30 December 2013

Big Changes for the US Army

The Maneuver Enhancement Brigades are going away, as are 5 BCTs in actual divisional units.

The Army has identified new units for inactivation as part of a sweeping reorganization that will cut 10 brigade combat teams and affect as many as 740 units across the force.

The reorganization, one of the most comprehensive organizational changes the Army has undertaken since World War II, is linked with an ongoing effort to cut the Army’s end strength by 80,000 soldiers.

“You are either going to see changes within your unit … or if there isn’t a change in your unit, you’ll most certainly look to your left and right and see change,” said Col. Karl Konzelman of the force management directorate in the Army G-3/5/7 (operations). “There are about 740 units that will be impacted in the next few years.”

Added to the list of affected units are the active Army’s two Maneuver Enhancement Brigades — the 1st MEB at Fort Polk, La., and the 4th MEB at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

The inactivation of these units means the Army’s MEBs will reside solely in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve.

The Guard has 16, and the Reserve has three of these formations, Konzelman said.

The MEBs have “just sort of run their course” in the active Army, he said.

The list of brigades getting the axe
The five BCTs to inactivate next year are:
4th BCT, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas
3rd BCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox, Ky.
4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
4th BCT, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
4th BCT, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.

The remaining five BCTs to inactivate in fiscal 2015. They are:
3rd BCT, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas
3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.
4th BCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.
2nd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
2nd BCT, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

There is some reassuring news in this, though. The net overall effect on shooters won't be a huge change
In addition to cutting 10 BCTs, the Army also will reorganize most of its remaining BCTs by adding a third maneuver battalion to its armored and infantry brigades. The Army’s Stryker brigades each have three maneuver battalions, and the BCTs stationed outside of the continental U.S. — four in all — will remain at two maneuver battalions, mostly as a way to save on military construction costs, officials said.
Which is comforting to know that we're cutting 26 manuever battalions (13 total BCTs x 2 BNs ea) but putting back almost 30 (+1 BN to each of the current BCTs that don't already have one). So we're reducing the number of HQs while increasing the foxhole count in the remaining brigades. Good start. I've long been a fan of adding an entire platoon to each armor / infantry company out there, noting that today's CO CDRs can handle that number of subordinates just fine. But this is at least a step in the right direction.
By: Brant

22 December 2013

Anniversaries: Battle of the Bulge & Sherman's March to the Sea

Most folks who are casually acquainted with military history know that right now is the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Today is actually the 65th anniversary of the famous reply to the German request to surrender - "NUTS!".

But it's also the day that Sherman took control of Savannah, thus ending the infamous "March to the Sea".

Flip the outcome of either of these battles, and describe what comes next in the comments below.

By: Brant

21 December 2013

Hey Look! Problems in South Sudan

There's a report that US military aircraft were hit by fire in S. Sudan.

Rebel fire hit two U.S. military aircraft responding to the outbreak in violence in South Sudan on Saturday, wounding three U.S. service members and heavily damaging at least one of the aircraft, officials said. South Sudan blamed the attack on renegade troops in control of the breakaway region.

The U.S. military aircraft were heading to Bor, the capital of the state of Jonglei and scene of some of the nation's worst violence over the last week. One American service member was reported to be in critical condition. Officials said after the aircraft took incoming fire, they turned around and headed to Kampala, Uganda. From there the service members were flown on to Nairobi, Kenya for medical treatment, the officials said.

Both officials demanded anonymity to share information not yet made public. Both officials work in East Africa and are in a position to know the information. It was not immediately known what the U.S. aircraft were doing in Bor. One official said it appeared the aircraft were Ospreys, the type of aircraft that can fly like a helicopter and a plane.

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By: Brant

GrogHeads Contest for Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm

Our buddies over at GrogHeads are running a contest called GrogHeads Strike Back! The Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm Contest

GrogHeads has partnered with On Target Simulations and Matrix Games to bring a fantastic year-end shootout, with a chance to win some excellent prizes from Matrix Games and the GrogHeads prize vault.
Here’s how it works:

1. You have to play a game. We know, right?! Let us say that again: You have to play a game. See, you’re loving this contest already.

1a. Specifically, you have to play this game: Flashpoint Campaigns: The GrogHeads Strike Back

1c. This is a custom-modified self-contained game and scenario for Flashpoint Campaigns. This scenario is not available as a part of the standard install, so even if you already have the game (and OTS loves you if you do!) then you still need to download and install this package to play.

The rest of the rules are over there, but you can win $65 for the Matrix Games online store, or some other stuff. Just for playing a free game!

By: Brant

20 December 2013

She Is Cooler Than You Are. Twice

Finally, the Eagles are responsible for something cool. One of their former cheerleaders is an MI officer with 2 Afghan deployments under her belt. Kicking ass and taking names. And delivering babies. Go read the link.

Cheerleader turned soldier? Did that turn heads when she was in military training or living in a mud hut with Green Berets in a village in Afghanistan?

"Initially, it was kind of a novelty to people I met if they ever found out," Washburn said Thursday in a phone interview from Savannah, Ga., where she was on the first day of her post-deployment leave.

"It's kind of a bit of a shock. You don't expect those two things to go hand in hand with one person."

She didn't join the Army on a whim. During her three seasons with the Eagles, Washburn was an Army ROTC student and history major at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He father was an Army helicopter pilot and an Air Force fighter pilot. She figures she moved 17 or 18 times growing up, but she calls Philadelphia home even though she just attended college there.

"I am so proud of Rachel and all of her extraordinary accomplishments. She has tremendous courage and has made an amazing impact on the lives of others," said Barbara Zaun, Eagles director of cheerleading.

By: Brant

US Deploys Troops to South Sudan

AFRICOM finally gets a ground-force deployment, as part of 1 MECH heads to Africa.

In the midst of worsening violence in the South Sudan, the Obama administration informed Congress Thursday evening that it deployed soldiers from the US Army’s East Africa Response Force to the capital of Juba to help evacuate American citizens and ensure the safety of embassy personnel there.

The 45 combat-ready soldiers are part of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division based in Fort Riley, Kansas. They are currently on a year-long deployment in the Army’s Regionally Aligned Forces program, which marries brigade combat teams with combatant commands around the world to thicken their ranks.

The AFRICOM command is the first to receive a brigade, and soldiers began deploying in April of this year. The soldiers who comprise the East Africa Response Force are based at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.

By: Brant

19 December 2013

USAction! Night Security

As seen through a night-vision device, U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Marcus S. McCollum provides aerial security over Helmand province, Afghanistan, Dec. 17, 2013. McCollum, a crew chief assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462, provided aerial support for British forces with Task Force Helmand during an operation. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gabriela Garcia
click image to enlarge

  By: Brant

13 December 2013

10th Anniversary of "We Got Him"

Yes, yes it's been 10 freakin' years since "We got him."

Operation Red Dawn was the U.S. military operation conducted on 13 December 2003 in the town of ad-Dawr, Iraq, near Tikrit, that captured Iraq President Saddam Hussein, ending rumours of his death. The operation was named after the film Red Dawn, (1984) by Captain Geoffrey McMurray.[1] The mission was assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, commanded by Col. James Hickey of the 4th Infantry Division, with joint operations Task Force 121 - an elite and covert joint special operations team.

By: Brant

Well This Can't Be Good

Apparently am American missing for 7 years in Iran was on some sort of unapproved mission thru a CIA team.

An American who vanished nearly seven years ago in Iran was working for the CIA on an unapproved intelligence-gathering mission that, when it came to light inside the government, produced one of the most serious scandals in the recent history of the CIA — but all in secret, an Associated Press investigation found.

The CIA paid Robert Levinson's family $2.5 million to head off a revealing lawsuit. Three veteran analysts were forced out of the agency and seven others were disciplined.

The U.S. publicly has described Levinson as a private citizen.

"Robert Levinson went missing during a business trip to Kish Island, Iran," the White House said last month.

That was just a cover story. In an extraordinary breach of the most basic CIA rules, a team of analysts — with no authority to run spy operations — paid Levinson to gather intelligence from some of the world's darkest corners. He vanished while investigating the Iranian regime for the U.S. government.

Details of the disappearance were described in documents obtained or reviewed by the AP, plus interviews over several years with dozens of current and former U.S. and foreign officials close to the search for Levinson, who is from Coral Springs, Fla. Nearly all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive case.

There is no confirmation who captured Levinson or who may be holding him now. Although U.S. authorities have investigated possible involvement of drug traffickers or terrorists, most officials say they believe Iran either holds him or knows who does.

The AP first confirmed Levinson's CIA ties in 2010 and continued reporting to uncover more details. It agreed three times to delay publishing the story because the U.S. government said it was pursuing promising leads to get him home.

The AP is reporting the story now because, nearly seven years after his disappearance, those efforts have repeatedly come up empty. The government has not received any sign of life in nearly three years. Top U.S. officials, meanwhile, say his captors almost certainly already know about his CIA association.

By: Brant

10 December 2013

US Mobility Still Vital to Allies

Once again reminding our allies that if it absolutely, positively has to get there by tomorrow you need to call FedEx the United States military and their transportation assets.

Statement on Additional U.S. Support to France and the African Union in the Central African Republic

Assistant Press Secretary Carl Woog provided the following statement:

“Last evening in Kabul, Secretary Hagel spoke with French Minister of Defense Yves Le Drian about the security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR), where, under the authority of a UN Security Council Resolution, French forces are assisting the African Union-led international support mission to provide humanitarian assistance and establish an environment that supports a political transition to a democratically elected government.

“Minister Le Drian requested limited assistance from the United States military to support this international effort. In the near term, France has requested airlift support to enable African forces to deploy promptly to prevent the further spread of sectarian violence in the Central African Republic.

“In response to this request, Secretary Hagel has directed U.S. AFRICOM to begin transporting forces from Burundi to the Central African Republic, in coordination with France.

“The United States is joining the international community in this effort because of our belief that immediate action is required to avert a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe in the Central African Republic, and because of our interest in peace and security in the region. We continue to work to identify additional resources that might be available to help address further requests for assistance to support the international community’s efforts in CAR.”

By: Brant

French Minister Complaining About Job Cuts at EADS

There's a French minister claiming EADS has a 'duty' to avoid layoffs


European aerospace group EADS has a duty to avoid job cuts, French Labour Minister Michel Sapin insisted on hours after the company had said it would shed 5,800 posts.

"Its duty is to put in place measures to avoid all layoffs and in France, it will not be accepted, because it is not acceptable for a company like EADS to cut jobs globally," the minister told Europe 1 radio.

"This company makes money. It's a big company, it has many divisions. If it wants to restructure, that's fine. It is its duty to adapt to the situation.

"But it is also its duty ... to put in place all measures to avoid layoffs," he said.

OK, so the French government wants companies in France to not lay anyone off. That's reasonable. But a "duty"? I mean, why would they be laying off people anyway?

EADS, which makes Airbus planes but also has many other aerospace activities, announced late on Monday that 5,800 jobs in its defence and space division would go in the next three years. About 2,470 affected posts are in the space division while the remaining 2,830 are in defence.

The cuts are part of a restructuring programme undertaken by the company to cope with falling orders, and will affect its workforce in Germany, France, Spain and Britain.

Oh. So you guys are cutting your defense budgets, and then complaining that the people whose jobs depended on those budgets are losing their jobs? Wow. "Cause and effect" are not in your vocabulary, are they?

By: Brant

07 December 2013

Anniversary: Pearl Harbor

in memoriam

By: Brant

French Helping Keep Peace in CAR

French and African troops are trying to help restore order in Bangui and the CAR.

The Central Africa Republic's shaky interim authorities on Saturday ordered all forces except foreign peacekeepers and the presidential guard off the streets of Bangui, where gunfire has eased but attacks on civilians have continued.

A senior U.N. aid official said French and African peacekeepers must push into neighborhoods where "senseless" Muslim-Christian killings are rife, not just control the main roads of the capital.

Clashes resumed in Bossangoa, about 300 km (190 miles) north of Bangui, a day after an African peacekeeper was killed there, a witness there said.

The order for gunmen to return to barracks in Bangui, read on national radio, came as France dispatched 1,200 troops to the country, where at least 300 people have died in two days of violence in which rival militias clashed and then wholescale killings between Muslims and Christians began.

A reinforced French force stepped up patrols of the dilapidated, riverside capital and warplanes flew low overhead. But residents and rights groups said that killings had taken place on Friday down alleys away from the major arteries.

"Peacekeepers are patrolling the main roads. This is helping keep the looting down. But the atrocities are inside the neighborhoods," said Amy Martin, head of the U.N. Officer for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA.

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By: Brant

03 December 2013

Anniversary: Battle of Tora Bora

Today marks the start of the Battle of Tora Bora.

On December 3, a group of 20 U.S. commandos was inserted by helicopter to support the operation. On December 5, Afghan militia wrested control of the low ground below the mountain caves from al-Qaeda fighters and set up tank positions to blast enemy forces. The al-Qaeda fighters withdrew with mortars, rocket launchers, and assault rifles to higher fortified positions and dug in for the battle

What's the closest historical example you think of to the Battle of Tora Bora? You thoughts below in the comments!

By: Brant

02 December 2013

The Bad News in Syria Keeps Getting Worse

While we can lament the evolution o the FSA from freedom fighters to criminals, how different is this from the FARC, the KLA, Mexico, the Chechens, the Republika Sprska, most of Afghanistan, the LRA, anyone in Liberia and/or Sierra Leone, and pretty much any other brush war you can bring up over the past 40 years?

The FSA, a collection of tenuously coordinated, moderately Islamic, rebel groups was long the focus of the West’s hopes for ousting President Bashar al-Assad.

But in northern Syria, the FSA has now become a largely criminal enterprise, with commanders more concerned about profits from corruption, kidnapping and theft than fighting the regime, according to a series of interviews with The Sunday Telegraph.

“There are many leaders in the revolution that don’t want to make the regime fall because they are loving the conflict,” said Ahmad al-Knaitry, commander of the moderate Omar Mokhtar brigade in the Jebel az-Zawiya area, south-west of Idlib city. “They have become princes of war; they spend millions of dollars, live in castles and have fancy cars.”

At the beginning of the Syrian war, caf├ęs in Antakya, the dusty Turkish town on the border with Syria, was alive with talk of revolution.

Rebel commanders were often seen poring over maps discussing the next government target. Almost three years later the fight against Bashar al-Assad is long forgotten. Discussion now surrounds fears of the growing power of al-Qaeda’s Syrian outfit, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and the criminality and corruption that grips rebel-held areas.

Syria’s north has been divided into a series of fiefdoms run by rival warlords.

With no overarching rule of law, every city, town and village comes under the control of a different commander. A myriad of checkpoints are dotted across the provinces: there are approximately 34 on the short road from the Turkish border to Aleppo alone. It is a dog-eat-dog existence, where men vie for control of territory, money, weapons and smuggling routes; it is, disgruntled civilians say, a competition for the spoils of war.

By: Brant

01 December 2013

Weapons and Intel: Tracking the Untrackable

There's a very interesting article in The Economist about weapons of great concern to the US, that are very hard to track.

The tracking of Shkval exports is but one part of a broad and increasing effort by the West to track a class of “showstopper” weapons that are both rare and easy to hide. Russia and other countries have stepped up the lucrative export of advanced weapons, especially missiles, designed with an eye to constraining rival Western forces, says Tor Bukkvoll, head of the Russia programme at Norway’s Defence Research Establishment, a defence-ministry body. Such “area denial” munitions allow an attack to be launched without the giveaway of first having to amass troops or hardware.

These weapons can be user-friendly enough even for non-state groups. On July 14th 2006 Hizbullah militants in Lebanon hit an Israeli corvette more than 15km offshore with an Iranian-made C-802 anti-ship missile, killing four sailors and severely damaging the warship. If Israel had known that Hizbullah possessed this weapon, the corvette’s automated countermeasure systems would not have been switched to standby and the attack would have failed, says Alex Tal, a former head of Israel’s navy.

The subsonic C-802 is not even particularly formidable. It is an old variant of a Chinese missile. Newer anti-ship or land-attack missiles fly faster and farther, and dodge interceptors. Their solid fuel means that they can be launched discreetly on short notice, Mr Tal says. Older types such as China’s widely exported Silkworm missiles require lengthy mixing and loading of volatile liquid propellants, a process which can be spotted from planes or satellites. With the newer models, the satellites have to keep watch on lorries leaving factories, which is costly and uncertain.

Among the most feared exports are Russia’s supersonic Klub (3M-54) and Yakhont guided missiles. Faster than their Western counterparts, they can be launched from land batteries, aircraft, ships and submarines, carry large warheads, and reach targets 300km away. The Klub (called the Sizzler by NATO) accelerates to three times the speed of sound in the stretch before striking. Countries publicly known to have the Klub or Yakhont include Algeria, China, India, Syria and Vietnam.

America has “a pretty good idea” of other secret exports, because it tracks ships worldwide, says Lawrence Korb, an assistant secretary of defence under Ronald Reagan who is now at the Centre for American Progress, a think-tank. But countries without such capabilities (or close ties to America) can be left in the dark. Even top-notch spy services are uncertain about some of the most burning questions. Has Syria’s Assad regime passed along some of its Yakhont missiles to Hizbullah for use against Israel? Is Iran’s boast of possessing the Shkval a bluff? Do North Korean subs have it? (Some reports suggest that a Shkval was used to sink a South Korean ship in 2010.) Mr Harmer, now at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, DC, says that keeping track of every such device manufactured is impossible.

By: Brant