Sunday, May 31, 2015

Midrats Summer Kick Off - Live

Midrats is back live this Sunday at 5-pm Eastern; tanned, rested and ready for the summer.

Join EagleOne from EagleSpeak and me for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern as we cover the major national security and maritime issues that are set to dominate conversations as the kids get out of school and that moving trucks start to roll.

From China's sand islands, the Islamic States expansion, the response to a revanchist Russia, to the usual goings on with the Potomac Flotilla - we'll cover it all.

Join us live if you can with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ayaan Hirsi Ali With Bill Maher

One of the greatest intellectual defenders of the West in our age is Ayaan Hirsi Ali; full stop.

I assume that many of the regulars here are not a fan of Bill Maher due to some of his political views, and as a result may not hit "play." That would be unfortunate.

Maher and Salamander may not overlap in our world view in most places, but in this one place I greatly respect the man and firmly stand next to him - it is his steadfast defense of Freedom of Speech and the ideals of Western liberty.

Regardless of what you may think of him or Ayaan one way or another, take a few minutes and listen to this interview. Powerful, sublime, and critically important. Sad we don't see more of Ayaan - don't miss this chance.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Fullbore Friday

A nation without allies. Poor, struggling between the progressive West and the soul crushing oppression of the East.

As its friendly but hapless neighbors to the west dither, the beast from the east consumes its crubling southeastern borders.

Outnumbered, yet defiant. Committed, yet lacking resources.

Some times, all you have is truth. Even a painful truth that you wish to leave behind. To clear the pain, what is better than fresh air and light? When that truth is also seen as a weapon against the Eastern beast ... then even better.

Those who remember the Cold War will understand why this broke above the ambient noise for FbF.

Doing the right thing is ususally difficult - even more so when it angers your enemy.

BZ to Ukraine on the ballsy move.
On April 9, 2015, The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Ukrainian Parliament) approved a government bill No. 2540 opening up access to the archives of repressive bodies of the Soviet Union totalitarian regime of 1917-1991.
Materials will be published not only on the requests of concerned citizens, but the responsibilities of the Institute of National Remembrance will include their systematic publication and promotion.
In the Article 7 of bill No. 2540 is said that access to Archival Information of repressive bodies is provided by:
- providing for everyone concerned the data carrier to review the archival information or its copy;
- access to a digital copy of the archive information;
- publication of the information on the official website of the organizer of a digital archival information and the copy of the archived information;
- making archival references, excerpts from documents;
- publication, exhibition and other forms of popularization repressive bodies’ archival information.

The law also prevents the ability to hide information:

Law on Personal Data Protection does not apply to information from the archives (Art. 1.3)

The assignment of the repressive bodies’ archival information to classified information is prohibited; (Art. 5.4 )

From Article 8:
Access to information can’t be limited in accordance with the laws and international treaties of Ukraine.

It can not be limited the access to repressive bodies’ archived information, which contain secrecy stamps not required by law of Ukraine (for example Soviet stamps “Secret” and “Top Secret”)
It looks like they are going to benchmark what the Germans did with the old GDR files.

Russia will not like this - not at all. The Ukrainians know this, but don't care. This is a twofer for them; helps them break from their past particiaption in evil, and upsets the Russians.

Good all the way around. The dog's bollocks of affordable PSYOPS; Salamander approved.

Maybe they'll get a good movie out of it.

Hat tip JT.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Diversity Thursday

Is this what is was all about? To just be another walled off, whimpering gaggle to be paternalistically patronized and pittied?

A LOT of people from NAVAIR sent this to me, and so I will publish it here for the rest of you to ponder out of obligation to the underground, if nothing else. 

I hope that at a minimum there is at least going to be a good effort to shame this through lack of attendance and interest.

Before I post-n-run, a little note to my former allies in the repeal of DADT who get all warm and fuzzy about this.

You have proven our opponents correct in this one bit. You sold the honor of a good cause - a strive for an opportunity to serve our nation regardless of how you found love and desire in your private life - and have pimped it out to the Diversity Industry.

You are letting it be used to fatten the bank accounts of the forces of division, sectarianism, and the very opposite of what was the ideal we agreed we were working for - equality.

No, instead you have degenerated and debased a good cause in to just another tool to justify fraud, waste, abuse, and the never ending search for special-snowflake attention.

I don't know what is worse, how quickly you sold out your honor, or how pathetic you look panting for attention in a circle of self-licking ice cream cones.

If you find pride is this little bucket of sad tomatoes, then yeh ... in this respect ... URR was right. 

On the whole the cause was good - but the backwash of the movement - which this is - is spoiling the taste of the whole effort.

It is all, in the end, sad and pathetic.
Sent: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 12:04 PM
Subject: LGBT Pride Month event: 2 June

All hands,

NAVAIR is hosting a national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month event on Tuesday, 2 June, from 1300-1400 at the River's Edge Conference Center in Patuxent River and via national video teleconference. This event features keynote speaker Brigadier General Tammy Smith, deputy chief of staff, Army Reserve, who will provide a multifaceted perspective on identity and help us look beyond preconceived notions of gender and societal roles. To read the Department of Defense memo regarding Pride Month, visit

Event registration is required. Please follow the instructions below for your site.

Patuxent River and Lakehurst:

-- Visit NAVAIR University at
-- Click on the classes tab on the top menu bar.
-- Enter "CISL-EVT-0106" in the search field, and click the blue search button.
-- Click on register in the register column for the session you wish to attend.
-- Click the yes button to enroll in the event.
-- If you can't register in NAVAIRU, email

China Lake and Point Mugu:
-- Email
-- Include your name, code, number, and session/location [CL-VTC Mclean] or [PM-VTC MIC]

Thank you,

Total Force Strategy & Management Department

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I'm sorry, but pith helmets look silly

So, who's up for this?
Take up the White Man's burden, Send forth the best ye breed
Go bind your sons to exile, to serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man's burden, In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple, An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit, And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden, The savage wars of peace—
Fill full the mouth of Famine And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden, No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper, The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter, The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark[14] them with your living, And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man's burden And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better, The hate of those ye guard—
The cry of hosts ye humour (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:—
"Why brought he us from bondage, Our loved Egyptian night?"

Take up the White Man's burden, Ye dare not stoop to less—
Nor call too loud on Freedom To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper, By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man's burden, Have done with childish days—
The lightly proferred laurel, The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood, through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom, The judgment of your peers!
I'm slapping Robert D. Kaplan around a bit on the topic over at USNIBlog. Come visit and tell me what you think.

Generational Theft in One Graph

The general theory has been for most of recorded history, that the adults, the most experienced in the community, work and sacrifice in order to secure a better future for the younger generations.

Take a moment and review the graph to the right from The Economist and ponder the implications.

What are we doing to the young?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Oh, that religious thingy

As the regulars know, one of my preplanned admonitions is; "You may not think you are in a religious war; but if your enemy thinks he is in one ... then congrats; you're in one too."

Often, it isn't what you think about religion that matters, it is what the other guy thinks.

It is easy, especially for those who run in rather closed-loop Western cosmopolitan intellectual circles and don't travel much - and when they do either don't leave the resort or stay someplace they get "club points" - to think that, like them, the world is a much more secular place.

Too many important people in our national security apparatus discount religion when looking forward. Some either dismiss it or patronize its adherents. Others simply look at religious conflict using the template of the "-ism" power-dynamic in the Cold War. 

In spite of over a decade in another round of religious warfare, many either cannot see it or - because it is so difficult and uncomfortable to contemplate - will not see that they are in a religious war.

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry over at TheWeek yells bollocks to all that and does a nice summary to remind everyone that if you want to "think globally" - you need to know your confessions.

The high/low points;
One of the most common assumptions is that ... As a society gets more technologically and economically advanced, the thinking goes, religiosity naturally fades away and is replaced by a more secular worldview.

Exhibit A is usually Western Europe, which grew more secular as it grew richer (and much, much more violent) across the 19th and 20th centuries. Exhibit B is the world's most religious continent — Africa — which happens to be its poorest.

Under this view, the 21st century will be the century in which secularization spreads even further as the rest of the world catches up.

But when you look at the actual trends of religiosity across the world, what becomes apparent is actually the opposite: The 20th century was probably the high point of secularization, while the 21st century will likely be dominated by religion.
As you raise an eyebrow;
... look at South Korea, which was one of the poorest countries on the planet at the end of World War II, and is now one of the richest and most technologically advanced — indeed, on some metrics, more advanced than Western Europe or the U.S.

At the same time that South Korea experienced this astonishing growth, Christianity in the country grew from less than 1 percent of the population to about 30 percent today.
Religion is also a common theme in any discussion of Russia, where the Orthodox Church has stepped in to provide a sense of Russian identity and become — for better or worse, given its alliance with the Putin regime — a key force shaping the country's culture.
By some estimates, pretty soon there will be more Christians in China than in the United States.
In the Middle East and the broader Arab world, the same phenomenon prevails: The most dominant cultural-religious trend of the 1950s was anti-colonial, socialist, secular pan-Arabism. That led mostly to autocracies presiding over corrupt governments, which resulted in a backlash that took the form of political Islam, which was the strongest vehicle for resistance to the jackboot of tyranny.

This religious revival is much broader than terrorism — most varieties of Islam that are growing are not extremist, even if they are robust and vociferous. We don't know what the Middle East will look in the future, but one thing is clear: It will certainly not be European-style secularism. Not long ago, a few hundred thousand Muslims made the yearly hajj pilgrimage to Mecca; today, the number is more than 2.5 million.
Before I get a few more teaser quotes to entice you to read the whole thing, let me repeat another one of my maxims.

One of the reasons in a generation many of the most advanced Islamic nations went from women being uncovered and men in suits, to both wearing the height of 7th Century fashion couture, was that so many of those leaders were educated in a West whose institutions of higher learning became dominated by the culturally self-loathing. No one wants to join someone who hates themselves.

Back to those swaddled in comfortably projected self-denial, and their assumption that because their circle has drifted ...
America, disaffiliation is changing the face of American religion, but at the same time, higher proportions of people today than in the 1950s declare believing in God, or having had a religious experience, or praying frequently.
... and in Europe;
And even in Western Europe, that bulwark of secularization, the main debate over national identity is inseparably linked to the question of the growth of Islam there (from both conversions and immigration). Indeed, Europe may be sowing the seeds of a Catholic revival.
Strong close ... and a note of caution; regardless of your confession.
It matters because theology has consequences. The post-Enlightenment secular worldview tends to treat religion as nothing more than a private hobby. It rejects out of hand the notion that people's spiritual beliefs matter in a broader context. When evolution tells us we're just genes trying to spread, when economists tell us all we do is maximize our self-interest, when psychologists tell us we just want to get laid — we become convinced that humans act on nothing but narrow material desires.

But that's just not true. As a matter of fact, human beings are spiritual beings first, with a natural orientation toward transcendent realities. More prosaically, to state the obvious, human beings make decisions partly based on how we understand our self-interest, yes, but also based on our worldviews, on our vision of what is true and good and beautiful.

Religion has been the most intense worldview-shaping phenomenon in history, and it will continue to be the most important worldview-shaping phenomenon of the 21st century.

Ignore this reality at your peril.
Is a more religious world better or worse for US national interests? Don't know, but as the author points out, not thinking about it or trying to ignore or dismiss it surely isn't.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fullbore Friday

A slightly different FbF today - a great warship whose crew one day provided a benchmark all who go to sea must measure themselves against; are you ready?

Today, the USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (FFG-58) is being decomissioned;

If you wanted to be part of the official party, you've lost your window;
Ladies and Gentlemen, 
There have been a few questions about tours on the day of DECOM:

Based on the weather and tides, the Tow Master will have line handlers ready at 1200 on Friday, 22 May to tow the ship to Philadelphia. The plan is to have the ship off the pier at 1300 that day.

Therefore, no one will be allowed to go aboard after the ceremony. Folks can stand on the brow for pictures, but no one will be allowed to walk through the ship.

For anyone who has base access, we would be happy to allow people onboard on Thursday. No specific times, and note: WE WILL NOT COORDINATE BASE ACCESS.

We will also not allow people onboard on Friday before the ceremony.

I know that is a disappointment to some, but unfortunately that is how it has to be.

CDR Erica Hoffmann
CO, Sammy B
In honor of the SAMMY B., this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern we will have a repeat of our show from the 25th Anniversary of her finest day.

Little has changed since the USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (FFG-58) struck a mine, and in retribution, the US Navy launched Operation PRAYING MANTIS.

The tactical and operational aspects of each, as well as combat leadership, remain constant even while the tools may have changed a bit.

To discuss this an more, our guest for the full hour will be Brad Peniston, author of "No Higher Honor: Saving the USS Samuel B. Roberts in the Persian Gulf," recently released by the Naval Institute Press in paperback and on Kindle.

Join us live if you can so you can join with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or just subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Diversity Thursday

I'm going to let someone else make my post this DivThu.

You need to read all of Jeff Edwards bit over at UnprecedentedMediocrity;
Personally, I am convinced Americans liked each other a lot more before the age of Facebook where they actually knew what each other thought about everything. So take notes America, here is the secret sauce.


That’s right. It might shock you given what I just said, but you will never find more seemingly racist banter spoken out loud than in the military. Honestly, it is just an Alpha male dog eat dog world and the dogs could care less about being offended. You see, nothing is off limits to conversation in the Marines. Not race, ugly girlfriends, your weight, your education, or just how generally stupid boot you are. It is all fair game and you better be able to give it as well as take it.

General Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. from the Air Force said this in 1970, ” The Marines don’t have any race problems. They treat everybody like they are black.” I think the movie Full Metal Jacket is a good example of the type of banter one might see to one degree or another. However, the point is, Marines generally don’t care.
But that isn't good enough; no.

Scabs must be picked, sectarianism must be nursed, paychecks must be justified.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Migrants, economics, culture, and the growing challenge

Don't bother looking; Waldo isn't there.

From the Mediterranean to the waters of Southeast Asia – huge masses of people are on the move.

What is going on? Why is it going on? What are the implications?

I’m pondering it over at USNIBlog. Stop by and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Black Swan Tuesday: It's OK, Just Send us the Plan, We'll Build it Here

Every technological advance, from TNT to the airplane has found a military use. This is a world ruled by the aggressive use of force. Always has been, always will be. Every way to increase access to more force will be examined and adopted.

As such, each, "Hey - that is exciting!" moment we come to with significant technological advancements or improvements needs to looked at while wearing a Red Hat.

As such, this is quite exciting.
Scientists at GE Aviation’s Additive Development Center have made a working jet engine entirely from 3D-printed parts.

...The engine is about the size of an American football, ... there is the potential for 3D printing to help develop more complex designs with less waste than traditional manufacturing techniques.
Yes ... less weight, less bulk, less ability to intercept from point-a to point-b.

Yes, much potential.

A jet engine is an exceptionally advanced bit of kit. If you can make a jet engine ... what other complicated designs can you build - purpose built for one time or short duration use?

You thought 3-D guns were making people break out in flop sweat?

Yes, ponder.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Calm and humble yourself; it is always the land you control, not the body count that matters

Good folks did some good work this weekend, according to reports:
A senior Islamic State leader was killed, and his wife captured, in a raid in eastern Syria by U.S. Special Operations forces, the first on-the-ground mission in that country targeting wanted extremists, defense officials said on Saturday

The operation was conducted at Al-Amr, in the eastern region of Syria, to capture Abu Sayyaf and his wife, Umm Sayyaf, also thought to be part of the organization, Pentagon officials said.

During the mission late Friday, Abu Sayyaf “engaged U.S. forces” and was killed. Special Operations forces, however, captured Umm Sayyaf, the Pentagon said.
All is well and good, to go after their leadership - but we should temper any excessive optimism by this one fact; in the Long War, the theory of "decapitation attacks" failed to gather the results we thought it would - and it still won't. Nice to have, but not key.

We kill and capture leadership all the time, but they will simply replace them. This was true even before the enemy was building a quasi-State - but it is even more true now that the enemy is taking and holding significant amount of territory for a length of time that, as we discussed at the New Year on Midrats, they will soon move from quasi-State to actual State - if not already there.

That is why, once the hooting about Abu Sayyaf reaching room temperature is over, the below is the more important news of the Long War from the weekend;
The key Iraqi city of Ramadi fell to ISIS on Sunday after government security forces pulled out of a military base on the west side of the city, the mayor and a high-ranking security official said.

The ISIS advances came after militants detonated a series of morning car bomb blasts, Mayor Dalaf al-Kubaisy and a high-ranking Iraqi security official said. The explosions forced Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters to retreat to the city's east, they said.
Ramadi is the capital to Anbar, and is the key to the western approaches to Baghdad. That is why hundreds of Americans died to take and hold it.

A bunch of Shia militia trying to take it back will only do one thing; drive the Sunni of Anbar to go in the only other place available - the arms of the Islamic State.

Enough talk about "offset" introspective think-bits that have the whiff of fried-air; how about we discuss the croc closest to the canoe here ... what about Iraq?

UPDATE: Required reading by our friend James S. Robbins over at USAToday;
But ISIL's victory in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, shows that the group can seize and hold important ground. ISIL is more than a ragtag guerrilla army; it can field combat units potent enough to defeat Iraq's U.S.-trained conventional forces. The world has again seen the image of the Iraqi army retreating in disarray, and the brutal slaughter and enslavement of civilians that always follow in the wake of Islamic State conquests. ISIL is making good on its vision of being a quasi-state, taking, holding and governing vast territories in Iraq and Syria.

Perceptions are critical in irregular wars, and the perception in the region is that the Islamic State is winning. ISIL now openly controls the Iraqi cities of Ramadi, Fallujah and Mosul, which is more than its parent al-Qaeda franchise could ever have claimed at the height of its insurgency. It is a sobering fact that all the gains made during the execution of the coalition's 2007 "surge" strategy that pacified western Iraq have been given back to the extremists.

UPDATE II - Electric Boogaloo: One of the better video reports? Oh, all our money? Yes, at the 0:58 point, that is a Lee-Enfield wrapped with duct tape. Hope and change, indeed.

Friday, May 15, 2015

LCS: It just never stops giving

Commentary? Do we need to review over a decade of commentary here on LCS and the huge tactical, operational, and strategic risk this ego-based program has slathered all over our Navy and our nation?

No, I'll just pull a little bit from press release from the Senate Armed Services Committee Completes Markup of National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016.

If it was so great, needed, and invaluable, would ...
Cutting Excessive and Unnecessary Spending
$55.8 million—LCS Mine Countermeasures (MCM) mission module
$65.6 million—Remote Minehunting System (RMS)
What was that again?
"We must deliver this critical capability to the warfighter now."

Fullbore Friday

Some FbF are so good ... you have to bring them back every few years.

After a couple of week's FbF on other subjects, let's catch up with the Battle Off Samar. This time the USS HEERMANN (DD-532).
HEERMANN screened transports and landing ships safely to the beaches of Leyte and then joined Rear Admiral Thomas L. Sprague's Escort Carrier Task Group 77.4 which was made up of three escort carrier task units, known as the three "Taffies" because of their radio call signs: "Taffy 1", "Taffy 2", and "Taffy 3". Destroyers HOEL and JOHNSTON joined her in screening Rear Admiral Clifton A. F. Sprague's unit, "Taffy 3" which also included his flagship FANSHAW BAY (CVE-70) and three other escort carriers.

Dawn of October 25, 1944 found Taffy 3 east of Samar steaming north as the Northern Air Support Group. Taffy 2 was in the central position patrolling off the entrance to Leyte Gulf, and Taffy 1 covered the Southern approaches to the Gulf some 130 miles to the southeast of HEERMANN. At 0645 Taffy 3's lookouts observed antiaircraft fire to the northward and with 13 minutes later were under heavy fire from Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita's powerful Centre Force of four battleships, 6 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, and 11 destroyers. The battle off Samar was thus joined.

The only chance for survival of the little group of light American ships lay in slowing the advance of the enemy warships while withdrawing toward Leyte Gulf and hoped-for assistance. The carriers promptly launched their planes to attack the Japanese vessels, and the escorts promptly set to work generating smoke to hide the American ships.

HEERMANN, in a position of comparative safety on the disengaged side of the carriers at the start of the fight, steamed into the action at flank speed through the formation of "baby flattops" who, after launching their last planes, formed a rough circle as they turned toward Leyte Gulf. Since smoke and intermittent rain squalls had reduced visibility to less than 100 yards, it took alert and skillful seamanship to avoid colliding with friendly ships during the dash to battle. She backed emergency full to avoid destroyer escort SAMUEL B. ROBERTS and repeated the maneuver to miss destroyer HOEL as HEERMANN formed column on the screen flagship in preparation for a torpedo attack.

As she began the run, dye from enemy shells daubed the water nearby with circles of brilliant red, yellow, and green. HEERMANN replied to this challenge by pumping her 5-inch shells at one heavy cruiser, CHIKUMA, as she directed seven torpedoes at another, HAGURO. When these "fish" had left their tubes, HEERMANN changed course to engage a column of four battleships whose shells began churning the water nearby. She trained her guns on the battleship KONGO, the column's leader. Then she quickly closed HARUNA, the target of her of her last three torpedoes, which were launched from only 4,400 yards. Believing that one of the "fish" had hit the battleship, she nimbly dodged the salvoes which splashed in her wake as she retired. Japanese records claim that the battleship successfully evaded all of HEERMANN's torpedoes, but they were slowed down in their pursuit of the American carriers. The giant, YAMATO, with her monstrous 18.1-inch guns, was even force out of the action altogether when, caught between two spreads, she reversed course for almost 10 minutes to escape being hit.

HEERMANN sped to the starboard quarter of the carrier formation to lay more concealing smoke and then charged back into the fight a few minutes later, placing herself boldly between the escort carriers and the column of four enemy heavy cruisers. Here she engaged Japanese cruiser CHIKUMA in a duel which seriously damaged both ships. A series of 8-inch hits flooded the forward part of the plucky destroyer, pulling her bow down so far that her anchors were dragging in the water. One of her guns was knocked out but the others continued to pour a deadly stream of 5-inch shells at the cruiser, which also came under heavy air attack during the engagement. The combined effect of HEERMANN's guns and the bombs, torpedoes, and strafing from carrier-based planes was too much for CHIKUMA who tried to withdraw but sank during her fight.

As CHIKUMA turned away, heavy cruiser TONE turned her guns on HEERMANN who replied shell for shell until she reached a position suitable to resume laying smoke for the carriers. At this point planes from Admiral Stump's "Taffy 2" swooped in to sting TONE so severely that she too broke off action and fled. The courageous attacks of the destroyers and aircraft thus saved the outgunned Taffy 3.

Temporary battle-damage repairs were applied at Kossol Passage. From there, she was sent to Mare Island, California for a much-needed overhaul. She would not return to the Western Pacific until January 1945.
It's not the size of the ship in the fight .....

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Airpower in Isolation - How Many Times Must This be Relearned?

The Madmaxistan that is now Libya is just one in a long line of bitter fruits where the Western military mind, always weak to its technology fetish, has sown chaos from its desire for quick, efficient, bloodless (for us) conflict.

All these facts should crush this sexy little theory, but it is so strong, so inviting, that we keep hoping that this time, it will all be different.

Micah Zenco over a DefenseOne has a nice overview over what our latest Luft Macht über alles exercise is accomplishing;
It is possible that the slight increase in coalition contributions since March 25 reflects Canada’s April 8 decision to expand its kinetic operations into Syria—becoming the only other country, besides than the United States, to do so. As of May 5, Canada had conducted 564 sorties by CF-188 Hornet fighter-attack aircraft. However, the Canadian military does not disclose how many of those sorties resulted in the actual dropping of bombs, so the percentage of overall coalition airstrikes that it is responsible for cannot be attributed.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military has documented that lots of people and things are being destroyed. For a military that often claims it does not do “body counts,” it has done so repeatedly. Most recently, General Austin declared in March that 8,500 IS militants had been killed. The Pentagon lists more than 6,000 IS targets as having been destroyed. Most notably, CENTCOM press releases indicate that more than 500 “excavators” have been destroyed—as if IS is the world’s first terrorist landscaping company. All of this destruction is coming at a direct cost to taxpayers of an estimated $2.11 billion, or $8.6 million per day. How this open-ended air war will shift when the United States begins providing close air support for trained Syrian rebels in a few months is unknowable.
Will it work this time and for our quasi-allies in Yemen?

Don't know, yet - and at least we have ground forces ... proxy ground forces ... but ground forces. Then again, we had proxy ground forces in Libya as well.

Regardless of what we do from the air, as always, it is the person who controls the 19-yr old men with weapons, standing in the street corner that will tell this story - as true now as it was 3,000 years ago.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

USAF, Command Climate, and Permissiveness

Why is this guy hanging with some goofy USAF types? 

You have to read what I posted at USNIBlog to find out.

All Your Planes Are Belong to Us

A very neat poster. Very neat. (click for larger)

Where is one for the surface forces?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Peeling Apart PTSD

I have to admit it, four times I avoided reading Sebastian Junger's bit over at Vanity Fair, How PTSD Became a Problem Far Beyond the Battlefield.

It was the title. I have less then zero interest in another hype-hit-bit from the media - Vanity Fair as the venue didn't help either - about the broken vet, etc etc that is recycled over and over. I'm just done with the whole thing. B.G. Burkett warned about it before 911, I hit on it a decade ago - I'm just done with it.

Don't be like me the first four opportunities, take a moment and read it. The title does not do the article justice. 

Yes, there is discussion about PTSD, but not the way we are used to it being flung about. Junger adds nuance and also shows some of the side issues that may or may not be PTSD (I lean to the not) or PTSD related - just coping mechanisms. He also puts some well needed facts on the ground so we can all have a fact-based conversation, and goodness knows, we need more facts and less compassion trolls on the topic.

That is what hooked me. This was not the normal PTSD belly-picking. This is solid, important stuff.
Suicide by combat veterans is often seen as an extreme expression of PTSD, but currently there is no statistical relationship between suicide and combat, according to a study published in April in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry. Combat veterans are no more likely to kill themselves than veterans who were never under fire. The much-discussed estimated figure of 22 vets a day committing suicide is deceptive: it was only in 2008, for the first time in decades, that the U.S. Army veteran suicide rate, though enormously tragic, surpassed the civilian rate in America. And even so, the majority of veterans who kill themselves are over the age of 50. Generally speaking, the more time that passes after a trauma, the less likely a suicide is to have anything to do with it, according to many studies. Among younger vets, deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan lowers the incidence of suicide because soldiers with obvious mental-health issues are less likely to be deployed with their units, according to an analysis published in Annals of Epidemiology in 2015. The most accurate predictor of post-deployment suicide, as it turns out, isn’t combat or repeated deployments or losing a buddy but suicide attempts before deployment. The single most effective action the U.S. military could take to reduce veteran suicide would be to screen for pre-existing mental disorders.
Amen and thank you. There is more.
Part of the problem is bureaucratic: in an effort to speed up access to benefits, in 2010 the Veterans Administration declared that soldiers no longer have to cite a specific incident—a firefight, a roadside bomb—in order to be eligible for disability compensation. He or she simply has to report being impaired in daily life. As a result, PTSD claims have reportedly risen 60 percent to 150,000 a year. Clearly, this has produced a system that is vulnerable to abuse and bureaucratic error. A recent investigation by the V.A.’s Office of Inspector General found that the higher a veteran’s PTSD disability rating, the more treatment he or she tends to seek until achieving a rating of 100 percent, at which point treatment visits drop by 82 percent and many vets quit completely. In theory, the most traumatized people should be seeking more help, not less. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that some vets are getting treatment simply to raise their disability rating.

In addition to being an enormous waste of taxpayer money, such fraud, intentional or not, does real harm to the vets who truly need help. One Veterans Administration counselor I spoke with described having to physically protect someone in a PTSD support group because some other vets wanted to beat him up for faking his trauma. This counselor, who asked to remain anonymous, said that many combat veterans actively avoid the V.A. because they worry about losing their temper around patients who are milking the system. “It’s the real deals—the guys who have seen the most—that this tends to bother,” this counselor told me.
Bookmark this article next time you find yourself cornered by someone that likes to wallow in PTSD-by proxy.

This next pull quote hit home.
If we weed out the malingerers on the one hand and the deeply traumatized on the other, we are still left with enormous numbers of veterans who had utterly ordinary wartime experiences and yet feel dangerously alienated back home. Clinically speaking, such alienation is not the same thing as PTSD, but both seem to result from military service abroad, so it’s understandable that vets and even clinicians are prone to conflating them. Either way, it makes one wonder exactly what it is about modern society that is so mortally dispiriting to come home to.
There are a few things in his article I'm not in alignment with, but I think Junger has advanced the conversation - and for that alone it deserves a full read.

Hat tip RC.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Guinea Pigs of Annapolis

I would like to take a moment to apologize to the female members of the United States Naval Academy Class of 2015; they were not assigned the right female leadership with the right priorities - and I think the picture of the Lieutenant (for the record, not her fault either, sorry to use your pic Shipmate - but it is what the Navy wants us to use) to the right tells you all you need to know as an executive summary, but let's go a bit in to the detail.

The women of this class have been used repeatedly as guinea pigs for new "gender neutral" uniform testing. Why our future 2LT and ENS? Well, because of who they are and where they are, just a few people can force their will on them and ignore any feedback they may receive contrary to a narrow agenda. These agenda driven leaders could blaze their trail on the back of other women because the other women had no say in it or effective redress of grievances.  

Great leadership lesson to the next generation, fellow GenX and junior Baby Boomers. Well done. Well fracking done. Pick up your CAPT Holly Graf Memorial Leadership Award at Gate 8 between 0200-0245 on Sunday.

In a way, we had good warning of this when the class of 2015 had male covers strapped on their heads, so no shock it seems they will have the clearly ill-fitting and uncomfortable choker whites to complete the loop.
Midshipman First Class Adriana Ayala, who was part of that initial fitting, said the new dress whites are "definitely different, nothing like any uniform" currently worn by females. It closely resembles the male version but is well-fitted to the female body, and "it does look very sharp."

"It is comfortable, but definitely not as flexible as the old uniform," said Ayala, a history major from Englewood, California, who is slated to be a surface warfare officer aboard the destroyer Gonzalez in Norfolk. "It's pretty stiff. Maybe it takes some breaking in; it was definitely hard to move our arms."
I've been blessed to discuss this with few female MIDN who, rightfully, are trying to stay under the radar, but their concerns deserve a voice. I'm going to take a bit here and there from those conversations and outline how this happened to the broader audience.

When the switch to male combination covers occurred in 2015's 3/C year, both male and female MIDN came out voicing their disapproval. A survey was even done of the female MIDN, and the vast majority disapproved. Other surveys were done, and from the perspective of the MIDN, results ignored. 

Even after significant negative feedback, the opinion of those impacted most evidently did not matter to the agenda. 

If the look wasn't right, then the spin was there was a chance to get a better fit.  Better fit, more approval - that was the theory. 

So now for their graduation they have been fitted for choker whites, another male uniform in an effort to make them more "standardized" (AKA - not look like they are a woman; implying, again, that there is something wrong with being a woman). The thing is - they are not standardized.

These women are joining the Fleet and the first thing they want to do is to get started right and integrate themselves as soon as they can ... but at graduation, they are wearing a uniform that no other women are, and may never in the long run. If that plays out, for the rest of their lives, their USNA graduation pictures will have them in their guinea pig outfits. That is wrong on so many levels ... but I guess that doesn't matter. 

I fully understand why the opinion of a NROTC retired CDR does not matter to Annapolis - but why ignore those most impacted, the female MIDN themselves? I think we answered that questions already, but it begs to be asked again.

Is it fair and right that their male classmates will be in their traditional officer's uniform, while the female MIDN will be in an experimental, training uniform? 

There will be female officers present from the Fleet, with different uniforms than the newly commissioned ensigns. That is not uniformity. That is not standardization; that is experimentation. 

In a larger sense, what is actually wrong with being a woman? What is so important to awkwardly make them look like a man on graduation? The underlying message keeps coming back; there is an assumption that being a woman is something to hide from. 

I'm sorry, come closer so Mama Salamander can slap 'yo face, her son flinches even pondering such a mindset. 

Toxic leadership? There's your Ref. B.

There was an opportunity to modernize the female uniform here, and the female MIDN might have been a great place to brainstorm solutions. Those in power, it seems, did not want the MIDN for their brains, they only wanted their bodies for others to work through their own issues on.

Their input was not desired, only their presence. This is how they found out;
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Debbie [redacted] ;[redacted]>
Date: Mon, Nov 17, 2014 at [redacted]
Subject: Mandatory 1/C Female Choker Coat Fitting Starts Today at 1300
To: "Midn_2015.[redacted]"
Cc: Linda [redacted] [redacted]>, Michael [redacted] [redacted]>



Starting today, Monday, 17 November at 1300 the 1/C females will be having a mandatory fitting of the choker coat.

Location: Dress Uniform Issue Center, 5th Wing Basement
Dates and Times:
Monday, 17 November 1300-1545
Tuesday, 18 November 0730-1545
Wednesday, 19 November 0730-1545

USN Female Choker Coat Program Information is as follows:

1.0 Background. In conjunction with the Gender Neutral effort endorsed by SECNAV, NEXCOM via N13 has tasked Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility (NCTRF) to develop a Female Service Dress White Coat design that mirrors the Male Service Dress White Choker Coat design but addresses the female fit. In addition to modifying the fit of the coat to align with USN Female sizing, a metal hook and eye closure will be incorporated into the neck closure and a review of the Female USMC (development), the Australian and the Korean Choker Coats will be conducted. Coats will be evaluated in the current CNT fabric. End goal is to outfit the Class of 2015 Females graduating from the US Naval Academy in a Choker Coat Uniform consisting of a Coat and Slack or Skirt (TBD) .

2.0 Size Prediction Process Females will be issued a Choker coat and either a skirt or slack for the May 2015 graduation. The standard cover that was previously issued to the Midshipmen will be worn with the choker uniform. During the week of 17 Nov a team of professionals from NCTRF will be onsite to measure and try on coats to accurately predict the correct sizes. An associate from the USMC Uniform team will be present at the size prediction session as well. In the event that you have applied to be accepted into the USMC you will be predicted into both the USN and USMC choker uniform.

In an effort to expedite the process please arrive at the site:

- Wearing a T-Shirt under you uniform. As part of the process you will be required to take off your uniform shirt.
- With your sizes of the SDB Coat, Skirt and Slack examples of the sizes 12 MR , 10 JP - the sizes are on the tags inside your uniforms

The process will be as follows:

a. Report at the scheduled time and fill out an information sheet
b. Remove your uniform shirt
c. Fitters will take your measurements
d. Try on sample coats for fit assessment (USN and USMC if applicable )
e. Put shirt back on and exit the issue site

The time to complete the above process is estimated to be 10-15 mins (this does not include a wait time - we have 2 teams)
Again, why the big drive for gender neutrality? Women are different, and that is OK. Not inferior, just different. I thought we were supposed to embrace our differences and find strength in our yada yada yada. But no, instead, we mindlessly throw a male uniform on them.

Let's go back to what could have been done to help modernize the larger Fleet issues with female uniforms - instead of ruining the visuals for graduation. We, yes we, could have used the opportunity to find better fitting and better feeling working uniforms. 

Some ideas that have come my way; 
- Slim down female summer whites tops, so women are not fighting against their shirts bunching. 
- Put pockets in our working uniform pants. 
- Change the fabric of male and female SDB's.
- Oh, and the 1950s are calling, they would like pants 4 inches above the belly button style back. 

Our young female leaders are better, and deserve better than this. 

Want to know what a small number of people working through their personal issues from the '70s, '80s and '90s looks like on the back of women born in the first Clinton Administration? Well ... here you go.

In the larger sense - this is one avoidable shadow on what should be and will be a great day for the Class of 2015 later this month. My advice, have the serenity to know there is nothing you can do about it. Handle it with grace, and move along. In the end, it really does not matter for the Sailors and Marines you will soon lead. 

For both men and women of '15; well done and ... get to work.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Friday, May 08, 2015

Fullbore Friday

For today at least, we will suspend all AirFarce Jokes;
On Sept. 27, 2014, a team of U.S. Special Operations troops was dropped into a volatile village in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The U.S. military had withdrawn thousands of troops from the country in the previous year, and the mission called for 21 Americans and about 60 Afghan commando counterparts to clear a bazaar of weapons and insurgents, and then get out.
“It was unlike anything I could have ever imagined…unlike anything you can prepare yourself for,” said Temple. “It all came back to training for me at that point. I remember thinking back to those days in training that were really tough, and now I realize they were preparing me for something like this.”

A teammate, U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Andrew Weathers, was gravely wounded by a sniper, and Temple put himself in the direct line of fire to drag his wounded teammate from a rooftop. At this same time, Goodman was under a barrage of machine-gun fire, with bullets narrowly missing his head by inches, according to the award citation. Still, Goodman secured his rooftop position in order to repel the insurgent force with close air support and his personal weapon.

With friendly forces taking fire from within 200 meters, Greiner and Goodman began coordinating multiple close air support strikes from AH-64 Apache attack helicopters on the closest threats while simultaneously coordinating danger-close mortar fire on enemy forces 300 meters away.

With a medical evacuation helicopter inbound, Temple once again risked his own life, carrying his wounded teammate across 100 meters of open terrain to a landing zone.

As overwhelming and accurate enemy machine gun fire suppressed Temple and his team, he remained on the open landing zone providing cover fire while his teammates pulled back.

After he returned to the compound, enemy fighters surged within 40 meters after intercepted communications stated, “Take the Americans alive.” Temple immediately directed danger-close F-16 Fighting Falcon strafing runs to repel the assault.

As the supplies dwindled during the 48-hour firefight, Temple braved open terrain several times to retrieve critical ammunition from a resupply helicopter. At the same time, Greiner coordinated precision airstrikes to cover Temple and the other Special Forces team members.

"These Airmen are much of the reason I am standing here today," said U.S. Army Capt. Evan Lacenski, Special Forces team leader for the combat controllers while deployed. "They were faced with one of the most significant battles of Operation Enduring Freedom, in my opinion, and they acted professionally, valorously, flawlessly and executed the mission. I couldn't ask for a better group of Airmen."

The men are credited with saving the lives of 21 U.S. Special Operations forces and approximately 60 Afghanistan commandos.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

A Weapon of Convenience

A picture. Just a picture.

Before you jump too far down the post, I'd like you to just ponder this pic for awhile, then we'll flesh it out.

Hold your horses; go back and look at the pic some more. Zoom in if you need to.

There is a story here, one I wish we had in detail.

Sure, the obvious is there ... but let's look from the inside out. The details.

The line attached to the cleat is bunched together like one on a weekend jon boat ... but this is a PBR MK-II or III. In contrast, the man has a reasonably new uniform and inspection ready polished black boots. The flack jacket is frayed.

As for the bow, it too looks new, as the string is bright and white and the wood unmarred from regular shipboard storage. It isn't for just show, the archer has arm and finger guards, good form, and the arrow actually looks hand made.

He is aiming his arrow at the grass house just off the river. One that obviously is someone's who makes their living off the water, as you can see between him and the house where the owner parks his boat.

Why is he going to burn down the house? Why use this method? 

You can get a broader view of the mission of these men and their boats via our friends at WarBoats here.

Think about the genius of this, it makes complete sense. If you are ordered to set fire to any structure near the river that is being used by the enemy ... how do you do that? If you go ashore, you are immobile, your Sailors are in danger of being ambushed, booby-traps would be waiting for them, and in essence, you will be putting their lives in danger just to burn a thatch hut.

You probably don't have and don't want a flame thrower on board. 

How do you set fire to something from a safe distance? Simple solution has existed for thousands of years; a flaming arrow? Why not?

How did he come up with this solution? That we don't know ... but thanks to a good Navy stencil program ... we can at least ID the person.

Zoom in on the helmet. That could just be one of a few names.

Now, let's cheat. To the caption;
Lt Cmdr Donald D. Sheppard aims a flaming arrow at a bamboo hut concealing a fortified Viet Cong bunker on the banks of the Bassac River, Vietnam, on December 8, 1967.
Who was Don Sheppard? Lucky for us, we actually know that, and as a result, have an outline of a character I think we all wish we served with. Read it all, but here is a rough summary;
He had entered the Navy as a seaman in 1948 ... retired in 1978 ...  failed to graduate from High School ... he was on a search aircraft patrolling the Bikini Hydrogen tests in 1954, ... despite having not even completed High School, he was encouraged to study engineering, eventually becoming his ship's engineering officer.

... X.O. of the U.S.S. Arnold J. Isbell (DD-869), ... command of the U.S.S. Carpenter (DD-825) at Treasure Island, San Francisco.
Now, some of you may be remembering him ... yes, that Sheppard - one of the better men of of the Hairy Navy.

He also wrote a book that, if I read it, will perhaps tell more of a story behind the first pic, Riverine: Brown Water Sailor in the Delta 1967: A Brown Water Sailor in the Delta,1967.

Another character in an organization full of them. Flame on.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Because we have always done it this way ...

Why are there some well established personnel problems that we will not change, while at the same time we are looking at making some bold new ones?

I'm discussing that over at USNIBlog. 

Stop by and pay a visit.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXV

Now and then, there is a good summary article that comes out that serves as a nice tonic to some of the more alarmist writing that pops up about China's growing military might.

Kyle Mizokami over at WiB has a great example of the breed. 

Yes, they are getting stronger ... but ...

Read it all, but if you need just enough to get you to your next cup of coffee, here's a taste;
By some calculations, in 2013 China spent more on “public security”—Internet censorship, law enforcement and the paramilitary People’s Armed Police—than it did on external defense. China’s internal security budget for 2014 is a secret, leading to speculation that once again, the Chinese Communist Party is spending more to defend itself from its own people than from other countries.

The Party knows what it’s doing. Many Chinese are unhappy living under a totalitarian regime. Environmental damage, labor abuses, corruption and land grabs can—and do—quickly escalate into riots.

On top of that, China must contend with low-level unrest in the far western province of Xinjiang—where ethnic Uighurs resent colonization by the rest of China—and in Tibet.

Under the status quo, China has no choice but to spend so heavily on public security. While that’s bad for the Chinese people, it’s actually a good thing for the region. Much of the military might that Beijing buys every year gets directed inward and never projects externally.
The other 7,130 Chinese tanks—some of which are pictured here—are the same descendants of Soviet T-55s that comprised Beijing’s armored force in the late 1980s … and were obsolete even then.
Of 1,321 fighters, only 502 are modern—296 variants of the Russian Su-27 and 206 J-10s of an indigenous design. The remaining 819 fighters—mostly J-7s, J-8s and Q-5s—are 1960s designs built in the 1970s.
The navy is in the best shape, but that’s not saying much. ... its first aircraft carrier Liaoning is a rebuilt Soviet ship from the 1980s.
Liaoning is half the size of an American Nimitz-class supercarrier and carries half as many planes. As Liaoning lacks a catapult, China’s J-15 naval fighters must use a ski ramp to take off—and that limits their payload and range.
Just over half of China’s 54 submarines are modern—that is, built within the last 20 years. Beijing’s modern undersea fleet includes the Shang, Han, Yuan and Song classes. All four classes are Chinese-built. All are markedly inferior to Western designs.
The PLAN halted production of the nuclear-powered Shang class after only building just three boats—an ominous sign. Moreover, Beijing has placed an order with Russia for up to four Kalina-class subs, signalling a lack of faith in local designs.
China is never as strong or as weak as she seems, so I wouldn't write her of if things turn ... but odds favor a "Peak China" not too far in the future.

The authors end with a point we have raised here, and even more in our China specific episodes of Midrats. This really is the long pole in the Chinese Yurt.
“China will grow old before it gets rich”... The same demographic wave that has gifted China with an abundance of labor will soon also transform the country into the world’s biggest retirement home.

... Today China has 16 retirees per 100 workers. Projections see that increasing to 64 retirees per 100 workers by 2050, resulting a much grayer population than in America.

This has indirect—but serious—implications for China’s defense. Most Chinese do not have retirement benefits and in their old age must rely on personal savings or family … a difficult proposition when there is only one child to take care of two parents.

If Beijing wants to preserve household savings and productivity, it will have to build some kind of social welfare system. And that means making some difficult choices.

China’s borders are secure. The U.S., Japan and India cannot bring down the Chinese government. But tens of millions of desperate Chinese families could do so—and just might, if Beijing can’t find some way to care for them as they age.

China has nuclear weapons. It’s ruled by a deeply nationalistic, authoritarian regime with a history of brutality towards its own citizens. It has territorial claims that clash with those of other countries—and a defense budget rising by eight percent annually. It’s wise to keep a watchful eye on China.

Yet China is a hobbled giant with many deep, systemic problems. Some of these problems—particularly the technological ones—are solvable. The demographic issue is not. And it’s the biggest reason the paper dragon does not pose a major threat to the rest of the world over the long term.