Wednesday, August 31, 2005


I'm doing Army stuff so I haven't been blogging much lately. I'd like to encourage all my readers to dig deep into their pockets for hurricane relief donations. The president is right it will take years to recover from this. Houston is still recovering from Tropical Storm Allison.

The volunteer community is a large part of this recovery effort. During TS Allison, the volunteer community prepared and distributed over a million meals to folks impacted by the disaster. Anyone who has ever worked in logistics knows that this is no small task.

So dig deep and donate to organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army. And I'd also encourage you to get involved with your local Red Cross or Salvation Army chapters. Volunteers from all over the country are now converging on the SE US. There is always a demand for trained volunteers to go to the hard work in disaster areas. All us rough and tough military types make good candidates.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Chuck Wagons, War Wagons, and Force Protection Training

Yours truly, Wraith Six. Blog Warrior.

When I was company XO of Delta, 311th MI BN (a battalion which no longer exists under Army transformation) in the 101st ABN DIV (ASSLT), I was lucky enough to have a great commander who took the time to mentor me. He was a vet of the 90's 10th Mountain Division World Tour. He used to say if you look like a "chuck wagon", you'll get treated like one by the enemy. The key was to look like a "war wagon" so nobody would screw with you. So, even though we were an MI Company, we spent a lot of time preparing to be war wagons. We did live fires and battle drills. We shot as much a we could. I became an ammo pimp and left no stone unturned looking for a few more rounds to shoot. We kicked a lot of ass for MI weenies.

When I first joined the reserves, one of my great frustrations was that we didn't spend any time training for force protection. We never had any ammo. Even after we got mobilized and sent to Fort Hood, that attitude still prevailed. The active-duty Brigade we were assigned to did not take force protection seriously, and the active component feuded with the reserve component over who would pay for our ammo. Needless to say, we only shot once the entire year we were stuck at Fort Hood. I even got chewed out by the BDE CSM for allowing my NCOs to do convoy security training during SGT's time. "We're MI," she said. "We don't do that." And I was supposed to by the pogue reservist.

Of course, we have to strike a fine balance between training our intelligence specialties and warrior tasks. I try to do one weekend of combat focused training at least once a quarter. The ambush of Jessica Lynch and the 507th Maintenance Company and the nature of the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan has changed the attitudes of support units so I no longer have to fight for the training time. There is more emphasis on force protection. Of course that emphasis has not translated into proper support.

I'm supposed to shoot twice a year, and spend time in the field doing convoy security training and other tasks. But, ammo is always and issue. And we never get blanks. So, I have to get creative.

In July's assembly...I did convoy security lane training with paintball guns and gas powered arty and machine gun simulators. Were we war wagons? Nope. No armor. No gun turrets. And no blanks. It's hard to have great training without great equipment, but it was a start.

Here are some pics.

Arty simulator.

MG simulator.

The ever-present IED.

Meet the insurgents.

More insurgents. Getting paid to play paintball is fun.

Wait for it.


Why armor is important.

More reasons why armor is important.

Last weekend, we had a three day BN FTX for AUG assembly. We were lucky and got plenty of ammo. We also did more lanes training. I was assigned the first aid lanes. I did it war wagon style, and incorporated an ambush in the lanes training.

It was a good FTX. My company did very well, and I shot gansta-style on the M-9. But, a few days of training doesn't make us ready for combat.

Here are some pics of the training:

Medic! We try to make our training realistic with mulage kits. We used about a gallon of fake blood. The guys at the training support center hide when they see my supply SGT coming. He cleans them out.

It hurts.

Evacuating the casualties. Still a little too "chuck wagon."

Lets shoot some shit. See the guy in DCUs? That's SGT R just back from Iraq and over two years of mobilization. He was excused from this drill, but came anyway. When he decribed how a soldier died in his arms in Iraq, it helped my guys and gals stay focussed in a way that my pep talks and lectures never could.

Ammo, for once. My supply SGT is a former Marine and started talking shit to his commander. He even wanted to make it interesting with a little bet. Dumb ass. I was born and raised in a state with three times and many guns as people. You do the math.

Steely eyed killaz! SGT R on the front row. Yes he is wearing IBA. No, I don't want to know how he "aquired" it.

SPC C, steely eyed killer with the M-203. She shot a perfect score despite what she characterized as my bad coaching. What the hell does she know? Julie says she looks about twelve years old.

Victory cigar provided by my XO CPT D.

Conclusion: The reserves still has a long way to go before we train properly. We have to play catch up on our warrior skills once we are mobilized. Too many units are sent to Iraq as chuck wagons.

We need more ammo, and we need to do live fires. Live fires and force on force training are probably too hard to resource with part-time units. There ought to be several regional combat training centers for reservists similar to the Joint Readiness Training Center where you cycle your units through annually.

We're getting better, but we're not there yet.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Lazy Blogging

I haven't been posting much lately because I've been fairly busy. It's grant season at the office and we just spent .5 million in Homeland Security money on equipment. Your tax dollars are hard at work. I've been busy acquiring and distributing all kinds of goodies to our various teams.
I've also been in a hazard mitigation class where I learned how to implement hazard mitigation projects. Fun.

And, this last weekend we had a three-day FTX where the battalion did weapons qualification and other lanes training. I don't have all the data yet, but I believe that my company lead the way in qualification rates. (Yours truly shot fairly well on the M-9.) And we certainly ran a bad-ass react to convoy/first aid lane. Not that I'm bragging or anything. I would never do that.

And to top it all off, I'm about to go to Fort Huachuca for two weeks for a school.

So, as my grandfather would say, I'm busier than a two-peckered puppy. I'll have a post up about the some interesting things that I've done with unit training. So stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Afghan Legion

Bobby of Bobby's World has an interesting post about a paper that he presented at a recent conference at Fort Leavenworth.

Leverage the Afghans: The Case for Building an Afghan Auxiliary Military Force for Expeditionary Operations

My agenda was pretty straightforward: my background (to establish my "credibility" on the topic), the historical experience of the British Gurkhas (who serve as my model), the composition and details of my proposed Afghan Auxiliary Military Force, why I think the US Army would support this idea, and why I think the Government of Afghanistan would support it as well.
My background comes as no surprise to friends who have been following me on this blog (or with whom I share regular email correspondence): I spent six months as an embedded advisor under Task Force Phoenix with a Quick Reaction force kandak (battalion) and tolei asleyah (weapons company) of the Afghan National Army (ANA). Following that assignment, the 10th Mountain Division returned to Fort Drum and I was sold to Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan (CFC-A) in Kabul, where I served as the Interagency Strategic Plans Officer and worked under some of the smartest men I have ever met. I don't pretend this qualifies me for "expertise," but at least I do have some practical experience.

The whole post is fairly long, and there is some death by powerpoint "Bobby style", but its worth your time.

This is an interesting idea that I don't think will ever fly. Politically, we just aren't ready for something like this, and plus, I think there is something un-American about essentially using mercenaries to do our dirty work.

But, that's just my opinion. I do agree that we would be better served by somehow integrating Islamic forces into our military operations. GEN (RET) Zinni has stated that we ought to be using officers that we were trained in US schools from countries like Jordan in our operations in Iraq and AFG. So Bobby's paper is a good jumping off point to explore these ideas.

Note: cross-posted on Intel-dump.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Steven Vincent

Journalist Steven Vincent was murdered in Iraq, and his translator was seriously injured. I have read his work in the CS Monitor, but I had never stopped by his blog until I saw it linked in discusssions about his death. I have been wasting a lot of time this morning reading his posts. What excellent work--great writing that takes you into the heart of Iraqi society. And that's probably what got him killed.

So if you haven't ever stopped by In The Red Zone you should do so. I'm planning on buying the book with the same title as well. It's sad when tragedy exposes you to something new.

My thoughts are with Steven's family and with his translator.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I Am a "Staff Puke"...

...and I was one during the war. So if this is true, I'm irritated. I normally don't blog too much about politics, but unlike the radio host in question, I volunteered for combat--several times. I ended up on a staff. So I'm a war veteran, but not a close-combat veteran. It is a distinction that means something to warriors, but it is our distinction, not the pundit's. Paul Hackett, regardless of whether you agree with his political stance, deserves better.

Is this what we've come to in this country? Are we happy with this state of affairs?