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One weekend a month my ass -- a followup

Back in June of this year, I posted an image that showed some Army Reserve troops holding a sign saying "One Weekend a Month My Ass." I received it from a friend of mine whose daughter is in the reserves.

About a month later, the picture (not my site, the picture, as I know I'm not the original source for this article) was mentioned in a New York Times column, and everybody started linking to my site, and directly linking to the graphic, stealing my bandwidth (luckily I had some to spare). Why? Because if you search for one weekend a month my ass on Google, my site's listed first.

Regardless, many people have obviously commented on both of those, especially the one with the original image. Some of the comments posted were from former and current reservists, and are good reads as to why the Army's "One weekend a month, two weeks a year" marketing gimmics are bunk.

About a month ago, I was e-mailed by a reporter from the Victoria Advocate, a newspaper in Victoria, Texas. Apparently, the troops in the original photo are from Victoria, and he was going to write a story about the whole division, etc..., and wanted to use the image. I told him, flat out, journalist-to-journalist, that the image was sent to me and I'm not the original source -- it wasn't mine to take credit for. He understood, and was going to discuss with his editors how to cite the source as he still wanted to use the image.

Long story short, the story was written, but the editors at the paper didn't want to have the word "Ass" in a photo. Go figure. Regardless, a story was written, my site and its comments were quoted.

Unfortunately, the Victoria Advocate is owned by one of the big newspaper chains, and the editors there don't see the need to post all their stories online. I did, however, receive permission from the original reporter to publish the story here. Click on the "Continue Reading" link below to read the full story. It's a good read (and the captions for the "One Weekend a Month My Ass" photo are included, even though they didn't get printed).

[These were the captions that were submitted by the reporter. Only the first two captions ran, as only the first two photos ran. -Jake]

Photo Contributed by Beatrice Miller
Sgt. Murphy Miller of Edna and Spc. Tommy Bennett of Edna, members of Victoria's 288th Quartermaster Company, pose with their M-16s in the Iraqi desert, a downed Iraqi MIG fighter jet behind them. Miller, Bennett and the other members of the 288th are based in Camp Anaconda in the town of Balad, an area known for clashes between U.S. forces and Saddam Hussein loyalists.

File photo by Frank Tilley/Advocate Photo Editor
Victorians line the streets in February to bid farewell to the Iraq-bound men and women of the 288th Quartermaster Company. Before moving into Iraq, the U.S. Army Reserve water supply and distribution unit made stops in Fort Hood and Kuwait.

Photo from UtterlyBoring.com
This photo of a truck driven by soldiers stationed in Iraq with Victoria's 288th Quartermaster Company is circulating on the Internet. The photo even earned a mention in the New York Times.

[Note: This story was originally published in the print edition of the Victoria Advocate. The article is not online, but permission was given by the reporter to publish it here. -Jake]

Victoria unit becoming famous
288th has been in the news and on the Net

GREG BOWEN
Victoria Advocate

Since being deployed to Iraq five months ago, Victoria's 288th Quartermaster Company has settled into a tent camp in the heart of one of Iraq's most dangerous and conflict-ridden areas.

The unit has also had one of its soldiers evacuated back to Texas for medical reasons.

The outfit earned a mention of sorts in the New York Times after a picture of one of its trucks, an irreverent slogan taped to its windshield, showed up on the Internet.

The 288th has also been the subject of a story in the military press describing how the unit helped boost morale in the scorching desert by refurbishing a long-dry Iraqi swimming pool for use by American troops.

* * *

On a cold February morning, the 130 men and women with the water-supply-and-distribution unit left their headquarters on Ben Jordan Street, bound for the war in Iraq.

People lined the streets that day, waving flags and handmade signs expressing love, support and encouragement. School children released red, white and blue balloons and a band played "America" as the troops rolled out of town, bound for Fort Hood in Hummers and deuce-and-a-halfs, pulling loaded trailers and big round tanks marked potable water.

The outfit - whose citizen soldiers hail from places like Victoria, Cuero, Hallettsville, Yoakum, Edna, Beeville, Corpus Christi, Kingsville and McAllen - spent weeks at Fort Hood, near Killeen, training and making preparations for war.

Then in April, the 288th climbed aboard a big plane and flew to Kuwait. From there, the unit moved into Iraq.

Now, the 288th is based in a place called Balad, living in an Army tent city in a desert where temperatures reach 130 degrees.

* * *

Balad.

It's a rural wheat-growing area 50 miles north of Baghdad that is ground zero for Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and for the black-garbed Fedayeen, a militia fiercely loyal to Saddam.

One newspaper describes Balad as "a hot spot for U.S. soldiers." The description has nothing to do with the area's nightlife, or even its searing temperatures.

A Web site called Global Security.org, describes attacks one day in July: "American forces were attacked in two separate incidents in Balad. The well-coordinated ambushes led to 18 American soldiers being injured and left 11 Iraqi fighters dead. The attacks involved typical guerilla weapons such as machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, as well as a new element - highly accurate mortars which can be fired from as far away as 6.5 km. Less than two hours before the first ambush, four mortar rounds were fired into the grounds of Camp Anaconda."

The Web site describes Camp Anaconda, also known as Life Sustainment Area Anaconda, this way: By June 2003 it offered very little in the way of modern conveniences, as it is still in its infant stages of development."

More recent reports say that while conditions at Camp Anaconda, population 16,000, remain austere, improvements are being made to make life there more bearable.

But press reports also tell of American soldiers in Balad being evacuated to stateside hospitals after being injured by mortar fire as they rested in their tents, of the ambush of a U.S. tank convoy, of two soldiers who were kidnapped and later found dead, of U.S. raids on suspected militia hideouts around Balad resulting in the death of more than 100 Iraqis.

The latest reports have one U.S. soldier being seriously injured in a mortar attack on Sept. 8 near Balad.

That kind of a hot spot.

* * *

The 288th's medical evacuee from Iraq has been identified as Spc. Tamika North of Hallettsville.

As of Wednesday, she was recuperating at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. The nature of her medical condition has not been released - and Spc. North, reached via phone at Fort Sam, didn't want to comment.

Nor did her mother, Barbara North-Rhodes of Hallettsville.

"All I can tell you is she's back in the states now and she's doing better," North-Rhodes said. "I will say I'm proud of her and the stuff she's been though over there. She's my idol because she's been through a lot."

On the subject of Spc. Tamika North and her evacuation from Iraq, Army Public Affairs officer Ed Rivera could say only that she arrived at Fort Sam on Aug. 18 and is an outpatient at Brooke Army Medical Center.

* * *

A Web search for Camp Anaconda turns up a bloggers' site, UtterlyBoring.com, that carries a picture of one of the 288th's desert-tan supply truck with a handwritten cardboard sign on its windshield.

The sign reads: One Weekend a Month my Ass!

It's a reference to a long-standing ad slogan of the Army Reserve, which tells would-be recruits that if they join they'll be obligated to be on duty for as little as one weekend a month.

The bloggers write that the photo, taken by a reservist and sent to UtterlyBoring, was mentioned in a New York Times article. A column by Paul Krugman in the July 22 issue of the Times, says: "... The war will have devastating effects on future recruiting by the reserves. A widely circulated photo from Iraq shows a sign in the windshield of a military
truck that reads, 'One weekend a month, my ass.' "

There are links on UtterlyBoring to other blogger pages that have picked up the photo and are using it to illustrate remarks concerning Iraq becoming a Viet Nam-like quagmire and about the smoldering anti-war sentiment among military families.

On the UtterlyBoring site, down in the bloggers' messages below the picture, there's an item posted by Specialist Victor Granados, who was a student at Beeville's Coastal Bend junior college before he shipped out with the 288th last February.

The message reads:

Spc. Granados said on 08/15/03 @ 10:49 AM.
Hey, this is so cool to see this on the Internet. The person driving that vehicle is my section sergeant. We're reservists from 288th Quartermaster out of Victoria, Texas. Right now, we're deployed in Camp Anaconda, Iraq. He put that sign in as a morale builder for fellow reservists around the post, but we never thought that it would blow up as big as it has!!! We appreciate all your support! God Bless America. Operation Iraqi Freedom 2003

Farther down on the bloggers' logs, is this message from Sgt. Murphy Miller of Edna and Sgt. William Jozwiak of Victoria:

Sgt. Miller and Sgt. Jozwiak said on 08/15/03 @ 09:50 PM:
We were shocked when we heard (the photo) went to the Web. We knew it would be a matter of time until everyone who had seen us on post here would tell us we were worldwide. It was meant as nothing more than a morale booster, like Spc. Granados had said. We too were on active duty a couple of years ago and NEVER were called upon for any deployments. And the both of us with just 2 years in the reserves have been deployed. Hope everyone enjoys it as much as we have! --Sincerely, Sgt. Jozwiak and Sgt. Miller.

* * *

A story from the 3rd Corps Support Command Public Affairs Office tells us how the Victoria-headquartered unit is helping to boost morale in the hot Iraqi desert.

The 288th has rebuilt and is operating a long-neglected swimming pool at a former Iraqi aviation academy at Camp Anaconda, according to the story. The article says that the 288th's Staff Sgt. Wendy Ralston is in charge of the pool, which had been dry for 10 years before the 288th began its refurbishing chores.

To clean out the pool's pipes, Ralston and fellow soldiers of the 288th had to fill and drain the pool five times.

The pool opened Aug. 18, with a ribbon cutting and other fanfare.

"It's a big morale booster," Ralston says in the story.

Ralston has seven soldiers helping her at the pool, including two certified lifeguards who keep an eye on the swimmers.

Not surprisingly, the response to the new pool by the soldiers at Camp Anaconda has been "enthusiastic," the story says.

* * *

On the phone, the mother of a soldier with the 288th relates that her son has told her things are getting better in Camp Anaconda.

"He said the accommodations were improving. They do have air conditioning in their tents now," she said.

"I know some of them did get a break last weekend. They were sent to Qatar for like 5 days of vacation. I was able to chat with my son on-line at that time."

How's her son doing?

"He's had enough all ready and is ready to come home."

* * *

At the 288th's headquarters on Ben Jordan, Unit Administrator Jesse Martinez has heard from one of the guys at Anaconda via e-mail.

"He says that they're doing all right and everything is fine and they're looking forward to coming home."

* * *

Greg Bowen is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6519, or by e-mail at gbowen {at} vicad {dot} com.

Posted by Jake on 09/30/03 @ 09:46 AM
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