Bust Their Chops

Changing the Retirement Benefit - "Foreign Policy" Egghead Vs. Grunt

Over at Foreign Policy, retired Navy Commander John T. Kuehn writes about "If I could change one thing in the US military personnel system (1):  It is time to extend the age of military retirement."

Kuehn is the Major General Willam A Stofft chair of historical research at the Command and General Staff College, and, yes, he has a PhD.  Here is why Commander (ret) Kuehn  believes a change in the retirement system is needed.

...The current system was designed because between the 20 to 30 year stretch was statistically when military personnel had been physically and emotionally "used up." However, these conditions no longer apply.

Today, folks are a lot healthier when they retire and could reasonably be expected to serve under the generally harsher circumstance of military service longer than they could in the past. The current system needs to recognize and account for the improvements in healthcare and lifestyle by those Americans who qualify for military service in its promotion and retention policies, and it should do this with meaningful policy change. .. 

The problem with this argument is that the author seems to be entirely disconnected from the last 13+ years of combat, and what that combat does to young men and women...possibly the disconnect exists because he is a reseracher and a retired Navy Officer, not a 40 year old infantry platoon sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division.

In backchannel  discussions on this piece, Army soldier TCOverride offers up a solution for the retirement situation.  I think you'll enjoy it.

 I call this the risk = return method.
Combat tours--real tours, not quatar/doha/buehring tours--earn 2.5x the retirement rate.  A one year tour counts for 2.5 years towards retirement (but not pay.)  A non combat, but unaccompanied tour counts for 1.5.  Tours based on any LSA earn 1.75%, except for individuals listed below.
Any tour during which a person receives a PH, or Valor medal, counts for 3x.
No multiplier is added for E9, or O6 and above.  Especially E9, as they have, as a population (albeit with notable, and damned few exceptions) contributed nothing of measurable value.  Unless E9 has PH or Valor awards.  BSM without 'V' is pretty, but worth squat.
No multiplier is added for people beyond minimum retirement (20 years) unless the recipient has a PH or Valor award (multiplier always counts for these people, regardless of length of service.)
PH or valor award multiplier is not limited to tour in which award is earned, once earned, modifier applies to any and all future tours and the tour where award was earned.  Additional awards gain a .5 modifier.  2 PH would earn 3.5, 2 PH+BSV earns 4.0, etc.  E9 with BSV would earn the 3% modifier.  
Sailors and other undesirables only get tour multipliers if they participate in actual combat.  Being a cook on a carrier is not actual combat.  Being on a seal team is.  Unaccompanied tours multiplier still counts for sea duty.  Having a missile fired at your ship is combat.  Docking at a port in a terrorist threat nation (like Yemen) would result in earning the multiplier only while docked/underway in that nation's waters.
Marines on embassy duty in nations where Ivan or Mohamed are the given names of over 40% of the male population, or where women dress like ninjas, or where goat buggery is commonplace (with exclusions for Australia, Scotland, New Zealand) would receive a special rate of 1.75%, which would go to 5% if at any time a clinton or kerry is the SECSTATE.
Of course, they could also do silly things to reduce the VA claims backlog like analyzing your medical condition(s) annually according to VA standards, and determining the severity/rating as you go, so that when you retire you already have a rating.
MOH: automatically qualifies for 20 years' service retirement eligibilty.
Service in any TRADOC (or other service equivalent) posting beyond 24 months without at least three requests by the soldier for immediate worldwide reassignment result in no accrual of years' service for retirement.
Goes along with this Military Motivator

Free Fire Zone- A Tale of Two Sergeants

President Obama gave vastly different treatment to a couple of military folks who were in trouble. For SGT Bowe Bergdahl, he traded five Taliban terrorists and a pallet load of cash to our enemies. For SGT Andrew Tahmoressi (crickets chirping). I take a look at the two cases and a serious look at the horrendous deal he made to free Bergdahl in the Free Fire Zone.

Ebola made a 3am phone call...and no one answered

Why Barack Obama is having problems now..

This Ebola thing is potentially spiraling out of control.  What with the UN declaring that we only have 60 days to control this thing, to promises of it not getting out in the US, to Africa having up to 10,000 cases a week, we are potentially watching history before our eyes.  Hopefully, not the end of it.

One essay I find interesting is the comparison of Ebola to the Influenza of 1918-1919.  I understand the history of this pandemic well, as it affected my home area of Wayne County WVA quite harshly.  Out behind the homestead, we have 2 cemeteries.  In each of these there are many graves of those in the family and area that succumbed to the disease- in one plot, a mother, son, and 2 infants all died within a week in late 1918.  My grandfather, who fought in WWI, told the family of all of the sick people he knew.  Ebola may be our generation's plague, if we don't get this under control.

What I do know about this potential outbreak (and it's still not a full-fledged one in any way) is that, should we need to really break glass on this, the duty for overall coordination will fall to USNORTHCOM in Colorado Springs.

Likely under ESF's #6 and #8 (Mass Care and Public Health) NORTHCOM could, nay SHOULD, come to the fore to address coordinating the prevention of the spread.  Why NORTHCOM?  Since a full outbreak would require more than one federal agency to coordinate, and FEMA isn't a lead, HHS/CDC can't, then it would fall to NORTHCOM to coordinate all responses, should the President declare it.  And he should.  HHS, DoS (travel ban? and coordinating with Canada/Mexio) as well as many other local and federal groups would require some entity with the resources to assist.  THIS WOULD NOT INDICATE TROOP INVOLVEMENT on the ground- just an agency that would help alleviate 'who's in charge here' problems.  

This is an outgrowth of Hurricane Katrina; yes, Homeland Security would be involved, but they are NOT the ones that should be running the show.  NORTHCOM has the personnel and expertise.

So far, we've heard nothing from NORTHCOM on any response preparedness.  I wish we would.  I'd feel better about it than the CDC trying to go it alone...

NYT 'Discovers' Iraq had chemical weapons

Last night, the NYT (PBUT) released a long, detailed article regarding chemical weapons that were found in Iraq.  It is interesting to note that they waited until now to release this information.

If you've been paying attention, you'd recall that within the last week, reports out of northern Iraq have said that ISIS may have used some chemical weapons against the Kurds.  Based on photos that were obtained of the Kurds who were killed, the injuries on the bodies seem to indcate some sort of chemical weapon affected them.  Speculation by experts points to ISIS having obtained and used some of Iraq's old chemical weapons.

Back in the day (was it really only 10 years ago?) during my tenure there, I handled reports by the Iraq Survey Group, who was tasked with finding Saddam's 'special weapons' that he had squirreled away since the UN ordered them dismantled in 1991.  Saddam had manufactured tons and tons of nasty stuff; the ISG was primarily concerned with locating and disposing of WMD's, which don't always include chemical munitions.  

I had a few discussions with Charles Duelfer, who was the lead of the ISG (after David Kay resigned) on things they were finding; chemical artillery rounds were NOT something they keyed on; the MANUFACTURING facilites were however.  Saddam had dispersed these munitions so far and wide that finding all of them was a sisyphean task.  Most were likely to have been taken to Syria to try to keep them out of reach of the US and the UN inspectors.


These munitions were certainly a huge problem, a risk, and a serious one.  BUT THESE WERE NOT WMD.  So why is the NYT coming out with a huge article now?

To take pressure off of the administration.  To throw this football back in the Bush camp.  That since he didn't find and destroy all of these munitions that any use by ISIS is his fault.

This is patently false.  ISIS has had opportunity to recover munitions on the Syrian side of the border; these could have been Assad's munitions, or, just as likely they were ones ferreted away from Iraq post-1991.  The article also tells the stories of soldiers who handled these munitions, and that their command chain didn't take it seriously.  That is the fault of their commanders and health care providers- for not realizing just how dangerous the regime munitions could be.

In one incident where I had to contact ISG, I received a call from a sergeant who had been on a patrol that had set off an IED; but instead of blowing half his squad up, it sort of 'poofed' and fizzled (his words).  When EOD showed up to recover it, they found out that these were wired 155-size artillery rounds that were chemical in nature- not high-explosive.  The insurgents could not tell the difference back then- that these were not meant to blow but to disperse.  So the sergeant called it in as a 'chem find'.  The insurgents had set this up like a typical IED- and the chemicals never fully released (go to Castle AAARGH if you want an artillery primer).  

Another implication of the article is that the US didn't do anything about what we found, and that we tried to 'sweep it under the rug'.  While we didn't go buying full-page ads in NYT or USAT, we never discussed operations in such detail that the NYT was ever satisfied.  I find this entire article disingenuous, especially on the part of Eric Schmitt.  He visited us several times, received briefs on items such as this, and we sat and discussed them at length.  All in 2003 and 2004.  So I really find this 'shock face' they are putting on pretty insulting.  But it's par for the course for a media outlet that cannot let the legacy of this administration bear any burden of shame and fault.

If you want a more historical look at these, take a look at this CIA article; we were releasing reports as far back as 2003 and 2004 on the fact we were finding chemical rounds, and admitting we were going to find many more.

President Obama's Coffee Cup Salutes Marines (I wish this was satire)

Coffee mcPresident

The White House actually posted a video of the President, with coffee type cup in his right hand, saluting the Marines as he departs Marine One...because no one in the White House believes that anything is wrong with that.

The video and the the capture of the moment (as well as links to the WH Instagram video of the event) is over at the Gateway Pundit's place.

I have no words for this.

(someone needs to get a teleprompter with the words "coffee in left hand, proper salute with right" in place next time)


Iran may end up the winner in Iraq

I read thru the statement that President Obama made last night regarding his plan to address ISIS (which he kept calling ISIL) and I'd like to address some of the problems we will face with this.

As someone who's actually developed the plans to address problems in Iraq and Syria, and had to brief them to senior leaders, I have a hard time understanding why it has taken so long for him to address this, and why he's picking the 'strategy' that he has.  I have agreed, up to now, with the cautious approach- that 'picking sides' in Syria is fraught with huge problems.  NONE of the groups fighting in Syria are in any way trustworthy- it would be like trying to pick one Mafia family in NY to help clean up crime problems.  No one you work with would benefit you in the end.  And ultimately, you may end up with a result you still don't like.

Syria plans had an especially troubling problem- we had ZERO guidance from above on exactly what the end state was to be- we ended up having to develop multiple plans based on assumptions that no senior leader had given guidance on.  No, the CENTCOM commander wasn't the problem- HE wasn't getting guidance either.  Neither Mattis nor Austin either one knew what we really wanted to end up with.  So, we built plans based on minimal intervention all the way thru full-on ops.  From humanitarian assistance missions thru 'BOG' ops.  From containment thru air power only, to SOF-only training assistance.  And then we went back and re-did them.  Several times.   We had no choice- we could only assume, based on our collective experience, on what the end state could be.  We used Bosnia, Iraq, AFG, DS-1, and a few others as 'models'.  Plus, we considered different types of UN missions that may be used as approaches, in case we had to support only those.

What we also had to contend with was the fact that, at the time, Iraq was in NO WAY to be a part of the mission set.  We had zero troops there; we had no presence, and even tho our own intel told us that the border area of Iraq and Syria was the real 'hot zone' developing, we could not address any activity there.  All of our effort was to 'contain' within the borders of Syria, and try to prevent further refugee problems into Lebannon and Jordan.  Especially Jordan.  Pay SPECIAL attention to the Jordanian issue should we start hitting Syria hard- there are going to be real problems along that border as people flee areas of Syria and Iraq.  AQ and ISIS may use that as a 'distraction' to force our hand there, and really end up with problems we haven't prepared for.  Remember, there are hundreds of thousands of refugees along the border, and its a complete powder keg readly to go up in flames at the slightest provocation.  

Now that Iraq territory has to be worked into the mix, at least we will have areas of 'safe zones' working with the Kurds that allow us some help.  Erbil airport is a good backup location, and I'm assuming they will use that as a potential staging area.  It's new, it's got a HUGE runway, and it's close-by.  Fueling will be the most logical, if we can secure it further.  

As someone who worked ops in Yemen and SOM and other areas, using these as 'models' for what we intend to do in Iraq is fraught with enormous issues- these are missions that are very very different than what is needed to address ISIS (if you want a very good rundown of this, go to Bill Roggio's column here.)  We have 'advisors' deep into these missions, and the end-states are very very different.  In fact, end-states in Syria and Iraq are completely different- so addressing ISIS across them is NOT going to be simple.  Air power alone isn't going to do it, and you are not going to get Kurds or Iraqi's to chase ISIS into Syria to combat them- and that's exactly what ISIS is going to do.  

The one issue that remains to be seen is how ISIS-supporting factions take on Baghdad; this is the nightmare scenario that could very well develop as a counter to US-centered actions.  The fact that Baghdad becomes a focus is a very real fear; it would force the Iraqi gov't and forces to abandon northern Iraq to concentrate on securing that area alone, leaving the Kurds as the only support we'd have up north.  And that ain't enough.

Another problem we could not solve internally was this issue of 'sharing intel' with anyone.  How the HELL do we share intel with these guys?  We can't even legally brief the mayor of NYC (deBlasio) because he doesn't have a clearance; there is NO such thing as 'REL YEMEN' or 'REL IRAQ' or 'REL SYRIA' for classified, useful intel info.  So we'd be breaking the law to even attempt it.  And we've been working with the Yems for years.

The only winner that comes out of this in the short-term is Iran.  Shiite factions get defended in Iraq, Iran basically gets a free pass, and we (the west) end up doing the dirty work.  How is this beneficial to us?

Let me ask all of you this- and leave your estimates in the comments- how big of a force do you think this is going to take to support?  PBO said 475 additional will be sent; that's basically a company, and that ain't gonna do it.  If we use air power alone, how many do you THINK that will take?  I'll look at your estimates and let you know in a few days how close you are.


A Tired Marine Writes A Letter to America

Reposted from 2004, we received this letter from a Marine Corps Officer to his father, responding on what he would write to America...it might even be more important today than back in 2004. From then First Lieutenant Brown, USMC:

September 11, 2004
Dear America,

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." -George Orwell

The Marine Corps is tired. I guess I should not say that, as I have no authority or responsibility to speak for the Marine Corps as a whole, and my opinions are mine alone. I will rephrase: this Marine is tired. I write this piece from the sands of Iraq, west of Baghdad, at three a.m., but I am not tired of the sand. I am neither tired of long days, nor of flying and fighting. I am not tired of the food, though it does not taste quite right. I am not tired of the heat; I am not tried of the mortars that occasionally fall on my base. I am not tired of Marines dying, though all Marines, past and present, mourn the loss of every brother and sister that is killed; death is a part of combat and every warrior knows that going into battle. One dead Marine is too many, but we give more than we take, and unlike our enemies, we fight with honor. I am not tired of the missions or the people; I have only been here a month, after all. I am, however, tired of the hypocrisy and short-sightedness that seems to have gripped so many of my countrymen and the media. I am tired of political rhetoric that misses the point, and mostly I am tired of people "not getting it."

Three years ago I was sitting in a classroom at Quantico, Virginia, while attending the Marine Corps Basic Officer Course, learning about the finer points of land navigation. Our Commanding Officer interrupted the class to inform us that some planes had crashed in New York and Washington D.C., and that he would return when he knew more. Tears welled in the eyes of the Lieutenant on my right while class continued, albeit with an audience that was not very focused; his sister lived in New York and worked at the World Trade Center. We broke for lunch, though instead of going to the chow hall proceeded to a small pizza and sub joint which had a television. Slices of pizza sat cold in front of us as we watched the same vivid images that you watched on September 11, 2001. I look back on that moment now and realize even then I grasped, at some level, that the events of that day would alter both my military career and my country forever. Though I did not know that three years later, to the day, I would be flying combat missions in Iraq as an AH-1W Super Cobra pilot, I did understand that a war had just begun, on television for the world to see, and that my classmates and I would fight that war. After lunch we were told to go to our rooms, clean our weapons and pack our gear for possible deployment to the Pentagon to augment perimeter security. The parting words of the order were to make sure we packed gloves, in case we had to handle bodies.

The first Marine killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom was in my company at The Basic School, and was sitting in that land navigation class on September 11. He fought bravely, led from the front, and was killed seizing an oil refinery on the opening day of the war. His heroism made my emergency procedure memorization for the T-34 primary flight school trainer seem quite insignificant. This feeling of frustration was shared by all of the student pilots, but we continued to press on. As one instructor pointed out to us, "You will fight this war, not me. Make sure that you are prepared when you get there." He was right; my classmates from Pensacola are here beside me, flying every day in support of the Marines on the ground. That instructor has since retired, but I believe he has retired knowing that he made a contribution to the greatest country in the history of the world, the United States of America.

Many of you will read that statement and balk at its apparently presumptuous and arrogant nature, and perhaps be tempted to stop reading right here. I would ask that you keep going, for I did not say that Americans are better than anyone else, for I do not believe that to be the case. I did not say that our country, its leaders, military or intelligence services are perfect or have never made mistakes, because throughout history they have, and will continue to do so, despite their best efforts. The Nation is more than the sum of its citizens and leaders, more than its history, present, or future; a nation has contemporary values which change as its leaders change, but it also has timeless character, ideals forged with the blood and courage of patriots. To quote the Pledge of Allegiance, our nation was founded "under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." As Americans, we have more freedom than we can handle sometimes.

If you are an atheist you might have a problem with that whole "under God" part; if you are against liberating the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Asia, all of Europe (twice), and the former Soviet bloc, then perhaps the "liberty and justice for all" section might leave you fuming. Our Nation, throughout its history, has watered the seeds of democracy on many continents, with blood, even when the country was in disagreement about those decisions. Disagreement is a wonderful thing. To disagree with your neighbors and your government is at the very heart of freedom. Citizens have disagreed about every important and controversial decision made by their leaders throughout history. Truman had the courage to drop two nuclear weapons in order to end the largest war in history, and then, by his actions, prevented the Soviets from extinguishing the light of democracy in Eastern Europe, Berlin. Lincoln preserved our country through civil war; Reagan knew in his heart
that freedom is a more powerful weapon than oppression. Leaders are paid to make difficult, sometimes controversial decisions. History will judge the success of their actions and the purity of their intent in a way that is impossible at the present moment. In your disagreement and debate about the current conflict, however, be very careful that you do not jeopardize your nation or those who serve. The best time to use your freedom of speech to debate difficult decisions is before they are made, not when the lives of your countrymen are on the line.

Cherish your civil rights; I know that after having been in Iraq for only one month I have a new appreciation for mine. You have the right to say that you "support the troops" but oppose the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. You have the right to vote for Senator John Kerry because you believe that he has an exit strategy for Iraq, or because you just cannot stand President Bush. You have the right to vote for President George W. Bush if you believe that he has done a good job over the last four years. You might even decide that you do not want to vote at all and would rather avoid the issues as much as possible. That is certainly your option, and doing nothing is the only option for many people in this world.

It is not my place, nor am I allowed by the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, to tell you how to vote. But I can explain to you the truth about what is going on around you. We know, and have known from the beginning, that the ultimate success or failure of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the future of those countries, rests solely on the shoulders of the Iraqi and Afghani people. If someone complains that we should not have gone to war with Saddam Hussein, that our intelligence was bad, that President Bush's motives were impure, then take the appropriate action. Exercise your right to vote for Senator Kerry, but please stop complaining about something that happened over a year ago. The decision to deploy our military in Iraq and Afghanistan is in the past, and while I believe that it is important to the democratic process for our nation to analyze the decisions of our leadership in order to avoid repeating mistakes, it is far more important to focus on the future. The question of which candidate will "get us out of Iraq sooner" should not be a consideration in your mind. YOU SHOULD NOT WANT US OUT OF IRAQ OR AFGHANISTAN SOONER. There is only one coherent exit strategy that will make our time here worthwhile and validate the sacrifice of so many of our countrymen. There is only one strategy that has a chance of promoting peace and stabilizing the Middle East. It is the exit strategy of both candidates, though voiced with varying volumes and differing degrees of clarity. I will speak of Iraq because that is where I am, though I feel the underlying principle applies to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The American military must continue to help train and support the Iraqi Police, National Guard, and Armed Forces. We must continue to give them both responsibility and the authority with which to carry out those responsibilities, so that they eventually can kill or capture the former regime elements and foreign terrorists that are trying to create a radical, oppressive state. We must continue to repair the infrastructure that we damaged during the conflict, and improve the infrastructure that was insufficient when Saddam was in power. We should welcome and encourage partners in the coalition but recognize that many will choose the path of least resistance and opt out; many of our traditional allies have been doing this for years and it should not surprise us. We must respect the citizens of Iraq and help them to understand the meaning of basic human rights, for those are something the average Iraqi has never experienced. We must be respectful of our cultural and religious differences. We must help the Iraqis develop national pride, and most importantly, we must leave this country better than we found it, at the right time, with a chance of success so that its people will have an opportunity to forge their own destiny. We must do all of these things as quickly and efficiently as possible so that we are not seen as occupiers, but rather liberators and helpers. We must communicate this to the world as clearly and frequently as possible, both with words and actions.

If we leave before these things are done, then Iraq will fall into anarchy and possibly plunge the Middle East into another war. The ability of the United States to conduct foreign policy will be severely, and perhaps permanently, degraded. Terrorism will increase, both in America and around the world, as America will have demonstrated that it is not interested in building and helping, only destroying. If we run or exit early, we prove to our enemies that terror is more powerful and potent than freedom. Many nations, like Spain, have already affirmed this in the minds of the
terrorists. Our failure, and its consequences, will be squarely on our shoulders as a nation. It will be our fault. If we stay the course and Iraq or Afghanistan falls into civil war on its own, then our hands are clean. As a citizen of the United States and a U.S. Marine, I will be able to sleep at night with nothing on my conscience, for I know that I, and my country, have done as much as we could for these people. If we leave early, I will not be able to live with myself, and neither should you. The blood will be on our hands, the failure on our watch.

The bottom line is this: Republican or Democrat, approve or disapprove of the decision to go to war, you need to support our efforts here. You cannot both support the troops and protest their mission. Every time the parent of a fallen Marine gets on CNN with a photo, accusing President Bush of murdering his son, the enemy wins a strategic victory. I cannot begin to comprehend the grief he feels at the death of his son, but he dishonors the memory of my brave brother who paid the ultimate price. That Marine volunteered to serve, just like the rest of us. No one here was drafted. I am proud of my service and that of my peers. I am ashamed of that parent's actions, and I pray to God that if I am killed my parents will stand with pride before the cameras and reaffirm their belief that my life and sacrifice mattered; they loved me dearly and they firmly support the military and its mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. With that statement, they communicate very clearly to our enemies around the world that America is united, that we cannot be intimidated by kidnappings, decapitations and torture, and that we care enough about the Afghani and Iraqi people to give them a chance at democracy and basic human rights. Do not support those that seek failure for us, or seek to trivialize the sacrifices made here. Do not make the deaths of your countrymen be in vain. Communicate to your media and elected officials that you are behind us and our mission. Send letters and encouragement to those who are deployed. When you meet a person that serves you, whether in the armed forces, police, or fire department, show them respect. Thank the spouses around you every day, raising children alone, whose loved ones are deployed. Remember not only those that have paid the ultimate price, but the veterans that bear the physical and emotional scars of defending your freedom. At the very least, follow your mother's advice. "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Do not give the enemy a foothold in our Nation's public opinion. He rejoices at Fahrenheit 9/11 and applauds every time an American slams our efforts. The military can succeed here so long as American citizens support us wholeheartedly.

Sleep well on this third anniversary of 9/11, America. Rough men are standing ready to do violence on your behalf. Many of your sons and daughters volunteered to stand watch for you. Not just rough men- the infantry, the Marine grunts, the Special Operations Forces- but lots of eighteen and nineteen year old kids, teenagers, who are far away from home, serving as drivers, supply clerks, analysts, and mechanics. They all have stories, families, and dreams. They miss you, love you, and are putting their lives on the line for you. Do not make their time here, their sacrifice, a waste. Support them, and their mission.

As they say in the military, Lt. Brown wrote above his grade.