The BP oil spill has inflicted enormous harm in the Gulf of Mexico and will continue to do so for months, if not decades, to come. I have many thoughts on this disaster. My first reaction is that when the skin of the Earth is punctured, bad things can happen.
Clearly, this disaster could and should have been prevented. Despite all their assurances of safety, BP and/or BP’s subcontractors, failed to ensure the functionality of the emergency equipment on the Deep Horizon rig. The oil industry claims that further regulation will handcuff them, but it is now obvious that more steps need to be taken to prevent a catastrophe like this from ever happening again.
However, this spill did happen, and we now must deal with the aftermath. Although estimates have been that BP could be liable for more than 14 billion dollars in clean up damages, very few in the media have mentioned the long-term, generational consequences of this oil spill. There will inevitably be a surge in cancer cases, widespread degradation of wildlife habitat, and an array of diverse and complex strains on local communities, our nation, and the planetary ecosphere as a whole. We all know that the seas are connected, and ultimately our biosphere suffers globally when suffering locally. Now as the hurricane season approaches, we may see catastrophes converge to create what may be the greatest ecological disaster in hundreds of years.
While we will need a wide array of efforts to address this complex problem, mycoremediation is a valuable component in our toolset of solutions. Mycoremediation has demonstrated positive results, verified by scientists in many countries. However, there is more oil spilled than there is currently mycelium available. Much more mycelium is needed and, fortunately, we know how to generate it.
A few interesting thoughts from an article found at
“It is important to understand that oil spill dispersants do not in any way reduce the amount of oil spewing from its source nor do they eliminate oil from the environment. What these chemical agents are designed to do is alter the physical and chemical properties of the oil allowing it to sink further down into the water column.”
As ProPublica.org points out, there are significant concerns that the treatment could severely harm the Gulf’s ecosystem, leaving dead fish in its wake.
The exact makeup of the dispersants is kept secret under competitive trade laws, but a worker safety sheet for one product, called Corexit, says it includes 2-butoxyethanol, a compound associated with headaches, vomiting and reproductive problems at high doses.
“There is a chemical toxicity to the dispersant compound that in many ways is worse than oil,” said Richard Charter, a foremost expert on marine biology and oil spills who is a senior policy advisor for Marine Programs for Defenders of Wildlife and is chairman of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. “It’s a trade-off – you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t — of trying to minimize the damage coming to shore, but in so doing you may be more seriously damaging the ecosystem offshore.”
other interesting articles . . .
Chemicals Meant To Break Up BP Oil Spill Present New Environmental Concerns
BP’s Oil-Dispersant Use Veers Into Uncharted Science (Update1)
Is the BP Clean-Up Creating A Toxic Soup in the Gulf?
What are we dumping into the Gulf to ‘fix’ the oil spill?
Find out more by doing your own search, I used “2-butoxyethanol gulf oil spill” to find these articles.
Once again the fossil fuel industry has brought crisis to the Gulf Coast. Devastation of untold proportions spews non-stop from BP’s oil well as politicians try to save face with empty promises, and oil companies preserve their profits with PR campaigns. This catastrophic spill comes on the heels of Obama’s plan to expand offshore drilling. The price of burning fossil fuels is too high. From combustion to extraction the oil industry poisons our communities, destroys ecosystems, and destabilizes the climate. Now is the time to stop offshore drilling dead in its tracks and drive another nail into the fossil fuel industry’s coffin.
Take action Friday May 14 to demand:
-An immediate ban on all offshore drilling
-A rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels
-No bailouts for the oil industry. All recovery costs must be paid for by BP, Halliburton, Transocean and other implicated companies.
-The federal government must remove any caps on liability for oil companies.
-BP provides full compensation for impacted communities and small businesses.
-BP provides full funding for long-term ecosystem restoration for impacted areas.
-Oil companies operating in the Gulf fully fund restoration of coastal ecosystems damaged by canals, pipelines, and other industry activities.
Take action at:
-BP gas stations and offices
-Halliburton and Transocean offices
-Offices of members of Congress
-State government officials in states affected by Obama’s offshore drilling proposal.
-Critical Mass bike rides
-Vigils to mourn the unspeakable loss brought by this spill
We can only be kept in the cages we do not see. A brief history of human enslavement – up to and including your own. From Freedomain Radio, the largest and most popular philosophy conversation in the world. http://www.freedomainradio.com
I occasionally get emails from http://www.environmentnewmexico.org/action/add-to-mailing-list The following is from one such email . . .
As we witness a major environmental disaster unfold in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s time for President Obama to reconsider his recent support for more drilling off our nation’s shores.
By Wednesday, the oil slick emanating from BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig had spread over 3,200 square miles of the Gulf. That’s more than three times the size of Rhode Island and the slick is growing by the hour.
It’s hard to overstate the likely ecological damage. Already, as much as 200,000 gallons of oil per day are bubbling up through waters populated with endangered bluefin tuna and sperm whales. The Breton Island National Wildlife Refuge — established 100 years ago by Teddy Roosevelt and home to thousands of brown pelicans — stands right in the oil slick’s path. As the oil oozes towards the shore, Louisiana’s famed seafood — fish, shellfish, oysters — will be hit hard as well. 
This is the catastrophe that the oil industry has been telling us is impossible. We can expand drilling, they’ve told us, because new technology has made drilling “clean and safe.” As it turns out, not so much. 
Yet it was just a few weeks ago that the Obama administration announced plans to open another 165 million acres off our Atlantic coast (an area almost the size of Texas), and another 40 million acres off Florida’s west coast, to more oil drilling. The administration’s Minerals Management Service is accepting public comments on part of their offshore drilling plan now.
This should be, as the president himself might say, a “teachable moment.” As Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, a recent supporter of some offshore drilling until he flew over the spill, said, “If this doesn’t give somebody pause, there’s something wrong.” 
Disasters happen, especially when drilling holes thousands of feet into the ocean floor for an inherently dirty fuel. Click here to tell the Obama administration that “drill, baby, drill” is not the answer to our nation’s energy future.
And thanks, as always, for making it all possible.
Environment New Mexico Energy Program Director
I am sure Mr. Sargent won’t mind my sharing.
What is Evolver.net?
Evolver is a new social network for conscious collaboration. It provides a platform for individuals, communities, and organizations to discover and share the new tools, initiatives, and ideas that will improve our lives and change the world. Evolver promotes sexy sustainability, yoga glamour, and shaman chic.
Are you an evolver?
Evolvers are hope fiends and utopian pragmatists. We see the creative chaos of this time as a great gift and opportunity to rethink, reconnect, and reinvent. Evolvers appreciate pristine mountains, open source economics, and the precocious laughter of small children. Evolvers belong to the regenerative culture of the future, being born here and now.
Did you ever think:
Humanity has potential beyond our imagining?
We are a part of nature and not the bosses of it?
We could make a world that works for everyone?
We could collaborate instead of compete?
If so, you are an evolver already.
If not, maybe you should give it a try?
Because we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
Because it’s our world to change.
Because the universe is deeply mysterious, displays an extraordinary sense of humor, and has a great dance beat. Maybe you don’t like social networks. Maybe you use too many already. Maybe you are sick of being IM’d and pinged, poked and stroked, prodded and friendstered.
Evolver is different.
Evolver.net brings together a global community that shares similar interests and values. It provides a platform that helps us find the resources, peers, news and information that makes a difference. Evolver.net is collaboratively filtered and professionally curated so that the best material gets disseminated widely.
On Evolver.net you can:
• Express yourself to your peers.
• Find inspiring news and helpful information.
• Share resources and swap services.
• Connect with pioneering groups and organizations.
• Find the collaborators you need to help you realize your vision.
• Meet the community off-line – at regular Evolver “socials,” film screenings, parties, and events.
The evolution will be actualized.
What to do with foreclosed houses—How about letting homeless families move in? An innovative idea that’s also illegal.
American streets are littered with foreclosed houses, but one daring advocate says these homes shouldn’t go to waste. He encourages and facilitates homeless squatting. It’s an idea that addresses two issues at once – homelessness and foreclosed homes—and it’s also illegal.
This week, NOW travels to Miami to meet with Max Rameau, an advocate for the homeless. Rameau’s organization, Take Back the Land, identifies empty homes that are still livable, and tries to find responsible families willing to take the enormous legal risks of moving in.
Rameau, who considers his mission an act of civil disobedience, says it’s immoral to keep homes vacant while there are human beings living on the street. But while these squatters have morality in their hearts, they don’t have the law on their side.
With the faltering economy separating so many people from their homes, what’s society’s responsibility to those short on shelter?
You can own your own Oogavé T-shirt for the ludicrously low price of . . . nothing. Nada, zip, zilch, zero, free (except for shipping and handling of course but that goes without saying).
All you have to do is send us a check or money order in the amount of $5 (for the aforementioned shipping and handling).* Make the check payable to Oogavé and send it to Oogavé Sodas, 4420 Glencoe Street, Denver, CO 80210.
Be sure to include your return address, your name and, of UTMOST IMPORTANCE, your size. Duh!
You can get a regular adult T-shirt in S, M, L, XL, and even 2XL! Children’s sizes are S, M, and L. And a new women’s “baby doll” cut is available in S, M, and L.
*Or, if you happen to be in the neighborhood, stop on by the warehouse at 4420 Glencoe and save yourself five bucks! (Just give us a call beforehand as we don’t always keep regular hours.)
Rep: Foreclosed owners should squat in their own homes
David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster
Published: Friday January 30, 2009
If you’re poor and the bank is coming for your home, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur has a plan for you.
Just squat, she says.
Yes, this Ohio Democrat is actually encouraging her financially distressed constituents whose homes have been foreclosed upon, to simply stay put.
In a Friday report, CNN’s Drew Griffin explored the case of Ohioan Andrea Geiss, whose home was foreclosed upon in April.
“Behind in payments, out of work, a husband sick, she had nowhere to go,” said Griffin. “So, she decided to follow the advice of her Congresswoman and go nowhere.”
In Lucas County, Ohio, over 4,000 properties were foreclosed upon in 2008, reports CNN.
“So I say to the American people, you be squatters in your own homes,” said Congresswoman Kaptur before the House of Representatives. “Don’t you leave.”
She’s called on all of her foreclosed-upon constituents to stay in their homes and refuse to leave without “an attorney and a fight,” said CNN.
“If they’ve had no legal representation of a high quality, I tell them stay in their homes,” Kaptur told Griffin.
Kaptur is a high-profile advocate of an increasingly popular mode of fighting foreclosures best known for it’s key phrase: “Produce the note.”
By telling a bank to “produce the note,” a homeowner can delay foreclosure by forcing the lender to prove the suing institution is actually the same which owns the debt.
“During the lending boom, most mortgages were flipped and sold to another lender or servicer or sliced up and sold to investors as securitized packages on Wall Street,” explains the Consumer Warning Network. “In the rush to turn these over as fast as possible to make the most money, many of the new lenders did not get the proper paperwork to show they own the note and mortgage. This is the key to the produce the note strategy.”
And Friday’s segment on this growing foreclosure fighting “movement” was not the network’s first. Earlier in January, CNN explored one person’s strategy in demanding her bank “produce the note,” only to find that the lender had “lost or destroyed” the evidence of debt ownership. Such a revelation can significantly strengthen a homeowner’s position when asking to renegotiate a mortgage.
That these banks, many of which received billions of dollars in government bailout funds, continue to boot defaulted owners from their homes, makes them “vultures” says Kaptur.
“They prey on our property assets,” she said. “I guess the reason I’m so adamant on this is because I know property law and its power to protect the individual homeowner. And I believe that 99.9 percent of our people have not had good legal representation in this.”
This video is from CNN’s American Morning, broadcast Jan. 30, 2009.
John Trudell at the People of Color Conference 2008 in New Orleans.
The Intentional Economy
While exploring shamanism and non-ordinary states, I discovered the power of intention. According to the artist Ian Lungold, who lectured brilliantly about the Mayan Calendar before his untimely death a few years ago, the Maya believe that your intention is as essential to your ability to navigate reality as your position in time and space. If you don’t know your intention, or if you are operating with the wrong intentions, you are always lost, and can only get more dissolute.
This idea becomes exquisitely clear during psychedelic journeys, when your state of mind gets intensified and projected kaleidoscopically all around you. As our contemporary world becomes more and more psychedelic, we are receiving harsh lessons in the power of intention on a vast scale. Over the last decades, the international financial elite manipulated the markets to create obscene rewards for themselves at the expense of poor and middle class people across the world. Using devious derivatives, cunning CDOS, and other trickery, they siphoned off ever-larger portions of the surplus value created by the producers of real goods and services, contriving a debt-based economy that had to fall apart. Their own greed — such a meager, dull intent — has now blown up in their faces, annihilating, in slow motion, the corrupt system built to serve them.
Opportunities such as this one don’t come along very often and should be seized once they appear. When the edifice of mainstream society suddenly collapses, as is happening now, it is a fantastic time for artists, visionaries, mad scientists and seers to step forward and present a well-defined alternative. What is required, in my opinion, is not some moderate proposal or incremental change, but a complete shift in values and goals, making a polar reversal of our society’s basic paradigm. If our consumer-based, materialism-driven model of society is dissolving, what can we offer in its place? Why not begin with the most elevated intentions? Why not offer the most imaginatively fabulous systemic redesign?
The fall of capitalism and the crisis of the biosphere could induce mass despair and misery, or they could impel the creative adaptation and conscious evolution of the human species. We could attain a new level of wisdom and build a compassionate global society in which resources are shared equitably while we devote ourselves to protecting threatened species and repairing damaged ecosystems. Considering the lightning-like pace of global communication and new social technologies, this change could happen with extraordinary speed.
To a very great extent, the possibilities we choose to realize in the future will be a result of our individual and collective intention. For instance, if we maintain a Puritanical belief that work is somehow good in and of itself, then we will keep striving to create a society of full employment, even if those jobs become “green collar.” A more radical viewpoint perceives most labor as something that could become essentially voluntary in the future. The proper use of technology could allow us to transition to a post-scarcity leisure society, where the global populace spends its time growing food, building community, making art, making love, learning new skills and deepening self-development through spiritual disciplines such as yoga, tantra, shamanism and meditation.
One common perspective is that the West and Islam are engaged in an intractable conflict of civilizations, where the hatred and terrorism can only get worse. Another viewpoint could envision the Judeo-Christian culture of the West finding common ground and reconciling with the esoteric core, the metaphysical purity, of the Islamic faith. It seems — to me anyway — that we could find solutions to all of the seemingly intractable problems of our time once we are ready to apply a different mindset to them. As Einstein and others have noted, we don’t solve problems through employing the type of thinking that created them, but rather dissolve them when we reach a different level of consciousness.
We became so mired in our all-too-human world that we lost touch with the other, elder forms of sentience all around us. Along with delegates to the UN, perhaps we could train cadres of diplomats to negotiate with the vegetal, fungal and microbial entities that sustain life on earth? The mycologist Paul Stamets proposes we create a symbiosis with mushrooms to detoxify eco-systems and improve human health. The herbalist Morgan Brent believes psychoactive flora like ayahuasca and peyote are “teacher plants,” sentient emissaries from super-intelligent nature, trying to help the human species find its niche in the greater community of life. When we pull back to study the hapless and shameful activity of our species across the earth, these ideas do not seem very farfetched.
In fact, the breakdown of our financial system has not altered the amount of tangible resources available on our planet. Rather than trying to re-jigger an unjust debt-based system that artificially maintains inequity and scarcity, we could make a new start. We could develop a different intention for what we are supposed to be doing together on this swiftly tilting planet, and institute new social and economic infrastructure to support that intent.
This article originally appeared in Conscious Choice.
Image by jouste, courtesy of Creative Commons license.
A WONDERFUL THING happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope didn’t kill you. It didn’t even make you less effective. In fact it made you more effective, because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems—you ceased hoping your problems would somehow get solved through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the Sierra Club, valiant tree-sitters, brave salmon, or even the Earth itself—and you just began doing whatever it takes to solve those problems yourself.
When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that in some sense it does kill you. You die. And there’s a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that they—those in power—cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence itself. Once you’re dead in this way, you can still sing, you can still dance, you can still make love, you can still fight like hell—you can still live because you are still alive, more alive in fact than ever before. You come to realize that when hope died, the you who died with the hope was not you, but was the you who depended on those who exploit you, the you who believed that those who exploit you will somehow stop on their own, the you who believed in the mythologies propagated by those who exploit you in order to facilitate that exploitation. The socially constructed you died. The civilized you died. The manufactured, fabricated, stamped, molded you died. The victim died.
And who is left when that you dies? You are left. Animal you. Naked you. Vulnerable (and invulnerable) you. Mortal you. Survivor you. The you who thinks not what the culture taught you to think but what you think. The you who feels not what the culture taught you to feel but what you feel. The you who is not who the culture taught you to be but who you are. The you who can say yes, the you who can say no. The you who is a part of the land where you live. The you who will fight (or not) to defend your family. The you who will fight (or not) to defend those you love. The you who will fight (or not) to defend the land upon which your life and the lives of those you love depends. The you whose morality is not based on what you have been taught by the culture that is killing the planet, killing you, but on your own animal feelings of love and connection to your family, your friends, your landbase—not to your family as self-identified civilized beings but as animals who require a landbase, animals who are being killed by chemicals, animals who have been formed and deformed to fit the needs of the culture.
When you give up on hope—when you are dead in this way, and by so being are really alive—you make yourself no longer vulnerable to the cooption of rationality and fear that Nazis inflicted on Jews and others, that abusers like my father inflict on their victims, that the dominant culture inflicts on all of us. Or is it rather the case that these exploiters frame physical, social, and emotional circumstances such that victims perceive themselves as having no choice but to inflict this cooption on themselves?
But when you give up on hope, this exploiter/victim relationship is broken. You become like the Jews who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear.
And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power.
In case you’re wondering, that’s a very good thing.
Full article here . . .
Going AWOL, Trees of Life, Life, & AWOL life in trees.
As a kid I used to go hiking in the mountains and cliff jumping and fishing at the lake I used to live near. I remember people would share food from their gardens, and they would play bluegrass in the middle of town three days out of the week. As a kid I remember thinking I would never leave. But in backwoods Arkansas there are few opportunities for young people trying to get started in a professional life. My mom was single most of the time and poor all of the time, and I didn’t know where to go when I left the house. I naively joined the Army; I didn’t know what else to do. That was back in 1999, and I promised myself I would not do anything that I disagreed with; that was my personal ultimatum for joining, and I was way too trusting of our government to use good discretion behind what they told us to do. When I joined I was looking at the need for a military as being in a sense of immediacy as if I would be expected to act in immediate defense of our country.
Some time after I joined, that ultimatum was compromised. I’m not proud of it, and I rarely talk about it. But there are things that happened in places I was deployed that will be with me for the rest of my life. I have to be vague; its much easier to talk about things you didn’t do sometimes.
Since then, I have been drawn to anything that could be an attempt to explain the circumstances behind the situation in which I and so many other people found ourselves. I became interested in anything that addresses the dynamics of how culture and religion lead to wars and other conflicts, and that inevitably led to a largely academic type of interest in religion and philosophy as would any critique of all the encompassing aspects of a political paradigm. Retrospect has treated the situation I was in much better than it treated me while I was involved.
In the military there is this type of conditioning you go through beginning in training that is intended to break you from acting upon your conscience, and many people go through things later in their service that cause that separation to widen further. Honestly, that training is very affective, and it ostensibly works for its intended purpose. It starts with desensitization and can eventually move to actualization, but despite its intensive psychological purpose and implementation there are many known residual affects of this conditioning and many more upon implementation. Your conscience will always come back to you; in some situations you can die due to a conscience, but you can never live without it.
The months leading up to the Iraq War almost seemed surreal. It was an encroaching reality of which I could not justify being a part. It was a taboo around our Army post with the exception of faint rumors that some private, specialist, or other low ranking person had seen a shipment of DCUs (desert combat uniforms) come in. No one talked about it. People talked about Afghanistan, but not Iraq. It was too sensitive of a topic. Per procedure we knew we were on 24 hour notice. Twenty four hours notice and we would have to report and start packing our gear. After a while there seemed to be less of a question as to if, and more of a question as to when we would go.
The situation kept getting more volatile. I felt the fear and paranoia keep growing all around me and throughout the rest of the world. I would walk back onto post from the little German town I lived near and my backpack would be sniffed by dogs. F16s and Apache helicopters would patrol the airspace above the barracks where I lived, and the Germans, usually very courtly and obsequious, now treated me and other Americans with an unusual apprehension or disregard.
Something was going badly wrong, and I knew it. I watched the news relentlessly, and I looked around at all the new soldiers that were coming in and thought to myself, “They’re stocking up, oh shit.” I would see them come in from the bars and in their rooms playing video games, and I couldn’t help but to think, “You can’t know,” and I could see that in the eyes of any other veteran as well, but no one ever talked. I was only 21 then, and maybe I was still too innocent to be quiet.
I broke and started talking. I called bullshit on the war in front of everyone. I was so vocal that my company commander pulled me aside and told me that I needed to stop talking about it. He was a little mystified by it because throughout the unit I was respected and had never caused a problem. I asked him to allow me to be placed on conscientious objector status, and he reminded me that I had signed an agreement to be a part of a combat unit, and also of the clauses in the UCMJ where it says, “the willful disobedience of an order or regulation,” and, “conduct prejudicial to the good order and discipline of the armed forces, or that will bring discredit upon the service,” was against military law. I told him that legality doesn’t define morality and that going to Iraq would be prejudicial to the ‘good order’ of the of the unit,” and I walked out of his office without being dismissed.
This exemplifies the obvious paradox about being in the U.S. military. In theory you are defending, and are a part of, a democratic country where you have the right to question anything, but you live in a totalitarian segment of it and have little room to question authority as you should be able to in a democracy. You relinquish many of your civilian rights when you enlist. Freedom of speech is often litigiously impeded by issues of national interest, and the general morale of the soldiers is of enough importance to an officer that they will reprimand anyone raising the right questions.
I mailed myself some civilian clothes before I went to a field exercise, and six years ago when I got the package and I went AWOL. I hiked 20 miles through the woods at night in mountainous terrain to get to the nearest road, and I hitched to the nearest town with a train station. I had to leave the country in less than 24 hours because I knew the Army would put out an “All Points Bulletin” or an A.P.B. with the Interpol, also known as Europe’s International Police. I got on the next train leaving the country, and on the train I found myself on a car that was completely empty except for myself and a sinister looking upper middle aged man of middle eastern descent. It was quiet for half an hour except for the sound of the tracks, but I think this man sensed my anxiety and began asking me questions first in broken German and then in broken English. The state of mind I was in must have been so apprehensive that something about the way I just filled space raised his curiosity. “Wo Sie tat, kommt her,” or, “Where did you come from,” he asked suddenly. It seemed intrusive, but I tried to fight back any inclination that this man could be some form of a threat. “Ich bin eine Americanish soldat, und ich ous Baumholder,” or, “I am an American soldier, and I am out of Baumholder,” I answered because I knew he would figure it out due to the haircut and my accent. In english he asked where I was going, and I answered, “I don’t know where where I am going; I just went AWOL.” I didn’t expect him to know what that meant, but he reacted with a moment of rumination, and said, “I was a soldier, and I left also.” I knew better than to ask about what country or what kind of service in which he had been enlisted, but after another long pause he said, “I was in the Iraqi army.” “I fought in the Iran-Iraq War and what you call Desert Storm,” he said with retention in his voice. The train started picking up speed and the tracks started making more noise. Both were more comforting than the conversation we were having.
By the time he got off of the train in Uterect he had told me a detailed account of how he had to leave his family and move to the Netherlands to seek asylum because he didn’t support his county’s recent foreign policies with America. We were both defected soldiers from opposing sides of an impending war. The last thing he said to me was, “May peace be with you my good friend.” He was only the second person I talked to after I went AWOL.
I made it to Amsterdam, and stayed there for a couple of weeks in a hostel, Bob’s Hostel, for any of you who may know of the place. The rest of my experience in Amsterdam is a little hard to explain, but I can definitely vouch for the importance of psychedelic drugs in times of both personal and international crisis. It was a very meaningful experience. Psylocibin was definitely a good idea at that point. Everything that was going on in the world, and everything that was going on with me made so much more sense. Every fear, every hope, every insight, every premonition, every instinct, every facet of connectedness that I experienced in the world in the past or present at that time had reaffirmed itself with me and with what I was doing, or not doing. Somehow I gained a more encompassing vantage point on how my personal state of existence correlated with the rest of the world. It made me feel invulnerable to the ramifications of that situation, which affectively empowered me to live it out in a manner that allowed me to enjoy it. I knew I would never have another experience like it. I was going to make the most of it, and I reveled in that fact. Albeit that I was an international fugitive, I found freedom in where all the possibilities of that situation could take me.
I had no way to survive for long in Amsterdam or the rest of Europe for that matter. I needed to be in a place where people hated me as much as they hated themselves, and that place was not Europe at this point.
I didn’t know if the leave form I had forged would get me through an airport, and I knew that my name would most likely be flagged in any airport’s security system. Just to stay random I jumped a passenger train to Luxembourg dodging the train attendant the entire way. I made it to the airport and booked a flight from there to Newark, New Jersey with British Airways. I made it through security. Somehow the leave form with made up control numbers and account numbers along with my own name signed as my commander worked to get me through security, and as I boarded the plane I remember thinking, “This was too easy.” The “fasten seat-belt” light turned off and I took my carry on, containing the only things I owned at this point, and went to the restroom and changed clothes and put on a hat, and when I was done I sat down in a different seat. I didn’t know at the time if this was a precaution or just paranoia, but if they were going to find me I was not going to make it any easier for them. The plane landed at Heathrow airport in London where I was going to have to get off and transfer to the Gatwik airport. As we taxied to dock with the terminal, the plane stopped just before the gate, and a couple of minutes later the pilot said, “Will the person sitting in seat 86b with boarding pass number 5384606 please stay seated security reasons.” That was my assigned seat and boarding pass number. The plane took an eternal fifteen minutes to dock with the terminal; they were waiting on security to show up. When they did, the plane finally docked, and I got into the aisle with everyone else. When I walked by the stewardess, she very cordially said, “Welcome to London.” I said, “Thanks,” and kept walking with only a slight grin on my face I’m sure. At the end of the ramp there were two straight-faced British airport security guards standing beside each other just within the roped off area. I made eye contact with one of them as I walked by and concentrated hard on not increasing my pace after I had passed them; for some reason I had almost started laughing. At the ground transportation exit of the airport I exchanged some Euros for Pounds so I could catch my bus to the Gatwik airport.
Upon arrival at Gatwik I hid in some bushes and changed clothes again. It occurred to me that I should do something with the rest of the weed I had picked up in Amsterdam. I rolled a spliff and smoked the rest of what I had; maybe it was due some existential want of mine, and for some reason it brought out the sheer sublimity and farcicality of that situation. From the onset of the whole airport experience I was dumbfounded about how it all seemed so amusingly diverted from the dire reality of it all; my freedom for months afterward depended on the outcome, but I still had an unheeded disposition despite the reality that I was at the whim of other powers at large. I walked up to the British Airways kiosk and presented my itinerary, my U.S. Army I.D., and the bogus leave form. The attendant took a quick glance at the I.D. then at me. She then turned her attention to the leave form and started typing in information. This hadn’t happened in Luxembourg. The typing stopped and she took a long discriminate look at the computer screen, and then she shifted in her seat a little and picked up a phone and called a manager with a fleeting and peculiar look in my direction. Several minutes passed while she was waiting on her supervisor and she continued to try to decipher whatever syntax her computer was spitting out. The line began to back up, and my flight was only twenty five minutes out, and I still had to either deal with security or they else they were going to deal with me. I was surprised she didn’t tell me to step aside so she could help other people; I stood there like a statue of a man in purgatory, and when she looked at me again our eyes locked for a moment. She looked at the I.D. again with more contemplation this time and gave it back to me as she began printing my boarding pass. Minutes later I was at customs explaining that I had nothing to declare.
Once my transatlantic flight was at cruising altitude I couldn’t resist asking the stewardess for a drink even though I knew I shouldn’t attract any attention to myself. One thing led to another, and I was given complimentary beer through the whole flight; benevolence seemed like just as good of a plan after a while. The flight was nearly empty, and I ended up talking to a couple of the stewardesses for a couple of hours with banter about the ridiculous state of affairs in the world at that point. Over my last beer before we started our descent into Newark, I told one of the stewardesses that I was a soldier and was going home for good. Airlines personnel in particular know the comings and goings of soldiers, and she had to have known about the stop-loss on American soldiers; no American soldier, in good health or good standing, had legally gone home “for good” in months, and that was all over the news as well as evident in their absence on her flights. “Was it a medical discharge or some kind of a chapter,” she asked. “Neither,” I responded. She started to say the word, “How,” with consternation, but decided not to pursue an answer. Instead she grinned and whispered, “You need to be more careful,” as she walked to the back. The plane landed and moments later I was showing the same worn out leave form to a tired looking customs agent who sent me on my way. I don’t know how that happened. I guess someone didn’t get the memo. I had just traveled internationally with a federal warrant for my arrest and was not even given a second look by inbound customs or security.
Culture shock set in sometime after I left the airport. I hadn’t been in civilian America since 9/11, and on top of that I found myself on a train to New York. I didn’t pay for the train ticket of course, and when the attendant came by I flipped open my wallet unintentionally revealing my military identification to grab ten dollars of the only hundred I had left. She said, “Don’t worry about it. Thanks for your service.” That made me want to pay for it anyway, but I couldn’t find the brevity to respond without complicating matters. My situation put me in a strange sort of suspension between a division in our society that had continued to widen with every step toward war in Iraq. I don’t look at the soldiers in my unit that invaded Iraq as having poor judgement in deciding to go; they were subjected to just as much if not more deception as anyone else. They were acting upon the misjudgment of a few misguided people, and their vitality was compromised regardless of any personal decision they could have made; our country had done them a disservice by allowing the invasion to happen, and for not being more critical of the prosecution of the Iraq War in its onset. I can honestly say that I respect and supported everyone I knew in the service, but I cannot say I respect and support the totalitarian organization of the military or its given directives as a whole. In every sense of the word I cannot say I did my country a disservice by not going; it was a blatant misrepresentation of the will of the public for the war to even begin. It has been very disheartening for me since this time to be criticized for being unpatriotic by people who have never done any more public service than to vote; shielded -per their own hypothesis- by combat operations of which I was a part. I knew I could run but not hide; I knew my vitality would be strongly affected by the public perception of the impending war.
With that in mind, I looked around and listened in passivity to people on this train. English spoken in public had been a rare encounter for me for a long time, and I almost wanted it to be German, Dutch, Belgian, or French again. There was a sense of disquietude that seemed to pervade every public area, every thing I saw on the news, and everything that was said to me. I began to question why I had come back, but then I realized that, being a product of the American Dream turned nightmare, it would be a little irresponsible to expect non-Americans to be receptive to my immediate problems: American problems. If I was ever going to be any part of a dynamic for changes made to these circumstances I would have to be in America. After all, the international community often receives American influence and foreign policy involuntarily; I didn’t want them to have to receive another problem involuntarily: an indigent American fugitive.
I got off of the train in New York somewhere near the Greyhound station. Directions were easier to understand, but so were the vagrants in the street. It had always seemed more wholesome and fulfilling to give money to the people on the street in Europe. Maybe that was because I couldn’t understand what they were saying, and I could just let my imagination think they would use it for a rightful purpose. It was a little more burdensome to explain, “I’m in your situation,” to people that I knew could understand me. Vocalizing it made it sink in a little further at the time. I made it to the station, and I used my I.D. for the last time to buy a $99 military discount on a trip to San Francisco. I was completely broke except for the dollar in change. I went back outside while waiting on the bus and set the dollar bill on fire in front of all of the bums, and when they protested I just looked around at all of them and said with enthusiasm, “Live free.”
Later that night, after I had transferred from my original bus in Washington D.C. to another one headed to Oklahoma City, I woke up to red and blue lights behind the bus. As it came to a stop, I read the emergency exit label on the window beside me over and over, “Pull up and push out, use only in the event of an emergency.” I asked some people in the seats next to me what was going on and they said that people on the bus had been screaming at the bus driver to stop because he had been driving erratically. Someone on the bus had called the police on the driver, and they ended up arresting him for driving the bus at over three times the legal blood alcohol limit. They took witness statements on a voluntary basis so I was able to stay out of it. After the troopers had left the bus and it occupants on the side of the Beltway, a Greyhound driver showed up two hours later only to drive us back to the D.C. bus station, and when we got there I was a little appalled that there was a television crew and a reporter filming and questioning everyone that was exiting the bus. When I walked by them I said, “Kerl war betrunken,” or “Dude was drunk,” in German. I guess it was some attempt to force them to not broadcast my fugitive mug to the rest of the world. If I had said something in English or nothing at all they might have rolled it anyway. I waited twelve hours for a transfer out of D.C., and I took that time to take a walk by the F.B.I. building where I enticed a few drunk bums into flipping the building off with me for a while; surveillance cameras were rolling. It was a weird move I know, but at least it was on my own agenda that I was on camera.
It took a total of five days to get to San Francisco because I had to be rerouted through Atlanta and other parts of the south before I could head west on the what used to be Route 66. When I made it to San Francisco I walked to my sisters apartment. I hadn’t told my family anything at this point and even though it was risky I decided to make a brief appearance and to let them know I was okay. I just appeared unannounced at her front door very strung out from the road. I thought a phone call would have been a bad idea. She told me that Army investigators had called my mother’s house in Arkansas, and that everyone was very worried about the fact that I had been missing from my unit in Germany. Most civilians, including my family, seemed to treat the possibility of the war with what seemed to me to be disregard. Its implications seemed to be less of a reality than they were to soldiers, and with it being a foreign war of course this was the case. My sister was the only person in my family that was solidly anti-war at this point, and I asked her to explain to the rest of my family that what I was doing would explain itself eventually. She insisted that I stay there for a couple of days, and I did with some well-founded objection. When I left I told her that I had plans to travel to Vancouver, Canada, and I had even bought another bus ticket to get there with a small amount of money she had given me. But I was lying to her in order to protect her from withholding information from the authorities. Federal marshals showed up there to serve the warrant they had on me only days after I left.
I was squatting in Golden Gate Park for about a week after I left my sister’s apartment. I was having fun hanging around the drum circles that would happen only when the sun was out, and I soaked up whatever subculture the city had to offer at that point. After talking to a few kids in the park I learned that there was an anarchist bookstore a few blocks down the Haight, a great street of cultural importance in the Bay area, and I walked there out of curiosity. Once inside, I immediately found the place to be a priceless resource for someone with such a history of transgressing state authority. There was free information about urban survival all over the place, and I also found a flyer about tree-sitting there. It explained that it was a nonviolent form of environmental activism that involved living illegally in redwood trees for long periods of time. I didn’t second guess the impulse I had to do it; it was something that would put me right in the middle of the radar. It was the perfect confrontation with authority that I had wanted for a long time. I didn’t care if I was arrested doing it; I had finally found something that I can honestly say that I agreed with wholeheartedly. The itinerary on the bus ticket I had included a stop in the town where the point of contact was to begin training for direct action and forest defense. After the January 18, anti-war protest that I was a part of in San Francisco, I used the ticket to get to Arcata, in Humboldt County.
Northern California treated me well. I found a lot of hospitality there; creatively motivated dissidents were well received. Days after I arrived there I was living a couple of hundred feet up in a 1,500 year old redwood tree named Jezebel. During one of my first nights that I spent in that tree, one of the tallest in the immediate area, there was a wind storm that came off of the Pacific with gusts upwards of fifty miles an hour. The tree was swaying twelve feet from side to side at the platform violently throwing me and everything else inside it around. I managed to put on some rain gear and climb to the top of the tree; first on the rope and then via free-climb. I don’t know if it was safer than the platform, but it definitely heightened my perception of what a windstorm in a 280 ft. tall redwood tree was like. It was more than just an adrenaline trip. After that, I was in love with it.
Initially, other activists had trained me to ascend a climbing rope with a rock climbing harness and prusiks, and later I began to learn to set platforms in the trees to set up as structures for small living spaces in the trees. I also was taught how to throw lines into new trees to climb and how to set traverses with trucker’s rope allowing us to set up with a pulley and traverse from one tree to the next. I turned into a more experienced climber after a couple of months of living in the trees, and I soon began volunteering to help train other people to climb even if they were just coming to climb for the day. It was an awesome experience to be able to share, and when we did this we often met people from all over the world that had heard of us and what we were doing.
During the entire time I spent there I had some of the most awesome, beautiful, and powerful experiences I have ever had in my life. Some evenings the locals would come out and start a drum circle down by the bases of the trees, and other nights there would be people that would play harmonicas, violins, and mandolins solo purely out of appreciation for what we were doing. Although there was ample support from within the group I was with and from the wider community, I spent long periods of time completely alone without the languishment that often accompanies a prolonged absence of normal amounts of sociality. At one point I had not come down from a tree I was in for a month, and it was, at first, hard to remember how to talk when I was around people again. The only vocalizing I had done is when everyone in the trees from all over the hillside would start howling at the full moon.
People appreciated the fact that we were protesting logging of old-growth redwood trees and donated food and supplies to us; that is how we survived. The community would give our ground-support, food, and supplies so that we could willfully trespass on an active logging zone that was private property owned by an unsustainable logging company, which has now imploded and gone bankrupt due to its own ill contrived logging practices. They cut down all of the trees over ninety percent of the county and had nothing left to profit from.
The fact that it was solely an act of the heart by anyone involved was the beauty behind the action. It was a way to transcend the indirection, or indirect actions, of a conventional lifestyle in our present society. So many of us have the right insights, the right ideas, the right amount of consideration, and the right amount of willpower to make steps toward living a sustainable lifestyle harmonious with the rest of existence, but there is little avenue for its implementation. This type of activism is in no way a panacea, but it is an outlet of expression unparalleled in modern society. Recognizing that humans are highly communicative this type of expression definitely has its function. I see it as a way to set a nonviolent example for people to respond to situations where and when the exploitation of resources proves to be a direct impediment to the local community. In so many situations people fail to organize, communicate, and stand up for what is rightfully theirs.
In contrast with indirect action, direct action is action based upon the basic human willingness to share, to have gratitude, to be giving and generous in a manner that is not transactional, or done with the direct expectation of something in return. It shares the ideology of sustainable living; it is to have a direct and meaningful connection and interaction with the immediate resources and community that sustains you. Indirect action can still withhold the right values, for example, if someone votes or recycles it can still be indirectly beneficial to the rest of the community, but the vast majority of indirect action is the involuntary participation in a transactional infrastructure where what is given is just as meaningless to the individual as what is taken. In this kind of sustainment people lose sight of, and respect for, the natural resources and the community effort behind what they consume as well as the services they provide. The ideological makeup of sustainable living is the same as it is in direct action, but direct action is a way to oppose unsustainable living. This was the first time in my life I had participated in something I can say I fully agreed with.
I learned of the start of the war while I was in a tree.
In the weeks prior, loggers had been moving into the area clear-cutting the entire mountainside. I woke up every morning to the seismic activity generated by one of those trees hitting the ground. In the weeks following this time a good friend of mine in the trees got to meet Starhawk; a widely known proponent for nonviolent environmental direct action whose influence was felt throughout the movement. Recognizing that things were getting intense she came to express gratitude and admiration for what all of us were doing. On March, 21st the extractions began. The company, Pacific Lumber, had hired trained Arborists to extract us from the trees. They would spend all day girthing the trees in order to get high enough to reach us. Once they were into the branches, they would set a belay point and haul up a generator and a grinder to cut us out of cast iron lock-boxes which were cast iron pipes in the shape of a ‘V’ that had a piece of re-bar welded to the center of the inside. This would allow someone to put their arms around the tree and chain themselves to the piece of the re-bar while their arms were inside the piping. Twenty of the twenty-four of us in the trees were extracted. I saw most of them happen in trees that were very near me. I was one of four that never got arrested for some reason. The extractionists came up the tree I was in and cut down the platform, but they realized when they climbed higher that there were too many people in the tree and not enough daylight to get us all out. I spent the next few weeks living on a web of parachute cord that I had woven between a couple of branches. I had also hung a tarp above it to stay dry. I was eventually relieved from the tree by a good friend who was seemingly glad to be arrested in it only a few days after I left. The arrest is an important part of an action for most because it brings out the tenacity and determination of an activist where it otherwise cannot be achieved. This is an enigmatic part of activism that is hard to explain. We were happy to do what we did, for what it was, when it was.
Recognizing my situation, my friends had made sure that I would not get arrested because they did not want to see me get extradited back to Germany. Everyone that got arrested was not only charged with trespassing. They were also civilly sued for sums of $45,000 each for the obstruction of interstate commerce. That was the amount of money that the arborists’ labor costed Pacific Lumber.
I went to Siskyou County to help set up for another action in a national forest, and I also stayed on a commune in the area for a couple of weeks that had an organic farm and orchard; it was 98 miles out on a dirt road. They were 75% self sustaining, and did sharecropping and work-trade for the rest of their food and supplies. I had the option to stay there indefinitely, but I could not justify it somehow. I wanted to be more involved in the wider community and not as isolated. If I was intent on evading the authorities that would have been a perfect option for me, but I, as usual, chose the path of most resistance. I wanted to go to school for journalism eventually and take part in reporting about permaculture, environmental activism, environmental ethics, and environmental science. I wanted to be able to contribute to that movement on a professional level.
After I went on a 2,500 mile hitch-hiking trip around some of the most amazing parts of the West, I turned myself in to the authorities on the fourth of July, and I spent a year in military custody. Seven and a half months of that time I was in jail, but I never was convicted of being AWOL. At that time I learned that six of my friends from my old unit had been killed in Iraq, and I now know that two more have been killed in later deployments to the region. I was given a general discharge from the Army, and was allowed to keep my honors from my deployment to Kosovo, which I have since mailed to my congressman along with a letter about the ability of service members to obtain a conscientious objector status after they enlist.
War Is Over
If You Want It
What is the Story of Stuff / The Video
From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.
SANTIAGO, Chile — It is just after 5 p.m. in what was once one of Latin America’s most sexually conservative countries, and the youth of Chile are bumping and grinding to a reggaetón beat. At the Bar Urbano disco, boys and girls ages 14 to 18 are stripping off their shirts, revealing bras, tattoos and nipple rings.
The place is a tangle of lips and tongues and hands, all groping and exploring. About 800 teenagers sway and bounce to lyrics imploring them to “Poncea! Poncea!”: make out with as many people as they can.
And make out they do — with stranger after stranger, vying for the honor of being known as the “ponceo,” the one who pairs up the most.
Chile, long considered to have among the most traditional social mores in South America, is crashing headlong into that reputation with its precocious teenagers. Chile’s youths are living in a period of sexual exploration that, academics and government officials say, is like nothing the country has witnessed before.
“Chile’s youth are clearly having sex earlier and testing the borderlines with their sexual conduct,” said Dr. Ramiro Molina, director of the University of Chile’s Center for Adolescent Reproductive Medicine and Development.
The sexual awakening is happening through a booming industry for 18-and-under parties, an explosion of Internet connectivity and through Web sites like Fotolog, where young people trade suggestive photos of each other and organize weekend parties, some of which have drawn more than 4,500 teenagers. The online networks have emboldened teenagers to express themselves in ways that were never customary in Chile’s conservative society.
“We are not the children of the dictatorship; we are the children of democracy,” said Michele Bravo, 17, at a recent afternoon party. “There is much more of a rebellious spirit among young people today. There is much more freedom to explore everything.”
The parents and grandparents of today’s teenagers fought hard to give them such freedoms and to escape the book-burning times of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. But in a country that legalized divorce only in 2004 and still has a strict ban on abortion, the feverish sexual exploration of the younger generation is posing new challenges for parents and educators. Sex education in public schools is badly lagging, and the pregnancy rate among girls under 15 has been on the rise, according to the Health Ministry.
Indeed, adolescent sexuality has changed throughout Latin America, Dr. Ramiro said, and underlying much of the newfound freedom is an issue that societies the world over are grappling with: the explosion of explicit content and social networks on the Internet.
Chilean society was shaken last year when a video of a 14-year-old girl eagerly performing oral sex on a teenage boy on a Santiago park bench was discovered on a video-hosting Web site. The episode became a national scandal, stirring finger-pointing at the girl’s school, at the Internet provider — at everyone, it seemed, but the boys who captured the event on a cellphone and distributed the video.
Chile’s stable, market-based economy has helped to drive the changes, spurring a boom in consumer spending and credit unprecedented in the country’s history. Chile has become Latin American’s biggest per-capita consumer of digital technology, including cellphones, cable television and Internet broadband accounts, according to a study by the Santiago consulting firm Everis and the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Navarra in Spain.
Chileans are plugged into the Internet at higher rates than other South Americans, and the highest use is among children ages 6 to 17. Therein lies a central factor in the country’s newfound sexual exploration, said Miguel Arias, a psychologist and head of the Santiago consulting firm Divergente.
Fotolog, a photo-sharing network created in the United States, took off in the last two years in this country. Today Chile, which has a population of 16 million, has 4.8 million Fotolog accounts, more than any other country, the company says. Again, children ages 12 to 17 hold more than 60 percent of the accounts.
Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1
Posted : Monday Sep 8, 2008 6:15:06 EDT
The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply convoys.
Now they’re training for the same mission — with a twist — at home.
Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the 1st BCT will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.
It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped to help at home. In August 2005, for example, when Hurricane Katrina unleashed hell in Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas.
But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.
After 1st BCT finishes its dwell-time mission, expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one.
“Right now, the response force requirement will be an enduring mission. How the [Defense Department] chooses to source that and whether or not they continue to assign them to NorthCom, that could change in the future,” said Army Col. Louis Vogler, chief of NorthCom future operations. “Now, the plan is to assign a force every year.”
The command is at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., but the soldiers with 1st BCT, who returned in April after 15 months in Iraq, will operate out of their home post at Fort Stewart, Ga., where they’ll be able to go to school, spend time with their families and train for their new homeland mission as well as the counterinsurgency mission in the war zones.
Stop-loss will not be in effect, so soldiers will be able to leave the Army or move to new assignments during the mission, and the operational tempo will be variable.
Don’t look for any extra time off, though. The at-home mission does not take the place of scheduled combat-zone deployments and will take place during the so-called dwell time a unit gets to reset and regenerate after a deployment.
The 1st of the 3rd is still scheduled to deploy to either Iraq or Afghanistan in early 2010, which means the soldiers will have been home a minimum of 20 months by the time they ship out.
In the meantime, they’ll learn new skills, use some of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not be shot at while doing any of it.
They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack.
Training for homeland scenarios has already begun at Fort Stewart and includes specialty tasks such as knowing how to use the “jaws of life” to extract a person from a mangled vehicle; extra medical training for a CBRNE incident; and working with U.S. Forestry Service experts on how to go in with chainsaws and cut and clear trees to clear a road or area.
The 1st BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use “the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,” 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.
“It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they’re fielding. They’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it.”
The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.
“I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered,” said Cloutier, describing the experience as “your worst muscle cramp ever — times 10 throughout your whole body.
“I’m not a small guy, I weigh 230 pounds … it put me on my knees in seconds.”
The brigade will not change its name, but the force will be known for the next year as a CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF (pronounced “sea-smurf”).
“I can’t think of a more noble mission than this,” said Cloutier, who took command in July. “We’ve been all over the world during this time of conflict, but now our mission is to take care of citizens at home … and depending on where an event occurred, you’re going home to take care of your home town, your loved ones.”
While soldiers’ combat training is applicable, he said, some nuances don’t apply.
“If we go in, we’re going in to help American citizens on American soil, to save lives, provide critical life support, help clear debris, restore normalcy and support whatever local agencies need us to do, so it’s kind of a different role,” said Cloutier, who, as the division operations officer on the last rotation, learned of the homeland mission a few months ago while they were still in Iraq.
Some brigade elements will be on call around the clock, during which time they’ll do their regular marksmanship, gunnery and other deployment training. That’s because the unit will continue to train and reset for the next deployment, even as it serves in its CCMRF mission.
Should personnel be needed at an earthquake in California, for example, all or part of the brigade could be scrambled there, depending on the extent of the need and the specialties involved.
Other branches included
The active Army’s new dwell-time mission is part of a NorthCom and DOD response package.
Active-duty soldiers will be part of a force that includes elements from other military branches and dedicated National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Teams.
A final mission rehearsal exercise is scheduled for mid-September at Fort Stewart and will be run by Joint Task Force Civil Support, a unit based out of Fort Monroe, Va., that will coordinate and evaluate the interservice event.
In addition to 1st BCT, other Army units will take part in the two-week training exercise, including elements of the 1st Medical Brigade out of Fort Hood, Texas, and the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade from Fort Bragg, N.C.
There also will be Air Force engineer and medical units, the Marine Corps Chemical, Biological Initial Reaction Force, a Navy weather team and members of the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
One of the things Vogler said they’ll be looking at is communications capabilities between the services.
“It is a concern, and we’re trying to check that and one of the ways we do that is by having these sorts of exercises. Leading up to this, we are going to rehearse and set up some of the communications systems to make sure we have interoperability,” he said.
“I don’t know what America’s overall plan is — I just know that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that are standing by to come and help if they’re called,” Cloutier said. “It makes me feel good as an American to know that my country has dedicated a force to come in and help the people at home.”