Category Archives: army

CPT William Swenson to be presented Medal of Honor

This is for his actions in the same engagement where SGT Dakota Meyers earned his.

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 16, 2013
President Obama to Award Medal of Honor
On October 15, 2013, President Barack Obama will award William Swenson, a former active duty Army Captain, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Captain Swenson will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as an Embedded Trainer and Mentor of the Afghan National Security Forces with Afghan Border Police Mentor Team, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, during combat operations in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on September 8, 2009.
Captain Swenson will be the sixth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.
PERSONAL BACKGROUND:
Captain William D. Swenson separated from the Army on February 1, 2011 and currently resides in Seattle, Washington. He is single.
Captain Swenson was commissioned as an Army Officer upon completing Officer Candidate School on September 6, 2002. His military training and education includes: Infantry Maneuver Captains Career Course, Ranger Course, Infantry Officer Basic, Infantry Mountain Leader Advanced Marksmanship Course, Airborne, Officer Candidate School.
At the time of the September 8, 2009 combat engagement, Captain Swenson was an Embedded Trainer and Mentor of Afghan National Security Forces. His actions were performed as part of 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Division.
His military decorations include: Bronze Star Medal with Two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with One Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal with Two Campaign Stars, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge

I stole this from John Donovan’s facebook feed. Thanks, John. John also mentions his suspicion that, for whatever reason, the Bush era DoD had a strong reluctance to consider any award of the MoH to surviving troops, whereas the Obama administration has not shown such reluctance.

Interestingly, this is the second small unit engagement that has seen the award of the MoH to two participants. Both here and the battle of COP Keating were desperate fights, and both came in for widespread criticism for the way Big Army handled the fight. I have a suspicion that the scrutiny of the fights has lead to greater documentation of the actions, which in turn raised the visibility of the participants, and led to greater supporting documentation for the awards process. Of course, in CPT Swenson’s case, the awards package was “lost” leading to a delay in the decision to make the award. That’s absolutely shameful.

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Just because you’ve been discharged doesn’t mean you don’t still have a duty.

We’ve borrowed this most excellent letter from An Enlightened Soldier.

GEN “Skinny” Wainwright had the unenviable duty of surrendering US (and Philippine) forces in the Philippines to the Japanese in World War II. He endured the rest of the war in captivity. His sense of duty led him to believe he deserved court martial for failure to accomplish his mission and save his command. Instead, when the Japanese delegation boarded the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945 to sign the articles of capitulation, GEN Wainwright stood by General of the Army MacArthur in a place of honor.

His command to his soldiers then is every bit as valid today.

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Regional Reaction Forces- Marine Mission, or does the Army want to play?

Army Times has a piece where Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs, ADM Sandy Winnefeld, says the Army should establish similar rapid regional response units like the one the Marine Corps recently stood up in Spain. The Marine unit, a reinforced rifle company with supporting aviation, was deployed as a response to the public outcry over an ability to respond to the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi a year ago.

The Army should consider establishing forward-deployed crisis-response units similar to the Marine Corps’ instead of ceding that mission entirely, a top military official said.

Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the crisis-response mission has taken on greater urgency in light of recent world events.

“I would say that I’d like to see the Army place more emphasis on the growth industry of the national security interest of protecting American citizens abroad; don’t yield that entirely to the Marine Corps,” he said.

The comments are unlikely to be popular in the Corps, which has claimed crisis response as its own mission. Commandant Gen. Jim Amos frequently refers to the service as the United States’ premier 9-1-1 force, and he has expressed significant interest in the Corps expanding its crisis-response capabilities in the last year.

 

Should the Army establish a similar team in support of our facilities in the Middle East or South America?

I am dubious, at best. For the Marines, deploying a reinforced rifle company with attached aviation assets is part and parcel of their business. While typically the Marines don’t deploy units smaller than a reinforced infantry battalion with aviation and logistics units as a Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU, while the MEU is deployed, slicing off a rifle company for a fair period of time isn’t unusual. To be sure, adding this mission to the Marine’s plate is a burden. But it is also very much a historical part of their skill set. And the Marines typically already deploy and afloat MEU to the Middle East on a continuing basis.

For the Army, such a mission is outside its typical deployment package. Outside the Special Forces community, typically the smallest element independently deployed would be the Brigade Combat Team.  Battalion and company sized elements may deploy overseas for training evolutions, but the logistics and communications for an operational deployment of an Army unit that size would call for tailoring a special task force.

Make no mistake, the Army would not be given extra funding, or establish special new companies to perform this mission. Instead, a rotation of various companies from existing BCTs would be tasked to perform the mission in rotation. So the tasked BCT would lose an integral part of its end strength not only for the length of time of the deployment, but also the time needed to train the unit for its specialized mission, and time to reintegrate it with the BCT’s training upon its return. And it wouldn’t just be a BCT impacted. A slice from a supporting Combat Aviation Brigade would also need to participate. And not just that, but if the notional rapid response force is to have a reach of more than about 200 miles, it would require air transport and support from the Air Force. Worse, Army helicopters are incapable of in-flight refueling (unlike Marine MV-22 and CH-53E helicopters).

The Marines have long had the mission of protecting US embassies and consulates. This is a mission very much in their wheelhouse. Let’s let the Army concentrate on training and executing those mission best suited for its strengths.

True story. I had a roommate in the barracks in Germany who was prior enlisted Marine. He enlisted in the Marines, wanting nothing more than to be a grunt, and deploy on a “float” to the Far East, and follow in his father’s footsteps. So what did the Marine Corps, in its infinite wisdom do? It made him an Embassy Marine, and sent him to the US Embassy in Bonn, Germany. Steve loathed Germany. He couldn’t think of a single good thing about being stationed in Germany. So when his enlistment was up, he quit the Marines, and enlisted in the Army, hoping to be stationed in Korea. The Army had about 50,000 people then in Korea, and 200,000 in Germany. So Steve found himself stationed back in Germany, only this time, at least, he was in a real Infantry unit. I know he stayed in the Army after his first enlistment. I just don’t know if he ever made it to the Far East.

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Kindly Uncle

Your humble host is playing kindly uncle to his niece’s children. They’re pretty good kids. But I’m very, very new to being left in charge of children.* They’re doing a good job training me. Who knew snacks and junk food were not just part of a healthy diet, but the cornerstone thereof?

The kids are being very, very quiet right now, which I take to mean they’re being very well behaved. Which means I have time to post a couple links.

I was going to write on this subject yesterday, but the Bangor Daily News website and I don’t get along. So I tossed it to Craig for his blog, and since he did all the work of writing, I’ll just crib back from him. To wit- it appears the original Medal of Honor presented to Joshua Chamberlain has been discovered, and is now being exhibited in Chamberlain’s hometown of Brunswick, ME.

Joshua Chamberlain’s original 1893 Medal of Honor found at church sale, donated to Brunswick history group

Brunswick, Maine — One of the most prestigious medals earned by one of Maine’s most decorated sons was discovered at a church sale and turned over to a Brunswick-based organization for safe keeping, the group announced Monday.

The U.S. Army Medal of Honor was awarded to Civil War hero Joshua Chamberlain — who would go on to become president of Bowdoin College and governor of Maine — in 1893 for “distinguished gallantry” in the Battle of Gettysburg 30 years earlier.

The artifact was given to the Pejepscot Historical Society, which owns the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum in Brunswick, by a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, the organization announced Monday afternoon. The individual who came to own the medal found it in the back of a book he had purchased “several years ago” at a sale held by First Parish Church in Duxbury, Mass., according to the society.

Read the whole thing, of course. And while you’re over there, take a moment to peruse Craig’s excellent historical overview of various campaigns of the Civil War.

An aside about the Medal of Honor during the Civil War. At the time, the MoH was the only award for valor. And the conditions under which it was awarded were not quite as defined as today. As a result, one might see awards for actions that today wouldn’t merit such an award. But surely Chamberlain’s award is one that even today the professional warrior, the citizen soldier (of which Chamberlain may be the most worthy example) and the armchair general can all agree was righteously given.

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BusBob over at the Lexicans has another of his very entertaining sea stories.

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It looks like budget cuts have the Army trimming its Combatives program. Combatives, as they are trained today, are a new development. In my days, we had bayonet training, and hand-to-hand combat training. But both were so stylized and unrealistic, neither was really worth much. As far as the Combatives program goes, I like it. Not because very many soldiers will ever need to fight that way, but as some folks in the Army Times article note, it goes a long way to help instill a warrior ethos into the soldier. Grappling, struggling, fighting. Those are good things.

But the Army-wide competition seems to me to have almost become an “MMA-Lite” obsession with some folks. My only concern is that a lack of qualified Combatives instructors can lead to injuries in training.

On the other hand, it’s staying in the basic skill set for soldiers. And the Army has also been trying hard to trim back the number of tasks that are “everybody must know” tasks. After all, if everything is a priority, nothing is.

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*I’ve long said the Army is just like the Boy Scouts, but without adult supervision.

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Cutaway Thursday: Boeing RAH-66 Comanche

boeingrah66eb

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What Might Have Been: The Polish PZL P.50 Jaszdrab (Hawk)

pzl_p-50

Salamander’s encore FbF today was a tribute to the suicidally brave pilots of the Polish Air Force, who rose in small numbers and outmoded machines to contest the modern and lethal Luftwaffe of the Third Reich, seventy-four years ago this week.

pzl-p11

The aircraft that the Polish pursuit (fighter) pilots took to the skies in on that first September morning of 1939 were thoroughly obsolete vestiges of another era.  The PZL P.11 featured on Sal’s porch was a parasol-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear that was a derivative of a design dating back to the late ‘Twenties.  With a top speed of barely 235 mph, it was no match for the German Bf 109D and E models, which were some 120 mph faster and much more heavily armed.

Bf109E-7_Leningrad1942_JG5-800

The Poles watched the once cutting edge P.11 fade into complete obsolescence with the rapid advances in aircraft and engine technology of the mid 1930s (Bf 109, Spitfire, Hurricane, Curtiss Hawk 75), and in 1936 proposed their own all-metal low-wing monoplane fighter with retractable landing gear.  This was the PZL P.50 Jaszdrab (Hawk).   Design work included the mounting of a 870 hp Gnome-Rhone radial, giving the aircraft a designed top speed of around 270 mph.  A more powerful engine, of British design, would have increased performance considerably.  Unfortunate delays in acquiring retractable landing gear and in engine delivery (the 1,350 hp Bristol Hercules radial) slowed development to a crawl.  The first prototype flew only weeks before the German invasion, and the only other airframe never flew.

Plans were to build more than three hundred of the P.50B with the more powerful British engine to replace the outmoded P.11.  The Hercules would have given the Hawk a top speed of around 340 mph.  With a higher power/weight ratio and considerably lower wing loading (26 lb/sqft vs 40 lb/sqft) than the Bf 109E, the Hawk would likely have had excellent maneuverability, climb rate, and acceleration.  The sturdy construction of the P.11 would certainly have been carried over to the P.50.

While the P.50 Jaszdrab most probably would have still been somewhat outclassed by the German fighter, the brave Polish pilots would have been at least in a modern aircraft much more equal to their foes.   Three hundred P.50s in the hands of the brave and skilled Polish pilots, fourteen squadrons instead of ten, may have given the Luftwaffe pause.  The toll they might have taken on the cream of the German fighter strength may have given the equally brave and equally outmatched Polish ground forces some respite from the onslaught.

Perhaps, perhaps not.  But the P.50 in the hands of the Polish Air Force is one of those “what if?” scenarios one cannot help but ponder.

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Filed under Air Force, army, Around the web, guns, history, infantry, planes, Uncategorized, veterans, war

“I Have Not Made a Decision”

1377728707000-AP-Obama-022

So says President Obama in reference to US military action in Syria.    Problem is, he has.  Two of them, actually.  Whether he acknowledges so or not.  Both of them are exceedingly poor ones.  The first was Obama’s August 2012 ill-conceived bluster about use of chemical weapons being a “red line” for the United States.  Tough talk that sounded good, at least to the untrained ear.

When it seemed that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on rebel forces, in April of 2013, Obama was caught bluffing like a teenager in a grown-up poker game.   So, his second decision was to do nothing after promising “serious consequences” for such use.

Now, the rather predictably beholden news media, led by ABC News, is attempting to tell us that Obama really did not say

“…a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”

Or, if he did, that he didn’t mean to imply what his words meant.

And now, he is stuck.  The Administration has “concluded” that the chemical weapons, likely Sarin (GB), which is not a gas but a liquid nerve agent, were fired by elements of the Assad regime.  What evidence?  Not very much.  None, in fact, that would stand up to the scrutiny of 2004.

“We have concluded,” the president said, that Assad’s regime “in fact carried these out. And if that’s so, there needs to be international consequences.

“…We have looked at all the evidence and we don’t believe the opposition possessed… chemical weapons of that sort,” he continued. “We do not believe given the delivery system using rockets, that the opposition could have carried out these attacks.”

Anyone with much intelligence background would acknowledge immediately that such an assertion is utter nonsense.  Following a statement from that icon of Foreign Policy, Joe Biden, that there was “no doubt” the attacks came from the Assad regime, the President uses the phrase “we don’t believe” twice in making his assertion.

In truth, neither Biden nor Obama has any way of knowing.  The delivery system?  Such is easy enough to acquire.  In Iraq, the enemy captured or fabricated rail fairings for 122mm rockets, and for the Chinese-made 107mm variety, routinely.   The capability most certainly exists in Syria.  In fact, there are videos of anti-regime elements firing 122mm rockets from captured BM-21 launchers and improvised systems all over YouTube.   Here are two.

So much for the Administration’s assertion on that point.

As for Assad’s chemical stockpiles, my guess is that they have been divided among dozens or even hundreds of caches, with varying levels of security around them, in order to keep Western forces from being able to secure them with special operations forces.   Have the “rebels” (which include Al Qaeda in strength, and other radical Islamists) lain their hands on one or more of those stockpiles?  There is no way for the US to tell.  And it isn’t as if the Assad regime would volunteer the information, even if they knew.

The major point, however, is the question of why the Assad regime would resort to chemical attacks at this juncture.  Regime elements are no longer hard-pressed, the Assad regime is winning.  What would be the strategic purpose of facing international condemnation and risking the alienation of a very powerful ally (Putin’s Russia) to launch a chemical attack that doesn’t even accomplish a tactical objective?   Assad is not a fool.  He understands survival.

This is not to say conclusively that the Syrian government did NOT launch such an attack.  A miscalculation borne of the weakness and vacillation of the US response the first time, a thumb in the eye of America on the heels of the empty “tough talk” of Obama, may have played into the decision.  But I find that eventuality rather unlikely.  Could a junior commander have fired the chemical barrage without authorization?  Also a possibility, and perhaps more likely.  Though I find hard-pressed and increasingly desperate anti-government forces using such weapons with the hope of being saved by outside intervention just as likely.  Especially if they are egged on by an Al Qaeda presence that understands the import of the fall of Assad for the advent of yet another Radical Islamist state in a strategic region.

There are no good options, and thanks to Obama’s indiscretions regarding his “red line” comments, there now are not even neutral options, only bad ones.   Yet another head-on collision with the real world for the arrogant, naive, incompetent, bumbling, indecisive ideologues in the White House and at Foggy Bottom.

And the newly-minted US Ambassador to the UN?  Where was she when the emergency UN session on Syria was held?  On vacation in Ireland.  She did, however, “tweet” on the subject.  Perhaps she even used a frowny-face icon when discussing the chemical attacks.  Not yet a month on the job.  Gotta wonder, how many Corporals have been recalled or had leave canceled in the last two days because of this crisis?  At least Malik was absent in protest, and not in a pub in Belfast.

Our foreign policy is in shambles.   Absolute shambles.

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