Thought I’d share this with you folks. I’m in Las Vegas as a part of a group of bloggers invited to blog about a great program called Salute to the Troops where 70 wounded warriors and their guests are flown to Vegas, all expenses paid, put up at one of the plushest properties there (the Palazzo) and treated to 3 days and nights of VIP treatment. On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 12. It has been a blast so far.
The Palazzo had a Blackjack tournament yesterday for those of our group that signed up. It ended up being a 3 table affair with some very keen competition. The grand prize wasn’t chips, but instead round trip airfare for 2 from Southwest Airlines and free accommodations at the Palazzo for the winner and his guest to do this all over again.
The players battled it out over the three tables and you could hear the cheers and groans as lady luck had her way with all. But it all came down to the championship table and the final 15 hands. Here’s how the championship table looked as they began.
If you look to the far right, the guy counting his chips and plotting his strategy is Marine Corps Sgt. Ken Fischer. Sgt. Fischer built a nice lead early and then continued to increase it throughout the 15 hands with some aggressive betting. But it was tight at the end, and all the players went for it on the final hand with the dealer cooperating and busting (to cheers all around). Sgt. Fischer prevailed with over $10,000 in total chips.
While they were playing I got to talk with some of the other dealers and managers who were there and supported the tournament. Almost all were veterans. So while they players played, we swapped stories about C-Rats, P-38s and the usual stuff military folks like to reminisce about.
Most impressive, at least to me though, was how into the “Support the Troops” program they were. This wasn’t just some extra duty to them, but something they felt privileged to be a part of. I spoke with one of the dealers who’d served in the National Guard with the 42nd Division in NY before moving to Las Vegas. As we spoke and laughed about our most memorable C-Ration meals of the past, she pulled out her dog tags and held up, you guessed it, a P-38. Loved it.
That evening we had a great dinner at Lagasse Stadium (the ultimate man cave). It’s a sports book, with fabulous food (yup, that Lagasse as in Emeril) and more flat screen TVs than Korea outputs in a year. Shrimp the size of your fist (yeah, your fist. I swear they were bordering on small lobster size.), roast beef – like I said, a guys place.
We had dinner on a patio which was awesome. It was 97 degrees out, but somehow the hotel kept it cool and pleasant. Treasure Island is across the street and they have a live pirate show every hour. So we’d all be enjoying our feast and fellowship and suddenly we’d hear the pirates attacking the fort across the street. Only in Vegas.
Anyway, here’s Sgt. Fischer as he received his prize for the Blackjack win:
There are other bloggers and some special guests here as well. So I’ll give you a little pop quiz. Take a look at the next picture, take a look at the glass in his hand and tell me who it is:
Yes that’s Stephen Green, aka “Vodka Pundit”, originator of drunk blogging and his incredible wife, Melissa. Green is also covering the event for PJ Media.
And finally, someone who I’ve always wanted to meet but figured I’d never have the opportunity. I watched and cheered him on for years. Hint: I’m from Atlanta and this has to do with baseball. Pay no attention to the ugly guy on the left (that’d be me), tell me who the guy on the right is:
Yes friends, that’s future Hall of Fame pitcher, Greg “Mad Dog” Maddux. He quietly took a night to come out and hang with everyone one and salute the troops. It was funny, most of us didn’t even know he was with the group until he was announced and then a line literally formed to meet him. Gracious and funny, he took pictures with everyone. Thanks, Greg.
And again thanks to everyone who is making this amazing week possible. I asked one soldier, while we were walking to dinner, what he thought of all this. He sort of smiled and said, “you know, we’ve been treated to some great things while I’ve been at BAMC, but this just blows everything away”.
There ya go …
This does an adequate job of saying what needs to be said:
“Unseemly” describes it best. But when the rest of your record is so abysmal, unseemly is all you have.
The truth is that getting bin Laden was the top counterterrorism objective for U.S. intelligence since well before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. This administration built on work painstakingly pursued for many years before Obama was elected — and without this work, Obama administration officials never would have been in a position to authorize the strike on Abbottabad, Pakistan, that resulted in bin Laden’s overdue death.
Most reasonable people have already figured that out despite the “look I did it” claims of Obama. Critics can trash Mitt Romney all they want, but he was right – even Jimmy Carter would have made the call Obama made. And, had the operation gone wrong, despite what Bill Clinton says, the target would never have been known (until possibly, much, much later). America would have simply believed that one of hundreds of special operations that were conducted monthly, had gone south. It is war. It happens.
And, of course, what was the concern from Clinton? Politics, of course. Nothing more, nothing less.
I am on record saying that Joe Biden is full of crap when he tried to sell Obama’s decision to okay the raid that killed bin Laden as “gutsy”. Biden’s claim is that had the raid failed, his presidency would have been over.
Nonsense. We’d have simply never heard about it. There was no risk to Obama or his presidency to okay the raid and tremendous upside (which he continues to try to cash in on) if it succeeded. Most reasonable people know and understand that. It is the usual Biden hubris.
But, this new claim which has been floated by Big Peace is also nonsense. The claim is a memo that authorized the raid also was used to cover the President’s rear if it failed. Here’s the memo that is being touted as proof:
Received phone call from Tom Donilon who stated that the President made a decision with regard to AC1 [Abbottabad Compound 1]. The decision is to proceed with the assault.
The timing, operational decision making and control are in Admiral McRaven’s hands. The approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the President. Any additional risks are to be brought back to the President for his consideration. The direction is to go in and get bin Laden and if he is not there, to get out. Those instructions were conveyed to Admiral McRaven at approximately 10:45 am.
The decision to shift operational command to McRaven is being characterized as a CYA move by the president who, if the raid failed, would or could throw McRaven under the bus.
What was done is exactly what should have been done by standard operating procedure for any operation – unless, of course, you want people who have no situational awareness, haven’t been in on the planning and are thousands of miles away, making minute-to-minute operational decisions. You know LBJ designating targets in North Vietnam or Jimmy Carter trying to run the Iranian operation.
Of course you give operational control to the operational commander for heaven sake. He’s the guy who has planned, rehearsed and is most familiar with the operation. He knows the operators, he knows the terrain, he has helped configure the force, he knows the best time to go in.
He is the guy best qualified to have operational control and the shift noted at 10:45 am means at that point it was up to the best qualified man to make the call “go”.
The sort of nonsense that Big Peace is running is, unfortunately, done out of apparent ignorance. This is not a story. It has nothing to do with CYA. It is how operations are done. When the command authority, who retains the right to make the decision of “go” or “no go”, makes the decision to proceed they then hand the operation off to the operational commander.
That’s what was done here. It was the correct thing to do.
As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am no fan of Obama’s. And I remember when he criticized another campaign for using bin Laden to “score political points”. But this sort of attack is just nonsense.
Watch this … it’s stunning (or it should be):
It’s been a tough week. A good friend and neighbor died this week after a year long bout with cancer. He put up a hell of a fight.
Then, last night, I learned that milblogger extraordinaire and retired naval aviator Carroll LeFon had been killed when his F21 Kfir fighter jet crashed near the west gate of Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada.
Lex, as most people knew him, was probably one of the best writers in the milblog community, bar none. A retired Navy Captain and former carrier squadron commander, he loved flying and detested “life in a cube”. After retirement he managed to land a dream job for men of his ilk – flying fighter jets for a civilian company contracted to provide the opposing force for naval aviators at the TOPGUN school. Lex, during his active duty days, had been the Executive Officer at that school.
I had the privilege of meeting Lex at one of the milblog conferences and then, over the years, kept up an on again, off again email relationship with him. I enjoyed our conversations immensely and I was a huge fan of his blog. I mostly lurked because, well, I’m a grunt and that wasn’t my world, but I learned more about naval aviation and aviation in general than I would have ever learned elsewhere. I also enjoyed his slant on other topics as well. He had a large and engaged commenting community, the sign of a healthy and well-loved blog.
The stories in tribute to him are just now starting to come out. There’ll be more as the days go by. He was a heck of a guy, a brilliant writer, a man who loved and adored his family and died doing what he loved best – flying a high performance aircraft.
His last post at the blog was a bit eerie but pretty much stated his philosophy best when it came to what he was doing. He’d had a drag chute malfunction on landing and had to “wrestle snakes”, as he put it, for a bit before finally landing the aircraft safely.
When I taxied back to the line the maintenance guys told me to go away for 10 minutes. Just in case the brakes might, you know: Catch fire. Which they didn’t, so no harm done.
It’s funny how quickly you can go from “comfort zone” to “wrestling snakes” in this business.
But even snake wrestling beats life in the cube, for me at least. In measured doses.
Every fighter pilot out there, in fact every pilot in general, knows that at some point or other they’re going to have to wrestle snakes. And, they also know that the possibility exists that the snakes may, at some point, win.
Yet even knowing that, they’d never trade the opportunity to do what they do for that “cube” of safety.
Lex was a good man doing a necessary and dangerous job training our future naval aviators. He paid the ultimate price. But he did it his way doing what he loved to do.
Fair winds and following seas, CAPT LeFon. You’ll be missed.
But, one has to ask, did it?
President Obama said his formal apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the burning of Korans by U.S. troops last week has "calmed things down" after the incident sparked an outbreak of violence across the country.
"We’re not out of the woods yet," Obama said in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Bob Woodruff at the White House. "But my criteria in any decision I make, getting recommendations from folks who are actually on the ground, is what is going to best protect our folks and make sure that they can accomplish their mission."
Of course, the murder of two officers by an Afghan soldier in Kabul came after the apology. And, the riot in which hand grenades were thrown at the gate Forward Outpost Fortitude wounding 7 US Special Forces soldiers did as well. Finally, today’s murder of two US soldiers by their erstwhile Afghan compatriots again comes after the apology. The apology took place on or about the 23rd of February. The 4 deaths and 7 woundings afterward.
Hardly “calmed down”. But of course, much like the “saved jobs” claim, Obama can always claim the unprovable, and as usual, he has.
This actually points to a larger and growing problem. A problem that has been exacerbated by the President announcing a withdrawal date for our combat troops. The problem? The “green on blue” fratricide such as that seen during these Koran riots.
The growing divide between Afghan soldiers and their mentors has already been stretched to the breaking point after six days of violent and deadly protests over the Koran burning that have left around 30 dead, including four U.S. troops previously killed by Afghan soldiers or men in Afghan-security-force uniforms. The burning of Korans by foreign troops on one side and the killing of foreign troops by Afghan soldiers on the other have pushed the level of alienation between the two sides to what could be an all-time high.
The Saturday murders were only the latest of at least 22 similar killings that have occurred since last April. Smith says there have been at least 35 in the past 12 months, though NATO spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson refused to confirm that number. The Wall Street Journal reports that at least 77 coalition troops have been killed in the past five years in "green on blue" incidents, with around 57 of those having taken place since early 2010. Smith is not sanguine about improving the situation, even as the allies pour more money and effort into training ever more locals. Says he: "You only ever rent an Afghan, you can’t buy one."
The Army published a study in May of 2011 that, if you read the conclusion, points to failure in regards to ever fielding a competent and able indigenous Afghan security force. The study, entitled “A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility” had this to say:
The report concludes that "the rapidly growing fratricide-murder trend committed by Afghan national security force [ANSF] personnel against NATO members" confirms the "ineffectiveness [of] our efforts in stabilizing Afghanistan, developing a legitimate and effective government, battling the insurgency, gaining the loyalty, respect and friendship of the Afghans [and] building the ANSFs into legitimate and functional organizations." The report says that these complaints and murders challenge the usefulness of the "partnering" concept. "This is all the more a paradox given [NATO's] assumption of and planned reliance [on] the [ANSF] to be able to take over the security burden before it can disengage from this grossly prolonged conflict."
Much of what is happening can be tied to the absurd notion that announcing your withdrawal well in advance will not have negative effects. Of course, the feeling of abandonment by the Afghan government and armed forces are just one of the many negative effects. And, for the less stable and easily influenced among them, it has translated itself into the murder of American soldiers who are there, ostensibly, to help the ANSF.
What the Obama administration has managed to do in its three years is completely reverse the gains of the previous years in Afghanistan, push the government of Afghanistan toward accommodation with the Taliban and condemned those American troops we leave behind to mentor the ANSF to a very dangerous role in which their lives are just as threatened by their allies as the enemy.
Obama ought to apologize for that.
Sorry about the lack of posting, but have been on the road since 5am. Got into DC about 2pm and that gave me just enough time to change clothes, grab the Metro and make it over to the Rayburn building to spend about 30 minutes with House Armed Services Committee chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon. Very interesting discussion which I’ll be writing up soon. Ed Morrissey from Hot Air was there as well.
I’m interested in the temperature of Conservatives this year so I’m probably going to be doing more talking/interviewing of bloggers than listening to variations on the candidate’s stump speeches.
I think there’ll be more insight and gold in the interviews with Conservative activists than politicians.
Oh, and apparently Occupy is going to pay CPAC a visit on Friday and Saturday so that ought to be fun.
I’m tired. So, until tomorrow.
Here’s a little fact to keep in mind when considering the current cuts to spending at DoD (and let’s be clear, there is nothing wrong with appropriate cuts to defense spending), besides all the other ramifications it promises:
Defense accounts for less than 20 percent of the federal budget but already exceeds 50 percent of deficit-reduction efforts. And for every dollar the President hopes to save in domestic programs, he plans on saving $128 in defense.
And that’s without the looming sequestration cuts (keep in mind, most war fighting costs are not included in the budget) of another half trillion dollars.
Or said another way, the administration has decided that it will attempt to cut spending primarily with cuts to national defense. There is no serious program afoot to cut back the myriad of other government agencies and branches. In fact, many are expanding (see EPA, IRS, etc.).
As for sequestration, Democrats are bound and determined to see it through, because, you know, national defense is less important than winning an ideological struggle.
Charles Hoskinson of POLITICO’s Morning Defense reports (btw, if you don’t subscribe to it, you should):
BUT REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS are still far apart on one key issue: taxes. We caught up with SASC Chairman Levin at a breakfast Thursday and he said he’s counting on public pressure to push the GOP to accept new tax revenues as part of any solution – something they’ve so far refused to consider. Meanwhile, Levin and other Democrats won’t budge on reversing sequestration except as part of a complete package. "The dam has got to be broken on revenues, and what I believe will break it is the threat of sequestration," he said.
Shorter Levin, “we’re more than willing to hold national security hostage and see it gutted to get our way on taxes”.
It is rather interesting approach for an administration which is hung up on everyone paying their ‘fair share’. It seems that the lion’s share of what it will surely tout during the upcoming campaign as serious budget cutting, will come from the one Constitutionally mandated duty it has – national defense.
As for all the programs that have a future funding liability of 200 trillion dollar?
The DoD is presently working through a half trillion dollars in budget cuts mandated by Barack Obama which is going to see a much weaker military despite what any of the madly spinning politicians claim.
But the real meat axe is hanging just over the horizon in what is known as “sequestration” cuts, i.e. cuts which will be made across the board because the debit committee was unable to reach a deal on the cuts in the budget (by the way, Harry Reid, it’s now been 1001 days since you, Mr. Majority Leader, passed a budget out of the Senate) for the future. That would mean an additional half trillion in cuts to DoD, the result of which, would simply be disastrous to our national security.
Here, in this video, a group of Republican House Armed Services Committee members make a pitch for a common sense solution that would absorb the need for those sequestration cuts. In short, cut the Federal workforce by 10% – but do it over time and strictly through attrition.
Someone, anyone, tell me we couldn’t get along without 10% of the Federal workforce:
The MS Thor Liberty left port in Emden, northern Germany, on 13 December and docked two days later in Kotka, southern Finland, to pick up a cargo of anchor chains, said Finnish Customs spokesman Petri Lounatmaa.
It was bound for the Chinese port of Shanghai but there was no indication for whom the military cargo was destined.
Routine checks by Finland’s traffic safety authority revealed a load of up to 160 tonnes of improperly packed nitroguanidine, a low-sensitivity explosive with a high detonation speed.
"Actually in our investigation at the moment, we have got the information that we found 69 Patriot missiles on the ship and around 160 tonnes of explosives," said Detective Superintendent Timo Virtanen from the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation.
69 Patriot missiles is not some minor load. That’s a bunch of missiles. Were they hijacked?
They belong to somebody. Of course, remember we provide Patriot missiles to our “allies” too.
How in the world do 69 Patriot missiles go missing and end up on a ship bound for China (why spend the money to develop technology when you can steal it and reverse engineer it)?