When you feel the ‘pressure’ – Blast pressure, water contamination, and Afghanistan – Ep 12

I’ve fired around a half dozen belt fed weapons systems during my time in service; some bigger and louder than others, and all of them a kick ass way to spend an afternoon.  Well, that is until you realize the effects of firing them over a longer period of time. It’s not just loud noise or dangerous, hot metal. I remember spending an entire day working as a lane safety for a .50 cal machine gun range.  I stood less than three feet from a firing heavy machine gun all day, burning my hands as I changed the barrels when they became too hot despite using a specially designed heat mitten. At a certain point of temperature, it doesn’t matter anymore.  Glove or not, you’re getting burned. I remember I set a hot barrel a bit too close to the side of my foot while it was cooling and the damn barrel burned my foot through my boot.

This is part and parcel the Army’s (and I’m assuming the Marine Corps as well) main area of training.  We’d spent hundred of hours a year on a variety of ranges and not just when we were the ones firing.  It takes dozens of people to run most ranges, so in the lovely mist that is Fort Lewis in the winter and spring, your entire platoon would be spend whole days at the range, near these loud and dangerous devices.  But what if that was enough to hurt you? I was already told as long as we had proper eye and ear protection, we were golden. The truth is much darker.

00:45 – Blast pressure report on heavy use of crew served weapons

11:40 – Afghanistan update from recent SIGAR report

22:32 – Water contamination at 126 DOD sites

In Vets, Even Mild Case of TBI Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia – Karen Kaplan – Los Angeles Times

Gunners Using Shoulder-Borne Heavy Weapons at Risk for Brain Damage – Stars and Stripes – Wyatt Olson

Update to last week’s post on suicide and combat guilt – Matthew Hoh

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) quarterly report to Congress – 4-30-18

DoD: At least 126 bases report water contaminants linked to cancer, birth defects – Military Times – Tara Copp

Ranks of Notorious Hate Group Include Active-Duty Military – Propublica


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A special thanks to our honorary producers Matthew Hoh, Will Ahrens, and Gage Counts!!  Without you guys, we couldn’t continue our work.  Thank you all so much!!!

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FOH is hosted, written, and produced by Chris ‘Henri’ Henrikson and Danny Sjursen

Cover and website art designed by Brian K. Wyatt Jr. of B-EZ Graphix Multimedia Marketing Agency in Tallehassee, FL
Music provided royalty free by Bensound.com

Note: The views expressed in this podcast are those of the hosts alone, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

Four generations of service

This post previously appeared on Patreon, but given the subject, I wanted to share it with everyone.  Enjoy!!


When I was a kindergartener, my Grandpa Ray came with me to school to talk about his service in the Marine Corps.  I remember beaming as I held the case for his Purple Heart and showed the contents to my classmates. This happened to occur during Operation Desert Storm and in continuing with the military kick my class was running, we sent letters and care packages to a soldier who was deployed to Kuwait.  

It didn’t occur to me until much later in my life how big an impact these early exposures to the military had in my life.  But then again, military service was never far from my life. Let’s begin with four generations. Four generations of military service.  My great grandfather Plum served in WWI. I don’t know much about him, aside from a single photograph I’ve seen taken in his uniform. Then, came my Grandpa Ray.  Ever still the Marine staff sergeant. He survived Pearl Harbor aboard the USS Tennessee, deployed later to the Marshall Islands, and then after moving to the reserves, Grandpa did a tour in Korea.  To say that he was an example of the toughness embedded into the military would be a gross understatement. Grandpa gave me hair cuts for as long as I can remember, including taking me to get my first hair cut at his favorite barber shop.  If I visited his house with my hair too long, down to the basement ‘barber shop’ we went. He also walked me to school on my first day of kindergarten and taught me to fish.

Following my Grandpa Ray came my Pop, which was what I called my maternal grandfather.  He served in the 50’s in the Army; did a tour in Ethiopia. He told me many stories about taking a Thompson machine gun and a 1911 to go hunting there in country.  I don’t recall the animals he brought back, but I do remember him having a gay ‘ol time shooting a 1911 at seagulls on the beach. Like me visiting Iraq, I saw in my Pop a man who observed how much better ordinary life was back in the US compared to Ethiopia, and this is a man who had nine sisters and two brothers; he knew what it meant to share space.

My Grandpa William (Grandpa Bill to us) also served in the Army, but I don’t know much about his service.  More to come on that.

Next came my Uncle Dan, who did stints in the Active Air Force and the Air Guard in the late 70’s through the early 80’s.  I really don’t know a whole lot about his time in service, other than a nasty knee injury he received.  Like me, he’s spent time submitting claims for his injuries and hoping the VA would get on the ball a bit.  I sense in him a lot of me: hard working and decent, someone who’s not afraid to call out things as he sees them.

 And coming in last but not least is the asshat writing this, having served two tours in Iraq and my brother Andrew, who recently finished six years as a nuclear machinist mate in the Navy.    

But back to Grandpa.  The medals he received in WWII and Korea were hung in a special place down in his basement,  I remember feeling the raised head of General Washington between my fingers as I held his Purple Heart (he actually received two; one came much later.)  It wasn’t until almost a full twenty years later that I understood the particulars of getting a Purple Heart and how significant it was that my Grandpa earned one and lived to tell the tale.  

This brings me to yesterday.  I don’t call my grandparents nearly often enough, but I did yesterday.  I do my best to keep Grandma apprised of my health. I chatted with Grandma like usual: how’s everyone doing on both sides of the phone, share with her how her great grandsons are refusing to cease growing like weeds, and so forth.  I then got on the phone with Grandpa. Grandpa is a pretty brief talker, so usually a solid two to three minutes and we’re all caught up. But last night, he asked me something about my service that had really upset him. Something I’d considered many times, but never discussed outloud with him.

Grandpa asked me if a rumor he heard was true.  He asked if servicemembers were receiving medals for no reason.  And well…it’s absolutely true. Awards like the Bronze Star were not given lightly back in Grandpa’s day, mostly going to men who had already been killed in action; not exactly an award seeking demographic.  Now, in today’s Army (and to a certain extent the other branches) awards are given for all manner of things, but most awards received are not for bravery or valor. You get a medal for so many years of service.  You get a medal for every deployment, generally regardless of what you did there. I’m not trying to be glib about it; they really give them out sometimes for nothing. The senior leadership of my MP company (E7 and above) all received Bronze Stars for their deployment to Iraq.  E6 and below received Army Commendation medals. Now, those senior leaders may have worked incredibly hard on that deployment, but does that mean that their rubber stamp award for 15 months in Iraq should equal what my grandfather received for valor in WWII?

I’ve seen a few videos and articles about how award hungry today’s military has become, being more focused on good evaluations and not necessarily doing the job well or even correctly.  Part of this debate is lost in the semanics of award giving, but I think for a group of institutions which supposedly value history and honor, a honest look at how they dole out awards needs to be considered.  I don’t think all military awards are bad and certainly there are many deeds committed by servicemembers worthy of praise and admiration. But when the admiration goes to the shiny trickets that you wear on your chest rather than the actions that gave you said trinket in the first place, it’s time to write a new rule book.


Enjoy the show?!  Please leave us a review right here.

Got news to share about our military or veterans?! Or just need to cuss at us for a bit?! Contact us direct by email at fortressonahill@gmail.com

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A special thanks to our honorary producers Matthew Hoh, Will Ahrens, Ron Unger, and Gage Counts!!  Without you guys, we couldn’t continue our work.  Thank you all so much!!!

Facebook – Fortress On A Hill

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FOH is hosted, written, and produced by Chris ‘Henri’ Henrikson and Danny Sjursen

Cover and website art designed by Brian K. Wyatt Jr. of B-EZ Graphix Multimedia Marketing Agency in Tallehassee, FL
Music provided royalty free by Bensound.com

Note: The views expressed in this podcast are those of the hosts alone, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

To whom does our military belong? Donald Trump? Secretary Mattis? Beetle Bailey?

I’ve mentioned a few times on the podcast that I feel strongly in the idea that veterans are not the only owners of the ‘military’ story.

Veterans often carry a notion of protection and awareness towards the identities they project to others about their time in service.  Almost daily, I pass a news article or friend’s post on Facebook regarding stolen valor and the comment section is usually foaming at the mouth to discredit ‘fake’ veterans, lest they not distance themselves from the idea that any part of their own service be seen as illegitimate.  I’m not trying to discredit the idea of suppressing and restricting those who say they’ve served when they clearly haven’t (my favorite one roaming around is the guy in USMC dress blues with a SEAL trident sitting below his ribbons.)  My point is that everything about the military experience can be experienced by those who have never served.  Fighting in combat, participating in drill and ceremony, and even the knowledge and training received by Special Operations Forces such as advanced marksmanship and combatives can be experienced and obtained by ordinary people.  The combination of these elements certainly makes the military experience a unique one, but not unknown outside of its ranks.

Further more, the stories that ordinary citizens share about their experiences with service members of all nations and stripes belong to them as much as any veteran.  Veterans are simply people who have survived extraordinary circumstances under the flag of our government.  And the extraordinary circumstances through which service members are sent and have survived are debated and chosen politically.  The military is far more politicized that my 18 year old self would ever have fucking believed, both within its ranks and outside of it.  And the reality is that in our type of democracy, our main avenue to affect foreign policy and thereby overall military policy is through elections.  But we seldom make that connection; that our politicians, through the ‘power of the purse’ can help dictate policy.  We’re now at a trillion dollar defense budget.  And what the military does under the banner of ‘protecting our freedom’ have direct and indirect consequences for all Americans, let alone the dead brown people from ‘shithole’ countries that we’ve left in our wake.

So, don’t ever give yourself the chance to let a news alert of a dead service member go by without asking yourself, “What was that servicemember’s mission?” and “What aspect(s) of that mission did not go as planned?”  Granted, that should just be your first two questions, but I think you get the idea.  “Thank you for your service” needs to become “tell me about your service.”  And we need to lose the reverence to which we’ve ascribed to veterans.  Veterans have been through some harsh shit; don’t get me wrong.  I’m walking living proof of that harsh shit.  But my experience is not above other kinds of suffering that people have experienced.  I believe my government owes a significant debt to all veterans and needs to be held accountable in repaying that debt.  However, and if you’ve only skimmed to this point, let me be crystal fucking clear: defending our nation and the rights of its citizens, while repaying our debt to veterans is not mutually exclusive with ceasing the arming of terrorists or stopping the brutal massacre of innocent civilians in actions we support like in Yemen.  We can do all those things together and still maintain the defense of our country.  I want the opportunities to create veterans like Danny and myself to be few and far between.

For now, we’ll continue to wage war in every continent in one way or another.  Those fucking penguins in Antarctica have had it coming.  And we’ll mourn our lost service members as the cost of ‘freedom,’ all the while the only actual people whose freedom it actually affected are already dead, maimed, or displaced into a refugee black hole somewhere.  Many veterans will continue to have meme fights on Facebook and disparage others’ attempts at ‘stolen valor,’ while ignoring the war and chaos still being made by their former employers.

Please speak out about the topics Danny and I cover on the podcast,  Don’t let any of these stories stagnate and become forgotten.  And share new ones we’ve never considered.  We’ll be fucking all ears.

Today is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.  At least for me, it would be less painful to consider the history of Auschwitz if our country wasn’t still creating widows and orphans in the wake of its imperialism.  If we weren’t, at least we could look at survivors and relatives of Auschwitz and tell them that we’ve really learned the lessons that their ancestors’ lives gave us.  For now, all we have is ‘sympathy for the devil.’

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul to waste
And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

 

Got news to share about our military or veterans?! Or just need to cuss at us for a bit?! Contact us direct by email at fortressonahill@gmail.com

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Note: The views expressed in this podcast are those of the hosts alone, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.


 

White supremacy in the US military – Ep 5.5

Prior to the election of Donald Trump, white supremacy didn’t seem to be an issue of great concern. Despite record increases in people joining white nationalist groups during Barack Obama’s time in office, it still wasn’t something that seemed terribly important to the nation or our government.  Then, Trump was elected and groups of people longed pushed to the edges of society now had someone in office that is singing their tune.  His support of white supremacy told many in our nation that it was time to push their ideas of hatred and violence.

But white supremacy didn’t go anywhere.  It didn’t evaporate with the election of the first black president or any other common metric one might observe.  And our military is absolutely no exception.  Here’s our take on it.

01:00 – Afghanistan update from the Strategy Bridge

14:07 – White supremacy in the military

https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2018/1/3/turning-the-corner-in-afghanistan

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2017/10/23/military-times-poll-one-in-four-troops-sees-white-nationalism-in-the-ranks/

https://taskandpurpose.com/leader-of-charlottesville-white-nationalist-group-was-a-marine-corps-recruiter/

Got news to share about our military?!  Please hit us up at fortressonahill.com

Facebook: Fortress On A Hill Podcast

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Patreon: Fortress On A Hill Podcast

FOH is hosted, written, and produced by Chris ‘Henri’ Henrikson and Danny Sjursen
The show was mixed and edited by Chris Henrikson
Cover and website art designed by Brian K. Wyatt Jr. of B-EZ Graphix Multimedia Marketing Agency in Tallehassee, FL
Music provided royalty free by Bensound.com

Note: The views expressed in this podcast are those of the hosts alone, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.


	

MeToo when you wear the uniform – Sexual assault in the military – Ep 4.0

Ep 4 is here.  Hope you enjoy it.

I did want to make a note for people about SGT Johnson, the SF soldier who died in Niger back in October.  I said his name a number of times in this episode and I’m pretty sure most of them were SGT La Johnson.  His name is SGT La David Johnson and I apologize for not saying his name correctly.  I have memory issues and sometimes things don’t get out quite right.  But, a person’s name is an important thing and I aim to do it right.

We are starting a bonus program for anyone contributing to $3+ to us on Patreon!  There will be bonus podcast content not shown on ordinary episodes, original writings from Danny and myself, some collaborations with other creators and some other surprises we have cooked up.  Stay tuned!

00:40 – Jerusalem becoming location of US Embassy

08:38  – Gas line explosion at Camp Pendleton 

11:09  – Niger updates

42:20  – Analyzing recent deployments of Raytheon Patriot missile defense systems

51:00  – Three sisters, three academies, four generations of service

105:13 – Sexual assault in the military

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/05/…/american-embassy-israel-trump-move.html

https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/bjddq8/everything-we-know-about-u-s-special-ops-are-doing-in-33-african-nations

https://www.militarytimes.com/off-duty/military-sports/army-navy-game/2017/12/05/army-navy-week-3-sisters-3-academies-and-4-generations-of-service-3/

‘Got news to share about our military or veterans?! Or just need to cuss at us for a bit?! Contact us direct by email at fortressonahill@gmail.com

Patreon – www.patreon.com/fortressonahill/

Facebook – www.facebook.com/fortressonahill

Twitter – www.twitter.com/fortressonahill

FOH is hosted, written, and produced by Chris ‘Henri’ Henrikson and Danny Sjursen
The show was mixed and edited by Chris Henrikson
Cover and website art designed by Brian K. Wyatt Jr. of B-EZ Graphix Multimedia Marketing Agency in Tallehassee, FL
Music provided royalty free by Bensound.com

Note: The views expressed in this podcast are those of the hosts alone, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.


	

Seventeen years later: the failed war in Afghanistan with Matthew Hoh Part 2 – Ep 3

For Ep 3, Fortress On A Hill takes the wide lens to the failed war in Afghanistan. Our hosts, Chris ‘Henri’ Henrikson and Danny Sjursen, also discuss updates to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the hope for changes in the VA’s presumption towards illness caused by Agent Orange.  Then we polish off our episode with Part 2 of our interview with Marine combat veteran and State Department whistleblower Matthew Hoh.

Episode 3 –

00:59 – Agent Orange – Blue Water Veterans

12:30 – Yemen update via The Intercept

19:22 – Few veterans at Ivy League schools

25:56  – War in Afghanistan

34:11  – Trump Vietnam visit; selling F-18’s to the masses

38:55 – Matthew Hoh Interview – Part 2

 

1 hour, 1 minute total

https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/quarterlyreports/2017-10-30qr.pdf

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/will-u-s-stay-committed-to-toxic-agent-orange-cleanup-in-vietnam

https://theintercept.com/2017/11/14/congress-yemen-war-unauthorized/

Matthew Hoh is a member of the advisory boards of Expose Facts, Veterans For Peace and World Beyond War. In 2009 he resigned his position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of the Afghan War by the Obama Administration. He previously had been in Iraq with a State Department team and with the U.S. Marines. He is a Senior Fellow with the Center for International Policy.

Seventeen years later: the failed war in Afghanistan with Matthew Hoh Part 1 – Ep 2.5

Danny and I got the opportunity to sit for our first interview with Marine combat veteran and US State Department whistleblower Matthew Hoh.  Matt joins us here to discuss our new president, the unending war in Afghanistan, and recent increases in US activity in Africa.
Here’s part 1.  Enjoy!

Matthew Hoh is a member of the advisory boards of Expose Facts, Veterans For Peace and World Beyond War. In 2009 he resigned his position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of the Afghan War by the Obama Administration. He previously had been in Iraq with a State Department team and with the U.S. Marines. He is a Senior Fellow with the Center for International Policy.

To learn more about Matthew Hoh, visit his blog at https://matthewhoh.com