Monthly Archives: May 2014

Money in War: Research into the Life of Just One Financial Marine (Part I)

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September 11th, 2001; I turned 10 years old a few months prior and had just started fifth grade. They didn’t show the news coverage in my school for a long time, and my teacher had to do it without permission. I remember a cloudy feeling of doom: our country was plunging into war. What was going to happen? I learned about the Revolutionary War — the war against an oppressive government; the Civil War — the war of the federal government against the states; and Vietnam — the war we never “won.” What would this new war be against? A new word started appearing everywhere, “terrorism.” Something just wasn’t right. “How long will we be at war?” I thought, “Hopefully not that long. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as Vietnam.”

13 years later, I am almost 23 years old. I have lived over half of my life during a war time. This War on Terror has been the longest war fought in United States history. I had countless battles throughout my childhood wondering what the place of war is in our lives. As a child, coming to grips with the fact that the government you were taught to believe was there to protect you was all of a sudden using our children as martyrs for the sake of “democracy.” It was a confusing time, and over the years, I have grown to understand just what the costs of war are, and these are costs that no one should be willing to pay.

In 2009, the economy was recovering from an economic collapse, AKA “The Great Recession.” (Isidore) I graduated from high school that May. You can guess how many jobs there were out there for an 18-year-old high school graduate with writing and sandwich making skills, a knack for violence and a bunch of family problems. After attempting to make it out on my own in Alaska, only to be sabotaged by unfortunate circumstances, I joined the Marine Corps.

I arrived in Parris Island, South Carolina on January 25th, 2010. It was there that I began my journey being trained to do nothing but accomplish the mission and destroy the enemy. Marine Corps boot camp is one of the most psychologically stressful events in the world. There, you are broken down as an individual and built back up as a perfectly molded soldier, ready to take any order given. There have been studies done by the military on the psychological effects of boot camp. What the top psychologists do to the individual recruit, in warfare, is called attrition: the action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone or something through sustained attack or pressure. There are many factors that tie into the effectiveness of Marine Corps attrition, such as the recruit’s socioeconomic background, coping mechanisms, defense mechanisms, and other forms of adaptation to stress. They extract and manipulate psychological information about every recruit, and exploit weaknesses by almost any means necessary. The first 24 hours of boot camp are essential to establishing instant willing obedience to orders which carries on into Basic Warrior Training (BWT), which is where I believe most of the brainwashing occurs, but I do not remember those times.

The first time I knew I could not resist the brainwashing that was happening to me in boot camp was after we had been taught how to properly shoot our rifles on the range: BWT. As females, this was often the first time many of us had been exposed to warrior training. It consisted of two weeks: indoctrination and application. The most important week was week one: we were marched into a large theater with our brother male battalion under high stress. I didn’t understand why our drill instructors were acting the way they were during this time. They seemed angrier, which just added to the stress and confusion of boot camp all together. I do not remember the first week very well. The only part I remember during that time is the Combat Hunter video we watched. Combat Hunter is a course given to Marines to make them effective at doing just what the title insinuates: how to hunt other humans perceived to be a threat to the mission. There were speakers who taught us land navigation, battlefield operations, and weapons management, but I can’t recall any of the classes.

In between each speaker, we were forced to stand up straight and scream Marine Corps “knowledge” at the top of our lungs. These were things such as the Commandant of the Marine Corps, weapons safety rules, general orders, etc. It really hit me what was going on when we were told to relax and watch a video which gave us a general overview of what Combat Hunter is, then I started to fall asleep. My battle buddy smashed my arm with her fist and before I knew it, the video was over. Our drill instructors were told to relax as some higher ranking officers came in to speak to us about the video we just watched. Shortly afterwards, we marched out onto the old flight deck and lined up to stare into the tree line of the South Carolina forest. We were looking for suspicious objects in the tree line with our binos (binoculars), and to my amazement, I found every single one of them they set up. “Wow,” I thought, “What has happened to me?” That was just a pale fraction to the amount of psychological stress that the recruit endures to adopt the Marine Corps warrior mindset. Some Marines do not even remember boot camp and their other training. Combat training in the School of Infantry is just another monster added to the shaping of the United States Marine. This is the time where we are made to follow orders, and that’s what I did.

After combat training (see details of combat training in Money in War Part II) came our Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) School where I was trained as a financial technician to credit and check miscellaneous amounts of money from individual service members in the interest of the United States Treasury. It was there that I finally learned what it is that financial Marines do overseas. During our initial brief, Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) Jones was assigned to our classroom to give a brief on what finance Marines do when we were deployed. He described an incident which happened while he was in Iraq that really opened up my eyes as to how the wars in America are funded.

One of the responsibilities of finance Marines while deployed overseas is to complete monetary contracts with the local villagers. The most common form of contract is for restitution of destroyed property. I’ve heard of $2,000 being paid for a single goat being destroyed in a firefight. Another form of contract is the “humanitarian” contract. This is where CWO Jones comes in. He described a contract in which he and his men had to form a patrol over to a nearby village’s school to form somewhere between a $50,000 and $100,000 contract. This money was intended to provide electricity and running water to the school. I’m assuming that since the amount of the contract was over a certain dollar amount, the team had to follow up to ensure the money was being used for what it was intended for.

The man who signed the contract had disappeared. CWO Jones and his men got a call to inspect a hose that was nearby the school that had been reported by a sympathizing villager to be suspicious. They went to the house, kicked down the doors, herded the women and children into a sectioned off area, and found a house full of automatic weapons. “We can only assume what happened to that man at the school,” he said, “but that’s war. That’s what you’re here for.” What CWO Jones did not take into consideration is that he did not join the Marine Corps to personally fund the enemy he was supposed to fight against, and I did not think it was possible for him to understand that. I understood that, though, and the decision that I made of joining the military really began to sink in.
Financial Marines are the foot soldiers in the funding of these wars. There are missions assigned to us that consist of entering the United States Treasury vault, removing pallets of money, sending it on a helicopter, getting the transfer form signed, and that individual Marine does not know where that money went. Here’s the thing, though, someone does. Any amount of money being removed from or inserted to a government institution has been recorded in the money database systems of the government. There is a trace (whether electronic or hard copy) of every financial transaction ran in the United States of America — it’s just a matter of finding out where it is.

Every form of financial authority is recorded in some long, boring manual with every piece of financial knowledge in there for you to conceive. These financial transactions are governed by the Department of Defense Financial Management Regulation, a manual compromised of every financial authority in the Department of Defense. Every branch of the military studies this manual, and each section that is referenced is divided by the financial specialty. The DoDFMR is so large that it is impossible to know all of the information contained in all of the volumes unless you’re The Rain Man or something. My point is that there is no possible way for the Department of Defense to know exactly where all of these financial transactions are located.

I sat through a financial regulation stand down where a top Colonel was giving announcements on certain system functioning changes and pay systems manual updates. He happened to mention that the administrators who created the system we use to fund our troops and military operations cannot be audited. That means that there is no possible way to keep track of all of the financial transactions processed by the Department of Defense. This also means that these financial transactions have little accountability. What does that say for the other, larger branches? As a platoon, we had fairly efficient ways of keeping track of financial transactions, but ultimately some just end up missing or being incorrect for long periods of time. This is due to the inflation of financial transactions processed during a war time.

When a Marine is stationed overseas, he can make anywhere from $450.00 – $700.00, sometimes almost $1,000 more dollars per month being stationed in a combat zone or hazardous duty location (HDL) (APSM). An HDL, as distinguished from a combat zone, would be an area with an increased rate of violence that the United States is not at war with, such as Libya or Egypt in 2012. (DoDFMR, 7a). These entitlements have to be adjusted every time the Marine travels from country to country. A lot of these transactions are ran through administrative units which were so unreliable that a lot of times Marines got overpaid or underpaid whatever monetary amount the manuals had instructed. These failed oversights resulted in individual service members owing the federal government hundreds to thousands of dollars.

I was in charge of writing the denial endorsement for every Marine that requested a waiver of this debt that had not been wounded in combat. There was an instance of a PFC Cocoa who paid child support every month. He had been receiving an entitlement to cover the child support amount that was incorrect, resulting in a total debt/overpayment for this PFC of around $12,000 with a $300 monthly liquidation on this debt at less than $800 biweekly and $200 to pay in child support. In his grievance letter, he said that he could not afford gas money to go and see his daughter because all of the money he was spending was on uniform items and left him with barely enough money to sustain his life. Oh yeah, and he was in the infantry too. His waiver was denied because a brand new PFC to the fleet should “have reasonably known” that he was not entitled to the money he received, even though he asked his superiors several times about the money he was getting. That was not even the half of it. I’ve seen countless Marines fall into the indebted hands of the United States government and have been afraid to leave the service because the debt that they have to pay due to incorrect entitlements sometimes runs to tens of thousands of dollars. This is a system that oppresses and enslaves individuals by instilling indebted control over their lives.

What’s my point here? The point is that the military industrial complex is so large that the federal government cannot accurately take account for the money its’ spending because the system is too large, and therefore enslaves men by creating a monetary debt based off of clerical errors. Murray Rothbard, in his book entitled, Anatomy of the State, explains that one method the state has to maintain support is by creating vested economic interests. Since the state has the individual in debt, the individual feels as though he cannot escape the hands of the state because the debt will forever follow him. With veteran unemployment so low, a lot of active duty and reserve service members are intimidated into staying in the service because they believe their lives would be ruined if they did not have the government funds coming in to pay off their government debt. Let that sink in for a moment. Not only do service members get deployed overseas to kill men, women, and children in the name if economic interests of the few, they also run a high chance of being monetarily controlled by financial debt transactions that cause over payments to the individual.

Why do we fight in these wars that our children are being brainwashed in the name of national security to fight, send our children over to die in, and deal out our financial support that may just end up stuck in a database somewhere and is never accounted for? We deal out humanitarian monetary contracts that end up in the hands of the enemy, thereby inadvertently supporting the enemy that our fellow men died while fighting against. These are the kinds of things that happen when governments are allowed to fight against other countries in the interest of international corporations. A large government creates an uncontrollable government. Hopefully in the coming years, our fellow men will learn to live voluntarily with one another, and that violence only exists if we allow it to.

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When Staff Sergeant Ordered Me to Save the Hummingbird

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“Kerkman, there’s a hummingbird dying, trapped in the courtyard.
You gotta save it.”
“SSgt, why did you come to me to save it?”
“Well, because you’re a hippy, Kerkman.
You’re the only one who knows how.”
It was a hot summer, the bird was dehydrated.
“SSgt, I need sugar and water.”
We headed in to make up the concoction.
My Sergeant asked me what the hell I was doin’,
told me to get back to work.
I said, “Staff Sergeant ordered me to save a hummingbird.”
I went outside.
The hummingbird was scared,
others thought it was going to die.
It couldn’t fly.
I gently put the cup of water up to the little guy
It weakly and eagerly drank
After a couple sips, it found the strength to get outta there.
He got his wings back.
He could fly.

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Thought for Today

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Know your center of gravity.

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