Ross Mackenzie

Stepping carefully around the trees, limbs and power lines brought down by the wild mercurial Isabel...

It was a heck of a way to herald the autumnal equinox when night equals day, fall begins, birds head south, leaves get the message to start changing and rainfall increases.

If you followed Isabel's approach via the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather radio system - the most reliable weather prediction available, on which many commercial weather-readers build their reports - you may know that Igor (aka Sven) has lost his job to Donna and Craig. The last two are so nicknamed after National Weather Service employees who worked on the project to build computerized voices sounding less robotic than Igor/Sven's. Donna and Craig, vast improvements, consist of human voice fragments (phonemes) reassembled by computer to bring avid listeners the latest weather news.

As last week, 305 Americans had died in Iraqi combat since March; combine that with the 87 American combat deaths during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, the Philippines, and elsewhere, and total American combat deaths in the war against terror run to 392 - or thereabouts. Contrast that with the noncombat deaths wrought by Islamist terrorists against Americans during the past decade totaling 2,956 or thereabouts (nine from the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, 19 from the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers, 12 from the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa, 17 from the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, and 2,902 from Sept. 11). Thus, American combat deaths suffered so far equal just 12.65 percent of the Americans murdered by Islamists in the Terror War.

Regarding whether the United States has enough troops to fight the Terror War, or whether it is asking the military few to do ever more, consider this - from a June Associated Press report: "The Navy is throwing overboard a decades-old approach to rotating its ships and crews on sea duty." Instead of maintaining a schedule of six-month deployments, the Navy will extend deployments to perhaps nine months and correspondingly will compress the standard 18-month period between deployments. Longer deployments, of course, will mean longer separations for those in the Navy - while civilians contribute to the war almost not at all. The chief of Naval Operations says many Navy men and women will find the change difficult - "we don't promise them an easy time; there are going to be some hard times." How about raising the naval complement, to lighten the burden of those already shouldering the load?

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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