30 November 2011

The Pain of the Afghan Drawdown, and the Costs of Staying Home

So the DoD has announced the drawdown plans for 40,000 troops to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2012. Now, not all 40k are American, but that's still a lot of folks on outbound flights.

Drawdown plans announced by the U.S. and more than a dozen other nations will shrink the foreign military footprint in Afghanistan by 40,000 troops at the close of next year, leaving Afghan forces increasingly on the frontlines of the decade-long war.
The United States is pulling out the most — 33,000 by the end of 2012. That's one-third of 101,000 American troops who were in Afghanistan in June — the peak of U.S. military presence in the war, according to figures provided by the Pentagon.
Others in the 49-nation coalition have announced withdrawal plans too, even as they insist they are not rushing to leave. Many nations have vowed to keep troops in Afghanistan to continue training the Afghan police and army in the years to come. And many have pledged to keep sending aid to the impoverished country after the international combat mission ends in 2014.

Now, one of the ways to start reducing those numbers is to cut back on the number of people you send in the first place, and that's what the DoD has started to do... to ill effect.
Remember when we talked about the farce of dwell time for the reserve components?
Well, now one of those units is getting hosed again. By being sent home before ever deploying. I'm sure you're all doing a double-take at that last statement. I mean, really, how does staying home from a war turn into a bad thing? Well, if you've made significant life plans around being gone, then changing them is a big deal.

Two months ago, Demetries Luckett left his job in Michigan, turned in his cable box, sent his daughter to live with her mother, and headed for Camp Shelby in Mississippi.
As a 1st lieutenant in Michigan's National Guard, he was being deployed to Afghanistan.
But just a month after he arrived for training, the Army decided Uncle Sam didn't need him after all.
Now Luckett's unemployed and back home in Harper Woods, Mich. — a victim of the Obama administration's ongoing effort to pull at least 33,000 U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by next fall.
Unlike active-duty soldiers who are stationed at U.S. military bases across the country and can be sent on a moment's notice to a conflict anywhere in the world — the nation's citizen soldiers have civilian jobs and lives they have to set aside when they get those deployment notices.
And unlike active-duty soldiers, Guard members may have little to go back to, if their country changes its mind.
Luckett is not alone.
In the last 60 days, as many as 8,900 Army National Guard soldiers were either sent home early from Iraq or Afghanistan, or were told that the Pentagon's plans to send them to war had either been shelved or changed. As a result, U.S. military and Guard leaders have been scrambling to find alternative missions for many of the soldiers — particularly those who had put their lives and jobs on hold and were depending on the deployment for their livelihood.
"If you're a 25-year-old infantryman, and you're a student at Ohio State University, and you decide not to register for school in July because you were going to mobilize, and we say your services aren't needed anymore — that becomes a significantly emotional event in that person's life," said Col. Ted Hildreth, chief of mobilization and readiness for the Army National Guard.

The basic problem here is not that these guys are staying home. It's that these guys were pulled back into the rotation again as reservists, for the 4th or 5th time in 8-10 years, because we've had a political leadership (under both parties!) that's shied away from asking the country to make real sacrifices to support these wars. We've not expanded the force in any significant numbers, nor have we budgeted to pay for their operations. We've cobled together a plan that's minimized the impact on the American people to the point where most of the country thinks yellow-ribbon magnets and occasional "Any Soldier" Christmas cards are sufficient "support" for the troops. And in the end, the soldiers' lives are getting jerked around even more.

By: Brant

5/2 SBCT Report Hammers Former Commander

We have covered the issues of 5/2 SBCT in Afghanistan before, with a long, multi-sourced post here, and another one in a BUB about Afghanistan here.
But now that the investigations have run their courses, the reports that are coming out are pretty damning, and all point at COL Tunnell.

The frustration and confusion that permeated the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, was so pervasive that the brigade almost wasn’t certified to deploy, and senior commanders in Afghanistan lost confidence in the brigade commander’s ability to lead, according to an Army investigation.

The 4,000-member brigade, commanded by Col. Harry Tunnell, was rife with lapses of discipline, misdirection and mixed signals about its mission in one of the most important regions of Afghanistan.

Much of the blame is put on Tunnell, whose lack of emphasis on administrative matters such as command inspections and urinalysis “may have helped create an environment in which misconduct could occur,” the investigation found.

How bad was the misconduct? You have to read the article, it's too much to try to list here.

By: Brant

GameTalk - Christmas Presents!

What's the best game you ever got for Christmas?
What's the biggest hint you ever dropped for a game as a Christmas present? Did it work?
What's the biggest disappointment you ever had with a game that was a gift?

By: Brant

29 November 2011

USAction! Downed Pilot Training

Marine Corps Cpl. Steven Johnson rescues a pilot from a tree during a practice exercise for a Surface Tactical Recovery of Aircraft, Personnel and Equipment course on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Nov. 16, 2011. Johnson is an assault climber assigned to Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michael Petersheim

By: Brant

Here's a Baaaaaad Idea

And the Oscar for Best Unintentional Destruction of the Human Race goes to the Dutch researcher who created a super-influenza virus that contains multiple mutations, and could wipe out billions (yes, with a 'b') if it ever escaped into the wild. Yay, science!

A Dutch researcher has created a virus with the potential to kill half of the planet’s population. Now, researchers and experts in bioterrorism debate whether it is a good idea to publish the virus creation ”recipe”. However, several voices argue that such research should have not happened in the first place.

The virus is a strain of avian influenza H5N1 genetically modified to be extremely contagious. It was created by researcher Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam, Netherlands. The work was first presented at a conference dedicated to influenza, that took place in September in Malta.

Avian influenza emerged in Asia about 10 years ago. Since then there were fewer than 600 infection cases reported in humans. On the other hand, Fouchier’s genetically modified strain is extremely contagious and dangerous, killing about 50% of infected patients. The former strain did not represent a global threat, as transmission from human to human is rare. Or, at least, it was before Fouchier genetically modified it.

Fouchier and his team used a pair of ferrets for testing because they react in similar ways as humans, when exposed to the flu virus. Researchers transmitted the deadly virus from one ferret to another, in order to make the virus more adaptable to a new host. After 10 generations, the virus has mutated allowing it to spread through air. The result was that ferrets could get sick just being near another infected animal.

A genetic study showed that new virus strain presented five mutations, and all could be also observed in nature - but only separately, not all five combined. Fouchier’s strain is as contagious as seasonal human influenza, which kills tens of thousands of people, just that, much more lethal.

You have to love accidental biological warfare. And from the Dutch no less!

By: Brant


You've got intel to gather -

... put people on the ground, go covert, and hope they can get word back to you before they get popped?

... put intercepts on the wires, drones in the air, and radar all around and look for 'indicators'?

Both have advantages, both have problems. Stake your claim to one or the other and sound off below!

By: Brant

Head of Council on Foreign Relations on Pakistan

Richard Haass, this morning on Joe Scarborough's show:

We don't know anything new. What we have is simply more evidence that this is a deeply, deeply flawed relationship. We are not partners. We are not allies. We are not friends. Every now and then the United States and Pakistan have some overlapping interests, but increasingly we diverge. We diverge on terrorism, we diverge on Afghanistan. We shouldn't kid ourselves, and despite the tens and tens of billions of dollars that have flown from the United States to Pakistan, essentially we have very different agendas. This is a deeply flawed relationship with a country that supports terrorism, that often works against us in Afghanistan, and has the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal in the world.

But other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play?

By: Brant

Was NATO Just Returning Fire?

So now it comes out that before the deadly NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops, the Paks fired at the Afghans first

Both sides said they believed they were attacking insurgents along the border Saturday when the strike was launched. A senior Pakistani defense official acknowledged that Pakistani troops fired first, sending a flare, followed by mortar and machine-gun fire, toward what he said was “suspicious activity” in the brush-covered area below their high-altitude outpost barely 500 yards from the border.

According to Afghan security officials, their commandos were engaged with U.S. Special Operations troops in a nighttime raid against suspected Taliban insurgents when they came under cross-border fire and called in an airstrike.

Somehow I'm pretty sure we're not going to see any apologies from Pakistan for shooting at the Afghan forces, even though the Afghans were likely pursuing insurgents funded by Pakistan, trained in Pakistan, overwatched by Pakistan, into Pakistan.

By: Brant

Back on the Ground in Somalia

The incomparable Sean Naylor (with whom I had the good fortune to trade some correspondence back in the '90s) has an excellent series of articles in the Army Times that cover US operations in Somalia since 9/11. It's a long article, but it really is fantastic, and I'm betting Sean expands it into a book in the near future.

However, in 2006, an opportunity to gain greater access to Somalia presented itself when Ethiopia invaded Somalia in an effort to oust the Islamic Courts Union, an Islamist group (sometimes referred to as the Council of Islamic Courts) that had seized power in Mogadishu from the Transitional Federal Government. Ethiopia, which had fought two previous wars with Somalia, first sent forces across the border in July to prop up the TFG, which had moved to Baidoa, about 160 miles northwest of Mogadishu. But in late December, a far larger Ethiopian force invaded with the intent of driving the ICU from power.

Despite speculation that Ethiopia invaded at the U.S.’s behest, cables from the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa released by WikiLeaks indicate Ethiopia felt forced to act by circumstances in Somalia. “The GOE [government of Ethiopia] feels ever more compelled to intervene in southern Somalia to counter what it sees as the growing threat of an extremist Islamic regime in Mogadishu that is cooperating with Eritrea and other foreign elements to undermine Ethiopian stability and territorial integrity,” said U.S. Ambassador Donald Yamamoto in a Dec. 6, 2006, cable. The same cable accurately predicted Ethiopia would invade in late December and that the incursion might “prove more difficult for Ethiopia than many now imagine.”

The cables make clear that the U.S. expected Ethiopia to invade. Nonetheless, a senior military official said events caught Joint Special Operations Command, which controls the military’s elite special ops forces, unprepared.

“The military wasn’t prepared to take any advantage of it,” the official said. “We should have been leaning forward to capitalize on this, and we did nothing.”

JSOC scrambled to take advantage by sending in small teams with Ethiopian special operations forces.

“Less than a dozen” JSOC operators went in, drawn from a mix of units, the intelligence official said. The largest number came from Naval Special Warfare Development Group, sometimes known as SEAL Team 6. The Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron also provided personnel. The numbers were kept small “because we didn’t need that much,” the official said.

But even the secret deployment of such small numbers of JSOC personnel into Somalia created angst in Washington’s policymaking circles.

“It was very uncomfortable,” the intelligence official said.

By: Brant

28 November 2011

US Army Looking Forward for Answers

The Army is looking to revise its Capstone Concept and develop their plans for the future of the force.

Escalating cyber threats, a struggling economy, the rise of China, and the unpredictable impact of the Arab Spring will dominate the next decade. At least, that's the best collective guess of a conclave of academic experts, government officials, and military officers from the U.S. and abroad, convened by the United States Army. Their objective: This March the service plans to revise its Capstone Concept, issued in 2009, to outline the Army's missions for the post-Afghanistan, post-budget-cut era. The road to that rethinking is a series of conferences and wargames called Unified Quest 2012, which kicked off at the end of October with a symposium to predict the future.

Instead of seeking – or simply imposing – a consensus around a single, supposedly authoritative vision of the world to come, the Army deliberately solicited a range of plausible "alternative futures." "We're not going to get 2020 right," said Lt. Gen. Keith Walker, deputy commander for "futures" at the Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), which convened the conference. But, Walker went on, "if we don't consider all the possibilities of what we might have to do for the nation and try as hard as we can to get as many diverse views as we can, then we're guaranteeing we'll get it wrong."

There were certainly some sharp differences about what the Army should prioritize. At the final session of the "futues" conference, as excitement about cyber-war rose among the assembled experts, counterinsurgency crusader John Nagl spoke up sharply. "I want to push back pretty hard against this cyber [emphasis], not because I don't think it's an emerging field of conflict – it is – but I don't think it's the Army's primary responsibility," said Nagl, an Iraq veteran and retired officer who now co-chairs the Center for a New American Security. "The Army's going to be judged [by] how well Afghanistan turns out, and in the near future I think we should be thinking about... building partner capacity" – military jargon for advise-and-assist missions like those planned for Afghanistan after U.S. combat forces withdraw. Another attendee countered that given the spread of hacking technology, even counterinsurgency conflicts will have a cyber aspect in the future. "I don't disagree with that," replied Nagl, "but the Taliban isn't going to beat us with cyber."

More on this soon, I hope. Gotta find the time to collect, collate, sift, analyze, and write.

By: Brant

Osprey Publishing Releasing a New Series of Wargames

Yes, they're minis-based, but Osprey Publishing has a new wargame series on the way.

In August of 2012, Osprey Publishing will launch a new series of small, completely self-contained wargames! These 64-page books will contain all the information you need to play – rules, army lists, scenarios and more – and will also be graced with Osprey artwork throughout.
Kicking off the series is a pair of titles from familiar names within the industry. Dux Bellorum – Arthurian Wargames Rules AD 367–793 by Dan Mersey is the first of these two volumes. Evolving from his earlier Glutter of Ravens rules, Dux Bellorum is an element-based system wherein each base of figures represents 50 fighting men, and which allows players to build a warband of Late Roman, Romano-British, Welsh, Saxon, Pictish, Irish, or Sea Raider warriors.

They've already got Force-on-Force, so this isn't new ground for them. But maybe the visibility of their gaming line will bring in more history buffs to the wargaming world.
(Yes, we had Force-on-Force in our Random Friday Wargaming before.. if you've played it, sound off for us and tell us what you thought!)

By: Brant

SEAL Team Six and Bin Laden Raid - A Better Story

Following on the footsteps of the widely-disavowed book about the OBL raid, there's a new SEAL Team Six book out there.

Don Mann (with Ralph Pezzullo) has released Inside SEAL Team Six: My Life and Missions with America's Elite Warriors, and apparently had several pieces of it redacted by different government agencies.

Note: not disavowed (as in: this is so far off-base it's laughable) but redacted (as in: we don't want people to know about this). Here's Don Mann discussing it on Morning Joe today.

(sorry about the commercials...
you're stuck with them from MSNBC's embedding)

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

By: Brant

BUB: Pakistan

So Pakistan - described by The Atlantic as The Ally From Hell - is claiming that NATO troops ignored its pleas during the cross-border attack that killed 24 people.

The NATO airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers lasted almost two hours and continued even after Pakistani commanders had pleaded with coalition forces to stop, the army claimed Monday in charges that could further inflame anger in Pakistan.

Somehow, there's a limit to how bad I can feel about this, given that Pakistan has been ignoring pleas - and outright countering attempts - to close their border to tribal fighters hiding behind and arbitrary line on the map. At some point, when you've got the Pakistani ISI shutting down peace talks because "their" Taliban aren't invited, you start worrying less and less about how "allied" the guys across the wire are.

All this is coming on the heels of a "Memogate" scandal that revealed some interesting Pakistani splits in policy.

Publication of a secret memo asking Washington for help reining in the Pakistani military further ignited a scandal Friday threatening Pakistan's U.S. ambassador and exposing the rift between its shaky government and the country's powerful generals.
The ambassador, Husain Haqqani, has denied having anything to do with a memo delivered to the U.S. military chief asking for help with the military because of the domestic turmoil triggered by the U.S. raid that killed al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden.
The "memogate" scandal is adding to pressures on the already deeply unpopular government. Some analysts have speculated that President Asif Ali Zardari himself could be in danger if charges that he signed off on the memo gain traction.
"The target is not me, the target is President Zardari and Pakistani democracy," Haqqani said.
Though Pakistan has a civilian president, the military retains vast political and economic power. It has ruled Pakistan, directly or indirectly, for most of its six-decade existence, and fiercely resisted attempts by civilian leaders to curb its role.
Haqqani is alleged to have written a memo to Adm. Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officer at the time, asking for his assistance in installing a "new security team" in Islamabad that would be friendly to Washington.

... and resulted in the naming of a new envoy to the US.

Pakistan appointed a democracy activist who has faced militant death threats as its new ambassador to the United States on Wednesday, moving quickly to replace the old envoy who resigned after upsetting the country's powerful military in a scandal dubbed "memo-gate."
Sherry Rehman will likely be well-received in Washington, though she will have a tough task representing Pakistan amid widespread suspicion in the U.S. that nuclear-armed Pakistan is not a sincere ally in the fight against Islamist extremists.
"We all have to forge a progressive, dynamic Pakistan out of the ashes that are often left to us by the fire of terrorism, by the fire of extremism," Rehman said during a speech Wednesday.
The 50-year-old former information minister is an important and respected player in Pakistan's ruling party and a vocal proponent of civilian supremacy in the country. She resigned her post in March 2009 amid controversy over whether President Asif Ali Zardari had ordered cable operators to block a private TV channel that had been critical of him — an allegation he denied.

However, any wedges in Pakistani political life are likely going to get papered over in the unanimous shouting down of NATO over the shooting.

Now Pakistan is saying they're going to "permanently" close their borders to NATO.

The announcement came as the Pakistan army claimed the attack lasted almost two hours and continued even after commanders at the bases pleaded with coalition forces to stop.
Closing the crossings will choke off almost half of all supplies destined for the Nato-led force — including British troops.
Accounts still differ about what happened in the early hours of Saturday when American aircraft attacked two border posts inside Pakistan.
But the fallout is clear: a deep diplomatic crisis threatening co-operation against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants.
Pakistan immediately shut its borders to convoys taking fuel and supplies to forces in Afghanistan and says it is reviewing all military and diplomatic ties with the US and Nato.

The excellent Defence and Freedom has a thought-provoking on "A minor border incident", but one that fails in it's comparison because there are several significant parallels unaccounted for - such as the supposed-allied-yet-double-dealing nature of one of the main actors.

By: Brant

Monday Video: Knock it Down

OK, look - as music goes, this is a pretty crappy BANG to start your week with, but there's not a lot to work with for the Singapore Armed Forces out there, and we were trying to get some different countries into the Monday Video series.

If you've got a better video for Singapore, send it along!

By: Brant

UK In Action: 9/12 LANCERS in Afghanistan

A CVR(T) (Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked)) vehicle is pictured being operated across the harsh desert terrain of Afghanistan by soldiers of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers. The first of the enhanced Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) (CVR(T)) fleet are now operational and being put to good use by the Lancers, whose main task is to overwatch the battle space either side of Highways 1 and 611, the two main supply routes that run through the Task Force Helmand area of operations. BAE Systems has upgraded the armour on all five vehicles that make up the CVR(T) family – Scimitar, Spartan, Samson, Sultan and Samaritan – through an Urgent Operational Requirement process worth around £30M. CVR(T) was on display in the UK for the first time at the DSEi exhibition in London. As part of the contract, the vehicles have been re-hulled to give better mine-blast protection for troops, improved armour added for enhanced resistance to blasts and ballistics, as well as new mine-blast protection seating in every position in every variant. Other enhancements include repositioned foot controls and a revamped fuel system. Scimitar Mk 2 builds on a number of upgrades that have previously been made to the CVR(T), which address the problems experienced while operating in the harsh Afghan environment. These previous upgrades have included improved power output, new gearboxes and transmissions, air conditioning, improved communications, air filters and night vision systems.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

27 November 2011

Pakistan Lays to Rest Troops Killed in NATO Raid

Things have been pretty busy here with the holiday weekend, so we're posting the info on this a bit late... sorry.

Pakistan is burying the 24 troops killed in a NATO airstrike over the weekend.

Pakistan has buried 24 of its troops who were killed in a Nato airstrike at a checkpoint on the Afghan border.

Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani led mourners in funeral prayers at military headquarters in the north-western city of Peshawar.

The incident on Saturday has heightened already tense relations between Pakistan and the US and Nato.

Nato has apologised, calling it a "tragic unintended incident", and is investigating what happened.

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he had written to Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to "make it clear that the deaths of Pakistani personnel are as unacceptable and deplorable as the deaths of Afghan and international personnel".

It follows a joint statement by US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who offered their condolences for the loss of life, backed the investigation into the incident and stressed the "importance of the US-Pakistani partnership, which serves the mutual interests of our people".

While it's not a good thing that we ended up killing 24 Pakistani troops, it's not like they were accomplishing too much chasing around the troublemakers in the border regions.

By: Brant

26 November 2011

Black Friday Wargame Specials

Yes, it's getting late in the day, but many of these extend into the whole weekend. Consinworld has a nice collection of companies with Black Friday wargame specials.

By: Brant

Oldest US Army 4-Star General Passes Away

GEN(R) Ralph Haines, The US Army's oldest living 4-star general, has died.

The U.S. Army's oldest living four-star general, Ralph Haines Jr., died of natural causes at San Antonio Military Medical Center on Wednesday, an Army spokesman said. He was 98.
Haines, who was the Army's senior retired officer, served 37 years in the Army and was vice chief of staff from 1967 to 1968.
Haines also served as commanding general of 1st Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas, and as the commanding general of III Corps, also at Fort Hood, according to a statement from the Army.
"He was a very dedicated and patriotic leader that served his nation honorably and lived up to all its values," said Major Stephen Short, a spokesman for the Army.
Haines, who was born in 1913 and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1935, was one of the advocates for moving the U.S. Army's southern headquarters from Fort Buchanan, in Puerto Rico, to Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

His bio over at Wikipedia

By: Brant

25 November 2011

Random Friday Wargaming: Third Great War

Wow. Even the Japanese published a NATO-WarPact game, The Third Great War

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

24 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Especially to those on the front lines.

By: Brant

UK In Action: A/1 RIFLES with the AUP

A soldier from A Company, 1 Rifles looks on wearily following an engagement with the enemy during a joint helicopter assault with the Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) in Helmand, Afghanistan.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Flames of War at Gamer's Armory

Wednesday night wars in Cary, NC

23 November 2011

Proving That No One Does Stupidity Like The EU

We're going non-military here for a minute... because this is too stupid to ignore. You can ridicule the US Congress for claiming pizza is a vegetable - it's not and we all know it - but at least there are vegetable components to it.

However, the EU has to exceed the US in every known measure of stupidity and is now threatening jail sentences for bottled water companies that advertise that water can prevent dehydration.

EU bans claim that water can prevent dehydration
Brussels bureaucrats were ridiculed yesterday after banning drink manufacturers from claiming that water can prevent dehydration.

By: Brant

Russia's Military Concerned About War?

Is Russian concerned about conflagrations in the near-abroad growing into nuclear war?

Russia's chief military officer says the nation is facing an increased threat of being drawn into conflicts at its borders that may grow into an all-out nuclear war.
Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff, pointed at NATO's expansion eastward and said Thursday that the risks for Russia to be pulled into local conflicts have "risen sharply." He added, according to Russian news agencies wires, that "under certain conditions local and regional conflicts may develop into a full-scale war involving nuclear weapons."
A steady decline of Russia's conventional forces has prompted the Kremlin to rely increasingly on nuclear deterrent. Its military doctrine says it may use nuclear weapons to counter a nuclear attack on Russia or an ally, or a large-scale conventional attack that threatens Russia's existence.

A good site for tracking some of these developments is Russian Military Reform.

By: Brant

After Turkey Day Game Fest - Columbus, OH

Looking for something to do on Black Friday besides dodge idiots at Best Buy? If you're near Columbus, make sure you check out the After Turkey Day Game Fest sponsored by CABS.

November 25th - 26th, 2011
Doors to open at 6am on Friday the 25th and close at 6am on Sunday.

Additional details from over at the CABS folder on CSW

After Turkey Day Game Fest - 48 straight hours of gaming! Friday, November 25th doors will open at 6am and will close Sunday the 17th at 6am.

As always the ATD is FREE!

Dare we say that there will be a vendor on site Friday! (RC Hobbies is expected) ...

Dare we say that every adult coming in will get a free card game! (First two hundred) ...

Dare we say that Friday morning there will be a flea market! (9am to 1pm)

Dare we say Joe Blundo of the Dispatch will be with us on Friday and doing an article on boardgaming to appear in early December. (If you want to help me show him the ropes let me know.)

1st Annual Ticket to Ride Tournament CABS November 25th, 2011 Registration Ends: 3:50 pm Round 1 Board Call: 4:00pm

FLEA MARKET FRIDAY - 9am to 1pm.

If you want a FREE table to set up your games to sell ... Send me an email. We have limited number of tables and we are already have 6 committed. You are expected to be set up by 9am and continue until 1pm and be down by 1:30pm. As we will need the space. Remember these are your fellow CABS members and it is not Ebay. If you want to sell and clear out your collection ... then have great prices and be ready, as negotiation is encouraged and expected, after all we are all gamers !!! ;o)


Ron Charity will be open for sales FRIDAY at 6am.

The flea market will begin at 9 ... so those selling should be onsite by 8:30 setting up.

A card game to everyone that shows up ... (I now have a limited supply of two different so households can get two different ones.)

Kids will get a third one - a TOP TRUMPS DECK.

By: Brant

Budget Axe Shooting Down Blue Angels?

Will the military's demonstration teams, like the Navy Blue Angels, take the hit for the inability of Congress to get a budget deal done?

The Navy's Blue Angels have been thrilling audiences for more than six decades with their acrobatic flying in fighter planes, but a new era of federal budget worries and proposed deficit cutting has some inside and outside the military raising questions about the millions it costs to produce their shows.
Some want the popular shows grounded and some readers of the Air Force Times newspaper — most of them active or retired service members — recently listed eliminating the Blue Angels and similar programs as one way to cut defense spending.
The Pentagon spends $37 million for the Blue Angels, whose mission is to enhance recruiting for the Navy and Marines and to be their public goodwill ambassador. That's a fraction of the Pentagon's $926 billion annual budget, but that's not the point, critics say. They argue that lots of smaller programs will have to be eliminated to meet required spending reductions.
Automatic cuts triggered by the collapse of the debt supercommittee in Washington this week combined with spending reductions previously hammered out by President Barack Obama and Congress mean that the Pentagon would be looking at nearly $1 trillion in cuts to projected spending over 10 years.
The Air Force's Thunderbirds and the Army's Golden Knights paratroopers also perform big public shows.

By: Brant

GameTalk - Gaming With VASSAL

Is playing a game on VASSAL (or Cyberboard, Hexwars, ADC, etc) considered a board game or a computer game?

By: Brant

Anniversary: Norks Attack South, Unprovoked

Today marks the anniversary of the Norks shelling civilians on Yeonpyeong Island.

Solemn ceremonies have been held in South Korea marking one year since North Korea shelled a southern island, plunging the peninsula into crisis.

Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said his country had worked hard to ensure that the North could never again engage in such "reckless provocations".

The South plans to hold military drills later near the maritime border.

Northern forces hit Yeonpyeong island with dozens of shells last year, killing two soldiers and two civilians.

It was the first artillery attack by the North on a civilian area since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

Canadian Frigate To Remain In The Med

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Vancouver, originally deployed as part of Operation Unified Protector, will remain in the Mediterranean until early 2012, when she will be relieved by HMCS Charlottetown. HMCS Vancouver and her CH-124 Sea King Helicopter detachment have been in the Mediterranean Sea since August, when she joined the NATO fleet off Libya as part of Operation Unified Protector.
By: Shelldrake

22 November 2011

Sound Off! P500 or Kickstarter?

Now that Kickstarter is gaining some legs among the gaming community, what do you think?

Do you prefer P500 and having dedicated total of pledges to reach, but no financial commitment 'til the game is ready to go?

Or do you prefer the Kickstarter method, where you contribute the cash up front, but can do so at a level below the cost of the actual game and not necessarily get a copy of it?

The evolution of the pre-order world is going to get very interesting over the next 2-3 years...

By: Brant

Early Morning Ponderings

I wonder what would happen if we called the Afghans' bluff and just said "fuck it, we're outta here" and were gone in 30 days.

What do you think? What would happen if we just stopped all operations not directly related to packing up and leaving, and were out in 30 days?

By: Brant

21 November 2011

UK In Action: Door Gunner Overwatch

A Royal Navy Aircrewman door gunner gazes over the landscape of Afghanistan whilst on operations above Helmand Province. Royal Navy Sea King Mk4 helicopters from 845 and 846 Naval Air Squadrons normally based with Commando Helicopter Force at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset, flying as part of the Joint Helicopter Force Afghanistan in support of current operations in Afghanistan.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

CIA Ring in Lebanon Blown Up

Not good.

The CIA's operations in Lebanon have been badly damaged after Hezbollah identified and captured a number of U.S. spies recently, current and former U.S. officials told The Associated Press. The intelligence debacle is particularly troubling because the CIA saw it coming.
Hezbollah's longtime leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, boasted on television in June that he had rooted out at least two CIA spies who had infiltrated the ranks of Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group closely allied with Iran. Though the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon officially denied the accusation, current and former officials concede that it happened and the damage has spread even further.
In recent months, CIA officials have secretly been scrambling to protect their remaining spies — foreign assets or agents working for the agency — before Hezbollah can find them.
To be sure, some deaths are to be expected in shadowy spy wars. It's an extremely risky business and people get killed. But the damage to the agency's spy network in Lebanon has been greater than usual, several former and current U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about security matters.

By: Brant

Monday Video: Marines in Love

Somewhere a Drill Instructor is weeping at the lack of BANG in this video...

By: Brant

20 November 2011

Pat Proctor In Chicago, Talking About His Latest Book

If you're in the Chicago area and want to catch author/game designer Pat Proctor, hell be at the First Division Museum at Cantigny, in the 'burbs. He'll be talking about his latest book, Task Force Patriot and the End of Combat Operations in Iraq.

If you get a chance to go, tell him you saw it on GrogNews!

Proctor's abbreviated bio from the TaskForcePatriotBook.com site fails to mention his career as a game designer, but he's also the guy behind the Air Assault Task Force series of computer games, and PROSim.

Pat Proctor is a US Army field artillery lieutenant colonel with over 17 years of active service. In 2007, he served in Iraq as a member of General Petraeus’ and Ambassador Crocker’s Joint Strategic Assessment Team, mapping the future for post-surge Iraq. Pat returned for a second tour, in Northern Iraq, as a battalion operations officer in the 1st Infantry Division.

He holds masters of military arts and sciences for strategy and theater operations from the US Command and General Staff College and the School of Advanced Military Studies, respectively. He is currently a doctoral student in history at Kansas State University.

Pat’s recent publications include “Message versus Perception during the Americanization of the Vietnam War” (The Historian, Spring 2011), “Fighting to Understand: A Practical Example of Design at the Battalion Level” (Military Review, March-April 2011), and “The Mythical Shi’a Crescent” (Parameters, Spring 2008 and Iran International Times, 23 May 2008).

Maybe we can badger him for some thoughts for GrogNews some time.

By: Brant

18 November 2011

Army Advanced Hypersonic Weapon Concept Test "Successful"

The official DoD press release covering the test of the Army Advanced Hypersonic Weapon Concept...

Today the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command conducted the first test flight of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) concept. At 6:30 a.m. EST (1:30 a.m. Hawaii-Aleutian Time), a first-of-its-kind glide vehicle, designed to fly within the earth’s atmosphere at hypersonic speed and long range, was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii to the Reagan Test Site, U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll.

The objective of the test is to collect data on hypersonic boost-glide technologies and test range performance for long-range atmospheric flight. Mission emphasis is aerodynamics; navigation, guidance, and control; and thermal protection technologies.

A three-stage booster system launched the AHW glide vehicle and successfully deployed it on the desired flight trajectory. The vehicle flew a non-ballistic glide trajectory at hypersonic speed to the planned impact location at the Reagan Test Site. Space, air, sea, and ground platforms collected vehicle performance data during all phases of flight. The data collected will be used by the Department of Defense to model and develop future hypersonic boost-glide capabilities.

The AHW program is managed and executed by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command program office in Huntsville, Ala. The booster system and glide vehicle were developed by Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, N.M. and the thermal protection system by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, Huntsville, Ala.

The Department of Defense is using AHW to develop and demonstrate technologies for Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS). As part of the CPGS effort, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency conducted boost-glide flight tests in April 2010 and August 2011, results from which were used in planning the AHW flight test.

By: Brant

US Army Online Psyops

Yep, getting paid to surf the web and hang out in chat rooms, albeit with pretty high stakes.

The morning sun had barely cast its fresh light over Tampa Bay when Ardashir Safavi — born in Iran, a refugee to Turkey, educated in the mid-Atlantic states — was up and patrolling two dozen Persian-language Web sites, hunting militant adversaries in cyberspace.

His mission was to scan news reports, blogs, social media and online essays to identify those he viewed as “containing lies, misinformation or just misperceptions” about American military operations and Pentagon policy across the Middle East.

In recent months, Mr. Safavi and his teammates spotted posts that included doctored photographs of Osama bin Laden purporting to prove that Al Qaeda’s leader had not died in an American commando raid. They turned up blogs stating that the Pentagon was accelerating war plans for invading many Muslim nations, and others amplifying Taliban accusations that American troops rape with impunity across Afghanistan.

Mr. Safavi works as part of the Digital Engagement Team, established in 2008 by the military’s Central Command to “counter extremist ideology, promote cultural awareness and explain U.S. interests,” said Maj. David E. Nevers, the team’s chief officer, who must approve all responses before they are posted on foreign-language Web sites.

By: Brant

Random Friday Wargaming: Rapid Deployment Force (RDF)

When the US announced the formation of the "RDF" in the early 80s, it became a hot game topic. S&T was one of the first ones to the punch with the obtusely-titled Rapid Deployment Force (RDF).

It included one of the ugliest maps in history, too. Oy!

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

Anniversary: The Fall of Vukovar

Very few battles in the last 20 years have been a psyche-scarring as the 87-day siege of Vukovar, during the Croatian fight for their independence. The start of the siege by the Serb-dominated Yugoslavian National Army is generally accepted as the start of the war between Croatia, and what was then "Yugoslavia". Today marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of Vukovar.

The Croatians are holding their own memorial services.

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic has honoured several people and institutions for their wartime involvement in Vukovar at the commemoration of the Vukovar Rememberance Day held yesterday (Tues).
Vukovar was one of the Croatian cities most devastated by the war of independence from former Yugoslavia that took place between 1991 and 1995 in Croatia.
Josipovic received the representatives of the families of soldiers killed or disappeared during the battles, as well as workers from the Vukovar hospital that took care of the sick and the wounded.
"Thanks to you and all our veterans, Croatia has the perspective today to become a country of happy and satisfied people, a country of justice and welfare for its citizens," Josipovic said.
He said Vukovar was the biggest and most important Croatian symbol of the war and sacrifice, but also of the final victory and freedom.

From Wikipedia's article about the Battle of Vukovar.

At the time it was the fiercest and most protracted battle in Europe, and Vukovar was the first major European town entirely destroyed since the Second World War. When Vukovar fell on 18 November 1991, hundreds of soldiers and civilians were massacred by Serb forces and at least 31,000 civilians were deported from the town and its surroundings. Vukovar was ethnically cleansed of its non-Serb population and became part of the self-declared Republic of Serbian Krajina. Several Serb military and political officials, including Milošević, were later indicted and in some cases jailed for war crimes committed during and after the battle.

The battle exhausted the JNA and proved a turning point in the Croatian war. A ceasefire was declared a few weeks later. Vukovar remained in Serb hands until 1998 when it was peacefully reintegrated into Croatia. It has since been rebuilt but has less than half of its pre-war population and many buildings are still scarred by the battle. Its two principal ethnic communities remain deeply divided and it has not regained its former prosperity.

Years ago, the BBC analyzed what happened in Vukovar, with a look at 'why', as well.

Vukovar was a modestly prosperous, sleepy, provincial town in eastern Croatia, near the border with Serbia, noted for its picturesque baroque architecture. That was before the war for Croatia's independence erupted in July 1991.
By the end of its three-month siege at the hands of Serb forces in November 1991, Vukovar had become utterly devastated.

It was, perhaps, the most comprehensively destroyed town of any size in either Bosnia-Herzegovina or Croatia during the wars of the first half of the 1990s.

Capture of the town was an important strategic objective for the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army. It was designed to consolidate Serb control over the region of Croatia known as eastern Slavonia.

That objective was achieved, even though there was little left, apart from than ruins, following the siege.

It was also accompanied by the ethnic cleansing of Croats, who prior to the war were present in Vukovar municipality in roughly the same numbers as Serbs.

Croat defenders of Vukovar later claimed that the town could have been saved from capture by Serb forces if the nationalist President Franjo Tudjman had been willing to send reinforcements.

Mr Tudjman was accused of deliberately sacrificing Vukovar - dubbed the Croatian Stalingrad because of its devastation - so as to reinforce his portrayal of Croatia as the victim of Serb aggression.

The fallout of Vukovar is still being felt today.

Croatian doctors have filed war crimes accusations against 19 former Yugoslav army commanders for the relentless shelling of a hospital in Vukovar during an 87-day siege of the eastern Croatian town in 1991.
The head of the hospital, Vesna Bosanac, said Friday that 500-700 grenades hit the facility during the bombardment by the Serb-led Yugoslav army.

View Larger Map

If you're interested in wading through some nationalistic commentary (on both sides) you can check out the collection of photos/videos on MilitaryPhotos.net.

And if you want to know how much it meant to either side, check out Sports Illustrated's coverage of the '96 Olympics. Yes. The Olympics.

The word sounded to an American ear like another cheer that had been stretched out, syllable by syllable. Vu-ko-var.
Vu-ko-var. Vu-ko-var. The Croatian fans in the water polo crowd repeated the word again and again in the closing seconds of their team's 8-­6 win in the quarterfinals, and surely this was the name of a player or a coach, or maybe the Croatian term for "Way to go, boys."

Not really.
There's more. Go read it.

By: Brant

17 November 2011

US Assistance to Philippines in Facing Down China

The US is hoping to counter China's rising Pacific influence in a variety of ways, including the handover of a used Coast Guard cutter to bolster their navy.

The United States will provide a second warship to the ill-equipped Philippine military as it confronts China in increasingly tense territorial disputes in the South China Sea, a Philippine official said Thursday.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton assured Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin during talks in Manila on Wednesday that Washington would give its longtime ally a second Coast Guard cutter virtually for free some time next year.
The first second-hand cutter from the U.S. Coast Guard sailed into Manila in August and became the most modern vessel in the dilapidated Philippine fleet. Clinton assured the Philippine military of intensified U.S. assistance Wednesday when the allies marked the 60th anniversary of the signing of their Mutual Defense Treaty aboard a U.S. naval destroyer in Manila.
The first U.S. ship, which has been renamed the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, would be deployed to secure Philippine territorial waters in the South China Sea as early as this month, the military said.

By: Brant

UK In Action: Celebrity in Action!

Singer Cheryl Cole is pictured training with British troops during her morale boosting trip to Afghanistan. On the 14 September 2011 Cheryl Cole paid the British Troops in Afghanistan a morale visit where she presented the British Forces with the Pride of Britain Award. Here she can be seen taking part in a demonstration by 42 Commando Royal Marines conducting a compound clearance followed by a casualty evacuation via a Chinook helicopter. She exclaimed that she had never experienced so much dust in her life before after the helicopter came in to extract the casualty.

Singer Cheryl Cole is pictured driving a Jackal vehicle during her morale boosting trip visiting British troops in Afghanistan. On the 14 September 2011 Cheryl Cole paid the British Troops in Afghanistan a morale visit where she presented the British Forces with the Pride of Britain Award.

Singer Cheryl Cole shelters from the downwash of a Chinook helicopter during her morale boosting trip visiting British troops in Afghanistan. On the 14 September 2011 Cheryl Cole paid the British Troops in Afghanistan a morale visit where she presented the British Forces with the Pride of Britain Award.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

16 November 2011

USAction! - Patrolling Helmand

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Zachary O'Neill, right, provides security during a recent patrol through the Kajaki Bazaar in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 29, 2011. O'Neill is a rifleman assigned to the personal security detachment for the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, and is a part of the dismount team that escorts the battalion commander on dismounted patrols. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Marco Mancha

By: Brant

Syria Coming Apart at the Seams?

Defectors from the Syrian military are now attacking military bases.

Syrian army defectors have attacked a major military base near Damascus, Syrian opposition groups say.

Parts of the notorious Air Force Intelligence building in Harasta were reported to have been destroyed, but there were no reports of casualties.

It would be the Free Syrian Army's (FSA) most high-profile attack since Syria's anti-government protests began.

The attack comes as the Arab League prepares to discuss its response to the crackdown on the unrest in Syria.

The Syrian government has severely restricted access for foreign journalists, and reports of violence are extremely difficult to verify.

The UN says more than 3,500 people have died since protests started in March. The Syrian authorities blame the violence on armed gangs and militants.

Army defectors have carried out a number of attacks on military targets in recent weeks but the Harasta incident appears to be their most audacious so far.

Such an attack would be significant because Syria's Air Force Intelligence is one of the most feared state agencies and has been involved in the suppression of protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

The base is also very close to the capital, which has remained relatively quiet in the unrest so far.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

GameTalk - "Standard" Symbology

There are NATO unit icons, the famous SPI hex-map textures, and universal CRT odds ratios. What sorts of symbols do you insist on game designers "standardizing" to these traditional benchmarks, and which ones are you willing to let them fiddle with for the sake of graphic design? How much intellectual work are you willing to invest in learning a new visual lexicon and how much do you want to eyeball the images and get right to playing?

By: Brant

Sneaking Around HOA, Looking for Terr's

Back to Somalia? And with great effect and no media coverage.

Starting in 2003, small teams of U.S. operatives would clamber aboard a civilian turboprop plane at a Nairobi, Kenya, airfield to embark on one of the most dangerous missions conducted by U.S. personnel in Somalia since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The teams combined CIA case officers and “shooters” from a secretive special operations unit sometimes called Task Force Orange, said an intelligence source with long experience in the Horn of Africa. “There were always at least two CIA case officers, and there were always at least two shooters,” the source said. “Everybody was armed.”

Those first secret missions were all about gathering human intelligence — “collecting information, validating information,” said the source. But they soon expanded to include working with warlords to hunt al-Qaida members, tapping cellphones, purchasing anti-aircraft missiles and, ultimately, developing a deeper understanding of al-Qaida’s East African franchise and how it fit into the wider al-Qaida network.

The Mogadishu missions became one of the most successful U.S. intelligence operations in the Horn.

By: Brant

How Deep Will the Cuts Go?

Secretary Panetta is coming out swinging.

The number of U.S. ground forces would drop to levels not seen since 1940, the Navy would drop to the smallest number of ships since 1915 and the Air Force would be the smallest ever, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in warning Congress of the dire implications of deeper defense cuts.
The Pentagon chief on Monday offered a litany of drastic steps triggered by the automatic, across-the-board cuts if Congress' supercommittee fails to come up with a $1.2 trillion deficit-cutting plan by Nov. 23. If the panel stumbles, the Pentagon faces some $500 billion in reductions in projected spending over 10 years — on top of the $450 billion already under way.

By: Brant

Leave No Man Behind: Vietnam Edition

Another group of soldiers are returning from Vietnam years after they fell.

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of three servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Army Capt. Arnold E. Holm Jr. of Waterford, Conn.; Spc. Robin R. Yeakley of South Bend, Ind.; and Pfc. Wayne Bibbs of Chicago, will be buried as a group, in a single casket representing the entire crew, on Nov. 9, in Arlington National Cemetery. On June 11, 1972, Holm was the pilot of an OH-6A Cayuse helicopter flying a reconnaissance mission in Thua Thien-Hue Province, South Vietnam. Also on board were his observer, Yeakley, and his door gunner, Bibbs. The aircraft made a second pass over a ridge, where enemy bunkers had been sighted, exploded and crashed, exploding again upon impact. Crews of other U.S. aircraft, involved in the mission, reported receiving enemy ground fire as they overflew the crash site looking for survivors.

Between 1993 and 2008, joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), interviewed witnesses, investigated, surveyed and excavated possible crash sites several times. They recovered human remains, OH-6A helicopter wreckage and crew-related equipment—including two identification tags bearing Yeakley’s name.

Scientists from the JPAC used forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence to identify the crew.

Today more than 1,600 American remain un-accounted for from the Vietnam War. More than 900 servicemen have been accounted for from that conflict, and returned to their families for burial with military honors since 1973. The U.S. government continues to work closely with the governments of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to recover all Americans lost in the Vietnam War.

By: Brant

15 November 2011

SOCOM Speaks Out About SEAL Book

When the SpecOps community breaks their silence to disavow your book, you gotta know you're waaaaay off base.

The U.S. military is denouncing a former Navy SEAL's book that claims to describe the "real" version of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
"It's just not true," U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Col. Tim Nye said. "It's not how it happened."
Laden with conspiracy theories and attacks on the Obama White House, Chuck Pfarrer's "SEAL Target Geronimo" claims an alternative version of the raid in which the SEAL team shot bin Laden within 90 seconds of arriving at the Pakistan compound where the al-Qaida mastermind was holed up.
Pfarrer claims the White House issued a fictional and damaging account of the raid that made the SEALs looks inept. He says President Barack Obama's speedy acknowledgement of the raid was a craven political move that rendered much of the intelligence gathered on the raid useless.
Pfarrer's account broke into Amazon's top 20 book sales list last week, and Pfarrer has appeared on Fox News, CNN and in other venues to promote it.
"I have truth on my side," Pfarrer said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I spoke to the guys on the ground and in the secondary bird," he said, referring to the aircraft full of a second SEAL team that was there to rescue the first if it came under attack so far inside Pakistan's borders.
"This is a fabrication," Nye countered, issuing an on-the-record denial on behalf of Navy SEAL Adm. Bill McRaven, who took command of all special operations this summer.
In his previous role, McRaven executed the raid in May as head of the military's elite Joint Special Operations Command. Nye said McRaven was concerned the book would lead Americans to doubt the administration's version of events. He also disputed Pfarrer's portrayal of friction between the CIA and the military special operations forces who carried out the raid.
"We have never come forward and gone after an author and say that is a lie," Nye said. "That tells you how far off the mark we believe this book is."

And when you can't get basic, verifiable facts right, as pointed out later in the article (Al-Zawarhi was killed by an F16 strike, not a UAV), then how is anyone supposed to believe the things they can't fact-check behind you?

By: Brant

Sound Off! Fog of War

When you're concealing forces from your enemy, do you prefer to

... hide the face of block standing on its side (like Columbia games?)
... hide your stacks of counters under a question mark (like ASL?)

Stake your claim below!

By: Brant

Kids Holding Up The War

Did a couple of kids defeat General Patton back before WWII?

Brothers Alphonse, Kenneth, and Mayo Prud’homme were playing with a foot-long toy cannon in Natchitoches, La., in September 1941 when they saw a man peering at them through binoculars from the opposite side of the Cane River. “We just fired a shot at him to see what would happen,” Kenneth remembered later. “He bailed out of the tree and went flying back down the road in a cloud of dust.”

It's a short story, but a cute story. Go read it.

h/t Dan

By: Brant

14 November 2011

Monday Video: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Eve 6

This week's BANG! is from all over CENTCOM

By: Brant

Anniversary: Battle of la Drang

Today marks the anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley.

The Battle of Ia Drang was the first major battle between the United States Army and the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) (referred to by U.S. fighting units as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) during the Vietnam War).

The two-part battle took place between November 14 and November 18, 1965, at two landing zones (LZs) northwest of Plei Me in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam (approximately 35 miles south-west of Pleiku). The battle derives its name from the Drang River which runs through the valley northwest of Plei Me, in which the engagement took place. "Ia" means "river" in the local Montagnard language.

Representing the American forces were elements of the 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, and the 5th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. The North Vietnamese forces included the 66th and 1st battalion/33rd Regiments of the NVA as well National Liberation Front (NLF) (known world wide as the Viet Cong) of the H15 Battalion. The battle involved close air support by U.S. bombers, including B-52 bombers from Guam.

The US Army's history of Vietnam includes an excellent chapter on the fight that manages to be clinical and descriptive at the same time.

At 1017, after a brief delay resulting from the too hasty positioning of the artillery pieces at FALCON, the preparatory fires began. Thirteen minutes later the leading elements of Company B lifted off the Plei Me airstrip with a thunderous roar in a storm of red dust. With volleys of artillery fire slamming into the objective area, the sixteen Hueys-four platoons of four each-filed southwestward across the midmorning sky at two thousand feet. Two kilometers out, they dropped to treetop level. The aerial rocket artillery gunships meanwhile worked X RAY over for thirty seconds, expending half of their loads, then circled nearby, available on call. The 229th's escort gunships came next, rockets and machine guns blazing, immediately ahead of the lift ships. As the lead helicopters braked for the assault landing, their door gunners and some of the infantrymen fired into the trees and tall grass.

Lunging from the ships, the men of Company B, Colonel Moore among them, charged into the trees, snap-firing at likely enemy positions. By 1048 the helicopters were already returning to Plei Me for the rest of Company B and advance contingents of Company A.

Relatively flat and open as seen from above, X-RAY took on a different appearance when viewed by the infantryman on the ground. Ringed by sparse scrub brush with occasional trees ranging upward to a hundred feet, the landing zone was covered with hazel-colored, willowy elephant grass as high as five feet, ideal for the concealment of crawling soldiers. Interspersed throughout were anthills, some considerably taller than a standing man, all excellent as crew-served weapons positions. Along the western and northeastern edges of the landing zone the trees were especially thick and extended up the slopes of Chu Pong peak, which was 542 meters high and whose thick vegetation offered good concealment for enemy troops. A dry creek bed with waist-high banks ran along the western edge of the landing zone.

Captain Herren watched with satisfaction as his 1st Platoon leader, 2d Lt. Alan E. Deveny, went about the business of securing the landing zone. In line with orders from Colonel Moore, Herren was using a new technique. Rather than attempt a 360-degree perimeter coverage of the entire area as in previous operations, Herren concealed most of his force in a clump of trees and tall grass near the center of the landing zone as a reaction striking force, while Deveny's squads struck out in different directions, reconnoitering the terrain fifty to a hundred meters from the western side of X-RAY. A sound technique, it allowed Captain Herren to conserve his forces while he retained a flexible option, which, in view of the 30-minute turnaround flight time for the rest of the battalion, appeared prudent.

As Lieutenant Deveny's soldiers pressed the search, Herren became fully convinced that if there was to be a fight the proximity of X-RAY to the enemy haven across the Cambodian border made X-RAY the likely site. Yet the leading elements of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, had landed successfully and were thus far unopposed.

Where was the enemy?

And of course, we can't post this without including mention of the book: We were Soldiers Once...And Young: Ia Drang - The Battle That Changed The War In Vietnam by Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway

Interesting story behind the guy on the cover of the book, too...

By: Brant

UK In Action: Trainees Assault

Trainee Royal Marine Commandos position for an assault after a beach landing during an exercise at Bull Point in Plymouth. The Royal Marines are the Royal Navy's amphibious infantry and the United Kingdoms commandos. The Royal Marines began their existence as marksmen on the decks and rigging of warships. At present, they operate from the air and on land - anywhere from the Arctic Circle to tropical jungles - as well as maintaining their amphibious expertise at sea. Today 3 Commando Brigade possesses the inherent flexibility of an amphibious force, in particular the ability to project force across a potentially hostile shore without reliance on ports and airfields. The Brigade is essentially a light amphibious infantry brigade, with specialist extreme cold weather warfare expertise.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Sino-Pak Exercises, Inspiring '60s Soul Covers

One has to love the official news agencies' characterization of the military exercises between Pakistan and China.

Pakistan and China are staging joint military exercises, showcasing their relationship as Islamabad's ties with Washington suffer.
The war games that began Monday follow remarks by Pakistani officials suggesting that China could step into the economic, military and diplomatic void if Pakistan's relationship with the United States collapsed.
An army statement says the exercise in Punjab province showed that the "Pakistan-China friendship is higher than the mountains and deeper than oceans."

C'mon! Sing it!

By: Brant

13 November 2011

Syrians Protest Vote Against Violent Crackdown... By Rioting and Breaking Into Embassies

In protest of an Arab League vote condemning their bloody anti-dissident crackdown, Syrian protestors decided to storm embassies and riot through town. Arabs don't do irony; it requires too much nuance.

Tens of thousands of pro-regime demonstrators gathered in a Damascus square Sunday to protest the Arab League's vote to suspend Syria over its bloody crackdown on the country's eight-month-old uprising.
The protests came after a night of demonstrator assaults on the diplomatic offices of countries critical of the Syrian regime, including break-ins at the Saudi and Qatari embassies and attacks at Turkish representations across the country.
Saturday's Arab League decision was a sharp rebuke to a regime that prides itself as a bastion of Arab nationalism, but it was unlikely to immediately end a wave of violence that the U.N. estimates has killed more than 3,500 people since mid-March.
The protests and embassy attacks are likely to stoke further anger in Arab states against the regime in Damascus. Arab disapproval in itself may not seriously damage President Bashar Assad's hold on power, but if Syria antagonizes Gulf states much further, it risks having them build up the Syrian opposition into a unified body which can win international recognition as happened during Libya's civil war earlier this year.

By: Brant

12 November 2011

Persian Incursion Continues to Get Attention

Here's Michael Peck on NPR Weekend Edition with a short chat about the game.

By: Brant

Something in Iran Went Boom

Michael Peck in action? Or just a random explosion somewhere?

A massive explosion at a weapons depot on a military base to the west of the Iranian capital Tehran on Saturday killed several people and was felt at least 45 km away, local media reported.

The semi-official Fars news agency carried a statement by the Revolutionary Guards which said the blast happened in an arsenal at a base in Bidganeh, near the city of Karaj. Some people were killed, Fars said, without giving further details.

By: Brant

US Navy to Christen USNS Medgar Evers

On November 12, the US Navy will christen the USNS Medgar Evers.

The Navy will christen and launch dry cargo/ammunition ship the USNS Medgar Evers, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011, during a 9 a.m. PST ceremony at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego. The ship is named to honor civil rights activist Medgar Evers.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus willdeliver the ceremony’s principal address. Serving as the ship’s sponsor is Myrlie Evers Williams, widow of the ship’s namesake. Theceremony will include the time-honored Navy tradition of the sponsor breaking a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship.

Continuing the Lewis and Clark-class (T-AKE) tradition of honoring legendary pioneers and explorers, the Navy’s newest underway replenishment ship recognizes Medgar Evers(1925-1963), who became active in the civil rights movement after returning from overseas service in World War II.

Designated T-AKE 13, Medgar Evers is the 13th of an expected class of 14 dry cargo/ammunition ships, all of which will be operated by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC). Evers is being built by General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego. Elevenof the T-AKEs are slated to serve as Combat Logistics Force (CLF) ships, and threeare slated to become part of the Maritime Prepositioning Force. Combat Logistics Force ships help the Navy maintain a worldwide forward presence by delivering ammunition, food, fuel and other supplies to U.S. and allied ships at sea. Currently all 11T-AKEs operating today conduct CLF missions.

Maritime Prepositioning Force ships are continuously deployed to strategic locations worldwide carrying U.S. Marine Corps cargo, which is ready for rapid delivery to Marines ashore if needed.

The first Navy ship named after Evers is the T-AKE 13. Aspart of MSC, T-AKE 13 is designated as a United States Naval Ship (USNS) and will be crewed by civil service mariners. For CLF missions, the T-AKEs’ crews include a small department of sailors. Like the other dry cargo/ammunition ships, T-AKE 13 is designed to operate independently for extended periods at sea and can carry two helicopters and their crews. The ship is 689 feet in length, has an overall beam of 106 feet and a navigational draft of 30 feet. Evers displaces approximately 42,000 tons and is capable of reaching a speed of 20 knots using a single-shaft, diesel-electric propulsion system.

By: Brant

11 November 2011

Airborne & Special Ops Museum, 2 of 2

From a gallery of notable airborne personalities
Vietnam display
Panama Display

Panama Display from the rescue of Kurt Muse

Curiously enough, there's no gallery, display, or mention of Somalia or the Balkans, and only the briefest of mentions of the missions to the Philippines as a part of the wider GWOT galleries.

By: Brant

Airborne & Special Ops Museum, 1 of 2

From Fayetteville, NC... we took the Cub Scouts down there today.
As always, click to enlarge

The Main Entryway

From the North Carolina Veterans' exhibit

Looking up at the ceiling

The Pacific War gallery includes a theater

The display on the US intervention in the Dominican Republic

By: Brant