Tuesday, December 14, 2010

G.I. bill horseshit

So I just received the most wonderful e-mail that a few of my classes for next semester will not be paid for by my GI Bill because they are not in my major. I replied that they are pre-requisites to apply for PA School after I finish my undergrad. Pre-reqs for post-grad work can only be taken the last semester of school, which is impossible, because my last semester is an 800 hour Internship mandated by my department in the field I plan to work in. It will be physically impossible to take 16 credits alongside it, and also there is a firm rule that you cannot take other classes or work another job during the internship. The VA rep is working the issue, but it doesn't look good. What a stupid fucking system. It's not like I'm trying to take underwater basket weaving or something, it's Microbiology, Advanced Biochemistry and Particle Physics. I'm definitely not looking forward to shelling out ~$3000 for these classes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pentagon study finds no problems with integrating gay soldiers

http://www.stripes.com/news/pentagon-study-anticipates-smooth-integration-of-openly-gay-troops-1.127034


WASHINGTON — The military’s controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” law can be repealed with little disruption to military missions and limited opposition from servicemembers, according to a report released by the Pentagon on Tuesday.

The document, the product of nine months of study by top Defense Department officials and thousands of interviews with troops and their families, dismisses concerns about a repeal taking place during wartime, noting that 70 percent of troops surveyed believe a repeal will have either a positive effect or no effect on their ability to complete missions.

“While a repeal of DADT will likely, in the short term, bring about some limited and isolated disruption to unit cohesion and retention, we do not believe this disruption will be widespread or long-lasting,” the report states. “We are convinced that the U.S. military can adjust and accommodate this change, just as it has others in history.”

The report’s release Tuesday coincided with the 17th anniversary of President Bill Clinton signing “don’t ask, don’t tell” into law. Since then, more than 14,000 troops have been dismissed under the controversial policy, which bans gays from serving openly in the ranks.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates used the report's release to urge the Senate to take immediate action to repeal the law, noting that the result “would not be the wrenching, dramatic event that many have predicted.”

Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said the report for the first time provides top military leaders with “more than just anecdotal evidence and hearsay to inform the advice we give our civilian leaders.”

“This is without question a complex social and cultural issue,” he said. “But at the end of the day, whatever the decision of our elected leaders may be, we in uniform have an obligation to follow orders.”

As part of the research for the report, working group members met with gay former troops and received anonymous survey responses from nearly 300 active-duty troops who identified themselves as gay.

One gay servicemember interviewed said a repeal would “take a knife out of my back. ... You have no idea what it is like to have to serve in silence.” Another said fears of “people flaunting their gayness” are overblown because “that stuff isn’t supposed to be done during duty hours regardless if you’re gay or straight.”

Of the 115,052 active troops surveyed, 69 percent believed they have already worked alongside a gay servicemember, and 92 percent of those said it had a positive impact or no impact on their working relationship.

“As one special operations force warfighter told us, ‘We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He’s big, he’s mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay,’” the report said.

However, 30 percent of those surveyed said they expect a negative effect if the law is repealed. That number rose to 43 percent among Marines, and 58 percent of Marines in combat specialties. Among soldiers in combat specialties, 48 percent expected a negative effect.

Gates said those statistics drew concern among the service chiefs, but he remains confident that with better training and strong leadership those fears will be proven wrong. The report said those percentages reflect attitudes “often laden with emotion and misperception” that can be changed.

Members of the working group said a number of repeal opponents requested separate bathroom and living quarters for gay and straight troops, a suggestion they forcefully rejected.

“Even if it could be achieved and administered, separate facilities would stigmatize gay and lesbian servicemembers in a manner reminiscent of ‘separate but equal’ facilities for blacks prior to the 1960s,” the report said. “We recommend that the Department expressly prohibit berthing or billeting assignments or the designation of bathroom facilities based on sexual orientation.”

Officials recommend “strong leadership, a clear message, and proactive education” to minimize the impact of a repeal.

The authors stated that top Pentagon leaders should issue new guidance outlining that “standards of conduct apply uniformly, without regard to sexual orientation.” Individual services should “provide adequate guidance on unprofessional relationships, harassment, public displays of affection, and dress and appearance.”

But the report does not recommend any new rules and regulations regarding harassment or behavior, stating that existing laws already cover those areas. It does, however, leave open the authority of individual commanders to punish “intolerant” troops to maintain unit cohesion.

In May, the House passed a repeal of the law as part of its annual defense authorization bill. Under that plan, the Pentagon would dump the policy for good by next spring, under direction from the secretary of defense.

But Senate Republicans blocked attempts to finalize that legislation in September, and the repeal has remained stalled there since the election.

Last month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., promised a vote on the issue before the end of the year, but Democrats will need at least two Republican senators to break ranks to advance the debate. So far none has publicly pledged to do so.

"With our nation at war and so many Americans serving on the front lines, our troops and their families deserve the certainty that can only come when an act of Congress ends this discriminatory policy once and for all," President Barack Obama said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. " Today I call on the Senate to act as soon as possible so I can sign this repeal into law this year and ensure that Americans who are willing to risk their lives for their country are treated fairly and equally."

On Tuesday, officials from the pro-repeal Servicemembers Legal Defense Network called the release of the working group’s findings a potentially culture-changing moment.

“This will be one of the best tools for repeal advocates to use in the Senate’s lame-duck session,” said Aubrey Sarvis, SLDN executive director. “We see this as both historic and very helpful.”

But hours before the Pentagon report went public, the conservative Family Research Council released its own poll of 10,000 active-duty and retired troops, noting that about 63 percent of individuals they surveyed opposed changing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law.

Officials from the Center for Security Policy, which jointly commissioned the survey, called it further evidence the military is not ready for a radical policy change.

Council president Tony Perkins said the results “should be a cause of concern for members of Congress.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee will host a pair of hearings on the report Thursday and Friday. The hearings will include testimony from the four service chiefs, who have expressed concerns in the last year over repealing the law.


Good. This policy is fucking stupid. You can die with this country's flag on your shoulder, but you can't tell anyone you like to suck some D or lick some P off-duty. How hypocritical. America: the light of the world and the home of liberty, unless you're a fag, right? The biggest opponents of integrating openly gay men and women into our military are ironically neither gay nor have they ever served in the military. Guess what? I'm the biggest lesbian I know. I love a big old pair of boobies.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's a small world after all

So I was in the library yesterday, doing some homework as my netbook had died. I usually avoid on campus computing as a rule of thumb, mostly due to the fact that the wait-time for a computer can be upwards of an hour. This is almost completely due to the fact that most people are buying shoes or looking at facebook instead of getting any work done. Anyways, I sat down at a computer and was halfway through my homework when I noticed a USB thumbdrive stuck in the computer. I opened it up, found some homework papers with a name, and looked up the guy's name on Facebook. Imagine my surprise when the guy's profile picture has him in a desert MARPAT uniform. I sent him a message with my phone number, called him a stupid Jarhead, and asked him why the Marine Corps didn't teach him to secure his gear. He shot me a text and came by to pick the drive up. Small world.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Post Office WTF's:

So, I bought an extended battery for my phone and it came registered mail from Hong Kong. Save the Buy American shit, I looked forever and couldn't find an American company that made any. Anyways, because it came registered mail, I had to go to the Post Office and pick it up.

Try 1: I go in with my slip. My driver's license address doesn't match the mailing address. Without being told what to do to get my package, I am dismissed as the clerk waves me away with her hand and calls the next customer up.

Try 2: I immediately get back in line and show my military ID with my driver's license. It works with cops, it'll work here, right? At the very least, the lady will tell me what to do to get my fucking box. The clerk sees me at the front of the line again and rolls her eyes, and when I come up and show her my military ID, she tells me I'm acting like this is my first time picking up registered mail. Well, yes, it is. What the fuck do I need to get my box? I need an ID that has the mailing address that matches the mailing address of the package. Ok, so I have to go to the Secretary of State and come back the next day.

Try 3: I go in again, in uniform, this time with my driver's license address matching my current address. It's a new clerk. I figure, one federal employee to another, no problems, right? Wrong, I need TWO pieces of ID that match the mailing address, like the utility bill or a mortgage payment. Jesus fuck. Ok.

Try 4: I come back in with my water bill, and my driver's license. Again, a different clerk who takes the pick-up slip and hands me my box without ever asking to see any proof of ID. Holy dogshit.

Now I see why these fucks are $8.5 billion in the hole. I know I won't be mailing anything through these retards anytime soon. I'd rather pay $3 to drop my envelopes in a FedEx box than give my money to such an incompetent group of rude assholes.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My letter to my congressional representatives regarding the TSA:

I sent the same letter to both senators from my state. I encourage anyone else appalled at how the TSA is handling airport security to do the same. I'm split 50/50 right now on flying: I would never submit to a full-body scan but on the other hand, I'd love to refuse the scan and opt-out for a full-body pat down in uniform in front of other travelers. I can't think of any bigger embarrassment to the TSA than a uniformed member of the military having his dick groped in front of grandma and the kids.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's been a long time...

Since I've felt such an infusion of pride in the Army and what we do. I feel like I did on the first day of Basic Training: that anything was possible. I read War awhile ago, and I recently caught an early showing of Restrepo on the idiot box. It premieres 29NOV2010 on the National Geographic Channel, but is available right now if you have Comcast and if you have On Demand.





Thursday, October 28, 2010

I found this picture..




And it seems very fitting. People who haven't stood shoulder to shoulder with someone on a deployment don't really understand how completely irrelevant sex, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation are.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The rift keeps growing

I love this video. An old fat white guy that has unpaid interns do his work for him while he flies around in jets, reading speeches wrote for him by other unpaid interns, says that military service is not public service.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Things heard in class:

"So, if you were told that 596 Afghan civilians were killed by NATO forces this year, how would you know if that's a lot? A little? What should we compare that to?"

"We should compare that to the amount of Afghan civilians killed in Baghdad for the same year."

"Why would we do that?"

"It's the capital of Afghanistan."

"No it's not."

"I'm pretty sure that it is."

"No, it's not. The capital is Kabul."

While this diatribe is going on between the professor and this shithead, I'm laughing hysterically.

Here's a great article on why shit like this is gradually causing a schism between veterans and everyone else.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Things that I love:

I love that the VA is so fucked up and behind on the G.I. Bill, again, for the second year in a row.

I love whoever is in charge of our drill schedule that thinks the best thing to do before a year long deployment is to spend 4-7 days a month away from my family and job/school, especially when drills are only two weeks apart now.

I love being intelligent, hard-working, and perfectly capable of taking exams/quizzes/homework/labs weeks or months in advance in an attempt to combat said drill schedule, but being told no anyways.

I love that nerdy Bill Gates-esque professors and Femme-Dyke lab instructors who have never done anything in their life but hang out at college can destroy my academic career.

I love that if I was on the football or basketball team, these same teachers would be all over my cock to work around my schedule and accommodate me in making-up whatever I needed to whenever I wanted to.

I love that the government cares so little about the men and women who serve it that there is absolutely no law or requirement that prevents professors from doing this. The VA rep is powerless except to give me a post-it with the Ombudsman's phone number on it.

I love when I see people staying up all night and crying over the stress of an exam the next day in the library.

I love testing so well that I ruin the curve for classes, forcing professors to rework their grading scale to prevent people who were going to pass from failing.

I love often being the oldest student in the class, the most experienced, and the only one with a job.

I love knowing that when these coddled infants graduate, their complete lack of life experience and hands-on knowledge will make their applications to post-professional schools and jobs fall flat when put up against applications from people like me and other service members.

In the end though, I am reminded of LTC White's words: this is the life that I chose. Events like these made me glad I joined the Army. Without the Army, I would still be a fat, spineless child that would roll over on issues like this. I signed my DESP contract last month at AT, extending my ETS beyond our deployment so that I can deploy with my company. I am excited for Afghanistan and the challenge it will bring. It feels like I will be going home, where I belong, away from all this dumb college and work bullshit, full of uncompassionate backstabbers who have never worked a hard day in their life.



Friday, September 10, 2010

Cleaning house

Sorry for all the Chinaman spam in my comments, hopefully no one was stupid enough to click on the links. Not sure if that's going to be a common thing, if so I may have to switch to a different blogging medium.

I should have a post up tomorrow sometime, sorry for not posting anything for 6 months.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Green Zone

Well, as is par for Iraq movies, this movie was pretty terrible. It is based on the book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. I read this book, in Iraq, actually. I thought it was pretty good.

First of all, it has Matt Damon. Strike one. Aside from Good Will Hunting, I can't think of any other movie Matt Damon has been in that doesn't have shaky-as-fuck camera angles. I am not in a position to judge any Hollywood actor on their acting skills, however I can judge a movie and its actors based on how much I want to throw up during chase scenes filmed by Michael J. Fox with a Fisher Price camcorder. Paul Greengrass directed the Bourne films as well as Green Zone, so I wasn't too surprised when my brain couldn't keep up with the "intense" action scenes that look like they just tied the camera to a car bumper and drove down the street.

Second, as usual, the uniforms are all dicked up as is the rank structure. Matt Damon is a CW2 in charge of a chemical corps unit. Some of his guys are clean shaven, some guys have full beards. One guy on the squad is about 400 lbs. There is no visible senior NCO or officer in charge. In one of the first scenes, Damon takes control of a cordon from an infantry lieutenant in charge of a platoon pinned down by a single sniper. CW2 Patton arrives on scene and appears to have the only M249 in country and is easily able to suppress and kill the sniper. I wasn't in Iraq during the invasion, but I think there were plenty of SAWs. Kind of exaggerated. Why don't these movies have military advisors? They could pay PVT Joe Snuffy from Fort Benning $100 to come over on a Saturday and show them how fucked up their stuff is.

Third, the plot. The theme of the movie is overall, how we fucked up the invasion and reconstruction of Iraq. The movie hints on how we fucked it up, but more or less beats around the bush. The book goes into much more detail: disbanding the Iraqi Army, letting 20 year old college interns attempt to convert Iraq into a democracy over night, and basically fucking shit up in general. This is pretty true, however, the movie ends abruptly after it tip toes around these statements, as every movie on Iraq does. There is no movie on OIF to date that continues the story to show how the surge worked, how the American military slammed AQI into the dirt and worked with the Iraqi people to turn them against the insurgency.

I wonder how many Americans actually know that we're doing so well there that we're drawing down, starting this summer? I went with a few buddies from school, and ran into a few guys from my unit in the audience. Catching up with them after, one girlfriend asked us, "So was it really like that? You got to hang out at the pool and drink martinis?" While discussing the upcoming deployment to Afghanistan, one of my buddies asked if we were still fighting there. When you hear crap like this, it's clear how these movies do so well with the civilian population. When you have no idea what's going on in the world, it's easy to be impressed by shitty movies with cool special effects.

The best part about this movie was that we saw it at some fancy new theater that gives a military discount to your entire party, and also has a bar inside.



Monday, March 8, 2010

Another drill weekend come and gone. They were pressing people hard to see if people were going to deploy to Afghanistan or not. It will be interesting, as only 3 or 4 NCOs from our platoon will be going, and most of the Joes will not be. I await with anticipation to see who comes in to fill all these spots.

It always shocks me how wise my dad is, and how much foresight he seems to have. I was talking with him last week about my pay problem and he said, "Well, they owe you money and this deployment is optional for you, so they've got you where they want you. They're going to pressure you to go in exchange for that money or "forget" about it again if you don't go." This is pretty much what happened. I was told that if I wasn't extending my ETS to go on this deployment, I wouldn't "be in anyone's lane" for admin issues and that they would get to me when they could. If I was willing to go, they could make a call this (monday) morning and see about swapping the worthless tax deduction voucher out for a cash payment. How does my old man see into the future like this?

Our drill schedule got updated and the rest of the year starting in May are MUTA 10's or 12's. A MUTA is a Multiple Unit Training Assembly, or a 4 hour drill period. Most drills are MUTA 4's, or two full days of training. A MUTA 5 is 2.5 days..etc. When we mobilized throughout 2007, we had MUTA 7's which were Thursday night - Sunday night drills. Those were slightly manageable. A MUTA 10 is 5.5 days and a MUTA 12 is 6 full days. By law, an employer can't fire a Guardsmen or Reservist for missing work for training, but what job is going to keep a person on the books that will be gone for one week, every month for a year who then leaves for an entire year? I need to sit down with the VA rep here at school as well, to see what I can work out for taking class in the fall. I don't think I can get away with missing a week of class every month, and when I was just missing thursdays and fridays in 2007, I had to fight it out with a few professors who refused to give me make-up exams/homework until pressured by the VA rep and Ombudsman.

Speaking of the VA, I think the G.I. Bill thing is worked out. It turns out they still have me listed as active duty and deployed. Even though I finished my fall 2007 semester, they had me down as being deployed then, assumed I couldn't have finished that semester and charged that payment as a debt to me, then never told me about it until now. I guess it's true what they say about assumptions.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

VA Shenanigans

So I thought I had my GI Bill issue fixed, after an entire year of trying to get it upgraded from chapter 1606 to chapter 1607. I was told I would have a big back pay check coming, and my monthly checks would now start flowing.

Wrong. Despite having my bank information for years, they mailed a paper check. I bank with USAA which does not have a physical location, so I had to request some deposit slips from them to mail in this archaic, paper check. Before I could even get the check deposited, I received a letter that I was overpaid $2700 and that interest was already accruing on this balance, so I needed to give it back right away. I called the number for the VA Debt Management office and spoke to the nicest, most helpful VA employee I've ever had contact with. The lady on the phone told me they could start taking the debt from my monthly checks and that it would be paid off by February's check. I asked why this wasn't the default option and she didn't know why. She changed my preference back to direct deposit and that was that. So I thought.

Yesterday I receive 5 letters in the mail from the VA, all stamped 23FEB2010 which each individual letter dated 15JAN2010. One letter tells me I've been denied VA benefits. One says I've been accepted for chapter 1606 benefits. Another says I've been accepted for chapter 1607 benefits. One says my GI Bill is on hold because I've been deployed since 2007. The fifth says that I had a debt of $189 but now it's $0 (which would mean I had $0 owed when I called the VA).

What the fuck, over. Also, still owed $5000 from the National Guard, marching towards 3.5 years on that issue. A part of me deep inside knows that this issue will persist through the deployment, as filling out wills and power of attorney forms takes "priority" over getting paid.

EDIT: I should clarify a bit:

In November 2009 I received half of what I was owed: $5000 in cash less 25% federal taxes. The other $5000 was "given" to me in the form of a DoD form that says that the federal government acknowledges that I "overpaid" $5000 from 2006-2008 and that it is a "certificate to reduce tax liability." These were "emergency" concessions made by one of my state senators and my chain of command. Everyone is 100% convinced that this means I will get an extra $5000 back on my 2009 federal taxes. This is not what it means. Reduction of tax liability is another way to say tax deduction. As I am single, with no house, children, investments nor do I own my own business, I am only eligible for one standard deduction ($5700) and no more. Tax deductions do not stack to infinity and since the $5000 deduction certificate is less than $5700, I would lose money by using it. I have taken it to multiple independent tax preparers and corporate chains (H&R block, etc) and everyone has said the same thing. If I were to use this deduction certificate, I would be taxed on $700 more of 2009's income, meaning my refund would be less and I would lose money.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It's about time

Civilian life is boring and I'm pretty much at my limit with it. I wrote a lab report for one of my classes, and in it, wrote the formula for force which is mass*acceleration: F=MA. Isaac Newton is credited with deriving this formula, but this is a universal truth. It has always been true and always will be true. I didn't cite this formula so I was accused of plagiarism by the lab TA. I say TA loosely, because the TA is not a professor nor does he have any degree at all. He is simply some kid that took this class before me and got a good grade in it, so he is allowed to teach it. I pointed out that it is not necessary to cite F=MA as it would be akin to citing 2+2=4. I was told to cite it. So I put in a footnote for it, then cited Newton in his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica and then cited the creator of the universe, whoever he/she/it may be for allowing such a natural constant like force to exist. This was apparently a mistake. I was told I am a troublesome student.

I had drill this past weekend. The CO informed us of an imminent deployment to Afghanistan in our future, sooner than expected. I wonder if I was the only one in the room who was excited to hear that. At least when we are on federal orders, I get paid. The National Guard's solution to my massive pay issue was to give it to me as a tax deduction. It sounds great except for the small issue that I'm single with no kids or house, so I cannot stack deductions up. So what I have is a piece of paper worth $0. I'm not sure if I'm even going to bother fighting this: it took 3.5 years to get this far. I don't think I have the patience or motivation to beg for this money anymore. This money was essentially stolen from me every month I went to drill, and now they are trying to scam me out of getting it back.

Speaking of scams, let's talk about the new stop-loss policy. Here's how it goes: If your ETS window (day of deployment - 180 to days to day of deployment + 365 days + 90 days reintegration training) is going to be during your deployment, you have two choices. You can not sign an extension and be immediately discharged from the Army, supposedly with a honorable discharge. There's no such thing as a free lunch, so that sounds way too good to be true. The second choice is to extend for a minimum of 12 months to whatever amount of months you need to ensure you will deploy for 1 year + 90 days before your ETS comes back around again. If you immediately sign this extension, you will get $500 a month extra on the deployment. If you hesitate and there are between 180 and 90 days to the deployment, you get $350 a month. If you decide at less than 90 days to extend, you get nothing but a handshake.

I thought about getting a job with Blackwater, but the job came to me without even leaving the military! Cash for war!


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Untitled

Work, class, work, class. The days all run together. I like it this way, though.

Got a 3.98 last semester, pretty disappointed. I had to piss really bad during my human physiology final and I rushed the last few questions. Got a BA instead of an A which drug the other A's down.

VA Medical is still terrible. Went for an eye appointment, found a lobby with 100 people in it the size of my living room; 90 year old WWII vets sitting on the floor like Joes on the back of a deuce and a half is really fucking pathetic. I had a 1500 appointment and they were just getting to the 1000 appointments. The receptionist told me they go home at 1600. I turned around and left. They called me and told me I skipped my appointment, so I can't get another one until I make another GP appointment to get a second referral. I tried to argue that I was, in fact, there and that there was no way I was going to be seen in an hour unless they bumped me in front of a bunch of other people who had been there for 5 hours already. I realized I'd much rather pay out of pocket for glasses than deal with that bullshit so I just hung up the phone.

VA Education is still terrible. Went an entire semester without getting my GI Bill, VA rep at my school called me a few days before Christmas and had me fill out yet another 22-1995 (change of school/change of rate) which I've done on a monthly basis since December 2008. Total backpay due is around $4000 right now, and will increase by another $4000 if it doesn't get fixed by the end of this semester.

I got paid, technically, for my 3 year overdue bonus. I will be getting it all as a tax voucher to use against my 2009 taxes. I'm sure it won't rollover the taxes I have due ($0) and it will just get wasted. My reinforcement for this thought is that it was supposed to come with my W2's on MyPay, but didn't. This is my surprised face.