US Army Action in Afghanistan

Whenever we are pressed for time to write, or just uninspired, we steal from Theo Spark. He and his co-bloggers always find some good stuff.

Again, we watch a patrol of light infantry in the hills and hamlets of Afghanistan. The placard calls it a movement to contact, which is a term of art for an attack when you don’t know where the enemy is.  The idea is to move forward in a sector until you find him. In addition to the laudable goal of finding and killing enemy insurgents, a movement to contact is used to generate tactical intelligence. You’ll notice the patrol is speaking with villagers, presumably asking if there is any insurgent activity in the area, and if so, what type.  Of course, there’s also a “show the flag” aspect of this as well, letting the locals see you and know that you are watching.

Some NSFW language, but as I’ve said, that’s what you get from grunts.

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What’s life like in the infantry?

Well, they’ve managed to edit out most of the long days of humping rucksacks up steep hills, freezing your butt off, and time spent doing boring but necessary work, either simple day to day logistics, like filling sandbags and moving supplies, or the drudgery of pre-combat checks.

There’s plenty of NSFW language, but then there almost always is around soldiers in the field.

H/T: Theo

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Load HEAT

We went over to our friend The Reluctant Optomist’s place last week, and saw that his Brunette of the Week was none other than Alyson Hannigan. And we thought, hey, I’d bet he’d like to see all the pictures we found when we she was our HEAT Hottie! So we went looking for the link.

That’s when we discovered to our amazement that we had never posted dear, sweet Alyson. Oops.

We’ve been a fan of hers since she was in My Stepmother is an Alien. And we were big fans of hers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And of course, the American Pie series of movies. And she’s funny as hell (and still hot) on How I Met Your Mother.

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Good Morning!

There’s nothing like waking up on a beautiful morning.

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U.S. Army Soldiers awake, in their hasty fighting position, after a night patrol in the mountains, near Sar Howza, in Paktika province, Afghanistan, Sept. 4, 2009. The Soldiers are deployed with Bulldog Troop, 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith/Released) Date Posted: 9/16/2009

It would be a lot nicer if room service would hurry up with the coffee.

H/T: Theo Spark

Zapplesauce?

Zapplesauce. Really.

Light infantrymen are obsessed with weight. Everything they take into battle has to be carried on their backs. Some things they don’t have any options about. They have to take their weapons. They have to take ammo. And they have to take water.

But anything they don’t have to take, they won’t. Given the choice of carrying enough warm clothing to keep from freezing, or lightening their load, they’ll fall back on the old adage: “Fight light, freeze at night.”

One item that grunts have to take, but traditionally weighs a lot, is food. Since the early 1980s, the standard Army combat ration has been the MRE. Now, the MRE isn’t bad. Right now, there are 24 different menus, and most of them, if not tasty, are at least edible. But MREs weigh quite a bit. About 2 pounds per meal. They are fairly bulky as well. So if you need to carry two or three days worth of food, you’re talking quite a load.

Grunts being grunts, most folks would take their MREs and “field strip” them. They would remove the meals from their outer packaging, discarding the heavy pouch they come in, as well as any extraneous packaging. A lot of parts of the meal might get tossed out as well.

The Army wasn’t thrilled with this because rations are carefully designed to provide enough calories and nutrients. When you start tossing stuff out, the meals are out of balance. So, the Army started working on a lightweight ration that would get light infantry through the first 72 hours of an operation. After that time, most operations would either be over, or regular ration resupply could take over. For instance, if the 82nd Airborne jumped into combat, after the first 3 days, they could probably count on regular supply channels. And if they couldn’t, they’d have bigger problems than finding something to eat.

The answer to the lightweight ration problem was the First Strike Ration, or FSR. The FSR is a tailor made to provide lots of calories, and to be small and light. It comes in a shrinkwrap pack of three meals, and yet is only a little larger than a single MRE.  Unlike MRE meals, which need a spoon to be eaten, FSRs can be eaten by hand, since they are like “Hot Pockets” or sandwiches.

FSR Components
FSR Components

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One of the most popular components of the FSR is a packet of applesausce, fortified with maltodextrose for extra energy. For whatever reason, the Army decided that no one wants to eat “applesauce fortified with maltodextrose”, but Zapplesauce, well,who wouldn’t want Zapplesauce? So the name was changed. In addition, there’s a couple of Army specific energy bars (Called the HooAh bar) and a powder to make an energy drink called ERGO (Energy Rich, Glucose Optimized).

The FSR is a handy ration for folks that just can’t carry a lot of extra weight. But it isn’t designed to feed folks for more than a couple days. For one thing, there’s only a few menus, so people get tired of them pretty quickly. For another, it’s hard to provide long-term nutritional balance from Hot Pockets. Ask the mother of any college student. She knows.

Addendum: While looking for pics of the FSR, I came across the following picture:

Ration Breakdown- Louisiana Manuevers 1940
Ration Breakdown- Louisiana Manuevers 1940

Back in 1940, they didn’t even have C-rations. Every meal was made from scratch. Each company had it’s own mess cooks and kitchen. The battalion would break down each days ration for the companies to pick up for the next days meals.  I can’t be sure, but this is either a battalion or regimental breakdown.

Claymore!

One of the handier tools in the infantryman’s kit is the M18A1 Claymore mine. The Claymore is primarily a defensive weapon, used to provide close in defense of a position such as a Forward Operating Base.

The M18A1 is a command detonated, directional mine. Unlike most land mines that are buried, then set off by either being stepped on or by tripwires, the Claymore is usually set off by an electrical blasting cap controlled by our troops. The Claymore isn’t buried, but is emplaced on the surface of the ground. It is called a directional mine, because when it is detonated, it sprays a pattern of 700 ball bearings in a fan shaped pattern.

Clacker, mine, and detonating wire.
Clacker, mine, and detonating wire.

Like most things in the Army, it’s fairly simple to operate. Some directions are more important than others. For instance, see where it says “Front Towards Enemy?” Yeah, might be a good idea to follow that one. The Claymore can actually be aimed with a fair degree of precision. The fan of fragments is fairly tightly defined, so when emplacing a Claymore, great care is taken to make sure that the mine is aimed at the most likely location of enemy troops.

Watch this video closely. When the mine explodes, you’ll see the smoke from the explosion, but you’ll also see dust kicked up by the fragments hitting the hillside in the background.

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Most of the world has a ban in place on landmines. But because the Claymore is used as a command detonated weapon, it is exempt from the ban. It is issued as ammunition. Normally, if a unit doesn’t fire its Claymores, it will collect them for reuse when they leave a position.

There are fairly few places in Iraq where troops can use Claymores without the risk of decimating innocent civilians. Afghanistan is a different matter. The Forward Operating Bases in many remote locations can easily profit from the defensive firepower of Claymores, without the risk of killing non-combatants. The Claymore is effective out to about 100m, and dangerous out to about 250m.

Another use for the Claymore is offensive. When an infantry unit is setting up an ambush, they will try to cover the killzone with Claymores. Since you want to initiate your ambush with the most devastating weapon, many units use the Claymores to initiate the ambush.

One more video, to give you a better idea just how awesome a Claymore can be.

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9/11 Remembered

I want to write something. Tell what I was doing, where I was, what I felt.  But everything I’ve tried to write was so trite, it would be insulting.

I was fortunate that I didn’t know a single person lost in the Twin Towers, The Pentagon, or on any of the four doomed flights.  My company had people in NY, but they all came through safely. In any event, I didn’t know them personally.

Every American is my countryman. I may disagree with him on politics, religion, culture, sports, and who makes the best barbecue. But no matter how strong my disagreement, I am wounded when he is murdered.

Load HEAT

What can we say? We’ve long been a fan of Sandra Bullock. She’s a gifted comedic actress, and has done well in quite a few dramatic roles.

She’s always had a “cute” reputation, more than “sexy.” With that in mind, it was a little surprising to find so many hot shots of Sandra when I went digging for this weeks hottie.

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What was really surprising was how few pics there are of Sandra from the movie Demolition Man. I was a little crushed.  It was pretty much the first thing I saw her in, and I loved her in it.

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