Noise and Light Discipline

CJ Grisham has been a popular mil-blogger. He was one of the earliest active duty troops to start blogging about what life in the service during the Global War on Terror was like.

He blogged about what his service was like, and he blogged about what his life was like. He earned influence in the mil-blog world. He has twice been invited to the White House to discuss mil-blogging and its significance.

But now, a spat he had with civilian bureaucrats in a local school district, compounded by some idiocy in the Army, he’s seen his blogging brought to an end, his personal life disrupted, and his military career jeopardized.

As a show of solidarity, many mil-bloggers are going to protest his treatment by boycotting blogging, either for the day, or for the remainder of the week.

First, milblogs are facing an increasingly hostile environment from within the military. While senior leadership has embraced blogging and social media, many field grade officers and senior NCOs do not embrace the concept. From general apathy in not wanting to deal with the issue to outright hositility to it, many commands are not only failing to support such activities, but are aggressively acting against active duty milbloggers, milspouses, and others. The number of such incidents appears to be growing, with milbloggers receiving reprimands, verbal and written, not only for their activities but those of spouses and supporters.

For once, we have a good reason to skip a day of posting.  CJ has some daunting legal issues facing him, and paying the legal bills on a Master Sergeant’s pay isn’t easy. If you are inclined, you can pitch in here to help.

Grisham Legal Fund
c/o Redstone Federal Credit Union
220 Wynn Drive
Huntsville, AL 35893
Please write “Grisham Legal Fund” in the memo line if you use this option.

As Lex says, “The battle for freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas is fought on many fronts and in many ways. Without your help, the battle may well be lost.”

A Partial List of Participating Blogs:

Bouhammer
Laughing Wolf
Hugh Hewitt
This Ain’t Hell
Castle Argghhh
Boston Maggie
Blackfive
Miss Ladybug
Hooah Wife
Kiss My Gumbo
Some Soldiers Mom
Assoluta Tranquillita
Knee Deep in the Hooah
Soldiers’ Angel New York
Drunken Wisdom
Grim’s Hall
From my position
CDR Salamander
Confederate Yankee
Chromed Curses
Homefront Six
Pvt Murphey’s Law
Delta Bravo Sierra
The Sniper
Another Voice
Support your Local Gunfighter
Knottie’ s Niche
Great Reader JihadGene
America’s North Shore Journal
The Mudville Gazette
The Dawn Patrol

Update: Welcome, Instapundit readers. Please poke around, but more importantly, go visit the other mi-bloggers above and think hard about helping CJ.

Update 2:

I’ve written to the Garrison Commander of Redstone Arsenal, COL Robert Pastorelli. If you care to write him an email, his address is:

IMCOM-GC-Redstone@conus.army.mil

Here’s the text of my email:

Dear Sir,

I’m writing to let you know of my displeasure with your treatment of one of your soldiers, MSG CJ Grisham.  As you know, MSG Grisham became involved with a dispute with members of the local civilian education establishment. In an apparent pique, those civilians contacted his chain of command to express their displeasure.  My understanding of the matter is that when his company commander was first contacted, he responded in an appropriate manner. If the civilians thought his behavior was threatening, they should contact the police. If not, he had nothing further to say to the matter.

Sadly, you became involved in the matter, and did not conduct yourself in a way the reflects credit upon you as a leader or a commander. Army Times reports that you used your position as his superior to chastise him for expressing his concerns in a public forum. Indeed, the Army has for 30 years trumpeted the need to care for Soldier’s families, and yet when one of your Soldiers tried to address a critical issue for his family, you took steps that have jeopardized his career.
According to The Army Times:

In the weeks that followed, Grisham says, Redstone Arsenal garrison commander Col. Robert Pastorelli and Command Sgt. Maj. Rickey Cooper repeatedly called him on the carpet, ordering him to remove posts.

I’ve heard that one of the posts you ordered removed was the video of a meeting with the local school board, which provided evidence that MSG Grisham was not only not threatening, but was in fact being threatened and bullied.

I would appreciate your thoughts and comments on this issue, specifically:

  • Under what regulation or authority did you order MSG Grisham to remove or edit posts?
  • Which posts did you order MSG Grisham to remove or edit?
  • Why you, the Garrison Commander, rather than his parent unit commander, undertook these steps.
  • What are the results of the IG investigation into MSG Grisham?
  • Who ordered MSG Grisham relieved as a First Sergeant? Was it you, or his parent unit commander?

I’ve posted a copy of this letter to my blog. If you wish, any response you provide will be posted, unedited, in order to provide you with a forum to discuss this.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Art Barie
xbradtc.wordpress.com

Load HEAT

Crap! It’s Tuesday again already? I almost forgot this week.

Who’s up for some pop music? Back about the time that Britney and Jessica and the rest of the teen pop stars got started at the turn of the century, one singer stood out for her singing just as much for her good looks. Christina Aguilera has a serious set of pipes. And the diminutive little thing is also cute as a button.

Now, for me, I love that she gets the whole “retro-glam” thing.  And nothing exemplifies that as well as her single “Candyman.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hYGp5VdYbE]

Fatboy slim

I think I’ve mentioned before that I hated recruiting.  I met a lot of great people, but so much of the job was a pain.  Finding people that wanted to join the Army wasn’t much of a challenge. Finding qualified people that wanted to join was a huge challenge.

I talked to a lot of people every day (which was a challenge in and of itself- I’m not the most outgoing person) and even a lot of people that were seemingly a good fit for service were, for one reason or another, ineligible.

There’s only a limited pool of potential recruits, and it isn’t as big as you may think. First, the target market, people from 18 up until their mid-20s isn’t the largest demographic in the country. Then, add in minor things like having a high school diploma, being physically and medically qualified, having a clean (enough) criminal record and passing the ASVAB test. Pretty soon, you’ve whittled down the pool even further. How much.

According to Wired Magazine, as much as 75% of the demographic is unqualified. Ouch. Fatboys seem to be the biggest component of that.

South Korean Armor

We are hardly an expert on South Korea, having never been stationed there, and only visiting for a month for Exercise Team Spirit ’87, the annual joint US/South Korean wargames. Still, we found it a fascinating place, and a country that faces some interesting challenges, from a defense standpoint.

South Korea is on a peninsula. It’s only shared border is with its antagonistic neighbor, North Korea. North Korea invaded South Korea in July of 1950. After some truly harrowing fighting, US forces, rushed to the scene, managed to stem the tide, defeat the North Korean People’s Army, and regain lost ground. Disaster struck once again when massive Chinese forces entered the fight on the side of North Korea. Eventually, the lines were stabilized roughly along the 38th Parallel, the original border between North and South. In effect, we were right where we started. US forces have been present on South Korean soil ever since. Still, the South Koreans understand that, ultimately, their security rests on their shoulders. They have made enormous strides in becoming  a democratic nation, and a highly industrialized one at that. A large part of that effort has been devoted to their defense industry.

From a strategic and operational standpoint, S. Korea faces a couple challenges. One, N. Korea has a massive army. It may not be particularly well equipped, but it is huge. And that army has a huge number of tanks and armored personnel carriers. Second, S. Korea isn’t that large a country. There isn’t a hell of a lot of room to maneuver on the strategic or operational scale (as contrasted to the tactical level, say, division and below).  For instance, the capitol, Seoul, is very near the border, in fact, within artillery range of N. Korea.  And being on a narrow peninsula, while it narrows the front you have to defend, and reduces the chances of flanking movements, it also allows the enemy to concentrate, and denies you the opportunity to use flanking movements in the counterattack.

One other thing. Korea is very mountainous. Like, really, really. So if you operate armored vehicles in that terrain, they better have a high horsepower to weight ratio, so they can make it up hills. There’s two ways to increase that ratio- increase the horsepower, or decrease the vehicles weight. Better yet, do both.

The Republic of Korea Army (or ROK Army) is organized along lines roughly similar to the US Army. For many years, it was equipped mostly with US weapons, but S. Korea has long worked at building its own defense industry, both to support its own army, and supply weapons to the international market. Most weapons, while not directly based on US systems, were roughly analogous. For instance, they built the K1 and K1A1 tanks, that bore a familiarity to the US M1 and M1A1 tanks.

As for armored personnel carriers, the ROK army has used a design based on the M113 since the 1980s. It is long been due for replacement. Finally, the Koreans have begun to field a new Infantry Fighting Vehicle, known as the K21 KNIFV (Korean Next-generation Infantry Fighting Vehicle).

One of the most interesting things about the K21 is how they saved weight. The K21 weighs about 26 tons.  In contrast, a Bradley weighs about 33 tons. They are similar size vehicles. How did they save the weight? Well, for one thing, they make the chassis out of fiberglass.  Yeah, fiberglass. Used in conjunction with ceramics and other materials, they can achieve good levels of protection for less weight. It will be interesting to see how it holds up to the stress of service.

As for armament, they’ve gone with a much larger weapon than a Bradley has. Instead of a 25mm autocannon, they’ve gone with a 40mm cannon. This provides a couple options that the 25mm doesn’t. First, most of the tanks it will face are older Soviet designs such as the T-55 and T-62. The APFSDS round of the 40mm can actually penetrate the side armor of these older tanks. Of course, it is fully capable of defeating armored personnel carriers. Also, with 40mm gun, you can have what are called “programmable rounds” where as the round leaves the muzzle the fire control computer sets the fuze of the round to either burst on impact, after a delay, or at a set distance from the muzzle. This is excellent for troops in the open, or for anti-aircraft fire.

The K21 also has a two-round anti-tank missile launcher, similar to the TOW launcher on a Bradley, but firing a domestically produced missile.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4se_9WrWyPw]

Load HEAT- Day late edition

Sorry for the delay. I hate it when real life interferes with the blogosphere.

Anybody who had a pulse in the 80s remembers our girl this week. Elle MacPherson had an unprecedented five covers on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. For years, it was neck and neck between her and Kathy Ireland who was most likely to be stalked by your humble author (in the end, neither. I’m just too lazy to put in the effort).

Behind the Iron Curtain

A lot of attention has been paid to the threat IEDs and EFPs pose to Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Heavier armor, jamming of cell phone signals, the CROWS weapons mount and “Rhino” countermeasures have all worked to make Humvees more survivable in an IED environment.  Also, moving from Humvees to MRAPs for some missions has increased troop survivability.

Still, IEDs aren’t the only threat Humvees and similar vehicles face. One of the most common weapons on the battlefield is the RPG, or Rocket Propelled Grenade.  An RPG is a pretty simple weapon. It’s basically a HEAT warhead with  a rocket motor to push it along, all fired from a simple tube. Our guys use a similar weapon,  the AT-4, which is a disposable, one shot weapon. The RPG is reloadable.

RPG-7

The RPG is a real threat to light vehicles like Humvees, MRAPs, and even Strykers and Bradleys. Its HEAT warhead can penetrate the armor of just about any armored vehicle short of a main battle tank like the M-1. An RPG hit on a Humvee will often result in death or injury to the entire crew and a catastrophic loss of the vehicle.

So how do you defend a vehicle like the Humvee from RPGs? They are too small to carry explosive reactive armor or an anti-RPG cage. You can’t keep adding additional armor. The chassis just won’t take that much weight.

Well, for a couple decades, the armies of the world have been exploring “active defense” against RPGs (and similar HEAT warheads). Using a radar sensor to detect an incoming round, the active defense would instantly and automatically react to fire a projectile to impact with the warhead.  Two big problems have always existed with this. One, the sensors and controls just haven’t been practical until the recent improvements in electronics. Secondly, having a vehicle that routinely has troops (and innocent bystanders) nearby suddenly start shooting off explosives is kinda unsafe.  Recently, Artis LLC, in conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) came up with a system called Iron Curtain that uses a combination of advanced sensors, downward firing countermeasures, and special explosives and projectiles to field a system that can defeat RPG rounds without posing a great risk to dismounted personnel.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPYlINh8Q_Y]

The system probably won’t be ready for service for another year or so, but can potentially be a great aid in saving the lives of troops.

Thoughts on Afghanistan

One of the things that makes me a lousy blogger is that I don’t like to post my thoughts immediately on issues of the day. I didn’t post my opinions within 5 minutes of the President’s address last night because I wanted to digest them a bit. I also wanted to see what others thought, as that almost always gives me a deeper insight into what I truly think, rather than my first emotional reaction.

Oddly, two of my favorite blogosphere sources are from retired Naval officers, CDR Salamander, and Neptunus Lex.  And of course, Drew M. at Ace’s has some thoughts that illuminate. Why take the Navy guys take on what is primarily an Army operation? Well, CDR Salamander is dialed in on the operational and strategic implications of policy changes in Afghanistan (traditionally, I think the Navy has trained its officers to think at that level better than any other service). And Nep Lex has a wonderful clarity of thinking and such a terrific ability to write that you can hardly afford to not read him.  As for Drew? Look, I read Ace’s all day every day.

My own thoughts…

1. Good on Obama for adding an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. There is clearly a need for more troops if we are to shift to a counterinsurgency approach there. I think that is the proper approach, vice a counterterrorism approach. And COIN warfare is inherently a manpower intensive approach.

2. Bad on Obama for only adding 30,000 additional troops. GEN McChrystal requested 40,000 troops. You can be sure he didn’t just pull that number out of a hat. He had a reason for requesting the number he did, tempered by what he believes can be logistically supported in theater, and by what the Army staff tells him can be generated for deployment.  I’m certain he didn’t just request a number of troops, but rather a particular force structure that happened to add up to 40,000.  The President has authorized only 30,000. Which troops and what units did he think that McChrystal didn’t need? Why did he think that? What justification has he given for not including those forces? Does he think the additional 10,000 troops will be forthcoming from our NATO allies (fat chance!)?

3. Other than an arbitrarily imposed timeline that will enable the President to show a troop drawdown, why impose a 2011 timeline? Is this in there solely so Obama can show this drawdown during a presidential election cycle? One of the concerns I had about the surge in Iraq was that it was a “one-shot” deal. It simply had to work, because there was no way the Army could double down, and the ability to maintain that level of effort was time limited. They could surge additional troops, but only for about one deployment cycle, before real issues developed in maintaining readiness. That is potentially a problem here in Afghanistan, but it isn’t nearly the problem that the Army faced in 2007 in Iraq. But when President Bush announced the surge in Iraq, he did not announce that the surge was a limited time offer. In fact, the open ended nature of the commitment was a key component of its success. Those Iraqi factions that were beginning to consider aligning with us were convinced that we would still “respect them in the morning” and weren’t going to leave them hanging. In contrast, President Obama’s speech last night pretty explicitly told the Afghani people, “I’m love you, but I’m not in love with you.” If you were a tribal leader, and had to choose to align yourself and your tribe with either the US or the Taliban, who would you choose? That kind of undoes the whole point of a counterinsurgency strategy. The anti-coalition forces are pretty good at information operations. You can bet that this will be a major bullet point on their presentation.

4. The money thing. Look, no commander gets everything he wants. There are never unlimited resources. The Army understands that. But this sudden pennypinching impulse in an era of massive government expenditures for bailing out banks, and the Porkulus Stimulus spending that magically seems to fund every Democrat pet project of the last 20 years costs a heck of a lot more than funding the fight in Afghanistan. And you may rest assured that spending a ton of money to win a war is a lot cheaper than losing a war by trying to save money.

5. Dithering and deployments… What did the President say last night that justified the three months that it took for him to reach a decision? Nothing. So why did it take so long? And this three month delay is on top of the fact that back in March, the President announced his own new approach to the war and appointed his own commander for Afghanistan.  Are we going to see quarterly revisions to strategy all the way through this administration? I understand that circumstances change, and that you have to adapt. But there has been no clear communication of our goals and how we intend to fulfill those goals by this administration (and this isn’t a problem exclusive to this administration. The Bush administration did a poor job in this respect as well).

The President has attempted to make up for his three month delay in reaching his decision by expediting the deployment schedule for those brigades that will be going. I was asked about this at The Hostages last night, and here was my response:

Comment by xbradtc on December 1, 2009 8:42 pm

Brad, I’m thinking moving 2+ Divisions into inland and mountainous regions without ports and decent roads is going to take just a bit longer than the first few months of 2010.

Your thoughts?

Dave, the Army has a plan to move them (and more, don’t forget that McChrystal offered options of 80k, 40k, and 20k to Obama). It won’t be easy but it will be doable. The problem is that Obama is gonna “push” the deployment and get them in theatre faster than the original plan.

That will pose logistical problems, I’m sure, but the real assfuck will come in training. Brigades that see their deployment date moved up will have less time to integrate new troops, develop their training plans, implement individual, squad, platoon and company training, less time for cultural and language training, less time for Bn and Bde leadership to do leaders recons on the ground in A-stan and develop their campaign plan.

It’s impossible to quantify, but some troops will die because of these training deficiencies.

6. GEN McChrystal seems to be onboard with the President’s decision. He really has only two choices. Either say “Yes, Sir!” and try to do the best he can, or hand in his resignation. Given that the President has voiced support for his strategy and resourced most of it, GEN McChrystal really had no choice to but accept the challenge. If the President had instead provided only token increases, or none at all, he would have been sorely tempted to call it a day, I’m sure. Still, we as a nation have civilian control of our military, and at the end of the day, expect our officers to do what they are ordered to do by the President. For a theater commander to resign, he better have a damn good reason. And every commander that faces that choice also has to struggle with the issue that he could be abandoning his troops on the battlefield. That goes against the grain of every moral fiber in a soldier.

7. Delivery. For a guy that has a wonderful reputation for oratory, it sure seemed like he was just phoning it in. Of course, I’ve yet to be impressed by his public speaking. I’m biased, of course. I didn’t vote for him, and tend to have an immediate distaste for whatever he’s pitching the moment he opens his mouth. But it seems to me that his best speaking comes when he is making campaign speeches, and his worst comes when he discusses policy.  And, to me, he seemed to lack any enthusiasm for what he was selling last night. His handlers like to stage manage this sort of thing, putting him in front of the Corps of Cadets at the US Military Academy. That struck me as being a bit too smart for themselves. While the Commander-in-Chief is guaranteed to have a polite audience there, Barack Obama was unlikely to have an enthusiastic audience there. I still clearly remember when President George H.W. Bush announced the doubling of troop deployments for Operation Desert Shied/Desert Storm in November of 1990. He gave that speech from the Oval Office. It seemed presidential and had the proper gravitas. I didn’t get that impression last night.

Overall, I’m somewhat disappointed and less than fully optimistic for the campaign in Afghanistan. But I’ve not given up hope. I have a near boundless faith in the ability of the American Soldier (and Marine, Sailor and Airman) to persevere in the face of daunting challenge and to overcome. Time will tell the result of the President’s approach to his leadership in what he himself called a war of necessity.

Your thoughts?

[polldaddy poll=2331966]

Stolen Valor… again.

Why do people do such stupid things? A cop, who had served as a Marine, claimed to have been awarded the Silver Star. He hadn’t. And someone called him on it.

Here’s the stupid thing- as a member of the Marine Mafia, he already was gonna get a leg up from any other Marines that he worked with. There’s a fraternity there that college Greek communities could only wish the had. Lying about it wasn’t going to get him additional acceptance in that community. It got him expelled.