Google Voice for the Military

As many of you may know, Google Voice is available on an invite-only basis. Unfortunately, it can take some time to receive one’s invite after one signs up.
For military members ((Verified by means of one’s .mil address.)), however, Google Voice is available within a day of requesting an invite. This is fantastic for deployed soldiers, as people can leave voicemails and texts for the soldier, something that’s a bit difficult with the existing phone systems on base. As a US number, callers to one’s Google Voice number only have to pay normal domestic phone rates.
While voicemails and text messages are no substitute for a live phone call (which, in turn, is no substitute for face-to-face interactions), it’s better than nothing.
My hearty compliments to Google for recognizing this need and doing something about it.

Small World

Time: 0200
Place: US Airways Baggage Service Office, San Francisco International Airport
Background: Short of the wings falling off and the plane plunging to a fiery crash, pretty much everything that could go wrong with the simple Munich-Philadelphia and Philadelphia-San Francisco flight yesterday happened, including missing a flight (and worse, multiple screaming babies crying in a harmony that would make John Williams listen in awe). More later.
Anyway, at 2am at the luggage counter in the otherwise closed-for-the-night airport, another traveller inquired where I was coming from and why. When I replied, “Munich, after visiting other cities in Europe on vacation”, he mentioned that he spent a few years in Germany back in the late 90s. When pressed for more details, it turns out he was a tank crewman with the US Army and was stationed there.
He’s the first armor crewman I’ve met who I didn’t personally serve with. Very cool.
That reminds me, I should see if I still have all the phone numbers and whatnot for the guys from my old armor unit. It’d be fun to meet up and share some beers again.

Afghan miltary to be issued M16s, not AKs

From the Times Online:

[N]ew recruits to the Afghan National Army (ANA) are being asked to swap their beloved Kalashnikov AK47, probably the most famous weapon in the world, for the American M16.

This seemed quite unusual to me, as the AK-47 is quite common in that region of the world, and many of the Afghani soldiers have a degree of familiarity with the AK.
The reason is explained as follows:

Traditionally, the Afghan will fire his Kalashnikov from the hip as he advances, spraying the enemy in all directions on automatic mode until every bullet has been expended.
But that is not the way of the British or American soldier who uses his ammunition stocks with greater husbandry and fires to kill, rather than to deluge the enemy with a wall of bullets.

The M16s the Afghanis are to be issued are equipped with the three-shot-burst fire control group (justt like the US military M16s), rather than the full-auto group.
I know the Israelis use M16s (or at least I’ve seen cute female IDF soldiers with M16s), and the US military uses M16s to great effect in sandy, desert conditions (yes, there have been issues, mostly due to lack of proper maintenance, but overall the M16 has performed very well).
While equipping the Afghan military with modern, accurate, standardized weapons is an admirable goal, I can’t help but wonder what strings were pulled to make the sale. Couldn’t they equip existing AKs with three-shot-burst capability, or simply buy new burst-fire AKs, rather than completely changing to a new weapons platform?
As they say, follow the money.

A Hero Lost

Michael Monsoor, a US Navy SEAL, led a distinguished career in the Navy: he earned a Bronze Star for his work advising Iraqi troops, a Silver Star for rescuing – under fire – a fellow SEAL that was wounded by the enemy, and was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for using his own body to shield fellow SEALs from an activated grenade.
Monsoor had an opportunity to escape the grenade’s blast, but the other SEALs did not. Without hesitation, he threw himself on the grenade to protect his team and was mortally wounded in the process.
His actions reflect great honor and credit upon himself and the United States Navy.
Though I never had the privilege to meet Petty Officer Monsoor, I think I can accurately claim that the world is a lesser place without him.