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October 10, 2005

Getting to the Fight, Part 6.

Part 6 of Blake's Behind-the-Scenes look at the GWOT.

Miscellany and Curiosities

Been working my butt off again, literally. I’m having to tighten my belt to keep my pants up, which isn’t a bad thing considering that my doctor would like me to lose 40 pounds or so.

A bit of an explanation seems in order here. The basic process for deploying unit equipment in theater is that we get the stuff off the ship, then move the stuff to the staging base. Some of the equipment is unpacked there in order for the deploying unit to conduct required training, such as live-firing all individual and crew-served weapons, and conducting live-fire immediate action drills of various sorts, both dismounted and mounted. Then when all the training is complete, the gear gets packed back up, and we load everything up on trucks to move it north. The people fly north by tactical airlift (cattle-class on C-130’s, mostly,) or by road convoy in armored trucks and HMMWV’s, and marry up
with the rest of their equipment at their bases in Iraq when the line-haul trucks deliver it.

But the problem is that there are never enough line-haul assets to make everyone happy. (Kirk’s First Rule of Logistics: No army, anywhere, will ever have enough transportation assets to keep everyone happy.) So we as shippers have an obligation not to waste lift: it’s really bad form to use ten trucks to move gear you could have moved safely on eight trucks, because those two extra trucks could have been used to move some other shipper’s stuff. We’re not doing so bad here. As evidence I offer the following photo of a loaded line-haul truck somewhere in Kuwait. I think that one counts as being full.

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At some point in my perambulations around Kuwait, I ran across a Polish Army unit getting ready to go home. And they had a war trophy. Sitting on a heavy equipment transporter was, of all things, a Sherman tank. It looks like one of the old “Super Shermans” the Israelis up-gunned with a 90mm gun, but this one has had a sleeve inserted into the barrel to turn it into a flamethrower tank. It’s not real clear as to how it would up in Iraq, but by cracky, the Poles found it somewhere upcountry, and they are taking it home.

See pictures:

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Finally, I keep getting reminders that this is not quite the same Army I joined in 1978. To wit, tonight in the chow line I saw a couple of interesting vignettes:

The Cute Blond Chick with the Big Honking Gun – In my day an infantry brigade was an all-male club. These days two of the six battalions in my brigade have women assigned to them, as does the brigade’s headquarters company. So here in the chow line is this little blond female PFC, who is maybe 5 feet tall in her boots, with an M240 machine gun slung diagonally across her back. Durned gun is nearly as big as she is, and she’s toting it around with about as much concern as if it were an oddly-shaped purse.

The Star Wars Toy – In the same chow line was a hulking squad leader from an airborne unit, one of those annoying 6-foot-6-inch-260-pounds-and-ain’t-none-of it-fat types with the 56-inch chest and the 28 inch waist. (I say annoying because I’ve always wanted to look like that and have never managed it…) He’s carrying an M4 carbine across his chest in a combat sling. The weapon has so many hi-tech widgets attached to it, it looks like a toy from the Star Wars aisle at Toys-R-Us: aiming lasers, optical sights, spotlights, extra handgrips, a bipod, you name it. If there’s a place to attach an accessory, there’s something attached. In this guy’s massive paws it really looks more like a toy than the very lethal weapon it actually is.

My first military rifle was an M14 in college ROTC during my freshman year. We've come a long way since then. Except we haven't, really. I'm given to understand that a number of units now want to issue scoped M14's to the Designated Marksman in each squad until the purpose-designed DM rifle becomes available. I expect that the novelty of a wooden-stocked weapon in this day and age will wear off about half-way through the first foot patrol toting that beast. It gets heavy after a while.

For the record, based on the markings and battle damage - I call that an M36 Jackson turret sitting in a standard M4 chassis (vice the angled-body chassis more common to the type) that belonged to the Iranians (see that roundel on the turret? Green/tan/brown? A camo version the green/white/red of the Iranian Army. The Poles are taking home an Iraqi Army battle trophy...

Lest we think that unusual - at Pinder Barracks, Zirndorf, Germany, the 6th Battalion, 14th Field Artillery (Everything's better with a Whorebonnet on it! Those who know, know), had a trophy gun in front of their battalion headquarters. A Skoda howitzer captured from the Serbs by the Austrians, captured from the Austrians by the Italians, captured from the Italians by the Germans, and just taken over by the US when they found it occupying the Kaserne after WWII... Heh. A traveling trophy, kinda like the Americas Cup...

Lastly, when you're me-sized, the M14 doesn't feel that big. I liked it.

Parts 1, 2, and 3, 4, 5 can be reached by clicking the respective numbers.