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November 26, 2004

Thought for the Day, 26 Nov 04...

Gratitude is the sincerest form of prayer. I think He heard y'all yesterday.

We're gonna be OK...for a long, long, long time.

Instapilot

November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

The dining facility at Camp Arifjan, which lays claim to being the largest dining facility in the Army, is prepared to serve Thanksgiving dinners to several thousand troops.

Dusty, in an email, asked me what I was thankful for - he then told me what he was thankful for this Thanksgiving Day...

What have you to be thankful for this Thanksgiving?

As for me...

1) My wife for doing all she does.
2) My daughter for doing all she does (oi).
3) My Dad, for showing us all how to live...and how to die.
4) The American fighting man...God bless them all.

Dusty

Me?

1. God's green earth, and the privilege of living on it.
2. Beth, Andy, August, and the Critters.
3. The extended family, Mom, Dad, Kathy, Ed, Tim, Patrick, Erin, Elaine, Sandra, John, Charlotte, Dennis, Jack, Bobby, Jane, Sylvia, David, Nick, Dan, Will, Sarah Kate, Annie, and all the others who preceded them and who will follow.
4. The Friends: Kevin, Kimchee, Preston, Nancy, Mike, Mark, Tom, Bob, Bruce, Brian, Pam, Robin, Dusty, Rick, Steve and MJ.
5. The blogbuddies. CAPT H, Bill the Rotorhead, Chris, Matty, Alan, Damian, Nick, Ryan, Pam, Theresa, Gunner, Misha, Rusty, Stephen, Dean, Rosemary, Tregonsee, and, well, anyone who has the interest and takes the time to comment, I just can't list y'all!
6. The Regular Readers - even if you don't comment (and that's hundreds of ya).

But after family and friends - I'm thankful that my son's generation has stepped up to the plate - in greater numbers and with greater pain than mine was called upon to do, and with the Coalition Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are hitting home run after home run, and will be adding a little spine to both sides of the body politic when they come home... and will, over time, have the impact upon the US that the Greatest Generation did. Now if we can just get their kids to not be like the Boomers! In other words (and using more of them, as is my wont), what Dusty said.

Today we're going to the Barry Road Outback restaurant in Kansas City, where we've spent enough time and money (and built some genuine friendships, not just 'tipships') that the owner invites us to his employee Thanksgiving party. Fried, smoked, and baked turkey with all the trimmings, 5 TVs with football, an open bar, with lots of pretty girls (there may be some guys, but I don't notice that) and good friends all. I'll be living the trooper's dream - the family (Beth, Andy, August), friends, football, turkey, and free booze. Ye-haaaw!

Here's wishing you the best this holiday - and hoping that no one gets hurt today in Iraq or Afghanistan - or in training to go there.

Whattaya you have to be thankful for?

Cheers,

John

This one's for Dusty, having commanded guys like these:


Staff Sgt. Michael Huffman, a Tactical Air Control Airman from the 2nd Air Support Operations Squadron, attached to the 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, wades across the Tigris River outside of Ad Dwr, Iraq, on a bomb damage assessment mission. This photo appeared on www.army.mil.

If ya need some more Military-themed Thanksgiving reading, try Jim Robbins at National Review Online.

Airborne Combat Engineer.

SGT SGM Hook.

Greyhawk.

The Commissar.

Don Sensing

Blackfive.

It ain't a Thanksgiving post, but it's funny nonetheless. Mike the Marine.

Citizen Smash.

There are many others, but I'm not going to spend the day blogging, or searching blogs. I've got SWWBO periodically giving me the hariy eyeball, the boys are home from school, the Outback looms, and I have Half-Life II.

Life is good. If you've got recommended reading, link to this post, or drop 'em in the comments - along with whatever you're thankful for!

by John on Nov 25, 2004 | Observations on things Military
» She Who Will Be Obeyed! links with: Happy Thanksgiving
» Just Some Poor Schmuck links with: Those Thankgiving Dinners Like The Mess Hall Used To Make

November 24, 2004

They make 'em tough in Oklahoma.

Must be from hanging around all us manly men in the Artillery.

From Lawton, Oklahoma, and the Fort Sill Post Exchange, meet Lena Haddix. You go, girl!

On a wholly unrelated note, there being that meme running around about our poor downtrodden blue-staters heading north...

I came across a post (sadly, now lost in the mists of struggling with this damned exercise TDA) that pointed you to Citizenship and Immigration Canada's website to see if you could pass the initial screening to immigrate as a skilled worker. Click the Self-assessment portion to take the pre-screen.

Well, I'm pleased to report that I scored 76 (current required score is 67) and would probably qualify.

What I found bemusing is that I did so based on my experience as a Field Artillery Officer (yes, that is apparently a skill Canada is seeking). They're also after Infantry Officers, Armor Officers, etc.

Tempting. After all, the Canadians have cool cap badges, dress uniforms, regimental names and that whole Queen thingy.

However, I was a bit surprised to see Infantry and Armor up there as 'skilled' workers. I thought they were fodder?

(ducking)

November 23, 2004

The Marine in Fallujah.

You know which one. The only one the MSM or Euros, or other whingers seem interested in. The one Kevin Sites (who I'm not yet convinced deserves a lot of the opprobrium he's received on the subject) recorded and reported. I'll provide Rusty Shackelford's discussion on that subject from the other side for your consideration. As I'm not really writing about Sites, I'm not going to say any more on the subject, as at this point, my opinion is insufficiently formed.

Update: Some people who's opinions are sufficiently formed have spoken. Bill at A Small Town Veteran, and Greyhawk, at Mudville Gazette. You can count me in their camp. A small quibble, Bill. I do reserve the right to judge, after I have enough info that my opinion is sufficiently formed, but I'm not much of a turn the other cheek kind of guy, either.

Update II: A journalist's view. As I said, even though I said I lean towards Kevin Site's side of the picture - there is certainly a body of evidence that is keeping me from being a staunch defender. Hat tip to CAPT H for the pointer.

I've been asked what I think on the issue of the Marine, so I guess I'll take a stab at it. And having gotten the 1MEF brief on what they found in Fallujah, I've got the ammunition I need for it.

First, go read this, at Bill Faith's Small Town Veteran. I'll wait.

Back? Okay, now go down one post and read the 1MEF briefing if you haven't already seen it.

Guess what? This isn't a moral equivalency argument I'm about to make. Nope. If the Marine did what it kind of looks like he might well have - then the system will deal with it. Which is more than what we can say of what Wahabist Muslims will apparently do to those who profane their holy places.

But then, Wahabists haven't signed up for the Accords, have they?

During the March Upcountry and in subsequent operations, I've heard people pooh-pooh the idea of "Laws of War" as an oxy-moron, or a silly idea. If that's how you think, you're the moron.

As I've noted before (but am unwilling to search the archives - feel free, the link for searching is in the left sidebar) the codified rules of conflict exist for a purpose. To reduce the unnecessary suffering and infliction of damage by the combatants, to acknowledge that some level of horror is implicit, and to provide a juridical and philosophical basis for that, and to set conditions by which people can withdraw from conflict - both in the heat of the battle (still problematic) and in terms of the greater, overarching conflict that brings about the clash of arms.

The point is - the purpose of the "Laws of War" is actually to set some limits on indiscriminate violence that serves no purpose - and to provide a recognized mechanism by which conflict can be ended, both retail and wholesale, by giving a recognized, agreed upon framework to signal one's intent to cease hostilities - with a recognition that given those signs, the victor will respect the vanquished's intent to cease fighting. There are three basic underpinnings: proportion, discrimination, and the written laws of war. War crimes are acts that exceed the legitimate requirements of military neccessity in the conduct of military operations.

Proportional means that the amount of violence applied and misery inflicted must be proportionate to the military ends being achieved. Which means you can inflict one hell of a lot of pain in the here and now - with the expectation that that will reduce the amount of pain later, by shortening the conflict overall. Therein lay the angst of Mutual Assured Destruction - did killing everything in order to make sure the other guy didn't win meet the test of proportionality? Not just an idle question among those of us in the nuclear weapons business, I assure you.

Discrimination means that direct intentional attacks on non-combatants and non-military targets are prohibited. Guess what? Pretend to surrender in order to lure someone on - you've reinserted yourself as a military target. Set up shop in the hospital, oprhanage, mosque - you've made that location a legitimate military target. The response to that must be proportional to the need, but that means if you want to fight from your national treasures and sacred sites - I can blow them into little bitty pieces if I need to in order to protect myself and advance my military requirements.

The codified rules and laws of war are just that - traditions passed down by custom and treaty, whether explicit or implicit - such as the Geneva Conventions, which apply to non-combatants, and The Hague conventions which cover combatants. What, you say? POWs are covered under Geneva - so they are - because they are technically non-combatants, at the mercy of their captor.

And you almost always have a right to self-defense. This is where the grayness comes in for the Marine. But you lose that right when you opt to surrender - in that if you change your mind and wanna fight after all - you're probably going to die, and if you survive, you may not be allowed to surrender the next time - see the Baldilocks example in Saving Private Ryan.

The insurgents, by failing to abide by those rules - and in fact deliberately abrogating them in order to achieve no useful military purpose other than the infliction of death and destruction simply because they can (or they feel their religion compels them to) have set the conditions under which Coalition soldiers have every right to be aggressive in protecting themselves.

If you'd like a reasoned, well argued discussion of the underlying principles of the LOW as it applies in this situation you need read no further than Mac Owen's piece in National Review, which I pretty much agree with - and which matches my own 25+ years of experience in and study of things military.

Mac provides examples of how the insurgents set those conditions in his piece.

There are more examples of perfidy on the part of the mujis.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

In contrast, there is this - in diametric opposition. Ya want the good guys to behave - behave like this.

Bottom line - this Marine will go through the whole investigative process, with due process, and may or may not face charges. From what I know of the event so far, he probably stands a 50/50 chance of coming through without negative action being taken. And if he is charged and convicted of something, I suspect the extenuating and mitigating circumstances will limit the consequences.

Whether or not justice will be served with that outcome, I don't know, because I don't know the true status of the man who was shot. We may never know. It may come out in the investigation. But it was the mujis who set the conditions for that act to occur - and for it to be hazy.

But I do know that no one danced in the streets over that film in this country.

I doubt the same would be true were the situations reversed, in much of the Muslim world, though I am sure there are those who would be appalled and speak out - and there are even more who are afraid to speak out. And I strongly doubt there would have been an investigation, much less anything approach judicial proceedings.

Which is exactly why the incident happened. The people we are fighting aren't playing by the rules we govern ourselves with. As a result - they set themselves up, and perhaps possible innocents, like the man the Marine shot - for incidents just like this.

And that, Virginia, is why there are Laws of War in the western way of war. Whether you think it's a good idea or not.

I think it's a good idea. And one we should continue to follow.

Only one thing is certain in the crucible of close-quarters combat.

Life's a bitch.


Oh, yeah - I haven't said it lately, either. Wahabism Delenda Est!

What did we really find in Fallujah?

The stuff that has been hinted about, but not covered in the MSM in serious ways, because somehow, it isn't news?

The alleged Law of War violation you heard about was the Marine shooting the man in the mosque. The Military Justice system will deal with that in good course.

What about the LOW violations on the other side? Such as using protected areas for weapons storage, IED production, fighting positions, etc?

The Slaughterhouses? The abuse not just of the western hostages, but the locals, as well - in far greater numbers.

Those are just a few of the things you'll see in this presentation from the ist MEF (Marine Expeditionary Force) Effects Exploitation Team. No dead bodies - but there *are* pictures of the slaughterhouses, so if you've a delicate empathic nature, you might want to consider taking a pass on this one.

The slides are fuzzy in the inital view. If you click on them in the album, they will expand and be easy to read. Click the slide below to get to the presentation.

Visitors from elsewhere might also find this post of interest, if you have a interest in Fallujah. If you want a discussion on the anti-war crowds current favorite war crime (hint, it's not included in this presentation) I discuss that here.

by John on Nov 23, 2004 | Global War on Terror (GWOT)
» The Indepundit links with: Iraq War Crimes
» The Jawa Report links with: Images of Geneva Convention Violations from Fallujah
» Pardon My English links with: Finding Fallujah
» Mudville Gazette links with: MilBlogs:
» Mudville Gazette links with: Getting the word out about Fallujah
» southernbyblog.blog-city.com links with: In Praise of Allah We Consecrate This RPG
» Ghost of a flea links with: Laws of War
» Dean's World links with: More You Should Know About Fallujah
» File it under... links with: File it under: Relevant Information
» Solomonia links with: What the MSM Won't Show - The Real War Crimes in Fallujah
» Ace of Spades HQ links with: War Crimes Uncovered in Fallujah; World Press Yawns
» INDC Journal links with: Underrespresented by the MSM
» The Sundries Shack links with: What's What in Fallujah
» Diggers Realm links with: Fallujah Investigation - Evidence Of Atrocities, IED's and Weapons Caches [ Pics And Images ]
» annika's journal links with: All You Did Was Weaken A Country Today
» C&R: DJ al-Qaradawi rocks the mosque. links with: War According to the Mujahideen Conventions
» C&R: DJ al-Qaradawi rocks the mosque. links with: War According to the Mujahideen Conventions
» InTheBullpen.com links with: Images of War Crimes Committed by Terrorists
» Cake or Death links with: Geneva Conventions violations
» BLACKFIVE links with: Fallujah Reality Check
» AlphaPatriot links with: Fallujah: And Now for the Rest of the Story
» Sworn Enemy links with: Atrocities In Fallujah
» En nu even ernstig links with: Oorlogsmisdaden in Fallujah
» Hyscience links with: What did we really find in Fallujah?
» Sworn Enemy links with: Geneva Convention Violations in Falluja
» The Cool Blue Blog links with: Daily Dish
» Patriot Paradox links with: Found in Fallujah
» Cabal of Doom links with: Iraqi forces find chemical materials in lab
» Chapomatic links with: Falluja Update
» Airborne Combat Engineer links with: MSM has little interest in WMDs and atrocities
» respublica links with: Weapons and more from Fallujah
» Airborne Combat Engineer links with: MSM has little interest in WMDs and atrocities
» Secure Liberty links with: Those Pesky WMDs
» Flopping Aces links with: Fallujah Fight
» Ghost of a flea links with: Winston Review, No. 21
» Pirates! Man Your Women! links with: Weapons of the Future
» Pirates! Man Your Women! links with: http://www.pirate-king.com/episode/399
» Spartacus links with: More info on Fallujah
» The Jawa Report links with: Fallujah Warcrimes Slideshow
» MY Vast Right Wing Conspiracy links with: The Fallujah Report

Some more thoughts on the future...


Soldiers of Battle Company, 5th Battalion - 20 Infantry, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team) conduct route reconnaissance, a presence patrol, a civilian assessment, and combat operations contributing to the stability of Samarra, Iraq on December 15, 2003. The 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team) is under the operational control of the 4th Infantry Division. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Clinton Tarzia) (Released)

A friend of mine who, like me, is working on issues surrounding the design of the Future Force while learning from and giving input to the Current Force, sends along this article. The lead-in paragraph that follows are his words, which I agree with (name withheld to protect the innocent).

This reinforces my earlier post on the subject, and is intended to get the word out to those of you who are interested that there really are people back here who are watching and listening to whats going on Over There, and we let things like this inform on-going work trying to shape the future. As my buddy says,

"If this article is accurate & I believe it is...Stryker/FCS etc., isn't going to cut it in close urban fight apart from enormous leap in ballistic protection technologies... information dominance does not offset need for survivable platforms... and if this is what they are doing with low end rpgs... what will happen when they get ahold of more sophisticated variants... clearly you need a heavy/light mix, but if you lead with heavy to set conditions for follow on leg infantry, heavy force survivability is vital...can't be overstated.."

We aren't all clueless. It just seems like it sometimes.

Here's the story:

Bradley crew's shift: 19 hours in Fallujah shooting gallery Sun Nov 14, 9:40 AM ET By James Janega Tribune staff reporter

After nearly 18 hours in the claustrophobic urban canyons that constitute the front lines of the battle for Fallujah, the crew of the lead Bradley Fighting Vehicle was cramped, weary and low on ammunition. Then they came under heavy enemy fire for the first time all week. Within 15 minutes, as shooting erupted around them, their radio crackled with the news that their company commander's vehicle, blocks behind them, had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. The blast killed an interpreter and severed a soldier's arm. A Bradley that sped to the rescue was hit by another RPG that slipped under its high-tech armor, wounding the driver.

A block away, they heard the boom as a third rocket from insurgents took out the transmission on a huge Abrams tank. The tank's turret wouldn't move. Nor could the tank drive in reverse or pivot. In a quiet voice that cut through the garbled shouts on his radio, Sgt. Jack Ames, 29, the Bradley's gunner, noted to the six other soldiers and one reporter on board: "Wow. We're the only ones left here."

After five days of fighting in Fallujah, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division had found Iraqi resistance in the last place the insurgents could hide: the tight streets of the Shuhada district on the city's south side. "Shuhada" translates as "martyrs."

They fought for a night and much of a day in streets so narrow they couldn't turn around, cruising devastated roadways that any second could explode in a barrage from rockets and Kalashnikovs.

Inside the troop compartment of Bradley Alpha 2-1--a space hardly larger than two refrigerators--a hulking 17-year-old from Florida crouched across from a skinny 24-year-old team leader, weighed down by 65 pounds of gear.

Along with the reporter, two other soldiers crammed in, buried in equipment and juggling two machine guns, a grenade launcher and an anti-tank missile launcher the size of a fence post. The weapons were useless inside the vehicle. But in this neighborhood, getting out and fighting on foot would be too dangerous.

Ames and the Bradley's commander, Lt. Michael Duran, 24, rode in the turret above the troop compartment. Spec. Clint Hardin, 23, rode up front, steering the 30-ton vehicle using a monitor and periscopes. The men in back slept uneasily for much of the night, leaning helmets against metal or one another as the Bradley's 25 mm gun tore apart houses and buildings where insurgents were thought to be hiding.

But at dawn, rifle rounds began pinging off the Bradley's armor and the RPGs began exploding, rocking the vehicle, raining dust on the men inside and sucking the air from the compartment again and again.

Search and destroy

Bradley Alpha 2-1's 19-hour mission into Fallujah began at sunset Thursday, hours after a briefing for battalion officers.

The goal was to move ahead of U.S. Marines and find the insurgents, remnants of a rebel force that in previous months had turned Fallujah into one of the
most dangerous cities in Iraq (news - web sites). Failing that, the soldiers were to destroy the insurgents' hiding places, preventing them from being used to ambush the Marines.

Break! Break! (military radio-speak for I wanna cut in on this channel) Note this - the Cav was sent in ahead of the Marines. Not because the Marines were scared... but because the need was for the survivability of platforms (vehicles) sent in before we sent in the crunchies to do their hard, dangerous, dirty work. The LAV (and it's cousin, the Stryker) aren't doing as well in this environment as was hoped. So the much-derided-by-the-think-tankers "old tech" Bradleys and Abrams were sent in. As my friend observed, absent an "enormous leap in ballistic protection technologies" the lighter vehicles aren't the tool of choice in this fight. And who'd a thunk we'd be using those dinosaurs designed for the North German Plain in the cramped confines of a southeast asian city? /sarcasm.

In the normally bustling battalion command tent, two dozen senior soldiers in stifling body armor listened silently.

"Destroy everything you can destroy. Make sure you keep together," Lt. Col. Jim Rainey told his officers, reminding them of the rules of engagement established to protect civilians. "Given those constraints, kill everything that you can kill." At dusk, Alpha 2-1's commander Duran led 36 soldiers into his and three other Bradleys for the assault. He would take the platoon into battle.

As Hardin cranked Alpha 2-1's diesel engine, he recounted the vehicle's war. Since arriving in March, the men had run over eight bombs. Since fighting began in Najaf in August, the Bradley had been hit by 16 RPGs. One of them smacked the front armor outside Hardin's seat.

"Felt it, heard it, instant migraine," he said in a San Antonio twang. "I didn't see it coming, and it blew up right in front of my face." Duran crawled into 2-1's turret next to Ames, a tiny man who sucked down cigarettes and travel mugs of Iraqi instant coffee, which he brewed throughout the night. He, Ames and Hardin would stay awake the entire night.

Up the back ramp clambered Pvt. Thomas Dennis, 17; Spec. David Garcia, 24; and Spec. Jimmy Baca, 26. Their job would be to jump out and fight if needed. Last in was Sgt. Charles Thornton, 23, who sat and shouted "Close it!" over the engine noise. The heavy ramp clanged shut. The desert disappeared, and inside Alpha 2-1 all became noise and dark.

It was 6 p.m.

Until 1 p.m. the next afternoon, the crew's only view of the outside world would be on a green 8-by-10-inch monitor that switched between the gunner's thermal sights and an aerial-photo map of Fallujah that showed positions of friendly forces. It fizzed out periodically.

Fallujah became a shooting gallery on the screen, with everything that looked as though it could hide a bomb or an enemy sniper drawing fire from Ames' gun.

Working where tanks can't

DOOM-DOOM-DOOM. A cistern exploded in a cascade of water, sending a cat screeching into the darkness.

A suspected spotter for insurgent snipers appeared in an upper-floor window. Ames shot. DOOM-DOOM-DOOM. The man never reappeared.

Working in twos and with Alpha 2-1 in the lead, the four Bradleys of Duran's platoon rolled through streets so narrow tanks wouldn't enter; they couldn't have swung their cannons. The platoon essentially was on its own.

Obstacle by obstacle, the Bradleys sent high-explosive shells into the streetscape. Some found roadside bombs, many didn't. Mostly the night was quiet.

Inside the troop compartment, the soldiers dozed and watched the monitor, seeing the eerie infrared shapes of palm trees waving in a nighttime breeze they could not feel, as Bradleys slipped down broken streets crisscrossed with electrical extension cords above.

They tensed as Alpha 2-1 passed a blown-up bus where they thought explosives could have been planted. They listened on the radio as another platoon spotted a mortar team on a nearby block, raining shells down on them.

At midnight, six hours into the patrol, another company of Bradleys behind them stumbled on a huge ambush waiting to happen: A pile of concrete and metal bars, which snarl the tracks of Bradleys and tanks, a tipped-over fuel tanker packed with explosives, a gigantic dirt pile behind that, and a three-story building full of suspected insurgents.

Tanks, an Air Force AC-130 Spectre gunship and a Navy F-18 fighter dropping a bomb came in and destroyed the building.

Break-Break! Joint firepower, at the tip of the spear. Mind you, we have to be cognizant of the fact that this is possible because, brave as the mujis demonstrably are - they aren't good soldiers. And we own the air, and the muji's don't have much, if anything in the form of shoulder fired anti-aircraft missles apparently. So things like the Spectre can do what it does unhindered.

We have to keep that in mind as we design the Future Force - it also has to be able to fight a militarily competent enemy. We're already proving that the Current Force (and most importantly, the warriors who comprise it) can Act, React, and Adapt, leveraging our strengths to combat our weaknesses, to deal with a diffused, not-well-trained-but-well-motivated enemy. And the enemy is clever, too - and has managed to get inside our decsion loop on occasion. And he is incredibly adaptive - but they still aren't the disciplined infantry that decimates their opponents, like the Infantry of the Anglosphere (Insert plug for Victor Hanson's Carnage and Culture here).

The first bad news came at 2 a.m.: An Abrams lightly damaged in battle had tipped over in a ditch north of town. The tank's driver died instantly, prompting a sharp expletive from Garcia, who sat closest to the radio and relayed each scrap of bad news.

More came at 3:55. Alpha 2-1's mission was supposed to end at dawn. Instead, Duran relayed another message: "Continue to press the enemy." The soldiers groaned.

But the enemy did not appear until 6:45, when a man's thermal image appeared running between the arched windows on the ground floor of a mansion. Another silhouette appeared on a nearby roof.

On the monitor, the men watched Ames aiming the Bradley's gun, but the silhouettes didn't reappear and Ames didn't shoot. Twenty minutes later, an RPG found the Bradley. A sudden, high-pitched bang rocked the vehicle from side to side and the men crouched a little lower, ducking their helmeted heads like turtles disappearing into shells.

Searching for an open shot, the Bradley almost backed into a tank behind it. And then the tank fired its main gun, wrecking the opulent house across the way.

As dust and quiet settled, Ames griped, "How come they get to shoot the mansion?"

Low on ammo

Two hours later, RPGs erupted from the direction of a mosque. The platoon's four Bradleys opened up, firing for more than an hour as shapes of people flitted across the monitor in the troop compartment.

"We're getting low on ammo," Ames warned, reading off a list of what he had fired--hundreds of high-explosive shells that blew holes the size of dinner plates in cinder-block walls, and hundreds of other shells designed to take out enemy fighters.

When rocket fire picked up again, frustrated Bradley gunners trained their sights on buildings but held their fire. The Marines, who had arrived on foot, were too close--and right in the line of fire.

Break-Break! This is the discipline I've been talking about. Believe me - when you are tired, frustrated, and angry, it's hard to hold your fire. Even when friendlys are around. It takes real control to not prove you've got big ones and can shoot 'danger close' just because ya wanna.

Alpha 2-1 was trying to find a way south to clearer shots when the insurgents' attack began in earnest.

"I'm hit!" Alpha Company's commander, Capt. Ed Twaddell, shouted over the radio at 11:43. The armor-penetrating RPG punched a half-dollar-size hole in his Bradley's back gate, then filled the troop compartment with light, noise, gore and flying metal before lodging in the turret where he was standing.

"I saw light and a flash down by my knee, and then the turret filled with smoke," Twaddell said later, his face still covered in soot and dust.

His interpreter, sitting behind him, had been killed instantly, a baseball-size gash in his side.

Two blocks north of Alpha 2-1, a Bradley maneuvered to help, disgorging a medic and soldiers under a hail of gunfire. Within minutes a penetrating RPG exploded under the second Bradley's driver compartment, wounding a man from West Virginia who had survived RPG shrapnel to the neck when his Bradley was hit in Najaf.

There's a man with two uncontestable Purple Hearts.

For an indeterminate time, Alpha 2-1 was all alone. Somehow the crew had been separated from the platoon's other three Bradleys, spread out somewhere in the tangle of buildings.

The crew heard another explosion at 11:59--the RPG shot that disabled the Abrams. Duran found his other Bradleys on the radio and ordered them to stand guard around the tank as more tankers hooked a tow bar to it. It took a half-hour.

As the armor limped north through town, a lone Marine hiding behind a tree flagged Alpha 2-1 and gestured toward a house across the street, indicating that an insurgent was inside.

Ames pumped his last few rounds into the top floor. Emerging from behind the tree, the Marine waved happily.

"No problem, buddy," Ames said wearily as Hardin drove slowly back to camp.

They arrived at 1 p.m., 19 hours after they had left.

But within an hour, Alpha 2-1 and its crew had refueled, reloaded and returned to Fallujah.

This generation can hold it's own with their fathers and grandfathers in the Legion and VFW halls when they come home.

And we're building a new generation of newsies who have some idea of what they are doing, too. Which doesn't mean they're cheerleaders - but they understand what they are looking at. And have looked at it. Not just interviewed a few people here and there after the fight was over and uploaded it from their hotel.

Real newsies. Ernie Pyle quality.

Hat tip to Mike for forwarding the note (no, it ain't him!)


An M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle from 1st Platoon, Alpha Troop, 1-4 Cavalry, 1st Infantry Division moves into an over watch position at a traffic control point outside of Ad Duluyiah, Iraq Oct 16, 2004 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 1-4 Cav is integrating with the Iraqi National Guard at the TCP to search for anti Iraqi forces entering and leaving Ad Duluyiah. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo (RELEASED)

Doing Good Things for Deployed Warriors.


Native American Indians came from all over Iraq to play a game of Native American Indian Stick Ball during the Native American Inter-Tribal Pow Wow that was held on Al Taqaddum near Fallujah on the 17-18th of September 2004 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Pow Was planned from start to finish in less than five weeks, and all the items from the tomahawks to the drum was hand-made by the Native Americans in Iraq. The Pow Wow was held to honor all past, present, and future Native American Veterans, this was the first time that a Pow Wow was held in a Combat Zone by Native Americans. Photo by SFC Johancharles Van Boers (Apache/Cherokee), 55th Signal Company, Combat Camera, Fort Meade, Maryland. "Released for Public Use"

I was going to build a post about all the opportunities that are out there for helping soldiers this holiday season (and beyond!), but Venomous Kate already did that, so I'll just send you there.

Which is almost the same thing as being here - now that the Venomous Family has returned to the Center of the Universe (the Fort Leavenworth/Leavenworth/Lansing, Kansas region). She's currently living about 2.5 miles away. We're becoming blog-central here! Pfui, I don't wanna hear about your 20-blog clusters elsewhere...

Anyway, Congress appropriates money and grants the authority to raise the Armies and send them to war, but they don't provide appropriated funds for Morale, Welfare, and Recreation activities. Those funds are raised either through the profits of the Military Exchange systems (the military's retail stores), established MWR activities (like the stable where we keep our horses - not only does it have to make money (not a huge amount, but it does have to make money) we also pay a 10% 'tax' to fund MWR activities for deployed forces. We choose to raise that money with Horse Shows, so as to not have to pay an additional assessment - which is a good, entrepreneurial approach, I think). The same is true for the bowling alleys, movie theaters, etc. The key point is - most of the money raised to support the troops overseas is raised from within the military community itself. Now you know why the PXs got left behind in some places with large retiree/Guard/Reserve presences even as bases were closed as a part of the draw-down. Not only did it benefit the people left behind, but it kept the money flowing for MWR.

Then there are the service organizations like the USO and the Red Cross, which work with MWR and bring in outside help via cash and in-kind services (like the performers who entertain the troops for a hell of a lot less than they usually can command, etc).

Anyway, Kate has put together a list of things you can contribute to/help with, if you've got some spare cash or time this year. There is a particularly acute need for things at Landstuhl, the big military hospital in Germany, which is the first stop on the way home for combat wounded in Iraq. Nor should we forget Operation Care Package.

C'mon, give up a single beer a week between now and Christmas, and that money can make a difference. If you support the war, well, hell, you almost don't have a choice. Of course, the fact that you *do* have a choice is instructive, is it not?

If you think the war was the greatest evil perpetrated on Earth by the Great Satan Chimp Still-Not-Legitimately-Elected Bible-Thumper First Amendment Slayer Bush, but purport to support the troops - prove it.

If ya don't fall within the band defined by those two endpoints? Screw ya. But then, ya also ain't likely to be reading this blog, so I don't think I'm going to be offending anyone...

Update: Like this guy:

I am sick and tired of the "we support our troops" mantra. Ever since Vietnam, it has been heresy to say anything other than "we stand behind the troops 100%."

It's now time for that mindless, absurd bromide to end. You want to participate in the invasion of a foreign nation on false pretenses then, after the entire planet has realized you're there on a resource grab, you are still killing unarmed civilians in mosques? You want to murder entire families at checkpoints because they don't slow down enough for you? You want to shut down religious newspapers and imprison clerics? You want to torture, murder, and sexually abuse prisoners in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention, destroying centuries of moral high ground our ancestors spent their lives building?

You're on your own, soldier. We do NOT sanction that, you don't represent us, and we do NOT support you in any way.

Are the soldiers "just doing their job"? Are they "just following orders"? Yes, they ARE following orders--just as German soldiers did at the concentration camps in World War II. When you willingly obey the immoral, illegal orders of others, you become inextricably linked to their immorality and their evil. Following orders is a rationalization; it is NEVER an excuse. You are no different than those issuing the orders simply because you're just being a "good German" and doing your job.

Blow me, a$$hole.

Originally in a since removed post from a website that was pointed out by Jonah Goldberg, on NRO.

November 22, 2004

Whitworth Cannon

I got a request in an earlier thread for pictures of the Whitworth rifled breech loader breech and bolt. Bolt in this instance referring to the round it shot (or at least I hope that's what the requester was after!).

I've got some stuff in the reference library - but I didn't have any good pictures of the breech mechanism to scan, so I went hunting on the web. And, as I expected, about all I could find was this, the most common photo of a Whitworth, from the Civil War. I found some other British guns, but none of those shots showed the breech to any good effect.

But joy of joys, after a couple of refinements in my Googling, I came up with these photos. They are from this website, devoted to the hobby of making and shooting miniature cannon. This may be the avenue the Arsenal has to go in order to indulge our taste in cannon.

Anyway, here are two pretty good shots of the Whitworth - in model form, made by a remarkable mini-cannon-founder, Ronald Nulph.

The Whitworth was a "screw-gun," meaning that it's breech block worked exactly like a screw - requiring multiple twists of the breech handle to close and seal the breech. Developed at a time before brass cartridges cases of that size were practical, they were plagued by sealing problems at the breech over time, in addition to some of the inherent weaknesses in the wrought-iron construction methods used.

These problems would so plague the screw-guns that first rank armies of the era went back to rifled muzzle-loaders until a solution was found in the form of the 'interrupted screw' breech and the french-designed DeBange obturation system. The interrupted screw breech (still preferred on large guns) with the DeBange sealing system allows for the breech to close and seal in a quarter-turn, vastly speeding service of the piece. The DeBange obturator was essentially a mushroom-shaped steel spindle that sat in the center of the breech block. It sat on a split ring, obturating pad (usu. a hard, heat resistant rubber or asbestos compound) with another split ring on top of it. The compression of firing pushed the mushroom back on the split rings and obturator, which bulged to seal the breech. The charge is initiated by a primer (looks like a large blank) inserted into the lock. Just like a rifle cartridge case, the brass case seals the lock, the pad seals the breech, the interrupted screw allows a quarter turn to seal, giving you a very strong, very fast breech for large caliber guns. The various forms of dropping and sliding blocks (as used on smaller guns and tank guns) give even greater speed - but at the cost of weight, which is why larger caliber guns use stepped thread screw breeches - with at least the exception of the German 155mm guns, which still use blocks. The stepped screw breech still soldiers on, however - as this picture of Redleg Marines sending a present via their M198 Howitzer to muji's in Fallujah amply demonstrates.

The diagram above is a DeBange interrupted screw breech in a naval gun. The cannoneers on the Marine gun would recognize the essentials of this breech.

The second part of the question was the Whitworth bolt. Bolt, in artillery parlance of the Civil War era, meant an elongated rifled projectile that did not explode - the rifled equivalent of solid shot (in this case, a 30pdr Parrot bolt).

The reason a Whitworth bolt is interesting is because the Whitworth gun (designed, incidentally by Sir Joseph Whitworth) used a novel method of rifling. Rather than cutting grooves into the bore of the piece to spin the projectile, the Whitworth gun's bore was hexagonal in section, and twisted down the bore to provide the spin to stabilize the projectile, and provide a predictable drift that could be offset in aiming.

Consequently, the ammunition had to be specially made to accommodate that - which gives you a projectile that looks like this.

Seen behind the bolt is a 12pdr spherical case (exploding shell) with a Bormann fuze.

Obviously, one of the last things the Confederates needed was a gun that required specialized ammunition. So, while the Whitworth was an accurate gun, it's propensity in it's wrought iron mode to explode without warning, and the requirements for specially-made ammunition, combined with it's relative lack of power made it a not terribly useful gun. But what Whitworth learned in the design of this gun and his rifles was carried forward part and parcel into the guns we cannon-cockers use today.

There, that should about cover it. I really could go on for pages, but this is a blog, eh?

New truths, old truths, timeless truths.



Soldiers from the 82nd Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, clear a house in Fallujah, Iraq, where some insurgents have holed up. US Army Photo by Pvt. Brandi Marshall.

Think about what it takes to do that, house after house, day after day, week after week. Cops know what it's like, though cops don't usually face people with quite the same armament these guys face.

From an email I received last week (a forward, not addressed to me, I don't move in this guy's circle). I do however, wallow in this environment, and I am one of the quasi-Luddites who always ask the question, "Yeah, it's neat, but does it help the soldier?" I also concur with the statement in there regarding a lack of realism in our testing and development - but now that I work on the analysis side of that (and have worked on the developmental and operational sides) I'm not sure there's a heck of a lot that can be done, because it's hard to engender and maintain the 'need to learn and adapt' in peacetime that happens instantly in combat.

Bottom line - it still takes the 19 year old with a bayonet to finish the job, with some older farts like Dusty and I giving guidance and direction.

There is still no substitute for the warrior at the sharp end, willing to kill for that piece of dirt, and die to protect it and the inhabitants thereof. Anything that doesn't enhance that is a waste of time and money. And yes, Virginia, that *does* include Peace Keeping/Enforcement and Nation Building etc...

I've reviewed the articles that you sent to me. They were interesting reading but I would like to provide my perspective having been here last year and now with III Corps. What I share below is unclassified and much of my work over the last year has been in the classified realm so please understand if there are logic gaps. Also, I'm very tired so please excuse the grammar and syntax. I hope my comments are useful as you pursue the ABCS [Army Battle Command System - command and control computers. ed] evaluation.

The first thing I would tell you is that reporters for the most part are here for only a few days and are ignorant (not counting the embedded reporters who have experienced and learned). The majority of the press doesn't understand what they are looking at and are seeking graphic images and "action" shots. Having disparaged the press I need to emphasize that the real heroes are our Soldiers and Marines. These kids improvise, adapt and overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Using the MICLIC [Mine Clearing Line Charge, ed.] to clear roadways is a significant tool in their favor and I support them. Improvised Explosive Deices (IEDs) is responsible for approximately 63% of our casualties so predetonating hidden explosives is a plus. I worked with the Meerkat and Buffalo last year when landmines were a problem. Now the Buffalo is the hero because of its articulating arm is able to move IEDs with the operator safely behind armor and bullet proof glass. The enemy has progressed their hardware, tactics and techniques in 18 months over the evolution of technical development from 1970 to 2002. If you were to look at the history of Northern Ireland from 1970 to today you will see striking similarities.

Warlock, until it broke in the press, was a classified system that provides an electronic umbrella to protect the Soldier from remote controlled IEDs. The device is successful but with electronic counter-measures you never really know if the device works. When I travel over the road we have a Warlock that protects us and it is quite comforting knowing the system is on. I can tell you from firsthand experience that the IED is deadly and indiscriminant. It is also a psychological weapon as we do everything possible to up-armor our trucks.

Using existing technology that is relatively old such as Spectre
(AC-130) gunship and Cobra (AH-1W) can break the enemy's back with Specters 105mm howitzer, 40mm Bofors rapid fire cannons, and my favorite are the Vulcan 20mm "gatling" guns or the 25mm Gatling gun in newer aircraft. What make these platforms so effective are the state of the art navigation systems, electronic counter-measures, and most importantly night vision capability. As the Spectre crews say "You can run, but you will only die tired".

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) has become a significant platform for the commander. Sitting at my desk, looking at my SIPR (Secret Internet Protocol Router, the military's secure Internet, ed.] monitor, I can watch streaming video of live feeds from the UAV. In the JOC [Joint Operations Center, ed], as an example, they've watched guys vaporized while emplacing a mortar tube or large groups of subversives destroyed with a single precision bomb. Not much more I can say about this wonderful system - it works. The UAV is extremely effective and expensive but those three guys will never fire another mortar or the group of subversives will attack free Iraqi Citizens or Coalition Forces.

Raw combat power is the only way to take and hold ground. Mass is critical at the decisive point and time in a battle. The Stryker can't lead an attack into a fortified enemy stronghold. The M1 Abrams and the M2/M3 Bradley are well suited for this task of the Attack. All of the technical developments for weapons and related systems allow our Soldiers and Marines to get closer to the enemy so that the last 100 meters doesn't come at a huge human cost for Coalition Forces. The less of our guys who are killed and maimed the better. From the news you can see the Coalition Forces and Iraqi Forces are very effective in Fallujah. Urban fighting is dangerous and expensive but I'm confident we killed a lot of bad guys with our technology and minimize collateral damage. A point needs to be made about the Iraqi Soldier. They are wonderful people who want a free Iraq and are fighting and dieing every day in a higher proportion than the Coalition Forces. While their losses are terrible their willingness to fight alongside our men and women is a good indication that the formerly oppressed society is healing.

ABCS as we know it [emphasis mine, ed] was a failure. The ability of the Soldier to improvise, adapt and overcome obstacles with innovative concepts allowed them to take technology and leverage it. The most significant shortfall experienced last year was bandwidth which all but shutdown any of the ABCS systems and stovepipe development that hindered interoperability. That also created second order effects of not being able to get inside of the enemy's decision cycle. I believe the reason much of the equipment didn't work is because during testing we allowed contactors to maintain the equipment and the tests were neither rigorous nor realistic. Millions of dollars later the systems are improved in 2004 than they were in 2003. The Fog of War is something that is lost on the development side of science and technology. We are not fighting dim-witted boobs. The enemy leaders are educated and well versed in subversion and guerilla warfare. Many, I believe, are veterans of Chechnya and Afghanistan and have been trained by organizations such as the IRA or Al Qaeda. The bottom line is the subversives are fighting hard and taking tactical advantage by using immoral, unethical, and illegal tactics. These are criminal organizations pretending to be Nation States. [emphasis in original]

Finally, what I believe is most important is that we recognize that it isn't technology that wins wars, it is the Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine using that technology to close the last 100 meters. Our best contribution to the Soldier is that we give them reliable equipment that works the first time (bring back the MILSPEC) [Military Specification, ed] and the training to properly use those tools to make them successful. Just because the equipment works in the laboratory or at the NTC [National Training Center, ed] doesn't mean it is ready for "prime time". Logistics is a forgotten aspect of what we do. As you develop the ABCS ensure that logistics is part of the solution. The Warfighters are merely 10% of the force (tip of the spear) and the rest are service and support personnel who must maintain the equipment that the Warfighter needs. U.S. Casualties are proportionally distributed, I believe, across the combat arms, combat support and combat-service support Soldiers. There is no moral (sic) problem - Soldiers are excited about doing their job but they deserve the right tools for the job and superior training.

Today I am headed west of Baghdad for several days to do technical evaluations on captured enemy equipment. As I prepare to depart I'm thinking that this action is truly a non-linear (asymmetric) conflict. We have to destroy enemy fighters while quelling an insurgency and not alienating the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people are a good folk who want stability and a prosperous future for their families. Technology has allowed us, to a high degree of success, to attack the insurgent and minimize collateral damage. Human Factors Engineering is critical to ensuring we improve Soldier performance, readiness, safety and TRAINING. This is lost on the science and technology community.

If you just surfed in from a link and aren't bored to death - you might like the follow-up post.

November 21, 2004

So, what was it?

Bill the Rotorhead and Samuel Tai were the correct guessers (Bill first - but he had an unfair advantage, being our Casca, and is old enough to have crewed one of these, though he only admits to being a balloonist during the CW) with those of you who figured out bronze CW-era guns doing pretty well, too.

It's a rifled James 12-pounder, from the collection of the National Infantry Museum (album in progress, not much captioning as yet) at Fort Benning, Georgia.