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August 28, 2004

The answer to the question...

If you need to refresh yourself on the question... go here.

Many good guesses, not just in the comments, but in email, from people who were afraid they might get ridiculed for being wrong... (this is *not* that kind of site - unless you get stupid and snarky first!). Lots of people (22 in all) played this time, and much good logic and knowledge was on display.

Pretty much everybody fell victim to what Douglas Adams spoke of in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: '.....where due to a tragic miscalculation of scale, the entire battlefleet was swallowed by a small dog.'

1. We had people guess this.

2. And one like this.

3. And this.

4. Mebbe one of these.

5. Possibly one of those.

6. Someone even suggested these.

7. Surprising me (as this would have been my guess a few months ago), no one guessed this.

The answer is in the Flash Traffic.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows... »

August 27, 2004

Gotta Love it!

...when readers provide you Gun P0rn. And of a type that will keep a certain subset of readers happy, too!

Click the pic for high-res.

One of the cooler-looking of the untested-in-combat tanks: Sweden's S-Tank, or Stridsvagn 103.

By the way, tank fans. Give this place a visit. Doug's Heavy Metal Gallery.

Hat tip - frequent commenter Monteith!

Italian Hostage Murdered?

Jeff Quinton is running the traplines on this story - my only question is... are the Italians about to go wobbly?

That would be sad.

by John on Aug 27, 2004 | Global War on Terror (GWOT)
» Backcountry Conservative links with: Italian Hostage Murdered

Castle Argghhh!'s newest acquisition.

Since the Castle is supporting 1.5 kids in college, high-end items remain on the wish list and not in the pipeline. While reasons of frugality (and, okay, debt service) have scaled back operations, the mailman or BBT (Big Brown Truck) does still make the occasional delivery.

This arrived yesterday.

Anybody out there know what it is? Click the pic for high res.

Another view is here.

by John on Aug 27, 2004 | Ammunition

Somebody drove a stake through it's heart.

Someone drove a spike through Colby Buzzel's My War blog.

Instructive to see if it was voluntary, directed, or 'suggested.'

I guess we'll know if blogs start going dark all over the deployed force, or by service, or unit. If it starts happening a lot - it's policy. Right now, it could just be Colby laying low.

Tough call in some respects - the benefits of the (mostly) good PR (as well as another morale indicator for commanders) against the OPSEC considerations.

That NPR piece is probably going to force them to put out a comprehensive policy - which means we're going to lose something out of it. In fairness to NPR - they were reporting on the fact that the Army was already looking at My War over OPSEC issues - they didn't 'out' Buzzel.

But, if we gain enough OPSEC, since lives and limbs are at stake, that might be acceptable in this instance. Unfortunately, the nature of the beast historically says we'll over-react, and thus far, I don't think anyone blogging has been accused of providing information that has been directly used. The boogyman for commanders is how much indirect information has been used, and to what purpose and effect. Obviously, that's like assessing how many polar bears are attacking you in a white-out blizzard.

I'm not condemning - I don't know enough to know whether or not he's just laying low (though his sign off is final, if he's using proper radio procedures), shut himself off, or got shut off... and I don't have to live with the consequences of letting him blog, either, so I'm not going to insta-denounce the command if they did it.

My offer remains open - if you have stories to share (that don't violate OPSEC), this space can be a vehicle for distribution. But if you have reservations - make 'em clear up front! I won't use anything out here that I think is an OPSEC violation, nor will I use anything I don't have permission from you to use.

Keep 'em safe!

UPDATE: Based on a couple of emails, it occurs to me I should state this explicitly: Based on the info I have, I don't condemn the action to shut down CB's blog. The rules are different for active duty personnel. They are even more subject to restriction when in a war zone. That's why I said it will be interesting if bloglights start winking out all over the deployed blogger world. That would indicate new policy implementation (or enforcement). If it's isolated, that would support the thesis that it's selective, and context-based. Either way - it was bound to happen. And I can sympathize and empathize with commanders trying to do the right thing on all sides - and choosing, in combat, to go for the safer response. Absent more info than I have, I am not contending that CB's first amendment rights are being unlawfully, or even heavy-handedly abridged. I'm pointing out that we may have passed a tipping point - and one that might have needed tipping. Only time will answer the last.

Other thoughts on this subject are at:


An Army Wife Life

SGT Hook.


Neptunus Lex.

Digitus, Finger & Co.

Blogs of War

by John on Aug 27, 2004 | Global War on Terror (GWOT)
» Backcountry Conservative links with: War Zone Blogger Crackdown?

August 26, 2004

Caption Contest!

Over at Rambling's Journal, they're having a Caption Contest!

You mud-movin' flyboys, ETACS, FST'ers, and others will like this one.

Trust me.

Hat tip to JMH for sending the link.

XM8 Rifle

Neil over at Digitus Finger & Co, pointed me to this article about the new Army rifle currently under development.

I thought I had already covered the topic - but it turns out that got lost in the shuffle. I did post a pic of the rifle I got via Murdoc Online.

But I hadn't yet posted this briefing. So, here it is. Click the pic to get to the whole thing.

Rumsfeld on Why We Fight.

This went out last month, but I missed it. FYI.


More than 15 months ago, a global coalition ended the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein and liberated the people of Iraq.

As in all conflicts, this has come at a cost in lives. Some of your comrades made the ultimate sacrifice. For your sacrifices, our Country and the President are deeply grateful.

In a free, democratic country we have vigorous debates over important public policy issues - none more heated than a decision to go to war. But this should not distract us from the mission at hand or lessen the magnitude of your accomplishments.

The rest is in the Flash Traffic.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows... »

A change of Pace

Too much politics, not enough ordnance.

Here's a picture of the British No 9 Director (aiming circle in US milspeak) used with the Vickers machine gun.

The Brits routinely massed the fires of Vickers machineguns, taking advantage of their reliability, and used them as artillery against unseen targets, to suppress and disrupt. As long as you can meet the ammo requirements and have a reliable gun that can just keep on firing (that's where the water-cooling comes in useful) you can be really annoying. Air-cooled guns have to back off on the rate of fire, or go through a lot of barrel changes.

Think about it, there you are, route-stepping your way to the front-line trenches, or your jumping-off point, or repositioning the reserve to respond to an attack - and suddenly it just starts raining bullets. Lots and lots of bullets.

Just another reason it sucks to be an infantryman.

It's all about trade-offs and your tactical environment. If you are in a highly mobile situation, you want those lighter, faster-firing (generally) air-cooled gus. If you are in a moderately static environment... that sustained fire capability starts looking pretty good.

Of course, over time, the air-cooled gun has won completely. Cheaper, lighter and faster to make, and advances in materials making them more robust and able to sustain higher rates of fire - and, the more mobile nature of warfare has placed a premium on getting the most firepower from the fewest people (smaller crews). And small mortars, the rifle-mounted grenade launcher, or the belt-fed grenade machine guns like the MK19 have completely supplanted the water-cooled gun.

But I still like 'em from an aesthetic perspective.

by John on Aug 26, 2004 | Machine Guns

Quotation of the Rotation.

Claire made this post at Sondra Ks which generated a very thoughtful response from a Vietnam Vet named Peter.

Like all veterans of all wars, regardless of branch of service or duty stations, we all lost friends there. Some of those we lost were closer than brothers. Unlike other wars in our history we didn't go over together and come home together, our individual wars ended individually.

Unlike other wars we came home branded by a large segment of our society as war criminals, by another segment as losers. Then, as most of us were already home, one of our own officers branded us all, including the dead that we were just beginning to mourn, as war criminals, murderers and rapists.

We later discovered that many of those that he was quoting as witnesses to our 'crimes' had not spent one day in uniform. Others had never served in Viet Nam. None of them, not a single one, would testify under oath, even if granted immunity. Yet our 'crimes' became part of the common knowlege. Our children were given that testimony as fact in their history classes. We all knew soldiers, sailors,airmen and Marines that had died, leaving children behind, we know that those children were taught those same lies as fact. Who sat with those children as we did with ours, explaining that those were lies told for political gain?

Peter's comment inspired this post from Dean Esmay (I'm doing you a favor here, folks, so you can read 'em in sequence!). Peter's response evoked a deep sense of shame in Dean.

Peter: I'm so sorry. I was only 7 years old when we left Vietnam. I used to believe those horrible lies about you and your brothers. I'm glad that, whatever comes of this year's elections, people like you will have had their opportunity to come forward into the spotlight and tell people how Hollywood, academia, and the mainstream media portrayed you as psychotics, losers, villains, and helpless victims. I'm glad that you got to come forward and tell people how they lied about you, and how they got away with it for decades.

Claire left this response to Dean. From which we get the "Quotation of the Rotation" for you Army Guys who know what I mean.

That war was lost here at home by citizens willing, hell, eager, to believe the worst about their own country and countrymen. We lost faith in ourselves and all that we stood for. That is a lesson that I am grateful to Kerry, in all his misguided intentions, for bringing up to us -- US -- today.

We need to take note of this particular bit of our history and just exactly how we allowed freedom of speech to morph into freedom of bullying and make us lose that war. We need to learn what is was that made us open to losing our focus and direction. We need to know how we came to believe we had lost our Honor. For in believing that we had lost it, we gave it up. We need to examine that part of our history closely for the lessons it has to teach us today.

We lost that war in Viet Nam and the Vietnamese people paid. Dearly. We cannot afford to lose this war through the same mistake of refusing to believe in ourselves and each other. This time, not only will we pay dearly, but the people of many other nations will pay, in turn.

Amen, Sister!

OPSEC tips for those of you about to deploy to the Sandbox.

Fellow Milblogger DarthVOB offers some food for thought on OPSEC for deployed milbloggers, offering up some stuff I hadn't thought about, and will keep in mind, as well. Why me? Because I get stuff from deployed warriors sometimes, and while I have a set of filters I apply - that set has expanded.

As well as those already blogging from there and elsewhere.

Darth's post is in response to Greyhawk's post about NPR's predictably condescending look at Milbloggers, which in itself is a cautionary tale focusing around Army Specialist Colby Buzzel's My War blog.

Keep those cards and letters coming, fans - but remember to let me know how much, if any, credit you want, and whether or not I can use something publicly!
I know how to protect myself - and I'd hate to inadvertently cause a problem for you!

Hat tip to Jim at Hell in a Handbasket for the prod!

August 25, 2004

I'm a Red Ensign Blogger...

... but I suspect that Carolyn Parrish would still find me to be an Idiotic Bastard.

Hat tip to Kilabe.

Airborne Combat Engineer has a suggestion...

for Urban Warfare in a sensitive age. How to deal with a mortar near a very important religious shrine.

I say armed UAV with Hellfire. But I'm like that. I'd rather go Old Testament on 'em. Accurately, but, Hellfire and Brimstone are appealing.

And while I'm at it.

There is something about the Kerry-bashing that has annoyed me. Normally, I'm all for it, but some people seem to get exercized about the whole Kerry "shooting a VC in the back thing."

Absent information different from "fleeing VC with RPG launcher," get over it.

While the stuff coming up about the awards (especially Drudge's teaser about the campaign flopping around on that first PH - though that seems to have died out with a whimper) can we put one thing to bed?

Shooting the enemy soldier in the back. If Kerry did that, good on him. Why?

If, as everything I've seen says, the enemy soldier was fleeing with that RPG-2 launcher, he was a legitimate target, and Kerry damn well should have shot him, he would have been derelict not to.

As a fighter you only become a non-combatant when you throw down your arms and surrender, or are rendered unable to fight via wounds. Running away in a firefight does not make you a non-combatant. It just means you are re-positioning - whether tactically, or to fight another day.

You're a target. A legitimate target, and one that should be taken down, hard.

Hell, you can ask if it was it a good idea to beach the boat (losing your mobility) to pursue this guy... but shooting him? Perfectly legitimate thing to do. And proper, too. Just because a guy is running away doesn't mean he gets a pass.

People who are whining about 'shooting the guy in the back' like it's somehow unsporting are poseurs who probably have never been in a firefight.

There are plenty of other reasons in his record in and after Vietnam to help you make a choice about his fitness for the CinC job.

Shooting an armed bad guy in the back in a firefight isn't one of them. That's called prudence.

So get off that dead horse, please.

The genesis for this rant is this article in Front Page Mag, linked to by Dave Kopel in the Corner at NRO yesterday, just in case you are wondering whereinthehell did this come from?

Two Jets Down

Two airliners down, in the same area, on the same day. Hmmm

Could be coincidence, could be well-planned bomb attacks (God knows the enemy's capable of we, the Burmese, the Spaniards, et al. can attest).

Personally, I would not be surprised if the Russians find al-Qaeda is ops-checking their Stinger/SA-18 stash. The Afghans had (have?) quite a collection of our product and the Stinger-ski (Russian SA-18) is probably about as common as the RPG-7s one sees sitting on the shoulder of every moron killing in the name of Allah, Marx, Mao or whatever diety du jure they claim allegiance to.

Think about it. You sit in the grass well out of visual range of anyone on the field but in the heart of the envelope for a modern MANPAD against a non-maneuvering target with (to a Stinger) the heat signature of Mt St Helens...and his ability to jink (rapid, violent, last-ditch maneuver to avoid getting shot) is exactly zero.

Point, squeeze to the first detent, get the firing cue (tone/vibration/whatever) and launch. If this happened at night, it's a more sophisticated shoulder-mounted SAM and the night launch would probably be missed. The smoke trail would be invisible, of course, and once the missile's away, I wouldn't even look back. I'd heave that launcher and hightail it for the getaway car.

People on board, if they see anything at all, might see a flash out of the corner of their eye. Probably the first indication to the crew would be a "thump" followed immediately by LOTS of lights on the instrument handles coming on, hydraulic indicators fluctuating, etc., then the stick starts to feel funny, jet starts to roll, it's dark so it's hard to not get spatially get the picture?

I can see it now...routine helo patrols around every major airport in the country. Landing fees may skyrocket to pay for the security (but Uncle Sam'll probably pick up most of the tab to keep a critical service industry from going belly up)--an industry that has a profit margin of 1-2%.

Eh...probably just coincidence. But think of the psychological implications on the civilian population, in any country, after that.

I wonder how high our pain threshold will be before Joe Six Pack says, "Take the gloves off, W."


(N.B. - Jeff Quinton is doing one of his Live Update reports on this incident)

August 24, 2004

In history today...

Some days are diamonds.

End Of Party Rule

By the end of August 1991 , Boris Yeltsin stood at the podium inside the White House and declared, "I am now signing a decree suspending the activities of the Russian Communist Party!" Even Communist-run newspapers such as Pravda were temporarily suspended. Gorbachev followed his actions by issuing decrees to end Communist Party rule. These decrees dissolved the party's structure of committees and policymaking bodies, which included the Central Committee. Archives of the Party and the KGB were seized. In addition, the government confiscated all the Party's assists and property throughout the country.

Some days are stones.

Meanwhile, the British had blockaded all our ports along the Atlantic coast, and had plundered and burned a number of towns. Later in the summer (1814) they entered Washington. (Map, p. 203.) President Madison fled in one direction; Mrs. Madison, filling her workbag with silver spoons, fled in another. The President's dinner, which had just been served, was captured and eaten by the enemy. After dinner, Admiral Cockburn, the English commander, and his officers, paid a visit to the House of Representatives. Springing into the Speaker's chair, he cried out, "Shall this harbor of Yankee democracy be burned?" There was a general shout of "Aye!" "Aye!" The torch was applied, and soon the evening sky was red with the glare of the flames, which consumed the Capitol, the President's house, and other public buildings. A recent English historian says of that deed, "Few more shameful acts are recorded in our history; and it was the more shameful in that it was done under strict orders from the government at home."

There are some, I suspect, on the fringes of either party, who would gladly join the cries of "Aye" when their party is not in power. Sadly, I think that particular rot goes further in the Democratic Party than the Republican.

One wonders when the Democrats are going to realize that being tough on National Defense, and stop trying to disarm the populace, would give them a virtual lock on electoral politics in this country?

If they would just give up trying to take away guns, and "Talk softly and carry a big stick" in international arenas, they would win back a good chunk of the blue collar vote that now goes to Republicans, as the populist groups who like a lot of democrat economic policy but can't stand their otherwise wussy face would go back. I really think that.

John Kerry talks that way about defense, and he's been really pretty silent on guns - showing us he can trap shoot, and talking about hunting - while saying nothing on policy at all, except perhaps a pro forma regarding the AWB... his voting records speaks volumes about how he truly feels on those issues.

And I don't believe someone can change his spots that thoroughly, that fast - and if they can, I'm not sure I want them as President, which is just a whole different ball of wax than being an Executive, which Les Aspin learned the hard way - good legislator, crappy SecDef.

But I digress.

For those of you in USAREUR or USAREUR-bound...

Here is GEN Bell's recent missive on just what President Bush's european force realignment means to soldiers, familly members, and people employed by US forces in Europe.

You civilians at Graf and Hohenfels are probably safe...

GEN Bell's letter can be read here.

August 23, 2004

Too cool for words.

This is a new sim facility at Fort Sill (where I helped establish the first simcenter supporting a TRADOC school).

Just too cool for words - let's hope it's as useful as it is cool.

Maintenance day, continued.

As mentioned earlier, yesterday was Maintenance Day at Castle Argghhh!, with much dusting, checking of rust-proofing, some rearranging, and, perhaps most importantly, some poking in long-overlooked corners.

One of those corners was the Ordnance Closet, wherein the Armory's store of artillery and tank projectiles, rockets and bombs, which are not normally on display out of space considerations (should we ever remember to buy lottery tickets and those, winning ones... watch out! Sadly, I doubt the Arsenal numbers any sugar-daddies or -mommas among it's readers). We were mildly distressed to find this, buried in the far-more-damp-than-I-realized corner of the closet. Looks like I need to either add a, or re-site the existing, de-humidifier.

So, as I was gonna hafta deal with it anyway, I decided it was time y'all learned more than you wanted to know about Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions - DPICM - which I will punish you with in the Flash Traffic.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows... »

August 22, 2004

Today is Maintenance Day at Castle Argghhh!

So, aside from mowing the grass, the Armorer will be engaged in activities like this.

by John on Aug 22, 2004 | Gun Pics
» Sgt Hook - This We'll Defend links with: Spring Cleaning