Quotulatiousness

January 30, 2014

Duffelblog – Marine converts demand religious symbols be allowed in uniform

Filed under: Humour, Military, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:14

You can always trust Duffelblog to give you the latest US military news:

Marines Convert To Norse Paganism, Demand Horns And Wings On Helmets

CAMP LEJEUNE, NC — An entire rifle squad which has converted to Asatru, or Northern European Heathenry, has expressed disappointment in new Pentagon dress code requirements claiming religious exemptions to military uniform standards are not inclusive enough.

The Asatru devotees complain they are not allowed to wear their religious clothing in uniform unlike Sikh, Muslim, and Jewish members. Focused on historical Norse paganism, the Marines want to affix horns and wings on their helmets in order to accommodate individual expression of their beliefs.

“It’s the only way Valkyrie can identify the Kindred if we fall righteously in battle,” said Sgt. Bram Gunbjorn, who serves as both squad leader and gothi (priest) of his squad of housescarls, otherwise known as 3rd Squad, Second Platoon, Charlie Company.

The squad believes upon their worthy death in combat, the Valkyrie will lead them to Valhalla, the mythological hall presided over by Odin, the Allfather.

“I think these clowns have been reading too many comic books,” said battalion Sgt. Maj. Mike Brooks. “There’s no actual historical evidence Vikings or any Northern European groups wore that garbage into battle.”

Soon after the sergeant major made this statement, the horrified Marines submitted a complaint to their Equal Opportunity Officer on the grounds of religious intolerance.

January 15, 2014

QotD: Early 20th century American imperialism

Filed under: Americas, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:02

I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.

Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, USMC (1881–1940), War is a racket, 1935.

October 8, 2013

The US Navy has its own army…

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:19

… and it’s not the US Marine Corps:

The marines are also concerned with their relationship with the U.S. Navy, which has now formed another ground combat force. To understand how this came about, you have to understand the relationship between the navy and the marines. The marines are not part of the navy, as they are often described. Both the navy and marines are part of the Department of the Navy. The Department of the Army and Department of the Air Force each have only one component while the Navy Department has two (the fleet and the marines) who are separate services that are closely intertwined. For example, the navy provides many support functions for the marines which, in the army and air force, are provided by each service. Thus navy personnel serve in marine units (wearing marine combat uniforms) as medics and other support specialists. In the army the medics are soldiers and the air force support personnel are all airmen. The use of the navy for support functions means a much higher proportion of marines are combat troops than in the navy, army or air force. This gives the marines a different attitude and outlook.

[...]

[After WW2,] the Marine Corps was no longer just a minor part of the navy, but on its way to being a fourth service. Over the next half century it basically achieved that goal. But in doing that, the navy lost control of its ground troops. Navy amphibious ships still went to sea with battalions of marines on board. But because the marines are mainly an infantry force, and the war on terror is basically an infantry scale battle, the marines spent a lot more time on land working alongside the U.S. Army.

In response to all this U.S. Navy began building a new ground combat force in 2006, staffed by 40,000 sailors. This is NECC (Navy Expeditionary Combat Command), which is capable of operating along the coast and up rivers, as well as further inland. NECC units have served in Iraq, and are ready to deploy anywhere else they are needed. The 1,200 sailors in the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams are particularly sought after, because of increased use of roadside bombs and booby traps by the enemy. NECC organized three Riverine Squadrons which served in Iraq. NECC basically consists of most of the combat support units the navy has traditionally put ashore, plus some coastal and river patrol units that have usually only been organized in wartime.

This new navy organization, and the strategy that goes with it came as a surprise to many people, especially many of those in Congress who were asked to pay for it. It came as a surprise to many NECC sailors as well. The navy even called on the marines to provide infantry instructors for the few thousand sailors assigned to riverine (armed patrol boat) units. The navy already had infantry training courses for Seabees (naval construction personnel) and members of EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams. Now all that was combined in the Expeditionary Combat Skills (ECS) course which is conducted at a base in Mississippi.

April 30, 2013

QotD: Shades of Yamamoto

Filed under: Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

While the results of the wargames are all well and good, El Reg hopes this won’t induce a sense of complacency. Wargames are just that — games — and reality is going to be much more unpleasant. As the 19th century Prussian military strategist Helmuth von Moltke the Elder noted, “No human acumen is able to see beyond the first battle.”

Barely a decade ago we saw this demonstrated with the Millennial Challenge in 2002 — a simulated land, sea, air and electronic online wargame against a fictional Middle Eastern country (somewhat like Iraq). It was intended to be the first test of the switched-on, network-centric warfare beloved by former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and in practice it failed miserably.

The Red team, controlled by Marine Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, refused to play ball — using motorcycle couriers and pre-arranged signals at evening prayers to trigger attacks on the Blue team forces rather than easily-tapped radio or wired signals. By the second day, Van Riper had sunk one aircraft carrier, ten cruisers, and five of six amphibious ships of the attacking force, and the $250m exercise was shut down and reset.

Iain Thomson, “NATO proclaimed winner of Locked Shield online wargame”, The Register, 2013-04-29

March 30, 2013

The impact of a bayonet charge

Filed under: Britain, Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:22

Strategy Page on one of the most antique weapons still regularly issued to infantry troops:

Although the U.S. Army dropped bayonet training three years ago, most ground troops world-wide still get some of it. Some army personnel want to bring it back. The U.S. Marine Corps still trains riflemen on how to use the bayonet, as does Britain. In fact, British troops were the last troops to actually use a bayonet charge in combat. This happened in 2004, when a patrol of 20 British troops in Basra, Iraq were ambushed by about a hundred Iraqi Shia militiamen. Help was still on the way when the commander of the British troops realized they were running out of ammo and the Iraqi gunmen were moving closer. So he ordered his troops to fix bayonets and charge. That thoroughly demoralized the Iraqis who after some close combat with the British (Scots, actually) left 35 of them dead, all ran away. Some of the British troops were wounded, but all survived. This, however, was one of the very few such incidents of bayonet use in the last decade. The problem is that Western troops tend to be well trained marksmen and Iraq or Afghan gunmen have learned not to get too close. So opportunities for launching a bayonet charge are increasingly rare.

While the U.S. Army eliminated bayonet drills from basic training, the U.S. Marine Corps has not. The marines did this not so much for developing weapons skills, but for mentally conditioning marines for combat. The bayonet drills are part of larger program emphasizing one-on-one combat. The army does this, to a lesser extent, and now without bayonet training.

The army attitude towards close combat is a bit different, and always has been. While the bayonet and the bayonet charge have a firm place in military history, the reality is rather different. This has had a heavy influence on the army bayonet training decision. Bayonets are often still carried, but rarely attached to the front of a rifle. Most modern bayonets are simply knives, which are handy for all sorts of things on the battlefield. Sticking them in the enemy is rarely one of them. Army leaders saw training new recruits in the battlefield use of the bayonet as misleading and a waste of time. The marines looked beyond the weapon, to the spirit and enthusiasm with which it, and many other implements of destruction, are used in close combat.

February 21, 2013

Looming cutbacks to US military include general officers scrambling for a soft landing

Filed under: Business, Humour, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:37

It’s a tough world out there. It looks like it’ll be getting tougher for soon-to-be retired US military leaders:

Sources revealed today that a top U.S. Marine General is “extremely hesitant” about plans for his possible retirement, indicating a greater problem with military transition assistance programs.

General John Murphy, the former commander of Fleet Marine Forces-Pacific, is looking toward a future in the private sector, but he says he may have to lower himself to take any position in order to support his family.

“It’s scary out there with the economy the way it is,” said Murphy in a telephone interview with The Duffel Blog. “I’m certainly hoping that I can secure a job as a D.C. lobbyist or a consultant to a defense contractor. But shit, I’m just not sure anymore. I might have to degrade myself and be a military analyst at Fox News just to feed my goddamn kids.”

Murphy’s worries underscore a major problem of assisting military members on their way out of the service. Junior enlisted personnel usually go through a weeklong Transition Assistance Program, or TAP, but the classes for general officers have serious drawbacks.

“The enlisted classes set the guys up for everything. They basically pave the way for them to go college, give them job placement, the whole nine yards,” said Michael Phillips, a counselor with the TAP program. “But for Generals, they need to do a lot of the work on their own. Most of them have to search for at least a few minutes in their rolodex to find a contact at BAE Systems or Lockheed before they have an executive position.”

January 18, 2013

Camouflage patterns and the patterns of inter-service rivalry

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

In The Atlantic, D.B. Grady reminds us that some patterns are more deeply dyed than others:

Military combat uniforms have two purposes: to camouflage soldiers, and to hold together in rugged conditions. It stands to reason that there’s only one “best” pattern, and one best stitching and manufacture. It should follow that when such a uniform is developed, the entire military should transition to it.

MARPAT woodland patternIn 2002, the Marine Corps adopted a digital camouflage pattern called MARPAT. Rigorous field-testing proved that it was more effective than the splotched woodland pattern in use at the time, and the Combat Utility Uniform (of which it was a part) was a striking change for such a conservative institution.

UCP patternNot to be outdone, the Army drew up digital plans of its own, and in 2005 issued a redesigned combat uniform in a “universal camouflage pattern” (UCP). Three years after the Marines made the change, four years after the invasion of Afghanistan, and two years after the invasion of Iraq, you might think the Army would have been loaded with data on how best to camouflage soldiers in known combat zones. You would be wrong.

In fact, not only did the Army dismiss the requirements of the operating environments, but it also literally chose the poorest performing pattern of its field tests. The “universal” in UCP refers to jungle, desert, and urban environments. In designing a uniform for wear in every environment, it designed a uniform that was effective in none.

[. . .]

Such dysfunction is not unique to the Army. MARPAT was a success not only in function, but also in adding distinction to the Marines wearing it. Naturally the Air Force wanted in on that action, and set about to make its own mark on the camouflage world. It’s first choice? A Vietnam-era blue tiger-stripe pattern. (You know, to blend in with the trees on Pandora.)

After an outcry in the ranks, the leadership settled on a color scheme slightly more subdued. The new uniform did, however, have the benefit of being “winter weight” only, which was just perfect for service in Iraq.

December 4, 2012

Is the USMC an unaffordable luxury for the 21st century?

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:52

In Time, Douglas Macgregor does his level best to persuade readers that the US Marine Corps is something the Obama administration could easily cut from the budget:

The Marines as currently organized and equipped are about as relevant as the Army’s horse cavalry in the 1930s and the Marines are not alone. They have company in the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps.

But, first, let’s examine the Marines.

In truth, the Marines have a low-end warfare niche, but a very small one for extremely limited and unusual types of operations.

[. . .]

The capability to come ashore where the enemy is not present, then, move quickly with sustainable combat power great distances over land to operational objectives in the interior, is essential. The Marines cannot do it in any strategic setting where the opponent is capable (neither can the XVIII Airborne Corps!).

The Marines cannot confront or defeat armored forces or heavy weapons in the hands of capable opponents. Nor can the Marines hold any contested battle space for more than a very short amount of time, after which the Marine raid or short stay ashore is completed.

Adding vertical-and/or-short-takeoff-landing (V/STOL) aircraft like the F-35B, to compensate for the lack of staying power and mobility on the ground is not an answer, particularly given the severe limitations of VSTOL aircraft, and the proliferation of tactical and operational air defense technology in places that count.

The real question is how much Marine Corps do Americans need? The answer is not the 200,000 Marines we have today.

November 29, 2012

The F-35 program in the cross-hairs

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:10

I thought it had been a while since the last “bash the F-35″ round of articles came past. Here’s Christopher Drew talking about the parlous state of the F-35 in light of the US government’s crushing budget woes:

The F-35 was conceived as the Pentagon’s silver bullet in the sky — a state-of-the art aircraft that could be adapted to three branches of the military, with advances that would easily overcome the defenses of most foes. The radar-evading jets would not only dodge sophisticated antiaircraft missiles, but they would also give pilots a better picture of enemy threats while enabling allies, who want the planes, too, to fight more closely with American forces.

But the ambitious aircraft instead illustrates how the Pentagon can let huge and complex programs veer out of control and then have a hard time reining them in. The program nearly doubled in cost as Lockheed and the military’s own bureaucracy failed to deliver on the most basic promise of a three-in-one jet that would save taxpayers money and be served up speedily.

[. . .]

“The plane is unaffordable,” said Winslow T. Wheeler, an analyst at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit group in Washington.

Todd Harrison, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a research group in Washington, said Pentagon officials had little choice but to push ahead, especially after already spending $65 billion on the fighter. “It is simultaneously too big to fail and too big to succeed,” he said. “The bottom line here is that they’ve crammed too much into the program. They were asking one fighter to do three different jobs, and they basically ended up with three different fighters.”

November 22, 2012

The rise of the sniper

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:27

Strategy Page looks at the changed — and increased — role of the sniper in modern US military doctrine:

In the last decade, American soldiers and marines have greatly increased their use of snipers and the success of this move spread to other countries. The more aggressive use of snipers in the last decade is one of many changes in ground combat. In that time, because of Iraq and Afghanistan, infantry tactics have changed considerably. This has largely gone unnoticed back home, unless you happen to know an old soldier or marine that remembers the old style of shooting. Put simply, the emphasis is on a lot fewer bullets fired and much more accurate shooting. Elite forces, like the Special Forces and SEALs, have always operated this way. But that’s because they had the skill, and opportunity to train frequently, to make it work. The army and marines have found that their troops can fight the same way with the help of some new weapons, equipment, and tactics, plus lots of combat experience and specialized training. This includes the use of new shooting simulators, which allows troops to fire a lot of virtual bullets in a realistic setting, without all the hassle and expense of going to a firing range.

One thing that helped, and that was developing for two decades, was the greater use of snipers. Currently, about ten percent of American infantry are trained and equipped as snipers. Commanders have found that filling the battlefield with two man (spotter and shooter) sniper teams not only provides more intelligence, but also a lot of precision firepower. Snipers are better at finding the enemy, and killing them with a minimum of noise and fuss. New rifle sights (both day and night types) have made all infantry capable of accurate, single shot, fire. With the emphasis on keeping civilian casualties down, and the tendency of the enemy to use civilians as human shields, lots of snipers, or infantrymen who can take an accurate shot at typical battle ranges (under 100 meters), are the best way to win without killing a lot of civilians.

June 29, 2012

US Army reluctantly admits USMC did better

Filed under: Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:06

In developing camouflage, that is:

The U.S. Army has decided to scrap its digital pattern camouflage combat uniforms for the more effective, but more expensive, MultiCam. In the last decade, both the army and marines adopted new, digital, camouflage pattern field uniforms. But in Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers noted that the marine digital uniforms (called MARPAT, for Marine Pattern) were superior to the army UCP (Universal Camouflage Pattern). There’s been growing dissatisfaction with UCP, and it has become a major issue because all the infantry have access to the Internet, where the constant clamor for something better than UCP forced the army to do something. This is ironic because UCP is a variant of MARPAT, but a poor one, at least according to soldiers who have encountered marines wearing MARPAT. Even more ironic is that MARPAT is based on research originally done by the army. Thus some of the resistance to copying MARPAT is admitting the marines took the same research on digital camouflage, and produced a superior pattern for combat uniforms.

A digital camouflage pattern uses “pixels” (little square or round spots of color, like you will find on your computer monitor if you look very closely), instead of just splotches of different colors. Naturally, this was called “digital camouflage.” This pattern proved considerably more effective at hiding troops than older methods. For example, in tests, it was found that soldiers wearing digital pattern uniforms were 50 percent more likely to escape detection by other troops, than if they were wearing standard green uniforms. What made the digital pattern work was the way the human brain processed information. The small “pixels” of color on the cloth makes the human brain see vegetation and terrain, not people. One could provide a more technical explanation, but the “brain processing” one pretty much says it all.

May 21, 2012

The US Navy’s “brown water” sailors get re-assigned

Filed under: Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:57

The US Navy had a problem in Iraq, which they addressed by setting up some squadrons of “brown water” riverine craft. Now that they’re no longer required in Iraq’s rivers and coastal areas, the question of what to do with these units needed to be answered:

The U.S. Navy has decided what to do with its “brown water navy,” including three Riverine Squadrons, now that they have no overseas assignment. The coastal and river force sailors are going to be divided between bases on the U.S. east and west coasts. There they assist with coastal and river patrol duties. The riverine force contains 2,500 active duty and 2,000 reserve sailors. There will also be opportunities for training with riverine forces of other countries, particularly in the Americas.

Organized for service in Iraq, the three riverine squadrons were rotated in and out of Iraq from 2007 to 2011. Before first arriving in Iraq the riverine sailors received lots of infantry and amphibious training, much of it provided by U.S. Marine Corps instructors. Until 2007, the army and marines had been providing most of the riverine units in Iraq. There are some sailors there as well, but not as organized riverine units. In 2005 the navy established Riverine Group One, which eventually had three squadrons (each with 230 sailors and twelve 12.5 meter/39 foot boats). With headquarters and support troops, the group had 900 personnel and 36 armed boats. Each boat has a crew of sixteen and is armed with machine-guns and automatic grenade launchers.

The navy riverine forces eliminated terrorist movements along, and across, the main rivers in Iraq. This was similar to the successful riverine campaign the navy waged in Vietnam four decades ago, using 16 meter (50 foot) “Swift” boats.

May 13, 2012

The military trade-off between protection and mobility

Filed under: Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:55

Strategy Page on what’s weighing down American infantrymen now:

There is a rebellion brewing in the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. It’s all about the protective vest. This lifesaving bit of equipment has saved thousands of lives in the last two decades, but has, because of political grandstanding and media distortions, become too heavy and restrictive. The troops want lighter body armor, even if it does increase vulnerability to bullets. Marine and army experts point out that the drive (created mainly by politicians and the media) for “better” body armor resulted in heavier and more restrictive (to battlefield mobility) models. This has more than doubled the minimum weight you could carry into combat.

Until the 1980s, you could strip down (for actual fighting) to your helmet, weapon (assault rifle and knife), ammo (hanging from webbing on your chest, along with grenades), canteen and first aid kit on your belt, and your combat uniform. Total load was 13-14 kg (about 30 pounds). You could move freely and quickly like this, and you quickly found that speed and agility was a lifesaver in combat. But now the minimum load carried is twice as much (27 kg) and, worse yet, more restrictive.

While troops complained about the new protective vests, they valued it in combat. The current generation of vests will stop rifle bullets, a first in the history of warfare. And this was after nearly a century of trying to develop protective vests that were worth the hassle of wearing. It wasn’t until the 1980s that it was possible to make truly bullet proof vests using metallic inserts. But the inserts were heavy and so were the vests (about 11.3 kg/25 pounds). Great for SWAT teams, but not much use for the infantry. But in the 1990s, additional research produced lighter bullet proof ceramic materials. By 1999, the U.S. Army began distributing a 7.3 kg (16 pound) “Interceptor” vest that provided fragment and bullet protection. This, plus the 1.5 kg (3.3 pound) Kevlar helmet (available since the 1980s), gave the infantry the best combination of protection and mobility. And just in time.

March 22, 2012

US Marine Corps facing 9% cut in troop strength and aviation

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:18

Strategy Page has the details:

Because of budget cuts, the U.S. Marine Corps is losing four (of 27) infantry battalions and twelve (of 70) aircraft squadrons over the next five years. About half the marine aviation squadrons operate transport helicopters. Most of the fixed wing squadrons are bombers and fighters.

These cuts will result in jobs for 20,000 marines being eliminated, shrinking the marines to 182,000 personnel. Most of the units lost are from marine bases on the east coast. The Pacific, and China, is seen as the focus of Marine Corps attention in the future.

In effect the marines will lose nine percent of their personnel strength by the end of the decade. The marines want to do that without losing their most experienced and effective people. The idea is to keep officers and NCOs best able to expand the corps in the event of a national emergency, while at the same time maintaining, for as long as possible, a force that has lots of combat experience.

February 2, 2012

Where are the carriers today?

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:47

Just in case you were wondering where the US Navy has its major surface fleet components distributed, here’s a non-classified snapshot, courtesy of Stratfor:

The Naval Update Map shows an approximation of the current locations of U.S. Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs) and Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs), based on available open-source information. No classified or operationally sensitive information is included in this weekly update. CSGs and ARGs are the keys to U.S. dominance of the world’s oceans. A CSG is centered on an aircraft carrier, which projects U.S. naval and air power and supports a carrier air wing (CVW). The CSG includes significant offensive strike capability. An ARG is centered on three amphibious warfare ships, with a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked. An MEU is built around a heavily reinforced and mobile battalion of Marines.

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