if they're already deployed, families can now set up an account for their service member. Loved ones can call to leave messages throughout the day, and then when that service member visits an Internet trailer, all the messages are right there. It's like a care package in audio form.

I signed up for an account when I came to Google, and it's already making communications much easier here in the States.

I just applied for an invitation. We've been planning on using skype to stay in touch, but free calls and free voicemail over the internet sounds like a good plan too.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A couple more bloggers

I've added a couple more Navy IA bloggers to the list on the right side. Jessi, Bob and the Monsters is a blog by a deploying chief and her reservist husband. And Djohn's Djibouti Djournal is a blog by a Navy doc on an individual augmentee vacation in Djibouti.

I've received my orders to Afghanistan. I'm not sure how much I'll write about my time, but for now I'll keep gathering links to the stories being told by other IA sailors.

Update: Forgot to mention Deploying in a Sea of Sand and Ron's Rants.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"We could not have fought this conflict without the reserve force"

As I mentioned when I started collecting these links, the story of the Navy IAs is one that I hope is written some day. When it is, I think the following quote from Admiral Mark Ferguson, Chief of Naval Personnel, should figure quite prominently: "We've had 55,000 individual mobilizations for IA deployments compared to 20,000 deployments on the active-duty side. We could not have fought this conflict without the reserve force."  In the same speech, the admiral predicted that numbers of IAs would begin to wane in 2011 or 2012.

A significant point not reflected in the Navy Times article, in my opinion, is that many of these reserve mobilizations have been people who did not have to go. It is now more than seven years after the invasion of Afghanistan and six years after the invasion of Iraq. I suspect that most reservists who are currently serving in either location have passed up at least one opportunity to walk away before they were called up for their current deployments. Despite the fact that it became clear years ago that this was no longer a one-weekend-a-month reserve force and that being a Navy reservist means the very real possibility of a year in the desert carrying a rifle, our reserve Navy keeps at it. And I have it on good authority that the Navy actually has more reservists volunteering for IAs right now than they have billets to put the volunteers into.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hello, everybody

Okay, it's not quite an Instalanche, but the clustrmap says that 13 people stopped by yesterday. Which is about 12.5 more than most days. I'm not sure where you are coming from, but glad that you found the blog.


I've removed the link to the Fleet Forces IA website from the sidebar. The link's been dead for a few days. They had been advertising that they wanted a reservist to spend the summer overhauling their IA web presence, so I'd guess that the site is undergoing an overhaul as part of that planned process.

There are a couple of new IA bloggers around linked on the right.  Uncle Cobs Joins The Narmy is a j.g. recently deployed. I've also added Dirt Sailor to the bloglist.  (Not to be confused with the other Dirt Sailor, who is on the "Radio Silence" list since his return from Iraq.)

Monday, June 8, 2009

He who plans early plans twice

Those sage words were uttered by a mentor of mine when I asked why he had not yet begun an inspection checklist a month before the "assist visit."  (His other advice: "If it can be inspected it will be feared.") I must have forgotten that first one. Thinking that it could never hurt to get an early start on my deployment checklist, I've been plinking away at it for a while getting things done here and there. The checklist, published by ECRC, was a combined medical and administrative readiness checklist that could be submitted online. No more. The ECRC checklist is gone, replaced by two separate checklists. Both of which must be hand carried to NMPS. Should have known better.

Back to line one: Member Name...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sad update to Memorial Day post

Word came yesterday that another Navy individual augmentee was killed on Memorial Day in Iraq. CDR Duane G. Wolfe was killed by a roadside bomb in the area of Fallujah on May 25, 2009. CDR Wolfe, an engineer, was assigned to an Army Corps of Engineers unit. He will posthumously receive the Bronze Star with 'V'. He left behind a wife and three children.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reservist sues Newark Public Schools over lost job

George Lawton joined the Navy reserve in 1993. He worked for the Newark Public Schools from 1997 through 2005 as a substitute teacher. In July 2005, the school district offered him full time employment beginning with the 2005-2006 school year. Just a month later, his unit was called up and he notified the school district that he would have to deploy overseas, but that he wished to return to the full-time job on his return. His active duty was extended through August 2007, and he notified the Newark Public Schools that he would be able to return to work in the fall of 2007.  When he returned, the school system refused to employ him in either the full time position or the substitute position. He tried to resolve the dispute through the ESGR, but the Newark Schools still did not rehire Lawton. On Tuesday, Lawton filed a lawsuit against the Newark Public Schools with the United States Justice Department representing him.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act requires employers such as the Newark Public Schools to re-employ returning reservists in either the same job they were in when they left or a position of similar seniority, pay, and status that the reservist would have been if he or she had not been deployed. The reservist needs to inform the employer of the intent to return (which Lawton apparently did) and needs to "promptly" re-apply for work after the end of the active duty (which Lawton apparently did.) The fact that the justice department has taken his case is a good sign for him. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

It's afternoon on Memorial Day where I am, and late evening where most Navy IAs are living. Although this is a day to remember all of those who gave their lives in service of our country, it seems appropriate to take time here to recall those who died on individual augmentee or GWOT support assignment service. I'm sure I don't have every name or every story, and hope that over time I can update this post to reflect the sacrifices made by our IA and GSA sailors over the years. (Note: this list does not include the many Navy casualties from this war who were killed while serving with Navy or Marine units, including: hospital corpsmen, SEALs, and SEABEEs. The number of such casualties dwarf the IAs. Please remember them all this Memorial Day.)

Update, 8/8/09: AOAN Darren E. Tate, an individual augmentee assigned to Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan, died of pneumonia on July 8, 2009, at Bagram. Airman Tate is reported to have taken the IA to Afghanistan in the place of a friend. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star.
Update: 10/2/09: EOD2 Tony Michael Randolph, an individual augmentee assigned to CSTC-A was killed July 6, 2009, when his convoy was hit by an IED.

Update, 5/28/09: CDR Duane G. Wolfe, a mobilized CEC officer assigned to an Army Corps of Engineers unit in Iraq, was killed by an IED near Fallujah on Memorial Day. He left behind a wife and three children.

CDR Charles K. Springle was killed May 11, 2009, by another American at Camp Liberty in Iraq. CDR Springle was a clinical social worker whose normal duty station was Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was augmenting the 55th Medical Group, an Army Guard unit based in Indianapolis. He left behind a wife and two grown children: a son who is a Marine and a daughter who is married to a Marine.

LT Florence B. Choe was killed March 27, 2009, when an Afghan soldier opened fire on her and two other Americans while they were jogging the perimeter of FOB Shaheen in Afghanistan near Mazar-e-Sharif. The daughter of a sailor, she joined the Navy shortly after 9/11 and volunteered for IA duty in Afghanistan. She left behind her husband, also a Navy Officer, and a young daughter.

LT j.g. Francis L. Toner was killed March 27, 2009, when an Afghan soldier opened fire on him and two other Americans while they were jogging the perimeter of FOB Shaheen in Afghanistan near Mazar-e-Sharif. He was a 2006 graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy and a Civil Engineering Corps officer. He left behind a wife.

CDR Jospeh M. Salkeld died February 17, 2009, after collapsing while going through IA combat skills training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. He was a helicopter pilot who served on active duty from 1982 to 1992, and had returned to active duty for a one year mobilization.

Update, 6/7/09: HM3 Eichmann Strickland was killed September 9, 2008, by a Taliban anti-tank mine.

Update 6/7/09: HM2 Anthony M. Carbullido was killed August 8, 2008, by an IED in Afghanistan. A native of Guam, HM2 Carbullido left a wife and son.

Update 6/7/09: HN Marc A. Retmier was killed in a rocket attack on Paktika Province Afghanistan on June 18, 2008. A high school football and swimming star from Hemet, California, Retmier was reportedly providing medical treatment to Afghan civilians when the Taliban launched their attack. Retmier was reported to be both the youngest Navy IA killed in OEF/OIF, and the 500th California casualty in OEF/OIF.

Update, 6/7/09: CM1 Ross L. Toles III was killed in a rocket attack in Paktika Province, Afghanistan on June 18, 2008. After a combined 18 years of active and reserve service, MC1 Toles left behind a wife and three sons.

LT Jeffrey Ammon was killed May 20, 2008, by an IED in Afghanistan. An engineer, LT Ammon had volunteered to extend his IA tour beyond its original year. He left behind a wife and two children.

Update, 6/7/09: MC1 Victor Jeffries died December 31, 2007, at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center of injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident December 24, 2007, in Kuwait. A physical education teacher in his civilian life, MC1 Jeffries was assigned to Navy Customs Battalion Tango. He had previously served in the Coast Guard and the Army. He left a wife and two daughters.

CDR Philip A. Murphy-Sweet was killed April 7, 2007, by an IED in Iraq. CDR Murphy-Sweet was a contracting officer nearing the end of his IA tour when the attack occurred. He left behind a wife and three children.

LCDR Keith E. Taylor was killed January 29, 2005, when a rocket struck the American Embassy in Baghdad. A mobilized reserve Supply Corps officer, he left behind a wife and three children.

I do not know if this is a complete list, but any omission is purely by accident. If there are others who belong on this list, please point me toward them in the comments.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Two New IA bloggers added to the bloglist

Found a couple more Navy Individual Augmentees who have started blogging. In the NARMY Now is by a Master at Arms.  Highland Sailor is an LDO with more than 20 years in.  Should add for some diversity of viewpoints.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Navy IA among the Camp Victory victims

One of the five victims of the shooting at Camp Victory earlier this week was a Navy Individual Augmentee. CDR Charles K. Springle, a clinical social worker, was augmenting the 55th Medical Company from his normal duties at a counseling center at Camp Lejeune. 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

IAs not Going Anywhere Soon

First it was the Chief of Naval Personnel.  Admiral Ferguson sounded the alarm about the ongoing cost of IAs, freezing PCS moves for as many as 14,000 sailors to cover the costs.  And to demonstrate the permanence of the IA billets, CNP wants a plus-up in Navy personnel written into the budget.

Taking those IA billets "out of hide" took a toll on the readiness of the Navy's deploying commands over the past few years.  Though officials have started to get sailors to volunteer for these assignments as regular tours, they still need bodies to fill the billets.  That's why, Ferguson said, he went to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and then-Navy Secretary Donald Winter to halt the drawdown.

Then, Admiral Mullen concurred:
Sailors and airmen should continue to expect supplemental assignments to Iraq and Afghanistan for the next several years, even after more U.S. troops arrive to support missions in Afghanistan, the top U.S. military officer said Monday.

"As long as we have the Army and the Marine Corps dwell time below 2-to-1, the Air Force and the Navy need to provide that capability," Mullen said.
The budget follows:

The [Navy] budget calls for an end strength of 328,000 sailors, including 4,400 temporary Individual Augmentees paid out of contingency accounts....  The Navy number represents a halt to downsizing.