Tag Archives: stupid

A little inside baseball

So, I’m stealing this from a forum I belong to:

52 Lima who’s stationed in fort Gordon GA, ” all grunts are stupid dumbasses that couldn’t score over a 35 on the ASVAB, and are good for nothing but cannon fodder, that don’t make up the backbone of the army, we’re better off without them. “

Yeah….

A little translation. As far as I can tell, 52L isn’t even a current MOS, so I think someone is just yanking some chains.

The ASVAB, Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery, is a battery of tests designed to show, well, aptitude in several areas, in order to judge the likelihood that an enlistee will be successful in training in whatever specialty they enlist for. There are about half a dozen different scores such as General Technical and whatnot. And then there’s the score that counts when you enlist. The “overall” score is from 1 to 99, roughly indicating the percentile one falls into in terms of IQ across the population. It’s a cross between native intelligence and education. The minimum score for enlistment in the Army is 32.

There’s long been a perception that the combat arms, Infantry, Armor, Artillery, Combat Engineer, etc, are jam packed with enlistees who scored in the lower tranches of the ASVAB. A common insult of a not so bright fellow soldier is to call him a CAT IV, for the lowest tranche of the ASVAB.

But here’s the thing. Yes, combat arms, and the Infantry, take their fair share of folks who are not towering intellects. But oddly, there are a ton of people who are incredibly bright, scoring far, far above average, in the 90 percentile and above, who chose the Infantry.

Think about it. A lot of very bright young men go through high school and just aren’t challenged. They live comfortable suburban lives, hear the tales of their elders, play sports maybe, and cruise through high school with little or no effort.  But the summons of the trumpet is strong. They know they’re smart, but do they know if they are men? What more traditional test of manhood is there than war?

Anecdotal evidence (and yes, I know the plural of anecdote is not “data”), when I was a recruiter, applicants with scores from 32-50 that enlisted tended to end up either in Field Artillery, Motor Transport, or other related support fields. Applicants with scores from 50-80 tended to end up in technical fields. With only one exception* can I recall an applicant with a score over 80 not joining the combat arms. He enlisted  as a Blackhawk mechanic, became a crew chief, and enjoyed the heck out of it.

As my Bradley crossed the berm into Iraq at the opening of Desert Storm, the topic of conversation amongst the grunts in back was… Shakespeare.

*Women excepted, of course. The field of choice for very high scoring women was either Military Police, or the medical field technical specialties.

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Filed under ARMY TRAINING

The Defense Budget continued, Navy Edition.

Earlier, we looked at places where the Army could shave some program dollars out of its pie. Maybe I’m biased, but I think with FCS dead, the Army is in the best shape procurement wise. That is, I don’t see a lot of huge boondoggle, gold plated programs that should be axed. If I’m wrong, let me know.

Sadly, that’s not the case with the Navy. I can really only think of one major Navy shipbuilding program that’s even close to being well run- the Virginia class SSN’s. And I’m aghast that I can look at a program that is putting the cheap follow-on to the SSN-21 class into the water at $2 billion a pop, and call it a good deal.

But that’s about the only bright spot in the Navy combatant shipbuilding picture. The poster-child for failed shipbuilding programs is the LCS (or as it is widely derided as, “Little Crappy Ship”).  What was originally conceived as a small, disposable $100 million dollar ship to fight swarms of small boats in places like the Arabian Gulf has become a bloated monstrosity at 3000 tons. It’s proponents swear it isn’t a frigate, but it is being bought in suspiciously frigate like numbers, while the current FFG-7 frigates are being retired. It is supposed to be a relatively affordable ship, but it can’t quite ever seem to come in on budget (about $604 million). Instead of buying one new type of ship, the Navy has instead decided to buy two different models of the LCS. There is absolutely no commonality between the two types.  Both ships use new untested combat systems, the proposed main battery of Non-Line-Of-Sight missiles has been cancelled by the Army and its development by the Navy is uncertain. Each ship is supposedly able to be tailored for various mission by the use of plug and play modules for the Anti-Surface, Anti-Mine, and Anti-Submarine warfare roles. But none of the modules is currently ready for deployment, and the development of the modules is of course, behind schedule and over budget. That’s before we even look at the suitability of the concept of operations. What happens when you have ships deployed with the anti-surface warfare modules, but run into a minefield?

The LCS is also “optimally manned” which means they have a ridiculously small crew of 40 or so people permanently assigned, to be augmented by small teams of sailors to operate whatever modules and aviation assets are assigned. With such small crews, roughly a third the size of a normal crew for a ship this size, the routine maintenance of all the ships systems just will not get done. Several folks have done the math and found that to do the maintenance, training, and personnel qualifications needed, each crewman has to work around 28 hours a day. And since the crew is so small, the Navy’s concept is to “hand pick” the crew for these ships. The problem there is the rest of the Navy is heading to an “optimally manned” model, so everyone needs highly trained crewmen, but no one wants to take on board the basic seaman right out of the training pipeline.

When the original concept was conceived, for a much smaller $100 million ship, high speed was specified- about a 50kt top speed.  That may have made some sense for a small 500 to 700 ton ship. It’s ridiculous for a 3000 ton frigate. But the requirement for ultrahigh speed has driven every other facet of the design of both models of the LCS. It has lead to the choice of hull-forms, construction materials,  and powerplants. Both designs are either currently faced with powerplant and hull problems, or very shortly will be. And the huge powerplants needed to propel these ships suck up fuel at enormous rates, sharply decreasing the ships ability to stay on station. At top speed, you have less than a day’s fuel.

The Navy was so frustrated with the poor progress of the program, they said they were going to downselect from two designs to one, and then buy ten of the winner. Lo and behold, the selection team came out of their meetings and magically changed their collective mind to buying ten of each, but they pinkie swear they’re gonna get costs under control.

The other major Navy surface combatant program was so expensive and such a boondoggle that it was cut short at three ships before the first one was even started. The DDG-1000 program was initially conceived as the follow-on to the hugely successful DDG-51 Arliegh Burke class of destroyers. It turned into such a nightmare, the Navy has started DDG-51 production again just to have some ships, any ships, coming down the ways. The DDG-1000 program simply tried to have too many new technologies come to maturity all at the same time in one new program. It is going to have an entirely new hull-form, entirely new powerplant design, entirely new radar system, entirely new missile launcher system, entirely new computer and networking architecture, and entirely new gun system. All at the same price that a late model DDG-51 would cost. Sure. That’s going to happen. Oh, and did I mention it’s going to be a stealth ship? At about 14,000 tons and 700 feet long, it is feasible to actually minimize its visibility to radars. But the ship is optimized for land attack from the littoral region  50 miles off shore. How do you hide a ship that big from the thousands upon thousands of fishing vessels that are out every day and night? You can’t. All it takes to locate the ship is an eyeball and a radio.

The LPD-17 program is also a deeply flawed program. The LPD-17 class is an amphibious transport designed to put Marines ashore. Traditionally amphibious ships have been relatively cheap vessels. The LPD-17s are about a billion dollars apiece. That’s pretty damn expensive, but would be almost bearable if the damn things worked. But between an overly complex design (a titanium fire main? really?), execrable quality control during construction, and abysmal training (and “optimal manning!”) for the crews, the ships have a history of engineering failures.

While neither the Bush nor the Obama administrations have been particularly generous to Navy shipbuilding, they haven’t been especially parsimonious, either. But while successive administrations have been willing to provide sufficient funds, the Navy has squandered money, time, and trust by pursuing fatally flawed shipbuilding programs. This failure on the Navy’s part will impact our national security, and some poor sailors will pay the price with their lives.

So what should be done? Well, the problem is, all three of these programs are “too big to fail” and to keep the fleet from shrinking even further, the Navy needs ships under construction yesterday. But doubling down on stupid is a recipe for disaster. My recommendations are as follows:

  1. LCS Replacement- Build a modernized FFG-7 class, replacing the (now removed) Mk-13/SM-1 missile system with a vertical launch Evolved Sea Sparrow System. Build 75 new hulls.

  2. DDG-1000- Build two, use as testbeds for the next generation destroyer/cruiser program, begin design of a next generation DDG/CG program to be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

  3. LPD-17- Cancel and replace with a modified LSD-41 platform.  Make it a bare-bones platform. The LHA is the centerpiece of the Amphibious Ready Group, so minimize the duplication of capabilities as much as possible.

What are your thoughts?

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Filed under navy, Politics, stupid

About damn time.

Look, I’m not exactly the biggest proponent of women in the Army. I’ve worked with quite a few. Some were terrific Soldiers whom I was proud to serve with. Others were an embarrassment that I hated to be seen with.

But if women ARE going to serve, the least the Army can do is give them a decent uniform. For over 30 years, women have worn the same combat uniform as men. By that I mean that BDUs, and the newer Army Combat Uniform (ACU) have been cut for men, and women, whom you might have noticed are built a little different, have had the options of Small, Medium, and Large. While the vast majority of male Soldiers could make a work uniform look good, most women looked horrific in theirs. That’s finally going to change.

As the service unveils its new and improved Army Combat Uniform, there is another uniform on the way. And ladies, it’s all about you.

While women may be proud to wear the ACU, it is anything but a unisex uniform. And it is no secret that many women have complained about the fit. Many are left to buy larger sizes to accommodate their varying attributes, which leaves them looking like a walking tent.

“We need to ensure our women are wearing something they are comfortable in, and it doesn’t make them look like their uniform doesn’t fit,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, Program Executive Office Soldier.

Adding styles and sizes for women means a better-fitting uniform for about one in every six soldiers — 15 percent of the Army’s 560,000 soldiers are women.

The Army’s answer is a female-cut ACU that boasts more than a dozen changes suited to meet the size and shape of every individual, according to Sgt. 1st Class William Corp, modernization NCO for Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment.

I’ve already got some serious issues with the ACU, especially  the cost, but it is high time the Army give the women in its ranks a uniform that they can be proud of.

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Filed under army, ARMY TRAINING

My blood pressure just spiked

There’s stupid, then there’s Assistant Professor grade stupid:

Amy Hagopian, assistant professor with the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health concludes military recruiters are a “threat to the health of adolescents.”

Hagopian says, “A review of the medical literature suggests military service is associated with disproportionately poor health for young people. The youngest recruits have the greatest number of mental disorders in the U.S. military, including alcohol abuse, anxiety syndromes, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

First, the good professor has  bias that should discount any and all research she may have conducted on this matter. If you read the article, this has been a hobby horse of hers for some time.

Second, her argument that research shows high rates of poor health is pure crap. The average recruit is in far better physical condition that the age group population as a whole. As to mental health issues, there’s a reason why service members show higher rates of the listed disorders. It’s because the military is the only organization that screens for these disorders, diagnoses them, and treats them.  Universities and employers don’t care. They may have some services that offer walk in services, but they don’t take a look at every person.  How hard do you think I’d have to look to find a couple of undiagnosed cases of alcohol abuse in a campus fraternity/sorority system? Or anxiety disorders around mid-terms? Or how about PTSD in victims of on campus sexual assault who never reported their attack? I’ve seen women burst into tears for being yelled at in the office. Is that not anxiety disorder? But they were not diagnosed. I’ve seen men that couldn’t take the pressure of sales jobs that suddenly “fell ill.” Isn’t that PTSD?

I spent a long time as a recruiter. And I spent a goodly portion of that time working to gain access to high schools. Some schools welcomed me with open arms. Others treated me like a leper. But I’ll tell you this, the Recruiting Command response to this putrid slur was spot on:

“We show America’s youth what the core values of the Army are – physical fitness, moral fitness, the kinds of behaviors that we expect of our soldiers,” Smith says. “To say these men and women are somehow equivalent to a sex predator is just wrong headed.”

As a recruiter, I wasn’t selling a tangible product, I was selling an ideal. No one wants to work for an organization that doesn’t stand for something. Most of us want our lives to have meaning, and for many of us, that means belonging to something larger than ourselves. When I worked in high schools, my job was to represent the best that the Army stood for. I didn’t do that by “grooming” kids. I did that by living the values that I held dear.

As a practical matter, when recruiting high school seniors, unlike a predator striving to separate a child from his parents, as a recruiter, I instead worked very hard to get access to the parents. You know the hardest part of recruiting a high school senior? Selling mom on the idea. And you may take my word for it, no bullshit friendly approach is going to convince Momma that you have their son or daughter’s best interests at heart. You either mean it or you don’t.

So, Amy Hagopian, why don’t you quit with the smears and rigged “research” and find something useful to do with your life?

Thanks to Ghengis at Ace’s, where some of the comments are great as well.

4 Comments

Filed under army, Politics, recruiting, stupid

Some people should keep their cakeholes shut.

I just spotted this asshat over at Just One Minute and also at Blackfive.

Bryan Fischer, who judging by his bio hasn’t ever witnessed anything more valorous than a state senator giving a speech, seems to think that the Medal of Honor has become feminized. In reference to SSG Guinta’s investment with the Medal of Honor, Fischer has this to say:

This is just the eighth Medal of Honor awarded during our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Sgt. Giunta is the only one who lived long enough to receive his medal in person.
But I have noticed a disturbing trend in the awarding of these medals, which few others seem to have recognized.
We have feminized the Medal of Honor.
According to Bill McGurn of the Wall Street Journal, every Medal of Honor awarded during these two conflicts has been awarded for saving life. Not one has been awarded for inflicting casualties on the enemy. Not one.

First, Fischer (and McGurn of the Wall Street Journal) is factually incorrect in his assertions. Of the eight Medals of Honor bestowed so far in the War on Terror, not all have been simply for saving the lives of fellow soldiers. In fact, the very first one awarded, to SFC Paul Ray Smith, was explicitly for engaging the enemy in desperate straits. That his fight had the effect of saving his fellow soldier’s lives was undoubtedly a factor in the award. But he earned is award by engaging the enemy.

Fischer seems utterly clueless about the circumstances that lead to acts of valor. When everything is going well in a fight (and here, well is a very relative term), there is no need for anyone to engage in heroics. Indeed, it would likely be counterproductive. It is only when things are deep in the shitter that an individual can possibly perform above and beyond the call of duty. Not surprisingly, those desperate moments usually see our soldiers at grave risk. So the aspect of saving a fellow soldier’s life is almost inherent to the award of the Medal of Honor.

Secondly, how is rewarding the bravery of men whose actions define “selfless sacrifice” in any way “feminizing” the Medal of Honor?  Selfless sacrifice is the heart and soul of soldiering. From the minute a man (or woman!) raises his hand and takes the oath of enlistment, he agrees to put the needs of his fellow soldiers, his unit, his service, his entire country, before his own desires. That willingness is at the very core of the warrior ethos, the very set of manly attributes Fischer seems to think we have ceased to honor. There’s a reason we call it the “service” and not the “personal gain.”

I would tell  Fischer to stick to his ministry, but just looking at his writings, I’d say he’s pretty crappy at that, as well. Maybe he should just crawl back under the rock from when he came.

7 Comments

Filed under army, ARMY TRAINING, stolen valor, stupid

An interesting take on procurement blues

We’re gonna be hammering on what a mess procurement is for a while. Here’s an interesting look at the F-35 program that isn’t nearly as pessimistic as Eric L. Palmer’s usual take on the subject.

Here’s a taste of Prof. Thompson’s view:

The biggest reason, a reason few outsiders seem to grasp, is bureaucratic politics in the Pentagon. You see, there are these factions that benefit from generating cost estimates, conducting tests and doing other things associated with new weapons programs, and said factions tend to make the usual problems any development program encounters either look worse or actually be worse. Take the cost estimates. Prime contractor Lockheed Martin has recently signed the fourth consecutive production contract with the defense department in which the actual cost of building the F-35 came in well below the cost projected by Pentagon estimators. About 25 percent below, in the latest contract. Yet cost estimators continue to apply pessimistic assumptions to projecting future costs, based on historical data from other, older fighter programs. So they come up with wildly wrong cost estimates that the contractor beats every time. It has to beat them, because nobody is going to buy a single-engine fighter for much more than what the latest F-16 sells for today, so that’s how Lockheed needs to price the new plane.

I’m not at all sure how much faith to put in this article. I’m not nearly as antagonistic to the F-35 as Palmer is, but I have to wonder how much of this is more “wishcasting” than forecasting by Prof. Thompson.

If you think of the F-35 as the follow on to the F-22, you’re wrong. And Palmer would argue that if you think of it as the successor to the F-16, you’ll come away disappointed. Me? I think it is likely to be a pretty good successor to the F-16 in the strike role. Or at least, the Air Force “A” model, and the Navy “C” model have potential. I still can’t believe the Marines need a supersonic $150 million dollar close air support platform.

Meh. This is all just an excuse to show this video of the first F-35C arriving at Pax River.

Your thoughts?

5 Comments

Filed under planes, Politics

A Sad Anniversary

It was one year ago today that 13 American soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their nation.  American soldiers enlist knowing they will almost certainly be sent to a theater of war. Many know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they’ll go outside the wire, and be at grave risk, every day, for months, a year, on end. They’ll come home for a year, and go right back and do it again. They have a right to think that at their home station, they are safe from perils of war. Instead, they were slain by the hand of a man they should have been able to trust as their own flesh and blood.

Dave in Texas brings you the story. Go, read.

The Army is a huge, often impersonal organization. There will inevitably be occasions where members fail to live up to the highest standards of the service. Lord knows, many was the time I struggled to make the right choice.

But as horrific as the cowardly attack was, it was the actions of the Army beforehand that were shameful. As the Army fights a war on two fronts against radical Islamists, it bowed to the demands of political correctness, and kept in the service a doctor who was so marginally competent, he’d never make a living in private practice. As this evil fool became more radicalized, and was seen to less stable, his superior officers let the problem slide, and then shifted it from their desk by allowing him to transfer to another station.

Courage is a funny thing. Physical courage is common. It’s surprisingly easy to place your only body at risk. Why else would people be in bar fights, go rock climbing, or play football?

But moral courage… That is a far more difficult proposition…

How seductive the call of our lesser selves that distracts us from our duty. Had any officer made the correct and right, and moral call, and prevented Hassan from advancing in the Army, those 13 soldiers would not have been cut down.  But it was so easy for Hassan’s superior officers to just pretend that the problem would go away. It was easier than sitting him down and telling him to his face he wasn’t good enough to be an officer. It was easier than sitting down with their own superiors and saying that Hassan needed to go. Instead of holding Hassan to the standards set, it was easier to pretend that he was “close enough for government work.”

Ever been on a bus, train, subway, and that weird dude comes on board? He’s nutty, but you avoid eye contact? Just hoping he’d go away and leave you alone. Hassan’s superiors did the same damn thing. And it got people killed.

Having screwed up, the Army doubled down on stupid and cowardly. When the investigation into the shooting was conducted, the Army couldn’t even bring itself to admit what the problem was.  I understand that we aren’t at war with every single Muslim in the world. But the Army couldn’t even bring itself to say what Hassan himself proclaimed was his reason for his murderous rampage.  Not one mention of him being a radicalized Muslim in the whole report. There are Muslims in the Army who serve with honor and distinction. But there have been multiple incidences where Muslims wearing the uniform have put their perverted vision of their faith ahead of their oath to their nation. With the increased emphasis on mental health in the services, the Army can’t even approach it from a mental hygiene point of view- how do you tell if one of your soldiers is becoming radicalized? When does devotion become something sinister? Where do commanders draw the line? Nothing the Army can do will erase the moral failings of Hassan’s commanders who failed in their duty. But it is not too late for the Army to atone for its shameful failure to address the issue of radicalized Muslims in the ranks. How many more soldiers will die at the hands of another soldier before the Army does the right thing?

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Filed under army, Politics, stupid