Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Battle Assembly?

What's in a name?
The Reserves have decided to change the traditional name for a weekend assembly from "drill" to "Battle Assembly"
I have news for the powers that be: If the chain of command doesn't plan interesting training and foster an agressive unit climate, it doesn't make any difference what you call the unit's little get-together... it'll still be a waste of the troops' time.
we'll see how well that whole name change thing catches on. As 1SG Ricky Stigall used to say: "You can't shine a turd."

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Score US:26, Terrorists:0

Blackfive has an excellent After Action Review about a convoy that was ambushed outside Baghdad.
7 National Guard MPs took on 31 well-armed terrorists who ambushed their convoy.
The final score? 3 wounded MPs, 26 dead terrorists (the best kind of terrorist), 4 wounded terrorists, and one coward terrorist who faked injury and was captured.

Can you relate?

Ever feel like people just dump tons of shit on you? Ever feel like there was so much shit dumped on you that you could just die?
This guy knows what that feels like

(and I even linked this before Fark)


If your visiting from MilBlogs, welcome. I just got linked from the Milblogs ring and I'm looking forward to hearing comments from everyone on how to improve things around here like:
- my blog's format
- how I express my opinions
- my haircut

Monday, March 28, 2005

Tipping Point

Apparently, 70% of Iraqis turning out to vote on the future of their country was the turning point in vanquishing the so-called "insurgency." Attacks on coalition forces are down and attacks against the Iraqi people are not have the the terrorists' desired effect. The Washington Times is reporting that Iraq is turning the corner.
This report quotes liberally from an email being sent around military circles (posted on instapundit) with comments from 1st Cavalry Division commander Major General Peter Chiarelli upon returning from Iraq.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges

A famous quote by Napoleon is that "men will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon." Soldiers certainly don't get paid enough to put their lives on the line in direct-fire combat, so for some the reason is at least partly for the prestige and awards.
Traditionally, the only combat badge that soldiers get (other than the patch on their right sleeve) has been reserved for infantrymen - the Combat Infantry Badge or CIB. The Infantry's job is to close with and destroy the enemy, so they tend to get more baubles and trinkets for having the roughest job. (correction: There are two traditional combat badges. Medics in combat get the Combat Medic Badge)
The Army has recently decided to give something called the "Close Combat Badge" to Combat Arms troops other than Infantry. David Green has an interesting idea about combat badges over at Reverse Retna from the Sandlot
His idea is that that the Army should award seperate badges for each segment of the Army (Infantry, the Rest of Combat Arms, Combat Support, Combat Service Support). Not being an Infantryman myself, I still disagree with making any more badges than the CIB / CMB. Didn't anyone learn from giving berets to the entire Army in order to make everyone feel "more elite?" The very act of giving the beret to everyone devalued the beret itself. If you give a badge to everyone involved in ground combat, the CIB and the new badges you make up will all be de-valued. The very act of trying to make people feel more special will make them feel less special.
Here's a funny comic that illustrates my point.
(History Nerd Note: In WWII, Germany only awarded a close combat badge to soldiers who distinguished themselves in hand to hand combat. The badge itself had a bayonet and a grenade on it)
update 25MAY05: the US Army changed the name and then approved the final design for the Combat Action Badge. It, too, has a bayonet and a grenade on it just like the Nazi German badge did. Funny how history repeats itself...

Friday, March 25, 2005

What is Arabic for "Schultz?"

"I zee nothing, Herr Colonel Klink"
U.S. forces thwart major escape in southern Iraq
By Albert Eisele

CAMP BUCCA, IRAQ -- U.S. military police Friday thwarted a massive escape attempt by suspected insurgents and terrorists from this southern Iraq Army base that houses more than 6,000 detainees when they uncovered a 600-foot tunnel the detainees had dug under their compound.
Read the whole story here

The Movie Bomber

Yes, yes, it's probably bad to make fun of arabic accents, but you have to check out this Al-Jazeera movie critic's website and watch one of his reviews: The Movie Bomber.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Wheel of Fortune

The wheel of fortune is still spinning... I've heard my unit is going to "probably" end up in Northern Iraq, Southern Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan so far. We obviously can't be in all of those places at once, but the "truth" as we know it keeps changing.
Today, we're "for sure" going to Kuwait. Last week, it was "for sure" Iraq.
I'm hoping next week is Fiji. Isn't there somebody's ass we want to kick in Fiji? If there is some random dude at FORSCOM (Army Forces Command in Georgia) who is throwing darts at a map, I want to pinch hit for him. I could nail Fiji with a dart 9 times out of 10.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Fark Rocks

If you've never checked out Fark for your daily dose of news, you should.
Todays Favorite: Got in a wreck? Sucks to be you.
"Russell Shepard called 911, which was routed to the state police barracks in Montville. When he reported the accident, [a state trooper answered and] said, "Yeah ... too bad," and hung up.

Don't Jump to Conclusions

With the news that the Army is not going to meet it's recruiting goals for two months in a row, the Left is jumping to some wrong conclusions:

Wrong Conclusion #1. The Army will be desperate enough to drop it's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and allow gays to serve openly in order to boost it's numbers.
Six sez: Fat Chance. The left has been pushing to make the armed forces their little social experiment lab for years now, but our current Commander In Chief will never support letting gays serve openly. I think he would be more likely to roll back the policy to pre-1993 where they asked military recruits whether or not they were homosexual.

Wrong Conclusion #2. President Bush will have to bring back the draft now.
Six sez: I seriously doubt it.
Remember that last year, the left (in this case, Howard Dean) was threatening us that if we voted for Bush last November, we'd have the draft by now. Various moonbats have even stood up and offered suggestions on how to dodge military service. (a obvious ticket-punch for a future democratic president)
The miltary doesn't want a draft and there won't be a draft... unless we invade Iran or something.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

...and stay out

Iraqi civilians are sick of this crap in their towns and are taking the fight to the terrorists. That's nice to see. Ace has the scoop here.
"The battle was the latest sign that Iraqis may be willing to start standing up against the attacks that leave dozens of people dead here nearly every week."
Good for them. American soldiers can use all the help we can get.

I Love Ben Stein

He was cool to watch on "Win Ben Stein's Money" just cause he is so darn smart, but that's not why I love Ben Stein.
He was the straightest Straight Guy in Ferris Bueller's day off: "Anyone, Anyone? Voodoo economics?" but that's not why I love Ben Stein.
I love Ben Stein because he gets it.:
"The real stars, the ones who keep this country free on Independence Day and every day, are the ones who lead a patrol down an alley in Falluja with some maniac terrorist aiming an AK-47 at their heads. The real stars are the ones who leave their families behind at a dusty Army base and go off and risk––and lose––their lives to do their duty by their country and free men and women everywhere...They're the ones who go off into Godforsaken valleys in Afghanistan hunting for Al Qaeda, never knowing if they'll ever come back, and often not coming back."
Read the whole thing here. It's short, but worth your time.

Sucks to be a Staff Officer

A friend of mine who I am deploying with is a staff officer. Having been on staff before, I know it's a long, hard, and thankless job. You get all the bitch-work and blame, but none of the credit when things go right. Worst of all, you rarely get to interact with the troops, which is what being a leader is all about.
And the saddest part of all is that you have to master PowerPoint as a staff officer or you'll get eaten alive. It's all about format over substance with PowerPoint, which is part of the reason I hate it (as do some others).
Back in 2001, then SECARMY Thomas E. White issued a memo entitled "Army Directive #2 – Written Communication" to all Army Personnel that said in part:

- Stop the use of expensive, glossy, slide presentations and reports. The standard is black and white, regular paper. Multiple colors and specialty paper should be used only when crucial for safety and medical purposes.
- We are expending a far greater share of our resources than is necessary to convey our message. I expect commanders at all levels to fully implement this directive immediately and to continue to seek more efficient ways to use our resources.

God Bless that man. Presentations were out of control with snazzy fonts, noises, and graphics. The problem is that the directive didn't work, no matter how much hope I had for it. Most officers just ignored the SECARMY and drove on with the same flash over substance presentations we still see today.

I hear you can even get a Powerpoint Ranger Tab

First Post

I'm not the first reservist to hear he is getting deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom and I certainly won't be the last.
This blog is about sharing my experiences and thoughts with friends and family before, during, and after my deployment.
Thanks to Blackfive, Smash, 2Slick, and Greyhawk (the granddaddy of them all) for the inspiration. I have been reading their blogs and others for months now, even before I got the news that I'm deploying. I don't ever hope to have this blog be as popular or as interesting as theirs, but it's nice to see them set a high standard.

hmmm.... my first post. That wasn't so hard. now if i can just keep up with it.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

NY Times Article 7/13/05

July 11, 2005
Part-Time Forces on Active Duty Decline Steeply


WASHINGTON, July 10 - The number of Reserve and National Guard troops on domestic and overseas missions has fallen to about 138,000, down from a peak of nearly 220,000 after the invasion of Iraq two years ago, a sharp decline that military officials say will continue in the months ahead.

The decrease comes as welcome relief to tens of thousands of formerly part-time soldiers who, with their families, employers and communities, have been badly stressed by their long call-ups for duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Reserve and National Guard members from all of the armed services make up about 35 percent of the troops in Iraq, a share that is expected to drop to about 30 percent by next year; the vast majority are from the Army Reserve and Army National Guard.

But as these returning troops settle back into their civilian lives, the Army is running perilously low on its Reserve and National Guard soldiers who largely fill certain critical support jobs, like military police and civil affairs officers and truck drivers. Marine Corps reservists are facing similar constraints.

A main reason for the shortages is that more and more of these troops who have been involuntarily mobilized are nearing their 24-month maximum call-up limit set by the Bush administration, military personnel specialists say.

The Army says it has found ways to handle the dwindling pool of reservists eligible to fill the support jobs, but some members of Congress, senior retired Army officers and federal investigators are less sanguine, warning that barring a reduction in the Pentagon's requirement to supply 160,000 forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, or a change in its mobilization policy, the Army will exhaust the supply of soldiers in critical specialties.

"By next fall, we'll have expended our ability to use National Guard brigades as one of the principal forces," said Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army commander who was dispatched to Iraq last month to assess the operation. "We're reaching the bottom of the barrel."

Peter B. Bechtel, deputy chief of the Army's war plans division, acknowledged that the situation posed difficulties but said there were solutions. "There are some concerns for the long-term access to the Reserve component," he said. "But it does not pose an insurmountable challenge."

The number of reservists serving in combat positions like infantry will be declining in the months ahead. The Army National Guard has six combat brigades and a division headquarters - more than 25,000 soldiers - in Iraq. That will decline to two combat brigades - 6,000 to 10,000 soldiers - over the next year or so. But that is not seen as a problem; the number of Guard combat units spiked for a limited period to allow newly restructured active-duty combat brigades to prepare to assume more combat responsibility.

To fill the pivotal support jobs for deployments to Iraq, Army and Pentagon planners are increasingly turning to the Navy and Air Force to provide truck drivers and security personnel. They are relying on more Army reservists to volunteer for extended duty, hiring more private contractors and accelerating the retraining of thousands of soldiers who had been essential to the cold war, like artillerymen, to be civil affairs and military intelligence troops needed for counterinsurgency operations.

The Army's revamped active-duty combat brigades contain more combat-support positions. The Guard and Reserves are enlisting thousands of people each month, but are well below their recruiting quotas. And it takes several months of training to prepare them for combat missions.

There have been warning signs of the looming shortages. In the last several months, the chief of the Army Reserve, Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, has repeatedly cautioned that the Reserve was "rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force." General Helmly declined through a spokesman to comment for this article.

Janet St. Laurent, a senior defense specialist at the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said the Army was "taking many constructive steps to address these problems." But, she said, "many of the initiatives will take significant time to implement." The G.A.O. is expected to release a report within days that highlights the challenges facing the Army Reserve.

The long deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have left fewer troops available to be mobilized by governors to deal with state missions traditionally performed by guard units, like helping with forest fires, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Some governors have complained that, with forest fire season beginning, they are confronting unprecedented shortages of National Guard personnel and equipment at a critical time. Facing similar complaints last summer, Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, promised governors that he would keep at least half of each state's guard troops at home for use in state missions.

"It's a very complex and sophisticated balancing act," General Blum said in an interview. "But frankly, we're up to this." Last month, Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana, a Democrat, asked the Pentagon to return some of the state's guard soldiers from Iraq to be ready to help with forest fires, but the request was denied.

More than 1,200 Montana Army National Guard troops are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly 49 percent of the state's force, Maj. Scott Smith, a spokesman for the Montana National Guard, said. In addition, 10 of the Montana Guard's 12 Black Hawk helicopters, which had been used to transport firefighters and to drop water on burning forests, are in Iraq.

Montana's remaining guard troops would be available to help state officials with forest fires and other emergencies, and troops from nearby states could be used, if necessary, Major Smith said. The absence of the Black Hawks has been partly offset by the addition of four CH-47 Chinook helicopters, each of which can carry hundreds more gallons of water than the smaller Black Hawks, he said.

In Oregon, another state where National Guard units are often mobilized to fight forest fires, fewer helicopters are also causing worry. "We don't have the aircraft we've had before," said Capt. Mike Braibish, a spokesman for the Oregon National Guard. "We're still going to be there. It's just going to take longer to get there."

In Florida, where Hurricane Dennis crashed ashore on Sunday, Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett, the state's adjutant general, said he was able to meet the state's missions, even though half of its 12,500 Air and Army National Guard forces have been activated for federal duty since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Although Pentagon officials insist they can meet troop needs in Iraq and Afghanistan indefinitely, some National Guard commanders in states where units have already been heavily deployed warn of looming problems if troop levels in Iraq do not decline substantially in 2006 or 2007.

Maj. Gen. John Libby, the adjutant general in Maine, said that only 30 percent of the state's National Guard soldiers were still available to be mobilized for federal missions in future rotations. Many of those remaining units do not have the specialties the Army needs in Iraq and Afghanistan, like troops trained in military policing and vehicle maintenance, he said.

"We're building very quickly toward a crisis if in the next two or three rotations we still have 135,000 troops on the ground in Iraq," General Libby said.

Eventually, the Pentagon could be forced to remobilize units that have already been deployed especially if recruiting problems persist, General Libby and other Guard officials said. That would require changing the 24-month limit, something the Pentagon says now it has no need to do.Military personnel experts say such a move would only worsen recruiting for the Guard and Reserve, which are both lagging behind their quotas for the year, although strong re-enlistments have offset some of the recruiting slump.

Still, said John Goheen, a spokesman for the National Guard Association, which represents state Guard units, "We do have a lot of soldiers that are bumping up against that 24-month requirement. This organization has concerns about how it's going to be interpreted in the future."

For Pentagon planners, the main focus of concern is the Army National Guard and Reserve, which currently have 115,645 troops mobilized, or about 84 percent of all reserve forces activated worldwide.

Pentagon officials say that they expect they will continue to rely on tens of thousands of mobilized National Guard and Reserve troops for a broad range of missions in this country and overseas. Lt. Gen. James J. Lovelace, the Army's chief of operations, dismissed concerns that the Guard or Reserve were "broken," saying, "we still have rich reservoir to draw on to fill those units."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has complained that the military has activated only about 44 percent of the nation's 1.1 million National Guard and Reserve soldiers since Sept. 11, but still faces shortages in specialties found mainly in the Reserve and National Guard.

That is because the part-time force was designed with a cold war mission to serve as strategic hedge in all-out war with the Soviet Union. With the end of the draft in 1973, the Pentagon shifted many specialized military duties - including water purification and minesweeping - to the Guard and Reserve, to cut costs and to ensure public support for a conflict long enough and important enough for the president to activate citizen-soldiers.

But this force was not intended to supply a long-term counterinsurgency, and does not contain sufficient numbers of specialists that the military now needs. So the Army, in particular, is reassigning about 130,000 positions within the active-duty and Reserve forces to strike a new balance that takes account of today's security environment. About 30,000 have been reassigned, Mr. Bechtel said.

A second hurdle involves the Pentagon's 24-month call-up policy and its goal of deploying National Guard and Reserve soldiers only one year out of every six. While current law allows for repeated call-ups of as long as 24 consecutive months, the Pentagon decided several months ago not to use such authority, fearing that to do so would only add more strain to the citizen-soldier ranks.

"No individual will have more than 24 months cumulative on active duty, Guard or Reserve," Gen. Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 29. "Right now we're able to stipulate that anyone who has already been called to active duty will not be recalled."