Tag Archives: army

Arming the Guard

Indiana Governor Mike Pence, in addition to a few other governors, has directed his state Adjutant General to authorize arming National Guard members at armories and recruiting stations throughout the state.


You’ll note, until such time as they are called to federal service, Guard members answer to the state governor as the Commander in Chief.

It should be noted that recruiting for the National Guard is wholly separate from recruiting for the regular active duty and federal reserve components. That is, in my Army recruiting station, we had a mix of active and reserve recruiters, and the local Indiana Guard recruiter was just as much direct competition to us as the Air Force recruiter was.

Arming the local Guard Armory shouldn’t pose too many challenges. Armories by definition are a location for the storage of weapons. And most will have at least a handful of sidearms allocated. Having the duty NCO strap on a weapon makes sense. We’ve argued before that the duty NCO in most units in the active forces should sign for and carry (or at least be immediately able to access) a weapon.

The issue isn’t quite as simple as the governor issuing an edict, however.  Policy and guidance on such things as physical security for weapons and ammunition, rules of engagement, instruction on the law of self defense will need to be instituted. Will privately owned weapons be permitted, or only issue government property? If privately owned weapons are permitted, what types? Will recruiters be permitted to carry a weapon outside the confines of the recruiting station?

Will every Guardsman suddenly start carrying? Will they be open carried or concealed? Will the Guardsmen have to abide by relevant Indiana law concerning either concealed carry or open carry?

Believe it or not, most people in the service don’t spend a lot of time working with firearms, particularly pistols. The guy that enlists to serve as a supply clerk will, understandably, spend most of his time doing supply clerk stuff. In fact, recruiters, for instance,  simply don’t deal with weapons at all in a duty capacity. 

There will be consequences. There will be negligent discharges, and lost or stolen weapons. And sooner or later, a member of the armed forces will shoot an American citizen.  Planning, training, and leadership must address these concerns.



SMA Daley polling on possible uniform changes

First, SMA Daley wants to see what interest there is in adding an Ike jacket as an optional purchase to go with the Army’s Class B service uniform.


I’m…. uncertain. It looks really weird without the usual US and branch insignia pinned on it. One wonders what the AR 670-1 guidance would be for such insignia. The article doesn’t say.

Should the female Drill Sergeant hat be ditched in favor of using the male Smokey the Bear campaign hat for both sexes?


Sure, why not?

SMA Daley is also looking to whether both sexes should wear the same “bus driver” cap for the Army Service Uniform. Which, I say yes. The current ladies hat is stupid.

He’s looking at a few other changes, but those are the high points.


Filed under army

The Maintenance Team

When I went from Light Infantry to M113 APC mounted Mechanized Infantry, one big cultural shift I wasn’t prepared for was the obsessive attention paid to mechanical maintenance on the company vehicles.  An H-series TO&E M113 equipped Infantry company had three platoons of four M113s, plus an M113 for the Company Commander, and one for the Company XO. It also had a Humvee for the CO, and one for the company 1SG. The company also had two M35 series 2-1/2 ton trucks, one with a 3/4 ton trailer, and one with a 400 gallon water trailer.

And every Monday morning, the vast majority of the company would head to the motor pool, and spend the day performing maintenance on the vehicles. For instance, I was in the 1st Squad, 1st Platoon, and my squad “owned”  the M113 marked with the bumper number A-11. The assigned driver and I (I was the track commander) would whip out the operators technical manual (commonly called the ‘Dash 10’ from the alphanumeric TM number assigned) and visit the chapters on daily and weekly Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services, or PMCS. All deficiencies found (and there were always deficiencies) were carefully annotated on DA Form 2404.

Much like caring for your family car, a great deal of the work is done by the operator. But sometimes, there are issues that you need to take it to the shop for repairs.  For instance, if the automatic transmission is slipping, you probably would let your mechanic work on that.

You’ll notice in the brief discussion on the organization of the company, no mechanics were mentioned. That’s because the maintenance platoon belongs to the battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Company.  The maintenance platoon provided organizational level maintenance to all the tracked and wheeled vehicles in the entire battalion, about 130 pieces of rolling stock. Further, the maintenance platoon tasked a Maintenance Contact Team of five or six mechanics, typically under a Staff Sergeant, to habitually support each company. So, while our mechanics were always in another company, they were also always our mechanics.

Our mechanics were also the folks in charge of ordering parts as required for the vehicles. For instance, if I needed to replace a headlight on my M113, I’d write up the deficiency on the 2404, take it to the mechanics, and have them issue me one. The issue, from stocks on hand, also generated an order to the Division Main Support Battalion to requisition another part, to replace the stock. 

When deployed to the field, the Contact Team collocated with the supported company.  The team had an M113 APC, an M578 Light Recovery Vehicle or VTR, and an M35 series duece and a half, which had a plywood shelter on the back, and was used to carry the spare parts, known as the PLL or Primary Load List.  The PLL truck was usually located at the field trains, with the battalion kitchens and other logistics were, leaving just the M113 and the VTR forward with the company.

The VTR was fine for virtually all maintenance and recovery chores for the M113. The problem was, Mechanized Infantry companies typically swapped out a platoon of infantry for a platoon of tanks. The VTR was far to small to tow a tank. And the arrival of the M2/M3 Bradley exacerbated matters. The VTR was also underpowered to tow a Bradley.  And so, with the introduction of the Bradley, the VTR was set out to pasture, and Mechanized Infantry battalions were issued the recovery vehicle Armor battalions had long been using, the M88.

The M88 had been introduced to support (and built on the chassis of) the old M48 and M60 Patton series of tanks. It had only the thinnest margin of performance to support the much heavier M1 tanks, and later M1A1 and M1A2 tanks were just too heavy for it. And so, the Army procured the upgraded M88A2 Hercules variant for its Armor battalions. And indeed, the Army has decided that all heavy battalions will be equipped with the M88A2. 

The mechanics don’t exactly have the most glamorous job in the Army. Virtually every wrenchbender I knew was always covered in grease and grime. But they also, as a general rule, took great pride in the work they did, and put in long hours in the field repairing the vehicles that careless grunts had managed to break.

I did learn to embrace the Army’s obsession with maintenance. It costs a lot of time and money to keep a vehicle well maintained. But it also means that the Army can routinely expect its vehicles to last a quarter century or more, even when subjected to some of the harshest treatment possible.


Filed under armor, army

240 Years of Army Uniforms

With the rollout of the new OCP uniform replacing the hated UCP pattern, IJReview has a brief video showing the evolution of the Army uniform.


With the increasing costs of combat uniforms, I have a couple of thoughts.

Enlisted personnel are issued free of charge their first uniforms, everything from socks and underwear to the blue Army Service Uniform. Thereafter, enlisted soldiers are required to replace components on their own. They are, however, paid an annual allowance based on the cost of uniform items, and their expected useful lifetime for each component. For instance, the typical grunt will go through socks at a faster rate than the blue coat of the ASU. Unfortunately, the allowance rarely accurately tracks the real lifetime of uniform components, particularly the Army Combat Uniform. Thus, the ever increasing costs of the ACU costs enlisted soldiers out of pocket expenses.

The costs of combat uniforms will only increase, as the Army continues to improve the technology of textiles. Eventually, the replacement costs will become prohibitive for the average soldier.

Further, we’ve already reached a point where the ACU a soldier wears while at his home station is not the same as the uniform he wears when deployed overseas to a combat theater.  Prior to deployment, each soldier is issued a variant of the uniform that has been treated to be more fire resistant.

Probably 90% of the time in garrison, soldiers don’t really need to be clad in camouflage. Time spent in the company area cleaning weapons, or sitting through SHARP training, or in the motor pool performing maintenance on the vehicles is the norm. So why issue an expensive uniform for that? Why not issue a simple, inexpensive uniform for day to day wear that comprises the vast majority of a soldier’s time?

That uniform could be similar to the simple green fatigue uniform issued in the 1970s and early 1980s.  For those times when training at the home station calls for an actual combat uniform, the ACU in OCP (or future combat uniforms) could be issued as organizational clothing, similar to much of the cold weather gear issued today.




Retail logistics for the Army is a challenge. Moving commodities such as fuel and ammunition from the US to overseas locations is pretty much like any other industry. Rail, highway, ships, and occasionally cargo aircraft.  It takes planning and attention to detail, but it’s essentially the same as civilian shipping. It’s the transfer of those commodities to the actual units on the front lines that is a challenge. In some theaters of operations, there are existing networks of improved roads that ease this challenge. In other potential theaters, not so much. And one of the Army’s great strengths since World War II has been its off-road mobility. It’s relatively easy to make tanks and armored personnel carriers off road mobile. But the trucks that must be used to support them are something of a different matter.

And so, the Army was always looking for ways to improve the mobility of its cargo trucks. One interesting approach was to use the basic structure of 1950s era earth moving equipment as the basis for a cargo or fuel tanker capable of operating in quite rugged terrain.  As an experiment, a competition was held between several similar vehicles, and a handful of what came to be known as the M520 GOER family were bought, and used in Vietnam. After Vietnam began to wind down, about 1300 more were built in the early 1970s.

Pretty nifty, huh?

The problem was, while it had very good off road capability, it had attrocious on road capability, with a very low maximum speed, an unsprung suspension that was brutally jolting, and some unsavory driving characteristics.

The Army also came to realize that most of the time, it only needed decent, not excellent, off road capability. The GOER was replaced in service by the much more conventional Oshkosh HEMTT (Hemmit) 10 ton 8×8 tactical truck.


Filed under army

Electronic Warfare- grunt style

Almost as soon as electronics entered warfare, Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) began to appear. For instance, in the Battle of Port Arthur, wireless radio communications lead to jamming.

One of the most dangerous threats facing American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has been the Improvised Explosive Device, or IED. The vast amounts of explosives available in these countries, such as artillery ammunition, or ammonium nitrate fertilizer mixed with fuel oil, has led to some very creative mines and similar devices used to attack our troops.

Early on, most IEDs were triggered via either a pressure plate or command detonated by wire.  US troops quickly learned to spot most of these.* The enemy quickly learned to use a variety of radio frequency remote detonators, ranging from simple devices like the key fob used to unlock your car door, to garage door opener, to cell phones and other systems.

The Army quickly moved to counter these radio frequency (RF) remote detonators. Unfortunately, a quick reaction capability** meant the first generation of jammers were broad band devices designed to simply overwhelm any enemy signal. That had the knock on effect of often overpowering friendly use of the RF spectrum. As the Army and Marines began to grasp that RF controlled devices would almost certainly be a part of any future battlefield, they also began to work with industry to determine exactly what they want in ECM to counter the threat, field devices that could be used at every tactical echelon, require minimum training, space, weight and power, and best defeat the enemy without interfering with our own use of the RF spectrum. It should be noted, back in my day in the 80s and 90s, electronic warfare assets were held by the Military Intelligence battalion organic to each division. Teams might be attached to brigades or lower echelons, but there simply was no organic EW or ECM equipment in the maneuver battalions or their vehicles.

Today, virtually every echelon has their own equipment, be it large to defend an installation, vehicle mounted to protect a column of vehicles, or even manpack jammers to defend dismounted patrols.

Let’s take a look at some of the ECM gear in use today, and discuss some issues with them.

First, some terminology. The Army loves acronyms, and in recent years has even taken to embedding acronyms within acronyms. The series of jammers in use today are collectively referred to as CREW, or Counter Radio-Controlled-Improvised-Explosive-Device (RCIED) Electronic Warfare.

ECM systems might be used to protect entire Forward Operating bases. FOBs are popular targets for Vehicle Borne IED (such as a truck bomb) and while most VBIEDs aren’t radio command detonated, it never hurts to cover that contingency). These semi-fixed installations are beyond the scope our discussion today.

That leaves vehicle mounted and manpack CREW systems. Not every vehicle will mount a CREW system. The range of the system is sufficient that one jammer can cover a fairly good number of vehicles.  Secondly, not every vehicle has the power and space to mount one. Further, the costs imposed on adding CREW to certain vehicles, such as M1 tanks, is prohibitive, considering their relative invulnerability to most IEDs already.  Having said that, Humvee and MRAP units are commonly well equipped with CREW devices. Probably the most common one in use is the DUKE, or ULQ-35.

Note that DUKE isn’t continuously transmitting, but rather spends its time listening for possible enemy signals, and then automatically jams them, often times with very sophisticated waveforms and techniques. DUKE is a wideband system, and covers virtually the entire tactically significant RF spectrum.

But roadside bombs aren’t the only threat our troops face. Particularly in Afghanistan, dismounted patrols move through areas were RCIEDs are common. Those patrols need protection as well. The standard manpack IED jammer is the Thor III.

You’ll notice there’s not one, but three manpacks in a Thor III system. Three packs are needed to cover the high, medium, and low bands. Unfortunately, that greatly increases the load of mission equipment a dismounted platoon has to carry.


You’ll also note that the size of the pack means that each troop carrying one has no room to carry his own personal equipment such as food, water, and extra clothing. That means their load has to be spread about the rest of the platoon, further exacerbating the load carrying problem.

The Joint IED Defeat Organization, the DoD’s counter IED office, solicited proposals for a pack that would allow a troop to carry both loads, but cancelled the contract

Given the burden the system imposes on a platoon, one wonders if any commanders have conducted an operational risk assessment and occasionally decided to leave one or two of the packs behind and cover only the most likely threat band.

As this lengthy but interesting article from 2013 notes, currently Army and Marine Corps small unit electronic warfare is focused on force protection, but that is beginning to change:

The program office for electronic warfare is fielding an array of precision jammers, including some that target the triggers for radio-controlled improvised explosive devices and act as sensors to pinpoint the trigger man’s location. These new devices also extend to squads on foot and forward operating bases the protective bubble for wheeled vehicles.

“This is a significant shift from defense — protect your convoy, let’s just get through the day — to go on the offensive for enemy command and control,” said Mike Ryan, electronic warfare program manager at PEO IEW&S.

The next version of the CREW Duke for vehicles merges electronic warfare and cyberwarfare by conducting “protocol-based attacks,” said Ryan, “where you actually get into the system and displace ones and zeroes to break that communication chain between the trigger and the [radio-controlled] IED receiving those ones and zeroes.” This is part of a technology insertion over the next few years.

Basically, in addition to defeating the detonation of one IED, the technology will begin to defeat the enemy’s network. In addition to simply jamming enemy signals, distributed CREW systems will conduct ongoing Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) collection and Traffic Analysis collection. Each system will either record or retransmit its collection for analysis at higher headquarters, which can use this information to discern the enemy Order of Battle, chain of command, and potentially its capabilities and intentions. One suspects future systems will also be linked to an embedded GPS system capability to provide real time or near real time targeting capability.

We personally suspect that since future generations of tactical radios for friendly voice and data use will use software defined waveforms, they will also embed a jamming and EW/SIGINT capability, meaning that each friendly radio will also serve a CREW mission, thus reducing the number of devices needed at the tactical level, and reducing the physical and power burden on a given unit.


*Most. Not all. But a lot of training went into spotting possible IEDs and tell-tale signs of wires and pressure plates.

** Quick Reaction Capability or QRC means not that it acts quickly on the battlefield, but rather that the government was able to quickly contract with industry to field a capability to the forces. The solution is almost always imperfect, but it is at least there.


Filed under army, Electronic Warfare

Tanker Boots

Reader Samuel Suggs in the previous post about 120mm ammunition has a sharp eye:

This is an off topic and possibly stupid question but: why does the soldier in second photo have buckles on his boots?

One of the things about the Army that I liked was that for a “uniform” service, there was considerable scope for individuality.  From the way one wore their patrol cap, the how they bloused their trousers into their boots, there was a surprising array of styles and techniques. From the outside, to civilians, troops look mostly indistinguishable. But as an insider, you could tell a lot about a troop by his sense of style.

And then there are those traditions among the various arms and services. Perhaps best known is the Cavalry’s attachment to Stetsons and spurs. There was also the famous “jump boots” which, by the time I was in, was authorized, and indeed pretty much expected of every troop to have  pair for ceremonial use.

But tankers too have their own institution- the tanker boot. For many years, armor crewmen have had either tacit or explicit permission to wear boots using straps and buckles in lieu of the more traditional laces.


Back when the Army wore black leather boots.


Current tan rough side out version.

As far as I know, their adoption by armor crewman has never been universal (after all, the Army will issue lace up boots, but tanker boots came out of your own pocket).

Wiki tells us that the idea of the tanker boot in the US Army originated with George Patton in World War I.


Filed under armor