As the east coast prepares for Hurricane Irene’s arrival, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron out of Keesler AFB in Biloxi MS, better known as the “Hurricane Hunters”, is tracking her.
I had the good fortune to ride along with them into Hurricane Alex a couple of years ago. You can read about it here.
We’d be flying in a WC130J. These “Super Hercules” are equipped with both the power and the equipment to weather the storms they fly through. They contain palletized meteorological data-gathering instruments which are used to gather real-time information as the aircraft penetrate the storm. The information is then sent by burst transmission to the National Hurricane Center where it is compiled and used to both track and predict the storm’s path and intensity.
At about 10am we went wheels up on the mission, 3 full crews serve the flight because of its duration and the intensity of the activity they are subjected too. Each crew has a pilot, copilot, navigator, weather officer and load master. The load master is responsible for dropping the parachute-borne sensor known as the dropsonde. It measures and encodes the weather data down to the ocean surface and transmits it to the weather officer’s station.
As soon as a tropical storm develops and heads toward the US, the Hurricane Hunters are usually tasked with tracking it by the National Hurricane Center. That means one of their specially equipped C130Js is constantly on station within the storm sending back information to the NHC and giving it the data it needs to accurately track the storm and issue warnings about landfall. It is estimated that the this information helps narrow the warning area and that precision saves $1,000,000 a mile for every mile that doesn’t have to be evacuated.
The unit is also an all reserve unit. All the pilots are reservists with civilian jobs such as a commercial pilot. Flying a FedEx jet into Memphis one day and a C130J Hercules into a hurricane the next. The 53rd is also the only military weather recon squadron in existence. You can read more about them here.
Good luck to those in Irene’s path. Batten down the hatches and follow her progress closely. And remember, it is the Hurricane Hunters out there flying through her eye and sending back all that data that allow you to know so precisely where she is.
While all the drama of the debt ceiling negotiations and downgrade were happening, China quietly launched their first aircraft carrier.
So what does that mean in the big scheme of things? Well IBD lays out the big point as clearly as anyone can:
It is not yet a full-fledged fighting ship. Its mission is to gain experience in carrier operations, particularly for pilots unaccustomed to taking off from and landing on a carrier’s moving deck.
Yet it represents a sea change in potential capability and something that Congress’ bipartisan fiscal supercommittee should ponder as draconian defense cuts remain on the table.
The first is no mean trick. Learning carrier operations and training carrier pilots takes a while. But the second point – about the supercommittee and defense cuts – should be lost on no one. One of the critical points about cuts to spending is the differentiation between good cuts, that is cuts that trim away fat and waste, and bad cuts, cuts that remove muscle and bone.
But back to the carrier and China’s intentions. First a few facts:
A few weeks ago Chinese Su-27 fighters intercepted a U-2 reconnaissance aircraft that had taken off from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa as part of a routine surveillance program of China. And Beijing issued a warning that such surveillance near its shores will not long be tolerated.
China’s capabilities have taken a quantum leap since a Chinese J-8 jet collided with a U.S. EP-3 surveillance jet in April 2001 off Hainan, the island that now has a base for Chinese ballistic missile and attack submarines.
China in recent years has laid claims to Japan’s Senkaku Islands, the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, and has conducted at least nine incursions into Philippines-claimed territory.
China is flexing. No question in anyone’s mind that it is feeling its oats and will be challenging the status quo in the South China Sea. It consider that to be China’s “blue soil”. Add to the facts above that China has been reported to have developed an aircraft carrier killer missile and is in the beginning phases of developing a 5th generation fighter, and you have to begin to wonder if all of that points to benign intent.
Beijing’s goal is to secure the waters from Japan’s home islands, along the Ryukyu chain, through Taiwan and to the Strait of Malacca, encompassing the South China Sea.
Chinese government writings refer to the waters surrounding China as blue soil. Where governments used to draw a line in the sand, Beijing is preparing to draw a line in what other governments view as international waters.
Last week, the state newspaper People’s Daily warned of "dire consequences" if Beijing is challenged in the South China Sea.
The People’s Daily is, of course, an organ of the ruling Communist Party in China and nothing hits its pages unless approved at the highest level.
Aircraft carriers are offensive weapons, not defensive weapons. Their purpose for existence is to project power. The carrier China just launched will not be their last or only carrier. The question is, what does China intend to do with it?
IBD concludes with the current situation and the future worry:
We will be hard-pressed to meet the emerging Chinese threat when our Navy has only 286 ships (down 45% from 1991, when it had 529) and continues to shrink.
We’ve closed the F-22 Raptor production lines, and even some in the Tea Party are insisting on defense cuts to make up for our spending follies.
Defense is a constitutional imperative, not an optional budget item. We’d better pay attention to that Chinese carrier.
The military community is not happy and it has good reason not to be. What was feared by many has indeed come to pass. For years, the military did not allow pictures to be taken by the media when the bodies of the dead killed in battle were repatriated through Dover AFB, DE. It was, many considered, a private affair within the military. Held with the utmost solemnity, these ceremonies gave due honors to those who had made the ultimate sacrifice.
But the critics made the case that Americans should see the result of wars, the human cost and eventually they won the day. However warnings that such events could be used for political purposes as well seemed to fall on deaf ears. In the end, it was agreed that only if the families of the dead agreed would any media picture taking be allowed.
As you might imagine, no media was allowed to cover the solemn homecoming for those killed in the horrific helicopter incident in Afghanistan this past week. AP tells us why:
Under a Pentagon policy set in 2009, media coverage at the Dover base is allowed only when family members of the war dead approve. In the case of multiple sets of remains returning as a group, photographers take pictures of those approved caskets only and are ushered away before the remains of any troops whose families declined coverage are brought out of the plane.
The Pentagon said that in this case no family could give permission because any given case could contain the remains of troops whose families did not want coverage. The Pentagon said that during initial notification of next of kin, 19 of the 30 families said they did not want media coverage.
The AP and other media organizations argued that images could be taken of the tarmac, plane or dignitaries that would depict the occasion without showing a casket.
End of story, right? Wrong.
An official White House photo of a saluting Obama was distributed to news media and published widely. It also was posted on the White House website as the "Photo of the Day." It showed Obama and other officials in silhouette and did not depict caskets.
Doug Wilson, head of public affairs at the Pentagon, said the department did not know the White House photographer was present and had no idea a photo of the event was being released until it became public. He said the photographers who routinely travel with the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were not allowed to go to the event, and no official Pentagon photos were taken or released.
Argument for doing so?
When asked about the photo Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the picture was carefully taken so that it did not show the cases containing remains.
"The White House routinely releases photos taken by the White House photographers in specific circumstances where it would be inappropriate to include members of the media," Carney said. "In this case, the White House released the photo, in the interests of transparency, so that the American people could have as much insight as possible into this historic and sobering event."
Or, to heck with policy and the wants of the families, i.e. no media coverage, this “historic and sobering event” was just too much of an opportunity for Obama to bask in the reflected glory of men better than him to pass up. Jay Carney had to go into overdrive to try to spin this in a positive way. Transparency has become an excuse, not a goal, for when Obama wants to ignore the rules and do something most would deem inappropriate – like this.
This has caused a minor furor in the blogosphere. Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive, perhaps the premier milblog, vents his feelings:
Anyone with an dime’s worth of decency would have known better than to use such an event, but that is simply part of Obama’s lack of character. He couldn’t just attend, he had top make sure that all the voting public knew he was there. It is sad to watch such a complete tool use the military, and worse our war dead, to attempt to create an image of a serious Commander in Chief. I don’t doubt that on some level Obama cares about the dead troops, but just a whole lot less than he cares about himself.
Jimbo also reacts to Carney’s spin:
No sentient being believes that one of the least transparent administrations in our history was making sure we had insight. This was another pathetic example of our Campaigner in Chief doing the only thing he is even marginally competent at, promoting himself. I didn’t believe it was possible for Obama to debase himself and show his complete self-absorption any more than he already had. I was wrong.
Jonn Lilyea at “This Ain’t Hell” sums it up best:
So the White House doesn’t follow it’s own rules and doesn’t see a need to comply with the wishes of the family…especially when a great photo opportunity presents itself. When was the last time that the President went to Dover, anyway? I think it was when they first allowed photographers to snap pictures of the returning victims of war, wasn’t it?
I see the President still doesn’t know to salute properly, either.
He’s right – it actually looks like he’s preparing to thumb his nose. And in fact, he did just that to the 19 families that wanted no coverage.
If you want to see the photo, you’ll have to chase it down. I’m not posting it here.
Hey, weren’t “Blackwater” and “mercenary” a bad words during the Bush administration? Didn’t the left spend an inordinate amount of time demonizing private contract security in Iraq? Weren’t we told that wouldn’t be something we’d see in an Obama administration?
By January 2012, the State Department will do something it’s never done before: command a mercenary army the size of a heavy combat brigade. That’s the plan to provide security for its diplomats in Iraq once the U.S. military withdraws. And no one outside State knows anything more, as the department has gone to war with its independent government watchdog to keep its plan a secret.
Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), is essentially in the dark about one of the most complex and dangerous endeavors the State Department has ever undertaken, one with huge implications for the future of the United States in Iraq. “Our audit of the program is making no progress,” Bowen tells Danger Room.
For months, Bowen’s team has tried to get basic information out of the State Department about how it will command its assembled army of about 5,500 private security contractors. How many State contracting officials will oversee how many hired guns? What are the rules of engagement for the guards? What’s the system for reporting a security danger, and for directing the guards’ response?
Yeah, nothing could go wrong with this, could it? Ackerman is asking the right questions. Civilians and diplomats running a quasi-military organization the size of a combat infantry brigade, and trying to keep it secret to boot.
Let’s be honest here – this is a private army. And since taxpayers are obviously paying for it, a little transparency (yeah, you remember that promise too, right?) would be nice.
But that’s not going to happen if the ambassador has his way. Citing jurisdictional conflicts, he’s told the IG to butt out.
And for months, the State Department’s management chief, former Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, has given Bowen a clear response: That’s not your jurisdiction. You just deal with reconstruction, not security. Never mind that Bowen has audited over $1.2 billion worth of security contracts over seven years.
“Apparently, Ambassador Kennedy doesn’t want us doing the oversight that we believe is necessary and properly within our jurisdiction,” Bowen says. “That hard truth is holding up work on important programs and contracts at a critical moment in the Iraq transition.”
So here we have this secret private army of 5,500 that is way above and beyond what is necessary to guard diplomats (something the State Department has been doing for years and years all over the world). This isn’t just about diplomatic security – not with those numbers:
They have no experience running a private army,” says Ramzy Mardini, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War who just returned from a weeks-long trip to Iraq. “I don’t think the State Department even has a good sense of what it’s taking on. The U.S. military is concerned about it as well.”
I would be too if I were the military. This is dangerous stuff and if they do stupid things, it could get other Americans, specifically those in the military, killed.
Of course, with this crew, you also have to ask, “how much am I getting taxed to pay for this debacle looking for an opportunity to happen?”
So far, the Department has awarded three security contracts for Iraq worth nearly $2.9 billion over five years. Bowen can’t even say for sure how much the department actually intends to spend on mercs in total. State won’t let it see those totals.
About as much information as the department has disclosed about its incipient private army comes from a little-noticed Senate hearing in February. There, the top U.S. military and civilian officials in Iraq said that they’d station the hired guard force at Basra, Irbil, Mosul and Kirkuk, with the majority — over 3,000 — protecting the mega-embassy in Baghdad. They’ll ferry diplomats around in armored convoys and a State-run helicopter fleet, the first in the department’s history.
And here I thought we were leaving Iraq.
It is becoming clearer and clearer that Barack Obama has no real intention of tackling the government spending programs that pose the greatest risk to our future financial security. And, if he has his way, he’ll certainly agree to some cuts in spending, to at least give himself some political cover and the ability to claim he’s engaged. But if there are going to be any spending cuts, I think we all know where they’ll be if he gets his way:
“I think what’s absolutely true is that core commitments that we make to the most vulnerable have to be maintained,” [President Barack] Obama said. “A lot of the spending cuts that we’re making should be around areas like defense spending as opposed to food stamps.”
That’s not the first time recently he’s voiced that theme:
During his first-ever Twitter town hall meeting Wednesday, Obama said the Defense budget is so large that even modest cuts to it would free up dollars for other federal programs.
So it isn’t conjecture to say that his target is defense and his plan is to spend what is ‘saved’, not pay down the debt. I also think it is quite clear that he plans to drastically reduce defense spending in a time we’re involved in three wars (how’s that “weeks, not months” war going? 5 months, counting and no end in sight), and defense commitments globally.
Of course you can always rely on the left to support such an idea. Ezra Klein tries to be “objective” about it, but it is clear what the intent of his “the US military in two charts” post is about at the Washington Post. Klein has taken the charts from The Economist. Let’s take a look. Chart one shows military spending as a percentage of all military spending in the world:
Another way to break it down is US 43%, rest of the world 57%. Or there’s a whole lot of military spending going on in the world, and we do a lot of it.
But we’ve known that for decades. What the chart doesn’t tell you, for instance, is how much China’s spending has increased. China’s defense budget for the past few years has seen double digit jumps, with the only year in single digits being 2010 when it only increased the budget by 7.5%. This year, it’s back in double digits at 12.7%. So that wedge you see in this static chart is a rapidly growing wedge. As China’s economy has heated up over the years, so has China’s military spending.
Russia too is increasing its spending on defense. It plans on spending $650 billion on its armed forces over the next 10 years.
France, on the other hand, has been cutting its level of military spending consistently over the years since 1988. But a country that isn’t cutting its spending and which now spends more of its GDP on the military than does France, is Iran.
The point, of course, is that while it is evident that we spend an inordinately larger amount than any other country on defense, we’ve done that because we’ve assumed an international role that others can’t fill or we don’t want them to fill.
And that’s an important point. One reason that we’ve generally seen a peaceful 50 or so years (with most wars being of the regional, not world wide, type) is because we’ve been the country which has shouldered the burden of keeping the peace. Peace through strength.
Obviously there is certainly an argument that can be made that we shouldn’t have to shoulder that burden and it’s time we gave it up. But as soon as you say something like that, you have to ask, “but who will fill the role”?
Certainly not the Third World Debating society known as the UN. They’re inept, corrupt and incompetent. And certainly not NATO – as Libya has proven, they can’t get out of their own way.
So who keeps Russia in its place and stands up to China as that country flexes its newly developed muscle? What about Iran? Or North Korea?
That’s the problem with being about the only country standing of any size after a world war.
So we have to ask ourselves, is it in our best interest to back out of our pretty dominant role and cut back drastically in our spending in that area? If we answer yes, we have to ask who we trust to pick up that slack. I know my answer to that – no one. But rest assured that power vacuum will indeed be filled. A dilemma for sure.
We lead the world in spending but do not have the largest military – not by a long shot. In fact, our entire military is just a bit smaller than the Chinese Army alone. Looking at that, and considering the spending chart, what would it tell you?
It would tell me we spend the majority of our money on technology. It costs money – and a lot of it – to maintain our level of superiority. We spend it on things like 5th generation fighters, state-of-the-art naval vessels, and the like. Programs that are designed not only to give us the technological edge on the battlefield, but also to deter would-be enemies from even trying, given their inability to match our capabilities. It is obviously an intangible – we can’t really measure how much this has saved us from brutal and even more costly wars – but with the budget battles and the fiscal crisis, we’re in a position where we certainly have to clearly state our priorities. Obama has stated his.
Is there room in our defense spending to make some cuts. Yes, of course there is.
But let’s be clear, to quote Obama. Defense spending is 4.7% of GDP and it is approximately 20% of the federal budget. But it is time for a third chart:
Entitlements (i.e. “mandatory spending”) total 56% of our budget – and growing. And we’ve so overspent that we’re spending 6% on interest alone. So 62% of the budget – as designed by those brilliant legislators we’ve elected decade after decade – is untouchable by law. That leaves 39% that these yahoos want to “balance the budget” on. The elephant in the room is ignored to go after the dog. And only part of the dog. We have a president who prefers the other end of the dog to the part that has teeth.
All of that to get to this question – Obama talks about core commitments in his first statement above: Is it a core commitment of the government of the United States to protect and defend the citizens of the country as outlined in the Constitution of the United States, or is it a core commitment to take other people’s money and redistribute it?
Because that’s the choice we’re talking about here. Make the commitment to national security and, within reason, the cost that entails, or, as Barack Obama seems comfortable with doing, throw it under the bus in favor of redistribution of income instead. While serving what he calls the “most vulnerable” he’ll make us all vulnerable.
More on this subject later, but that’s a pretty good start to the discussion.
I’m always somewhat naively amazed by stories like this (Google cache version – original link has been pulled) because I have to wonder how these guys think they can get away with claims like this. The first thing that obviously catches your eye are the inordinate number of ARCOMs and AAMs the man claims (54?). He claims he was a Ranger and claims “six Overseas Service ribbons for combat” but no CIB (all this apparently dutifully written up without question by the “reporter”). And of course the award from the “emperor of Saudi Arabia” along with “several dozen others”. Several dozen, mind you:
Jeff "Rock" Harris refuses to display his medals and honors in his Kinston home.
He tries to keep the awards – three Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, 23 Army Commendation Medals, 31 Army Achievement Medals, six Overseas Service ribbons for combat, an award from the emperor of Saudi Arabia, along with several dozen others, he acquired during his time as a U.S. Army Ranger – packed away. However, those around him refuse to let him forget how important his time in the military was.
Yeah, I can understand why he refuses to display them (someone wondered what the gross poundage of the oak leaf clusters would be). Then this:
"I have 316 confirmed kills as a sniper, and that’s only in that last three years I was in the Army," Harris said. "Every one of those horrifies me regularly because they were somebody’s children, somebody’s husband or father."
He still feels conflicted about what he had to do, but in the end, he knew it was his duty as a sworn soldier.
"They’re bad people and they’ve done bad things, but who am I to take that away from them?" he asked. "But it was my job to do. Lives were safer because of that – but it’s never easy."
Gee, really? 316 confirmed kills, eh? Funny, but the 4 most storied snipers in our recent history, the top four snipers, only had a little over 400 confirmed kills between them. So here we have super-sniper who apparently absolutely no one knows about and he killed almost 3 times the confirmed number of our most lethal sniper, Adelbert Waldron (109 confirmed) had in VN. In fact he so badly outshot Chuck Mawinny (103 confirmed -VN), Eric England (98 confirmed-VN) and Carlos Hathcock (93 confirmed-VN) that he ought to be a legend in the SpecOps community.
Except apparently no one there has ever heard of him.
Finally there is this bit of “corroboration” which is just as puzzling:
James Murphy served in the Army as a Ranger with Harris and said he wouldn’t be alive if not for Harris’ heroic actions. Murphy recalled after he and another soldier were hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Mogadishu, Harris ran to their position and carried both of them a half-mile away "not knowing if we were alive or not." He drove them to safety in a burning vehicle and returned to continue to fight.
"If you know him, you are privileged," Murphy said. "If you served with him, you were in the presence of a true American patriot. If he is your friend, you should be honored. He gives hope to humanity that there are still decent, amazing people all around you."
Mmmm … half-mile. Didn’t know if they were alive or dead (really?). Drove them to safety in a burning vehicle. Huh … so that relief taskforce in Mogadishu wasn’t really necessary – all they had to do was follow super-sniper out … in his burning vehicle. Hey, at least it would be easy to follow.
Of course this should all be easy to check out – as I recall, it was B Co., 3rd Bat, 75th Ranger RGT that was at Mogadishu. This nonsense has already caught the attention of the US Army Ranger Association (that’s where I found out about it). Their quick internal checks came up empty on the guy and Murphy.
Two questions – how does a person think such a story will pass undetected and unchallenged? The irony is this piece was in the Fayetteville Observer. Yeah, that’s right, the newspaper of the town in which Ft. Bragg, NC is located. Yeah, no one there is going to notice, are they?
Which brings me to the second question – how does something like this get through the editorial process without being heavily questioned, especially in a paper that should have a staff thoroughly educated in the military given their proximity and the huge part the base plays in the life of the town? Whatever happened to fact checking? What ever happened to knowing enough about your subject that you’re not as easily gulled as these folks appear to have been?
Anyway, something tells me this isn’t going to turn out well for “Rock”.
John Gonsalves, who runs one of the most awesome charities I know of, Homes for Our Troops, has a problem. And its one that will make your blood boil.
Gonsalves and his folks build specially built homes for disabled war veterans who have special needs. Such as SFC Sean Gittens.
Army SFC Sean Gittens was left paralyzed and unable to speak or communicate as a result of a battle related traumatic brain injury. Deployed for the third time in his career, SFC Gittens suffered multiple concussive traumas throughout his year-long deployment to Iraq from April 2007-April 2008. Upon returning home, suffering from headaches and other head-injury related symptoms, SFC Gittens suffered an aneurism in his brain and a subsequent stroke which left him with paralyzed and non-communicative. Treated at multiple hospitals, both military and civilian, SFC Gittens now receives care from trained medical personnel in his home.
Homes for Our Troops identified a place for the home they wanted to build SFC Gittens and his family and went to work getting buying the property and getting the necessary approvals.
Building on the 2700 square foot home was to begin this Friday. Homes for Our Troops purchased the land in December and preparations for building the home have been ongoing over the past month. These homes are a reflection of the gratitude of the community and are given mortgage free to the veterans once complete.
Homes for Our Troops received building permits for the project and has been working closely with the Knob Hill Board of Directors, making multiple changes to the plans for the home as requested. The written approval came from Knob Hill BOD President Rick Trump on June 2nd.
Everything is cool, no?
Late last week, a lawyer for the HOA served the contractors on site with a cease and desist letter to stop the preparation of the build site. Facing strong opposition from the Property Owners Association, the Knob Hill Board of Directors and the Property Owners Association met again on June 20th, just four days before the planned kickoff of the home build. Homes for Our Troops was then notified that the house plans do not meet the Knob Hill standards and the original approval was thus rescinded. Homes for Our Troops has now been told that it must begin anew the entire approval process and that the house needs to be at least 3400 square feet and multi-level to even be considered.
"Shockingly, it appears that the Knob Hill community has decided it does not want to welcome SFC Gittens and his family, as we were previously told," said Homes for Our Troops Founder John Gonsalves. "Despite our working closely with the Knob Hill Property Owners Association over the past four months, we find ourselves in an untenable situation. We cannot afford to add 700 square feet to the house, particularly under our special adaptive plans. And our experience in building over 100 homes dictates that severely injured veterans need a specially adapted single level home. Frankly, this late action begun by the Knob Hill Property Owners means we must suspend working on the home. The Knob Hill Property Owners Association has now assured that SFC Gittens and his family will not be able to have the home they so desperately need. We have done everything in our power to try to resolve this situation, but it appears that the community is not willing to accept this home, and SFC Gittens and his family into the community."
According to Gonsalves, the Knob Hill neighborhood covenants state that the minimum size for a house in the subdivision is 2,700 sq ft (see Fox News clip). He also points out that there are many 2,700 square foot homes in that subdivision. And, as you might imagine, given that’s the minimum size the covenants allow, that is the size of the proposed Gittens home. In other words, the Knob Hill Property Owners Association (Evans, GA) are not following their own covenants. Gonsalves was told the home was “too small” and “didn’t fit in” to the surrounding neighborhood (with some homes as large as 5,000 sq. ft).
I’m sympathetic to property owners rights 99% of the time. But this is that 1% where I’m totally against them. And that’s because they’re attempting to void their own covenants and not abide by them. Remember, these are their PUBLISHED covenants. These are the minimum standards they AGREED too when they built their homes in that subdivision. It is the document they’d certainly use to legally enforce the standards therein if it was necessary. But now they simply want to ignore the document and impose arbitrary new standards that simply don’t exist other than in their demands.
I think the Knob Hill Property Owners Association needs to rethink this entire thing, don’t you? If you’d like to share your opinion concerning their denial of a disabled vet’s opportunity to live in a home that meets all the standards of their covenants you may want to drop them a line.
Please be polite and respectful, but feel free to make your feelings clear about their actions. Also remember that, per Homes for Our Troops, not all the people living in that subdivision agree with the board’s decision. The email address for the board is - firstname.lastname@example.org
This is not how America should treat its disabled vets.
UPDATE: Just in (1:20 pm).
The president of the Knob Hill Property Owner’s Association says plans are moving forward for the construction of a home for Sgt. First Class Sean Gittens.
The homeowners association and Homes For Our Troops have been talking. A list of items Knob Hill requires is being provided to Homes For Our Troops.
Both organizations said they hope to make a joint announcement on Monday, June 27, in regards to moving forward with the plans.
Keep the pressure on, but please, be polite and respectful.
Gurkhas are incredible soldiers who live, eat, breath and sleep an amazing tradition associated with the British Army. From the tiny country of Nepal, these soldiers are, many times, legacy soldiers – 3rd or 4th generation serving in the 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles. And they hold themselves to the highest standards and traditions imaginable. So when you read that one of them did something like this, well, if you know their history, you’re still in awe, but you’re not that surprised. This is another brilliant and valorous chapter in their storied history.
The fight occurred at a remote checkpoint. The story is amazing:
‘At that time I wasn’t worried, there wasn’t any choice but to fight. The Taliban were all around the checkpoint, I was alone.
‘I had so many of them around me that I thought I was definitely going to die so I thought I’d kill as many of them as I could before they killed me.
Statement like that are stunning in their simple logic and the resolve they inspire. OK, odds are I’m going to die – so I’m going to make that noteworthy. A lot of times it is denial of reality (even if it doesn’t end up working out that way) that get people killed. Cpl Pun looked at the situation realistically, calculated the odds, made what I’d call the proper assessment and that drove his action. And it is that action which helped him beat the odds. Also note that he was resigned to being killed. No quitting, no surrender, no quarter asked and, as you’ll see, none given:
Cpl Pun, an acting sergeant during his Afghan deployment, was on sentry duty at the time of the attack when he heard a clinking noise outside the small base.
At first he thought it might be a donkey or a cow, but when he went to investigate he found two insurgents digging a trench to lay an improvised explosive device (IED) at the checkpoint’s front gate.
He realised that he was completely surrounded and that the Taliban were about to launch a well-planned attempt to overrun the compound.
The enemy opened fire from all sides, destroying the sentry position where the soldier had been on duty minutes before.
Defending the base from the roof, the Gurkha remained under continuous attack from rocket-propelled grenades and AK47s for more than a quarter of an hour.
Most of the militants were about 50ft away from him, but at one point he turned around to see a ‘huge’ Taliban fighter looming over him.
The soldier picked up his machine gun and fired a long burst at the man until he fell off the roof.
When another insurgent tried to climb up to his position, the Gurkha attempted to shoot him with his SA80 rifle. But it did not work, either because it had jammed or because the magazine was empty.
He first grabbed a sandbag but it had not been tied up and the contents fell to the floor.
Then he seized the metal tripod of his machine gun and threw it at the approaching Taliban militant, shouting in Nepali ‘Marchu talai’ (‘I will kill you’) and knocking him down.
Two insurgents were still attacking by the time the heroic Gurkha had used up all his ammunition, but he set off a Claymore mine to repel them.
In all he killed 30. When relief arrived, he was unwounded:
In total he fired off 250 general purpose machine gun rounds, 180 SA80 rounds, six phosphorous grenades, six normal grenades, five underslung grenade launcher rounds and one Claymore mine.
More importantly, he was still in control of the checkpoint and the Taliban had retreated. He was also out of ammunition.
As for tradition and legacy:
The only weapon he did not use was the traditional Kukri knife carried by Gurkhas because he did not have his with him at the time.
The married soldier, whose father and grandfather were also Gurkhas, is originally from the village of Bima in western Nepal but now lives in Ashford, Kent.
Finally, from his Conspicuous Gallantry Cross citation (just under the Victoria Cross and equal to our Distinguished Service Cross or Navy Cross):
‘Pun could never know how many enemies were attempting to overcome his position, but he sought them out from all angles despite the danger, consistently moving towards them to reach the best position of attack.’
He attacked. He didn’t defend. He attacked.
Both amazing and awe inspiring.
And mission creep continues apace because, as most military experts would have told you, you can’t change a government with a “no-fly zone” and only airpower.
French and British officials said this week that they were sending more than a dozen attack helicopters to allow for more precise ground attacks, particularly around Misurata, where loyalist forces continue to fire mortars and artillery despite rebel gains and heavy air attacks.
With no troops on the ground, NATO planners and pilots acknowledge that they often cannot pinpoint the shifting battle lines in cities like Misurata. “The front lines are more scattered,” said Col. L. S. Kjoeller, who commands four Danish F-16s flying eight daily strike missions from Sigonella air base in Sicily.
Unsaid in those two paragraphs, but reported elsewhere, are that groups of special operations types will be inserted to do targeting for the helicopter attack assets. Yes, “boots on the ground”.
And why is this supposed war of days taking months if not longer? Well, they obviously underestimated their foe and overestimated their capabilities. Also, they planned for one mission and tried to execute another (no-fly and regime change) and don’t have the assets necessary to accomplish that real mission). We’re now seeing them begin to understand that they may have bitten off more than they can chew – at least as they’re presently arrayed.
Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the overall commander of NATO forces in the Mediterranean, said from his office in Naples that the allied mission has largely achieved its goal of protecting civilians, especially in eastern Libya, and has seriously damaged the Libyan military.
“Qaddafi will never be able to turn a large army on his people again, because it’s gone,” said Admiral Locklear, noting that the air campaign has wiped out more than half of Libya’s ammunition stockpiles and cut off most supply lines to forces in the field.
But the admiral acknowledged Colonel Qaddafi’s resiliency, and said that without sustained political and economic pressure as well, “the military piece will take a very long time.”
Not really – if its mission is to establish and enforce a no-fly zone as we were told in the beginning. And as is obvious, Adm. Locklear certainly isn’t talking days or weeks anymore. He’s talking months and possibly longer. Meanwhile, British papers are reporting the war of “days not weeks”, that their present visiting guest talked them into, is in the $1 billion to 1.5 billion pound range – a cost the debt ridden country can ill afford. Makes you wonder how much longer they’re willing to wage it (even as they escalate their presence with attack helicopters).
Nice mess you’ve got there Mr. Obama. So much for being against “dumb wars”, huh?
Richard Cohen wrote a nasty little piece the other day in which he essentially declared American exceptionalism a myth. There is no such thing, according to Mr. Cohen. We’re all really a bunch of dummies living in a dysfunctional society, because, you know, we were mean to the American Indians once upon a time and we had slaves, or something. Oh, and too much religion.
Michael Moore, on the other hand, finds us to be just a bunch of hypocrites and blathers on about how killing Osama (even though Moore is obviously pleased he’s dead) was a forfeiture of our principles (something Ron Paul apparently agrees with Moore about).
"The Nazis killed tens of MILLIONS. They got a trial. Why? Because we’re not like them. We’re Americans. We roll different."
As I’ll explain later, Moore hasn’t a clue of what he’s talking about – nor does Cohen.
Interestingly, Moore makes this point when talking about the killing:
I know a number of Navy SEALs. In fact (and this is something I don’t like to talk about publicly, for all the obvious reasons), I hire only ex-SEALs and ex-Special Forces guys to handle my own security (I’ll let you pause a moment to appreciate that irony). These SEALs are trained to follow orders. I don’t know what their orders were that night in Abbottabad, but it certainly looks like a job (and this is backed up in a piece in the Atlantic) where they were told to not bring bin Laden back alive. The SEALs are pros at what they do and they instantly took out every adult male (every potential threat) within a few minutes – but they also took care to not harm a single one of the nine children who were present. Pretty amazing. This wasn’t some Rambo-style operation where they just went in guns blazing, spraying bullets. They acted swiftly and with expert precision. I’m telling you, these guys are so smart and so lethal, they could take you out with a piece of dental floss. (And in fact, one of my ex-SEAL guys showed me how to do that one night. Whoa.)
The raid, despite Moore’s blathering and Cohen’s nonsense actually points out why Americans are exceptional. Here’s what CBS News had to say about the details of the raid:
The SEALs first saw bin Laden when he came out on the third floor landing. They fired, but missed. He retreated to his bedroom, and the first SEAL through the door grabbed bin Laden’s daughters and pulled them aside.
When the second SEAL entered, bin Laden’s wife rushed forward at him — or perhaps was pushed by bin Laden. The SEAL shoved her aside and shot bin Laden in the chest. A third seal shot him in the head.
Read that very carefully. Very slowly.
“The first SEAL through the door” did what?
Risked his life to protect the daughters of a mass murderer we’re at war with plotting to kill even more Americans in the future.
And the second SEAL? He didn’t spray and pray, he shoved aside a woman, saving her life, and went precisely after the target.
I don’t dispute Moore’s point about what the SEALs were told to do. I concluded that immediately (and I talk about that on our latest podcast). Had they been told to capture him, he’d right now be cooling his heels in an “undisclosed location” and not enjoying his vacation at all.
Moore thinks we let our principles down when we killed him. I can only say that comes from a very warped idea of what our principles are. Justice isn’t a process – it is a result.
Moore puts this out there as an example of what we should have done:
Hideki Tojo killed my uncle and millions of Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos and a hundred thousand other Americans. He was the head of Japan, the Emperor’s henchman, the man who was the architect of Pearl Harbor. When the American soldiers went to arrest him, he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the chest. The soldiers immediately worked on stopping his bleeding and rushed him to an army hospital where he was saved by our army doctors. He then had his day in court. It was a powerful exercise for the world to see. And on December 23, 1948, after he was found guilty, we hanged him.
When he was captured, did anyone say “justice has been served?” Nope, that happened when, after his show trial (anyone – was Tojo going to be exonerated or left to live?) -actually, a military tribunal -, he was hanged.
Then and only then was the the term “justice has been served” used. Moore concludes:
A killer of millions was forced to stand trial. A killer of 4,000 (counting the African embassies and USS Cole bombings) got double-tapped in his pajamas. Assuming it was possible to take him alive, I think his victims, the future, and the restoration of the American Way deserved better. That’s all I’m saying.
The resulting justice was the same – both died. However, here is the key point: One after a show trial and AFTER a war had ended (same with Nuremberg), the other at the hands of his enemies DURING a war which he started and was still fighting. If you can’t figure out the difference in those situations, then you’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer. That’s the part Moore and his ilk always forget.
As for American exceptionalism – well you saw a small example of it in the raid demonstrated by that first SEAL in the room. Our armed forces demonstrate that exceptionalism daily as they fight the Taliban and terrorists. It comes from the culture in which they were raised.
I’m reminded of the story Oliver North likes to tell about the young Navy Corpsman in the battle of Baghdad:
By God, if that’s not "exceptionalism" I don’t know what the hell is.