Team Rubicon

There are very few organizations or people in the world that do truly wonderful things without any expectation of recognition of personal reward.  Team Rubicon is one of the magnificent few.

Team Rubicon is a Disaster Response Veteran Service Organization.  As in responding to disasters in places like the typhoon wracked islands of the Philippines, Haiti, Chile, Burma, Pakistan, Sudan, and in the United States.  They are a growing group of dedicated veterans who bring the skills they learned in uniform (things like flexibility, teamwork, leadership, work ethic, dedication, sense of duty and commitment to duty) to a new form of warfare: fighting against the disasters that ravage communities and threaten the lives of innocent men, women, and children.

They are incredibly agile, and are often among the first relief and assistance agencies to hit the ground.  The credit for such agility is the committed deployability of the members of the team; they have all answered the call to arms for their nation and in doing so have become incredibly motivated, proactive, and prepared to grab their gear and catch a flight to wherever in the world disaster strikes.

Today they are conducting Operation SEABIRD in the Philippines at the same time that Operation HONEST ABE is underway to help with the damage wrought by the tornadoes that blew through the region this past weekend. To say that they do amazing work is an understatement of epic proportions.  They are the best our country has to offer, continuing to serve after hanging up the cloth of the nation.

My hat’s off to them.

To learn more, go to their website.  Also, here is a link to a great story in Stars and Stripes.

Good news for Guard and reserve members about retirement

Here is a good news story about Guard and reserve retirement from the Army Times:

Senators take new crack at expanding reserve retirement credit

Good stuff.  Not all the news about military pay and benefits is bad!

Military retirement benefits and budget cuts

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced this past weekend that the service chiefs have agreed to a plan that would reign in the unprecedented expansion in servicemember’s benefits.  Not particularly surprising, really. As the wars come to an end the enticements that have been used to recruit and retain an all volunteer force become less affordable than they were before.  During the Global War on Terror, millions of young men and women entered the armed forces, and a great many of them deployed overseas to fight for the nation.

The goodwill that the nation felt towards the military, coupled with the real need for expansion, resulted in tremendous growth in terms of pay and benefits for those in uniform.  Countless millions of dollars have been spent on education, health, housing, and other benefits that were either not in existence before the wars began or grew exponentially in scope and cost.

That cost has become prohibitive, however.  In the words of General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

“What we have asked these young men and women to do over the last 10 years, we can’t pay them enough.  Having said that, we also have an institution to manage.”

The chairman also pointed out the cost in real terms.  The DOD spends approximately half of its annual budget on personnel, and if things continue on as projected the cost will grow another ten percent.  It is untenable for the military to function with 60 cents from every dollar spent on the people who make up the military.

The good news, though, is that the current retirement plan will not be affected.  At least not for people in uniform currently that is.  It may very well change in the future, but it is for the moment safe from the budgetman’s axe.

At any rate, the “peace dividend” of the end of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will come at the expense of the Department of Defense.  It seems like the Joint Chiefs have finally realized the incontrovertable truth that with the end of war comes the lack of desire to pay for the military that fought it.  It is not a bad thing that the military retracts when there are no wars to fight, but the retraction must be thoughtfully done.

I just hope that those who make such decisions ensure that the military is ready for the next war.

And there is always another war.



TRICARE service centers to close soon

During my transition from active duty to the civilian world I found myself in the position of deciding just how I would procure health insurance for my family and I.  As a uniform wearing Marine my healthcare was covered by the local aid station, clinic, or hospital, but once I hung it all up that option vanished when my ID card switched from “Active” to “Retired”.

I have never had to make such a decision before; after all, medical care was part of the benefits package for those in uniform.  Fortunately, at my local Naval Hospital there was a TRICARE service center.  In the TRICARE service center was a real live human being who was both cheerful and helpful, and after spending a half hour or so with her I was able to make the right decisions and sign up for TRICARE Prime so that both my family and I would be covered once my HMMWV chariot turned into a pumpkin.

Unfortunately, that service center and the 188 others that are spread across the continental United States will be closing next year.  They will be replaced by a call center.  Although TRICARE states that customers will receive better service by calling a 1-800 number I somehow doubt it.  There is nothing like sitting down with a real person to get your questions fully answered.

Sadly the cheerful and helpful lady who helped me out will likely be out of a job next year.  Although TRICARE administrators project a $250 million savings by cutting the centers, the cost in terms of jobs and true customer satisfaction are going to be high.

At least in my humble opinion.

It’s here! Orders to Nowhere is now a book!

It’s finally here!  The first edition of Orders to Nowhere is available in print.  It will be six to eight weeks before it shows up in bookstores, and a week or so before it hits  If you want to avoid the wait, you can order it straight from the printer by clicking the cover:

Orders to Nowhere

Since you are a loyal reader and follower of the blog that got it all started, you can use the discount code ZVGYFQ28 and save 10% off the cover price.

Thank each and every one of you for reading and following my journey through transition!

A tragic but true story of a Marine in trouble

This morning a friend emailed me a link to a particularly disturbing story.  It is a very well written blog post  in the New York Times that provides an unusually unvarnished look into the dark pit that is PTSD.

There are plenty of articles and blog posts about PTSD bouncing around the internet, but this one is compelling in a way that so many others are not.  In this post the author candidly and openly describes how he attempted to end his own life because the lingering effects of his wartime experiences on his psyche.  He takes the reader with him as he writes the note that his wife will find with his cold and lifeless body and as he swallows an entire bottle of pills.

I won’t give the whole article away because it is too well written and too insightful for my humble efforts to recount it.  You can read it here.  I will say that it is an articulate indictment of how this Marine was treated by his supposed leaders when he reached out for help; if his treatment is indicative of how others are treated when they try to overcome PTSD while still in uniform then a lot of so called “leaders” need to look long and hard in the mirror.

They are not leaders.  They are anything but, and are a wretched example of what some implacable and soulless men and women in positions of responsibility can do to those that they have been entrusted to lead.