Posts Tagged ‘US Army


Women in the Army

Women in the Army.


New Developments here in Germany

So I’ve been with my unit, the 66th Millitary Intelligence Brigade Headquarters for a few weeks now. Do to all of the in-processing I really haven’t gotten to do a lot of work yet, though my unit did put on a three-day firing range, which left us all exhausted. One day last week I worked at a place called “The Dagger” in Darmstadt. It’s the largest intelligence complex in the European theatre and some parts of it look like their taken out of the show “24”.

The next two weeks are Christmas break. I’ll only be working half-days. I’ll be dropping my packet for Officer Candidate School, as I now have enough college credits (90 is required) and I’m also signing up for Krav Maga classes here on base. Krav Maga is an Israeli martial art designed for their military and police. I’m familiar with the system and had some instructional videos at one point but no formal training.


I hope everyone has a great Christmas, and thanks for stopping by as much as you do, to read my scribbles. A couple of days ago, this site reached a new record of single-day hits, so everyone’s support is paying off!

When our New Year comes, let’s pray for peace and prosperity for our great nation. Spend time with and appreciate family and friends; they’re there when no one else is and it’s family that makes America the greatest place in this world.


German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge–FAIL

A few months back I posted an article about the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge, how I was going to crush it and all…. right here

Well, things didn’t work out. Actually, I never got a shot at the prestigious medal as I snapped my right hip-flexor muscle like a dried out rubber band, about a week before the first event began. I’d just taken a physical fitness test the day prior, was feeling pretty warn out, and I was dehydrated. A bad combo. At Ft. Huachuca, you have to drink tons of water. The arid air and high altitude suck moisture out of you like no tomorrow.

Our platoon was out on the track doing relay sprints. I knew I did some severe damage, because I actually felt the hip-flexor shift under the skin. Ouch.

I was on a no-run profile for three weeks afterwards and even then the thing was not fully healed. I was pretty irritated because we would only get one shot at the badge while at Ft. Huachuca. Some places don’t even offer the chance at the badge. Fortunately I’m going to Germany where I’ll have a chance at that badge and a another German badge, the German Armed forces Badge for Marksmanship.

Here are the requirements to earn the GAFPB:


Have we learned nothing?

The testing is done here, for my platoon at Ft. Huachuca. We have only a 9 day field training exercise to overcome before we move onto a short vacation and then to our duty-stations.

Last week in class we participated in a wargame called “Red Vs. Blue.” The class was split in half and one side was assigned blue (American Forces) the other, red (insurgents). The diceless wargame simulated American forces conducting stability operations in the town of Sierra Vista, where Ft. Huachuca is located.

I won’t go into needless detail abut what happened, but know that I was assigned to the American side and then assigned as the 101st Airborne targeting analyst. My job was to non-lethally or lethally target high value targets as they appeared through recon and surveillance assets. This could be done in a number of ways.

One of the students is an E-5 Sergeant. He is re-classing his MOS to become a Intel Analyst. Though I’m student class leader, the Sergeant is the actual class leader, being a permanent party member and of course, out-ranking me. We are very different kinds of people, he and I. He’s OCD in the extreme. I’m messy. He’s a liberal Democrat from New York. I’m a conservative from Maine. He’s reluctant to use force in situations that I believe it’s needed.

The final round of our wargame had commenced. As an analyst, I’ve been trained by a former Marine Captain to give my superiors my educated opinion on what needs to be done, even if I know he won’t want to hear it. In the previous turns, Red Cell had managed to assassinate a city council member and blow up Wal-Mart, while we’d managed to kill several insurgents and capture one of them for interrogation at a traffic control point. Blue Cell (us) was conducting what is called phase IV operations, or stability ops. In other words, the primary full-spectrum military assault was over and our mission was to stabilize the local government and encourage rule of law.

The insurgent controlled areas had been identified on the map and we’d narrowed the possible location of the insurgent safehouse to a 2 square kilomter area at the south-eastern portion of Sierra Vista.

I knew what had to be done this late in the game. We had to kill and capture the terrorists, not sit back and hope that we’d deployed security forces at the right locations each turn, while the terrorists picked targets of opportunity. It was only logical and in line with military doctrine of seizing the initiative–and never giving it back.

The Sergeant didn’t see things my way. He was afraid of friendly casualties. I explained to him that it was the Army’s job to fight the insurgents, and thus gain the trust of the local populace by protecting them from harm. To do this we had to place troops in harms way so that we could win the fight the only way it can be won: By inflicting more pain on the enemy than he inflicts on you.

I knew I was in for a fight not only with Red Cell, but with my Democrat Sergeant and one other analyst who didn’t get it. The other analyst advised that we place traffic control points away from the border of the insurgent controlled area of the city. Originally, I had placed them along the border of a neutral area and the insurgent’s zone. I knew that we had to gain the trust of the populace in the neutral zone–because as the saying goes in counter-insurgency ops: The populace is key terrain. By moving the TCPs away from the insurgent controlled border, we would allow the insurgents to freely move into the neutral area, bend the populace to their will and then conduct ops from their new terrain into the area that we controlled.

I argued my case, and the Sergeant reluctantly agreed to go with my plan.

Last turn: I advised that we organized a door-to-door sweep of all populated areas in the insurgent controlled zone. I pointed to the map and noted that there were only about ten small streets in the 2×2 Km area and that 2 battalions of infantry with Stryker infantry fighting vehicles and Humvees could clear each house in about 6 hours. That was 300 men, going to each house, kicking the doors if they had to and verifying the location of the terrorist safehouse.

The Sergeant really hated this. He said he wouldn’t put the soldier’s lives in danger. I argued that it had to be done, and that this kind of straight-up fight was the last thing insurgents want. They prefer hit and run tactics because of inferior training and numbers. The Sergeant said that we’d make enemies of the local populace by invading their homes. I told him that they were already our enemies, hence the insurgent controlled label the area had. We had already established marshal law, and in order to make the populace in that area ours we needed to control it. Most importantly we needed to kill or capture those conducting the attacks. We would deal with the populace’s opinion later, but for now we had to show that we were in control.

It wasn’t to be. Our team played for the tie and that’s exactly what we got in the last turn according to the game’s arbiters.

Lesson: This is exactly what happened in Iraq after the invasion and things went to hell as we allowed insurgents free reign in places like Fallujah. We were afraid of CNN and Newsweek, even as terroists continued to bomb us and the Iraqi government until the camels came home. Then came Patraeus, who knew that the war had to be fought on every level. You do hand out soccer balls and candy, but you also continue killing the enemy. Things will get broken, but as we’ve seen, it works.

The hearts and minds campaign got headlines in this war. War hasn’t changed though. There were several reasons that Patraeus’ surge worked, not the least of which was more infantry with more guns… please admit that Mr. Obama.


Army considering replacing M-4 carbine

Colt’s M-4 carbine contract with the US Army is near expiration. Since 1994 Colt has been contracted with the Army, supplying our troops in Iraq with the M-4, a cut-down version of the M-16. The M-4 also provides modular capabilities.

Recently though, as a result of some troops experiences in the dusty conditions of Iraq, the weapon’s performance has come under fire in its own right. The Army has conducted testing at its laboratory in Maryland, pitting the M-4 against newer weapons systems. All of the weapons were sprinkled with talcum powder in an attempt to simulate conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Things didn’t work out well for Colt.

The M-4 finished last in weapons jams. Its competitors were the FN Herstal SCAR, H+K 416 and the H+K XM8. The M-4 experienced more jams than all of the other weapons combined. The other weapons are comparable–or even slightly cheaper–than the M-4: About $1,500 a piece.

Brig. General Mark Brown defended Colt’s system by stating that the testing was not an exact replica of the conditions in Iraq and that soldiers need to clean their weapons regardless of the system; muzzle-loader or assault rifle.

At the risk of destroying my new career in the army, I think General Brown is ignoring an obvious problem. While 89% of polled troops in Iraq stated that the M-4 performed adequately, 19% percent of 2600 troops that were veterans of firefights said that their M-4 jammed during the shooting. This is a horrible ratio of good performance to weapon’s failure. Nearly 1 in 5 of troops involved in shooting their weapon at enemy forces can expect their weapon to fail them, if only until they can conduct clearing measures.

Anecdotally, I can say that the M-16’s performance is far below what I would expect from my weapon in combat. Even in training, I’ve experienced numerous stoppages, as has every soldier I work with. Some can only fire one or two rounds at a time before clearing a jam and continuing, only to have to repeat the process a few rounds later. This is from weapons right out of the armory–not new–but nonetheless very clean.

One of the problems that I see is the weapon’s breach. It’s called a “star chamber.” It is shaped like a star and is designed to funnel a 5.56 round up and into the barrel. The star chamber has grooves that, when slightly dirty, can grab rounds before they are seated in the barrel. Not good. More reliable assault rifles, such as the AK-47, merely have a polished chrome ramp that rides the bullet to its home.

The M-4 does have some excellent qualities. It’s super light, compact and accurate. It’s modular rail system allow soldiers and operators to modify the weapon to their immediate preferences and needs. The Army wants a rifle with an effective range of about 600 meters. The M-4 is about 500.

With all of the good qualities noted, it’s a shame that none of them matter if the weapon doesn’t work when it’s most needed. The Army has already been through this in Vietnam, when the first generation M-16 cost American lives by repeatedly failing in the muddy, wet conditions of Indo-China.

The Army has changed a lot in the years since the Iraq War began. New body armor, up-armored HMVVs, new tactics and technology for defeating IEDs and insurgents. It would be a shame if we deny our warriors their most important asset: a reliable personal weapon.


Nothing’s easy

I’m really feeling worn out. I want to go home. I want to feel like a regular person again.
This whole process has been quite tough on me, even though the people that I’m in training with seem to think it’s easy for me.

Living with 50 other people in a bay for the last 3 months, people that are younger and of diiferent backgrounds, the control of virtually every aspect of my life, from what I can wear, to how I must stand while I’m speaking is difficult for me. It’s not an easy transition when you’ve spent 36 years of your life doing things a certain way. I’m certain that if I were to ask my instructors and platoon sergeants about my performance, they would say that I’m doing well. But my fight is on the inside, like it’s alsways been I suppose.

There are times I want to walk away. Go back to wearing jeans, and serving coffee or doing something simple. At heart, I’m a philosopher. I know that once all of this is over, the training that is, I can go back to my life, do what I want after work etc. But for now, I miss my daughter and my friends and laughing. Things that used to interest me, don’t do so anymore. It’s day to day right now.

I put a lot of pressure on myself, always expecting to be the best, which creates internal tension. It serves me well in most instances, but I find that I wear down in situations that require mental endurance. I need to learn how to pace myself. This is quite a long process; 4 months of 8 hrs a day classes–intense physically and mentally– not to mention Basic and possible deployment. The idea of deployment doesn’t bother me. I’ll be doing my job and be treated like an adult, unlike here.

I was reading an article in Men’s Health on how Navy SEALS are trained to handle stress. One of the things that they teach is to place the team first, which removes a SEALS attention from his own problems, and gives a psychological boost when he knows he’s helped someone else. I’ve used this technique several times, and it works, no doubt.

Today, I read a quote from Ernst Junger, famed WWI veteran and a man who was bestowed virtually every literary prize there is by his German homeland. He said: “What ever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, and whatever kills me makes me incredibly strong.” His book, “Storm of Steel” chronicles Junger’s experience in WWI and how he was able to channel his rage and energy, to actually feed off the war and make himself stronger by it. Some left-leaning people hated him for his view that the war made him better, but no one challenged his literary abilities.

The only thing that can keep me going is to think the way Junger did.


My Quest for the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge

Today I signed up to participate in an event which could earn me the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge. It is the only foreign badge awarded by the US Army and is highly sought after.

There are several events which I must pass through. I will be judged according to my moral and physical standards. The Sergeants here will evaluate my general performance here as a soldier, and then I will take part in a pentathlon-like series of athletic events. 2 mile run, 100m sprint, shot put, pistol shooting, first aid test, long jump, 16 mile ruck-march wearing 22 lbs, and high jump. The events will be spread out over several days. All of them are judged on a bronze, silver, gold scale with age adjustments.

Hopefully I have time to study up on the first aid portion. The Combat Life Saver 1 and First Aid test are part of it, which means I could be asked to do a saline lock ( IV). I was trained and had to do one in Basic, but I could use A LOT more practice.

Everyone say a prayer for me. I’m gonna do my best….


Running at 5200 Ft. above sea level is bad…

Today I ran with the Airborne training cadre. The Airborne training is significantly more difficult than the regular PT, which is done every week-day morning.

The runs that I’d done up to this point have been at a moderate pace, and many of them have included sprints, which I excel at. Today though, while running with Airborne for the first time, something happened to me that has never happened to me before: I stopped running and walked for a short distance to catch my breath. I was pissed off at myself. The thin air really got to me because of the pace that was being set by the captain leading the run. The people at the very front of the pack have been here for at least a month, some more.

I finished the run in the first half of the group, but still felt disappointed. Last week though, we had our first PT test at AIT. I was the only soldier in the platoon to score a perfect 300, and my run was a personal best 12:09 two mile. I managed 79 pushups and 78 situps in two minutes, so no change there from my test at Basic.

I do wonder how long I can keep up my numbers, with age rolling on like a freight train.

At the end of our run today, we stood in formation, happy to be done with the tortuous run. Soldiers were high on endorphins, smiling and joking. A silence washed across us all when the captain, standing in front of us, a dull smirk on his mouth and slowly scanning our ranks, announced: “I don’t play favorites–I hate all of you equally. Tomorrow will be hell, and everyone here had better be here tomorrow.”

The laughing stopped.


Signing off for a while

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

~Gimme Shelter, Rolling Stones~


I’ll be headed to basic training at Fort Jackson, Columbia Sc on this coming Tues. I’ll be there for 9 weeks, and then almost immediately I’ll head to Ft. Huachuca in Arizona for Intelligence Analyst School. Finally, two weeks jump school at Ft. Benning Ga.

I Probably won’t have much access to a computer or if I do, it will be for short periods. I’ll see if I can’t let everyone know how things are going.

While I’m there, I hope to to accomplish a few goals.

1) Max my physical fitness test. This means I’ll have to perform 77 pushups in 2 minutes, 82 situps in 2 minutes and run two miles in 13.00 min. Or there-abouts. I can easily do the pushups and situps. The run will be tougher but I’m confident I can pull it off. When I took the pre-basic test last month, I ran one mile in 6:10, so we’ll see. I’ve always had a high threshold for pain while running, which has always given me good times in timed events but I want to improve my conditioning.

2) Expert Rifleman Badge: Only two misses allowed on the scored rifleman test.

3) Stay healthy: Old guys like me need to stay healthy to compete with the young bucks. We don’t heal as fast. Of course, we’re not as stupid either.

4) Be a leader: There will be some kids right of of high school training with me. I think it’s a responsibility to set an example.

I want to thank everyone who has given encouraging words along the way. I had someone speak so kindly to me today, that it almost made me sniffle. Please keep me in your prayers and I’ll talk to everyone in a couple weeks.

The waiting is over. Let’s do it.



What it’s all about

It’s not about being a hero. It’s not about flag-waving.

It’s about opportunity and my own constitution.

Some people think I joined the army because I’m a patriot. I am a patriot, but that’s not the only reason that I joined.

People do best in life when they find what they do well, and find others that can accept that or do it well with them. As for me, I’ve found that what I don’t do well is sit still. I’m terrible at it. I need to get dirty and feel tired, but also feel like I’ve accomplished something. Like in those long eight game softball tournaments that I used to play in on weekends. If you managed to play eight games, you probably managed to win a trophy, and it was a great feeling being tired and fulfilled at the same time. The days following a tournament, I could allow my body to rest and sharpen the other aspect of myself that I need: My intellect.

Being a police officer allowed me to use both my physical and intellectual capacities to varying degrees, though the frustration of that work eroded the benefits. In the army, I can get dirty, get tired, then get down to studying the relationship between Shiite and Sunni tribes in Iraq. Or whatever.

I grew up in semi-rural Maine. My father was an outdoorsman. He taught me at an early age to shoot a rifle and shoot it well. Same with a pistol. Those skills stayed with me my whole life, and I nearly always shot perfect scores for the police department with my duty-pistol. He taught me to be tough too. When other kids were watching cartoons, I was paddling canoe with Dad, a professional canoe racer himself, and hiking through miles of woods around Brandy Pond. When I got hurt, my dad never said :”Toughen up, wuss.” He said, “You’re tough.” He never let it come to my mind that I wasn’t rugged. “You’re tougher than a bag of hammers.” That’s what he’d say. And he said it in a way that made me want to be strong in order to please him, and to this day I think that was his greatest gift to me. Thanks Dad.

I can work behind a desk if I’ve gotten all of the physical stuff out of my system. I need to exhaust my reserves though, or I start to think about chewing on rocks. The army will allow me the exhaustion I need to function.

Really, I’m still a kid. I like comics. I like video games. I hate doing chores. My energy got me into some trouble as a kid, but any aspect of the human spirit can be used for good or evil, so lets get to doing good…

So in the end, the army is about putting my best characteristics to good use. I’ve been assigned an MOS for which I have a great interest, in addition to Jump School at Benning, where I know I’ll get to stay tired, but hopefully uninjured.

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