It is not just about guns

I visited the courthouse a few days ago to pick up my concealed carry permit renewal. The permit must be renewed every 5 years. Here in Wild and Wonderful, that is a $100.00-dollar process. It’s $75.00 for the background check and our county sheriff charges an additional $25.00 when the card is issued. The Sherriff’s fee may differ from county to county. In the state of West Virginia, a permit is no longer required to carry a concealed weapon, neither is certification of any firearms training. There are age restrictions. Open carry of handguns and long guns without permit has always been legal. I keep the permit current to comply with the reciprocity rules of other states.

When I entered the office to pick-up my permit, there was quite a long line of people in the concealed carry permit line. Most of them were initial applicants. When I finally made my way up to the clerk, I commented that the last time I was there, 5 years ago, I was the only person in line. She told me that anytime there is a shooting incident there is a surge of concealed carry applications. Better late than never.

That did not surprise me. Americans are fortunate to have a Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. It is fortunate we have the means to defend ourselves if we choose. We’ve seen time and again damage is done before the police can get there. In a self-defense situation calling the police is generally not an option. That is not a knock on the police. It is reality. Regardless of response time, which in most cases is only minutes, a marginally trained person with any type of semi-automatic firearm can do much damage to defenseless people before help arrives. Unfortunately, first responders too often arrive postmortem. Reality dictates that unless they are on scene when an attack starts or their action is preemptive, unprotected people are going to die.

Our world changed. It changed with the spread of international and home-grown terrorism. Both of which are likely here to stay. It changed culturally through abandonment of Judeo-Christian values and rejection of any moral authority or moral boundaries. It changed when both parents went to work and Johnny and Jane were left to raise themselves on a steady diet of graphically violent video games. It changed with a total societal immersion into social media turned social direction, turned social control and privacy thief with evil players to draw in the simple minded who may be prodded and groomed into doing the unthinkable. Johnny walks the school hallway and his delusional mind sees a video game.

Frankly, I think every adult American should seek firearms training and should arm themselves for protection. Background checks should be as thorough as possible, but I am concerned about mingling mental health records with criminal background checks. If you hear the words “Universal Background Check” that is a precursor to a national gun registry that is needed to track every firearms sale. This makes gun confiscation possible should any government ever believe that’s a good idea. With recent shooting incidents, mental illness has become an issue. I guess I don’t know how a background check might distinguish the severely mentally ill from someone who may have had a single episode. Is a variance in degree of mental illness considered? It is a complicated question. Certainly, severely mentally disabled people should not have access to firearms and for that matter any type of weapon if a formal psychiatric examination determines they are a danger to harm themselves or others. In work experience I’ve reviewed countless such examinations. I assure you different psychiatrists and psychologists frequently arrive at dissimilar conclusions for the same patient. Resolving this is not as simple as it is made to sound by politicians and media types and it will become more complicated when the mental health issues become intertwined with the legal issues surrounding privacy and access to a person’s health records. The problem for our country and our safety is a Congress that’s shown it cannot agree on any legislation to solve this or any other problem.

Trying to decipher any government report is akin to gouging your eyes out with a stick. So, you don’t have to endure the agony, I looked over a report prepared by the Congressional Research Service on Gun Control Legislation. The report said by the end of 2009, there were approximately 310 million firearms available to sale to civilians in the United States: 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns. By that 2009 report, more guns are available than we have people. Those are firearms we profess to know about. Weapons for sale but not in the hands of people.

The report does not tell us how many firearms are actually in the hands of law abiding American citizens nor does it know how many weapons are illegally obtained and in the hands of criminals and gangs. Eric Holder, however, can tell you how many he fast and furiously exported to the Mexican drug cartels. The report did state a 1994 survey showed “44 million people, approximately 35% of households, owned 192 million firearms, 65 million of which were handguns.” Any way you slice it, there are many legally owned firearms in the hands of law abiding American citizens who would never forfeit their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. An unarmed and defenseless citizenry becomes North Korea. That amendment was placed into our Constitution as a citizen check against tyrannical government. It also reinforces our natural right to self-defense. It is not the deer hunting or target shooting amendment.

Another myth is that “Assault Rifles” are in the hands of American citizens. It is a myth or in many cases and outright lie perpetrated by anti-gun organizations and politicians. Common belief is that “AR” means assault rifle. AR is short for Armalite Rifle, makers of the original AR-15. AR 15’s are semi-automatic rifles cosmetically modified to look like military rifles. They are no more lethal than any other semi-automatic rifle. A military rifle would have either the capability to fire a three-round burst of ammunition or fire full automatic. Banning rifles because they are cosmetically modified to look like military weapons is not going to make anyone or any unprotected place safer. Besides, according to the FBI, blunt objects, knives and handguns are by far the weapons of choice for homicides. Rifles are well down the list.

Banned or not, do you think criminals will not be able to get these weapons? They are now able to get illegal automatic weapons or illegally modified weapons. Do you believe firearms manufacturers will stop producing magazine fed semi-automatic rifles capable of firing NATO 5.56 ammunition? They’ll just make them look docile by removing the scary military cosmetics. People will continue to buy them and continue to add their own modifications. Banning cosmetically modified semi-automatic rifles does not address the issue of gun free zones and soft targets like our schools. Terrorists and murderers of the type we’ve witnessed whether in our schools, theaters or night clubs are only going to go after soft targets. Soft targets are called that because there is no resistance and no one is likely to shoot back. These people are not going to attack a police station.

Gun control, gun banning, gun confiscation, and almost any other gun control law you can imagine is not going to stop incidents of deranged and delusional people from walking into gun free zones and committing atrocities. These laws or any other are not going to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. People who cannot pass the most vigorous background check will still be able to illegally acquire firearms if they are determined to do so. It is hard to cure homicidal maniacs so we must quit the hysterical politics and figure out a way stop them from hurting people either through intelligence and preemption or direct action.

On April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado, two high school seniors murdered 12 people and injured 21 others before committing suicide. For the record, they did not use AR-15s. They used Tec-9 semi-automatic pistols, a pump shotgun, a Hi-Point 995 Carbine, a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun, and explosives. Multiple school shootings later, not including other instances of mass shootings not related to schools, right up to Mary Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida February 14, 2018 where 17 students and teachers were murdered we’ve done nothing. As a nation, we have squabbled hysterically about gun control, beat the NRA senseless, but have never had the wherewithal to address the real issue – the security of our schools and public areas and the elimination of gun free zone soft targets. Nor have we ventured to discuss our cultural shortcomings.

Security is not simple and active shooter training is not enough when the shooter is going to pull a fire alarm and wait for people to enter the kill zone before shooting. Each facility requires a thorough professional threat assessment.

I am hearing advocates for placing armed retired police officers and military Veterans in our schools. That is fine for as far as it goes. But no one should be placed in a school and charged with the responsibility of protecting students and teachers without first completing a thorough training course on engaging armed assailants in a close combat environment with the potential of injuring many non-combatants. Local police SWAT could easily conduct such a training program.

I am also hearing let’s arm teachers. My first year retired from the Army was spent in a public High School. I am not an advocate of arming teachers with expectation they will primarily engage combatants. Teachers are the people whose priority must be safely securing and evacuating students. It’s something they must practice with urgency as often as they do fire drills. I am not opposed to teachers carrying concealed weapons if they are professionally trained in security and as last resort actively engaging a combatant. They also require periodic range time and refresher training with cost borne by local governments before trusting them with weapons in a school environment.

How bad can it be? On September 1, 2004 Chechen Islamic terrorists arrived in a police van to a school in Beslan, North Ossetia of the Russian Federation and took 1100 people hostage. At the end of the three-day siege, 334 people were dead including 186 children. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School enrollment is 2,972 with 129 full-time teachers. Our schools are soft targets. Suicidal terrorists likely already in our country know it.

© 2018 J. D. Pendry

Enduring principles

Recently I read the Army was retooling basic combat training (BCT). Having graced the retired rolls since October 1, 1999, I try to stay abreast, but admittedly I am not up to speed on the current state of BCT or its product. For a time, following retirement, I actively observed, read about and wrote about these topics. For much of my life, they were near to my heart and often a cause of anxiety. Concern might be a better descriptor, but every Noncommissioned Officer worth their salt will admit to periods of anxiety when thinking about whether they’ve done the right things to prepare Soldiers to face the day’s challenges. Anyone who has retired from service will tell you that you are never fully weaned from such thoughts. But as time wore on, and it always does, I thought I’d leave discussion of those important issues to people on the ground. That is how I preferred it when I was serving. After all, they were living it and the Army I knew and loved always found it’s way home. Back to the enduring principles that sustained it throughout history.

Still, having spent several years of my life as an Army Drill Sergeant, I was curious about how and why they were remaking BCT. I read they are going to require among other things weapons qualification with iron sights, increased emphasis on discipline, increased emphasis on physical training…. I wondered, out loud actually, what had they been doing? In BCT, ground zero for instilling discipline, how do you let it slip to a point where indiscipline becomes a problem? Guess I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.

We’ve tinkered with enduring principles over the years. Some person of influence will come along thinking there is a better way, a better wheel, and try to lead us away from what never changes. Our enduring principles. People change, times change, equipment changes, but principles do not. You cannot fiddle with discipline. Either you have it because you demonstrate it, live it and enforce it or you do not. Training must be to a standard and driven by essentiality not time or resources. The Soldier must meet the standard. The standard cannot be modified to accommodate the ability of the trainee or in some cases the supposedly seasoned Soldier. All things Army have standards. The Army has standard bearers. They are Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs). If NCOs are brought up in the Army where enduring principles are laid aside or tinkered with for expediency of making Soldiers “ready”, it could be a long march back home. The only people who can lead an Army back, are the standard bearers.

Old fogies like me have seen a thing or two. Even though it may skip a byte here and there, I searched the cranial hard drive. Sure enough, I’ve seen and lived it before. I came into the VOLAR (All Volunteer Army) Army in 1971 nearing the end of the Vietnam War. By the time I finished training in the spring of 1972 and was ready for my first permanent duty assignment, Vietnam was in full draw down. My first duty station was Camp Red Cloud, Uijongbu, Korea. It is also where the smell of marijuana permeated the barracks and it was the first place I watched a senior NCO shotgun a couple of beers for breakfast to stop his hands from shaking – before he went to work. A great example he was to a brand new Private First Class, but also a vivid memory that helps one stay on track. Vietnam was a long difficult trek for our Army and our country. It was a time of repeated combat tours – sound all too familiar? The NCO Corps was worn down, depleted and practically defeated. Depleted to the point that the Army found it necessary to create a “Shake and Bake” Noncommissioned Officer’s Candidate Course (Educating Noncommissioned Officers, CSM Daniel K. Elder, © May 1999) that took young men from street life to Vietnam NCO combat leader in 22 weeks.

Sometime in 1985 or early 1986, I was given a draft copy of a not yet published article written by Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Larry H. Ingraham, Department of Psychiatry, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. I came by the draft article honestly via the United States Army Europe (USAREUR), Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations’ (DCSOPS) Sergeant Major Ned Deveraux who received a copy from Command Sergeant Major (CSM) James C. Ligon who at the time I believe was then or eventually became V Corps CSM. It was a leadership talk from CSM Ligon that inspired the title of my book, The Three Meter Zone: Common Sense Leadership for NCOs

LTC Ingraham’s draft article was titled:

“Fear and Loathing in the Motor Pool: An Historical Context for Framing Leadership in the U.S. Army with Special Considerations Given to the Corps of Noncommissioned Officers”

I still have that yellowed draft copy, with my highlights and notes. There are multiple staple holes in the corner from the amount of times I pulled it apart to provide someone with a copy. The article became a guide of sorts. It was a place in time for me to look back upon and never forget. To see where we’d been, how far we’d come and what we NCOs needed to do to sustain. It was a constant reminder during my time as a First Sergeant and CSM of what NCOs and the Army could never let go of – enduring principles and NCO leadership. It was a place in time important to my life. It was a place I did not want to see our Army return.

I am sharing the first couple of paragraphs as they appear in the draft, because they did not make it into the article published in Parameters magazine, December 1988 to which I have linked. In the draft introduction, LTC Ingraham wrote:

The U. S Army theme for 1985 was “Leadership.” Before we declare the year a success and move on to our next challenge, I would like to set the historical context in which all contemporary discussion of leadership must be framed.

My remarks are based on tape recorded career histories of 20 senior NCOs representing most of the Army’s career fields to include division level CSMs. These were collected in 1983-84. The interviews ranged from 10 to 23 hours each, but transcription takes 10 to 12 hours for each hour of tape. Transcription is still in progress, so the following account is my story of their stories.

I came away from the interviews with profound admiration for the Corps of Noncommissioned Officers. The sheer native abilities of these NCOs was very impressive, their understanding of soldiers and the army profound, and their loyalty to the army and the country unquestioned. I also came away with grave misgivings that, in our NCO professional development efforts, we are emphasizing the wrong things. I fear we are likely to end up with senior NCOs decidedly less capable than the NCOs I interviewed—soldiers who had achieved so much with very little in the way of school training. But let me tell the story.

LTC Ingraham’s article, Fear and Loathing in the Motor Pool was published by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in 1986 and in the December 1988 issue of Parameters. The Parameters article linked here is titled Fear and Loathing in the Barracks – And the Heart of Leadership.

Before you read it, whether serving or Veteran, try some introspect. Think of your own leadership. Recall the leadership you’ve observed during your time or in recent years. As you read, temper it with a serious look at the current state of our Army. An Army that sees the need to retool basic training to improve among others the most basic thing – discipline. Consider multiple years of repeated combat deployments, consider years of limited resources affecting training and equipment maintenance.

It was NCOs that brought our Army back from the trials of the Vietnam Era. It is NCOs that ensure adherence to enduring principles. Let me leave you with links to a couple of other articles. In 1999 as I was transitioning out Field Artillery Journal, having received and advanced copy of The Three Meter Zone, asked me to write an article. Leading in the Three-Meter Zone was published in their May-June 99 issue after I was already on transition leave. The focus of the article is about the most enduring thing – on the ground leadership of Noncommissioned Officers.

In August 2017, I wrote a series of articles titled Social Engineering and the Military. I provide the link also, because I believe all these issues are intertwined.

NCOs still lead the way.

© 2018 J. D. Pendry

Joy Behar believes Christians who speak to and hear Jesus speaking to them are mentally ill

Well Joy, the Christian thing for me to do is pray that you will come to know and have a personal relationship with Jesus, our Risen Savior. Jesus speaks to each of us continually. Some of us, unfortunately, are so enamored with ourselves that we cannot be quiet long hear Him.

When I see the morning sunrise and am serenaded by a songbird symphony, I marvel at creation. All that we see was created by One. One who became man and walked among us. He spoke to us then:

“The most important [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

Jesus speaks to us Joy. Each time we look around, each time we count our blessings, and each time we open the Bible and read, his words are there speaking to us. He said the second most important commandment is that I must love you as I love myself. That doesn’t mean that I embrace your thoughts or your behavior or that I have to like it when you express your belief that I am mentally ill nor does it prevent me from blowing you up should you present a threat to me or mine. It does mean that I desire the same good things for you that I do for myself. I wish you no harm, no ill will and that I pray the Lord will fill your heart with joy. Interesting isn’t it that your name implies that you are filled with happiness yet the words that come from your mouth certainly offer a different perception.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45

Joy, I hope you find happiness and contentment in this life. Jesus speaks to all of us. In fact, he’d prefer to speak to you.

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Mark 2:17

May God bless you.

The President wants a parade and the media finds another murderous regime to love on

The President suggests a parade to celebrate the military and the country. Heads are exploding all over. Old Soldiers are complaining how much they hated parades and ceremonies. Some are saying we do not need to have a parade to massage the President’s ego. God bless America and freedom because everyone has an opinion and can share it although often it just reverberates inside their group think circle. Just because you don’t like the President or the military does not make the idea of celebrating our country and honoring our military a bad idea. But, maybe we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

My last few Army years were spent at Fort Myer, Virginia in Arlington now called Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. On Summerall Field, each Wednesday night from April through August the Military District of Washington hosts the Twilight Tattoo open to the general public. It is a performance by the Army’s premier ceremonial units, The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own.” During my time there, late 90’s, the Twilight Tattoo was performed in front of the White House on the Ellipse. Its formal name is President’s Park. There was another program, Spirit of America, held in the Capital Centre and at other locations around the country. This program was excellent and always played to a full house, but was cancelled due to budget constraints.

The Army has these premier ceremonial units that have showcased our military and history for years. Every branch of the military has something to showcase. Organizations that are accustomed to ceremonial performances. You want to celebrate our military and our country Commander in Chief? Tell your Secretary of Defense to pull together all of these ceremonial units and make a spectacular presentation celebrating our country and military. Find an NFL stadium and you host it. A prime-time celebration of America. I’ll watch and bet I’ll not be alone.

Now for you liberals in the media who’ve never found a communist or dictator that you didn’t love. Shut up. You cannot compare our President to the brutal murdering North Korean dictator, because he wants to have a parade, out of one side of your face and then refer to his equally complicit sister as North Korea’s Ivanka. Most of the North Korean population is starving. The remainder are party loyalists, slave servants or inmates in political concentrations camps. This is probably the most brutal, murderous regime on the planet. And you know what CNN? Ivanka from the North that you are fawning over is part of the family responsible for that brutality. You’ve convinced me that cranial rectal inversion syndrome is real.

If you are not too familiar with the South Korean political situation, let me give you some highlights. South Korea’s former President was Park, Guen Hye,  the daughter of former President/Dictator Park Chung Hee who was assassinated in 1979. When Park, Guen-Hye’s mother was killed during an assassination attempt on her father, she was befriended by Choi Soon-Sil. Miss Choi was influence peddling, using her friendship with the president to get money for her foundations – I’ve heard of this kind of thing happening. To make the long story short, President Park became entangled in this mess and was impeached. She was replaced by a liberal named Moon, Jae-In. President Moon has embraced the communist north. This is the President Moon, if you recall, that resisted U.S. missile defense systems being deployed in South Korea. More dangerous than that is that he gave North Korea a propaganda coup by entering the Olympics as one under some made up flag.

I have close family ties to South Korea. My closest was sitting next to me watching the opening ceremony eagerly waiting for the Korean team to enter the stadium. When they did, the first thing she asked after watching all of the other countries enter is where is the flag? South Korea has an older generation of the Korean War era who are not happy. Guess what? South Korea also has its spoiled millennials who think the unified Korea show at the Olympics is just wonderful. Ivanka of the North and Rocket Man have as a goal the unification of the Korean Peninsula, but under rule of the Kim regime. President Moon has let them have a foot in the door and the American media cheers much as they cheered when the Ayatollah came back to Iran.

© 2018 J. D. Pendry

Shut up, be happy

There’s an axiom that “old Soldiers just fade away.” Wouldn’t it be great if there was such an adage for politicians? Yes, politicians – the people many of whom only lie when their lips are moving. It really gets old hearing from or about Clintons, Bushes, and the newest generation of Kennedys who continues the family business of politics. In the United States of America, we do not need a ruling class or an aristocracy. Our country was founded on the principle that the government should be of, by and for the people. Not of and by and for the rich and famous, corrupt and connected. Somewhere along the way, the by the people principle was derailed by crooks and scoundrels. I do not know a politician I can wholly trust. All of them calculate the political ramifications of every move or spoken word. As someone recently pointed out to me, it is really hard to figure out who is telling the truth. My assessment, none of them wholly.

Most all of them seem beholden to handlers and their handlers are not us – the people that put them into office. The people they’re sworn to serve. They are only able to accept problem solutions benefitting their handlers thus ensuring their money stream. Have you seen anything coming from Sodom on the Potomac in recent memory that was done purely for you and me – forgotten middle America? We the people who bear the burden of never ending political chicanery. There’s plenty reason we are called the forgotten. We are only needed to fill the ranks, the foxholes, the cop cars and fire trucks. Beyond that, we are expected shut up, be happy and allow Sodom to see to our every need – as long as we keep giving them our money, which of course they know better how to use than we do, and our votes. With voter fraud, uncontrolled illegal immigration, and no federal voter ID law soon enough they won’t need our votes. In the vernacular of the time, we’ll be just another shithole. No need to worry. Everything is in such great shape.

Nowadays every single thing is driven by politics. They’ve infiltrated every facet of Americana. We tune in the sports channel and are treated to some two-bit sports caster’s political views. Professional athletes we once admired are now Social Justice Warriors. The news? I am thankful for the mute button. We tune in a television program for a little escape and entertainment and find the scripts littered with today’s political and social views where evil becomes good and good becomes evil. The popular programs are about crooked politicians – and the crooks are the stars. Can’t we just have a story? Cop catches bad guy? Flip on the local news and you’re treated to lengthy segments of national political bovine scatology propaganda. Kids come home from school with recorded political views of their teachers. Is it too much to expect a teacher to teach? A sports caster to talk about sports? A barely educated entertainer to actually entertain?

Lost many friends because of your political views? If so, they were never your friends. Friends are friends for reasons other than political views. My approach to life is rather conservative. That wasn’t always the case. Life’s experiences steered me that direction. In my youth, I was a misguided borderline hippie. When cold reality repeatedly smacked me in the kisser and I grasped that no one owed me a damn thing and no one was going to give me anything and ninety percent of life was a battle just to claw my way up to the middle rung of middle class, I really didn’t have the time or energy to contemplate the horrors of misguided youth deciding whether they were meant to be boys or girls. Reality says take a look between your legs. Issue solved. If someone is truly a friend, they accept you and your views without hating your guts. But, when your friend goes off the deep end and cannot converse with you without flaming you for your worldview it may be time to unyoke yourself from that miserable human. It could be they’ve become one of those people who go out on the anniversary of election day and howl at the moon or was it screaming toward the heavens? My rule is quite simple. I can find misery on my own accord. I do not need someone to deliver to me additional unsolicited doses of it. Friends can candidly share views without becoming psychotic. Otherwise they’re not your friends. Never were.

Did you ever write something and when you came to the end of it you’re not sure what the point was but you really feel better? I’m going to go work on the bunker.

© 2018 J. D. Pendry