31 October 2011

Monday Video: For Whom The Bell Tolls

Starting the week with a Metallica BANG! The bell tolls for you...

By: Brant

UK In Action: Full House

British troops are pictured onboard a Royal Air Force C-17 transport aircraft enroute to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. The C-17 Globemaster III is one of the latest additions to the RAF’s inventory of transport aircraft. It is capable of rapid, strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main operating bases anywhere in the world, or directly to more temporary forward operating bases owing to its short field capability. The design of the aircraft allows it to carry out high-angle, steep approaches at relatively slow speeds, thus allowing it to operate into small, austere airfields onto runways as short as 3,500 feet long and only 90 feet wide. The aircraft can operate into and out of problematic sites such as those surrounded by inhospitable terrain or made difficult by adverse weather conditions. The fully-integrated, electronic flight-deck and the advanced cargo-handling systems allow a basic crew of only two pilots and one air loadmaster to operate the aircraft. On the ground, the aircraft can be turned in a very small radius and its four Pratt & Whitney engines are fully reversible, giving it the ability to manoeuvre into and out of restricted parking or freight-offload areas at undeveloped strips. This enables the C-17 to deliver cargo to small airfields with limited parking space in a shorter time, so increasing throughput where time on the ground is kept to a minimum. The C-17 can transport 45,360kgs of freight over 4,500 nautical miles whilst flying at heights in excess of 30,000 feet.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

NATO's "Mission" to Libya Ends Today

NATO is picking Halloween to officially end its Libya "mission".

After seven months of an aerial bombing campaign that helped depose longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi, NATO officially ends its mission in Libya on Monday.
NATO's move comes after the United Nations Security Council last week rescinded its March mandate for military intervention to protect civilians targeted during anti-regime protests.
"Libyans have now liberated their country. And they have transformed the region," said NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Friday. "This is their victory."
"Our operation for Libya will end on October 31. Until then, together with our partners, we will continue to monitor the situation. And if needed, we will continue to respond to threats to civilians," Rasmussen said.

Just out of curiosity, what was the mission? Anyone ever see a mission statement on NATO ops in Libya? I seem to recall it started with some sort of "preventing atrocities" something-or-other. By the end, we were close-air-support for the NTC. Mission creep anyone? Seriously, though - if anyone can find a real, honest-to-goodness, no-shit missions statement for NATO in Libya, please share.

Just as a reminder... we've asked similar questions before.

By: Brant

30 October 2011

What's All That Intel Costing Us?

The DoD has released the "Military Intelligence Program Appropriated Top Line Budget for Fiscal 2011", AKA, the "classified stuff."

The Department of Defense released today the MIP appropriated top line budget for fiscal 2011.
The total request, which includes both the base budget and Overseas Contingency Operations appropriations, is $24 billion.

The department determined that releasing this top line figure does not jeopardize any classified activities within the MIP. No other MIP budget figures or program details will be released, as they remain classified for national security reasons.

$24 billion buys a lot of black ops...
Oh yeah, and this is just the DoD budget. This doesn't include the CIA, NGA, NSA or any of the other TLAs that aren't part of the DoD.

By: Brant

29 October 2011

USN Needs Geography Lessons in Submarine Commissioning

Really? Really?! You're going to commission the USS California - an attack submarine - in Norfolk, VA?! Not out in San Diego at SUBTRAFAC? Wow.

The Navy announced today that it will commission its newest attack submarine California, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011, during an 11 a.m. EDT ceremony at Norfolk Naval Station in Norfolk, Va.

Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, House Armed Services Committee chairman, will deliver the ceremony’s principal address. Donna Willard, wife of Adm. Robert Willard, commander, U.S. Pacific Command, will serve as ship’s sponsor. In the time-honored Navy tradition she will give the first order to "man our ship and bring her to life!"

California is named in recognition of the people of the "Golden State." The selection of California honors the thousands of men and women from the state who serve in today’s armed forces, and the millions of Californian veterans and their families. As home to major Naval and Marine Corps installations, the selection of California also reflects the tremendous support provided to the Navy and Marine Corps by countless communities across the Golden State. This will be the seventh ship to bear the name California.

Designated SSN 781, the eighth ship of the Virginia class, California is built to excel in anti-submarine warfare; anti-ship warfare; strike warfare; special operations; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions. Adept at operating in both the world’s shallow littoral regions and deep waters, California will directly enable five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities -- sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security, and deterrence.

Cmdr. Dana A. Nelson, a native of Clinton, Conn., and a 1992 graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, will be the ship’s commanding officer, leading a crew of approximately 134 officers and enlisted personnel.

The 7,800-ton California is built under a teaming arrangement between Huntington Ingalls Industry-Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics-Electric Boat. She is 377-feet long, has a 34-foot beam, and will be able to dive to depths of greater than 800 feet and operate at speeds in excess of 25 knots submerged. California is designed with a nuclear reactor plant that will not require refueling during the planned life of the ship -- reducing lifecycle costs while increasing underway time.

By: Brant

28 October 2011

The Growing Ball of Frustration

Soooo... Michael Peck writes an excellent article about wargaming irregular warfare for the new issue of Training & Simulation Journal. Being as it's about, y'know, wargaming, and is pretty topical based on current events, it seems like it would be a big deal.

Now, we covered it here at GN for all those reasons. And, let's face it - I'm in the article talking about a project I worked on.
But outside the obvious interest here at GN, there are plenty of other online communities that might find this to be an interesting topic worthy of discussion, no? So let's do a quick run-through, eh?

Small Wars Council, the discussion boards of the Small Wars Journal - thread started by me, zero replies.

Wargamer.com - thread started by me, one reply, discussing nothing at all.

Not one, but four separate, distinct, individual places at ConSimWorld, and the only reply is me, to Peck.
The only reply at Social.ConsimWorld? Not any sort of useful comment, just a link pointing people to a group on the site that has had 1 post in 2 years.

Did anyone pick it up at Armchair General? Nope. Gamesquad? You know better. Matrix Games? Squat. Even Dunnigan's milgames mailing list on Yahoo had 1 mention (from Peck) and 1 reply (from me).

So tell me, dear readers - if the central communities of wargaming respond to such an important article with a collective yawn, is there much point in continuing any of these discussions? If the rest of the wargaming world gives a solidly-consolidated non-shit about this, why bother continuing to engender discussions about these topics?

In other words - if no one gives a flying crap in the middle of the internet wargaming speakeasies, why bother continuing to bang the drum around here at GrogNews, the tiny little outpost that everyone just ignores anyway?

By: Brant

What's Worse: The Internet Moron, or the Discussion Mod Who Protects Him?

So Danger Room has an article up about the defense industry making budget cuts into an economics/jobs issue, and you expect from most of Ackerman's work, it's a hack job poking fun at big defense corporations.

What's really fun, though, are some of the comments. There are twits quoting Ike and the military-industrial complex, and others bitching about how senior military folks go to work for contractors*, and others griping about how the acquisitions process is so assed-up that it jacks up costs through the roof. Now, that last gripe is quite legit, as is the one quoted below.
* sidebar: what would those same twits bitch about if you weren't allowed to go work for the defense industry after military service? probably that weapons were being designed without leveraging the talent and experience of retired military folks...

Why can't they be retasked with solving our energy dependence? Local powerplant creation? Why is it always bombs, bullets?

Ah yes, the internet moron. You see, Danger Room (where this appeared) has consistently reported on the efforts the US military are undertaking in search of greener fuel alternatives. And yet, when I've tried - three times now - to post a reply to Mr Whiskey, it's been rejected by the mods on the site.
You mean the way DARPA and the USAF have been working on alternative jet fuels for 3 years now? (as reported in Danger room in 2008: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2008/09/darpas-coal-to )
Or the way the Marines have cut fuel use by 90% in Afghanistan by going green? (as reported in Danger Room this year: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/01/afghanistans-green-marines-cut-fuel-use-by-90-percent/ )
So tell me, Mr Whiskey, now that you got your wish - and didn't even realize it - what's your next criticism?

Now, I don't know who's mod'ing the comments at DR. I don't know if it's Ackerman, but it wouldn't surprise me (he's clearly not spending his time on nuanced research). But there seems to be only two reasons why my comments wouldn't get approved:
1. They're seen as off-topic. I have a hard time buying this, given how far off-topic so many other comments are in this thread.
2. They shoot holes in the groundswell chorus of complaints about how the defense industry is hurting the economy, and they do so using DR's own posts. Given Ackerman's behavior on other threads, I wouldn't put this past him if he was mod'ing his own boards.

Now, I wouldn't think my comments would be so consequential or dangerous as to need suppression over at Danger Room. Maybe I'm just (unofficially) blacklisted for beating up on Ackerman and his sock puppets over his Islamobating with the FBI, but again, that seems a little extreme for a guy without a big posting profile over there.

Anyone got any ideas about why these comments wouldn't make it into the discussion thread?

More importantly, anyone got any ideas about how we get Noah Shachtman back on Danger Room and boot Ackerman to the curb?

By: Brant

Random Friday Wargaming: Air & Armor

A highly-regarded boardgame of AirLand battle combat in the Central Front, Air & Armor is another of those 80s-era Cold War games that would likely find a market if it was ever reprinted.

The CSW forum is actually pretty full.

The counters were also quite colorful for the time in which they were released. It was considered a high-production value game when it first game out.

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

27 October 2011

Fall-In for Gaming!

Need something to do this weekend? Head up to Lancaster, PA, and hit Fall-In! for some miniatures gaming.

FALL-IN! ™ Is again in Lancaster Pennsylvania in 2011, at the Lancaster Host. You will notice that the convention takes place on Halloween Weekend, Halloween being on the Monday after the show.

The theme for this years show is US Cavalry: From Horse to Helo. The theme is, in the vein of last year's Marine Corps Theme, both a tribute to our fighting men of the U. S. Armed Forces, and an opportunity to encourage games amongst a wide range of conflicts. The United States Cavalry have been involved in American history from the Revolution up to current engagements.

By: Brant

UK In Action: Mastiff & Wolfhound

A Mastiff Armoured vehicle is pictured in front of a Wolfhound. The 2nd Royal Tank Regiment’s Falcon Squadron, based in Tidworth, Hants, have arrived at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan’s Helmand province and are conducting their final training – known as RSOI - before going out on the ground. RSOI – or the Reception Staging and Onward Integration package, to give it its full title - is mandatory for all soldiers entering Afghanistan. Here the guys have a last practice of their skills in the conditions they will face out on the ground. They are also taught the enemy’s latest techniques by soldiers returning from their tour of duty.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

ISAF Placemat OCT 2011

This month's update - click to enlarge

Just out of curiosity - does anyone out there know what the 3 Austrians and 7 Irishmen are doing? Is that like a trauma team in a hospital, or are they manning a machine-gun nest on a perimeter somewhere? Are the 24 Salvadorans on gate-guard duty? Or is that a mess-hall team? Or are they driving trucks somewhere?

I'm just curious what the contributions are from the really small contingents of folks. I'm fascinated that a country could/would send a dozen or so troops somewhere to be a part of a mission. What the heck are they doing there? And why? Maybe this will turn into an actual article sometime. (Crap, I have a day job. Two, even! OK, maybe not.)

By: Brant

26 October 2011

DoD Recruiting & Retention Numbers FY'11 - Final

The DoD has announced the final recruiting numbers for FY'11

The Department of Defense announced today recruiting and retention statistics for the active and reserve components for fiscal year 2011.

Active Component.

Recruiting – Fiscal 2011. All four active services met or exceeded their numerical accession goals for fiscal year 2011.

  • Army – 64,019 accessions, with a goal of 64,000; 100 percent
  • Navy – 33,444 accessions, with a goal of 33,400; 100 percent
  • Marine Corps – 29,773 accessions, with a goal of 29,750; 100 percent
  • Air Force – 28,518 accessions, with a goal of 28,515; 100 percent
Retention The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps exceeded their fiscal 2011 retention goals in all categories. The Air Force achieved 96 percent of its careerist retention goal. Reserve Component Recruiting – Fiscal 2011. Five of the six reserve components met or exceeded their numerical accession goals for fiscal year 2011. The Army National Guard intentionally achieved 95 percent in order to stay within its congressionally authorized end strength.
  • Army National Guard – 50,430 accessions, with a goal of 53,000; 95 percent
  • Army Reserve – 30,087 accessions, with a goal of 28,320; 106 percent
  • Navy Reserve – 8,364 accessions, with a goal of 8,344; 100 percent
  • Marine Corps Reserve – 9,180 accessions, with a goal of 9,157; 100 percent
  • Air National Guard – 7,182 accessions, with a goal of 6,632; 108 percent
  • Air Force Reserve – 9,069 accessions, with a goal of 8,831; 103 percent
Attrition All reserve components are on target to achieve their fiscal year 2011 attrition goals. End of fiscal 2011 achievements will be published in the November 2011 report.
By: Brant

Where Do The Brits Go From Here?

There's a lot of angst about the future of the British army, which the Economist sums up in a recent article.

His review starts from the premise that whatever the tactical successes of the British army in Iraq and Afghanistan, those campaigns have not worked out well overall. It also makes a number of other assumptions. The first is that the next few years will be dominated by “getting off the Afghan hamster wheel”—extracting men and equipment from Afghanistan in good order and deciding which bits of kit to keep and which to leave behind. The second is that by 2020, after troops have come home from Germany, the army will be almost entirely based in Britain for the first time in generations. The third is that the army must move to a “contingency” posture rather than a campaigning one, putting the onus on adaptability.

It looks as if one of the ideas in the SDSR—that there should be five essentially identical multi-role brigades—will be quietly junked in favour of “tailoring the force for the challenge” around two light and two heavy brigades which will draw on other resources as needed. Although a good deal of the army’s heavy armour and artillery will be mothballed or scrapped, investment in tactical-level networking—a key lesson from Afghanistan—will be given priority. Where deep cuts are made, the emphasis will be on preserving institutional readiness by retaining just enough skills, expertise and equipment to regenerate capabilities quickly.

General Carter’s review is also putting a lot of emphasis on “upstream” conflict prevention and capacity-building. The army already carries out training missions in bits of the Middle East and Africa, but the idea is to go much further, with around 3,000 of its people actively engaged around the world. As well as making future wars less likely, Sir Peter hopes that this will attract bright and culturally sensitive people to an army career. And if the army is called upon to fight in far-flung places, the hope is that it will know more about them than it did when it pitched up in Basra or Helmand.

By: Brant

Leave No Men Behind: WWII Aircrew Edition

The DPMO is bringing back an aircrew lost in WWII over western Europe.

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of 10 servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Robert R. Bishop of Joliet, Ill.; 2nd Lt. Thomas Digman, Jr. of Pittsburgh; 2nd Lt. Donald W. Hess of Sioux City, Iowa; 2nd Lt. Arthur W. Luce, of Fort Bragg, Calif.; Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Karaso, of Philadelphia; Staff Sgt. Ralph L. McDonald of East Point, Ga.; Sgt. John P. Bonnassiolle of Oakland, Calif.; Sgt. James T. Blong of Port Washington, Wis.; Sgt. Michael A. Chiodo of Cleveland; and Sgt. John J. Harringer, Jr. of South Bend, Ind., will be buried as a group, in a single casket representing the entire crew, on Oct. 26, in Arlington National Cemetery. Hess and Karaso will be interred individually in Arlington National Cemetery.

On April 29, 1944, the 10 airmen were ordered to carry out a bombing mission over Berlin, Germany, in their B-24J Liberator aircraft, piloted by Bishop and Luce. German documents captured after the war noted that the aircraft crashed near the town of East Meitze, Germany, and there were no survivors. German forces buried the remains of Digman, Blong, and one unknown airman in a cemetery near Hannover, Germany, around the time of the crash. In 1946, the Army Graves Registration Service exhumed the remains of the three individuals for identification and reburied them in a U.S. Military Cemetery in Condroz, Belgium.

In 2003, a German national located the site of the crash and recovered human remains, which were turned over to U.S. officials. In 2005, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) team excavated the crash site and gathered additional human remains, military equipment, and metal identification tags for Bishop, Blong, Bonnassiolle, and Harringer. The team also recovered a class ring with the initials AWL -- presumably belonging to Luce. In 2007, a JPAC team completed the site excavation and found additional evidence that helped to confirm the identity of the crew.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used dental analysis and mitochondrial DNA -- which matched that of some of the crewmembers’ families -- in the identification of their remains.

At the end of the war, the U.S. government was unable to recover and identify approximately 79,000 Americans. Today, more than 73,000 remain unaccounted-for from the conflict.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

GameTalk - Fantasy Wargaming

How do you get your RPG buddies to play a 'wargame' with you? Make it a fantasy wargame! Bust out Battlelore, or a Warhammer title, or, well, darn near anything from Fantasy Flight Games. Heck, even Columbia Games' Wizard Kings looks an awful lot like any of their block wargames.

What fantasy wargames do you enjoy for their tactical nuance? What fantasy wargames give you nice strategic depth? Absent the magical wonder-weapons, what fantasy wargames give you the best cross-over experience with 'real' wargames?

By: Brant

Nice Article on the USMC Infantry Immersion Trainer

The Charlotte Observer has a nice article about the IIT at Camp Lejeune. An excerpt:

The Marines came in armed with weapons and months of preparation for a scheduled deployment to Afghanistan early next year.

They entered the trainer through a walled-in area outdoors that has a town common on one side and a small cemetery with stacked-stone graves on the other.

Inside the building, the old concrete floor of the warehouse is obscured under packed earth and loose gravel paths that meander among 25 one- and two-story buildings that serve as village homes, shops, school, medical clinic, police station and a mosque. Gardens are planted outside some of the homes, ragged bicycles lean against stucco walls. A vegetable cart is parked over here, a poultry cart there. Birds chirp, dogs bark and children cry through speakers mounted above the buildings. Scent generators puff out the odors of barnyards, meat being roasted and a pervasive sweet smell that is supposed to simulate a wood fire.

About two dozen costumed role players populated Logahalam on Thursday, and about 150 cameras recorded the way Marines related with them and their surroundings so officers could review the exercises immediately afterward to talk about successes and missed chances.

Avatars, controlled by trainers in a computer room inside the building, can interact with the Marines as well.

The two teams in the trainer Thursday performed differently on their first visits to the village. One team gained the support of villagers, while the other angered the village chief by declining his offer to help administer aid to an injured man. But both learned that somewhere in Logahalam a man was hiding weapons he was selling to the Taliban. On their second trip in, the Marines were supposed to find the man and his cache.

Both squads suffered losses as a result of arms fire and homemade bombs while they were making their way through the town, and eventually they pulled out before accomplishing their goals.

The Marines have three other Infantry Immersion Trainers, two in California and one in Hawaii, all designed to help harden Marines against the stress of combat. Fighting forces must switch rapidly among three roles on the modern battlefield: full-scale military action, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian aid. Young Marines often must make the shoot-don't shoot decision in a split second in chaotic conditions.

Go read the rest, but ignore the comments. Seems like every newspaper online has a comment area that's just a turd-magnet.

By: Brant

AIr Force Generals Drawing Entirely Wrong Conclusions

It's amazing that one can make it to LTG and still be so overwhelmingly wrong about something. I understand parochial service-specific cheerleading, but this is just assed-up.

However, defense analysts also subjected the military character of the campaign to scrutiny, with some now suggesting the fight in Libya indicates that airpower has finally fulfilled its decisive promise, having matured to the extent that it can win wars with only a minimal ground component. According to retired USAF Lt. Gen. David Deptula, “Whether one agrees or not with the intervention, one thing is clear -- and no surprise to objective observers: Modern air power is the key force that led to the overthrow of the Gadhafi regime.” The effect of such a conclusion on austerity-afflicted military budgets in Europe and the United States could be huge and costly, as it is almost certainly premature.

Absolutely not. Modern airpower was an enabling force that turned the tide on behalf of a proxy ground force. Modern airpower did not cause the Ghaddafi government to fall any more than it caused Saddam to leave Kuwait or the Serbs to leave Kosovo. F22s didn't land in Tripoli and push out government forces, nor did they drag Ghaddafi from a tunnel in Sirte. Ground forces did that. They weren't NATO, US, or a Coalition-of-the-Week, but they were on the ground. Airpower proponents should remember that. Just because they're not drawing a paycheck from the same treasury as your fighter pilots doesn't make them less relevant to the fight.
Modern airpower was an enabling force - perhaps even an overwhelming one - but it was an enabler and it was not the decisive force. That force is still on the ground, and always will be.

By: Brant

25 October 2011

Strategic Gaming Roundtable, NDU 10/25

Tonight's program is Joe Lombardo (JFL Consulting, and a former CASL contractor) and Peter Perla (CNA and author of a key wargaming tome).

Joe Lombardo is talking about using games in strategic training (the Civilian Response Corps is one example).

Peter Perla will be talking about his new book.

Not bothering to liveblog this one... killer sinus headache and I'm not sure how many people are really keeping up with this as it goes.

Great quote from Peter:
"A game can fail because of poor design. It will seldom fail because you have good people playing it."


Peter's presentation is about a wargame being used to develop further scenarios for future wargames.

Morphology used to develop the "if" statement: "If South Sudan and Sudan split..."
Counterfactual reasoning used to develop the "and" statement: "... and then there's a famine..."
Scenario development gives us the "then" statement: "... then everyone kills each other."

The key was the exploration of those scenarios as plausible, likely, useful for training/exploration, of interest to the party using the scenarios.

Described by CNA as a "strategic conversation". The players aren't given an inject. They're given a statement and asked for their response. The game adjudication team then goes to the relevant other players to say "and how do you respond to that action."

Key activities:
- Draw out player actions, not positions
- Understand implications for others
- Constantly summarize information
- Manage the discussion and interactions

By: Brant

Sound Off! Intel "Failures" and Maneuver "Successes"

We've all heard the joke that there are two kinds of operations: Intel failures and maneuver successes.

But is that reality?

What do you think:

- How often is it an intel success and a maneuver failure?
- How often is it an intel failure and a maneuver success?

Sound off in the comments below!

By: Brant

Iraq Mission Going to End With 2011

The President has announced that the mission to Iraq will be complete at the end of the year.

President Obama announced that the United States has fulfilled its commitment in Iraq and will bring all American troops home by the end of the year. “As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year,” Mr. Obama said.

The United States and Iraq had been negotiating whether the Obama administration would leave behind up to several thousand trainers after the end of the year, but had been at odds over whether the Iraqi government would grant legal immunity to American forces that remained.

Iraq’s political leaders announced earlier in October that they had agreed on the need to keep American military trainers in Iraq next year, but they declared that any remaining troops should not be granted immunity from Iraqi law, a point the United States has said would be a deal breaker.

The announcement brings to an end America’s more than eight-and-a-half years of combat in Iraq and comes as Mr. Obama moves ahead with plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by 2014. “Now, as we remove our last troops from Iraq, we’ll beginning to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, where we’d begun a transition to Afghan security and leadership. When I took office, roughly 180,000 troops were deployed in both these wars. And by the end of this year that number will be cut in half.”

The DoD has released an official statement by Secretary Panetta on Iraq.

The United States and Iraq affirmed today that the U.S. will fulfill its commitments under the current U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement and withdraw all of our military forces by the end of 2011.

Today’s announcement means that at the end of this year, there will be a clear end to the U.S. combat presence in Iraq. I wanted to take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude and appreciation to our men and women in uniform who have served in Iraq since 2003. Our troops and their families have borne a heavy burden during more than eight years of war, and paid a great price. Yet it is a testament to their strength and resilience that we are now able to bring this war to a responsible end. Thanks to their service and sacrifice, Iraq is ready to govern and defend itself and to contribute to security and stability in a vital part of the world.

We will now turn our full attention to pursuing a long-term strategic partnership with Iraq based on mutual interests and mutual respect. Our goal will be to establish a normal relationship similar to others in the region that focuses on meeting security and training needs. Iraq is a sovereign nation that must determine how to secure its own future. Going forward, we will work closely with the Iraqi government and their armed forces to help them continue to build a stronger and more prosperous country.

By: Brant

24 October 2011

Monday Video: Brits in Iraq

Get your week started with a serious rock/video BANG!

By: Brant

TSJ Covers Wargaming of Irregular Warfare

Hey look! Wargaming content! Michael Peck's got an excellent article in Training and Simulation Journal, covering the current state-of-the-art of irregular warfare wargaming in the military. An excerpt (wonder why we chose this bit, eh...?)

(updated link: http://www.defensenews.com/article/20120201/TSJ02/302010011/Firmer-Ground )

A training gem
The new wave of irregular warfare simulations will also focus on training.
“We’ve gotten to a point where we realize we can’t shoot our way out of counterinsurgencies, so people are looking at different ways to train their guys,” said Brant Guillory, a senior consultant at Cary, N.C.-based Harnessed Electrons, which has designed irregular warfare simulations for National Defense University.
The Games for Training program, under the Army’s Combined Arms Center-Training, now includes Urbansim, which puts the player in the role of a battalion commander conducting COIN and stability operations. Developed by the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California, a center funded by the Army and with deep ties to Hollywood, Urbansim has a sociocultural behavioral model that governs the interaction between the numerous tribal groups, leaders and government forces. It also includes a social network diagram that indicates which local politicians, commanders and businesses are friendly or hostile toward each other.
Urbansim allows players to choose what they wish to emphasize. Is it better to focus on civil security or providing essential services? Should U.S. forces move aggressively or tread softly? Depending on a player’s actions and various events initiated by the game, such as improvised explosive device attacks, a population support meter measures the player’s performance.
Another example is Gemstone, a strategic simulation for senior leaders that was developed at the Center for Applied Strategic Learning at National Defense University (NDU).
“Most COIN sims and games have existed at the operational level and lower,” said Guillory, who co-designed Gemstone. “Their focus was on the guys in the field. How does the grunt talk to people? How does he avoid pissing people off? We have also done OK with battalion and brigade staffs. What we haven’t done is look at the strategic-level thinkers that are putting out policy, allocating resources, money and time over the course of two, three, 10 years. If I’m going to put a lot of budget into governance, or infrastructure, or military development, will it pay off for me in five years? We don’t game those things very well, if at all.”
Gemstone is essentially a BOGSAT (bunch of guys sitting around a table) seminar-style game, backed up by computer adjudication. Originally designed to orient new students at NCU’s College of International Security Affairs, the game puts players in senior central government roles in a nation beset by insurgency. Last year, the game was set in Colombia, and Colombian officials participated. A subsequent exercise in September centered on the Philippines.
Gemstone divides a country into provinces or states. Players allocate resources such as troops, police and economic funding. Their decisions are fed into the computerized adjudication model, and the results are displayed as color-coded outcomes on a scale of red to green. The simulation is expressly designed to incorporate Field Manual 3-24, the Army’s COIN doctrine.
“Elements of the doctrine include the game’s focus on lines of operation, including service provision, governance, perceived security, information operations and economic development,” said NDU’s Goodwin. “There is a lot of emphasis on gaining an understanding of how the parts feed into the whole in 3-24.”
Goodwin said computer adjudication allows for more consistency over human subjectivity. Professors liked having the chance to observe and work with students rather than adjudicate the game. The limitation of Gemstone is that it simulates a government fighting an internal struggle against an insurgency, rather than a government aided by external powers fighting an insurgency.
“Gemstone was not designed to include foreign military interventions, because while there are many simulations intended to support intervention games, games intended to teach about how countries can solve their own problems are rarer,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin said Gemstone could also be useful for civilian and military leaders.
“Understanding the impact of strategic decisions in a holistic way is incredibly difficult, and Gemstone shows not only non-kinetic interactions, but also the ripple effects of decisions over time and space,” he said.
The center plans to develop Gemstone as a Web-based tool for a variety of programs within the Defense Department’s Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program, and possibly for other DoD customers.

Great article - read it all.

Another good article about wargaming COIN from a few years ago.

By: Brant

UK In Action: HMS Dragon Leaving the Yard

Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon leaves Clyde following construction and heads for her new home on the south coast. The fourth of the Royal Navy’s state-of-the-art Type 45 destroyer class – HMS Dragon – this morning (Saturday August 27) slipped beneath the Erskine Bridge bound for the south coast. Built by BAE Systems on the Clyde, Dragon has rounded off her build and sea trials, and is making her way to her new home in Portsmouth, where she will join sisters HM Ships Daring, Dauntless and Diamond. A total of six ships will make up the Daring Class – Defender and Duncan, which will complete the class, are still in completion on the Clyde.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

Arctic Communications A Problem For Canadian F-35s

The Conservative government is telling Canadians that F-35s are needed to defend the Arctic but, at least at first, pilots will be on their own without communications capability in the far North.
Canada's new multibillion-dollar stealth fighters are expected to arrive without the built-in capacity to communicate from the country's most northerly regions — a gap the air force is trying to close.

A series of briefings given to the country's top air force commander last year expressed concern that the F-35's radio and satellite communications gear may not be as capable as that of the current CF-18s, which recently went through an extensive modernization.

Military aircraft operating in the high Arctic rely almost exclusively on satellite communications, where a pilot's signal is beamed into space and bounced back down to a ground station.

The F-35 Lightning will eventually have the ability to communicate with satellites, but the software will not be available in the initial production run, said a senior Lockheed Martin official, who spoke on background.

It is expected to be added to the aircraft when production reaches its fourth phase in 2019, but that is not guaranteed because research is still underway.
By: Shelldrake

23 October 2011

Order Of Battle: US IBCT Howitzer Battery

By: Brant

Anniversary: Beirut

Beirut Memorial On Line

Did you know anyone there? Share your stories below.

By: Brant

22 October 2011


By: Brant

You'll Fight TIGERS!

The most famous line from RRRRAAAAAANGER SCHOOL!

You'll fight TIGERS!

And you won't have to go to Muskingom, Ohio to do it, either.
How, prey pray tell?

By picking up Battles Magazine, issue #7, with the Growling Tigers game.

Even better?

With just the right counter, you can fight tigers!

By: Brant

21 October 2011

Random Friday Wargaming: Sixth Fleet

Not to ignore our naval brethren, this week we're checking out another VG product, Sixth Fleet, covering action in Med.

Sixth Fleet is a simulation game of near-future combat for control of the Mediterranean Basin. As commander of the U.S. or Soviet fleet and respective allies, you must form your ships into Task Forces and attempt to cripple the enemy’s capital ships and submarines. Your limited air assets must be carefully assigned to defensive and offensive missions. Commando, parachute and amphibious assault units stand at the ready to capture vital objectives. Most important, you must protect your supply and replenishment ships, or your fleet will be unable to maintain combat momentum. Sixth Fleet is a comprehensive simulation of the myriad elements involved in future naval confrontation.

Each 8 hour game turn is broken into 3 distinct phases (sub, surface, and air) and each player takes turns choosing which phase they wish to conduct. Ex. if the US player chooses "Air", they conduct all bombing, shipping strikes, anti-sub, and interception actions for all their aircraft.
Players also use their units to attempt to "detect" enemy forces so that an attack can be made. Ships and aircraft are always detected once a unit moves close enough to them, but players have to roll to try to detect subs.

The entire "Fleet" series of games shares one thread at ConSimWorld.

Squids unite! Give us your thoughts below.

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

20 October 2011

UK In Action: Typhoon in the Sky

A Royal Air Force Typhoon F2 jet fighter is silhouetted against the sky as it passes overhead.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

NEWS: Gaddafi Captured, Wounded (UPDATED)

Reuters is breaking the news that Gaddafi has been captured and wounded

Deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has been captured and wounded in both legs, National Transitional Council official Abdel Majid said on Thursday.

"He's captured. He's wounded in both legs ... He's been taken away by ambulance," the senior NTC military official told Reuters by telephone.

He might be dead.

By: Brant

19 October 2011

Leave No Man Behind: Korean War Edition

JPAC is going to meet for talks with North Korean officials.

A delegation from the United States will meet in Bangkok on Oct. 18 to begin negotiations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on resuming recovery of the remains of American servicemen missing in action from the Korean War.

Robert J. Newberry, deputy assistant secretary of defense for POW/missing personnel affairs, will lead negotiations with a team including representatives from the Department of State, the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, the U.S. Pacific Command and the United Nations Command-Korea.

The talks will only address the issue of resuming remains recovery of missing U.S. servicemen from the Korean War. Accounting for Americans missing in action is a stand-alone humanitarian matter, not tied to any other issue between the two countries.

Of the approximately 83,000 Americans missing from all conflicts, more than 7,900 are from the Korean War with 5,500 of those believed to be missing in the DPRK.

By: Brant

GameTalk - Cross-fertilizing with Eurogames

OK folks - we all love 'em (because we can get the family to play them) and we hate 'em (because they're so thematically vague): Eurogames.

Talk about the mechanics you do like, don't like, would love to see in wargames, and make you run screaming for another room.

And while you're at it - talk about wargame mechanics you'd add to Eurogames, too. Let's get some cross-pollination going here. Do you want to see some direct conflict in a Carcassonne game? What sort of multi-player interaction would you want in a wargame that you can find in a Eurogame?

By: Brant

It's All About Who You Believe

You gotta love this report from NewsMax...

The U.S. on Monday deployed 41 C-5 transport planes to prepare for a war game in the region that will test America’s ability to provide a rapid strategic airlift in response to a crisis, according to a report from an Israeli intelligence site, DEBKAfile.

The planes were expected to land in Israel and an Arab state packed with fighting units with full equipment, the report stated.

Really? DEBKAfile? Your source is the same site that said Saddam and his sons were hiding in Belarus, and refused to retract it even after we had their bodies on slabs? The same site that said that Moqtada al-Sadr was on the US payroll as late as 2007? The guys that said both Iran and Saudi Arabia were funding the Haqqani network?

By: Brant

Legal Problems with US Defense Authorization Bill

The Senate's bill would strip away fundamental Constitutional rights, and put the military squarely in the law enforcement arena.

Section 1031 of the act permits indefinite military detention of American citizens, without charge or trial, if those citizens are accused of supporting or being members of or supporting an affiliate of al-Qaeda.

While this sounds like something from George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four," it is exactly what the act would permit. If American citizens are arrested, even on U.S. soil, and accused of aiding al-Qaeda, they could be held in military confinement. Indefinitely. They need not be charged or tried.

Another provision (Section 1032 of the act) puts the entire burden of holding and trying non-U.S. citizens who commit or plan acts of terror on behalf of al-Qaeda on the U.S. military. These detainees may not be turned over to civilian authority for trial, unless an unlikely series of political events leads to their transfer to civilian jurisdiction.

The consequence of this, according to the retired military officers, is to alter the purpose of the U.S. military and to undermine American values. As they put it in a letter to the Senate majority leader,

"If passed, we believe these provisions would reshape our counterterrorism policies in ways that would undermine our national security and transform our armed forces into judge, jury and jailor for foreign terrorism suspects. The military's mission is to prosecute wars, not terrorists. ... It [the bill] would also authorize the indefinite detention without trial of terrorism suspects, including American citizens captured on U.S. soil - a policy that is contrary to the very American values needed to win this fight."

This is a bad, bad, baaaaaaad idea. But if anyone votes against it because of the legal problems in it, they'll get accused of not supporting the troops. Politics sucks. Strike that - re-election campaign politics sucks.

By: Brant

Someone Needs a Geography Lesson

Michele Bachmann puts foot in mouth at the Republican debate.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) criticized President Obama's foreign policy during Tuesday night's CNN debate, saying, "Now with the president, he put us in Libya. He is now putting us in Africa. We already were stretched too thin, and he put our special operations forces in Africa," she said.

Let us help out a bit.

By: Brant

Looking Back At Biafra, Part IV

The end of Biafra was more than the end of a failed secession. It marked the end of a struggle for a homeland for the Ibo people, then end of several colorful mercenary careers, the end of the rare Cold War-era struggle that did not feature either the US or USSR as major patrons of either side.

The five hollow-eyed travelers who stepped warily from a Nigerian Airways plane at Lagos Airport one night last week had the fugitive look of men on the run. They were driven to the Federal Palace Hotel through deserted streets heavy with the stifling heat of Africa's dry season. Next morning, after a fitful sleep, they were escorted to the Dodan military barracks in a suburb of the Nigerian capital. There, in the first formal surrender ceremonies to end a military conflict since World War II, Biafra's Major General Philip Effiong signed a document ending the bitter 31-month civil war that has raged between Nigeria and its breakaway Eastern Region.

Said Effiong, in a simple act of fealty to Major General Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria's head of state and commander of its armed forces: "We are firm, we are loyal Nigerian citizens, and we accept the authority of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria. The Republic of Biafra ceases to exist." His voice sounded tired. When he finished, Gowon embraced him.

Biafra had ceased to exist two days before Effiong's formal surrender. With federal troops advancing on all fronts, General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, 36, Biafra's leader, realized that he had lost. With his family, three aides, three tons of luggage and his white Mercedes-Benz staff car, Ojukwu caught one of the last flights out of the beleaguered airstrip at Uli. The refugees were loaded aboard a Superconstellation that took off for a destination that had still not been disclosed a full week later; various reports placed Ojukwu in Lisbon; Libreville, capital of Gabon; and the Ivory Coast. His flight left Effiong in command of a crumbling region, desperately short of food and medicine and totally shorn of the will to continue its doomed rebellion.

The conflict that ended with such stunning swiftness was the first big modern war waged in Black Africa since the continent's colonies began receiving their independence. It was also one of the most devastating civil wars in modern history. At the outset, Biafra's people numbered 12 million—about two-thirds of them Ibo, the rest belonging to minority tribes (as does Effiong, who is an Ibibio). The secessionist territory covered nearly 30,000 sq. mi. and included some of Nigeria's richest land. At the close of the war, 3,500,000 people were squeezed into a devastated area of 1,500 sq. mi. As many as 2,000,000 Biafrans, many of them children, had perished. The great majority had cruelly and slowly starved to death. Another 1,250,000 Biafrans, reduced to skeletons for lack of food, may die before aid can reach them—even though at least 24,000 tons of food, enough to feed 4,000,000 people for a month, is stockpiled not far from the war zone.

Why does Biafra fas fascinate me so much? No idea. Maybe it's my Southern roots holding sympathy for another failed secession. Maybe it's because I'm not sure the Biafrans did anything wrong and that the entire was was a power-grab by the military junta that rules Nigeria. Maybe it's the way the mercenary forces have been portrayed in the works of guys like Predrick Forsythe. I still find it interesting.

By: Brant

18 October 2011

Sound Off! Professional Development

Who needs it most, and on what should they focus?

Junior soldiers? Learning their tradecraft and developing into a fighting force?

NCOs? Leading the last hundred yards?

Junior officers? Tactical competence in employment of their assets?

The staff? How do you synchronize all these parts?

Senior leaders? What's the best strategy to achieve our goals?

If you have to prioritize your focus, where do you aim in your development of a professional force?

Sound off in the comments below!

By: Brant

Surowiecki Meets the Intel Community

GMU is looking into crowdsourcing intelligence, following a trend primarily encapsulated in The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki.

Maybe you've got a hunch Kim Jong Il's regime in North Korea has seen its final days, or that the Ebola virus will re-emerge somewhere in the world in the next year.
Your educated guess may be just as good as an expert's opinion. Statistics have long shown that large crowds of average people frequently make better predictions about unknown events, when their disparate guesses are averaged out, than any individual scholar — a phenomenon known as the wisdom of crowds.
Now the nation's intelligence community, with the help of university researchers and regular folks around the country, is studying ways to harness and improve the wisdom of crowds. The research could one day arm policymakers with information gathered by some of the same methods that power Wikipedia and social media.
In a project that is part competition and part research study, George Mason professors Charles Twardy and Kathryn Laskey are assembling a team on the Internet of more than 500 forecasters who make educated guesses about a series of world events, on everything from disease outbreaks to agricultural trends to political patterns.

The thing is, this isn't new. John Poindexter had a very similar initiative back in 2002-2003 that was canceled because of a variety of bad PR and a whole lot of noisemakers looking to yell at the Bush Administration for pretty much everything (up to, and including, sunspots). The Terrorism Futures Market was scary-accurate, but torpedoed Poindexter's career because it looked like someone was making light of potential attacks, and Congress just couldn't lay off.

Dr. John M. Poindexter, director of the Dept. of Defense's Information Awareness Office (IAO), is expected to resign within the next few weeks according to senior Pentagon officials. Since joining the IAO in January of 2002, Poindexter has been an ongoing source of controversy.

The IAO is an agency of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) created in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington. The goal of the agency is to gather intelligence on possible terrorist activities through electronic sources such as the Internet, telephone and fax lines.

Under Poindexter's leadership the IAO has created a firestorm of controversy with its Total Information Awareness (TIA) program, which seeks to capture the "information signature" of people in order to track potential terrorists and criminals. Now renamed as the Terrorist Information Awareness program, critics have called it a domestic spy program and the Senate has temporarily blocked funding for the project.

Earlier this week, Poindexter again came under fire for the IAO's latest proposal to predict terrorist events through the online selling of "futures" in terrorist attacks. The Senate again intervened to block the program.

The Policy Analysis Market (PAM), the first phase of the project, was already online with funding from a federal grant and was scheduled to begin a beta testing on today. The Defense Department had also requested $8 million for its "Futures Markets Applied to Prediction" (FutureMAP) initiative, which would expand on the Policy Analysis Market's terror-wagering scheme.

But late on Monday afternoon, Senators Ron Wyden (D.-Ore.) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) held a press conference to denounce the program. By Tuesday, Sen. John Warner (R.-Va.), the powerful chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, announced he had contacted the IAO and had been assured the program would be discontinued. By Tuesday afternoon, the site had been pulled off the Internet.

PAM was a joint venture between DARPA; the Economist Intelligence Unit, the business information arm of The Economist Group, publisher of The Economist; and Net Exchange, which was responsible for design, development and operation of the PAM trading system.

PAM was designed to much like other financial markets, with investors buying "futures" in events they think are likely to happen, and selling off futures as they believe events become less likely to happen. Some of the possibilities the PAM website offered for sale were the overthrow of the King of Jordan, the assassination of Yasser Arafat, and a missile attack by North Korea.

Bidders would profit if the events for which they hold futures -- including government coups, assassinations and missile attacks -- occur.

"Spending taxpayer dollars to create terrorism betting parlors is as wasteful as it is repugnant. The American people want the Federal government to use its resources enhancing our security, not gambling on it," Wyden and Dorgan wrote in a letter to Poindexter.

The program was so toxic that even Republicans were running from it.

The program, called the Futures Markets Applied to Prediction (FutureMAP), would have involved investors betting small amounts of money that a particular event -- a terrorist attack or assassination -- would happen.

It has been part of the Total Information Awareness program under retired Adm. John Poindexter, a prominent figure in the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration.

His current boss, DARPA director Anthony Tether, was asked whether Poindexter would keep his job. "I don't see why not," he said as he left meetings on Capitol Hill.

Republicans moved quickly to distance themselves from the program, which was supposed to start Friday.

"We're going to recommend to the secretary of defense not to use such funds as he has available ... to implement the initial stages of this program," said Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee.

"I just got off the phone with the head of DARPA, and we mutually agreed that this thing should be stopped," Warner said at a hearing on military promotions.

Tether agreed. When reporters asked him later whether the program was dead, he replied, "Oh yes, absolutely."

Before the Pentagon pulled the plug on the program, it generated fierce criticism, particularly from Democrats.

So it's going to be interesting to see if GMU gets anything worthwhile out of this. On one hand, you've got the internet pajama brigade who could certainly spam-bomb this project and turn it into a hijacked analysis for the Occupy Wall Street And Accomplish Nothing movement. On the other hand, if it becomes an actual useful tool by limiting access to people who actually know something, it has the danger of becoming a second coming of FutureMAP, and you wonder if it'll survive budget scrutiny any better this time than last time.

By: Brant

UK Defence Minister Resigns

THis is a few days old, but we still needed to cover it.

LIAM Fox is gone. The resignation of the British defence secretary became inevitable once newspapers started unearthing financial trails that appeared to show a group of wealthy, self-confessed ideologues bankrolling what amounted to a one-man parallel political operation, running alongside Mr Fox's official team at the Ministry of Defence.

That operation took the form of Adam Werrity, a young man with ill-defined defence and foreign policy expertise and business interests, who despite lacking a security clearance or any official role in government, enjoyed remarkable access to Mr Fox. Their contacts included 22 visits by Mr Werrity to Mr Fox at the Ministry of Defence and another 18 meetings overseas. These encounters included a joint meeting in Dubai with a potential supplier to the British military (at which ministry officials were not present) and a meeting with the president of Sri Lanka (at a time that other branches of the British government, from the Foreign Office to Downing Street, were deeply concerned about the human rights record of the Sri Lankan government, and were reluctant to receive the president officially).

The story has been running for a week now, but changed nature in the past 48 hours. Initially, the hounds of the press were running after what seemed a reliably British story: a scandal involving a whiff of influence-peddling, spiced with a dose of sniggering innuendo. Mr Fox and the much younger Mr Werrity were former flatmates and "close friends", the press noted. They dressed alike (meaning they were photographed both wearing suits and ties). Mr Fox had been dogged by rumours about his sexuality, the press added, and when he finally married, well, Mr Werrity was his best man.

By: Brant

17 October 2011

An Interesting Court Case to Watch

It will be interesting if the Supreme Court takes the 9th Circuit's side on the legality of the Stolen Valor Act - that lying about military service and awards is no different than 'fudging' your height/weight on a dating site - or the more narrow view that is related to defamation, which is a Constitutionally-acceptable limit to free speech. It's worth noting that the 9th Circuit is the one that's been most overturned by the Supreme Court over the years, and the ideological makeup of SCOTUS is pretty different from the 9th.

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide the constitutionality of a 2006 law making it a criminal offense to lie about being decorated for military service.

The Stolen Valor Act makes it unlawful to falsely represent, verbally or in writing, to have been “awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the Armed Forces of the United States, any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces, the ribbon, button, or rosette of any such badge, decoration, or medal, or any colorable imitation of such item.” The measure imposes penalties of up to a year in prison.

The case before the justices surrounds a federal appeals court decision declaring the law unconstitutional last year (.pdf).

In overturning the law, the San Francisco–based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled if that it were to uphold the law “then there would be no constitutional bar to criminalizing lying about one’s height, weight, age, or financial status on Match.com or Facebook, or falsely representing to one’s mother that one does not smoke, drink alcoholic beverages, is a virgin, or has not exceeded the speed limit while driving on the freeway.”

That case, which the Justice Department asked the high court to review, concerns defendant Xavier Alvarez. In 2007, he claimed falsely that as a Marine, he had won the Medal of Honor. He made that public statement during a local Los Angeles suburban water board meeting, in which he had just won a seat on its board of directors.

The government said Alvarez should be prosecuted because the speech fits into the “narrowly limited” classes of speech, such as defamation, that is historically unprotected by the First Amendment. In its petition, the government told the justices that the “court of appeals held facially unconstitutional an act of Congress that plays a vital role in safeguarding the integrity and efficacy of the government’s military honors system.”

Congress, when adopting the law, said fraudulent claims about military honors “damage the reputation and meaning of such decorations and medals.”

By: Brant

Monday Video: Women in the Military

Kick off your week with a nice photo montage BANG! of some women in uniform from around the globe.

By: Brant

UK In Action: Royal Marines in Afghanistan

A Royal Marine with Mike Company, 42 Commando carries a GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun) during a patrol around Nad-e Ali in Afghanistan. Royal Marines from 42 Commando have officially taken over control of Nad-e Ali North district of Helmand province. Having arrived in Afghanistan and completed a final course of training and acclimatisation to prepare them for their six month deployment, the Marines headed from Camp Bastion to their base in Shahzad – which will be their home until October.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

New CIA Director Focusing on Front Lines

Looks like GEN(R) Petraeus is telling the CIA to listen to the troops out front.

David Petraeus, the former general who led the Afghanistan war and now heads the CIA, has ordered his intelligence analysts to give greater weight to the opinions of troops in the fight, U.S. officials said.
CIA analysts now will consult with battlefield commanders earlier in the process as they help create elements of a National Intelligence Estimate on the course of the war, to more fully include the military's take on the conflict, U.S. officials say.
Their input could improve the upcoming report card for the war.
The most recent U.S. intelligence assessment offered a dim view of progress in Afghanistan despite the counterinsurgency campaign Petraeus oversaw there and painted a stark contrast to the generally upbeat predictions of progress from Petraeus and other military leaders. Petraeus has made no secret of his frustration with recent negative assessments coming primarily from the CIA, and said during his confirmation hearing that he planned to change the way the civilian analysts grade wars.

Never mind the re-grading of wars. The services all have their own intel capabilities, and for good reason. The CIA is not an extension of military intelligence. It should be looking at things that the military does not prioritize (among other stuff, mind you). The CIA is the only agency that analyzes a lot of their subject matter, as well as bringing in non-military perspectives on military work.

While I appreciate GEN(R) Petraeus' focus on the war, I don't want vital assets sucked up supporting the war if there are military-owned assets that can/should be doing the work instead.

By: Brant

16 October 2011

14 October 2011

Random Friday Wargaming: Battles! Magazine

This weeks we're highlighting the next issue of Battles! Magazine, which should be at the printer as we speak.

Featuring the usual heavy doses of reviews by people who've actually, y'know, played the games, interviews with industry personalities, and photography best described as "wargaming porn," this magazine is a must-get for serious Grogs. Yes, it's expensive. You won't feel the least bit cheated. Even if you accidentally read my column.

A very lively CSW forum can be found here.
A slightly less-lively BGG forum is here.
And you can order all sorts of stuff from them on their site here.

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

Pakistani Engagement With the US: On a War Footing?

A provocative article at Foreign Affairs asks "Is Pakistan Preparing for War?"

If Pakistani news channels can be taken at face value these days, the country is preparing for war. Retired generals, ambassadors, and professors weigh in on the likelihood of U.S. attack with an unrelenting intensity. The anchor of "Capital Talk," one of the most widely watched news programs on the popular channel Geo, recently asked guests what Pakistan should do when the impending attack occurs. A couple of his guests said that Pakistan should mobilize its forces and respond with full force. Officials have been more circumspect, but have issued the constant refrain that Pakistan's sovereignty must not be compromised.

On Facebook, meanwhile, new groups rally Pakistanis to the defense of the homeland. Just a few hours before sitting down to write this article, I received a text message with a similar call to action from a professional acquaintance. The rambling screed read, "Let them taunt us as an economically failed state, for they know not how thousands of Pakistani workers are currently working in the Middle East, Western Europe, and North America... Let them call us a technologically backward state, for they know not how we are the sole Muslim state with nuclear capability."

In the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden, such propaganda is everywhere. I have never seen it so virulent. But, in fact, Pakistan can ill afford any war, much less one against the sole remaining superpower. Sure, thousands of Pakistanis work abroad and send home billions of dollars in remittances every year. But many of those workers left precisely because Pakistan did not have jobs for them or because the economy was failing to properly reward their academic and professional achievements. And, of those employed within the country, the vast majority pay no taxes at all; Pakistan has among the lowest tax-to-GDP ratios in the world. The country's collection agency, the state-run Federal Board of Revenue, is infamously corrupt.

Defense budgets being virtually untouchable because of the military's outsized domestic power, the civilian government has dealt with the lack of revenues by cutting back the Public Sector Development Program (its social spending budget) by around 150 billion rupees ($1.7 billion) between 2010 and 2011 alone. Islamabad is left with little option but to seek development and emergency assistance from other countries. Following severe flooding in southern Pakistan last year, for example, the central government immediately called for foreign assistance. Eventually, such aid made up almost all of the relief effort. A similar appeal by the UN after this year's floods, for over $300 million, has raised less than a tenth of that amount, indicating that there will be nothing Pakistan can do to prevent another natural disaster from becoming one more humanitarian catastrophe.

The article makes a variety of prescriptive recommendations, but let's be honest - there've virtually no chance Pakistan will adopt any of them. That would require courage in the face of a discontented electorate. Find me modern examples of that, anywhere...

By: Brant

13 October 2011

Canadian Forces Meets Recruiting Goals

With few exceptions, Canadian Forces recruiting officers are telling hopeful applicants "Sorry."
The Canadian Forces are accepting just over half the applications they normally would in a year, and unless the applicants have certain specific skills, they are being told to try again later.

Out of 100 categories of jobs or trades in the Forces, only 13 list current openings, including dentists, musicians and social workers.

The military normally recruits around 5,000 people in a year. This year, it expects to recruit only 2,800.

“For this year we have pretty much accomplished our raw numbers,” Lt.-Cmdr. Robert Bedard, a military recruiter, said Wednesday.
By: Shelldrake

UK In Action: Minesweeper

A soldier is seen wearing Tier 3 of the new protective clothing to be worn by specialists in theatre and providing improved pelvic protection. The MOD unveiled the final phase of its ground breaking pelvic protection system that will provide increased protection to troops on the frontline in Afghanistan.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7


h/t EW

By: Brant

12 October 2011

GameTalk - Critical Hits

Another great GameTalk idea from Jack Nastyface. Heck, if I could get him to come up with another 8-10 or so, I could outsource this weekly feature for the rest of the year and call it a day!

Critical hits - Many games include a special critical hits table to reflect the infamous "golden bb" phenomena. Other games eschew critical hits and use a non-specific damage model. What say your readers about critical hits? Also...can "critical hits" be used for large scale (operational) wargames, and if so, what might they be?

Your thoughts below!

By: Brant

Amateur Hour

This picture has gone viral on Facebook.

Flip-flops, the rice paddy squat, and a "combat minstrel": this picture has it all. When I went to save it, I couldn't even figure out what to call it so I just went with "WTF." There's a ton of expended brass on the ground. Anybody think they actually hit anything?

I can't quite tell which Third World cesspool this picture is from. The Liberian civil war generated some epic pictures of "unique" tactics and load-outs like this, but that was several years ago. One of the resulting Facebook threads suggested that this is a current shot from the on-going Battle of Sirte in Libya. Do any of you readers recognize the setting and people?

By: Guardian

Merchant of Death Trial Starts With Jury Pledge

You gotta love it when jurors are threatened with perjury before the trial even starts.

Opening statements were set to begin Wednesday in the trial of a former Soviet military officer accused of agreeing to sell weapons to anti-American rebels, but only after jurors promised in writing not to research the case on the Internet.
Viktor Bout, dubbed the Merchant of Death, was arrested in March 2008 in a Bangkok hotel, where authorities say he agreed to sell the weapons to U.S. operatives posing as anti-American rebels. He was brought to the United States late last year after losing a fight against extradition. The Russian government opposed his transfer.
Twelve jurors and three alternates were chosen Tuesday during a daylong process. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin required all of them to sign a first-of-its-kind juror pledge, in which they promised not to research any of the issues or parties involved in the trial on the Internet. The pledge contained a signature line after the words: "Signed under penalty of perjury."
Before the jurors' selection, the judge questioned them to make sure they could remain objective despite mentions of weapons including high-powered rifles, missile launchers and Stinger missiles.
She also wanted jurors who would not be disturbed by allegations that Bout may have indulged in Africa many years ago in arms trafficking that did not break U.S. laws. No one said he or she was bothered by that.

By: Brant