The “JV Team” is at it again

afghan-bombing

Afghan security personnel stand guard near the site of a suicide bombing at Shash Darak in Kabul on Saturday. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)

Odd this sort of thing is happening when the last administration insisted ISIS was on the run, eh?

Look, I know I have a sour view on this matter given my background and the fact that my son is deploying to that hell hole in a matter of weeks for the second time, but really:  What kind of clown declares a war “ended”?  Wars are won, or they are lost – They are not simply “ended” (see: “Peace with honor” – A fancy way to say “we give up, even though we could win with 45 days focused effort”).

It’s my wife’s birthday celebration dinner at the Brazilian steakhouse tonight, I’m sure this will put a damper on things.  Hell, it’s getting to the point where I’m ashamed to wear any of my old army unit T-shirts, qualification T-Shirts, lapel pins, or baseball hats.  It isn’t the soldiers I’m losing confidence in…It’s their leadership.  I gave the army over 20 years of my life, and now I’m on the sidelines watching force effectiveness wither away and die.  That’s a horrible feeling.

Leaders take longer to train and deploy than soldiers do.  We’re in for some rough times yet to come in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria (not to mention Iran), and politicians and the brass just aren’t talking about it, easier not to mention it and chase pet projects instead.

Disgusting.

A suicide bomber killed at least two and wounded seven in an attack claimed by the group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the diplomatic area of Afghanistan’s capital on Saturday, and at least 18 soldiers died in an attack on a checkpoint by Taliban insurgents in the country’s west, authorities said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said the Kabul attack took place in the Shash Darak area near NATO headquarters and not far from the U.S. Embassy. Danish said the initial casualty count could rise.

ISIS in a statement on its website claimed responsibility.

In western Farah province, at least 18 soldiers were killed when their checkpoint came under attack by Taliban insurgents, said Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the defence ministry. He said two other soldiers were wounded in the attack in the Bala Buluk district.

Two weeks to re-adjust

Still not sure if I’ll be living in Cambridge or Tampa, but as I hand off my projects here and join conference calls with my new employer, there’s a sense of palpable relief in just falling back into the old jargon.

Most folks who shoot consistently well, regardless of wind direction / velocity, target movement. etc., etc., etc. have two things in common: They practice a LOT, and they are able to shut everything but the mechanics of the shot out of their heads.  So, who practices shooting a LOT, and can erase that last missed mortgage payment from their minds for the time necessary?

Steely-eyed killers (and we have a lot of them, and need even more) come from all four services – Every Marine is a rifleman, Marine Force Recon have their own snipers, every Army Infantryman is a rifleman, every Army Ranger an expert marksman (and the Rangers have snipers as well), and the fellows at SFOD-D (the Army Special Forces’ Delta Force) and the Navy SEAL teams can make shots no one would believe possible…They do it every day.

These men are often sent on long assignments away from their families, and spend time in small teams, the members of whom become very close.  We say and do things to each other that make normal people react in horror, for example, a Captain at Fort Ord who lived next to us, also branched Infantry, but assigned to the new Air Assault School the 7th ID stood up when they couldn’t get soldiers through the Army’s Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, grinned every time he saw me throwing my ruck and gear in the car.  “Goin’ out?  Field Problem or down South?  Don’t worry, I’ll take care of your wife and my kids while you’re gone.”

Well, those, in my youth, would have been fightin’ words…But things like that, and much worse, are commonly tossed around barracks, housing, barbecues, you name it.  It’s nothing but reverse psychology, really…In order to prove you trust your men to cover your back under fire, you have to prove you know they don’t really mean what they are saying.

So yeah, it’s stupid macho stuff, but it keeps morale up and increases unit cohesion, so huzzah.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I’ve noticed on my past couple of calls with my new team that the same sort of vernacular is used…And many of us know each other from working together previously or by reputation, so one is on the hot seat right away.

I’m going to have to work on my trash talking.

This is how we take care of our veterans?

I think I’m going to be violently ill:

In December, doctors at a VA hospital in Oregon decided to admit an 81-year-old patient. He was dehydrated, malnourished, plagued by skin ulcers and broken ribs — in the medical professionals’ opinion, he was unable to care for himself at home. Administrators, however, overruled them.

Was there no bed for this poor man? No, the facility had plenty of beds; in fact, on an average day, more than half of the beds are empty, awaiting patients. Was there no money or medicine to care for him? No, and no. Reporting by the New York Times suggests that Walter Savage was, perversely, turned away because he was too sick. Very sick patients tend to worsen the performance measures by which VA hospitals are judged.

If this had happened in isolation, we could simply gape at the monstrosity that bureaucracies are occasionally capable of.

But such examples abound in health care. For example, in the 1990s, New York and Pennsylvania started publishing mortality data on hospitals and surgeons who did coronary bypasses. The idea was that more informed consumers would steer themselves toward the teams with the better statistics — theoretically good for patients, bad for slacking providers. The reality was less ideal: In those states, surgeons seem to have started doing more operations on healthier patients, while turning away the sickest ones who might otherwise have benefited.

From this we can take a few lessons. The first is one that has been well-known to other sorts of businesses: What you measure is what you get, not necessarily what you want. In fact, if your measurement is badly designed, you may get a great deal of something you don’t want.

Like I often say, veterans often enter the VA, but they rarely come out.  Thank God for Tricare.