Tag Archives: army

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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Filed under army, history, veterans, war

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.


Filed under army, marines


The Armorer shared this little video of Grafenwoehr Training Area, in Germany. GTA has long been the primary live fire training area for US and German units in Europe. Indeed, as the video shows, it’s been fulfilling that mission since before the First World War.

I’ve been around the track there a time or two. How about you? Any memories of GTA?



Squad Live Fire

I’d love to know where this is, because I’ve never seen a squad live fire that wasn’t uphill.



Tiered Readiness is coming.

Today, under the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) plan, Brigade Combat Teams  (BCT) go through a cycle where they are deployed or ready to deploy, recovering from a deployment or readiness term, or are training up to regain their readiness to deploy. For the most part, all BCTs in the Army have, for the last decade or so, shared equally in cycle. The large numbers of BCTs needed for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan dictated that almost every  BCT would sooner or later get its turn in the barrel.

But with Iraq over, and Afghanistan winding down, fewer and fewer BCTs are being tapped to deploy overseas. Particularly, the heavy BCTs, with tanks and Bradleys, aren’t deploying to Afghanistan.

More importantly, the Army is running out of money. It has already made the choice to shutter a large number of BCTs (though the remaining BCTs will gain an additional maneuver battalion).

But even with those cuts, the budget for manpower, training, and operations is under pretty severe stress.

So the Army, despite promising itself it wouldn’t do so, is going to take something of a strategic risk.

Cancelled training. Deferred maintenance. Grounded aircraft. That’s been the damage to military readiness from the mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration in 2013. Now the Vice-Chief of Staff of the Army says the service may have to keep many units at lower levels of readiness for years. This is not a short-term expedient but new policy.

“We’re looking at having certain number of brigades at a higher level of readiness,” Gen. John Campbell told me last week. “Many of our units will go down much lower.”

“Some people would call that tiered readiness, where we said we never were going to go again,” the Vice-Chief went on, referring to the Cold War practice where units not in West Germany or South Korea sometimes never received their full allotment of troops, equipment, and training dollars. “I’d call it progressive readiness.”

A preliminary plan may be ready for public discussion within weeks, Campbell said. “We’re working through that now,” he said, as the service builds its 2015-2019 budget plan, the Program Objective Memorandum.

Campbell’s remarks suggest new willingness on the Army leadership’s part to shift it position on readiness, one that’s been urged by many thinktanks.

“While Army leaders have avoided cutting readiness to every extent possible, it is no longer feasible under current budget plans – even before sequestration moves into year two,” argues Mackenzie Eaglen, one of the think tank experts who recommended cutting readiness levels to guarantee the military’s ability to develop and buy new weapons.

“There is already a readiness shortfall this year that is being funded through war spending and additional untold readiness gaps based on all the services receiving fewer resources than expected when Congress finally passed a defense appropriations bill for 2013,” she said.

It is hardly a perfect solution, but then, it’s also the world I knew back in my own days of service.

Some BCTs will still receive the money and manpower to stay at full readiness, known sometimes as C-1. Fully manned, and trained in all the essentials of the commanders Mission Essential Task List, and having gone through a cycle of training from individual skills to full up BCT sized operations in the field at one of the Combat Training Centers against a dedicated Opposing Force.

Other BCTs… not so much.

They’ll have less money for fuel and maintenance for their equipment. Fewer spare parts. A smaller allocation of ammunition for training. Likely, exercised at battalion and BCT level will be cancelled or curtailed. They’ll get fewer rotations at the Combat Training Centers. They’ll be last in line for receiving new equipment.

And perhaps most painfully, they’ll get fewer people.

We talked above about some units being fully manned. But the truth is, no unit is ever really fully manned. Let’s say a rifle company has an authorized strength of 100.  The Army says it will be fully manned. But you’ve got people transferring out, and waiting for new bodies to come in. Then you’ve got people on leave, at various Army schools, people who are sick or injured (they still count toward you being fully manned, but aren’t available for duty), troops who are awaiting discharge either for completing their service, or because they’re unsuitable for the Army. Then there are the demands placed from above. It is not at all unheard of for a higher echelon to levy units for manpower, either for a temporary tasking, or for extended periods. Our notional rifle company might be lucky to have 75 troops present at morning formation.

My first two duty stations, I was assigned to units that were fully manned. My third wasn’t quite as lucky. We were constantly understrength. While we always had enough people to fully crew our Bradleys, we had only enough troops left over to field a single, understrength rifle squad per platoon. We needed another 10 to 12 troops, per platoon, to be fully manned.

We had enough money and assets to train on individual skills, and small unit collective skills. But it is hard to train a platoon to fight properly when every bit of doctrine that governs employing the platoon assumes a much larger unit, with a good bit more tactical flexibility.

The Army’s reasoning is that for the foreseeable future, should these lower tier BCTs be needed for a fight, they’ll have time to plus up their manning, and their training. We can only hope they’re correct.

If not, we can always ask the survivors of Task Force Smith how things worked out for them.



Hasan receives death penalty

The military court in the murder trial of Nidal Hasan has sentenced him to death.  Given that the military has not executed anyone for about half a century, there’s no telling if or when he will actually face that ultimate sanction.

First, his conviction and sentence will be reviewed by the court martial convening authority. I’m not sure which general actually convened the court, possibly the III Corps commander (anyone know?). That commander can let the conviction and sentence stand, or he can set it aside, reduce the sentence, or resubmit it for retrial.

After the commander’s review, the case will automatically be submitted for appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Army, then to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. The next step after those two appeals courts is the Supreme Court, but that is not automatic. Whether Hasan will be permitted to act pro se before the appeals courts, I don’t know.

Finally, among the other sanctions the court has applied, Hasan has been stripped of his rank, and all pay and allowances are stopped. Finally.



Soldiers’ sore feet spur a campaign for better boots

They are shot at, bombed, and isolated in an inhospitable environment, where the weather cycles between extreme heat and cold, and the night brings the prospect of more attacks from a ghostly enemy.

Yet when the Army surveyed soldiers about improving conditions during their deployment, it discovered a seemingly unusual concern: sore feet.

“The soldier lives in his boots,” said Bob Hall, a footwear project engineer at the Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center. “If he’s having problems with his boots, he’s having problems with everything.”

More than a decade into the war in Afghanistan, Army researchers in Natick are in the final stages of a two-year process to develop a boot made specifically for soldiers to traverse the unforgiving environments of the Middle East.


Graphic: Boots for Middle East

After calling for submissions in 2011, the Army has narrowed the field to three competitors, each of which specializes in American-made military footwear: Bates Footwear of Rockford, Mich., Belleville Boot Co., in Belleville, Ill., and Danner in Portland, Ore. Each version is its own marvel of fine-detail engineering.

‘The soldier lives in his boots. If he’s having problems with his boots, he’s having problems with everything.’

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“We know who makes the best boots out there, and we tap into the best technology the industry has,” said Sergeant Major Emmett Maunakea, who served four tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and advises a team at Fort Belvoir, Va., that develops equipment for soldiers. “There’s so much science that goes into it.”

And they had better be comfortable, too.

via Soldiers’ sore feet spur a campaign for better boots – Business – The Boston Globe.

Hmm…. a leather, canvas and nylon boot that’s lightweight. Seems to me, the original jungle boot pretty much fit that bill, at a hell of a lot less expense.

When I was in the 25th Infantry division, every soldier had on hand his two DMS full leather combat boots, as issued as part of his clothing bag allowance. But in the division, each soldier was also issued two pair of jungle boots, as Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment. The difference was, the soldier was responsible for the DMS boots, but jungle boots, as organizational equipment, could be exchanged at no cost to the soldier when they wore out or otherwise became unserviceable.

When the battalion would head over to The Big Island for training, we’d spent the majority of our time in the island’s vast lava beds. Accordingly, we were directed to bring only jungle boots, as a month or so of operations in that terrain would surely ruin any pair of boots, DMS or jungle or what have you.

In the 19 months I spent in the division, I probably went through 8 pairs of jungle boots.



Deep Thoughts On Leadership and Leader Development.

No, not mine. I might have fairly deep thoughts on the subject, but lack an ability to articulate them very well.

But I did stumble across the blog of an active Army officer who does have some serious thoughts on the matter. There are very, very few good Army blogs written by active duty folks. There used to be several, but it seems blogging in the Army is dying. So let us cherish them when we find them.

I was going to post on this piece in The Army Times, but came across this brief post instead.

I’m not sure I still have all of the Army memorabilia that I’ve acquired over the years, but I’ve still kept that note.  I keep it as a reminder that a small act, something as simple as a handwritten correspondence, can let a junior leader  know that his or her service and sacrifices are appreciated.  It probably only took him 10-15 minutes to do it, but it still resonates with me almost a decade later.

To many junior leaders the microcosm of their unit (Brigade and below) is the Army, and if we show them that we care and are committed to them, in their eyes the Army cares and is committed to them.

Read the whole thing, then, of course, start reading the whole blog. I’ve blogrolled him.



The Marine’s Secret Weapon: Coffee – NYTimes.com

Every American knows the story of the Boston Tea Party and its implications on the Revolutionary War. Lesser known, but perhaps of greater relevance to a nation recognized more for coffee breaks than tea time, is the fact that America’s taste for coffee is inextricably linked to the history of its military.

We weren’t aware of it until just recently. But in hindsight, it made perfect sense that we would become obsessed with coffee when we joined the Marines. As we later discovered, we were part of a long line of men whose enthusiasm for the drink was closely tied to their experiences in the service.

Battle-weary Marines of the 22nd Regiment drank coffee after heavy fighting on Einwetok Atoll in the Pacific Theater in February 1944.

Battle-weary Marines of the 22nd Regiment drank coffee after heavy fighting on Einwetok Atoll in the Pacific Theater in February 1944.National Archives and Records Administration Battle-weary Marines of the 22nd Regiment drank coffee after heavy fighting on Einwetok Atoll in the Pacific Theater in February 1944.

As Capt. Robert K. Beecham wrote in his book, “Gettysburg: The Pivotal Battle of the Civil War”: “The power of the soldiers to endure the fatigue of the march and keep their places in the ranks was greatly enhanced by an opportunity to brew a cup of coffee by the wayside.”

Coffee’s popularity grew in the years following Reconstruction. But it didn’t become a household staple until the confluence of the Industrial Revolution, the rise of the advertising age and the cultural mixing that occurred during World War I. As William Ukers explained in The Tea and Coffee Trade Journal, “the 2,000,000 soldiers who went overseas and there had their coffee three times a day…since returning to civilian life are using it more than ever before.”

via The Marine’s Secret Weapon: Coffee – NYTimes.com.

Let me tell you, it ain’t just the Marines secret weapon. I drank coffee long before I joined the Army, but I really became one with the coffee mug while in the service. I had a beer stein that never held beer, only coffee. I learned dozens of ways of making coffee, scrounging coffee, and keeping coffee hot in a thermos for 48 hours. And few memories of my time in the Army are more pleasant than those of sharing a hot cup with a fellow soldier on a crisp morning.

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Filed under ARMY TRAINING, Around the web

Airborne All The Way… across the Pacific.

I’m a Leg, not a jumper, but even I think this is pretty impressive.

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US Army Leaders Give Subordinates Just Weeks to Cut Staffs, Budgets by 25 Percent

The Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff have given their staffs just weeks — until Sept. 11 — to report back with “a comprehensive set of recommendations” as to where the service can make 25 percent cuts in funding and manning levels at all Army headquarters elements at the 2-star level and above.

The “2013 Army Focus Area Review Group” plan was spelled out in an August 14 Army document obtained by Defense News.

In some of the strongest language yet about how seriously Army leadership is taking the cuts, the memo bluntly says that “Let there be no mistake, aggregate reductions WILL TAKE PLACE. The money is gone; our mission now is to determine how best to allocate these cuts while maintaining readiness. We expect Army leaders, military and civilian, to seize this opportunity

to re-shape our Army. This effort will take PRIORITY OVER ALL other Headquarters, Department of the Army activities.”

The Group is being led by Deputy Undersecretary of the Army Thomas Hawley and head of Army’s Office of Business Transformation Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr. The memo states that the group will have seven “Focus Area” teams, each tasked with developing “bold executable recommendations which will be used to balance the already directed reductions” in the budget projections from 2015-2019. The initial focus areas are:

■ Institutional Headquarters Reductions

■ Operational Headquarters Reductions

■ Operational Force Structure and Ramps

■ Readiness

■ Acquisition Work Force

■ Installation Services and Investments

■ Army C31 [sic] and Cyber

via US Army Leaders Give Subordinates Just Weeks to Cut Staffs, Budgets by 25 Percent | Defense News | defensenews.com.

I think the very first thing I’d do is close anything named even remotely like Office of Business Transformation and get rid of that 3-star slot.

On the institutional side, we’ve already seen the Armor Center and the Infantry Center consolidated to the Maneuver Center. I can think of some other arms and services that might consolidate as well.

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Filed under army, ARMY TRAINING

The Future Vertical Lift Program is already making me cry.

Forbes has a pretty interesting look at one of the few bright spots in the American military aviation industry, helicopters, and sees clouds on the horizon in terms of procurement numbers. It is a pretty interesting article, and you might enjoy it.

But the part that caught my eye was this:

Meantime, the next generation of rotorcraft will take time to develop.  In June, the US Army selected three designs for its Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program.  JMR-TD is the precursor to the Department of Defense’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, and it should produce three medium size class technology demonstrators to be built by 2017.

There’s a lot of promise with FVL, which, for a start, is intended to replace 2,000-4,000 UH-60 medium lift models and AH-64 attack helicopters.  It will also be used to provide replacements for scout and heavy lift models through a modular design approach that will allow the airframe to be scaled.  In all, it could be worth over $100 billion.  However, FVL procurement will not begin until 2030, at the earliest.

That’s the part that scares me.  Actually, the first paragraph isn’t so bad. A technology demonstrator (TD) program isn’t, per se, bad. In fact, it is probably a pretty good idea. The problem is, a TD in effect becomes a prototype competition (much as happened in the JSF program) and the rules that determine the winner for a TD program are different from the rules that would be used in a genuine prototype fly-off for a production aircraft.

No, what really concerns me is the program looks structured to provide a “one airframe fits all” approach.

Which, it won’t. The reason we have different airframes is simply because one airframe simply cannot adequately perform all the mission sets required.

Now, a good deal of commonality among different airframes isn’t bad. For instance, the cockpit of the Boeing 757 and 767 are virtually identical. If you can fly one, you can pretty much fly the other. And using the same parts gives economies of scale in procurement and maintenance.  The same holds true with most Airbus single aisle airliners.

Should the FVL program lead to new technologies in engine, rotors,avionics,  noise and infrared suppression and other improvements, by all means, those developments should, where feasible, be shared across future programs.

But the bit about scalability is scaring me. I strongly suspect that rather than developing separate airframes with common components, the services will try to develop a common airframe with divergent missions. And that will be doomed to failure.

After all, it isn’t like this hasn’t happened before. The cancelled RAH-66 Comanche was the sole fruit of what was, until then, the most ambitious procurement program the Army ever undertook- the LHX. The Light Helicopter Experimental program was started in the early 1980s to replace the first generation of turbine powered helicopters of the Army. It was intended to replace the UH-1, the AH-1, the OH-6 and the OH-58, and eventually even replace the UH-60 and AH-64 that were just beginning to enter service as the LHX program was begun.

Trying to make one program fulfill several different roles meant a leap in technology was needed. Which meant the program was high risk. And a high risk program means a drawn out development schedule, which means high costs. And high costs per unit demand a more and more capable unit, which drives up the need for a technological leap, which makes a program high risk, which….


Eventually, the lift helicopter portions of the program were shed, and the focus was on a light armed scout. And that scout was burdened with ever greater requirements to be far more advanced than any previous helicopter. No doubt, a fair amount of the gold-plating of the program was a result of the contractor coming up with innovative ideas of what they could do- given the time and money to try, of course.

But so much time was spent developing the resulting RAH-66 helicopter that its mission, to slip far behind the lines of any Soviet armored assault on Western Europe, and locate valuable targets for other Army assets, was overtaken by other technologies, not to mention the collapse of the Soviet Union itself.

After a quarter century of development and untold billions of dollars in development, the Army ended up with nothing.

Where the Army (and the other services) have had great success in aviation procurement is in tightly defining a mission and more importantly, tightly defining the requirements to fulfill that mission. When the services have ruthlessly resisted the call to add more capabilities beyond the immediate level needed to accomplish a mission, and have steadfastly avoided mission creep, they’ve had good success in buying aircraft. But without that discipline, they’ve suffered setback after embarrassing setback and ballooning costs and development timelines.

Let’s hope the FVL program manager can read a little history.


Filed under army, ARMY TRAINING, helicopters

CBS News Atlanta Can’t grasp that uniforms specifically tailored for women might not be Unisex.

A new combat uniform with special consideration to the female body is now available at Fort Gordon, almost a month after the Army announced plans to open all units and military jobs to women by 2016.

The March debut of the Combat Uniform-Alternate is the first in a series of moves the Army hopes to make in the next three years to help female soldiers feel like more professional members, officials said.

With narrower shoulders, a slightly tapered waist and a more spacious seat, the unisex clothing line has been in the works since 2009 and is being issued to all installations – except Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga. – for men and women with a smaller or more slender body.

via Unisex Uniforms Debut As Army Opens Units To Women « CBS Atlanta.

This is why people don’t trust the news. Because the news is provided by really, really stupid people.

The headline in the article says “Unisex Uniforms Debut As Army Opens Units To Women,”  which is exactly the opposite of what is actually happening.

Since the introduction of the BDU uniform in the early 1980s, the BDU and its replacement the ACU, have been unisex.

But complaints of the poor fit of these combat uniforms for women have finally lead to the introduction of sizes specifically intended to better fit women’s bodies.


Further, despite the reporter’s effort to link the uniform to the issue, the new uniform sizes have absolutely no correlation to the planned (insane) inclusion of women in the combat arms of the service by 2016. They’re two wholly unrelated matters. The push to include women in combat arms comes from DoD (and the toadies of the JCS who are falling in line).  The development of clothing sizes is an internal matter almost wholly driven by a small program office in the Army alone, and though the Army laboratory system.

I don’t really expect the so-called reporters at an affiliate station in a secondary market to grasp the complexities of the organization and procurement systems of the military, but you’d think they could at least grasp the basic theme of whatever press release Ft. Gordon rolled out.  You’d think that. But you’d be wrong.


Filed under army, ARMY TRAINING, Around the web

H. R. McMaster and AirSeaBattle

DrewM over at the mothership pointed out that MG H.R. McMaster has penned an Op-Ed in the New York Times.

FORT BENNING, Ga. — “A GREAT deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep,” the novelist Saul Bellow once wrote. We should keep that in mind when we consider the lessons from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — lessons of supreme importance as we plan the military of the future.

Our record of learning from previous experience is poor; one reason is that we apply history simplistically, or ignore it altogether, as a result of wishful thinking that makes the future appear easier and fundamentally different from the past.

We engaged in such thinking in the years before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; many accepted the conceit that lightning victories could be achieved by small numbers of technologically sophisticated American forces capable of launching precision strikes against enemy targets from safe distances.

These defense theories, associated with the belief that new technology had ushered in a whole new era of war, were then applied to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; in both, they clouded our understanding of the conflicts and delayed the development of effective strategies.

Today, budget pressures and the desire to avoid new conflicts have resurrected arguments that emerging technologies — or geopolitical shifts — have ushered in a new era of warfare. Some defense theorists dismiss the difficulties we ran into in Afghanistan and Iraq as aberrations. But they were not aberrations. The best way to guard against a new version of wishful thinking is to understand three age-old truths about war and how our experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq validated their importance.

A little background on MG McMaster-

He first rose to prominence for his brilliant performance as a Captain leading a cavalry troop at the Battle of 73 Easting in Desert Storm. His performance there was a textbook example of AirLand Battle doctrine executed at the small unit level.

And he has risen through the ranks serving as a sucessful combat commander of a cavalry regiment during the Iraq War. And today, he serves as the commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence- the result of merging the Infantry Center & School with the Armor Center & School. In a nutshell, he’s the Army’s head instructor for land warfare.

But McMaster is also one of the Army’s leading intellectuals. Which, normally, is in direct conflict with rising to higher rank. The numbers of intellectuals in the Army who saw their careers stall at Colonel is large. Indeed, McMaster almost befell the same fate. He was passed over for Brigadier General his first time before the selection board.  Fortunately, he was later selected and promoted again to Major General.

The Op-Ed isn’t an official Army statement. Theoretically, it’s just McMaster’s own musings. But let’s face it, H.R. isn’t exactly going off the reservation here.  I’d be rather stunned if the 4-star leadership of the Army didn’t get a heads up that the article was coming.

And Brian McGrath at ID, no slouch in the brains department himself, sees the article primarily as a shot at AirSea Battle, the joint Air Force-Navy effort to address anti-access efforts by our potential enemies.

Major General H.R. McMaster is one of the smartest men in our military, the epitome of a warrior-scholar.  He has been famous since he was a Major and he is one of the few serving officers who can confidently have his work placed in the New York Times, which he did yesterday.  He is the most eloquent advocate for land power on the scene today, and he will invariably provide much of the Army’s intellectual heft in the coming QDR and concomitant budget battles.  Read closely in his NYT piece and you see the Army’s argument clearly.  That is, without even mentioning AirSea Battle, he has lumped it in with the Revolution in Military Affairs, Net Centricity, and Rumsfeld’s reorganization ideas as fashionable passing fancies we must not follow again.  Instead, we must keep in high readiness a large powerful Army capable of combined arms maneuver AND the ability to occupy large portions of the earth’s surface.
If you think that I’m wrong, and that he’s not arguing against AirSea Battle, then it is not worth your time to read on.  If you think he is or might be, then consider moving forward.

I think McGrath is right. McMaster is taking a shot across AirSea Battle’s bow.

Furthermore, I think McMaster is right. I’ve always been a strong proponent of a strong Navy, and robust airpower. But the Army (and to a lesser extent, the Marines) see ASB not so much as a tool for future warfare, but  a truce in the looming defense budget battles, in which the Navy and Air Force will set aside their long animosity and attempt to bolster their budget out of the Army’s hide.

Maybe that is paranoia, but then again, maybe not.

And as a practical matter, simply wishing away the need for large numbers of ground troop in future warfare is simply that- wishing.  Not once since the end of World War II has the nation engaged in a significant war or military intervention and decided it had more than enough ground troops. Instead, we’ve repeatedly found ourselves scrambling to increase the numbers of formations available, at great cost in money, time, and sadly, often in lives.

I’d be far, far more receptive to the Navy’s arguments for a larger slice of the budget pie if recent history hadn’t shown just how bad the Navy can be at using what it has.  The utter trainwreck that is the LCS program leads front and center. The goldplated LPD-17 class is a close second.  Building amphibious warfare ships without a well-deck for the LHA-6 class chimes in as well.  And now we’re hearing rumbles that the replacement for the LSD-41 class might be a stretched LPD-17 (as opposed to a much cheaper modernized LSD-41 hull).

Don’t even get me started on the JSF tri-service fighter boondoggle.

I’ll grant you that Army procurement hasn’t been much better, but at least the Army has had the good sense to cancel monstrosities rather than pushing on to production.

This will hardly be the only shot fired in a newspaper Op-Ed page. We can, in the next few years, expect to see more from all sides.


Filed under Air Force, army, navy

Soldiers learn pitfalls of bomb training – Fort Hood Herald: Across The Fort

Soldiers learn pitfalls of bomb training – Fort Hood Herald: Across The Fort.


3-8 Cav conducts IED training

Lt. Col. Esli Pitts, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, talks to soldiers of the battalion as they conduct a training exercise Wednesday, July 3, near battalion headquarters at Fort Hood.

While other units were jogging down Battalion Avenue in formation and singing cadences during morning physical training, “Warhorse” soldiers were in full battle gear as they prepared for confrontation with an opposing force.

Soldiers were tracking a potential bomb-making facility, and had to maneuver through enemy forces, while providing wide-area security, to find the facility and disarm the threat.

The idea behind the July 3 training scenario of 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was to provide all the components of a full-scale operation with a physical training element thrown in, said Lt. Col. Esli T. Pitts, battalion commander.

“I’ve always found that you can do a lot of tactical training during PT. It’s a couple hours in the morning when everybody is dedicated to PT anyway, so it’s easy to just do tactical operations with PT,” he said.

Last week’s training incorporated the entire Warhorse battalion, as well explosive ordnance disposal soldiers from the 79th Ordnance Battalion and human intelligence collection teams.

“The entire battalion is out and it doesn’t get any better than that,” Pitts said.


Filed under army, ARMY TRAINING

40th Anniversary of the All Volunteer Force

Esli reminded me that today marks the 40th anniversary of the All Volunteer Force. To the best of my knowledge, there remain no more draftees on active duty.*

The initial efforts of the AVF were shaky at best. Hot on the heels of the unpopular Vietnam War, and with pay, benefits and infrastructure such as barracks and housing ill funded, finding quality recruits for the Army (and the other branches) was challenging, and standards slipped to levels the even the dark days of 2005 would call appalling. The vast majority of enlistees were decent, honorable folks trying to do their best, but there were enough miscreants in the force to badly damage the entire service. Drug use and alcohol abuse were rampant, discipline was sometimes less  than we might hope for, and the lack of funds for training and maintenance led to a hollow force.

It wasn’t until the very end of the Carter Administration that pay for soldiers began to be increased to something approaching a living wage, and of course, the boom years of the Reagan buildup lead to the once reviled Armed Forces quickly becoming the most trusted institution in America.

The AVF has not been without its challenges and critics since then. For one thing, there’s a perception that it is disconnected from the American people, and that the political class have little worry that their sons and daughters will be the ones called to sally forth into battle.

For another thing, an AVF is expensive. The single largest cost for the armed services is personnel. Salary, housing, health care, care for family members, and retirement costs, and health care costs for retirees (and their families), the very things that make a career in the service attractive, also drive much of the costs of our Department of Defense.

There is simply no popular support for a draft, so that leaves three choices for manning the services.

1. Pay the cost. It’s expensive, but it also has provided a stunningly capable military.

2. Freeze the costs, which will make service much less attractive. To maintain anything approaching our current end strength, this would require lowering standards, a proposition virtually every military professional is loathe to consider.

3. Pay the cost, but to a much, much smaller force. Numerically, for the size of our population, we don’t have a historically large armed forces. But it is an incredibly capable one. A willingness to accept a certain level of strategic risk could mean acceptance of a significantly smaller armed forces. But the problem with strategic risk is, that risk or a similar one almost always comes to pass.

At any event, it is highly likely that for the foreseeable future, the force will continue to be all volunteer.

*Obviously, the term of their conscription ended long ago, but a surprising number of draftees made careers of the Army.



Junior Officer Brain Drain?

As the Army slowly disengages from Afghanistan, and in the wake of Iraq, the Army is struggling to draw down its force levels, while cutting its budget, and maintaining a high state of readiness, all while trying to form a clear strategy and mission for the future.

In the midst of that, it is also trying to ensure that its best and brightest junior officers don’t seek greener pastures outside the military. One of the problems there is, those very same officers it wishes to retain are  both those most likely to successfully transition to outside employment, and most likely to chafe under the restrictions of a peacetime army.

Darrell Fawley, one of those  junior officers, shares his thoughts:

The debate about the Army losing its best junior officers between LTG (R) Barno and LTG Hodges on ForeignPolicy.com has been followed eagerly by many of my current and former (those that have left the service) peers.  While both have different views on the issue, both regard retaining the top 10-20% of officers as something important for the Army’s future.  As a junior officer who has performed in the top 10% of my peer group and decided to remain in the Army, I’d like to add to this discussion.  While I cannot speak for my entire demographic, I can provide insight.

I don’t believe that the majority of officers that make up this demographic expect the Army to put together some sort of bonus package to retain them.  I’ve never seen statistics on the bonus payments the Army made a few years ago, but I’ve only met one person who took the money that wasn’t already convinced he would stay in the Army.  I believe that most officers that stay in through a captain-level key assignment (generally command positions and primary staff roles) are not motivated by money or tangible benefits.  However, these officers want to feel like they are not just cogs in the wheel.  They have a level of experience way beyond what their superiors had at similar career points.  We are just now seeing battalion commanders who commanded companies in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Further, the complexity of their positions is way beyond that of what it is for their superiors in similar positions in the 1990’s.  These officers want trust, meaningful education and a voice, they want to be able to rise above their peers who perform below them and they want to see the Army progress not regress.

Read the whole thing.



When Roamy’s World and Mine Collide

The Duffel Blog must have taken a peak at us sometime. Where else would they come up with an Army/NASA intersection?

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Morning Links

So,  Chile is buying surplus AAV-7 amphibious vehicles. They’re only buying a dozen, so it’s not a major lift capability. Of the dozen, only 10 are troop carriers, so that gives them a lift of about 250 troops.


F-35A first in-flight missile launch

Finally. I understand that complex systems take a long time to introduce into service, but this is surprising. The F-35A has launched its first powered missile launch. Mind you, this wasn’t even a full up guided shot. It was just to prove ejection and ignition. But the program will totally be fielding a combat capable squadron in three short years. Honest!


While I think the multitude of camouflage patterns in the military is silly, I also think this bill is silly.  I can think of a lot of other areas to save money. Heck, I have strong suspicion that compliance with this bill would end up costing just as much as no bill at all.


New ship names released. Incredibly, no activist/victim of the month names were used. And URR, just be glad Burlington went to an HSV, not an LCS.


Will Fort Carson shrink or grow?  I don’t know. There’s a strong push to consolidate as many combat brigades as possible onto as few posts as possible. But the problem there is that each post has a finite amount of range and training area available.  There is always a great demand for that range space.  Ft. Carson isn’t an especially large post, but it does have relatively easy access to Pinon Canyon Maneuver Area, which has been expanding in recent years, and is one of the largest training areas available to the Army.



Hey, First Sergeant…

If you’re going to send an email to your troops about the Army social media policy, and how your troops don’t seem to understand it, you might want to make sure YOU have a clear understanding.

Earlier today, a disgruntled member of an Alabama Army National Guard unit forwarded the e-mail below from a first sergeant outlining the do’s and don’t of social media with the subject line, “Troops 1st Amendment Rights being denied.”

The email cautions troops to steer clear of posts about “gun control, the Democrats, the President, Congress, or personal opinions about STATE or FEDERAL GOVERNMENT matters.”

First, you’re the 1SG of an Alabama Army National Guard unit. Unless your unit has been Title 10 federalized, your troops don’t fall under UCMJ.

Second, while soldiers on social media DO represent the Army, the policy does not prohibit any of the topics you specified.

From the Army Social Media Handbook 2013:

However, Soldiers are subject to UCMJ even when off duty, so talking negatively about supervisors or releasing sensitive information is punishable under the UCMJ.

If these NG troops were under UCMJ, it would be inappropriate for them to publicly post that 1SG (Redacted) was a censorious twit who couldn’t read the policy without moving his lips.  But those troops have every right to comment on the topics that interest them. Provided they adhere to OPSEC, they still retain their 1st Amendment Rights.

Maybe Top should have spent more time listening to the training, and less time worrying about reflective belts.

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Army Strong.

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Gold Star Daughter

We grew up a Navy brat, but had an atypical experience. And thanks be to God, we certainly didn’t have one like this.

For graduating seniors at Kansas State University, May 18 will mean new beginnings, new careers and new chapters to fill.

I will be joining the other K-State seniors graduating in Bramlage Coliseum. But the date will forever mean something completely different to me. It will be the mark of how far I’ve come in exactly three years.

On the morning of May 18, 2010, I was getting ready to teach a swimming lesson at Fort Leavenworth’s indoor pool when I received a text from my younger sister:

“Kelly, you need to come home now.”

As we go into the Memorial Day Weekend, take a moment to remember those Americans who have laid down their lives in defense of the nation.


Filed under Around the web


It’s the weekly gun thread over at Ace of Spades, written by our buddy Andy. And the Scary Gun of the Week is an early Assault Rifle, the Springfield M1903A3.


We have a long affinity for, and association with the ‘03A3.

In the fall of 1982, as we began our sophomore year, as a member of the high school NJROTC, we tried out for, and were accepted onto, the Armed Drill Team.

The Armed Drill Team would compete against other JROTC teams in the area in three phases of competition- In Ranks Inspection, Regulation Drill, and Exhibition Drill. Obviously, the “armed” part meant that the members of the team had to be under arms, and for that, the US Navy had provided our unit with a selection of M1903A3 rifles. But for various reasons, the Navy wasn’t keen on giving out actual honest to goodness weapons (mostly a matter of secure storage). So the weapons had their barrels plugged, and their bolt actions welded shut. Further, the wood stocks had been replaced by a plastic stock, which was much more resistant to breaking when we inevitably dropped the piece.

At about 9.5 pounds, the ‘03A3 was  a pretty hefty piece, but it was also wonderfully balance, and for drill, just about perfect. It may have been surpassed as a weapon of war, but to this day it is still the preferred piece for ceremonial units such as the Army Drill Team, and for color guards both in and out of the service.

It was also quite capable of inflicting some significant trauma. Esli was there when I lost my two front teeth to one. And Esli and Jay were both present when I had one thunk me right on the crown of my skull and leave me dazed and confused. And goodness knows all the times I picked up minor cuts and bruises from one.

Just about the day after graduation, I memory dumped all the nomenclature and other information about the ‘03 (I had to memorize all the M16A1 stuff in its place!).

But when I found myself in college, and again on an armed drill team, I had to relearn all that stuff. And at the college level, the weapons were not demilitarized, but actual functioning weapons. That meant finding secure storage for them. We ended up storing them at the campus police office.

There are quite a few Springfields in civilian hands, and are popular rifles. Very well made, they have a great reputation for reliability and accuracy. And the .30-06 cartridge rightly holds a place as one of the greatest rounds in history.


Filed under ARMY TRAINING, history, navy

The Rifle Squad as the Decisive Force

A year or two ago, in discussing small infantry units, Esli mentioned that the current doctrinal emphasis of the Maneuver Center of Excellence (formerly, the Infantry School) was on making the rifle squad more lethal, more effective, more of an overmatch to the enemy equivalent.

The current US Army 9 man rifle squad* versus an enemy of comparable size has several significant advantages, and yet also faces serious disadvantages.

First, US squads tend to be better educated and better trained in infantry combat, in both the technical and tactical aspects.  They are virtually never without some type of supporting fires on call, from machine gun teams and anti-armor weapons at the squad level, company and battalion level mortar fire, through brigade and higher level artillery, and even close air support.

The soldiers of the rifle squad have body armor, clothing and load bearing equipment that is far better than their opponents. Their food is healthier, and less likely to lead to illness. Their communications are generally better. His night vision devices are almost always far more capable than the enemy’s.

But the US rifle squad also has its problems…

That body armor and load bearing equipment leads to soldiers carrying loads that severely limit the mobility and agility of the squad. These same heavy loads also lead to an increase in sports type injuries.  Rules of engagement often delay or prevent supporting fires from higher echelons from joining the fight in a timely manner. That healthful and nutritious food is heavy, further increasing the soldier’s load, and tying him to a logistical chain. His communications and night vision devices all require large amounts of battery power, all of which has to be manpacked.

As to weapons, frankly small arms are small arms. We can spend the next fifty years debating the relative merits of the M16/M4 family versus the AK family that have spent the last fifty years fighting one another.  But neither weapon so overmatches the other as to be decisive. The same is true for any other weapons found in the rifle squad or the threat squad.

So, today we find ourselves in a situation where a US squad can pretty much hold its own with any similar sized threat. And generally, it will come out better than the enemy.

But that isn’t the goal. The goal, the desire is to be confident that virtually any time a US squad encounters an enemy formation of similar size, the US squad can fix it, fight it, finish it, hunting it down and destroying it. Today, most squad on squad engagements are not decisive- either one or the other force breaks contact and lives to fight another day.

Comes now news that the Army commissioned a study by the National Research Council, who came to the conclusion that the problem is, the squad isn’t well equipped.

Now, in the context I just shared with you, that sounds kinda nuts. One of the primary problems the dismounted infantry squad faces is the crushing burden of carrying the stuff they already have.

But the report does make some sense. The Army has spent untold billions designing network centric warfare capabilities the give commanders unprecedented ability to “see” the battlefield.  A commander can know almost instantly where his forces are, and with support from UAVs and other intel assets, very often where enemy forces are, even before the battle is joined.

But once a squad leaves its vehicles, it is cut off from this network. Its only data stream, if you will, is voice radio. And the “bandwidth” of voice radio is awfully narrow. It is very, very difficult to transmit a clear tactical picture through words alone, especially absent the non-verbal cues humans routinely use in face to face communications.  Even with standardized formats, the limits to how much information can pass from the squad to higher, or from higher down to the squad is very limited.

In the past, we’ve mentioned the possibility of using smart phones on the battlefield to increase the dismount squad’s ability to access data, rather than just voice. And there’s some hope for that. But smart phones aren’t exactly set up to run on Army tactical radio networks. Further, a smart phone is not the most ergonomic way to present information. You know it is foolhardy to text and drive. How much more foolhardy is it to text and shoot? So a more “heads up” method of presenting the information in an intuitive manner will eventually be needed.

And whatever technology comes along, it will have to weigh less than the current state of the art. And not only will it have to weigh less, its batteries will have to weigh much less.

Further, for all the advantages technology may in the future give the squad, it is not without its own burdens, even beyond simple weight. Every piece of equipment calls for maintenance and training, both of which take time. And time available for training is limited. What other training should the squad sacrifice to achieve competency in these new technologies?

Do we sacrifice time spent on marksmanship? Fire and movement? First aid? Weapons maintenance? Map reading? Sexual assault awareness and prevention training? Language and cultural training for upcoming deployments? It isn’t like there isn’t enough on the plate already.

The report also pings Big Army for spending far more money and attention on big ticket acquisition programs than on the bread and butter of everyday stuff used at the squad level.  The Program Executive Officer for Command and Control technologies is a Major General. The PEO for small arms is a Colonel, who, judging by the fact he’s been there for several years, ain’t a “comer” for stars.

So what do we do?  I don’t know. I’m not entirely sure, absent a far greater willingness to take casualties, we can make the rifle squad capable of decisively defeating a threat squad.

And I’m not even sure that should be the goal. The great strength of the Army, and indeed all our services, has long, long been not so much our technology, but our ability to “systemize our systems.”

In an artillery duel, the US doesn’t fight gun against gun. It pits US target acquisition, communications, fire control, guns and ammunition (as well as soldiers, doctrine, and training) against the foe. And no other nation has shown the talent for tying together these elements to effectively produce a whole  far greater than the sum of their parts. I’ve used artillery here as an example, but the general rule applies across the entire armed forces.  The challenge is to continue to understand that technology is a tool that enables this synchronization, and not a substitute for it.


*Marine rifle squads have thirteen members. Basically, they add an extra fire team to each squad.


Filed under Afghanistan, army, ARMY TRAINING, Artillery, infantry, war

Solder Re-Classes To Cav Just So He Can Recite Lines From ‘Apocalypse Now’ | The Duffel Blog

KILLEEN, TX — The Army’s 1st Cavalry Division has been under fire in recent years, with soldiers claiming their obsession with obsolete uniform items — Stetson cowboy hats and spurs without rowels — make them stand out in addition to being the target of countless jokes from other service members.

More recently, the enormous and expensive patch of the unit has also drawn the ire of lawmakers after a brigade comptroller’s proposal to shrink the size of the emblem drew immediate and devastating reprisals.

But not all soldiers are so critical of the ‘First Team.’ Newly minted Trooper Specialist Ernest Whitman recently completed his change of MOS (Military Occupational Specialty), or re-class as it’s more commonly known, from the infantry into the ‘Cav.

When asked about the reason for his transition, Whitman didn’t hesitate. ”That’s easy bro, Apocalypse Now. Did you see that movie? That fucking bad-ass Stetson hat Robert Duvall was wearing. God I can’t wait to get mine! And those spurs, who wouldn’t want to wear them? I’m gonna pull so much tail it’ll be sick.”

Suddenly, Whitman stood back from the table and shouted, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning! How amazing is that line?”

via Solder Re-Classes To Cav Just So He Can Recite Lines From ‘Apocalypse Now’ | The Duffel Blog.

I was gonna make a crack that the real clue it was satire was the fact that NO Infantryman would ever reclass to Cav.

But then, I remembered, I know someone who did. He clings to his story that his knees were the issue, but I’m not really buying it. It has to be the hat.


Filed under army, ARMY TRAINING