KANE ROBERTS on A YEAR IN IRAQ, at WVRC on November 5th
ED JACKSON led the Pledge. RICK BROUS gave the Invocation. He began by reminding us all that Veterans’ Day is next Wednesday, Nov. 11th. “We pray for our men and women who serve our country at this time of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. We ask that we show our red, white and blue in support of veterans, across the globe. Watch over them, God, on land, in the air, and at sea. Keep them safe. Bless them with courage and compassion, with wisdom and might, and with your whole sight over those who threaten our whole world with tyranny and terror. Amen.” Well done, RICK thanks. LENNY FRIEDMAN this time was nominated as a Canadian Mounty, (and note that I checked, and BOTH spellings are OK!) and congratulated for his conducting efforts in their behalf. Wearing a Mounty hat, (one of the innumerable collection owned by Prexy ED), Lenny led us with You’re a Grand Old Flag, which seemed appropriate.
We had no Visiting Rotarians, but some guests. PP DON NELSON brought his Special Guest, Dana Wood, who is known to those already associated with the Westwood Mafia- and I hasten to add, it wouldn’t be fair to Dana to blame him for those with whom he is publicly identified (that includes me). Also, PP STEVE SCHERER again introduced his Special Guest, Jim Crane. Jim is in Insurance, and is a significant player in the local Gideon Society. Those at the Head Table included PP TOM LENEHEN, who reminded us that the Getty, where he is a docent, will be featuring Rembrandt shortly. Admission is free, by the way the only cost is for parking. STEVE LORE was also at the Head Table, but had nothing significant to contribute.
We have just learned that MARK ROGO’S father has died. Please be in touch with MARK.
Nov. 10th is the District Breakfast. The Speaker is Jean Irwin, a 1989 Ambassadorial Scholar and educator. She teaches the deaf to read, and we have a table. Call DON NELSON or Prexy ED right away if you can go.
Nov. 11th is the next Auxiliary Meeting, at the home of ELOISE SISKEL, starting at 11:30. The subject is “Jewels you own, and Jewels you would like to own! “ and you are encouraged to bring some of your own jewelry to be appraised. Please call MARGIE DOWNIE, if you can attend.
Nov. 14th, Saturday from 9 to 12 is Reading To Kids. As you probably know, several of our members, including MARSHA HUNT, ED JACKSON, MARCIA and RICK BROUS, PAT ANDERSON, SCOTT FITCH and YOE, have been attending these monthly meetings. We will gather at Magnolia School that morning, and the kids range from Kindergarten to 5th grade. The thing that makes this so much fun is that all the kids come because they want to and thus they participate, fully. When they leave, each kid receives a book of his own to take home it’s a very rewarding way to spend a morning. Please call me for more information.
Nov. 20th is your chance to see Traveler gallop through the Bonaventure Hotel, as a kickoff to the SC-UCLA Football Rally that day! Seriously, I thought this was a joke but no, it will take place! While I still haven’t heard further from ELLIOTT TURNER about his designated position, it still will be something to see. Coach Pete Carroll and the entire USC spirit group, including cheerleaders and dancers will be present. They expect 500 to attend, so we will schedule some carpooling. Price is $49, and we will have our own tables. It starts at 11 am. (And although it hurts me to admit this, if you DON’T read the online Windmill, Prexy ED laid out copies of the flyer for everyone earlier today so don’t claim you didn’t get the word!)
Last Tuesday, DWIGHT HEIKKILA and Prexy ED met with Kency Nittler, President of our Rotaract Club. They now have over 40 active members, and want to work with us on several projects. On Nov. 24th they will be attending a TV taping of “Hank”. a new sitcom starring Kelsey Grammar, from 4 pm until 9 pm. It is a fundraiser and they are looking for help in carpooling. You can reach Kency at (530) 613-7954 and they would love to have you join the group that day.
MIKE YOUSEM explained the Christmas Shopping Program, which will be Thursday evening, December 10th. We will gather at the Salvation Army Center on Sepulveda at 5:30, where we’ll join 25 kids each with one of us as a sponsor. Each child gets $50 (which the sponsor holds, provided by WVRC) and after dinner (sponsor pays for their own) the group will bus to Big Lots for the kids to do their shopping. After that, they return to the Salvation Army location, and each receives his own Christmas Present! I’ve done this, and it really is a lovely way to get into the Christmas spirit. Give MIKE a ring, please.
And after all this, we had BIRTHDAYS! Lest those after August were feeling ignored, everyone since then was saluted. First up was SCOTT FITCH, who chose Sept 3rd in Long Beach. ED JACKSON got us back to LA, on the 12th. JOHN HEIDT liked the 24th in nearby Oceanside. Kilarney in the old country was selected by PP SEAN McMILLAN, and he preferred the 27th, which closed out September. Who else but PP BOB WESSLING would usher in October, in his case the 8th, in more or less nearby Chicago and RO SHAW took the 10th, but in Fujien, and I’m sure you know that’s in China. BILL EDWARDS and PP MIKE GINTZ both liked the 11th, BILL in Bloomsburg, PA, and MIKE back to Northridge. FLORENCE SAMPSON claimed the 17th, in Brooklyn, while PP STEVE DAY settled on Sacramento on the 25th. BOB THOM almost closed out October, on the 30th in Detroit, but PP PETER MORE had the last word on the 31st in Shanghai. That brings up November THIS month! SUSAN ALLEN led off on the 4th in Detroit, but claimed that she hadn’t met BOB THOM yet. However, STEVE LORE was looking around that same day in LA. PP TOM LENEHEN and MIKE YOUSEM both chose the 6th, TOM in Evanston, and MIKE in Omaha. (Did you know that OMAHA was the EVERYBODY RUSH call when UCLA beat Stanford 72 to zip? yes, I have many of these tidbits to enlighten and entertain you) STEVE PETTISE took us all the way to Elgin, IL, and his date was the10th. But all was not lost, when JOHN WOODALL returned us to LA on the 13th. HENRIETTA KNAPP-LIAN liked Santa Ana on the 16th, while NEVIN SENKAN jumped us all the way to Ankara (yes, that’s in Turkey) on the 20th. PP RON WANGLIN returned us, as you knew he would, to good old LA, on the 23rd. Both AL BELLANCA and DWIGHT HEIKKILA liked the 27th, AL in Buffalo, and DWIGHT in Waukegan where else could that be but in Illinois? But November wasn’t done yet PP DON NELSON clings to the 28th in San Diego, and MARCIA BROUS closes the month, on the 29th, in Newark, NJ. All I can say is WOW let’s do it month-by-month henceforth, OK?
The Joke follows and I so label it so you can be assured of what to call it. It seems the President, the Pope, a lawyer and an actuary are on a crashing plane. There are only three parachutes. “I should have one, since I’m the President”, said the President. “Me, too since I’m the Pope” said the Pope. “Well,” said the lawyer,” I should escape so we can properly sue this airline”, but the actuary said, “What about the insurance premiums? Someone has to calculate those”. Everyone stopped to think about it, but it was too late and the plane crashed. No, no questions are allowed…
STEVE PETTISE briefly made an introduction of Kevin Roberts, father of Kane Roberts, our Speaker. STEVE noted how timely this was, with Veterans Day coming up. Kevin then told us a lot about his son, Kane. Kevin thanked us for inviting them today, and began by telling us that Kane was born in Santa Monica, and had lived in Pacific Palisades all his life. He is their third child, with an older brother and sister, and a younger sister. Kane attended Calvary Christian School through the 8th grade, enjoying sports and surfing enroute. He then went to Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, where he played football and volleyball. His football team won three CIF championships and two state championships, and he had great coaching. One coach was Clay Matthews, a 17-year NFL veteran. When the family visited Kane at Ft. Benning, he told them basic training was tough but having had Coach Matthews train him, it wasn’t as tough as it might have been otherwise. When he graduated in June, he did go on to college, but early on he realized he wasn’t ready for that yet, and enlisted in the Army that January.
Kane was first stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas and he really missed surfing! After the training they were deployed to Baghdad on October 8th, 2008. They were at Victory Base, which is where all the dignitaries fly into and a visit meant a lot of preparation, of course. The mission was, basically, the security of the Iraqi people. They lived out with them most of the time. There were combat operations, and trying to find out where the insurgents were. The Security Agreement on June 30th, 2009 meant that the US forces were to step back, and allow the Iraqi forces to take over. Thus they went from an offensive mind-set to helping the Iraqis with our equipment and communications. That’s it for now how about questions?
I asked the first one I’ve always been curious about translators who are they and do you have enough? Most of them are Iraqi citizens, plus some Americans who can speak Arabic. Every platoon had three different interpreters, who would ride with the lead Humvee, whoever was in command. What is the situation with debriefing after you return? They had a mandatory session in which each person was evaluated as to whether he was OK or perhaps needed some counseling. Thus they decided if you should seek help, or deal with your experiences on your own. Kane felt he was OK, and when issues have come up, he has worked through them himself.
Can you give us a typical day what do you do when you get up, what clothes do you wear, is there a lunch break? That’s a tough one it’s very dependent upon what’s happening. A typical day would be two patrols, one in the morning, and one anywhere from 1 pm until 11 at night. You eat when you can. He wore the uniform, minus of course his body armor, helmet,
ammunition belt, rifle and whatever else you carry for the platoon. They drove around in 1151 Humvees, and that’s how they did patrols just like the cops do in LA! You have a route you want to cover, certain things you want to see, maybe a village you want to go to to check on whether anyone is sick, or how you can help. Patrols range from three hours up to forty-eight hours. They had a huge mess hall at Camp Stryker, where he was, and the food wasn’t bad.
On June 30th when you transferred into a defensive posture, how well was that received by the Iraqis? They certainly acted, before the 30th, like that was what they wanted. After that, our army had to listen to what they said. The lead up to the changeover was tough, but it was what they wanted. Kane doesn’t think they can do it by themselves. Some of these guys have one magazine for their AK 47, period. It’s still a poor country, and when we aren’t there to help them, he doesn’t know how well they will do. We used our own mechanics (and when you think about it, the number of Iraqi’s who know how to fix cars has to be quite small how many cars did they really have, before?) ((EW comment, obviously)). They wanted new tires, so we gave them new tires did they really need them? Kane’s question. He compared this process to teaching a youngster to do without training wheels in learning to ride his bike. You really have to force them it’s not something they want to do, but if you insist, they’ll try, eventually. (I remember, to this day, my Mother, who was over sixty at the time, running alongside our daughter, Andrea, teaching her to ride). Kane got to witness progress, from the end of June until September when he left, and he was encouraged. As a reminder, he was on a patrol two days before he left Iraq!
What do the troops think? That is, how do they feel about what is going on? There is huge frustration. Because the ground war was over a long time ago, it’s not what you think combat should be. It’s all reactionary responding AFTER something has happened. You can be in a situation, knowing something is going to happen but not being able to do anything about it. It’s a religious war, a culture war, between the Islamic extremists and western culture. We can fight that war, or we can pull out, and eventually let them come over here and do 9/11 again. It’s pretty basic he feels we think too hard about it.
How big is a platoon and what is your basic weapon? A platoon is 40 men three squads of nine, plus two mounted squad (the driver and gunner) for each Humvee. ((I believe you add one or more translators to each squad, but of course they aren’t combatants)). Your basic weapon is an M4 carbine, which is a smaller version of an M16. It is semiautomatic, and one squad marksman who carries an M14 with a scope on it, plus you have a gun squad, who have two T40 machine guns, kind of like the old M60’s ((and I’m sure we all know what all these numbers mean but it does seem to indicate that they have a whole lot of firepower . It sounds to YOE like the problem often comes down to knowing who the hell you should shoot at )) Each team leader also carries a 203 40mm grenade launcher on the bottom of his vehicle. The platoon is the basic unit they seldom go out smaller than that, since a dozen men can be very badly ambushed.
What and how much training do you receive to distinguish cultural differences? They provide some, but personally, Kane doesn’t feel he can tell they all stare at you, all the time, and as he said before, it’s all reactionary, AFTER the fact that you can respond. Someone asked about his rating as a Specialist? “Yes, I was a corporal, and I got demoted. I had to work with this guy that I didn’t get along with, and after six months, he said the wrong thing to me, and I took it too far. I was an NCO, I’d been a Team Leader for a year and a half, and I trained almost everyone in the platoon. You get to know people very well you know who can hack it and who can’t.”
What are your plans after you get out? “ I’m going to go to Santa Monica College, let the Army pay for it, and then to USC” (some rumbling from the audience, here…) What kind of relationship do you have with Security Personnel? “ I love talking to those guys they are all ex-military. They come from all over, and they are mostly bodyguards for generals. They don’t have to abide by the rules we do, and they get a bad rap for that, which they don’t deserve”.
They go the same places the Army goes, but they ride in Ford Explorers, armored, with air conditioning. What changes has the Army made in you? ((to be fair, this was asked by one of the women, OK?)) “I’m a completely different person. I’m ready for college, I’m ready for the rest of my life, as opposed to when I was 18 and doing all the wrong things.” He has a couple of friends who are doing what he called ‘the teeter-totter thing’ between jobs and school. He is much better able to function than he was before, and he is looking forward to the rest of his life.
Can you describe the best and worst days of your Army life? Jan 2nd, 2009, a suicide bomber was admitted to a meeting of elders, and blew himself up, killing 77 others and injuring many more. Not only was his unit the first to show up, but he, Kane, had to navigate the entire unit down there. They were under a lot of strain, had not been in country for very long, and everyone was tired and cranky. For some reason his squad leader told him to take the patrol that day. When the radio call came, he asked the squad leader to take over, but the squad leader said, “No, you can do it.” Here they are, driving 70 MPH on country roads trying to get to the scene as soon as they can. He has his map spread out in front of him, his two gunners in place above, and two riding in back, the radio is blaring, and he’s talking to people, plus most important of all, trying to figure out where they are and where they want to go. They got there safely, the first unit to arrive maybe ten minutes after the explosion - and the aftermath was pretty terrible. There were bodies all over, many badly injured, and their job was to help in any way they could.
It was very impactful. His Best Day was in June, when he got to come back for two weeks before his final deployment. His second worst day was when he left here and went back to Iraq.
From your perspective, what would you like to see the Army do? Take the people out of Iraq and send them to Afghanistan, where they need them. The surge worked in Iraq, and they now need it in Afghanistan. Why were we there in the first place?-Kane’s question. The Taliban attacked us. Last question Why don’t you have GPS in your Humvees? We do, but that little lady that tells you what to do next isn’t overhead!
Kane Roberts, you have given us a real picture of what is going on in Iraq. We thank you, and we are proud of what you are trying to do.
Next week’s speaker is PP JIM COLLINS, a member since 1953, who will talk about his career, devotion to giving back, and what Rotary has meant to him.
Words of Wisdom, (after Mark Krause won the wine raffle)
We have the choice to either make ourselves miserable and weak, or happy and strong. What is so interesting is that it takes the same amount of energy to achieve either.