Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It Is Time To Call Or Write Your Congressman

Something ugly is going on in Afghanistan. I don't know who the perpetrator is, but that's up to your Congressman to find out. Here's what I can tell you; at FOB Gardez and Camp Phoenix (and I'm checking to see if this has happened elsewhere as well) there used to be MWR internet facilities, complete with computers for the Soldiers to use. "Permanent" residents of the FOB could buy monthly internet access for a fee from a private provider, usually a bunch of Indians with a satellite dish. The fee varied, and while it was high, it just got higher.

It just got insane.

Now our Soldiers and Marines can buy internet by the hour, costing as much as $200 per month for pathetic speed. That is patently ridiculous! As I wrote when I was in country, my priorities for being a happy camper included internet in the top three. Most Soldiers don't send snail mail because you haven't seen a snail in your life as slow as mail to and from Afghanistan. We are the digital generation and we stay connected via electrons.

Will I pay $200/month to stay connected? Yes, I will. Will the private who makes a lot less pay it? Yes, he probably will.

This is a particular problem at Camp Phoenix, which each and every ETT/PMT has to process through on their way in and out of the country. Phoenix used to have an entire building full of phones and one that had internet computers and laptop drops in it. Now that building is full of phones. These "transients" who are trying to stay in touch with their families while they are coming into a new country, or whose families are trying to track their progress towards home, are now officially screwed.

What the hell, people?

First, the guy who made that decision was undoubtedly a Lieutenant Colonel or higher. Why he made that call is beyond me, but I can guarantee that he had no realistic idea, nor apparently did he care, how that type of expense impacted a young man with a family back home which he tried to stay in touch with via email and video chat. LTC's have jobs that provide internet-enabled computers, anyway, so what does he care? Doesn't affect him.

I cannot explain to you how much higher morale is when you can log on and get your email. I cannot explain to you how much more sustainable life is when you can log on the internet and see your child on the screen. Everyone wants to talk about the stress of deployment, but here is a morale killer and someone needs to look into it.

Someone is making a shitload of money from our deployed Soldiers, and those whose responsibility it is to safeguard those Soldiers and Marines are not only leaving them to the predations of crappy, overpriced service, but they actually had to change the existing system to do it! Now that the MWR rooms are gone, if those young men and women don't have a laptop, their access to this morale-saving technology is gone; or they can spend money that they weren't otherwise obligated to spend in order to buy a laptop and pay out the boowah for horrid service.

You want to take care of Soldiers? Provide free internet.

No, this the way that we take care of our deployed troops. We rape them for every dime we can so that they don't lose their freaking minds in a foreign country. Someone is making a lot of money on this, and it's on Joe's back.

Please get your Congressman interested in this. It's things like this that don't get solved when people are living by the "what happens in Afghanistan, stays in Afghanistan" moral code unless a Congressman starts asking what the hell they are thinking of.

25 comments:

  1. Hey Bro,
    I have linked this blog entry on my Facebook page and written on the message board of my Glen Beck We Surround Them meetup group. I will start contacting my congressmen/women in the morning.

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  2. I think it's going on at Airborne too.

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  3. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 04/07/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

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  4. Let's not get started on how AAFES rapes soldiers as well. They have, minimum, a 30% markup on everything they sell at the PX. It's appalling.

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. Dear Congressman Shimkus,

    As the parent of a US Army reserve soldier I have tried to keep up with all of the news from Iraq and Afghanistan. My local High School produces several service members each year. Since the school is small and I still have one son at the school (and a wife who teaches there) I know most of these young men and women. I have heard that in certain places (FOB Gardez and Camp Phoenix-Afghanistan) the cost for internet service has gotten to be excessive. Please check on this and assist in finding a remedy. Our service members deserve our very best. They are far away from home and family and they need to stay in touch without busting their bank account. Please ensure that they have internet access without being overcharged. My son has not been called to active duty yet, but if he was I would like to think that there would be a way for his family to economically stay in contact with him while he is deployed. Please try to ensure this for all the families of our deployed service members.

    Thank you, Army Dad

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  7. Thanks for bringing this issue to the attention of the public!

    My son who is currently Re-Deployed US Army complained of these very same issues 2 years ago during his first deployment.

    I think what makes it even more sad is the fact most enlisted married GI's are struggling financially with the military pay as it stand anyway..One would think, if we as a nation are going to send our troops out there then they would be protected by the one's who sent them there in the first place!

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  8. I sent out 4 emails to everyone of the congressmnan (woman) I know.

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  9. I will get right on it. This is atrocious.

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  10. It appears that someone or some group wants to prevent rapid communication from the soldiers to their families and friends. I can't imagine why this might be the case.

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  11. Yep. Was there in 2003. Will not use AT$T in my life time. They abused the fact soldiers were at war and continued till I left. Phoenix never did offer good services to soldiers. Check the block, all the staff weinies had there e-mail, but we got lucky knew some commo guys and had e-mail in our hooch till we got deploid and some ass hole tried to down load some program to the server and caused a check ofthe system. Moral was never an issue, do your job, forget our respnsibility, make sure the contractors mak e their money was the issue.

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  12. Would this link be okay to send to my local (Dallas Morning News) Editor and/or other news agencies? This is pathetic!

    Colin

    Dallas,TX

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  13. I posted about this on Daily Kos.

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/4/13/719495/-$200-per-month-for-internet-service-for-troops

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  14. When I deployed to Kuwait in '03 we all pitched in for a leased German satellite and ISP service. Way cheaper to all and not for profit.

    The CO's were all for it.

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  15. I just posted this to my Twitter account. I'll do everything I can to help. Assholes. You guys should have the internet for FREE. Does President Obama know about this?

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  16. A little more insight into this issue, http://www.bouhammer.com/2009/04/something-wrong-here/

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  17. while i was at Phoenix in 06-07 we had the net in our b-hut for about $35/month. Not unreasonable and the connectivity was okay, but nothing fantastic. Our CG told the TCN provider to make it better or his ass would get kicked off the base. Guess what? It got better. Whoever is running that base now needs to kick that pricks ass off the base and out of business. $200/ month is OBSCENE but since the MWR internet went away he has the only game on base. What happened to the MWR net center? And don't even get me started on AT&T. I won't even us them in the states anymore.

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  18. Daily Kossacks were skeptical of $200 per month internet.

    Please contact me if you are in Afghanistan or have recently returned and have info about internet charges.

    If I can back up this story with documents, Kos community can generate congressional communications and follow up with folks that we worked to elect.

    This story gets my blood boiling and I am willing to work on it, but I need help from people with first hand stories.

    randy80302 at gmail

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  19. I would never claim to be an expert on this, but I don't think that the DOD (Department of Defense) is charging for this. It's a private enterprise that is providing the service, probably via satellite, and charging the price that the market will bear. I dug this up via Google:

    http://www.24-7pressrelease.com/press-release/satellite-broadband-internet-for-us-army-in-afghanistan-and-iraq-91243.php

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  20. Chief Light Bulb - even if that's so, can't the Pentagon foot the bill?

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  21. Soldiers don't mind paying for internet, but being charged by the minute and being at the mercy of private contractors because the MWR stopped providing internet access is what allows the private contractors to overcharge them. Some poor decisions have been made and there needs to be some high level attention to reverse this.

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  22. Those contractors aren't even American contractors and the Internet at Phoenix is AWFUL now if you can even get on it.

    FABULOUS BLOG!

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  23. Sorry, but you are W-R-O-N-G!

    I am currently stationed at Camp Phoenix, and there are two locations with computers available for soldiers, and both are F-R-E-E!!!

    I use both locations regularly, when I don't feel like dragging my laptop to the ed. center, which is the only place here that you can hook up your laptop. GUESS WHAT: IT'S FREE TOO.

    You want to verify, here's my email address: edwardhyates@gmail.com.

    You can leave my addy out there or remove it at your discretion, but I'm sitting in the ed center on my laptop writing this, and I assure you I'm not paying to be in here.

    Cheers!

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