SECNAV Mabus rejects your reality and substitutes his own.

As you undoubtedly knew would happened when you read this post yesterday, SECNAV Mabus has begun sweeping the results of the Marine Corps integrated combined arms test under the rug, with the added bonus of accusing the reports authors of bad faith.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Friday criticized a Marine Corps study that showed that female Marines in a mixed unit did not perform as well as men in several key areas. 

“They started out with a fairly largely component of the men thinking this is not a good idea, and women will not be able to do this,” he said in an interview with NPR.

“When you start out with that mindset, you’re almost presupposing the outcome,” he said. 

Just down from there we find this:

Mabus argued that other studies, including one by the Center for Naval Analysis, say there are ways to mitigate gaps in performance “so you have the same combat effectiveness, the same lethality, which is crucial.” 

You probably can mitigate the gap in performance. What you cannot do is eliminate it. So you do, in actuality, have a gap. That means you don’t have the same combat effectiveness. You don’t have the same lethality.

“Part of the study said women tend not to be able to carry as heavy a load for as long, but there were women who went through the study who could,” he said.

“And part of the study said we’re afraid because women get injured more frequently that over time, women will break down more, that you’ll begin to lose your combat effectiveness over time.

“That was not shown in the study, that was an extrapolation based on injury rates,” he said. 

No kidding. Here’s something you may not realize. Sports type injuries are incredibly common in the combat arms. Torn ACL, rotator cuff injuries, sprains, strains, torn muscles. And the longer a unit is deployed, the more common these injuries become, as the physical conditioning of troops is effected by poor diet, lack of sleep, lack of regular physical fitness training, and simply the accumulation of wear and tear by operating at an incredibly punishing level of physicality.

Now, even outside the strains of combat, just in training, even in non-combat units, women have a much greater rate of sports type injuries than men. It is entirely reasonable to extrapolate that experience already acknowledged across the force, if not much talked about, and compare that with the increased injury rate seen in the integrated test force, and reach the conclusion that injury rates will be worse.

And here’s the thing about these injuries. They take a troop out of the fight just as surely as if they were wounded. They have to be evacuated. They have to be treated. They have to be given physical therapy and convalescence. And that means the unit, always short on manpower, is down further, for the length of that convalescence, if indeed the injured troop will ever be fit for duty again. Very quickly, a unit might find itself with so many injured that it simply cannot accomplish its missions.

And let us not overlook the fact that many of these injuries will form the basis of claims for service connected disability from the Veterans Administration after the troop has left the service. Knowing that women will suffer higher rates of injury, it stands to reason that it will also impose a higher cost in disability for the entire life of the injured. Why, when the VA is already struggling, would we knowingly increase the burden on the already shaky foundations of veterans healthcare?

I’ve seen countless blatherings about how adding women to combat arms is the only fair thing to do. What I’ve never seen once yet is an explanation showing that integrating the combat arms will increase their performance.

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Have some Close Quarters Battle

Those aren’t blanks. They’re using Simunition.

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Udari Range CALFEX 2012

Elements of 1/15IN, part of the 3rd ID were deployed to Kuwait in 2012. In addition to showing the flag, they took advantage of the large Udari range complex to hold a Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFEX) simulating a breaching operation. Breaching operations always make good CALFEX’s both because they’re a high payoff mission, which are very complex and very hard to train to do well, and because they naturally involve almost all the assets organically available to the ground forces.


Filed under 120mm, ARMY TRAINING

Breach Drill- Old School Style.

SGT Metra talks about returning to core competencies.

The Bangalore Torpedo is simply a tube  filled with high explosives. Its prime use it in breaching wire obstacles. It is over a century old, but still quite effective.

You’ll see the soldier throw a grappling hook onto the wire obstacle. That’s to allow him to yank the line to ensure there aren’t any booby traps (or more technically, anti-tamper devices). The the various sections of Bangalore torpedo are linked and slid under the wire. And then, pull the time fuze, and boom. Part of the delay at the obstacle is for an important safety reason. BTs are only single fuzed, with one well for a blasting cap. But safety demands that they be dual fuzed. A couple decades ago, at Fort Carson, if memory serves, a Bangalore torpedo misfired. The engineer squad waited the appropriate amount of time, and then went forward to diagnose the misfire. And sure enough, it exploded while they were working on it, killing and injuring several soldiers. And so today, in training at least, BTs are dual fuzed- the actual fuze well, generally by a time fuze blasting cap, and a secondary, safety fuzing, by wrapping det cord at the base of a torpedo, and initiating the det cord via an electrical blasting cap. That’s what you see the squad rolling out from the reel.

While competency in the basics of weapons like the BT are important, it should be noted that in general use, the BT has been superseded by the MCLIC and APOBS, which perform the same function, with less exposure to the Engineer soldiers.

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Filed under ARMY TRAINING, Splodey

More on Exercise Swift Response 15.

Our man on the scene sent some pics and words.

The US Army is conducting the largest multinational airborne exercise in recent history, Exercise Swift Response 15, in which a multinational Task Force formed and led by the First  (Devil) Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division is conducting a Joint Forcible Entry (JFE) into the notional country of Atropia at the Hohenfels Training Area’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center.  The Task Force includes airborne infantry battalions from the United States (Task Force Geronimo), Italy (Task Force Folgare) and Germany (Task Force Cerberus) and attached platoons and companies from Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, and Poland.  The jump today by portions of TF Devil was preceded by elements of Task Force Bayonet, from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the remainder of TF Devil jumping into Romania and Bulgaria.  Elements of Task Force Ranger have used the previous nights to destroy simulated air defense threats to open a corridor to allow the JFE to occur within a permissive environment.  For the next several days, TF Devil will fight Violent Atropian Separatists (disloyal members of the armed forces of the friendly nation of Atropia) as well as elements of the Shahid Brigade, which is a transnational terrorist organization.  In the course of their mission, they will be also be tasked to conduct two Noncombat Evacuation Operations (NEO) in conjunction with the state department.


Pretty complex. The Army sees a future war where they’re simultaneously fighting organized military elements, and insurgent terrorist organizations. They have to both conduct maneuver warfare, and provide stability in wide areas. To say  that it requires a good deal of mental agility to be able to conduct both is and understatement. To do both simultaneously is a great challenge.

Let’s add to that the fact that airborne operations bear inherent risk. Of about 900 troops dropped yesterday, thirty-seven were injured. Most injuries were of a very minor nature, with the troops expected to return to duty within a day or two. Interestingly, about 2/3 of the injuries were to our allied airborne partners. Why the smaller allied units had more injuries, we don’t know.

What we do know is, that’s very much in line with the historical norm for injuries in airborne operations. Kind of makes me glad I was a leg.




About Armed Civilians at Recruiting Centers

In the wake of the Chattanooga shooting, we’re seeing several places where well meaning civilians have taken upon themselves the duty of standing guard over recruiting stations.

While we admire the intent, the fact is, it will have some unintended consequences. US Army Recruiting Command has issued guidance to the field regarding this.  Via TAH.

Subject: USAREC Policy – Armed citizens at recruiting centers ATO’s,

Situation: The USAREC COC has received reports from two Brigade ATOs, social media and TV coverage that law abiding armed citizens are standing outside of our recruiting centers in an attempt to safeguard our recruiters.


1) Recruiters will not acknowledge the presence or interact with these civilians. If questioned by these alleged concerned citizens; be polite, professional, and terminate the conversation immediately and report the incident to local law enforcement and complete USAREC Form 958 IAW USAREC 190-4 (SIR)

2) Do not automatically assume these concerned citizens are there to help.
Immediately report IAW USAREC 190-4 (Suspicious Behavior)

3) Immediately report any civilians loitering near the Station/Center to local police if the recruiter feels threatened. Ensure your recruiters’ clearly articulate to local police the civilian may be armed and in possession of a conceal/carry permit. Ensure recruiters include any information provided by local police in their SIR reporting the incident.

4) Ensure all station commanders implement FPCON Charlie 6 (Lock and secure entry points) addressed in previous email.

5) I’m sure the citizens mean well, but we cannot assume this in every case and we do not want to advocate this behavior.

*** The timely and accurate submission of 958s (SIR) is imperative to track these incidents and elicit support from TRADOC, ARNORTH and NORTHCOM.

As with Jonn, I agree that this is a mostly reasonable policy. The Army cannot endorse the actions of the citizens. Nor can they simply assume they mean well. Furthermore, should some untoward action occur, say, these citizens mistakenly take another American for a threat and engage them unlawfully, it is imperative that it be known that the Army had nothing to do with it.

Unfortunately, FPCON Charlie 6 (Force Protection Condition) basically shuts down the recruiting station. And therein lies a problem, as the sine qua non of recruiting is engaging with the public.

While informing local law enforcement, and filing SIRs makes sense, it also increases the odds of an unhappy encounter between these citizens and LEOs.

I think as a first step, USAREC might have directed station commanders to share this guidance with those citizens who are attempting to both provide a service and made a statement. One presumes that senior NCOs have enough judgment to discern the likelihood that a party of armed citizens outside have no ill intent, and sharing this guidance would cause them to reconsider if their actions were truly in the recruiter’s best interests. And if they choose to continue their vigil, well, provided they are within the bounds of the law, that is their right.


Filed under ARMY TRAINING, recruiting

The Army and Amphibious Warfare- Repost

Here’s a repost of one of the earlier works on the blog, but that might seem fresh to newer readers.

When you mention the words “amphibious warfare” most people think immediately of the US Marines, and rightly so. But during WWII, the Army invested huge resources into the ability to land on a hostile shore and conduct operations.

There are two general types of amphibious operations: ship-to-shore and shore-to-shore. Ship to shore operations are those in which the landing force is transported to the objective in large, ocean going vessels, then landed via small craft onto the shore. Shore to shore operations take place over relatively short distances, and generally the troops are carried in smaller craft, rather than large transports. Obviously, the anticipated objectives will dictate which approach is taken.

In the late 1930s, with war clouds clearly on the horizon, both the Army and the Marines came to the conclusion that they would need to develop a serious amphibious capability, but they reached different conclusions because of very different assumptions about what type  of war they would be fighting.

For 20 years, the Navy had forseen war with Japan in the Pacific. And the cornerstone of the Navy’s strategy to defeat Japan was to defeat the Japanese fleet in a battle, likely somewhere near the Philipines. Since it would be impractical for the fleet to steam all the way from San Diego or Pearl Harbor and fight in those waters, the need for advanced bases was clear. And the Marines understood that as a consequence of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, any islands that could serve as an advance base would almost certainly be held by the Japanese. That meant the Marines had to be ready to travel the huge distances of the Pacific, land on remote islands, and seize relatively small objectives. For the Marines, this was a raison de etre.

The Army faced a different challenge. The Army had no desire to get into the amphibious warfare business. But watching the rise of Nazi German power, the Army leadership was convinced that sooner or later, they’d have to go fight in Western Europe again. And, unlike 1918, they weren’t at all sure the French ports would be available to land the huge armies planned. After the fall of France in June of 1940, the cold realization came that just to get  the Army to the fight would mean sooner or later, landing somewhere in Western Europe, under the guns of the enemy. And not only would the Army have to land there, they would have to build up their forces and simultaneously supply them over the beaches until a suitable port could be seized. Fortunately for the Army, England was still available as an advance base.

The Army didn’t completely ignore the ship to shore model of amphibious warfare, mostly because they couldn’t. When it became apparent that no cross-Channel operation to invade Europe would be possible in 1942 (mostly because of a lack of landing craft) President Roosevelt made the decision that a front in the Atlantic theater would be opened in North Africa. A combined British and American force would be landed in the French occupied territories of North Africa, then drive east to engage the German forces in  Tunisia. Due to the distances involved, this could only be a ship to shore movement. Many forces sailed from England, but a significant portion sailed all the way from ports on the East Coast of the US. Even against only fitful French and German resistance, the invasion fleet lost five large transports. One of the lessons the Army learned was that transports waiting to discharge their troops and cargoes were extremely vulnerable. In response, the Army wanted to make sure as many ships as possible had the ability to beach themselves to unload, minimizing the reliance on small craft such as the Higgins boat, LCVP, and the LCM.

LCM(3) (Landing Craft Mechanized Model 3)

LCM(3) (Landing Craft Mechanized Model 3)

Higgins Boat (Landing Craft Personnel Light)

Higgins Boat (Landing Craft Personnel Light)

LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel)

LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel)

These craft were carried near the objective by transports, and lowered over the side by booms or davits. That took time, time during which the transports, only 5-10 miles offshore, were vulnerable to submarines, airplanes and even coastal artillery.  While they were fairly good for getting the first units of lightly armed troops ashore, they were less efficient at getting ashore the huge numbers of follow-on troops needed, and importantly, the massive numbers of vehicles the troops would need to break out from any beachhead. Further, they just weren’t capable of bringing ashore the cargoes of supplies, fuel and ammunition the troops would need.  Something bigger was needed. And the first of these bigger craft was known as the LCT, or Landing Craft Tank. An LCM3 could carry one tank, barely. An LCT was a much bigger craft and could carry from 3 to 5 tanks. Five was an optimum number, as that was the number of tanks in a platoon, and keeping tactical units together on a landing greatly assisted in the assualt. As you can see from the picture, the LCT was essentially a self-propelled barge with a bow-ramp.

2lctmk5pageThe LCT could easily sail from England to France, or from Mediterranean ports in North Africa to Sicily and Italy. And while it could carry real numbers of tanks, something even better was in the works- the Landing Ship Tank, or LST. Early in the war, espcially as the Allies were first gearing up  for the invasion of North Africa, the Army (and especially the British) realized they had no way of shipping tanks overseas and landing them across beaches in any numbers. The LCT couldn’t handle the voyage, and loading LCMs over the side of a transport was problematic in anything but a flat calm. Worse, tanks kept getting heavier and heavier, faster than the booms on transport ships could grow to handle them. The idea arose of converting vessels originally built to carry rail cars from Florida to Panama as tank carriers. But while they could drive the tanks on at the embarkation point, the problem of discharging them remained. To unload them, the Army would need to seize a port. Indeed, this limitation was precisley why Casablanca was a target of the invasion. Enter the British. They had built a series of very shallow draft tankers to serve the waters around Venezuala. The reasoned that the design could quickly be adapted to build a large vessel that could safely beach itself, unload tanks held in what had formerly been the holds via a ramp in the bow, and then retract itself from the beach. Unlike an LCT, the LST might be ungainly and slow, but it was a real seagoing vessel.

LST (Landing Ship Tank)

LST (Landing Ship Tank)

While the LST was very valuable in bringing tanks, up to 20 at a time, it turns out the real value was in trucks. The Army in WWII was by far the most mechanized and motorized army in the world. And that meant trucks. Lots of trucks- to move people, supplies, tow guns, you name it. And the LST could carry a lot of trucks, already loaded, both on its tank deck, and on the topsides. And unlike the hassle of unloading a regular transport, all they had to do was drive down a ramp. After making an initial assault, as soon as an LST had discharged its tanks, it would turn around, go back to England (or where ever) and load up on trucks to build up the forces on the beachhead. To say the LST was a success would be a bit of an understatement. The US built roughly 1100 of them during the war for our Navy and the British.

While the LST was great for carrying tanks and trucks, it didn’t do so well at carrying people. One thing the Army really wanted was a small ship that could carry a rifle company from England and land them on the shores of France, non-stop and as a unit. The trick was getting the size just right. It had to be small enough to be built in large numbers, but big enough to cross the Atlantic on its own. It wouldn’t be expected to carry troops across the Atlantic. Those would come across on troopships. But any vessel large enough to do the job would be too large to carry aboard a transport. Pretty soon, the Navy designed and built the Landing Craft Infantry, or LCI. This was a vessel designed almost entirely with the invasion of Normandy in mind. It carried about 200 troops, roughly a reinforced rifle company, for up to 48 hours, which is about the time it took to load and transport them from ports in the Southwest of England and discharge them over the beaches of Normandy.

LCI (Landing Craft Infantry)

LCI (Landing Craft Infantry)

The Army had one other great tool for bringing supplies across the beach. In the days before the LST was available, the only method of getting trucks ashore across the beach was to winch them over the side of  a transport into an LCM. Someone at GM had the bright idea of doing away with the LCM part, and making the truck amphibious. That way, the truck could swim ashore, then drive inland to the supply dumps.  The result was basically a boat hull grafted onto a 2-1/2 ton truck, known as the DUKW, and commonly called a “duck.” Thousands of DUKWs, almost all manned by African American soldiers, brought wave after wave of critical supplies ashore across the beaches of Normandy and at other beaches the Army invaded. Unlike most landing craft, these were bought by, and operated by the Army, not the Navy.

DUKW Amphibious 2-1/2 ton truck

DUKW Amphibious 2-1/2 ton truck

Finally, in the Pacific, when you speak of amphibious warfare, again, you rightly think of the Marines. But in fact, the Army had a huge presence there as well. Indeed, it was always a larger prescence than the Marines. The Army made over 100 amphibious assualts in the Pacific theater, many in the Southwest Pacific in and around New Guinea. In conjunction with the US Seventh Fleet, MacArthur’s forces in the Southwest Pacific became masters at the art of amphibious warfare, striking where the Japanese least expected them, and routinely conducting sweeping flanking movements that left Japanese garrisons cut off and useless. Dan Barbey, the Commander of 7th Fleet became known as “Uncle Dan The Amphibious Man.” All this with a fleet mostly composed of tiny LCTs, a few LSTs and LCIs.

The Army also fought alongside the Marine Corps in some of their most storied battles, such as the invasions of Saipan and Okinawa. Indeed, if the atomic bomb attacks had not lead to the early surrender of Japan, the invasion of the home islands would have been mostly  an Army affair. Largely as a result of the Army’s preocupation with the European theater, these magnificent efforts have received little attention from the public at large.

After WWII, the Army’s focus again turned to Europe and the Cold War. For several reasons, including the vulnerability of shipping to nuclear weapons, amphibious operations fell out of favor with the Army. The Marines of course, continued to maintain that unique capabilty. Currently, the Army has no capability to conduct a landing against opposition. Current doctrine does still provide for limited ability to sustain forces by what is known as LOTS or “Logistics Over The Shore” and for the rapid deployment of troop units to hot spots via Afloat Prepositioning Squadrons. Basically, sets of unit equipment are mainained aboard large ships just days sailing from their possible objectives. If needed, they can sail to a friendly port or harbor, and unload their cargoes to meet up with troops flown in by either commercial aircraft or military transport planes. Alternatively, they can serve as a follow-on force to reinforce a beach seized by Marine amphibious assault.


Filed under armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, ducks, guns, infantry, navy