David Petraeus wore regularly a lot more awards than Dwight Eisenhower did many years ago.
Marines have long remarked humorously on the proliferation of awards, badges, and decorations worn by members of the US Army. General Petraeus’s resignation as CIA Director recently even provoked comment from left-wing commentators, like Andrew Sullivan, on the questionable taste of contemporary doggie custom.
The Marines, of course, are a lot better qualified to criticize in areas of this kind than are foreign poofter journalists who make professional careers of Dolchstoß-ing those who protect them from big bad sand monkeys who would do them harm.
I was reminded of the criticism of General Petraeus’s uniform’s collection of shiny hardware by a photo of even more heavily be-medalled Chinese officers that has been floating around on Facebook. The original was sufficiently profuse with badges that it provoked some wag to use Photoshop to multiply them, and even to extend the medals to some Chinamen’s trousers. (see below)
The legitimate, original photo of Chinese officers.
Photoshopped parody. There are medals even on the sleeves and trousers.
It was the spring of 1971 and Captain Larry McNamara, one of my advisors to the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN), and I were sitting across from each other on a hot, sparsely covered jungle hillside sipping bitter Vietnamese tea. In between us was a fold-up wooden military campaign table.
My other advisors sat silently apart from us under a clump of pine trees pretending not to be eaves dropping on our conversation. They were cleaning and oiling their weapons, preparing for combat, deep in the jungle. Occasionally their eyes wandered toward us.
A week before, Larry had been deserted and left to die out in the jungle by the Fourth ARVN Battalion commander, Major Uy. Uy was a first class coward and Larry’s returning alive was an embarrassment to him. If Larry had died as Uy intended, Uy could have fabricated a story about the fighting having been so intense that he and Mac had been forcibly separated and he had risked his own life trying to find him.
But because Larry had defied all of the odds and come back alive, Uy was forced to explain why they had become separated. According to Uy’s version of events, he had become so deathly sick that he was unable to lead his battalion. So he was forced to make his way back to the rear to find medical help. Most of the other ARVN officers and senior sergeants had followed him. Larry had ended up commanding the encircled ARVN remnant and was able to lead them to safety.
“Larry,” you’ve studied the plan and you know that we’re committing every available combat unit to this fight.”
“Yes, and you want me to go back out with the Fourth Battalion again. Is it still commanded by that coward, Uy?”
“Yes it is,” I said.
“Colonel, you know as well as I that at the first shot fired, he will turn tail and run and the battalion will fall apart, just like it did last week.” He was stating simple, unemotional fact.
After a long pause he added, “If I go, I won’t come back. The North Vietnamese Army won’t let me get away twice.”
“I know,” I replied looking away, feeling pain deep down inside. “Do you want me to go in your place?”
“No,” he countered sharply. “You’ve got your job to do and I’ve got mine.”
Simultaneously we pushed our metal folding chairs back, stood, and shook hands. “Goodbye, Colonel,” he said. “We won’t meet again … at least not in this life. Write my wife, tell her I love her.” I nodded and he was gone.
Over the next year, America’s largest fighting force is swapping its camouflage pattern. The move is a quiet admission that the last uniform — a pixelated design that debuted in 2004 at a cost of $5 billion — was a colossal mistake.
Soldiers have roundly criticized the gray-green uniform for standing out almost everywhere it’s been worn. Industry insiders have called the financial mess surrounding the pattern a “fiasco.” ...
“Essentially, the Army designed a universal uniform that universally failed in every environment,” said an Army specialist who served two tours in Iraq, wearing UCP in Baghdad and the deserts outside Basra. “The only time I have ever seen it work well was in a gravel pit.” ...
“You’ve got to look back and say what a huge waste of money that was,” said Lawrence Holsworth, marketing director of a camouflage company called Hyde Definition and the editor of Strike-Hold!, a website that tracks military gear. “UCP was such a fiasco.”
The Army’s camouflage researchers say the story of the universal pattern’s origins begins when they helped develop a similarly pixilated camouflage now worn by the Marine Corps. That pattern, known as MARPAT, first appeared in 2002 after being selected from among dozens of candidates and receiving plenty of input from Marines on the ground at the sniper school in Quantico, Va. ...
“Brand identity trumped camouflage utility,” [Eric] Graves [editor of the military gear publication Soldier Systems Daily] said. “That’s what this really comes down to: ‘We can’t allow the Marine Corps to look more cool than the Army.’ ”
The US Army has invited gun makers to submit candidates for the next US primary long arm, which they intend to be a carbine.
The Army has given gun makers that want to build your next carbine 90 days to throw their hats in the ring. The message is clear: The Army isn’t looking for the lowest bidder, it’s looking for the most accurate, efficient, quiet, lethal and reliable weapon available.
Service leaders detailed what they want — and how they plan to get it — in a June 30 request for proposal. It seeks “an assault weapon that will provide accuracy, lethality, minimized visual and aural signature and survivability enhancements to all Army formations. … This weapon will possess the capability, in offensive and defensive operations, to destroy or neutralize the adversary and their capabilities, at any time and in any place.”
The RfP allows competitors to submit only one weapon for consideration. There are no caliber restrictions. Although many modern carbines are multicaliber weapons, they will compete with one caliber. And if a weapon’s caliber is not 5.56mm or 7.62mm, the manufacturer must provide 234,000 rounds to cover all tests.
Top performers will be identified by way of two down-select phases that will start this fall. Phase I will grade the weapons in three key areas:
• Technical aspects, such as the ability to mount existing weapons, optics and suppressor kits;
• The company’s ability to produce 2,000 and a surge of 4,200 carbines per month;
• Cost. The Army says performance factors are more important than price.
It is interesting to note that the Army specifies that they want a carbine.
Carbines are shorter, characteristically somewhat less accurate, versions of a rifle, used traditionally by mounted cavalry which would find carrying a full-length rifle awkward and inconvenient. Infantry are normally armed with rifles. Besides being more accurate, the full-length rifle is superior to the carbine in some other crucial respects. Inevitably in war, there are occasions when hand-to-hand combat occurs in which the infantryman’s rifle is required to be used in the capacity of a spear or a club. The rifle is more suitable for use with the bayonet, and being heavier than the carbine is more effective as a blunt weapon.
The current US Army does not expect any longer to march to battle on foot, and instead functions as motorized or air mobile infantry. The modern infantryman has, thus, become the equivalent of the 19th century dragoon who rode to battle on horseback, but dismounted and fought with carbine on foot.
Experience in the Middle East has demonstrated the inadequacy of the 5.56mm service round. Let’s hope that the Army comes to its senses this time and opts for a more serious cartridge.
Ten years ago, General Eric Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff, decided to improve the morale of the ordinary soldier by allowing him, too, to don the chic and sporty black beret, previously worn only by elite Ranger units.
But, as Gilbert and Sullivan noted in their Savoy opera of 1889 The Gondoliers: “If everybody’s somebody, then no one’s anybody.”
Apart from all that, berets are pretty silly looking and they don’t keep the sun out of your eyes. They are fussy to put on, needing a lot of adjusting, and they really look goofy with the digital pattern desert camouflage Army Combat Uniform used operationally every day.
The doggies have concluded that the Marine Corps has developed the best camouflage pattern and they now are considering going ahead and simply adopting MARPAT (MARine PATtern) camouflage for use by the US Army, but the Marines have proprietary rights to the pattern and object to sharing uniforms with the Army.
Army officials have said they want soldiers to wear the best possible camouflage — even if that is the MARPAT. But Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent says don’t count on it.
The Corps owns the rights to MARPAT and wants to retain it for its own use, Kent said late last year. Marine officials said they have no beef with anyone researching and testing MARPAT, but they want Marines distinguished from other service members on the battlefield.
“The main concern for the Marine Corps when it comes to other services testing our patterns is that they don’t exactly mimic them,” said Kent, who is scheduled to retire June 9. “The MARPAT design is proprietary, and it’s important those designs are reserved for Marines. We just need to make sure each of our designs is unique to each service.”
Brig. Gen. (p) Peter Fuller, the former Program Executive Office Soldier, dismissed the territorial stance. If the pattern proves to be the best, the Army would simply remove the Corps’ signature anchor and move forward, Fuller told Army Times in his last interview as PEO Soldier.
The Corps has always tried to look different. When everyone wore the Battle Dress Uniform, the Marines rolled their sleeves differently. There are no unit patches on their sleeves. They wear different covers and boots.
But the Corps’ efforts to stay unique hit new levels late last year when the Navy — the department to which the Corps belongs — looked to MARPAT to develop its own new uniform. The new working uniform looked similar to MARPAT, but the Navy fielded the desert variant only to about 7,000 personnel assigned either to Naval Special Warfare Command or to units supporting it after Marine officials raised objections that the uniform was too similar to the Corps’.
If you are the US Army, you pick a gay, self-medicating, emotionally-unstable computer hacker, who harbors extreme liberal opinions, and who has “the personality of a bull in a china shop.”
Despite being apparently completely recognizable to acquaintances and associates as gay, and despite displaying a fairy wand on his desk, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy did not cause Pfc. Bradley Manning to be separated from the service. Manning had a drag queen boyfriend, hung out in politically-motivated circles of computer hackers, and had been reprimanded for assaulting an officer, but none of that kept him from having a Top Secret clearance providing access to what the New York Times describes as “some of the most secret information on the planet.”
video frame shows XM25 round exploding just inside window target
The Army’s equipment development and procurement office, Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier, was kind enough to invite Wired’s Nathan Hodge to the Aberdeen Proving Ground to test a variety of toys including the XM25 (25mm) grenade launcher, a non-lethal green laser, improved night-vision goggles, a new easily-changed (no headspace or timing adjustment needed) barrel for the ever-popular M2 .50 caliber Browning machine gun, and a Modular Accessory Shotgun system, consisting of a straight-pull bolt-action 12-gauge shotgun that can be used as a standalone weapon or as an under-barrel accessory on a rifle or carbine. The shotgun makes a useful tool for opening locked doors and is an effective close-range definitive argument as well.
Let’s hope PEO Soldier adds NYM to its list of journalist invitees next time. I’m not too far from Aberdeen.
Some news agency says the Army is dropping bayonet training, and informs its readers that soldiers no longer carry bayonets on their automatic rifles.
Heeding the advice of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans, commanders are dropping five-mile runs and bayonet drills in favor of zigzag sprints and exercises that hone core muscles. Battlefield sergeants say that’s the kind of fitness needed to dodge across alleys, walk patrol with heavy packs and body armor or haul a buddy out of a burning vehicle.
Trainers also want to toughen recruits who are often more familiar with Facebook than fistfights.
“Soldiers need to be able to move quickly under load, to be mobile under load, with your body armor, your weapons and your helmet, in a stressful situation,” said Frank Palkoska, head of the Army’s Fitness School at Fort Jackson, which has worked several years on overhauling the regime.
“We geared all of our calisthenics, all of our running movements, all of our warrior skills, so soldiers can become stronger, more powerful and more speed driven,” Palkoska said. The exercises are part of the first major overhaul in Army basic fitness training since men and women began training together in 1980, he said.
The new plan is being expanded this month at the Army’s four other basic training installations—Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Fort Sill, Okla., Fort Benning, Ga., and Fort Knox, Ky.
Drill sergeants with experience in the current wars are credited with urging the Army to change training, in particular to build up core muscle strength. One of them is 1st Sgt. Michael Todd, a veteran of seven deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
On a recent training day Todd was spinning recruits around to give them the feel of rolling out of a tumbled Humvee. Then he tossed on the ground pugil sticks made of plastic pipe and foam, forcing trainees to crawl for their weapons before they pounded away on each other.
“They have to understand hand-to-hand combat, to use something other than their weapon, a piece of wood, a knife, anything they can pick up,” Todd said.
The new training also uses “more calisthenics to build core body power, strength and agility,” Palkoska said in an office bedecked with 60-year-old black and white photos of World War II-era mass exercise drills. Over the 10 weeks of basic, a strict schedule of exercises is done on a varied sequence of days so muscles rest, recover and strengthen.
Another aim is to toughen recruits from a more obese and sedentary generation, trainers said.
Many recruits didn’t have physical education in elementary, middle or high school and therefore tend to lack bone and muscle strength. When they ditch diets replete with soda and fast food for healthier meals and physical training, they drop excess weight and build stronger muscles and denser bones, Palkoska said.
Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, the three-star general in charge of revamping all aspects of initial training, said his overall goal is to drop outmoded drills and focus on what soldiers need today and in the future.
Bayonet drills had continued for decades, even though soldiers no longer carry the blades on their automatic rifles. Hertling ordered the drills dropped.
“We have to make the training relevant to the conditions on the modern battlefield,” Hertling said during a visit to Fort Jackson in January.
Except that the Army is continuing Pugil Stick training and the Pugil Stick was invented during WWII as a method of training to fight with rifle and bayonet.
And the reporter is obviously confused about “carrying blades on automatic rifles,” not realizing perhaps that bayonets are not normally attached to rifles and are only mounted in extremis. The M9 Bayonet was adopted in 1984 and is designed for use with all of the M16 series rifles.
This kind of error should not be surprising. How long has it been, do you suppose, since a professional journalist working for a major news organization was a veteran?
General Petraeus has received a lot of the sort of service awards which senior officers accumulate simply as a result of having occupied important posts, but he has also been awarded the Bronze Star (with “V” device signifying it was awarded for valor), presumably in connection with his leading the 101st Airborne in the 2003 drive on Baghdad.
Members of the United States Marine Corps are wont to comment negatively on the abundance of badges and awards displayed by US Army personnel. References to alleged prizes for spelling and deportment are not unusual. But when the kind of badinage normally occurring in the context of interservice rivalries starts coming out of the mouths of liberal sissies who probably flunked their physicals for the local cub scout pack, it is time to be outraged.
First, Matthew DeBord, best-known as a wine writer, in the LA Times, has the temerity to offer General Petraeus fashion advice on how to wear the uniform when delivering testimony to Congress:
Gen. David H. Petraeus may be as impressive a military professional as the United States has developed in recent years, but he could use some strategic advice on how to manage his sartorial PR. Witness his congressional testimony on the state of the war in Iraq. There he sits in elaborate Army regalia, four stars glistening on each shoulder, nine rows of colorful ribbons on his left breast, and various other medallions, brooches and patches scattered across the rest of the available real estate on his uniform. He even wears his name tag, a lone and incongruous hunk of cheap plastic in a region of pristine gilt, just in case the politicians aren’t sure who he is.
That’s a lot of martial bling, especially for an officer who hadn’t seen combat until five years ago. Unfortunately, brazen preening and “ribbon creep” among the Army’s modern-day upper crust have trumped the time-honored military virtues of humility, duty and personal reserve.
This civilian wine expert is obviously unacquainted (probably because the US military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was too upsetting) with the fact that the correct uniform and the display of medals and decorations for various occasions are prescribed. Soldiers do not, in fact, while dressing in the morning, get to reflect, “I’m a bit out-of-sorts today, and don’t feel like getting all dressed up. I think I’ll just wear my fatigues.”
Superannuated television personality Dick Cavett (famous back when the Beatles were the coming thing) emerges from the assisted-living home to bring his 1960s perspective to the matter.
I can’t look at Petraeus — his uniform ornamented like a Christmas tree with honors, medals and ribbons — without thinking of the great Mort Sahl at the peak of his brilliance. He talked about meeting General Westmoreland in the Vietnam days. Mort, in a virtuoso display of his uncanny detailed knowledge — and memory — of such things, recited the lengthy list (”Distinguished Service Medal, Croix de Guerre with Chevron, Bronze Star, Pacific Campaign” and on and on), naming each of the half-acre of decorations, medals, ornaments, campaign ribbons and other fripperies festooning the general’s sternum in gaudy display. Finishing the detailed list, Mort observed, “Very impressive!” Adding, “If you’re twelve.”
There are regrettably some people in this country, so self-obsessed and so utterly removed from reality, that they are able to believe that their own third-rate careers in the entertainment industry place them in a position to sneer at men who have devoted their careers to defending their country, and who have on occasion placed their lives in hazard to preserve this country’s freedom and institutions. If military service and its symbols fail to impress the likes of Mort Sahl and Dick Cavett, that is a reflection on them and not upon the soldiers they have the unmitigated indecency to mock.
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap.
Newsweek’s hunt for Bin Laden article has some interesting accounts attributing his success at escaping justice to excesses of official caution (Hey! the press might criticize them) and bureaucratic paralysis.
As recalled by Gary Berntsen, the CIA officer in charge of the covert team working with the Northern Alliance, code-named Jawbreaker, the military refused his pleas for 800 Army Rangers to cut off bin Laden’s escape. Maj. Gen. Dell Dailey, the Special Ops commander sent out by Central Command, told Berntsen he was doing an “excellent job,” but that putting in ground troops might offend America’s Afghan allies. “I don’t give a damn about offending our allies!” Berntsen yelled, according to his 2005 book, “Jawbreaker.” “I only care about eliminating Al Qaeda and delivering bin Laden’s head in a box!” (Dailey, now the State Department’s counterterror chief, told NEWSWEEK that he did not want to discuss the incident, except to say that Berntsen’s story is “unsubstantiated.”)
Berntsen went to Crumpton, his boss at the CIA, who described to NEWSWEEK his frantic efforts to appeal to higher authority. Crumpton called CENTCOM’s commander, Gen. Tommy Franks. It would take “weeks” to mobilize a force, Franks responded, and the harsh, snowy terrain was too difficult and the odds of getting bin Laden not worth the risk. Frustrated, Crumpton went to the White House and rolled out maps of the Pakistani-Afghan border on a small conference table. President Bush wanted to know if the Pakistanis could sweep up Al Qaeda on the other side. “No, sir,” Crumpton responded. (Vice President Dick Cheney did not say a word, Crumpton recalled.) The meeting was inconclusive. Franks, who declined to comment, has written in his memoirs that he decided, along with Rumsfeld, that to send troops into the mountains would risk repeating the mistake of the Soviets, who were trapped and routed by jihadist guerrilla fighters in the 1980…
Whenever (Special Forces Operations Sergeant Adam Rice) and his men moved within five kilometers of the safe house, he says, they had to file a request form known as a 5-W, spelling out the who, what, when, where and why of the mission. Permission from headquarters took hours, and if shooting might be involved, it was often denied. To go beyond five kilometers required a CONOP (for “concept of operations”) that was much more elaborate and required approval from two layers in the field, and finally the Joint Special Operations Task Force at Baghram air base near Kabul. To get into a fire fight, the permission of a three-star general was necessary. “That process could take days,” Rice recalled to NEWSWEEK. He often typed forms while sitting on a 55-gallon drum his men had cut in half to make a toilet seat. “We’d be typing in 130-degree heat while we’re crapping away with bacillary dysentery and sometimes the brass at Kandahar or Baghram would kick back and tell you the spelling was incorrect, that you weren’t using the tab to delimit the form correctly.”
But Rice made his request anyway. Days passed with no word. The window closed; the target—whether Mullah Omar or not—moved on. Rice blames risk aversion in career officers, whose promotions require spotless (“zero defect”) records—no mistakes, no bad luck, no “flaps.” The cautious mind-set changed for a time after 9/11, but quickly settled back in. High-tech communication serves to clog, rather than speed the process. With worldwide satellite communications, high-level commanders back at the base or in Washington can second-guess even minor decisions.
An Army Ranger Sergeant First Class, who has served 21 months in Iraq, while home on a two week leave, pleads for the US public’s support to let him finish his job on a call to the Neal Boortz show. The video was produced by Noodlehead Studios and SaveTheSoldiers.Com.