Very interesting…

Stormbringer has a neat look into the British view of the Revolutionary War.

Sean asks, how did the ragtag Continental Army defeat the British? Well, aside from having the home field advantage, one overwhelming factor was the Brit’s ongoing fight with the French. Without the distraction of having to face the huge continental power of France, the Brits would have been able to focus their efforts on the rebellion and overwhelm our forces. But because France and Britain were always at one another’s throats, the Brits had no choice but to fight an economy-of-force campaign in North America.


You’ve seen the news about the Battle of Marjah in southern Afghanistan. And you’ve heard that one of the major challenges facing the Marines are mines and IEDs slowing their advance.  Well, one part of the toolkit for the Marines is a vehicle adapted from the M-1 Abrams tank especially to clear minefields. Behold, the Assault Breacher Vehicle, or ABV.

That “comb” on the front of the ABV is a plow to dislodge any landmines or IEDs buried along the ABV’s path. Now, ABVs don’t have a monopoly on plows. Often, one tank in each Abrams platoon (of 4 tanks) will have a plow.

The big boxes on the back of the ABV contain Mine Clearing Line Charges, or MICLICs. The MICLIC consists of a rocket that drags a tube of high explosives through the air then lays them along the intended path, across any suspected minefields. After the charge is emplaced, it is detonated, and the blast pressure from the explosion causes any mines nearby to sympathetically explode.


The Marines like their ABVs, and the Army, which has let its engineering vehicle capability slide, may purchase some as well.

Stolen Valor getting attention in the news.

ABC news takes note of the phenomenon of people claiming honors that are not theirs. Mostly the report is about efforts to overturn convictions based upon a supposed right under the First Amendment to lie your ass off.  I don’t know how the courts will eventually rule on this, but to me, it’s a no brainer. Virtually every Stolen Valor case I’ve seen has been someone trying to get something based on “their service.” Maybe not a direct monetary transaction, but like the case of Xavier Alvarez, trying to gain stature in the community, to gain political power. If you ask me, gaining political office via a fraudulent representation of your history isn’t exactly protected speech.

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.

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:

Laughing Wolf
Hugh Hewitt
This Ain’t Hell
Castle Argghhh
Boston Maggie
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:

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.


Art Barie

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]

Wolfhound Warrior

I just found out a bit of sad news (from Neptunus Lex of all places).

COL (USA, Ret) Lewis L. Millet, Medal of Honor, passed on November 14th, 2009.  COL Millet, as a Captain, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on February 7, 1951 in Korea:

Capt. Millett, Company E, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action. While personally leading his company in an attack against a strongly held position he noted that the 1st Platoon was pinned down by small-arms, automatic, and antitank fire. Capt. Millett ordered the 3d Platoon forward, placed himself at the head of the 2 platoons, and, with fixed bayonet, led the assault up the fire-swept hill. In the fierce charge Capt. Millett bayoneted 2 enemy soldiers and boldly continued on, throwing grenades, clubbing and bayoneting the enemy, while urging his men forward by shouting encouragement. Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill. His dauntless leadership and personal courage so inspired his men that they stormed into the hostile position and used their bayonets with such lethal effect that the enemy fled in wild disorder. During this fierce onslaught Capt. Millett was wounded by grenade fragments but refused evacuation until the objective was taken and firmly secured. The superb leadership, conspicuous courage, and consummate devotion to duty demonstrated by Capt. Millett were directly responsible for the successful accomplishment of a hazardous mission and reflect the highest credit on himself and the heroic traditions of the military service.

While I was stationed in Hawaii, I was privileged to be assigned to the 1st Battalion, 27th US Infantry, The Wolfhounds.  The Wolfhounds are a very proud unit, considering they have a relatively short history. The regiment was only formed in 1902, but quickly acquired a reputation as a “can-do” unit. In addition to service in Siberia immediately after the Russian Revolution, the Wolfhounds, as part of the 25th Division, served with great distinction during WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and now in Iraq.

Many units in the Army pay lip service to their heritage. The Wolfhounds live it. One program we had was making sure there was a real connection from the past to the present. Several times while I was in Hawaii, we hosted COL Millet to unit functions.  There were some semi-formal events, dinners and such. But the real benefit was having “Lew” come out and just spend time with us as we went about our training. We tend to elevate our heroes up onto a pedestal. But by meeting and talking with Lew Millet, many young troops had chance to meet a real hero, and see that he was human. Each of us could, if not guarantee that we would perform to his level of valor and gallantry, at least aspire to it.


Rest in peace, COL Millet.

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.