Michael's Dispatches Michael's Dispatches

Tragedy in Thailand

27 March 2013

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Burma neighbors Thailand on the west.  For 65 years, a war against and between ethnic groups in Burma has been on.  The conflicts created many internally displaced refugees, while others have crossed into Thailand.  Thailand has allowed this incursion for humanitarian reasons.

One of the ethnic groups are called Karenni.  I visited some of the Karen (not Karenni but closely related) villages in Burma and Thailand.  The Karen I have met have all been Christian, and their churches are little more than bamboo huts similar to those on Gilligan’s Island.  Some people sleep on mats on the bamboo floors, while others use hammocks.

Their homes are made from bamboo, planks, and thatch.

Read more: Tragedy in Thailand

Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL Murdered: Some Thoughts

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04 February 2013

News of Chris Kyle’s shooting has reached around the world.  Many people are asking for my thoughts, and so this morning I write these words in response.

Chris was credited with killing about 160 enemy combatants in Iraq. He is called the most deadly sniper in US history.  Obviously this will not sit well with many people, while others will see it differently.

It is unseemly to politicize this today, and I will drop it there.

Chris was known for helping folks suffering from PTSD.  I have enjoyed hearing Chris talk at times (not to me personally but interviews) and I am sure that he would frown on people blaming such acts on PTSD.

Reckless speculation hurts our veterans.

Read more: Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL Murdered: Some Thoughts

Air Force Crashing

25 January 2013

Team AFMC,

The budgetary uncertainties currently facing the Department of Defense combined with a projected $1.8 billion shortfall in Air Force funding for overseas contingency operations, require us to take prudent steps to mitigate budget execution risks.

Based on guidance received last week from Headquarters Air Force, my intent is for Air Force Materiel Command to take immediate actions to reduce spending across all appropriations, Working Capital Funds and other reimbursable programs within AFMC's governance authority.  In line with the Air Force direction, our actions will -- to the maximum extent possible -- be reversible or recoverable and minimize impacts to core readiness programs.

These actions are necessary in order to support our DOD and our nation. However, we still have a requirement to continue the critical missions that we execute on behalf of the Air Force.  Therefore, mission critical exceptions to these actions can be approved with discretion.

Read more: Air Force Crashing

Last to Die

806113-1000(Photo Credit dvids)

17 January 2013
[Authored by a Marine Field Grade Officer]

Over the weekend, I received an order from Higher Headquarters to ask for volunteers for 2013 and 2014 deployments to Afghanistan.  Their mission: train and fight with Afghan National Security Forces during the same time that America is leaving Afghanistan.

This is not the first time we have asked for volunteers to deploy.  In the reserve community, we have done this since at least 1995 when I volunteered to deploy during humanitarian operations to deal with the Haitian and Cuban refugee crisis.  During the Global War on Terrorism, we routinely asked reservists to volunteer for deployment.  When I returned to the reserve community after active duty in 2006, I witnessed this practice first hand, this time for combat deployments.

When directed, our job is to augment the active duty force.   But many of our servicemen and women are not actually deploying because they have been recalled to active duty; they have elected to stay at a unit and have volunteered to deploy.  These Marines are usually called “non-obs” or “non obligated” and can, at their convenience, drop to the inactive ready reserve or transfer to another unit.  Once a unit is slated for deployment, there is usually a decision point for these individuals; they must leave the unit or deploy.

Read more: Last to Die

Rob Bowman Passed Away

image001-1000LTC Erik Kurilla (L) and SFC Rob Bowman after terrible car bomb in Mosul, Iraq (April 2005)

15 January 2013

The United States has lost a great Soldier and fine man to cancer.  Rob struggled with the disease for about 20 months before passing yesterday.  It is with great sorrow that I write these words.

In combat, Rob was courageous and tactically expert.  I got to know him in the Deuce Four battalion in Iraq, where Rob was recon platoon sergeant.

Few battalions in Iraq or Afghanistan saw as much combat as the Deuce Four.   Recon platoon was the leading edge.  I was lucky enough to do many missions with recon, and we were close neighbors for five months during some of the heaviest fighting of the war.  Later I came back and had dinner with Rob and his wife Coleen at Fort Lewis and we kept in touch.

Read more: Rob Bowman Passed Away

Note from a Wise Man

07 January 2013

A note appeared on a private message board.  This private group includes many current and former generals, and just about anyone you see on television or in books as a national security specialist, ranging from CIA to all the top war correspondents, special operations types galore, and high-level policy makers.  There is significant education value in just reading their traffic.

A few days back, retired Marine and 3-star General Mick Trainor left this note.  I asked LTG (ret.) Trainor for permission to publish on my website, and he agreed.

Now for the show:

Read more: Note from a Wise Man

Amber of War

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06 January 2013

A defense expert commenting on my dispatch “Stuck in the Mud” recommended the book Mud:  A Military History

I completed reading the book.  The recommendation was solid.

The subject became more interesting in Iraq.  Goo would sometimes rain from the skies.  Later in Afghanistan, where mud also rains, my interest was sealed.

I saw mud effects on the war in Nepal, in terrain where Americans could hardly fight under our current paradigms, other than by airstrikes and distant fires.  US ground forces with our heavy gear would be hopeless in Nepalese-type terrain.

Filipino commanders on Mindanao told me in detail about the great adversity that mud causes the troops we support.  In Thailand, I visit jungles that our gear could not navigate after light rain, or even in the dry season.

A stark reality of my observations in more than 65 countries is that there is more terrain where our current gear will not work than terrain where it will, and this is true even in flat Florida (other than that we have great roads in the Sunshine State).

Roads provide the illusion of greater mobility than we possess.

Read more: Amber of War

Advancing Sniper Rifles

02 January 2013

The day draws closer when a General will be in the Pentagon, 8,000 miles away from battle, and he will signal a sniper to kill or not to kill.  Taking it a step more, nothing will prevent the trigger-puller from being separated from the rifleman.  The General in the Pentagon could control whether or not the rifle is active to fire.

Press Release:

Read more: Advancing Sniper Rifles

Some Thoughts About The Kingdom of Thailand

img001-1000With Former Prime Minister Abhisit.

29 December 2012

On Christmas Eve, ThaiPBS television interviewed me in Bangkok.  The interview is scheduled to air on 31 December at 9:40PM Thailand time.  Our interview will be online here.

Ms. Nattha Komolvadhin of ThaiPBS requested this interview after I made a statement on Facebook saying that murder charges against former Prime Minister Abhisit are factually baseless and morally wrong.

ThaiPBS is a publicly funded media organization, widely respected for addressing social issues that sometimes discomfit the government, regardless of which political party may be in power at the time.

The Thai government uses tax money to support ThaiPBS, which in turn sometimes slams the government.  Thailand has a moral compass.

Read more: Some Thoughts About The Kingdom of Thailand

Wolfpack 105 – Start point

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18 December 2012

All tracking begins with a start point.  Start points can be found in many ways.

The Israelis create track traps in soft soil that are impossible to cross without leaving spoor.  Israeli forces make heavy use of trackers.

Zoologists create similar track traps when trying to locate elusive animals.  They follow the spoor.  Spoor has various definitions.  For use here, spoor is any and all sign made by animal, man, or machine.

Read more: Wolfpack 105 – Start point

Wolfpack 104 –Jungle Man Art vs. GI Science

IMGL9482-1000Butterflies on suspected elephant dung: many signs are obvious.

10 December 2012

The British learned that employing local trackers can be disastrous.  Indigenous folks can be immensely talented at local tracking because they are tuned intimately to their biowebs.  Problems start from there.

“Jungle Man” might be able to trail a butterfly—especially so if he can sell it—but he cannot read a map.  He does not get lost because he knows his home range and how to navigate there.

Read more: Wolfpack 104 –Jungle Man Art vs. GI Science

CAUTION to Military Public Affairs

08 December 2012

photo3-1000US Navy image with GPS data embedded

Military photographers sometimes forget to turn off the camera GPS.  The Navy caption for this electric image is found on Flickr:

Lightning flashes near USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY (Nov. 19, 2012) Flashes of lighting are seen over the horizon as the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) operates in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. Dwight D. Eisenhower is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Greg Linderman/Released) 121119-N-DO751-004

Flickr LINK to this image

Read more: CAUTION to Military Public Affairs

VIDEO: Firefight While Waiting for MEDEVAC

07 December 2012

This video apparently was made by a helmet cam.   It shows normal combat in Afghanistan.  Similar scenes have unfolded thousands of times during the war.  This underlines why so many people are serious about removing the red crosses from Dustoff MEDEVAC helicopters, and adding machine guns.  At minimum, the red crosses which alert the enemy that helicopters are unarmed, should be removed.

Note: My website has been coming under frequent attack.  This has been occurring since running afoul of certain milbloggers.  We have no evidence that the milbloggers are involved.  The coincidences are large.  They have demonstrably and irrefutably attacked in other ways.  We are aware of the matter and working the issue.

Please watch the videos:

Read more: VIDEO: Firefight While Waiting for MEDEVAC

Wolf Pack 103: Sole Mates

image001-1000REMEMBER THIS PRINT. The terrain in Afghanistan is great for tracking: prints are often sharp and clear, and quarry is frequently channelized. During a mission with British forces, this print pinged my senses so I made the photograph in the morning light. Soldiers found many bombs nearby, and we were ambushed by machine gun. A smartphone app could compare this image to others in a database. Moments like this offer an opportunity to track down the wearer of this shoe. STUDY THIS PRINT and REMEMBER.

03 December 2012

There are countless types of footwear around the world.  If you sit down with a coffee and watch the passersby, it will be difficult to spot two people wearing the same shoes.

If you see many people wearing the same footwear, you are at a military base, a police station, a football game, or a prison.  Or kids are wearing a uniform.

When you go to a house party with special operations folks, you will see the same shoes and watches. If you are downtown, their shoes are a giveaway.  Noting the watches and the shoes that people wear is one of the oldest discovery methods. This is true of many wars.

Read more: Wolf Pack 103: Sole Mates

WolfPack 102: Sensors

img001-1000This sensor was hidden in the middle of an Afghan village on 31 July 2011. It was positioned to spy over a dirt road intersection about 10-20 meters away. US casualties were occurring in this village. Six hours before this photograph was taken, perhaps a couple of hundred meters away, Brice Scott was shot and killed in a firefight. Weeks after this sensor was emplaced, on 11 September 2011, we were back in the village when an IED strike occurred no more than 20 meters away from the sensor location.

28 November 2012

War revolves around sensing.  But despite our technology, nothing replaces human senses, experience, and intuition.

The U.S. military historically fights enemies on their home field.  Many of our enemies are subsistence farmers.  The greatest optic that they possess will be scratched-up non-prescription eyeglasses that are sold beside shoes in the market.  Most will have no windows in their homes.  These farmers are rugged and tuned-in to their environments.

Movement that is slow for us is fast to them.  Villagers make terrible drivers. They do not have the time-versus-distance thing worked out, making them dangerous in cities.

Read more: WolfPack 102: Sensors

Wolf Pack 101: Introduction to Combat Tracking

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27 November 2012

Helicopters are crucial in modern combat. It is not necessary to be a pilot to assert that helicopters are game changers.  Their value is obvious.

NCOs and officers who have developed infantry skills over an apprenticeship of years, particularly in infantry combat, similarly testify to the value of combat tracking: the first time that they see it, they are sold and they want it for their men.  When combat veterans see trackers at work, their infantry imaginations spawn ideas that can increase unit lethality. 

When commanders fuse old-school tracking with technology, for instance by integrating helicopters that can bound ahead of prey, increased lethality results.

Infantry veterans see helicopters differently than most of us.  Their combat imaginations dream up ideas that would not occur to most laymen.  Providing infantrymen with helicopters creates a synergy that transcends mere airframes.

Read more: Wolf Pack 101: Introduction to Combat Tracking

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