Postcards from Tradocia

response to “naked in the desert”

In January, I wrote about an article in the Minnesota Women’s press about a woman named Karma Kumlin whose husband is/was in Iraq and was having various issues. (Read it here, in case you missed it.)

Karma recently posted a lengthy response as a comment, so I figured I’d repost it here. I’ll continue the discussion later, but below is what she had to say. And thanks, Mrs. Kumlin, for the measured and reasoned response – such discourse seems all too rare recently, and indeed the tone of my original post admittedly could have engendered a much less civil response.

Anyway, read on.

Hi, thought I’d clear up some things about what I said and meant and what was printed by the media, since there seems to be concern and confusing regarding those items. I’ll just work through the blog as its written. First off, I was rather angry at the Woman’s Press article’s headline-calling me an “Anti-War” bride. I guess they thought it was too catchy when they made it up and chose to use it even though I have said many times that I am not anti-war. I do have many concerns about this current war-more in the specifics of certain aspects which I will spare you now, but I have deep and abiding respect for the military and all they have done. My father was Air Force Reserve during Vietnam, my grandfather in WWII, my uncles all served as well. So, as has happened to many people, in many cases, I have been both mis-represented and mis-quoted. But there is a lot that was reported of what I have said that is nothing but the truth. My husband and I agonized for months about whether or not I should go further with the problems he was facing when his chain of command and inquiries to the military here did not help. Then we made darn sure that anything I would say would be the absolute truth from him and from several other back up sources such as the battalion’s website and CJTF7, Global Security, and numerous other Iraq war soldiers and their families, etc. Yes, honest to God, they were told just before they shipped out that any radios they would get, if they got many, from the Army would be nearly useless and that they should buy a Motorola model that the Army recommended as a replacement. I see photos all the time of guys in units all over Iraq with brightly colored motorola radios attached to their chest.And yes, a GPS system will not replace the ability to read a map, but any little bit helps when your in a foreign counrty in dangerous situations, and yes, the area west of Najaf where my homeboy spent a good portion of his time is featureless desert.

My husband and I never called the IBAs “worthless”. I work in Homeland Security and with the local Police and have my own Point Blank vest, a level IIA flexible armor that convers the entire vest area as opposed to the IIIA plates worn by the military. Again, some reporter was looking to spice up their story. You might also have noted how often I said that Minnesota worked really hard to get them those vests and they were the best available at the time. Regarding OPSEC, I knew that there was a lot more specific information about units and bases and missions in the news and on the web than I was giving, but I wasn’t going to be the one to spill anything just in case. We were very concerned about OPSEC and decided that going a little overboard in being careful was better than the other way.

I did go to all the congressmen and senators in the state, regardless of the side of the isle they were on. I did get a response from Norm Coleman’s office, but just a “thank you for your concern”, nothing more from anyone else-accept Betty McCollum and Mark Dayton. And it was mainly McCollum who did what she could to help us both out where it was appropriate after we had exhausted other standard options. So yes, when the armor issue came up and I found out that they were not to be among the group that would get those initial DAPS though they were dealing with multiple IEDs daily, and that through my police connnections and some fundraising I might be able to buy them some substitutes armor pieces that they could adapt just like the soldiers who came up with the original DAPS idea in the field did, since they were outside the wire in Fallujah in Oct and Nov of 2004 without the added IED protection while handling those same IEDS. I though I’d rather raise some conciousness and if necessary a little stink if necessary, than just trust to fate. How can anyone who has the means to help someone in that situation have a better chance of coming home alive not do everything they can? I know too many soldier’s sisters and mothers who lost their brother or son doing that same mission, several who died of wounds that may have been lessened by having side armor like DAPS provides. Oh, and as to the training, my husband also guarded and operated a detainee camp in Najaf from April through the fall of 2004, with a half a days training on detainee handeling and detention facility operations. Yes, I would call that inadequate training for such a task that is outside his MOS and general military training, and his unit leaders called it that too.

My biggest concerns with the armor issue have been the reports that several of the manufactorers said that they could have increased production last summer and fall but were only waiting for word from the pentagon to do so. I certainly understand that there are natural limitations to just how fast something can be made, I just don’t want those limitations to be monetary or political when lives are in the balance. If we can in even the smallest way, get these guys the stuff they need faster, then by God we should do it. All of us who have any experience with the military, with terrorism response, or in the police force, know that risk is part of the job, as is death, but do you really think that we aren’t going to try to do everything we can to minimize chances of our own or our buddy’s death? When my husband’s unit did finally get the DAPS armor they commented on how much safer they felt, though they often chose to wear only the side pieces because the shoulder pieces made egress difficult in emergencies. I just wanted them to have to opportunity to chose whether or not they would use it, was willing to get them something temporary to fill the job while they waited for the equipment to get to them, and was willing to speak up when I though they were being treated less than the very best. I hope that clears up some things, maybe it doesn’t, or maybe it doesn’t matter to you. I know that the media, and some over zealous people, have made it difficult to believe what you read sometimes, and cause you to believe that I approched these particular issues with other adgendas than the sincere concern for the safety and well being of my husband, and for all of our soldiers. Yes, I ended up being politically active which I have not been before, as a thank you for those politicians who actually helped my husband and I. I appreciate your expressing your opinion on this, even if I feel you have misjudged some things and just don’t agree with others, but that is after all, what this whole country is all about.


  1. SGT P

    All in all, I’d say she cleared up a lot of stuff from what we read. We spoke about the law of diminishing returns, but I think she has a point as far as using whatever resources we have available to give to those guys out in Fallujah and other high intensity, high optempo areas. Admirable effort Mrs Kumlin, I think this is a case of media spin for a more popular and controversial story Delobi.

  2. Steve H USA

    I just have one thing to say about the political obsticals. There was one obstical that if removed could have saved many lives. Bill Clinton. The military knew that the HUMMVs and individual vests were inadequate immediately after the debacle in Mogandishu, but were prevented from doing anything about the shortcommings by Clinton/Kerry/Dayton/McCollum budget cuts.

    Let’s put the burden for maintaining military preparedness where it belongs, the previous administration! Bush was forced to send our military to war with the equipement provided by the Clinton administration, which everyone has found to be inadequate!

    Well, two things. Karma seems a whole lot more likable with this post than the original article. I am glad she responded and was heard!

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