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December 24, 2004

We're off!

To see the family in Missouri today and tomorrow. I might check in, I might not, it depends. So - if I don't, all y'all have a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas, however you choose to celebrate it!

SWWBO, putting the finishing touches on the tree at the Castle!*

The Arsenal does possess a few artifacts relative to the season.

Implements of conviviality: Rum jug, cups, beer bottles, glasses. All WWI and II veterans.

Hymnals. From a while back, when it was okay to say, "Merry Christmas!"

Most importantly,

A "Sweetheart Bible," with steel cover plate (to protect the heart, when worn in the breast pocket of combat clothing).

Containing the New Testament.

And dedicated by Iola, to Joe, for Christmas 1944 - Joe was a soldier in the 101st Airborne, who spent Christmas fighting the Germans at Bastogne.

Just as this year, we have soldiers standing guard, doing dangerous things, in dangerous places, trying to help some people rise above the tyranny that ruled them for so many years.

*For you nit-pickers out there - the tree-topper no longer leans drunkenly, either.

All I want for Christmas...

The Armorer would really like one of these for Christmas.

Or, a nice Dalhgren Boat Howitzer:

He'd even settle for one of these Coehorn mortars!

The last would look good on the porch of Castle Argghhh!, the others would add a nice cachet to the courtyard of the bailey.

However, you guys are gonna hafta hit the non-existent tip jar pretty hard before SWWBO's gonna allow it! Or truly overwhelm the Arsenal Store. Heh. The only customer of the Arsenal Store has been the Armorer! Good thing Cafe Press doesn't charge rent - and that I am not the kind of guy marketers rely on...

Of course, that's not really true. I'd settle for a Dominion of Canada-marked Snider and Martini too.

Or a Ferguson rifle. Even a new-made repro. Ah well. Mebbe when the Castle nest empties out and the fledgling is paying taxes!

by John on Dec 24, 2004 | Artillery


I've said the same thing about the newest members of the US services - they have proven themselves every bit as brave and capable as their forbears, even as we elders wondered if this generation had any mettle - and they've shown us their metal.

So too, in Great Britain.

Such as Corporal Mark Byles and his fellow soldiers.

I slashed people, rifle-butted them. I was punching and kicking. It was either me or them. I got back to camp covered in blood from head to toe. The first thing I did was pull out a photo of my family

A fact that has not gone un-noticed elsewhere.

There is a temptation to be rather gloomy about contemporary society in general and youth in particular. Many adults are guilty of assuming that youngsters spend all their time hanging about on street corners wearing hooded tops, punctuated only by spells slouched in front of the television. But the performance of the Army in Iraq goes to show that today's young people are just as capable as previous generations were of exhibiting the timeless military virtues: discipline, service, stoicism and, of course, that mischievous mixture of respect for authority and insolence that can be so entertaining in adversity. Even the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, must have chuckled to himself when presented with a group photo in which he should have featured, after being late to a dinner at a sergeants' mess.

So, while I take exception to this characterization, "pound for pound and man for man, the British Army is still more efficient than the mighty US army" and snark that even if true (a premise I don't accept) efficient does not equal capable... you should read the rest of this little bit from the Telegraph.

Hat tip to CAPT H and Mr. Wilkinson.

December 22, 2004

Oh, by the way...

Anybody notice that the Attorney General of the United States issued an official opinion dated August 24th, but not released until recently (probably to keep it out of the presidential campaign) that states:

The Second Amendment secures a right of individuals generally, not a right of States or a right restricted to persons serving in militias.

Really. They came out and said it.

Of course, a new Administration could come out and 'unsay' it - but it still carries weight I would think. Any lawyers out there?

Newmax covered it - did anybody else? I musta been asleep at the switch. There's a spate of articles in the NYT regarding the position - but all predate publication of the official document.

Heh. Be interesting to see how it gets applied.

I'm sure that Publicola, Alphecca, Say Uncle, SmallestMinority and others will keep an eye on the subject.

Is it important? Yep. Very important. I take some of the same risks here. One reason I started this blog was to point out that moderately normal, law abiding citizens might well have acquired an "Arsenal". For no ill intent or reason. And that it shouldn't matter.

And apropos of all that - here's some good advice.

And, since I'm talking about why I went public, and the Arsenal, and the fact that I like the old stuff... here's an NYT article about Cops who think like I do... Gimme some of that old time religion! Hat tip to CAPT H for passing that along.

by John on Dec 22, 2004 | Gun Rights

December 22, 1944. the Bastion of the Battered Bastards of the 101st.

To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.

The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.

There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.

If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours' term.

All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well known American humanity.

The German Commander.

To the German Commander:


The American Commander.

The American Commander was Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, Division Artillery Commander of the 101st Airborne Division.

Redlegs (like yours truly) aren't usually noted for their brevity.

McAuliffe's troops weren't the only ones inspired by his response. There was extra effort on the home front, too.

Check the Trackback for another take on this event, this time by Mostly Cajun.

by John on Dec 22, 2004 | Historical Stuff | Observations on things Military
» Mostly Cajun, All American and Opinionated links with: Today in History

Gratuitous Gun Pic

Hey, they may be ugly, and the MAS38 may have shot a worthless cartridge, but French SMGs weren't all bad.

The MAT49 at least folded up nicely.

Hi-res here.

On service, and honoring the oath.

Long time readers will recall I once talked about the fact that a Regular is subject to recall for life, in technical terms. During the reactivation of the Iowa-class battleships, the Navy recalled 60-70+ year old sailors who had been turret captains, because they were the only ones who truly knew how to service the guns - including all the important stuff that the crews knew but never made it into the manuals. Such recalls late in life have always been voluntary.

Well, this guy is not a sailor, he's a soldier - but unlike Pablo Paredes, Colonel John Caulfield is true to his word, as sworn in the oath.

I should also note, under the regs, while he will be getting regular full-Colonel pay while serving, when he re-retires, he will retire at the same pay (with any longevity adjustment) as he received upon his initial retirement. That strikes me as an injustice, but it *is* the regulation.

Hat tip to Ghost of a Flea for pointing it out to me!

December 21, 2004

Basic Marksmanship Training

All I can say is... about time, and still not enough.

Spc. Eliamar Casta–Staff Sgt. Carlos Osorio, drill sergeant with D Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, center, checks the sights of Pvt. Michael Cooper's weapon before he qualified Wednesday.

I've never been impressed with Army marksmanship training - and it was really frustrating as a battery-level commander in an artillery unit trying to get my people qualified to what I considered an acceptable level. The system got in the way, from STRAC allocations of ammo, to getting range time, and when I commanded a Headquarters Battery, staff grumpiness about people.

Don't even get me started on keeping the officers competent. And boy, did egos get in the way there! They were all convinced they could shoot, so it was always the weapon at fault.

Perhaps one reason I didn't retire a general officer is that I would take their weapon, shoot Expert with it, and give it back, agreeing with them that it *must* be the weapon, not the hands that held it. And kept a straight face. I really liked the ones who wanted to argue bullet variability in military ammo lots.

C'mon, ladies and gents, we're shooting at man sized targets, a hit is a hit, no one is measuring minutes of angle to determine who outshot who. We're just trying to drop the target or punch a hole somewhere inside the paper silhouette. No more.

Anyway - we're trying. I'll leave it to the Heartless Libertarian (who's got a good post on adaptation), who commands a basic training company, to offer any insights he might have should he wander by.

Keep in mind fellas - this is Fort Benning - the Home of the Infantry we're talking about.

New program of instruction changes Basic Combat Training Brigade

Story and photo by Spc. Eliamar Castañon/The Bayonet

FORT BENNING, Ga. (TRADOC News Service, Dec. 17, 2004) – The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command has changed the program of instruction for initial-entry training by incorporating the M-16 into all parts of training and using the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 to enhance marksmanship techniques learned on ranges.

Originally, Soldiers in IET received instruction on the M-16 during the basic rifle marksmanship phase of training. The new POI has Soldiers being issued an M-16 and a magazine with five blank rounds of ammunition one week into training.

“The idea is for Soldiers to become more familiar with their weapon and are comfortable using it,” said Capt. Cecil Henry, commander of D Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment.

The EST 2000 is an emerging training simulator using virtual reality to project a variety of scenario possibilities and allows for immediate feedback of shooting techniques without ever having to go to the field.

Henry said an EST 2000 will be brought to Sand Hill in January 2005 for the Basic Combat Training Brigade, and Soldiers will use the simulator at least three days in conjunction with time spent at the range.

D Company is not the only cycle of basic-training Soldiers that has converted to the new POI. Three other cycles have completed basic, and the feedback from the commanders was positive, said Capt. Alina Martinez, BCTB adjutant.

“The BRM scores for the Soldiers who carried the weapons the entire time in basic improved immensely,” Martinez said. “The first-time go’s for the different companies have improved immensely.”

Henry agreed with Martinez and said 91 percent of his Soldiers received first-time go’s on the practice range for their BRM qualifications.

Pfc. Matthew Bacon, with 3rd Platoon, guaranteed an expert score shooting at the range.

“I’ve been shooting rifles for more than 20 years now, but never an M-16,” Bacon said. “Having it with me all the time really makes me more comfortable now that I’m firing it.”

Bacon and other Soldiers in his company said they carry their weapon everywhere and sleep with it hanging on a rack next to their bunk.

“We have it with us at all times, even when we sleep,” said Pvt. Joshua Cronk. “It doesn’t matter what your MOS is, you have to be familiar with your weapon because you never know when you’ll have to use it. You have to be prepared for anything at all times.”

Pvt. James Tolman said they all received instruction on how to properly carry an M-16 the first weekend they were in training.

“I can take it apart and put it back together in two to three minutes,” Tolman said.

He also expected to get an expert shooting score to beat his brother, Samuel Tolman, who is currently in one-station unit training.

If you've got the bandwidth...

...Geoffrey Huntley has the combat video from Fallujah.

Might not work from behind a military firewall. It doesn't from mine, though it works fine from here, at home.

Gratuitous Gun Pic

I'm still dealing with my hardware problem, so here's a gratuitous gun pic to make your visits worthwhile... along with all that good stuff from Dusty!

A French MAT 49 SMG.

Hi-res here, if you want it.

December 20, 2004

One of My Favorite Christmas Stories...

Go here.


If Airplanes Could Talk...

Actually, they do. You just have to know how to listen.

In this case, what you would learn would go a long way in getting you to understand and appreciate the Golden Age of aviation. From Scott Crossfield's blazing ascents into near-space to the Scram Jet's blistering run across the Pacific at 7,000 MPH+, "Balls 8" was, at one time or another, at the center of the known universe for thousands of scientists, engineers, pilots and maintainers. Her "passing" is indeed a milestone and she will be missed.

It hasn't been a good year for these winged icons...the last of the KC-135s that helped train astronauts and supported Hollywood film crews (among other things), affectionately known as the Vomit Comet (sorry), was also retired.

By the way, if you want to get a good feel for what the test pilots faced during the Golden Age, dig a little deeper into Crossfield's experiences as a test guy (the link above is a good start). I'm willing to bet not many have seen the explosion on the test stand that Scott was, quite literally, sitting in front of when it occurred (the X-15 rockets were a tad tempermental)...or the landing he made in the X-15 where the thing broke in half on landing skid (as opposed to a landing roll--the only wheels were on the nose gear). For some pretty cool overall X-15 footage, go here.

BTW, pilots define "Golden Age" as that time when the adult supervision didn't know enough about the risks to say you couldn't do stuff. I call it the Constitutional Period--anything not specifically prohibited was allowed. Heh.


by Dusty on Dec 20, 2004 | Plane P0rn

Random synaptic activity...

Item the first. Via the Puddle Pirate, we come upon this: A project to determine whether or not, in fact, guns kill people. Or even if guns equipped with bayonets go out and commit drive-by bayonetings. We here at the Castle may provide a rifle grenade, so that we can also check whether assault rifles that have rifle grenades handy in fact go and lob grenades around, too.

Item the second. Joanie, Protest Warrior, is out taking on the supporters of confessed deserter Pablo Paredes. Proud to be a friend of Joanie! Get some, Girl!

Item the third: A most excellent round-up of the Red Ensign Brigade! 'Ware the Canadians Militant!

Item the fourth: Street fighting in Baghdad, from A Day In Iraq. Worth it for the "oh what a relief it is" during the firefight scene, which comes immediately after this excerpt:

An instant later, small arms fire erupted from the woodline at my 11 o'clock, the rounds whistling over my head. Until this moment I didn't realize how little cover I actually had, especially from that angle. Pissed off at being shot at again, with little or no cover, I strained to see someone. All I could see was smoke and the rustling of leaves from their fire. Hopelessly looking for better cover with none to be found, Sgt. W and I have a quick laugh before responding. Nobody else seemed to know where the fire was coming from, so I fired in that same area, to try and supress if nothing else. Once I started, everyone else started firing in the same direction. Sgt. W fired two 203 rounds, one starting a small fire in the woods. The firing from the woodline ceased shortly thereafter. I have no idea if I hit or came close to hitting anyone.

Welcome to a description of small unit combat our fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers would recognize.

By the way, Michael Moore - Michael of A Day In Iraq is not impressed. At all. In fact, ya might say he's a little peeved with you and your ilk.

Item the fifth: Eric, the Straight White Guy, does a link fest to "Piano Man" If you aren't a blogger, you have NO IDEA how much work that was. If you are - well go see if yer in it!

Item sixtus: Tammi, the Road Warrior, wonders what your favorite Christmas music is. I am constitutionally unable to narrow it down to just one. I go for Carol of the Bells, instrumental or voice, and O Come All Ye Faithful - except I prefer it in Latin, as Adeste Fideles. If ya wanna try out your latin - the lyric is in the Flash Traffic.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows... »

Slaughter of the Regiments

In a previous post, I talked about the Perils of Transformation for the people trying to implement it, and those going through it. In the case of the British Army, with it's long and storied history, the contraction inherent in trying to shift from an Army designed to fight battles of attrition to an Army designed to fight battles of maneuver is particularly painful, as there are more regiments with long and distinguished histories than there are companies of infantry to assign the lineages to. The US Army has had similar experiences, but as I noted in the previous bit, since the Regulars are recruited nationally, the issues of regional identification don't intrude as much as they do for the County regiments of the British Army.

As part of the US Army Transformation process, in order to keep the designers and implementers from falling into old mental habits, we renamed things. We threw out Corps, Division, Brigade and replaced them with new verbal constructs, the "Unit of Employment," or UE, and the "Unit of Action," or UA - in order to make it easier to create new organizational constructs. We have made other changes to keep people from using 'outmoded' mental models, as well - "Fires Brigade" instead of Division Artillery, "Maneuver Enhancement Brigade" instead of Engineer Brigade. And for a purpose other than getting some clever Lieutenant Colonel his Legion of Merit. As we really are trying to change how those units are built and employed, it actually does serve a purpose to keep people from slipping into old habits - especially the old farts in charge. The young ones are growing up with these changes - for them, it is business as usual.

Still - history matters. And that shows up when after units pass through the Transformation process, we go back to historical designations - UA's become brigades again, as there aren't too many Colonels running around who really want to call themselves a "Unit of Action Commander." They want to be Brigade Commanders. Especially now that in the new structure, Brigades are mini-divisions and more independent and deployable. And even fewer Generals want to tell their friends they are a "Unit of Employment X Commander" hoping to get promoted to 3 Stars so they can become a "Unit of Employment Y Commander!"

The point is - names and history matter, especially to the direct combat branches of Infantry and Armor. The artillery, like it's Brit counterpart, tends to take it's identity from the branch, rather than the regiment. My regimental affiliation is the 3rd Field Artillery regiment - but I really think of myself as an Artilleryman, or Redleg. Part and parcel of our descent from the British Royal Artillery Regiment, the all-encompassing organization for British Artillery.

Cohesion and sense of community are important, as this little vignette shows:

W est Belfast in the autumn of 1982 was a bad place to be a British soldier. Booby-traps, like the one which destroyed Corporal Leon Bush, aged 22, of the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment, were routine, decidedly not news. Corporal Bush’s death, like most soldiers’, was quickly forgotten by everyone except his family.

It was, therefore, an enormous consolation to Corporal Bush’s blood relatives when they discovered that he had two families who wanted to keep his memory alive: themselves, and the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters. ‘They came to stay with the regiment at its base in Germany,’ remembers Patrick Mercer, a captain in the WFR at the time, and later its commanding officer. ‘We had a little silver statuette made. We called it the Leon Bush Memorial and we presented it each year as a prize for regimental competitions. Whenever we could, we had members of the family over from England to present the trophy, and it meant the world to them.’

These discussions and concerns are not just academic. They hit at the heart of why men fight - not what gets them to the battlefield, but what keeps them together when they are at that battlefield, and the bees are buzzing around overhead. What gets them to do this: Die for each other. These two pictures show soldiers trying to rescue a wounded comrade.

They will eventually succeed - but not until one of the rescuers dies in the attempt.

To a bean-counter, that's a bad trade: 1 guy dead and one wounded for what could have been only one wounded, possibly dead. For unit cohesion, that level of commitment, "Leave No Man Behind," is a combat multiplier that over time saves lives, and kills the enemy.

How units gain and maintain cohesion is much more than history. For the actual units, it's leadership and shared experience (especially tough experience, first in training, then in action). If this were not so, then the US Army throughout it's existence should have been a execrable force, unable to fight it's way out of a paper bag, as we've never had a system with the tentacles through it that the British Army has had - not even in the Guard. Due to the nature of the Regulars in US experience, we're more branch oriented in our internal politics, and to a lesser extent this last 100 years, Division-oriented.

A case in point, 60 years ago today, Bastogne was surrounded during the Battle of the Bulge, trapping the 101st Airborne inside, in the "Bastion of the Battered Bastards of the 101st." While the 101st had existed as a division in WWI, it was demobilized after the war, and raised again for WWII. The Parachute Infantry Regiments were also newly-raised. Yet there is no doubting their fighting capability - which was attributable to the leadership, troop quality, and forging process of shared experience. An excellent series of books on the 101st and what I'm talking about were written by Donald Burgett, I recommend them heartily. If you only want to get one (but you should read the whole series) get "Seven Roads to Hell" which covers the Battle of the Bulge.

By contrast, the line infantry divisions, many also with storied pasts, were kept in the lines and replacements fed into the meatgrinder. Their efficiency dropped measurably as the war in Europe progressed and units became composed of people who had little in common except the shoulder patch, excepting in those units where extraordinary leadership manifested itself.

With the British system - the risk is not so much with the units as it is with the recruiting base and popular identity with the Army. And if you think that's silly - you should go visit England - and see the Regimental museums that almost literally dot the countryside. The Brits will continue to build fine units that will fight well, just as we do. What they stand to lose is the connection to the people of the nation that they have via the Regimental system, a connection that in many ways the US Army does not, though certainly the National Guard does. We are an insular institution, and we and the nation suffer from that. It would be sad to see the Brits go the same way.

The whole article by Andrew Gilligan from the Spectator is in the Flash Traffic (extended entry).

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows... »

December 19, 2004

Gratuitious Gun Pic

I had a photo-essay planned for today, but some technical problems (like an unmountable boot sector) are getting in the way. So, while I deal with that, here's a shot of some of the pistols, artillery sights, periscopes, and other optics in the collection of the Arsenal at Castle Argghhh!

Hi-res here.

Update on Dusty's post below.

Here's some more backstory regarding the woman who murdered to get herself a baby.

The comment stream for Dusty's post is interesting to say the least. I'll leave that to grow on it's own.

I just wonder how this case might affect the issue of late-term abortions. I'm not a fan of late term abortion, though I am not totally convinced that I would support a total ban on abortion, either. I admit to being a bit of a squish. I can support a 'health of the mother, rape, incest' condition easily, and I admit that as I have aged, I have slid to the 'right' on the issue.

But I have never been a supporter of third-trimester abortions. And this case is a perfect example of why not - not the murder, obviously, but because this baby was ripped from her mother's womb... and survived, easily.

But the abortion-at-any-cost types would essentially argue this was a disposable mass of tissue with no inherent right to life other than what the mother allowed.

I just can't get there from here.