Category Archives: Neptunus Lex

Misplaced Priorities

By lex, on June 14th, 2011

Pakistan’s ISI has finally gotten around to capturing the true miscreants responsible the revealed presence of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad:

Pakistan’s top military spy agency has arrested some of the Pakistani informants who fed information to the Central Intelligence Agency in the months leading up to the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, according to American officials.

Pakistan’s detention of five C.I.A. informants, including a Pakistani Army major who officials said copied the license plates of cars visiting Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in the weeks before the raid, is the latest evidence of the fractured relationship between the United States and Pakistan. It comes at a time when the Obama administration is seeking Pakistan’s support in brokering an endgame in the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

It’s good to learn that, with near daily explosions in the schools and marketplaces of Pakistan’s urban warrens, the intelligence service has kept its eye on the prize.

Pakistani Judge: You have been charged with providing information leading to the death of the world’s most wanted terrorist. How do you plead?

Defendant: Is this a trick question?

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Punishing Certainties

By lex, on June 8th, 2011

Courtesy of occasional reader Trapper, the thoughts of Major General Buster Howes, Royal Marines, OBE, as expressed to the Royal United Services Institute:

‘If you’re constantly trying to make war more precise and predictable, you’ll promote people who thrive in squeezing out the marginal drop of uncertainty. If you recognize war’s essential messiness and the enemy’s adaptability, you’ll reward mavericks, risk-takers, and people who thrive in uncertainty.’

Finally, I’d like to leave you with an image of Corporal Mike Stevenson. He is a 24 year old Royal Marines Commando serving in 40 Commando. It is the 20th of March 2003, a pitch black night and he is a few miles off the coast of Iraq’s Al Faw Peninsular. On the horizon, he can see fires erupting and above, the after burners of salvos of Patriot and Tomahawk missiles. He leads his 7 man section across the deck of HMS ARK ROYAL, towards the clattering helicopter, They are all encumbered with massive rucksacks – the equivalent of their body weight in kit, ammunition, and weapon systems. Their sweat has already begun to smudge their black maquillage.

This is the moment he has rehearsed repeatedly for the past 2 months – since he was first briefed, in outline, on his mission. He knows every building on his target intimately – has drawn them, modeled them, metaphorically inhabited them. He knows the ranges between buildings and the emergency escape plan if it all goes wrong. Just as the Sea King door is about to slid shut, his Company Commander appears. “There’s been a change of plan ‘Stevie’”“ he bellows – “you have to attack a totally different target, about 10 ‘klicks’ from the original location.” Stevenson looks at his Boss, a big toothy smile lighting up his face “No worries, Sir – I knew it was too good to be true!” and pulls out a pen to write down the new Grid Reference.

As Napoleon said of the Royal Marines – ‘What could be done with 100,000 men such as these.’

A good anecdote, and a nice ending. Read the whole thing to learn how punishing are the certainties with which we prepare for the next conflict. And, perhaps not so surprisingly, the benefits to a maritime nation of an adaptable, scalable amphibious force.

 

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RLTW

By lex, on June 2nd, 2011

Meet Army SFC Leroy Arthur Petry, the second living awardee of the Medal of Honor:

Recognizing the threat that the enemy grenade posed to his fellow Rangers, Petry — despite his own wounds and with complete disregard for his personal safety — consciously and deliberately risked his life to move to and secure the live enemy grenade and consciously throw the grenade away from his fellow Rangers, according to battlefield reports.

As Petry released the grenade in the direction of the enemy, preventing the serious injury or death of Higgins and Robinson, it detonated and catastrophically amputated his right hand.

With a clear mind, Petry assessed his wound and placed a tourniquet on his right arm. Once this was complete, he reported that he was still in contact with the enemy and that he had been wounded again…

Higgins later wrote in a statement, “if not for Staff Sergeant Petry’s actions, we would have been seriously wounded or killed…”

Petry currently serves as a liaison officer for the United States Special Operations Command Care Coalition-Northwest Region, and provides oversight to wounded warriors, ill and injured servicemembers and their families…

He has deployed eight times in support of the War on Terror, with two tours to Iraq and six tours to Afghanistan.

Geez.

That’s all I’ve got: “Geez.”

 

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Deep Stall

By lex, on May 31st, 2011

On the weekend gig, I introduce the guest pilots to the notion of aerodynamic stall. Some of them get a gleam of fear in their eyes when they hear the word “stall”, because they invariably think it is ineluctably linked with “spin, crash and die.” Which can be true, but isn’t necessarily so: Learning how to stall and recover an airplane is one of the first things the novice aviator is taught, and it is re-learned in every aircraft transition.

When I brief my civvie passengers on weekend dogfight hops – that’s not a Michael Vick dance variation, by the way – I try to explain to them the relationship between stick position and angle-of-attack: “If you push the stick forward, the houses get bigger. If you pull stick aft, the houses get smaller. If you keep pulling aft on the stick, the houses start getting bigger again.”

Note to Air France: I’m available for consultative work.

Point.enquete.af447.27mai2011.En

I get that the weather was rough. I understand that the compound emergency and loss of normal displays was confusing. I suspect that in their peril, the pilots were left to wonder whether some strange software gremlin had suddenly rendered their aircraft un-flyable.

But – and this is not to beat a dead horse – I really don’t understand how no one among three very experienced and highly trained airline transport pilots ever figured out that it was worth a try to lower the nose and reduce the angle of attack. Maybe get some airflow over the wings.

Stall warnings coupled with wing rock are classic indications of deep stall, and if what you’re doing isn’t working it’s time to consider something else.

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Roommates

By lex, on May 28th, 2011

Travis Manion and Brendan Looney were roommates at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Rugged athletes who wanted into the fight, shared private jokes, intermingled their families. They were both killed, separately, fighting the nation’s wars  – Travis as an officer of Marines who died exposing himself to sniper fire while coming to the aid of wounded comrades in Iraq, Navy SEAL Brendan in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Separated in life, they now lie united again in death, interred side by side at Arlington National Cemetery:

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Nostalgia Day

By lex, on May 26th, 2011

Today seems to be  a day of remembrances. Quite out of the blue I got a note from an old shipmate who’s beginning a book project on the last deployment of USS Constellation. My ship. He wanted to touch base for an interview, gather some reflections from those aboard her.

He also attached an email I wrote to my officers and chiefs on my last day aboard. It’s nice that he kept it, I’m not very good at holding on to such things.

CONSTELLATION was my first ship. Tomorrow is my last day aboard Connie, at least as a member of her company. After tomorrow, I will be a guest, someone you used to know, who used to be a part of you.

I may not get the opportunity to say farewell to each of you in person tomorrow, so please forgive me if this seems too impersonal. I just want to say that it has been an incredibly positive experience working with such an outstanding group of professionals.

Your focus, energy and enthusiasm were remarkable to observe.

A warship never sleeps – there are always people on watch, keeping her safe, keeping all of us safe: the ship is, in a sense, alive. Her people give her life.

You made this ship a living thing, working her decks and spaces. You lightened it with laughter, and freighted it with consequence to our country’s enemies. This ship lived fast, and it lived hard, like it meant business, like it knew that what we were doing was too important for half measures. We trained hard, fought hard and played hard, because of your work and that of our CPO’s and Sailors. And we did great things, with style – flawless execution was the standard expectation.

Life is very much more about what you accomplish than what you acquire. I hope you are as proud of what we accomplished together, as I am to have been a part of it.

My very best wishes to everyone. I will not miss all of this, but I will miss all of you. Maybe we’ll meet again in the fleet. Until then, farewell, and following seas.

Very Respectfully,

Commander, United States Navy

Operations Officer

USS Constellation CV-64

I meant it, too.

Still do.

 

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Helo Solo

By lex, on May 20th, 2011

SNO sends this pic of his first fling-wing solo.Which is apparently performed with another student in the left seat, and never mind the “watch this!” factor. And which seat is also apparently the copilot’s seat in a helicopter. Because of Physics, or some such. Or torque.

Perhaps both, in some mystical combination.

Helo Solo

It’s a wee, bitty thing, that TH-57. I think I just sprouted (another) gray hair. Which I’ve precious few of the other kind remaining, so thanks boy-o.

And congrats.

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