Halfway Heroes, ‘Near Veterans’ Seek Recognition For Almost Serving In Military

Jody Siever spends his Friday nights like so many American servicemen and women, mingling while kicking back drinks at a local bar. Recognizing the giveaway military haircut of a fellow patron, he approaches with an arm extended.

“Welcome home, soldier.” Smiling, though apparently puzzled, the stranger returns a firm, brief handshake.

“Thanks, but I’m in the Navy. And I haven’t been anywhere—I’m in Nuke School,” he replies, referring to the Naval Nuclear Power Training Center in Goose Creek, S.C.

“That’s cool,” Siever says, “I almost thought about joining the Navy for a while, but if I did join the service, I would have gone into the Army. I’m just kind of hardcore like that. Shooting bad guys in the face—that’s the life for me. If I wanted it.”

Siever, you see, never actually enlisted.

via Halfway Heroes, ‘Near Veterans’ Seek Recognition For Almost Serving In Military | The Duffel Blog.

I’ve met a lot of members of this cohort…

“He’s in with the General”

Aggie mentioned Guiding Light in an earlier post. I’m not much of a soap opera guy… these days.

Lunchtime in the Army ran from 1130 to 1300.  Promptly at 1300, each company holds a formation to account for personnel, and update the work to be done for the day.

Eating lunch usually only took about 20 minutes. The rest of the time was supposed to be used for attending to personal business and whatnot. As often as not, we junior troops would squeeze in a quick combat nap. Or sometimes, we’d hang out in the dayroom, and watch television on the bigscreen. But if that was our choice, the channel was not. Our First Sergeant was a warrior’s warrior. Two tours in Vietnam, one as Infantry, one as Special Forces, CIB, medals and scars and just all around an impressive man to 19 year old youngster like me.  And he got to choose what channel the dayroom TV was on.

As it turned out, his favorite show as General Hospital, which was on from noon to one.  He really, really liked it.  And after a while, quite a few of us got hooked on it as well. But since we had formation at 1300, he kept missing the very last bit of each program, where the cliffhanger always comes in.

So pretty soon, the First Sergeant came up with a very common sense answer to his dilema. In Alpha Wolfhounds, and in probably no other company in the Army, lunch ran from 1135 to 1305. That five minute time shift made sure we knew how each program ended.

And if some outsider wanted to know where the heck the First Sergeant was at 1300?  “He’s in with the General!” shut up just about all questions. We just didn’t name which general…

*REPOST from October 24th, 2011* Marching Backwards in Libya

Posted at USNI a year ago.    And, if I may say, worth another look:

Amid the elation inside Libya, and much self-congratulations in the United States and NATO, news of the overthrow and execution of Muammar Qaddafi by Libyan rebels has overshadowed events that are far less promising and welcome.

The Telegraph is reporting that, on the heels of Libya’s “liberation” at the death last Thursday of Qaddafi, an event that finished for good his four decades of despotic oppression, the leader of the Transitional Council has announced a much more stringent adherence to Sharia  Law.  The implications of this are far-reaching, and the move appears to be much more than a symbolic nod to Islam as the country’s dominant religion.   It is an indication that the “revolution” in Libya has had heavy Islamist involvement, including Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and The Muslim Brotherhood, something many have suspected since the beginning of the unrest.  It is also an indication that Libya will be marching backward, away from the international community:

Mr Abdul-Jalil went further, specifically lifting immediately, by decree, one law from Col. Gaddafi’s era that he said was in conflict with Sharia – that banning polygamy.

In a blow to those who hoped to see Libya’s economy integrate further into the western world, he announced that in future bank regulations would ban the charging of interest, in line with Sharia. “Interest creates disease and hatred among people,” he said.

The Telegraph article concludes:

Mr Abdul-Jalil’s decision – made in advance of the introduction of any democratic process – will please the Islamists who have played a strong role in opposition to Col Gaddafi’s rule and in the uprising but worry the many young liberal Libyans who, while usually observant Muslims, take their political cues from the West.

It isn’t hard to imagine just what the “democratic process” will look like under Islamists’ enforcing Sharia law.   The Libyans’ 42-year nightmare may be over.  Perhaps only to be replaced by another that may last much longer.

There are myriad lessons to be taken from Libya’s situation and her apparent regressive path.

In the “Libya model”, allying oneself with unknown entities of unknown allegiance against a dictator’s regime, and then fighting by proxy through those entities, even superpowers relinquish control of events.  Without significant friendly presence on the ground, the goals and objectives of those unknown entities trump your goals, whether you intended them or not, which can lead to potentially severe unintended consequences that make the cure worse than the disease.   There are practical matters as well, the location and possession of some 20,000 SA-24 MANPADS, and stockpiles of HD (sulphur mustard) munitions being among them.  Revenge against regime supporters, persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, perpetrated by the people we aided in bringing to power, undoubtedly will be the order of the day.

As events follow their unwelcome course in Libya, and we find ourselves with virtually no means to influence them other than with proclamations, it is time to face the somewhat unwelcome truth that this revolution looks far closer to Teheran in 1979 than we care to admit.  And worse, this time we helped drive those events without any means of control.   When the final bill comes due for Libya, the cost may astound us.

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Al Qaeda flag flies over courthouse in Libya
Several Al Qaeda flags among Benghazi protesters

Nope, nothing to see here, folks.

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Seems events in post-Qaddafi Libya have run quite close to prediction.  Violence and revenge in the wake of civil war on the part of the “good guys” against any known or suspected regime members.  Or black migrant laborers, rival villages, tribes, militias, property holders, take your pick.  This from The Independent:

The winning anti-Gaddafi militia are not proving merciful. Often they have had relatives killed in the fighting or imprisoned by the old regime who they want to avenge. Sometimes they come from tribes and towns traditionally hostile to neighbouring tribes and towns. Gaddafi supporters are being hunted down. According to one person in Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, they are facing a “continuing reign of terror”.

“There is a deep and spreading frenzy, particularly among some of the youth militia and the Islamists, to hunt down anyone associated with the former regime,” the source said.

And just to show that the violence isn’t all religious or ideological, this:

The purge of Gaddafi supporters is made more dangerous by the infighting between the militias, and between them and the politicians. Association with the old regime can be used to discredit an opponent. There may also be self-interest since death squads are reported to be taking their property.

Not quite what we had in mind when we decided to go to the window to back a horse in this race.   Unintended consequences.  Predictable, sadly, but unintended.

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*The tragic events of September 11th, 2012 make a number of the comments to the original post at USNI even more willingly blind and patently absurd than they were then….   but my guess is that people like that can find yet another explanation other than reality.

2012 Best Sick Call Ranger Competition Winner Announced | The Duffel Blog

After three days of grueling events, one Soldier has finally been named “Best Sick Call Ranger of 2012″, giving him the title of being the sickest and most injured malingerer in the U.S. Army.

This year had a record turnout with a total of forty Soldiers vying to demonstrate their dedication to duty in feigning sickness and injury to the utmost of their abilities. Not only do the winners earn the title of “Best Sick Call Ranger”, they also become the recipients of the coveted gold plated Model 495 cane and are admitted to the Army’s prestigious Warrior Transition Brigade (WTB) Delta – Detachment, home of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Special Welfare Center.

via 2012 Best Sick Call Ranger Competition Winner Announced | The Duffel Blog.

Heh.

Bloody Handprints in Benghazi

Tragic indicators of Americans whose call to duty and willingness to risk it all to protect their countrymen led to violent death at the hands of a savage enemy, mute testimony of an ethos and a courage that stands in stark contrast to the tenor of pathetic post-attack excuses for inaction offered by our Secretary of Defense:

“…you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place,” Panetta told Pentagon reporters.

What happened to moving to the sound of the guns?   Panetta further invokes the names of General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Carter Ham, AFRICOM, in his justification for letting the Americans who were trapped in the terrorist attack be slaughtered by America’s enemies:

“…the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”

Right now, nobody can say about General Ham, though there is plenty of well-warranted speculation that such a characterization is knowingly false, which would be consistent with the Administration’s track record of lies, cover-ups, and deliberate deceit regarding the events of September 11th, 2012.    We do have several glimpses into General Casey’s character and loyalty, and those are most unbecoming.   He is not to be trusted, and is unworthy to lead the men and women of our Armed Forces.     EagleOne calls it “un-courage”, a term which fits quite well.

And what of the “free press”, that independent news media that is the shining pillar of our First Amendment freedoms?   Conspicuously, thunderously silent on the entire matter.   They are beneath contempt.

In Al Anbar during the rather violent days of 2004, the Governance Support Team with First Marine Division was hardly a collection of elite warriors sworn by their ethos to die gloriously in a foreign land.    However, the Marines and Sailors which constituted that force made many, many forays into injun country, and understood well that if any Marine or Marines went missing or fell into the hands of the enemy, we would do every last thing in our power to get them the hell out.   It was not the stuff of brave oaths, but rather of grim understanding.  We all knew, down to our most junior Marine, that such an occurrence was not a theoretical training scenario but was a real possibility.

It is disturbing, and maddening, that such an understanding is so foreign to those whose duty it is to lead us.   And stomach-turning that our Commander in Chief cannot bring himself to tell the electorate the truth about his actions and those of his Administration.   And, frightening when a monolithic mainstream media treats the entire tragic and despicable episode as if it never happened.   XBRAD is indeed correct that protection of US diplomats and servants in overseas stations is imperfect.    Duty in a foreign land always carries risk.   But when an Administration is as callous, weak, cowardly, and deceitful as this one has been, it is a virtual guarantee of emboldened enemies, wary allies, demoralized and skeptical Armed Forces, and an electorate whose security is far less certain than it should be.

h/t to LLL

Benghazi

I’ve not written much about the September 11, 2012 attack on our diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Mostly, this is because there is a lot of reporting, but very little information. Almost everything we know about that attack that cost the lives of four Americans is from second hand. And that’s a major part of the problem- the Obama administration is doing everything they can to conceal, deflect, obfuscate or deny any and all information about the incident. And so, scads of people around the internet speculate, or take one small piece of information and either use it out of context, or extrapolate far beyond what might reasonably be deduced.

So, I don’t have any answers.  I can guess and speculate with the best of ‘em, but won’t in this forum (though you’re welcome to!).

But I do have questions. Those questions fall into three main areas- 1. Security on site prior to the attack; 2. Actual events on the ground in Benghazi during the attack; 3. Post-attack information by the administration and its surrogates.

1.  Who made the decision as to the level of security for our diplomatic mission in Benghazi? As I understand it, Charlene Lamb has already claimed responsibility for that, but no clear message as to how she made her assessment has been forthcoming. What other agencies gave input into the force level? CIA? DoD? What was their assessment? Did seniors in DoS or the White House have input? 

2. We know the four Americans killed in Benghazi, but what of those Americans wounded? Do we even know their names? Why have they not been heard from? Did the security personnel in Tripoli and Benghazi have a contingency plan for an assault on our mission? Had they rehearsed it? Did they coordinate with EUCOM or AFRICOM for reinforcement or rescue? What supporting arms or units were tasked as the ready alert force? Did they even know they were tasked? Were they alerted? Did they rehearse for an alert? What requests were made, and when were they made?  And finally, and most obvious, when will we get a firsthand, unspun account of what actually transpired?

3. Why has the administration and its surrogates worked so hard to tell the American people that the assault was the result of a youtube video? Why have they made even asking routine questions as to what transpired a no-go zone? Who told Susan Rice to go out and flat out lie to the American people? I’m sure most of my audience has their own questions as well.

I don’t think it is reasonable to expect perfection in the protection of US diplomatic facilities worldwide. It’s a human endeavor, and mistakes and misjudgments happen. But the American people have a right to know that reasonable steps are being taken to protect our missions, and that when attacks occur, the administration in power responds in an open and honest fashion. I can forgive failure. I can’t forgive malfeasance.

USAF Issues Request for Combat Rescue Helo

The fight over who will design the U.S. Air Force’s new combat search-and-rescue helicopter (CSAR) is underway.

The Air Force last week issued a request for proposals (RfP) for the project, setting cost and performance parameters that will guide one of the service’s most expensive aircraft acquisitions over in the coming years.

The new Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) — as it has formally been rebranded — is DoD’s second attempt over the past decade to replace its heavily used Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawks, some of which have been performing military and civil rescue operations since 1982.

via USAF Issues Request for Combat Rescue Helo | Defense News | defensenews.com.

The CSAR-X program (newly rebranded as the CRH program) is pretty much the poster child for the defects of the acquisition process, especially in that the contractors are essentially in control of the customer.

We need transparency and honesty and fairness  in the contracting process, and appeals to the GAO and the court system for redress seems fair. But we’ve reached the point where virtually every significant program has a “losers veto” where protests grind programs to a complete halt. The protests rarely take into account which offering actually best meets the needs of America, but focus on arcane specifications and technicalities in the contracting process.

The obvious choice to replace the H-60 family is a variant of the MH-47G already in production for the US Army. And indeed, that’s what the first CSAR-X competition selected. But years of challenges and court cases killed the program, at great expense to the government, and left already overage H-60s to struggle for even more years.

The Romney campaign has promised to streamline the acquisition process to lower development costs. We certainly hope they succeed (both in winning the election, and reforming acquisition).  Ensuring that the customer, and not the contractor, gets final say on what is bought is key.

Fast Response Cutter

One of our (many, many) guilty pleasures was watching the Australian seagoing soap “Sea Patrol.”  The trials and travails of the crew of HMAS Hammersley, a small Australian patrol boat operating in the northern waters of the island continent may not have been terribly factual, but it did feature lots of nice footage of the RAN’s Armidale class patrol boats.

Rather than using traditional naval architecture, the RAN adopted a luxury yacht hull form to speed construction and reign in costs. The result is a very attractive boat. Decent speed, good endurance, good seakeeping and low operating costs argue in favor of that choice.

However, the Armidale class hasn’t been an unalloyed success as a class. Maintenance has proved to be troublesome, and the “austere” overflow compartment to house passengers or extra crew has been plagued with noxious gases.

Meanwhile,  the US Coast Guard has searched for a replacement for its 110’ Island class cutters.  The Island class was very successful. But a program to refurbish and rebuild them from 110’ to 123’ and add a boat ramp to the rear was a disaster.  Poor integration of modern electronics and nearly catastrophic structural flaws led to the termination of the conversions at 8 boats, and those have all been withdrawn from service. With the Island class aging rapidly, the USCG scrambled to find a new design. Unlike the other armed services, the Coasties have rarely shied away from adopting foreign designs.  The successful Dutch Damen Stan design was chosen, and only minor changes were made to optimize it for USCG service.  And while the USCG might be willing to adopt foreign designs, it is having them built in a US yard.

This Fast Response Cutter class is known in service as the “Sentinel” class. At 154’, and 353 tons, this is a fair sized vessel. Endurance is roughly 2500 nautical miles or about 5 days worth. Its crew of 2 officers and 20 enlisted have some of the nicest quarters of any seagoing service. While the ship isn’t exactly a major combatant, its armament of a 25mm gun on the remote controlled, stabilized Mk38Mod2 mount gives it enough firepower to take on most small craft. Two .50cal machine guns and liberal small arms among the crew add to the punch.  A launch and recovery ramp at the stern for small rigid inflatable-hull boats makes dispatching and recovering boarding parties much safer. A robust communications and sensor suite is also included.

Click to embiggen

One other nice “feature” of the Sentinel class- each vessel  of the planned class of up to 58 cutters will be named for an enlisted hero of the USCG. The first cutter, USCGS Bernard C. Webber (WPC-1101) was commission on April 14, 2012 and homeported in Miami, FL.