AUSA: The word “cyber” is everywhere these days. It’s an all-purpose adjective slapped onto any concept to attract money and make it sound sexier, from cyberwar to cyberschoolbus to, well, cybersex. (We are not making that last term a link). Cyber and SOF – the Special Operations Forces – are the only parts of the… Keep reading →
Life or death in wartime is horrifically random, subject to “fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,” but sometimes that randomness generates not tragedy, but miracles. Such is the story of Army Sergeant Roger Daniels. On a patrol in Afghanistan last August, Daniels, then just 21 years old, took a bullet to the head and survived… Keep reading →
Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. (1 Samuel 18:7) The web is abuzz over Dillard Johnson, a retired Army sergeant first class whose newly released memoir, Carnivore, claims he killed 2,746 enemy combatants in Iraq with everything from a .25 mm chain gun to a sniper rifle to a hunting knife.… Keep reading →
Way back in World War II, when my father was in the Army, everybody knew somebody in the military. More than half of eligible males were in uniform. During the Vietnam War, despite the exemptions to the draft, more than three million young men served in Southeast Asia. Today, however, after eleven years of war and with the end only sort of in sight, less than one percent of Americans are in the service, largely because we keep sending the same men and women back “over there” again and again and again. Our veterans have gotten very, very good at what they do, but they and their hard-stressed families are increasingly separated from mainstream America. So how do we bridge the gap?
One man, Paul Gleason, has an answer: one handwritten letter at a time. The retired history teacher, not a veteran himself, started writing soldiers in 1965 when one of his students joined the Army and has kept at it ever since: more than 10,000 letters over almost 50 years. Some go to friends he’s made — though sometimes never met — and corresponds with weekly. Since his retirement, he’s camped out at a side table in a local Burger King and cranked out about three letters a day, totaling about 15 handwritten pages. He’s currently corresponding with 10 people, from a young Marine to the widow of a decorated Green Beret who fought in Vietnam. (Click here to watch an NBC video interview with Gleasonand his young Marine Corps pen pal; click here to read a Springfield State Journal-Register profile with more details). Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: On the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, one of the Army’s leading thinkers warned Washington not to learn the wrong lessons.
WASHINGTON: As the government hurtles towards the latest fiscal cliff, March 1st, the Marine Corps‘ deputy commandant for resources outlined a host of painful potential consequences, from reduced rifle training to cancelled deployments to grounded fighter squadrons. Lt. Gen. John Wissler appealed to Congress for so-called reprogramming authority that would at least let the Marines move around the money they do have to mitigate the worst effects.
[Click here to read about the readiness problems for the Army, Air Force, and Navy]
“Our money’s just in the wrong places in some instances,” Wissler told reporters after his speech this morning to the Navy League. But they can’t move it without explicit permission from Congress, he explained: “What we would need is to move things between appropriations, and they would need to help us there.” Keep reading →
This September, the controversial Osprey will reach the five-year mark in its operational deployment history. In September 2007, the Osprey was deployed for the first time to Iraq. The plane has not only done well, but in five short years has demonstrated its capability to have not only a significant impact on combat but to reshape thinking about concepts of operations.
In this piece, I would like to reflect back on these five years, not just to grasp lessons learned, but glimmers of where the plane, and the Navy-Marine Corps team might be able to move into the future. The story of the evolution of the con-ops surrounding the plane provides a solid foundation for innovation and transformation of concepts of operations, if boldness overcomes timidity. Keep reading →
ARLINGTON, VA: How confident is the new management at private security contractor ACADEMI — formerly known as Xe and, also, infamously, as Blackwater — that they’ve turned the company around?
Last month, apparently without attracting any public attention (until now), they quietly bought another security firm, International Development Solutions, and took over its piece of the State Department’s $10 billion World Protective Services contract, which then-Blackwater got kicked out of years ago. Keep reading →
What the hell is hybrid warfare, anyway? While the other services increasingly fixate on China, “hybrid” is becoming the buzzword du jour in the U.S. Army, invoked even in Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno‘s official “marching orders” to the service. But like “counterinsurgency” before it – and like “transformation” before that – the term is increasingly used and abused in bureaucratic and budget battles with little regard for what it might actually mean. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: The White House’s newly-minted national security strategy is full of big ideas. But among all these big ideas is a much smaller one that could draw the Pentagon much deeper into the small wars that have defined America’s global counterterrorism campaign.
U.S. special operations forces and counterinsurgency specialists returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are poised to ramp up operations across the globe, focusing on Africa and South America, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said today. These small bands of special forces and COIN experts will lean upon “innovative methods” learned in Southwest Asia to support local counterterrorism forces and expand American influence in those two continents, Panetta said. The plan is part of the new strategy unveiled by President Obama today.
These “innovative methods” include increasing rotations of small special operations units into those regions for longer periods, bolstering military-to-military training with indigenous forces and supporting those troops with more U.S. weapons and equipment, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld said during the same press conference. The American military units heading to Africa and South America were the same ones that spearheaded the “high end [counterinsurgency] fight” in Iraq and Afghanistan, Winnefeld said. With the U.S. withdrawal from Southwest Asia already in motion, Pentagon leaders now have the flexibility to move more troops into places like Africa and South America, the four-star Admiral explained.
U.S. special forces were sent to Uganda last October to help those forces in their war against the Lord’s Resistance Army. The Army is also in the midst of creating a number of “regionally aligned brigades” whose sole mission will be to train and advise foreign militaries. The first of these brigades is set to deploy to Africa Command next year.
Small U.S. units schooling foreign troops on the finer points of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations is much different from the intensive, “long-term” COIN missions American troops carried out in Southwest Asia, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter pointed out today. The Pentagon’s new strategy moves the military away from building up security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan in favor of the smaller, less-intesive training missions envisioned for Africa and South America, Carter said. “Its all about the force we need,” he added. That said, DoD isn’t abandoning that kind of COIN mission entirely.
Completely walking away from the nation building-style of counterinsurgency would be a clear example of “departmental hubris,” Winnefeld pointed out. To avoid that DoD planners have built in “reversability” clauses into its new COIN strategy, Carter added.When enacted, these clauses will allow the Pentagon to build its counterinsurgency operations back up to Iraq and Afghanistan levels. To make sure DoD retains that COIN know-how, the department will continue to invest in “specialized capabilities” and “keep the tradecraft” in house.