Monthly Archives: September 2017

Taming Sangin

By lex, on July 12th, 2011

It wasn’t easy bringing security to Sangin, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines endured great hardships, took heavy casualties and had to improvise new tactics on the fly:

On Oct. 13, the day 3/5 took control of Sangin, the first Marine patrol to leave the wire came under fire 150 feet from the perimeter. One member of this patrol was shot dead. Within the next four days, another eight Marines died.

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By lex, on July 10th, 2011

It was late at night, and I chanced to look outside our backyard window to see something large and powerful attempting to vault itself over the fence and into the nature preserve beyond. The fence was too high, and the rebuffed animal fell back, turned and looked right at me through the plate glass window with eyes of burning coal. A wolf, a very large wolf, black in the main atop chest and legs splashed with white.

It wouldn’t do to have a wolf trapped in the back yard, not with the house for sale. But I wasn’t about to go out there unarmed, so I fetched the Remington 870 from the bedroom, and cautiously stepped out the door, using one foot to keep Gus the dachshund from scampering out to his certain doom. Gus is bold, but not clever, and the wolf is both.

The first chamber is loaded with No. 4 birdshot – it is meant to maim, not kill – but the follow on rounds are 4-ought buck, and I briefly considered cycling the birdshot out and the buckshot in. No, I thought to myself. I owe him this.

I cautiously stepped to the gate, the shotgun at the ready and opened it. I stepped back and the wolf stared at me for a moment before limping to the exit, manifesting every appearance of being injured or ill. Once through the gate however he fled like smoke to the forest beyond and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Until the mercenaries trudged by in the gloaming, from whence and towards what object I did not know, nor apparently need to. They were a disreputable looking bunch, all of them armed, some with rifles, at least one with an AK-47, the icon of international mayhem and terror. They grumbled as they looked at me, and I stood my ground with the shotgun at high port. I heard one of them say to his neighbor that the second man could distract me, while he himself would take me down, it would look like a righteous shoot, no  one would ever question it. I shouldered the shotgun and aimed it just above and to the side of his face, wishing I had cycled the buckshot under the firing pin. These were far the more dangerous animals, and although they were not on my property, I was. I wondered to myself whether California had a no-retreat law.

But they too passed by, uneventfully. I breathed a sigh of relief and then suddenly a colleague of mine was bringing a group of tidily dressed young people to meet me.

“Who are these people?” I cried.

“They are the air traffic controllers,” he replied.

“Oh, I see. Thank you,” I said to the crowd that gathered around. “We couldn’t do it without you.”

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By lex, on July 9th, 2011

They leave something to be desired, in Afghanistan:

BRITISH soldiers who spot Taliban fighters planting roadside bombs are told not to shoot them because they do not pose an immediate threat, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.

They are instead ordered to observe insurgents and record their position to cut the risk of civilian casualties, in contrast to US forces who are free to open fire.

The policy emerged at an inquest into the death of Sgt Peter Rayner, 34, who was killed in October by an improvised explosive device as he led a patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. His widow, Wendy, 40, said that in the days leading up to his death Sgt Rayner was told it was not his job to attack insurgents laying bombs.

Mrs Rayner, who lives with their young son in Bradford, told the inquest that the insurgents were being allowed to get away with the murder of British troops.

She said: “They are not allowed to fire on these terrorists. If they can see people leaving these IEDs, why can’t they take them out? One officer even told him [Sgt Rayner], ‘I am an army captain and you will do your job’. I believe strongly if people had taken on board what he was saying he might have been here today.”

Under the Geneva Convention and the nationally administered Rules of Engagement the 9,500 British troops in Afghanistan are told they can only attack if there is an immediate threat to life…

“There has to be an immediate threat to life and that’s a hard thing to prove. An IED does not count as an immediate threat. The Americans are different — their rules of engagement are pretty liberal. If they even suspect someone of laying a bomb, they can shoot them.”

British soldiers and Royal Marines have long fought bravely on the lines in Afghanistan, despite a lack of demoralizing lack of commitment and resources from government and the MoD. And it is important in a counter-insurgency not to overly antagonize the non-combatants.

But IEDs are the number one killer of coalition forces in Afghanistan, and emplacing one is an overtly hostile act.

This is just plain stupid.


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A Good Craic

By lex, on July 9th, 2011

We were relatively few, but mighty last night * at Shakespeare’s in Mission Hills. Your humble was almost at his hour, while the good Quartermaster, whose chronometer was so in accord with the great sidereal movement with which time is generally reckoned that he awaited within.

Not long thereafter we were met by FbL and her beau, a jolly young man who ordered a Guinness (for strength!) and promptly won my heart. Dirt Sailor arrived with his lovely bride. A feller named John who I gathered had flown Phantoms in the great back when was there as well, and we were finally joined by Padre Harvey who sized up his flock, sighed and ordered a beer. For if you can’t beat them, well…

Virgil Xenophon had intended to come, but as QM shared in a different place, his mother has taken very ill, and they have our hopes and prayers.

Not for the first time I was struck by the strange imbalance of knowledge, when you’re meeting with people who know a great deal more about you than you do of them. They were all sufficiently tactful to pretend otherwise, of course. A good conversation over a couple of adult beverages, I got to talk with my hands for a few moments, and even re-tell a sea story or two, but now complete with gestures and facial expressions.

John bought the first round, gentle reader, while you bought the rest. At least if your name is Daryle, Bill or Kent, whose generosity in sponsoring the evening last night is greatly appreciated and there’s even a little left over for tailwheel flying. So, win-win.

While we’re on that topic, it’s time to tip our hats to Ron, John and Loralee, who have recently been generous with their hard earned, Brian, James, Don and Nick who have encouraged our efforts via subscription, Rhonda who made her first ever donation, and James who has been very often kind. And all of that in the last month.

So thanks again to those who came and those who were there in spirit. It was a jolly good craic.

*10-30-2018 Link added by Editor 


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Last Shot

By lex, on July 8th, 2011

It’s undoubtedly a bittersweet day at NASA, as Atlantis successfully blasted off, marking the last flight for the US space shuttle fleet. No replacement vehicle is currently funded, and the organization has gone looking for missions even as its high priced engineering talent will go looking for new work.

Last Shot

A sad day too for those of us who once dreamed of greater things in space exploration than an over-priced Dodge Caravan confined to Low Earth Orbit.

Like most government designs, the space shuttle system was a series of compromises: There were and are cheaper ways to move cargo into space, and better ways to move people. The concept of component re-usability as a way to reduce costs didn’t pan out in the way that boosters had hoped. And 40% fatal attrition was a high bill to pay across the five-vehicle fleet.

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Pimp My Ride – FA-18 Style

By lex, on July 8th, 2011

VFA-25 in Lemoore, California was my first fleet squadron, back in 1987-1990. The “Fist of the Fleet” had a long and storied history, including the last shootdown of a jet powered fighter by a radial engine attack aircraft. They also had the baddest squadron logo in the fleet, as evidenced in part by its use by the fictional F-14 (ack, spfft!) pilot Tom Iceman Kazansky in the movie Top Gun (which they didn’t even spell it right).

The squadron’s CAG bird is undergoing a repainting job, as pointed out by the ever-helpful Spaz Sinbad.

Pimp My Ride – FA-18 Style

I like it, although to be fair, good taste is very much in the eye of the beholder. And when I was there, we only had three battle stars – now it’s four.

I guess they jumbled all the recent fights together: 1991, 2001, 2003.

(Question for the cognoscenti: When did West Coast jets start sporting “A” callsigns?)


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Meet Up

By lex, on July 7th, 2011

So, tomorrow afternoon  at, say 1630 – good Lord willing and the dam don’t break – your humble will meet travelers from lands antique and otherwise at the usual spot. Some of them are known to you through the comments boxes of these pages, whilst others I gather are chiefly of the lurker set, but all are welcome. All are welcome.

As are you, friend, if you happen to be in town and the thirst catches you.

And if you’re wondering whether you can buy me a beer, the answer is yes. Yes you can.

If we’ve never met before and you want to know me by looking at me, take the picture to your right, add fifteen pounds and fifteen years while graying up the rug most generously.

It’s the daughters, I tell you. That and waving them Tomcats.

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Errors Were Made

By lex, on July 6th, 2011

In the era of the Soviets, reforms were quietly enacted by bureaucrats with the concession that “errors had been made” by their predecessors. It was a nifty way for current party apparatchiks to distance themselves from policies that had resulted in the death of millions, while attempting to reassure citizens that things were now in good hands.

Of course, the new gang would end up being pretty much the old gang, and errors would continue to be be made by the nomenklatura.

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Unfinished Business

By lex, on July 6th, 2011

Iran is stepping up their nasty little tricks in neighboring Iraq, according to the WaPo:

Iranian-backed militias in Iraq are using more sophisticated weapons than in the past to target U.S. troops and military installations in Iraq, according to senior U.S. officials.

James F. Jeffrey, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said Tuesday that fresh forensic testing on weapons used in the latest deadly attacks in the country bolsters assertions by U.S. officials that Iran is supporting Iraqi insurgents with new weapons and training.

“We’re not talking about a smoking pistol. There is no doubt this is Iranian,” Jeffrey said in an interview.

“We’re seeing more lethal weapons, more accurate weapons, more longer-range weapons,” Jeffrey added. “And we’re seeing more sophisticated mobile and other deployment options, and we’re seeing better-trained people.”

In some cases, insurgents made no effort to remove from the weapons identification numbers suggesting that they came from Iran, “which in itself is troubling,” Jeffrey said.

In recent weeks, Jeffrey and U.S. military officials have blamed three Shiite militia groups — the Promised Day Brigade, Ahl al-Haq and Kataib Hezbollah — for a wave of violence that resulted in the bloodiest month for U.S. forces here in two years. The groups have been trained and supplied by Iranian Revolutionary Guard special forces, and Iranian special agents have crossed into Iraq to provide some of the training and materials, officials said.

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Whisper: Happy Birthday America

By Whisper, on July 4th, 2011

The Fourth of July is obviously a day of stirring patriotism.  I was raised to associate the 4th with going out in the boat and having a beach picnic then watching some fireworks.  In the later years a cold adult beverage of course became a staple.

So this year I found myself out on a boat – surrounded by sand – and flying a jet loaded with fireworks!  Just missing the friends, family, and would kill for an adult beverage…

Today it was two hops in the Arabian Gulf, a day Case III recovery, and in a tanker for the last event – and I got to share it with some of the greatest Americans you will ever meet!

The LSOs were in rare form.

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