Monday, June 2, 2008

Mockingbird, Diamond Ring, and RIP

Bo Diddley passed away today. I have written about my favorite songs set to the Bo Diddley beat on the original SwanBlog.

I saw him in concert at Glam Slam in 1991. Bo was in his mid-60s, but it is still the best concert I have ever seen. At one point, the drummer got tired (even though, at one point in the show, Bo sat down at the kit and tapped out the Bo Diddley beat on the various percussion instruments), so he paused to address the audience. In an attempt at motivating the younger generation, he told us to "Get off the reefer and get involved." Even though I wasn't on the reefer, I was glad to have the pep talk.

At the 1991 concert, he played a handful of songs that I don't think were ever released. One was a ditty declaring, "You're ugly, and your breath stinks too/Scope don't work. You need Listerine." Another was an attempt at social consciousness, pleading, "In America, this should not be/This should not be in our country," followed by the refrain, "Lord have mercy/God bless America."

Drummers everywhere will all get a break now that Bo Diddley has left the stage.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (10-11-07)

Open Thread Friday (one day early). Put your thoughts in the comment block below.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Speech, Religion, and Assembly

So I am about to write my annual post on Banned Books Week and intending to reference earlier SwanBlog posts. Here is one from last year when I was guest posting at SCSU Scholars. I come to find out that my base camp bans all blogspot addresses. Forget the "banned" books. Free SwanBlog! Where is the American Library Association when you really need them?

I suppose I could use my personal computer.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Assist, Protect, and Defend

My reserve unit and I are getting ready to deploy to Iraq. The following piece was written by Captain Kurt Brader (pictured here) of our unit, the 381st Military Police Brigade. Captain Brader is a history professor in his civilian job. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom - One (OIF-I) and also has previous service as the officer-in-charge of the 381st.

He provided this history to me several days ago and I am finally updating my blog. As time allows, I will keep my readers updated on my unit's progress.

History Of The 381st MP Brigade Liaison Detachment

After the conclusion of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the Department of the Army agreed with review panels and After Action Reports to approve the concept of a Brigade Liaison Detachment, (BLD). Without an established doctrine, four, later five, BLDs were activated; only one, the 381st, was located on the US west coast.

Lieutenant Colonel, (later Colonel), Alan K. Ito, an MP officer who served on the Desert Storm Enemy Prisoner of War, (EPW), Review Board and helped formulate the BLD concept, organized the 381st in 1998. Each specialty position within the BLD, including medical service officer, JAG officer, quartermaster officer, transportation officer, MP executive officer plus NCO operations and liaison personnel were eventually filled with hand selected personnel from Army reserve units in Northern California.

Equipment for the 381st came from deactivated MP units where the new BLD was located, Ritchey Reserve Center, 155 W. Hedding Street in San Jose, California. During the mid to late 1990s the 221st MP Brigade and the 496th MP Battalion were deactivated at the Ritchey Reserve Center site. Three M998 HMMWVs from the 496th became the BLD’s first vehicles while computers and office equipment from the 221st were transferred to the new unit. As personnel and equipment came together, the 381st was organized under the 6045th Garrison Support Unit, also at 155 W. Hedding Street and sequestered to the 63rd Regional Readiness Command based in Los Alamitos, California. The unit was officially activated in February, 1999. Its original war time mission was to serve as a liaison unit between an MP brigade and battalions handling EPWs in a future war.

After the September 11th terrorist attacks and the establishment of a detainee holding facility at Guantanamo Bay Cuba, several BLDs were activated from reserve status to serve six month tours there coordinating prisoner activities. This was the first official use of the BLD concept. During this time, the 381st received a new commander, LTC David Allard. After completing several Annual Training assignments, LTC Allard replaced vacancies left by former personnel and gave the unit its first motto, “Born of the Griffin.” The symbol of the griffin, (a mythical beast featuring the head and tail of a lion, with the wings and lower body of an eagle), a symbol of MP vigilance and courage, was originally used on the patches of the 221st and the 496th.

While the 381st was scheduled to rotate for a mission at Guantanamo, (Operation Enduring Freedom), the unit was placed on alert for mobilization to support the activity in late January, 2003. The BLD was then quickly activated on February 10. Advanced party elements soon established the 381st at the Fort Lewis mobilization site. Training focused on confinement facility operations and force protection. Most training was conducted by the 5th Army and the 91st Division. Despite lack of transportation, material shortages, and training in swampy woods with several new, cross-leveled personnel, the unit was validated for deployment in early April, 2003. At this time, the BLD’s orders were changed for the unit to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Originally, the BLD was directed to assist EPW/CI operations in Tallil, Iraq, but the advanced party, which arrived at Arifjon, Kuwait on April 11th was redirected to Southern Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom received far fewer enemy prisoners than Operation Desert Storm. Those taken prisoner were collected at Camp Bucca, (named after Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer Ronald Bucca of the 800th MP Brigade who was killed in the World Trade Center on September 11 while serving as a fire marshal), near the Iraqi port city of Um Qasr. Originally established by British forces who called it “Camp Freddy,” Bucca became the main Internment Facility, (IF), for Iraqi EPW/CI operations. A recon by the 381st advanced party selected a site at the base cluster while the main body, (10 Soldiers), flew to Kuwait with the unit’s vehicles in a US Air Force C5A Galaxy.

All members of the BLD moved to Camp Bucca via a ground convoy on April 18, 2003, becoming the first BLD to enter a combat zone. After two days establishing our living quarters around two general purpose tents, our engineer officer directed the construction of wooden decks and a shower. All unit personnel adapted to assisting the camp’s missions run by the 800th MP Brigade. At this stage, Camp Bucca was still being developed with burn-out latrines, no established mess halls, no functional plumbing for the IF or hardstand barracks.

When the 381st arrived, Camp Bucca held approximately 8,000 EPWs. Within six weeks we assisted lowering that population to just over 400 with repatriations throughout Iraq. Other contributions by the 381st included transferring all excess material to future internment facility sites and the establishment of a routine convoy escort schedule to organize missions supporting the camp and transferring prisoners. The 381st also assisted documenting EPWs and organizing support for newly arriving units which often only had their uniform and weapons.

By late June, 2003, the unit's XO took a team centered on the engineer officer to assist the 101st Airborne Division coordinate hard site collection of regional confinements for the city of Mosul, Iraq. Despite their living quarters being mortared and other hostile actions, this team assisted in the establishment of three local IFs, at a site formally known as Badush Prison. This team also assisted in the foundation of fundamental police training for local Iraqi correctional officials.

As BLD support continued at Camp Bucca, other unit personnel departed to assist establishing IF operations at Abu Ghurayb Prison which the 381st had previously recommended the site go unused because of its infamous history as a site of torture. At Abu Ghurayb, the XO team reorganized the detainee in-processing center, helped organize internment property and established the first prisoner visitation program. After seven months of living in tents, 381st support of Camp Bucca ended as the remaining personnel transferred to assist the 530th MP Bn with Iranian Mujahideen - e Khalq militia processing at Camp Ashraf near Balad, Iraq.

After completing missions in Mosul and Ashraf, the 381st regrouped with all personnel and vehicles at Camp Victory in Southwest Baghdad in early February, 2004. Reunited, the 381st worked with the 16th MP Brigade, (Airborne) from Fort Bragg as it adapted to running missions after recently arriving in Baghdad to replace the 800th MP Brigade.

With its one year deployment concluded in April 2004, (also the longest initial deployment by a BLD), the 381st prepared to return home. The twelve member unit earned four Bronze Stars and seven Army Commendation Medals during the deployment. Ground transportation took the unit by convoy to Arifjan, Kuwait where the unit flew via military charter to Ft Lewis for de-mobilization, then home to San Jose, California at the end of April, 2004. The three unit HMMWVs traveled via overseas shipping and arrived at home station one month later.

Back in San Jose, several personnel, including the XO and engineer officer cross-leveled back to their original units. Other members like Commander David Allard and the Operations Sergeant soon retired after being released from active duty. During this time, the 381st concentrated on reconstitution and refit operations while resolving new supply transfers. Training focused on convoy operations and weapons marksmanship.

In November 2006, the 381st was listed on a Mobilization Alert for future deployments. Although official word did not reach the unit until early January 2007, the BLD moved toward preparing for overseas service. A new commander, LTC Steven Phillips took charge later that month as the unit received a mission to assist the Department of the Army.

CPT Kurt Brader
381st MP BLD Historian

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Josef, Highrise, and Joybubbles

Joybubbles passed away recently. I knew him as Highrise Joe.

A guy in my high school English class clued me into the "Zzzzyzzerrific Funline." In the days before the Internet and weblogs, Highrise Joe kept us up to date on his latest silliness with an answering machine in his Churchill Building apartment in downtown Minneapolis. The name of the Zzzzyzzerrific Funline was designed to be the last entry in the phone book. When you called it each week, Joe congratulated you on finding the "super secret" phone book entry and then went off on a stream of consciousness until he got tired or the answering machine tape ran out. You could also call him on his personal line, which ended with four zeroes. He would relate the phone number after the prefix as "uh oh, uh oh."

One funline story was about a hurricane near his childhood home in Florida. Neighbors sought refuge at Joe's family's house. So the story went on about the delight that the young Joe had in greeting the "six wet neighbors." As he related the "Night of the Six Wet Neighbors," you could tell that the middle-aged Joe was every bit as amused and delighted by the story as young Joe was.

When the most of the copper content in pennies was replace by zinc, Joe (blind from birth) asked funline listeners why the coins smelled strange to him. Many stories about him mention his heightened senses and perfect pitch.

The funline was a combination of new age philosophy ("Crying is not a breakdown, it's a breakthrough") and old-fashioned silliness. As a high school sophomore, I think I was on the high end of the age demographic. One final memory is a little squeaking toy frog Joe had. "Squeakerific" had the job of taking on the things kids ordinarily would worry about. If you had a test or a doctor visit, you didn't have to be scared because the frog would be scared for you. That's good advice for kids from seven to 70.

May he rest in peace.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (7-19-07)

Open thread. You know what to do.