Request Permission to Leave the Net.

I’m leaving first thing in the morning for the Caledonian Club of San Francisco’s Annual Scottish Highland Games. I’ll be hanging with members of my clan and drinking lots of Scotch. No, I’m not wearing a kilt. I’ll be returning to the net sometime Monday evening or Tuesday morning.

Feel free to leave captions to this photo as well, but please, PG-13.

Those (Poor?) Soldiers…

As a former recruiter for the Regular Army, I have some interest in the demographics of the service. I was one of the smartest guys I knew in high school. It was something of a rude shock to find just how dumb I was after entering the Army. Some folks were better educated. Some had poor education, but were as smart as a whip. Some just had tons of common sense, where I had little.

One of the themes of the Democratic National Convention has been to show their party’s support for the troops, but this has left something of a bitter taste in my mouth as they consistently portray soldiers as victims and as the disadvantaged, forced to serve in wartime by a shortage of other opportunities. That just ain’t so. There are several factors that keep it from being so, primarily that service is a  privilege, and not a right. The bottom third or so of the nation, intellectually, is automatically disqualified by law, for instance.

Now comes The Heritage Foundation with an in-depth look at just who is serving today.

Based on an understanding of the limitations of any objective definition of quality, this report com­pares military volunteers to the civilian population on four demographic characteristics: household income, education level, racial and ethnic back­ground, and regional origin. This report finds that:

  1. U.S. military service disproportionately attracts enlisted personnel and officers who do not come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Previous Her­itage Foundation research demonstrated that the quality of enlisted troops has increased since the start of the Iraq war. This report demon­strates that the same is true of the officer corps.
  2. Members of the all-volunteer military are significantly more likely to come from high-income neighborhoods than from low-income neighborhoods. Only 11 percent of enlisted recruits in 2007 came from the poorest one-fifth (quintile) of neighborhoods, while 25 per­cent came from the wealthiest quintile. These trends are even more pronounced in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) pro­gram, in which 40 percent of enrollees come from the wealthiest neighborhoods—a number that has increased substantially over the past four years.
  3. American soldiers are more educated than their peers. A little more than 1 percent of enlisted per­sonnel lack a high school degree, compared to 21 percent of men 18–24 years old, and 95 percent of officer accessions have at least a bachelor’s degree.
  4. Contrary to conventional wisdom, minorities are not overrepresented in military service. Enlisted troops are somewhat more likely to be white or black than their non-military peers. Whites are proportionately represented in the officer corps, and blacks are overrepresented, but their rate of overrepresentation has declined each year from 2004 to 2007. New recruits are also disproportionately likely to come from the South, which is in line with the history of South­ern military tradition.

The facts do not support the belief that many American soldiers volunteer because society offers them few other opportunities. The average enlisted person or officer could have had lucrative career opportunities in the private sector. Those who argue that American soldiers risk their lives because they have no other opportunities belittle the personal sacrifices of those who serve out of love for their country.

As the saying goes, read the whole thing.

None of this is particularly surprising to me. As a recruiter, most of the folks I put in the Army came from lower middle class backgrounds. Why? Because the areas I was recruiting in were lower middle class. I did occasionally recruit from poor neighborhoods. I didn’t get a whole lot of folks from those areas, not because of any lack of desire to serve, but for other reasons. Many folks were products of a dysfunctional public education system. They were high school graduates or seniors, with decent grades who couldn’t generate a passing score on the ASVAB test. Others had brushes with the law that precluded them from serving, or had health problems. Asthma seemed to me, anectodally, to be more common in poor neighborhoods.

I often recruited in neighborhoods that were ethnically quite distinct from me. Some of the neighborhoods were virtually all African-American, while I am the quintessential WASP. I had fair success in these markets, not by adopting any affectations, but rather by just being myself. There was, however, a great deal of suspicion and misinformation among these communities that had to be overcome. Sometimes I was successful, sometimes I wasn’t. The best evidence I could provide was to bring the applicant and his or her family to my office. It didn’t take them long to notice that I was the junior guy in the office, and the four most senior folks were African-American.

Let me revisit the last line of the block-quote above. It references service to our country as one of the motivations for service. And it is. But the reasons why  people join are quite varied. We have previously discussed the motivations behind enlistment in this post. I would submit that report above shows some support for my arguments.

Thursday Spiderblogging

I may have mentioned this before, but I’m not a big fan of spiders. Little creepy ones that hide under plants are bad enough. Then there are the black widows that are hiding under my gas grill.

The worst by far are the orb weavers, as they like to hang a web right at face level. I had one the other day that hung his web by my fig tree. I showed some mercy and left him there. As long as I can pace my back yard and not get a face full of arachnid, I’m pretty forgiving. If you encroach my  territory, you get the flyswatter.

I was out back last night and one guy was hanging his web. It was fascinating to watch how he did it. I grabbed a few seconds of video, but while I was taping, the wind caused his web to collapse. What you don’t see on the video is me screaming like a little girl as he swung towards me.


Thursday Catblogging

I’m leaving the net tomorrow until next Tuesday, so I’m bumping the catblogging up a day.

There’s nothing going on in the picture. There never is. My cat just sits there an sheds. I have the most boring catblogging evah! And that’s a challenge.

I also have the least cooperative cat for a model. He just will not look at the camera.

The Infantry/Artillery Team

We discussed earlier the genesis of the infantry-artillery combined arms team. The fruit of this marriage in WWII was the Infantry Division.

When the US was gearing up for WWII, it made a very careful analysis of the manpower likely to be available in the country. For a nation of 150 million people, it was a surprisingly small pool. In addition to manning the Army, the country had to provide for the Navy, Marines and the Army Air Forces. Less visible but just as critical were the war industries. Rosie the Riveter made a huge contribution to the war effort, but the fact of the matter is they were still outnumbered by men in industries. Some jobs such as shipfitting had almost exclusively male workforces. Farms still had to be tended. Don’t forget, at that time, almost half of America lived on a farm. The rule of thumb was that only about 10 percent of the population could be pressed into service. The Army’s share worked out to roughly 8 million men.

Given that the Army was going to have to fight outnumbered and on two fronts, it was important that the divisions it fielded be superior to the Germans they would face. One trick was standardization. The Germans had something like nineteen different organizations for just an infantry division. That doesn’t count the Panzer divisions and Panzer-Grenadier divisions (mechanized infantry). Then there was the duplicative effort of the Waffen SS divisions, which had their own organization. Instead, the Army made virtually all US infantry divisions identical in organization.

Another choice the Army made was to deliberately limit the number of divisions it created. In the Axis armies (and the British) when a division was worn down in combat, a new division was raised. But the old division still existed. Most of the casualties in a division take place in its infantry units. Instead of creating new divisions, the Army would work to keep its divisions at full strength by means of individual replacements. Since all divisions were pretty much alike, a replacement could be sent to virtually any unit.

The key emphasis was designing a division that could reasonably be expected to fight an Axis division one on one and win. Instead of the traditional rule of thumb that you should have a three to one advantage when attacking, US divisions would be expected to routinely attack with a parity in strength. The key to making this work would be a balance of size and firepower. The three infantry regiments of the division had adequate firepower thanks to the semiautomatic Garand rifle, the Browning Automatic Rifle and the machine guns and mortars organic to each infantry company and battalion. But the divisions real firepower would come from its artillery.

Each infantry division, in addition to its three infantry regiments, had a Division Artillery (DivArty) consisting of three battalions of 105mm tubes and one battalion of 155mm guns. Normally, each regiment would have a battalion of 105mm artillery firing in direct support of its objectives, controlled via Forward Observers attached to each of the regiment’s battalions. The regimental commander had a Fire Support Officer from the artillery battalion to advise him on the employment of the artillery.

The battalion of 155mm artillery was used a little differently. Its primary mission was counterbattery fire. When enemy artillery was striking infantry troops or the 105mm battalions, the 155s would locate and fire upon the enemy artillery. The division commander could also use the 155s to reinforce the fires of any of the 105mm battalions to support one of his regiments. Finally, the division commander could use the 155s (or, indeed, any or all of the 105mm battalions) to attack targets of his own.

Because of the extensive communications between the artillery and the supported infantry units, the artillery could react very quickly to calls for fire. This same tight integration with the infantry units allowed the artillery to fire on targets much closer to friendly units with less chance of fratricide.
No longer was the artillery merely acting in support of the infantry, or vice versa. For the first time in warfare, they acted in concert, combining their effects and efforts. The result was greater than the sum of their parts. An infantry division with the combined infantry/artillery team could punch far above its weight.