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Preview: Battleland » Matt Gallagher

Matt Gallagher – U.S.

News, Headlines, Stories, Video from Around the Nation

Last Build Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2017 02:34:42 +0000


Winter Reading…Joint Forcible Entry Exercisemattgallagher83sthtihlwhref=dp_image_0

Tue, 15 Jan 2013 12:33:22 +0000

Though the publishing industry swears the market is oversaturated, books written by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and by embedded journalists keep on coming. And with good reason too – one, more than a decade of war means there’s a lot of stories to tell, and two, some are doing quite well, oversaturated market or no. Two Iraq War-related novels, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain, and The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers, were 2012 National Book Award finalists, for example. This year promises more of the same, with Lea Carpenter’s Eleven Days out in June, and Marine vet Phil Klay’s short-story collection out by the end of the year. It’s a crowded space, and thus difficult to stand out, both in terms of quality and publicity. Here are four relatively recently-published books about our postmodern wars, written by two veterans, one journo and one civilian, that deserve your time, consideration, and perhaps some love from your Amazon holiday gift card. Don’t be shy – that cash dollar bling bling is there to be spent, dear reader: Shortly Thereafter, by Colin Halloran — Like most prose writers, I’m hesitant to offer critiques on poetry, for fear of missing all those deep hidden something so prevalent in contemporary poetry. Iambic pentameter is a punch line for we damn dirty peons of language, not an actual technique to be (consciously) employed. Luckily though, Halloran’s work is so good, his control of language so firm and restrained, I stopped being self-conscious while reading it and just allowed myself to become immersed in the nuanced, raw world he creates. Shortly Thereafter chronicles all the aspects of an Afghanistan deployment, from the terrors of the unknown that await before leaving, to the perverse thrills and adrenaline rushes found in combat, to the return home to a land and a people now more foreign than the war itself was. Winner of the 2012 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, Halloran joins the wonderful Brian Turner as a lead bard of war poetry in this new(image)

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Business Lessons from Iraq: Post-War Military NetworkingRallyPoint-Foundersmattgallagher83

Tue, 02 Oct 2012 13:12:05 +0000

While historians will be debating the effect of the counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan for decades to come, the young officers and noncommissioned officers charged with carrying out those missions are returning home – and many are applying the business lessons learned overseas into entrepreneurial pursuits here.(image)

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Summer Reads13237723mattgallagher83

Mon, 30 Jul 2012 10:45:16 +0000

It’s the dog days of summer, which means the sun is en fuego and bodies are sweating en masse. Which, pardon my Greek, sucks. Yes, I know it’s hotter in Baghdad and more sweltering in Kandahar with 80 pounds of gear on. Spare your perspective and preachy Facebook posts! I volunteered for that Suck. This Suck hath drafted us all. Short story long, stay inside with the air conditioning and read. Here are three books worth your time and attention: Those Who Have Borne the Battle, by James Wright, PublicAffairs Books – A must in any American military buff’s library. Wright, a former Marine, former president of Dartmouth and historian, traces the trajectory of the American fighting man and fighting woman, exploring how our military has changed over time and how it hasn’t. Wright is particularly fascinated by the evolution from the citizen-soldiers of the Revolutionary War to the draftees of World War II to the volunteers of our modern armed forces, and his passion for the subject gives the text much forward momentum. He has some grave concerns on how the all-volunteer force is affecting American society as a whole, and particularly how it’s impacting the “abstractions,” as many citizens now see service members. The Longest War, edited by John F. Holmes, World Audience Publishers – A collection of short nonfiction selections and anecdotes written by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, The Longest War opens with this admonition: “This is written in the language of war. It can be cruel, offensive, and disturbing. The stories may upset you as you read them, but it is not meant to be that way; they are only exactly what they are.” It’s heavy stuff, from pieces about fallen comrades to the brutal roads and detours of physical and mental recovery to the churning, long-term effects of spending fifteen months in combat with every one of the five senses on overload. The writing tilts toward the raw and unfiltered, as it should be for a book aiming to just tell it like it(image)

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Another Face of Multiple Deploymentsmattgallagher83battleland.blogs.time

Wed, 09 May 2012 10:50:12 +0000

It’s been nearly two months since the Kandahar massacre – some time and distance, but not much. Some things are clearer, some things still aren’t. We don’t know why Staff Sergeant Robert Bales did what he did. We do know the American public’s confidence in the war effort plunged post-Kandahar. We don’t know if that confidence will return, though it seems unlikely. We do know that Bales has become part of the Afghanistan War’s legacy, and in many ways, the face of the multiple deployments of the GWOT-era in general. That last point is a damn shame, because there’s another man that should serve that role. His name was Kristoffer Domeij. Sergeant First Class Domeij was killed in October in Afghanistan on his 14th deployment at the age of 29, leaving behind a wife and two young daughters. You read that correctly. It was his 14th deployment. He was a part of the fabled 75th Ranger Regiment, and while it’s true that spec ops’ units like the Rangers deploy for shorter time periods than conventional units, that doesn’t detract from the absurdity of one man going to war that many times. Actually, the word “absurdity” doesn’t cover it. “Moral bankruptcy of an entire outsized nation” might. Like many Americans, when I first heard about Domeij’s passing, I shook  my head in disbelief, shook my fist angrily – and promptly forgot about it a few days later. Though I was familiar with the 2-75 Ranger Battalion due to personal connections and a previous story I’d written about them, I had never met Domeij myself. Further, there’s no shortage of tragic stories involving Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, something my day job at IAVA exposes me a lot to – as callous as that sounds. (It exposes me a lot to the success stories that don’t get much media attention as well, but I digress.) His friends and comrades, both still in the Rangers and those out, didn’t forget about him. They were shocked – Domeij was one of their stalwarts, they said, and if(image)

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In the Halls of DC, the Dark Cloud of Kandahar LingersIAVARooseveltRoommattgallagher83

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 11:01:07 +0000

In March, like everyone else operating in the mil-writer space, I decided it was my duty to God and to country to pen a piece on the maddening and tragic Kandahar massacre. So I did, and thanks to the fine people at Boston Review, it was published. Rather than attempt to explain the psychology of Staff Sergeant Bales, or pontificate on how this will affect the already vast military-civilian divide, I aimed to discuss how the events in Panjwai will impact the American rearguard still fighting in Afghanistan, and the ones still waiting their turn to deploy. A contact currently serving as a company commander in Afghanistan emailed me about the immediate aftermath of the shootings for him and his men. As originally quoted in the previous mentioned Boston Review piece, he wrote “We went around apologizing to the tribal leaders, reminding them this was not reflective of America’s military, reminding them of our dedication to their people and their villages … One said, ‘The Russians told us the same things.’ I didn’t really know how to respond to that.” The war rages on, despite public sentiment, despite a withdrawal plan, despite the best laid plans of mice, men and marionettes. Another war rages on back in the States, one with an even hazier ending than Afghanistan. News of the homefront battle for new veterans’ care, specifically the unemployment and suicide crises, has penetrated the halls of Congress – and they’re trying to head it off and trying to figure out the most effective ways to do so. That is part of the reason I spent last week on Capitol Hill with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. With dozens of vets of Iraq and Afghanistan serving as advocates for their brothers- and sisters-in arms, over 140 meetings with legislators and senior staffers were conducted in a whirlwind week of personal stories, policy wrangling and complex, nuanced problem-solving discussions. From CIA Director David Petraeus dropping by a membership panel on Monday to IAVA Member Veteran Dave Smith bravely sharing his experiences with Posttraumatic Stress on MSNBC to a(image)

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Life, and Death, on the FringeNeptunus Lexmattgallagher83

Thu, 08 Mar 2012 10:50:38 +0000

It was with great sadness Wednesday that I learned of the death of retired TOPGUN pilot Navy Captain Carroll LeFon, killed Tuesday morning when his jet crashed at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada. LeFon was better known as Neptunus Lex, at least to those in the military blogging community, and was well celebrated for his wit, sharp analysis and poetic musings. Though I never met LeFon in person, we exchanged many emails, and he was one of the first to email and tell me to “stay frosty,” in the wake of my own blog getting shut down in 2008 by command. (For a young lieutenant, certain that he’d stoked the full ire of the military beast for one rambling blog post, to hear reassuring words from a retired TOPGUN pilot was  … comforting, to say the least.) Prone to quoting Yeats and waxing eloquent on the merits of Guinness, LeFon always struck me as a sort of renaissance man that young men aspire to be but can never really achieve – full, vibrant and accomplished. It seems rather banal to say I looked up to him, but it’s true. Rather cryptically, one of LeFon’s last entries details a close call he had as a trainer for student fighter pilots at Naval Air Station Fallon. He compared his work to snake wrestling. But, LeFon wrote, “even snake wrestling beats life in the cube, for me at least. In measured doses.” Life on the fringe, nothing new for the select few in our military. RIP, man. And thank you.(image)

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The Mount Rainier Shooting and the Simplicity of Vet Narratives800px-Mt._Rainier_in_the_cloudsmattgallagher83

Mon, 09 Jan 2012 10:00:54 +0000

The tragic news last week that ranger Margaret Anderson was shot and killed in Mount Rainier National Park by Benjamin Colton Barnes brought with it national attention and a litany of sensational headlines. (What came first, the national attention or the sensational headlines, is a chicken-egg debate for another time.) Some form of PARK RANGER MURDERED BY IRAQ VET splashed across the top of many prominent newspapers and news sites alike. And while technically not incorrect – Anderson was a park ranger, Barnes was an Iraq vet, and there was a murder – the simplicity of the narrative established by that headline does us all, vets and civilians alike, a great disservice. The much vaunted military-civilian divide has created a curiosity and demand for stories about service members and veterans, which is a good thing. Knowledge is power and all that. The downside of this though, is in an ADD-addled culture and news cycle, there’s very little room for nuance and depth – and the road to and from combat is both. The result of this incongruence tends to result in sloppy stereotypes that belong in bygone eras. Such was the case here. Generally speaking, there are three types of basic vet narratives in contemporary American media. One, the Hero Vet – a noble savage, ever-sacrificing and a bit dense. (See: The Hurt Locker.) Two, the Broken Vet – down on his or her luck, ravaged by memories of war, a pawn of a fake neo-empire. (See: The nightly news, every night.) And three, the Crazy Vet – PTSD, PTSD, PTSD! VETS ARE TRAINED KILLERS THAT WANT TO KILL YOU AND YOUR ADORABLE LABRADOR PUPPY! (See: this topic.) The latter narrative is where most of the Mount Rainier stories drifted, at least initially. MSNBC, for one, cited a protection order (rather than, you know, medical documentation from the military or a doctor) that claimed Barnes suffered from “possible PTSD.” Photos of a topless, tattooed Barnes posing with firearms started making the rounds at the same time, and the next thing(image)

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Signature Woundmattgallagher83The Purple Heart

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 10:46:24 +0000

“Trust me, the first thing you do is check your [junk.]” This is how a rehabbing Army soldier describes the immediate post-IED blast scene in Bob Drury’s new piece “Signature Wound,” available through Amazon’s Kindle Singles. Drury, a contributing editor and foreign correspondent for Men’s Health, explores the effects of anti-personnel IEDs on the genitalia of dismounted Marines and soldiers, something that has occurred at least 200 times since 2009. It’s not a comfortable read, nor is it an easy one. Myself, I had to take a couple reading breaks, something that had nothing to do with the (very reasonable) length of the piece. But it’s an important one. The gruesome nature of their war wounds is told frankly and honestly, nonfiction dirty realism swirling together with real life 21st century Jakes Barnes’. The stark pragmatism of the young combat vets inspires, even in the midst of their realizing they’ll never have sex again with their spouse, or have children without incredible medical advancements. To a man, they all say that “It could’ve been worse,” even when it’s clear that it probably couldn’t have been. This rugged survivability is both a testament to the individual service members and to the military that cultivates such a spirit. We should all be so brave and resolute in our lives. Drury’s striking piece serves as yet another reminder that the consequences of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are going to continue for many, many years, even after/if we fully withdraw from both countries. If we’re the country we aspire to be, we’ll deal with these consequences quickly, efficiently and smartly. If.(image)

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The Labyrinthmattgallagher83Captain William Swenson

Fri, 30 Sep 2011 11:44:24 +0000

William Swenson. It’s probably not a name many recognize, something that could change in the next few months. Earlier this month, as the military prepped for Sergeant Dakota Meyer’s Medal of Honor ceremony, the Military Times published an article about the unrecognized valor of former Army Captain Swenson, who fought at the Battle of Ganjgal alongside Meyer. For whatever reason, Swenson’s heroics have gone unrecognized up to this point, and it took Marine General John Allen to take a personal interest in Swenson’s story to compile and submit the Medal of Honor recommendation. I’m sure I wasn’t the only reader that was left wondering why the Army hadn’t taken care of one of their own; as a former Army cavalry officer I’m a bit embarrassed by it, myself. There are a lot of layers to this onion. Swenson, Meyer, and the others in their unit expressly disobeyed orders to stay put, choosing instead to join the battle and help evacuate pinned and wounded American and Afghan combatants. While President Obama acknowledged this during the ceremony, and the media ate it up, the discussions within the Pentagon about this uncomfortable reality were most assuredly awkward and labored. Moreover, Swenson didn’t hold back about his superiors’ decision to not support their request for artillery or air support, for fear of civilian casualties. In the interview that followed the battle, Swenson told investigators “When I’m being second-guessed by higher or somebody that’s sitting in an air-conditioned TOC, why [the] hell am I even out there in the first place? Let’s sit back and play Nintendo. I am the ground commander. I want that f—er, and I am willing to accept the consequences of that f—er.” Frankly, most company-level leaders that have served on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan will immediately identify with Swenson’s anger and frustration. (Not to mention possibly envy his wrath and resoluteness.) These are small wars that require small unit command and control. Decentralization and delegation of authority, however, have not been a trademark of the American military for(image)

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From Vietnam to Somalia: Two Books Worth Readingmattgallagher83Another Marlantes classic?

Tue, 06 Sep 2011 15:51:23 +0000

Short version:I spent the dog days the earthquake and hurricane days of August reading What It Is Like To Go to War, by Karl Marlantes, and Submergence, by J.M. Ledgard. I recommend both heartily to the Battleland readership. Long version, Part I: The title of What It Is Like To Go to War isn’t a deceptive ploy; Karl Marlantes knows what he writes. His Vietnam War novel Matterhorn was a runaway literary smash in 2010, and billed an instant classic by almost anyone that read it. (Like this guy, here). His new book is part memoir, part how-to, and part existential warrior philosophy – and all parts good. Raw, unsettling honesty pervades the work, from his forthright admission that he hunted for glory and medals when he first arrived in Vietnam, to his memories of searching out the pleasures of the flesh while away from the front lines, something that didn’t bring him any lasting fulfillment or peace of mind. His personal recollections of combat are particularly harrowing. What It is Like to Go to War opens with a scene of Marlantes, then a young platoon leader, talking to a severely wounded soldier named Zoomer. Zoomer has been shot through the chest, and been turned on his side so his one good lung won’t fill with blood. Morphine isn’t an option, because of the possibility of him drifting off and dying in his sleep. Due to heavy fog and sustained enemy contact, the evacuation helicopters can’t get to their position, so Marlantes tells Zoomer stories to keep him sane and awake. Zoomer somehow endures, relying on the pain as he clings to life, and somehow wins his “race with death.” And that’s just the first two pages. For this Iraq vet though, the most powerful parts of this book occur when Marlantes returns home from war. We all know that Vietnam veterans were treated poorly, but nowadays, it’s usually referenced vaguely and abstractly, like that thing that happened at a family reunion back then that no one is supposed to(image)

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