Sunday, May 8, 2011

And Blocked Again...

So much for trying to share some pictures of my latest travels. I had some nice ones too, but due to bandwidth issues they will have to wait until stateside. I had a great one when we flew through a mountain pass in an old UH-1 Huey. And a nice sunset in the Tarwin Khot Bowl which is north of us, up in the mountains. Sorry, you are going to have to wait till I get home or get a better internet connection.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Afghanistan Update

Greetings all. Its been awhile since I have posted anything. Part of that is due to the lack of internet access (can't get it in my room and the computer lab is a long walk) and the other is the fact that I can't talk about much of what I do.

I am having a great time over here. My job is great, I get to blow things up nearly every day, the targets are all legitimate, and I get to see, use and access devices that are Sci-Fi level stuff. And that's the rub. Just about 75% of everything I have going on is classified so I can't share it with everyone which is a drag because I am sure the conversations would rock. So the reality is I can't post a whole lot.

I can post that I just got back from Qatar from a WEPTAC (Weapons and Tactics) Conference in Al Udied AF Base. Very good use of time, lots of discussions, lots of meeting with people who are good to know, and a cool tour of the CAOC. That's the Air Defense/Control Cell for all of CENTCOM. Think "Wargames" control room, but much more updated.

I can also say that we are firing a great deal more than I thought we were going to be. I have seen some mentions in the press about our various operations, so if you have been paying attention you will know we are conducting operations against the Taliban in and around Kandahar City. We have flushed a lot of them which results in more business for me. We have also found lots of weapons caches, and booby-trapped buildings which is also more business for me. Compared to Iraq we are much more kinetic here which is saying something. We are also much better at keeping civilians out of the way here than Iraq which is a very good thing.

Not much else right now. Stay safe everyone.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I am at Kandahar

Hi everyone. I am safely arrived at KAF (Kandahar Air Field) and inprocessing. I have included a couple of photos. The TGIFriday's is real and on our boardwalk (tell me I am not a REMF). The other photo is 3 Mile Ridge. Its the dominant terrain here and gets used that way occasionally by the insurgents. We actually have lots of facilities here that are pretty nice. MWR, nice PX, several nice foriegn PXs (German, Dutch, and French), some restaurants, a couple gyms (the NATO one is NICE). This place is packed with NATO. We have Brits, Aussies, French, Germans, Yanks, Canadians, Slovaks, Romanians, Poles, Dutch, and of course the Afghans. Truely a multinational effort. NOt much else right now. I will be facebooking but I will try to post photos here occasionaly so until then.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What some words mean to me


Most of you know I had a hellish job for a year working at a Furniture Chain back in 2003. Part of my civilian experience before I came back on active duty. I don't begrudge it one bit as I see it as a very valuable experience and something that has made me much more open minded about somethings when compared to other officers who have never worked outside of the military.

Everyone knows I hated that job. Specifically I hated the people I worked for, who were mostly bullies, people who didn't know that they could have done much better, or vicious careerists who would sell you down the river in one second; and the people we did business with that I had to interact with which were usually low income, racist as all hell (I had never been called a "cracker", "honky", "white trash", or "gringo" until I worked here), and usually had zero sense of honesty, keeping an agreement/your word, or just paying what you owed.

Which leads me to the rant.

"Free-Spirit": a worthless thief who feels no obligation to pay for anything, or to keep his/her word, or feels that they have any obligation to anyone other than themselves. These scumbags usually prattle some BS about the evil of wealth, or some progressive babble about equality while they felt free to come in and order the most expensive TVs, stereos and other electronic equipment we sold and then would make off with it. Most of them usually ended up stiffing their roommates for shares of rent (I heard lots of that), or pissing them off by using them to co-sign and then leaving them on the hook.

"Spiritual": a worthless jackass who wants to have their religious/spiritual cake and eat it too. I mean it like so: religions are fine and they address a simple issue (what happens when we die, aka our souls). Religions have all developed rules over time, and all of them usually have some caveats to the tune of "if you want a heavenly reward, you need to try and do the right thing while on earth". This usually means you have to do some not fun things, and attempt to make amends when you (inevitably) screw up (we are humans, and humans are by definition imperfect, so we are expected to screw up). In other words, try to do the right things, even if not fun. Someone who touts being spiritual usually is saying (and this is my experience) "I don't want to ignore my soul, and the possibility of what might lie in the great beyond, but I want to have fun and I don't like guilt. Religion gives me guilt and I would just rather not deal with it. I'll continually bring up organized religion's problems and since I don't belong I can be smug and condescending about it without feeling bad."

Both of these groups are continually found within the "progressive" community. They are not very damn progressive, they are lazy, opportunistic slobs who get off by getting over and feeling smug about it. "Spiritual"? Bite me, if you are going to worry about your soul then that means you need to have some guilt, not a get of jail free card. You should feel bad when you do something wrong. Of course if you haven't been taught right from wrong by your progressive parents, you are going to have an uphill battle. "Free-spirit"? Again, bite me. Get a job, stop stealing, stop screwing over your roommates and figure out that you actually ARE hurting someone with your BS world-view.

For the curious, this rant is brought to you courtesy of an article I read earlier today extolling "a simple, progressive life" that mentioned these two terms in gushing, glowing words. I knew a lot of "free-spirits" and "spiritual" people in Austin, and they were all thieves and self-righteous prats. And no, I am not perfect or sin-free. I jack up all the time, and have plenty of sins to worry about. But I will damn well call a jackass a jackass when its called for.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

General McCrystal

I figured that I am going to get some folks wanting to know what I think about this so here it is.

General McCrystal was the POTUS' hand-picked commander on the ground in Afghanistan and he resigned today due to some remarks he made to a Rolling Stones reporter about the political leadership.

Short and sweet of it is that General McCrystal made the one mistake you CANNOT make when you are a general and that is make comments like this on public record. The POTUS is the boss and generals must obey the final orders or quit. You can disagree behind closed doors, you can complain, but when you get the word that this is what it is, that's it! Running down your civilian partners (the ambassador), your potential boss (he made some choice comments about the VP), and your boss' staff (White House Clowns was the phrase I believe) is NOT allowed.

This is a very solid rule and generals who have violated it have all been punished. McCellan and MacArthur are two of the big ones historically that come to mind but there are others as well. Generals must not cross into political realms, or if they do they must be doing so with the full backing of the POTUS (Petraus was doing this some in Iraq during the surge, but he had briefed the plan and the POTUS was on board along with all the other team). The bad thing about this is that with the Joint environment we now fight in, politics is becoming a bigger issue for generals. You are expected to deal with politics when overseas, but not with the US? Hard to keep the two separate.

McCrystal blew it, and he is gone. And that is the right thing to do.

Now, how does this hurt us? And hurt us it does, there is no silver lining to this.

First, the man with the plan who was hand picked to fight the COIN strategy and the mini-surge and had planned and overseen it and was to fight it all the way through is gone. That will hurt. Second, we are pulling General Petraus out of CENTCOM Command to take command in Afghanistan. That is actually a demotion for him as he goes from combatant commander to theater commander and furthermore he now will not be finishing off Iraq and running other things that need attention. Third, it effects the POTUS. He did the right thing, but McCrystal was HIS handpicked choice for whom he removed someone ELSE in order for him to take over. That doesn't help the POTUS' image in terms of things military and Joint (getting the Civilian/Military Team working together). Fourth, the Afghans liked McCrystal, and he was about the only guy over there that they did like and could deal with (dumb comments or not, the ambassador is not exactly high on Karazi's list).

This really brings home a major point, the US Army just doesn't have a whole lot of bench when it comes to COIN operations (Counter-Insurgency Operations). We have to demote someone to fill the gap because we have no one else who can step up. But we could do worse than Petraus so I can't complain about that.

Things just got much harder for us. Not impossible, just harder.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Book Review: The Echo of Battle

The Echo Of Battle is written by Brian McAllister Linn. Its topic is simply a in depth discussion of the US Army Way of War, or more accurately how it rotates between three focal points. Mr. Linn holds that there are three "traditions" in the army that influence how the army thinks, prepares, fights and reviews its conflicts. These three traditions are the "Heroic" (man is the key), "Guardians" (Fortress America types who focused on looking inward versus overseas), and "Managers" (bring order to the battlefield, science can remove the grey area and men are merely parts of the whole).

This book is a great look into how the US Army has thought strategically for its entire existance and how it has gone through changes, often painfull. The US Army has rarely been ready for the war it actually ends up fighting and it is pretty clear in this book. But the intersting part of this book is how the Army then veiws its lessons from the war and what it takes away. Linn's main thesis seems to be that the army usually gets it wrong, or somewhat wrong and then runs on the fly to fix and overcome (which seems to be a major strength of the US Army).

This book is not a light read. Parts were somewhat dull, and there is practically no "action" to relieve the discussion of army theory and strategic thought. I am not sure that I agree with all that the author says and I think he does a bit a shoehorning to make people and ideas fit into his three major traditions. But he does give a good run down of how the Army thought about doing its job and how the three traditions have morphed over time.

A couple of other items that this book brought up. First, the author makes a great point that I don't think he quite realizes. The Army, despite its mistakes and its muckups, still has always been able to pull it out when push comes to shove (with one exception). When the shooting starts, the learning curve explodes. The biggest thing I have seen out of this is that one can't seem to replicate the conditions for the "explosion" except during war. In some cases you can come close, but not perfect. So you could argue that while being prepared for war is a good thing (it certainly is) it might be better to be an organization that can learn fast once the shooting starts.

Second, he points out that in the 1990s the US Army had poor senior leadership. The major threat had gone away, the world was changing and the Army failed to change with it. In 2000, I did an NTC rotation and our training was a stand up Fulda Gap Force on Force Scenario. Why? Who was going to try and fight us like that ever again? While our senior leadership was focused on Berets, we should have been trying to figure out how to fight in a failed nation state.

His third point is an interesting one. The current wars have been going on for quite some time now. What that has brought about is something very intersting. Just about every officer and soldier has seen combat. Instead of having a service dominated by a "clique" of officers (such as what happened after Desert Storm) who had been in the fight, EVERYONE has been in the fight. You can't just bring in an expert and expect them to not get questioned by people who can say "I was there and this is what I saw, why are saying different?" This is VERY good for the army. Everyone feels that they have the right to pipe up and provide input. A debate where just about everyone is taking part if you will.

And that is good stuff.

Ok, overall an okay book, but a tough read. Unless you are really wanting to dive into a historic focus of how the army has learned over time, this one is not for you.

Friday, May 28, 2010


I have been asked by several folks about my take on the situation on the Korean Peninsula. The three reasons for this are that I have been there (stationed at Camp Stanley for a year), I am in the military, and I constantly study stuff like this. So I will put in my two cents worth.

My humble opinion is that militarily the North Koreas are in a world of hurt, but the situation is really bad politically for the US.

The NKs have two strong military cards to play. The first is the King Of Battle, their artillery. They have Corps of Artillery, and by that I mean whole Army Corps made up of nothing but FA, and its all aimed at Seoul. Thousands of MRLs (Multiple Rocket Launchers) and tube artillery (cannons) that can range Seoul and do a world of hurt. These units are in hardened positions (bunkers and caves) and have pre-surveyed firing positions and stockpiled ammunition. It would take a lot of counter-fire missions and air strikes to knock them out, figure (my estimate here, not anything offical) at least 48-72 hours to knock out over 50 to 60% of them. In that time, Seoul would be pretty badly banged up.

However, this isn't as war winning as it seems for several reasons. First off, most of this artillery is OLD, 1960s technology, and so is the ammunition. A high dud rate can be expected and accuracy is not all that (of course with this many guns and rockets you don't need much). Plus there is the fun fact that the really heavy Koksong guns have a design flaw that makes them brust after about 6 to 8 rounds of rapid firing. We know exactly where all these weapons are so knocking them out is just a function of shooting a lot. The ROK and the US Army have some pretty good systems in place to do this. Our Air Forces of course (NK ADA is probably about as good as Iraq's was and their AF is a joke), but also our counter-fire artillery systems. We and the ROKs have MLRS systems that were pretty much designed for just this. And we now have GMLRS that can outrange the NK artillery (80 Km range to their 40 to 60 kms) and never miss. 1 MLRS load of GLMRS will destroy 12 NK FA Systems and it can be fired in less than 1 minute. Computing data is already done since we know were everything is already. The only issue is there is so much of it.

The second big punch the NorKs have is their Special Forces (SF). This is a big item to worry about. They have one of the largest Special Forces in the world and they train constantly to do their worst to the South in the event of a war. They have commandos, ranger-types, SEAL-types, sniper-types, recon troops, fifth column types and air-assault types. They have special miget subs (one is suspected of the torpedo attack that started this), they have Hughes Helocopters modified to look like ROK army or civilian models, they have a whole mess of spies and people who have been passing info for years. Nasty stuff.

However, historically these guys have turned out to not be as good as thought. In 1968, the so called "Second Korean War" was fought. Lots of raids, ambushes on the DMZ, and commando raids into the South to attack ROK government facilities and an attempt on the ROK President. The deep raids failed miserably and no one in the world really noticed because this was a side show compared to Vietnam. While the SF has been training more than the standard army, they have still been cut back on. Worse, the effects of the famine have hurt them as the eligible pool of recruits is much smaller to pick from. The ROK has been training on defending against these guys for years and have gotten better at detection and interception. Even these tunnels dug under the DMZ are not such a big deal as they don't go that far behind them (if you pop up in the middle of a battalion defensive position you are in trouble, SF or not). Once they have shot their bolt, there is no way home. No sub could make south after the shooting started, and the AF would be shot down after about 2 days. Once you are on the run, you are going to get hunted down. The South doesn't have anywhere to hole up and their are no guerrilla bands to join. They would do some damage, but not enough.

And that is the main point. The two major strengths of the NorKs are not enough combined to finish off the south, only enough to do damage and make them MAD. Mad enough to decide to finish the stupidity once and for all and END it. The ROKs have enough men to do it, and their equipment is now 50 years more advanced than what the NorKs can throw (think WWII armies fighting the Coalition in Desert Storm).

The NorK Nuke threat only works on the defensive by the way, they have no method of delivery. No missile they have can carry their bomb design, they have no planes that can carry it. They could bury it and set it off after someone rolls over it, but even that is limited thanks to the mountainous terrain (blast would be channelled so small area of effect on your own soil).

So why is this bad politically for the US? Simple, what if the ROK decides to pick a fight? Or vice versa? The ROKs have every right to confront a rouge nation and the world is actually standing aside on this one. If it escalates, the US is bound by treaty to aid the south. The ROKs are in the clear to DO SOMETHING right now if they want so their is no "we can't help because they are the aggressors".

So the POTUS would get another war, and a nasty, knockdown, bloody one at that. He can fight with the allies and loose support from his base, or he can pull out and loose a LOT of international clout and a LOT of independent votes. Loose Loose if you are the current POTUS. Even worse, he has a ROK that is set up to actually want to do something, and CAN do something this time around.