Task Force Odin

Found via Ace’s headlines (left sidebar), Strategy Page has an interesting look at Task Force Odin, and its counterpart in Afghanistan. Task Force Odin was an intelligence team dedicated to spotting (and even predicting) IED emplacement before they could be used to attack our forces. Under a program called Constant Hawk, intelligence specialists used mathematical analysis of collected imagery to determine where IEDs had been set. Given the rise in IED attacks in Afghanistan in the last couple years, that same technique is now being applied in the A-stan.

Go take a look

Welcome home, Captain

We’ve talked before about what happens if to you if you are wounded. We’ve talked before about what happens if you are killed. But there’s another category that people in the service just don’t like to talk about much- what happens if you are missing?

On Saturday, officials from the Department of Defense notified next of kin that the remains of Capt. Scott Speicher had been identified.

The remains of the first American lost in the Gulf War have been found in Iraq, the military said Sunday, a sorrowful resolution of a nearly two-decade old question about the fate of Navy Capt. Michael “Scott” Speicher.

Capt. Speicher, then a Leiutenant Commander, was piloting an F/A-18 Hornet on the first night of strikes during Operation Desert Storm. He was apparently shot down by an Iraqi MiG-25. In the confusion of that night, no one realized at first that he had been shot down.

Capt. Speicher was variously listed as missing, missing- presumed killed in action, missing, and missing- captured. I’ve long been skeptical that he was alive.

But the point is this- dead or alive, your country will never stop looking for you. The armed forces jointly operate several teams that look for missing service members from all our nation’s wars. Sometimes, they have success. More often, frustration. But they never cease.

A personal vignette. Shortly after my father died, and his obituary had time to circulate, I received a call from an older man. It was the brother of the only crewman to go missing from my Dad’s squadron in Vietnam. He of course wanted to pass on his condolences. But he also had to check to see if Dad had passed on anything about his brother. He could leave no stone unturned. I felt terrible. I knew what my father’s fate was. I knew he had lived a good life. A long life. And I knew he had passed surrounded by his family. And I felt worse that I couldn’t give a comforting answer to this man, looking for his brother.

Today is a day of sorrow for the family of Capt. Speicher. But perhaps it is also a day of closure. There are many other families waiting. Perhaps some day, closure will come to comfort them as well.

Happy Birthday!

Not me. The United States Army. Established by an act of the Continental Congress on 14 June 1775, the Army was initially composed of six companies of infantry, and was to act as the umbrella under which the various militias would serve to fight the British Army during the Revolutionary War.

Since that time, the Army’s strength has waxed and waned several times. Historically, the people of the United States had an aversion to a strong standing Army. It wasn’t until after WWII, at the beginning of the Cold War, that the Army maintained a large peacetime force. Since then, the Army has been at war several times, while arguably, the Republic has not.

Today, the Army is one of the most trusted institutions in American life. Soldiers enjoy a public approval greater than almost any other period in the history of the Army.

Each year, the Secretary of the Army selects a theme to emphasize during the year. This year is the Year of the NCO. The NCO corps, Corporals through Sergeant Majors, is the backbone of the Army. They are the middle management. They get things done. They are the folks who train soldiers. They provide purpose, direction and motivation to their teams. If you want to learn about leadership, learn about NCOs. As you’ll see below, you can’t recruit NCOs from another industry. You have to grow your own.

We are extremely proud of our service as a Noncommissioned Officer. While much of what was fun in the Army consisted of shooting things and blowing stuff up, what was rewarding was leading, training, and mentoring younger soldiers. Even some aspects of recruiting duty were similarly rewarding. I met a lot of young folks that just weren’t going to join the Army. But I still had a blast talking with them about their plans for the future. Some were obviously on the right path. To them, I said, more power to you. Others hadn’t figured out their path in life. I hope I was able to give a little substanative guidance to some of them.

Today’s NCO is entrusted with a level of responsibility that I could only dream of. They still have to execute their core competencies of leading and training soldiers. But they are also in many ways the face of America in lands far from home. When the average Iraqi or Afghani sees an American, it is a damn good chance that he’s seeing a Sergeant in the US Army. His perceptions of America and her people are formed by how that meeting goes. There’s a concept put out by a former Commandant of the Marine Corps called “The Strategic Corporal”- the actions of a junior NCO can have immense impact on how our foreign policy is shaped and executed. The NCOs of today’s Army have embraced that and realize they have a heavy burden.

NCOs also have a burden to make sure that none of their soldiers are killed or wounded because they weren’t well trained. Training never stops. No, not even in war. Before missions, briefings and rehearsals. After missions, and After Action Review to see what worked and what didn’t.

We personally aren’t big fans of leadership by slogan. We weren’t a big fan of fads. We tried to stick with what had worked over 200 years of experience. From time to time, the Army comes up with things like various creeds and mottos. We don’t spend a lot of time memorizing them. But there are seven core values that the Army has promoted. It’s kinda cheezy, sure, but the fact is, we support and endorse these values. They put into words what NCOs put into action.

  1. Loyalty – Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit, and fellow Soldiers.
  2. Duty – Fulfill your obligations.
  3. Respect – Treat others as they should be treated.
  4. Selfless Service – Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own.
  5. Honor – Live the Army Values.
  6. Integrity – Do what’s right, both legally and morally.
  7. Personal Courage – Face fear, danger, or adversity, both physical and moral.

If you look, the first letter of each value forms the an acronym, LDRSHIP. Leadership. It’s what NCOs are all about.

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And let’s not forget that today is also Flag Day. Long may she wave.


Joint Air Attack Team

We’ve talked before about how the post-Vietnam era Army found itself facing down an enormous Soviet Group of Forces in East Germany, and struggling to find a  way to deter them from rolling over NATO forces.

The standard Soviet tactic was the echelon attack. A US brigade might find itself under attack by a full Soviet Motor-Rifle Division. Fair enough. As a rule of thumb, units in the defense are expected to be able to handle an attack by a force up to three times their size. The problem came when the second echelon of Soviet forces would slam into our US brigade, before they have had time to reset after the first attack. And if the second echelon didn’t break through, there was a third echelon behind that. Sooner or later, our US brigade would be overwhelmed.

The key to defeating the echelon attack was  to disrupt the follow-on second and third echelons. We’ve discussed the Cobra and Apache attack helicopters in the deep strike role. And the Air Force would do its part by performing interdiction missions, dropping bridges, disrupting supply and fuel depots.

But there was another tactic, designed to compliment the strenghts and minimize the weaknesses of attack helicopters and close air support aircraft like the A-10. That was the Joint Air Attack Team, or JAAT. Utilizing artillery, scout and attack helicopters, Airborne Forward Air Controllers, and close air support aircraft like the A-10, a JAAT could overwhelm the air defenses of a Soviet unit and pound it into the dirt. Even if the unit wasn’t destroyed, it would be so disrupted that it couldn’t keep to its schedule. This would buy our defending ground brigade time to reset from the first echelon and prepare for its attack.

Here’s a training film from either the late 70’s or early 80’s showing the basic concept.


With the exception of the A-10, all the platforms shown have been replaced. The M-60 tanks have been replaced by M-1s, the OH-58 scouts by updated OH-58D Kiowa Warriors, the AH-1Qs by AH-64s, and the OV-10 by modified OA-10A’s.  Still, the basic concept is still a viable one.

There were a couple of real challenges to making a JAAT work. First, airspace management. It can be a real challenge making sure artillery rounds and airplanes don’t occupy the same airspace. For obvious reasons, the aviators, both Army and Air Force are kinda picky about that. There’s also the challenge of making sure the helicopters and fixed wing air know where each other are, to avoid collisions.

The other challenge was timeliness. It takes some time to put a JAAT together. If the JAAT takes too long to assemble, it can miss its chance to catch the follow on echelon. But if units have trained together before, and have worked out the kinks, it can be put together much more quickly.

Hulu – PBS Specials: Medal of Honor

We had planned an extensive post on this, the 65th anniversary of the invasion of Europe. There’s no shortage of things to write about. The heroism of the soldiers of the 1st, 4th, 29th, 82nd(Abn.) and 101st(Abn.) Divisions, the struggles of the Engineer Special Brigades (half of all soldiers landed on D-Day were engineers dedicated to clearing the beaches for follow-on elements). The valor and sacrifice of Navy and Coast Guard small boat crews plunging through intense fire to deliver troops. The efforts of thousands of Airmen to clear the skies of the Luftwaffe and provide support.

But we were distracted by PBS. Specifically, we came across this video on Hulu.com regarding the Medal of Honor. It has been our privilege to meet several Medal of Honor recipients. In fact, I used to work for one. I told him that I didn’t think I could ever do what he did. He said, “Neither did I”.

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more about “Hulu – PBS Specials: Medal of Honor“, posted with vodpod


Today is the 67th anniversary of the turning of the tide in the Pacific Theater in WWII. For the first 6 months of the war, the Japanese had their way in almost every battle. They seemed almost unstoppable. They weren’t.

100 Seconds that Changed the World
100 Seconds that Changed the World

We’re an Army blog, but the son of a Naval Aviator, and we grew up not just knowing about Midway, but knowing veterans of Midway. We’ll leave it to the huge collection of excellent Naval bloggers to tell the story. Today is their day. Hats off to the heroes of one of the most desparate naval battles of all time.



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