WASHINGTON — Two years ago, Marines in Iraq asked for an emergency order ofWhy?
When the lasers hadn't arrived by last fall, a frustrated lieutenant colonel named Marty Lapierre dipped into a special fund and requisitioned 28 of the devices, which temporarily blind — and therefore stop or redirect — unwelcome drivers.
But those handheld lasers, called the CHP Laser Dazzler, didn't make it to the troops, either. 200 nonlethal lasers to keep innocent Iraqis from being killed when they fail to stop at U.S. military checkpoints.
Just before Christmas, Marine generals told Lapierre and Marine science adviser Franz Gayl to shelve the lasers because they were unsafe — even though the Army and Special Forces were using them.Something dangerous in the war zone!
What is going on here? Is there a bowl of rice next to a gored bull?
Instead, in March, Marine brass shipped a competing laser called the GBD-III, or Green Beam, which is made by B.E. Meyers & Co. in Redmond.Good question. Let's dig around some and see what we find.
Gayl and some Marine officers said the Dazzler, with its wider beam, is much better for the Marines' purposes.
E-mails from Lapierre and others question why it took nearly two years to get lasers to Marines in Iraq, and why the Pentagon second-guessed field commanders and rejected the device they wanted.
When Marines wrote an emergency "Urgent Need Statement" asking for Dazzlers in May 2005, they thought they'd found a simple solution to a difficult problem.Ah ha! There is the owner of the bull and bowl of rice.
"Marine Forces have recently experienced a string of lethal encounters and casualties" in Al Anbar province, they wrote. They wanted to stop Iraqi civilians at checkpoints without shooting them.
At the time, some troops were testing the Dazzler. In Redmond, B.E. Meyers was working to adapt one of its existing military lasers for use at checkpoints.
The Dazzler and the Green Beam operate in similar ways: They shine a green laser beam to temporarily blind a target. If a car is racing toward a checkpoint, troops briefly flash the laser at the windshield.
The Dazzler, which costs about $8,000, is made by LE Systems in Connecticut.
B.E. Meyers, which sells the Green Beam for about $10,000,...
The Army and Special Forces have used the Dazzler since at least last year. But the Navy and Marines have their own requirements.
"I don't care about SOCOM [Special Forces], don't care about the Army," said Raymond Grundy, a Marine combat-development expert who recommended the Green Beam over the Dazzler.
Don't listen to me though; follow one of Phibian's 10 rules for success: when in doubt - follow Lieutenant General Mattis.
In an angry e-mail in February, Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who commands the First Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., called the review board "a bunch of smug, safe, stay-at-home" second-guessers. He added that some issues the board raised were "claptrap."That doesn't do it justice. Read the PDF of the emails in question here. Personally, I like how LtGen Mattis comes out strong .... and I invite solid men like Skippy (when he gets back from his "Men who love to wear thongs" convention) to tell me what word has been blacked out.
Mmmmmm, I think I smell something different out there, how about you?
The 2008 federal budget contains $7 million for B.E. Meyers to improve its Green Beam laser. The money was added to the budget by Reps. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn; Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island; Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens; and Adam Smith, D-Tacoma.Thought so....and if the following is true, this is a crime - and Marines are probably dead and wounded because of it.
"If we had sole-sourced [the Dazzler] in Oct. 2005, and delivered by Jan. 2006, how many innocent IZ [Iraqis] would not have been needlessly killed?" he asked.One final comment; I think if we can train our Marines not to shoot themselves in the foot, we can train them to use a laser, don't you?
One reason it took a year to get the Green Beam to troops after its approval in February is that Marines in Iraq didn't want it. They wanted the Dazzler, said Col. Roger Oltman, a Marine combat-development officer in Quantico.
The Marine command prevailed after warning that money for checkpoint lasers would vanish and troops would end up with nothing.
Marine officers agreed new equipment should get to the field faster. But the safety of the troops as well as Iraqis is paramount, they said.Yes Colonel, much better dead.
"Our Marines are already putting their lives on the line," said Col. Kirk Hymes, who oversees key lasers programs. "I don't want them putting their eyes on the line, too."