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Local News

February 26, 2011

Reporter's Notebook:Events around the world touch us here

There is a tradition in the military of naming ships, bases, camps and outposts after fallen troops.

Camp Sabalu-Harrison in Bagram, Afghanistan, is no exception.

Like many bases and outposts in Afghanistan, the camp is named for soldiers killed during Operating Enduring Freedom.

Army Lt. Col. Ramona L. Discavage was stationed at the camp, which adjoins a detention facility a few kilometers from Bagram Airfield. Discavage sent an American flag that flew over Camp Sabalu-Harrison to the Walton American Legion Post 32 Women's Auxiliary as a gesture of thanks for sending care packages to the troops.

So that got me wondering. Who were Sabalu and Harrison?

A quick Internet search found some news stories from 2007. Col. James Harrison Jr. of Missouri and Master Sgt. Wilberto Sabalu Jr. of Illinois were riding in a convoy patrolling the perimeter of the under-construction Afghan National Detention Facility on May 7, 2007, when an Afghan soldier opened fire and killed them.

The flag gifted to the Auxiliary will be displayed in Webb's Clothing in Walton.

State University College at Oneonta history professor Bill Simons said the ongoing protests in Wisconsin over a budget battle may be drawing inspiration from the massive street protests in North Africa and the Middle East.

"The events that have happened overseas may not be confined to the Arab world," Simons said.

This appears to be true, a least with some of the symbolism seen at the rallies. Pictures of the protests have shown demonstrators wielding signs comparing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Wilson to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, singing songs at a rally in Madison, called Wilson the "Mubarak of the Midwest."

Both Simons and New York State United Teachers labor relations specialist Mike Lynch, who is in Wisconsin, said the power and influence of unions waxes and wanes with the times.

Unions go through periods of heavy activism and then quieter periods. This appears to be the start of broader union activism, as several states consider curbing the power of organized labor, Simons said.

Younger union members have not been through anything like it, he said.

"For some of them, there is a learning curve," Simons said. "To them, it is something unique."

There isn't a shortage of aldermen with union connections on the Oneonta Common Council.

In addition to Lynch, who is the Fourth Ward alderman, Sixth Ward Alderman Veronica Diver has strong union ties. She is the president of Civil Service Employees Association Local 635, which represents nearly 300 workers at SUNY Oneonta.

"CSEA leadership and members are closely following this egregious attack on public workers in Wisconsin and their right to bargain in good faith and fairly. If this anti-union assault can happen in Wisconsin, it can happen anywhere -- and the fallout will be significant," Diver said in an e-mail sent too late to be included in a story published Tuesday. "I am one of many who stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in Wisconsin as we watch with bated breath how things unfold."

Jake Palmateer can be reached at 432-1000 or (800) 721-1000, ext. 221, or at

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