Michael's Dispatches Michael's Dispatches

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



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



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



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

Mysterious Blood Trails at my Home



26 November 2012

About a month ago, I came home and found mysterious blood trails around my home. I mapped them out, studied them, and kept trying to recreate the scene.  The scene confounded me.  I did not assume that it was blood.  There was no physical evidence of painting or use of chemicals.  After a long look, blood was the only thing that made sense.  Whatever it was, a human or humans put it there.  A child did not do it. Some finger marks were far too high for my 4-year-old neighbor who runs out to greet me, and she is the only child who is ever here.

Shoe marks were too large for the girl. A palm mark on the ground was man-sized.  I checked that she was okay, and her father helped me search.  It was clear that someone had sat in the blood to rest, just feet from my door. In context, none of this made a lick of sense.

Read more: Mysterious Blood Trails at my Home

Taliban Email Distribution List

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18 November 2012

Recently the Taliban accidentally made public its entire (apparently) distro list during an email accident:

From ABC:

In a Dilbert-esque faux pax, a Taliban spokesperson sent out a routine email last week with one notable difference. He publicly CC'd the names of everyone on his mailing list.

The names were disclosed in an email by Qari Yousuf Ahmedi, an official Taliban spokesperson, on Saturday. The email was a press release he received from the account of Zabihullah Mujahid, another Taliban spokesperson. Ahmedi then forwarded Mujahid's email to the full Taliban mailing list, but rather than using the BCC function, or blind carbon copy which keeps email addresses private, Ahmedi made the addresses public.
"Taliban have included all 4 of my email addresses on the leaked distribution list," tweeted journalist Mustafa Kazemi, a prolific Kabul-based tweeter with more than 9,500 followers. "Quite reassuring to my safety."

The list, made up of more than 400 recipients, consists mostly of journalists, but also includes an address appearing to belong to a provincial governor, an Afghan legislator, several academics and activists, an l Afghan consultative committee, and a representative of Gulbuddein Hekmatar, an Afghan warlord whose outlawed group Hezb-i-Islami is believed to be behind several attacks against coalition troops.

I happened to get hold of the list.  Please see:

Read more: Taliban Email Distribution List

Petraeus Stoning Sentence Handed Down by Elders


18 November 2012

Petraeus and the Woman Broadwell to be Stoned on the White House Lawn
Uproar over Stone Auction: first Stone bid reaches $1 million


(A Humorless, gonzo parody.)

The Nine Wise Elders convened for tea to discuss the fates of the woman Paula Broadwell and General (ret.) David Petraeus.  In accordance with Old Law, both parties to adultery have been sentenced to Death by Stoning.

Mercy was granted to the man, who shall be Stoned first, using the Quick Stoning provision.  The evil woman shall be condemned to a Special Stoning, unless she is determined to be a Witch or a Temptress.

The verdict by the Nine Wise Elders (NWE) was unanimous.  Since only the NWE are permitted to see the evidence and to read the laws, sentencing guidelines remain mysterious but are trusted by the populace.

Read more: Petraeus Stoning Sentence Handed Down by Elders

Petraeus: A Sad Day for the United States


12 November 2012

photo-1000(Photo courtesy of CIA)

General (ret.) David Petraeus is a peerless asset to the United States.  His contributions to the war and to the nation have been incalculable.  No one can estimate the number of lives among Americans, the Coalition and Iraqi civilians that his wise leadership saved during that horrible war.  His short leadership in Afghanistan rekindled my confidence that that war also might be brought to heel.  Unfortunately, he was sent back to lead the CIA, which was a great loss for the military.
Director Petraeus's accomplishments can never be erased.  He will undoubtedly be demonized for his affair.  It is not easy to ameliorate the stain that it leaves, as the potential final word summing up an impeccable career.

All Alphas have enemies.  Petraeus is no exception.  The finest leaders usually have more enemies than the company men whose mantra is, "Don't bail the sinking boat. The boss said the boat is not sinking." Unfortunately we have a surfeit of company men and only one Dave Petraeus.

Read more: Petraeus: A Sad Day for the United States

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