Military Archives

March 1, 2004

True Story from Afghanistan

I'm snogging this link from StrategyPage, but it first showed up on Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manor Monday.

From Afghanistan Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 9:43 AM

Story of the week;

So we are up in the mountains at about 0100 hrs looking for a bad guy that we thought was in the area. Here are ten of us, pitch black, crystal clear night, about 25 degrees. We know there are bad guys in the area, a few shots have been fired but no big deal. We decide that we need air cover and the only thing in the area is a solo B-1 bomber.

He flies around at about 20,000 feet and tells us there is nothing in the area. He then asks if we would like a low level show of force.

Stupid question. Of course we tell him yes.

The controller who is attached to the team then is heard talking to the pilot. Pilot asks if we want it subsonic or supersonic.

Very stupid question. Pilot advises he is twenty miles out and stand by. The controller gets us all sitting down in a line and points out the proper location.

You have to picture this. Pitch black, ten killers sitting down, dead quiet and overlooking this about 30 mile long valley.

All of a sudden, way out (below our level) you see a set of four 200' white flames coming at us. The controller says, "Ah-- guys-- you might want to plug your ears". Faster than you can think a B-1, supersonic, 1000' over our heads, blasts the sound barrier and it feels like God just hit you in the head with a hammer. He then stands it straight up with 4 white trails of flame coming out and disappears.

Cost of gas for that: Probably $50,000

Hearing damage: For certain

Bunch of ragheads thinking twice about shooting at us: Priceless

All I can say is "HOOyah!"

April 12, 2004

The Fog of War

While googling for extra sources for this post, I found out that -while Clausewitz is credited with the phrase "fog of war"- he never used that term in On War.

Apparently the closest he came was mentioning "fog and friction." defined as "The diverse difficulties and impediments to the effective use of military force."

Whether Clausewitz actually used the phrase or not, the uncertainty of war was a consistent theme in his work: "In war, everything is very simple. But even the simplest things are very difficult."

Continue reading "The Fog of War" »

April 13, 2004

Marines' Helping Hand

I'm stealing this link from Dean Esmay. But, just in case the five people who read this blog regularly haven't heard of it yet, make a point of visiting these people.

The Spirit of America non-profit group "enable[s] American military, Foreign Service and reconstruction personnel to submit requests for goods that will help local people. Typically, the requests are for items that established aid organizations and government bureaucracies are not designed to handle."

Whether you think BushLied(tm), or Dubya is the greatest thing to come out of Texas since Sam Houston, this is a worthy endeavor.

Surely we can all agree that the United States has a unique opportunity to make a difference in Iraq, and this group provides a way for all citizens to help.

If nothing else, it avoids bureaucratic SNAFU by listening to the "boots on the ground," and their ideas on how to contribute to people's lives.

Like the old songs say: "you can make a difference."

April 16, 2004

Fog of War Part 2

A few days ago, I wrote about the fog of war. After I published it, I realized I had forgotten at least one very relevant example: the bombing in Madrid, and how it affected the campaign against islamofacism.

At the time I decided that the omission wasn't that important; at least, not important enough to warrant an update in the original post.

After reading recent news articles, as well as blog posts, about the current situation in Iraq, I have decided that further comment is required.

Continue reading "Fog of War Part 2" »

April 17, 2004

Fog of war, postscript

Mark Adams has called me "a voice of reason" while commenting on my "Fog of War Part 2" post. As I said to him earlier, I hope he will resist the temptation to crow "you see, Bush was wrong!! Bush had no plan!!," and so on, since he is very much not a fan of the man.

This is one of the basic facts of warfare that I hope to eventually make clear to non-military folks: you don't just expect things to blow up in your face in a war: sooner or later you can guarantee it.

Here's an excellent example: in 1944 military intelligence (uh-oh, the dreaded "Who knew what, and when?" effect!) indicated that several eight inch (203mm) guns were sited on the Pointe du Hoc, located on a 100-meter high cliff that provided excellent coverage of the Normandy beaches. Those guns would wreak havoc among the thin-skinned transports and assault craft during the invasion.

They handed that choice assignment to the Rangers. The morning of June 6, the Rangers climbed ropes, rope ladders, and in some cases cut hand-holds into the face of the cliff to reach the top. The Germans gunned them down mercilessly, but in the end the Rangers took Pointe du Hoc.

They also took nearly 200 casualties, both dead and wounded.

The guns weren't even there. They were several miles inland. The Germans hadn't gotten around to moving them yet.

My point here is that if today's atmosphere prevailed in 1944, at least some of the Republican Party opposition would have immediately accused the Rooseveldt administration of incompetance, poor planning, and so on.

We don't need that. That won't win this war. And -unless the reader is someone who is adamant about troops in Iraq at all, and just doesn't care what happens to the Iraqis after we leave- that sort of sniping does not help at all.


I'm sure at least some of the readers are wondering what I would call an "acceptable" criticism of the Bush administration. Here's one:

While the number of active-duty divisions on hand did not originally seem critical, it is becoming apparent that we need to devote at least two of them to Iraq for the forseeable future; call it 5-10 years. Even rotating brigades in and out on a regular basis won't address the fact that a minimum number of troops will be required in Iraq for a while. This puts a noticable crimp in our strategic reserve. If things go wahooni-shaped in Syria, Iran, or North Korea in the next (say) five years, our current forces would be stretched thin, to say the very least.

As far as anyone knows, the Bush administration has given no indication that they have even considered a significant increase in our active-duty forces, with "significant" being defined as at least two new divisions

It is our belief that this, combined with (other enumerated sane criticisms) shows that the current administration does not take this threat of medieval kleptocratic islamofacism seriously. That they, in fact, have assumed that an American victory is some sort of 21st-century Manifest Destiny, without serious forethought as to how our victory is, in fact, manifest.

Vote for XXX in November.

At the risk of sounding egocentric, Bush should be glad I'm not on the other side this fall... :)

April 25, 2004

Um, that's not good...

Over at the Command Post they have a link to a CNN story that says"

"Iraqis in Najaf are stockpiling weapons in mosques, shrines and in schools, Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor said, while U.S. forces remained deployed outside the city." (emphasis added)

This is not a good thing. The next few weeks should prove instructive...

To all the servicemen and women in Iraq: keep your head down, and Godspeed.

April 28, 2004

The Final Mile

Take a look at the real America as they honor one of the fallen.

Read this, published by Blackfive.

Thanks to Dean for the link.

May 9, 2004

Losers rule, ok?

I'm sorry about the title but I love this article:

"US-Italian-Polish Offensive in 3rd day
From the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)"

Think about it; the "polacks," the "better fighters than lovers," and the US Army/Marines, kicking ass and taking names.

God, I love this country! {chuckle}

May 31, 2004

Memorial Day

I'm taking the time to remember my father today. He fought in the Second World War as an infantryman. He was "just" one of the mudfaces.

Like many veterans, he almost never talked about what happened to him during the war. In fact, he only mentioned the war twice all the time I knew him. The first time was, well, a long time ago when my older brother, Glenn, once reproached my father for not going camping with him. Glenn was a pretty active Boy Scout as a kid. My father replied that Glenn "knew damn well he'd done all his camping thirty years ago, and he'd had his fill of it then."

The other time was when I quoted Heinlein to him once: "Get your first shot off fast. This throws the other man off, and gives you time to aim your second shot." Well, it turns out that's almost exactly how it happened. My father was on patrol in some European town when he came around one corner of a building exactly the same time a German soldier came around the opposite corner. Both were surprised. Both fired; both missed. The only reason I'm here today is that the poor German still had an older bolt-action rifle, while my father had his trusty M1 Garand, so all dad had to do was aim, and squeeze...

And that's what my dad did during the war.

My father, Allen Trueman Tompkins, was born in February 1925, so he was pretty young when he joined the Army. I can't ask him when he actually joined, since he died of cancer over 20 years ago.

So this is in thanks, and in memory of my father and all his brethren who suffered bad camping, terrible times, and death, all in service of our country.

I miss you, dad.

There's some other things you should see today. One of them is the prayer that Rosemary put up.

Another is the list of 72 reasons why the Marine Corps Moms find today especially important.

Finally we have a memorial from Sgt. Hook. If you can get through that list without tears in your eyes, there's something wrong with you.

June 1, 2004

Why not attack the Saudis?

I've noticed a particular idea pop up pretty regularly when discussing the Islamofascist War: we should be going after the Saudis!

Thing is, there's a few problems with that strategy. For starters, note that the Saudis are actually fighting Al Qaeda these days. It's just not getting the air time other stories have.

Suppose the US declared war on, or just attacked Saudi Arabia tomorrow. Forget where the troops would come from, or how we could supply them; even three more divisions results in at least 45,000 more men, and considering tooth-to-tail ratios, we're looking at another 45,000 just to supply them. But let's not worry about combat troops we don't have, support troops we don't have, and ships to carry the supplies that we don't have (in excess of what's already in use). Let's look at the military/political aspects. I'm not even exploring the topic of causus belli here.

Suppose we have those three divisions (say, 1 armored and 2 mech) and we drive south from Iraq.
After all, it's only 400 miles to Riyadh, right? And we all know that Arabs can't fight, right? Well, maybe. Most folks tend to fight a bit harder when defending their homeland, Iraq notwithstanding. And don't forget the Saudi air force. They have some damn good pilots, and they're flying F-15s and F-16s. They won't be pushovers the same way the Iraqis were.

But hey, let's say we defeat the Saudi air force. I'll even give you Medina and Mecca, just 'cuz I'm a nice guy. Don't thank me, I'm a giver. {g} Congratulations, the US armed forces have once again kicked righteous ass and emerged victorious!

Only there's one little problem. To the north of Iraq we have the Moslem country of Turkey. To the east we have the Moslem country of Iran. To the west there's Syria and Jordan, and to the south of Saudi Arabia there's Yemen, Oman, and the UAE. All Moslem. Oops, forgot Egypt. And don't forget that Iran borders on Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Basically, at this point, you are literally surrounded, and just how are you going to supply the troops, much less defend the territory you've just captured? Check out a map. The Med is blocked by Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. You might try the Red Sea ports, but again we have to deal with Egypt, and now we have (Mostly Moslem) Sudan and (Moslem) Yemen to block off the straits. Ditto for the Persian Gulf: the UAE and Iran could shut that down quite nicely. And where are your supplies coming from then? Especially fuel and water? A little-known fact is that while Saudi Arabia is one of the largest oil exporters in the world, they don't have much refining capability on hand, so unless we can find a make our tanks, trucks, and planes run off of crude, we're up the creek.

What? Gonna fly stuff in? Go look up the costs of flying freight vs. shipping it. You'll double or triple your logistic costs, at least. And you thought the $89 billion Bush wanted last summer was a lot? Dig deeper, bud...

So now you're in the middle of Saudi Arabia, you find some insanely expensive way to keep your troops barely supplied, and you've just pissed off every Moslem on the planet. While you're surrounded by Moslem countries. Now, I generally don't give much credence to appeals to the "Arab Street," but most putative Christians (and certainly the athiests) don't really understand the hold that Mecca has for devout Moslems. The Christians aren't really fervent that way anymore; they burnt their agressions out about 400 years ago in Europe; but the Moslems are still at the place where the local imam says it's a good thing to kill blasphemers and infidel, and hey! someone just stole Mecca.

And before you get too cocky, the Egyptians aren't horrible soldiers, the Saudis have some damn good pilots, the Qataris have good tankers, and Iran has been kicking local ass for 3,000 years. I'm not even mentioning the Afghans (you think the Russian invasion pissed them off!?) and the Pakistanis. The Paks have some damn good infantry.

And, silly me, I forgot all about the Turks. You know, the people who terrified Europe for several centuries? They're just to the north of Iraq.

But, you object, we have the Kurds! And the Israelis, don't forget them. They're damn good soldiers too. True, but whenever Isreal fully mobilizes it basically shuts down the civilian economy, and the Kurds are at best light infantry which we would have trouble supplying. I'm sure you can see the problem...

To recap: you're holding the places sacred to something like one-quarter of the people on the globe, are totally surrounded by them with little opportunity to supply your own three divisions of troops, and are outnumbered at least five to one (and I'm being conservative here). The opposition has a lot of good to very good troops, most of whom would be willing to die recapturing Mecca, especially if it meant wiping out the enemy in the process.

My question is: Now what do you do? Aside from nuking half of the Middle East, that is?

June 4, 2004

Eagle-eyed Canucks

Everyone likes to make fun of the Canadian Army, but oftimes our friends up north do good.

Three months ago a Canadian team of snipers (Master Corporal Graham Ragsdale, Master Corporal Arron Perry and Corporal Dennis Eason of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry) broke the all-time record for "one shot, one kill."

Older sniper rifles (.30 caliber) are generally accurate out to about 800 meters. Call it 800 yards if you don't like metric. :) Most of the .30 caliber-record shots are around 1,000 meters, but the United States introduced .50 caliber (12.7mm) sniper rifles around 20 years ago. These rifles have much greater range, and now that extra range is starting to break records.

On the night of March 21, the above Canadian team managed a 2,400 meter kill, with several others in the 2 kilometer range. The rifle used was a .50 caliber MacMillan Tac-50.

Wow. With ranges like that, even an Ohioan like me feels the impulse to be a tad bit more polite to our friends up north. :)

Good on ya, guys! Aoorah.

Thanks to the folks at for the story.

June 12, 2004

Chickens, Crossing Roads, and Iraq

This entry cheerfully stolen from

Why Did the Chicken cross the Road?

Coalition Provisional Authority: The fact that the Iraqi chicken crossed the road affirmatively demonstrates that decision-making authority has been transferred to the chicken well in advance of the scheduled June 30th transition of power. From now on the chicken is responsible for its own decisions.

Halliburton: We were asked to help the chicken cross the road. Given the inherent risk of road crossing and the rarity of chickens, this operation will only cost the US government $326,004.

Muqtada al-Sadr: The chicken was a tool of the evil Coalition and will be killed.

US Army Military Police: We were directed to prepare the chicken to cross the road. As part of these preparations, individual soldiers ran over the chicken repeatedly and then plucked the chicken. We deeply regret the occurrence of any chicken rights violations.

Peshmerga: The chicken crossed the road, and will continue to cross the road, to show its independence and to transport the weapons it needs to defend itself. However, in future, to avoid problems, the chicken will be called a duck, and will wear a plastic bill.

1st Cav: The chicken was not authorized to cross the road without displaying two forms of picture identification. Thus, the chicken was appropriately detained and searched in accordance with current SOP?s. We apologize for any embarrassment to the chicken. As a result of this unfortunate incident, the command has instituted a gender sensitivity training program and all future chicken searches will be conducted by female soldiers.

Al Jazeera: The chicken was forced to cross the road multiple times at gunpoint by a large group of occupation soldiers, according to eye-witnesses. The chicken was then fired upon intentionally, in yet another example of the abuse of innocent Iraqi chickens.

Blackwater: We cannot confirm any involvement in the chicken-road-crossing incident.

Translators: Chicken he cross street because bad she tangle regulation. Future chicken table against my request.

U.S. Marine Corps: The chicken is dead.

Navy: The chicken upon crossing the road was painted and lashed to the curb.

Kerry: "The chicken crossed the road before it did not"

Baghdad Bob: The chicken never crossed the road! He is safe in Baghdad, miles from the marauding vehicles of the infidel! THERE IS NO ROAD!

USAF: "As you can see here in the target video, the bomb was locked onto the chicken...and there it goes...the chicken is still moving...still moving...and unfortunately passed out of the parameters of the guidance system so that the bomb completely missed it and hit the weasel instead. Gotta admit thought, it's impressive footage..."

June 29, 2004

It's the little things

Sometimes it's the little things that get to you. Take, for example, this report that terrorists have executed murdered an American soldier.

There is, to be honest, no sanity in this latest murder. Putting a bullet through the back of the head of Spc. Keith Maupin won't change the course of events in Iraq one iota, but it till change the world of the people who knew and loved him.

I don't know if Spc. Maupin had a girlfriend, a wife, or any kids, or if he was Protestant or Roman Catholic, or what kind of music he liked. There's a million things I don't know about him.

What I do know is that he was from Batavia, Ohio, less than a half-hour drive from where I live (just south of Hamilton). If you're curious, Batavia is roughly sixteen miles east of Cincinnati; just another small Ohio town.

And that leads me to the one thing that I know about Spc Maupin: I grew up in a small Ohio, town, and I'm living in another right now. We probably would have had a lot in common; the Reds, Schoenling beer, making fun of Kentucky...

This is why, I think, Maupin's murder hit me harder than the others we've read about. While I didn't know the man, I know where he comes from. I'm not ashamed to say that I cried a little when I thought about it; a nice young man from a small Ohio town murdered gangster-style, while he was trying to help those less fortunate than he was.

One of the saddest things about this is that -for most of us- in the not too distant future, Keith will have become another statistic; another data point in the "War on Terror."

We have to remember something, for the sake of Keith, and all the other men and women who have given their lives in Iraq. Bill Mauldin, who wrote Up Front during the Second World War when he was only 21, once said:

When you lose a friend you have an overpowering desire to go back home and yell in everybody's ear, "This guy was killed fighting for you. Don't forget him --ever. Keep him in your mind when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed at night. Don't think of him as the statistic which changes 38,788 casualties to 38,789. Think of him as a guy who wanted to live every bit as much as you do. Don't let him be just one of "Our Brave Boys" from the old home town, to whom a marble monument is erected in the city park, and a civic-minded lady calls the newspaper ten year later and wants to know why that "unsightly stone" isn't removed.

It's all too easy for most of us to forget all of this, except once a year on Memorial Day. Every one of us has to stop, and remember that the men and women who have given their lives really are our friends and neighbors; that you played football in high school with someone exactly like 1st Sgt. Robert J. Dowdy(Cleveland, Oh) , or you knew a guy like Sgt. Michael D. Acklin II (Louisville, Ky) in your geometry class in high school, or college.

Thanks to Dean for the link.

July 1, 2004

Lest we forget

America has recently rediscovered the "fun of frog-bashing" (AKA "dissing the French"). It's fun, it's easy, and even kids can play.

But let's not forget that Chiraq is not France. There's a fair number of French men and women who still love and respect America. I cite in evidence Anilore Banon, and Jean-Paul Delorme.

Ms. Banon is a sculptor who had decided to create a piece for the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings: "Their sacrifice and courage allowed us all to stand up. It was the force of their will that three generations later we still have with us."

She wasn't sure she would be able to get the funds to build her sculpture until Jean-Paul Delorme contacted her. Delorme had read about her problems in the International Herald Tribune, and volunteered to pay the bills.

What is truly amazing is that the factory building the monument went on strike (no, that's not the amazing part; this is France, after all {g}), but the 25 workers assigned to the project said "For the sculpture, we are not on strike."

Vive la France. Perhaps in the not too distant future, both sides will remember what Gen. "Black" Jack Pershing said, four score and seven years ago...

July 21, 2004

Marine Bumper stickers

Save water, shower with a Marine.

Heaven won't take us and Hell's afraid we'll take over.

USMC: When it absolutely, positively must be destroyed overnight.

When in doubt, empty the magazine.

To err is human, to forgive is divine, however neither is Marine Corps policy.

Happiness is a belt-fed weapon.

There are two types of people: Marines, and those that wish they were.

Martyrs or Marines, who do you think will get the virgins?

All men are created equal, then some become Marines.

It's not an attitude problem, we are that good.

U.S. Marines: Travel agents to Allah.

First Iraq, then France.

We're Marines, we took Iwo Jima, Baghdad ain't shit." (Gen. Kelly)

It's God's job to forgive Bin Laden, it's our job to arrange the meeting.

Sergeants think their only flaw is their excessive modesty.

Except for ending slavery, Fascism, Nazism, and Communism, war has never solved anything."

--Cheerfully stolen from

September 27, 2004

Heee's Baaack...

For a while, now, one of the funniest bits of military humor to hit the 'net has been The 213 Things Skippy Is No Longer Allowed To Do In The U.S. Army. The original Skippy website, alas, had disappeared a while back, but the List kept bouncing around.

I have good news: Skippy's back! Apparently he never realized how popular his list had become; it was rather a shock to the poor boy. Heh.

Anyway, not only is the List back up, but he's now added a new page of things that his friends aren't allowed to do, either.

Run on over, and check it out.

September 30, 2004

Knight's Fork

Check out some of Jim Dunnigan's latest thoughts on the Islamofascist War.

I found this passage especially evocative:

Israel killed [Hamas leader]Khalil in response to a recent Hamas suicide bombing inside Israel. Offensive operations against Hamas in the Palestinian controlled West Bank and Gaza have stopped most terror attacks in Israel. And it has been found that the best way to really get a message to terrorist organization is to attack the senior leaders. Khalil was one of the most senior Hamas leaders living outside Israel. The attacks so angered Hamas that they quickly announced that they would now attack Israelis, and Jews, outside of Israel. This was quickly retracted, as such a move would make Hamas a major target for American anti-terrorist operations. The word has spread through terrorist organizations that the American led war on terror is indeed world wide, and can be particularly difficult to deal with if the anti-terror forces get on your case. Hamas has its hands full with the Israelis, and has no desire to take on American Special Forces and Delta Force, or British and Australian SAS. (emphasis added)

That was a brilliant Knight's Fork on the part of Israel; either Hamas sets itself up to get whacked by the Big Dogs, or they curl up their teeny l'il private parts and crawl on their bellies, back onto the porch.

They chose the porch. {snicker}

That really is too bad. I had this lovely storyboard, all planned out, just for the Big Whack:

[CAMERA ON] Hamas spokespigman: We will kill Joos everywhere! We will kill them in Israel, we will kill them, in their homes, we will kill them in Australia, Great Britain, and even in the United States!!

[CUT TO]{shot of huge shadow at spokespigman's feet, indicating large group of SF, SEALs, and SAS who are Not Amused, standing right behind him}

[CUE]spokespigman's spit-take realization that he's About To Die.

[DIALOG]{spokespigman}:ohshit. I'm gonna die.

[SFX]{add Wiley Coyote-style "dropping the hammer" here, then small, rising column of smoke}

Sigh... Hey, a guy can dream, can't he? Heh.

October 11, 2004

Just what is a diversion, anyway?

AKA: "The Wrong War, at the Wrong Place, etc."

Recently, on Dean's World, Dale Eddy said cited a quotation that Germany and Italy declared war on America after FDR had "preemptively declared war on Germany and Italy."

This turns out not to be the case. Germany, followed by Italy, declared war on the US on December 11. Congress returned the favor that afternoon.

Continue reading "Just what is a diversion, anyway?" »

November 1, 2004

And now, Steve Gardner

Dean Esmay has done a magnificent job of interviewing several Swift Boat vets, and now he presents #3, Steve Gardner, gunner's mate on PCF 44. The boat that John Kerry commanded in Vietnam.

This stuff is "must" reading for anyone, Democrat, Republican, or Independant, who is honestly curious about Kerry's history, and the men who saw him in action.

While you're over there, check out his other interviews:
Van Odell
George Elliot

After you're done reading, tell everyone you know...

February 12, 2005

Warriors and Soldiers

Aargh. Must blog more, stay up all night staring at the walls less.

Anyway, speaking of "Argghhh!," I'd like to welcome John of Argghhh! to my bloglist, and thank him for the reciprocity. If you haven't visted the Castle, check out his Gun P0rn, or this post, about a visiting moonbat with more (self-proclaimed) balls than brains.

Apparently Jeremiah is not familiar with professional soldiers. That's the catch, of course. Warriors are quite different from soldiers. And if you go back in history, you'll find the most dangerous, and consistently successfuly professionals were the Roman citizen-soldiers. Our men and women in uniform are their spiritual and operational descendants.

Continue reading "Warriors and Soldiers" »

February 18, 2005

Ahhh, much better!

A (belated) welcome home to Greyhawk, and all of the servicemen and women recently returned.

And for those still there: Godspeed. We're praying for you.

March 4, 2005

Go here. Read this. Then go watch the movie

I'll make it simple on y'all.

Some war stories will never make the nightly news...

400 American soldiers carry out their mission from a bombed-out pleasure palace once owned by Saddam Hussein. This is their story.

Like I said: Go here. Read this. Then go watch the movie: Gunner Palace.

Tip o' the hat to John of Argghhh! for the heads-up.

March 25, 2005

The new guy

Can't sleep from the anti-flu narcotics in my system (funny, they're supposed to help you sleep), so I'll mention a new guy on the block, who was nice enough leave a kind comment about my blog. :) Besides, Greyhawk has been mentioning him, and he looked interesting.

Why not run on over and visit 365 and a Wake Up, run by a California Army National Guard officer currently in Iraq, who goes by the call thunder6. He writes some good stuff.

Greyhawk recommends this post about checkpoints and journalists. A good choice.

Me, I like his description of ice in desert:

Today a thunderstorm rumbled through Baghdad and showered the FOB with gumball size hail. A couple of the troops armored up and waded into the storm, reveling in the raw display of nature痴 power. The fat frozen raindrops scuttled off the armor plates like miniature billiards, sheathing the troops in the open with what looked like icy halos. It was as surreal an experience as any I had experienced here in Iraq. So much for the desert being as dry as a bone. Iraq has turned out to be a lot different from my expectations, and the differences run far deeper then the climate.

If that doesn't do it for you, try his (rather short) explanation why anyone smart would ever want to be a soldier. His answer:

I spoke from experience, and I spoke from the heart. I told him about the misery of feeling my feet rot in the swamps of Florida during ranger school. I told him about getting stuck in knee deep mud during a blinding deluge in Germany. I talked about having to pull my frozen finger off the trigger while riding through the Balkan winter. I talked about the string of missed birthdays, holidays and weddings I never had the opportunity to celebrate. And I told him about living in the sun stoked furnace that was Kuwait in the summer. I purged all the collective misery of my decade in the service. Having finished my impromptu confession I paused for a long moment, letting SPC Frances absorb the full weight of my response.

As the silence stretched like a teardrop waiting to fall I broke the silence and told him that I would do it all over again. His face contorted into a mask of disbelief, his jaw drooping slightly from the strain of following this verbal about-face. His lips shaped the word 展hy?� but there was no breath to give it voice.

Before answering him I told him about how part of my heart chipped off when I looked into a mass grave in Bosnia. How for days after my dreams were clouded with an image of the very earth opening a yawning pit to engulf the dead, only to choke on their numbers and leave them on the surface half swallowed. I talked about countries where famine and disease left people whose bodies left shadows that gave the illusion you were looking at a photographic negative of a skeleton. About places where the only rule of law was the brutal and unswerving laws of physics and ballistics and the only peace one could hope for was the grave. And the story that did not need telling, the story of our ongoing struggle with insurgents who revel in the misery and deaths they cause our forces and the Iraqis.

As I finished I noticed my mouth was dry and I had to take a long draw of water before continuing. When I slaked my thirst I told SPC Frances to close his eyes and I would tell him why. As he closed his eyes I told him to imagine his young wife, his beautiful infant daughter and the future he wanted for them. He paused a moment and a smile slowly creased his face. As he looked up I caught his eyes and told him a simple truth. I told him that the thin line that separates the two realities isn稚 a line on a map or the signature block on a document filled with hollow proclamations. The dividing line between the two kingdoms is a long line of soldiers. And that is why I知 proud to call myself a soldier. Its not about a lack of options, or the size of my paycheck. Its about what kind of world I want to leave for my children if I am lucky enough to be a father.

The man can write...

UPDATE: Almost forgot. Check out his photo section, too. Great stuff.

May 9, 2005

God is oppressing people again...

If you haven't heard yet, a watchdog group which monitors the separation of church and state is up in arms about the alleged dominance of evangelical Christians at the US Air Force Academy.

Dusty -resident of Castle Argghhh! and an Academy graduate- has some pungent comments on the "controversy."

Greyhawk posts a letter from Buzz Patterson, former Cadet Group Commander at the Academy, who finds the charges contemptible.

Finally, naval aviator CDR Salamandar weighs in here and here.

Look, I'm agnostic myself, and even I find this foolishness offensive! Worse yet, it's not even very persuasive foolishness. As has been pointed out elsewhere, there are 4,000 cadets at the Academy, and the watchdog group interviewed a whopping fifteen cadets and staff, all told.

This is just one more spatter in the mudslinging about "Jesusland." Feh.

May 31, 2005

Memorial Day

Reposted from May 31, 2004, on what I think about on Memorial Day:

I'm taking the time to remember my father today. He fought in the Second World War as an infantryman. He was "just" one of the mudfaces.

Like many veterans, he almost never talked about what happened to him during the war. In fact, he only mentioned the war twice all the time I knew him. The first time was, well, a long time ago when my older brother, Glenn, once reproached my father for not going camping with him. Glenn was a pretty active Boy Scout as a kid. My father replied that Glenn "knew damn well he'd done all his camping thirty years ago, and he'd had his fill of it then."

The other time was when I quoted Heinlein to him once: "Get your first shot off fast. This throws the other man off, and gives you time to aim your second shot." Well, it turns out that's almost exactly how it happened. My father was on patrol in some European town when he came around one corner of a building exactly the same time a German soldier came around the opposite corner. Both were surprised. Both fired; both missed. The only reason I'm here today is that the poor German still had an older bolt-action rifle, while my father had his trusty M1 Garand, so all dad had to do was aim, and squeeze...

And that's what my dad did during the war.

My father, Allen Trueman Tompkins, was born in February 1925, so he was pretty young when he joined the Army. I can't ask him when he actually joined, since he died of cancer over 20 years ago.

So this is in thanks, and in memory of my father and all his brethren who suffered bad camping, terrible times, and death, all in service of our country.

I miss you, dad.

There's some other things you should see today. One of them is the list of 72 reasons why the Marine Corps Moms find today especially important.

Update for 2005:

Greyhawk includes some Sacred Words, quoting letters from Iraq. He also has a nice list of Memorial Day posts from other blogs.

John of Arrgggh! also resurrects last year's post, wherein he puts a face on the soldier's sacrifice, in the person of 2LT Cowherd.

It's nearly 3:00 PM now, so I'll finish with a link to Blackfive, who includes the words to Taps in his reflection.

Day Is Done,
Gone the Sun,
From the Earth,
From the Hill,
From the Sky,
All Is Well,
Safely Rest,
God Is Nigh

July 24, 2005

In defense of a coup...

Dean Esmay does an excellent job of summarizing the ending of Battlestar Galactica's first season.

He then asks the question: "Whose side are you on, the President's or the Commander's?"

My response:

That wasn't a coup. Not if you want to maintain parallels with our current society.

Now, I don't know if you've ever read -in full- the oath sworn by all those who join the United States military.

Enlistment oath:

I,[name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

Officer's oath:

I, [name], having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.

President's oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Emphasis added in all.

Note that neither oath is to any particular person, administration, or form of government. It is to support and defend the Constitution. Hell, these men and women don't even swear to support and defend democracy; recall that the United States was deliberately designed to be a republic.

Continue reading "In defense of a coup..." »

November 12, 2005

Thoughts of a Veteran on Veteran's Day

I wasn't going to put up a Memorial Veteran's Day post this year, since I didn't feel I had anything special to say at the moment.

However: Arnold Harris -Veteran- did, over at Dean's World.

Please read (and salute) the thoughts of a Veteran:

Thanks. I love all of you too. (Even if I bark at some of you.)

You know, back in the early 1950s, when my particular time came, we really didn't think about gratitude or anything like that. To us it was just a simple case of duty as Americans. Uncle Sam said "I need you guys and I need you now, so get off your asses and show up for duty."

That's all it took. And that's all it was supposed to take. Those of us who served in the armed forces around the time of the Korean war had the up-close memories of the 14 or 15 million of our countrymen who had recently served in every corner of the globe during the most stupendous war in history. Nobody wanted to be among the persons who would betray the memories of what those people had done to free the world of the tyranny of the fascist dictators, when the time came to defend this country against the threats of their counterparts, the communist dictators.

Anyway, America and all it represents in the past, the present and the future, was worth the national service our generation carried out. You're damned right I would do it all over again.

The men and women serving America in Iraq, Afghanistan and, for that matter, all around the world, are having some rough bumps these days. But they'll pull through, and so will the USA. May this great commonwealth live on in liberty and strength.

Arnold Harris
Mount Horeb WI


Jerry Pournelle reminds me of an old WWI poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Thank you, and God bless you, gentleman.

UPDATE: John of Argghhh!!! very kindly reminds me that today is Veteran's Day, not Memorial Day. As John put it, today honors those still living, while Memorial Day is when we salute those passed on.

December 11, 2005

Christmas for the guys overseas

Just dropped by Castle Arrgggh!!!, and read that John had gotten a note from Deb over at Marine Corps Moms (which -if you haven't yet- should add to your booksmarks right now).

Apparently Deb has run into some last-minute glitches for Operation Santa this year:

We're wrapping up Operation Santa for this year - over 12,000 stocking mailed so far - but we just got the following request:

The problem is we have some units in Afghanistan and Iraq that will not receive their MWR dollars in time to plan a Christmas holiday for the troops.

Don't have an exact number of troops, and the Master Sgt that e-mailed
me from Afgan (whom I know personally) has not been able to re-email me since.

But if some stockings could be sent to their unit commander that would really help. Please let me know for sure though so I can tell them to expect something. Thank you again, and bless you both for all you are doing for our service members and their families.

I'll be working this weekend to fill this request - if you'd like to donate to help with the cost of filling an additional 217 stockings, hit the PayPal donation button here or on the Marine Corps Family Foundation site (be sure to note that it will be for the 1107th AVCRAD effort).

I really don't have that much extra money right now (forget Christmas shopping, I'm just saving up to fix the exhaust on my car), but I think I scrape a bit together for those guys. Lord knows they're working harder, and risking more than I am right now.

I'll repeat the above from Deb: be sure to note that it will be for the 1107th AVCRAD effort.

February 10, 2006

No good deed...

...goes unpunished.

That saying sounds funny, until you run into a real-world example.

Some dimwit JAG (judge advocate general, AKA armed forces lawyer) decided that open-tip rounds were the same as hollow-point rounds. The difference is that open-tips are designed for accuracy, while hollow-points are designed for greater damage after impact. The latter also violate the Geneva Conventions.

The dilweed in question, known only as "Maj. Card," decided the twain were one and the same thing, and banned the use of open-tip rounds by snipers.

One man, Sgt. Arthur J. Hushen (a sniper currently serving in Iraq) blew the whistle on this decision, and his citation of of a 1985 US Army memo helped to reverse the ban.

Alas, after this Sgt. Hushen was accused of violating security for identifying the 4th Infantry Division on the internet. He was later cleared after issuing his own statement, but has still been removed as team leader, and all sniper duties.

It's a good thing he didn't do anything, wrong, or anything, no?

Hat tip, and a big thanks to Blackfive for covering this...

March 22, 2006

Let's Get This Straight...

I never planned to write this post, but certain term has been regularly mis-used the past few years, and -considering that we'll be "at war" for at least a few more years- someone really should sit folks down and explain what the word means.

To wit, more than a few people need to learn the proper definition of the word casualty.


Definition: (DOD) Any person who is lost to the organization by having been declared dead, duty status - whereabouts unknown, missing, ill, or injured.

More than a few otherwise well-informed bloggers and/or columnists have mis-used the term as a synonym for "dead." Most folks who are semi-literate about things military will tell you the term "casualties" include both wounded and dead. The truly informed (or geeky dweebs, take your pick {g}) will tell you casualties include dead, wounded, missing, and anyone else not available for duty. This includes car accidents on base, illness, and even sports injuries while off-duty.

So if someone asked you "A given unit is currently serving in Iraq. In the last week, 3 men died, 7 suffered bullet and/or IED wounds, 2 female MPs were incapacitated from severe cramps, 2 men and 1 woman pulled muscles during a pickup football game, 5 soldiers are getting treatment for Iraq-theatre-specific parasitic diseases, and one guy hasn't been seen all week. How many casualties has that unit suffered the past week?"

The answer is not 3, 10, or even 20; it's 21. Yes, all of the examples above are considered casualties.

The proximate stimulus for my explanation is this post by the Instapundit. More specifically, this graf:

I should also note that despite predictions of 50,000 casualties in the initial invasion, three years later we're at less than 5% of that.
This struck me as odd, as 50,000 would seem to be a high (but not-reasonable) estimate after three years of action.

Note Professor Reynolds claims "less than 5%" casualties. Quick work with a calculator gives 5% of 50,000 as 2,500. He is obviously referring to deaths, not casualties.

DoD figures indicate 16,653 wounded in action as of 4/4/2006, but please note that number is explicitly labled "wounded in action."

Some of the digging I did for this article, so that I might have all the ducks lined up all purty, shows that actual casualties for the past three years are closer to 30,000. One letter from the DoD says "More than 15,000 troops with so-called 'non-battle' injuries and diseases have been evacuated from Iraq."

16k + 15k = 31k. QED.

So. Let's all glue the accurate definition of casualty right next to the monitor, where we won't forget it.


May 16, 2006

"Sensitive and respectful" Rules Of Engagment

Varifrank has the most up-to-date ROE (Rules Of Engagement) released to date by the Bush administration.

Try to keep a straight face while reading them. A spew alert may be in order.

Readers may also appreciate ACLU Takes Over Terror Investigation.

(hat tip to Austin Bay for the link)

May 25, 2006

Let's be nice...

I seem to have accidentally touched a nerve, wherein Baldilocks thinks I am defending that lackwit Jesse MacBeth. This is not the case. I am defending the concept of accuracy; hence the title of this post.

You see, one of the archaic meanings of the word nice is "precise, accurate." We have seen far too many instances of bloggers on both sides of the aisle going off half-cocked, such as the recent excitement about the Karl Rove non-indictment and the Howard Dean non-story.

While the specific statement that MacBeth was never in the Rangers/SF has been established as true, the statement that he "never served in the Army" has not yet been equally established. And, yes, I am being picky. Or nice. But that's exactly how I argue against typical idiotarian ideas: specify that which has been factually established, determine that which has not, and beat them over the head with the difference. Since many of these ideas are assertations or conclusions cloaked as fact, the process can be entertaining. But I digress...

Continue reading "Let's be nice..." »

July 26, 2006

Man of Honor

Was cruising through some Usenet groups a few minutes ago, when I found this:

Master Chief Brashear and Cuba Gooding Jr.

Legendary Navy diver Brashear dies

He made history as the first African American US Navy Master Diver.

Tuesday afternoon, 75-year-old Carl Brashear died at Naval Medical Center

His story was told in the 2000 film "Men of Honor," and he was portrayed by
actor Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Brashear joined the United States Navy in 1948 at the age of 17. He became
the only amputee deep-sea diver to reach the status of Master Diver and was
the only black man to ever become Master Diver of the United States Navy, a
position he held from 1975 to 1977, according to the Navy.

He retired as a Boatswains Mate Master Chief.

Naval hospital officials said Brashear died at 2:45 p.m. of respiratory and
heart failure.

His Marine Corps helicopter pilot son, Phillip, was home from Iraq on
emergency leave and was at his father's side.

"Carl Brashear was a man of integrity. He was well-loved and admired by the
hospital staff," said NMCP Commander Rear Adm. Thomas Cullison. "It was an
honor to provide the care for this American hero. Our thoughts and prayers
are with his family members."

One story about CW4 Brashear's experiences in Iraq may be found here.

UPDATE: Captain Ed includes his farewell, and some thoughts about Brashear's grit and determination.

July 29, 2006

When Johnny comes sailing home again, hurrah!

I've been remiss in linking to John of Arrgghhh!!!'s mission to Mexico: to help lead a mossbacked old WW2 veteran return home.

You can first read about the series of fortuitious events which led to the Imperial Armorer's departure.

If that floats your boat (or destroyer, whatever), follow up in the DD 574 USS John Rogers BAM C�itlahuac archives.

This is the kind of magnificent history I could follow all day. The bits and pieces, "fill in the cracks" details and diverse human elements which comprise all true history.

November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day, 2008

This is the day I thank veterans I've known, met, heard about, or read their work.

So thank you to Baldilocks, John Donovan, Blackfive, CDR Salamander, Neptunus Lex, Greyhawk, and the rest. This includes sidekicks like Uncle Jimbo, Deebo, and company at B5, Dusty'n'Bill over at Castle Argghhh!!, and Mrs. G. at Mudville.

To all of you, to the men and women who have served before, or are serving now; thank you, and God bless you.

You are the sheepdogs who keep the wolves from the door,

In salute give you 3 Doors Down, and their magnificent Citizen Soldier. How many rock bands can quote the Soldier's Creed?

February 9, 2010

John Murtha, RIP

John Murtha served his time in the Marines. When I read the report of his death, I checked his Wiki entry.

Murtha joined the Marines in 1952, and later became a Drill Instructor. He was later selected for OCS. Murtha was discharged in 1955, remaining in the Marine Reserves. He later volunteered for duty in Vietnam, "receiving the Bronze Star with Valor device, two Purple Hearts and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry." (Wiki)

In other words: no matter what we think of his politics, he was no chickenhawk or Limousine Liberal. The man without a doubt got his hands dirty, and his blood spent.

That said, in this writer's opinion he sacrificed his moral authority when he slandered the Haditha Marines before the official inquiry was finished.

In short: while we should honor John Murtha's service, we should also recognize his abdication of loyalty. Hence we should accord former Congressman John Murtha the title of EX-Marine.

August 3, 2011

Why I'm not happy with the new Red Tails trailer.

This began as a comment at Lex's place, but ... grew... So I moved it here. :)

I downloaded the hi-def version of the trailer, and it's 864x368. I can't say how much that affected the look of the CGI, but Lucas loves him some digital, so I expect the full version to be pretty good. It might even persuade me to buy a Blue-Ray player. :)

The Fortresses seemed to blow up pretty easily...

The Wiki article on the film includes this:

1944. World War II rages and the fate of the free world hangs in the balance.


As the war in Europe continues to take its dire toll on Allied forces, Pentagon brass has no recourse but to reconsider these under-utilized pilots for combat duty. Just as the young Tuskegee men are on the brink of being shut down and shipped back home, Col. A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard) awards them the ultimate chance to prove their mettle high above. Undaunted by the prospect of providing safe escort to bombers in broad daylight -- a mission so dangerous that the RAF has refused it and the white fighter groups have sustained substantial losses -- Easy's pilots at last join the fiery aerial fray

(my emphasis)

If you watch the trailer carefully, you will catch comments to the effect that the white escort pilots were too busy hunting scalps to defend the bombers.

I know Lucas is historically ignorant (he considers the battle on Endor his metaphor for the Vietnam War) but that's just pathetic.

Continue reading "Why I'm not happy with the new Red Tails trailer." »

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