31 December 2011

Kim Jong Un Collecting More Titles

I mean really, what 28-year-old baby-faced brat doesn't want another title in running the country his father left him.

North Korea said Saturday that Kim Jong Un has been officially named supreme commander of the military, further strengthening his authority after the death of his father.
Officials and state media have bestowed on Kim Jong Un, who is in his late 20s, a string of titles as North Korea's elite rally around him after Kim Jong Il's death in mid-December after 17 years in power.
But the title Supreme Commander — and its formal proclamation by the powerful Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party — is a clear sign that Kim Jong Un is fast consolidating power over North Korea. It's also the latest step in a burgeoning personality cult around him.

Now, this bit from the article is funny...

"This is a historic event reflecting the unanimous will of the service persons and the people to defend the dignity of the country," the official Korean Central News Agency said.

Defend the dignity of the country?! Really? Dignity? Hell, I could defend the "dignity" of North Korea with a Nerf gun and flak jacket made of spaghetti.

By: Brant

A New Drug Problem

Synthetic marijuana usage is growing in US forces.

U.S. troops are increasingly using an easy-to-get herbal mix called "Spice," which mimics a marijuana high, is hard to detect and can bring on hallucinations that last for days.
The abuse of the substance has so alarmed military officials that they've launched an aggressive testing program that this year has led to the investigation of more than 1,100 suspected users.
So-called "synthetic" pot is readily available on the Internet and has become popular nationwide in recent years, but its use among troops and sailors has raised concerns among the Pentagon brass.
"You can just imagine the work that we do in a military environment," said Mark Ridley, deputy director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, adding, "you need to be in your right mind when you do a job. That's why the Navy has always taken a zero tolerance policy toward drugs."
Two years ago, only 29 Marines and sailors were investigated for Spice. This year, the number topped 700, the investigative service said. Those found guilty of using Spice are kicked out, although the Navy does not track the overall number of dismissals.
The Air Force has punished 497 airmen so far this year, compared to last year's 380, according to figures provided by the Pentagon. The Army does not track Spice investigations but says it has medically treated 119 soldiers for the synthetic drug in total.
Military officials emphasize those caught represent a tiny fraction of all service members and note none was in a leadership position or believed high while on duty.
Spice is made up of exotic plants from Asia like Blue Lotus and Bay Bean. Their leaves are coated with chemicals that mimic the effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, but are five to 200 times more potent.

Great - 'cuz there's nothing better than people with heavy weaponry who are hallucinating in a war zone.

By: Brant

Boeing Keeps Missile Defense Work

Hey, for $3.48 billion, you'd want the contract, too.

Boeing Co beat out Lockheed Martin to retain its position as the prime contractor for the U.S. long-range missile shield, the Pentagon said on Friday.
The U.S. Defense Department said it was awarding Boeing a $3.48 billion, seven-year contract to develop, test, engineer and manufacture missile defense systems.
A team led by Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Co had vied with Boeing to expand and maintain the Ground-based Midcourse Defense, or GMD, hub of layered antimissile protection.
Boeing partnered with Northrop Grumman Corp to retain the work.

By: Brant

30 December 2011

The Norks Are Ever Defiant

The change in power equals no change in policies.

North Korea sounded a bellicose note in its first communication with the outside world since the death of leader Kim Jong-il, saying its confrontational stance against South Korea would not change and labeling its opponents "foolish."
Since Kim Jong-il died on December 17, the outside world has been watching to see whether his son Kim Jong-un, aged in his 20s, would stick to its hardline "military first" policies that have seen the isolated nation move closer to nuclear weapons capacity.
"On this occasion, we solemnly declare with confidence that foolish politicians around the world, including the puppet forces in South Korea, should not expect any changes from us," a broadcaster on state television said on Friday.
She was reading a statement from the National Defense Commission, the top body in the militarized and impoverished state under Kim Jong-il.
In a break from the black mourning clothing worn since Kim Jong-il's death, the broadcaster wore dark red clothes and almost shouted her defiant message.

By: Brant

Random Friday Wargaming: Battle: The Game of Generals

A poster-child for generic wargaming, Yaquinto's Battle: The Game of Generals was an early-80s release in their "album" series of games. Yes, I owned this one; bought it at the post exchange on what was then known as Fort Ord, CA. I thought it would be cool if I could play a ton of different genres in one package! And you sure could, as long as you didn't mind them all basically looking/feeling the same, or constantly checking the reference pages to see what the counter symbol meant for this particular scenario.

Anyone else out there give this one a run? It's barely more than "chess" with NATO symbols and some lookup tables. What'd y'all think?

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

By: Brant

Huge US Deal to Sell F15s to Saudis

What the heck, theSaudis probably have $30 billion laying around their couch cushions.

The Obama administration on Thursday hailed a new $30 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia as both a hedge against Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf and an economic windfall that could create thousands of U.S. jobs over the next decade.

The agreement to sell 84 top-of-the line F-15SA fighter jets to the Saudi air force also provided a needed boost to U.S. relations with the oil-rich kingdom after months of strain over the White House’s response to the Arab Spring uprisings, U.S. officials and Middle East analysts said.

The deal, which was finalized after more than a year of negotiations, was announced during a week of increased tensions with Iran, which has renewed its threat to block ship traffic through the Strait of Hormuz in response to international economic sanctions. The administration has pursued a policy of supplying advanced weapons systems to friendly Arab states to keep Iran’s regional ambitions in check.

“This sale will send a strong message to countries in the region that the United States is committed to stability in the gulf and broader Middle East,” Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told reporters.

What do you think - good idea? Bad idea? Is this sale mainly a diplomatic move, a security move, or an economic move?

By: Brant

Anniversary: The Hanging of Saddam Hussein

It was 8 years ago today that Saddam Hussein was hanged.

In March 2003, a coalition of countries led by the U.S. and U.K. invaded Iraq to depose Saddam, after U.S. President George W. Bush accused him of possessing weapons of mass destruction and having ties to al-Qaeda. Saddam's Ba'ath party was disbanded and the nation made a transition to a democratic system. Following his capture on 13 December 2003 (in Operation Red Dawn), the trial of Saddam took place under the Iraqi interim government. On 5 November 2006, he was convicted of charges related to the 1982 killing of 148 Iraqi Shi'ites and was sentenced to death by hanging. The execution of Saddam Hussein was carried out on 30 December 2006.

The video is in Arabic, and shows the execution order, and Saddam being prepped for the gallows.

By: Brant

29 December 2011

UK MoD Wanting to Play Better Games

The dominant discussion here is going to be how "the video game generation" is growing up and is bored by the simulators the miltiary is putting in front of them.
There's a deeper story here that's not being told correctly, though. All those mid- and late-career guys that are now in the programs, training development, and acquisitions business are the guys approaching their late-30s and early-40s, and who were playing video games as tweens in the early 80s. They grew up with video games, even if video games weren't present when today's officers were born. Those mid-career guys are the ones who understand that (video)game-based training is a value-add and are now in a position to actually execute on those ideas.
Are they catering to a younger crowd? No doubt. But is that why they're doing it? Not necessarily. The senior officers developing long-term training plans are integrating more games because that's what they grew up on, not just because that's what they're target audience grew up on.
It's just that the cost of civilian technological development has dropped so low that the commercial developers are running laps around the laborious pace of government-sponsored development, and so the 'cool' games aren't military-grade flight sims anymore, but rather commercially-available FPS games. And today's acquisitions guys understand that as long as the physics under the hood work, you can rewrite the scenarios all you want to focus on legitimate military training objectives instead of just racking up points for your gamertag.

The British military has had to radically improve some of its simulated training war games to keep the attention of recruits who have grown up in the Playstation and Xbox generation, a Ministry of Defence scientist has admitted.

Troops are so used to playing high-quality commercial games set in combat zones that they tend to lose concentration unless the MoD simulations look equally realistic. This has become an important issue at the MoD, which is increasingly turning to digital simulations to help prepare soldiers for duty.

Thousands of troops sent to Afghanistan have been trained on Virtual Battlespace2, a spin-off from a commercial game that can, for instance, test their responses when they come under mortar attack from insurgents.

Though the military stresses that these games only supplement traditional methods, it reflects the way technology is transforming military training. With budgets being squeezed across the MoD, simulations are also a comparatively cheap way of giving troops a "virtual'' taste of what they might come up against in a warzone.

Another idea involves issuing RAF trainee pilots with tablet computers such as iPads, to save the cost – and weight – of printing bulky flight manuals that need to be regularly updated and cost £1,000 a student.

The scientists and engineers at MoD's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory in Portsdown, Hampshire, are at the heart of the developments.

Andrew Poulter, the technical team leader, said the military was trying to keep up with the advances that have helped turned computer gaming into a hugely lucrative global industry. Bestsellers such as Battlefield 3, Killzone 3 and the Call of Duty series have taken this genre of video games, known as "first-person shooters'', to a new level.

"Back in the 1980s and 1990s, defence was far out in front in terms of quality of simulation," said Poulter. "Military-built simulators were state of the art. But now, for £50, you can buy a commercial game that will be far more realistic than the sorts of tools we were using. The truth is, the total spending on games development across the industry will be greater than spending on defence."

Poulter is in charge of Project Kite (knowledge information test environment), which has been tasked with putting the MoD back in the forefront of simulation training, in part by buying-in technology from the big gaming companies.

The key to successful virtual training is for the simulation to be realistic enough for people to be properly "immersed'' in what they are doing.

By: Brant

UK In Action: HMS Raider Patrol

The P2000 Archer Class Patrol vessel HMS Raider is pictured at speed in the Solent. HMS Raider is one of two Batch 2 P2000 class coastal training vessels operated by the Royal Navy. Her primary tasking is in support of Bristol University Royal Naval Unit, providing the opportunity for students to spend time at sea, both on sea weekends, and longer deployments during university breaks.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Can Iran's Ass Cash the Checks Their Mouths Are Writing?

They're threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. Can Iran really do it?

Since it doesn't have nuclear weapons yet, Iran is playing the lone trump card in its hand: threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz through which Persian Gulf oil flows to fuel much of the world's economy. Iranian navy chief Admiral Habibollah Sayyari told state television Wednesday that it would be "very easy" for his forces to shut down the chokepoint. "Iran has comprehensive control over the strategic waterway," he said as his vessels continued a 10-day exercise near the strait.
But just how good a trump card is it?
"Iran has constructed a navy with considerable asymmetric and other capabilities designed specifically to be used in an integrated way to conduct area denial operations in the Persian Gulf and SoH, and they routinely exercise these capabilities and issue statements of intent to use them," Jonathan Schroden writes in a recent report for the Pentagon-funded Center for Naval Analyses. "This combination of capabilities and expressed intent does present a credible threat to international shipping in the Strait."
Not so fast, other experts maintain. "We believe that we would be able to maintain the strait," Marine General James Cartwright, then-vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress last year. "But it would be a question of time and impact and the implications from a global standpoint on the flow of energy, et cetera, [that] would have ramifications probably beyond the military actions that would go on."

By: Brant

28 December 2011

GameTalk - Medic!

When / where / how do you see medical support integrated into wargames?
Do you want medics running around your squad-level games?
Do you want to have to plane CASEVAC / MASCAL in your battalion- and brigade-level fights?
What about hospital ships and support vessels at sea?
Do you deal with CSAR in your dogfighting games?
What about the replacement throughput at division level and above?

Tell us what you've seen, what you liked, what you'd like to see more (or less) of...

By: Brant

27 December 2011

Sobering Analysis of an Air War Over Taiwan

Say we commit to defending Taiwan, and the Chinese take a whack at it anyway. There's a pretty detailed analysis about what that fight would look like, and Robert Haddick's synopsis at Foreign Policy is not a pleasant one.

In a Ph.D. dissertation written for the Pardee RAND Graduate School, Eric Stephen Gons provides an exhaustive analysis of a simulated battle between the U.S. and Chinese air forces for the airspace over Taiwan. Gons's analysis takes into account the air bases available to both sides, their aircraft parking capacity, air base vulnerability and hardening, air defense systems, sortie generation rates, aircraft maintenance requirements, crew fatigue, probable weapons effectiveness, time and distance considerations, and other factors.

Even though the U.S. Air Force's F-22 Raptor is far superior to its Chinese opponents, Gons concludes that the "tyranny of distance" will prevent the U.S. Air Force from winning a shootout over Taiwan. The Air Force's base on Guam, a three-hour flight to Taiwan, is the only viable U.S. base for the island's air defense. Although the U.S. has high quality air bases on Okinawa and Japan's home islands, these bases are very close to China and are thus vulnerable to China's massive arsenal of land-attack cruise and ballistic missiles. In addition, Gons asserts the Air Force would not operate its expensive and limited tanker and early warning support aircraft from these Japanese bases since they would be highly vulnerable to Chinese attack. This would preclude F-22 operations to Taiwan from these bases.

That leaves Andersen Air Base on Guam, which even when stuffed to capacity with F-22s and required support aircraft could only provide a continuous combat air patrol over Taiwan of just six fighters. The Chinese attackers, by contrast, operating from at least a dozen hardened and heavily defended air bases in southeast China, could sorties dozens or even hundreds of fighters over Taiwan at will. Six F-22s simply do not carry enough missiles to prevent Chinese fighters from breaking through and shooting down the Air Force tanker and early-warning aircraft supporting the F-22s east of Taiwan. In this case, the F-22s would be lost to fuel exhaustion and the United States would be forced to retreat, at least for the moment. Nor does Gons expect much help from the Navy. He estimates that the relatively short range of the Navy's aircraft carrier-based fighters, combined with the growing Chinese anti-ship missile threat, would dissuade the admirals from risking air operations over Taiwan.

Is it time for Larry Bond and the Persian Incursion crew to put together a Taiwan game?

By: Brant

Aussies Looking for Recruits

The Australian Defence Force is looking overseas for new troops, and hoping to target some of the recently-released US, UK, and Canadian forces just back from overseas.

The Australian Defence force is trying to recruit laid-off soldiers, sailors and air crew from Britain, the US and other western countries in order to fill quotas.

The Australian reports the navy has sent a delegation to Britain to discover how many retrenched sailors, particularly engineers, are available.

A report on maintenance in Australia's navy suggested that as many as 200 engineers are needed to rebuild lost expertise.

The paper reports the department also is looking for defence specialists, such as fighter pilots, submarine crews and officers and are offering fast-tracked Australian citizenship as an incentive.

By: Brant

Sound Off! Sniper or Marksman?

Would you rather have...

... one deadly sniper team that misses an occasional shot each year?
... a group of marksmen who are less deadly but more numerous?

Take aim with your comments below!

By: Brant

ISAF Placemat DEC 2011

Troop Numbers & Contributions to ISAF

As always, click to enlarge.

By: Brant

26 December 2011

UK In Action: Sniper

A sniper serving in Afghanistan on Operation Herrick 10 with the Sniper Platoon, D (Fire Support) Company, 2nd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment, with his .338mm L115 A3 sniper rifle.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Monday Video: When We Say "BANG" We Mean It

P.O.D. is the least-BANG thing about this video to start your week-between-the-holidays...

By: Brant

25 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Now quit reading GrogNews and get back to Christmas!

By: Brant & The Staff

24 December 2011

Iranian Navy Exercises in International Waters

Hoping to improve of their performances since the Battle of Salamis, the Iranian navy is is holding exercises just outside the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran's navy has begun a 10-day drill in international waters beyond the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the passageway for about a third of the world's oil tanker traffic.
The exercise could bring Iranian ships into proximity with U.S. Navy vessels in the area.
Navy chief Adm. Habibollah Sayyari says Iran is holding the war games to show off its prowess and defense capabilities. State TV broadcast his comments on Saturday.

By: Brant

NORAD's Santa Tracker

Just like years past, we're posting the NORAD Santa Tracker. The big guy's already in the air over the eastern side of the Pacific rim, hitting New Zealand and parts of Russia on his way back south toward Japan.

By: Brant

23 December 2011

Random Friday Wargaming: Mason-Dixon: The Second American Civil War

Not one game, but three - yes, three in one, Command Magazine's Mason-Dixon: The Second American Civil War gave you an American Civil War for 1917, 1940, and 1995. (Oh yeah, and that magazine also had another game in it called "Balkan Hell", so you really got your money's worth.) Were they remotely realistic? Who cares!

Can't find a CSW forum on it... Thought it would be in the "multi-era" folder, but I guess not.

Did you ever play this one? What did you think?

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

By: Brant

Patriot Missiles to China?

DefenseTech is all over this story, so you can read the rest there, but here's a quick excerpt:

No one seems to know how 69 of the U.S.’ prized air defense missiles ended up on a ship bound for China but this kind of movement can only happen with the approval of someone in high places.
Keep in mind that Germany has a bunch of Patriot missiles and has sold its older Patriots to South Korea during times of high tension with North Korea. Finnish authorities couldn’t say if the ship was planning on making any stops before it arrived in China. It’s plausible the missiles found aboard the Thor Liberty are a German shipment bound for South Korea but you’d think we’d have heard about the deal; you’d also think they wouldn’t be “badly stored” and marked as fireworks.

Now, it turns out the Germans have claimed them as a part of a legit shipment, but something just really smells wrong here. We're going to keep an eye on the one as it develops. Track it over at DefenseTech, and watch for their RSS headlines in our left-hand sidebar.

By: Brant

The Paks Better Home This Isn't True...

If they really did take an active hand in hiding Bin Laden, then we need to shoot up a lot more than their border outposts. Let's start with Islamabad and work out from there in ever-widening concentric circles.

In spite of denials by the Pakistani military, evidence is emerging that elements within the Pakistani military harbored Osama bin Laden with the knowledge of former army chief General Pervez Musharraf and possibly current Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Former Pakistani Army Chief General Ziauddin Butt (a.k.a. General Ziauddin Khawaja) revealed at a conference on Pakistani-U.S. relations in October 2011 that according to his knowledge the then former Director-General of Intelligence Bureau of Pakistan (2004 – 2008), Brigadier Ijaz Shah (Retd.), had kept Osama bin Laden in an Intelligence Bureau safe house in Abbottabad.

By: Brant

22 December 2011

Pak Army Staging a Coup Without "Staging a Coup"?

I mean, really, what else do you call it when the military tells the head of state to step down?

Pakistan's powerful army is fed up with unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari and wants him out of office, but through legal means and without a repeat of the coups that are a hallmark of the country's 64 years of independence, military sources said.
Tensions are rising between Pakistan's civilian leaders and its generals over a memo that accused the army of plotting a coup after the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May.
"Who isn't fed up with Zardari? It's not just the opposition and the man on the street but people within the government too," said one military source who asked not to be named.
"But there has to be a proper way. No action is being planned by the army. Even if we tried, it would be very unpopular and not just with the government and the opposition but most Pakistanis too."
The Pakistani military spokesman declined comment.
General Ashfaq Kayani has pledged to keep the military out of Pakistani politics since taking over as army chief in 2007.
Any coup -- Pakistan has had three since independence in 1947 -- could further tarnish the military's public image which has already taken a battering after the bin Laden operation, widely seen in Pakistan as a violation of sovereignty.

By: Brant

Anniversaries: Battle of the Bulge & Sherman's March to the Sea

Most folks who are casually acquainted with military history know that right now is the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Today is actually the 65th anniversary of the famous reply to the German request to surrender - "NUTS!".

But it's also the day that Sherman took control of Savannah, thus ending the infamous "March to the Sea".

Which one was more historically important? Your thoughts below!

By: Brant

DoD Releases Statement on Pak Border Shooting

Here' the official statement from the Department of Defense on the investigation of the Pakistan border shooting last month.

The investigation into the 25-26 November engagement between U.S. and Pakistani military forces across the border has been completed. The findings and conclusions were forwarded to the Department through the chain of command. The results have also been shared with the Pakistani and Afghan governments, as well as key NATO leadership.

The investigating officer found that U.S. forces, given what information they had available to them at the time, acted in self defense and with appropriate force after being fired upon. He also found that there was no intentional effort to target persons or places known to be part of the Pakistani military, or to deliberately provide inaccurate location information to Pakistani officials.

Nevertheless, inadequate coordination by U.S. and Pakistani military officers operating through the border coordination center -- including our reliance on incorrect mapping information shared with the Pakistani liaison officer -- resulted in a misunderstanding about the true location of Pakistani military units. This, coupled with other gaps in information about the activities and placement of units from both sides, contributed to the tragic result.

For the loss of life -- and for the lack of proper coordination between U.S. and Pakistani forces that contributed to those losses -- we express our deepest regret. We further express sincere condolences to the Pakistani people, to the Pakistani government, and most importantly to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who were killed or wounded.

Our focus now is to learn from these mistakes and take whatever corrective measures are required to ensure an incident like this is not repeated. The chain of command will consider any issues of accountability. More critically, we must work to improve the level of trust between our two countries. We cannot operate effectively on the border -- or in other parts of our relationship -- without addressing the fundamental trust still lacking between us. We earnestly hope the Pakistani military will join us in bridging that gap.

By: Brant

UK In Action: Typhoon Takeoff

Two 6 Squadron Typhoon jets arrive at Royal Air Force (RAF) Leuchars in Scotland in 2010 to replace the 111 Squadron F3 Tornados previously based there. Typhoon provides the RAF with a multi-role combat aircraft, capable of being deployed in the full spectrum of air operations, from air policing, to peace support, through to high intensity conflict. It is currently employed on permanent ops in the Falkland Islands, UK QRA North and UK QRA South. This image was a winner in the RAF Photographic Competition 2011.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

If You're Going To Repeal DADT

go whole hog...

The honor of the first kiss off the USS Oak Hill, upon returning to port, was raffled off. The winning ticket was drawn by Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta, who was met on the gangplank by her girlfriend Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell.

David Bauer, the commanding officer of the USS Oak Hill, didn’t appear terribly surprised about the moment, which ‘officially’ signaled to any leftover doubters that the Navy has caught up to the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
"It's going to happen and the crew's going to enjoy it. We're going to move on and it won't overshadow the great things that this crew has accomplished over the past three months," Bauer said.
According to the AP, both Gaeta and her partner Citlalic have been dating for over two years, working as fire controlmen on various Navy ships, and hiding their relationship under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

(photo from the AP)

As The Washington Post blogs:

When the couple began dating, they had to hide their status under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The 17-year-old policy was repealed in September. On Wednesday, in front of Gaeta’s entire ship and a cheering crowd, the two women made history as the first same-sex couple to share the coveted kiss.

“It’s nice to be able to be myself. It’s been a long time coming,” said Gaeta about life after the repeal. “It’s been pretty awesome to say the least.”

By: Brant

21 December 2011

Are We Waving A White Flag In The War Of Ideas?

(and am I using too many capital letters in the headline?)

So the Shababians in Somalia are pretty fond of twitter and that's casuing heartburn in the US.

The United States government is increasingly concerned about the Twitter account of the Shabab militant group of Somalia, with American officials saying Monday that they were “looking closely” at the militants’ use of Twitter and the possible measures to take in response.
Hmmm... this doesn't sound good.

Most of the Shabab’s Twitter messages are in English, not Somali, and are clearly meant for an outside audience. American officials said they were worried that the Shabab might be using Twitter to reach potential recruits in the West.
So we're not even going to try to win the war of ideas, eh?

American officials say they may have the legal authority to demand that Twitter close the Shabab’s account, @HSMPress, which had more than 4,600 followers as of Monday night.
That sure sounds like "no" to me?

The State Department said federal law enforcement agencies had taken action in the past against individuals using “Web hosting and related services.”
So we're no longer allowing people to make public idiots of themselves in pursuit of their misguided goals. We're now afraid of boasting boneheads in Somalia?! Really? We can't out-debate these guys? We can't demonstrate the superiority of our way of life without resorting to techno/legal methods of simply cutting off their voices?

By: Brant

Syria Coming Apart at the Seams, II?

It sounds like outright warfare between the opposition and the government in parts of Syria

Syrian forces killed at least 56 people in the past 24 hours in the province of Idlib in violence raging ahead of the start of a mission to monitor President Bashar al-Assad's implementation of an Arab League peace plan, activists said on Wednesday.
The escalating death toll in nine months of popular unrest has raised the specter of civil war in Syria with Assad still trying to stamp out protests with troops and tanks despite international sanctions imposed to push him onto a reform path.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had the names of 56 "civilians and activists" killed in Idlib's Jabal al-Zawiyah region on Tuesday and the death toll could be as high as 121.
Idlib, a northwestern province bordering Turkey, has been a hotbed of protest during the revolt against Assad, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world this year, and has also seen escalating attacks by armed insurgents against his forces.
The Observatory said rebels had damaged or destroyed 17 military vehicles in Idlib since Sunday and killed 14 members of the security forces on Tuesday in an ambush in the southern province of Deraa, where anti-Assad protests began in March.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

GameTalk - Chain of Command

How important is it for your wargames to model a chain of command that requires certain units to interact within a particular hierarchical structure?
Do you want your HQ units to have to control the actions of their subordinates?
How about chains of activations with subordinate units (a la PanzerGrenadier)?
What do you want from modeling the chain of command and what can you live without?

By: Brant

North Korea Power Sharing Deal

The question is, which of the three heads of this ruling body is the most bat-shit crazy and which one(s) - if any - will act as a sanity check on the others.

North Korea will shift to collective rule from a strongman dictatorship after last week's death of Kim Jong-il, although his untested young son will be at the head of the ruling coterie, a source with close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing said.
The source added that the military, which is trying to develop a nuclear arsenal, has pledged allegiance to the untested Kim Jong-un, who takes over the family dynasty that has ruled North Korea since it was founded after World War Two.
The source declined to be identified but has correctly predicted events in the past, telling Reuters about the North's first nuclear test in 2006 before it took place.
The comments are the first signal that North Korea is following a course that many analysts have anticipated -- it will be governed by a group of people for the first time since it was founded in 1948. Both Kim Jong-il and his father Kim Il-sung were all-powerful, authoritarian rulers of the isolated state.
The situation in North Korea appeared stable after the military gave its backing to Kim Jong-un, the source said.
"It's very unlikely," the source said when asked about the possibility of a military coup. "The military has pledged allegiance to Kim Jong-un."

By: Brant

FP's "7 Holiday Games for Wonks"

Michael Peck's at it again... this time with his recommendations of 7 Holiday Games for Wonks. Not "games about the holidays" but rather "games you can give as holiday gifts".

The list includes Civ5, Twilight Struggle, and War in the East, as well as Persian Incursion, and others.

By: Brant

20 December 2011

Japan Join JSF Ranks

The Japanese have decided on Lockheeds F-35 fighter as their new aerial toy.

Japan picked Lockheed Martin's F-35 jet as its next mainstay fighter Tuesday, choosing the aircraft over combat-proven but less stealthy rivals, as concern simmers over North Korea and as China introduces its own stealth fighters.
The decision came as Japan and the United States stressed that their security alliance was tight in the face of worry about an unstable North Korea after the death of its leader, Kim Jong-il.
Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa said the decision to buy 42 of the stealth aircraft, valued by analysts at more than $7 billion, would help Japan adjust to a changing security environment after Monday's announcement of the death of the 69-year-old North Korean leader.
"The security environment surrounding future fighter jets is transforming. The F-35 has capabilities that can firmly respond to the changes," Ichikawa told reporters.

By: Brant

USAction! Ramp Exit

U.S. Navy SEALs exit a C-130 Hercules aircraft during a training exercise near Fort Pickett, Va., Dec. 8, 2011. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Michael Harding

By: Brant

Sound Off! Dutch or Belgians!

Another of our classic national throw-downs...

Is the better military heritage the

Belgians! Rulers of central Africa and small-but-mighty power in a variety of European land wars!

Dutch! Sailed the great oceans, settled far Eastern colonies, and still own Aruba!

Pick one, piss off the other, and duck for cover in the comments below!

By: Brant

Chinese Aircraft Carrier Imaged By Satellite

U.S. satellite imaging firm Digital Globe has released a satellite photograph believed to be of the Chinese aircraft carrier Varyag during sea trials in the Yellow Sea.

By: Shelldrake

19 December 2011

The Last Casualty

Go read about David Hickman, the last US casualty in Iraq.

As the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq on Sunday, friends and family of the first and last American fighters killed in combat were cherishing their memories rather than dwelling on whether the war and their sacrifice was worth it.

Nearly 4,500 American fighters died before the last U.S. troops crossed the border into Kuwait. David Hickman, 23, of Greensboro was the last of those war casualties, killed in November by the kind of improvised bomb that was a signature weapon of this war.

"David Emanuel Hickman. Doesn't that name just bring out a smile to your face?" said Logan Trainum, one of Hickman's closest friends, at the funeral where the soldier was laid to rest after a ceremony in a Greensboro church packed with friends and family.

Trainum says he's not spending time asking why Hickman died: "There aren't enough facts available for me to have a defined opinion about things. I'm just sad, and pray that my best friend didn't lay down his life for nothing."

He'd rather remember who Hickman was: A cutup who liked to joke around with friends. A physical fitness fanatic who half-kiddingly called himself "Zeus" because he had a body that would make the gods jealous. A ferocious outside linebacker at Northeast Guilford High School who was the linchpin of a defense so complicated they had to scrap it after he graduated because no other teenager could figure it out.

Hickman was these things and more, a whole life scarcely glimpsed in the terse language of a Defense Department news release last month. Three paragraphs said Hickman died in Baghdad on Nov. 14, "of injuries suffered after encountering an improvised explosive device."

By: Brant

Tweets on KJI's Death

Buzzfeed has a collection of some of the best tweets on Kim Jong Il's death. A sampling...

Kim Jung Il died. I call his sunglasses.

Kim Jong Il apparently died of "pancreatic cancer"...or "karma" as the rest of the World calls it.

RIP kim Jong il. We took level 1 improv together. There will never be another tiny, Asian Elvis maniac like you, my friend.

Rick Perry & Michele Bachmann SCRAMBLING to find out who Kim Jong Il was.

In lieu of flowers the family of Kim Jong Il asks you to starve a person to death in his memory.

I'm confused: CNN says Kim Jong-Il is dead, but N. Korean press says he's currently fighting a 100-ft. tall U.S. super-robot.

Kim Jong Il is dead. Who will be brave/insane enough to build Earth's first Death Star now that he's gone?

Kim Jong Il's son going to have trouble filling those teeny tiny shoes.

By: Brant

Monday Video: A Bad Touch

Starting your week with a (very) thinly-veiled innuendo-filled BANG...

And with the troops leaving Iraq, there's going to be fewer videos like this coming out.

By: Brant

UK In Action: Tattoo This!

A cannon fires during the Royal Navy Field Gun display at the 2011 Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an annual series of Military tattoos performed by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and International military bands and display teams in the Scottish capital Edinburgh. The event takes place annually throughout August, as part of the wider Edinburgh Festival (a collective name for many independent festivals and events in Edinburgh in August).

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Vaclav Havel, Czech Hero, Passed This Weekend

I was out of the loop for much of the weekend at my son's soccer tournament, but we have to his the 'rewind' button here briefly, to go back and honor Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright and former Czech president, who was instrumental in helping bring down the iron curtain. We don't need King Jong Il sucking the oxygen out of the blog.

Vaclav Havel, a Czech writer who was imprisoned by his country’s communist rulers, only to become a symbol of freedom and his nation’s first president in the post-communist era, died Dec. 18 at his weekend home in the northern Czech Republic. He was 75.

The death was announced by his assistant, Sabina Tancevova, the Associated Press reported. Mr. Havel underwent surgery for lung cancer in 1996 and had suffered from lung ailments in recent months.

Vaclav Havel wove theater into revolution, leading the charge to peacefully bring down communism in a regime he ridiculed as "Absurdistan" and proving the power of the people to overcome totalitarian rule. (Dec. 18)

Mr. Havel was a playwright by profession and a political activist by avocation. The two activities were complementary, and each served to gain him a leading place among the dissidents of Eastern Europe who helped bring down the communist empire. His words and deeds resonated far beyond the borders of the former Czechoslovakia, and he was widely recognized for his struggles in behalf of democracy and human dignity.

After being unanimously elected president of Czechoslovakia by the newly free country’s Parliament in December 1989, Mr. Havel set the tone of the new era in a speech Jan. 1, 1990, his first day in office. Communism, he said, was “a monstrous, ramshackle, stinking machine” whose worst legacy was not economic failure but a “spoiled moral environment.”

By: Brant

Kim Jong Il Dead, Focus Shifts to Son

With the death of Kim Jong Il, there's now an even greater void in situational awareness inside the black hole that is North Korea.

The sudden death of Kim Jong Il is the "biggest shock you could have thrown into Asia," an expert on North Korea told CNN late Sunday night.
Victor Cha, who worked in White House National Security Council, says one of the likelier scenarios under which the North Korean regime could crumble was the sudden death of Kim Jong Il - and now it has happened.
"No one has any idea of what comes next," Cha said. "We are in unknown territory."
That uncertainty should have people on edge, a U.S. official told CNN's Pam Benson.
"An insecure North Korea could well be an even more dangerous North Korea," the official said.
Kim's son and heir, Kim Jong Un, is simply "not ready" to rule, Cha said.
He is barely 30, and his father began grooming him for the job only three years ago after the latter suffered a stroke.

It would be curious to eventually find out if the outpouring of emotion over his death was real, or if it was as fake/staged/manipulated as the supposed Hussein supporters on camera during the 'election' in early 2003.

The announcement of Kim Jong-il's death came in an emotional statement read out on national television.
The announcer, wearing black, struggled to keep back the tears as she said he had died of physical and mental over-work.
The KCNA later reported that he had died of a "severe myocardial infarction along with a heart attack" at 08:30 local time on Saturday (23:30 GMT Friday).
He had been on a train at the time, for one of his "field guidance" tours, KCNA said.
The state news agency said a funeral would be held in Pyongyang on 28 December and Kim Jong-un would head the funeral committee. A period of national mourning has been declared from 17 to 29 December.
Images from inside the secretive state showed people in the streets of Pyongyang weeping at the news of his death.
Ruling party members in one North Korean county were shown by state TV banging tables and crying out loud, the AFP news agency reports.

And what about Kim Jong Un, the boy wonder, er... "great successor"? How's the military going to react to him?

Thought to be aged around 27, Kim Jong Un had already been made a four-star general and occupied a prominent political post when he was reported to have made an important diplomatic visit to neighboring China in May this year.
On the trip, he introduced himself to the destitute North's main benefactor, possibly one of the most crucial diplomatic moves he will ever make.
"The rest of the world is going to have to look at someone who is basically a kid as having China's support to be the North's next leader," Yang Moo-min, of Seoul's University of North Korean Studies, said at the time.
The youngest of the leader's three sons, Kim was most likely born in 1984. His name in Chinese characters translates as "righteous cloud" while the media calls him "the young general".
Educated in Switzerland, he is thought to speak English and German, and bears a striking resemblance to his grandfather, the North's founder, Kim Il Sung.

By: Brant

Some People Fire Guns In The Air...

... in mourning, the Norks fire missiles.

North Korea test-fired a short-range missile on its eastern coast on Monday, the day its leader Kim Jong-il's death was announced, South Korean media reported.

I mean, really - it's like New Year's in Salinas. You fire a bottle rocket / gun / missile in the air, it's gotta come down somewhere. There's gotta be a better way to celebrate.

An unnamed South Korean official was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying he did not believe the launch was linked to the announcement of Kim's death.
"This is something that the military has continued to follow, and we believe it is not related to the death of Chairman Kim Jong-il," Yonhap quoted the official as saying.

Ah well, leave it to the Southies to kill a good riff.

By: Brant

NEWS: Kim Jong Il is Dead

More to follow, but state TV is reporting it, so we'll go with it.


Here's the current story from CNN.

North Korea's longtime leader Kim Jong Il, the embodiment of the reclusive state where his cult of personality is deeply entrenched, has died, state TV reported.
He was believed to be 69.
Regarded as one of the world's most-repressive leaders, Kim Jong Il always cut a slightly bizarre figure. His diminutive stature and characteristically bouffant hair have been parodied by some in the West.
"He's a mysterious person -- I think by design," said Han S. Park, director of the Center for the Study of Global Issues at the University of Georgia and a frequent visitor to North Korea. "Mystery is a source of leverage and power. It's maintaining uncertainty."

more at the link

By: Brant

18 December 2011

The Last Road March

Almost 3200 days after the US rolled into Iraq, the last convoy is rolling out on their way home.

Early Sunday, as the sun ascended to the winter sky, the very last American convoy made its way down the main highway that connects Iraq and Kuwait.
The military called it its final "tactical road march." A series of 110 heavily armored, hulking trucks and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles carrying about 500 soldiers streamed slowly but steadily out of the combat zone.
A few minutes before 8 a.m., the metal gate behind the last MRAP closed. With it came to an end a deadly and divisive war that lasted almost nine years, its enormous cost calculated in blood and billions.
Some rushed to touch the gate, forever a symbol now of an emotional, landmark day. Some cheered with the Army's ultimate expression of affirmation: "Hooah!"
"It's hard to put words to it right now," said Lt. Col. Jack Vantress.
"It's a feeling of elation," he said, "to see what we've accomplished in the last eight-and-a-half years and then to be part of the last movement out of Iraq."
Once, when hundreds of thousands of Americans were in Iraq, the main highway was better known as Main Supply Route Tampa and soldiers trekked north towards Baghdad and beyond, never knowing what danger lurked on their path.
On this monumental day, the Texas-based 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division's main concern was how to avoid a traffic jam on their final journey in Iraq.

By: Brant

17 December 2011

Legal Maneuverings Start in WikiLeaks Case

Bradley Manning is starting his pre-trail hearings. The BBC reports...

A military officer overseeing the hearing of a US Army analyst accused of leaking government secrets has rejected a request to withdraw from the case.

The request was made by a defence lawyer for Private Bradley Manning, 23, as he appeared at a military court.

He faces 22 charges of obtaining and distributing government secrets - which he allegedly leaked to anti-secrecy site Wikileaks.

The Article 32 hearing will determine whether Pte Manning is to stand trial.

During the hearing, which is expected to last around five days according to the defence team, prosecution and defence lawyers will each make their initial cases and are permitted to cross-examine witnesses.

Friday's session has been adjourned and the hearing is due to resume on Saturday.

The Brits abbreviate "Private" as "Pte" instead "PVT"...

By: Brant

The Great Encirclement of China

It's not enough to station a bunch of Marines in Australia.

America's strengthened military pact with Australia is a figment of "Cold War thinking" that will destabilize the Asia-Pacific region, China's Defense Ministry said Wednesday, in Beijing's strongest criticism yet of a move widely seen as intended to counter China's rising assertiveness.
Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng's comments at a monthly news conference came short of the scathing attacks on the agreement from China's nationalist press and outspoken academics.
However, they appeared to reflect a harder tone from the armed forces, whose expanding budget and reach have rattled many of China's neighbors and prompted them to seek strengthened alliances with the region's dominant military power, America.
"Military alliances were created by history. We think that all moves to strengthen and expand military alliances are a product of Cold War thinking that run counter to the era's trend of peace, development and cooperation," Geng said.
The agreement, announced during a November visit by President Barack Obama to Australia, will send military aircraft and up to 2,500 Marines to northern Australia for a training hub to help allies and protect American interests across Asia.

Now the US is looking to station Navy ships in Singapore and the Philippines.

The U.S. Navy said it would station several new coastal combat ships in Singapore and perhaps in the Philippines in coming years, moves likely to fuel China's fears of being encircled and pressured in the South China Sea dispute.
Regional defense analysts said the ships were small, but agreed the symbolism of the moves, which come after Washington announced it was increasing its engagement in Asia, would upset Beijing.
Last month the United States and Australia announced plans to deepen the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, with 2,500 U.S. Marines operating out of a de facto base in Darwin in northern Australia.
In coming years, the U.S. Navy will increasingly focus on the strategic "maritime crossroads" of the Asia-Pacific region, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert wrote in the December issue of Proceedings, published by the U.S. Naval Institute.
He said the navy planned to "station several of our newest littoral combat ships at Singapore's naval facility," in addition to the plans announced by President Barack Obama for marines to be based in Darwin from next year.

All this as the Philippine military is focusing on the Spratlys and moving away from COIN missions, with a little help from old US Coast Guard cutters.

By: Brant

16 December 2011

Random Friday Wargaming: Persian Gulf: Battle for the Middle East

It wasn't just part of the great GDW "Third World War" series, but a great game in its own right. Persian Gulf: Battle for the Middle East was actually pretty good for modding into any one of a variety of potential or actual MidEast crises over the years.

There's that great GDW collage cover art again.

CSW has a discussion board for the entire series.

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

By: Brant

Gitmo Still Not Closed... Why?

Foreign Affairs Magazine has a solid article on why Obama can't close Guantanamo.

The last two prisoners to leave the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay were dead. On February 1, Awal Gul, a 48-year-old Afghan, collapsed in the shower and died of an apparent heart attack after working out on an exercise machine. Then, at dawn one morning in May, Haji Nassim, a 37-year-old man also from Afghanistan, was found hanging from bed linen in a prison camp recreation yard.

In both cases, the Pentagon conducted swift autopsies and the U.S. military sent the bodies back to Afghanistan for traditional Muslim burials. These voyages were something the Pentagon had not planned for either man: each was an "indefinite detainee," categorized by the Obama administration's 2009 Guantánamo Review Task Force as someone against whom the United States had no evidence to convict of a war crime but had concluded was too dangerous to let go. Today, this category of detainees makes up 46 of the last 171 captives held at Guantánamo. The only guaranteed route out of Guantánamo these days for a detainee, it seems, is in a body bag.

more after the jump, click the headline to follow
A guest note from LTC Pat Proctor...

On 15 December 2011, I was asked to appear on NPR's Tell Me More with Michel Martin to talk about the end of the Iraq War, the toll the war has taken on the military and military families, and the
release of my new book, Task Force Patriot and the End of Combat Operations in Iraq

The broadcast is up on the Net right now. To hear it, click here.

This talk coincided with the release of Task Force Patriot, published by Government Institutes Press, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield. The book is now available in stores, or you can order it on Amazon.com.

Here's wishing LTC Proctor much success with his book.

Posted By: Brant

15 December 2011

Great Game Deal from Petroglyph!

Petroglyph Games is offering an ass-kicking deal through the end of the year. For only $29.95 you get
Panzer General: Allied Assault (board game)
Panzer General: Russian Assault (board game)
Heroes of Graxia (card game)
Guardians of Graxia (board game)

Any way you slice it, that's a pretty good deal.

By: Brant

UK In Action: Storming the Beach

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

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

3152 Days Later

3152 days after President Bush landed on the USS Lincoln and declared "Mission Accomplished", the US military is holding their ceremony in Baghdad to formally shut down the war in Iraq.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta marked the end of the U.S. war in Iraq at a highly symbolic ceremony Thursday.
U.S. soldiers rolled up the flag for American forces in Iraq and slipped it into a camouflage-colored sleeve, formally "casing" it, according to Army tradition.
Panetta said veterans of the nearly nine-year conflict can be "secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people to cast tyranny aside."
Nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives in a war that began with a "Shock and Awe" campaign of missiles pounding Baghdad, but later descended into a bloody sectarian struggle between long-oppressed majority Shiites and their former Sunni masters.
Gen. Lloyd Austin, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also spoke during the ceremony at Baghdad International Airport.

While it's going to take a long time to judge whether the "mission" was actually accomplished (and we're betting it's going to take a few decades before historians come to any consensus on what the "mission" was), after this ceremony it's pretty safe to say that after today, "combat" operations in Iraq actually are over.

U.S. Army military policemen conduct a dismounted patrol along a road outside Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec. 2, 2011. The policemen are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade, Company H, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kissta Feldner

By: Brant

Battle Lab: Diplomacy

This is less about "how to be diplomatic" and more about "Why I love the game Diplomacy"...

This originally ran at The Wargamer a few years ago when they stop up a temporary Diplomacy micro-site to hype the new computer game. (I'd link to the original article, but it seems to have disappeared from the Wargamer.com site, and everything I ever wrote over there seems to have been re-bylined to "Scott Parrino". Just another nail in the coffin of what was once an excellent source of game news and commentary)

Here's the article, then, as I originally wrote it for Jim.


Diplomacy has a huge following, even among non-wargamers, despite being sold as a wargamer for its thirty-year lifespan. Why?
Well, it's a wargame that abstracts battlefield prowess to the point that it's almost irrelevant. Tactical ability is nothing - I repeat, nothing - in this game. It matters not how well you can anticipate the moment for the cavalry charge, plan the artillery bombardment, or outflank your enemy with your panzer corps. In this game, all armies, and generals, are created equal, and numerical superiority is the only relevant 'statistic.'
In fact, the only ability of note is your ability, as the leader of a country, to successfully negotiate your way through the intrigue of the game. In this respect, Diplomacy has succeeded, and continues to succeed, in a class all it's own.

(more after the jump... click the headline to follow)

14 December 2011

Skippy Gets Serious

You need to read the latest from Skippy's list.

SGT Biddle was not my friend. He had in fact stated that expressly on more than one occasion. He felt we were “buddies” which is to say people the Army forced together whether they liked each other or not, but who were entitled to the same type of loyalty and decency as a friend.

SGT Biddle did not always appreciate my sense of humor, but he liked it enough to encourage me when I wasn’t interfering with anything pressing, and even suggested that comedy might be a good career choice for when I got out.

SGT Biddle was never my supervisor. In fact, when we first met I technically outranked him, due to a mishap that occurred just before he finished Special Forces Medical Sergeant training. But he did teach me how to field strip an M-60, how to operate it properly, and pretty much every useful skill I needed to learn as I transitioned from a Mutli-Media Illustrator who worked in an air conditioned office to a soldier who could be depended upon on a Tactical PSYOP team.

Go read the rest.

By: Brant

GameTalk - Lucky Dice

Do you have a set of "lucky dice"? How often do you use them?
What do your opponents say when you bust them out? Do they ever object?
How do your "lucky dice" handle a dice tower?
Have you ever made your opponent roll the dice for you at a critical juncture of the game, just to see how he'd react?

By: Brant

Cutting Back to a Minimal Military?

The guys over at Defence and Freedom have another great column today, with some pretty robust examples of how a training military might work for a medium-sized, modern, Western country.

The thing is, this plan really isn't all that different that the way the US military operated for a long time, as chronicled in A Country Made by War by Geoffrey Perret.

By: Brant

13 December 2011

Anniversary: Battle of Fredericksburg

Today marks the anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg.

The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought December 11–15, 1862, in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia, between General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside. The Union army's futile frontal assaults on December 13 against entrenched Confederate defenders on the heights behind the city is remembered as one of the most one-sided battles of the American Civil War, with Union casualties more than twice as heavy as those suffered by the Confederates.

There's a very nice animated map at CivilWar.org

Don't forget that you can follow the American Civil War as events happened each day, with a very nifty Android phone app

By: Brant

Sound Off! Lasers or Paint

Recreational wargaming with your buddies - do you bust out

Paintball? Make 'em pay with a stinger for getting hit, and load up on laundry afterwards!

Laser tag? Buggy handsets be damned - I want n-range beams and sci-fi effects!

Take aim and fire in the comments below :)

By: Brant

Israeli Army Base Attacked... By Israelis?!

Yep, some right-wing settlers staged a "protest" that included an attack on an amy base.

Radical Jewish settlers attacked an army base and staged protests in a closed military zone on the Jordan border overnight, sparking a sharp condemnation on Tuesday from the Israeli premier.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, around 50 settlers forced their way onto a key army base in the northern West Bank and vandalised military vehicles there following rumours troops were about to evacuate settlement outposts, the military said.
Several hours earlier, some 30 settlers broke into a Christian baptismal site in a closed military zone along the Jordanian border to stage a protest.
Both incidents were swiftly condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who ordered the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) "to act aggressively" against anyone attacking Israeli troops.
"This incident must be completely condemned. The security forces need to concentrate on defending our citizens and not on such outrageous lawbreaking," he said in a statement.

Alright Brian - how the hell do you wargame this one?

By: Brant

China Naval Base Abroad?

Are the Chinese going to establish their first naval base abroad?

China said Tuesday it is considering an offer from the Seychelles to host Chinese naval ships in the Indian Ocean island nation, highlighting the increasing global reach of a navy that recently launched its first aircraft carrier.
State-run media gave prominent coverage to the Seychelles offer to allow rest and resupply for Chinese ships in the multinational force conducting anti-piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia, which China has joined since late 2008.
But the reports were careful to reaffirm China's firm policy of not establishing permanent military bases overseas, a cornerstone of Beijing's claim not to be seeking regional hegemony or military alliances with other nations.
"China's position is clear. China has never set up military bases in other countries," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters at a daily news briefing.
Chinese ships assigned to the anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden have visited several ports to allow their crews to rest and to take on supplies, including in Yemen and Oman on the Arabian Peninsula and Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

The Internet Equivalent of a Slap-Fight

Kenyan Army and Somali AQ terrorists are duking it out on... TWITTER!

On Monday, the Islamic insurgent group al-Shabab used its Twitter feed to accuse Kenya of having a history of committing "barbarous acts" toward ethnic Somalis, and cited a 1984 massacre where human rights groups say Kenyan troops killed around 3,000 ethnic Somali men in eastern Kenya.

Addressing more recent actions, al-Shabab's tweets that began last week claimed that Kenyan soldiers in Somalia "flee from confrontation & flinch in the face of death." The Twitter feed also described al-Shabab's own press release giving details about Burundian soldiers killed in an October battle between African Union peacekeeping troops and the insurgents. Al-Shabab claimed to have killed more than 150 AU troops at the time.

The AU only reported 10 casualties although Mogadishu-based security sources say the figure was closer to 70.

Al-Shabab's tweets, written in fluent English, mocked an earlier Twitter posting by Kenya's army spokesman, Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, that threatened to bomb concentrations of donkeys that might be moving weapons for the insurgents.

"Your eccentric battle strategy has got animal rights groups quite concerned, Major," the al-Shabab posting said.

The Associated Press has determined that both Twitter accounts - HSMPress and MajorEChirchir - are legitimate. It's not clear who is writing the al-Shabab tweets. Several Americans, most of Somali descent, have in recent years joined the group that Washington has designated a terrorist organization.

Chirchir has responded with his own barrage of tweets.

"With Al Shabaab joining tweeter, lets take fight to their doorstep," he wrote. Chirchir accused al-Shabab of stoning an innocent girl to death and chopping off hands. He noted that many commanders have banned bras in their territory, and urged readers to retweet the message in support of Somali women.

That's just so macho.

h/t Doctrine Man
By: Brant

Anniversary: "We Got Him"

Ladies and Gentlemen, "We got him."

Operation Red Dawn was the U.S. military operation conducted on 13 December 2003 in the town of ad-Dawr, Iraq, near Tikrit, that captured Iraq President Saddam Hussein, ending rumours of his death. The operation was named after the film Red Dawn, (1984) by Captain Geoffrey McMurray.[1] The mission was assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, commanded by Col. James Hickey of the 4th Infantry Division, with joint operations Task Force 121 - an elite and covert joint special operations team.

By: Brant

12 December 2011

XeWater Becomes... "ACADEMI"?!

Talk about rebranding... They're rebranding their rebranding. And everyone will still call them "Blackwater."

The company once known as the world's most notorious private security contractor, Blackwater, is changing its name and its look once again in a bid to prove that it has outgrown its toxic reputation.

Renaming the company "ACADEMI" tops a number of changes that have been made by a private equity consortium that purchased the company from former owner Erik Prince last year.

"The message here is not that we're changing the name," said Ted Wright, who came on as the new company CEO in June. "The message is that we're changing the company, and the name just reflects those changes. We have new owners, a new board of directors, a new management team, new location, new attitude on governance, new openness, new strategy - it's a whole new company."

Blackwater was dogged by controversy as it rose from a training facility in Moyock, North Carolina, in the late '90s, to a private security powerhouse at the height of the war in Iraq. But as business boomed, so did the demand for growth, and rules regarding issues like compliance and governance were sometimes not followed. There were also accusations that some Blackwater guards operating in Iraq's virtually lawless environment were heavy-handed, and then a deadly shooting in a Baghdad traffic circle in 2007 was the beginning of the end for the company.

Prince tried changing the Blackwater name to Xe, before selling it late last year to the group of investors led by Jason DeYonker, a managing partner at Forte Capital Advisors, and Dean Bosacki, managing partner of Manhattan Partners. The other investing partners remain anonymous.

By: Brant

Philippine Military Refocusing Away from COIN?

After spending years tamping down a variety of insurgencies, the Philippine military is likely to start refocusing off-shore, particularly on the Spratly Islands, which China somehow seems to think are theirs, despite about 7 other countries having better claims to them.

A battle-scarred general took leadership of the underfunded Philippine military Monday, vowing to bolster his country's external defense so it could adequately respond to "untoward incidents" amid territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
The 125,000-member Philippine military, one of Asia's weakest, has been struggling to modernize its dilapidated air force and navy and train its forces due to a lack of funds. President Benigno Aquino III recently said he would seek modern fighter jets from longtime ally Washington when he visits next year.
Army Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa, who took over the military leadership in austere ceremonies led by Aquino on Monday, said recent developments in the South China Sea — obviously referring to renewed territorial spats in the potentially oil-rich region — have made upgrading external defenses inevitable for the Philippines.
"It compels us to look into our maritime security deeply," Dellosa said in his speech. "Development of navy and air force bases and facilities to efficiently respond to untoward incidents is something we can no longer ignore."
Dellosa formerly was an army combat officer and was wounded twice while battling Muslim guerrillas and al-Qaida-linked militants in the southern Philippines. He also led an elite unit that helped Aquino's mother, the late pro-democracy Philippine leader Corazon Aquino, subdue coup attempts.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

Army Driving Ahead on Smartphone Integration

It's nice that the Army is pushing forward with integrating smartphone technology into the force.

Whether you want to learn the different bugle calls or call in an artillery strike, there’s an app for that.
And some of the most promising and powerful apps are proving problematic for an Army trying to provide this information without putting its network at risk.
Indeed, digital applications are off the chain. Most centers of excellence are developing their own apps. The Signal Center of Excellence recently surpassed 1 million downloads over iTunes and the Android market. The service is soon to launch the Army Market Place, which will offer “official” apps that are Army-tested and approved.
The potential is limitless, as apps are already proving their worth.
For example, the Army Blue Book app provides easy access to information on Army culture, history, training and regulations — and it saved $750,000 in printing costs, according to Army data. The Sustainment Soldiers Advanced Individual Training course app showed improvements in proficiency test scores.
The Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications initiative stands at the heart of this endeavor. Conceptualized in September 2009, the unfunded program is run by the Army’s chief information officer and Army Capabilities Integration Center, with support from Army Training and Doctrine Command. It provides applications for select administrative, training and tactical functions with three stated goals:
  • Evaluate new training approaches that allow soldiers to learn anytime or anywhere (providing a “persistent learning environment”).
  • Explore smartphone potential to enable every soldier to access information and learning in any environment.
  • Develop means to rapidly update and share information — at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods.
So how long before we start to see persistent multi-player training games on smartphone platforms? By: Brant

An Unmanned Border Crossing With Mexico?

Yep, sounds bat-shit crazy at first, doesn't it? Truth is, after reading the article, I can completely understand their reasoning. I'm still not sure I think it's the best idea, but I can at least conclude that it's not a bad one.

This hardly seems a time the U.S. would be willing to allow people to cross the border legally from Mexico without a customs officer in sight. But in this rugged, remote West Texas terrain where wading across the shallow Rio Grande undetected is all too easy, federal authorities are touting a proposal to open an unmanned port of entry as a security upgrade.
By the spring, kiosks could open up in Big Bend National Park allowing people from the tiny Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen to scan their identity documents and talk to a customs officer in another location, at least 100 miles away.
The crossing, which would be the nation's first such port of entry with Mexico, has sparked opposition from some who see it as counterintuitive in these days of heightened border security. Supporters say the crossing would give the isolated Mexican town long-awaited access to U.S. commerce, improve conservation efforts and be an unlikely target for criminal operations.

By: Brant

Pak Taliban Peace Talks?

If we don't negotiate with terrorists, why would we be talking to the Pakistan Taliban? Is it perhaps that - like virtually any other aphorism - it looks good on a bumper sticker but is inadequate for the real world?

The Pakistani Taliban is in peace talks with the Pakistani government, a senior commander in the militant group said Saturday. He said negotiations were "progressing well" and could soon end in a formal agreement.
The statement by Maulvi Faqir Mohammad is the first time a named Taliban commander has confirmed that the group is negotiating with the Pakistani government. But it is unclear whether he speaks for entirety of the network, which is believed to have splintered into different factions over the last year.
Mohammad, said to be the deputy chief of the Pakistani Taliban, said his men had held "peace talks with relevant government officials."
"They are progressing well, and we may soon sign a formal peace agreement with the government," he said in a telephone conversation.

Oh wait... it's the Pak government. So it's terrorists negotiating with other terrorists. That's OK, isn't it?

By: Brant