Electing the Commander in Chief

The question that military members should be asking in 2016 is: What does the presidential election really mean for the military? The answer to this question may surprise some veterans. 

In just three short days we the people will elect the next President of the United States. The media feeding frenzy that we call election year politics is particularly ferocious this year. No candidate will survive this election cycle unscathed. Even Hollywood has their view on who should be elected president [H.R.C.], although I still can’t figure out why they feel the need to suck up television air time to impart their wisdom on us humble folk. I don’t get my taxes done at a movie theater and I don’t look for advice on how to elect my representatives there either.

With all the controversy, scandals, name calling, and finger pointing, the front running candidates have had very little time to discuss the real issues facing the people of the United States. One group that has received very little discussion this cycle is the people that serve our country in the armed services. The very people that volunteered to “support and defend the Constitution…from all enemies foreign and domestic” (Oath of Enlistment) are rarely mentioned when the media covers the presidential candidates.

The military was a major talking point in 2008 and 2012 election cycles as the media focused on pulling troops out of the unpopular operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, with the majority of regular military troops already out of Iraq and a large reduction in the forces deployed to Afghanistan, the media and the candidates themselves have been pretty happy with the status-quo. Any attention given to the military this cycle mostly focuses on how much to spend on growing the military, which brings me back to my original question. What does the presidential election really mean for the military?

The answer is: Very little. I know what you are thinking. But the President is the Commander in Chief of the military! This is true but in reality that Article 2 Section 2 of the Constitution (1) grants the president very little power over the military without Congressional approval. Also the Executive Branch is not directly involved in decisions regarding the Armed Services, with the exception of recommending the annual budget for the DoD. The responsibility of forming initiatives for the Armed Services falls on Congress in particular the Senate Committee on Armed Services also called the SASC.

The jurisdiction of the SASC includes but is not limited to:

• Aeronautical and Space activities for weapons development and military operations

• Common Defense

• The DoD Services

• Military R&D

• Pay, promotions, retirement, and other benefits to include overseas education for military dependents

• Selective Service

Another important player in the government’s support of our active military and veterans is the House of Representatives. It is true that the Executive branch proposes the annual budget for all of it’s departments to include the Department of Defense; however, the House of Representatives has the power of the purse. In other words they control the bank account and represent the people in deciding how we spend our tax money.

That’s right I said ‘our tax money’ because when we give the IRS a percentage of our income it still belongs to we the people not to the government. In fact every single one of us is the boss of every single public servant working at local, state, and federal level. They work for us and we can fire them if they do not spend OUR money on the things that WE approve. How do we approve these things you ask? Well we approve them by voting in local and state elections. And it’s not just enough that we vote, we must know what each and every candidate stands for before we cast our ballot for them.

To sum this up, the President of the United States only suggests the dollar amount to spend on the military and on veterans services. It is up to the state elected Senate, in particular the SASC, to decide how to spend that money and the state elected House of Representatives to approve the use of our tax money on these programs.

No matter if you are an active duty service member, reserve, or retired veteran, while you are deciding which presidential candidate to vote for know this, it really doesn’t matter because when it comes to policy the Republicans and Democrats are not that much different. They both want to budget more of our money than the current administration for defense and they both want to fight terrorist organizations like the Islamic State.

So go out an vote for president if you like one of the candidates and can figure out what exactly there policy is. But if you’re like most people who can’t stand any of the 2016 presidential candidates then you should focus on electing local government and state Congress members because that is where your vote will make the most impact on YOUR life.

– W. Buglehall, 2016


The Battle for Mosul

It seems like not that long ago I was living on a military base next to the airport in Mosul, Iraq. I spent twelve months from November 2007 to October 2008 working in Mosul for the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment as an aviation advisor and personnel recovery program manager. At that time the 3rd ACR was one of the primary U.S. force in Mosul and had other Squadrons spread out between Mosul and Badgdad. I was involved in air transportation scheduling for most helicopter transport in and around northern Iraq. I also managed the Regiment’s UAV program. All the military bases and the cities around northern Iraq were discussed in my office on a daily bases. I became more familiar with Mosul and the surrounding area than I was with most places I had lived in the United States. 
Flash forward to the present day. I find myself looking at the same areas and the same towns as before but I do not recognize them. The fight for Mosul is in full swing as a multinational task force battles town by town, kilometer by kilometer to retake Iraq’s second largest population center. It is hard to believe that just 9 years ago the city was a functioning multicultural melting pot in Iraq. Since 2014 the Islamic State (IS) a.k.a. ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh has held the entire city of Mosul and most of the surrounding territories in its dark grip. 
The people of this region have suffered immeasurable damage at the hands of brutal, fascist, religious extreamists and thier foreign, glory seeking, conscripts. The entire economic machine of this land has ground to a halt while all the oilfields burn, the factories idle, and most civil infrastructure destroyed beyond economical repair. Entire towns are deserted and some transformed into dug in last stand battle grounds. The large town scene is right out of a post apocalyptic Hollywood blockbuster. Smaller villages seem to have survived this scourge better than the large towns and the residents of these villages are mostly farmers. They scrape their survival out of the ground and tend to their small flocks of sheep, most of them living the same way that humanity did thousands of years ago in this same area. 
It seems the less you had to lose in Iraq the better chance you had to survive. After the 2014 victory over the standing Iraqi Army the IS set up operations in abandon houses, businesses, and factories. The owners and residents of these structures most likely abandon them in fear of being enslaved by IS or worse. Most people fled to neighboring regions as “internally displaced” people or neighboring countries as “refugees”. Those who didn’t flee their modern towns either embraced the IS forces, were used as human shields and slaves, or were murdered. The abandon homes became IS barracks, makeshift armories, and weapons cashe sites. The businesses became IS supply distribution points, local IS headquarters, and IED manufacturing facilities. The factories were converted into vehicle born IED manufacturing facilities, large supply distribution points, and large equipment cashe sites.  
From 2014 to 2016 IS also transformed the landscape. Tires were piled along road sides and pits were dug and filled with oil to be set on fire in order to provide smoke screens blocking the view of UAV cameras. Trenches were dug across roads to impede traffic and slow the advance of liberating ground forces. Fighting trenches were dug around whole towns and dirt birms piled high to block incoming military assault vehicles. Underground bunkers and tunnel networks were dug to hide weapons, mask movement, and provide escape routes out of towns.
The locations of these IS safe houses, armories, and IED manufacturing facilities were targeted for destruction and unfortunately for the displaced people of Iraq their homes and businesses make up the majority of these targets. Entire towns were laid to waist in the effort to remove the dug in forces of the IS from the area. When it is finally safe for the Iraqi people to return to their homes and businesses many of them will find nothing left to come back to. They will have to rebuild and start over with nothing just like settlers reaching a new land except this new land is a dark, twisted shadow of the beautiful town they left just two years ago. 
Most people will watch the battle for Mosul play out on the news and hopefully it will not take much longer; however, the fight for Mosul has been slowly building for over a year now and the rural and suburban devastation it has left in its wake is tremendous. Hopefully IS will surrender quickly as thier reign in Iraq comes to its end and the destruction seen in the outlying towns and villages is not repeated inside the city of Mosul. If IS decides to stay and fight and the battle for Mosul becomes drawn out for several months then we are certain to see urban destruction on a scale that we have not seen since World War II.  
-W. Buglehall, November 2016