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Jeff's Afghan Diary: A Note To My Readers
September 22, 2007

      For those who have read any of my articles to date and have taken exception to anything I have written, I apologize.  It’s been reported to me that some of my comrades in arms over here are upset about some things I have said in print.  If I have offended anyone, I am truly sorry, especially if they are wearing the uniform and serving as I am now.  I have only the highest respect and regard for my fellow Soldiers, and mean no disrespect in what I have written in the past.  If you are among those who feel I have gone “out of bounds,” please feel free to comment or e-mail me to correct me.

      The purpose of my writing is and has been to inform those who are not here about what it’s like to be involved in this conflict, and to share my own personal feelings from my own background and point of view.  I realize some readers may disagree with some of my opinions and personal perceptions, but they are my own, and I take full responsibility for what I have said.  There are others who appreciate what I am writing, and I have had positive comments and thanks for my sharing my experiences.  To those people, I give my warmest heartfelt thanks.

      Having said all that, I will continue to write as I have, from my own personal perspective, with appreciation for operational security and the privacy of others who serve with me.  So now, I proceed.

      Discipline.  It’s the backbone of our military.  Unfortunately, there are times in the military when discipline must be administered.  We had a situation recently where Army discipline was initiated, due to a Soldier’s actions.

      For obvious reasons, I won’t go into specifics, but I will explain what happens in the Army for minor (or especially for major) infractions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (a.k.a. the UCMJ).  The UCMJ was written by Congress to outline offenses punishable by law for all members of the military, regardless of rank or service.  Some mirror civilian laws, such as prohibitions against murder, rape, theft, and the like.  Others are specific to the military, such as obeying lawful orders or insubordination.  Then there are general rules, such as conduct unbecoming to a member of the United States military.  While many of these rules generally proscribe what civilians may feel are minor infractions, the Army takes them seriously.

      One of our teammates was charged with breaking one of these rules, a minor rule admittedly, but the member now faces possible reduction in rank and possible fines.  I had to be one of the ones to accuse this teammate, and he admitted his behavior was not what the Army expects.  I hated to do this, and it affects our team very negatively, but unfortunately it’s necessary.  Without consequences under the UCMJ, Soldiers can disobey at will, not show up for duty, shirk responsibility and jeopardize other Soldiers and affect our mission.  Of all walks of life, Soldiers must follow the rules – more than movie stars, sports celebrities, grocery store clerks, cowboys or cowgirls, or many other well-known or famous occupations.  None of these will cause others to be hurt or killed by not following rules, but Soldiers’ actions affect other Soldiers, as well as civilians at times.

      The Army system of law is administered by officers – those Soldiers who are charged with giving orders and seeing them obeyed.  Soldiers have rights, like civilians, and are entitled to fair treatment under the UCMJ.  But usually, a Soldier has to have done something significant to be formally charged under the UCMJ, something that his or her superiors feel must be dealt with beyond simply giving them additional tasks as punishment for minor offenses.  (This is how most minor offenses are dealt with – by assigning additional duties to the servicemember.)

      So now we have a rift in our team, and bad feelings.  It’s most unfortunate.

-- Jeff Courter

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Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.