War News Updates: Why Did The U.S. Army Spy On Medal of Honor Recipient Will Swenson?

WNU Editor: This blog has been following Will Swenson’s career since news of his involvement in the Battle of Gangal became known (23 posts and counting). This blog has also been a fierce critic on how the US Army and the Pentagon have treated him

via War News Updates: Why Did The U.S. Army Spy On Medal of Honor Recipient Will Swenson?.

I know I just said I wasn’t going to write about this, and really, I can’t without seeing red.

CPT Swenson only received his (entirely justified) Medal of Honor through the efforts of the Marines, not the Army.

This incident with CPT Swenson’s neighbors being badgered by Army CID agents as to his whereabouts (prior to his return to active duty) is because there was the outside possibility, based on a review on Amazon that CPT Swenson might have been a witness to an alleged war crime involving MAJ Golsteyn, who’s utterly shabby treatment has also been a topic here on the blog. And it’s not like Matt Gallagher wasn’t somewhat badly treated.

In the end, MAJ Golsteyn was never charged with any crime, but the Army seems bound and determined to hound him out of the service.

If there is good cause for that, by all means, do so. But do so in a thoroughly transparent manner.  Spell out his transgressions, and why they merit the treatment he and CPT Swenson have faced.

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Effort to get Chris Kyle the Medal of Honor under fire by veterans – The Washington Post

A Texas congressman introduced legislation on Thursday to get “American Sniper” Chris Kyle the Medal of Honor posthumously for service in Iraq. As Checkpoint already explored, it’s highly unlikely it will happen. But the effort is also under fire from some who have served and see it as a political posturing.

The military blog This Ain’t Hell weighed in on the subject Friday. Army veteran Jonn Lilyea wrote that while he defends Kyle’s legacy in combat, the Navy SEAL has never been considered by the Navy for the nation’s top award recognizing combat valor. Williams introduced the legislation two days after Marine veteran Eddie Ray Routh was convicted of murdering Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, on Feb. 2, 2013 at a gun range in Texas.

via Effort to get Chris Kyle the Medal of Honor under fire by veterans – The Washington Post.

I concur with Jonn.

Rep. Williams is at best sincere but misguided, at worst, cynically exploiting the Medal of Honor, and Kyle, for political purposes.

And as Jonn notes, should Kyle be deserving of further accolades, the Navy has other options, such as a lesser award like the Legion of Merit, or perhaps even naming a future ship for him.

The Medal of Honor award process is already far too politicized (I can’t even begin to write on the news on CPT Swenson this week).

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The Battle Against Booze

Carl Forsling has a piece in Task & Purpose lamenting the unrelenting war on booze in the services.

Every so often after work, I stop by the officers’ club at my base to see what’s going on. Without fail, unless I go to meet up with specific people or there’s a special event, the place is deader than Elvis. I’ll wave at the bartender and awkwardly look around as if I’m looking for someone, then make a quick about face.

With few exceptions, this is the way most military clubs are. They do a decent lunch business. Some enlisted clubs bring in decent numbers with pool and sports television, but none are eagerly anticipated social venues at the end of a long week. On some bases, there’s so little business that all the clubs have been combined to make what must be the most awkward social scenario possible.

So what? There are a million other places to buy beer. Why should the military club be sacred?

Josephus Daniels banned booze on US Navy ships in 1916. With a few very rare exceptions that holds true today. And General Order Number One for US troops deployed to Afghanistan, and before that, in Iraq, prohibited the possession and consumption of alcohol. And for the most part, I’m fairly OK with that.

Of course, contrast that the the US  ration in World War II, which, while honored more in the breach than actually being adhered to, called for two bottles of 3.2 beer per man per day, at least when not in combat.

By the time I joined in the mid 1980s, the services were already cracking down on DUIs and problem drinkers in the ranks. Any time you have a population of young people, especially young men, you’ll have a percentage that are simply bound to become alcoholics.

My first duty station was Hawaii. The drinking age when I arrived was 18. I was 19. But Hawaii raised its drinking age to 21, with no grandfather clause. There were a handful of establishments downtown that pretty much ignored the law and served under 21. And at then Wheeler AFB next door to my base, the NCO club was open to E-4 and above, and the base commander had established 18 as the drinking age.* Not surprisingly, my compatriots and I went to Wheeler fairly often. And while technically the drinking age on my post was 21, our chain of command never raised an eyebrow at troops actually in the barracks drinking underage, so long as they weren’t disruptive or otherwise disciplinary problems, or showing up for duty drunk. Think of it as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell for alcohol.

When I was in Germany, of course, the drinking age was 16 or so. At any rate, if you were old enough to be in the Army, you were old enough to drink, legally. There were annoying restrictions on the amount of alcohol you could have in the barracks. One greatly annoying restriction was that most commanders prohibited the possession of hard alcohol in the barracks. Which, I prefer whiskey to beer, and always have. And right there on my ration card was an allowance for up to five bottles of hootch per month!

And when we went to Grafenwoerhr for  gunnery, most nights, we’d return to our cantonment huts in time for dinner. After dinner, the mess hall would sell good German beer, up to two bottles per man, with proceeds going to the unit Morale, Welfare and Recreation fund.

That’s to say nothing of the once vibrant Officer’s Open Mess (O’Club) at NAS Whidbey where I grew up. To say the junior officers there might have had a bit of fun on the bar would be an understatement.

But today, the Carrie Nation neo-prohibitionists have won. The mere thought of allowing, much less providing, alcohol at a command sponsored event makes some commanders tremble in fear. If your unit has a unfortunate string of alcohol related incidents, your chances of promotion and future command are in doubt. As Forsling notes:

…a few guys crapped their pants and now the whole military wears diapers.

To flash back to my first unit, in Hawaii, every Friday afternoon, after the close of business, and having been released for the day, my First Sergeant would sit on the back lanai with a case of beer on ice in a cooler. We were welcome to walk up, grab a can, and shoot the breeze, listening like eager pups to the old dog tell tales of Vietnam. Doctrine Man has a great post on mentoring over a cup of coffee. This was mentoring over a beer. More than just war stories were told. The love of the service, tales of good leadership and bad, hints for life and other wisdom was shared in an environment that, while military courtesy was still strictly observed, was far more relaxed than during the duty day. I probably learned more on the back lanai over a can of Budweiser than I ever did from any NCO Professional Development breakout session

 

*State drinking age laws technically don’t apply on federal installations. Instead, post commanders issue a punitive policy. Almost universally that policy limits the drinking age to that of the locality where the post is located, but I have seen exceptions.

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He’s Dead, Jim. Leonard Nimoy, 83

leonard-nimoy-arena-4

Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played the iconic Star Trek character Spock, has died at age 83.  His was a remarkable life and career.  He appeared in countless television and movie roles, including in Combat, The Twilight Zone, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and even Get Smart.  He narrated In Search Of, which was a great program.  He also had a sense of humor about himself, voicing his animated self on The Simpsons a couple of times.  Nimoy was also a Veteran, serving as a Sergeant in the US Army in the late 1950s.

He lived long, and he prospered.  RIP Spock.

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RAAF and Boeing Successfully Test Extended Range JDAM ER | Defense Media Network

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Boeing have successfully conducted a series of tests on a new wing kit for the 500-pound JDAM, according to a Boeing release.

The new wing kit, used with the weapon’s existing guidance kit, increases the 15-mile range of the freefall Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) to more than 45 miles in the Joint Direct Attack Munition Extended Range (JDAM ER), according to the release.

via RAAF and Boeing Successfully Test Extended Range JDAM ER | Defense Media Network.

This makes sense. One suspects they borrowed and updated some of the code from the JSOW glider weapon.

The increasing sophistication of ground based air defense will call for more and more standoff capability from precision guided weapons, particularly weapons for Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) and Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (DEAD).

No one weapon is a silver bullet in the SEAD/DEAD arena. A combination of intelligence (finding where the enemy assets are), electronic warfare, standoff weapons, and deception will be required.

At the top end of the scale, Russian built and exported S-300 and S-400 SAMs will be tough nuts to crack. But even short of those very long range systems, other air defense assets will call more and more for standoff, deception and saturation attacks (which in turn call for low cost weapons) to degrade and destroy.

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F-35B Updates.

The internal weapons bay of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter cannot fit the required Small Diameter Bomb II weapons load, and a hydraulic line and structural bracket must be redesigned and modified ahead of the planned Block 4 release in fiscal year 2022, the joint program office confirmed this week.

The Air Force and Raytheon plan to begin scaling up production of the 250-pound class, precision-attack munition, except the current F-35B internal weapons bay cannot fit four of the eight required SDB IIs in its current configuration.

The Marine Corps is purchasing 353 of the F-35B jump jets and 34 had been delivered as of Feb. 2, according to a fact sheet from prime contractor Lockheed Martin. JSF partners Italy and the United Kingdom are also procuring F-35Bs and three of those international orders have been satisfied.

via InsideDefense.com | Exclusive national security news from inside the Pentagon.

Here’s what I found interesting in the piece. The Marines have already received 10% of their planned F-35B fleet, and still haven’t reached IOC.

I get that the plane is a technologically very challenging project, and that it has the most extensive testing program in aviation history, but to have such a significant percentage of the planned by already delivered, and still not even have the bare bones baseline Block released is a tad disheartening.

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Navy to Build CVN-79 in 2 Phases; Ditching Plans for Early AFSB-3 Procurement – USNI News

In their first budget hearing of the year with the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), Navy officials described their Fiscal Year 2016 plans that include speeding up construction of the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) without changing its delivery date, hurrying to start the USS George Washington (CVN-73) Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) planning to avoid problems down the road, and abandoning hopes of procuring a third Afloat Forward Staging Base early.

Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley told the HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee that current budget plans speed up Kennedy construction at Newport News Shipbuilding but would then include a gap in work before installing electronics just prior to the ship’s delivery date – which would remain unchanged.

via Navy to Build CVN-79 in 2 Phases; Ditching Plans for Early AFSB-3 Procurement – USNI News.

Some interesting news on shipbuilding. Nothing earthshaking. Just interesting.

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