31 January 2012

ISAF Placemat JAN 2012

It was just released in the last 2 days or so, even thought it's dated 6 January. Probably had to go through a vetting process, eh?

As always, click to enlarge the pics.

By: Brant

Anniversary: Tet Offensive

This week marks the anniversary of the Tet Offensive

The Tet Offensive was a military campaign during the Vietnam War that began on January 31, 1968. Forces of the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam (Viet Cong), and the People's Army of Vietnam (the North Vietnamese army), fought against the forces of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), the United States, and their allies. The purpose of the offensive was to strike military and civilian command and control centers throughout South Vietnam and to spark a general uprising among the population that would then topple the Saigon government, thus ending the war in a single blow.[9]
The operations are referred to as the Tet Offensive because they began during the early morning hours of 31 January 1968, Tết Nguyên Đán, the first day of the year on a traditional lunar calendar and the most important Vietnamese holiday. Both North and South Vietnam announced on national radio broadcasts that there would be a two-day cease-fire during the holiday. In Vietnamese, the offensive is called Cuộc Tổng tiến công và nổi dậy ("General Offensive and Uprising"), or Tết Mậu Thân (Tet, year of the monkey).
The NLF launched a wave of attacks on the morning of 31 January in the I and II Corps Tactical Zones of South Vietnam. This early attack did not, however, cause undue alarm or lead to widespread defensive measures. When the main NLF operation began the next morning, the offensive was countrywide in scope and well coordinated, with more than 80,000 communist troops striking more than 100 towns and cities, including 36 of 44 provincial capitals, five of the six autonomous cities, 72 of 245 district towns, and the southern capital.[10] The offensive was the largest military operation yet conducted by either side up to that point in the war.
The initial attacks stunned the US and South Vietnamese armies and took them by surprise, but most were quickly contained and beaten back, inflicting massive casualties on communist forces. During the Battle of Hue intense fighting lasted for a month and the NLF executed thousands of residents in the Massacre at Huế. Around the US combat base at Khe Sanh fighting continued for two more months. Although the offensive was a military defeat for the communists, it had a profound effect on the US government and shocked the American public, which had been led to believe by its political and military leaders that the communists were, due to previous defeats, incapable of launching such a massive effort.
The term "Tet offensive" usually refers to the January-February 1968 NLF offensive, but it can also include the so-called "mini-Tet" offensives that took place in May and August.

What's the most iconic Tet Offensive image to you? Thoughts/links below!

By: Brant

Sound Off! Comments On Sounding Off!

So we've got 52 of these-here "Sound Off!" thingees under our belt now.
What do y'all think? Do we keep "Sound Off!" going? Or is it time to punt it for something else new?

I like it! I love it! I want more of it!

It's old! It's tired! It's time to be retired!

Sound off below!

By: Brant

30 January 2012

USAction! Khowst Province

U.S. Army Pfc. Tyler Jennings conducts a combat patrol in Khowst province, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2012. Jennings is a cannon crew member assigned to 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson - Download Hi-Res

By: Brant

UK In Action: Helicopter Traffic

Photograph shows Royal Air Force Chinook Mk2 helicopters from 1310 Flight taking off from Camp Bastion airfield in Helmand, Afghanistan. The Joint Helicopter Force (AFGHANISTAN) or JHF (A) is a deployed tri-Service unit from the Joint Helicopter Command. Its primary purpose is to facilitate tactical mobility, reconnaissance and Aviation Fires support to the UK task force in Helmand Province and to the multi-national force of Regional Command (South).

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Monday Video: Are You Ready?

The Germans are ready, in this week's BANG

By: Brant

29 January 2012

Syrian Fighting to Eject Rebels from Suburbs of the Capital

The Syrians are fighting to retake the eastern 'burbs of Damascus from the anti-government rebels that have been there for a few weeks.

Thousands of Syrian soldiers moved into the suburbs of Damascus that have fallen under rebel control on Sunday, killing five civilians, activists said, a day after the Arab League suspended its monitoring mission in Syria because of mounting violence.
Around 2,000 soldiers in buses and armored personnel carriers, along with at least 50 tanks and armored vehicles, moved at dawn into the eastern Ghouta area on the edge of Damascus to reinforce troops surrounding the suburbs of Saqba, Hammouriya and Kfar Batna, activists said.
The army pushed into the heart of Kfar Batna and four tanks were in its central square, they said.
"Mosques that have turned into field hospitals are requesting blood. They cut off the electricity. Petrol stations are empty and the army is preventing people from leaving to get fuel for generators or heating," said Raid, an activist in Saqba who spoke briefly by satellite phone.
The deaths brought to 17 the number of people killed in the suburbs since Saturday when the army launched an offensive against rebels who seized them last week, activists and residents said.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

28 January 2012

Pakistan Undercutting Themselves on OBL

The BBC has an interesting report on a Pakistani doctor who provided intel in the OBL raid.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said he is "very concerned" about a Pakistani doctor arrested for providing intelligence for the US raid that killed Osama Bin Laden last year.

Dr Shikal Afridi is accused of running a CIA-run programme in Abbottabad where Bin Laden was killed. A Pakistan panel says he should be tried for treason.

Mr Panetta told the CBS TV network the arrest had been "a real mistake".

Dr Afridi provided "very helpful" information for the raid, he added.

He was arrested shortly after the operation, carried out by US special forces in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad on 2 May last year.

Pakistan was deeply embarrassed by the raid, and condemned it as a violation of sovereignty.

Tried for treason, eh? "Treason" is usually reserved for those who take up arms against the state, or are directly involved in actively damaging the state. If Pakistan is saying that giving up info in OBL is treason, then are they saying he was somehow a representative of the state of Pakistan? And if that's their argument, why aren't we bombing the shit out of them?

By: Brant

27 January 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: Weapons of Mass Destruction

Getting a little goofy this week... Flying Buffalo's Weapons of Mass Destruction is a stand-alone expansion for their infamous Nuclear War.

There's no CSW forum out there, but you can pick up your own copy over at Flying Buffalo's site.

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

By: Brant

26 January 2012

UK In Action: Household Cavalry

Soldiers from the Royal Household Cavalry Regiment man a check point on a busy stretch of road in Helmand Province Afghanistan. One soldier waits to stop on coming traffic while he is covered by members of his unit in a Jackal, Mobility Weapon-Mounted Installation Kit. This image was a winner in the Army's Photographic Competition 2011.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

25 January 2012

GameTalk - Insurgents and Guerillas

How do you model the propaganda value of a tactical defeat? How can you leverage tactical/operational actions to influence your reinforcement schedule for the next 10 turns? What are some systems that tie insurgent recruiting to game-board actions and propaganda/political victories to actions on the battlefield?

Your thoughts below!

By: Brant

US Raid in Somalia Rescues 2 Hostages

A night time raid in Somalia has successfully freed 2 hostages.

U.S. Special Forces troops flew into Somalia on a nighttime helicopter raid early Wednesday, freed an American and a Danish hostage and killed nine of the kidnappers in a mission that President Barack Obama said he personally authorized.
The Danish Refugee Council confirmed that the two aid workers, American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Hagen Thisted, were freed and "are on their way to be reunited with their families."
The raiders came in very quickly, catching the guards as they were sleeping after having chewed the narcotic leaf qat for much of the evening, a pirate who gave his name as Bile Hussein told The Associated Press by phone. Hussein said he was not present at the site but had spoken with other pirates who were, and that they told him nine pirates had been killed in the raid and three were missing.
A second pirate who gave his name as Ahmed Hashi said two helicopters attacked at about 2 a.m. about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the Somali town of Adado where the hostages were being held.


Here's Secretary Panetta's statement on the raid.

Last night U.S. Special Operations Forces conducted, by order of the President of the United States, a successful mission in Somalia to rescue two individuals taken hostage on October 25, 2011. Ms. Jessica Buchanan, an American citizen employed by the Danish Demining Group, and her Danish colleague, Mr. Poul Thisted, were kidnapped at gunpoint by criminal suspects near Galcayo, Somalia.

Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted have been transported to a safe location where we will evaluate their health and make arrangements for them to return home.

This successful hostage rescue, undertaken in a hostile environment, is a testament to the superb skills of courageous service members who risked their lives to save others. I applaud their efforts, and I am pleased that Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted were not harmed during the operation. This mission demonstrates our military's commitment to the safety of our fellow citizens wherever they may be around the world.

I am grateful to report that there was no loss of life or injuries to our personnel.

I express my deepest gratitude to all the military and civilian men and women who supported this operation. This was a team effort and required close coordination, especially between the Department of Defense and our colleagues in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They are heroes and continue to inspire all of us by their bravery and service to our nation.

By: Brant

24 January 2012

Covert UK Ops on the Ground in Libya

Mark Urban (no known relation to Keith) has a great article about the UK's covert actions on the ground during the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime.

The first significant involvement of British forces inside Libya was a rescue mission mounted just a couple of weeks after the rising against Gaddafi broke out. On 3 March, Royal Air Force C130 aircraft were sent to a desert airstrip at Zilla in the south of the country to rescue expatriate oil workers. Many had been threatened by gunmen and bandits.

This airlift of 150 foreigners, including about 20 Britons, to Valletta airport in Malta went smoothly, despite one of the aircraft being hit by ground fire soon after taking off.

Accompanying the flights were about two dozen men from C Squadron of the Special Boat Service (SBS), who helped secure the landing zone. It was a short-term and discreet intervention that saved the workers from risk of abduction or murder, and caused little debate in Whitehall.

OK, so not bad. But after another debacle (read the article - amazing these guys dorked up that bad) the straightjacket went on the ROE.

When half a dozen British officers arrived at a seaside hotel in Benghazi at the beginning of April, they were unarmed and their role was strictly limited. They had been told to help the NTC set up a nascent defence ministry, located in a commandeered factory on the outskirts of the city.

The first and most basic task of the advisory team was to get the various bands of Libyan fighters roaring around in armed pick-up trucks under some sort of central co-ordination. As reporters had discovered, most of these men had little idea of what they were doing, and soon panicked if they thought Col Gaddafi's forces were attacking or outflanking them.

There were a number of legal issues preventing them giving more help. Some Whitehall lawyers argued that any type of presence on the ground was problematic. Legal doubts were raised about arming the NTC or targeting Col Gaddafi.

Once the air operation was put on a proper Nato footing, these issues became even more vexed, insiders say, with the alliance saying it would not accept men on the ground "directing air strikes" in a way that some newspapers, even in late spring, were speculating was already happening.

The British government's desire to achieve the overthrow of Gaddafi while accommodating the legal sensitivities registered by various Whitehall departments led to some frustration among those who were meant to make the policy work.

This is the kind of news story you can see growing into a complete book, and an interesting one at that.

By: Brant

Sound Off! 4X Gaming

4X games can be incredibly addictive. What are your favorites? Sound of below!

By: Brant

23 January 2012

Dealing With Shit in Afghanistan


oh, and a follow-up

By: Brant

UK In Action: Tomahawk Away!

Royal Navy Attack submarine HMS Astute fires a Tomahawk cruise missile during a testing mission near the USA. The Royal Navy’s newest submarine has blasted Tomahawk missiles far across the North American skies, as part of its first test firing mission. Pictures show the Tomahawk weapons, which rocketed from HMS Astute at up to 550 miles per hour (885kph) across the Gulf of Mexico. The 5.5-metre-long cruise missile weighs 1,300kg and has a range of more than 1,000 miles.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Monday Video: Armored Saint

OK, this week's video takes a bit of explanation... I was listening to Armored Saint's "Dropping Like Flies" in the car and thinking "this would be an awesome tune for a military video". In fact, it was such a great idea that I couldn't believe no one had come up with it already, so I started looking through YouTube to see if one was already out there. I couldn't find anything tagged with "Dropping Like Flies" but I found a bunch of other Armored Saint tunes. With the band now stuck in my head, I felt like I just had to put up a Monday Video with them as the music bed, but I couldn't find a good, blood-pumping, adrenaline-inducing, dick-stiffening video, so we had to settle for this one.

They're basically asking the Obama administration if they can deliver on their promise to bring the troops home. I find it odd that they're using a song about blowjobs to do it, but what the heck, I'm sure someone will make a snarky comment about it.

As always, this is not an endorsement of the political sentiments of the video - it's just trying to get a good song/video combo, and being disappointed with the video options for the songs stuck in my head this week.

If anyone knows a good military video with an Armored Saint soundtrack, please post it below! And don't forget to nominate you're own Monday Videos in the comments, too.

By: Brant

US To Iran: Suck It

Iran's big talk about US aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf turned out to be just that: big talk. We sailed the USS Abraham Lincoln right up their ass.

Amid heightened tensions with Iran, an American aircraft carrier has sailed through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf. The Navy says it's a routine maneuver.
Cmdr. Amy Derrick-Frost said the USS Abraham Lincoln entered the Gulf on Sunday without incident to conduct scheduled maritime security operations. Derrick-Frost is a spokeswoman for the Navy's 5th Fleet, based in the Gulf state of Bahrain.
U.S. warships frequently operate in the Gulf. But when the carrier USS John Stennis departed the Gulf in late December, Iranian officials warned the U.S. not to return.

By: Brant

21 January 2012

10 Myths About Afghanistan....

The Guardian newspaper has an interesting list of 10 myths about Afghanistan. Here are the top 5.

1. Afghans have always beaten foreign armies, from Alexander the Great to modern times
2. The Soviet invasion led to a civil war and western aid for the Afghan resistance
3. The USSR suffered a massive military defeat in Afghanistan at the hands of the mujahideen
4. The CIA's supply of Stinger missiles to the mujahideen forced the Soviets out of Afghanistan
5. After the Soviets withdrew, the west walked away

Go check out the article for the other five, and the explanations of all ten. Some of them will make you go "hmmmm".

By: Brant

20 January 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: Downtown: The Air War Over Hanoi, 1965-1972

For this Friday's wargame, we're bringing you Lee Brimmicombe-Wood's Downtown: Air War Over Hanoi, 1965-1972. A highly-acclaimed air game, Downtown has no shortage of fans out there.

The ConsimWorld Forum is bloody huge, too.

You can try to order a copy, just not from GMT, where they're sold out.
Anyone out there got some thoughts they'd like to share on this one?

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

By: Brant

Next Afghanistan Unit Announced

The DoD has identified the next army units headed to Afghanistan

The Department of Defense today identified three major units to deploy as part of the upcoming rotation of forces operating in Afghanistan. The scheduled rotation will begin in Spring 2012.

This announcement involves one division headquarters totaling approximately 1,000 personnel and two brigade combat teams totaling approximately 5,800 personnel.

Headquarters units:
-- 3rd Infantry Division HQ, Fort Stewart, Ga.
Brigade Combat Teams:
-- 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82d Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. (to deploy as a partial BCT).
-- 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82d Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
DoD will continue to announce major deployments as they are approved.

By: Brant

19 January 2012

Are Israelis Making Iranian Nukies Go "Boom"?

According to The Daily Beast, the Israelis have "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" (not) admitted to killing Iranian nuclear scientists.

Six weeks ago in Washington, on the sidelines of a major U.S.-Israeli meeting known as the “strategic dialogue,” Israeli Mossad officers were quietly and obliquely bragging about the string of explosions in Iran. “They would say things like, ‘It’s not the best time to be working on Iranian missile design,’” one U.S. intelligence official at the December parley told The Daily Beast.

Those comments were a reference to a string of explosions at a missile-testing site outside Tehran on November 12. The explosions killed Maj. Gen. Hassan Moqqadam, the head of the country’s missile program. But the manner in which the message was delivered—informally and on the sidelines of an official discussion—also speaks to how Israel appears to seek to create the impression of responsibility for acts of violence and sabotage inside Iran without quite taking formal responsibility.

What do you think?

By: Brant

UK In Action: Night Flight

Pictured is 215 Flight's Lynx helicopter from 815 Squadron attached to Type 23 frigate HMS Monmouth conducting a night time ground run in Plymouth Sound. The Flight will be embarked during her work up phase and also the forthcoming Deployment.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Looming US Naval Cuts

As the Army tries to figure out how to reduce their footprint, the Navy is also making plans to scale back their force.

...Navy leaders claimed the reduction will not degrade the sailing branch’s ability to influence world events and deter rivals. At roughly 3 million tons displacement combined, today’s Navy is by far the largest in the world, exceeding the tonnage of the next dozen navies, combined. The Navy maintains around 2/3 of its forces in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

Adm. Mark Ferguson, the Navy’s second-ranking officer, signaled a possible shift away from the 313-ship plan in a recent speech. He said a new shipbuilding plan could take three years to finalize.

Following up on Ferguson’s comments, Navy Undersecretary Robert Work said that even a slightly smaller fleet would still contain a preponderance of large, sophisticated warships capable of worldwide operations. “We [will] span the globe,” Work said, according to AOL Defense reporter Carlo Munoz.

By: Brant

18 January 2012

Strategic Gaming Roundtable, NDU 1/18

Stay tuned for the liveblog of today's NDU strategic wargaming roundtable.

Looks like we're starting now, after some tech connection issues.
Covering some admin bits:
- next roundtable will be Monday 19 March.
- Connections in late July

First presentation will be Bill Simpson from MCWL: Multi-Sided Gaming or Getting a Handle on Chaos

It grew out of a project on MAGTF Strategic Communication.
Game purpose: "to understand and apply the USMC Strategic Communication Concept across the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war."

How to coordinate non/kinetic actions along the same message through the staff processes?
"How do you properly replicate the myriad interactions, assess the impacts, and adjudicate the outcomes?"
Had to be very simple b/c while there was time to train adjudicators/staff, there was not time to train the players.
Built off of Marine Corps Planning Process CoA wargaming paradigm.
Worked at multiple MAGTF levels: MEU, MEB, MEF

Process flow was a 17-step slide, and I'm not going to try to capture it all here. If I can snag it later, I will.

One of the first adjudications was situational awareness, and they let the players sort out (using their professional military judgment) who knew what at any given point in time. If the players couldn't agree, then the umpires stepped in to adjudicate. Kept the process flowing...

Follow the jump for the "more" - trying to get the length of this post on the main page under control

GameTalk - Divine Intervention

What role can/should the "holy shit" moment play on the virtual battlefield? How do you account for the 'magic bullet' or the horseshoe that loses a nail or the perfect timing of the lunar eclipse? How many of these can/do you build into a game when a pre-set number of possible divine intervention moments would need to be developed for inclusion in the box/code/script?

Your thoughts below!

By: Brant

The Army's Struggle for Doctrinal Relevance

The Army is having trouble envisioning how they fit into the country's long-term strategic plan. Really? You can't envision anywhere you'd need to fight? Or nowhere that you can politically admit to cough*Pakistan*cough?

"We're looking with a bit of envy at AirSea Battle," said one junior officer, Maj. David Williams, in a frank presentation to a panel of generals – all outranking him by at least three paygrades – on January 12th. And, Maj. Williams went on, many officers are "nostalgic" for AirSea Battle's inspiration, the Army's "AirLand Battle" concept published in 1982 to defeat the Soviet Union in Central Europe. Both visions offer the clarity of "a specific threat, a specific location, a simple narrative" to present "to the American Congress and the American people," Williams went on. By contrast, "if you take the national security priorities recently released...there's a bunch of things out there," he said. "We need to pick one, [and] the most important thing is focusing on the hybrid threats."

Hybrid is the buzzword for adversaries combining the tactics of guerrillas with the firepower of a state. Israel's humiliation by Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 is the prime example of a hybrid war, but there are aspects of the phenomenon in America's own experience from Korea and Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq. One of the most influential advocates of the theory, RAND scholar and Army veteran David Johnson, argued at the conference that the U.S. could learn from the Israelis, who after 2006 focused on the hybrid threat – with significant success, as shown by their improved performance against Hamas in Gaza in 2008 – while remaining flexible enough to "build up" to a major state-on-state conflict or "build down" to irregular warfare.

From a public relations perspective, hybrid war gives the Army a scenario sufficiently scary and sufficiently probable to justify its budget. For internal audience, the attraction is a single, unifying mission that allows the Army to simultaneously draw on its decade of experience in counterinsurgency and revitalize its skills for larger-scale combat. One outspoken officer at the conference, Col. Wayne Grigsby of the Army's Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, advised the generals to drop the current doctrine's array of tasks in favor of a single Army "core competency" in "joint combined arms fire and maneuver" – i.e. fighting – while deemphasizing counterinsurgency-focused functions such as "wide area security."

But the top brass weren't so sure. "Decisionmakers don't want large-scale land campaigns today for a variety of reasons," said Lt. Gen. Richard Zahner, the Army's chief of intelligence (G-2). "They're going to come looking for you because you can offer them solutions they don't otherwise have, [and] no decision maker wants to have just a single option." Instead, Zahner said, the Army's pitch to policymakers bent on budget cuts should be pragmatic: "Listen folks, you may not want us, but we're the guys who are going to give us a whole range of new options when Plan A doesn't come out the way you anticipated."

By: Brant

JCS Releases Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC)

And as near as we can tell, the Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC) is not pronounced "joke".

The President and Secretary of Defense’s strategic guidance for our Joint Force is clear – we will answer our nation’s call and sustain the trust of the American people amidst a rapidly changing security environment. As we shape the Joint Force of the future in this increasingly complex and competitive world, gaining access to the right place at the right time presents an ever more pressing challenge.

So today I released the Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC). This framework describes how we will gain entry and maintain access anywhere and in any domain: land, air, space, sea, and cyber. No matter how formidable our forces, if we are unable to bring our capabilities to bear in any of these domains, we may not be able to complete the mission or meet our nation’s needs. Our adversaries know this as well.

Accordingly, the JOAC outlines how we will confront emerging Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) threats by state and non-state enemies across the globe. A2/AD is not new, but it is a defining characteristic of today’s operational environment. Confronting this challenge will require more integration—across all domains and at all echelons—than ever before.

Pull down the PDF here.

By: Brant

17 January 2012

Anniversary: The Start of Gulf War I

Today marks the anniversary of the start of the air campaign known as Operation Instant Thunder.

The Gulf War air campaign was broadcast across the world on CNN.

At 2:43 A.M. two EF-111 Ravens with terrain following radar led 22 F-15E Strike Eagles against assaults on airfields in Western Iraq. Minutes later, one of the EF-111 crews – Captain James Denton and Captain Brent Brandon – destroyed an Iraqi Dassault Mirage F-1, when their low altitude maneuvering led the F-1 to crash to the ground. It was not credited to the crew but an F-15E that was also involved in the manuevering.[6]

At 3 A.M., ten U.S. F-117 Nighthawk stealth bombers, under the protection of a three-ship formation of EF-111s, bombed Baghdad, the capital. The striking force came under fire from 3,000 Anti-Aircraft guns firing from rooftops in Baghdad.

Within hours of the start of the coalition air campaign, a P-3 Orion called Outlaw Hunter developed by the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which was testing a highly specialised over-the-horizon radar, detected a large number of Iraqi patrol boats and naval vessels attempting to make a run from Basra and Umm Qasr to Iranian waters. Outlaw Hunter vectored in strike elements, which attacked the Iraqi naval flotilla near Bubiyan Island destroying 11 vessels and damaging scores more.

Concurrently, U.S. Navy BGM-109 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles struck targets in Baghdad, and other coalition aircraft struck targets throughout Iraq. Government buildings, TV stations, airfields, presidential palaces, military installations, communication lines, supply bases, oil refineries, a Baghdad airport, electric powerplants and factories making Iraqi war machine equipment were all destroyed due to extensive massive aerial and missile attacks by the coalition forces.

Here's the broadcast most people remember

Where were you when it all went down?

By: Brant

Mission Accomplished! Oh, wait...

Apparently, the Taliban has declared victory.

Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s one-eyed leader, seems to have taken a page from George W. Bush’s playbook.

Just as the former president declared “mission accomplished” in Iraq years before the war there ended, the Taliban made their own victory declaration this weekend, even though roughly 130,000 coalition troops were still fighting in Afghanistan — and keeping the Afghan government firmly in power.

No matter, suggested the Taliban, which calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, in a statement bluntly titled: “Formal Proclamation of Islamic Emirate’s Victory.” The American push to open talks is proof that the insurgents are winning, the Taliban reasoned.

“It is but sheer determination, religious and ideological adherence and unequalled sacrifices displayed by true Afghan Mujahid nation for the last decade that today regional and world powers are after to reach mutual understanding about the country,” the statement said in the Taliban’s typically fractured English.

Maybe we should start shooting more of them to test their "sheer determination", eh?

By: Brant

Another Great Shirt from RangerUp

It's only a pre-order right now, but their Occupy Patrol Base T-Shirt is a riot. In a "good" riot kind of way...

h/t Longblade

By: Brant

Sound Off! Brown, Blue, or Green?

For our squids out there...

What's the more important naval force?

... Blue-water navy, controlling the high seas?

... Brown-water navy, fighting in the littorals close to shore?

... Green-water navy, patrolling the rivers and ports?

Float your ideas below!

By: Brant

Drone Strike For The Win? Or Will This One Prove False, Too?

Haven't we "killed" this guy about 10 times already?

The leader of the Pakistani Taliban, the militant movement that poses the gravest security threat to the country, is believed to have been killed by a U.S. drone strike, four Pakistan intelligence officials told Reuters on Sunday.
The officials said they intercepted wireless radio chatter between Taliban fighters detailing how Hakimullah Mehsud was killed while travelling in a convoy to a meeting in the North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border.
A senior military official told Reuters there was no official confirmation that the Pakistani state's deadliest enemy had been killed. The Pakistani Taliban issued a denial. U.S. officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, could not confirm his death.

By: Brant

16 January 2012

Nice Analysis of Recent Game-Related Articles

Rex Brynen, over at PaxSims, has a very good follow-up to Tom Ricks' recent article.

...part of the reason for the slower take-up of serious gaming and simulation in the diplomatic, development, and academic communities is that an awful lot of the serious foreign policy games out there just aren’t that good. Unfortunately, the serious gaming community (of which I would consider myself part) has some real problems with what might be termed ”hypertechnoludovangelism”— which is to say, uncritical acceptance of too much of its own hype about the transformative effects of (digital) gaming. Perhaps we PAXsims folks are a little curmudgeonly, but to date we’ve probably found more serious digital and online games that we didn’t like than ones that we did (even though we’re course instructors with whole rooms full of games at home, and enough computers to run a small space program).

In summary, asking “why aren’t more folks in the defence/diplomacy/development/policy/NGO/academic worlds using more games?” is a good one. Indeed, there are all sorts of organizational, cultural, generational, and other barriers to game adoption, and it would be worth exploring more fully what those are and how they might be overcome. However, at the same time we should also be asking the questions like “what might folks be doing that does not fall within digital gaming, narrowly understood?” and “why aren’t people making games that more practitioners find useful?” and “how should games and simulations be used to maximize their potential?”.

By: Brant

UK In Action: Welsh Silhouette

A soldier from One Platoon, The Prince of Wales's Company, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards based at Patrol Base Argyll, Nad e Ali is pictured on returning from a patrol around the village of Zarghun Kalay, Afghanistan. Soldiers from The Prince of Wales's Company, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards based at Patrol Base Argyll, Nad e Ali, patrol in Nad e Ali District Centre and the surrounding area.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Monday Video: Crescendo

This week's BANG takes some time to build up...

By: Brant

US-Israel Drill Delayed

There was supposed to be a joint US-Israel drill starting this Spring, but they've delayed it 'til later in the year.

Israel and the United States opted to delay a major joint military exercise because of regional tensions and instability, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday.
"The entire world understands that we had to postpone this exercise because of political and regional uncertainties, as well as the tensions and instability prevailing in the region," Lieberman told public radio.

If the exercise was postposed for "political and regional uncertainties, as well as the tensions and instability" in the Middle East, one wonders how it was scheduled at all.

By: Brant

15 January 2012

When Sanctions Aren't Enough

Would the US really assassinate an Iranian scientist?

Iran said on Saturday it had evidence Washington was behind the latest killing of one of its nuclear scientists, state television reported, at a time when tensions over the country's nuclear program have escalated to their highest level ever.
In the fifth attack of its kind in two years, a magnetic bomb was attached to the door of 32-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan's car during the Wednesday morning rush-hour in the capital. His driver was also killed.
U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton denied responsibility and Israeli President Shimon Peres said Israel had no role in the attack, to the best of his knowledge.
"We have reliable documents and evidence that this terrorist act was planned, guided and supported by the CIA," the Iranian foreign ministry said in a letter handed to the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, state TV reported. The Swiss embassy represents U.S. interests in a country where Washington has no diplomatic ties.
The spokesman for Iran's Joint Armed Forces Staff, Massoud Jazayeri, said: "Our enemies, especially America , Britain and the Zionist regime (Israel), have to be held responsible for their actions."

By: Brant

The Rest of the World Is Paying Attention to (Video) Wargames

Even Tom Ricks is talking about them.

Video games have somewhat of a bad reputation today: individuals have attacked games for their supposed contribution to obscenity and their debilitation of male virtue. Despite these fears, scientists have identified some benefits from gaming, ranging from improved self-worth to augmented surgical skills. In the foreign policy arena, video games can and should serve as a powerful tool for educating civilian and military personnel about war and foreign affairs.

Video games can serve to help bolster America's glaring deficiency in one crucial discipline: history. Video games focused on war and IR provide refreshing bursts of information about often-overlooked leaders and wars. These games can offer descriptive backgrounds of leaders or events (e.g. Age of Empires' description of Genghis Khan or the Crusades). These methods can sometimes provide a deeper and more-engaging understanding of history than just a textbook or lecture.

A subgenre of games, so-called "serious" games, goes further by explicitly trying to educate gamers about historical or political issues. For example, Niall Ferguson in 2007 played the World War II serious game Making History and played out some of his WWII counterfactual scenarios, such as war breaking out over German seizure of Czechoslovakia in 1938. His experience led him to conclude that his counterfactual historical scenarios "weren't as robust as [he] thought." As a result, Ferguson ended up advising this series. This episode, forcing critical re-examinations of events, anecdotally illustrates the range of useful educational experiences gleaned from games like Making History or other, current games such as Global Conflicts: Palestine or the future-themed Fate of the World: Tipping Point that can help civilians better understand history and policymaking, thereby making better choices when voting or arguing politics.

By: Brant

14 January 2012

Navy Christens Littoral Combat Ship Coronado

Today, navy Christens LCS Coronado

The Navy will christen the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Coronado, Saturday, Jan. 14, during a 10 a.m. CST ceremony in Mobile, Ala.

The Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition, Sean Stackley, will deliver the principal address at the ceremony. Susan Keith will serve as the ship’s sponsor. Additionally, Keith helped launch the Coronado Historical Association’s “Home of a Naval Aviator” sign project and grew up with her father and stepfather serving in the Navy. Vice Adm. Stanhope C. Ring, her father, was a pilot who commanded an aircraft carrier air group during the Battle of Midway during World War II. Her stepfather, Rear Adm. Aaron Putnam “Put” Storrs III, belonged to the Navy’s first aerial acrobatic team, which was the forerunner of the Blue Angels. The ceremony will be highlighted by Keith breaking a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship, which is a time-honored maritime tradition.

The ship’s name recognizes the city of Coronado, Calif., and honors the city’s deep ties to the U.S. Navy. Coronado has been home to Naval Air Station North Island and Naval Amphibious Base, since 1917. Two previous ships have been named after this city: USS Coronado, a Tacoma-class patrol frigate, earned four battle stars for supporting landings in New Guinea and Leyte during World War II and the USS Coronado, an Austin-class amphibious transport dock later re-designated as an auxiliary command ship, served as flagship for the Third Fleet and was decommissioned in 2006.

Designated LCS 4, Coronado is an innovative surface combatant designed to operate in littoral seas and shallow water to counter mines, submarines and fast surface craft threats in coastal regions. The ship is capable of speeds in excess of 40 knots and can operate in water less than 20 feet deep. Coronado will address a critical capabilities gap in the littorals and conduct the Navy’s mission to enhance maritime security by deterring hostility, maintaining a forward presence, projecting power and maintaining sea control.

A fast, agile, and high-technology surface combatant, Coronado will be a platform for the launch and recovery of manned and unmanned vehicles. To meet increased demand for mission-tailored packages, its modular design will allow the ship to be reconfigured for antisubmarine warfare, mine countermeasures, or surface warfare missions on an as-needed basis. The LCS class ships have the ability to swap out mission packages in a matter of days - adapting as the tactical situation demands. The modular approach allows the Navy to incorporate new and improved systems into the fleet as advanced technologies mature, providing flexibility and evolving capability.

Coronado will be manned by two rotational crews, Blue and Gold, similar to the rotational crews assigned to large submarines. These core crews are augmented by one of the three types of mission package crews and an aviation detachment. The commanding officer of the Blue crew will be Cmdr. John Kochendorfer, from Dana Point, Calif. The commanding officer of the Gold crew will be Cmdr. Michael “Shawn” Johnston, from North Carolina. After commissioning, the ship will be homeported in San Diego, Calif.

Constructed by General Dynamics in the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Ala., Coronado is the second of the Independence-variant in the LCS class.

By: Brant

13 January 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: What Are You Playing?

What's the last wargame to hit your table?

What's the last one you actually played 'til someone hit the victory conditions?

What's the last wargame you fired up on your computer?

What's the last computer wargame you actually finished?

What are you dusting off to play this weekend?

By: Brant

How To Start A Tiger Tank

By: Brant

Anniversary: Operation Hooper

Part of the Battle of Cuito Canavale in Angola, Operation Hooper kicked off on this day back in '88.

Like much of the war in Angola in the '80s, it's tough to characterize.

Do you thank the SADF for turning back the tide of communism in southern Africa?
Or do you see it as another example of an oppressive apartheid regime suppressing a black liberation movement?
Given the chaos that ensued immediately after Zimbabwe's "liberation" can you blame the South Africans for their reactions to the happenings in Angola/Namibia? (This is even more understandable the further along you trace Zimbabwe's developments...)

Is it a victory for a Western-style maneuver-oriented military against a largely communist conscription force with Russian-based doctrine?
Or does it show the differences between a force that perceives itself to be fighting for the defense of 'their' homeland/continent against an invading force of outsiders/interlopers?

You thoughts and comments below...

By: Brant

US Army Bringing 2 Brigades Home From Europe

The plan will be to rotate units rather than permanently station them in Europe.

Ground forces will remain important to the U.S. defense strategy, but the employment of the forces will change, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.
In an interview on his way to Fort Bliss, Texas, Panetta said that the Army will withdraw two brigade combat teams from Europe, while retaining a strong presence in the region via rotational units.
The change is part of a new, 10-year defense strategy announced by President Barack Obama last week that emphasizes air-sea doctrine to better allow the United States to confront more than one threat at a time, Panetta said. Still, ground forces will remain important, and soldiers and Marines will continue to deploy to Afghanistan and be on the Korean Peninsula and partnering with nations around the globe.
“We will continue to maintain our presence both in the Middle East and Asia,” the secretary said. “Yes, we’ll have the Navy and the Air Force, but in my experience, in any conflict you need to have the potential use of ground forces.”
Panetta said he is excited about the prospect of using Army units on a rotational basis, just as Special Forces and the Marine Corps do. “Getting the Army to deploy to areas conducting exercises providing, most of all, a partnership with countries in Latin America, Africa, other countries where we can show the flag” is important, he said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno is particularly excited about the ability to develop that rotational capability, Panetta said. “It will keep the ground forces very meaningful in the future,” he said.
As the Army replaces the two brigade combat teams with rotational units, the Europeans actually will see more U.S. forces because the American forces in Europe have more often than not been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, Panetta said.
DOD officials have spoken to European leaders about the withdrawal and they understand why the change will be good for the U.S. military and NATO allies, senior defense officials traveling with the secretary said.

There's only 4 line brigades there now. So yes, that's half the available force, but it's not a lot of troops in raw numbers. One wonders (a) who is coming back, and (b) where are they going to put them - we're running out of space at some of our bases like Ft Bragg and Ft Stewart.

The Army Times has some info on who might be candidates to return.

Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, commanding general for the U.S. Army in Europe, said in December that he expected the Army to remove one brigade — but not two. He had proposed a brigade for removal, but was waiting for a decision on which brigade would be chosen.

“I have made an offer on which brigade that should be to the Department of the Army,” Hertling told Army Times. “I have also made an offer in terms of the timing of it, which could be sooner than they were asked for, 2015.”

The smart thing to do, Hertling told Army Times, would be to begin the drawdown process as the units come home from deployments. The 170th is in the process of redeploying and the 172nd will redeploy in late spring.

Hertling would not say which brigade he proposed removing, but all signs pointed to either the 170th or the 172nd. Both brigades were scheduled to begin conversion to the modular heavy brigade combat team upon redeployment. The DoD announcement make it likely that both the 170th and 172nd would be brought home.

Initially, both conversions were delayed. But in December, the Army announced that the 172nd would go ahead with conversion in 2013. The 170th conversion remains on hold.

By: Brant

Panetta: US Forces Smaller, More Agile

Per this article from Defense.gov Secretary Panetta says the military will be smaller and more deployable.

To accomplish the new mission sets for the 21st century, the United States needs a smaller, quicker, more agile military, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said today.
That is the basis behind the recently released strategy review that will set the stage for the fiscal 2013 Defense Department budget request.
“Our budget is, basically, designed to reinforce the new missions we are talking about and that agile, deployable and ready force that has to move quickly,” Panetta said during an interview on his way to Fort Bliss, Texas.
Force structure will come down in the years to come, the secretary said, but the military will continue to be able to engage in the full range of conflicts even with spending $487 billion less over the next 10 years. The Army will get smaller, but the reduction will be slow and balanced as recommended by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Panetta said.
The way the force will be used will change under the strategy, the secretary said. While there will remain forces in Asia and the Middle East – two areas of particular focus for the United States – other areas will not be uncovered. Rotational forces – the way Army Special Forces currently deploy – will expand to conventional forces. The rotational deployments mean the military “will be in a position to cover not only the area that will be a primary focus … but we will be able to cover the world,” he said.
The new air-sea battle doctrine will allow the military to handle more than one conflict at a time. “The example I’ve used is if we are in a land war in Korea and Iran does something in the Strait of Hormuz – to go after that and to deal with that threat is largely going to be the responsibility of the Air Force and Navy,” Panetta said. “Same if we are in Afghanistan and something breaks out in the Taiwan Straits or the South China Sea, … confronting that would largely be a naval and air capability.”
The secretary is adamant that the budget will not be reduced on the backs of service members. He specified there will be no changes to military retirement for those serving today.
“We are going to design the requirements for any commission that looks at retirement,” he said. “One of the requirements is that those already serving are fully grandfathered.”

Yep, lipstick on a pig...

By: Brant

12 January 2012

What's Next for NATO?

Stephen M. Walt has some ideas on the future of the alliance.

First, declare victory! Europe is experiencing unprecedented sustained peace. If there ever was a moment to take advantage of that climate, it is now. The risks of defense re-nationalization are next to zero and potential conventional threats far over the horizon. Meanwhile, austerity programs are incentivizing Europe to economize military spending via deeper integration -- as Britain and France commenced in 2010. The European security dilemmas that required a heavy American military presence have long been resolved. As but just one recent example, late in 2011, Polish Foreign Minister Radislaw Sikorski stated that: "I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity."

There's an extended checklist of other ideas on the article's home page. Go check it out.

By: Brant

UK In Action: VIGO!

A soldier is pictured with his Military Working Dog 'Vigo', during a training exercise in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. Vigo is a protection dog and regularly patrols with soldiers in Helmand. This image was a runner up in the Army Photographic Competition 2011.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Even Idiots Have Money

And can spend it in ridiculous ways.

Supporters of the Army private accused of providing a trove of U.S. government secrets to WikiLeaks have erected a billboard along New York Avenue NE in advance of an investigating officer’s recommendation on whether Manning should face a court-martial. “Free Bradley Manning,” reads the billboard, with a tag­line: “Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime.”

“The military would like to characterize Manning as someone who broke military regulations and should be jailed for the rest of his life for doing so,” said Jeff Paterson of the Bradley Manning Support Network, which paid for the billboard. “We obviously have a different opinion.”

By: Brant

11 January 2012

GameTalk - White Cell

So what sort of injects should the White Cell give you during a wargame? Do they provide distractors to see how well you focus? Additional resource challenges to force you to prioritize? Or are they simply throwing extra work at the teams that are moving faster to keep everyone on pace?

Your thoughts below!

By: Brant

USAction! USMC Overflight

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. William Cox provides security as an MV-22 Osprey aircraft lands in Zaranj in Afghanistan's Nimroz province, Dec. 30, 2011. Cox is an armorer assigned to the Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bryan Nygaard

By: Brant

10 January 2012

Defense Cuts in Historical Perspective

What does post-war shrinkage look like? And will post-GWOT shrinkage be any worse than historical post-war shrinkages? The CFR notes...

Last summer, defense spending was slashed by $487 billion over 10 years. Then, right before Thanksgiving, a special committee of Congress failed to agree on $1.2 trillion in alternative cuts, which opened the way to another $500 billion or so in defense cuts. Hundreds of billions more in so-called emergency funding will be gone as we wind down operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In all, the defense budget could shrink by 31% over the next decade, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. That compares with cuts of 53% after the Korean War, 26% after the Vietnam War and 34% after the Cold War.

That doesn't sound too far off-line for recent history, but let's go back further...

After the American Revolution, the military plummeted from 35,000 men in 1778 to 10,000 by 1800. As a result, the nascent republic had to scramble to put down the Whiskey Rebellion, fight a quasi-war with France, repress the Barbary pirates and, most spectacularly, defend the new national capital from British attack in the War of 1812. The burning of the White House stands as melancholy testimony to our military unpreparedness.

Yet we made the same mistake after the Civil War. The armed forces fell from more than 1 million men in 1865 to merely 50,000 in 1870. Luckily we did not face a foreign attack in the postwar decades. But we did face the challenge of Reconstruction. Its failure was made inevitable by Washington's inability (or unwillingness) to station enough federal troops in the South to repress the Ku Klux Klan. By 1876, all federal troops were withdrawn and the era of Jim Crow had begun.

In fact, the raw numbers, as summarized by The Economist, look like this:

Revolutionary war: 71%
Civil war: 95%
First world war: 91%
Second world war: 88%
Korean war: 31%
Vietnam war: 43%
Cold war: 38%

So let's face it, comparatively, 31% might not be the worst thing to happen to US defense...

What do you guys think? Is 31% too much? Too little? How does 31% track with strategic requirements?

By: Brant

An American "Tourist" in Somalia

A former US serviceman was caught allegedly trying to join a terrorist group in Somalia

A former U.S. Army soldier was charged Monday with attempting to travel to Somalia to join the terrorist group Al-Shabaab, according to the Justice Department.
Craig Benedict Baxam, 24, was arrested Friday at Baltimore-Washington International Airport as he returned from a failed effort to get to Somalia, authorities said.
The Maryland resident had an initial court appearance Monday afternoon on the charge of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group.
The only time Baxam spoke during the hearing was to respond "Yes" when the judge asked if he understood the charge against him and the possible penalty.

By: Brant

Sound Off! Tactical, Operational, or Strategic

Where is the war won?

... At the tactical level, the land of the NCO, the last 100 yards, where bullets fly and bodies drop?

... At the operational level, where resources are synchronized, multipliers are applied, and the XO loves it when a plan comes together?

... At the strategic level, where the politicians call the shots and the only rifles in use are on parade, where vehicles are bought by the hundreds, and nations are rallied to the cause?

Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below!

By: Brant

09 January 2012

Guest Column: Games and Simulations, with Dr James Sterrett

Following up on last week's GameTalk - "Games or Simulations" - we have a guest article written by Dr James Sterrett, an instructor at the US Army's Command and General Staff College. Please note that these are his ideas and are not reflective of official US Army policy, doctrine, canon, religion, or other official imprimatur.

Brant and I have cheerfully sparred over the distinction between games and simulations over the years.  What follows is my take, focused on training & education, in two different variants.  The first is useful as a snappy comment, while the second works better analytically.  In the end, both point to the objective of an activity as more important that the software (or paper rule set) being used, and neither variant is perfect.

(read the rest after the jump)

Off-Topic: WotC Announces New Edition of D&D Coming

Look, we know there's a lot of other types of gaming out there, and RPGs aren't just things that insurgents shoot at people. We're not going to become a fantasy gaming blog, but we did want to take a minute and point people towards some good articles about the upcoming edition "revision" of the venerable Dungeons & Dragons franchise.

If you want to be a part of "Charting the Course for D&D", visit the Official Home Page at WotC.

The New York Times considered the news fit to print.
So did Forbes.

Critical hits has not one, but two good articles about it.

There's a nice long - and rambling, natch - thread over at ENWorld, the pseudo-sorta-unofficial RPG HQ online.

The Escapist magazine is always good source of gaming info, and I'm not just saying that because they know how to recognize true genius.

But hey, if CNN.com thinks it's important, who are we to argue?

By: Brant

UK In Action: Warthog Trials

Seen here on trial at ATDU Bovington, the Warthog is an all terrain protected mobility vehicle that gives protection against current and emerging mine strike threats. Warthog is a modified and better protected version of the Singapore Army Bronco. It will be equipped with an upgraded cooling and filtration system, Bowman BCIP 5 communications fit, mine blast protection and Electronic Counter Measures (ECM). Warthog will provide Protected Mobility (PM) for the infantry with its protection, firepower and mobility. It will also operate in a Mounted Close Combat (MCC) role and provide support to Dismounted Close Combat (DCC). The vehicle is able to operate in a range of environments including the Green Zone and desert areas of Afghanistan. Warthog with its associated communications, ECM suite, mine blast protection, load carriage, crew served weapon system and increased tactical mobility & range will be a considerable enhancement to elements of ground manoeuvre capability in Afghanistan. All Warthogs are equipped with a crew served weapon system. This provides them with a protected weapon station from which the commander will be able to quickly deliver fire on either the 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) or 0.5 Calibre Heavy Machine Gun (HMG). The mount allows accurate, suppressive fire out to 1000m allowing for effective self defence or the provision of fire support when required.MobilityWarthog has been designed to be easily moved by air, sea, rail, road and landing craft. When operating it has the ability to cover some of the most demanding types of ground.Crew Front 3 and rear 8Overall length 8.9mHeight Front-2.95m Rear 2.32mMax Speed 60kph

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Monday Video: Not Ready To Die... Or Are You?

Starting this week with a BANG

By: Brant

08 January 2012

Hastings is Still a Schmuck

But the guy can write... here's a set of pretty good articles he wrote before he went on the anti-military warpath.

By: Brant

07 January 2012

Still Deploying...

Yes, they're bringing troops home. And yes, there are others still deploying.

Heading off to war seems so 2002, not 2012.

And yet, here we are.

"It's like all of America forgot that we're still going out there. My husband's going to Afghanistan. I have to tell people it's a whole different war," said Chaniqua Moore, 23, a Washington mother of two who was one of 80 families saying goodbye to their soldiers Thursday morning at the D.C. Armory.

Amira Ayala, 20, will spend the next year alone in her new Front Royal, Va., home with her 2-month-old daughter while her husband is deployed. "I keep thinking that maybe they'll just say it's canceled, and he'll come back," she said.

Ayala dated a Marine once and dealt with his deployment. But she married a National Guard soldier and hoped it would be different.

But it isn't, because America has relied on its National Guard volunteers in unprecedented numbers for its two wars. Hundreds of thousands of guardsmen have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during the past decade.

By: Brant

US Navy to Iran: Good Thing We're in the Area, eh?

Sailors from the US Navy's carrier battle group near the Strait of Hormuz rescued a boatload of Iranians from Somali pirates.

Just days after Iranian and American military officials traded warnings over a U.S. Navy vessel's departure from the Persian Gulf, the United States Navy has rescued 13 Iranian fishermen and their fishing dhow from Somali pirates in the north Arabian sea, the Pentagon said Friday. And in a side irony that punctuates the rare instance of Iranian-American co-operation, the rescue operation was carried out by a ship belonging to the very U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group that Iranian army officials had earlier boasted of evicting from Gulf waters.
"A boarding team from the guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd--part of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group--detained 15 suspected pirates aboard the fishing dhow, the Al Molai, according to a statement today from the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs Office," Bloomberg News' Tony Capaccio reported Friday. "The pirates didn't resist and surrendered quickly in the rescue" operation, which occurred on Thursday.
The Iranian fishermen "were held hostage, with limited rations, and we believe were forced against their will to assist the pirates with other piracy operations," Josh Schminky, a Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent aboard the Kidd, explained in the Navy statement, according to the Bloomberg report.

By: Brant

Cutting a Deal With the Taliban?

Maybe. And Qatar might be in the middle.

The family of a U.S. soldier held captive by the Taliban for over two years said on Wednesday they were optimistic about the possibility of talks between the Afghan insurgent group and countries including the United States.
They expressed hope that Bowe Bergdahl would be freed "as soon as possible" in a statement issued a day after the Taliban said they had reached a preliminary agreement to set up a political office in the Gulf Arab country of Qatar.
"We are optimistic about the possibility of diplomatic discussions between Taliban officials and government officials from other nations, including the United States," the family said in a statement released through the Idaho National Guard.
"Our only son, Bowe Bergdahl, has been held captive for two and a half years. We hope he will be released as soon as possible. We know that serious discussions among diplomats are the most likely way to make this happen, and for Bowe to be returned safely to us, his family," it added.
Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, was a member of the 1st Battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Afghanistan when he went missing in June 2009. Three days later, the U.S. military declared him captured by the Taliban.

By: Brant

Anniversary: Battle of Ashdown

Today marks the anniversary of the Battle of Ashdown in 871.

View Larger Map

A brief synopsis of the Battle of Ashdown from about.com

Riding to the top of Blowingstone Hill (Kingstone Lisle), Alfred made use of an ancient perforated sarsen stone. Known as the "Blowing Stone," it was capable of producing a loud, booming sound when blown into correctly. With the signal sent out across the downs, he rode to a hill-fort near Ashdown House to gather his men, while Ethelred's men rallied at nearby Hardwell Camp. Uniting their forces, Ethelred and Alfred learned that the Danes had encamped at nearby Uffington Castle. On the morning of January 8, 871, both forces marched out and formed for battle on the plain of Ashdown.

Though both armies were in place, neither appeared eager to open the battle. It was during this lull that Ethelred, against Alfred's wishes, departed the field to attend church services at nearby Aston. Unwilling to return until the service was finished, he left Alfred in command. Assessing the situation, Alfred realized that the Danes had occupied a superior position on higher ground. Seeing that they would have to attack first or be defeated, Alfred ordered the Saxons forward. Charging, the Saxon shield wall collided with the Danes and battle commenced.

Clashing near a lone, gnarled thorn tree, the two sides inflicted heavy casualties in the melee that ensued. Among those struck down was Bagsecg as well as five of his earls. With their losses mounting and one of their kings dead, the Danes fled the field and returned to Reading.

By: Brant

06 January 2012

Pentagon Announces New Strategy, Follow-Up I

Worried about the intel budget? Don't be.

"We will protect, and in some cases increase our investments in special operations forces, in new technologies like (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), and unmanned systems, in space and particularly in cyberspace capabilities, and also capacity to quickly mobilize," Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon.

And the Congressional reactions are starting to pour in. You won't find any surprises.

“The current and emerging global threats to our national security are more complex than at any time that I can recall,” said Republican Sen. John McCain, ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Therefore, I will closely, carefully and thoroughly review the defense strategy that the president announced today and examine whether it meets our national security objectives.”

His counterpart in the House, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, did not hesitate to criticize the new strategy.

While the Pentagon press conference was still underway, McKeon tweeted, “New defense strategy is a lead from behind for a left-behind America.”

In a statement issued soon afterward, he said, “The President has packaged our retreat from the world in the guise of a new strategy to mask his divestment of our military and national defense.”

By: Brant

Pentagon Announces New Military Strategy

So 2MRC is dead. The question now is, "what's next"? There was an attempt at answering that yesterday, as President Obama and Secretary Panetta announced a new "strategy" yesterday that's focused on Asia and stresses 'cheap' stuff like drones and foreign engagement.

quotes, and more articles, after the jump...

Random Friday Wargaming: Warsaw Pact

From an old issue of Jadgpanther, Warsaw Pact includes scenarios from the 60s to the 80s, across all of Europe.

There's not just one, but two CSW forums here...

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

By: Brant

New Iranian Maneuvers... More Saber-Rattling?

February will bring a new round of maneuvers in the Hormuz Strait.

Iran announced plans on Friday to hold new naval exercises in the Strait of Hormuz next month, the latest in a series of forceful gestures in the world's most important oil shipping lane at a time when new sanctions threaten Tehran's exports.
Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, naval commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, said the exercises in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz in February would be different from previous exercises, but gave no further details, according to remarks reported by the semi-official Fars news agency.
"Today the Islamic Republic of Iran has full domination over the region and controls all movements within it," he said.
Iran held a 10-day drill which ended on Monday in the strait, which leads out of the Gulf and provides the main export route for the Middle East's oil.

By: Brant

05 January 2012

UK In Action: ANA RPG

A soldier with the Afghan National Army is pictured holding a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launcher during a joint operation with 3 Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan. Thsi image was a runner up in the portfolio category of the Army Photographic Competition 2011.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Michael Hastings is NOT Looking Good After This

A lot of military folks hated Hastings after his infamous hit piece on McChrystal. What comes out in the review of his new book The Operators over at the Wall Street Journal isn't going to make anyone like him any more.

In the Rolling Stone article, Mr. Hastings sketched a trip to Paris in April 2010, when the McChrystal team allegedly made the inflammatory comments, without attributing most quotes to specific individuals. In "The Operators," he names names. We now discover that the large majority of the incendiary statements came from a 33-year-old lieutenant commander. In "The Runaway General," Mr. Hastings attributed the lieutenant commander's assertions at various times to a "team member," an "aide" and an "adviser," leading readers to conclude that the statements emanated from a broad range of Gen. McChrystal's staff members. Moreover, an investigation by the Defense Department's Inspector General found insufficient evidence to attribute some of the offending quotes to team members and determined that other quotes had been taken out of context.

According to members of Gen. McChrystal's team, Mr. Hastings represented himself as a supporter of the Afghan war and the U.S. military upon meeting the team in Paris. When "The Runaway General" was published, he dismissed accusations that he was antiwar, explaining that his views of the war "are critical but that shouldn't be mistaken for hostile." In "The Operators," he states unabashedly: "I hated the war."

Most telling perhaps, is the final paragraph of the review. If Hastings hated the war, he sure found an excellent way to torpedo it.

Like David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan, Mr. Hastings ignores the harm that his reporting caused to America's overseas interests. The firing of Gen. McChrystal removed the one American who enjoyed the confidence of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and of Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of staff of Pakistan's army. It also widened the gulf between Mr. Karzai and Washington. Mr. Karzai became convinced that the White House had removed Gen. McChrystal as another slap in his face for disregarding American lectures. To the Afghan president, it was inconceivable that the U.S. government would fire its top military officer because of unattributed quotes in a pop-culture magazine.

No doubt the Rolling Stoners will claim that they're more than a "pop culture" magazine. But if they are, then it's only to become a very strident and partisan voice on one side of the political spectrum, and not in a good way. Rolling Stone used to have some excellent reporting - even about national security topics - but since 9/11 has made a hard left turn into the culture wars and alienated a lot of readers who preferred their serious writing about entertainment topics and read other sources for serious writing about serious topics.

By: Brant

Navy Names First Three Mobile Landing Platform Ships

The DoD has announced that the Navy has named the first three mobile landing platform ships.

The Department of the Navy’s three Mobile Landing Platform ships will be named the USNS Montford Point, the USNS John Glenn and the USNS Lewis B. Puller, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today.

“I chose to name the department’s new MLPs Montford Point, John Glenn and Lewis B. Puller as a way to recognize these American pioneers and heroes both collectively and individually,” said Mabus. “The courage shown by these Marines helped forge the Corps into the most formidable expeditionary force in the world.”

The USNS Montford Point honors the approximately 20,000 African American Marine Corps recruits who trained at the North Carolina facility from 1942-1949. Their exceptional service prompted President Truman to sign an executive order in 1948 ending segregation in the U.S. military services. These 20,000 Marines were recently recognized with our nation’s highest civilian honor for distinguished achievement, the Congressional Gold Medal.

The USNS Montford Point will be the first-of-class ship. It is expected to deliver in fiscal 2013 and be operational in fiscal 2015.

The second MLP, the USNS John Glenn, honors Col. John Glenn, a decorated Marine Corps pilot, distinguished astronaut, Congressional Space Medal of Honor recipient and U.S. Senator. During his time with the Marine Corps, Glenn flew 59 combat missions during World War II and a combined 90 missions over the course of two tours in the Korean War.

The final auxiliary support ship, the USNS Lewis B. Puller, is named in honor of Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller, the most decorated Marine in history and the only one to be awarded five Navy Crosses.

The MLP is a flexible platform that will provide capability for large-scale logistics movements such as the transfer of vehicles and equipment from sea to shore. It will significantly reduce dependency on foreign ports and provide support in the absence of any port, making it especially useful during disaster response and for supporting Marines once they are ashore.

The MLP in its basic form possesses a core capability set that supports a vehicle staging area, sideport ramp, large mooring fenders and up to three landing craft air cushioned vessel (LCAC) lanes.

The three ships will be constructed by General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) in San Diego, Calif.

By: Brant

Good Questions from the Fairer Sex

An anonymous female junior officer penned a column for Rick's blog, The Best Defense, and asks some pointed questions...

Because being a maneuver officer is a de facto requirement of strategic leadership, graduating three months of Ranger school increases one's chances of becoming a strategic leader far more than does five years of doctoral education.

A diversity of backgrounds in senior leadership would combat group-think and increase options for new leaders. It's too bad there's not a group of officers who've had the time to devote to strategic studies because they've been barred from maneuver branches.

But wait -- there is! Female officers tend to have spent disproportionate time on strategic issues, because they are excluded from most tactical jobs. In a post littered with generalizations, here's the biggest: female officers tend to be more interested in enhancing their strategic skills, because they know that their chances of making brigade command are slim, division command microscopic, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff laughable. So why not do a stint as a speechwriter, get a PhD, or spend time in unconventional but challenging jobs?

What sayeth y'all? Should females be considered for senior leadership posts? The broader question really is, should non-maneuver/combat officers be consider for senior leadership posts? And if would such a process hamstring male officers in, say, the Ordnance corps, who have to compete against male maneuver guys as well as female support folks?

By: Brant

04 January 2012

The End of the 2MRC Strategy?

It's been the cornerstone of US strategic thought since the end of the Cold War, but now the two major regional conflict strategy may be ending?

The United States should give up the capability to fight two major ground wars simultaneously, according to a Pentagon review that will be presented this week, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the strategic review presents priorities to guide the military into the future, but "they are proposals, not all of them set in stone."

The review sets forth potentially big changes in U.S. strategy, including, the official said, removing up to 4,000 troops from Europe and downsizing the overall ground forces even further. The 2012 budget request already called for cuts of 27,000 soldiers and 20,000 Marines in the next four years, and those numbers could increase.

The military would not maintain its ability to wage two large conflicts at the same time, such as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan, the official said.

So what do we replace it with? What makes sense as a way to shape US strategic thought for long-term defense planning? Based on what's on the horizon, how do you prepare for (and hopefully deter) unknown conflicts, without unwittingly triggering a different one through fear (on their part) or weakness (on ours)?

And how would our allies respond to fundamental shifts in our strategy? Not that they toe a party line with our existing plans or anything, but if we tell Korea "Tough. You're on your own." what does that do to our alliance with them? Or the Saudis, or the Europeans, or anyone else?

Sound off below!

By: Brant