Michael's Dispatches

Army to Army


American Colonel Writes to Spanish Colonel

15 March 2010
Kandahar, Afghanistan

Responding to a document first published here on 08 March, U.S. Army Colonel Robert J. Ulses writes to Spanish Army Colonel Jesus De Miguel Sebastian.

The letter from Colonel Ulses contradicts the previous memo by a U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel.

Risking liberties to read between the lines, the letter might translate: “Situation rectified.  Moving to tamp down the controversy.  Let’s move on.”

Clearly it’s social grease, designed to spackle over rough spots.  Spots that could have gotten our troops killed.  I’ll ask some of our people in the next week or so if the situation has improved.  You’ll be the first to know.


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    James Tuttle · 10 years ago
    " You’ll be the first to know". And my favorite Senator will be the next to know, as I have given him your site with that last dispatch. Good job, lad.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    SwissFreek · 10 years ago
    I've been forwarding your dispatched to a friend of mine who's an officer in the 82d and currently in Afghanistan. The one about the Spaniards came back with a response that that LTC is known as a glory-hound, and that his opinion of the Spaniards' treatment of our troops was most likely a gross misinterpretation of the situation. Just saying: two sides to every story. Some people like to make waves, and then tell everyone else how windy it is.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Smokey Behr · 10 years ago
    I completely agree that the the letter is social grease. I also have the feeling that the situation is worse that what the Spaniards say, and not as bad as the letter from the LTC says it is. There might have been a rough patch or two, but I can't believe that there's an ongoing issue with a lack of support and professionalism.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tim · 10 years ago
    I smell an @$$ chewing coming, and rightly so. make nice in the press but anyone who does not prep the position properly and inhibits the ability to run missions needs to get there head handed to them on a stick. When I was in the AF its mission mission mission, make em fly. I do not know the USFOR-A DC but I figure he can chew hummers and spit nails when needed. I sometimes wonder if bringing NATO into this is the last nail in NATO's coffin.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    argonaut · 10 years ago
    I note no contradiciton here. He states the "leaderships" support has been good. His definition of leadership may be Col and above.

    No where does he state there was not an issue or that American troops were not getting the shaft. Only that those getting the shaft did not know how to raise the issue sufficently through RC(W). He also believes it to be the normal Army shaft.

    "I believe" this is an assumption. Until he knows, he is assuming. In boot camp they taught me how to spell assume ass-u-me.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gregg · 10 years ago
    Michael, one of the best things about you is that you tell it like it is. When you see an issue you don't back down. Just like the Bridge incident you were instumental in getting the responsibility clarified quickly. Now with the FARP we and Command will get to know the true nature of the situation. The worst thing our forces and those of the other contributing nations need right now is a SNAFU condition hampering their efforts. If that LTC is a rogue then he's the last guy we need supporting our troops. Why not make him useful and put him out in front to lead the next frontal assult on an enemy position.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Richard Aubrey · 10 years ago
    "I'm told it's going great. Therefore it's going great."
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sean · 10 years ago
    I love it. The American Colonel goes groveling to a Spanish Colonel for his subordinate not following proper procedures for filing a complaint, when those very channels got the original petitioners NOWHERE.

    It's hard to find this much BS outside of a cattle ranch.

    So the public-relations cover-up begins. Send the Spaniards home. A bad ally is at least as bad as an enemy.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sean · 10 years ago
    From what I can gather on the internets, this Colonel Ulses is a career administrator/PR guy.

    http://en.scientificcommons.org/robert_j_ulses (A paper on time management he authored).

    I understand that we need great administrators in our military, and this guy may very well be one of the best. However, when the safety of our fighting men and women are on the ine, we don't want put a guy in charge whose career has been spent behind a desk issuing press releases.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Keith_Indy · 10 years ago
    Sounds to me like, yeah, we had some problems with subordinates not telling their US counterparts the correct hoops to jump through to get things done. We'll try to make sure that your soldiers are aware what hoops to jump through from now on.

    Likely, the truth is somewhere in the middle. I always give our guys the benefit of the doubt though.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Plis-plas · 10 years ago
    You do not need to find a hidden meaning in the letter. The American Colonel recognized the claims about the presumed laxity of the Spanish units in Afghanistan are simply false.

    I hope to receive the corresponding apologies from who felt free to write unacceptable messages against the Spanish troops and Spain.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sean · 10 years ago
    Plis-plas, I take it that English is not your native language, so I can understand your diminished capacity to understand what was written in the letter.

    It was a U.S. desk-jockey public relations officer trying to placate, in writing, a Spanish officer who was offended by the release of the original letter from the Lt Colonel. It was a political overture that said nothing about the original claims.

    So your Spanish soldiers can feel free to continue to put U.S. troops in danger and treat them like shit in general. This "Chief of Staff" has been instructed that the PR/media fallout associated withdrawal of a few "allied" troops is worse than any potential Spanish-neglect-induced U.S. casualties.

    Robert J. Ulses has put his name on the line here, and if there are any neglect-induced casualties at Qal E Naw, Ulses should be called on the carpet and held accountable.

    Hopefully Michael keeps us abreast of this situation over the long term.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ryan · 10 years ago
    Thank you, Mr. Yon. I enjoy reading what you write and I'm interested in hearing more about this if possible. When I read the original dispatch I contacted my Congressmen. For whatever that's worth.

    Keep up the good work; I'll be reading.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Puzzled spaniard · 10 years ago
    While I agree that this document could be P.R. (otherwise it should not and would not be disclosed) I have some small, candid questions:

    What kind of statement or proof would make the doubters here admit that there is reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the Spanish troops stationed there? It seems that many readers made up their minds instantly on the subject after reading what after all is nothing more than an anonymous letter. That letter could be motivated by "glory-hounding", personal grudges, etc. Why is anonymous FUD instantly trustworthy and the word of Colonel Ulses "social grease" from a "career administrator/PR" "desk jockey"? On the contrary, from his post and responsibilities I assume he is a highly talented and achieving individual.

    At first I was hurt that the Spanish troops were slandered on such flimsy evidence. Now I see that the slanderers disparage US Army officers they don't know the minute they fail to meet their prejudices. And all seems less important. Anyway, in the former entry comments the issue degenerated into unrelated childish whining about My Lai, the Inquisition, Zapatero, etc.

    On the original gripe all of us lack the data to emit a judgement. What are the security measures in the rest of the compound? Are they comparable to those allegedly requested for the landing area? Do the spanish troops have the capabilities and materials? I assume they could spare a T barrier at the very least. But spanish armed forces often run things on a shoestring budget. A worn, secondhand, soiled shoestring...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Entrophy · 10 years ago
    I must say you kind of wrote spot on about what I was thinking as well.

    While I do think Michael writes really good articles most of the times, this one made me raise an eyebrow. What he publishes is more or less third party information in this case. (He got it from some guy, who got it from some other source, who in turn got the originating e-mail to this news.) Seems a bit dubious to trash an entire army and nation on one e-mail where there is a rather unclear certainty on the truth of the matter.

    It also scares me how most, not everyone, but most seem to trust the words of Michael Jon blindly, with any critical consideration. I have seen very few posts here that actually seem to critizise or atleast have a somewhat open view on the matter. Makes me think slightly about a totalitarian state where no other views are accepted.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Entrophy · 10 years ago
    I take it from your comments, that you have actually been to the site mentioned in the dispatch that started this whole debate in the first place? If not you are privy to just about as much information in this matter as are the rest of us here. Or have you been to Afghanistan and been so mistreated by the spanish there?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Entrophy · 10 years ago
    And I take it you have actually been to the site mentioned in the dispatch that actually started this whole debate? Or perhaps you been in a first hand experience in Afghanistan where the spanish army treated you badly?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sean · 10 years ago
    So unless one has personally been there, no one's word is trustworthy?

    We cannot comment based on the accounts and evidence of trusted third parties?

    Yon has earned the trust of his readers after years of honest and often unpleasant reporting. He doesn't bullshit when something serious is on the line. So if he trusts a source enough to post something so explosive, then I have no reason to not trust his source.

    He's certainly far more trustworthy than anyone else on the subject, your affronted Col Sebastian especially.

    Note: I too notified my members of Congress back when I read the original dispatch. Not that I got more than form-letter in response...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Puzzled spaniard · 10 years ago
    I do not doubt the sterling reputation the blogger Michael Yon. I am a latecomer to the blog, but from this post alone I gather he is really well connected.

    Nonetheless, even the greatest journalist can be had by an unreliable source. Would it be possible for him to unearth something more solid than hearsay? Maybe not fotos but scans from the original requests that were allegedly repeatedly sent and not met? It should not be more difficult than getting this last letter.

    On one matter I think you are wrong, Enthropy. It is not the word of my affronted Col. Sebastián you mistrust. He has emitted no statement on the matter. It is the word of your Col. Ulses you deem less worthy than the word of Michael Yon (and that is no mean praise for him) Or rather for the source of his source, Lt Col. Anonymous.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Entrophy · 10 years ago
    Apologies for the double post first of all, its a bit sketchy sometimes to see if your post is accepted or not in here, was not intending to goad you into a fight or anything :P

    I would say I would trust someone having been there a lot more on this matter, than the case is now.

    I mean look at it, we do have what?

    1. We have the letter, who was delivered to Michael from a second party, who in turn got it from who? It does not mention that the actually giver of the document was the actual receiver of the mail in the first place.

    2. We know of this second party, that he/she is an American close to the war effort. Close to the war effort can mean a lot of things depending on how you view it.

    3. All we know of the person that is to have written the letter is that he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the 82nd Airborne Division. I am not sure how many Lieutnant Colonels there are in a division, but maybe someone could enlighten me on that. We also know that Michael has not had any contact or spoken to this person whatsoever.

    You don't find this a bit sketchy at all? Or atleast makes you want to have some more confirmation on the matter? Some verification of sources, or a bit more to base your decision on? I think there is too much anonymity and unknowns involved here to just trust this right off.

    Michael Jon has been very good at providing sources in the past from the articles I have read from him, mostly because in most cases he has been the source himself. In this particular case however, I am not as keen to accept the sources right away, mostly based on the fact that they are not reliable in the way they are presented. What you got above here is more or less hearsay, since the information is provided to Michael through a second party, and on this you decide to more or less judge the entire spanish effort, of which you do not know anything about more than this (so far) piece of hearsay, THAT, i object to, and I do not consider myself wrong for doing so.

    And for the record, I am not Spanish. I just happen to think Puzzled Spaniard is right about some things he said.

    Anyway, I do not wish to piss you off or try and goad you into anything, I like civilized debates, so I apologize again if I came off a bit harsh towards you, not my intention, just a spur of the moment kind of reply, which in afterthought could have been written better.

    Be safe wherever you are.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jrs Dad · 10 years ago
    Don't back off this or any other issue where the BS gets in the way of the warriors mission, and their well being. Jr is a 11B.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mark · 10 years ago
    THe time for questioning each other's honesty is over. Its time to put actual eyes on the FARP. Did they get their gravel yet? Is the wash still being stolen? Do the personnel at the FARP have a clear unambiguos channel for requesting support from the Spanish? The back and forth in the blogs makes for some good drama, but we'll never know what's really going on till we can get some pictures or statements. Maybe Col Ulses, Col De Miguel and Michael Yon all need to make a personal visit to the place . Anyone?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Another Dave · 10 years ago
    What the letter says is:
    1. As far as I know, we like the Spanish;
    2. As far as I know, the Spanish do good work;
    3. Even if something is wrong, the subordinate complained the wrong way. He won't do that again.
    4. I'm flying out with a Major General for a visit!

    The usual middle-management-speak.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tommy Barrios · 10 years ago
    Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining! The letter above, as has been noted by knowledgeable hats, is a typical butt kissing attempt at military political correctness. Anyone who has been in the military any length of time in an administrative or command position has seen these types of letters many times. The slobbering apologetic format and wording is almost pathetic in it's attempt to CHA!

    I believe Michael was right in posting the first letter. I believe there are problems @ the FARP run by the Spaniards and I believe there is an issue here or Michael would have kept silent. He has been spot on in 99.9% of his reporting and do not see that changing now or in the future!

    You calling them as you see them Michael and I'll back you 100%-)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    GMAG · 10 years ago
    What the letter says is:
    1. As far as I know, we like the Spanish;
    2. As far as I know, the Spanish do good work;
    3. Even if something is wrong, the subordinate complained the wrong way. He won't do that again.
    4. I'm flying out with a Major General for a visit!
    Do you really know anything or are you speculating! I give the Colonel props for having the guts to stand up for his men and putting his butt on the line. I wish I had a buck for everytime I have heard this crap. These problems will never be solved until people put pressure on the people in charge. All we will get is patronizing answers because we don’t understand the issues. Politics and political correctness are a farse. Another dog and pony show (canine/ equestrian exhibition for you intellectuals) for the public. It’s time to call these people out and make them earn their pay rather than sitting on our backsides and complaining. So you’re flying out with a Major General, yippie ki yi ay! You will get there and no one will come forward because everyone is scared of the repercussions and everything will be spit shined and polished as usual and as soon as you re-board your plane to come home all the shiny things will be put back into the moth balls and the troops will get screwed once again. I remember a time when I was stationed in Korea. We froze all winter and asked for extra blankets and fuel to keep warm. We actually slept with our clothes on, in out sleeping bags and a wool blanket over the top of us to keep warm. Our fuel was constantly being stolen from the two barrel heaters in our Quonset huts and nothing was being done. The IG was contacted and they made a visit to our battery. All of a sudden we all got another blanket and more clothing etc. The IG was happing to see that we were all doing well and went on his merry way. As soon as he left we turned our blankets back in to supply. This is the same old army always putting on the dog for the public officials and flipping off the troops who put their life on the line. The only resolution to this problem is to keep the pressure on the ones who call the shots and if they don’t respond let them know it when it comes to the elections in November.
    I received a letter yesterday from our Congressman Geoff Davis and I will post it soon for all to read. Props to Mr Davis for his continued interest and support in our troops. When I exited the Army after 18 years I had payment issues and he had them resolved in a matter of weeks unlike our Congressman in New York who never got them solved in over 5 years!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    GMAG · 10 years ago

    22 April 2010

    Reply ZIP Code: 20318-0300
    Mr. Dan Adelstein National Security Assistant Congress of the United States House of Representatives Washington, D.C. 20515
    Dear Mr. Adelstein,
    Mr. Yen's e-mail clearly illustrates how complex managing a coalition of over 40 nations supporting combat operations in Afghanistan can be. Many issues he raised were included as focus areas in General McChrystal's initial assessment completed last fall after he assumed duties as the Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Afghanistan.
    In order to improve unity of effort, General McChrystal established a 3-star level ISAF Joint Command HQ to improve command and control over operational activities within the command. This HQ, coupled with other initiatives, streamlined support activities among ISAF partners to better address operational and logistical support concerns highlighted in the correspondence. These changes will ensure General McChrystal has increased unity of effort in applying the operational strengths of the coalition in a complex environment.
    Thank you for your continued support for our Nation's outstanding men and women in uniform.

    Very Respectfully,

    COL, USA Deputy PACC

    rector, Joint Staff
  • This commment is unpublished.
    marc jean meteran · 9 years ago
    je veux etre un soldat americian ou ancore marines.pas ce que la nation americianne est le plus grand puissance du monde c'est pou cela je veux etre marines

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