Nat’l Guard goes international

Sgt. Jessica Macek back for leave at end of month

n Local man’s wife serving in Iraq prompts unanswered questions, national attention

For months, 32-year-old Rockford resident Ron Macek has wanted answers to his questions about his wife’s deployment to Iraq and probable tour-of-duty extension.

Macek also had concerns about the reasons the United States entered Iraq, troop morale and the Bush administration’s use of the National Guard in international conflicts.

“I’m very upset that my wife is deployed, and we still haven’t found the main reason that we used to start this war,” Macek said Oct. 8.

Macek’s questions and concerns, which were addressed to U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-16) in a July 10 letter that gained national attention, went unanswered until last Friday—the day after The Rock River Times faxed a list of questions to Manzullo. Macek said staff in Manzullo’s office are currently trying to obtain answers to Macek’s questions.

Rich Carter, spokesman for Manzullo, said “We’ll get back to him. There are privacy matters involved with this,” so many answers will not be discussed in the media.

Macek’s wife, Sgt. Jessica Macek, has been stationed in Iraq since late April with the National Guard’s 333rd Military Police Company. Macek said his wife joined the National Guard in 1997 when she was 17. However, the Maceks have no plans for her to re-enlist after Jessica’s service in Iraq is complete. “When she gets home, we’re out! We’re done! We’re done!” Macek said at the end of the interview.

Macek cited many reasons for his conclusion that Jessica would not re-enlist. Among the reasons are: length of overseas deployments, low troop morale, alleged lack of accurate communication by the leaders of the National Guard, use of National Guard units in international conflicts and the Bush administration’s argument that weapons of mass destruction were present in Iraq before the war and able to be used within 45 minutes for offensive attack.

Macek said he sent three letters and placed three phone calls to Manzullo’s office since July and received no response, until last Friday. He was upset at the lack of response. Macek’s July 10 letter was read from the floor of Congress by Democratic Congressman Jan Schakowsky from Evanston. He also appeared with Schakowsky on national television, and they subsequently participated in a political rally in Chicago.

Macek said he originally signed a petition July 10 on the Web site that asked Congress to investigate the Bush administration’s evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Macek attached to the petition a copy of a letter that was addressed to Manzullo.

Through the Web site posting, Schakowsky also received a copy of the Manzullo letter and read it in the House of Representatives July 15. Macek said he was later interviewed by the Rockford Register Star, Newsweek and Cable News Network’s (CNN) show American Morning—and still he received no response from Manzullo.

The Rock River Times faxed Manzullo’s office eight questions last Thursday—one was why Manzullo had not responded to Macek. Carter did not directly address that question, but characterized Macek’s situation as a “constituent matter.” Carter referred other questions regarding the National Guard to the Bush administration and the U. S. Department of Defense.

Carter did address a question as to whether Manzullo believed the Bush administration was being forthright and honest about the existence of weapons of mass destruction before the war.

Carter said: “Yes, based on Iraq’s own [1998] report to the international community that stated they had tons of chemicals that they never said [before the war] they’d gotten rid of.”

Macek has a different opinion.

“Most of the soldiers know the reason we started the war was b—s—,” Macek said. “What it comes down to is there was no immanence to that threat.”

Macek asserts that the questions about the reasons we went to war in Iraq have resulted in a series of events that has culminated in low troop morale, which may result in large numbers of troops not re-enlisting after their current terms of service are complete.

“I think it’s going to create an exodus,” Macek said. “I think numbers are going to drop in the National Guard and [Army] Reserves because, you know, ever since 9/11, they’ve been used on an unprecedented operational tempo. The National Guard was meant to supplement the numbers [of the regular Army] in times of need, and then they go home quickly. That’s how it’s always been.

“This has never been done to the National Guard before. To be deployed and then get extended on top of it. It’s never been done. You know, it’s not the International Guard,” Macek said.

Jessica was called to active duty on Feb. 9, transferred to Ft. McCoy, Wis., on March 4, and left for Iraq on April 28.

“They were told the whole time [by the leaders of the National Guard] that this is your deployment—you’ll probably do six to eight months. …”

Macek said they expected Jessica to be home in August. Instead, Jessica will receive 10 days of leave at the end of this month, will return to Iraq after her leave and “still not know when she can come home for good,” Macek said.

Macek’s assertion about low morale appears to be supported by an article that recently appeared in the armed forces’ newspaper Stars and Stripes. The article was publicized by major media outlets last Wednesday. Stars and Stripes said they conducted a survey in August after receiving complaint letters about a variety of issues such as mail delivery and living conditions.

Stars and Stripes conducted its “convenience survey” of 2,000 troops and found 49 percent of troops surveyed said their morale was low or very low in their units. Half of the surveyed troops said they were unlikely to stay in the armed forces. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez told Stars and Stripes, “There is no morale problem.”

Macek said on Oct. 8: “They say on TV morale is fine. Well, b—s—. That’s because all they’re asking is captains and above or career military people. The grunts are saying, ‘I wanna know when I’m going home.’”

Macek also cited a Purdue University study that said families of military personnel determine whether individuals re-enlist at the end of their term of service. Macek asserted if the family is happy about their loved one’s service, the individual will likely re-enlist in spite of how the service member feels about their enlistment. However, if the family is unhappy about their loved one’s service, the individual will not likely reenlist.

Macek also alleged his wife was grilled by senior non-commissioned officers (NCO) about Macek’s letter to Manzullo. “She got in trouble about my letter making it to Congress.” According to Macek, Jessica was summoned by “senior NCO’s” to answer questions about Macek’s intent of the July 10 letter.

Macek said: “I have a 7-year-old daughter, 9-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son that sure would like to know when they’re going to see their step-mom again.”

Macek added that he has been sleeping on the couch since Jessica left Rockford last winter. He has no plans to sleep in their bed until Jessica returns.

Macek continues to work several jobs, while he anxiously awaits the few days he will spend with Jessica later this month.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!