30 June 2012

COA Analysis: Budgets Spiraling Out Of Control

As fiscal crises deepen - just because an economy recovers doesn't mean future budgetary commitments evaporate - what do you expect to see come of the budgets?
Here are 4 potential courses of action to discuss...

What do you think might happen?

By: Brant

29 June 2012

Another Facepalm-in-Hindsight from 5/2 SBCT

We've chronicled the insanity coming out of 5/2 SBCT several times before.

Now there's a book coming out, and Slate's got some excerpts. This particular anecdote makes your blood boil, if you know anything about COIN ops.

On the second week of the operation, I met with Lt. Col. Patrick Gaydon, an artillery officer who had been put in charge of the Stryker brigade’s special troops battalion, which was responsible for governance, reconstruction, and development. After he spent an hour telling me about the universities at which his fellow officers had taken classes before deploying and the sophisticated computer network that allowed soldiers to send and receive vast quantities of data while in the field, I mentioned that I would be heading to Arghandab in two days to attend a shura, a meeting of local elders. Gaydon asked how I was getting there. I told him the general who was Tunnell’s boss had arranged a flight. Gaydon was delighted; it meant he’d have a chance to get there as well. Gaydon’s unit had been in Afghanistan for a month, but it had not yet received any vehicles suitable for travel beyond the Kandahar Airfield. Because his team’s mission was not to kill bad guys, it was at the end of the list for supplies.

I was astounded. Given his focus on government and reconstruction, Gaydon seemed like the officer who really needed to attend the shura. Over in the Marine areas, then-Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson had insisted that his battalion commanders hold districtwide shuras within 48 hours of their arrival in Nawa and other parts of the central Helmand River Valley. But Tunnell did not regard community meetings as a priority for his operation. The brigade’s State Department political adviser, Todd Greentree, had to meet with Tunnell three times to persuade him to authorize the shura. His ability to flout COIN, despite McChrystal’s unambiguous embrace of it, revealed the lack of control the supposedly disciplined U.S. military had over officers who were spread across a vast country and sometimes reported to non-American generals. Tunnell was fighting the war he wanted to fight, and nobody stood in his way.

Gaydon spent the day after our meeting drafting a speech he would deliver to the crowd of turbaned elders. “I want you to know that we are undertaking this military operation so that we can create an environment where we can work shoulder-to-shoulder with district leaders, elders, and the people of Arghandab over the long term,” he wrote. But the morning we were supposed to leave, we learned our flight had been canceled. A delegation of visiting members of Congress wanted to fly around the south, and our helicopter had been reassigned as an airborne tour bus. We settled for an early breakfast in the chow hall with Greentree, who fumed over an omelet and hash browns that the brigade was missing an opportunity to win over residents and steel them against Taliban intimidation. “This is really, really bad,” he said.

He couldn’t understand why a few vehicles could not have been diverted to transport them to the meeting. “Is this the most important thing we could have done in the operation today? Absolutely.”

Gaydon tried to put the best spin on it. The shura would go on, he said. He planned to have an officer in Arghandab read the speech he had written. At least Tunnell will be there, I said consolingly. He’s the one who matters. The Afghans always want to talk to the man in charge.
“Tunnell won’t be attending,” Greentree said. “He said he’ll be too busy directing the combat operations.”

The next day, I asked Greentree how it had gone. Fine, he said, for the first 30 minutes. Then two AH-64 Apache attack helicopters strafed a nearby building, and the attendees fled.

So there's been a recent intense discussion over on the MilGames mailing list for wargaming professionals about exactly these sorts of issues with subordinates. Basically - how do you accurately model subordinate behaviors. Not modeling what we all say our unit should do - because, I mean, really, how could my unit ever behave in such a fashion after the perfect training and mentorship I've given them. The thing is that these things do happen, and the fact that they can happen at the O-6 level tells you that there's absolutely the possibility / likelihood / certainty (take your pick) that they're happening at the O-3 level or the E-6 level, or any other level of command.

So how do you wargame this?

By: Brant

28 June 2012


-- quick and dirty words of wisdom collected over the years --

Always wear a hat in you sleeping bag in the field. Failure to do so will result in 1/2 of your brainpower evaporating overnight.

your thoughts always welcome in the comments below!

By: Brant

UK In Action: SAR Winchman

A Royal Air Force winchman practices deck landings at sea from a Search and Rescue Helicopter.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Leave No Man Behind: Vietnam Edition

The US is returning another Vietnam War pilot to home.

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Air Force Capt. Clyde W. Campbell of Longview, Texas, will be buried June 21 at Arlington National Cemetery. On March 1, 1969, Campbell was a pilot aboard an A-1J Skyraider aircraft that crashed while carrying out a close air-support mission in Houaphan Province, Laos. American forward air controllers directing the mission in the area reported hearing an explosion that they believed to be Campbell’s bombs, but later learned Campbell’s aircraft had crashed. No parachutes were seen in the area.

In 1997, a joint United States - Lao People’s Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) team investigated a crash site in Houaphan Province, Laos, within 330 feet of the last known location of Campbell. In addition to human remains, the team located aircraft wreckage and military equipment, which correlated with Campbell’s aircraft.

From 2009 to 2010, additional joint U.S.-L.P.D.R. recovery teams investigated and excavated the crash site three times. Teams recovered additional human remains, military equipment -- including an aircraft data plate -- and a .38-caliber pistol matching the serial number issued to Campbell.

Scientists from the JPAC used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools in the identification of Campbell.

By: Brant

27 June 2012

Fighting around Syrian capital

Attacks around Damascus have includeda military barracks.

State forces and rebels were locked in heavy fighting in several areas outside Damascus on Tuesday, activists said, in the worst violence to hit the suburbs of the Syrian capital since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began 16 months ago.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy fighting near the Republican Guard headquarters in Qudsiya, and in the suburbs of al-Hama and Mashrou' Dumar, just 9 km (6 miles) outside Damascus.
Samir al-Shami, an activist in Damascus, said tanks and armoured vehicles were also out on the streets of the suburbs and some activists reported that one tank had been blown up.

View Larger Map


26 June 2012

Sound Off! News Media

Where do you get your military news?
What sources do you like?
What sources do you hate?

By: Brant

USN Deploys Minesweepers to Persian Gulf

The US is sending four minesweepers to Fifth Fleet.

Four U.S. minesweepers have arrived in the Gulf to bolster the U.S. Fifth Fleet and ensure the safety of shipping routes, the U.S. Navy said, as an Iranian military chief suggested on Monday that Iran might try to block the Strait of Hormuz to defend its interests.
The four additional mine countermeasures (MCM) ships arrived on Saturday and are scheduled for a seven-month deployment in an area of operations that includes the Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.
The area also includes two other critical shipping choke points of the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandab between the southern tip of Yemen and Africa.
"MCM ships conduct operations with coalition forces in order to ensure the continued, safe flow of maritime traffic in international waterways," the U.S. Navy said in a statement late on Sunday.

So how do you incorporate minesweepers into a wargame? Tactical? Strategic? An asset in a card-based game or a deliberate counter that must be deployed somewhere?
What success stories have you seen in wargaming a minesweeper operation? (And the stupid Windows game doesn't count)

By: Brant

25 June 2012

UK In Action: Night Salvo

Three Challenger 2 main battle tanks firing their 120mm guns during a night firing exercise by the Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry at Lulworth, Dorset.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

More High-Ranking Syrian Defections

Heading to Turkey: Syrian general and two colonels.

Several high-ranking Syrian military figures have defected to Turkey, reports in Turkish media say.

A general, two colonels, two majors and about 30 other soldiers are said to have crossed into Hatay province on Sunday night.

They were part of a group of some 200 people who crossed the border overnight into Monday, Anatolia news agency says.

By: Brant

Recharting the Course of the Middle East in Egypt

The MoBro candidate has been declared the winner and now wants to upend a generation of standing MidEast diplomacy.

Egypt's Islamist president-elect, Mohamed Morsi, wants to "reconsider" the peace deal with Israel and build ties with Iran to "create a strategic balance" in the Middle East, according to an interview published by Iran's Fars news agency on Monday.
The stated goals are certain to alarm Israel and its ally the United States as they adapt to the new direction Egypt will chart with Morsi at the helm.
They could also boost Iran's influence in the Middle East at a time of heightened tensions between Tehran and the West.
"We will reconsider the Camp David Accord" that, in 1979, forged a peace between Egypt and Israel that has held for more than three decades, Morsi was quoted as telling a Fars reporter in Cairo on Sunday, just before his election triumph was announced.
He said the issue of Palestinian refugees returning to homes their families abandoned in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and the 1967 Six-Day War "is very important".
Morsi added though that "all these issues will be carried out through cabinet and governmental bodies because I will not take any decision on my own."
Morsi also said he was ready to improve ties with Iran. The Islamic republic broke off diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1980, a year after Cairo signed the peace deal with the Jewish state.
"Part of my agenda is the development of ties between Iran and Egypt that will create a strategic balance in the region," Morsi was quoted as saying.

By: Brant

Army Ditching ACU in Admission it was a Failure

It's not just that it was a failure, it was how it was a failure.

The Army is changing clothes.

Over the next year, America’s largest fighting force is swapping its camouflage pattern. The move is a quiet admission that the last uniform — a pixelated design that debuted in 2004 at a cost of $5 billion — was a colossal mistake.

Soldiers have roundly criticized the gray-green uniform for standing out almost everywhere it’s been worn. Industry insiders have called the financial mess surrounding the pattern a “fiasco.”

As Army researchers work furiously on a newer, better camouflage, it’s natural to ask what went wrong and how they’ll avoid the same missteps this time around. In a candid interview with The Daily, several of those researchers said Army brass interfered in the selection process during the last round, letting looks and politics get in the way of science.

“It got into political hands before the soldiers ever got the uniforms,” said Cheryl Stewardson, a textile technologist at the Army research center in Natick, Mass., where most of the armed forces camouflage patterns are made.

The researchers say that science is carrying the day this time, as they run four patterns through a rigorous battery of tests. The goal is to give soldiers different patterns suitable for different environments, plus a single neutral pattern — matching the whole family — to be used on more expensive body armor and other gear. The selection will involve hundreds of computer trials as well on-the-ground testing at half a dozen locations around the world.

By: Brant

24 June 2012

Next Steps For NATO After Syria Shoot Down Turkish Jet

NATO consultations are coming. What will the reaction be?

Turkey said on Sunday Syria had shot down its military aircraft in international airspace on Friday without warning and declared it would formally consult its NATO allies on a reaction.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking some 48 hours after the jet was shot down near both countries' sea borders, told state broadcaster TRT the plane had been clearly marked as Turkish and dismissed Syria's earlier statement it had not known the plane belonged to Turkey.
He said the downed jet was unarmed and had been on a solo mission to test domestic radar systems and that the flight had no connection to the crisis in neighboring Syria.
"Our plane was shot at a distance of 13 sea miles from Syria's border in international airspace," Davutoglu said.
"According to the radar images, our plane lost contact with headquarters after it was hit and because the pilot lost control, it crashed into Syrian waters after making abnormal movements," he said.
"Throughout this entire period no warning was made to our plane."

By: Brant

23 June 2012

Haqqanis Hit Hotel; Afghans Assess Aftermath

Taliban kill 20 in siege of hotel, and NATO blames Haqqanis.

Elite Afghan police backed by NATO forces ended a 12-hour siege on Friday at a popular lakeside hotel outside Kabul, leaving at least 20 dead after Taliban gunmen stormed the lakeside building, bursting into a party and seizing dozens of hostages.
The night-time assault on the hotel with rocket-propelled grenades, suicide vests and machine guns again proved how potent the Islamist insurgency remains after a decade of war.
The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan said the attack bore the signature of the Taliban-linked Haqqani group that he said continued to operate from Pakistan, a charge that could further escalate tensions with Islamabad.
General John Allen's comments come days after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Washington was at the limits of its patience with Pakistan over the existence of militant networks including the Haqqanis.
Pakistan says it is doing everything it can to fight militants on its side of the border and accuses Afghanistan of trying to shift the blame for its failure to combat the insurgency.

By: Brant

Syrian Shoots Down Turkish Plane

Syria is blundering around like a mean drunk in a bar, and they just landed a stray punch on the neighborhood badass that'd been staying out of the fight.

Syria shot down a warplane from Turkey on Friday that it said had violated its airspace, an event that illustrated the potential for the Syrian conflict to spill across its borders and risked a further deterioration in relations between neighbors that once were close allies.

In a terse statement after midnight, the office of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Syria had downed a Turkish plane that disappeared about midday off the Syrian coast. The fate of the two pilots was unknown.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency, known as SANA, said the aircraft, flying low and fast, violated Syrian airspace over the Mediterranean Sea and was shot down by ground fire. It said the plane was hit about half a mile from the Syrian coast and crashed into the sea.

The incident appears to be another example of how the Syria conflict has elevated regional tensions. Syria sits in the heart of the volatile Middle East and its instability has already had ramifications in Turkey, Lebanon and elsewhere.

Will this become the pretext NATO needs to invoke Article 5 and intervene without bothering with the UN and Russian/Chinese obstructionism?

By: Brant

22 June 2012

BUB: AirSea Battle

The Marines have a nice reasonably-concise, if buzzword-heavy, Air-Sea Battle concept summary

The Air-Sea Battle Concept centers on networked, integrated, attack-in-depth to disrupt, destroy and defeat (NIA-D3) A2/AD threats. This approach exploits and improves upon the advantage U.S. forces have across the air, maritime, land, space and cyberspace domains, and is essential to defeat increasingly capable intelligence gathering systems and sophisticated weapons systems used by adversaries employing A2/AD systems. Offensive and defensive tasks in Air-Sea Battle are tightly coordinated in real time by networks able to command and control air and naval forces in a contested environment. The air and naval forces are organized by mission and networked to conduct integrated operations across all domains.

The concept organizes these integrated tasks into three lines of effort, wherein air and naval forces attack-in-depth to disrupt the adversary's intelligence collection and command and control used to employ A2/AD weapons systems; destroy or neutralize A2/AD weapons systems within effective range of U.S. forces; and defeat an adversary's employed weapons to preserve essential U.S. Joint forces and their enablers. Through NIA-D3, air and naval forces achieve integrated effects across multiple domains, using multiple paths to increase the resilience, agility, speed and effectiveness of the force.

Air-Sea Battle is a limited operational concept designed to address an adversary's A2/AD capabilities. It is not a concept aimed at any particular potential adversary, nor a campaign plan designed to accomplish a specific national objective. Instead, it is a concept that will spark innovation and development of the means to support future operations. The Air-Sea Battle Concept identifies the actions needed to defeat A2/AD threats and the materiel and non-materiel solutions required to execute those actions.

AOLDefense asks the important question: "what do you do once you're in the area where access was denied?"

In the budget wars between the services, "hybrid threats" and "AirSea Battle" have become rallying buzzwords of two opposing camps.

On one side, Army leaders talk of hybrid threats, whose blend of guerrilla tactics and high-tech weapons pose the greatest plausible threat on land, now that Soviet-style tank armies are extinct and the nation has largely sworn off large-scale counterinsurgency. On the other, Air Force and Navy leaders speak of AirSea Battle as a way to coordinate their expensive hardware in a high-tech war with regional powers like China or Iran.

[Since there has to be a middle way, of course, there is also the threat posed to ships by land-based missiles, such as those Hamas used against the Israeli ship Hanit in 2006. A Chinese-built missile is believed to have heavily damaged the ship and killed four sailors.]

While the services tend to use these concepts to justify their budgets, one of the fathers of the hybrid war idea, retired Marine Frank Hoffman, tells AOL Defense they are less contradictory than complementary, especially in a potential conflict with Iran.

AirSea Battle and hybrid war theory address two parts of the same strategic problem, Hoffman said: how to project American power around the globe when potential adversaries from militia groups to the Middle Kingdom are developing new tactics and new weaponry to stop us. (The painfully awkward term of art for such an enemy strategy is "anti-access/area denial"). "AirSea Battle is basically the outer half of the problem: how do you get into a region," he said. "The inner half [is] once you get inside a region, how can you operate" in the face of hybrid threats.

In the meantime, others are wondering if AirSea Battle is already obsolete?

But it’s also clear that the United States should develop its own symmetrical and asymmetric strategies to counter such threats. A joint operational concept of AirSea Battle combined with a strong cyber component could damage, deter, and destroy any Chinese A2/AD capabilities and ensure U.S. maritime access. A newly reconstituted “AirSeaCyber” operational concept would give U.S. forces the best chance to defeat Chinese or any other nations’ A2/AD forces now and in the future.

Of course, the present Joint Operational Access Concept does make strong mention of cyber operations. However, an even stronger emphasis on cyber warfare is needed beyond present day convention. In short, AirSea Battle as an operational concept might already be obsolete.

By: Brant

US Basing Substantial Force Out of Kuwait

The US planning a rather large footprint in Kuwait for several years.

The United States is planning a significant military presence of 13,500 troops in Kuwait to give it the flexibility to respond to sudden conflicts in the region as Iraq adjusts to the withdrawal of American combat forces and the world nervously eyes Iran, according to a congressional report.
The study by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee examined the U.S. relationship with the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman - against a fast-moving backdrop. In just the last two days, Saudi Arabia's ruler named Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz as the country's new crown prince after last week's death of Prince Nayef, and Kuwait's government suspended parliament for a month over an internal political feud.
The latest developments inject even more uncertainty as the Middle East deals with the demands of the Arab Spring, the end to U.S. combat operations in Iraq at the end of 2011 and fears of Iran's nuclear program.
"Home to more than half of the world's oil reserves and over a third of its natural gas, the stability of the Persian Gulf is critical to the global economy," the report said. "However, the region faces a myriad of political and security challenges, from the Iranian nuclear program to the threat of terrorism to the political crisis in Bahrain."
The report obtained by The Associated Press in advance of Tuesday's release provided precise numbers on U.S. forces in Kuwait, a presence that Pentagon officials have only acknowledged on condition of anonymity. Currently, there are about 15,000 U.S. forces in Kuwait at Camp Arifjan, Ali Al Salem Air Base and Camp Buehring, giving the United States staging hubs, training ranges and locations to provide logistical support. The report said the number of troops is likely to drop to 13,500.

Unknown what the exact composition will be, but likely not all Army, as some USAF folks will be needed to help run the airfields.

By: Brant

US/SK to Norks: Back off!

How do you piss off the Norks? Plant their flag in the impact area of a live-fire exercise.

A huge North Korean flag disappeared behind a tower of flames and thick black smoke Friday as South Korean fighter jets and U.S. attack helicopters fired rockets in the allies' biggest joint live-fire drills since the Korean War.
The war games south of the heavily armed Korean border come amid rising animosity between the rival Koreas and are meant to mark Monday's 62nd anniversary of the start of the 1950-53 war, which ended in a truce, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically at war.
Live-fire drills by the allies are fairly routine, but using the North's national flag as part of target practice is unusual -- and will be seen as a provocation by Pyongyang, which has previously threatened war for what it called South Korean insults to the country's national symbols and leadership.

It's not quite the Most Dangerous Range Ever, but that one didn't start a war.

By: Brant

Random Friday Wargaming: The War of 1812 Minigame

Wrapping up our anniversary week coverage on the War of 1812 comes a free minigame, from Internationally Acclaimed Game Maestro™ Brian Train

The Second War of 1812
"Once More With Feeling"

(originally published in Strategist, volume XXVI number 4 issue 289, April 1996)

In the United States, exuberant 110th-anniversary celebrations of battles such as the Battle of New Orleans of 1815 and the Battle of Baltimore of 1814 produced a sense of euphoria over a "second war of independence" against Britain, culminating in a drunken lurch down the road to war with the Dominion of Canada in 1925.

The Rules

1.0 Introduction
Hi there.

2.0 Components
The game consists of two cards, one representing the American invaders (YankForce) and the other the Canadian defenders (CanuckBlock).
Players will need one n-sided die to play the game.

3.0 Sequence of Play
The game is one turn long and consists of three phases:

3.1 Movement Phase
3.2 Combat Phase
3.3 Victory Determination Phase

4.0 Movement
Place the CanuckBlock card face up on a table between the two players.
Place the YankForce card next to it.

5.0 Combat
Combat is conducted by the YankForce player rolling the die and matching the results on the following CRT:
1 to n-1 = Canuckblock eliminated
n = roll die again

6.0 Victory Determination
The YankForce player wins if the CanuckBlock card has been eliminated during the Combat Phase. The CanuckBlock player wins if the YankForce player fails to win, e.g., if he rolls n+1; or if lightning strikes and turns him into a pillar of salt; or he (in)advertently inhales the die and chokes.

7.0 Optional Rules
The CanuckBlock player can declare at the beginning of the Combat Phase that Prime Minister MacKenzie King is using his ouija board to predict the next die roll. If the prediction is correct, the YankForce player must buy him a drink before rolling again. If the prediction is wrong, the YankForce player wins a Sudden Death Victory.

The probability of rolling an "n" on 1dn approaches 1, i.e., 100% certitude, as the value of "n" also approaches 1. Thus the most favourable and promising strategy for CanuckBlock would be to use a one-sided die.

So... anyone want to playtest this one?

By: Brant

Restationing of Aviation Units to Ft Lewis

The Army is relocating the last of the units that will make up the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade.

The Department of the Army announced today the planned relocation of two aviation units to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.: 1st Battalion, 229th Air Cavalry Squadron will relocate from Fort Hood, Texas, and convert to an Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion; and Company D, 123rd Aviation Regiment will relocate from Fort Wainwright, Alaska. These force structure actions represent a net increase of 531 military and zero civilian authorizations for the Army at Joint Base Lewis-McChord; a decrease of 402 military and zero civilian authorizations at Fort Hood; and a decrease of 129 military and zero civilian authorizations at Fort Wainwright. These actions will be completed by Oct. 15, 2012.

These force structure actions represent the final phase of the activation of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to meet the Army’s broader strategic and operational requirements. These actions incorporate the Army Force Generation Model and Army Transformation initiatives, both of which are required to achieve the Army’s goal of rebalancing the force. Overall, these unit relocations will help the Army meet the increased demand placed on its aviation assets and provide combatant commanders with flexible, trained and highly-mobile forces to execute operations worldwide. The Army is transforming to provide a more relevant organization to meet its worldwide strategic and operational requirements.

By: Brant

Anniversary: War of 1812, Part 'More' of... we're almost done

The War of 1812: A Canadian’s Perspective

Two hundred years ago the United States and Great Britan, two countries that are now staunch friends and allies, went to war...and the British colony of Canada was caught in the middle of the conflict. Today, the War of 1812 is a minor footnote to history for most Americans, coming as it did between the epic conflicts that were the War of Independence and the American Civil War. The British also attach little importance the War of 1812, preferring, I think, to forget the reaffirmation of independence by their former colonies. In sharp contrast, the War of 1812 holds an important place in Canadian history. The war has been the subject of numerous Canadian books and films, and is marked by national historic sites and museum displays. It is often said that the Canadian national identity was born in 1917 on the bloody slopes of Vimy Ridge but, in fact, the seeds of Canadian nationalism were planted over a century earlier during the War of 1812 when an outnumbered force composed of Canadian militiamen and First Nations warriors leavened with a smattering of British redcoats turned back several invasion attempts by much larger forces of American troops.

A number of larger than life Canadian heroes emerged from the conflict. Major-General Isaac Brock defeated an American army at the Battle of Queenston Heights, but at the cost of his own life. The great Shawnee chief Tecumsah united the First Nations tribes in a mighty confederacy that was later shattered by his death at the Battle of the Thames. The homesteader Laura Secord walked 20 miles over rough terrain to warn the British of an impending American attack, which allowed a small force of British regulars and Mohawk warriors to defeat an American force at the Battle of Beaver Dams. Reminders of Canada’s role in the War of 1812 abound today. Brock’s blood-stained tunic is proudly on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa; Parks Canada maintains key historic sites from the War of 1812, including Fort George National Historic Site, the Battle of Chateauguay National Historic Site, and Crysler’s Farm Battlefield, that attract large numbers of Canadians and foreign tourists; and Laura Secord has been immortalized in song and by the signature chocolates produced by the Canadian candy and ice cream manufacturer that was named in her honour.

It matters little to us that British troops burned the White House but were later defeated by General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. Ask any Canadian who won the War of 1812 and the answer almost certainly will be “We did!” Former US President Thomas Jefferson without doubt missed the mark when he famously asserted that annexing Canada would be “a mere matter of marching”. Even though the eventual peace treaty between the United States and Great Britain maintained the status quo, the arguably mythic Canadian belief that our outnumbered citizen soldiers triumphed over a foreign invader is an important part of our national identity.

By: Shelldrake

The Pre-9/11 Chase For OBL

CNN's got a very good column based on some recently-declassified docs about the hunt for OBL, pre-9/11. It's a frustrating read, to know that we passed on a lot of opportunities to plant him in the dirt. Would it have stopped 9/11? Who knows. But it couldn't have hurt.

On December 20, 1998, an internal CIA memo was sent by a field agent about a missed opportunity to "hit" Osama bin Laden while he was reportedly visiting a mosque near Kandahar, Afghanistan. "I said hit him tonight; we may not get another chance," CIA agent Gary Schoen wrote. "We may well come to regret the decision not to go ahead."

The memo was sent to to Michael Scheuer, then head of the CIA's Osama bin Laden "station," and is one of more than 100 documents declassified and published by the National Security Archive this week. Although some have been previously cited or quoted in the Report of the 9/11 Commission, the raw documents themselves illustrate the frustrations and missteps in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and alarm among some at the CIA about al Qaeda's growing sophistication and its plans for attacking U.S. interests.

Scheuer replies to Schoen the following day. "This is the third time you and your officers have put UBL in this government's sights and they have balked each time at doing the job. ... They spent a good deal of time yesterday worrying that some stray shapnel might hit the Habash mosque and 'offend' Muslims."

By: Brant

21 June 2012

Anniversary: War of 1812, Part 'Brit' of... uh, let's just say we ran out of Canadians

While the war war darn important for Canada, it wasn't much of a blip on the British radar.

The War of 1812 has been referred to as a victorious “Second War for Independence,” and used to define Canadian identity, but the British only remember 1812 as the year Napoleon marched to Moscow. This is not surprising. In British eyes, the conflict with America was an annoying sideshow. The Americans had stabbed them in the back while they, the British, were busy fighting a total war against the French Empire, directed by their most inveterate enemy. For a nation fighting Napoleon Bonaparte, James Madison was an annoying irrelevance. Consequently the American war would be fought with whatever money, manpower and naval force that could be spared, no more than seven percent of the total British military effort.

By: Brant

BULLETS! - Demand More

-- quick and dirty words of wisdom collected over the years --

Don't try to make something idiot-proof because that just attracts the lowest common denominator. Demand a higher standard and your soldiers will rise to the occasion.

your thoughts always welcome in the comments below!

By: Brant

Anniversary: War of 1812, Part 'Next' of... we lost count

(another guest column from Internationally Acclaimed Game Maestro™ Brian Train. Also cross-posted over at grogheads.com)

In time for the bicentennial of the invasion of Canada that began the War of 1812, here is a brief summary of board wargames dealing with the conflict

1812: The Invasion of Canada
Academy Games 1812
Here’s an interesting one that is getting a lot of attention this year: a cooperative area-control game! Up to three British players (British Regulars, Canadian Militia and Native Americans) and two American players (Regular Army and Militia). Players must cooperate with each other in order to plan and conduct their campaigns to capture Objective Areas on the map. When a truce is called, the side that controls the most enemy Objective Areas wins.

Amateurs to Arms!
Clash of Arms Games 2012
Card-driven game on the entire war. Several months per turn, cards are played for the event described on the card, or for the card’s Operations Points, which allows player activities such as moving
forces, building ships and fortifications, or raising troops. Card and game events conspire markers on the Peace Track to move the end of the game up inexorably as the governments of both countries try to end the affair without shame.

A Mere Matter of Marching
Microgame Design Group 2002
DTP game on the three summer campaigns on the Niagara Peninsula, 1812-14. Point to point movement system, company troop scale. Units move on a strategic map until they make contact, then action is resolved on a battle board.

Chippawa: Birth of the United States Army
Markham Designs 2000
DTP wargame of Chippawa at battalion level.

Fury on Champlain
3W 1994
Land and naval warfare in the Lake Champlain area during September 1814. Said to have many rules problems.

For Honour and Glory
Worthington Games 2005
Many land and sea scenarios for the War, using the Clash for a Continent system. Features map boards, terrain tiles and hardwood counters to build up scenarios. Scenarios placed in Canada include Queenston Heights, The Thames, Chrysler's Farm, Chippawa, and Lundy's Lane.

La Bataille de York 1813
Minden Games 2002
In Panzerschreck magazine #9. Solitaire tactical mini-game in which the player (as British) tries to turn back the American invasion near York (afterwards, Toronto). Tiny map, fewer than 20 counters!

Line of Fire
BSO Games 2000
Two-game DTP package by Richard Berg: Maipo, a battle in 1818 in Chile and Lundy’s Lane, the bloodiest battle of the War of 1812.

Mr. Madison’s War
GMT 2012?
Another card-driven game on the War, players have a choice between playing the event on a card for its points or using it to perform actions on the game board and score automatic points for the playing of a card as an historical event. Map covers the northern theatre at four months per turn, with a unit scale of regiments, battalions, and individual ships. This game made its P500 cut in late 2011, but no release date has been announced.

Obstinate Beyond Description
The Perfect Captain 2005
Free print and play area movement game on operations in the Niagara Peninsula. Two days per turn; “detachment” (100-200 men) troop scale.

Rocket’s Red Glare
Simulations Canada 1981, Omega Games 20??
First game to cover the entire war. Designer Stephen Newberg (a Canadian) said of this, “This game is one of my favourites of my own design. The complexity is only moderate, but the game manages to include both a strategic game covering the U.S. from New England to Louisiana, and a breakdown operational game dealing in detail with the critical Great Lakes region confrontation zone. We have land and sea combat systems, and their integration. And it actually produces good history in a tense game.” Omega Games has been promising a reprint of this Real Soon Now for six years.

Twilight’s Last Gleaming
Decision Games 1997
In Strategy & Tactics #184: three small games on the battles of Bladensburg, North Point and New Orleans.

Twilight’s Last Gleaming II
Decision Games 2004
In Strategy & Tactics #225: sequel to the first volume, with revised rules; three small games on the battles of Chippewa, The Thames and Lundy’s Lane.

War of 1812
Columbia Games 1973
Focuses on the campaigns for the Great Lakes only. Block game, introductory level rules complexity but tremendous number of decisions and lack of information make for a tense and quite balanced game.

War of 1812
Decision Games 2001
Strategy & Tactics #201
Joe Miranda design covering the entire war. Seasonal turns, regimental troop scale, point-to-point movement system that appears similar to that used in A House Divided.

Additionally, there are many naval wargames that feature individual actions from the naval part of the war.

By: Brian Train

UK In Action: Carrier of the Future

A computer generated image of the Future Carrier. Following a requirement stated in the Strategic Defence Review for a new larger class of aircraft carrier, as a replacement for the three existing Invincible class ships, the CVF was conceived. In January 2003, the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, announced that the Royal Navy's new generation of aircraft carriers will be designed and built by an alliance between the Ministry of Defence and BAE Systems/Thales UK. KBR have subsequently joined this alliance in the role of Project Integrator. In order to maximise the flexibility that CVF can offer over its potential 50-year service life, the carriers will be built to an innovative adaptable design. Although CV-based, the ships will initially be fitted with a ramp for STOVL operations. Post JSF, the design will be capable of modification to operate aircraft requiring a catapult launch and arrested recovery. Although the final dimensions of CVF have yet to be confirmed, initial indications suggest that the carriers could be the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy. The base port will be Portsmouth, Hampshire.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Syrian Military Defections Continue

This one's a little more high-profile, too, since he's a pilot, a high-ranking pilot, and requesting asylum after flying his Syrian jet to another country.

The pilot of a Syrian MiG 21 fighter jet who flew his plane to Jordan on Thursday asked for political asylum on landing, Jordanian Minister of State for Information Samih al-Maaytah said.
"He requested political asylum in Jordan. He is being debriefed at the moment," Maaytah told Reuters.
Syrian state television named the pilot as Colonel Hassan Hamada, saying communications were lost with his plane while he was on a training mission near the border with Jordan.

By: Brant

20 June 2012

Leave No Man Behind: Korean War Edition

Another Korean War soldier has been identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing in action from the Korean War, were identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Army Cpl. Robert I. Wax of Detroit will be buried June 20 at Arlington National Cemetery. In August 1950, Wax and Battery A, 555th Field Artillery Battalion, were fighting against North Korean forces in a battle known as the “Bloody Gulch,” near Pongam-ni, South Korea. After the battle, on Aug. 11, 1950, Wax was listed as missing in action.

In late 1950, U.S. Army Graves Registration Service personnel recovered remains of service members from that battlefield, including nine men who were unidentified. These men were buried at the 25th Infantry Division Cemetery in South Korea. In 1951, the U.S. consolidated cemeteries on the peninsula. The unknown remains were re-interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

In 2011, due to advances in identification technology, the remains were exhumed for identification. Based on available evidence such as metal identification tags, military clothing, and wartime records, analysts from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) were able to conclude that the remains were those of a soldier who died at Pongam-ni.

Scientists from JPAC used the circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools including radiograph and dental comparisons in the identification of Wax.

By: Brant

US-KIWI Defense Pact

The US and New Zealand have signed a Defense Cooperation Arrangement

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and New Zealand Minister of Defence Jonathan Coleman signed the “Washington Declaration” at the Pentagon today to expand the defense relationship between the United States and New Zealand.

The declaration provides a framework for cooperation to focus, strengthen and expand the bilateral defense relationship. It promotes a common vision for defense cooperation in order to strengthen and expand practical bilateral cooperation.

The “Washington Declaration” opens up defense dialogues that include the exchange of information and strategic perspectives and increase understanding of defense policies. It reflects a shared commitment to a stable and peaceful Asia-Pacific region and common approaches to address the region’s defense and security issues, including contemporary non-traditional security challenges.

The partnership will include security cooperation in areas such as maritime security cooperation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and peacekeeping support operations.

The “Washington Declaration” was signed a week after commemorative events took place in cities across New Zealand celebrating the 70th Anniversary of U.S. forces coming to the aid of New Zealand in World War II.

A copy of the “Washington Declaration” is available at http://www.defense.gov/news/WashingtonDeclaration.pdf .


Isn't This How We Won the American Revolution?

A Navy SEAL has penned an interesting column called "Things I Learned from People Who Tried to Kill Me", and the discussion of the insurgents sounds a lot like the US forces in the AWI.

The insurgents operated in small teams across the countryside with relative impunity. Sleeping in the mountains or as house guests at night, the Taliban spent the entirety of their days in the villages – not maintaining and defending outposts where they could enjoy the comforts of western civilization. They were unimpeded by burdensome equipment and had relatively infrequent contact with their commanders, at least compared with our daily reports and operational approvals. The Taliban leadership had an inherently decentralized command structure, managing fighters and shadow government officials spread over hundreds of square kilometers and countless villages. However, the regional commander and shadow governors were remarkably in tune with the district’s populace and made earnest efforts at gaining their support through regular interaction – not “drive by shuras” after flying in from Kabul or the provincial capital. Likewise, the Taliban had an omnipresence that was felt by coalition forces and villagers alike. They possessed an uncanny ability to act as puppet masters over the populace, issuing decrees and administering justice based on persistent verification – not sporadic visits like absentee Afghan officials or “day tripping” coalition forces who neither spoke the language nor had spent enough time in the villages to understand the complex social dynamics.

By: Brant

19 June 2012

Early Computer Wargame Concept?

Found over at DTIC, there's an interesting concept paper that posits computer-aided information systems for gaming way back in 1964

Abstract : Scientific war games have been under development by military operations research groups since about 1960 and business games by industrial operations research groups since 1956. From an information system point of view these games may be divided into three types--computer simulations, digital man- machine games, and continuous variable man-machine games. Computer simulations, or completely automated games, (i.e. Carmonette, AD-257 012) are always rigid, usually stochastic, and generally very detailed. Since they are not limited by the decision-making speed of human beings, they may be executed rapidly, permitting repeated plays with large-scale variations of input conditions and chance factors. Digital man-machine games, or partly mechanized games, (i.e. Theaterspiel) employ digital computers for bookkeeping, computing, and transmission of data but use people for decision making. In digital man-machine games both speed of execution and level of detail are sacrificed in the interests of obtaining the flexibility of human participation. Continuous variable man-machine games employ people for decision making and electronic analog computers for computation. The human decisions are introduced continuously as the game proceeds rather than periodically. (Intended as a chapter in a book to be published by McGraw-Hill, 'Fundamentals of Information System Science and Engineering.')

LATER EDIT: Looks like someone is flapping this around Matrix Games' forums and some other places as "his" find.

By: Brant

COA Analysis: Uprisings and Reform

(republishing this one in light of recent events in Egypt / Syria; it originally ran in February of 2011)

As uprisings sweep the across the Muslim/Arab world, what comes next?

There are 4 courses of action there to consider. Which do you think is most likely, and why? How might it play out per the next 6-8 months?

By: Brant

Sound Off! Portability

Should the US Army focus on...

Long-duration deployments, rotations, occupations, and combat, taking time to build a robust in-theater force for battlefield dominance?

Lightweight, portable, fast-response in-theater forces with austere footprints that can get in and get out quickly?

Justify your decision below!

By: Brant

More info on the UK restructuring

Just how much will the Brits cut uniforms and swap in contractors?

Whole regiments could be axed or merged, and infantry battalions and armoured units disappear as the army faces its biggest shakeup since the end of the cold war, Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, will say on Thursday.

The army will be cut from 102,000 to 82,000 by the year 2020 and will have to rely more on reserves and private contractors, he is expected to say.

But it will continue to provide the "teeth" in future military operations as Britain's European allies provide the logistics backup, Hammond will say at a London conference on land warfare run by the Royal United Services Institute thinktank.

Defence officials emphasised that more functions of the army would be "outsourced" – potentially to include more training and logistics as well as backup security work.

Restructuring the British army will "rethink the way we deliver every aspect of military effect in order to maximise capability at the front line". In future, he will say, the army must be "thinking innovatively about how combat service support is provided. Using more systematically the skills available in the reserve and from our contractors. Working closely with partners to operate logistics more rationally through [Nato] alliance structures. Looking to others to provide the tail, where Britain is concentrating on providing the teeth".

Hammond will stress the importance of the regimental tradition – "maintaining the ethos, traditions and connections that are part of what makes the British army so effective – particularly, a regimental system and regionally focused recruiting", he will say. But he is expected to emphasise the point that a regular army of 82,000 will have a very different structure to one of 102,000. "Some units inevitably will be lost or will merge," the defence secretary will warn.

Hammond will say there is "no question of abandoning the regimental system... that does not mean that we can avoid difficult decisions as the army gets smaller." History and heritage deliver "tangible military benefits in the modern British army".

By: Brant

Anniversary: War of 1812, Part 2 of... more than 2

Today's wry note is from Internationally Acclaimed Game Maestro™ Brian Train

The Canadian government announced in late 2011 that it would be spending $28 million over the next four years to commemorate the War. There will be funding for re-enactments of battles (e.g. Fort George and Queenston Heights) and significant events (e.g. the burial of Sir Isaac Brock, the journey of Laura Secord, the occupation and burning of Newark), as well as commemorative events, restorations or improvements to 40 historical sites in the Niagara Peninsula, an educational campaign and of course, websites (e.g. www.eighteentwelve.ca).

The irony of spending this amount of money on bicentennial celebrations of the start of the War (normally, don’t we commemorate the ends of wars?) has not gone unnoticed, when recent “austerity” budgets by the current neoconservative government have cut funding for the national library and archives, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Statistics Canada, research councils that fund historical inquiry, Parks Canada, and the development of Canadian Studies programs in countries outside Canada.

October 2012 will be declared a national month of commemoration for the war, capped somewhat later by the unveiling of a permanent monument to the War in a prominent position before the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. No word yet on whether the monument will be in the form of a triumphal arch, but the choice of site is curious – Ottawa did not exist in 1812 and is itself actually a byproduct of the War. It was originally called Bytown, named for Colonel John By, who in 1826 began construction of the Rideau Canal as a secure route between Montreal and Kingston on Lake Ontario, so bypassing the stretch of the St. Lawrence River that borders New York.

- Brian Train, 11 June 2012

By: Brant

18 June 2012

Anniversary: War of 1812, Part 1 of, well, a bunch!

As a part of the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812, we've press-ganged some excellent writers into contributing a few thoughts for us on the war. Stay tuned for more this week.

First up, Jim Werbaneth, a wargamer and historian who teaches military history at the university level, and runs the Line of Departure wargaming magazine (that's been around a lot longer than Carl Prine's Line of Departure blog)...



The War of 1812 involved three countries: Great Britain, Canada and the United States. For Britain, the conflict was little more than a sideshow from the great struggle against Napoleon. Until his first abdication from the throne, the British exercised economy of force, adopting a largely defensive strategy with minimal force, especially land forces. Additionally, Britain did not press territorial demands, and under the premiership of Lord Liverpool, concluded peace on what was basically the prewar status quo. If anything, Britain conceded more than the Americans, as it abandoned the Indians of the upper Midwest whom it traditionally supported.

For Canada, the War of 1812 was far more important. With divided loyalties at the start among its Anglophone population, Canadians were forced to decide whether they owed allegiance to the Crown, or had vestigial loyalty to the United States from which many originated. In the crucible of war, Canada started down a path of nationhood that would culminate in a specific national identity, both North American and royalist.

For the United States, the legacy is confusing and, at times, overstated. The War of 1812 was never the “Second War of Independence” as which it is sometimes portrayed, and the American experiment was never truly endangered. Then when the war was over, the United States and Britain rekindled commercial and political ties, while the Americans lost a major Indian impediment to western expansion.

more after the jump!

UK In Action: Lancers in Iraq

Soldiers of 1 A Squadron, Queens Royal Lancers (QRL) patrolling outside Basra, Iraq onboard a Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank during Operation Telic 4.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

17 June 2012

Russia Shipping Weapons / Troops to Syria? And for What?

Are they headed there to 'cause trouble'? Or are they there to help defend the Russian naval base there?

The United States says it is tracking a Russian military cargo ship as it makes its way to Syria carrying weapons, ammunition and a small number of Russian troops.

U.S. intelligence believes the Russians are sending the ship to help fortify its naval base in Syria as the situation in country continues to spiral out of control, Pentagon officials told CNN Friday.

The presence of the ship was first reporting by NBC News.

Classified U.S. imagery shows the ship, called the Nikolay Filchenkov, began loading in the port of Sevastapol on the Black Sea on June 7 and is headed for the Syrian port of Tartus, where the Russians have a naval facility. The port is vital for Russian naval access to the entire Middle East.

Under maritime rules, Russia should declare what the ship is carrying when it enters the Mediterranean, U.S. officials said.

The sources could not say how many troops are on board, though it is not believed to be a large number. In addition, the officials said, it is not clear if the troops are only to help secure and transport the weapons and equipment or if they will stay in Syria.

For now, the United States believes Russia's intention is to defend its naval base. But it is not clear how much of a threat the Russians really are facing from Syrian opposition forces. There have been no reports of significant fighting in the area lately.

Is the naval base here in the port?

View Larger Map

By: Brant

16 June 2012

Statement by George Little on War Powers Report

The DoD has pushed out a Statement by George Little on War Powers Report

As part of the Administration's efforts to keep the United States Congress and the American people informed about the activities of the United States military, and consistent with the War Powers Resolution, the President today submitted a report to Congress about deployments of the United States Armed Forces.

This report contains information about our deployments to Afghanistan, Central Africa, and Kosovo. This report also makes clear that the United States military is engaged in a robust range of operations to target al-Qaeda and associated forces, including in Somalia and Yemen. In Somalia, the U.S. military has taken direct action against members of al-Qaeda, and al-Qaeda associated elements of al-Shabaab. In Yemen, the U.S. military has engaged with the Yemeni government in joint efforts to dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an active and dangerous al-Qaeda affiliate. In all cases we are focused on those al-Qaeda members and affiliates who pose a direct threat to the United States and to our national interests. This report contains information about these operations owing to their growing significance in our overall counterterrorism effort.

Going forward, the American people should know that we will do what is necessary to defend our country against those who would threaten us.

By: Brant

Restationing of Amphibious Group Moved Up

The US Navy is accelerating the restationing of the an amphibious ready group.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today that the first amphibious ready group (ARG) ship scheduled to shift homeport to Naval Station Mayport, Fla., will arrive in the last quarter of 2013.

The USS New York, the USS Iwo Jima and the USS Fort McHenry, will shift from their current homeport of Norfolk, Va., to Mayport. The USS New York will be the first to change homeport, followed by the USS Iwo Jima and the USS Fort McHenry in 2014.

Mabus originally announced Feb. 28 that the ARG would arrive no later than 2015.

The accelerated timeline ensures continued viability of the Mayport ship repair industrial base and maintains the capabilities of the Jacksonville fleet concentration area, thereby preserving surge capability and reducing risk to fleet resources in the event of natural or man-made contingencies.

“I am very pleased that the Navy is able condense the time horizon for the arrival of the Mayport ARG,” stated Mabus. “The move underscores just how important Jacksonville and Naval Station Mayport are to our national defense, and how committed we are to strategic dispersal on the east coast.”

View Larger Map

By: Brant

DoD is (sing it, Daltrey!) "Going Mo-BILE!"

The DoD has released their new mobile device "strategy".

The Department of Defense announced today the release of a mobile device strategy that identifies information technology goals and objectives to capitalize on the full potential of mobile devices. The strategy focuses on improving three areas critical to mobility: wireless infrastructure, mobile devices, and mobile applications, and works to ensure these areas remain reliable, secure and flexible enough to keep up with fast-changing technology.

“The Department of Defense is taking a leadership role in leveraging mobile device technology to improve information sharing, collaboration and efficiencies,” said Teri Takai, Department of Defense chief information officer. “As today’s DoD personnel become increasingly mobile, a wide variety of devices offers unprecedented opportunities to advance the operational effectiveness of the DoD workforce. This strategy will allow mobile activities across the department to converge towards a common vision and approach.”

The scope of the DoD mobile device user base is significant, with more than 250,000 commercial mobile devices and several thousand Apple and Android operating systems, including pilots. The Mobile Device Strategy is intended to align the progress of these various mobile devices, pilots and initiatives across DoD under common objectives to ensure the warfighter benefits from these activities and aligns with efforts in the Joint Information Environment.

“The DoD Mobile Device Strategy takes advantage of existing technology, the ability to use or build custom apps, and a workforce increasingly comfortable with mobile devices,” said Takai. “This strategy is not simply about embracing the newest technology -- it is about keeping the DoD workforce relevant in an era when information and cyberspace play a critical role in mission success.”

For further information about this strategy, please access http://www.defense.gov/news/dodmobilitystrategy.pdf

By: Brant

15 June 2012

Leave No Man Behind: Vietnam War Edition

Another pilot from Vietnam is coming home.

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

Air Force Lt. Col. Charles M. Walling of Phoenix will be buried June 15 at Arlington National Cemetery. There will be a group burial honoring Walling and fellow crew member, Maj. Aado Kommendant of Lakewood, N.J., at Arlington National Cemetery, on Aug. 8 -- the 46th anniversary of the crash that took their lives.

On Aug. 8, 1966, Walling and Kommendant were flying an F-4C aircraft that crashed while on a close air support mission over Song Be Province, Vietnam. Other Americans in the area reported seeing the aircraft crash and no parachutes were deployed. Search and rescue efforts were not successful in the days following the crash.

In 1992, a joint United States-Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) team investigated the crash site and interviewed a local Vietnamese citizen who had recovered aircraft pieces from the site. In 1994, a joint U.S.-S.R.V. team excavated the site and recovered a metal identification tag, bearing Wallings name, and other military equipment. In 2010, the site was excavated again. Human remains and additional evidence were recovered.

Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial and material evidence, along with forensic identification tools including mitochondrial DNA which matched Wallings living sister in the identification of the remains.

By: Brant

Random Friday Wargaming: The Combat Engineer Game

Produced by the US Army Engineer School, The Combat Engineer Game let you test yourself against real-world missions!

C'mon! Who can resist such real-world practicality as a tabletop wargame for training troops?! Uh, well, there's most of the rest of the US Army, for starters...

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

By: Brant

Secretary Panetta's Statement on the US Army's Birthday

SecDef marks The Army Birthday Celebration.

“As we mark the birthday of the United States Army, I want to congratulate this great American institution for 237 years of distinguished service in defense of this country. The proud story of the American soldier is one of honor, valor, patriotism, and sacrifice in the service of their countrymen. From those earliest volunteers who stepped forward to join the ranks of the Continental Army to those who fought at Gettysburg, in the Argonne Forest, at Normandy, Bastogne, in Korea and Vietnam, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American soldier has shaped the course of world history.

“I am proud of the opportunity I had to serve in the ranks of the United States Army. I’ll always cherish those memories of Army life, and the honor I felt in being part of an extraordinary team.

“For ten long years the Army has shouldered a heavy burden, fighting in Iraq’s city streets and in the mountains of Afghanistan. And through it all, American soldiers stepped bravely forward, marched off towards the sound of the guns, and gave everything to provide for our security, to give all Americans a better, safer future. They have done everything this country has asked of them and more.

“I have been deeply fortunate in my position as secretary of defense over this past year to have visited many Army installations and thousands of soldiers serving around the world, including those on the front lines. These soldiers, and their families, carry forward the proud and distinguished legacy we celebrate today, and because of their dedication, the United States Army will remain the strongest in the world.”

By: Brant

14 June 2012

BULLETS! - Rehearsals

-- quick and dirty words of wisdom collected over the years --

Don't just schedule a rehearsal - plan it. Put someone in charge, sequence the events, figure out who needs to be there and when, and most importantly, don't waste anyone's time.
Those extra 20 minutes of sleep for that one soldier could mean life-or-death for his squad or crew, and may get the LOGPAC out in daylight instead of the support platoon leader having to sit through a task force rehearsal of actions on the objective that he will be miles away from during the real battle.

your thoughts always welcome in the comments below!

By: Brant

UK In Action: Harpoons Away!

Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond is pictured firing her Harpoon anti-ship missile system. Fitted to the Batch III Type 22 frigates and the Type 23 frigates, the Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) Harpoon is a sophisticated anti-ship missile using a combination of inertial guidance and active radar homing to attack targets out to a range of 130km. Cruising at Mach 0.9 and carrying a 227kg warhead it is powered by a lightweight turbojet, but is accelerated at launch by a booster rocket. A submarine launched version, known as Sub Harpoon, is also in service aboard the Swiftsure and Trafalgar class SSNs.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

US-JPN-SKOR Naval Exercises Announced

Defense.gov News Release: United States, Republic of Korea and Japanese Naval Exercises Announced

The United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan will conduct a two-day, trilateral naval exercise June 21 - 22 in the waters south of the Korean peninsula.

The exercise will focus on improving interoperability and communications with the ROK Navy and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, which can facilitate cooperative disaster relief and maritime security activities in the future. The three navies will conduct this exercise beyond the territorial waters of any coastal nation.

The United States will then conduct a routine carrier operation with the ROK Navy in the Yellow Sea immediately after the trilateral exercise June 23 - 25.

The George Washington Carrier Strike Group will make a port call in Busan, South Korea, after completing the two exercises.

Note that there's no mention of either China or the Norks.

By: Brant

SF Ops in Africa Focusing on Intel Work?

WaPo has a very revealing - and long - article about the expansion of special ops missions in Africa, and their focus on intel work.

About a dozen air bases have been established in Africa since 2007, according to a former senior U.S. commander involved in setting up the network. Most are small operations run out of secluded hangars at African military bases or civilian airports.

The nature and extent of the missions, as well as many of the bases being used, have not been previously reported but are partially documented in public Defense Department contracts. The operations have intensified in recent months, part of a growing shadow war against al-Qaeda affiliates and other militant groups. The surveillance is overseen by U.S. Special Operations forces but relies heavily on private military contractors and support from African troops.

The surveillance underscores how Special Operations forces, which have played an outsize role in the Obama administration’s national security strategy, are working clandestinely all over the globe, not just in war zones. The lightly equipped commando units train foreign security forces and perform aid missions, but they also include teams dedicated to tracking and killing terrorism suspects.

How do you see the future of US operations in Africa? Conventional missions? SF ops supporting FD? Quasi-wars and proxy wars against trans-national troublemakers? Zimbabwe continuing under the rule of Methuselah Robert Mugabe?

By: Brant

Happy Birthday to the US Army

On this day in 1775, the US Army was founded. Been kicking ass ever since.

The June 14 date is when Congress adopted "the American continental army" after reaching a consensus position in The Committee of the Whole. This procedure and the desire for secrecy account for the sparseness of the official journal entries for the day. The record indicates only that Congress undertook to raise ten companies of riflemen, approved an enlistment form for them, and appointed a committee (including Washington and Schuyler) to draft rules and regulations for the government of the army. The delegates' correspondence, diaries, and subsequent actions make it clear that they really did much more.

What was the first time you got up close and personal to the Army? Sound off below!

By: Brant

Focus on China? Or Just Seeking a Focus?

Is AirSea Battle's focus on China an approach with built-in belligerence? And if not China, what threat out there guides strategic developments of the military?

In spite of this, AirSea Battle and its most recent manifestation, the Joint Operating Access Concept, are controversial. Some critics see it as an attempt by the navy and the air force, after a decade of relative neglect, to grab the lion’s share of a shrinking defence budget—already being trimmed by about $480 billion over the next ten years.

Others fear that although the concept does not mention China by name, it is the only opponent with the range of capabilities the new thinking is designed to counter. (Significantly, the Chinese defence minister did not attend the Shangri-La get-together; see article.) And whereas the 1980s predecessor of AirSea Battle, AirLand Battle, was intended to meet the real threat of a thrust by Soviet forces into Western Europe, the threat from China to America and its regional allies is harder to define. In a speech last month at the Joint Warfighting Conference, General James Cartwright, vice-chairman of the joint chiefs of staff until last year, said of AirSea Battle: “To some, it’s becoming the Holy Grail…[but] it’s neither a doctrine nor a scenario.” Worst of all, said General Cartwright, “AirSea Battle is demonising China. That’s not in anybody’s interest.”

Nathan Freier, of the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, argues in a recent paper that although conflict with China “might be the most lethal set of circumstances from a traditional military standpoint, it is also the least likely and the most speculative.” North Korea, Pakistan and Iran (with their actual or putative nuclear arsenals) and even Syria all represent more realistic A2/AD challenges, which might well require the insertion of the ground forces that AirSea Battle ignores.

Other critics, such as Noel Williams, an adviser on strategy to the marine corps, point to the risk of escalation—because of the dependence on deep strike against Chinese targets on land—and to the absence of ideas about what happens without ground forces once a strike is made.

By: Brant

13 June 2012

Syria Lashed Out At US "Interference" - And Accepts Russian Choppers for Delivery

Syria tells the US to stop interfering.

The rebel pullout came as Syria lashed out at the United States after Washington warned of possible mass killings in Haffa.
Syria's foreign ministry said the remarks by a State Department spokeswoman warning that President Bashar Assad's forces could commit massacres in Haffa coincided with stepped-up attacks by rebels in the area. The ministry's statement was reported Wednesday by the state-run news agency, SANA.
"The U.S. administration is continuing its blatant interference in the internal affairs of Syria, its open support for the terrorists, covering up the terrorists' crimes," the statement said.
Haffa is one of several areas where Syrian government forces are battling rebels for control. It is particularly important, because the town is about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Assad's hometown of Kardaha in Latakia province along the Mediterranean coast. Latakia is the heartland of the Alawite minority to which Assad and the ruling elite belong, although there is a mix of religious groups.

But Russian interference? We don't mind so much.

"There's no doubt that the onslaught continues, the use of heavy artillery and the like," Clinton told a discussion with Israeli President Shimon Peres hosted by the Brookings Institution.
Washington had pressed Moscow, a longstanding ally of Damascus, to stop what Clinton called "continued arms shipments to Syria."
"They have from time to time said that we shouldn't worry, that everything they're shipping is unrelated to their actions internally. That's patently untrue," the top US diplomat insisted.
"We are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically," Clinton added.

By: Brant

Wrapping Up Unified Quest

Looking back at the now-wrapped up Unified Quest futures wargame.

"I was initially skeptical," said retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, who started the annual wargame when he was commandant of the Army War College and had been displeased by its direction. "I've been very much a stern critic of this game over the years," he told AOL Defense, but this time, the players portraying the enemy -- the "Red Team" -- were once again given freedom to wreak havoc on the good guys in innovative ways, forcing the US and its allies -- "Blue" -- to innovate in turn. Said Scales, "that led to a lot of legitimacy and credibility in the game, which I found frankly very refreshing."

Though the wargame addressed issues ranging from cyberwar to terrorism, from interagency coordination to public relations, central to the scenario was the challenge of deploying US forces to countries where they have not operated before. That's a problem the real-world Army struggled with in Kosovo in 1999 and Afghanistan in 2001 but has largely avoided since, only to realize belatedly that the other services have gotten ahead on the issue with a concept called "AirSea Battle." So the Army deliberately set this year's game in fictional countries where there was no prior US presence. The adversary knew that only a handful of major ports and airfields could accommodate US transports, and it targeted them mercilessly.

By: Brant

Drones To Keep Watch Over Canadian Arctic?

This might be one way for Ottawa to justify purchasing a reduced number of F-35 stealth fighters.

The federal government [of Canada] is considering a proposal to buy at least three high-altitude, unmanned aerial vehicles in what could be an attempt to salvage its Arctic sovereignty ambitions.

The pitch was made by U.S. defence contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. and involves modifying its existing Global Hawk drone, which can operate at 20,000 metres, to meet the rigours of flying in the Far North.

Many of the Conservative government’s plans to establish a presence in the rapidly thawing region, including the construction of military icebreakers and the establishment of a deepwater port, are behind schedule.
The U.S. Air Force is considering selling some of its Global Hawks, which are still under construction, as part of military budget cuts.

“It’s a capability that matches a need here in Canada,” Dane Marolt, Northrop Grumman’s director of international business development. “The Arctic is an issue for Canada. It’s also an issue for the United States. Unless you know what’s going on there, you can’t take any action.”

He says any potential purchase would have to go through the Pentagon, but adds the proposal given to the Canadian government includes aircraft, ground stations, spares and in-service support.

By: Shelldrake

12 June 2012

"Tear down this wall!"

Today is the anniversary of the President Reagan's famous Tear down this wall! speech in West Berlin in front of the Brandenburg Gate. The complete text can be found here.

There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

2-1/2 years later, the wall was down.

By: Brant

Future Chinese Missile Attacks on US Ships?

The Chinese make public statements about how missiles would be used to attack ships.

Tan Weihong, Commander of China's Second Artillery Force says, "Conventional missiles are a trump card in modern warfare. So we must be ready at any time. We must be able to deliver a quick response to attacks, hit the targets with high accuracy, and destroy them totally. Of the 114 missiles [our brigade] has launched so far, all have accurately hit the target."
For each incoming missile a U.S. Navy ship will have to perform some variation of the following actions:
First it will launch a long-range air defense missile, like a SM-2ER. If that fails, then a shorter range missile like the ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile) will go out — then the ship's main deck guns will fire anti-air rounds with fused airburst shells.
Surviving missiles will be engaged by close-in weapons systems like the Mk-15 Pahalanx or the RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile). Any incoming missiles struck by these systems will be so close, and moving so fast, that incoming shrapnel and debris would likely be unavoidable.
While all these "Hard Kill" options are going on the ship's electronic warfare systems will have been trying to jam the incoming missile, offering the missile a false target, while firing off chaff (for radar guided weapons) and flares (for infrared guided weapons).

How much missile-hunting within China will this lead to before any opposed naval actions inside the Indonesia-Philippines-Japan ring of islands around Asia?

By: Brant

Sound Off! Political Involvement

What sorts of political involvement should be allowed for military members?
What sorts of political involvement should be expressly prohibited for military members?

Don't just regurgitate what is; think about what should be...

By: Brant

11 June 2012

Next Afghanistan Units Announced

Are these the last of the big units to be headed to Afghanistan?

The Department of Defense today identified four units to deploy as part of the upcoming rotation of forces operating in Afghanistan. The scheduled rotation involves one brigade combat team with more than 3,000 personnel to rotate in late Spring 2012; one brigade combat team with more than 2,950 personnel and one combat aviation brigade with more than 2,580 to rotate in late Fall 2012; and one combat aviation brigade with more than 2,500 personnel to rotate in early Winter 2012. The deploying units include:

4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan. (deploys in late Spring 2012).

3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky. (deploys in late Fall 2012).

101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Combat Aviation Brigade, Fort Campbell, Ky. (deploys in late Fall 2012).

3rd Infantry Division Combat Aviation Brigade, Fort Stewart, Ga. (deploys in early Winter 2012).

By: Brant

UK In Action: Command Saxon

A Command Variant Saxon Armoured Personnel Carrier of 33 (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Regiment, Royal Engineers.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

10 June 2012

A "Reward" For Turning In President Obama?

Boy, you know Stewart & Colbert are going to have a field day with this one... the twits in Somalia have offered "rewards" for knocking off President Obama and Secretary Clinton.

The al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia has mocked the new $33 million bounty on its top leaders heads by offering its own bounty for President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – 10 camels for Obama and 20 chickens for Clinton.
"Anyone who helps the Mujahideen find the whereabouts of Obama and Hillary Clinton will be rewarded with 10 Camels to the information leading to Obama and 10 hens and 10 cocks for Hillary," said senior Shabaab commander Fuad Mohamed Khalaf in a statement reported on numerous websites.
Earlier this week, the U.S. offered a total of $33 million through the State Department's Rewards for Justice program for information leading to the capture of seven different Shabaab leaders, including Khalaf.
The U.S. offered $7 million for founder and commander Ahmed Abdi Aw-Mohamed, AKA Godane or Mukhtar Abu Zubeir, five million for Khalaf and three other men, and $3 million apiece for two other leaders.
The announcement of the U.S. bounties came as Somali and other African military forces have begun to squeeze Shabaab into a smaller and smaller section of Somalia. In a statement, the Somali government said the rewards would help crush the al Qaeda affiliate.

By: Brant

09 June 2012

China's Uneven Military Diplomacy

The Economist compares the US approach to military diplomacy to the Chinese approach, and how internal politics are affecting it.

China’s leaders passed up an opportunity to match the Americans with some military schmoozing of their own. Unlike last year, when China sent its defence minister, Liang Guanglie, to the Shangri-La Dialogue, this year the highest-ranking Chinese delegate was a senior military academic, Lieutenant-General Ren Haiquan. This was a marked scaling back of China’s engagement with the forum, which has become an important venue for informal contact between Asia-Pacific military chiefs (as well as some from Europe) since it was launched in 2002.

John Chipman, the director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a London-based think-tank which organises the event, told participants that Chinese officials informed him in March that “travel schedules and domestic priorities” would make it difficult for China to send its minister this year. Domestic factors are the more plausible explanation. In the month leading up to the Shangri-La Dialogue, General Liang had visited Washington, DC (the first Chinese defence minister to do so in nine years) and attended a meeting of South-East Asian defence ministers in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. But those events were more easily choreographed than the Singapore forum, where last year he was peppered with questions about China’s armed forces.

With the approach this autumn of sweeping leadership changes in China’s civilian and military leadership, it is not surprising that General Liang has turned even more shy than usual (it took the IISS ten years to secure attendance by a Chinese defence minister, even though the office ranks relatively low in China’s military hierarchy compared with other countries). The leadership transition has been unusually troubled since the flight of a senior regional official to an American consulate in February. This led to the detention of the wife of a powerful regional chief, Bo Xilai, on suspicion of murder, and the suspension of Mr Bo himself from the Communist Party’s ruling Politburo.

By: Brant