Sunday, January 02, 2005

"Military" correspondents - why are so many so stupid?

I am not criticizing all "military" correspondents. Some are quite good. My friend and classmate Phil Carter of IntelDump is an excellent military blogger, and some reporters such as Christiane Amanpour are excellent and accurate. Amanpour is in fact quite brilliant and ruthlessly truthful and accurate.

But SO MANY "military" correspondents are SO IGNORANT of the military that they are supposed to report about, and it is dangerous to our republic.

For instance, the identification of a soldier in the Army Times as a marine, despite his US Army clearly visible and his unit patch clearly visible.

The problem of course goes beyond the difference between the Marines and the Army. It isn't that identifying a soldier as a marine hurts anybody - it is that the "military correspondents" are shown to know next to nothing about the military, which means they will either believe everything they are told, dangerous to our republic which does not rely on trust of those in power, in uniform or not, or instead they will not understand what they hear or even how to verify what they hear. In short, it is dangerous. To us.

For example, this from the Navy Times (part of the same company that publishes the Army Times) showing a typical instance of staggering ignorance that civilians won't catch, but those who are reporting on the military should understand: " A Marine with the 3rd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 3rd Division, secures a position as other Marines carryout house-to-house searches in Fallujah, Iraq, on Tuesday." Civilians see nothing wrong in this report. But the identification of the unit goes "Bravo Company, 3rd Division." Apparently the entire 3rd Marine division has only one Bravo company? I think not.

In the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division there are at least two infantry Bravo companies alone: B company, 1st battalion, 327th infantry regiment, and B company 2/327th infantry (notice how I worked in the way the military writes unit designations down (B 1/327 IN) - you get it now, in one sentence, and yet reporters don't). There is also a Bravo battery, a Bravo troop, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the "slice" elements such as engineers or medical have bravo companies assigned to the 1st Brigade. There are other brigades in the 101st. They also all have "Bravo" companies. So imagine how little information is provided by a reporter who says "Bravo Company, 101st Airborne Division" when there are well over a dozen "bravo" companies. Or "Bravo Company, 3rd Division" of the USMC (although there are fewer "bravo" companies in a Marine division since they wisely letter their companies like the Army used to do, with every line company in a regiment having a different letter - but still there will be at least three Bravo line companies in a Marine Division, plus Bravo engineer companies, aviation, etc, just as in my 101st example.)

Some might claim "perhaps it was deliberate for operational security reasons." Nope. First, if the enemy is shooting at you then they probably know you are there. Keeping that info from the folks back home won't protect you. And, from the same paper, same day, a military correspondent that seems to know what he is doing - a USMC reporter in fact, not a civilian:

"Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Chris Johnson, assigned to Headquarters Platoon, L Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, holds an Iraqi child while Marines in the battalion conduct a "cordon and knock" mission outside Fallujah, Iraq, on Dec. 6 during Operation Al Fajr. " There is only one HQ platoon, L co, 3/5th Marines, in all of the world. The division id was nice, but not even needed to identify this unit completely and accurately. This Marine probably learned his journalism skills in high school, and then attended a brief USMC course, and yet is obviously much more capable than Wolf Blitzer. And he reported the entire id, so "opsec" was not the reason the other correspondents didn't get the unit id right. They are simply incompetent. Much like Tom Brokaw who reported on "the Army's 2nd Battalion." Period. No further information provided. And no, it was not the 2nd Ranger battalion either, which Rangers would consider the only second battalion that could be referred to that way without confusion. No, it was simply "the Army's 2nd battalion." I guess there is only one "2nd battalion" in the entire Army.

I could be wrong. Perhaps there is only ONE bravo company in all of the USMC. From the Navy Times, same exact day as all of my other examples: "Marines from Bravo Company drive their Armored Personnel Carrier outside their camp near Fallujah, Iraq, on Thursday." Oh, Marines from BRAVO company. Now I know who they are. Of course they were not even in an APC but were in an Amtrack. Which leads to my next example:

Bradley fighting vehicles are NOT TANKS. Self-propelled howitzers are NOT TANKS. APCs are NOT TANKS. But in the world of "military" correspondents, if it has tracks it is a tank. Even with no gun at all, and a giant red cross on the side so that the enemy knows it is not a tank. Either the reporters are too stupid to know the difference, or they assume Americans are too stupid - which, again, shows that the reporters are stupid.

And why did I not use the 3rd Marine Division in my first example, but used the 101st Airborne? Because the 101st does NOT JUMP FROM AIRPLANES. THEY ARE NOT PARATROOPERS. They are an "air assault" division and quite proud of it. But "airborne" means to "military" correspondents only parachute troops - paratroopers. Even those who don't use parachutes, of course. Even though the Army has NEVER used "airborne" to identify only parachute units, even back in WWII when airborne units were first created (the glider troops had the most hazardous jobs of all - and never jumped with parachutes - and were part of the airborne divisions.) Yet in the first gulf war Wolf Blitzer breathlessly reported that the "101st Airborne is jumping behind enemy lines from Apache helicopters." Wow, how brave of those troopers to jump without parachutes from Apaches that can't even carry troops. I guess they were hanging on to the wheels and just let go over enemy territory. What was Wolf's punishment for being CNN's "military" correspondent yet being so totally ignorant of the military? He now has his own show. Imagine that. He reported that the 101st was "jumping" - but they don't use parachutes and aren't paratroopers and pretty much EVERYBODY in the Army knows this - and he said they were jumping from "Apache helicopters" which only carry a gunner and a pilot, which anybody who has watched the Discovery channel (we used to call it the "Defense Contractor channel" can tell you. My "Dodgers beat the Rams" example isn't so far-fetched now, is it? He also reported on the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and said it is "mounted on the back of a Bradley tank." Bradleys aren't tanks, of course, and the MLRS launcher is about twice as big as a Bradley IFV (they are HUGE). This same guy (Wolfie baby) interviewed some smartass PFC who was on a range firing an M2 .50 cal machine gun, and asked him what it was. The guy was shocked (doesn't everybody know what this is?) and made up a wise-ass response on the spot. "It's a new anti-tank weapon that can destroy tanks" he said with an impish grin. Wolf breathlessly reported this. Of course firing a .50 cal at even the weakest tank is not 'habit forming,' and the M2 .50 cal has been used by the Army from WWI to today. No, that is no typo. I said World War One. Yet Wolfie knew nothing about it. Well, it isn't like it is his job was to know such things. He was only CNN's top "Military" correspondent at the time. Well, I guess it would be too much for him to know about EVERY Army division, right, since there are something like 101? The most divisions we have had since the end of the Vietnam war is 18. How many MLB teams are there? Do sports reporters have ANY trouble knowing that the Dodgers are in LA, the Yankees in New York? Do they have any trouble telling the difference between the White Sox and the Red Sox? Do LA reporters confuse the Lakers with the Clippers? But Wolfie, well, he can't be expected to know that the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) is in fact an Air Assault division that is helicopter-borne, or that .50 cals are common weapons throughout the world, or that the MLRS is NOT "mounted on the back of a bradley tank." And he came out of the first gulf war a star, instead of being seen for a clown.

You may ask what difference it makes that so many reporters who report on the military are so woefully ignorant about the military.

It makes a HUGE difference.


Because of the incredible ignorance of the American people when it comes to even the most basic military concepts, the decisions that affect the lives of our military personnel, and the survival of our nation, are often flawed. At great cost in lives and money. Any politician that votes against ANY weapons system is labeled "weak" on defense. Even though the purchase of the weapon can in fact weaken our military. We spent billions and billions on the "SGT YORK DIVAD" anti-aircraft gun in the '70s, and it never, ever worked. And the Army never wanted the damn thing. The tests of the system were rigged when it was shown to Congress. And the defense contractor still made a profit, and nobody went to jail like they should have. We spent billions on "star wars" during the Reagan era, despite the knowledge in the military that it would not improve our defenses one little bit, not one bit. The result of such wasteful spending? The politicians who wisely opposed it were castigated as weak on defense, most notably in the famous Dukakis "tank" commercial.

Of course it isn't just republicans who make wasteful decisions. Carter was the one who approved the purchase of the B1 bomber at a cost of billions and billions. A weapon that sits unused today, yet still is in the inventory at enormous expense. We spend $$$ training pilots, mechanics, etc, maintaining and training with the B1. So what bomber do we use when we go to war? We use the B-52. Imagine if the B1 weapon system had NOT been purchased. We might have already had a viable replacement for our aging B-52 fleet, as that ancient airframe reaches the end of its useful life and metal fatigue causes fatal failures, not to mention exhorbitant maintenance costs.

Now we have "National Missile Defense." I compared NMD to the Maginot Line recently. The "military" expert I was chatting with said "what's that?" Jeez.

For those who can't be bothered with history, the Maginot Line was a series of forts and underground bunkers that the French built, at huge national expense, to protect themselves from Germany after WWI. Politicians who opposed it were called "weak" on defense and voted out of office. The huge expense made some French contractors incredibly rich, while the French army was denied the money for troops and training and tanks they desperately needed to prepare for the war they knew was coming. The project in effect forced the French army to commit most of its manpower to static defensive positions, even though many (most?) French army officers knew better. Those that spoke out were destroyed, their careers ruined, many forced into early retirement or second-class assignments - including men like Charles de Gualle and Gen. LeClerc, who understand "blitzkrieg" warfare before "military" correspondents coined a name for it. Politicians who tried to correct the situation were sent packing. And France fell, despite spending a fortune in time and money on defense, despite the economic sacrifices the nation made to protect itself by purchasing the Maginot Line defense. The Maginot Line presented a strong point, and thus the Germans simply didn't attack there, so I guess it did succeed, but didn't help (although, in fact, in some places the Germans did attack the line - successfully.) Had the French NOT built the Maginot line they would have had resources available to build a stronger, more capable, flexible army. The Maginot Line weakened them - at great expense.

Well, that was France, right? We are America, not weak lily-livered wussy France. Except that prior to France's fall in 1940 the French had the reputation of having the best military in the world. And they deserved it. The French people and the leaders they elected were to blame, not the French military, who actually fought like hell in impossible circumstances (Gen. LeClerc and his French 2nd Armored Divison fought with distinction at Normandy, and they were given the honor of entering Paris to "liberate" it along with the US 4th Division; much of the French Navy escaped or scuttled their ships rather than let them fall in to German hands). But we never seem to learn from the experience of other countries, especially the French. We ignored them in Vietnam, and ended up just like they had, and 58,000 American soldiers died. We also ignored their lessons from Algeria, and now we have our own in Iraq. But how many "military" correspondents even know about the Algerian war and can draw conclusions and/or educate the public? By the way, there is another reason I bring up the heroism of Gen. LeClerc: (see it and learn from history). And now back to NMD - if it works (doubtful) we will have spent untold billions on a system that defeats incoming missiles. Are we safe from nuclear attack then? Of course not. It just won't come from a missile - and meanwhile, the huge NMD project will suck up valuable resources that won't be available to do something really useful, like better security at our nation's ports. Imagine the damage not just in lives, but to our economy, if one of the many huge shipping containers unloaded every day at the Port of Los Angeles contained a nuclear bomb? Or hell, even a "dirty" bomb? But no, we will spend the money on defending ourselves from a missile threat - which won't make us any safer even if it works, which it probably won't. The Maginot Line.

Why are we buying the F-22 stealth fighter at the same time we face a manpower deficit on the ground? Will twice, or five times, or 100 times as many aircraft overhead change the situation on the ground? Will more aircraft carriers improve our national defense at all? No. Why do we spend so much money then? Because few civilians have any idea that buying unneeded, expensive equipment detracts from our national power, both militarily and economically, even aside from what good that money could do elsewhere. After all, there are no "infantry" lobbyists trying to get Congress and the people to understand that we need more trained riflemen, and that we should raise the pay of infantrymen in order to recruit more qualified troops. Defense contractors, on the other hand, have LOTS of well-paid lobbyists, and they make huge contributions to political campaigns. Thus we have the most technologically advanced military in the world, but have weapons systems that cost billions that we don't (or can't) use. We don't have enough infantrymen or MPs or Civil Affairs soldiers, but we have 12 aircraft carrier battle groups and are buying the F-22 stealth fighter (which can evade the radar of the enemy - except that there is no force in the world that can even begin to challenge our air superiority, including China, Russia, or the entire European Union combined - in short, it is unneeded. Research yes, procurement no.) We spend large amounts of money on batteries that soldiers have to lug around, and batteries run out, and they are toxic to dispose of (lithium or magnesium batteries) but we could have hand-cranked chargeable batteries that could power much of our equipment, never run out (you just crank them back up) - and that technology exists NOW. But we buy more batteries. The Defense Department buys millions of dollars of coal every year. We don't have anything in the inventory that burns coal. Nothing. Not a thing. Why aren't we all informed of this, and pissed off about it?

And of course we are buying more expensive aircraft (including the joint strike fighter (JSF), the largest military procurement contract in history) at a time when it is clear the next generation of fighters should be unmanned aircraft controlled from the ground, so our incredibly expensive fighters will be obsolete before the end of the production run because modern fighter aircraft are limited in how they can turn by the human factor of the pilot inside - too quick and sharp a turn pulling too many "gees" and the pilot can black out and die, or die from the forces of the turn alone. Thus the first nation to field unmanned fighters will be able to defeat any manned fighter in the world, skill of the pilots notwithstanding. And we are leading the world in this research, and shortly we should be able to field unmanned fighters, well before our current generation of fighters even begins to approach the end of their useful life. So what do we do? Buy the manned JSF at nation-breaking, mind-boggling expense. As a result we will be forced to use them well into the year 2050, while our potential enemies leapfrog us with unmanned aircraft that can destroy any JSF regardless of the skill of the human pilot. Oh, and at much less expense, since much of the cost (and weight) of the planes today are devoted to keeping the pilot alive. No cockpit needed, no displays/gauges needed, no windshield, no ejection seat, no need to build the aircraft large enough to fit a human (also with corresponding advances in flight time due to less fuel consumption), and no worry about pilots being shot down over enemy territory, meaning aircraft can fly lower than we do today, etc. etc. etc. Does buying the JSF help or hurt our national security? It hurts, but any politician who opposes it will be "weak" on defense and lose office. I mentioned "ADA" before - Air Defense Artillery. We are desperately short of MPs, Civil Affairs, and most of all, trained infantry, yet we still have ADA. Not a single American soldier has died from enemy aircraft fire since the Korean war (and it wasn't much of a threat then either). Few even died in WWII from enemy air, and in any case the most effective protection was gaining air superiority, which we did in 1944 and have never lost since. So why are there tens of thousands of soldiers in the Air Defense Artillery branch? Does this improve our military capabilities, or harm them? By the way, don't even think of trumpeting the "success" of the Patriot Missile System. That is a GREAT example of the ignorance of the general public and the incompetence of the media when it comes to military affairs. The Scud missile attacks were "barely" guided missiles, not much better than the V1 and V2 German weapons of WWII. They pretty much landed at random. So what do we do to "protect" our troops? We spend billions on the Patriot, which shoots into the air and blows up the Scud - and as a result, MORE flaming wreckage (from the Scud AND the Patriot) drops at random below than would if we just ignored the damn Scud in the first place. MORE damage is done. At a cost of billions. But hey, we felt like we did something. It kind of reminds me of a time when I was subject to less than accurate "cover fire" during a live-fire exercise. My team (I was a fire-team leader at the time) had to run for cover from our "support" team. They almost killed us. Pissed off, I confronted the weapons squad leader and demanded to know why he was shooting at my team. He said "we couldn't make out where you were, but we had to do something." Well, no, he didn't. And we don't need the Patriot.

You can, of course, like many people, blame those politicians (remember how so many people cheered Oliver North and his open hostility to Congress, not understanding that Congress represents the people?). But that would be wrong. We have a representative government, and the people decide. And those people are ignorant when it comes to making such decisions, and thus make the wrong decisions - such as thinking that any time a politician opposes a weapons system he is "weak" on defense. Why? Because "military" correspondents know next to nothing about the military, which shows when they can't even do simple things like understand the way the military identifies units - or when they call anything with tracks a tank - or when they don't know the difference between the Marines and the Army. And they thus don't inform the public about things like spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the JSF will actually harm our national security, and any politician who votes for it is weak on defense. See, it makes a huge difference.

Recently most Americans were unpleasantly surprised to learn the Army was overstretched in Iraq, despite so many generals warning against that very thing. Why? Don't you know the Army is HUGE? Don't we have like 101 divisions or something? Of course not, but many thought so. Most Americans also assumed that this second gulf war would be like the first, with a quick battle that made everybody proud, and then there would be a parade, and then the History channel and the Discovery channel could make more documentaries about how awesome our military is, and it would all be over. This despite the Chief of Staff of the Army (Gen. Shinseki) raising so much hell about how dangerous this would be that he was replaced, his designated successor (Gen. Bud Keane) refused the job in protest and preferred to be "acting"
chief of staff while a replacement was selected (first time ever that has happened) and no other active-duty general would take it (first time that has ever happened) and a general (Gen. Schoomaker) had to be recalled from retirement to take the most senior Army post (first time that has ever happened, ever.) How many of you knew about that? That the Army's senior leadership were so opposed to the invasion of Iraq (because they KNEW it would harm our national security - as it has) that several ended their careers in protest? It seems the only people who clearly saw that invading Iraq would be a mistake were senior Army officers who have devoted their entire lives to our national security and a mastery of land warfare. But what do they know?

The result: Since then Rumsfeld has prematurely ended the careers of numerous brilliant officers in place of less capable ones who toe the "party line." This will harm our national security for decades to come. How many of you heard about that? How many of you knew that Rumsfeld personally decides on general officer promotions and assignments, the first Secretary of Defense in history to do that, a job normally done by the respective service chiefs instead of political appointees like Rumsfeld? How many of you knew that Rumsfeld considers the political inclinations of the officers before he decides on promotions? Well, what harm could come from that, right?

The Soviet Union did much the same, but even at the height of the Cold War we didn't. Remember, it was a lawyer representing the US Army who bravely asked McCarthy "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?" and brought an end to McCarthy's reign of terror. I can't imagine that today. Can you? Well, actually, it happened. Judge Advocate General officers (military lawyers - JAG) contacted the American Bar Association and warned about the "torture memo" and Rumsfeld's flouting of the Geneva Conventions long ago, well before Abu Ghraib Guantanamo Bay degredations came to light. This included many of the most senior JAG officers in the military. They were desperately trying to stop such counter-productive, harmful, shameful policies. Yet most of you have never heard about this, and now our nation's chances of success in Iraq have been damaged, not to mention the additional harm that has been done to our influence in foreign affairs throughout the world and the increased risk to our own troops from such shameful and illegal acts committed at the behest of the President and the Secretary of Defense over the objections of uniformed military officers. And of course, the previous heroism of Gen. Shinseki, who informed Congress of what Iraq would take - and was publicly castigated by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. Shinseki, of course, has been shown correct. You know why? Because the facts were clear, and it didn't take much knowledge to know Iraq was a mistake and that it would take years, billions, and tens of thousands of troops to reform/rebuild/transform Iraq, which was NOT a WMD threat or linked to the war on terror. Hell, I said so at the time in editorials published as early as November 2002, months before the March 2003 invasion - not because I am a seer or an incredibly gifted analyst. Because it was shockingly obvious what the outcome would be to those who understand national security policy and the limits of American power - obvious to all but those who made the decision to invade, that is. On a side note: for what people knew, when they knew it, and what was said at the time.

Why has such important information either been ignored or reported simply as ammunition in the "left v. right" propaganda wars during the recent election? Why are such issues considered political at all?

Because "military" correspondents who have the job of informing us on vital issues of national security don't know the difference between the Marines and the Army, that's why. If they don't know that, how the hell can they know deeper issues that impact our very survival as a nation?

I guess it isn't as important as sports. And we have only ourselves to blame.

Good luck to the only Bravo company in the Marines. They will need it.


vrangel said...

Hehe, so called reporters do not posess any deep knowledge on anything. They are ultimate shallow entertainment type intellectuals.

Of course they are good at creating impression of being knowledgeable. But once you encounter something you, the reader, happen to know a lot about, their stuff is laughable.

You think they don't know jack about the military ? Well, I happen to know a lot about videogames (long story). And I can testify that anything I read on this subject in mainstream press is pretty much nonsense.

Specialty blogs and sites are the way to go. All things military ? Here you go:

or blogs like this one : , on Falouja:

"A round impacted on a huge hotel-looking building off to our left. (If you look at the pictures in the Telegraph article, that’s SSG Terry’s tank and my tank hammering at that hotel. There had been a few snipers on the roof of the building. The round hit the right side, top corner.

“Oh shit!” said SGT P. “There was a guy on the roof.” When that round hit the building, it looked like God himself came down and pimp-slapped him off the building. He just flew sideways like he was catapulted into orbit. And this other dude got slammed down from the roof. He hit the ground and then bounced off the pavement for another 60 meters. SGT P told us everything he saw as I kept the artillery guys informed of what was happening.

“ Red 6, Ramrod 18. Send me a BDA(battle damage assessment) if you can.”

“Roger. That shit was dead on. I saw about groups of 5 guys blow straight up into the sky with each round that was impacting. About 3 guys survived the first attack. They came out of the smoke doubled over and grabbing their stomachs. The repeat mission hit those guys right on the head and finished them off. I’d say about 20 guys were killed.”

I'd say this guy is in the know. ;)

TWD, you can stop reading NYT&Co, as I did few years ago. Waste of time. Develop deeper online sources if you want to stay informed.

vrangel said...

And here is another part from the same guy after the battle :

"The reporters found me on the ground and started asking me a few questions... I was extremely skeptical about talking to the media. For one thing, I didn’t want to say anything that would get me in trouble. Second, I didn’t trust them to portray things how they really happened. And worst of all, I didn’t want them to convey how excited we all were about killing bad guys. I didn’t want to come off looking like a blood-lusting, warmongerer."

See my point ? I'd rather hear from "horse's mouth" than through some reporter. And now thanks to internet we can. Screw mainstream media, their monopoly is gone, good riddance.

free0352 said...


Overall a very good post and I agree with 90% of it. I love the interview with the “Senior War Planner,” Lt Colonel so and so. Lt Colonel, senior Pentagon official…war planner. WTF???

I disagree with two facts stated.

Shooting down the scuds with patriots and having the missile system is intelligent for two reasons. First, the scud is indeed like the V-2 of Nazi Germany, except many times bigger. Its 2000 pound warhead can level a city block. Its falling fragments while dangerous are much safer that 2000 pounds of HE, don’t you think? That’s assuming the scud warhead does not contain VX or Anthrax. While both going off in the atmosphere is a very, very bad thing sure to kill hundreds…it beats the thousands who would suffer from a proper dispersal of the chemical agents. Do we even need to get into North Korea’s possible nuclear warheads?

Second you said

”The result: Since then Rumsfeld has prematurely ended the careers of numerous brilliant officers in place of less capable ones who toe the "party line." This will harm our national security for decades to come. How many of you heard about that? How many of you knew that Rumsfeld personally decides on general officer promotions and assignments, the first Secretary of Defense in history to do that, a job normally done by the respective service chiefs instead of political appointees like Rumsfeld? How many of you knew that Rumsfeld considers the political inclinations of the officers before he decides on promotions? Well, what harm could come from that, right?”

You always ruin a great post with inacurate facts as such. Where’s the inacuracy? Think back to 1997, the year you left the Army. Who was Secretary of Defense then? William Cohen…but you knew that. He did the exact same thing in regaurds to promotions, but to a much greater degree. I’ve heard at the end in 99 the Pentagon was dictating who made Colonel. Take a wild stab at one of the BIG factors in promotion. *Hint* it has to do with politics… Otherwise, how did a fool like Wes Clarke make command of NATO? *Hint* he had friends in high places. Would have made a much better candidate than Kerry though, again…what were the Dems thinking on that one? *honest question*

Otherwise, I agree. You prove again you are not just another stupid liberal, but a well informed Democrat. If only more in your party were like you. Sadly, you are in the company of sign waving international A.N.S.W.E.R members, Michael Moore, and PETA terrorists. Hopefully your disgusting ilk can manage to reform your party (I mean this as the highest of praise from one as enlightened as myself…just fuck’n with ya Major :)

Anyway, have fun in litigation assuming someone out in the Great State of California has realised there is an actually intelligent JD in their midst and hiered you (Not that California lawyers are stupid, but that would be the logical conclusion if court TV and the news were to be belived…the things that go on-in-your-state…)

this we'll defend said...

Thanks Free.

About the Scud - you assume that the 2000 lb warhead is destroyed when the Patriot explodes nearby. Sadly, this is often not the case. The missile is disabled and tumbles in pieces to the ground, but the warhead is often intact. In addition the fuel that powers the Patriot is highly explosive and often does not disintegrate or burn up in the air, but explodes upon impact with the ground. And since the warhead is often not disabled, the warhead containing VX or anthrax is just as dangerous whether a Patriot scores a "hit" or not. The "successful" Patriot system is, in fact, worse than useless in military terms.

Your claims about William Cohen are unsubstantiated, and I believe I can show them to be nothing more than inaccurate rumors. William Cohen was a Republican in a Democratic administration. What political views was he checking for? Thus I doubt what you have heard about him is true. And Rummy is the first to formally take away the power of general officer assignments from the service chiefs, even if other SecDefs exercised such power behind the scenes. My experience is that he is the first to do that publicly or covertly. And of course your claim that Wes Clark is a "fool" who had "friends in high places" is partisan rhetoric and untrue, despite your belief in what you have heard. You may disagree with his politics, but he is certainly no fool, and he had a distinguished and accomplished and respected career as an infantry officer from the rank of 2LT to four-star. As you know, there are MANY line officers who don't give a damn about the friends a lieutenant or captain may have in high places, or a major or lieutenant colonel. I guarantee you that Wes recieved some OERs from officers who were retiring and who didn't give a hoot about any "risk" to their careers, and would have rated Wes a fool if he were, in fact, a fool. He was always given high ratings, above his very accomplished and competent peers, and despite his conflicts with superiors in Washington when he was NATO commander, he conducted a skilled campaign in the Kosovo air war with many fickle allies in tow. And his "friends in high places" didn't protect him from Gen. Shelton forcing early retirement upon him - something not due to competence but to personal friction between two very accomplished, very headstrong, aggressive warriors.

Finally, pointing out the fringe elements on the left in order to discredit anyone to the left of Rush Limbaugh is a tried and true tactic for painting the Democratic party as wild-eyed hippie radicals, but the current adminstration is among the most extremist, radical, far-right, wild-eyed fanatics as we have seen in this century. Again, most conservatives who support "W" seem only able to count to two - and thus they feel the choice is between commies on the left and fascism on the right, and they choose fascism. I don't, and I don't choose communism or PETA terrorists or other fringe groups either. I am a member of the Democratic party, a responsible, stable, loyal, pragmatic, and capitalist, mainstream political party. It is the extremist "W" and his radical cohorts like Rummy and Wolfowitz that are out of the mainstream, despite their fooling 51% of voters into thinking otherwise. Oh, and 51% is NOT A MANDATE.

but I love you too - not in any spit-swapping way, of course.

On a related note, check out this example of an accurate, though depressing, military correspondent:

(if you aren't a subscriber sit through a brief advertisement for a "day pass." It is worth it - the Economist is among the most accurate and well-written analysis out there, even if they foolishly (albeit reluctantly) endorsed W in the last election.

free0352 said...

I hate Wes Clarke for the doofy way he ran his AOR and the drunken way he ran the war in Kosovo… because I witnessed him suck. To that man, joint warfare does not exist. He is indeed a fool.

You said

“Finally, pointing out the fringe elements on the left in order to discredit anyone to the left of Rush Limbaugh is a tried and true tactic for painting the Democratic party as wild-eyed hippie radicals, but the current adminstration is among the most extremist, radical, far-right, wild-eyed fanatics as we have seen in this century. Again, most conservatives who support "W" seem only able to count to two - and thus they feel the choice is between commies on the left and fascism on the right, and they choose fascism. I don't, and I don't choose communism or PETA terrorists or other fringe groups either. I am a member of the Democratic party, a responsible, stable, loyal, pragmatic, and capitalist, mainstream political party. It is the extremist "W" and his radical cohorts like Rummy and Wolfowitz that are out of the mainstream, despite their fooling 51% of voters into thinking otherwise. Oh, and 51% is NOT A MANDATE.”

Angry are we? Wipe that froth off your mouth, you’re starting to get that glazed look in your eyes again. I voted for W, and I can count well past two…though I can’t spell my way out of a wet paper bag. Dyslexia sucks. Anyway, I don’t know what party you think you’re in…but from what I see, extreamism ‘was’ the Dem buzz word. Now it’s just screams of agony coming from the left. W is as far left as we are capable of going in the Republican party. You should thank your lucky stars ol free 0352 ain’t runnin’ thangs…

And I do in fact call 5 million votes a mandate. My statements about Cohen are totally substanciated and a matter of public record. Would any intelligent politicean regaurdless of party leave important apointments (In war time no less) to any one else? Are you kidding? Rummy will be held 100 billion % accountable for whatever his generals do. In the world where an Abu' Gareb can really come back to haunt I BET he’s watching closely, and choosing based on a little more than fit-reps. And I also bet he tends to appoint officers who belive in the mission. I hear troops aren’t happy being led by those who don’t want to be there….

Quit fishing TWD

free0352 said...

Oh and the missiles.

So TWD, what it sounds like you want is a Patriot with a bigger warhead?

It's a great idea that probably needs a generational upgrade.

vrangel said...

Ok, I went through an ad and read the article. It's not bad but still lacking depth. See, I was reading Jason's blog for months while he was stationed in Ramadi last year. As a result I happen to know in detail from "horse's mouth" how situation was evolving there over time.

By the way I looked up his archives and was surprised that he actually met C. Amanpour in Ramadi . His impression, quote from November 2003:

1. She's very personable and gracious in person, and quick with a smile. She was happy to pose for some photos with soldiers, too.

2. She's far more attractive in person than she is on camera. I don't think the camera is very flattering to her. And the dead serious subject matter she usually covers means you don't get to see her laugh or smile very often.

3. Her backup crew was very careful to check facts. Unit designation. Rank. How do you spell the last name? Spell it again? Is this a brigade, or battalion? It's good to see this kind of attention to detail on the front end. It bodes well for the rest of the report.

4. She was extremely demanding with her crew, even though they weren't her usual CNN crew. These guys were on a budget. CNN will come by later with a carrier battlegroup's worth of high-dollar SUVs...

vrangel said...

And this is today's post from milblogger in Iraq :

"I woke up this morning to the sound of an explosion. It was the sound of 5 men dying. A car bomb blew up just outside our base about 500 meters from my building. As is often the case these days, it was the Iraqi National Guard who took the brunt of it. These men were doing their job, as they do every day, keeping us and their comrades safe. Doing what they could to bring peace to Iraq, they gave their life for their country. They will remain in my mind and heart among the honored dead. They should be regarded as such everywhere.

I'm getting sick of people who characterize all the Iraqi security forces as corrupt, bumbling fools. Most are honest and increasingly capable. Men of action, not words. There is so much moral distance between the armchair pundit who secretly revels in each attack and outrage because it validates their loathing of what we are doing here and the Iraqi soldier, policeman, border guard, or election worker who gets up each day and does his job knowing, yet suppressing for the sake of sanity, that today they might be killed and reviled as enemies of the people and apostates."

I'll take blogger over reporter any day.

this we'll defend said...

Vrangel, the "straight into basic training" reference is to the emptying of the delayed entry program (DEP) "float" of recruits who enlist but don't report for up to a year. It evens out the cyclical nature of recruiting (high schools across the nation graduate around the same time, but basic runs year-round) and also allows the military a "buffer" to focus recruitment efforts before failing to meet the demand. Instead of putting recruits into DEP the military is emptying the "float" by speeding up reporting schedules and sending enlistees directly to basic training instead of phased-reporting. This also makes it more difficult to provide advanced training because the feed from basic training is less consistent, resulting in partially filled or delayed advanced individual training courses - which means troops are in the school pipeline longer than they should be, and thus have less time to get their unit training before deploying to combat. You don't want to enter a combat zone with troops only weeks out of AIT. They aren't ready. It is bad news, and the NY Times understood that.

so yes, I read it, AND I understood it.

vrangel said...

Thanks for clarification. And I need another one on this:

"... promising young officers are opting not to re-enlist."

I was under impression that officers do not enlist/re-enlist but what do I know...

this we'll defend said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
this we'll defend said...

You are right, officers don't re-enlist (for then they would be "enlisted" instead of "commissioned.")

However, even in the military it is common to refer to the decision of whether an officer stays or leaves the military as a decision to reenlist.

But you bring up another way reporters get it wrong and reveal how ignorant they are of the military (to tie the last two of my posts together): "staff sergeant Jones, and officer in..." No. He is a non-commissioned officer, true, but is NEVER referred to as an officer, because "officer" is reserved for the commissioned officer, and infantry NCOs don't look kindly upon those who call them "sir" or refer to them as an officer.

Ranks, which are pretty simple, confuse the hell out of reporters - and all civilians, for that matter.

I remember a friend of my mother's proudly telling me her Marine son "outranked" me after I told her I had just been promoted to corporal. "He's a LANCE corporal" she told me, beaming. I congratulated her, of course.

Then there was my friend who informed his dad that he was now a First Lieutenant. "Well, what were you before?" Asked his dad. "Second Lieutenant." (long pause) "Son, what did you do to get in trouble and be bumped back to First Lieutenant?" He figured it out when we burst out laughing.

But sometimes ranks can confuse the military too. When I was a captain I sometimes stayed in Bachelor Officer Quarters (BOQ) on Navy bases. I ALWAYS made reservations in advance, being sure to let them know I was a "Captain, and I expect quarters that befit a captain, and don't do like last time and confuse me with a Marine captain, which is NOT what I am." "Yes Sir!" They would reserve a VIP room for me (once a three-bedroom suite with full kitchen, once a cottage, a house really, right on the beach with its own driveway). I would check in, and one of three things would happen. 1) the person at the desk would just check my ID and hand over the keys, uncaring. That was nice - big room and all, but sometimes it would be 2) the enlisted person would check ID, realize I was an ARMY captain (O-3, a junior military officer) and not a NAVY captain (O-6, higher than most people ever get to, and the people that command aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines and fighter squadrons and stuff like that) and they would LOVE IT. Because they could tell from my face that I knew the difference too. One guy even called up a driver and "courtesy car" to ferry me about. "It's standard for VIPs, CAPTAIN" he told me with a huge grin. Or, rarely, 3) "Hey, you're not a "full bird" (which is what O-6's are called - Colonels (Army, Navy, USMC) and Navy Captains have eagles for rank). You can't have that room!" To which I would reply "I never said I was, and do you have a problem with the Army?" "But you told us you weren't a marine captain!" "YES, I did." I wouldn't get the room, but they would be chastised for trying to blame ME for THEIR mistake and not determining if I was an "O6" captain by asking me if I was, or wasn't, a "full bird."

vrangel said...

Nice story, LOL.

Back in the Soviet Army there wasn't much of a chance for a confusion. It's all junior/senior sergeant/lieutenant.
Upon graduation everyone would become a (plain) lieutenant. Then two-three years later senior lieutenant. Now what about junior lieutenant ? You could only become one as a result of being demoted, there was no other way, hehe.

And in the Navy they could only be 3rd/2nd/1st rank captains, unlike Army ones who were just plain captains, no rank.

Carter said...

The MPRC that the reporter referred to on the Bradley is probably the "TOW". The TOW is a weapon that is wire guided and pretty good at knocking out heavy weaponry. And everyone compares the Bradley to a tank when explaining it to civilians. I always say it's kinda like one, because I know that civilians would never comprehend the differences.

It's funny because I joined the army with my best friend, and when ever we watch any movie with military in it we always point out the flaws from the reality. Such as when they show some officer in the thick of battle and his rank is all nice and shiny. Or when they salute in the battlefield, the sniper check. But, it's just a little too much work to actually do all that fact checking and all.

this we'll defend said...

Mounting a MPRC on the back of a Bradley would be even more difficult than mounting an MLRS on one, since an MPRC is a "Multi-Purpose Range Complex" where tanks, IFVs, and dismounted infantry go to do combined live-fires and gunnery qualification. Yes, I know it was a typo, but I couldn't resist.

Thanks for telling me about the TOW - but I did learn a little about that particular weapons system the first time I fired one back in 1986. I learned a little more about how they work on Bradleys when I commanded a Bradley platoon in Korea. :)

Enough of me being a jerk and acting all smug - your guess makes sense and is a good one, but the report was about the MLRS, and showed footage of the launcher emptying - and MLRS launcher, while the reporter spoke of how this system replaced 8-inch artillery pieces in our inventory. He was just talking out his a--, which is what most "military correspondents" do. The "embeds" seemed to do much better because they spend more than 10 minutes with a unit and learned more than most reporters ever will.

The TOW is pretty good, especially the TOW-2B which flies OVER the target and shoots shaped charges down, so that the weakest part of the tank is the one hit, and vehicles that are in defilade can still be smacked down. But of course I wouldn't want to be shooting a TOW at a tank, I would much rather have a tank on my side to take out enemy armor.

Everyone might compare a Bradley to a tank when describing it, but that doesn't mean they should identify them in newspapers or on TV as tanks, especially when the report is supposed to provide accurate information about the military. Just my opinion.

One thing that bugs me is the "Joe joined the Army to avoid jail/ couldn't find a job/ didn't graduate from HS/ a "way out" story that all reporters seem to always want to tell. It fits their preconcieved notions about the military - that only the dregs of society join, the slow, stupid, and underprivileged. That way they have no guilt over not serving their country, because hey, they had opportunities. Of course it is bullshit, but they ALWAYS report that way.

The "average" GI is above average. This is demonstrably true.

First, the ASVAB test weeds out a surprisingly large number of potential recruits. Not that people who pass it are automaticallly geniuses - it isn't that hard to pass - but if those that fail it stay civilians, then the average GI is ALWAYS one who passed - making him above average when compared to those who don't serve.

Next, the GI Bill is a prime recruiting tool, yet the slow and stupid and "couldn't find a job" people don't usually care about collge funding - they don't go anyway. If the average GI is attracted by the prospect of college money, he must be considering college - and only 1 out of 5 Americans graduate from college. More than 1 out of 5 veterans are college graduates, thus: above average.

Third: an average of 20 - 30% of each basic training class doesn't make it (regardless of branch of service or even MOS). Not that it is that tough (no, Free, not even Marine boot camp is very hard) but about 1 out of 5 don't make it through. Thus those that do make it are "above average" since those that wash-out return and are civilians.

Now that we are seeing recruiting shortfalls the policy might change, but for about the last 20 years it has been hard as hell to get in without a HS diploma. Not impossible, but it required a waiver. Depending on the recruiting success rate, oftentimes a total ban would be placed on GED accessions, meaning NO waivers were issued. Criminal record waivers were (and are) even harder to get.

Yet the typical story told when portraying a military unit is the guy who didn't graduate HS. Most civilians who don't have family in the military think that half or more of every Army unit is filled with HS dropouts and people who faced jailtime, or the ghetto kid who preferred getting shot at in Iraq instead of getting shot at in Compton.

When I was in the OPFOR at the NTC we had a big exercise using advanced technology - the "Advanced Warfighter Exercise" - AWE. The UAVs were rolled out, the 4th ID was using the applique in force-on-force exercises, all kinds of goodies were being tested out. LOTS of reporters (to show you how important I was, with the NY Times, CNN, Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, LA Times, Economist, Newsweek, Time, US News & World Report, and pretty much every other news organization you can think of on post and interviewing officers, guess which lucky news organization I was assigned to for an interview? You guessed it, that world-renowned and respected publication, Knack. From Belgium. Oh, and NOT the Flemish edition, but only the Dutch one.) Anyway, lots of reporters, and of course they want to do a profile of some GI to use in telling their story about the "modern military" or, even more cliched, the "all-volunteer Army." (jeez, there have been lots of people who have RETIRED and never served in the Army when it wasn't volunteer, how long does it take before it isn't such a shocking concept?) A reporter shows up in my company and wants to interview a soldier. I asked him "should I just pick one at random, or what?" He says "how about somebody from the 1st platoon who didn't graduate high school." I told him everybody had graduated. "What about the 2nd platoon?" "Everybody. All of us are HS graduates." "What about-" "Everybody. We don't have anybody in this company with just a GED." He said "Oh" and LEFT to go to ANOTHER company. He asked right out "Do you have anybody who didn't graduate high school?" They did, the guy known as "the guy who didn't graduate high school." BAM - he is newsworthy, and a story is published in the newspaper about the kid, a heartwarming story of a guy who didn't graduate high school, who didn't have many opportunities, who joined the Army as a "way out." Of course, nothing was said about him being far from typical. Because the reporter had already pretty much written the story, and just needed to find somebody to stand in for his hypothetical GI - the guy who HAD to join and didn't have any other opportunities.

Man, I HATE "military correspondents." Except the guy from KNACK, he was pretty cool. Even if they didn't use me or anything I said.

free0352 said...


great job sneeking into the flag officers quarters. NICE. Once I got to bump a full bird off a flight. Boy was he pissed an E-3 had done it, but my orders were from the PacCom commander and he could shove it up his ass. The benifits of having someone that high up order you home because he felt sorry for you and just got done releaving your CO. Flew buisness class back from Japan too. That was sweet.

Ryan Kirk said...

Very interesting read, with many good points. Just wanted to partially-defend the Army Times in regards to your first example. The 1/503rd is one of 5 Army Btns and 1 Marine btn (2/5 Marines) of the 2nd ID, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which in turn operates under the 1st Marine Division in the Anbar province. The 1/503 and 2/5 do a fair amount of collaborative work in Ramadi, and at the time of that picture shared the same base. Thus, they technically are under Marine command. I say "partially defend" b/c that picture was, as you point out, of an Army engineer (from a company of the 44th Eng Btn attached to the 1/503rd), but it is very likely Marine engineers were part of that same operation. You are correct in the misclassification of that caption, but in this case the distinction is blurry enough that the Army Times correspondant might not actually be a "flaming idiot." I still agree with your overall impression, though... the evolving modularization of the Army is only going to make these misclassifications worse.

this we'll defend said...

Thank you Ryan. However, I don't think it makes any difference because almost all operations are joint now, so there are always Army units working with Marines, and every Army unit has USAF personnel assigned, etc. And if the photographer had bother to ask the engineer, and he was a Marine, he would identify his Marine unit, not the Army unit he was attached to - and likewise with soldiers working with the Marines.

The 2 BCT is getting the raw end of the deal. They deployed from Korea, meaning automatically that they were among the least-trained combat units in the Army. Not that they don't have good soldiers, but the nature of Korean assignments is that it is for one year, meaning that until stop-loss was enacted the personnel turnover was 100% a year. This makes it incredibly difficult to even maintain individual skills, much less team skills. The METL task list was almost impossible to accomplish to standard, because as soon as you master one skill (say, gunnery qualification) you will lose key personnel and get brand new replacements - and then you master the next METL task, and the same turnover, and then by the time you are training for the third task your proficiency at the first task is gone - in this example, the crews that qualified at gunnery no longer exist - gunners are rotated out, new BCs have arrived, etc.

I just hope that the Army was able to stablize the 2nd BCT in time to adequately train the unit. It would be harder than usual because even after stabilization there would be a lack of institutional memory and thus fewer subject matter experts or experienced troops that are critical in training to standard.

When I served in Korea I found it the most challenging environment I ever faced. At the end of my tour, after I worked my butt off, I had a mediocre platoon. Not because the soldiers weren't good - every unit gets the same kind of troops, and any commander that blames his troops should be fired because it is never the troops, but the commander. No, it was turnover - After 4 gunneries in which my guys qualified distinguished, after having PT tests in which my platoon scored among the best in the brigade, after 4 of my guys earned their EIB, after several extended FTXs, I had 1 crew left that was qualified, most of my dismounts were less than 6 months out of basic, four new arrivals were overweight, etc.

The guys in the 2nd BCT of the 2nd ID have it tougher than any unit in Iraq, I just hope the Army realizes they aren't as capable as units that have had the same turnover spaced over four years.

Oh, and then there is the fact that soldiers who deployed to Korea for an unaccompanied tour and then to Iraq will be spending more time away from their family than anyone other unit in the Army.

Those guys deserve our respect, they have it tough.

Ryan Kirk said...

More insightful commentary, thanks. If the 2nd bde, 2nd ID wasn't ready when they got the word in early May 2004, they are now after 3 months crash-course training and 5 months in theater in the heart of the insurgency. One key difference than the normal 1 yr Korea rotation was that stop-loss and order-cancellations went into effect for this group long before they redeployed to Iraq (and many more volunteered to stay with their units), so they went fairly unified. Yes, they did get the shaft bigtime, in many different ways. I'm a civilian and have followed them closely, and they sure as hell have earned my respect --- keep up the good work on the blog, we'll keep reading. cheers, ryan

J. said...

Very interesting blog. Are you sure you're an infantry officer? You don't sound like one ;^). I was a chemo for the 10th MTN DIV and 4-41st FA, 197th INF BDE at Fort Benning. Most of them were not as open-minded, shall we say.

Absolutely concur on correspondents, how many times have I seen the phrase "Bradley tanks." Aggg. But you also have to watch for those reporters with agendas that infiltrate the media. My nomination for least-liked reporter is Deborah Funk of the Army Times. Every chance she gets, she slams the anthrax vaccination program. Now I know it has its issues, but a few hundred thousand soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have had the shot and less than 1 percent have had bad problems. Considering this is the Number One BW threat agent in the world, I think that's acceptable. Her writing constantly twists toward the "Army is culpaple in war crimes" attitude.

I'll be coming back to see your blog.

this we'll defend said...

Thanks, J.

With respect, as a chemo you might not have been as exposed to infantry officers as you might think. We don't tend to be as respectful of officers from other branches as we should.

Buck ninety-seven, huh? Wow, what a blast from the past. "Three cents short of two bucks." :)

I knew people in 4-41, but this was when the 24th ID still was around.

Were you 10th MTN at Benning in the early days, or Drum at the "freeze your ass off" time since then?

J. said...

Yeh, the $1.97, hammer of 18th ABN Corps. Had a swell time at NTC with them...

I take your point about infantry, four years with them probably just predujiced me enough to have bad attitudes toward them. My first OER was written by an LTC that flat out told me he was lowering my rating because he had to reserve the high slots for his infantry lieutenants. Swell. That was in the 10th MTN, I started the 3-14th IN BN NBC shop when the division started up. "3-14 - Right of the Line!" Division was at Drum, 2-14 and 3-14 were in Benning with 2nd BDE due to lack of space at Drum. So when the 10th MTN got a chance to send a battalion to Hondorus, they chose... the battalion at Drum that was freezing its ass off. When the 2nd BDE had its buildings ready at Drum, they were asking for "volunteers" to rotate up north. 90 percent of us laughed our asses off and said, no, went to 197th, 75th Rangers, other duty assignments.

Shame of it is that 3-14 was disestablished and replaced by a reserve or NG battalion, I forget. All that work...

Don't get me wrong, I recognize combat arms are the point of the sword, many chemos can't recognize and adapt to the mission and sell themselves as relevant, we're so busy filling out the USR and running the night shift TOC. Couldn't sell ourselves during the Cold War, can't do it now in post-9/11. We just fail to connect the need for CBRN defense to top military strategy inan articulate approach, as you note, it's all WMD hysteria. I'm working on it but the establishment in Chemical Corps doesn't get it. We'll get there some day.

this we'll defend said...

Yeah, Drum sucks. But you have the many delights of Watertown though. Whatever the hell they are. Makes Fort Polk look like Vegas.

Any BN cmdr that would "reserve" good OER blocks for infantry officers is an ass. Sorry, that is how I feel.

My best friend from college was chemo (not by choice) and his BN Cmdr was soooo condescending to him - until he graduated honor grad at Ranger school, had the highest PT score in the BN, and was allowed to participate in the EIB competition (which he maxed out, but he wasn't eligible for the badge of course). Then he was "ok." I always thought that BS. Now he is an SF officer, but his first OER he was still 2-blocked. Every OER of his since then has been 1-blocked.

My point was that, like your BN cmdr that outright admitted to you that you were being graded on a curve so that lesser officers than you could have higher ratings, infantry officers sometimes feel they have to act a certain way and say certain things around other branches. Sadly, this sometimes includes politics, and the majority of infantry officers are conservative.

When I would say that the Army should be apolitical, and tell others that I voted for Clinton and that shouldn't mean a damn thing to them, the response was uniformly the same: "You did?" "Yes. Got a problem with that?" "Well, uhh, no" followed by another officer saying "I voted for Clinton too. Hell, I thought I was the only one." This was ALWAYS the response.

And many of my very Republican friends still in the Army have told me that they despise Bush, and ALL have told me they despise Rumsfeld. The Army IS apolitical, but the institution is well aware of the disastrous missteps this President has taken. A LTC friend of mine in DC (VERY conservative) wrote me that he tried to get tickets to some inaguaral events for his enlisted troops way back in mid-November, and was brushed off by the White House. Then the criticism of the $40 million on the Inaguaration began, and the same asshole who had refused him any tickets beforehand (he told him "those are for contributors and political VIPs) called him and told him he needed troops to attend one of the balls, preferably combat soldiers. He said he was so disgusted he almost resigned on the spot, because as he put it "the administration is using US for cover again, anytime something goes wrong he just rolls out the troops and says how much he loves us - and we still don't have enough armor or troops in Iraq. It scares me that people believe he is good for us. He isn't." This man voted for Reagan, Bush Sr, Dole, and has been a fundamentalist Christian conservative for as long as I have known him.

So it isn't just me, lefty that I am. But I am not surprised that you don't think I sound like an infantry officer. To most people, I don't. The only ones not surprised are other infantrymen.

Quick chemo story:

When I was OPFOR at the NTC there were two smoke platoons that would lay down obscurant. One of them was under the command of a female lieutenant that seemed to be able to read minds. She was called "smoke chick" (her callsign as well, she chose it) and every time she was on my flank she was at the right place, right time, even if we had just Frago'd an entirely new course of action and axis of advance. Most mech forces think smoke platoons are a waste of time, and so did I - until she laid down obscurant in what appeared to be the wrong place for a breach of an obstacle and told me "wait for a minute." It blew up, over a small rise, and collected in a shallow depression on the other side - right the hell where we needed it to be. We had the wire cut and the mine plow halfway through before the enemy even knew it, and made it through a defended obstacle in record time with no casualties. The only reason we did was the smoke. I didn't think it was possible to fool an M1s thermal sights, but now I know better. And I didn't even know she was there, she had just heard over the radio that we were preparing to breach, and rolled up and immediately saw how she could help. AWESOME. She was chemo, and we respected the hell out of her. We fought over her - not for a date, but to have her on our missions. Should our CMDR had 2-blocked her so that some infantry guy could be 1-blocked in her place? No f'ing way. Smoke chick ruled. And everybody knew it.

The worst officer I ever saw was a chemo - I swear he seemed retarded, I don't know how he was commissioned. I wouldn't have let him through week 1 of basic. The best I ever knew (my roommate and best friend from college) was chemo. We need to convince more infantry officers that combined arms wins.

I liked the NTC for many reasons, but one was the saying "OPFOR is an MOS." In other words, who the hell cares what your MOS is, go kill the enemy. We had signal detachments that would give us the BEST scout reports from up on their retrans sites, and tank mechanics that would stay up for 48 hours straight so that all victors would cross the LD. And our "spetsnaz" guys that infiltrated and conducted raids during RSOI were usually cooks, clerks, and a few infantrymen to guide them. I wish the whole army were like that - everybody a soldier first, and their MOS second. Sadly, that is often not the case. Ask most signal corpsmen to give you a sitrep and they will wonder what the F you are talking about, or give you a commo check.

I wish OERs were done like my first BN cmdr did them - he rated all officers numerically, from 1-24 or whatever, and would tell you to your face "you are 2 of 24" or "12 of 24" or "24 of 24." And he would tell you exactly why those above you were rated higher, so that you could know how to improve. STUD. I was NOT 1 of 24, or 2 of 24, I was 3 of 24, and I was totally ok with that. #1 and #2 were awesome, and I had a Bradley crew destroy some equipment because they didn't do a walk-around before rolling, as our SOP called for. If I had strictly enforced it they wouldn't have done that. I also had "slicky-boy" steal some duffel bags from my platoon, and if we had proper security that wouldn't have happened. He told me all this, and at the same time I walked out of there feeling like a million bucks. He was fair, and I think he was one of the best officers I ever knew. I F'ing guarantee you he wouldn't have "held" 1 or 2-blocks for infantry officers and rated CS and CSS guys lower.

Oh, and Sanators (is that how you spell it?) suck. Especially in the wintertime. Man that sucked.

TZ said...

I have a slight qualm about your characterization of the Maginot Line as a mistake... It actually was a very effective defensive line, but relied on some political necessities that did not turn out as the French had wanted. The French wanted Belgium as an Ally, because remembering the devastation wrought by World War I on their countryside, they wished to strike first through Belgium with the permission/aid of the Belgians deep into Germany while deflecting any assualt in their weakest point across the German/French border with some impressive fortifications that freed up their troops. In order to attain this alliance, Belgium insisted that they not build fortifications across the border with them, bad politics you know? So, in order to win the next war, they had to not extend the Maginot line North. Well, along comes Hitler, and he neutralizes the Belgian part of the equation while France fumed about the new menace till when Germany was good and ready, launches itself across the Belgian border, through and into France, an utter disaster for France. There was plenty of fighting too, just the combined French and Britsh Armies did not have the coordination that the Germans had and France fell through a misreading of German intentions rather quickly. (The intent to flank them vs. drive for Paris, the Germans drove Paris, the French though they would flank them along the coast. Oops.) So, the Maginot Line served its purpose, but the problem was that other factors invalidated its purpose. Also, if you are interested in a story of military waste that turned out ok actually, watch "The Pentagon Wars", a very funny film about the M2 Bradley IFV, which was an absolute disaster to begin with, but a patriotic officer sacrificed his career and it was fixed eventually to become the vehicle we have today.

this we'll defend said...

Well, TZ, good comments, but only part of the story. The original "Maginot" line, before it was called that, was never intended to be a way to stop the Germans, but instead to be a way to slow them allowing time for full mobilization. As it took hold in the popular imagination, however, it became more and more elaborate (except as it was extended the strong points became, well, less strong and more spread out). You are right about Belgium, but the fact is that the line was a good idea to begin with, but shortly thereafter it became a "strategy." Anytime you cede the initiative to the enemy you will lose, because, as with NMD, the enemy simply won't attack your strengths. If you have spent too much of your resources on that strength you will have many weaknesses that are even more exploitable - as the French did. Belgium's fall was not the cause of France's fall. The original idea of the line was never intended to even get close to the Belgian border.

Had France had the limited defensive line in its more vulnerable border with Germany, as the orginal plan called for, and then spent their resources on a modern, mobile, trained field army (as the Germans did) then May 1940 would not have been the end. Instead they kept extending the line (making French contractors rich in the process). The strategy of a strong line was "easy" and "understandable" among the French people, but that didn't mean it was the right strategy. It was a pork-barrel handout to well-connected defense contractors that cost the French nation their freedom and almost led to the triumph of fascism worldwide. But gee, at least we don't have that problem here. It isn't like we are short of riflemen but have numerous stealth aircraft or anything.

As for a "misreading" of German intentions, yes, but the fact is that while France and Britain combined had more tanks and troops in the field than the Germans, they had not committed the resources to make them effective. No field exercises above brigade level, little manuever warfare training, few staff officers recieving high-level "army war college" or even "SAM's" type training (SAMS is a follow-on to the command and general staff college, it is the "school of advanced military studies" at Leavenworth). That is why they so easily "misread" German intentions. And people like De Gaulle and Le Clerc were all along screaming about how stupid the massive expenditure on an expanded line was(named Maginot after the French minister who championed it). It cost them their careers - at least until the shooting started. Had the French built only the original line and devoted their remaining resources to a modern, agile, mobile force, WWII might have been over in 1940, or might never have started at all, and Belgium be damned.

As for the "Pentagon Wars," you should realize that the movie is a lying piece of total crap. The "rigged tests" did happen, but not with the Bradley. They happened with the SGT York "DIVAD" (Divisional Air Defense) vehicle which cost us billions of dollars back in the late '70s, including a rigged test where drone helicopters were blown up on command while the York fired at them (and missed them, unbeknownst to Congressional observers). Incredibly, despite graft, corruption, and rigged tests which all became public, the defense contractors still made a profit, although the Army never got a divisional air defense weapon. In a bonus of unintended consequences, good. The Army would have had to staff and maintain a weapon that was unneeded even if it had worked as designed. But the Bradley was a totally successful program that ignorant critics liked to deride because of their lack of understanding of the need it was designed to fill (notice the main character in the movie is an Air Force officer who apparently knows much more about land warfare than those ignorant Army officers). The Bradley was supposed to be a battlefield taxi that would allow infantry to keep up with the faster tanks the Army was developing, and would also give dismounted infantry a fire support platform. It was based on the incredibly successful Soviet BMP. And it was NEVER intended to face off against tanks (the only thing that can do that is another tank). It was never intended to make river crossings under fire (you simply DON'T make river crossings under fire, I don't care what kind of vehicles you have. You secure the far side and then cross your heavy vehicles only when the enemy is suppressed. Period.) The TOW missile that the movie points fun at was already a workable weapon (it was used by Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur war with great success, and used on occasion against North Vietnamese armor near the end of that conflict) and the Bradley simply allowed dismounts to have TOW weapons without having to have a jeep with them. It wasn't "added on" as an afterthought, and the initial tests were always just to shake out the bugs.

The movie portrays the Bradley as a boondoggle, and only the brave air force officer forced changes through that made it effective. Yet the XM1 and XM2 original designs were incredibly close to the final products, the vehicles worked to exactly fill the needs the Army had identified, and the Abrams M1 and the Bradley M2 might be the most successful and efficient weapons programs the Army has ever had, with possibly only the Higgins boat in WWII and the B-52 bomber as successful in cost-effectiveness and usefulness. Don't believe everything you see in an HBO movie, especially one that has a guy in a blue uniform telling the guys in green how to improve their weapons systems.

Shortly before the first Gulf War "60 Minutes" did a report on Army weapons systems - basically, how the Bradley was a piece of crap because it could be destroyed by almost any tank in the world, and if it tried to cross a river with the swim barrier up a single machine gunner could sink it. There might have been more fall-out over it except for the fact that a war came along and it worked just as designed. Yet even today some people, some soldiers even, think it is a shitty tank rather than the most successful infantry fighting vehicle in history. But it is as good a tank as an M1 Abrams is at carrying riflemen. See, you can ride on an M1 by holding on, but I wouldn't recommend it. Does that mean the M1 tank sucks? Of course not. It isn't designed to carry troops. And the Bradley is not designed for infantrymen to fight tanks, or to fight from within the vehicle. It is designed to get the dismounted infantry to the battlefield, where they "dismount" (hence why they are called that in mechanized units) and fight on foot, with the Bradley's powerful 25mm chain gun and 7.62 coax providing support, with the TOW as a backup in case they are defending against an armored attack. And it kicks ass. When I fought as OPFOR infantry and I was dismounted the biggest threat I faced as a foot soldier was the Bradley. If my unit encountered 4 tanks and 4 bradleys we would pretty much ignore the tanks at first and work on taking out the Bradleys before they ate us up. If we took out the Brads then we OWNED the tanks and could knock them out without too much trouble. But even if we took out all the tanks the Brads would eat our lunch, and quickly. Because tanks kill enemy vehicles, and then kill infantry, while Brads kill infantry, and then kill enemy vehicles. Just as designed. If you see that movie again keep that in mind.

OH, and during "Desert Shield" the press reported on whether or not the Army and its equipment could "withstand the harsh desert conditions." Seriously. There were numerous and almost constant reports on how our equipment was designed for European battlefields, and not for the desert. I guess no reporter in the entire country thought to ask the Army about it, because hell, I could have told them 1) our equipment, unlike most armies in the world, is designed to work in any environment, 2) our most elaborate and detailed "war games" take place at the national training center in, of all places, the Mojave desert, meaning every bit of equipment and almost every soldier we have will have trained, and trained hard, in a "harsh desert environment,", and 3) most of our weapons systems have already been battle-tested, by Israel, in 1967 and 1973, and guess what? That was in the desert. But no, not a single report seemed to realize that. Which is why our overwhelming victory surprised pretty much everybody except the staff officers and commanders who had been training to fight that way for years.

Cutler said...

FYI the MRLS is mounted on a lengthened Bradley chassis.

The Patriot was also developed when the Army faced Soviet Su-24s, Su-25s, etc. Unless you wanted them to use HAWKs, Stingers, and Sidewinders [Chapparal], seems like a wise investment to me.

guitarhead03 said...

I agree, military correspondents are a bit uninformed. You would think that they did homework at least on basic military knowledge. I was with 1st PLT, B Co., 1-503rd INF in Ramadi, and yes, our engineers were Army.