ZOMG!!! It’s a CRUSADE!!!

We’ve talked about combat optics for our troops. Turns out that ABC news has managed to find something controversial about them.

Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the United States military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found.

Of course, some nitwits with nothing better to do than criticize Christians brought this to ABC’s attention.  But ABC implies that Trijicon, the maker of the sights, is breaking the law:

U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious “Crusade” in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents.

But that’s a conflation of two entirely different spheres of law. The rules specifically prohibiting proselytizing are a part of General Order Number One.  That’s the general order from CentCom that, among other things, prohibits troops from drinking alcohol while in the theater.

But here’s the thing. General Orders do NOT apply to contractor’s in the United States. Any problems that the government has with Trijicon would be covered by the contract under which they supplied sights to the service. Until today, the Army apparently didn’t have any complaints about the sights.

Crappy reporting, ABC.

H/T:ATC@ DPUD

Stolen Valor- Not even slick about it edition

UPDATE: I hate these guys. TSO at This Ain’t Hell eviscerates these guys. Seriously, if you are some loser thinking about claiming honors that aren’t yours? Don’t. TSO will hunt you down like Obama going after your wallet.

The ever wise and wonderful CDR Salamander brings us this dickhead.  Most of the pitiful creatures that claim honors they didn’t earn at least TRY to stay within the bounds of plausibility. How anyone at the victory party for new Houston mayor Annise Parker could believe this… thing… might be an Army officer, much less a general officer, is beyond me.

This person is committing a Federal offense. Under the Stolen Valor act he can be, and should be prosecuted. If you know who he is, contact CDR Salamander at the link above. Let’s help nail this turd, and save the respect so many of our people have for those that earned it.

Weasel Zippers: Monday Night War Porn…

Spotted over at WeaselZippers, a tardy Taliban realizes the temporary nature of life.

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Gators go to war.

Our first unit was a part of the 25th Infantry Division, back in the mid 1980s. The 25th ID was a “Light” division. Light meant that the division had fewer vehicles than a regular infantry division (to say nothing of a mechanized infantry division). The goal was to make the division as deployable as possible, preferably on as few as 500 sorties by C-141 aircraft. That meant all the people, guns, trucks, and other equipment.  So the Army made very deep cuts in the size of units. More importantly, they sacrificed tactical agility for strategic mobility.

There heart of the division were the three infantry brigades, each with three infantry battalions (each brigade also had an artillery battalion in direct support).  The infantry companies had no organic transport. That is, they didn’t have any vehicles. Everyone, from the CO down to the lowliest private, walked. That restricted the speed of the company to a maximum of about 4 miles per hour. It also imposed a very real limit on how much equipment and ammunition the company could carry.  In training, troops would routinely carry loads anywhere from 70 to 120 pounds. That’s without having to carry heavy ammo like mortar rounds, 40mm grenades, and anti-tank missiles. And it’s without having to wear the heavy body armor all troops wear today.  The fact of the matter is, with a combat load, a light infantry company would be lucky to move two miles per hour. And that’s on level terrain. In complex terrain (like, say, Afghanistan), a company would be so burdened that it would be virtually immobile. To move the companies more than  a few miles would require trucking support. But there were no trucks larger than a humvee in the battalion. A company would require support all the way from the division’s support battalion. These trucks weren’t often available, since they were busy moving all the divisional logistics, such as food, water, fuel and ammo.

And in rough terrain, there were real limits on where a truck or even a humvee could go.  Something else was needed, but until the purse strings were loosened by the immediacy of the needs on the war on terror, nothing was in the pipeline.  But once the shooting started, commanders suddenly had some discretionary funds to buy supplies “off-the-shelf” that weren’t ordinarily available.  I wasn’t terribly surprised to see that several units had bought 4-wheel ATVs to haul trailers full of the heaviest items the companies would have to take with them, specifically, ammo.

And it wasn’t long before ATVs and its slightly larger cousin, the John Deere Gator started popping up all over the place.

And John Deere, knowing a good thing when they see it, started making models tailored for the military.

The even come with gun mounts (though they aren’t really fighting vehicles).

Now, while many companies have access to a Gator or other ATV, many of the handy little trucks are found on the many FOBs and other installations for routine “administrative” logistics- the mundane, day to day movement of small stuff that seems to occupy an inordinate amount of the Army’s time.  Relatively cheap, handy, easy to operate and maintain, they are just the thing for hauling a load quickly and easily. In fact, they are such a no-brainer, I’m still surprised the Army uses them!

H/T to: The Mudville Gazette

Hacked Drones and ISR

So, we wake up this morning to learn via Lex that the Iraqi insurgents have figured out how to hack into the video feeds from Predator and Reaper drones overhead. So, what’s that mean? Well, let’s take a look at what the whole video feed thing is about, first.

And age old military problem has been trying to figure out what the bad guys are up to. When you are a grunt on the ground (or even a brigade commander on the ground), very often, your ability to see what is going on in the battlefield only extends as far as the next ridgeline.  In an urban environment, it is even worse- you can’t see around the next corner. As soon as airplanes became viable, the military started using them for observation. Indeed, the whole development of military aviation started as a result of this need for observation. In modern terms, this observation is called ISR or Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance.

Today, in the age of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, getting the high ground is pretty much accepted as the norm in our military.  We’ve all seen gun camera video of Predators smacking insurgents with a Hellfire.  But while it is nice to have the odd Hellfire land on Jihadi heads, what the ground commander really likes is having an eye in the sky for long periods off time. There’s a couple of different schools of thought about how to use UAVs like the Predator.  The Air Force takes a more centralized approach, using the video as the first step in a long-term intelligence analysis, much of which is done stateside.  The Army tends to like to use it in a more immediate sense, appreciating the ability to peek over the bad guys shoulder.  Both approaches have merit. And there’s a good deal of overlap between them. The only real conflict is in how and where the UAVs are flown. That tension has been enough for the Air Force and the Army to both operate their own fleets of Predators.

There’s three major UAVs supporting the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan.  There’s a small UAV called the RQ-11 Raven, designed to support companies and battalions, and it’s basically just a video camera in the sky.

Raven’s are run from a laptop computer on the ground right there with the troops. The feed from the video camera is feed to the laptop, and gives the company commander a good overview of what is happening right now.  It is unarmed, and pretty unsophisticated. It’s little more than an electric radio controlled model airplane with a digital video cam. Still, it is handy as heck. Cheap, reliable and an easy way to look over the next hill.

The next UAV system is one that is familiar to most of us from the news, the MQ-1Predator.

The Predator is currently operated by the Air Force. The Predator started out as a simple reconnaissance machine, again, a simple remote controlled airplane with a video camera.  Pretty soon after development started, someone figured out that if you go to all the trouble of putting a day/night sensor in a stabilized mount under the nose, you might as well add a laser designator to allow it to “paint” targets for missiles and bombs. And it didn’t take long for someone to figure out that if you have all that, why not cut out the middleman and strap on a couple of Hellfire missiles as well.  Now, the Predator could tap high-value or time-critical targets. Mind you, it’s primary mission is still to be a set of eyes in the sky. It’s not really an attack aircraft. The Predator can stay airborne over a target for anywhere from 14 to 18 hours, but can only carry two dinky little missiles.  If it is being used to attack targets, it would still normally call on a regular jet to bring the ordnance.

Now, once the Air Force and the Army figured out how handy it was to use these UAVs in strike role, it was a logical step to produce one that was tailored more towards it. Mostly, that meant a bigger drone that had the horses under the hood to carry more weapons.  That lead to the development of the MQ-9 Reaper.

You can see that the Reaper looks pretty much like a Predator on steroids. Which it is. No sense reinventing the wheel. Instead of the dinky little 115hp piston engine of a Predator, the Reaper has a 950hp turboprop engine. It’s  got a bigger wing, and instead of carrying 250 pounds of weapons, it can carry up to 3000 pounds. It can still provide all the same ISR capabilites, but now, instead of having to call in a fast mover jet like an F-15E, the Reaper can provide serious close air support with 500lb bombs.

One huge advantage to the Reaper is that it is relatively cheap. Now, it’s not cheap compared to the RQ-11, but it sure is compared to an F-15E.  One of the big concerns the Air Force has had (and the Navy as well) is that ever since 9/11 (indeed, ever since the end of the Gulf War) they’ve had to keep aloft patrols of expensive manned aircraft over places like Iraq and Afghanistan. That costs a lot of money to operate. Another, hidden, cost  is that those hours accumulate on the airframes. Jets can only last for so many flight hours. The services don’t really like burning those flight hours droning around in circles waiting to see if someone needs some bombs.  And all the time spend loitering over A-stan is time that could be spent training for other missions.

Now, since the services, especially the Air Force, would rather spend their time and money doing the things they are good at, they have sometimes dragged their feet on doing the tasks they need to do but don’t really like. SecDef Gates, last year, nudged the Air Force and said, basically, “You guys need to spend more time supporting ISR in Iraq and A-stan.” The Air Force leadership basically said “Sure thing” and went back to doing what they were doing. That made SecDef Gates unhappy. So he fired the Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force Chief of Staff. Suddenly, the Air Force decided they were gonna jump on the ISR bandwagon, whole hog.  And since they couldn’t suddenly field a whole bunch of new MQ-1s and MQ-9s, they took a retro step. They took the recon systems from the Predator family, and plugged them into a manned aircraft, the trusty Beech King Air, creating the MC-12W Liberty.

As a short term solution, it’s a pretty simple and cheap way to pump some additional ISR into the theater. All four branches of the services fly some version of the King Air. It’s a very popular and easy to operate airplane.

Now, about that video. Like I said, the Air Force model is to beam the video take form the sensors all the way back to the US (or other ground stations)via satellite and have it analyzed. That’s great, but it doesn’t do much for the grunt on the ground. So in addition, they also use a souped up version of wifi to beam the video directly to the ground, so troops using a laptop can see what the sensors see. That gives them great situational awareness and also lets them refine the tasking. That is, they can talk the sensors onto those things that they really want to take a look at. (There’s a similar program that lets them see what manned aircraft like F-15s and F-18s see through their targeting pods). They can also use this to make sure that the weapons are going to be dropped where they need them.

It turns out that the video signal is unsecured, much like a home wifi that isn’t encrypted. Whether this is because of an oversight, or for technical reasons is unknown.  Not being entirely stupid, some of the insurgents have figured out a way to tap into the signal and see if they are being watched.  Understand, the insurgents haven’t figured out how to hack the controls that operate the birds, just the video feed that goes to our troops on the ground.  Still, it’s not a good thing. This means that some insurgents will be clued in to whether or not they are under surveillance, and maybe getting ready to take a Hellfire through the front door.  It isn’t the end of the world, however. It’s surprising how hard it is to tell just what an overhead video is showing if you aren’t used to it. If you look at a Google Earth pic of your hometown, you might be surprised how long it takes you to figure out if its showing your neighborhood or not.

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