Saturday, August 7, 2010

He's Back part 2

I did not think the Col. was serious. He was serious. You have to understand, I was a 19 year old kid. I grew to love that man. In retrospect, I can see what and why he was wanting me to end his life. If he committed suicide his wife, Bunny, could not collect any life insurance, pension, or anything. So, he played me masterfully. It took about 3 weeks for him to convince me it was the best for all. He did not take into consideration what it would do for me. I did it. It was painless and quick. I cried with Bunny and said how sorry I was. I did not tell her that I killed him. This was 31 years ago. He has been haunting me for 31 years. I had a great therapist who helped me more than anything. I had not dreamt of the Col. for a while until tonight. I guess I stopped doing what Tom suggested. I don't know. I have to put the Col. Back where he belongs. In the past. It is tough. theblogmeister

He's Back

It is almost 2am and most people are asleep. I was, until a few minutes ago. The Col. is back. Who is the colonel? He is the demon of my dreams. For those of you that do not know what I am talking about I ask you to go back and read some of my posts from a year ago. It helps me to tell it, so, I will. I was a young airman first class in the Air Force when I first met the Col. He was admitted on my floor because we had a single bed room that was not being used. I treated him as I did with all my patients, with care, empathy, and good medicine. We became close friends in no time. He was smart, intriging, and a pleasure to be around. He was also dying. It was a painful death, too. My commanding officer told me not to get too emotionally attached because of his impending death. I tried. The Col. asked that no other med tech care for him other than I. To appease him my C.O. told me that I was to take him as my patient on a full time basis. When I was not at work he would not let any other tech come into his room. He had a plan for me. After several months of inpatient treatment he asked me a question. "Would you put an end to all this, for me?" he asked. I asked him what he meant. He meant kill him. Of course I said NO! I'm sorry, I will have to finish this later. Thank you. theblogmeister

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Benefits for PTSD Diagnosed Veterans

In addition to the pensions and benefits to which you may be entitled because of both public and private employment, you may also be eligible for certain benefits based on your military service. The following is a summary of veteran's benefits and what you need to know about them:

Major Veteran Benefit Programs
PTSD Support
Important Documents
Related Links
Major Veteran Benefit Programs
The Department of Veterans Administration operates a number of programs providing financial, medical and other assistance to veterans. For Americans who received an honorable or general discharge, there are 4 major benefit programs:

Disability compensation
Veteran's pension programs
Free or low-cost medical care through VA hospitals and medical facilities
Education Programs
There are also benefit programs concerning:
Housing and Home Loan Guarantees
Job Training
Small Businesses and business loans (Through Small Business Administration)
Burials and Memorials
Franchise Opportunities (Vet Fran)
PTSD Support (National Center for PTSD Website)
PTSD Support
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a disorder that occurs after a life-threatening event, such as personal assault, natural disaster, or military combat. The affects of PTSD can be debilitating with symptoms ranging from severe nightmares and flashbacks to insomnia and increasing social isolation. It is common for servicemembers to deal with post-combat depression, insomnia, nightmares and family issues; however, it's the duration and intensity that differentiates PTSD. Each military branch has programs for its servicemembers, and the Department of Veterans Affairs offers free counseling sessions. For more information on PTSD or VA assistance, go to the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder website.

Important Documents:
If you are applying for a VA benefit for the first time you must submit a copy of your service discharge form (DD-214, DD-215, or for WWII veterans, a WD form), which documents your service dates and type of discharge, or give your full name, military service number, branch and dates of service.

Your service discharge form should be kept in a safe location accessible to the veteran and next of kin or designated representative. Your preference regarding burial in a national cemetery and use of a headstone provided by VA should be documented and kept with this information.

The following documents will be needed for claims processing related to a veteran's death: (1) veteran's marriage certificate for claims of a surviving spouse or children; (2) veteran's death certificate if the veteran did not die in a VA health care facility; (3) children's birth certificates or adoption papers to determine children's benefits; (4) veteran's birth certificate to determine parents' benefits.

VA Benefits Eligibility:
Eligibility for most VA benefits is based on discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions. Active service means full-time service as a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service, the Environmental Services Administration or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Current and former members of the Selected Reserve:
You may be eligible for certain benefits, such as home loan guarantees and education, if you meet the time-in-service and other criteria.

Honorable and general discharges qualify a veteran for most VA benefits. Dishonorable and bad conduct discharges issued by general courts-martial may bar VA benefits. Veterans in prison and parolees may be eligible for certain VA benefits. VA regional offices can clarify the eligibility of prisoners, parolees and individuals with multiple discharges issued under differing conditions.

A Happy Ending

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeff Ethington returned home to Madison two days before Christmas after serving two back-to-back tours in Iraq. He's humble, but proud of what his unit accomplished.

"During the time that I was there we opened maybe four hospitals, six schools, and built all these parks all with the help of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Cavalry Division," said Ethington.

Ethington's unit also trained Iraqi National Police and renovated one of the most dangerous boulevards in Baghdad, WISC-TV reported.

"It used to be known as Purple Heart Boulevard," said Ethington. "You'd get out of your truck and get shot at, you'd get out of your truck and someone would throw a grenade at you."

Ethington said he didn't dwell on the fact that he was in constant mortal danger.

"It was always in the back of my mind," he said.

In the back of his mind for the 29 months he served in Iraq.

After returning home in late December, Ethington re-enrolled in classes at the University of Wisconsin, eager to get back to his degree, back to his friends, back to his life.

"Between my first and second deployment, my brother said I didn't seem the same," said Ethington. "It seemed like I wasn't transitioning well. I thought about getting help then and then I got deployed again."

This time, when he re-entered campus, Ethington himself noticed the change.

"One specific day when school was starting, the crowds are bigger, you're always in the crowds, and you're in class. I just started to feel shaky and panicky, like really, really uncomfortable," he said.

Ethington was experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"PTSD looks the same whether you're someone who was tortured in Africa, or if you're a woman who's been raped, or you're a combat veteran," said Veterans Hospital psychologist Dr. Tracey Smith. "It's the body and mind's way to make sense of these terrible events."

PTSD is a serious anxiety disorder, health professionals said.

"We're evolutionarily primed to respond to danger," said Smith. "PTSD is that you were really good at responding to danger and threat and now that system is sort of over-sensitized."

Smith is part of a dedicated PTSD team at Madison's VA Hospital. The hospital had 352 PTSD referrals in 2007. In the first quarter of 2008, the numbers were up 38 percent, officials said.

She said PTSD usually peaks in soldiers four to six months after returning from Iraq. Symptoms can include re-experiencing the event.

"They are intrusive thoughts," explained Smith. "That you remember the event when you don't want or have to and you try to push the memory away and it just keeps coming back or chronic nightmares where the trauma gets played over and over again.

Another symptom is hyper-arousal.

"That is like an exaggerated startle response if they hear a car backfire, or they are always on edge," explained Smith. "When they go into a restaurant they have to sit with their back to the wall or they are always scanning the environment not sure who to trust."

Ethington said this is the symptom he was having trouble with.

"I went to the doctor and there was a fish tank. I sat next to the fish tank and that's all that was there, a few chairs next to me and I could see the whole room," said Ethington.

He also said he found it difficult to walk to class in the sea of students and was constantly scanning rooftops for snipers.

The final symptom for some veterans is avoidance or numbing.

"That means they work so hard to try to avoid thinking about the event or having their negative emotions work so hard at suppressing or they constrict their life so much to avoid being triggered by events that happen in the outside world that they end up sort of never working through the traumatic event," said Smith.

At Madison's Veterans Hospital, PTSD programs are individualized for each soldier. The hospital offers substance abuse programs, group sessions and classes for couples, but the most widely-used program for veterans is the Cognitive Processing Therapy, or CPT, which is a 12-week program where a veteran meets one-on-one with a therapist.

"We focus on the connection between events thoughts and feelings," said Smith. "We ask veterans to think about the traumatic events that occurred, write about those events, discuss them with the therapist and try to figure out, 'How do I make sense of this and fit it into my life now?'"

"It's difficult to do," said Ethington. "It's the stuff you don't want to remember, but if you keep it buried inside you're just going to keep having problems."

Ethington is a few weeks into his CPT.

For veterans who are unable or unwilling to write or talk about the most traumatic experiences, there is another form of CPT where no trauma is discussed in group, WISC-TV reported.

"We are trying to give access to care and reach out to veterans who are struggling," said Smith.

Reaching more veterans is why the VA Hospital also offers tele-mental health, where veterans don't have to come to Madison to meet with a therapist. They can attend therapy sessions in a private teleconference from a VA satellite clinic, anywhere across the state.

"For some veterans, that's it," said Smith. "They get markedly better with the treatment and don't feel they need more treatment."

But for veterans who don't seek treatment, PTSD could have long-lasting psychological and physical impacts on their lives and bodies. Smith likened it to a ripple effect.

"They have problems controlling their impulsivity and emotions so many times they'll end up getting divorced because they're not good at sitting down and rationally discussing things with their partners," said Smith. "Some veterans end up having multiple jobs because they get fired or divorced several times."

It can lead to depression and suicide, officials said.

Ethington said the sessions are helping him refocus on what is important in his life right now, which is his education.

"It's to help realize what happened in Baghdad is in Baghdad, here is civilian life. I don't need to be looking at rooftops looking for people who are going to try to shoot at me, I can walk down the street and be fine, these crowds, no one is going to try to blow themselves up in front of you and try to kill people here in Madison at all."

Ethington said if there is no additional deployment, he'll graduate in May 2009 and begin medical school. He's enlisted through 2013.

Combat is not a symptom of PTSD

St. Paul, Minn. — Military officials released a statement Thursday saying a Minnesota Marine diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder never engaged in combat while deployed to Iraq.

Pvt. Travis Hafterson's mother, Jamie Hafterson, has spoken publicly about her son's diagnosis and raised questions about whether he will receive adequate treatment at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Her son, who went AWOL, turned himself in to Fort Snelling last week before going to the Marine base.

Based on medical assessments in Minnesota, a judge had ordered Hafterson to be committed to Regions Hospital in St. Paul for treatment of his mental illness. Instead, the military held Hafterson at Fort Snelling before taking him to Camp Lejeune.

Jamie Hafterson has said her son's PTSD is linked to serving two tours in Iraq, where she said he killed people and saw a suicide bomb seriously injure other Marines.

But on Thursday, Marine Maj. Kelly Frushour said a Marine Corps investigation on the matter showed Hafterson did not witness the bombing that injured a lieutenant in his command and did not engage in any combat while deployed. Frushour also said Hafterson did not kill anyone or even fire his weapon.

Frushour said in the statement that she couldn't release Hafterson's medical record because of privacy concerns. She said all Marines undergo a health assessment when returning from deployment that includes a review of the Marine's combat experiences and living conditions.

Pvt. Hafterson's attorney, Ron Bradley, said Thursday that he was "surprised and skeptical" of the Marines investigation, noting that a psychologist and psychiatrist in Minnesota had both found that Hafterson suffers from PTSD. Bradley also said Hafterson was part of an infantry unit, which he said makes it likely that he engaged in combat.

"Can I prove anything? No. I have no firsthand knowledge. Do I believe the military? No," Bradley said. "I believe my client."

Even if the Marines are correct and Hafterson never engaged in combat, Bradley said the 21-year-old still needs help.

"The kid's got mental health problems whether his allegations of what he experienced in combat are true or not," he said.

Jamie Hafterson said she hadn't yet seen the statement released by the Marines, but she said it doesn't sound right. Her son sent hand-written letters back home during his deployment describing his combat experiences, she said.

"He has way too much detail to be making it up," Hafterson said. "The stories are consistent, and I don't think he's reread the letters he sent."

Bradley said Pvt. Hafterson remains in custody at Camp Lejeune on charges of unauthorized absence.

I saw this story and thought it important enough to comment on. The military states that this soldier does not have PTSD because he was not involved in a combat situation. Bullshit! Our military needs to quit trying to diagnose soldiers, that is the job of the medical profession, not company commanders.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Military is Part of the PTSD Treatment Problem

Iraq war veteran Eric Jasinski, after seeking treatment for his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is being punished by the Army.

Jasinski turned himself in to the Army late last year, after having gone absent without leave (AWOL) in order to seek help for his PTSD. Help, he told Truthout, he was not receiving from the Army, even after requesting assistance on multiple occasions.

He was court-martialed and jailed for 25 days for having gone AWOL, during which time he was escorted in shackles to therapy sessions for his PTSD. After being released from prison, he was informed that he would be given an other-than-honorable discharge, which means he is likely ineligible for full PTSD treatment from the Veterans' Administration (V.A.) after he leaves the service.

Jasinski enlisted in the military in 2005, and deployed to Iraq in October 2006 as an intelligence analyst with the U.S. Army. He collected intelligence in order to put together strike packets - where air strikes would take place.

Upon his return to the U.S. after his tour, Jasinski was suffering from severe PTSD due to what he did and saw in Iraq, along with remorse and guilt for the work he did that he knows contributed to the loss of life in Iraq.

"What I saw and what I did in Iraq caused my PTSD," Jasinski, 23-years-old, told Truthout during a phone interview. "Also, I lost a good friend in Iraq, and I went through a divorce - she left right before I deployed - and my grandmother passed away when I was over there, so it was all super rough on me."

Upon returning home in December 2007, Jasinski tried to get treatment via the military. He was self-medicating by drinking heavily, and an over- burdened military mental health counselor sent him to see a civilian doctor, who diagnosed him with severe PTSD.

"I went to get help, but I had an eight hour wait to see one of five doctors. But after several attempts, finally I got a periodic check up and I told that counselor what was happening, and he said they'd help me... but I ended up getting a letter that instructed me to go see a civilian doctor, and she diagnosed me with PTSD," Jasinski explained. "Then, I was taking the medications and they were helping, because I thought I was to get out of the Army in February 2009 when my contract expired."

As the date approached, Jasinski was stop-lossed (an involuntary extension of his contract), an event that he said "pushed me over the edge" because he was told he was to be sent to Iraq within a month.

During his pre-deployment processing, "They gave me a 90-day supply of meds to get me over to Iraq, and I saw a counselor during that period, and I told him,' I don't know what I'm going to do if I go back to Iraq.'"

"He asked if I was suicidal," Jasinski explained, "and I said not right now, I'm not planning on going home and blowing my brains out. He said, 'Well, you're good to go then.' And he sent me on my way. I knew at that moment, when they finalized my paperwork for Iraq, that there was no way I could go back with my untreated PTSD. I needed more help."

Jasinski went AWOL, where he remained out of service until Dec. 11, 2009, when he returned to turn himself in to authorities at Fort Hood, in Killeen, Texas.

"He has heavy-duty PTSD and never would have gone AWOL if he'd gotten the help he needed from the military," James Branum, Jasinski's civilian lawyer, told Truthout. "This case highlights the need of the military to provide better mental health care for its soldiers."

Branum, who is also co-chair of the Military Law Task Force, told Truthout in December, "Our hope is that his unit won't court-martial him, but puts him in a warrior transition unit where they will evaluate him to either treat him or give him a medical discharge. He'd be safe there, and eventually, they'd give him a medical discharge because his PTSD symptoms are so severe."

But the Army scheduled a Summary Court Martial for March 31. At it, Jasinski was sentenced to 30 days in the Bell County Jail in Texas. Laura Barrett, Jasinski's mother, told the Temple Herald Telegram, "This has been a total outrage. I cannot believe my son who is diagnosed with PTSD from his deployment to Iraq would be sent to jail."

Branum submitted a clemency request asking that Jasinski be released on mental health grounds, or that he be transferred to the psych ward at Darnall Army Medical Center to complete his sentence. The Army did not respond.

Branum said, "We, as Americans, need to see how combat vets are treated today. Eric is in jail because he has PTSD and was denied the care he needed. His 'desertion' was an act of desperation, the act of a soldier who had no other options."

Jasinski wrote a letter from the Bell County Jail that said the following:

"When I am taken out of jail back to Fort Hood for any appointments I am led around in handcuffs and ankle shackles in front of crowds of soldiers... which is overwhelming on my mind. My guilt from treating prisoners in Iraq sub-human and I did things to them and watched my unit do cruel actions against prisoners, so being humiliated like that forces me to fall into the dark spiral of guilt. I now know what it feels like to have no rights and have people stare and judge based on your shackles and I feel even more like a monster cause I used to do this to Iraqi people.

"Even worse is the fact that this boils down to the military failing to treat my PTSD but I am being punished for it... I feel as if I am being a threat to others or myself and still the Army mental health professional blow me off just like in 2009 when I felt like I had no choice but to go AWOL, since I received a 5 minute mental evaluation and was stop-lossed despite my PTSD, and was told that they could do nothing for me. The insufficient mental evaluation from a doctor I had never seen before, combined with the insufficient actions by the doctor on 9 April show the Army is not trying to make progress."

Jasinski was released from jail on April 24, having served 25 days of a 30-day sentence. He has since been informed he will receive an other-than-honorable discharge, which means he will not have full health benefits with the Veterans' Administration, and thus little to no assistance from the military for treating his PTSD.

According to the Army, every year from 2006 onwards has seen a record number of reported and confirmed suicides. A 2008 Rand Corporation report revealed that at least 300,000 veterans returning from both wars had been diagnosed with severe depression or PTSD.

Jasinski's case is representative of a growing number of soldiers returning from the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan who are going AWOL when they are unable to get proper mental health care treatment from the military for their PTSD.

Jaskinski's experience with the military has inspired him to offer advice for other soldiers who need PTSD treatment but are not receiving it.

When asked what he feels the military needs to do in order to rectify this problem, he said, "A total overhaul of the mental health sector in the military is needed... we had nine psychiatrists at our center, and that's simply not enough staff, they are going to get burned out after seeing 50 soldiers each in one day. We need an overhaul of the entire system, and more good psychiatrists, not those just coming for a job, but good, experienced mental health professionals need to be involved."

Chuck Luther, who served 12 years in the military, is a veteran of two deployments to Iraq, where he was a reconnaissance scout in the 1st Cavalry Division. The former sergeant was based at Fort Hood, Texas, where he lives today. Luther told Truthout in November that the military tried to discharge him without assisting him with his PTSD, instead diagnosing him with "personality disorder."

In response, Luther went on to found and direct "The Soldier's Advocacy Group of Disposable Warriors."

"The way things are set up right now in the military is that if a soldier gets a chance to go to mental health, which is something military commanders tend to try to prevent from happening in the first place, but if soldiers go, psychologists and psychiatrists address and diagnose their PTSD and write it up, but this does not mean that they will get treatment," Luther explained to Truthout.

At the time, he described a situation very similar to that of Jasinski's.

"The doctors then send it to command, but that doesn't mean the soldiers will get treatment," said Luther. "The soldier can push it up to the commander, but the commander can deny it and that's as high as it gets. Soldiers are listed as not being able to serve by a military doctor, but they are nonetheless medicated and sent out into combat anyway."

"The military is trying to get everybody these 'other-than-honorable discharges' or diagnosing them with 'personality disorder' so they don't have to take care of them after they discharge," Aaron Hughes, an Iraq war vet, told Truthout.

Hughes, a national organizer for the group Iraq Veteran's Against the War, said that Jasinski was already involved in the paperwork process required by the military for him to receive a medical discharge.

"This was underway when he went to jail," Hughes added, "He would do his time for going AWOL, then get a medical discharge. Instead, they are switching this mid-stream and giving him an 'other-than-honorable' discharge, which means he gets no benefits. My main concern is that he did his time and did everything he was supposed to do, and they are still not living up to their side of the bargain."

Kernan Manion is a board-certified psychiatrist who treated Marines returning from war who suffer from PTSD and other acute mental problems born from their deployments, at Camp Lejeune - the largest Marine base on the East Coast. While he was engaged in this work, Manion warned his superiors of the extent and complexity of the systemic problems, and he was deeply worried about the possibility of these leading to violence on the base and within surrounding communities.

"If not more Fort Hoods, Camp Liberties, soldier fratricide, spousal homicide, we'll see it individually in suicides, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, family dysfunction, in formerly fine young men coming back and saying, as I've heard so many times, 'I'm not cut out for society. I can't stand people. I can't tolerate commotion. I need to live in the woods,'" Manion explained to Truthout. "That's what we're going to have. Broken, not contributing, not functional members of society. It infuriates me - what they are doing to these guys, because it's so ineptly run by a system that values rank and power more than anything else - so we're stuck throwing money into a fragmented system of inept clinics and the crisis goes on."

"It's not just that we're going to have an immensity of people coming back, but the system itself is thwarting their effective treatment," said Manion.

Jasinski told Truthout that his previous commander, who he referred to as Captain Floer, told his mother that Jasinski was "faking my PTSD symptoms," since "the job he held {in Iraq] was behind a computer."

While in jail, Jasinski was denied access to his regular therapy sessions. He was taken periodically to other sessions, but he told Truthout, "The mental health center on Fort Hood told me I had to wait for more help."

At a later session at the same center, Jasinski said,"I was told upon my follow-up visit that my suicidal ideations were all in my head and was sent on my way."

"Again the military is casting its soldiers aside, and shows no mercy for soldiers or their families," Jasinski told Truthout, "I do not want their money, but I want them to at least acknowledge and act upon the problems in order to repair the broken system. I want them to take action instead of worrying about public relations."

A Soldier's Nightmare and a Family's Love

Combat Veteran Pat Lamoureux

Pat survived really awful circumstances while serving in Iraq. He's haunted by the memory of a girl in her early teens who blew herself up near his heavy equipment transport truck. He said she, "came out of nowhere."

He talked about a firefight near the airport in Baghdad. Staff Sergeant Robert J. Brown, Lamoureux's convoy commander on the majority of his missions, talked about how the convoys were shot at "day and night." "If you stopped, you got shot. We were sitting ducks outside of that wall, wire, perimeter or sand berm."

Brown said, "When Pat says what happened at the airport, that happened." Any of us can only imagine. I don't know very much about Iraq, but I have been to that airport and it isn't in an extremely secure part of the city. I can only imagine how horrific the circumstances were that this Nevada soldier survived[1].

Pat also talked about an old man with a donkey, who would not stop when soldiers ordered him to and was shot. Sue told a reporter that, "To this day Pat believes the old man may have been deaf, and the image of him haunts Pat."

Pat Lamoureux serving in Iraq

These stories leave behind many important, unanswered questions. These soldiers were put through things that no human being can easily withstand. Pat was eventually evacuated for a respiratory disorder. Just after that, one of his friends and fellow soldiers from Las Vegas was killed when his truck was struck, as he was changing a tire on his military vehicle in Kuwait.

Staff Sgt. Cameron Sarno was in the same Army Reserve group, the Las Vegas-based 257th "Rolling Thunder" Transportation Company.

Sue Lamoureux told the Las Vegas Review Journal, "That night before things spiraled out of control, Pat was screaming, 'Sarno' at me. I told him there wasn't anything about that situation that was his fault."

She added that he screamed again. "Sarno, you don't know.... I could have kept him from dying."

This is what he was talking about before things spun out of control that night at Terrible's Lakeside RV Park and Casino in Pahrump[2]..

Sue knows why Pat couldn't hold it together. We have written many times about the 'legal' prescription drugs that are so often prescribed to veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to reports from the Nye County, Nevada Sheriff's Office, Pat Lamoureux was prescribed no less than 14 such drugs, possibly more[3].

Pat Lamoureux was out of control to the point that his wife Sue had to leave. That is when things really began to spin out of control. Pat fired several rounds at Sue's laptop computer and this brought the instant response from Local Nye County deputies.

When they pulled up, a gunbattle quickly ensued, and both Pat Lamoureux and a deputy named Eric Murphy were wounded, with non-life threatening gunshot injuries.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that Lamoureux was interviewed several hours after the shooting, after he had been transported to the Nye County Detention Center.

When Officer James Chandler asked, "You know why I am here." Lamoureux is said to have replied, "No, I don't even know what my charges are."

When Chandler began naming the charges, including attempted murder and battery on a police officer, "Lamoureux slumped forward and asked if the officer he shot was OK."

This former U.S. Army soldier has a huge family that supports him without question

Chandler wrote. "I told him the officer will be OK."

Lamoureux then inquired about his wife, and asked again if the officer would survive.

"I told him both were OK. Lamoureux still slumped forward was crying and said nothing," Chandler stated in a narrative filed two months after the shooting[4].

The former Army Reserve sergeant pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity when he was arraigned on the charges.'s Dr. Phil Leveque, a WWII Combat Veteran, PTSD patient and doctor to hundreds of PTSD patients from multiple wars, said that is not hard to believe at all.

More of Pat's family, Mica & Heather, grandson Kain

"These guys have been through Hell and back, few people can understand their experience unless they have been through it themselves. Take the PTSD and add a bunch of prescription drugs to the mix, and you are setting a person up for real trouble," Leveque said.

Sue Lamoureux said of her husband, "This is a great man who had NEVER been in trouble IN HIS LIFE. What makes someone reach the age of 46 years old - and then they SUDDENLY decide that getting into a gunbattle with 4 law enforcement officers is a great idea?"

"He wasn't a "bad guy" - and there was no "battle plan", there was no malice or hatred of law enforcement in Pat Lamoureux's mind. There were VAST amounts of psychotropic drugs all prescribed by the VA, but there was no intention on Pat Lamoureux's part to purposely facilitate the events of September 19, 2008."

Indeed, records indicate that Pat Lamoureux had a clean record prior to September 19, 2008.

His wife says Combat Veterans deserve a second chance if they become involved in the criminal justice system. As Americans in a modern society, incarcerating Veterans instead of offering in-patient jail diversion programs is barbaric in her opinion and that of many others.

"These brave soldiers were willing to sacrifice their lives in combat - not sacrifice their lives sitting in a jail cell. As Americans, we owe our Veterans more than we are giving them."

Pat Lamoureux - 100% disabled Iraq Veteran

She says she is tired of the perception that our law enforcement officers are on a higher level than anyone else.

"Especially, that they are on a higher level than our combat veterans. A large number of them will retire never having pulled the trigger on their weapon except when they had to qualify on the shooting range."

She says what is also devastating is that the "local justice system" sees it fit to send a man away for what will be the rest of his life - when that man had never been in trouble in his life. We can offer jail diversion programs to drug addicts - but we can't offer jail diversion programs to Veterans who are first time offenders."

She says the VA has shown support lately, and for that she is grateful.

"Our country has failed Pat Lamoureux; Nye County, Nevada is trying to crucify Pat Lamoureux. By the time Pat Lamoureux even gets a trial, he will have been sitting in a county jail for 22 MONTHS - 22 months of his life wasted, he could have been getting in-patient treatment instead of being incarcerated."

She says the idea of endlessly incarcerating an Iraq War Veteran is bad enough, but that it gets even worse.

"Of course, there is also the issue of the ACLU's investigation of the detention facility that Pat is being housed in - and that it falls below Federal standards and should be deemed uninhabitable. There is the issue of the bullet that was left in his leg on September 19, 2008 - that burst open and started oozing in August 2009 - and the bullet is still in his leg... This is how Americans say, 'Thank you for your service', but oh my God - Pat Lamoureux was involved in an incident with Law Enforcement - and NOBODY wants to talk about this Veteran's heartbreaking story."

Well Sue, for what it is worth, I greatly respect your courage through all of this. I don't know how much more of a challenge you could be faced with, but I do know that law enforcement in the backwaters of Nevada can be shabby. We learned this sadly, when my friend and fellow war photojournalist Caleb Schaber supposedly killed himself, but we'll never really know, since the deputies there conducted a botched investigation[1].

I hope people reading this story will take the time to learn more about Pat Lamoureux, and all of the other Combat Veterans who are in his shoes. Links below will take you to vital information about his case, and there is a lot of information on Pat that goes beyond what I have stated here. It isn't a theory that he put his life completely on the line for the rest of us in this country, Iraq is a Hellish place to have your psyche splattered with the blood and guts of other human beings. The little girl, the old man with the donkey, the firefight at the Baghdad Airport, it is just unimaginable. Then to be placed on so many 'legal' drugs by doctors, it is such a shame.

If you want to do something that won't cost anything, open these Websites and contact Nevada's political leaders, and ask them what they are doing to help Pat Lamoureux in light of these unusual circumstances, his previously clean record, honorable military service, and the fact that he was out of his mind on legal prescription drugs that he was told to take.

Bama Haters; Read This


First of all, Alabama has done nothing wrong in the Marcell Dareus situation and has zero, and I repeat zero chance of anything ever happening to the school because of it.


They self reported themselves, and turned the matter over to the NCAA to come and see for themselves the facts of the case.

Since Marcell hasn't played a down since "Partygate" that has involved so many players, and since he won't until cleared by the NCAA, there is once again zero chance of any penalties to the team.

Now, let's turn to Marcell.

Marcell Dareus would only be in trouble if he took anything of value from an agent, booster or some other person the NCAA deems a problem. In this case, that would be transportation to from or at the site, lodging while there, food, drinks, money or any other item or service that has value.

Let's deal with them one by one.

Transportation: The ticket he flew down on was allegedly purchased by his friend Marvin Austin, a senior defensive lineman from North Carolina who is also being investigated.

The two met when Marcell made his official visit to North Carolina, and Austin served as his host. Though Marcell chose Alabama, the two remained good friends.

Austin thought a nice weekend in South Florida would be both payback for a personal promise of a nice trip should Alabama win the the championship that Austin promised Dareus, but also to take his mind of his mother for a few days.

Marcell did not want even the hint of this ticket being anything wrong, so when his buddy met him in South Florida, Dareus repaid him and all but demanded a receipt. He has one,and it was shown to the NCAA.

Marcell is not only drilled by the Alabama coaching staff and fellow players to always watch yourself and do the right thing, but also by his legal guardian Lester Reasor.

Reasor certainly works hard to keep Marcell on the straight and narrow. Lester, and his wonderful wife Juanita are like guardian angels.

Lester Reasor was a fine military man and helped spearhead the purchase of of the new home of the American Legion, post 347 in Fairfield, Alabama. It was the first building ever owned by the post.

Despite what most people think, Marcell has not lived with his mother for a while now. Mr. Reasor has guardianship of Dareus and his other siblings except for the oldest. He is a retired Huffman High School's ROTC program and he has instilled that kind of military thinking into Dareus—Duty, Honor, instead of country and school.

Marcell had been being looked after by Huffman High School assistant coach Scott Livingston until he was killed in a car crash, and in stepped Reasor. He could not see Dareus, and his siblings fall by the wayside.

Just like he took care of men in the military and, helped shape young people's lives by steering them into the ROTC and giving them a better chance at life, he did it for the Dareus family.

Part of the deal with moving in the Reasor's a few years back was that he would attend church with them every Sunday , and when Dareus came to Alabama without a car, Mr. Reasor drove from Birmingham every Sunday to pick him up to make sure he kept his word.

Dareus' life could be another great movie along the lines of "Blindside", and the details are both personal and emotional, but they need to be told at this point so everyone knows the mindset and ties to South Florida that make his story more believable.

His father was a Haitian immigrant who died when he was young. His mother remarried, but her new husband developed congestive heart failure, and then she became ill as well.

During his early life, he lived in South Florida for a great portion of his life, and has relatives in the Miami area especially around the "Little Hatti" area.

This part of the story is important later.

Now the lodging:

Marcell was supposed to stay with his friend Marvin Austin, but upon learning that the party was hosted by an agent, Marcell decided to play it safe, and simply stay with family in the area instead.

With family in that area, that would have been a logical thing to do. That is what he's told Alabama and the NCAA, and though I personally do not have proof that's what happened, I'm sure it could be verified.

The matters left that I haven't uncovered is any transportation at Miami, any food or other gifts, but in the eyes of the NCAA, such things are minor.

In every case where such things have taken place of minor things, the NCAA has re-instated their right to play once they have made repayment of any of those costs.

In other words, Dareus would not be suspended from any play this fall, f reparations were made for any thing or service he did receive.

The good news: Is that Dareus is already suspended by the NCAA.

Why is that good news?

First you are reported, then they investigate, and once they have sufficient material they suspend the player until a final ruling is made. The first suspended is the first unsuspended.

Everyone who is investigated, even if they are 100% innocent of any wrongdoing is suspended until cleared. To not be suspended is even worse. This means they are still in the gathering stage, and not ready to rule.

Some of the other players who attended, and received "benefits" have not been officially suspended yet by the NCAA. This means the school must do it themselves, because if they actually play and are found guilty later, then not only the player, but the school could face penalties.

So some players are wishing that they too were ready to be suspended so that the NCAA could make a determination soon. After all, we are getting really close to the first of the season, and the first game will be upon us shortly.

Every player on every team has a story, but few have the twists and turns that Marcell Dareus' does. Because of the adversity that Marcell has faced, and the strong men who came to aid him in those struggles, I find it hard to believe that such a man would let himself, his team and the people who had faith in him down.

So before you call this man, this school, and these men who help him cheaters—you should have all the facts first.

Now you do.

Who is the enemy?

From my perspective I am not sure who that enemy really is. In combat, the enemy is clear. Well, almost. You sweep a village and turn to look at 10 year olds holding assault rifles. Are they the enemy? You search a dusty home and find weapon caches' stashed amongst the bedding. Are they the enemy? On patrol, you pass some kids playing soccer and as soon as you leave those same kids are with a bunch of turbin heads drawing ambushes in the sand. Are they the enemy? The ROE will not permit our soldiers to do their jobs. Listen to this:

The bureaucratic nightmare. A true story to save money

POGANY: When the soldier signs on the dotted line and commits to service to this country, that commitment comes with the understanding that if something happens to us that we will be taken care of.

HINOJOSA: After examining Luther's records, Pogany is convinced he doesn't have a pre-existing personality disorder. He says -just look at the standard definition.... A mental illness that begins in quote "adolescence or early adulthood." On top of that, Luther says he was given a mental health screening 8 times during his 12 years of service, and each time, given a clean bill of health.

We asked the army's top psychiatrist, Col. Elspeth Ritchie for some answers. How is it that the Army can have these soldiers that the Army has already screened, and then, after 12 years of service, is suddenly —diagnosed with a personality disorder?

COL. ELSPETH RITCHIE: The case that you are discussing sounds highly unusual to me.

HINOJOSA: Col. Ritchie would not comment on any specific case, but she said, that sometimes, soldiers slip through the screening process.

COL. ELSPETH RITCHIE: Sometimes we don't know everything about a soldier. Sometimes the soldier doesn't tell us everything. And the problems may not become apparent until after they've been in for six months or a year.

HINOJOSA: But 12 years? Col. Ritchie admits discrepancies occur.

COL. ELSPETH RITCHIE: I can't say that everything happened right every time. But I will say that if there was a mistake that was made. There are mechanisms by which soldiers can go back and have their cases reviewed.

HINOJOSA: Luther says -those "mechanisms" are not easy to figure out. Misinformed about the process, he missed a crucial window of time to appeal his case. Out of frustration—Luther contacted a reporter. Joshua Kors had written a groundbreaking story for The Nation magazine about the thousands of personality disorder discharges in the military.

KORS: Soldiers who were wounded and denied care through these fraudulent discharges, they started contacting me and in February. That's what happened with Chuck he wrote me a letter.

HINOJOSA: Kors helped Chuck Luther get in touch with advocates to work on his case.

KORS: The fact that these guys are coming to me is bizarre, it's sad, but I think a lot of these guys just don't know where to go.

HINOJOSA: Kors investigation also revealed that these discharges save the military a lot of money...remember, the army doesn't have to pay disability for personality disorder discharges. Kors wrote that across the entire armed forces, they could be saving upwards of $8 billion dollars.

Reporting from Kors and others triggered a bi-partisan effort led by Democratic senator Barack Obama and Republican Kit Bond—demanding that the Department of Defense to investigate these discharges. The report, released just this week, recommends new policies that include corroborating the personality disorder diagnosis and addressing PTSD before discharging soldiers.

At the same time, advocates point to another brewing scandal—the alarming number of soldiers suffering from PTSD but getting kicked out for misconduct.

Soldiers like 23 year old—Jonathan Norrell. As a combat medic, he experienced the human toll of war everyday.

NORRELL: I wore—blood soaked boots for I don't know how many weeks. And—it wasn't until later on that it—it really started to get to me.

HINOJOSA: In Iraq, Norrell volunteered to go out on missions, and that meant, getting into harm's way.

HINOJOSA: When you got hit by the i.e.d.'s. What happened?

NORRELL: I would have a headache and ringing in my ears for at least three days afterwards.

HINOJOSA: Concussion?

NORRELL: I had a couple of minor concussions. Just had my bell rung a few times to where—just was really out of it. Kind of-

HINOJOSA: What does that mean, have your bell rung?

NORRELL: It'd be like getting hit in the head with a brick.

HINOJOSA: He says his unit was hit by at least 6 i.e.d's. These multiple concussions can lead to traumatic brain injury. But it wasn't just the i.e.d.'s that affected him... it was also the brutal reality of death in a war zone.

NORRELL: One of the most—traumatic experiences for me, in Iraq, was when a man was shot in the head. And his wife and his daughter begged me to help them. And were crying and upset. And there was absolutely nothing I could do for him. He'd been shot in the face seven or eight times. And I had to hold the back of his head together to keep his brains from falling out all over the ground while we put him in the bag. You know, I didn't want that to happen in front of his wife and kids.

HINOJOSA: Like Chuck Luther, Norrell learned to deal with those traumatic experiences while he was—by not thinking about them. After 9 and a half months in Iraq, he was sent back to Texas...given 6 days leave to visit family... and that's when the war suddenly caught up with him.

NORRELL: I was driving back to my grandma's house. And the lights, I don't know what it was—I just—I forgot where I was. I couldn't see the road anymore. I completely lost it. Crying. I couldn't breathe. I was scared. I didn't know what, you know, I didn't know what to think.

HINOJOSA: That first panic attack was just the beginning of a downward spiral. Even though he was now back at Fort Hood, Norrell was plagued by disturbing memories of war. He didn't know who to turn to for help. He started to self destruct by self medicating...

NORRELL: I—I started, you know, I started drinking all the time. It got to where I couldn't even sleep anymore at night—without waking up sweating. Without, you know, slamming a bottle of Jack Daniels, you know, before going to bed.

HINOJOSA: A whole bottle?

NORRELL: No. Not a whole bottle. But—throughout maybe in—in a day, a whole bottle, yeah.

HINOJOSA: Norrell finally went to see a doctor who diagnosed him with PTSD. The doctor recommended to Norrell's commanders that he be medically discharged immediately and sent home. But that never happened.

NORRELL: It just turned into lies and field time after that.


NORRELL: I don't know how many times I was told that it would only be—a few weeks. And I'd—would be clearing, and on my way home. And that was the only thing that kept me goin'.

HINOJOSA: Norrell began to deteriorate, drinking, smoking pot. For a second time, the doctor recommended him for an immediate medical discharge. Instead, his commanders ordered Norrell to go to California for heavy combat training.

NORRELL: I felt like it was the worst idea in the history of bad ideas.

HINOJOSA: In despair, Norrell disobeyed orders and missed the flight.

Do you feel like they punished you?

NORRELL: Oh. I'll tell you, they punished me severely for that. I was real scared. I knew I was gonna be in trouble. But it wasn't enough to stop me from doin' it

HINOJOSA: By then, Norrell had racked up a long list of misconduct charges. He says, he just wanted out. So when his commanders told him they were going to discharge him for misconduct—and that as a result, he would lose all his benefits, Norrell signed the papers anyway.

NORRELL: Definitely signed it, because I wanted to go home. I don't care about money. I don't care about anything anymore, except goin' home.

HINOJOSA: Norrell's mom had put out a call for help, and Carissa Picard was already working on his case. She sent his files to Andrew Pogany and other advocates to see if they could help overturn Norrell's misconduct discharge.

There are members of the Army who say, "Look, this soldier was taking part in misconduct. He needs to be discharged, take responsibility for what he did."

POGANY: I agree with that, except we gotta ask the question, "What came first, the PTSD, or the misconduct?" If you haven't asked that question, then you have no business discharging people.

HINOJOSA: He says, in Norrell's case it's clear—the PTSD was causing his misconduct. With the help advocates like Pogany, Carissa Picard flooded the army with letters and phone calls. The evidence was so convincing that within in two weeks, Jonathan Norrell's discharge was overturned.

NORRELL: In a sense, I think she saved my life because she came in, and within 12 hours, I was gettin' help.

HINOJOSA: When you see Jonathan, 23 years old, what goes on for you?

PICARD: I don't know that people realize how young our soldiers are. Like I live on post, and there's thousands of Jonathan Norrells. But I don't see them. Nobody does. They're all in their uniforms. And when I saw Jonathan, I—I realized, my God. They're just so young.

HINOJOSA: Why does a soldier like Jonathan Norrell fall through the cracks? How does that happen?

PICARD: Well, I don't know that it's falling through the cracks. This is— a huge hole. It's a flaw in the system

HINOJOSA: Picard say—these wrongful discharges won't stop until the army regulations are changed. She says, if we don't care for our soldiers now, they will return to society more at risk for homelessness, criminal behavior, reliant on social services.

PICARD: And who pays for that? We all do. So, if—if you don't care on any kind of humanitarian level about these people who have sacrificed so much on your behalf, then care on a—purely practical level. Because you're going to be paying higher taxes.

HINOJOSA: Just last month, the army issued a new directive. It now requires soldiers who are getting administrative discharges, to be screened for both PTSD and traumatic brain injury.

COL. ELSPETH RITCHIE: I know we're not perfect. We're—we're busy, we're working hard. Again, we've been at war for a long time, so there may have been mistakes made. And if there are mistakes made, we have a responsibility to make those mistakes right

HINOJOSA: But for Chuck Luther and his family, those mistakes have been devastating.

NICKI LUTHER: I realize they have a war to fight. I realize they're very busy. You know, but somebody had to take of my husband.

HINOJOSA: Chuck Luther is now home with is wife Niki and their kids- Christian, Alexa and Taylor. But the man Nicki married 16 years ago is not the same person—and they've been struggling to be a family again.

NICKI LUTHER: He blames himself. But, it wasn't his fault. He thinks he should have been able to dust off and go on. And he just couldn't.

ALEXA LUTHER: He was, like, the greatest dad ever. I mean, it's—it's simple. He—he wasn't like that before he left.

HINOJOSA: Without treatment—Chuck Luther got worse. His violent outbursts became more frequent... breaking things, punching holes in the walls. It's got so bad—the police had to come to their house.

ALEXA LUTHER: We both had to—had to like physically hold my dad back from hitting my mom at times. And it was just like he was a completely different person.

HINOJOSA: After months of being home, Chuck Luther went to the VA for help. He was finally diagnosed with PTSD. More evidence to help Luther overturn his discharge. Now in treatment, he's getting better, learning how to leave the war behind him.

CHUCK LUTHER: You know, I fought for my life over there and I survived. And I plan on fighting for my life here and surviving.

HINOJOSA: Seeing their dad go through this battle, has been tough on the kids too. His daughter Alexa used to wear his dog tags.

ALEXA LUTHER: I wore 'em like almost every day when he was gone. And then once he started doin' that stuff, I didn't hate him. But I just stopped wearing them. And now that he's finally getting better, I'll wear 'em again.

HINOJOSA: They're beginning to heal. And there's a new member of the Luther family... Marlee Grace was born 4 weeks ago, and she's bringing them even closer.

As for Jonathan Norrell—he will now be medically discharged.

But because of the backlog ... he's still living on base surrounded by the memories of the war and the army he once proudly served.

NORRELL: Now—now, I just—I—I can't wait to take these boots off. I have to get out of this uniform I have to step away from this, or I won't make it

PTSD: A soldier's story

Army Spc. Brandon Garrison looks fine. He pulls his wife, Lily, close. He gives her a quick kiss on the cheek and wraps his hand over her stomach, carrying their first child.

Inside, Garrison fights a rage that consumes most of his days sin ce returning from 17 months of combat in Afghanistan. It's a demon that shows no mercy and interrupts even simple routines like eating and sleeping. At any moment, halfway through a football game or in the middle of the night, he can lose himself to this evil.

This is his war now. A war that started on a battlefield a half a world away and has now embedded itself in his mind. Through nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety and fear, he battles this beast each day.

Garrison is among thousands of troops experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as they return from Afghanistan or Iraq. The 21-year-old from northeastern Kansas is also part of a growing number of servicemembers whose well-being has been compromised in a system that's supposed to take care of them.

The most troubling challenges facing these troops include:

Psychological trauma and mental health care not always receiving the same priority as physical injuries.

Army claims of pre-existing personality disorders, which in many cases slash disability benefits and long-term mental health care for otherwise eligible combat veterans.

The enemy Garrison encountered daily in combat still haunts him. He sees the faces of his fallen brothers. He smells the dirty air, amid the blood. Screams of panic broken with hums of moaning pain lingers and the dust ensues yet another storm inside him.

That is until he finds his way back to Lily, and back to the life he knew before war.

"Without her, I seriously wouldn't be alive right now," Garrison said.

Garrison's platoon from the Army's 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum, N.Y., specializes in fighting in harsh conditions. In northeast Afghanistan they were stationed in Pech Valley Korengal Outpost, one the country's deadliest valleys.

Now that Garrison is home, he belongs to one of the Army's Warrior Transition Units, which provides command and control, primary care and case management for servicemembers receiving treatment for wounds suffered while fighting in the war on terror. The unit works to "promote their timely return to the force or transition to civilian life."

Here is his story.

Shortly after Garrison returned from Afghanistan last June, he headed home on a 30-day leave to Leavenworth, Kansas.

"That's when my nightmares began," he said. "I remember waking up in the middle of the night. I'd sit straight up in bed and it was just hard to breathe and I was panicking and I remember my wife Lily asking me if I was OK and I remember crying in her arms several times because of horrific visions that I had, and the memories and the mass casualties that we suffered."

Nothing in particular triggered the attacks. He would hear a song or a report about the war and before he knew it, he was reliving it.

Garrison started drinking almost daily. It was the only way he knew to escape.

In August, he left to regroup with his unit in Fort Drum. Lily stayed with his folks because Garrison was going to be reassigned to a new base, so it didn't make sense for her to go right then.

Garrison was OK when he was working. But the second he was alone, the flashbacks returned. It was terrifying and always zoomed back to one event. On this day in Afghanistan, Garrison was watching soldiers patrol a valley below him. It was almost time for them to return when the enemy launched rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire into their path.

Garrison and other soldiers helped the injured until medics arrived.

Blood was everywhere.

Garrison went to his friend, 24-year-old Spc. Christopher Wilson, and held a pressure dressing tightly against his stomach, but his young life was slipping away.

Wilson, whose greatest fear in this war was not coming home to his little girl, died a short while later.

"He was a very good soldier ... a good friend," Garrison said. "He was very brave through it all."

Garrison needed help. He and Lily fought to where they didn't know how much their marriage could take.

He was never much of a drinker before war. Lily wanted to understand, but she couldn't.

"To know I had pushed a woman so close to me that far away just because of the trauma I was experiencing … that really just made it worse," Garrison explained.

He started to hate himself.

"At the time I had been denying God and spirituality was always a big part of my life and I was actually cursing God himself and that's when I knew that my life was taking a big downfall," he said.

In September, Garrison went to the behavioral health clinic on base and met with a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder.

He agreed to meet with Garrison every week or two and prescribed Trazodone and Ambien to help him sleep.

"I was calling out for help … but I was afraid to say 'suicide,'" Garrison recalled. "I was afraid to tell them what I was truly feeling because that puts a label on you and they patronize you."

He kept it far from his command.

But by mid-September, Garrison couldn't take it. He returned to doctors on base and told them he was feeling suicidal. They told him he had to see a regular doctor because they were booked.

The next day he found a doctor off base who prescribed Valium, which helped desensitize his reality. He heard a couple guys who committed suicide from their unit overdosed on Valium.

He was afraid to take it, but he was desperate.

It was football season. Garrison thought it would be good to get out, so he started going to the local bar to watch the games.

For weeks he did this. He was now mixing prescription drugs and alcohol. It seemed to help.

But on September 29 it all caught up.

That morning, he woke with the horrors of Afghanistan. He swallowed four Valium.

Later on he went to the bar. He took two more Valium and started drinking beer.

As he watched the game, he started getting excited. His adrenaline was pumping. Then he saw blood. Dirty air seeped in his senses and screams of horror quickly replaced the cheers.

It felt like iron weight settled in his chest. It was hard to breathe. His hands and feet throbbed. His heart was beating faster and faster and faster, like a hamster spinning a wheel.

Garrison rushed outside to his truck and blasted the air conditioning.

He could barely hold his cell phone as he struggled to dial 911. He blanked out off and on as the operator on the other end told him to keep breathing.

Within minutes ambulances and military police arrived. Paramedics strapped a plastic oxygen mask over his face and rushed him to the closest hospital in Watertown, N.Y.

He woke up several hours later with a man from the hospital's intensive mental health unit next to him. He asked Garrison if he was suicidal.

"I broke down and cried right there," Garrison said. "I told him I didn't want to live anymore."

The man said he served in Vietnam, and there was no shame in crying.

"I have a wife and a child on the way," Garrison said through sobs. "I love them very much. I don't want to be like this anymore, but I don't want to live when I have these attacks, when I blank out, when I have these flashbacks."

"I'm trying to be a good soldier. Please don't tell my chain of command," he pleaded.

Garrison was admitted into the psychiatric ward.

"That was the most traumatic part, but at the same time it was a relief because here I was in a place now where it was nothing but civilians," Garrison explained. "I was away from the uniforms."

Can Gen. Petraeus change the war?

President Obama's decision to call upon General David Petraeus to take the helm as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan looks like a political and strategic stroke of brilliance.

It is history in the making.

But it is also history that will ultimately be the judge of this dramatic and surprising decision to sack General Stanley McChrystal and once again offer the reins and responsibility of commanding troops at a pivotal moment in a war that is faltering to General Petraeus.

Politically, it allows Obama to show leadership and strength in stripping McChrystal of command for his poor conduct in the comments he made to Rolling Stone magazine in its cover story titled "The Runaway General."

Strategically, it gives the administration the ability to show a stable command as the Kandahar campaign against the Taliban gets underway.

But perhaps most importantly, this decision will be applauded by troops in the field who see Petraeus as a genuine American hero. It will defy the cynical military axiom of "different spanks, for different ranks."

This time, a big general got "spanked" just like any other grunt or staff sergeant who showed conduct that eroded the trust of the military.

And that will go over big with the service men and women who are risking their lives in a war that has dragged on for nine years and that has called upon them to make extraordinary sacrifices.

As Obama put it, "War is bigger than any one man or woman. … Conduct represented in the recent article does not meet the standard of a commanding general. … It erodes the trust that is necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan."

For sure the decision is getting positive reviews, at least in these early hours. And Petraeus is likely to be quickly confirmed by the U.S. Senate and soon be on his way back to Afghanistan and back into the field as top U.S. commander as he was in Iraq, where he led the effort through the crucial — and by most accounts successful — moment of the Baghdad surge.

But what this decision also offers is a dramatic difference in personality and style of leadership between Petraeus and McChrystal. That difference was starkly illustrated in the uproar over the Rolling Stone article.

The comments that McChrystal, a former head of special forces and a maverick field commander, and his aids made to the magazine were reckless. And that is always the flip side of a maverick's coin even one with as distinguished a career as McChrystal has had.

If McChrystal is reckless, Petraeus is measured. If McChrystal is a maverick known for being both brilliant and blunt, Petraeus quietly asserts leadership and affects change from within. McChrystal is known for mixing sprints in with a strict running regime which is followed up without a meal so he "stays hungry," as the legend goes. Petraeus is a marathoner who understands the need for small intake of nutrition throughout the day if he's going to go the distance. If McChrystal reads Rolling Stone, Petraeus prefers Thucydides.

So what might this difference in leadership style mean in the direction the war in Afghanistan? That is the looming question now.

What Petraeus brings to this war is discipline and an understanding of history. Both of these are needed right now in a moment where the U.S. effort is failing.

The Rolling Stone article highlights not just some off-the-cuff remarks by McChrystal that got him in trouble, it reveals a dangerous fault line between the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon over the direction and goals of the war. That division between civilian and military strategy is real and it is important and how Petraeus will bridge the divide remains to be seen.

I first met Petraeus in the spring of 2003 when he was commanding the 101st Airborne Division just after he had executed a massive and successful air assault on northern Iraq. It put him on the map, and soon he would obtain a kind of rock star status, eventually landing on the cover of Newsweek. The rest, as they say, is history.

When Petraeus briefly fainted at hearings in Washington earlier this month it was a scary and out-of-character moment for those who have gotten to know him. He has incredible stamina and the episode may indeed have occurred because, as he claimed, he was simply dehydrated. But Petraeus is also a survivor of prostate cancer and his health and his ability to take on the grueling task of running the war in Afghanistan is indeed an "extraordinary sacrifice," as President Obama noted, for the man and his family. Still his health and ability to carry out this task will no doubt be raised in the hearings.

But the more important matter will be what changes, if any, Petraeus will want to bring to the table in Afghanistan.

Even if Petraeus is known for quiet diplomacy, it should be remembered that Petraeus also had profound disagreements with the George W. Bush White House and with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in particular. The disagreements were never visible to reporters when they happened, but they have since come to the surface, according to insiders who were there.

In a nutshell, Petraeus believed Rumsfeld was wrong about troop levels in Iraq and asserted that they were insufficient and he also quietly criticized the wisdom — or lack of it, as he saw it — of the so-called "de-Baathification" of the Iraqi military. In the chaotic aftermath of the collapse of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party regime, "de-Baathification" was the process of going after and jailing the Iraqi military leadership rather than seeking to bring them into the process of building a future Iraq.

That policy and the delay in calling for a troop surge are both viewed as significant and costly mistakes in the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Petraeus never voiced them publicly, instead he quietly retreated to a command at Fort Leavenworth and took to gathering the military's best minds on counter-insurgency (COIN) and started writing a new COIN field manual for the troops.

That document became the blueprint for what is now looked back on by most military analysts as a successful surge. That strategy created the stability that allowed Iraq to hold elections and move forward in taking control of its own destiny, a process that's still unfolding.

As the 30,000-U.S. troop surge takes place in Afghanistan and the U.S. braces for a stepped up military campaign in Kandahar this summer, Petraeus might try to redirect that campaign. There are many elements of the design of the counter-insurgency in Kandahar that seem to defy the very COIN manual that Petraeus authored.

What is clear is that Petraeus has a chance to once again write history in the parched, dusty, windblown plains of yet another conflict that is faltering badly as he enters the helm.

Special Ops

AFGHANISTAN: British troops shelter from the controlled explosion of a Taliban device
Monday August 2,2010
By Cyril Dixon Have your say(2)
A crack squad of British special forces is hunting down more than 2,000 key Taliban commanders listed on a “wanted – dead or alive” list.

The elite Special Boat Service commandos are trawling southern Afghanistan with orders to capture the “Tier 1” insurgents, or kill them on sight.

Details of the secret mission emerged among tens of thousands of coalition forces’ documents published by the ­controversial WikiLeaks website.

The papers include accounts of how ­specials, including a unit known as Task Force 42, tracked down rebels to hideouts in the wilderness of Helmand province.

One, known as Janan, was then gunned down with two henchmen by an Apache AH-64 helicopter summoned to the scene by the ground troops. It also emerged yesterday that the ­British mother of the American military analyst who allegedly leaked the ­documents had been interrogated at her home in Wales by the FBI.

Susan Manning, 56, was left “severely distressed” after agents attached to the US Embassy in London paid a visit to her home in Haverfordwest, Dyfed. Her 22-year-old son Bradley, a US Army analyst who is half-American, has been charged with leaking defence documents through WikiLeaks.

Yesterday, her sister Sharon Staples told how Susan phoned her to hear her scream in panic down the phone: “They’re here, they’re here.” She said the FBI also visited her own home in nearby Milford Haven, adding: “As soon as I spoke to them and asked them not to stress her out, they backed down.”

The leaked papers give an extraordinary insight into Allied operations in Afghanistan but have infuriated military chiefs. Even before the November 2008 assassination of Janan – No 210 on the list – at a farmhouse in Nad-e-Ali, Task Force 42 had a run of successful strikes.

In the 10 days previously, the task force had killed No 1,473 – real name Mullah Ziauddin, code name Beethoven – near Lashkar Gah. Beethoven had orchestrated roadside bombings across the region and was also linked to the kidnap of 160 Afghan workers in a single month.


It also emerged yesterday that the ­special forces operation has been able to call on the world’s biggest flying artillery gun, the Hercules AC-130.

Dubbed the Angel of Death, because of the shape its anti-missile flares make when fired, it too is being deployed against the top-level Taliban.

One special forces officer said: “The AC-130 really is the ultimate weapon. It is very accurate and simply vaporises the target and sends a powerful psychological message to the enemy.”

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates accused WikiLeaks of undermining coalition forces, in an interview with ABC News. He said: “There are two areas of culpability. One is legal culpability. And that’s up to the Justice Department and others – that’s not my arena.

“But there’s also a moral culpability. And that’s where I think the verdict is ‘guilty’ on WikiLeaks. They have put this out ­without any regard whatsoever for the ­consequences.”

Meanwhile yesterday, the latest offensive against the Taliban, Operation Black Prince, was said to be progressing “very well”. Troops from the 1st Battalion, the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment swarmed into the town of Saidabad under cover of darkness on Friday.

They then cleared compounds and established patrol bases in the area, and on Saturday seized large quantities of roadside bombs and bomb-making equipment.

An MoD spokesman said there had been limited contact with the insurgents, and no British casualties.

War Stories

Junior Member Join Date:Feb 2010
Posts:4 "In war there are no unwounded soldiers."
The heat, dust, loneliness and frustration, worry, lack of sleep and fear all play over and over in my mind like a maddening commercial looped for eternity. The endless nights on guard just watching, waiting for the stillness to be shattered by the sounds of gunfire and explosions can be maddening. You start wanting it to happen, willing it to happen and when it doesn’t your left empty and drained. The constant vigilance feels like slow bleeding…you wonder how far you can go and survive. How much more can I take and still be the man who left America and my family just months ago. Has it been that long? I feel so old and tired. It’s as though the very act of touching the soil draws the life slowly out of you with each step.

With the end of my tour in the Stan nearing what once seemed so intangible and far away may now becomes a reality. That day, that moment that will bring so many lonely hearts together in one place seems almost unimaginable. I have thought about that day in so many different ways it can be, at times, a source of maddening distraction.

Now the realization is that this last flight will be over and you won’t be going back to the places that caused so much pain and longing can be hard to fathom. I have watched my children grow in pictures and heard my daughter say her first words over a static filled satellite phone from eight thousand miles away. My son speaks in complete sentences now, always asking me how my soldiers are and if the there are any bad guys near. I wonder what I will tell him of this war when he grows older. What I can tell him about the things his Father has done to survive.

Will they understand? Will they be able to see the man who left a year ago is still here inside?

How will I react to those who are so blissfully ignorant to the war and all its obscenities of violence? Will I resent them for their apathy or will I understand that I am the one who’s changed and react accordingly? The nature of this conflict with its landmines and lightning attacks has kept us in a perpetual state of vigilance with explosive moments of adrenalin and despair. The Army gave me the Purple Heart award for injuries in battle but what do you get for wounds of the soul?

Being my second time deployed to war zone did not make it any easier to adapt at surviving on the home front. My wife has had to work and raise our children without a Dad for a year and a half and during those dark moments alone after the children have gone to sleep she wonders if I’m safe.

How has this war changed her?

I remember one of my first firefights where I was so fuckin mad at them for slinging rounds at me for months, waiting for the floor to explode under my feet and not being able to return fire because of civilians in the area or we were unable to positively identify a target that the act of squeezing that trigger and hearing those rounds hammering the enemy and seeing them fall was more exciting and more rewarding than your first porn film.

War, by its very nature, sometimes allows too much time in between the missions for deep thinking. If you dive too deeply into the pool of your own emotion you may never reach the surface again and find yourself descending into the darkness. And it is madness you see. This wafer thin veneer of societal normalcy we carry like a child’s cardboard shield will not ward off the ugliness and savagery of those to wish to destroy you.
In some ways I guess I was kinda lucky. My initiation into the suffering and death of others was gradual enough to give me some time to build up mental defenses but there never is enough time is there?

I know this; I will not allow this experience to shade the rest of my life with bitter angst. Being older this time I hope I have gained the wisdom to accept the path that has led me to the door I must now open and know I will be stronger for it. I have taken all the men under my command and returned them safely to their loved ones and I have prayed for the fallen.
God bless this rag-tag bunch of misfits I call my soldiers and God bless America the one true beacon of hope in this world.

This story is a recollection of my time and duty serving in Afghanistan. I have tried to be as honest and true to the events as they happened using my notes and columns I had written but as usual my minds eye sees things differently than others. All the quotes used are from my memory and therefore may be remembered differently from another’s perspective.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Our men are living in Hell.

Do you think the Afghan war is what we, as Americans, need to be spending billions upon billions of our tax dollars on? If you really believe that then I commend you for, at the least, defending something. I, however, believe it is a waste of time, money, and the most precious of all; our young men in uniform. Please read these posts delivered to me from those who serve. Our society is headed for destruction. You have the power to change it. No, not by putting those Republicans in charge. They are the worst of the wosrst. They will spend our country bankrupt and not apologize for it. Just ask Mrs. Sherrod. Did she get an apology? No. The republicans do not have a clue as to what can be done. No. No. No.That is all you will get from them. It is sad. Pray for the USofA.

Death IS knocking

Inside an Afghan battle gone wrong (VII): What it tells us about the Afghan war
Posted By Thomas E. Ricks Monday, February 2, 2009 - 8:04 PM Share

A friend who has read this series on the small but deadly battle at Wanat last summer suggested that we should consider one more issue-that is, what this incident might tell us about the war in Afghanistan.

I think the insights of this infantry veteran, who must remain anonymous because of his position, are important. Let him explain:

We are so very exposed in this land-locked...

This article has been archived. To continue reading, you must first log in.
If you already have an account on our website, click here to log in.
If you do not have an account, click here to create one.
Note: If you created your account before June 2009 you may need to create a new one.

You might like:
Wanat: What the families want (IV) - By Tom RIcks (The Best Defense )
Inside an Afghan battle gone wrong (V): Neglecting the misgivings of those given the mission (The Best Defense )
Afghans Can Win This War - By Yahya Massoud (Foreign Policy)
Lots of Leaks -- But Where Are the Bombshells? | Shadow Government (Shadow Government )

Obama Is 0 for 4
On Foreign Policy
Who Will Be the Next Secretary of Defense?
The Circus Comes
To Pakistan
Could Mr. WikiLeaks Go to Prison?

12:53 AM ET
February 3, 2009
Iragq vs Afghanistan

Great posting.

Can't help reflecting that blame here goes to the very top, to commander in chief. Impression: Army and Administration focus on Iraq loaded up that zone with people and gear. Promotions flowed/flow, as did/does money. Strong infrastructure, strong emphasis on force protection, every effort to optimize success. In contrast, Afghan campaign waged on the cheap, few promotions, little in way of gear or support compared to Iraq, and little interest or effort to deal with the pol part of pol-mil in the region.

Making Wanat victim of our profound blunder in grand strategy and the ready acceptance by Army of the easier path. If we're learning lessons, let's study the corporate Army's top-level performance since first into Afghanistan.
12:52 AM ET
February 3, 2009
Iragq vs Afghanistan
Double posting - my bad.
12:31 PM ET
February 3, 2009
what is your point?

What is your point, or baseline criticism, in these postings?

What becomes clear from these reports, which you have yet to acknowledge, is that the Army has in fact learned and had ingrained into them the principles of pop-centric Counterinsurgency; an approach that you have been a huge advocate of in your writings over the past three years. In fact the report shows that the platoon and its higher headquarters were doing their damndest to follow those principles of population security, via living amongst the people even when it put them at tactical risk. I recall that one of the paradoxes of Coin as written in FM 3-24 says something like sometimes the more you protect yourself the less secure you are!! Well, can’t we acknowledge that that was exactly the principle these men were following?

It seems that you want it both ways. That you demand an Army that is transformed around the Coin principles of Galula; OK, you got that at Wanat. But then on the other hand when the Army has made that conversion you mire yourself down into the tactical details of the engagement but fail to acknowledge that at least demonstrated by the actions at Wanat the Army has become the Army that you seem to desire; aka the "Surge" Army. David Galula would have accepted what happened at Wanat as the price of doing business in population-centric Coin, why can’t you?
3:33 AM ET
February 9, 2009
Two-tailed COIN
Had this been an exercise of all-around COIN, the local government and the only national governmental entity on-site, the ANP, would have been actively engaged.

Active engagement of the ANP would have involved, first, a comprehensive district assessment including in inspection of the facilities (that means the arms room, too.) The leadership would have been evaluated, including their reliability. Biographical information would have been gathered; education, history, all of that stuff. Pictures would have been taken of the facilities and a sketch as well. The overabundance of weapons would have been apparent and red flags would have gone up all over the place.

The excess weapons would have been removed as well.

An investigation and interrogations would have followed immediately. Out of 20 ANP, there was likely a talker in the bunch. This may have blown the AAF plan to overrun the VPB. The removal of the weapons would surely have hampered the attack.

None of this was done.

Galula never advocated moving into an area and trying to engage the populace independent of the governmental agencies present. In COIN, the job is to make the government more legitimate, not supplant them. There were governmental security personnel in the area; but they were bad, and the only note on this early in the report (detailing the events leading up to the attack) is that they neglected to inform the Rock element of a Shura.

It was attempted COIN, perhaps, but there was no one to really engage the only local armed government force in the area. Doing this is an essential part of COIN.

This in no way takes away from the actions of the platoon. Engaging the ANP to the degree needed was simply not part of their job. There are special teams that are trained in this, but they were not available. You can bet that they were also not requested. It wasn't the platoon who failed in engaging the ANP.

This was a maneuver force-only attempt at pop-centric COIN and ignored some very basic principles of COIN. This is not a shining example of COIN done right that ended tragically. If anything, it is an example of men put into a situation without the tools needed to successfully engage the local governmental agencies that were in place already. The demonstration in the 15-6 that the ANP were complicit in the attack proves that this was a fatal mistake.

The fact that the 15-6 fails to identify this lack of appraisal of the local ANP while noting their complicity in the attack indicates that the Army that supposedly is so proficient at COIN didn't even recognize this key failure.

This was not what Galula would have done, nor would he have accepted this as the natural result of COIN done well.
3:38 PM ET
February 3, 2009
Gian's question
Thanks for reading the blog.

My point is to look at a series of questions about this small action. Many of those questions are raised by the Army's own 15-6 report.

Some of the questions have to do with counterinsurgency, and many do not. Yes, I do think that there is some evidence that the battalion was trying to use some principles of counterinsurgency, but there also is evidence that they were doing so incompletely, or even haphazardly, without a full grasp of the COIN approach, and probably without enough troops to do it.

I also think there are questions that go well beyond doctrine. Whatever the mission was, did they have enough people and resources to do it? Is this incident emblematic of the undersupported war in eastern Afghanistan?

Tom Ricks
3:58 AM ET
February 4, 2009
Damned if you Do - Damned if you Don't
6:00 AM ET
February 5, 2009
Keep writing
RockParatrooper, I'm sorry to see you removed your comments. Frankly, I thought they were the best part of this article. I hope you kept copies for yourself, at least.

Keep writing. For yourself, for posting, for publication, whatever. Just keep writing.
3:43 PM ET
February 5, 2009
Agreed. A lot of opinion and speculation here. RP's comments were factual and enlightening.
8:13 PM ET
February 5, 2009
a Waygul sort of war
Everyone in this string seems comforable with the redacted 15-6 'we was set up' narrative. Mr. Ricks called Wanat "an ambush".

The 'sudden' appearance of well led and potentially overwhelming enemy at VPB Wanat seems something of a brigade command excuse. If you accept the 'every Wanat building damaged, but no civilian casualties' part at face value, then villagers ought to have been seen leaving, with elderly, children and animals, bedding, food. My guess is that the Wanat OP reported such observations, and they were passed back to battalion. The 15-6 characterizes an elder evacuating his family from an adjacent 2-story house, and warning of an attack, as a generic, not useful. Yet the elder seemed to feel that his intel was actionable.

A half hour before the 4:30 am attack kicked off, 70 US and Afghan paratroops were geared up and dispersed in entrenched fighting positions on a 360ยบ perimeter. Charlie Company's captain ordered his 120mm mortar to fire on an exposed enemy maneuver element, in anticipation of imminent attack. As the mortar team was taking aim, the first rocket barrage came pouring in from close range, revealing enemy strength around the prerimeter. The captain then got 155 heavy artillery putting a (hopefully) prepared fire plan onto the Wanat grid, within three minutes of the initial attack. For certain a 'holy shit' way to meet the dawn, but CF paratroops weren't caught napping.

Stripped of The Rock's sacrifice, heroism and unacceptable casualties, the attack on Wanat VPB is more descriptive of a micro Khe Sanh than Pearl Harbor. Khe Sanh was fought on ground chosen by the defenders, a place the enemy would attack.

Was it surprising that the enemy exploited our aviation crew rotation cycle at dawn, hit before heavy engineering gear and troop reinforcements arrived, used their knowledge of physical and human terrain to press close before opening fire, concentrated men and weapons sufficient to even the odds? Yes. But an expected attack of surprising strength against our base is not the same as an ambush sprung on a patrol.

On p2, the 15-6 states

"The Freedom of movement experienced by the AAF in Waygul District would not be possible without the passive and active support of the local population and the weakness of the government"

The version of the report I can read makes no tribal or religious characterization of that population, or any Afghan group or player in the drama. It doesn't mention what I was told here on Mr. Rick's blog, that Wanat sits right on an active ethnic conflict line, where Pashtun's pushed into Nuristani land during the previous decades of war. If ethno-tribal divisions played absolutely no role in enemy recruiting of local support, or how the attack developed, THAT would be unusual, and worth remarking on. NO mention is either a display of ignorance, or a play on the ignorance of the reader.

Afghan gov't troops, the local gov't, AAF fighters, and Wanat collaboraors are all aware of tribal affiliations in their allies and opposition. It's as much a part of the picture as the ANA platoon at Wanat being 'paratroops', and mentored by marines.

Those Marine mentors, and The Rock Paratroops were getting local ethno-religious information on the enemy, and on Wanat's Nuristani scene, vs the Pashtun orientation around nearby Camp Blessing, where the company and QRF was based.

Did the Nuristanis see The Rock, the ANA paratroops, and the ANA Commandos as aligned with their down-valley Pashtun rivals? Was The Rock relying on Pashtun translators and intel? Given their earlier casualties incurred during pacification efforts up-valley, and deep mistrust of the Wanat ANP post, was the Nuristani end of the Waygul marked as a hostile population?

The one ultra-slim post-action characterization of the attackers that makes it into the 15-6 is of one 'foreign looking' body. A contributor here went for the inference, that meant Arab or Chechen Terrorist. Maybe yes, and deniably 'maybe.' But Nuristani's are noted for a diversity of eurasian appearances within a clan. 'Foreign looking' is a pretty weak sop, given the totality of ethnic intel that's being left out. Who's cammies did he wear underneath, and was his outer disguise Nuri or Pash?

What was the quality and origin of enemy ordnance, relative to other Rock engagements, and the arms surplus the Wanat ANP were maybe selling? "AAF" seems a thin and generic characterization, given the price TF Rock paid to hold the ground and sift the evidence for answers pointing back to an enemy base.

Before the Wanat combat, one of our survivors is quoted as hearing a local say 'bad people to the West, shoot them on sight' . The paratrooper must have been asking himself what tribal filter is generating the statement, and who the 'bad men' were. The significance of the quote turns on the nature and intent of the source, which is left out. Lots of scores to settle in Afghanistan, and nothing is more deniable than a US air or artillery strike. Our guys know that, and work at not being manipulated or misdirected.

Every version of the civil war matrix that has racked Afghanistan for the last 30 years has been defined by a differing regional, tribal and religious character of the factions. If a bad police chief or Wanat elder or ANA PL is not aligned with either the Pashtun or Nuristani, that's unusual and worth remarking on.

Is the 15-6 blind spot, the entho-religious 'don't ask, don't tell', a willful ignorance, indicative of strategic blindness? Or is it in the service of 'all loyal afghans welcome our support' political correctness, like the ever-missing enemy casualty estimate? (The Rock's mauled platoon wasn't balanced against 'you should have seen the other guys' estimates? Only friendly casualties and dead terrorists'are fit fare for home audience consumption.) Fine. But who were those guys we killed, that killed us?

I'm not suggesting that identities of Pashtun-Nuristani-Tajik-Korengali-Sunni-Shiite-Wahabi-Sufi tell the whole Wanat/Waygul story, or are more important to a platoon-company level combat than how to deal with tomorrow's attack. I am saying that a Bagram command-level 15-6 retelling of the combat environment that makes absolutely no mention of tribal-religious alingnments in the Waygul players is remarkable for that blind spot.

My reading tells me that strategic surprise or failure is often a product of strategic blindness. And just as often retold as lack of intel.

I'm reminded of the vignette of AQI arch-terrorist Zarqawi's near capture, in 2005. As he prepared to dive alone out of his car and evade the pursuit, the thing he asked his driver was 'What tribe runs this area?" TE Lawrence must have asked the same question many times. Every band he led, every hole they watered at, had a distinct tribal character. That is the knowledge Zarqawi needed to stay alive, find cover in the human terrain, and continue his war.

Tribal knowledge is vital to us, if it's vital to our enemy. It wasn't until our force in Anbar came to grips with the futility of continuing a war of attrition, were ALLOWED to exploit tribal knowledge and divisions. began to protect surviving Sunni Sawa, fighters who were openly hostile to the US occupation, that the war in that province turned the corner.

My assumption is that The Rock was aware and working within the tribal context, before and after Wanat, the way a top carpenter notes differences in his wood, at a glance. But the mission statement in Bagram's 15-6 comes very close to boiler-plate 'connect the population to Kabul, defeat AAF" language that could justify any mission. It goes 9/24 pages setting the stage for the battle, without so much as a tribal caveat or op-for AAF characterization. Is the command-staff writer in Bagram ignorant of Nuristan? Or is addressing 'what kind of war is this?' a subject where information control doctrine calls for preserving the ignorance of the readers?


HOME OF COMPANY B The United States operates remote firebases and outposts far from the main roads and cities, hoping to keep insurgents busy far away from much of the population. This is part of a defense-in-depth of blocking positions, or, as one colonel called them, Taliban magnets. Viper Company, which occupies the Korangal Outpost, in the most dangerous part of a highly unstable country, is one of those magnets. In many ways, Viper Company's area of operations is the American experience of rural Afghanistan in a microcosm: In every direction are small valleys, and within each are smaller canyons, a land of seams beyond measure, with each valley and hamlet a place where few Americans, if any, have stepped in years.

Uphill Company B walked, as the temperature dropped. Viper Shake had been planned as a roughly thirty-six-hour walk without sleep, beginning with a helicopter insert on this night from the outpost to the ridge and continuing through the next day, followed by a descent the following night down the mountain, with the hope of crossing the Korangal River and passing back into the outpost shortly after dawn. That last bit was essential. After several years of intense combat, local Afghans had scratched out fighting positions facing the approaches to the American lines. The company did not want to be caught in the low ground, trying to cross the river in the morning, when they might get raked with machine-gun fire from above. In a head-to-head fight, the insurgents were no match for the company. But if the company was caught down there, or midriver, many of its advantages would be gone.

Down was to be worried about later. Now Company B was going up. And as the minutes became hours, the soldiers were only beginning. The helicopters had picked up the company in the first hours of darkness. The pilots of transport helicopters do not like to fly in the Korangal Valley, and they rarely try by daylight because gunmen wait, armed with PK and DShK machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. They know the helicopters' routine. Two transport helicopters were downed in the valley in the past nine months. Now transport pilots prefer the night. Even then they arrive with Apache gunships as escorts, so that anyone daring to shoot risks a punishing response.

It had taken weeks to organize the operation. Company B runs several small positions in the valley, and since these positions could not be abandoned while the company worked outside the wire, the battalion had sent two extra platoons for Viper Shake. These soldiers had trickled in on recent night flights, and been ordered not to wander outside, because if spotters noticed that the outpost had been reinforced, they might suspect that Company B was about to push out for a fight. And so Company B had waited until nighttime, when the soldiers appeared and lined up in the dark, waiting for the hop onto Sawtalo Sar.

After the pickup, the helicopters had first flown to another ridge and pretended to land there — a second effort to deceive. If the spotters were not sure where the company had landed, their confusion might buy time and let the soldiers catch somebody unaware. And so it had gone. The soldiers were flown to one ridge, then another. On the second ridge the helicopters landed in a clearing, with door gunners looking over their weapons and shouting, "Go!" and everyone rose and ran out the back ramp and fanned out as the downblast and hot exhaust blew the brush flat and the helicopters lifted away. Now Company B walked, although no one had any idea whether the feint had worked. They were silently busy with other things, each man in his own mind, walking up a hill he could barely see. Talking on patrol is discouraged; the soldiers were silent. The moon had yet to rise, and they knew that when it did, it would be a sliver, which meant that all night the mountain would be so black that when a soldier switched off his night-vision device, he would see nothing except stars overhead through gaps in the trees.

A tour in the infantry, along with nine months in the Afghan mountains, was enough to condition any young man. The soldiers of Company B were almost all lean, sinewy even, and acclimated to the air. They knew the rhythms of this place. One of the platoons, 2nd Platoon, had been in ferocious contacts twice in recent days. First it had ambushed an Afghan patrol, killing at least thirteen armed men at close range. And then it had been ambushed itself, and fought its way out of the riverbed under fire from high ground on three sides. In nine months in the valley, 2nd Platoon's casualty rate was an even 50 percent; sixteen of the thirty-two original soldiers were no longer here. Four of those soldiers had been killed, including Private First Class Richard Dewater, who died in the first instant of the last fight, when the insurgents detonated a bomb beneath him on a trail.

Second Platoon had lingered in the landing zone after the rest of Company B filed off. A pilot had seen a pile of ammunition for a recoilless rifle as he had landed, a cache hidden by brush. The platoon had scoured the field. But in the blackness the soldiers found nothing. The company commander, Captain James Howell, ordered 2nd Platoon to rejoin the company, which was walking away. Once the platoon slipped into the forest and began to catch up, the captain directed an air strike onto the zone. Explosions roared behind them. Then the night was silent again.

The climb was not easy. The mud turned greasy as more soldiers walked through it. Traction was difficult to find; in places, each step could take a man backward, as the soil and snow gave way and he slid down. Branches swept the soldiers' faces. Some soldiers fell, cursing to themselves as they pulled themselves to their feet. A few suffered already from bum ankles and knees, and now some men straggled. An Air Force sergeant in the command group, who was carrying a pack heavy with communications gear, fell behind, too. Captain Howell backtracked and stood over the sergeant, who was bent forward, head low, hands on knees, panting, spent. The captain told him to remove the backpack and carry only his weapon and water. Then he swung the radio on his back and walked off, carrying the sergeant's equipment and his own.

Even without the pack, the man was too tired.

In all, as Company B was spread in a half-mile line along the ridge, three soldiers had become too exhausted to keep up. The captain listened to radio chatter; he realized these men would slow down the job. He called for a helicopter, which appeared within minutes, landed, and lifted the men away.

Three men down. The company moved on.

The problem with the United States' multiple missions is not that any of them is without merit, although each has had its mix-ups and flaws. The problem lies in the relationship of missions to one another. From 2002 to 2008, the American national-security establishment devoted the larger share of its intellectual and material resources to the war in Iraq. And predictably and surely, no one was able or empowered to make the Afghan missions cohere.

Many of the ensuing problems are natural to war. Even on the most simple patrol, soldiers disagree about how things should best be done. Add diplomats and politicians and salesmen and try to develop strategy for Afghanistan and disagreements creep into all manner of essential subjects, from the values versus the perils of air power to ways to deter the cultivation of poppy to the merits and means of democratization to the size and composition of the troop level to the best manner and locations to deploy units in the field. But the war's conduct has not suffered from only disagreements writ large. It has been undermined by disharmony. Various missions have fallen under various commands. Several NATO countries contributed forces with caveats and limits on their roles. And at the doctrinal level, the core question of how to put Western counterinsurgency theory into practice remains publicly unresolved. Even the term "Afghan war" is inadequate; the same war is being fought deep into Pakistan, where the rules change again.

No commander could be expected to juggle all of this to victory, especially in the years after Iraq exploded in violence and the message in Washington was that the United States had prevailed in Afghanistan and was running down the last few villains to mop up. Top officers rotated through the many Afghan commands. Central problems remained unresolved. By the time of Viper Shake, focus had swung back. And the current four-star, General David McKiernan, was rumored down to the level of the brigade officers to have been at odds with the brass in the United States. He was soon to be relieved, a sign that the United States was still struggling, at the highest levels, to shape itself to the work.