MILITARY RESERVE PAY AND BENEFITS UNDER ATTACK

Citizen Soldiers. Weekend Warriors. Chairborne Rangers. Warrior Citizens.

We’ve heard them all, and say them to each other on occasion, but seriously, most folks haven’t a clue what the differences are between Active Duty and Reserve Component soldiers.

Military Reserve Pay And Benefits Are Under Attack

The similarities are easier to explain. We train to the same standards; all serve when called; put the mission first; bleed red blood; and write the same blank check to the American People for our lives, livelihoods, personal safety and comfort.

Why is it then, when it’s time to remunerate those of us who dedicate ourselves to the defense and honor of our great nation, that some wish to reduce, alter, and desanctify our compensation? The Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation wants to do just that, saying recently that Reserve soldiers are “over paid.”

Leaders of the Congressionally chartered Reserve Officers Association recently met with the Review panel in an effort to explain how Reserve soldiers are in fact UNDERPAID compared to Active Duty soldiers.

I am $201,600 less valuable than an Active Duty soldier who may never have served in a combat zone.

They pointed out that when all the numbers are crunched and a Pay-to-Work ratio establishedReserve soldiers are paid LESS than Active soldiers. Reserve soldiers also receive fewer benefits and tend not to live close enough to military bases to take advantage of services and amenities those bases offer Active soldiers and their families. Retired pay for Reserve soldiers cannot be collected until age 60, whereas Active soldiers can draw retired pay immediately upon serving 20 years of honorable service.

The Congressional Budget Office is squeezing Reserve compensation by recommending reductions such as capping military pay raises, retired pay reduced by the amount granted in tax relief (called concurrent relief), narrowing eligibility for Veterans Administration compensation, and by targeting “Individual Unemployablity” benefits.

President Obama is pushing to reduce Tri-Care health coverage for Reserve soldiers and wants more base closings, which continued sequestration would almost certainly require. These two things make health care services for Reserve veteran soldiers less and less accessible.

Military Reserve Pay And Benefits Are Under Attack

Again, are Reserve Component soldiers less important? If so, why not just come out and say it and then see what happens to retention and morale, and subsequently our nation’s ability to provide adequate defense?

Reserve soldiers make up the majority of combat support and combat service support units in the Army, such as Military Police, medical, transportation and logistics units. In other words, without the Reserve Components the capability and integrity of our Army would be fatally compromised.

We gave up careers, left our families, and disrupted our civilian lives for the cause of preserving freedom and liberty in the Global War on Terror. I was forced to change jobs before leaving for a 14-month mobilization to Iraq in 2004-2005 – that job was eventually eliminated by my employer and I was told when I returned, “you’re not here enough.”

I now earn half of what I would have been earning and instead of less than a five-mile commute to work each day I travel over 100 miles round trip. Gasoline and wear-and-tear on my 10-year-old vehicle alone costs me over $6,000 per year. And let’s not forget the two-and-a-half hours per day I spend on the road is time I am not with my wife and five children – who, in my opinion, suffered enough from my absences during my three mobilization deployments since Sept. 1, 2001.

I retired from the Reserves in 2008 after 22 years of honorable service at the age of 46. Under the current law I cannot draw retired pay until after turning 60. Were I an Active Duty soldier I could have begun drawing retired pay immediately upon retirement.

In my case, because I am a reserve component “gray area” retiree, compared with the Active Duty, I lose 14 years of earning potential. At $1,200 per month (my estimated retired pay), I lose $14,400 per year, which is $201,600 over 14 years. That means, I am $201,600 less valuable than an Active Duty counterpart who may never even have served in a combat zone.

If you are a Reserve Component (Reserve or National Guard) soldier, spouse, dependent, parent, or concerned American, please contact the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (to write, P.O. Box 13170, Arlington, VA 22209, or call, 703-692-2080), which is collecting comments in an effort to recommend changes to current Reserve Component compensation. Let your voice be heard that Reserve soldiers are every bit as valuable and important to our national defense than are Active Duty soldiers, and every bit as human.

 

“Fair” Trials for Terrorists Threaten Americans

Abu Anas al-Libi, suspected Al-Qaeda leader, was grabbed in a military raid in Libya on Oct. 5. He’s due to stand trial as an accused civilian criminal in a Manhattan Federal Court, where he has been under indictment for more than a decade on charges he helped plan and conduct surveillance for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, in which 212 people were killed and over 4,000 wounded, including 12 Americans KIA.
When, as an Army Reservist I was activated for duty in 2002, 2003 and 2004, my military orders included the phrase “in support of the Global War on Terror,” and mentioned the atrocities on 9/11/01. Our history of prosecuting war criminals from our first war, through the Civil War and WWII, have been clear and simple, and for over 100 years supported by international law (Geneva Conventions) and our operative version of Geneva, called The Law of Land Warfare, or the modern Army Field Manual 27-10 (http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/dr_a/pdf/fm27_10.pdf). These documents give guidance and regulation to how we treat enemy Prisoners of War (lawful combatants and protected persons), and are clear about not giving legal privileges and protections to those who do not follow the law (unlawful combatants). These documents inform repeatedly that those found in violation of the law can be “prosecuted” and then “executed.”
The Geneva Conventions were written in part to protect innocent civilians in time of war, not to protect those who PRETEND to be civilians in order to MURDER them. It’s not that the Taliban and al Qaeda can’t afford uniforms of their own, one of the requirements in lawful conflict, it’s that they don’t want you to see them coming, and want us to believe they are merely innocent goat herders. It’s as if they want to be able to run onto the ball field from the stands at any time, murder an opposing player, and then disappear back into the crowd. And when security comes to take them away they say “it wasn’t me!” They lawyer up, play the system, and then go back to killing Americans.
Human Rights First (http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/USLS-Fact-Sheet-Courts.pdf) brags that “Federal civilian criminal courts have convicted nearly 500 individuals on terrorism-related charges since 9/11.” And that “Federal prisons hold more than 300 individuals convicted of terrorism-related offenses.” But they don’t mention what happened to the other nearly 200 convicted terrorists! Can we assume they are free on American soil? If prosecuted and then convicted, could al-Libi be set free someday on Main Street U.S.A.?
At least the over 600 Gitmo detainees who’ve been released so far are not suspected of being on our shores, but the over 28% combined recidivism rate amongst these released Gitmo detainees (http://www.lawfareblog.com/2013/09/september-2013-guantanamo-recidivism-report-from-dni/) is no comfort, especially to the loved ones of those killed in the Benghazi attack (led by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Sufian bin Qumu), which left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
When I was deployed to Guantanamo Bay in early February 2002, just months after 9/11/01, my Army Reserve enemy prisoner of war liaison detachment was prepared to participate in military tribunals to determine the status of Gitmo detainees fresh off of planes from Afghanistan, where most of the first detainees had participated in a deadly but failed prison uprising which claimed the first American life in our retaliation for 9/11, CIA operative Johnny Michael Spann. Instead, the principle of “lawfare,” or the exploitation of the American justice system by detainees, their lawyers, sympathizers and apologists in order to manipulate American political will (which also caused disruption of U.S. military detention operations), took hold.
Today, the Military Commissions Act of 2009, the current legal policies governing the prosecution of accused war criminals in the Global War on Terror, affords unlawful combatant Islamist detainees virtually the SAME RIGHTS as you or I would enjoy were we in a Federal Court of Law (http://www.mc.mil/ABOUTUS/LegalSystemComparison.aspx). Even though the Geneva Conventions and Law of Land Warfare, created to protect innocent civilians during war, offer NO extra-legal privileges for those who break the law.
The Obama administration has taken the disposition of Global War on Terror suspected war criminals to an absurd level, not only allowing them to remain in the stadium, but giving them luxury boxes and rain-check tickets for a repeat performance, and are continuing to put American lives at risk by bringing the latest and greatest al Qaeda suspect to U.S. shores, when he should be at Gitmo receiving a professional interrogation from our best and brightest.
Urban myths about the treatment of Gitmo detainees are now vernacular, especially amongst the “low information” crowd who rarely dig deeper than their news feed sound bites provide, but the truth is that although over 600+ Guantanamo Bay detainees have been released, none have been executed, beheaded, hacked to death, blown up or dragged naked and lifeless through the streets. In contrast, the only U.S. prisoner held by Taliban or al Qaeda believed not to have had his head slowly removed from his body by a long jihadi knife, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, missing since June, 2009, remains a mystery. Where are Amnesty International, the ACLU and other so-called “human rights” organizations on Sgt. Bergdahl? Why won’t the mainstream media or Barack Hussein Obama even show his face or demand his release?
I know from my 22 years as a military member and over 9 years of service as an Army officer with an enemy prisoner of war liaison detachment, the best way to obtain valuable information from enemy suspects is to convince them that unless they cooperate they will remain in detention. Which, according to the Geneva Conventions is legal. Even lawful combatant POWs may be held, without charge, “until the end of hostilities.” This is not “indefinite detention,” as some would complain; no more indefinite than a baseball game in extra innings. In theory, the game could go on endlessly, but it never does, and neither would unlawful combatant detainees be held “forever.” We need to redouble our efforts to take away our enemy’s means and will to fight and kill us. Until then, the finest military detention facility in the world is ready, willing and able to take care of and provide opportunities for unlawful combatants to help end the Global War on Terror.

Releasing The Enemy Won’t Help Win Our Struggle Against Islamists

There has been criticism of the military medical staff at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, over the ordered release earlier this month of Ibrahim Idris, a native of Sudan who has been held as an unlawful combatant at Gitmo for over 11 years.

Idris was captured with al Qaeda fighters in 2001. Shortly after arriving at Guantanamo in 2002, he was diagnosed by a U.S. Army psychiatrist as being schizophrenic. Islamist apologists are seizing on this gesture of humanitarian compassion and practical military efficiency by saying Idris should have been medically released soon after his diagnosis.

What the al Qaeda fighter’s apologists and sympathizers don’t realize is that two entities must recommend release of a detainee who may be suffering from a medical condition which may render him less of a threat to repeat his aggression against the United States, one is the medical command (not just at Gitmo, but at the highest levels of the U.S. Army Medical Department (AMEDD)), and the other is the intelligence command.

Back in 2002, when I was serving at Guantanamo Bay as the ranking AMEDD officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group (JDOG), Joint Task Force (JTF) 160, I was selected to participate in the very first repatriation of a Gitmo detainee, an Uzbek Afghani national named Abdul Razeq.

We nicknamed Razeq “Wild Bill,” due to his bizarre behavior in Camp X-Ray, where he would take bites out of his flip-flops, hang objects from his genitals, and generally cause frequent verbal disruptions. Eventually, the military medical staff diagnosed Razeq as schizophrenic, but, by his own admission to me, during a long break in his release journey to the Leeward airport at Guantanamo, Razeq offered another source for his symptoms.

Razeq admitted to being a heroin addict who had picked up an AK-47 in the fall of 2001 for the Taliban in order to sustain his habit. Some of the bizarre behavior, as it turned out, was due to his violent withdrawal from his heroin addiction.

But this behavior and diagnosis alone were not sufficient to get him a trip back to Afghanistan. He had to be declared not only a low risk of returning to the enemy, but also had to be determined not to be of any further intelligence value. Lastly, even if these two criteria are established, the country from which the detainee originated, or his national country of origin, must be able and willing to take him back.

The Sudan, in Idris’ case, was not a stable enough place in the past for him to be returned to, and still may not be. The Geneva Conventions stipulate that even lawful combatant Prisoners of War (POWs) may be held without charge, “until the end of hostilities.” During WWII the U.S. held over 400,000 German and Italian lawful combatant POWs without one call for extra legal privileges for them, or for medical releases back to their countries of origin. Even now, with a combined 28.9% recidivism rate (reported by the Director of National Intelligence, September 2013 http://www.lawfareblog.com/2013/09/september-2013-guantanamo-recidivism-report-from-dni/) of confirmed and suspected recidivists amongst released Gitmo detainees, it may not be wise to release any of the Gitmo detainees who aren’t facing war crimes charges in the Military Commissions there.

How much more blood on his hands will it take before the domestic threat of Islamist terror hits home for Barack Hussein Obama (Boston, Ft. Hood, 13 defeated terror plots on Manhattan alone)? How many more recidivists (Abu Sufian bin Qumu, alleged mastermind of the Benghazi jihadi attack, and former Gitmo detainee) will it take before he realizes we are in a war with Islamists who want us all dead and not in a game of “Capture the Flag?”

Idris may be harmless now, and I appreciate why he was released, but why take that chance while the Global War on Terror (GWOT) still rages? This fantasy that Islamist terrorists should be treated like common criminals and then arbitrarily released is literally killing us, and feeding the flames of Arab uprisings and civil wars (Egypt, Syria, et. al.).

Giving up the high ground in the GWOT by abandoning Iraq, in the face of overwhelming success of keeping the peace by keeping troops in the countries we liberated and defeated in WWII, was perhaps the President’s most myopic and deadly foreign policy blunder to date, which has grown from ripples of internal Middle East strife, into a tsunami of destabilization in the region today.

Today, we have troops in over 70 countries in our struggle with Islamists who want to kill us, including Germany, Japan and Italy, countries we defeated in WWII and who are now world economic leaders, peaceful, and prosperous because we stayed, economically and militarily. Leaving Afghanistan would seal the fate of that region to the Iranians, Taliban and al Qaeda, just like throwing Iraq to those wolves has done.

When will we learn from our past in a way that teaches every new generation that the only way to truly defeat an enemy is to take away the means and will for them to fight? Sun Tzu, author of “The Art of War,” said, “100 victories in 100 battles is not the most skillful, subduing the enemy’s military without battle is the most skillful.” We cannot hope to influence the enemy “without battle” if we are not willing to remain close enough to him to do so. And we certainly can’t hope to do that by releasing more than 600 from our military detention facility, only to meet them again on the battlefield and on our streets. “Until the end of hostilities,” is soon enough for me.

America Loves Defending What’s Right In A Fight

Barack Hussein Obama began his speech on national security by saying “Americans are deeply ambivalent about war.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In defending what’s right, Americans love a good fight. It’s what makes us who we are. The “ugly American” abroad has always come through on the battlefield, and it’s only been politics and the media who have defeated the greatest fighting force the world has ever known. In his speech on May 23, at the National Defense University, the President wanted us to believe that we could win the War on Terror simply be staying the course, wrapping up here and there, and that everything would be as it was “prior to 9/11.” Really? And prior to 9/11 we were safe? Whilst Islamist extremists, especially al Qaeda were strengthening, and we were turning a blind eye to multiple attacks on our ships, embassies and personnel, the threat grew. I have never doubted that the “tip of the spear” in the Global War on Terror has been our special forces & the CIA, our Shadow Warriors & Spooks, as it should be. But these bravest of Americans need a support system. We need the power and influence to suppress adversaries, and we need it close to where the bad guys are. We needed to keep bases in Iraq, instead the President threw that country to the wolves – Iran, al Qaeda and other Islamists – who are now supporting the Assad regime in Syria, and further destabilizing Iraq. We need to maintain bases in Afghanistan, which is poised to rise as the regional leader in democracy, long into the future. We need better relations with Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, and other countries in the region so as to maintain the pressure on Islamist groups there and in surrounding areas. Our forces need logistical power projection platforms from which to launch and then support freedom-fighting missions. The President failed to mention we have troops in 70 countries, CIA operatives in over 90 countries and Diplomatic Security Service agents in over 200 countries world wide, all with one thing on their plates: defend the interests of the United States of America. The days of huge battlefields and tremendous casualties and destruction are virtually over. The fight is now played out on the Internet, in remote locations, and in limited ways on the streets of our great cities. Saying we should be concerned about a “legacy problem” instead of turning up the heat on our adversaries speaks only to our president’s desperation to build his own legacy, not that for our children. Saying the military detention facility at Guantanamo “has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law,” and that “our allies won’t cooperate with us if they think a terrorist will end up at Gitmo,” is cheap brinkmanship about a place and process that, before his meandering legal giveaway to unlawful combatants of extra legal privileges they did not deserve in the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2009, is completely legal, moral and ethical. The same laws, policies and procedures that were in place at Gitmo when it opened in late 2001 – early 2002, were virtually unchanged since the Second World War, when from capture to execution it took the government about four weeks to prosecute 8 German saboteurs caught dry-foot on U.S. soil, using a Supreme Court approved Military Commission and having suspended habeas corpus for the enemy. In WWII, the U.S. held over 400,000 lawful combatant POWs without one call for extra legal privileges for them, and they were all released, as per the law, when hostilities ended. The same happened in 1991, when after a brief but hard fought First Gulf War against Iraq, we released thousands of lawful combatant Iraqi POWs within days after the end of hostilities. The Geneva Conventions and Law of Land Warfare were written to protect innocent civilians in time of war, not to protect those who would pretend to be civilians in order to murder them. The laws still apply, but because of the 2009 MCA all detainees enjoy the same legal protections you or I would have in a Federal Court of Law. Detainees charged with war crimes enjoy the presumption of innocence, and the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of conviction. Non government organizations count higher body counts of civilians killed in war, by conventional as well as by drone technology, because our enemies don’t wear uniforms, rank, or carry their weapons openly; they are in effect “civilians” to anyone who lays eyes on them. But the reality is they are unlawful combatants, flauting the rule of law and manipulating it and those who sympathize with them in order to bend the political will of the Unites States and anyone else who will listen. The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is not a person. It is a place, and no matter how hard they try, Pagan utilitarian humanist Islamist apologists and terrorists cannot change the fact that it is also legal, humane and ethical. Self-starving Gitmo detainees are using a known al Qaeda detention disruption technique in an effort to manipulate U.S. political will. There are no U.S. military medical protocols that authorize us to allow detainees to hurt themselves. And in fact, they will tell you that the point of their self-starvation is not to die, but to gain sympathies, and these sympathies are aimed at manipulating U.S. government political will in order to effect their release so that they can get back into the fight. There is a documented recidivism rate of released Gitmo detainees of at least 27%. One of these recidivists, known as Bin Qumu, led the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya. This is unacceptable. Knowing this, and knowing the probability that many of the current Gitmo detainees “cleared” for release will return to Islamist extremism once let go, doing so would be tantamount to giving the enemy aid and comfort – treason. The comments from the President on Guantanamo are misguided at best, and treasonous at worst. Not only do we have to fight and stay one step ahead of an insidious enemy, but we must do so with one hand tied behind our back because of our President’s relentless assault on our proven, legal, moral, and ethical operation at Guantanamo Bay. Gitmo needs to remain open as long as we continue our struggle with Islamist extremists. We need to maintain as many bases around the world as is necessary to support our clandestine and overt operations. We need to take and then hold the high ground in the Global War on Terror, such as maintaining good working relationships for military bases (back) in Iraq and in Afghanistan; like we still have in countries we defeated in WWII, such as Germany, Japan, and Italy. We are strong, we are winning, and now we need to close the battle with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and groups that support and mimic them. Keeping Gitmo open and then using the base to prosecute through military commissions those who are suspected of war crimes, and to keep other detainees out of the fight until hostilities end, just like the International laws on warfare stipulate we may do even if the detainees were lawful combatant POWs, will allow us to live in peace. Americans love defending what’s right in a fight, but even more, we love to win!

Keep Gitmo Open

Gitmo remains the best, safest, most secure place for unlawful combatant Islamist extremists who want to kill us. 9/11/01 REALLY happened. 13 terrorist attack attempts on Manhattan were REALLY thwarted. A terrorist attack inside Ft. Hood, Texas, REALLY took place. Benghazi REALLY happened. We are at war, a Global War on Terror/struggle against Islamist extremists. And until al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other terrorist/extremists put their hands up and their weapons down, and promise never to kill or harm or destroy again, we will remain at war. Gitmo is a legal, professional and appropriate place for detainees, and calling for its closure gives aid and comfort to the enemy, and clouds the serious purpose of the finest military detention facility in the world.

Apologize for burning Qurans?

(Author’s note: The following is an unedited response of mine to an editorial recently published in my regional newspaper. Here’s a link to the edited version published in Newsday on 3/7/12 http://www.newsday.com/opinion/letters/letters-pulling-out-of-afghanistan-1.3583573 )

Dear Editor,

Your editorial in the Tuesday, February 28 issue of Newsday, titled “Afghanistan: Get out soon; Quran burning, killings of U.S. soldiers underscore hostilities between ‘allies,’” makes it sound as if we don’t have troops in 70 other countries, CIA in over 90 countries, and Diplomatic Security Service in over 200 countries, in our struggle against Islamist extremists.  Iraq and Afghanistan amount to the high ground in this struggle, much like Germany and Japan were the high ground in World War II.  Would you have us leave those places, too?

The fact is there are still many people out there who very much want to kill us.  Our ability to project power and influence through places like Afghanistan help keep us safe here in the U.S., just like staying in Germany helped protect us against the Soviet threat, and a presence in Japan helps us deter a Chinese threat.  Our presence in those two countries allowed them to rebuild, retool, and focus on social and infrastructure priorities, while we subsidized, and still do subsidize their defense.

There is now pressure from NATO to invade Syria to stop the now year-long bloodshed; the death toll of innocent victims approaches nearly twice that of all the American deaths associated with ten years of battle in Iraq.  Since Barack Hussein Obama insisted on an untimely withdrawal from neighboring Iraq to please a hungry election year electorate, we now have no adjacent physical military presence with which to directly influence the ongoing tragedy there, or with Iran.  Our troops in Afghanistan dwindling and scheduled for full withdrawal, have no hope of influencing actions in Iran, which threaten to worsen, and invites an Israeli pre-emptive strike.

As for the desecrated Quran burnings, you know, but did not put in your editorial, that detainees had written in the books, which is strictly forbidden in Muslim teachings and against camp rules.  Although it is permissible to burn a damaged Quran, it is not preferable, and would require “rubbing out” references to Allah, His Angels and His Messengers before burning.  The Qurans had been deemed classified material because of the detainee writings in them, and were probably therefore scheduled to be destroyed along with other classified documents.

While serving at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2002, I received briefings on the Muslim faith, which included cursory information on the proper handling of the Quran, but they did not include how to properly dispose of one.  Such details would be left for the U.S. Navy Muslim Chaplain on duty there.  I doubt the soldiers tasked with disposing of the books had any clue what they were doing would upset anyone.

I agree that we should apologize for inadvertently desecrating the Quran, precisely when all Taliban and al Qaeda apologize for every single American and other innocent human being they have killed, from Marine CPL Stephen Crowley, a Long Island native, and U.S. Embassy Guard in Islamabad, Pakistan, the first American casualty in the Global War on Terror, killed on November 21, 1979, to the victims of 9/11/01, whose numbers keep growing from the hazards of the response and clean-up at the World Trade Center, to Daniel Pearl’s video taped beheading, to the execution of the two U.S. Army officers you mention in your editorial.  When they do that, we should apologize for the books, not before.

The reality is that al Qaeda and the Taliban and their ilk will never apologize for anything they do.  As the Barbary Pirates before them, they are set on death and destruction in order to influence weaker forces into their realm of influence.  The murderous Islamist extremist protestors in this case have seized the President’s premature and unwarranted apology as a weakness, and have exploited it with the help of a traitorous media.  In what sane world to we excuse the murder of innocent people because of the incineration of paper?  Sincere religious followers understand that the sins of an individual are atoned between that person and their God, not avenged through a murderous crowd or individual.

NOTE: I am a three times mobilized retired U.S. Army Reserve Major, who served in Cuba and Iraq, and am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior.”

It was cold. Desert cold.

It was cold.  Desert cold.  Probably in the low 70’s, but after a day near 100 in the shade, it was cold.  Some wore their uniform to the shower, some went in PT’s.  Almost all went wearing flip-flops.

There is no light (light discipline, don’t you know?).  You cannot see.  You’ve been this route so many times before you could do it with your eyes closed, so it doesn’t really matter.  Your body is on auto-pilot anyway, counting the steps without you, and then up the stairs of the trailer (you’re lucky; on this FOB you have a trailer).  Your arm reaches up, your hand turns the knob and FLASH!  You’re blinded by the light.

The trailer is air conditioned.  You freeze.  Shivering, you wait for the water to warm up.  It never does.  You suck it up, quickly poking in, and then out of the water.  You soap up.  Liquid ice rinses you off . . . until: “Hey, that’s not cold.” “Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!!!”

The scalded parts of your body are red.  As you stumble out of the trailer, and the door self-closes behind you, you almost fall down the stairs because now you are completely blind.  The large gravel hurts under your flimsy .99 cent PX flip-flops.  The siren goes off.  You run to the bunker, losing a flip-flop on the way.  Now the gravel REALLY hurts.

The mortars fly in.  One here.   One there.  You feel the WHOOSH of the concussion, and the sound is right next to you, but it could be a mile away.  You’re either dead, or you’re not.  You remember your first “incoming” in-country.  You waited for the all-clear.  And you waited.  Until it occurred to you that there was no such thing as “all clear” in-country.  It’s never safe.

You make it back to your hooch.  Fall into your bed (you have a BED, not a cot in a tent, like you had for six months out THERE).  It’s so soft.  Your head hits your pillow, or does it?

Your mind wanders.  Instantly you are alone, in a space craft, small as an Indy car, tight, but cozy.  You’re warm now, and it’s dark, but you see the stars through your canopy, some rushing by, some so far away they look still, very still.  You focus on one, one far away, and it’s blue, and green, and white.

You are getting sleepy in your dream.

You feel a warm tingle, an excitement almost.  You know . . . you are going home.  And you weep.  You weep as only you can when you’re alone, and feeling alone, amidst a billion stars.

As you remember having set the auto-pilot, cryogenics takes over.  You feel safe, and warm, and good.  Home.  You’re going home.

“Captain!”

“Who said that?”  You whisper a scream.  You keep your eyes closed, because you know if you open them, well, it won’t be good.

“Captain!”  The drill sergeant-like voice roars.

You know who said it now.  And you still don’t want to open your eyes.

The fist of the drill sergeant-like voice is now pounding on the door of your hooch.

You know they know you know.

“Damn!”  What did I forget now?

“Mail.”  The voice is sane now.

You fly out of bed, open the door and snatch the letter.  “Letter?”  It’s smooth.  It’s cool.  The blast of heat from outside says it’s nearly midday.  You slept.  You slept hard, for the first time since . . . .

You don’t have to read the return address.  The smell tells you who it is and you just sniff it.  The envelope flies off the  folded page inside, and there it is:  Cursive, perfect, writing.  Curled and curved beautifully; and slanted just so.  The words don’t even matter.  You crumble around it, pressing it to your nose and face, letting it become part of you, tears staining the page.

“I Love You,” it said.  “I Love You,” you say.

It’s so hot it hurts to hold your 16.  You hate wearing the Nomex gloves because, well, damnit, because it’s just too damn suffocating is all.  If you’re not in a fire-fight . . . you’re not in a fire-fight.  You’re back on the FOB, how long now, weeks?  Out THERE.

You have to take a convoy in to Anaconda to coordinate some psych services for the boys who saw their buddy die yesterday.  You need a ”Team” or a member of a team.  You could do it yourself, but you know you’re not a professional at it.  But you could do it.  Sit there, looking at them looking at you.  Blank stares, but stares full of . . . full of a lifetime, or at least a life.  A life taken, snatched; kidnapped under fire, under explosion, under blood.

The trip takes four weeks, or an hour, or somewhere in between.  It doesn’t matter because you’re there now.

You walk around aimlessly, but find who you’re looking for.  Tell them what you need to tell them, and then walk into the MWR.  It has the feel of a renovated airplane hangar.  The inner room is a theater, pitch as a moonless night.  Outside the room, sit/lay grunts.  They are dusty, dirty, sweaty.  They are toast, from the toaster of the bright orange heat tab in the sky.  You know that “tired.”  You have been that tired.  You are that tired.  You go into the theater and seek refuge.  You seek protection.

It is pitch as a moonless night.  Quiet as a mouse, except for the voices coming from the screen, and the soft gentle chorus of snores.  There are no seats left, and everyone is . . . asleep.

What’s it like to take care of people who want to kill you?

“Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior”

“Hard as it is to believe, one of the most significant stories of the post-9/11 age is also one of the least known, life at Gitmo, the detention facility for many of the world’s worst terrorists. Few individuals are more qualified to tell this story than Montgomery Granger, a citizen soldier, family man, dedicated educator, and Army Reserve medical officer involved in one of the most intriguing military missions of our time. Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay is about that historic experience, and it relates not only what it was like for Granger to live and work at Gitmo, but about the sacrifices made by him and his fellow Reservists serving around the world.”

Andrew Carroll, editor of the New York Times bestsellers War Letters and Behind the Lines

Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay, or “Gitmo: The Real Story,” is a “good history of medical, security, and intelligence aspects of Gitmo; also, it will be valuable for anyone assigned to a Gitmo-like facility.”

Jason Wetzel, Field Historian, Office of Army Reserve History

Then U.S. Army Reserve Captain Montgomery J. Granger found himself the ranking Army Medical Department officer wiht the Joint Detainee Operations Group (JDOG) on a joint mission like no other before it; taking care of terrorists and murderers just months after the horrors of September 11, 2001. Granger and his fellow Reservists end up running the JDOG at Guantanamo Bay’s infamous Camp X-Ray. In this moving memoir, Granger writes about his feelings of guilt over leaving his two-day-old son, Theodore, his family and job back home.  While in Guantanamo, he faces myriad torturous emotions and self-doubt, at once hating the inmates he is nonetheless duty bound to care for and protect. Through long distance love, and much heartache, Granger finds a way to keep his sanity and dignity. Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay is his story.

Montgomery J. Granger is a three-time mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Ret.) who resides in Long Island, New York, with his wife and five children. Granger is the author of “Theodore,” a personal narrative published in the 2006 Random House wartime anthology, “Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan and the Home Front in the words of U.S. Troops and their Families.”