Category Archive 'US Army'
07 Jun 2011

Army Coveting Marines’ Camouflage Pattern

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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 Times:

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’.

09 Aug 2010

Whom Do You Make An Intelligence Analyst?

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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.”

07 May 2010

Testing the Army’s Latest Weaponry

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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.

17 Mar 2010

AP Confused By Bayonets

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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?


M9 Bayonet mounted on the muzzle of an M4 carbine

16 Jan 2010

US Artillery Battery in Action in Afghanistan

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Cobra Battery at FOB Frontenac, Arghandab, Afghanistan

Michael Yon has a spectacular set of photos of an M777 howitzer battery in action at night.

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Thanks to Lazarus, who corrected my misidentification of the howitzer model.

07 Dec 2008

Army Lost the Last Seven Times to Navy

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But enterprising West Point cadets exact some revenge by a daring daylight helicopter strike on Annapolis.

3:22 video

13 Apr 2008

Fashion Critiquing General Petraeus

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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.

–Kipling

27 Aug 2007

Hunting Bin Laden

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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.

Read the whole thing.

04 Aug 2007

Rangers Do Not Fail

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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.

7:32 video

04 Jun 2007

Reveille

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A touching tribute to US WWII veterans.

11:30 video.

22 Apr 2007

A Tactics Primer

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William Lind (who teaches at Quantico) has a column at Military.com discussing why the Kesselschlacht is not part of the US Army’s modern battle repertoire.

It occasionally happens that a reader’s e-mail is translated into dots and dashes and sent to me over Mr. Morse’s wonderful electric telegraph. The sounder on my desk, opposite the inkwell and under the flypaper scroll, recently tapped out the following, from Jim McDonnell of Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

    “Could you please explain what’s meant by the remark about U.S. forces being unable to fight battles of encirclement? Is it that there are too few of them in Afghanistan or are you saying that our forces are constitutionally incapable of that kind of operation? If the latter is the case, that would make a column all by itself.”

It would, and it does. The problem is not numbers but tactical repertoire, or lack thereof. That deficiency, in turn, is a product — like so much else — of the American armed forces’ failure to transition from the Second Generation to the Third.

Second Generation tactics, like those of the First Generation, are linear. In the attack, the object is to push a line forward, and in the defense it is to hold a line. As we saw in so many battles in and after World War I, the result is usually indecisive. One side or the other ends up holding the ground, but the loser retires in reasonably good order to fight again another day.

Usually, achieving a decision, which means taking the enemy unit permanently out of play, requires one of two things, or both in combination: ambush or encirclement. Modern, Third Generation tactics reflect an “ambush mentality,” and also usually aim for encirclement. To that end, Third Generation tactics are sodomy tactics: the objective is to get in the other guy’s rear.

On the defense, that is accomplished by inviting the enemy to attack, letting him penetrate, and then launching a counterattack designed to encircle him, not push him back out. This was the basis of the new, Third Generation German defensive tactics of 1917, and also the German Army’s standard defense in World War II.

On the offense, the rule is not “close with and destroy” but “bypass and collapse.” The goal is to penetrate deep into the enemy’s rear, by stealth or by force (the Germans used a three, not two, element assault, and the largest element was the exploitation element), then roll up the enemy’s forward units from the flank and rear while overrunning his artillery, headquarters and supply dumps. The same approach was used by the Panzer divisions on the operational level, leading to vast encirclements of hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops on the Eastern Front in 1941.

The U.S. military today knows little or nothing of this. It did attempt an operational encirclement of the Iraqi Republican Guard by 7th Corps in the First Gulf War, but that attempt failed because 7th Corps was too slow. On the tactical level, most American units have only one tactic: bump into the enemy and call for fire. The assumption is that America’s vast firepower will then annihilate the opponent, but that seldom happens. Instead, he lives to fight again another day, like Osama and his al Qaeda at Tora Bora.

While the central problem here is conceptual – sheer ignorance of Third Generation tactics — there is a physical aspect to it as well. On foot, American soldiers are loaded down with everything except the kitchen sink, and they will probably be required to carry that too as soon as it is digitized. To use tactics of encirclement, you need to be at least as mobile as your enemy and preferably more so. The kind of light infantry fighters we find ourselves up against in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan are just that, light. They can move much faster on their feet than can our overburdened infantry. The result is that they ambush us, then escape to do it again, over and over. Flip-flops in the alley beat boots on the ground.

As the students in my seminar at Quantico discovered early in the year, the decisive break, both in tactics and in organizational culture, is not between the Third and Fourth Generations but between the Second and Third. It is little short of criminal that the American military remains stuck in the Second Generation. The Third Generation was fully developed in the German Army by 1918, almost a century ago. It costs little or nothing to make the transition. To those who understand how the Pentagon works, that may be the crux of the problem.

11 Dec 2006

US Army Running Out of Money

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The leftwing journalism side of the Wall Street Journal has a sob story today about the poor Army running out of money under the strain of expenses of combat operations in Iraq.

Would you just look at these examples?

It may seem hard to believe that a country which allocated $168 billion to the Army this year — more than twice the 2000 budget — can’t cover the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the two pillars of the Army, personnel and equipment — both built to wage high-tech, firepower-intensive wars — are under enormous stress:

The cost of basic equipment that soldiers carry into battle — helmets, rifles, body armor — has more than tripled to $25,000 from $7,000 in 1999.

The cost of a Humvee, with all the added armor, guns, electronic jammers and satellite-navigational systems, has grown seven-fold to about $225,000 a vehicle from $32,000 in 2001.

Those M4 carbines cost $1382 a piece! And before adding another $8800 worth of sights! Let’s drop those ugly suckers, and buy some nice new Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifles in the stainless steel synthetic stock configuration. We can get them retail for $600 a pop, and I bet if we buy a few hundred thousand we can probably get some kind of discount. These rifles shoot the same identical cartridge, and even come with useable sights.

True, they won’t each and every one have nearly nine thousand dollars worth of high-tech infrared shoot-them-in-the-dark sighting equipment, but we could probably get by well enough just purchasing that level of technology for a small number of snipers. Nobody had any of that kind of equipment in WWII and we still won.

If Ruger is not able to supply every Ranch Rifle we need tomorrow, we can just temporarily rough it with the same AK-47s we must have captured by the box car load from the Iraq Army, and which you can pick up cheap in any souk or bazaar in the Middle East. AK-47s are notoriously rugged and reliable.

$225,000 Humvees? It seems impossible to suppose that a large portion of the US Army could get by for basic vehicular transportation on lesser SUVs. How about some nice Ford Expeditions @$27,042 – $38,702. We can pull out all the stops, but the Eddie Bauer model with Convenience Package and power lift gate, add a terrific stereo and soup up the air conditioning, and still come out way ahead.

Looking at that picture of the contemporary soldier, tricked out with every high tech gee gaw anybody can think of. The thought inevitably comes to mind that we are not fighting technically advanced adversaries from Outer Space, or the German Army. We don’t have to achieve the absolute state of the art to be technically far ahead of our Islamic enemies. This conflict features us against people from the Middle Ages with guns. Kalashnikovs, RPGs, IEDs hooked up to washing machine timers are as high-tech as they get.

When you think about what the US Army is spending, we could probably just take out Mafia contracts on all our jihadi and insurgent adversaries on an individual basis, and still come out ahead.

And there is another obvious, and more realistic, alternative: just take all counter-insurgency operations away the Army (with its bloated and over-luxurious TO&E), and turn them over to the Marine Corps.

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