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January 24, 2004

Okay, here we go with the Type 94.

I'm late, but cut me some slack. I'm busy, I've hurt myself, and this isn't costing you anything anyway... Good news is, while doing this, I did the pics for the next pistol, the Langenhan, so I'll have fewer excuses for that one.

Back to that piece of crap, the Japanese Type 94. This particular pistol is an early production one - when the quality was better. Can't say good. Japanese officers had to purchase their own sidearms, and this chromed pistol was produced specifically for that market. Some people conjecture that these plated pistols were produced for naval officers, but I remain unconvinced of that (any having a source that says otherwise, pass it on!)

This thing is a real pain to take apart and put back together, too.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows... »

by John on Jan 24, 2004 | Pistols
» Les Jones Blog links with: Weekly Gun Links #2

On the quality of US troops.

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Photo courtesy US Army.

The gents at Strategy Page have a good little bit up about Iraq.

I wanted to highlight the last half of it (you should read the whole thing).

With permission:

American troops are doing a lot of the same clever improvisations in Civil affairs that they demonstrated in the Balkans in 1990, and in Kuwait in 1991. Most Americans fail to realize how high the quality is of U.S. troops these days. The American military, especially the army, has kept raising personnel standards for over two decades. Troops are encouraged to use initiative and imagination to solve military, or non-military, problems they encounter. The reforms have gone on for so long that the entire chain of command, from top generals to new recruits are of the same high capabilities. Out of this has come hundreds of little innovations in dealing with occupied, or hostile, Iraqis. For example, every American army unit has undertaken some rebuilding efforts for the local Iraqis, and collecting information on those people to find out who's naughty and who's nice.

I can vouch for this from personal experience. Today's Lieutenants are better and more flexibly trained than my generation, and the troops they work with are better trained and more motivated - but the key is their NCOs are probably the best corps of NCOs this Army has ever put in the field. Not in terms of native ability or dedication, but in terms of professional development and education. When I was an LT, I had two Sergeants First Class who were a part of MacNamara's "Hundred Thousand" experiment. Good men at heart, but not top of the line intellectual capital.

There was some culture shock, but not as much as you think, for American troops have been training in Kuwait, and dealing with Kuwaitis for over a decade. So when the Iraqi preference for outrageous rumors (that American troops wore air conditioned flak jackets and sunglasses that gave them X-ray vision, etc.) got in the way of collecting information, many troops just agreed with the Iraqis and implied that there were even more fantastic devices being used, so resistance was useless. To those Iraqis who admit to the Americans that the crazy stories were just typical Iraqi mind games, the U.S. troops let it be known that they will play the game to get the information needed to keep themselves alive.

The more perceptive Iraqis recognize, and respect, what the coalition
troops (especially the Americans and Brits) are doing, and realize that
Iraq's chance of success is more likely by cooperating with the
Coalition than in resisting or ignoring the "invaders." Iraqis who have spent time in the U.S. have gradually convinced most other Iraqis that the Americans just wanted to get rid of the dictatorship and go home. This is why most of Iraq is quiet, and the Sunni Arab areas are infested by Baath Party gangs that are spending most of their time trying to terrorize the mass of Sunni Arabs to either not work with the Americans, or join the resistance.

But the Sunni Arabs are not a monolith. There are dozens of major
Tribes with strong tribal organizations. The tribal chiefs have been courted by American officers and diplomats, and convinced that Saddam is the past and something else is the future. Exactly what the future is, no one is sure.

I wish I was young enough to start over again. I would love the chance to lead these troops anywhere, anytime.

January 23, 2004

On the Army and Fat Boys.

Jeff at Backcountry Conservative has a bit on the young troop who took his gripe against AR 600-9 (the Army Weight Control Program) public in a big way.

This screed is coming from someone who was taped (actually, I go far enough back to the "pinch test" using calipers) for my entire career. 5'11", lbs, 10 percent body fat - via the 'dunk test' a more accurate measure than the tape. With the tape, the 20 inch neck certainly didn't hurt. That was in my young days, before my thyroid threw a hissy fit and quit working. Then hell as an officer ensued.

I endorse SGT Hook's comment - a standard is a standard - but the Army could usefully follow the advice of the four blue-ribbon panels that have told them, "screw body fat, focus on PT performance". If your PT standards are on-target, truly fat people aren't going to pass them. Ask the Marines.

The problem with the current system is that we have a double standard. The de jure standard is percent body fat. The de facto standard is screening table weight. That translates to percent body fat is a retention standard, screening table weight oft times becomes a selection criteria. Another annoying aspect of the 'flag' system for suspending favorable personnel actions is that of timing. If (as for example in the troop in question or Jeff's personal example) you injure yourself, gain weight, and get flagged - if it happens the day after you were promoted and 6 months prior to your next efficiency report - all things being equal and your rater/senior rater not being assholes, it has no effect other than the embarrassment of getting weighed and taped.

Let it happen right before an efficiency report is due, or your number coming up for promotion -it has real impacts. That efficiency report is never going away, and is always going to hang there, looming over your career. If you are really good, and it doesn't happen again, you'll probably survive - until that board later in your career, like the CGSC board and LTC board and LTC command board, when that is the only difference on paper between you and 100 other guys competing for 30 slots. Your chances just pretty much hit the crapper unless you stand head and shoulders above everybody else.

The impact if it happens right before your sequence number hits is like a fine. You don't get promoted that month, you don't get the raise and the seniority that goes with it. Take two months, it just adds up. So, in that respect it can be a little capricious, though I don't have a solution to offer, because frankly, the flag *is* an effective motivator.

For some perspective that you "young 'uns" might not have is that prior to the 80's the army weight tables differentiated between small, medium, large, and 'obese' body types. Looking at the old height-weight tables, even after my thyroid blew up (I spent 3 years prior to retirement passing PT tests but flagged for overweight as the Docs tried to figure out the problem - but that's a career-killer just the same) I would have passed the standard for my height-age-body type - until the very end, which, ironically, is when the Docs finally figured out what was wrong. (That is an artifact of military health care, which should be the subject of a different post - probably the next time some Dem stands up (or General Clark) to propose that everybody have military style health care. Which isn't the slam it sounds like - just a cautionary tale).

When they decided to simplify (and reduce the chances for abuse of the classification criteria) they essentially took the medium weight scale, lopped off about 10 pounds (at the higher end) and made that the screening standard. This occurred in reaction to several things - the post-Vietnam military malaise, the rise of the jogging fitness craze, the real rise of the 'thin is in' craze and a correct perception on the part of the army leadership that we needed to get our collective PT act together.

All well and good - but in the implementation we threw the baby out with the bath water, especially for the big guys. As for the pencil-necked sunken-chested geeks - as I discovered while in command, the little guys could be well over the body fat percentage but wouldn't kick past the screening weight - because we chose to use a one-size-fits-all screening standard.

When you add to the mix the fact that promotion boards essentially search for reasons to not promote people, because the vast bulk of the files going before a board are full of fully qualified people... we had the screening weight turn into a selection standard.

Suffice it to say I'm with the people who say set the PT standard high enough, and weight just isn't going to matter. And lord knows we've been trying that. The standard I had to meet for push-ups and the 2 mile run the year I retired were higher than the same standards I had to meet as an 18 year old. Every revision of the PT test standards moved things up. Which is a good thing, given the way they are derived. But we never got rid of the de facto/de jure weight thing. And, to get past that - if percent body fat is what we've decided is important, just tape everybody. Don't put height/weight on the efficiency report, just percent body fat. For everybody. Then at least we'll be comparing apples to apples.

Lastly - ditch the picture, too. And, for the record, I took good pictures. They just allow for another form of subliminal discrimination to take place. In fact, I would love to try a test of Army promotion boards. It would be difficult to pull together in terms of experimental method (I'm ignoring all aspects of cost here).

Give the board the files with no names or personally identifying pronouns, i.e., sanitize gender references (this will have no effect on the direct combat branches, but work with me here) and no photographs. This will take away the clues the board has to gender and race, body type, etc. It will force them to rank candidates solely based on performance (and how well the rater/senior rater can write, but that's different issue).

Then let 'em have the files as we do it now. While I would hope to find no difference at all, I suspect we'd find the differences instructive.

As I said, coming up with a valid experiment would be hard. There is the inoculating effect of the board having essentially seen the same files twice. You could use more boards sitting simultaneously to normalize the results somewhat (like we have the time for that, pulling those kinds of leaders out in this op-tempo) and, of course, it doesn't account for bias that gets in the system because of raters/senior rater bias. I still think it would be fun to see what the differences were.

Just my $2.00 worth.

by John on Jan 23, 2004 | Observations on things Military
» Backcountry Conservative links with: Career Endangerment?

January 22, 2004

Gratuitious Gun Pic

This not having my regular computer has really put a crimp in doing gun stuff. I'll be glad when the new one is built!

Anyway - this is all I have time for right now... a teaser. One of the spugliest, poorly made (and this is a GOOD example), badly designed, dangerous to the user pistols to ever get a young officer killed because it was a POS, the Japanese Type 94.

We'll take a deeper look at it tonight.

by John on Jan 22, 2004 | Pistols

January 21, 2004

Happy Other Birthday!

The modern form of the National Guard of the United States was established this day in 1903 with the passage of the now-unfortunately named Dick Act.

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Since so many of you "weekend warriors" are full time now and are probably having trouble remembering what it was like to work one weekend a month and two weeks generally in the summer because you are racking up active duty days a hell of a lot faster than you planned - I thought a shout-out was in order!

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Click the pic for a little musical interlude.

100 Books.

Surfing over at Beth Mauldin's to get a Nerdstar update, I came across this post.

A list of 100 books that whoever started the list thought were great. I see many missing books (d-uh - this original author doesn't read military fiction!), but what the heck. Here's a little peek into what kind of stuff I have read (many, I admit, because I was forced to while getting a DWEM-driven education).

Go peek behind the curtain.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows... »

January 20, 2004

Obviously, the officers are in charge.

'Cuz if it was the Sergeants, this stuff would be gone.

Hat tip to the fellas at Boots and Sabers, who have a little gun p0rn of their own up today. It's an icky new thing, but at least it's not that two-tone yuppygun they put up recently.

I'm so pleased with the caucuses yesterday...

That I'm going to post a gratuitous gun pic. Yeah, you've seen this one before - but so what? The newbies haven't, unless they've been going through the archives (hint, hint). For you regulars, I'll do a pistol tonight!

And maybe a funny-looking helmet!

by John on Jan 20, 2004 | Rifles

January 18, 2004

Some readers of this space...

...based on recent emails, are concerned that the Imperial Armory is sans pistoles. This is not the case. To quiet the peasants with pitchforks, here are two views of the Armory's stock on handguns. Rather than list what each one is, I will leave that for you, the reader to sort out. The on-line museum will get to them as the Muse seizes me. I'm currently contemplating a bit on the needlegun, or early catridge types, or, by request, the SKS. Not to worry - those of you who answered the poll awhile ago - all that stuff is in the mill!


As you can see, while no where near as extensive as the longarm holdings, there are still a fair number of handguns!

by John on Jan 18, 2004 | Pistols