Category Archives: Military

Flying Club

By lex, on March 11th, 2011

The California Air National Guard is not exactly burnishing their reputation at the top these days:

Four pilots who are under criminal investigation for receiving possibly illegal payments of public funds have been appointed to key leadership posts in the California National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing based in Fresno. Two former commanders, also targeted in the probe, previously were relieved of their command.

Guard officials recently acknowledged that the pilots who assumed the top jobs last fall – Wing Commander Col. James McKoane, Vice Commander Lt. Col. Victor S. Sikora, Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Sean Navin and Operations Commander Lt. Col. Douglas Weskamp – are subjects of the criminal probe and have been grounded indefinitely.

Now, being charged is not the same as being convicted. But as recent events have proven, in Navy we fire commanding officers and then conduct careful investigations.

I’d heard it said before that the Air National Guard was a pretty chummy collection of old boys. Looks like the FANG is out to prove it.

Times being hard all around and FY12 just around the corner, that seems like a pretty poor strategic choice to make.

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Something’s Broken

Posted by lex, on December 22, 2010

One in four applicants for enlistment in the US Army are incapable of passing the entry examination *:

Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the U.S. Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can’t answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The report by The Education Trust bolsters a growing worry among military and education leaders that the pool of young people qualified for military service will grow too small.

“Too many of our high school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career — and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the AP. “I am deeply troubled by the national security burden created by America’s underperforming education system.”

And that is nearly 25% of an already winnowed pool of potential enlistees:

Pentagon data shows that 75 percent of those aged 17 to 24 don’t even qualify to take the test because they are physically unfit, have a criminal record or didn’t graduate high school.

Educators expressed dismay that so many high school graduates are unable to pass a test of basic skills.

Dismay is well and good. Action is what’s required.

** 02-23-21 Original link gone; substitute found – Ed.

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Green Light

Posted by lex, on December 22, 2010

Back in the day, Ivy League schools provided the services with gifted officers for the front lines, many of whom served heroically in combat before coming home, tempered by both experiences, to build a great nation. It also provided undergraduate students who lacked the money and connections a fully-funded opportunity for a first rate education at our country’s flagship universities. All of that ended at certain Ivies during the culture turmoils of the late 1960s. The victors of that struggle traded peace signs for PhDs (while, one suspects, still clutching at their bongs) and began their long, Gramscian march through the institutions. Safely nestled there, away from the outer world and all of its pedestrian concerns, they connived to extend the ROTC ban to the present day on the pretext of opposing President Clinton’s “Don’t ask/don’t tell” compromise, which prevented gays and lesbians from openly proclaiming their sexual orientation (and commanders from asking.)

Now that the dreadful discrimination of DADT has been swept into the ash bin of history, the rationale for the prohibition against on-campus ROTC has lost whatever veneer of plausibility it once held. The question, as Johns Hopkins Professor Eliot Cohen perceptively asks, is whether, after a long separation, there is any desire left for that remarriage:

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Higher Standards

Posted by lex, on December 16, 2010

Parents with students bound for our nation’s most prestigious military institutes of higher learning are bound to be alarmed at the news flooding the wires recently *:

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Cry Havoc

Posted by lex, on November 11, 2010

Noah Shactman writes that General Petraeus is less averse to unfettering the eagles of war than was his predecessor:

The U.S. and its allies have unleashed a massive air campaign in Afghanistan, launching missiles and bombs from the sky at a rate rarely seen since the war’s earliest days. In October alone, NATO planes fired their weapons on 1,000 separate missions, U.S. Air Force statistics provided to Danger Room show. Since Gen. David Petraeus took command of the war effort in late June, coalition aircraft have flown 2,600 attack sorties. That’s 50% more than they did during the same period in 2009. Not surprisingly, civilian casualties are on the rise, as well.

NATO officials say the increase in air attacks is simply a natural outgrowth of a more aggressive campaign to push militants out of their strongholds in southern Afghanistan. “Simply put, our air strikes have increased because our operations have increased. We’ve made a concentrated effort in the south to clear out the insurgency and therefore have increased our number of troops on the ground and aircraft to support them in this effort,” Lt. Nicole Schwegman, a NATO spokesperson, tells Danger Room.

On the other hand, some outside observers believe the strikes are part of an attempt to soften up the insurgency before negotiations with them begin in earnest. But one thing is clear: it’s a strategy Petraeus has used before. Once he took over the Iraq war effort, air strikes jumped nearly sevenfold.

Warfare is not fought by the rules of the Marquess of Queensbury, and nobody that’s ever been in a real fight wants it to be fair, with the outcome shivering in the balance. When fighting against a vicious foe who presses his home court advantage through asymmetric warfare, it’s important to keep in mind that air power is our asymmetric advantage.

It should be applied carefully, and precisely, with due deliberation to the potential strategic effects of tactical actions.

But like bug spray against infestation, it should also be applied vigorously, and as needed.

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Posted by lex, on September 29, 2010

Courtesy of occasional reader Zane, the iconography of Iwo Jima, with an essay on Joe Rosenthal’s tribulations. His photograph of the second raising of the American flag atop Suribachi guaranteed the existence of the Corps for the next 500 years, according to Navy Secretary James Forrestal.

I’ve walked those beaches and climbed that hill, and was in awe for every moment of it. And I wasn’t carrying a ten pound rifle, nor a forty pound ruck. And no one was shooting down on me.

If that’s a little too distant, these images * from the war in Iraq may evoke memories of a more innocent time, while graphically depicting our gradual loss of innocence over the years.

I don’t know that we come out of Iraq with any guarantees at all.

Two very different fights. Two very different endings.

** 02-15-21 Lex’s original link had the text in the Wayback Machine but not the images. I found another link but sadly it has but one image . Lex has several posts on his time at Iwo Jima. – Ed.

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Captain Scott Smiley

Posted by lex, on September 9, 2010

The Army’s first active duty blind officer, * and – I believe – a better man than me.

** 02-12-21 – Lex had a video link in that required Adobe Flash, and my original impulse was to pass this one up. It was just the one sentence plus the unavailable video. But now Major Smiley is an extraordinary man, and should be included. Anyone Lex admired should be included, I think – Ed.

A bit more on Scotty:

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Posted by lex, on August 4, 2010

John Donovan explores the rationale behind effectively denying deployed troops the opportunity to participate in our democracy:

According to the Washington Times, it would appear that the Justice Department is ready, willing and able to assist the States in kicking that can down (enforcing federal law requiring states to mail early ballots for deployed troops) the road this election cycle, rather than reminding them that it’s the law of the land.  Not helping, whether with carrots or sticks, the states comply with the law and ensure that deployed personnel will have a voice in the upcoming election cycle, but rather coaching them through the waiver process so they don’t *have* to comply with the law of the land.  I mean, gosh, it’s not like deployed personnel have a life or death interest in the issue or not, right?

But just who *will* Justice fall over itself to ensure they can get a chance to vote?  If for no other reason perhaps than to ensure that the Senate can be a re-employment agency for retired Saturday Night Live comic hacks?

Felons!  Right, felons.  People who have demonstrated a strong committment to civil society and have a respect for the law.

Well, at least Justice understands their constituency.

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Mattis to CENTCOM

Posted by lex, on July 9, 2010

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on his nomination * for CENTCOM commander:

“General Mattis … is one of our military’s outstanding combat leaders and strategic thinkers,” Gates said, “bringing in an essential mix of experience, judgment and perspective to this important post.”

Here are a few of the General’s strategic insights.

I’ve always loved the “I didn’t bring artillery” one, myself.

02-05-21 Link gone; no replacement found – Ed.

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Posted by lex, on September 24, 2009

Sometimes it is exactly as strange as fiction:

Yarynich is talking about Russia’s doomsday machine. That’s right, an actual doomsday device—a real, functioning version of the ultimate weapon, always presumed to exist only as a fantasy of apocalypse-obsessed science fiction writers and paranoid über-hawks. The thing that historian Lewis Mumford called “the central symbol of this scientifically organized nightmare of mass extermination.” Turns out Yarynich, a 30-year veteran of the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces and Soviet General Staff, helped build one.

The point of the system, he explains, was to guarantee an automatic Soviet response to an American nuclear strike. Even if the US crippled the USSR with a surprise attack, the Soviets could still hit back. It wouldn’t matter if the US blew up the Kremlin, took out the defense ministry, severed the communications network, and killed everyone with stars on their shoulders. Ground-based sensors would detect that a devastating blow had been struck and a counterattack would be launched.

The Sovs kept the program secret, unfortunately. Quite contrary to good game theory.

After all, in the immortal words of Dr. Strangelove, “The whole point of the doomsday machine is lost if you keep it a secret! Why didn’t you tell the world?”

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