30 May 2014

Friday Thinking

WarCouncil.org has an intriguing article titled Ten Questions West Point Does Not Ask Cadets - But Should. Here's the thing - cadets don't know enough to know what they don't know. You need to be asking these of the cadets, but more importantly, you need to be asking these questions at the Captain's Career Course, where the answers can actually be used by the answerers...

  1. What is the difference between a terrorist and an insurgent?
  2. How do unmanned systems impact modern battlefields?
  3. Where are the human cognitive, psychological, physical limits with respect to combat?
  4. How does information (Big Data and You Tube) affect the conduct of war?
  5. How should we measure tactical effectiveness in counterinsurgency operations?
  6. How does seapower and airpower contribute to landpower?
  7. In what ways does strategic culture influence military operations?
  8. How does logistics impact military operations in expeditionary campaigns?
  9. What is the proper role for civilians in military operations?
  10. What does "victory" look like in modern war?

28 May 2014


Eddie Snowball is out there claiming he "was a high-tech spy for the CIA and NSA". That smell you're detecting...?

In excerpts of an interview with NBC's Brian Williams, Mr Snowden said he had trained as a spy "in sort of the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseas - pretending to work in a job that I'm not - and even being assigned a name that was not mine".

But he described himself as a technical expert who did not recruit agents.

"What I do is I put systems to work for the US," he said. "And I've done that at all levels from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top. Now, the government might deny these things, they might frame it in certain ways and say, 'Oh well, you know, he's - he's a low-level analyst.'"

But he said he had worked for the CIA and NSA undercover, overseas, and lectured at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

When Mr Snowden fled the US, he had been working as a technician for Booz Allen, a giant government contractor for the National Security Agency.

27 May 2014

Ukraine 5/27: Counteroffensive in the East

Ukrainian forces are fighting back and retaking part of the separatist areas.

Ukrainian forces fought with separatists in the city of Donetsk for a second day on Tuesday after inflicting heavy losses on the rebels and the government vowed to press on with a military offensive "until not a single terrorist" was left.

Pro-Russian rebels said more than 50 of their fighters had been killed. The mayor of Donetsk, an industrial hub of one million in eastern Ukraine, said the death toll in the clashes which erupted on Monday stood at 40, including two civilians.

A Reuters correspondent counted 20 bodies in combat fatigues in one room of a hospital morgue, some of them missing limbs.

"From our side, there are more than 50 (dead)," the prime minister of the rebels' self-styled Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Borodai, told Reuters at the hospital, adding that Ukrainian troops were now in control of the airport.

Ukraine used air strikes and a paratroop assault on Monday to clear rebels from Donetsk's international terminal and had pushed the separatists out of the complex by the end of the day.

But shooting continued through the night and on Tuesday the road to the airport bore signs of fighting overnight and heavy machinegun fire could be heard in the distance in mid-morning.

"The airport is completely under control," Interior Minister Arsen Avakov told journalists in the capital Kiev. "The adversary suffered heavy losses. We have no losses," he added.

The Road Map of Russian Military Modernization

The Economist has a fantastic and concise look at Putin's military reforms and the context in which Russia is modernizing with the intent of projecting those forces on the "near abroad".

A first step was the appointment as defence minister in early 2007 of Anatoly Serdyukov, a 45-year-old former furniture salesman who was once part of Mr Putin’s St Petersburg clique. Something of a bulldozer, Mr Serdyukov was not afraid to take on the military top brass. But the real catalyst for modernisation was the 2008 war in Georgia. The brief campaign confirmed Mr Putin’s belief that Russia could use hard power in its near-abroad without risking a military response from the West. But it also laid bare the army’s failings. Ian Brzezinski of the Atlantic Council says: “The sloppy performance was a ‘come to Jesus’ moment in the Kremlin.” Russia achieved its goals, but with difficulty against a tiny foe.

Mr Serdyukov smashed through the remaining resistance. The size of the armed forces would be cut from 1.2m to about 1m. The bloated officer corps was to be slimmed by almost 50%, while the creation of well-trained NCOs became a priority. Conscription would stay, but better pay and conditions would create a more professional army. The reforms replaced the old four-tier command system of military districts, armies, divisions, and regiments with a two-tier system of strategic commands and leaner, more mobile combat brigades. Nikolas Gvosdev of the US Naval War College says: “The intention was to be able to throw force around in the region and create ‘facts on the ground.’”

A fast-rising defence budget provided more money for maintenance and training, allowing large-scale exercises to become routine, while funding pensions and housing for retired officers. Mr Serdyukov also set out to instil better accountability and to attack corruption that, by some estimates, was siphoning off a third of the equipment budget. But the biggest reform was a ten-year weapons-modernisation programme launched in 2010, at a cost of $720 billion. The aim was to go from only 10% of kit classed as “modern” to 70% by 2020. According to IHS Jane’s, Russia’s defence spending has nearly doubled in nominal terms since 2007. This year alone it will rise by 18.4%.

Reform backed by money has transformed Russia’s military effectiveness. Progress has continued even though Mr Serdyukov was replaced 18 months ago (ironically, after a corruption scandal) by the more emollient Sergei Shoigu. Yet attempts to create a more professional force and better NCOs have been only partly successful. There is a big gap between special forces, such as the GRU Spetsnaz who took over Crimea, the elite airborne VDV troops, and the rest. Conscripts, who only do a year’s service, cannot handle sophisticated equipment.

There are also demographic problems caused by a low birth rate and poor health: Russia has too few fit young men. The defence ministry likes to talk of a million men under arms, but the true figure is more like 700,000. Nor is it easy recruiting 60,000 professional soldiers a year. Mr Gvosdev points to glossy ads offering good pay and “a great life” but the army will struggle to meet its target of a force that is 40% professional. As for the re-equipment plan, the defence ministry’s definition of “modern” is slippery, says Keir Giles of the Conflict Studies Research Centre. It often just means newer versions of old designs. Better planes, helicopters, tanks, missiles and ships are getting through, but only slowly.

One reason is that the defence industry remains quasi-Soviet, inefficient and riddled with corruption. Much of its output is updated late-Soviet-era stuff. Until the T-50 stealth fighter appears in small numbers towards the end of the decade, the mainstay of the air force will remain upgraded SU-27s and MiG-29s that first flew in the 1970s. The navy is getting new corvettes and frigates, but the industry cannot produce bigger vessels: hence the order of two Mistral ships from France. The army is to replace Soviet armour with the Armata family of tracked vehicles, but not yet.

23 May 2014

New Camo for the US Army

A decade after it was developed, the Army is rolling out their new camo pattern to replace the pathetically-useless UCP.

The U.S. Army is quietly putting the word out to commands that it is replacing its current Universal Camouflage Pattern with a pattern the service has owned for more than a decade.
The Army's senior leadership has selected Scorpion, a pattern similar to MultiCam that was developed around 2002, according to a source with knowledge of the decision.
Sgt. Major of the Army Raymond Chandler III has been briefing senior sergeants major throughout the Army about the new pattern for the Army Combat Uniform, but details are still limited.
The Army was poised to announce the results of its multi-year camouflage improvement effort nearly a year ago, but congressional language in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2014 called on the Pentagon to put an end to the services branding their ranks with unique camouflage uniforms.
The Army has been considering replacing UCP with Crye Precision's MultiCam -- a pattern that has demonstrated consistent performance in multiple tests and was selected in 2010 for soldiers to wear in Afghanistan.

22 May 2014

This Just In: Norks are Assholes

They're shooting at civilians. Again.

North Korea fired at least one artillery shot which landed near a South Korean navy patrol ship south of the two sides' disputed sea border on Thursday but it did not hit the vessel, a military official in Seoul said.

YTN news channel reported that South Korean artillery fired at a North Korean naval vessel in response.

Residents of the Yeonpyeong island, which lies just south of the disputed sea border and which was shelled by North Korean artillery in 2010 killing four people, have evacuated to bomb shelters, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Military Coup in Thailand

I love the title of the Peace and Order Maintaining Command...

Thailand's army chief announced a military takeover of the government Thursday, saying the coup was necessary to restore stability and order after six months of political deadlock and turmoil.

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said in a statement broadcast on national television that the commission which imposed martial law Tuesday would now take control of the country's administration.

"It is necessary for the Peace and Order Maintaining Command — which includes army, navy, armed forces and police — to take control of governing the country," Prayuth said, flanked by the heads of the armed forces.

The pivotal development came after Prayuth declared martial law on Tuesday in what he called a bid to resolve the crisis and a day later summoned the country's rival political leaders for face-to-face talks. Two days of talks failed to break the impasse.

Shortly before the announcement was made, armed soldiers in military vehicles surrounded the military facility where the politicians were meeting, apparently to block those inside from leaving.

21 May 2014

Land-Based Launch of Aegis Missile Defense System

The DoD has pushed out this news release

Standard Missile Completes First Test Launch from Aegis Ashore Test Site

The Missile Defense Agency, the U.S. Navy, and sailors at the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex and Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), successfully conducted the first flight test involving components of the Aegis Ashore system.
During the test, a simulated ballistic missile target was acquired, tracked, and engaged by the Aegis Weapon System. At approximately 7:35 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time, May 20 (1:35 a.m. EDT, May 21), the Aegis Weapon System fired a Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block IB guided missile from the Vertical Launch System. Several fire control and engagement functions were exercised during the test. A live target missile launch was not planned for this flight test.
The primary purpose of the test, designated Aegis Ashore Controlled Test Vehicle (AA CTV)-01, was to confirm the functionality of Aegis Ashore by launching a land-based SM-3. The Aegis Ashore system uses a nearly identical configuration of the Vertical Launch System, fire control system, and SPY-1 radar currently in use aboard Aegis cruisers and destroyers deployed around the world.
This flight test supports development of the Aegis Ashore capability of Phase 2 of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, planned to begin operations in Romania in 2015.
Additional information about all elements of the Ballistic Missile Defense System can be found at www.mda.mil.

20 May 2014

Ukraine 5/20: Lessons Learned

An excellent column from War on the Rocks, discussing the lessons learned from Crimea, and the lessons we can't learn from it, too.

The most important set of lessons that Russia’s annexation of Crimea has taught other countries may be political in nature, and apply especially to the other former Soviet states. First of all, having Russian bases on the territory of one’s state makes an invasion much easier to carry out. Russian naval bases in Crimea were used as a beachhead for covertly moving Russian forces into Ukraine. Since the number of troops actually based in Crimea was significantly lower than the maximum of 25,000 agreed to between Russia and Ukraine in the 1997 treaty that regulated the status of the Black Sea Fleet, Russia could even claim that the increase in the number of Russian troops in Crimea did not violate the relevant treaty.* This precedent should be a concern to Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and other states with Russian troops stationed on their territory.

Second, former Soviet states need to watch out for Russian agents and collaborators working in their security and military forces. One of the reasons for the ineffectiveness of Ukraine’s military and security response in Crimea and subsequent covert activities in the country’s east is that that Ukraine’s secure communications channels are almost certainly compromised by Russian agents. Most other former Soviet states most likely have similar problems, though perhaps not to the same extent.

19 May 2014

Military History Studies?

RealClearPolicy has an interesting look at the lack of academic approaches to studying war.

If the seeds of war are planted in human nature, the study of human nature, the humanities, needs to take account of it. For this reason, American history courses had always -- up until recently -- offered military-history courses. No more: Observers have noted an alarming decline in military-history courses in university history departments nationally. Their concern appears warranted. In 2004, Edward Coffman, an emeritus history professor, surveyed U.S. News and World Report's top 25 history departments. He found that "of over 1,000 professors, only 21 identified war as a specialty."

How did we get here? Several factors have been fingered, including post-Vietnam War pessimism coupled with Cold War exhaustion. Perhaps the most powerful explanation comes from Victor Davis Hanson, who writes that "the sixties had ushered in a utopian view of society antithetical to serious thinking about war." Universities came to believe and teach that "government, the military, business, religion, and the family had conspired ... to warp the naturally peace-loving individual. Conformity and coercion smothered our innately pacifist selves."

Small wonder, then, that while the past several decades have seen the end of war studies, they simultaneously have given rise to university programs in "peace studies" across the country.

The University of Texas-Austin may be reversing this trend. Last year, UT launched the Clements Center for History, Strategy & Statecraft to strengthen the fields of military and diplomatic history and apply their insights to current national-security policy. The center is named after former Texas governor and deputy secretary of defense William Clements, one of the Pentagon's most consequential leaders. His Pentagon legacy includes developing many of the weapons platforms that have composed the backbone of American force projection for the last several decades, including the F-16 and F-18 fighter jets, the M-1 battle tank, and the Tomahawk cruise missile.

18 May 2014

Ukraine 5/18: Russians Planning All Along?

So maybe Russia's been planning this all along and just needed an opportunity.

While Putin has presented separatist violence in eastern Ukraine as spontaneous, interviews with Ukrainian politicians and security sources with knowledge of Russian thinking suggest months of detailed planning by Moscow.

A key plank of Russia's plan, they say, was to deepen splits in a country that has struggled to form an identity since it emerged from the Soviet Union in 1991. To that end, Russia sought to exploit its connections to Ukrainian business, youth groups, the church, politicians and criminal networks.

The sources point to a paper from June 2013, described as a Kremlin consultation document by the Ukrainian newspaper Dzerkalo Tyzhnia and first made public in August that year. It sets out Moscow's fear of losing influence in Ukraine and its desire to draw its neighbor into an economic union.

The Kremlin declined to comment on the document, entitled "On the complex of measures to involve Ukraine in the Eurasian integration process", and Russian officials have previously written it off as a "provocation" by pro-Western politicians in Ukraine.

Bearing no signature or stamp, it is hard to trace its provenance, but a former security source in Ukraine corroborated its contents. He said he was present during conversations about the document involving officials in Ukraine with close connections to Moscow. Like others interviewed for this article he declined to be identified because of political sensitivities.

The document indicates that as far back as early 2013 Russia was nervous about Ukraine. Yanukovich's rule was widely seen as corrupt and the Kremlin was worried the president's unpopularity could harm Putin's plan to create a Russian-led "Eurasian" economic union to reunite part of the former Soviet Union.

14 May 2014

A Thought-Provoking Rebuild of the US Military

What if you rebuilt the US military from scratch? That's the thought-provoking question behind the intellectual exercise of a few CNAS wonks.

What if we could start from scratch? What might the U.S. military look like if we hit Ctrl Alt Delete and reset the force? Would we establish a separate Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps? Would we give them the overlapping capabilities -- planes and helicopters, commandos and cyberspace units -- that they have today? Would we give regional commanders the power of veritable viceroys?
As budgets tighten, other powers rise, and technologies proliferate, it is time to stop and ask: Is there a better way? What follows is a thought experiment about what the U.S. military might look like if we started today with a blank slate.
In our vision, the military would be organized around its three overarching missions: defend the homeland, defeat adversaries, and maintain a stabilizing presence abroad -- themes that run through defense strategy documents over the last quarter-century, regardless of presidential administration. In a revolutionary break from current practice, these new commands would be responsible not only for executing these core missions, but also for developing the capabilities to achieve them. We would invest more in robotics systems of all kinds, protect existing special operations and cyberspace capabilities, and reduce less relevant capabilities like short-range aircraft and tanks.

Add, Subtract, Maintain...  click image to enlarge
other graphics at the article link

13 May 2014

When Names Matter: The Expeditionary Fleet

Breaking Defense has a solid article not just on the Expeditionary Fleet, but on why the name matters.

So here’s their new name: the Expeditionary Fleet. These are ships fully capable of operating in that petri dish mix of missions that constitute the vast majority of what Navy and Marine forces do on a daily basis. This includes missions such as presence and stability operations, humanitarian assistance/disaster response, security assistance and maritime training, counter-piracy, countering transnational crime and search and rescue operations. The Expeditionary Fleet can shoulder the majority of missions that fall into what the military categorizes as Phase 0 (shaping the environment) to Phase 2 (when combat actually begins). This is not a small set of missions.

and some more

The term expeditionary, on the other hand, conveys a firm operational purpose and is more readily understood by those who read it. It connotes being deployed overseas and rapidly conducting operations––ready where and when needed. Both the Navy and Marines have long-cited their expeditionary roots and even the Army is touting its intent to become more expeditionary. Moreover, the term expeditionary is amply cited in the Pentagon’s current collection of strategic documents, which places the term Expeditionary Fleet firmly in the center of today’s strategic dialogue across the joint force. For example, the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) emphasizes that boosting the numbers of forward-deployed naval forces to critical regions is key to both increasing presence and reducing the time required to respond should a crisis erupt. Moreover, the QDR talks about deploying “new combinations of ships, aviation assets and crisis response forces” to provide more options for regional commanders. This new emphasis encapsulates the exact types of innovative capabilities possessed by the Expeditionary Ships fleet.

This innovative impulse to fully explore and exploit the new types of capabilities resident in these ships is also embedded in the Marine Corps Expeditionary Force 21 concept. This 10-year vision, approved by Gen. James Amos, Marine Corps Commandant, details how the Corps will operate in the future and is intended to guide experimentation, force development and inform program decisions. Key to this concept is a focus on the ships and their capabilities that help enable the Marines to deploy overseas and get ashore if required.

12 May 2014

Taliban Gets Offensive

The Taliban launches their summer "offensive" with celebratory rocket attacks that hit jack-all.

Kabul's international airport came under attack on Monday as the Taliban announced the start of their annual summer offensive.

Two rockets hit the airport but did not cause any casualties.

There were also attacks on the US airbase in Bagram, at a courthouse in Jalalabad in the east and elsewhere.

Afghanistan is in transition, with a new president to be elected next month and foreign forces due to leave by the end of 2014.

The BBC's David Loyn in Kabul says the offensive has begun now the poppy harvest is in and the Taliban can recruit fighters more easily.

The Taliban offensive began with attacks before dawn on Monday first on the huge Bagram airbase north of the capital.

One rocket fell outside the base, and three others were launched, but did not cause any damage.

Ukraine 5/12: Legitimacy of Referendum Questioned

Well, it's being questioned by everyone by Russia, as the outcome was predictably in their favor.

Ukrainian leader Oleksander Turchinov accused Russia of working to overthrow legitimate state power in Ukraine on Monday after pro-Russian rebels declared a resounding victory in a rebel referendum on self-rule in eastern regions.

Russia said it respected the outcome of the referendum, in which separatists in the industrial Donetsk region claimed 90 percent support, and that the results should be implemented peacefully. It did not say what further action it might take.

Hours after the vote, dismissed by Kiev and Western governments as illegal, rebel leaders' plans remained unclear. Some have publicly supported pressing for annexation by Russia, which absorbed Crimea after a similar vote in March.

"This land was never Ukraine ... we speak Russian," said Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, rebel mayor of the separatist stronghold of Slaviansk, threatening to kick out the Ukrainian army.

Asked about the possibility of holding a second referendum, on union with Russia, he said: "There has been no decision, but this referendum showed we are prepared ... we can put on an election or referendum at short notice at barely any cost."

10 May 2014

A Far Better Carrier Suggestion

Rather than scrap aircraft carriers for a penny, why not hand it over to the Aussies, or the Philippines, or South Korea, and teach them how to use them, to start building a solid naval deterrent to the Chinese infestation that's spreading across the Pacific. Heck, even the Brits might want to operate one 'til their next one is ready to go.

The 56,000-ton Saratoga was commissioned in 1956 and saw action off North Vietnam in 1972 and 1973.
In 1985, fighters from the Saratoga helped capture terrorists who hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean, forcing a jetliner carrying them to land at an air base in Sicily.
The carrier was also part of Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and air operations over the Balkans in 1992, 1993 and 1994, according to Navy records.
The Saratoga will follow the former USS Forrestal to dismantling in Texas. That ship was towed to All Star Metals of Brownsville earlier this year, with the Navy paying a penny to the ship recycler under a contract awarded last October.
The recyclers make money from selling the metal they salvage from the warships.
A third carrier, the former USS Constellation, is expected to meet a similar fate soon, according to a Navy statement.

08 May 2014

Ukraine 5/8: Russian Withdrawals?

Are the Russians actually going to pull back? Only if there's something in it for them...

The European Union said on Thursday it was watching developments in Ukraine closely to see if Russian President Vladimir Putin would act after he said he was pulling Russian troops from Ukraine's borders.

"We take good note of President Putin's remarks on ... the issue of Ukrainian presidential elections on May 25, on his call to postpone a local referendum in the eastern part of Ukraine as well as his announcement on the recall of Russian troops from the borders of Ukraine," EU foreign policy spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters.

"This is a step which can help de-escalate the situation and of course we will follow developments on the ground very closely to see whether words are followed by deeds, by action," she said, adding that an independence referendum planned by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine "would have no democratic legitimacy and could only further worsen the situation."

07 May 2014

Some of the Best Advice A Commander Will Ever Get

In a discussion about "Situational Awareness", one Marine says all you need to know.

The money quote is below:
How do leaders counteract this tendency? The biggest step is to ask yourself, before sending out an RFI (request for information),”Am I going to make a decision based on the answer to this question?” If you’re not going to do anything differently based on the answer, then don’t ask the question.

The higher a leader is, the more he has to think about the effects of just asking a question. One effect is just the time consumed in finding an answer. It takes just a second for a leader to send an e-mail RFI, but it can take a long time for those tasked to find the answer. This is time they could spend doing their jobs better. The other effect is that, as in particle physics, the act of observation actually changes the outcome. As the saying goes, ”What my boss finds interesting, I find fascinating.” Subordinates alter their behavior based on what their commanders are interested in. Sometimes this is a desirable effect, but this has to be managed carefully. If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. A commander that is interested in everything will find that his subordinates are incapable of independent action.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen completely inane "PIRs" and "CCIRs" that had absolutely stupid shit like "unit finished on small arms qual range". Whoopty-f*ckin-do. So they're done.
What is "critical" about that tidbit?
What bit of info in there is driving your next operational decision point - you know, those questions that PIRs are supposed to provide the answers to help guide?

Stop asking questions just to ask questions. Commanders are in the business of making decisions. What information do you need to make the decision? Don't ask anything else! All you're doing is wasting the time of the people stuck answering just so you can feel 'informed'. It's nice that you've got 2200 underlings shoveling 'data' into your self-stroking ego.

06 May 2014

US - Philippines Exercises Kicking Off

They're focusing on "maritime threats" - love that euphemism. Hey China, you're now a "maritime threat"!

Thousands of Philippine and U.S. soldiers began annual war games on Monday, the first under a new security pact with the United States, focusing on maritime security in the face of China's growing naval presence in the disputed South China Sea.

The joint exercises "Balikatan" (shoulder-to-shoulder) would test the combat readiness of the two oldest allies in this part of the world to respond to any maritime threats, including piracy and humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

The new security pact was signed last week just hours before U.S. President Barack Obama visited. Obama said the agreement was a testament to Washington's "pivot" to Asia and was an "ironclad" commitment to defend the Philippines.

The Philippines has territorial disputes with China over the South China Sea, which is said to be rich in energy deposits and carries about $5 billion in ship-borne trade every year. The Spratlys in the South China Sea are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

"Tensions in the Asia-Pacific region have increased due to excessive and expansive maritime and territorial claims, undermining the rule of law," Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said at the opening ceremony at the main army base in Manila.

"The aggressive patterns of behavior aimed at changing the status quo threaten peace and stability in the region. Balikatan 2014, with its focus on maritime security, strongly supports our capabilities to address these challenges."

Ukraine 5/6 - Power Shifts

"Special Police" moving to control Odessa.

Ukraine's Interior Minister drafted a new special forces unit into the southern port city of Odessa on Monday after what he called the "outrageous" failure of police to tackle pro-Russian separatists in a weekend of violence that killed dozens.

Fighting continued near the eastern town of Slaviansk where Ukrainian troops have been, somewhat tentatively, pressing a campaign to end pro-Russian rebellion. A Reuters correspondent said gunfire seemed to be coming closer to the city centre.

The violence in Odessa, a southwestern port with a broad ethnic mix from Russians and Ukrainians to Georgians and Tatars, was seen as a turning point in Kiev, encroaching for the first time into an area beyond the Russian-speaking east.
Meanwhile, are rebels "retreating" in Sloviansk?

Pro-Russian militants just outside Sloviansk have retreated amid attacks by Ukrainian troops, reports say.

Government forces took control of a TV tower in the suburbs and rebels were pulled back deeper into the city, the Russian Interfax news agency said.

Earlier reports told of heavy gunfire, apparently closer to the centre than in recent days.

But a BBC team which has recently reached the centre of Sloviansk says the city is currently quiet.

Four Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 30 injured in an incident in Sloviansk, the interior ministry said.

Four ambulances were seen near the area and at least two separatist armoured vehicles and several rebels were seen in retreat, Reuters reported.

Update on Army Brigades Casing Their Colors

The draw-down is in full effect.

Here’s a look at the status of the 10 inactivating BCTs:

4th BCT, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, was inactivated in October. Soldiers transitioned to 1st, 2nd and 3rd BCTs within the 1st Cavalry Division, all at Fort Hood.

4th Stryker BCT, 2nd Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., was inactivated in March. Soldiers transferred to 3rd SBCT, 2nd Infantry on the same post.

4th BCT, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., inactivated in April. Soldiers transferred to the division’s 1st and 3rd BCTs. Soldiers were not required to move off Fort Campbell.

4th BCT, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., will inactivate in June. Soldiers will be moved to the 82nd Airborne’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd BCTs.

3rd BCT, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Knox, Ky., will inactivate in July. The brigade, the only BCT on Fort Knox, returned from Afghanistan in March. It will case its colors May 21, said Col. Bill Ostlund, the brigade commander.

3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Division will inactivate in the fall. Soldiers in this Fort Drum, N.Y.-based brigade will transfer to the division’s 1st and 2nd BCTs.

2nd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga., will inactivate in winter 2015. Soldiers will transfer to the 1st and 4th BCTs of the 3rd Infantry Division.

2nd BCT, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo., will inactivate in winter 2015. Soldiers will be reassigned to the division’s 4th BCT and 2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd and 3rd SBCTs at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. This means some soldiers will have to be moved from Colorado to Washington.

3rd BCT, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, will inactivate in spring 2015. Soldiers will be moved to the 2nd and 4th BCTs of the 1st Armored Division, and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood.

4th BCT, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan., will inactivate in summer 2015. Soldiers will be reassigned to the division’s 1st and 2nd BCTs and 2nd BCT, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. This requires some soldiers to move from Kansas to Kentucky.

05 May 2014

Anniversary: Battle of Puebla

If you don't know that Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Battle of Puebla, and that it's not the Mexican Independence Day, then you don't get to drink Coronas 'til you're blind.

By: Brant