Thursday, March 09, 2006

Eulogy for a Hero!

SSG Kevin Jessen, saved my life. Not just once, but day in and day out, for the better part of six months. When I met SSG Jessen in Iraq in 2004, his Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team was assigned to Task Force Hunter, based on the 2-108th Infantry battalion, an Army National Guard unit from New York State. EOD was the “bomb squad” on our little base. If I said that SSG Jessen impressed every one of us, it would be an understatement. He excelled!

Maybe the tall easygoing kid from Arkansas had a special rapport with New Yorkers, he did marry a women from Syracuse. More likely he was just a friendly, forthright southerner, with a ready smile. Everyone in the Task Force knew him, and every one of us not only liked him, but we immediately respected his incredible professionalism.

My company, A Co., regularly had one of our platoons assigned as the Task Force’s Quick Reaction Force or QRF. This meant we regularly escorted the EOD teams to the sight of roadside bombs (IEDs) whether they were discovered or exploded. We spent a lot of time with SSG Jessen. We learned a lot from him. Many of us got to be pretty good friends with a great guy.

Jessen, he immediately became known by his last name. He was an expert on explosives and IEDs. The bane of our existence in Iraq. The one thing we were all at least a little scared of. Jessen could tame them. He defused dozens of them, after detection. And he inspected the remains of dozens more that had exploded. He was not only a subject matter expert, he became an intelligence source.

He could identify the handiwork of particular bombers operating in our area. He was certain that there were two main bomb makers with two different styles and several emplacement teams putting them in. Armed with SSG Jessen’s information about IEDs our soldiers were able to detect and defeat them more often.

An IED exploding is a terrible thing. One minute you are rolling down the road, all is quiet. Drivers are focused on scanning the road. Backseaters may joke a little to relieve the nervous tension. Every trip on the roads of Iraq is a journey of anticipation of an IED. Suddenly one day the world explodes. Sound and fury smash together in a deafening roar. Panic strains against training. Fear bubbles up from the gut, and you execute your battle drills.

Soldiers punch out immediate security patrols to eliminate the triggerman if possible. The roadside bombers in Iraq rarely plant a single bomb. They hope to disable a patrol. Then if possible attack again. The second attack can be aimed at exposed soldiers, responding Medical vehicles, or responding EOD teams as they try to assess the bomb crater.

On Sunday March 5, 2006 SSG Jessen on his second tour in Iraq responded, as always to the call for EOD to come out. Rawah Iraq near Mosul at the head of the Euphrates River, is patrolled by elements of the 172 Stryker Brigade combat team. Discovery of an unexploded IED meant both danger and opportunity. Reports indicate that SSG Jessen was suited up in his bomb suit and defusing the IED when a second undiscovered IED was exploded, killing him.

There is no doubt that the enemy had directly targeted SSG Jessen. He was assassinated. I’m sure the IED teams in Rawah hated him as much as the ones in Dujail did two years ago. Kevin Jessen was not just a hero, but a hero of mine. He was a friend of mine as well. One of the saddest parts of soldiering is how many friends become heroes. I think I can safely speak for every soldier that served with Task Force Hunter, when I say we salute you Kevin. You were the best kind of soldier. We’ll miss you.

Thanks as always to Mr. and Mrs. Greyhawk.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Next Axis of Evil US and India!!

It’s hard to see a problem with closer ties between the world’s most powerful democracy, the US, and India, the world’s most populous democracy. But some people, it would seem are just will always see the glass as half empty. Gwynne Dwyer an independent journalist from Britain, writing an editorial in Monday's San Diego Union-Tribune, took the Bush administration and the pentagon to task for developing closer military ties with India.

He has two problems with this move. One that it has been conducted in secret, two that it will “alarm” the Chinese. He goes as far as to call military cooperation between the world’s two largest democracies irresponsible. Irresponsible to end decades of antipathy. Irresponsible for us to balance the growth of Chinese power in Asia. Apparently Gwynne Dwyer is an unrepentant Maoist. His use of the word irresponsible is followed by the assertion that there is no evidence of Chinese designs in South Asia. Therefore we, and the Indians are paranoid.

Of course the Chinese are on a decades long campaign to modernize their militaries effectiveness. They have military ties with N. Korea, which threatens US and S. Korean security. They have historic ties with Pakistan, and may have assisted Pakistan with their nuclear program. But balancing rising Chinese power is irresponsible.
For most of history the reaction of nation states to rising powers has been to balance the new power with alliances. When balance of power succeeds you have the Concert of Europe, the hundred years of mostly peaceful relations in 19th century Europe. When it fails you have WWI.

Today the world is uni-polar. The US is the world’s only superpower exercising hegemonic power. Even today friends and foes alike seek to balance America’s strengths, militarily, politically and economically as they find it necessary and appropriate. This explains Europe’s resistance to many current American policies.

But US hegemony atop this pyramid will not last forever. The future can take many paths. Multi-polar, bi-polar, or uni-polar outcomes are possible. Whichever one of these occurs, the Chinese will be a pole. A uni-polar world with a Chinese hegemon is not likely to be one that’s likely to be pleasant .

But Mr. Gwynne seems to think that US hegemony, evil as he finds it, will last forever. And hey a Chinese dominated world wouldn’t be that bad would it? No and it’s irresponsible to even think about preparing for Chinese ascendancy in Asia. Shame on Bush. Shame on the Indians. Leave those nice Chinese Authoritarians and their sky-rocketing military budgets alone.

Thanks To Mudville as always

The Defense of Mario Lozano