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December 21, 2006

The Ghost of (A) Christmas Past

RF/PF -- “Ruff-Puff” -- was the acronym for Regional Forces/Popular Forces, the South Vietnamese militia. Most units were composed of a mixed bag of farmers, frog hunters and former VC who had developed a hankering to be on the inside of a Huey looking down at the landscape, rather than being on the outside of a Huey looking up and becoming part of the landscape. Some units were independent strikers, but most were attached to a major unit of the South Vietnamese Army and were used as scouts and flank security troops. For some reason known only to Buddha, most of them wore purple helmet liners as the war-hat-of-choice...

Earlier in the morning, we’d inserted five ships'-worth of Ruff-Puffs into a warm LZ (scattered, inaccurate ground fire) about fifteen klicks west of Bac Lieu in the ‘way-south part of the Delta; we’d refueled, opened our cans of breakfast and were now enroute for the extraction, listening to Christmas carols on AFVN-AM (the nice thing about your ADF nav radio is that it will pick up commercial radio stations). I was flying Chalk Two, which tucked me right next to Lead.

Late December is two months after the last of the monsoons, so the paddies were still thigh-deep in water, the treelines were thick with fresh understory growth and the indigenous bad guys had their minds more on growing enough food to stash for the dry season than on mounting any decent-sized offensives. And besides, the Annual Christmas Truce (“Don’t shoot back unless they’re getting really, really accurate”) was in effect. At least it was in effect on our side -- the VC were either Buddhists or good little Fraternal Socialist Peaceloving Anti-Imperialists and couldn’t care less, a fact which seemed to have passed over the heads of the galaxies in Saigon (“I dunno, sir, maybe MACV figgers they’re all Presbyterians ‘er sumpthin’…”)

So, the local 21st ARVN Advisor had decided it was the perfect opportunity to give his attached (and newly-minted) Puffs some training in real, live Enemy Territory, searching for food and weapons cached in the area. The theory was that the Puffs’d be on the qui-vive on patrol due to the possibility of contact and in sufficient numbers to take out whatever stragglers were foolish enough to initiate contact.

Good training.

In theory.

Three miles out, fifteen hundred feet up, not a sign of the Puffs, who should have been assembling in the PZ (the former LZ) after completing their patrols -- the PZ was a large paddy sandwiched between a shallow river to the south with a dozen wooded islands in it and a good-sized patch of jungle to the north. I flipped the nav monitor toggle switch off in the middle of “Deck the Halls” so I could listen for any radio calls from the ground. We were on short final to the PZ before one of the gunners spotted them forming up in the treeline.

“Little People at nine o’clock, sir -- along with a zillion chickens.”

Oh, Balzac. They’d been foraging instead of patrolling. I remember hoping that they’d found at least one weapons cache and blown it…

“They’re taking their own sweet time about catching the bus -- cripes! They went fishing, too!?!”

Sure enough, the Puffs who weren’t loaded down with scraggly chickens were loaded down with the local version of catfish. I shrugged and flipped the nav monitor toggle switch on.

Siiiiilent Night, Hoooooly whumf

Mud-dirt-smoke a hundred yards south. The Ruff-Puffs started trotting toward the ships.

“Hey, Copperheads, Lead -- are you guys popping rockets to suppress?”

“Negative. We’re just orbiting about three klicks north.”

Allll is calm, allll is whooompf!

Mud-dirt-smoke fifty yards north. The Puffs are now pelting for the ships, fish flapping, chickens thrashing, purple helmet liners bobbing.

“Hey, Lead, Chalk Four -- Flight’s taking mortars in the PZ.”

“Yeah, looks like they’ve got a really decent bracket on us, too.”

"Hey, they broke the truce!"

"Why are you surprised?"

"'Cuz it's supposed to be *our* turn to break it!"

‘Round yon viiiiirgi BAAMPF!!

Mud-dirt-smoke-flying debris-pting-zizzz! right through my door. The Puffs pile inside, to the accompaniment of the Copperheads flashing overhead, screaming south to look for the mortar team.

“Lead, Two -- they’ve got the range. Next round’s gonna land in my lap.”

“Lead, Five. Flight’s up.” Good. Everybody’s on board and it’s Time To Git Outta Dodge.

Five Hueys come unstuck and nose over to gain speed as multiple mud-dirt-smokes erupt from where we had just been.

Sleeeeep in heav-- I flick the nav toggle off.

* * * * * * *

Seven hours later, in the 'way-north part of the Delta (which is nonetheless still the 'way-south portion of Vietnam), we were proceeding inbound to pick up an ambush patrol from Moc Hoa. Just as I reached down to flip the nav toggle switch off,

Siiiiilent Night, Hoooooly pok! pok-pok!

Green tracers everywhere, coming from about thirty muzzle flashes right out my door.

Allll is calm, allll is pok!pok!pok!

“Chalk Three’s goin’ down. Our engine's gone.”

“Chalk Five’s right behind you. Don’t forget to grab the radios and shoot the battery when you leave.”

“Hey, sir, there’s fluid on the deck. I think it’s oil, but it might be tranny fluid. It’s too dark to tell for sure.”

Oh, joy to the world.

pok!pok!pok!pok!pok!

“Lead, Two’s got fluid on the deck. My gauges are still normal, but I don’t think that’ll be the case in a couple of minutes.”

“Roj. Break off and head for Moc Hoa. Four, you hang with me and we’ll cover Five when he lifts off and pick up Two if he goes down enroute.”

I made it to Moc Hoa, barely. Oh, yeah -- it was tranny fluid.

* * * * * * *

Thirty-odd years later.

“What did you get for Christmas in Vietnam, Bill?”

“Shot down. For the *first* time.”

Heh. I still flick the radio off when "Silent Night" comes on…

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! »

by CW4BillT on Dec 21, 2006 | TrackBack (0)

June 08, 2006

TINS!* Times Two

I racked my brain for a while, trying to decide how to spin this turkey highlight certain portions of the tale in order to give you something other than the usual humdrum yawner sedate narrative you’ve come to tolerate expect from me. But I decided against it, because I had a brain stall of galactic proportions wanted to give you an example of how gut-wrenchingly dull prosaically routine most of our missions were…

*tongue planted so firmly in cheek you couldn’t budge it with det cord*

Instead, I dumped half of it in V29’s lap asked V29 for an assist, since, after all, that’s what this particular TINS! is all about. If you want to follow the action on a Tac Map, drop in here and visit the third map from the bottom, third map from the left. I'll let Two Niner start it rolling...

TINS! Times Two; or, He Said / I Said / We Said

V29: In the months leading up to the Cambodian Invasion in May 1970, the 162nd AHC, nightly, flew border patrols from the Parrot's Beak to Ha Tien. We would base from a small airfield adjacent to a Special Forces compound in Moc Hoa. Our team consisted of a C-model gunship fireteam and a C&C/flareship. Or, when we had it equipped an H-model with flares, .50 cal, mini-gun and infrared sight.

V15: This was also the time frame that the Army was doing its first experiments with a Huey “night fighter”--the INFANT (Iroquois Night Fighter And Night Tracker), a UH-1M (which was a Charlie-model gunship beefed up with an H-model engine) equipped with a Low Light-Level TV. The First Cav played around with a couple of them in III Corps until February 1970, then came down to see how well it would work in the Delta. I got tagged to fly C & C for the lads (and that’s a subject for a whole separate TINS!--*really* made me appreciate how much flight discipline we kept in the 162d). Anyway, while Two-Niner was NightHawking along the border, I was babysitting the INFANT (heh) above the Plain of Reeds...

Partial map of IV Corps. Ha Tien to the west, the Parrot's Beak to the east, which is actually west of Saigon, which in turn is east of...never mind.

*go ahead and ignore the area labeled “Ambush” for the time being--it’s okay, you can ignore it--awwww, c’mon, ignore it*

Most of the time, we staged from Can Tho, but this night we, too, were working from Moc Hoa. I had the company's other .50 cal at the crewchief’s station, a twin-M60 mount at the gunner’s station and five flares strapped to the floor.

V29: On the day in question, probably around late March to early April '70, we had the second configuration and I was AC of the H-model. The night patrol had passed uneventfully and our gunship had departed for Can Tho early, while we waited to see if the Team needed to transport any personnel to Can Tho. At our release time we took off for home with no passengers. We were maybe, 10 minutes outbound when a Navy Mike Boat came up on Guard seeking assistance.

V15: We’d had a so-so night. The Charlie-model gunship in *our* team was an Outlaw from Vinh Long. He’d been plagued with electrical glitches during the first mission, so the Cav AMC (Air Mission Commander) released him and opted to launch the 0300 mission with just his top cover--me. After an hour of boring holes in the night sky, the Cav found a squad-sized element moving south along one of the canals leading to the junction we called the Big Wagon Wheel (Why? Because it had more intersecting canals than the *Little* Wagon Wheel. Duh). After some clock-cleaning, he dropped to fifty feet (he flew blacked-out, so I had to drop to eighty feet to keep him in sight) and followed their backtrail north. He popped a pair of rockets at a sampan, then broke left (without warning me) and the secondary that fireballed its way past my nose added my night vision as collateral damage. We decided to scratch the pre-dawn mission and headed to Moc Hoa for fuel and a chat with the radar operators, just to confirm we hadn’t busted the Cambodian border during our gyrations. The Cav launched for Can Tho before first light and we were just cranking up when Two-Niner departed. Enroute to 1,500 feet for the trip home, we heard the Navy’s Mayday (he'd taken an RPG hit) and Two-Niner’s answer. And you just *know* I wasn’t gonna nonchalantly continue to motor south, don’t ya?

[Aside: We called almost everything Mike-Boats (from Mobile-Riverine), including what the Navy called PBRs (Patrol Boat, Riverine) or PCRs (yadda Craft yadda); what the Navy originally called Mike-Boats couldn’t even fit in a canal. Adding to the merriment, there were smaller craft the Navy also called Mike Boats, and (naturally) they also called Monitors Mike Boats. But as far as we were concerned, if it was one of ours and in a canal and wasn’t a hovercraft, it was a Mike Boat and a PBR was warm beer in a rusty can. We were a bit more precise when referring to the floating POL points...]

V29: He reported having wounded and taking heavy fire from both sides of a narrow, heavily wooded canal. I could hear the fire over the radio and the quiet desperation in his voice. As we had an uneventful night, we had a full ammo load, so I decided to see what help we could provide. I made for the coordinates he gave me and had no trouble finding him. The boat was dead in the water and smoking. They were in a fight for their lives for sure.

V15: I was still a good five miles away when I spotted Two-Niner making an orbit around some smoke and figured I’d stay high and play top cover while he did whatever he was planning to do. I wasn’t worried about him biting off more than he could chew, because whatever a NightHawk Huey bit got royally chewed in the process. And I had no desire to collect a .50 cal ricochet, either, so I climbed to 2,000 feet and started a wide right orbit.

V29: By this time we were told the wounded were in need of immediate evacuation. But, I couldn't blindly put my ship and crew at risk. It was necessary to have a look-see and assess the situation. We circled at 1500' and hosed down both sides of the canal with our .50 and minigun. It took a few minutes to impress on Charles that we meant business and had the means to cause them extreme harm. Charlie blinked, taking cover to assess the situation. Surprised at the opportunity, but taking advantage of the lull in fire, I ordered the boat to lower their radio antennae and descended to pick up the wounded. I put my skid on the side of the boat and hovered while the wounded were loaded. At this point the LtJG in command asked if there was anyway to get him out of the kill zone. His engine was kaput and he was rightfully afraid that when we departed Charles would be back to finish him off. What the heck, my H-model could push that little tinderbox about as fast as his engine could, thought I. So, around to the stern I went and placing my skid there, I hovered sideways, while the Navy steered, pushing the boat about 400 yards down the canal to a spot where it widened and the banks were devoid of heavy foliage. At this point, confident that further assistance was on the way, I left them and took the wounded directly to a Navy hospital ship in the bay at Vung Tau. My landing on the hospital ship is a story for another time.

V15: Most of the reason Charlie kept his nose out of it while Two-Niner played with the boat was a reluctance to mess with a NightHawk and the remainder of the reason was us, circling at two grand, squirting rounds from the twin-sixty on our outbound leg and dumping expended brass into the woodlines on the inbound leg (rapidly-descending 7.62 casings warble--they sound just like inbound 60mm mortar rounds). When I saw him reposition to the stern, followed immediately by the Mike-Boat beginning to move out smartly, my first thought was that the boat was under fire again and Two-Niner was now pulling a moving medevac, which is a real thrill. When I realized he was *pushing* the boat, I figured the Boat Boss had just promised him a surf ‘n’ turf lunch in the Navy Mess at My Tho…

V29: I can't remember who my gunner or PP were, but I'm quite sure the CE was Jim M. It amazes me that I have little clear memory of so much of my tour. There are maybe three or four incidents that are etched in my mind and I think of them often. Were they real or figments of my imagination??????? It was unpopular on Wall Street in the early '70s to be a RVN vet, so I never talked of my experiences and may, in fact, have suppressed them to the point that I only remember incidents where the adrenaline was flowing freely. The rest is gone, only to return when somebody prompts me with a memory of theirs. Well that is how I recollect one incident...it's my story and I'm sticking to it.

V15: I clued him in on his Peter-Pilot’s ID, since I’d heard that Daown Ee-yust twang when PP mashed the floor mic button, forgot his selector switch was still set on Reed Control’s FM frequency and started whining about the tail rotor getting close to the trees. But he confirms one thing I’d previously realized--if something wasn’t a significant event, the basics (what happened and where) get dribbled into memory, but the details (date, crew, exact sequence of events) vanish until somebody says, “Hey, I need a little help with a story I want to do…”

Epilogue: What’s all the current teeth-gnashing about “Jointness” being so devastatingly difficult to achieve? We did it thirty-odd years ago--it was dirt-simple:

1. Navy (or Air Force or Marines) get into trouble and call for an Army helicopter.

2. Army helicopter arrives and saves the day.

See? What could be simpler?

Post-epilogue: As the Princess has constantly (and fetchingly) pointed out in the past, we sometimes engage in squid-snarks around this place, but I must confess to a certain admiration for the Navy--after all, I can attest to the fact that it was the *first* uniformed service to utilize, in combat, a brown-water patrol boat powered by a four ton, turbine-engined outboard motor with a 48-foot prop.

Operated by an Army crew.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Gratuitous Squid Snark: I'll betcha I've landed on more different types of naval craft than Lex has--including to the *width* of the flight deck. Twice.

*sigh* But we can't use the phrase "Boys In Blue" to snark the sister services anymore, evidently. Although I'll bet John will take issue with one of the reasons given for the switch--

• In quality, the blue Army Service Uniform is made of a durable material that is suitable for daily use without special care.

It's gotta be a real nuisance trying to find the exact shade of blue for those spandex™ side-seam inserts...

by CW4BillT on Jun 08, 2006

January 06, 2006

First Sergeants.

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1st Sgt. Fidelito Ordonio, first sergeant with Co. A, TF 1-27 INF, stands against a wall with Sahilia elementary school students during the dedication of the school March 3.

Ahh, the First Sergeant. The Spine of the Company/Battery/Troop. Sometimes known as the First Shirt.

This is a story about a 1st Sergeant. In a First Shirt mode.

Top Sergeants are the unit Bearer of Standards. Yes, yes, the officers are supposed to be that way, but a good Top Kick can overcome slovenly officers. The success of my battery level command is testament to that. More importantly, the First Sergeant has ad hoc tools available to him that a prudent officer will avoid.

While normally a First Sergeant is selected from NCO's of requisite caliber in the same branch as the unit they allow their officers to take responsibility for, this is not always the case. This has to do with the requisite quality in a First Sergeant is the ability to capital-L Lead. The duties of the 1SG generally doesn't extend to that of leading the troops around taking bunkers, breaking track, serving the guns. His or her job is to move among the soldiers and make sure that the troops are being taken care of, the NCOs are doing their jobs, and making sure it's all done to standard.

My first unit, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 22nd Field Artillery Regiment, then assigned to the 1st Armored Division Artillery at Pinder Barracks, Zirndorf, Germany, is an example of a unit that did not have an MOS-related 1SG. 1SG "Z" was a dental technician. Yes. A dental tech. Yet he rode herd on that battery of 250 souls as if he were born to the trade. He did much to teach me how to interact with Sergeants and Soldiers as an officer, and mindful of being a junior officer. A direct support artillery battalion HHB is a large, lumbering monster, with many moving parts, usually not moving in synch. By design. The first 'H', the Headquarters, is just that . The Battalion Commander and his staff, including the battalion Command Sergeant Major, the senior NCO in the battalion. Lots of egos to deal with there. All of 'em prissy and prickly. They are the reason the battery exists. Yet, because this is a DS unit, it also contains the FS Element, which has all the Forward Observers in it, who scatter to the winds to their supported armor and infantry battalions and companies when those units are out training or deployed. The 1SG has to manage all of that in consonance with his commander, and 1SG 'Z' did it well.

I hid the best part of this below the fold, in the Flash Traffic/Extended Entry.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows »

by John on Jan 06, 2006

December 10, 2005

TINS!* Another Vulture Caught the Bug

Some of my old RVN buds lurk and even sally forth to make the occasional comment (yeah, *you* Two-Niner!).

And now, they're doing TINS!

And about time, too. The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association is looking for contributions to the oral history archives, and the guys are coming through like champs...

Bob Shine (V One-Seven) did this one, but the sneaky basset didn't tell me about it--probably because he figgered I'd post it.

He was right. And Eric ratted you out, Baby-San!

However, to forestall the inevitable question--no, I was *not* the guy who put the Huey inverted. But I *did* get a 110-degree bank out of one (something the Army still insists is impossible, by the way)--and if I hadn't, this place would still be subtitled "The Home of Two of Jonah's Military Guys"...period.

It's a quick read and a good one. Peekchurs, too--and you'll see why we tagged him Baby-San.

by CW4BillT on Dec 10, 2005

November 28, 2005

Hah! I *knew* there was more to the story than he was letting on...

While goofing off this weekend, I found a strange trackback. The IP address was all Fibonacci numbers, and when I went to the source it appeared to be a blog I'd never heard of before, "Pinfeathers". I would link to it but now the URL just brings up a message about no such server ever existing in any space-time continuum. Anyway, this page remained in my cache and I thought the Denizens would find it of interest ...

Now I know why Bill didn't hit on them - it wasn't because he thought they were carrying... it was Divine Intervention!

Anno Domine 2005, Cycle of Harmony 265
I really miss Effluvius. He was the funniest one of our team and he could come up with great names like Spreadsheet for Lt. Excelsius and I'm pretty sure he was the one who replaced Dolorius' wing powder with Extra Strength Gold Bond. I was thinking about him especially today because we got a special ops mission he would have loved. Seems our assigned human is just bound and determined to get into trouble even though his helicopters have been taken away (and that was a good thing 'cause Sgt. Carborundum was getting demonic around the edges close to the end there). So he figured out a way to get sent all the way out to where these two lady bloggers live and when Carbo heard that he did a one-jump launch and started spittin' coffee with the orders 'cause he was talking too fast to swallow.

It was really strange too because we have some new equipment, label says "PG-17a" and "BCR Laboratories" on the side and it went all spastic on us at the same time. (I didn't know robots went to Heaven but Dolorius says dogs do and why not robots?) Anyway, I get a case of the stupids and say something like we aren't the Morality Squad and don't they have their own GA details so Carbo has to pull my feathers out and douse me with poultry seasoning, pointing out we know *both* of them can place lead where they want it to go and did we really want to stand before a Board of Inquiry chorusing "I didn't know they were loaded"?

Point taken. Then the Ell-Tee wakes up and says maybe Tuttle will behave himself and man, it was funny how the whole squad found something else they just had to do right then. Carbo inhaled his coffee which was probably good even though he nearly choked 'cause he calmed down by the time he stopped coughing. Anyway even the Ell-Tee didn't really belive it either so we had to come up with a plan and I think we did a good job, that's what comes of working as a team for so long in a dangerous environment, it really makes you work together. We had it all covered. The long flight, switching the decaf and regular coffeepots, Incompatible File Formats, screwing up the meal schedule, even the weather. The best bit was Carbo hacking into the human's logistics systems and getting all the gear Tuttle was supposed to look at in three different places. He's mean, but he's good! And it worked -- he was too tired to hit on anything except his beer! Never seen him so well-behaved.

Non-denizens may find this confusing. You can catch up...

Here...

And here...

And here.

Now yer caught up on Guardian Angels.

by John on Nov 28, 2005

November 22, 2005

Hear ye, hear ye!

TINS Alert! TINS Alert!

More importantly, another Denizen has opened a blog, long in the making, this Denizen being something of a perfectionist...

Which means we've lost (yeah, I know, you claim that isn't so, but I know how it ends up) another one of our more erudite commenters, who will bloviate in his own space, rather than getting me return traffic.

Sigh.

What? Yer still here? Go! Go visit The Grand Retort, Sanger Magee, proprietor!

by John on Nov 22, 2005

October 12, 2005

Updating a post a little tiny bit...

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That post being this one, where Blake expounds on stuff the Polish Army is taking home from Iraq.

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I mentioned in that discussion the Skoda howitzer at Pinder Barracks, Zirndorf, Germany, my first duty station after my initial Army schooling. Reader but infrequent commenter Frank C. was a fellow-denizen of Pinder, we have exchanged TINS before. This week he provided scans of his pics of the gun in question! So here is a little, tiny slice of Pinder Barracks, now long since returned to the Germans. To them it was FlakKaserne Zirndorf, barracks for the local anti-aircraft units responsible for the southwestern sector of defense for the Nűrnberg-Fűrth region. It appears it's first US occupants (outside of the combat forces moving through the area at the end of the war) was a military police railway security battalion, the the 395th MP SV. Battalion, followed by the 16th Infantry Regiment. To me it was home to the 1st Battalion, 22nd Field Artillery, 6th Battalion, 14th Field Artillery, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Armored Division Artillery, the 595th Military Police Company (we needed lots of supervision...) and the 156th Maintenance Company. After the 1st Tank Division moved out of that part of Germany, Pinder was briefly Headquarters AAFES-Europe (which had itself been moved from Munich).

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Pinder has been mostly dismantled, though the signature tower and guard room remains - and it's now PinderPark... which is nice that Zirndorf kept the name, given that it was named for John J. Pinder, posthumous awardee of the Medal of Honor. It speaks well for our overall relationship with Zirndorf that they kept the name, I think.

*PINDER, JOHN J., JR.

Rank and organization: Technician Fifth Grade, U.S. Army, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Colleville-sur-Mer, France, 6 June 1944. Entered .service at: Burgettstown, Pa. Birth: McKees Rocks, Pa. G.O. No.: 1, 4 January 1945. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, near Colleville-sur-Mer, France. On D-day, Technician 5th Grade Pinder landed on the coast 100 yards off shore under devastating enemy machinegun and artillery fire which caused severe casualties among the boatload. Carrying a vitally important radio, he struggled towards shore in waist-deep water. Only a few yards from his craft he was hit by enemy fire and was gravely wounded. Technician 5th Grade Pinder never stopped. He made shore and delivered the radio. Refusing to take cover afforded, or to accept medical attention for his wounds, Technician 5th Grade Pinder, though terribly weakened by loss of blood and in fierce pain, on 3 occasions went into the fire-swept surf to salvage communication equipment. He recovered many vital parts and equipment, including another workable radio. On the 3rd trip he was again hit, suffering machinegun bullet wounds in the legs. Still this valiant soldier would not stop for rest or medical attention. Remaining exposed to heavy enemy fire, growing steadily weaker, he aided in establishing the vital radio communication on the beach. While so engaged this dauntless soldier was hit for the third time and killed. The indomitable courage and personal bravery of Technician 5th Grade Pinder was a magnificent inspiration to the men with whom he served.

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And many, many thanks to Richard Lippmann, webmaster of Zirndorf, for his gesture of friendship to those of us who spent time living in Pinder and the surrounding area.

by John on Oct 12, 2005

October 03, 2005

Getting to the fight, part 5.

Blake, retired soldier turned civil-servant-in-the-assault, reports in from "Somewhere Not In The USA." I can attest to the fact that the Army is getting serious about the OPSEC aspects of things (especially blogging) and have some pretty interesting briefs up (all FOUO or better, so I can't share) on *why* they are doing that. And some very good milbloggers we all know and like sadly figure prominently in those briefs (no, I won't name names except to say Argghhh! has not attracted any officially-mentioned attention - it's all deployed guys describing ops). My visit logs do show visits from the people who now monitor things like that, however. Which is okay, I don't think I've given away anything that wasn't already out there in wide distribution. Which means I've been scooped on stuff, but, hey - I'm *not* a reporter, nor do I play one on TV. And I didn't spend the night last night in a Holiday Inn Express, either. I *will* admit to being a journalist. In the original use of the term, one who writes a journal...

Anyway - on to Blake and his latest.

CENTCOM is getting a seriously serious case of the collywobbles about the potential for the Bad Guys in Iraq to make use of open-source material about the war there (such as blog entries,) to improve the effectiveness of what they are doing. While a part of this is based on the calculus that if the Opposition might be able to do something, the prudent planner must assume that they can do it, and that they will do it, some of the briefs I’ve been given with respect to some of what I’ve been doing over here have given me pause, and I’ve become extremely reluctant to discuss certain specific activities in real time, or to provide photos that could be used to identify a specific operating location. I’ve concluded that I’d rather seem boring than do something that would put our side at any increased risk.

So, suffice it to say that I’ve spent a good chunk of the last ten days at a seaport somewhere around here, offloading a whole bunch of equipment, making sure those civilian mariners from MSC (pirates, the lot of them,) didn’t trade our HMMWV’s for beer in Gibraltar or something, and then arranging to move all this junk to our staging base, which as we’ve already noted, is right next door to the Ass End of Nowhere. (This also involved persuading one of our maintenance warrants that he couldn’t just accidentally load a couple of cute little Navy arc-welders that were sitting in the yard looking lonely aboard a couple of our trucks... ...but that’s a whole different story.) It involved a lot of long days, under unpleasant conditions (temps 120-130 degrees F, winds gusting to 30 knots, blowing sand, and so forth. But we did in fact get all our stuff accounted for and sent off to where it needs to be.

In lieu of interesting details, though, I offer the following:


True Tales of Horror from the Unit Movements Bidness, Part 1.

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John keeps encouraging me to tell stories, observing that logistics is an essential part of any major military operation that seldom gets a lot of press coverage. The only problem I have with that is that a lot of the better stories I have to tell don’t show the units I’ve worked with in a very good light. You see, if everybody does everything right, there isn’t much of an interesting story to tell. The equipment gets packed up; the rolling stock gets prepared; the necessary paperwork gets shuffled; everything gets put on the transportation, it all gets delivered, the unit unpacks its gear and loads up everything in a combat-ready configuration, and moves out smartly. Lots of work gets done, but
there's nothing all that interesting there...

It’s when things DON’T go right that the good stories emerge. Like the time I went to Honduras in 1985 as an acting platoon sergeant with D Co, 1-187 Inf. There we were, part of the world’s ONLY Air Assault division, engaged in a major multiservice, multinational exercise in northeast Honduras. And us with no helicopters... ...talk about embarrassing.

About two days before we left Fort Campbell, a UH-60 had come apart in mid-air over Fort Rucker, AL. (The UH-60 was still fairly new in 1985, and we hadn't gotten all of the bugs out of the system yet.) As a result, the entire UH-60 fleet, Army wide, was grounded until the safety gurus could determine what had happened and figure out how to prevent it from happening again. The day I landed at Golason AFB, (near La Cieba on the northern coast of Honduras,) an MH-47 of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment literally chopped itself into flinders on a taxiway at the airport at San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The rear rotor tilted forward well past its normal limits and started chewing its way down through the fuselage. (Nobody got hurt in this one: the pilots went out the front and the crew-chief and gunners went out the back.) But the entire CH-47/MH-47 fleet was grounded until, once more, the safety gurus could determine what had happened and figure out how to prevent it from happening again.

Which left us with precisely no helicopters with which to air assault into the exercise area.

Offshore we had a US Navy amphibious group with an embarked USMC Battalion Landing Team that included a helicopter carrier with a bunch of CH-46’s and CH-53’s. Heck, we could SEE the durned ships from some of the guard towers, and could count the number of helos on the flight deck if we were using binoculars. So Col. Dave Bramlett, our brigade commander, asked the Marines politely if we could borrow their helos and pilots long enough to deliver our troops to the field. The response was a study in obfuscatory language that boiled down to the fact that the Marines were not going to sully their precious Marine helicopeters by using them to carry Army grunts. Which left us little or no way to get over the mountains to where we were supposed to engage in quaint forms of folk-dancing with the Honduran Army and the United States Marines. Fortunately, we had both a smart transportation officer and a competent contracting officer along on our little tropical excursion.

Now, it is a little-known fact that when a classic American yellow school bus becomes a little long in the tooth, it generally gets sold to a used-bus wholesaler. A lot of these buses wind up getting sold to buyers in Central and South America, where they form an important part of the rural transportation system. A local entrepreneur will buy one of these old buses, install a roof-rack for luggage and an access ladder for the roof-rack, weld an extension on the exhaust pipe to facilitate fording rivers, obtain a concession from the government, and set himself up as a transit operator. Typically, the bus will start out in the early morning from some tiny village in the hinterlands and thereafter travels toward the principal city or town in the region, stopping in every little village and hamlet along the way to pick up passengers. Arriving in town about mid-morning, the driver will discharge his passengers, refuel the bus, and then wait at some designated location for his returning passengers. About mid-afternoon, with everyone loaded up, goats, chickens, piglets, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, the driver starts the bus back up, and wends his way back into the countryside, dropping off passengers and livestock as he goes, until he eventually reaches his place of origin, where his route ends. And, as it happens, we found out that on any given day a number of these buses are available for private hire...

Which is how we wound up making the infamous “140-km-nap-of-the-earth-Trans-Sula-bus-assault-mission.” 35-40 kph over gravel roads with the traditional “40 x 40” climate-control system. Yep. 40 open windows at 40 kph. And we weren’t the only traffic on the road, so dust was a constant companion. See the two accompanying photos taken during the bus assault

Even with all the dust it still beat walking…

I hadn’t really intended to tell that story here, but it does make the point that military transportation people don’t get paid to tell units that we can’t move something from where it is to where it’s needed. Which is how I wound up helping to airmail a water buffalo to Afghanistan… …about which more in a later installment.

Hosting provided by FotoTime

Oooo. I can't wait for *that* one!


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

by John on Oct 03, 2005

October 01, 2005

TGISaturday...

...only one more workday in the week.

One of the advantages of this contractor gig is that I get to go places.

One of the disadvantages of this contractor gig is that the only places I get to go are military posts.

Not that Fort Polk in the aftermath of a hurricane and Fort Sill in the middle of a tornado alert and Fort Lewis under siege by pea-soup fog are devoid of charm, y’unnerstand, but when the high point of the day is listening to Talk Radio in between meetings -- well, you get the picture.

With which I segue seamlessly into John’s Imperial Grunts mention last Sunday as being prologue to Michael Medved’s interview with Robert Kaplan on Tuesday. And I actually came out of my jet-lagged stupor long enough to pay attention when Kaplan described some of the background action which led to his writing Imperial Grunts.

But I really perked up when Medved asked Kaplan what griped the troops the most; Kaplan answered, “The restrictive Rules of Engagement” and then went on to describe how exacting the troops had to be to avoid capping noncombatants caught in a firefight.

Heh. Wonder what he’d think of this…

“The Aircraft Commander of any Army helicopter receiving fire will perform the following steps before initiating suppressive fire: 1) Positively identify the location of the fire. 2) Positively identify the location of the nearest friendly units. 3) Positively identify the location of the nearest friendly civilians. 4) Positively identify the location of the nearest neutral civilians. 5) Determine whether the type, accuracy or volume of fire warrants returning the fire. 6) If you have determined that you should return fire, a) call Sector TOC with your aircraft identification, location, the type and volume of fire you are receiving, location of the source of the fire, the locations of 2, 3 and 4 (above), and request permission to return fire; b) Sector TOC will relay the request to 164th Group headquarters by the most expeditious means; c) 164th Group headquarters will notify First Aviation Brigade headquarters of the request; d) First Aviation Brigade headquarters will relay the request to Corps headquarters, which will approve / disapprove the request and so inform First Aviation Brigade headquarters; e) First Aviation Brigade will relay approval/disapproval to 164th Group headquarters; f) 164th Group headquarters will relay approval / disapproval to Sector TOC; g) Sector TOC will issue permission / denial of permission to return fire to the requesting aircraft.”

Try doing all that between now and the time you finally run out of fuel.

If you think I exaggerated the preceding to illustrate just how restrictive the ROE could get, ask the next Vietnam Helicopter pilot you meet about “the Rules.” He should be able to rattle them off from memory, because they were taped to the instrument panel of every helicopter in Vietnam. Those rules were about as restrictive and tightly-controlled as you can get without having to call the Commander-in-Chief on the red phone for permission to shoot back; they were intended to completely eliminate both fratricide and civilian casualties.

But did they work?

TINS*! Continued in Flash Traffic/Extended Entry

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows »

by CW4BillT on Oct 01, 2005

August 28, 2005

Hey, all you auld farts out there...

...doesn't this sound familiar? Edited because I'm not supposed to publish the details, so I went with a fill-in-the-blank format. And all we auld guys and gals in the service can fill in the blanks with no problem!

For those who don't know - welcome to a "Congressional". Disgruntled troop/family member/civilian you looked at funny on the street writes their congressperson about whatever. The legislator then sends a note to the Pentagon. And within 24 hours you are getting a phone call from higher, informing you that *you* have 24 hours to respond, hardcopy to follow. Most complaints are picayune, some are substantive, some are petty vengeances. All of them eat your time, and give you exposure you *don't* generally want. And then there's the ones that are inadvertent...

This was sent to me by a frequent commenter, regarding his son who is in service. The good details have been omitted to protect the innocent.

We talked to ___ on the phone today and there is a little interesting development regarding the [installation in an undisclosed place].

After the article came out in the [name deleted] newspaper he decided to send a copy to [Congressperson X] along with a short note explaining that he is from [location] and had voted for [Congressperson X].

It had been several weeks and _____ heard nothing back. Not even a short note saying thanks for writing. Well this week ____ came into [work] and the [senior non-com] looked at him and said “We have to talk … follow me to the [Boss's] office”. ______ was wondering what had happened and what he had done wrong. The [Boss] then asked him what he had been up to and ______ was stumped. He then asked him what he had sent [Congressperson X] and ____ said he had just forwarded a copy of the news article. The [Boss] said “No you didn’t .. you also sent a paragraph along and I have a copy of what you wrote!”

It seems that [Congressperson X's] office had contacted the [Supreme Leader of a US Armed Force} who had contacted the [Minion Flag Officer] in [undisclosed location], who had contacted [Senior Field Grade] in [another undisclosed location], who then called ______'s [Boss] in [the undisclosed duty station]. Basically after they had scared ____ to death the [Boss] then told him he hadn’t written anything out of line since he blamed no one nor pointed fingers. The [Boss] told him officially that he shouldn’t write any more letters or send any more emails but if he did he was to let the [Boss] know. Then the [Boss] said that officially higher ups were upset but that unofficially there were people in [Intermediate Headquarters] that would like to give _____ a medal.

In the end _____ wasn’t in trouble but it seems that [US Armed Forces] officers (especially the [4-Bagger in Charge] don’t like [Congresspersons] calling when they aren’t expecting it.

_____ says he doesn’t want to see his name in print again for a long time. He says he doesn’t want [Flag Officers] to know his name or even know he is in the [US Armed Forces].

Ha

Take care.

I will note that it is *borderline* illegal to tell a subordinate, "The [Boss] told him officially that he shouldn’t write any more letters or send any more emails but if he did he was to let the [Boss] know."

It's an unenforceable order, too. Every citizen has the *right* to pester their representatives. But if yer a servicemember, just remember that if your chain of command is bad enough for you to need to write the congressperson, they probably are *also* not going to like the fact you did...

by John on Aug 28, 2005

June 14, 2005

Guest Post : A TINS*!

SangerM has few rantpeers in the blogosphere. He is also a TINS aficionado, both reading and recounting. He sent me this example a couple of days ago. If you ever thought the crewchief of an Army helicopter boring holes in the peacetime skies had a sweet deal, read on.

Not recommended for the underaged, the nervous, or the terminally queasy...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

How I got my first Civilian Job.

It was the throwing up that did it.

In 1984 I was put in charge of a helicopter platoon. The platoon consisted of three old, but highly modified Huey helicopters. The equipment on board was designed to intercept, record, and if desired, jam the living daylights out of enemy radio transmissions. That two of the helicopters had actually been shot down in Vietnam (we had the log books to prove it) might give you some idea of how old, and how modified, these birds were. They were called "Quickfix" helicopters.

As a bona fide crewmember on an Army aircraft I was qualified to receive flight incentive pay, and to wear the coveted wings, as long as I managed to spend at least 4 hours per month in the air doing my job. This meant that I had to fly around in one of the crewmember seats listening to and tuning the radio, recording voice conversations, and so on, even if the flight was only for training. And believe me, 4 hours is a lot of time to accumulate in a month when there are 12 of you who need to get the time, only 2 seats in each aircraft, and there are no training exercises planned for the next two months. During an exercise we could each rack up 12-20 hours, but time does pass quickly, and it is important to take your flights when you can.

So it was that one day, a Major E. needed to get a check ride in a Quickfix helicopter. He was over from the states, and figured it would be as good a time as any to do his annual check ride, since we had a bona fide test pilot in our company. So the warrant officer and Major E. were going to go up. I asked if I could go too. No sweat, but hurry because launch is in about 20 minutes. They went off to pre-flight and I went off to change.

I kept a flight suit at work for just such an occasion, and in no time I was off. Being in a hurry, however, I made one of the biggest tactical errors of my entire life. I ran out to the helicopter with only my helmet. I did not wear my vest or take my helmet bag. This was the mistake. Why? Well, I get airsick. And I always carried a couple of ziplock bags in my helmet bag or in my pockets, or in my vest, so that I could do what I needed to, and not make everyone else miserable.

See, in the Quickfix birds, the crew members sit in high, padded, forward-facing seats, looking at a rack of equipment that stretches nearly to the top of the crew cabin. We could not see forward. Also, because the seats are so high, the top of the side-door windows come to about shoulder level, which means we could only see down, not out to the horizon. And a horizon is what I need to keep from getting sick. Also, we were not allowed to take dramamine or other chemicals when flying, and I did not know about ginger, so I paid for my love affair with helicopters almost every time I got in one.

This was a recipe for disaster.

About an hour into the flight, the Major called back over the intercom and asked me to look out the windows for an F-4 that was in the area. He wanted me to be an extra pair of eyes. No big deal, except I then did something that no one with experience would ever have done. I bent over forward in my seat and turned my head left then right to look out the windows. When I didn't see anything, I sat back up quickly. THAT was the mistake!

At that moment, time slowed to a crawl as my mind raced through the options. I knew I was going to barf in less than ten seconds. I did not however, have anything to barf into. Nothing! So I had three choices: I could barf on the floor, I could barf on the equipment racks (keyboards, radios, computers, etc.), or I could barf down the inside of my flight suit. Not much choice there, actually. I did not want to have to clean up the helicopter when we got back, so I pulled the neck of my T-shirt way out, and I barfed.

I hear you all going. Ughhhhhhh!

IT. WAS. GOD-AWFUL! AAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGHHH!!!!

But it was done. So I carefully tightened and closed the Velcro fastener at my neck, and I leaned back in the seat and tried to think myself somewhere else. I even managed to tell the Major that I hadn't seen the F-4, but I did not mention my accident because I was embarrassed.

The next 20 minutes were awful, but the worst had actually passed. Or so I thought. It was not an unpleasant flight back to the field, but as we approached I remembered that we always topped off the fuel tanks upon return, and it was the job of the crewmember to do fire guard. Now this is a dumb-guy job, but it is important. The aircraft sits on the pad, running. Blades spinning at idle. The pilots remain at the controls while a fuel jockey connects a hose and does his job. And a crew member stands off to the side with a medium size fire extinguisher in hand. This is not to put out a burning helicopter, but to put out burning people. Really. If a fire starts, the fireguard is to help the pilots and the fueler get away from the plane. As I was the only crewmember on this flight, it was my turn.

Did I mention my flight suit was one of those sleek, one piece green things worn by every aviator in the Army? And did I mention that I wore my t-shirt outside my boxer shorts? Well, it was and I did, which meant that standing and walking was going to be ugly. So, I called up to the front and asked if they would be willing to drop me off at the hanger before they fueled up. But I didn't mention why (I couldn't bring myself to admit it), so they said no. Great.

Minutes later I was standing there, freezing in the rotor wash, holding the fire extinguisher nozzle in my left hand, and holding my right arm across my stomach. The front of me was a big wet circle that stretched from my chest to my thighs. And my misery was compounded when I saw the Major point me out to the test pilot, who started laughing himself silly.

After I climbed back in and got buckled up so we could go park the helicopter, the Major called back and told me that I should have said something. This was a helicopter after all, and he could have landed it anywhere to let me take a leak. To which I responded by telling him what really happened.

Stunned silence. No response. I saw the two of them look at one another in disbelief. Then the Major calls back and says, "You are one tough son-of-a-bitch." Then the two of them just laughed their asses off. I was not laughing.

After we got back, I went straight to the showers. I got undressed in the shower, and I washed up for at least 20 minutes. When I got out, I threw away my underwear and my socks. The flight suit never did lose the smell, no matter how many times I washed it, so I got it DX'd for a torn zipper. I walked back through the hanger to my office buck naked; I didn't care who saw me, but fortunately it was late in the day, and none of the women were present.

That night, we were having a going away party for the Major at a local gasthaus. I was not the first to arrive, so when I walked in the door, I was greeted with hoots and cheers, and I took a ribbing for that for the rest of the night. Thrills.

Now zip ahead two years or so. I am in the S-3 of an aviation battalion in Texas. I am the only one in the office, as I had decided to work through lunch. The phone rings, so I answered it, which the secretary would have done otherwise. It was, to my surprise, a colonel who I knew worked with Major E. I introduced myself and asked if knew where Major E. was. Yes, the now-Lt. Colonel was in Texas on another project, and he gave me his number.

Later, I called E., to see if he had any leads on jobs, since I was getting out of the Army in September of that year. He remembered me explicitly, we had a few laughs, and he gave me the name and number of a fellow in Virginia who might be interested in my skills and experience.

The following February, I started working for that fellow in Virginia. I was told I came with the highest recommendation as a person who could think quickly and who could make tough decisions. Right.

And THAT's how I got my first ever civilian job.


WARNING WARNING WARNING! Seriously disturbed and stomach-churning comments below. Peruse at own risk! Must have barf bag handy! Management not responsible for patrons choking or slipping on vomit... Enter at own risk.

Geez, Argghhh!!! has jumped the snark. Interservice vomit-rivalry. Thanks, guys. I am *soooo* proud!

by CW4BillT on Jun 14, 2005
» There's One, Only! links with: Oooh... Urk*

May 23, 2005

TINS! You picked it…

6. “Sir? The world’s biggest tracer just came offa Nui Coto an’ -- geez, it’s following us!” -- my introduction to the game of helicopter vs. heat-seeking missile. I won. Barely.

Might’ve guessed you guys would pick one of the longer ones…

We were playing the usual Nighthawk game of lone Huey annoying the neighbors and had just finished beating up some infiltrators with more guts than brains. We’d picked them up while they were still in Cambodia, then lazed around at 1,500 feet until they crossed the border and made the particularly foolish mistake of skirting a patch of woods rather than seeking cover in it when we flew over.

It was dark, but not so dark that we couldn’t see them -- the other mistake they made was not extinguishing their lanterns. They didn’t need them, once we dropped to 500 feet and turned on the million-candlepower xenon light…

Afterwards, I decided to break early for fuel and re-arm and I headed south, still at 500 feet, sweeping the canals with the xenon for a while, then ordered it turned off as we approached Nui Coto. The usual situation on the mountains in the Delta was that we owned the bottom and (sometimes) the top, and the bad guys (a mixed bag of VC and NVA) owned everything in between. Nui Coto was different -- the bad guys owned the whole thing.

As we drew abeam the eastern slope, my crewchief hollered, “Sir? The world’s biggest tracer just came offa Nui Coto an’ -- geez, it’s following us!” Now, tracers will drift as you’re watching them, but they don’t make curving turns to follow you. One thing which will, though, is a heat-seeker. In this case, an SA-7. A Strela.

Continued in Flash Traffic.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows »

by CW4BillT on May 23, 2005

May 17, 2005

TINS! A contest...

Okay, I've provided some radio (and intercom) calls directed at me (or about me, which is worse) during the course of some fairly lively flying. Here's the deal: pick a quote and the one garnering the most votes becomes the subject of the next TINS.

One quote, one vote, and no fair sneaking in under different loginids (good thing Dbie the AFSister is still in Mickey World -- I've totally lost track of how many different personae she is these days). And, there's still time to blow her thread right through into last week, gang -- she won't be back 'til Wednesday!

All right, then. There should be somethin' or other down there to appeal to just about everybody...

1. “Ooops!” [#1] -- from a gunship, two seconds after his rocket hit the (flooded) paddy I was just about to land in. Right underneath me. Instant concussive waterfall.

2. “Holy sh*t! They said Charlie didn’t have any flak down here! One-Five, are any of you guys still alive in there?”

3. “Ooops!” [#2] -- from a different gunship, one nanosecond before my crewchief screamed that a rocket had just passed between our right skid and the belly of the aircraft.

4. “Hey, One-Five, you look like Niagara Falls. I thought those fuel cells were supposed to be self-sealing.”

5. “Aaaaah! One-Five’s dead!” -- from my copilot, right after I took a direct hit in the chicken plate that slammed me flailing off the controls while we were at flat pitch in an LZ. I thought I was dead and his squeak didn’t do anything to lessen my depression.

6. “Sir? The world’s biggest tracer just came offa Nui Coto an’ -- geez, it’s following us!” -- my introduction to the game of helicopter vs. heat-seeking missile. I won. Barely.

7. “Chalk Four, you’ve still got a tailboom. Couldn’t say for how much longer, though.”

8. “The SEALs are ready for pickup, sir. Along with about a platoon of VC on the other side of the treeline they’re in.”

9. “Sector TOC wants you to check out a possible 37mm site west of Nui Hon Soc. The others they sent there never called in.”

10. “Hey, One-Five -- uhh, ya do know yer on fire, don’t ya?”

Heh. The polls are open...

by CW4BillT on May 17, 2005

May 16, 2005

The other side of the TINS

But not yet. First, my contribution to the Festival of the Links. Yesterday, John mentioned Dave Chappelle's views on the remoras who attach themselves to the Hollywood glitterati. Here's the Huntress' considerably more animated expansion on the theme.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I've had one or two [*whap*] *ow! okay--"a lot of"* unplanned excursions into the realm of Aviation Emergencies. And, just to prove the major players in the MSM aren't the only ones spinning otherwise factual stories into "events that never were"--from the Big Bag o' Trons comes:

CW4 William S. Tuttle
AASF #1 (NJARNG)
Trenton-Mercer Airport
West Trenton, NJ 08628-1302

Mr. H.L. Schwartz III
The Trentonian
600 Perry Street
Trenton, NJ 08602

Dear sir;

Reference the above item [note: refers to a newspaper clipping pasted to the original letter. Didn't take here, cuz the paste won't stick to the monitor, for some reason...] which appeared on page 3 of May 13th’s Trentonian--there are four factual errors in a filler only four sentences long, which may cause you--as Editor-- some consternation.

First, the pilot never stated that he “might have to crash land;” he said he would have to make a “running landing,” which is the prescribed emergency procedure for a hydraulic failure in this particular helicopter.

Second, “10 tense minutes” did not elapse; the aircraft was on the runway three minutes after the pilot’s initial call to the control tower.

Third, the pilot never called the tower and said that “the problem suddenly corrected itself.” The second radio transmission between the pilot and the controller took place after the aircraft landed; the controller asked the pilot if he would be shutting down on the runway, and the pilot answered, “Yes--there’s a ground crew coming over to tow it off.”

Fourth, the problem never “corrected itself;” if it had, the running landing would have been unnecessary.

Still, it was an improvement over your coverage of a similar incident which occurred last year, in which the pilot was reported to have crashed the aircraft into the runway--resulting, astoundingly enough, in no damage to either pilot or helicopter.

If your staff writers ever evince curiosity about the difference between an
“emergency landing” and a “crash landing,” feel free to call me--I was the helicopter pilot in both incidents.

WILLIAM S. TUTTLE
Chief Warrant Officer Four
New Jersey Army National Guard
(phone number deleted as obsolete. billt)

Nope. They didn't call...heh.

by CW4BillT on May 16, 2005

May 06, 2005

TINS! "First, the good news..."

...is that Denizen Dbie AFSister got all excited last night over a post at ALa's that hasn't been posted at this time of the morning, but probably will by the time you guys get here.

*checks watch, winces*

Ummmm--make that *might* be, by the time you guys get here. But since she hit 50,000 yesterday, drop in anyway and give her a boost to 100,000, okay?

To the TINS. Caveat omnes: After reading most of this, you might construe it as a slam against A-10 drivers. It isn't. R-e-a-d the whole thing...

First, the Good News--when the new Commander of our ARNG Aviation Brigade decided he wanted a detachment of his AH-1F (C-Nite/FLIR) Light Nightfighters to deploy to Annual Training with his UH-60 Air Assaulters for a fairly aggressive series of NVG Aerial Escort Security missions, he shook out some additional flying hours for our trainup two months before “Show Time.”
Now, the Bad News--because our original Flying Hour program only allowed 1.5 hours per crew, per month, only two of us, the Battalion SP (Standardization Instructor Pilot) and yours truly, had been maintaining NVG currency--but not proficiency. In other words, we were good, but we needed to be perfect.

First, the Good News--my Company Commander sat down with us and we set priorities for Refresher Training and after a month of Tuesday-, Thursday- and Saturday-night goggling, we had our required five mission-trained crews.
Now, the Bad News--two weeks before Show Time, Brigade discovered that the Air Force essentially owned the skies over Ft. Postage Stamp, VA, and, since DivArty would be hub-to-hub on the ground, decided that the situation was tailor-made for daytime Joint Aerial Attack Team (JAAT) missions. The way a JAAT works is, artillery fire buttons the armor up, then the Cobras pop out of the trees to fire up the Air Defense systems, then the A-10s nip in to bust up the tanks, then the Cobras beat up the Air Defenders again while the A-10s skedaddle, then the tubes suppress while the Cobras duck back into the trees. Repeat until white flags sprout in the kill zone or the Cobras run low on ammo. If it's done right, it's a thing of beauty. If it's not, it's a recipe for suicide.

First, the Good News--since our tactical training area is sandwiched between R-5001 and R-5002 (oh, go ahead, Neffi--look at the Washington Sectional), we’ve got a lot of JAATs under our collective belt--mostly “wet” (for the non-mil Denizens and Visitors, "live fire").
Now, the Bad News--due to “resourcing constraints,” none of us had done a JAAT in at least two years and it had been a full year since any of us had put any rounds downrange.

First, the Good News--we had a Range Window on R-5001 the day before we were to deploy and the Battalion Master Gunner’s gunnery matrix gave us priority so we wouldn’t fall behind schedule.
Now, the Bad News--between holding the pace of the range to a crawl and a shortage of gunnery IP’s, I would have to stay on the range an additional day to get our last two detachment shooters current--with one Tuna Surprise MRE to last me from supper to breakfast to lunch to supper...

First, the Good News--figuring that nothing we do in training is worth killing somebody, my CO revised his original plan; he and I would fly a single-ship penetration of the Mason-Dixon ADIZ, do a zone recon of our little corner of Ft. Postage Stamp (we always do a hazard recon--see “Why I Hate Wires” March 29, 2005. No, I'm not gonna link myself and you need the practice researching the archives...) and figure out our options on-site. And I’d already 'phoned the Safety Officers for Post and Brigade; they were a wealth of information on our three-grid-square maneuvering area and range fans, active artillery firing points and gun-target lines, current laser operations and the ingress/egress routes of our A-10 JAAT-mates. After we were satisfied, we’d link with our other four crews at the Air Assaulters’ home station for a complete sitrep.
Now, the Bad News--the original AMC got the flu, so we'd have to break in a new one during the mission, and, in addition to DivArty shooting indirect from the south-through-west quadrants, Marine TOW LAVs were doing direct fire from the north. Oh, and just to keep us from getting complacent, two OPFOR Stinger teams were roaming our corridor, ready to engage all comers, i.e., "us." The situation was starting to grow fur.

First, the Good News--we got a solid face-to-face brief and new hazard maps from Brigade’s ASO, and did a thorough recon of our maneuver area. We were able to get two-days’ worth of plan, brief, rehearse, fly two dry JAATs, debrief, refine, rebrief and rehearse some more. Since we were the A-10s’ final exam for a Balkan deployment, their FAC Evaluator, Hard Rock, took the onus of the Nine-Line brief, our AMC (Air Mission Commander) briefed target ID and the JAAT clock while I controlled the Cobras. Since the fast-movers’ attack corridor was our western “no-fly” line, we had to settle the nagging question about their “hard-floor” of 500 feet (MSL? AGL?); sitting in the treetops of our battle position put us at about 430 MSL (our own “hard floor” was rock). The ground-attack guys would be cueing on the laser spot from a GLID/COLTS, so we did a final laser-protective glasses showdown.
Now, the Bad News--I got the Tuna Surprise MRE for lunch both days.

It gets better (or worse, depending on your point of view)--click on Extended Entry for the rest.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows »

by CW4BillT on May 06, 2005

April 23, 2005

This is too good to pass up.

SWWBO's a little under the weather today, we're getting a late start. All this travel has been taking a toll on her. So, I'm going through email, marveling that the denizens wimped out of a good chance at a party last night (we're just too old, izzat it? Can't hang late any more? Except those left coasters who have an advantage in this regard...)

Ennyway, Martin M sends this story, and a link. It reminds me of a TINS I'll need to work up into a post someday - good, old fashioned, National Guard kind of story that we don't do enough of because no one has a sense of humor anymore kind of story.

Here's what Martin said:

This almost sounds like an Infantry 'TINS'. This is what some of my National Guard training used to be like in 'the old days'. My brother the writer puts this on paper better than I do at: [see link at end of this - it's better to read this first. ed.] My first real drill weekend was in August. Since the unit had been to AT; this was a maintenance drill; clean everything up and put it back in storage. It was hot, I was bored and sleepy. So was everyone else. I was starting to think that enlisting was a mistake when the Company Commander came on to the drill floor and asked for volunteers. Seems the ‘Jefferson State Militia' had taken over City Hall and we were being asked to come down and drive them out. . . . .

. . . . The rebels broke and ran after just a couple of volleys, in accordance with the script. We were supposed to chase them down to Veteran's Park, where they'd make their escape across Lake Ewauna in a WW II vintage DUKW amphibious truck. We gave them a little bit of a head start so that we wouldn't have fighting going on in the streets on the way to the park; then we headed out after them.

After the 'revolutionaries' bailed out the back door of City Hall, we pursued them. The team Martin was with ran across Klamath Avenue, through traffic, then followed the alley between Main and Klamath, firing whenever a target appeared. Cars were braking as they ran in front of them. Tourists (and locals) were understandably confused about what was happening; since there hadn't been any prior warning of military action to speak of.

Now you can know "The rest of the Story."

And, since we're at it - Sailor Bill P, aka 74 of Bowramp, sends along this explanation of his interest in guns, large and small.

by John on Apr 23, 2005

April 20, 2005

"I have the worst job...

“...in the entire world.”

Except for the lucky few, we’ve all thought that at one time or another, right?

Just to help you keep things in perspective…

TINS* [This Is No Sh*t--standard War Story Alert]

When I first joined the Guard after the South East Asian Unpleasantness, our aviation det was strictly Old-Guy (WWII vets) and New-Guy (Vietnam Vets). Thirteen pilots, thirteen aircraft--good times, except when the weather was uncooperative.

One Saturday morning, it was uncooperative. Three of us--Norm, who flew Scout ships with the First o’ the Ninth in RVN, Bill, who flew B-24s out of Libya in WWII, and yours truly--were sitting in Ops, drinking coffee and keeping each other company. The talk gradually turned to the been-there-done-that…

Part I

Norm took a sip of coffee.

“We were working the Iron Triangle and the world opens up on us. I beat feet about a klick away and C ‘n’ C [Command and Control aircraft—a Huey with three additional FM radios] calls for an airstrike.

"About ten minutes later, I hear a fast-mover call ‘On station,’ then C ‘n' C vectors him for the strike. I look ‘way, ‘way up and I see this B-57 at about 5,000 feet, and just as I start to think, ‘He can’t even hit Vietnam from up there,' he rolls on his back, noses it over and comes screaming out of the sky like a Stuka.

"Straight down.

"So, he’s coming down and the green basketballs are going up and I think, 'Oh, man--am I glad I don’t have that job.'

"He drops a coupla 500-pounders and pulls out and the bombs hit and there’s smoke and flames and green basketballs following him back up into the sky. He gets up to five grand, rolls and noses again and comes straight down through the basketballs. He pickles the load and pulls out. The whole grid square jumps fifty feet into the air, then falls down again.

"No basketballs.

"C ‘n’ C sends me over for a BDA [Bomb Damage Assessment] and I’m flying through dust and smoke and leaves and I see what’s left of a good-sized base camp. I start calling in so-many bags of rice burning, so-many bunkers destroyed, three .51 cals destroyed, and I start looking for bodies.

"Now the B-57 pilot asks C ’n’ C if he’ll be able to get a BDA to his Ops within the hour. C ‘n’ C says, ‘If you hang around for about a minute, I can give it to you now. I’ve got a guy in there already.’

"B-57 pilot says, ‘Do you mean to tell me there’s actually somebody down there in that mess? Oh--wait a minute, I see him. Gawd, I wouldn’t want that job.’ “

Part II

I put my coffee down.

(Click on Extended Entry for the rest. It's a bit long, but a fast read...)

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows »

by CW4BillT on Apr 20, 2005

March 30, 2005

Castle Jobs

"Lessee," *rustle of paper on clipboard* "where's the duty roster?"

"Ah, yes, here we go."

*runs finger down list*

The Armorer - Master and Figurehead
SWWBO - Mistress and Commander
Dusty - Chief, Air Ops.
Bill - Chief, Rotary Wing, add'l duty: Scrup'l Master and Emcee
Punctilious - Bedoodlewhoopie Mistress
Neffi - Chief, Fixed Wing and Devilish Rake, add'l duty - Margaritamatic Maint.
Cricket - Chef
Were-Kitten - Chief, Entertainment Divsion, add'l duty: Flirt (see FBL)
Sergeant B - Chief, Hvy Wpns Platoon, add'l duty, Chief, Security.
Bad Cat Robot - Chief, Xenobiology and Head Physicist - Catapult Crew Chief
FuzzyBear Lioness - Designated Flirt (to keep aviators outta trouble downtown)
Barb - Bartender add'l duty: Adjutant & a/c Crewman (Gunner)
Jack - Chief Contrarian
SangerM - CrewChief, add'l duty:Long Comment Compositing, Ass't Contrarian
Monteith - Chief, Motor Stables, add'l duty: Ass't Contrarian.
AFSis - Chief, Weapons Maintenance, add'l duty a/c Crewman (Gunner)
*sound of computer keys* *insert* *insert* *muttered sotto voce:"Dammit, Barb, the list was short!"*
Alan - Beer Consultant. add'l duty: Chief Canadian Contrarian.
CAPT H - Forces LNO add'l duty: Chief Snark. Fact Checker.
"There!" *back to list*
"Argghhh!!! Barb! HOWINAHELK DIDJA LET ME MISS MSG KEITH! Geez, he's like the only deployed member of the staff!"
MSG Keith - War Correspondent. add'l duty: Avoiding Purple Heart.
Bosquisucio - Unassigned Headum Scriptorum and Admiral of the Moat Fleet (not to be confused with the Motie Fleet, a far more dangerous thing). add'l duty: Ass't Chief, Security.

"Okay, izzat it? Did I miss anybody? If so, Barb's the Adjutant, personnel management is her responsiblity. Let her know"

"Carp! We did miss one. Sigh. It's hard, he's always wandering around the Arms Room, randomly dissassembling things - and there is *always* something left over!" Okay, okay, okay... *ponder ponder ponder* Nope, nothing's coming up yet. Barb! - Put JustThisGuy down as "Pending Assignment". And somebody get the locator collar on him. Sergeant B - have the computer keyed to track him and let us know if he's getting near anything breakable/dis-assemble-able, okay?"

"Okay folks, gather 'round. This is the new duty roster - any changes you need wanna make, get 'em to Barb - Barb, tidy 'em up and make recommendations - including for JTG."

"Most of you know I made Bosquisucio (BCR, WK - get this guy a good nick, wouldja? Too many vowels in there, send some to Bosnia) Head Latin Geek (What's that in Latin, anyway?). Based on further input, and the need for Moat Monster Management, I've reviewed resume's - and he's now Admiral of the Moat Fleet. Gottit everybody? Hey, Sanger - Pipe up, man! I can't hear the rocks rattling around in that melon of yours when you shake your head!"

"This is why the Admiral got the job. Mostly he sent me pictures of people shooting guns - but he had a good story, too. Here it is."

Behold the Moat Fleet:

Catching sight of that big happy pile of spent 40mm Cartridge Cases jogged my memory to a project I carried South of the Border.

Four years ago, we found good loving parents for a couple dozen Mk19's that we put up for adoption. During the post adoption phase, we did a visit to their new home to counsel the proud new parents on how to best rear these youngins. I am proud to report that with the attention that we instilled into their doting parents, our babies are sure to give back much warmth and love for years to come.

On our last day of counseling, we took our brood to cut their teeth at the range. Since there was no 2km Quarantined FanShaped Range to be found, we politely asked a nearby Cattle Ranch whether we could use their river bank. Their answer was of course yes. Our Escorts set up a couple Bed Sheets on the Bank, Shooed away the Cebu Cattle from the vicinity and pulled back to cover our flanks.

They were also there to cover our six, as the region is infested with
EvilDoers. They do love their SS77's. In any case, if they'd show-up, we had both HEDP's [High Explosive Dual Purpose, ed.] in the Cans, M14's on the racks, and an ungainly 40/70mm Bofors PeaShooter to back us up. Luck would have it, their only exertion was to prevent the Cebu Cattle from becoming Hamburger - GREAT DAY AT THE RANGE

Couple of funny things happened:

1- A couple of the gunners overcompensated for the displacing 15-pound bolt slamming forward, and elevated the muzzels too high. Instead of hitting the river bank, two of the HEDP's sailed clear over it and reported back 10 seconds latter on who knows what hill up yonder. We didn't hear back of our freshly purchased side of beef, so I guess that no bovines were hurt.

2- Since we were at the very end of the logistical train, we had an odd assortment of Swartklip and US made HEDP's. Some of it was in excellent condition, others weren't. We tried a batch of early 90's vintage M430's which were left too long under the weather. In the middle of the shoot, this round malfunctioned. The High Pressure Chamber blew back the primer, prior to pushing all of the gases up the Low Pressure Chamber. All of a sudden, our baby in a sickly burp, belches a grey pall of smoke backwards. The round goes up half way up the barrel and promptly gets stuck. Next thing we know the gunner yelps and runs back like a little girl. No one gets huts, except for the gunners moist drawers. The funny thing is that during the course of the whole week, the babies' new parents always would swarm around us like little children around a blacksmith, but when this malfunction happened they all scattered like flies. With full trust that the M550 Fuzed wasn't fully armed my buddy and I wrenched the round out of the barrel with an extractor latter on.

Oh and I forget, 'ere's yours trully, getting ready to put one last round down range.

Boquisucio


Welcome aboard, Admiral!


by John on Mar 30, 2005

March 29, 2005

TINS!* Why I Hate Wires...

Before I get to the usual self-flagellation, I owe this one to frequent visitor, frequent comment-party participant and blogger-in-her-own-right, AFSister. She's in mommy-mode today and has done a nice piece on Castle Afghanisandbox Correspondent MSG Keith's Read to Your Kids program over at Blonde Sagacity. Even included Keith Khan's deployed address. Drop him a line--from a been-there-done-that perspective, a real letter beats an e-gram all hollow when you're far from home. And he can't always get to a 'puter.

Back to the scary stuff.

There is a small photograph on the wall in front of my desk, showing a hand holding two pieces of 5/8-inch, 7-strand steel support cable. One piece of cable looks like it had been cut with a hacksaw, the other looks like an explosion in a spaghetti factory. The caption reads, “Tuttle’s Incontrovertible Proof of the Existence of God” and therein, as Shakespeare said, lies a tale...specifically, the one that relates to my becoming one of the handful of (prior to 1993) helicopter pilots to have hit wires in flight and lived.

I’ll give you some deep background first. I belong to a National Guard Attack Battalion, then-equipped with the usual OH-6A’s and UH-1M’s -- the “olden days” when the Comanche was still the LHX (and still alive) and Crew Coordination meant the copilot could successfully walk and chew gum 70% of the time. We had deployed to our Annual Training (AT) site a week earlier with a mixed bag of high-timers (3000+ hours) and recent IERW grads (newly-transitioned into the “Loach” or the Mike-model). As Senior Scout, Instructor Pilot, Instrument Flight Examiner and Keeper of the Combat Acetate and Indelible Markers, I wasn’t anticipating a lot of time inspecting my eyelids for pinholes.

Oh, I almost forgot -- since you already *know* I’m gonna get creamed, I’ll heighten the suspense for you. The sharp clink that you’ll hear--sigh see-- from time-to-time is the sound of links being forged in the accident chain; Instructor Pilot Frustration Quotient is indicated by the addition of one or more exclamation points...

And, as usual, it's a long one. Click Extended Entry/Flash Traffic below for the rest of the story.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows »

by CW4BillT on Mar 29, 2005

March 25, 2005

617th MP Co AAR.

What a difference timing makes. Two posts down, in an update, I talk about the AAR (After Action Review) covering the fight of the 617th MP Company. I lament Blackfive got it published first. Hey, we *hate* being scooped!

Like I said, Matt got it via different sources, and his didn't come with any markings or from sources that might give cause for pause... mine came in ways that I felt I had to get permission first. [update: From chattng with Matt, he got his copy from different sources, and vetted it from different sources] So, I asked the author (via email) this morning. I go to lunch, find out Matt has it posted... come back from lunch, and there is my email from the guy who wrote it. So, since I can include his email (there are some redactions at his request) I'm gonna run with the story anyway! Yay!

Here is the email I got from the author:

John,

No I do not mind if you publish the email.

No attribution required.

My purposes were threefold:

- a. [redacted- But there is a good reason, and if that reason comes to pass, I'll share. ed.]

- b. to end the debate about women in combat—they are in combat, period.;

- c. to add our two cents to this stupid debate about the Close Combat Badge the Army command is tossing around, for non-infantry combat arms only---no MPs.

I edited it for OPSEC before it went out. I only wish that the references to the name of the ASR hadn’t appeared on the news.

I did not put any names in there, because I didn’t want any legal trouble coming back to me for unauthorized disclosure of names. I’d prefer names weren’t added, to avoid any questions about the source document.

Please share it, it was meant to share.

In my intro to the pictures, I noted the performance of the soldiers - their professionalism and discipline. And, I'm pleased to say, I was pushing just the points that the author of the AAR was hoping for - and I wrote that before I read the AAR. From previous discussions, there are good and loyal readers of this blog who don't share my view of women in combat. Leaving that aside, this fight certainly shows that at least in this kind of fight - properly trained, motivated, and led (not to mention doing the leading themselves) they can hold their own. I will allow that the issue of women in the infantry is a different issue. But the issue of women in combat... well, my position all along has been - if they are in the Army, then they can take their chances, too. And I don't wanna hear any Regulars talking down the RC (Reserve Component) unless they are being specific about people and places. Don't hand me any generic crap. Talk to the hand. And yes, I'm a Regular.

On to the AAR:


Everyone,

Over the next few days you will see on the television news shows, and in the print news media the story of a Military Police Squad who are heroes. Through those outlets, I doubt that their story will get out in a truly descriptive manner. I can't express to you the pride, awe, and respect I feel for the soldiers of callsign Raven 42.

On Sunday afternoon, in a very bad section of scrub-land called Salman Pak, on the southeastern outskirts of Baghdad, 40 to 50 heavily-armed Iraqi insurgents attacked a convoy of 30 civilian tractor trailer trucks that were moving supplies for the coalition forces, along an Alternate Supply Route. These tractor trailers, driven by third country nationals (primarily Turkish), were escorted by 3 armored Hummers from the COSCOM. When the insurgents attacked, one of the Hummers was in their kill zone and the three soldiers aboard were immediately wounded, and the platform taken under heavy machinegun and RPG fire. Along with them, three of the truck drivers were killed, 6 were wounded in the tractor trailer trucks. The enemy attacked from a farmer's barren field next to the road, with a tree line perpendicular to the ASR, two dry irrigation ditches forming a rough L-shaped trenchline, and a house standing off the dirt road. After three minutes of sustained fire, a squad of enemy moved forward toward the disabled and suppressed trucks. Each of the enemy had hand-cuffs and were looking to take hostages for ransom or worse, to take those three wounded US soldiers for more internet beheadings.

About this time, three armored Hummers that formed the MP Squad under callsign Raven 42, 617th MP Co, Kentucky National Guard, assigned to the 503rd MP Bn, 18th MP Bde, arrived on the scene like the cavalry. The squad had been shadowing the convoy from a distance behind the last vehicle, and when the convoy trucks stopped and became backed up from the initial attack, the squad sped up, paralleled the convoy up the shoulder of the road, and moved to the sound of gunfire. They arrived on the scene just as a squad of about ten enemy had moved forward across the farmer's field and were about 20 meters from the road. The MP squad opened fire with .50 cal machineguns and Mk19 grenade launchers and drove across the front of the enemy's kill zone, between the enemy and the trucks, drawing fire off of the tractor trailers. The MP's crossed the kill zone and then turned up an access road at a right angle to the ASR and next to the field full of enemy fighters. The three vehicles, carrying nine MPs and one medic, stopped in a line on the dirt access road and flanked the enemy positions with plunging fire from the .50 cal and the SAW machinegun (Squad Automatic Weapon). In front of them, was a line of seven sedans, with all their doors and trunk lids open, the getaway cars and the lone two story house off on their left.

Discipline, training, leadership. Attacking into a "near" ambush is the correct response. It's also hard, and takes great confidence in yourself, your buddies, your leaders, and your gear - especially, when by definition, an ambush is a surprise. Reacting, and reacting correctly, is the purpose of training and drill - however sometimes repetetive it might seem.

Immediately the middle vehicle was hit by an RPG knocking the gunner unconscious from his turret and down into the vehicle. The Vehicle Commander (the TC), the squad's leader, thought the gunner was dead, but tried to treat him from inside the vehicle. Simultaneously, the rear vehicle's driver and TC, section leader two, open their doors and dismount to fight, while their gunner continued firing from his position in the gun platform on top of the Hummer. Immediately, all three fall under heavy return machinegun fire, wounded. The driver of the middle vehicle saw them fall out the rearview mirror, dismounts and sprints to get into the third vehicle and take up the SAW on top the vehicle. The Squad's medic dismounts from that third vehicle, and joined by the first vehicle's driver (CLS trained) who sprinted back to join him, begins combat life-saving techniques to treat the three wounded MPs. The gunner on the floor of the second vehicle is revived by his TC, the squad leader, and he climbs back into the .50 cal and opens fire. The Squad leader dismounted with his M4 carbine, and 2 hand grenades, grabbed the section leader out of the first vehicle who had rendered radio reports of their first contact. The two of them, squad leader Staff Sergeant and team leader Sergeant with her M4 and M203 grenade launcher, rush the nearest ditch about 20 meters away to start clearing the natural trenchline. The enemy has gone into the ditches and is hiding behind several small trees in the back of the lot. The .50 cal and SAW flanking fire tears apart the ten in the lead trenchline.

Recognize what you are seeing here. The "good guys" are getting hit. But cohesion remains. People do their jobs. They help each other - but never lose sight of the mission. "Duty First, People Always" is a hackneyed phrase to many people... but what do you think about it now? The casualties they are taking could well have justifed a withdrawal. But they didn't? Why? I can't answer definitively without interviewing the troops - but I'll offer these hypotheses.

1. Body armor. People are hit, and wounded, but not taken completely out of the fight.

2. Combat lifesaving training. People know how to treat the wounded, and do so. That gives *everybody* confidence and a willingness to stick it out. It also returns troops to the fight... which isn't happening on the other side. Though - it's not as universal as you'd think, as is mentioned at the end. The bad guys are just getting ground down (their dead-to-wounded ratio supports that point) - and ground down by a smaller group than they are who just won't quit fighting... and the squads doing this fighting are *not* enjoying the traditional advantages of the defender. At best, this is a meeting engagement. At worst, it is an in-stride assault on a defended position by an inferior force. It doesn't get any harder than that guys.

3. Training. From training comes confidence. You'll see that mentioned later, too.

4. Leadership. Cool, and calm under fire. Leadership that directs. Controls. Leads. And we're not talking senior leaders. We're talking Staff Sergeant and Sergeant. The crucial link in any Army.

5. Trust & Confidence. Confidence that they can handle this fight - and turst that other people are busting their ass to get there and help out.

6. Discipline, discipline, discipline. Those of you who were in the Army during long periods of no-combat peace - remember how people bitched about load plans, and uniformity? Read on.

Meanwhile, the two treating the three wounded on the ground at the rear vehicle come under sniper fire from the lone house. Each of them, remember one is a medic, pull out AT-4 rocket launchers from the HMMWV and nearly-simultaneously fire the rockets into the house to neutralize the shooter. The two sergeants work their way up the trenchline, throwing grenades, firing grenades from the launcher, and firing their M4s. The sergeant runs low on ammo and runs back to a vehicle to reload. She moves to her squad leader's vehicle, and because this squad is led so well, she knows exactly where to reach her arm blindly into a different vehicle to find ammo-because each vehicle is packed exactly the same, with discipline. As she turns to move back to the trenchline, Gunner in two sees an AIF jump from behind one of the cars and start firing on the Sergeant. He pulls his 9mm, because the .50 cal is pointed in the other direction, and shoots five rounds wounding him. The sergeant moves back to the trenchline under fire from the back of the field, with fresh mags, two more grenades, and three more M203 rounds. The Mk 19 gunner suppresses the rear of the field. Now, rejoined with the squad leader, the two sergeants continue clearing the enemy from the trenchline, until they see no more movement. A lone man with an RPG launcher on his shoulder steps from behind a tree and prepares to fire on the three Hummers and is killed with a single aimed SAW shot thru the head by the previously knocked out gunner on platform two, who now has a SAW out to supplement the .50 cal in the mount. The team leader sergeant, she claims four killed by aimed M4 shots. The Squad Leader, he threw four grenades taking out at least two baddies, and attributes one other to her aimed M203 fire.

The gunner on platform two, previously knocked out from a hit by the RPG, has now swung his .50 cal around and, realizing that the line of vehicles represents a hazard and possible getaway for the bad guys, starts shooting the .50cal into the engine blocks until his field of fire is limited. He realizes that his vehicle is still running despite the RPG hit, and drops down from his weapon, into the drivers seat and moves the vehicle forward on two flat tires about 100 meters into a better firing position. Just then, the vehicle dies, oil spraying everywhere. He remountes his .50 cal and continues shooting the remaining of the seven cars lined up and ready for a get-away that wasn't to happen. The fire dies down about then, and a second squad arrives on the scene, dismounts and helps the two giving first aid to the wounded at platform three. Two minutes later three other squads from the 617th arrive, along with the CO, and the field is secured, consolidation begins.

That's just simply Audie Murphy stuff. The soldier described here is the one in the first picture of my post below. Wounded, stunned from the RPG blast - but still thinking not just of reaction and survival - but thinking ahead, past the immediate end game. Taking away the ability of the enemy to escape. Hoo-ah! This is why the Armies of the western democracies are so lethal. Not just the weapons - but the inherent flexibility of the soldiers. US Sergeants have more authority and initiative than many Colonels in some second tier armies. And it shows.

Those seven Americans (with the three wounded) killed in total 24 heavily armed enemy, wounded 6 (two later died), and captured one unwounded, who feigned injury to escape the fight. They seized 22 AK-47s, 6x RPG launchers w/ 16 rockets, 13x RPK machineguns, 3x PKM machineguns, 40 hand grenades, 123 fully loaded 30-rd AK magazines, 52 empty mags, and 10 belts of 2500 rds of PK ammo.

The three wounded MPs have been evacuated to Landstuhl. One lost a kidney and will be paralyzed. The other two will most likely recover, though one will forever have a bullet lodged between second and third ribs below his heart. No word on the three COSCOM soldiers wounded in the initial volleys.

Of the 7 members of Raven 42 who walked away, two are Caucasian Women, the rest men--one is Mexican-American, the medic is African-American, and the other two are Caucasian-the great American melting pot. They believed even before this fight that their NCOs were the best in the Army, and that they have the best squad in the Army. The Medic who fired the AT-4, said he remembered how from the week before when his squad leader forced him to train on it, though he didn't think as a medic he would ever use one. He said he chose to use it in that moment to protect the three wounded on the ground in front of him, once they came under fire from the building. The day before this mission, they took the new RFI bandoliers that were recently issued, and experimented with mounting them in their vehicles. Once they figured out how, they pre-loaded a second basic load of ammo into magazines, put them into the bandoliers, and mounted them in their vehicles---the same exact way in every vehicle-load plans enforced and checked by leaders! Leadership under fire--once those three leaders (NCOs) stepped out of their vehicles, the squad was committed to the fight.

Their only complaints in the AAR were: the lack of stopping power in the 9mm; the .50 cal incendiary rounds they are issued in lieu of ball ammo (shortage of ball in the inventory) didn't have the penetrating power needed to pierce the walls of the building; and that everyone in the squad was not CLS [combat lifesaver. ed.] trained.

Yesterday, Monday, was spent with the chaplain and the chain of command conducting AARs. Today, every news media in theater wanted them. Good Morning America, NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC, Stars and Stripes, and many radio stations from Kentucky all were lined up today. The female E5 Sergeant who fought thru the trenchline will become the anti-Jessica Lynch media poster child. She and her squad leader deserve every bit of recognition they will get, and more. They all do.

I participated in their AAR as the BDE S2, and am helping in putting together an action report to justify future valor awards. Lets not talk about women in combat. Lets not talk about the new Close Combat Badge not including MPs.

Secretary Rumsfeld, sir. Not enough .50 cal ball ammo? Howinthehell does that happen? Buy some from FN. IMI. Singapore Industries. Hyundai. It's not like it's not out there. How are we four years into a war and still short small arms ammo?

I won't go into the 9mm. I've hated the Beretta from day one - I'm just not rational on that one!


Update: Winds of Change has links to video via the Army, including interviews with the soldiers involved.

Matt at Blackfive also points us to this vid: From the Insurgents Losers in this fight....


by John on Mar 25, 2005
» BLACKFIVE links with: After Action Report - Raven 42 Ambushed!
» Winds of Change.NET links with: Tell Me Again About Women in Combat - Raven 42
» triticale - the wheat / rye guy links with: just simply Audie Murphy stuff
» BeldarBlog links with: Raven 42
» Carpe Bonum links with: Raven 42 Ambushed - many terrorists dead
» Ghost of a flea links with: Raven 42
» Ghost of a flea links with: Raven 42

March 21, 2005

TINS*! There I was...

Military aviation is an unforgiving vocation -- it’s just as easy to get killed flying the friendly skies as it is flying the hostile ones. The following tale was originally published in Flightfax, Army Aviation’s safety ‘zine, in September 1997. I’ve added some short notes for clarification purposes, since we don’t have a whole slew of former AH-1F pilots dropping in to visit. Most of it will be in Flash Traffic/Extended Entry, ‘cuz John’ll get his trousers torqued if I blow the rest of the site out the bottom of your monitor.

The entire flight lasted less than ten minutes. For those of you who need instant gratification, we lived…

There I was...in the front seat of a Cobra with a number-one hydraulic system failure, halfway down a 4800-foot runway, doing 50 knots about three inches above the pavement. Just the normal emergency procedure for this particular situation, with one pesky little difference -- we were flying sideways.

Gee -- glad you asked...

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows »

by CW4BillT on Mar 21, 2005

March 04, 2005

Some people don't *want* cell phones to be 100% reliable...

...Like EOD technicians in Iraq and elsewhere. From a source (thanks, man!) in the EOD community-

Guys, One of the fellows who just came back from Iraq gave me the attached photo. He told me that the tech placed a charge for a blow in place. When he went back to conduct a post blast and discovered the cell phone. It is a genuine photo and demonstrates majority of what the tech's are encountering.

What's he talking about? Missed calls. Like this: click here.


by John on Mar 04, 2005

February 20, 2005

Time for a War Story!

Nicholas, over at Ghost of a Flea sent us a link to an interesting video of artillerymen who don't have enough to do. It reminded me of a story.

TINS.

Long time readers at the Castle know that I was an Observer/Controller at the National Training Center, a relatively prestigious job, and a plum for a combat arms officer - especially if there hasn't been a war lately. Since it was 1988, there hadn't been...

Anyway, the was (and is) a lot of esprit and camaraderie among O/Cs. Fort Irwin, not an oasis now, was even more primitive back then, the new construction just getting underway.

As with any group that considers itself elite, group norms of behavior developed, to include an acculturation process - what? - did someone say hazing? Mebbe. I ain't telling.

One of the strict rules however, was that O/Cs did *NOT* use the porta-potties put out for the training units. Porta-potties are a necessary item when you have the density of training units that places like the Combat Training Centers have, and that is also true in regular training areas at 'home station.' You really can't just have everybody digging latrines everywhere, or doing their business willy-nilly - you eventually have a sanitation issue, as some unsuspecting unit sets up their mess hall where a previous unit dug a latrine. Ya get the drift.

One of the key tenets of the O/C is that you *did not* use anything from, or get support from, the unit you were observing and controlling. Lots of good reasons, not the least of which is fostering any sense of interdependence or favors. You had to keep your objectivity and with that a certain aloofness. Some O/Cs predictably enough, carried that too far, just as some not far enough.

In the mists of time, the Gods of the Desert decreed that prohibition extended to porta-potties, even ones that were actually left over from a previous rotation that the contractor had not had time (or had lost the coordinates of) to recover and refurbish.

O/Cs were expected to 'deal' with it. Since we had our own transportation, and the unit schedule had dead time in it, this was usually handled by heading into the cantonment area or up to the live fire base at Goat Mountain, where facilities were available. Otherwise, well, one had one's etool and a largish desert.

I remember when a group of Scorpions (the mech infantry team I was the Fire Support Officer trainer for) caught a hapless Cobra (the Armor guys... hock, ptui!) parked by... a porta-pottie. Heh.

This could not be allowed to go unpunished, lest the Gods of the Desert send unpleasant weather or a really bad Blufor unit our way as punishment.

So, in true Rat Patrol style, three Scorpion HMMWVs flew across the desert, pulling up by the offending vehicle. Hah! The low-rent toad left it unlocked! (Not that it would have mattered much - locking those vehicles meant a cord that restricted movement of the steering wheel.) A Scorpion, whose call sign escapes me at the moment, jumped from his steed, fired up the Cobra vehicle, (we could hear the panicked Cobra inside frantically trying to get his pants up.... he shoulda just jumped out...) and parked it up against the door of the porta-pottie, trapping our luckless victim inside. With hoots and cat-calls and much derisive laughter, we counted coup and drove away...

Did I mention it was about 120 degrees farenheit that day? And that it was a *ripe* porta-pottie?

Heh. We went off around our business, save one, me, who stayed behind and observed from a hill near Chinaman's Hat. The agreement was that if idiot-boy didn't extricate himself within 30 minutes, I'd go free him.

He got out - with great physical effort, mind you, and breathing that wonderful aroma - in about 10. When I saw him get free and obviously just be pissed and not in danger of collapsing, I waved cheerily and zoomed off - to join a passing convoy - in case he came seeking revenge... I love the Hummer. You could do 70 cross-country easily... though it was sometimes scary to do that with NVGs (PVS-5s) on. Now they have MPs out watching to make sure O/Cs behave. Remind me to tel you about Scorpions and 'racing numbers.'

Sigh.

And now we'll find out if the Commander, Combined Arms Center, LTG Wallace, reads this blog. (LTG Wallace also commanded V Corps in the March Upcountry). He was Cobra 07, then a LTC and Head Snake of the Cobra team, when we did that.... though he was *not* the victim.

So, what was it about the link that Ghost of a Flea sent along that triggered that?

Well, it would seem that soldiers and porta-potties still have a love-hate relationship... watch, then, some Artillerymen in action. Warning - there is some NSFW language in the clip.

by John on Feb 20, 2005

February 18, 2005

Trick Question...

Tonight I was doing my wife a favor: renewing her Virginia nursing license via their website. They asked for lots of stuff (it's a new system that needs its databse populated)...date degree was awarded, special certifications, etc., etc.

One dropdown menu was for "Sex." Fair enough...in the hospitals I've been in lately, it's seems almost a 50/50 split. The choices kinda threw me, though.

Male
Female
Other

"Other"?

"OTHER"?

"yes" or "no" or even "occasionally" I can see.

But. Other?

*sigh*

by Dusty on Feb 18, 2005

February 16, 2005

Bad Days.

Yesterday, SWWBO and I both had Bad Days. Bad Days in ways that are completely typical for the respective individuals.

You can read about SWWBO's here. Hey, she posted it! It's not like I'm talking out of school or something.

Anyway - she calls last night to chastise me for not answering my email. (That's related to her Bad Day) We get off the phone, and I go back to what I was doing, which was maintenance.

To shorten a short story further, I bayoneted myself yesterday. Yep. At least Dad got to shoot the guy who bayoneted him. That just would have made things more annoying in my case.

Dang. That hurts.

Bled like a stuck pig, too. Now I know, on several levels, what that means.

Anyway, there I was getting ready to clean up a Czech Vz24 Mauser. The thing's long enough without the attached bayonet, so off comes the John-sticker. Part of maintenance is bayonet maintenance, so I try to pull off the scabbard to check the blade. This is a nice, Predzuce 44 bayonet with a VERY SHARP TIP. And it's always had a sticky scabbard - which I may now look into more closely.

Anyway, sitting there, rifle all properly cleared and resting on the table, I'm trying to get the scabbard off (yes, bayonet-geeks, the blade was inserted properly - this is a spring problem) - while at the same time not wanting to suddenly have the blade clear, with my hands suddenly flying left and right - to knock down the rifles stacked there waiting their turn for the Armorer's attention.

Which means I'm putting a good effort into pulling apart - while at the same time holding together... which sets me up for my magical moment.

The scabbard gremlin - sensing victory - lets go, hoping for a game of 'pick-up-sticks-with-rifles' when I foil his evil plan. The counter-tension I've got going works, and nary a rifle is disturbed. The bayonet however...

It goes.

Not far. Only about, oh, an 8th of an inch too far, plunging the point into the knuckle of my right index finger. Who'da thunk that particular body part was so well supplied with blood? *I* certainly didn't!

This morning, it's a little, tiny dink. Hurts like hell though, since apparently it wasn't my Herculean effort at stopping the bayonet that worked... it was the bone inside the damn knuckle.

Sigh.

Still - I'd rather bayonet myself than have to admit that I sent some sappy love note to someone else's spouse... especially after having busted MY spouse for not responding to it... hee hee hee.

And, a Bad Day bayoneting yourself while cleaning your collection is better than being a liberal twisty-pants all wrought up over the fact that someone, somewhere, *didn't* have an abortion yesterday...

by John on Feb 16, 2005

February 12, 2005

Entity State Beach-balls.

I've been wanting to write this post for a long time, inspired by this photo.

As I've mentioned now and again, I was a simulations geek for the Army, a skillset I have carried on in my second career. On a previous task I was working a huge distributed Live-Virtual-Constructive event, where we were linking in live sites, such as a Navy command ship, real soldiers on the ground, the Marines in simulation, air assets in constructive and virtual modes, linking sites from coast to coast, corner to corner, live in real-time.

One hell of an effort, from which we learned a lot, not the least of which was... exercises that big, given the current state of the technology, probably are not worth the overall effort that went into it - as a training exercise. As an experiment, which it was, it was very valuable as we learned a lot - both what works, and what NOT to do next time, as well as pushed the tech envelope well beyond what it started at.

One of the things you have to do in the testing and integration phase of an event like this is ensure that all the bits and pieces fit together and can communicate. The backbone of mixing live, virtual and constructive (constructive is 'classic' wargaming engines, vice virtual, which are simulators) is the Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS) protocol data unit. This is the basic transactional unit between otherwise unrelated programs, interfaces, and people. Every entity that will be shared among the participants is uniquely identified by a DIS PDU which is a packet of data that defines the attributes of the item. What it is, where it's located, what direction it's heading, at what speed, etc. It carries just the basic information needed. The other gizmo's on the network can then filter out stuff they don't need/can't use, and only pull in those packets that are relevant.

Among the things that this is used for is for example a UAV simulator, which 'flies' over the battlefield and looks at stuff. This info is then fed to an image generator, which, using the data in the PDU, selects the appropriate image for display on the operators console. Therein lies the potential for trouble.

You have to make sure that terrain databases in the various sims match, or you get things like helicopters which are flying underground, with perhaps only the rotor showing. Or, even better - you are demo-ing for a visiting General and the helicopter pops up from behind the treeline and fires a Hellfire. In the viewer, you see the bird pop-up, get the firing signature - and the sim, due to a terrible miscalculation of scale, spawns an M1 Abrams graphic instead of a Hellfire, which then speeds off, smashing into the T-72 which obligingly blows up.

Much hilarity ensues. Well, after everyone starts breathing again because the General thinks it's funny...

In this exercise we were doing integration testing of ADA assets. Specifically we were checking whether or not SA-7s in the ground sim (JCATS for anyone who cares) could acquire, hit, and knock down UAVs being flown in MUSE. We were using the UAV viewer because you can do a lot of troubleshooting much faster when you can see things - especially things like terrain mismatch etc.

Anyway, we had a PDU mapping problem. The VR generator had no mapping for the SA-7 missile - so it went to it's default - what we call the Entity State Beachball. It just generates a globe for a visual, with whatever attached attributes it's supposed to have.

In this case, we had several problems. The visual map was missing, so we got beach-balls. The missile launcher parameters were incorrect, too. We got the right soldier image - a man holding a launcher - but pretty much everything else was wrong.

We were treated to the visual of a single-shot missile launcher firing off beach-ball after beach-ball, as if it was a belt-fed auto-launcher. And the balls would go sailing off, ballistic default, to arc out over the virtual battlespace and land - and bounce, and bounce, and bounce, losing a little bit of energy each time, coming to rest when it hit something or ran out of energy. Like a kid with a ping-pong ball bazooka.

Since we were testing, there were about a dozen of these guys. All lofting their beach-balls into the air, to come down, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy. And, since they never detonated, they never went away, so the beach-balls started piling up in the valley, too.

Yeah, we fixed it, and at least that one was not being demo'd for a General... but now you might understand why I can't help but chuckle whenever I see that picture!

by John on Feb 12, 2005

February 08, 2005

Another "Rest of the Story"

this time, from a crew member of the USS San Francisco, the sub that hit the seamount. With pics. Thoughtfully provided by Bill the Rotorhead.

[I'm pulling the pictures, as it's been pointed out to me that they reveal elements of the internal structure that should have been covered in the photos (or at least the pics shouldn't be 'in the wild' which they are). I'm an agreeable sort, so I'll just provide this link - which has *almost* as much detail, from the Navy's official photo website. It's the story that's important, anyway. .ed]

This was forwarded to us from a Submariner (not a RI Base member - yet!) from his buddy who was the Diving Officer when they hit the sea mount. Interesting reading!

Some of the abbreviations are:

DOOD - Diving Officer of the Deck
OOD - Officer of the Deck
SBO - Switch Board Operator - my job at sea
COB - Chief of the Boat
EOOW - Engineering Officer of the Watch

"To say that I've had a bad year so far would be a little short on the tooth I think. Last year was a good one for the boat. After spending 5 months away from home in drydock (Sandy Eggo) we got our second BA on ORSE (bad juju), received the highest score in PacFlt for a submarine TRE inspection, aced our mine readiness inspection with 4 out of 4 hits, completed 2 outstanding missions (will have to shoot you), and completed a early ORSE just before Christmas with an EXCELLENT. It was also the first year that Auxiliary Division had a Christmas stand-down since coming out of the yards in 2002. A-division also took the CSS-15 Red DC award for the second year in a row. My retention has been 100% since I checked onboard in Oct 2002 amongst 1st/2nd and turd termers.

We were going to our first true liberty port 2 weeks ago, heading for Brisbane and fun in the sun. As this WOG knows, we were getting ready for our crossing the line ceremony and the crew was really upbeat, and hard charging, we had just completed a great year for the San Fran. To say the world went to shyte in a hand basket would be an understatement. I would put it closer to a nightmare that becomes reality.

The seamount that is a large part of the discussion the last 2 weeks is un- named. The charts we carried onboard were up to date as far as we can tell. No modern geographic data for this area was available to us onboard as it is a remote area not often traveled by the Navy. We have one of the BEST ANav's in the fleet onboard, a true quartergasket that takes pride in his job. We have RLGN's onboard, when they are running, they are accurate as hell for our position, they also drive Tomahawks. We knew where we were. All of my depth gauges and digital read the same depths as we changed depth to our SOE depth for flank. I can't discuss alot, because I'm still a participant of at least 2 investigations....LOL.

I was the Diving Officer of the Watch when we grounded. If you read the emails from ComSubPac, you will get some of the details, from flank speed to less than 4 knots in less than 4 seconds. We have it recorded on the RLGN's-those cranky bastages actually stayed up and recorded everything. For you guys that don't understand that, take a Winnebego full of people milling around and eating, slam it into a concrete wall at about 40mph, and then try to drive the damn thing home and pick up the pieces of the passengers.

As for the actual grounding, I can tell you that it was fortunate that myself and the Chief of the Watch were blessed by somebody. I was standing up, changing the expected soundings for a new depth on the chart (yes, we had just moved into deeper water) leaning against the ship's control panel with a hand grip, and the COW was leaning down to call the COB on the MJ.


The next thing to cross my mind was why am I pushing myself off of the SCP and where the hell the air rupture in the control room come from? I didn't know it, but I did a greater than 3g spiderman against the panel, punched a palm through the only plexiglass gauge on the SCP and had my leg crushed by the DOOW chair that I had just unbuckled from. The DOOW chair was broken loose by the QMOW flying more than 15 feet into it and smashing my leg against a hydraulic valve and the SCP. I don't remember freeing myself from it. If I had been buckled in, I don't think I would be writing this. The COW was slammed against the base of the Ballast Control Panel, and only injured his right arm. He could of destroyed the BCP, he was a big boy. Everybody else in control, with the exception of the helm, was severely thrown to the deck or other items that were in their way, and at least partially dazed. Within about 5 seconds of the deceleration, we blew to the surface, it took that 5 seconds for the COW to climb up the BCP and actuate the EMBT blow. We prepared to surface right away and got the blower running asap, I didn't know how much damage we had forward but knew it was not good, I wanted that blower running.

I would say that about 80% of the crew was injured in some way, but do not know the number. We grounded in the middle of a meal hour, just after field day, so most of the crew was up. Once we got the boat on the surface and semi-stable with the blower running the rest of the ship conditions started sinking in to our minds. We were receiving 4MC's for injured men all over the boat. I was worried that those reports were over whelming any equipment/boat casualties that could make our life worse. I had teams form up of able bodied men to inspect all of the forward elliptical bulkhead, lower level, and tanks below those spaces. I couldn't believe that we did not have flooding, it just didn't fit in. At one point I looked around in the control room, and saw the disaster. The entire control room deck was covered in paper from destroyed binders, and blood. It looked like a slaughterhouse, we had to clean it up.

I knew that Ash was severely injured and brought to the messdecks, he was one of my best men, and one of our best sailors onboard, he was like a son to me. After surfacing I was the control room supervisor, I had a boat to keep on the surface and fight and knew that if I went below to see how he was doing, it would teeter me on the brink of something that the ship did not need, the ship needed somebody who knew her. I have to say that the design engineers at Electric Boat, NavSea and others have designed a submarine that can withstand incredible amounts of damage and survive. We lost no systems, equipment, or anything broke loose during the impact. The damage to our sailors was almost all from them impacting into the equipment.

The crew is a testament to training and watch team backup. When a casualty occurs, you fight like you train, and train like you fight. It kept us alive during that 2+day period. [emphasis mine - ed]

I've just returned from the honor of escorting my sailor home to his family. God bless them, they are truly good people and patriotic. The Navy is doing everything they can for them and they are learning how submariner's take care of each other. During the memorial and viewing on Saturday, CSS-15 provided a video from the coast guard of us on the surface and the SEAL/Dr. medical team being helo'd in, the family had this video played on 2 screens in the background. It was a sobering reminder of what a hard woman the ocean can be. We had to call off the helo because of the sea state, it was becoming too dangerous for the aircraft, we almost hit it with the sail a couple of times. The sea would not allow us to medivac in our condition and that sea state. I was one of the 23 sent to the hospital that Monday. I was fortunate, my leg was not broken, just trashed/bruised. I walked on that leg for almost 24 hours before it gave out on me and they had it splinted. The SEAL made me promise not to walk on it, how do you refuse a SEAL? LOL. So I hopped around on a single leg for awhile, the other chief's were calling me Tiny Tim, LOL. "God bless each and every one! Except you, and you, that guy behind you!". The COB threatened to beat my @ss if I walk onboard before my leg is otay, he's about the only man onboard that I'd take that from, hehe.

The crew is doing better, we've lost a few due to the shock of the incident. We will make sure they are taken care of. The investigation goes on, and I have a new CO. I will only say that the San Fran was the best damn sub in the Navy under CDR Mooneys leadership. We proved that. God bless him and his family no matter what happens in the future, he is truly a good man.

I just need to get my leg healed and get back to fighting my favorite
steel bitch..."

[snipped pic links]

I have no idea what will happen to CDR Mooney - but it sounds like he was doing his job and doing it pretty well. If that's the case, hopefully after the Board of Inquiry, CDR Mooney will be allowed back in the saddle.

Note the part that I italicized - no better lesson for all of us warriors to learn, remember and practice. Just as Major Mucciarone said in an earlier post - Train as you Fight - Fight as you Train! Or as the Romans put it - More sweat in peace, less blood in war.

Update: Not being a sailor, I haven't been following a 'brewing controversy' in moonbat circles regarding the grounding of the USS San Francisco. I'm just impressed as hell with the designers, builders, and crew (thus far, including the Captain). The retired sailor at Eaglespeak (a fine blog in it's own right) has been following the story - over at The Stupid Shall Be Punished - where you should go do some more 'rest of the story' reading!

Update II: Rumblings among the submariners is that CDR Mooney's future may not be all that bright... and there is some discontent in the ranks over what is seen is a hazard of navigation being treated as a failure in command. I'm not fit to judge, so I won't, and we'll see what we see and hear what we hear. We certainly don't have the whole story yet.

by John on Feb 08, 2005
» EagleSpeak links with: Naviguessing
» CDR Salamander links with: USS San Francisco Grounding - DOOW's perspective

January 28, 2005

Word from the Front.

I don't need to add anything.

IED Fragment.jpg

On 10 JAN 05, the M1114 I was driving was struck by an IED while patrolling in Samarra. The IED consisted of a command detonated 155mm artillery round laid beside the road. The round was detonated between my up armored HMMWV and a Nissan pickup truck carrying Iraqi army soldiers. Both vehicles were within ten meters either side of the blast origin. Two of the IA were killed and one wounded. A fragment weighing approximately two pounds struck the windshield directly in front of my face. The frag penetrated nearly all the way through actually splitting the Lexan last layer and spraying glass fragments all the way to the wall behind the rear seat. The impact knocked my hands off of the steering wheel and stuck glass frags in my face. The gunner was riding low between his side shields and had his helmet gouged.

Because of the up armored HMMWV, I am able to write this note today. Because of eye protection, I am able to see the keyboard to write this note. Because of proper training, I was able to function after the blast and exit the kill zone positioning the vehicle to cover the recovery operations. The other soldiers in the vehicle and behind us were able to render first aid, return small arms fire and evacuate the casualties and damaged equipment.

It is our responsibility as officers and senior NCOs to ensure we have done everything in our power to properly train, equip and lead our subordinates. No detail is too minor. No training unimportant. That day, another major used combat life saver skills to keep a wounded soldier alive. A staff sergeant coordinated a QRF over the radio. A captain operated the .50cal machine gun. You never know what exact job you will actually have to perform when the time comes. Stress this to all your soldiers. Be prepared to do everything you have been trained to do competently, immediately and without hesitation. Your own or someone else life may depend on it.

Your soldiers must be mentally prepared to overcome fear and anxiety, to face adversity day after day. Two days earlier, I was in the same M1114 when two 155mm rounds were detonated less than three feet from the passenger side door I was sitting on the other side of. The enemy had not been properly trained and did not properly em-place the rounds. The blast went straight up. Proper training and preparation allowed us to react to the ambush, exit the kill zone, and effectively return fire against the enemy. Your soldiers must be mentally prepared to face adversity day after day and to overcome fear and anxiety.

TRAIN AS YOU FIGHT, FIGHT AS YOU TRAIN!

If you are not doing it start today, right now.

MAJ Pete Mucciarone

M1114 IED insideweb.jpg


No, I don't know MAJ Mucciarone. It came to me via the Old Soldier's Network. But note the *absence* of a urine stain on the driver's seat. I'm not sure that would have been true had I been in it...

by John on Jan 28, 2005

January 26, 2005

Haute Cuisine

For those of you who have suffered through C Rations (mmm, green eggs and ham!) and MREs - This story will have a great deal of meaning.

Yes it is true that some of the meals were marked "Not for preflight or in flight use"

I about pi$$ed myself. Anybody know this guy? I got it in an email today. Man, I haven't had Ranger Pudding since that night at Bleidorn Tower when the 8inch had a fuze malfunction 200m overhead. Many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you!

Chez Ranger

by Frank Rodgers

I had a date the other night at my place. On the phone the day before, the girl asked me to "Cook her something she's never had before" for dinner.

After many minutes of scratching my head over what to make, I finally settled on something she has DEFINITELY never eaten.

I got out my trusty case of MRE's. Meal, Ready-to-Eat. Field rations that when eaten in their entirety contain 3000+ calories. Here's what I made:

I took three of the Ham Slices out of their plastic packets, took out three of the Pork Chops, three packets of Chicken-a-la-King, and eight packets of ehydrated butter noodles and some dehydrated/re-hydrated rice. I cooked the Ham Slices and Pork Chops in one pan, sautéed in shaved garlic and olive oil.

In another pot, I blended the Chicken a-la-king, noodles, and rice together to make a sort of mush that looked suspiciously like succotash. I added some spices, and blended everything together in a glass pan that I then cooked in the oven for about 35 minutes at 450 degrees.

When I took it out, it looked like, well, ham slices, pork chops, and a bed of yellow poop. I covered the tops of the meat in the MRE cheese (kinda like Velveeta) and added some green sprinkly thingys from one of my spice cans (hey, if it's got green sprinkly thingys on it, it looks fancy right?)

For dessert, I took four MRE Pound Cakes, mashed 'em up, added five packets of cocoa powder, powdered coffee cream, and some water. I heated it up and stirred it until it looked like a sort of chunky gelatinous organism, and I sprinkled powdered sugar on top of it.

Voilà--Ranger Pudding.

For alcoholic drinks, I took the rest of my bottle of Military Special Vodka (yes, they DO make a type of liquor named "Military Special"--it sells for $4.35 per fifth) and mixed in four packets of "Electrolytes - 1 each - Cherry flavored" (I swear, the packet says that). It looked like an eerie Kool-aid with sparkles in it (that was the electrolytes I guess... could've been leftover sand from Egypt).

I lit two candles, put a vase of wildflowers in the middle, and set the table with my best set of Ralph Lauren Academy-series China (that sh*t is f*cking EXPENSIVE... my set of 8 place settings cost me over $600), and put the alcoholic drink in a crystal wine decanter.

She came over, and I had some appetizers already made, of MRE spaghetti-with-meatballs, set in small cups. She saw the dinner, saw the food, and said "This looks INCREDIBLE!!!"

We dug in, and she was loving the food. Throughout the meal, she kept asking me how long it took me to make it, and kept remarking that I obviously knew a thing or two about cooking fine meals. She kind of balked at the akeshift "wine" I had set out, but after she tried it I guess she liked it because she drank four glasses during dinner.

At the end of the main course, when I served the dessert, she squealed with delight at the "Chocolate mousse" I had made. Huh? Chocolate what? Okay... yeah... it's Chocolate Moose. Took me HOURS to make... yup.

Later on, as we were watching a movie, she excused herself to use my restroom. While she was in there, I heard her say softly to herself "uh oh" and a resounding but petite fart punctuated her utterance of dismay.

Let the games begin.

She sprayed about half a can of air freshener (Air Freshener, 1 each, Orange scent. Yup. The Army even makes smellgood) and returned to the couch, this time with an obvious pained look.

After 10 more minutes she excused herself again, and retreated to the bathroom for the second time. I could hear her say "What the hell is WRONG with me???," as she again send flatulent shock-waves into the porcelain bowl. This time, they sounded kinda wet, and I heard the toilet paper roll being employed, and again, LOTS more air freshener.

Back to the couch. She smiles meekly as she decides to sit on the chair instead of next to me. She sits on my chair, knees pulled up to her chest, kind of rocking back and forth slightly. Suddenly, without a word, she ROCKETED up and FLEW to the bathroom, slammed the door, and didn't come out for 30 inutes.

I turned the movie up because I didn't want her to hear me laughing so hard that tears were streaming down my cheeks.

She came out with a slightly gray pallor to her face, and said "I am SOOOOOO sorry. I have NO idea what is wrong with me. I am so embarrassed, I can't believe I keep running to your bathroom!!" I gave her an Immodium AD, and she finally settled down and relaxed.

Later on, she asked me again what I had made for dinner, because she had enjoyed it so much. I calmly took her into the kitchen and showed her all the used MRE bags and packets in the trash can.

After explaining to her that she had eaten roughly 9,000 calories of "Army food" she turned stark white, looked at me incredulously, and said "I ate 9,000 calories or dehydrated food that was made 3 years ago?" After I concurred, she grabbed her coat and keys, and took off without a word.

She called me yesterday. Seems she couldn't sh*t for 3 days, and when she finally did, the smell was so bad, her roommate could smell it from down the hall. She also told me she had been working out nonstop to combat the high caloric intake, and that she never wanted me to cook dinner for her again, unless she was PERSONALLY there to inspect the food beforehand.

It was a fun date. She laughed about it eventually, and said that that was the first time she'd ever crapped in a guy's house on a date. She'd been so upset by it she was in tears in the bathroom while I had been in tears on the couch.

I know, I'm an a$$hole, but it was still a funny night.

It may be made up... I dunno. But Those Who Know will certainly find it plausible. Of course, this guy doesn't deserve this woman...



by John on Jan 26, 2005

War Story Time.

*Visitors from Mudville are encouraged to hit the "Main" button and vote in the Caption Contest, and otherwise poke around - whether you are new, or a returning guest.* Welcome - and we've got some funny and serious comment threads running currently!

Bill the Rotorhead told a war story down in a comment stream below. Since I know a lot of people don't read the comments, it's my habit to bring Good Sh*t, especially TINS (war stories - all war stories start out "This Is No Sh*t").

This is Bill's TINS. It sets the hook for you to come back tomorrow - when I'll post the technical side of the story, with pictures. Which is now available here.

So, picture Bill in his leather flight jacket, 'crusher' cap, holding his hands like he was rolling in on a bandit... and instead of "And There I Was" which is Fighter Jock TINS, he says, "...This is no sh*t!"

SangerM - I flew Nighthawk Hueys for five months. TINS (War story), originally printed in FlightFax, March 99, follows; pix available on request.

WARNING: Do not attempt to sip coffee while reading.

The Devil is in the details--

--and sometimes somebody with only your best interests at heart will try to get you killed...

Lord Bulwer-Lytton would have been ecstatic--it really was a dark and stormy night. I won’t bore you with the details of why I was flying a MedEvac scramble in a UH-1H Nighthawk gunship (minigun slaved to a xenon searchlight and a fifty-cal on the right, twin-sixties and a Honeywell grenade launcher on the left, with a crew of six) with my Firefly flareship as Chalk Two, or why we were scudrunning [N.B. - this refers to the meteorological term for clouds - not missiles. ed.] in a monsoon at 500 feet, or why we were flying into “neutral” Cambodia loaded for bear before it was fashionable (or legal) [war criminal!] to do so.

Mere details...

Believe it or not, we actually did manage a flight brief before takeoff and a crew brief enroute--a “sorta-kinda” Jurassic version of AirCrew Coordination, but with a crew of six (four of them heavily armed and unsedated), I didn’t want any solo players. Firefly took up a five-rotor-disk staggered-right after confirming he could see my steady-dims with no problem (no, child, NVG’s hadn’t been invented yet).

Five minutes after Reed Control gave me an initial vector, we were in Lon Nol’s NeverNever Land. I won’t bore you with the details of torrential rain, lightning, turbulence and popping in-and-out of clouds we never did see, or the cheery “Radar contact lost; last observed heading was skrrrk. See you skrrrk you get skrrrk...” call from Reed, or the water leaking from the overhead panel (“It’s okay--it’s only electricity!”), or the intermittent radio contact with our folks on the ground (it made FM-homing a real chore until we finally had visual contact--we could tell where they were by all the green and white tracers converging with all the mortar explosions).

Mere details...

I will, however, bore you with two very important details--my Peter-Pilot’s only previous night flight had been at an Alabama stagefield and his only previous flight in the Land of the Two-Way Gunnery Range had been yesterday’s In-Country Checkout Flight. But earlier in the evening, I observed that he could fly instruments like a ‘Thirties mail pilot. Oh frabjous day!--the Boss had finally paired me up with a copilot who wouldn’t try to kill us in the clouds (the Nighthawker’s equivalent of Br’er Rabbit’s sweetbriar patch).

“Scamper 3, Vulture 16--two inbound, ETA your house in zero-three. Say whiskies (wounded) and how bad. And how close is Chuckie (the bad guys)?” I won’t bore you with the details of how we organized and prioritized the wounded for pickup, or set up our “I’m out, you’re in” racetrack pattern, or our approach crew brief: “Nav lights off, cockpit lights dim; we’re going in full blackout. Stay on the controls with me; if I get capped, you can log AC (Aircraft Commander) for the return trip. You guys in back, negative suppression while we sneak in (hah!--in a Huey?) and full left and right suppression once we’re outbound and clear. The ground-guys are Armored Cav, so keep your eyes peeled for antennas and APC’s!”

As I turned around in my seat to give the lads my trademark boyish grin, I found myself looking at the gunners looking at me looking at them and had a sudden vision of a tree full of owls--and the water leaking from the overhead electrical panel (monsoon, remember?) took a slight detour and began running down the back of my neck.

Mere details...

And now for the part you’ve been so patiently awaiting. At a half-mile out and 200 feet AML (Above Mud Level), the opposition stopped firing into Scamper’s laager and began putting random bursts into the sky. Heh, heh--not even close! One hundred meters out and 75 feet AML and I could see APC’s skulking in the murk. Thirty meters out and 30 feet AML--nice and slow, picking my way through the antennas, raindrops and rice straw beginning to swirl in the rotorwash, the Zippo lighter in the steel pot marking my touchdown spot beginning to flicker...

Question: If you were shooting a night (unaided) approach into an Alabama stagefield, what is the very first thing you would expect your Army aviator copilot to do? Conversely, if you were shooting a night (unaided) approach into the middle of a firefight, what is the very last thing you would expect said Army aviator to do? If you answered, “Turn on the landing light” to both questions, you’re absolutely correct.

Care to guess what my Instrument Ace did?

Unnanounced?

The troops in the laager nipped back inside their APC’s; the raindrops (yep--still monsooning) and rice straw turned into a million points of light swirling in a million different directions; the bad guys (wide awake and ready to rumble!) reoriented their fires with commendable speed and lovely green basketballs now joined the tumbling mirth of rain and straw two feet from my face--my previously-dark-adapted eyeballs uncaged and I got a screaming dose of vertigo.

I won’t bore you with the details of transitioning to instruments, starting a climbout, transferring the controls to my thoroughly-contrite copilot (“But I thought it’d help you see the antennas!”), making calls to Scamper and Firefly and trying to figure out why the direction “up” had suddenly acquired the gift of bilocation. At least I didn’t have to turn the landing light off, since one of the other team’s superstars thoughtfully shot it out for me--along with my chin bubble.

I won’t bore you with the details of what happened when I disgustedly hollered, “Aw, SHOOT!” and the Fearsome Foursome in the back opened up with full left and right suppression. And I certainly won’t bore you with all the details of our second voyage into the laager to pick up those wounded that Firefly couldn’t extract.

Would a really, really thorough crew brief have reduced the Thrill Factor? Kind’a hard to say--I’d been Nighthawking for months; it would never have occurred to me that a pilot would touch the landing light switch, never mind turn the blasted thing on in a hot LZ.

So just where does ACC come into play here? Well, for starters, how ‘bout “situational-awareness-for-two”--the newbie not being fully-aware of just what “combat zone” really meant and the old guy not being fully-aware of just how unaware a newbie could be.

Oh, yeah, the “halo effect,” too: (“Kid’s great on the instruments--this should be a no-sweat mission.”).

“Sudden loss of judgment” leaps out (hmmm--we may be on to something, here!). Did I make his “comfort zone” a wee bit too comfortable with my “piece of cake” briefing? And then there’s...

Details, details, details...

by John on Jan 26, 2005
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