Acts of Mindless Vandalism

In the 11 years I've lived in Scripps Ranch, numerous times I've seen our lovely parks damaged by thoughtless people. Fortunately, it's been nothing that couldn't be put right by time and money. Nonetheless, it's a shame some people don't stop and think about the consequences of their actions.

In mid-July I was walking on the path through the sports fields near Dingeman Elementary School. The sports fields themselves were closed for maintenance--roped off--and the new grass was just starting to grow nicely. I was saddened and annoyed to see a couple of young men ride across the barrier on mini-motorbikes and onto the sports fields. They churned up the new grass and ignored the "Fields Closed" signs.

I suggested they shouldn't be riding on the fields and should find somewhere more appropriate. They were new to the area and thought this behavior would be okay, as their bikes are designed for off-road use. How a chopper-style motorbike is designed for off-road use is another matter, but they were effectively "off the road"! Sadly, at this point one of them resorted to verbal abuse.

I know I should have known better than to speak with them and should have made a call on my return home. Maybe I'm getting cranky in my old age and I apologize for that. However, if we're to keep Scripps Ranch the way we like it, we can't ignore acts of mindless vandalism under our noses--at least I can't!

Further into my walk I came across a police officer in a patrol car. I suggested he keep an eye out for this pair and told him where he might find them. A few seconds later, the officer found them further down the road--they'd just left the park. Perhaps after my talk with them, they thought they'd better do the right thing. I hope the young men involved didn't get any tickets and in the future manage to find somewhere else to enjoy their two-wheeled toys--legally.

As for me, doubtless they consider me a killjoy or worse. I can't say it gave me any pleasure speaking out. My only consolation is that maybe they'll think twice next time and perhaps the sports fields will get a chance to recover.

Concerned Resident

Citizen Soldiers: Get Ready, Get Set, Before You Go!

I was privileged to be invited to visit the officers and personnel of one of the units in which I served during the Korean War, the 8th Field Artillery Battalion 25th Infantry Division. The 2nd Battalion of this field artillery regiment is part of the Stryker Brigade stationed in Alaska at Fort Wainwright, which is part of the 25th Infantry Division headquartered in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. They were completing their special pre-deployment Counter Insurgency (COIN) training at the desert National Training Center at Fort Irwin near Barstow. This is the site where General Patton trained his armored forces in World War II.

Fort Irwin is now the special training site for major units prior to deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Stryker Brigade is going to Iraq to replace a returning brigade for a second tour in September. I joined Lt. Colonel Matthew Anderson, commanding officer 2ndBn 8th FA, for a tour of the facility, to review their COIN training programs, and to meet the officers and NCOs.

Fort Irwin has been extensively rebuilt over the last four years. It is a most impressive high-tech equipped installation with the finest of facilities and equipment providing hands-on training for units. It also is home for one of the most distinguished fighting elements of the American Army--the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.

They provide the aggressor element to challenge and test the combat ability of the units in their training, as well as provide personnel for realistic role playing for COIN operations. Hollywood style effects are widely used. For realism they bring Iraqis from San Diego to role play as villagers, complete with booby traps, goats, hidden arms caches, and the like. The training is not only hands-on, practical, and realistic, but it replicates what they will encounter in Iraq so units can do their difficult jobs better and safer.

After reviewing the arduous training and the realism with LTC Anderson, I came away reassured we are giving our citizen soldiers the best training, equipment, and experiences possible. The men and women were all professional with a wonderful attitude about their role and the dangers inherent in it and most important serving their country. You all would have been pleased and delighted with their approach to their assigned tasks. LTC Anderson and the officers and NCOS are doing a magnificent job preparing the unit for its return to Iraq.

I came away reinforced in what America and its diverse people stand for and more than ever convinced of the wonderful role the American citizen soldier played in our history. Also they continue to play a vital role in today's world. Whether in nation building or fighting insurgents, they are tops. You can be proud of the American men and women serving with fidelity in dangerous situations representing the best of America.

Bob Dingeman, Old Soldier, "Automatic Baker," Call Sign "Tiger Six"