Military Body Armor Tests: Incompetence or Corruption?

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In yet another glaring example of sloppy body armor test procedures, the Inspector General says that the US Army “cut corners” when testing body armor according to Richard Lardner of the AP.  This is not the first time – nor is it likely to be the last – that SFTT and major news organizations have reported on the systemic failure of the US Army and DoD to follow established test procedures when evaluating protective gear fielded by our young men and women serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.  

Granted, military vests cost the taxpayers only $434 million, but wouldn’t be nice to think that the military officials who our troops and their families rely upon to provide them with effective body armor would insure that this vital piece of protective gear is properly tested?  

As readers of SFTT are aware, SFTT has chronicled a litany of military procurement and testing failures of those entrusted with providing our troops with best combat equipment possible.

Body Armor Recall

Body Armor Plate Recalls

Congressional Inquiry into Body Armor and Vehicle Safety

GAO recommendations on Body Armor Testing

Broken Military Procurement Process

Congressional Inquiry into Defective Military Helmets and no-bid contract awards

Flaws in M2 and M4 endanger troops in Afghanistan

DODIG sites fault in spare parts for M2 in Afghanistan

Well over a year ago,  SFTT filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain  forensic evidence of the reliability of ceramic platesused by military troops killed in action with wounds to their upper body.  At every step of the way, SFTT has been stonewalled by DoD lawyers.  It is clear that our military brass doesn’t want the “truth” to get out, because it is fearful that “we (the public) wouldn’t be able to handle the truth.”  Indeed, I am beginning to wonder if any of the beltway bureaucrats really care about the well-being and safety of our troops in the field.

Given the level of scrutiny this flawed body armor has received over the past four years, there are only two possible explanations: gross incompetence or corruption.  The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army have an obligation to publicly discipline those responsible for engaging in flawed tests and those that defended these test procedures when presented with incontrovertible evidence that test results were seriously flawed.    In a civilian court of law, I would expect nothing less than a charge of  manslaughter.    It’s time to rid our military procurement system of sycophants and untrustworthy officers and civilian contractors who seem to have more interest in their next promotion or their pocket-book rather than the troops who defend our country so valiantly.

In a cycle of budget austerity, let’s get rid of these self-serving bureaucrats.  Enough is enough!

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Military News Highlights: January 5, 2011

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Reintegrated Taliban Join Afghan Police

While reintegrating former Taliban members into the general Afghan community and allowing them to join the Afghan Police may be well intentioned.  Prudence is required considering the increased Afghan security force blue-on-blue incidents resulting in numerous US/NATO murders.  Unfortunately provincial, district, and tribal elders vouching for Taliban reintegration will not be intended targets if these former members reconsider their newfound allegiance. It is a risk, plain and simple, like throwing caution to the wind.

Afghan government plans extravagant wedding ban

Growing and exporting poppy is not banned in Afghanistan, nor cutting off noses of girls who upend tribal codes.  But apparently “extravagant weddings” may soon be banned.  Tell that to families who often ask us why the US is fighting in Afghanistan.  One of the many reasons I suppose.

Blogs give voice to spouses

If anyone was wondering what military spouses are experiencing while their loved serves in Iraq or Afghanistan (or upon redeployment) and in garrison, carve out some time and read some of these blogs.  Many thanks to Terri Barnes of Stars and Stripes for publishing this list of blogs by military spouses and Ann Marie Detavernier(Household 6 Diva) who agreed to share this comprehensive list.

SFTT is proud to pass this list along and we hope that our readers will be encouraged to add their voice and support to the spouses of our men and women serving in harm’s way.

Gold Star Spouses

Won’t You Ride on With Me?

Air Force

A Day in the Life of a Military Wife **New 6 Nov**

A Day in the Life of an Air Force Wife

Adventures in Italia

Air Force. Wife. Life.

Air Force Recruiting: A Wife’s Point of View

Allens 4 Adventure

Ambitious Gurl: The Military Wife

Amy’s Avenue

An Airman & His Mrs **Updated 8 Nov**

Armendinger Party of 4

Blog 4 Mom – Blog of Shellie Ross

Bloggin’ Scogin

Brittney’s Blog **New 6 Nov**

Budgets are the New Black

Bullets and Music Notes

Cammo Style Love

Calm Crazy

Constant Beginnings

Daddy’s Duty

Enjoying Life with 4 Kids

Everybody Loves VD

Evolution of Peacocks

Faith and Deployments

Fearfully Wonderfully

Growing up Glen

Have Family, Will PCS **New 6 Nov**

He, Me,& B

He Wears Combat Boots, I Wear Stilettos

Home is where they send us

I Took the One Less Traveled

I’d Rather Be Laughing

In The Pursuit Of Happy-Ness

jesstagirl and her officer

Just a Geek Named Jess

Lamp Unto My Feet

Life and times of an impatient military wife

Life of a Military Wife

Life on the Last Frontier **New 6 Nov**

Life With The Two…

Live, Laugh, Love… Our Way

Loving Life as an Air Force Wife **New 6 Nov**

Married Life

Married My Airman

Midget Momma

Military Wife. Crazy Mom. Wicked Step Mother **New 30 Oct**

Mommy Wings

Moms Sharpening Moms

Moore to Love

Mrs. S’s Life as an AF Wife

My Crazy Camo World

My Life as an Air Force Wife

My Life as his (Air Force) Wife! **Updated 8 Nov**

One Step at a Time **New 8 Oct**

One Step Journeys

Oops… I {Art}ed

Ordinary Life of a Military Wife

Our Military Adventure

Our Military Journey

Pattie the Chaplain’s Wife

Preppy Girl Meets World

Rambling Military Wife

Ramblings of a Ferrell **New 6 Nov**

Reflections from a Christian Mommy Writer

Reviewing My World

Sarah Byrum **New 6 Nov**

Simply Misha **New 6 Nov**

Singing Through the Rain

Skinned Knees

Skipper Clan

Sometimes Life is Messy

That [Officer’s] Wife

The Adventures of Jahlon **New 6 Nov**

The Adventures of Mr Superman and Mrs S

The Air Force “Husbands” Handbook

The Life and Times of a Military Spouse

The life I chose

The Pavlik Perspective

The Punk Rock Mom

The Scherffs

The Tervo Times

The Unconventional Family

Tomorrow Is Another Day

Twisted But Sweet

Two Southerners Living in the Big City

Uncork and Unwined

Under Stars and Stripes

Watch the Sunset

Wild Blue Wonders **New 6 Nov**

Writing for Sanity

Army

4 Nuts in a Nutshell

A Blog a Day While You’re Away

A Chick’s Captivation

A Cup of Jenn

A Day in the Life of 5

A Day in the Life of this Crazy Army Wife

A Florida Girl and Her Soldier

A Glimpse Inside

A little piece of me **New 6 Nov**

A lot o’ Curls and a High & Tight

A Military Wife’s Life

A Mother of Action **New 6 Nov**

A Personal Look Into My Life as a GI Joe’s Wife

A Southern Belle & Her Officer

A Wonderful Life

A Work of Heart

A’etonu Family Adventures

Adventures of a Lifetime **New 6 Nov**

An American Girl Settles in the South

An Army Wife’s Adventure to Alaska **New 6 Nov**

And the Army goes rolling along

Anger Party of 3

All in the Life of a Soldier’s Bride

Always Moving Forward

Amanda + Don

An Army State of Mind **New 30 Oct**

And The Wolfepack Goes Rolling Along

Annoyed Army Wife

Army Blogger Wife

Army Harmony

Army Housewifery

Army Life Adventures

Army Life w/ 3 Kids

Army of Two

Army Wife

Army Wife, Army Mom, Army Strong

Army Wife Living

Army Wife Style

Ashley Amazing

Aunt Jen the Army Wife

Battle Strong

Baylock and Company

Bean Dip and Baby G

Being a Better Wife

Bellies and Babies

Bionic Woman In Training

Blog Shmog! **New 6 Nov**

Blonde Glambition

Blur

Brown… Party of Five

Cause I don’t know how it gets any better!

Chances I’m Taking

Chantal’s Blog

Chronicles of Team Smitty

Click Clack Mom

Countdown to Homecoming

Cows and Combat Boots

Crossroads of an Army Wife **New 30 Oct**

Daily Dwelling

Diapers, Dolls, and Dogtags

Dogs, Dogtags, & Stilettos

Explosive Love

Financially Fit Mommy

Finding Joy in our Journey

Forget the Dog Not The Baby! **New 8 Nov**

Guinn and Bare It **New 30 Oct**

Green Enough for Me

Happily Household 6

Happy Life as an Army Wife

Hellcat Betty

Here Comes the Sun

Hiccups In Time

Home is Where God Sends You

Home is where the Army sends us **New 30 Oct**

I Could Be Fake

I Heart Change

I’m Sorry, I’m Wrong, You are Right, Please Forgive Me, I love you… Repeat

In Every Good Love Letter

In the Military and on the Move

It was Fate

It’s a Hooah Life

It’s Twinsanity

Julie the Army Wife

Just 4 Crows

jesstagirl and her officer

Just a Girl who loves an MP

L to the third

Learning As We Go

Life… as we live it

Life as Born’s Wife

Life as His Wife **New 8 Oct**

Life of an Army Wife

Life’s a dance you learn as your go **New 6 Nov**

Lindsay Writing

Livin’ On A Prayer

Livin Our Love Song

Living for Today Dreaming about Tomorrow

Living the Life of an Infantryman’s Wife

Made in His Image

Making it work

Magnolias and Mimosas

Mommy Panda **New 8 Nov**

Mary the 1st I am, I am

Me and My Soldier Man

Michelle the Rib

Military Mommy

Momma Zen

Monkeys and Tutus

Mothering Off the Cuff **New 8 Nov**

Mr and Mrs Boots

Mrs Mama Hen

My Army Love Life

My Camo Colored Life

My Camo Kids

My Gifts, Among Other Things

My Heart for Home

My Hero is You

My thoughts exactly! Hooah!

Navigating Army Life

Not Just an Army Wife **New 6 Nov**

Observations of a Token Yankee

Ocipura

One Lucky Monkey

One Mommy, Two Monsters

One Step at a Time

Our Army Family

Our Army Life

Our Crazy Life

Our Everyday Love

Our Family of “Quiet Professionals”

Our Life as an Army Family… HOOAH

Our Life Journey **New 30 Oct**

Our Little Slice of Army Life

Our So Called Army Life

Out of My Mind

Outside the Lines

Painting My Canvas

Pennies and Blessings

Personalized Sketches and Sentiments

PFT… A New Army Wife

Proud Liberal Army Wife

PTSD: A Caregiver’s Perspective

Queen of My Castle

Queen of Our Castle

Random Rants of an Army Wife

Rank and File Wifey

Real Relevant and Relational

Right Here, Right Now!

Robins Life as an Army Wife

Sara and Her Soldier **New 6 Nov**

Sarah Ruth Today

Sergeant Major Mom

Scatterbrained Wife of a Soldier

Sovereignly Sustaining Sanity

Stepping Into the Story

Stetsons, Spurs, and Stilettos

Stirring Up Dust

Storm Stories

Surviving the Distance

Sweeter Than Honey

Tales of a Brand New (Surprised) Army Wife

Tales of a Future Soldier and Infantry Wife **New 6 Nov**

Tara’s Ramblings

The Albrecht Squad

The Arthur Family **New 6 Nov**

The Forever Neighbor

The Glamorous Life of an Army Wife **New 6 Nov**

The Halloween Wife

The Happy Life Blog **New 6 Nov**

The Infertility Overachievers

The Liberato Lifestyle

The Meat and Potatoes of Life

The (Mis)Adventures of an Army Wife

The Mottos

The Multiple Sclerosis Quilt Project

The Optimistic Army Wife

The Peacocks Tale of Red White and Blue

The Quill

The Ramblings of a Sassy Soccer Mom

The Road Through Life – Army Love Style

The Sometimes Single Mom

The Thoughts of HouseHold Six

The Unexpected Army Life

The Whole Shebang

The Year After

These Talking Walls **New 6 Nov**

This American Wife

This isn’t happening…

Thrifty and Fabuless

Trading Diamonds for Dog Tags

Trail Mix Dish with this Household Six

Troop Petrie

Vintage Victories

Wade’s World

Web Dev_Army Wife

Welcome to Our Chaos

Where He Is, Is Home To Me… **New 6 Nov**

Whimsical Mom **New 30 Oct**

Wildflower Thinking

Witty Onsie

Word From The White’s

Yeah honestly

Yellow Pencil Stub **New 6 Nov**

Yellow Ribbon Diary

You + Me = Wiiii

Coast Guard

A Coasties Girl

Coastie Spouse

Jen Pen M

Make Me a Blessing

The Mamalogues **New 6 Nov**

Toddler in Tow

Marine

A Change of Scenery

A Queen of Diamonds in love..

Adventures in Life

Bauhman Party of 3 **New 6 Nov**

Baking… and Everything Else **New 6 Nov**

Beach Family Updates

Beautiful Mess

Boonie Caps & Tiaras

Cammies and Stilettos

Coffee With Betty **New 6 Nov**

Coie and Sparky

Colwells in Carolina

Crazy Made Me Do It

Daily Life of a Domestic Goddess

Deployment (again)

Deployment Woes

Diary of a Devil Dog Wife

Does this Baby make me look Fat?

Empty Nest, PCS and All the Rest

Flip Flops and Combat Boots

His Love & Her Love

I’ll be seeing you

It’s All The Little Things

It’s an OohRah Kinda Life

It’s that kinda love

Just a little color in his world of Camo

Just another day in paradise

Just your average sane psycho Supergoddess

Life Along The Way

Life is Better Blonde

Life with me and and the USMC

Life with One of the Few Good Men **New 30 Oct**

Life with the Lynches

Lipstick and Leathernecks

Living on a Prayer

Living the Camo Way

Love From Hawaii

Loving My Life as a Marine Wife

“M” Family Chronicles

Maine-ly T

Marine Wife Unplugged

Mommy and Alexa

More Than Military **New 6 Nov**

Mrs. Nix’s Black Passport **New 6 Nov**

My Life as an O3 Wife

My Marine and Me

My Wife Life

Newlywed and Deployed

Semper Fi Kind of Love

Shius Out of Her Mind

Small Wonders

Soaking Up Life and Love **New 6 Nov**

Sounds Like Life

Standing By Him

The Brownings

The Few, the Proud, the Wife

The GD Kitchen **New 6 Nov**

The Gunny’s Wife

The Ramblings of a Marine Wife

The Resor’s and a Mistress called the Marine Corps

The Rose Garden

Trying Our Best

National Guard

A Troop’s Girl

Alert! CO’s Wife Unplugged!

Chambanachik (Army) **New 6 Nov**

Confessions from Household 6

Dear Johnny

Christina’s Crazy World

Consider The Lilies (Army) **New 6 Nov**

Fresh Look Furniture

{Guarded} My Life as an Army Wife **New 6 Nov**

Hallee the Homemaker

Honey Bunchs of “Oaks”

Mad Mommy

McGowan Monkey’s

Mowenackie

Mrs. Mandy’s Musings

NG Wife’s Journey Through Military Life

Of Skype and Sand

One hat. Two hat. Wife hat. Mom hat.

Pink Champagne, Gatorade, and MRE’s (Army) **New 6 Nov**

ReannaLily Designs Blog

Navy

A Bee and His Honey

A Change of Pace

A Corpsman’s Cutie

A Freckled Life

A Hapa Girl and her Hapa Family

A little of this, A little of that **New 6 Nov**

A Monkey in the Navy

A Navy Princess and her little sailors

A Sailors Mistress

A Submarine Family

And You Never Did Think

Blessed Jewels

Butterflies and Breezes

Casa de Rum

Churchy and Her Sailor **New 6 Nov**

Confessions of a Sailor’s Wife

Creative Disaster

Currently on land

Dear Deployment, We hate you

Diamonds & Dogtags **Updated 30 Oct**

Diary of a Navy Wife

Dogtags and Pearls

Fearlessly Infertile

Fish and Chips

Gentle Revolution Homeschooling

Have a Great Navy Day!

Hooyah from the Homefront

I heart my Sailor

I mean really… REALLY?

I’m not sure what I want to be

It is what it is

It’s all just a rollercoaster ride

It’s Beautiful being Me **New 6 Nov**

Jessica’s Joys **New 6 Nov**

Just Another MilSpouse Surviving Deployment

Learn as you go

Life and Times of a Displaced Jersey Girl

Life as a Navy Wife and Everything Else

Life as a Sailor’s Girl

Life as I see it

Life as Mrs JPT

Many Waters

Married to the Navy

Martha-wannabe

My Adventure

My Clan

My Life as a Navy Wife

My Normal Life as a Navy Wife

Navy Doll

On Living Overseas

On the Move

One Guy in a house of Girls

Our Dolce Vita

Our Fabulously Crazy Life

Our Imperfect Life

Peach Bellini Bride

Photos. Toddlers. & My Sailor

Preparing To Surface

Raising Roscoe

Randomonium

Real Talk From a Sailor’s Lady

Reflections of a Navy Wife

Sailor Wifey

Say What

See you about the decks

Southern Domestic Goddess

Steps of Faith

Surviving This Deployment

Teerlink Family

The C.W.

The Dill-io

The Frugal Navy Wife

The Hyphenation Diaries

The Thrifty Military Wife

The Whyte House

The Williams Family

The Young Retiree

Thrifty, Nifty, and Wise **New 6 Nov**

To the Nth

Unethical Bay

Until You Come Home

What Were We Thinking?

Wife of a Sailor

Wife with Books

Reserve

A Hodge Podge of Randomness

Baby Love

Every Branch (Army) **New 30 Oct**

Keeping the Home Fires Burning (Navy)

Misadventures of an Army Mama

Southworth Clan

Stansberry Photography

The Getts Times

The Great and Random Ramblings of Cannwin (Army) **New 6 Nov**

Witty Little Secret (Navy)

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Military News Highlights: January 4, 2011

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U.S.-funded infrastructure deteriorates once under Afghan control, report says

Since 2001, the Commanders Emergency Relief Program (CERP) in Afghanistan has provided commanders quick and readily available resources to fund projects – to build schools, to build local government facilities, purchase generators, pave roads, etc.  And because Afghanistan is a target rich environment for CERP related projects given the effects of over 30 years of war and the lack of government capacity to provide services, CERP is sometimes the only means in which a small village or neglected district can survive.  Key to success of any CERP project, and the first question that is answered in doling out funds is whether the Afghans at the local, district, or provincial level will be able to maintain the project (i.e. maintenance and repair, sustainability, inspections, ensuring that the people benefit versus a power broker) after the US hands it off.   Ask any trooper with repetitive deployments to Afghanistan and ask him/her if the projects they put in place are still standing after their return and nine-times-out-of-ten the response will be no.  Numerous GAO reports, IG investigations, commanders inquiries, Afghan government inspections all produce the same response – deterioration.  Why is that?  And why does that matter?  The causes for deterioration are many – standard neglect, Afghans not trained to maintain the infrastructure, shoddy contractor construction, attacks by the Taliban, and/or the populace unwilling to use/maintain in fear of Taliban reprisal for US support.  And it matters because of the billions of dollars already expended and the fact that in the COIN narrative, effective and efficient maintenance of these projects is a metric to gauge how prepared Afghanistan is to take on governance on their own.   It appears that the 2014 goalposts could be moved back a little further back since local Afghans are incapable of maintaining the infrastructure put in place at the cost of untold blood and treasure.  If we the US/NATO can’t responsibly shift these projects to the Afghans, then how will they be able to hand off security responsibilities in the near future? 

 U.S. Marines report peace deal with tribe in Afghan hot spot (McClatchy Newspapers)

After 25 days of negotiations, the Marines in Helmand Province have agreed to a “peace deal” with the Alokozai Tribe.  The tribe has agreed to rein in Taliban confederates and cease attacks in exchange for the release of a religious leader being held by US/NATO, and funding for projects in the affected district (i.e. Sarwan Qala – 30 villages in Sangin District).  The tribe will expel foreign fighters, allow US/Afghan patrols, and provide intel on IED locations.  Question is what prompted the deal?  Steep US/NATO casualty rates?

Policy puts troops at risk for identity theft

It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that US servicemembers are certainly at risk for identify theft, especially if their social security number is plastered on every document and identification card that they carry.  So yes, it is true, that in the digital age, anytime you pony up your social security number onto the spectrum you quickly become a target.  Really?  

And if military cultural norms and outdated reporting procedures are perpetuating this, then it’s time to adjust fire.  And doing it quick, very quick.  

So let me get this straight, an Army Private with a Secret Clearance downloads and exports thousands of classified reports and cables resulting in investigations, criminal charges, changes in policies, Pentagon edicts on no-access to “that site”; all of which is instituted in a matter of weeks and months. 

 But changing a policy so that individual social security numbers are no longer part of a servicemembers digital profile (and subjecting him/her to these risks) takes more time?   

Priority?

 From the Pentagon to the private sector

In the last two decades alone, most of the 750 generals and flag officers who have retired have entered the “rent-a-general” business.  Conflict of interests?  Sure, but they get a pass on “pitting his/her duty to the US military against the interests of his employers.  “Sprinting” to the door?  Don’t let the door hit your fourth point of contact.  Anything being done about this revolving door syndrome where generals and admirals get tucked in bed by the defense-private sector?  Unfortunately not, and the rate of the turnstile has only increased over the past few years in comparison to the boom years from 1994 to 1998.  Good times for those lucky enough to cash in.  Good times indeed.

Weight hikes prompt uniform, armor review

During the past few years the Army has reissued an improved Army Combat Uniform, female-cut Army Combat Uniforms, a medium-sized rucksack, enhanced Night Vision Goggles, a second generation Improved Outer Tactical Vest, and an Enhanced Combat Helmet.  All of which did not have the benefit of updated data regarding the size and composition of the force that ultimately would (and are) using/wearing this gear.  A new review has been ordered that will collect the proper data of the size, weight, and body composition of a set sample of surveyed troops with the goal of upgrading the data used to develop new equipment and uniform items.  Glad to hear that they are finally getting their act together, you know, the proverbial cart behind the horse thingy.

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Military News Highlights: December 30, 2010

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Busy With Afghanistan, the U.S. Military Has No Time to Train for Big Wars

Clearly the US military, and especially our infantry-centric units, are on the “margins” when only one brigade combat team has been able to break away from COIN focused training this past decade and conduct full-spectrum operations type training necessary to maintain current and future US strategic interests.  Further, the capability to conduct forcible entry operations has atrophied and “takes practice, and we don’t get a lot of practice.”

The tip of the spear, needed to respond to certain crisis, has dulled from the grueling focus of COIN, the perpetuity of Afghanistan deployments, the decade long wear and tear of equipment, and lack of strategic reserves.  While the US military remains preeminent, the sad fact of the matter is that the longer the US military focuses on COIN with endless deployments, the higher the probability that it will not be prepared for future contingencies.

Let no man’s soul cry out “had I the proper training.”

Aid groups in Afghanistan question U.S. claim of Taliban setbacks

While the happy talk on the progress and positive trends resulting from COIN and the “surge” in Afghanistan continues, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), aid groups, and notable security analysts are citing evidence to the contrary.  The most startling claim that insurgents now control less territory than they did in 2009 is being seriously challenged. While it may be true many Taliban insurgents and confederate strongholds in southern Afghanistan have been driven out, their ability to increase operational control and influence in the rest of the country, most notably in the west and north (non-traditional Taliban areas), has increased at a larger pace than they were driven out of their strongholds.  When NCO’s and aid groups can’t operate throughout Afghanistan, a reality check that COIN has not “had any impact on the five-year trajectory” on security is needed.  In fact, a 20 percent increase in civilian casualties and the highest coalition death toll since Operation Enduring Freedom began is not happy talk (i.e. “The surge in coalition military and civilian resources … has reduced overall Taliban influence and arrested the momentum they had achieved in recent years in key parts of the country.”)

“Thundering Third” Victories Come at Huge Cost

A revealing account on one Marine squad from Weapons Company, 3/1 Marines during their seven-month slugfest to control a 3×5 mile strip of poppy and wheatfields in Garmsir (southern Afghanistan).  Close-in hand grenade exchanges, four-day fire fights, IED encounters, refusal of extended medical care in order to stay in the fight, and the death of warrior while carrying a wounded comrade to a medevac bird.  The grind continues…

The CBS embed’s blogs can be read here:

Marines Push Taliban Back from Base

“Thundering Third” Meet with Local Afghan Leaders

“Thundering Third” Adapts to IED Threat

Basic Military Pay Effective January 1, 2011

Monthly Basic Military Pay for an E-1 (Private): $1,467.60

Monthly Basic Pay for an O-10/General (4-Stars):  $14,975.10

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Military News Highlights: December 29, 2010

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Insurgents Set Aside Rivalries on Afghan Border

Four primary threat streams emanate from the Pakistan – the Mullar Omar Quetta Shura Taliban, the Haqqani network, the Hekmaktyer organization, and AQ.  For almost a decade these distinct groups have co-existed and operated exclusively with AQ parceling support from each.  It does not bode well when recent intelligence and battlefield evidence indicates that the threat has merged.  Regardless of the reason, be it recent US/NATO pressure creating battlefield syndicates  or ISI manipulations or striking while an “opportunity” exists, just made the situation more complex and dangerous.

I don’t buy that this phenomenon is rudderless without formal command and control – when rivals set aside differences (and gains) made during a 10 year slug fest with US/NATO and operate in a sophisticated manner, it only makes sense that someone is in charge and calling the shots.  As always the enemy always gets a vote.  In order for US/NATO to identify and target the cabal/leadership will require intensified support and commitment from Pakistan, an unlikely scenario.  That is why this new development is so worrisome.

Commander: US can’t seal Afghan-Pakistan border

It doesn’t take a genius to know that the Af-Pak border can’t be sealed.  At least now we have a commander willing to admit it.

US Troops Clash With Taliban in East Afghanistan

Happy talk;  an outpost that comes under attack twice a day five times a week.  Happy talk; more than 700 NATO servicemembers killed in action in 2010.  Happy talk; continued violence and chronic instability.  Happy talk; “but the coalition said it was also making progress, overall.”

The grind continues.

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Military News Highlights: December 28, 2010

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Iraq Wants the U.S. Out: Prime Minister, in Interview, Says Troops Must Leave Next Year as Planned

Lest we forget that close to 50,000 US troops remain in Iraq supporting Operation New Dawn.  At least the Iraqi Prime Minister made it abundantly clear that all US troops must leave at the end of 2011 as planned.  Maliki put the issue to rest for Pentagon planners and some Iraqi officials that are hoping to extend the deadline.  In the meantime our troops remain in an unwelcome country.

Afghan Security Deteriorates: U.N. Maps Show Risks in Many Districts Have Increased Despite Troop Surge

Key Highlights:

  • Internal United Nations maps show a marked deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan during this year’s fighting season, countering the Obama administration’s optimistic assessments of military progress since the surge of additional American forces began a year ago.
  • The maps, used by U.N. personnel to gauge the dangers of travel and running programs, divide the country’s districts into four categories: very high risk, high risk, medium risk and low risk.  In the October map, just as in March’s, nearly all of southern Afghanistan—the focus of the coalition’s military offensives—remained painted the red of “very high risk,” with no noted improvements. At the same time, the green belt of “low risk” districts in northern, central and western Afghanistan shriveled.
  • The U.N.’s October map upgraded to “high risk” 16 previously more secure districts in Badghis, Sar-e-Pul, Balkh, Parwan, Baghlan, Samangan, Faryab, Laghman and Takhar provinces; only two previously “high risk” districts, one in Kunduz and one in Herat province, received a safer rating.
  • A Pentagon report mandated by Congress drew similar conclusions when it was released last month. It said attacks were up 70% since 2009 and threefold since 2007. As a result of the violence, the Taliban still threaten the Afghan government, according to the report. The White House’s National Security Council declined to comment.
  • “The country as a whole is dramatically worse off than a year ago, both in terms of the insurgency’s geographical spread and its rate of attacks,” said Nic Lee, director of the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office. “Vast amounts of the country remain insecure for the unarmed civilians, and more and more areas are becoming inaccessible.”
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Military News Highlights: December 27, 2010

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U.S. troops battle to hand off a valley resistant to Afghan governance

Some truth finally from the battlefield.  An infantry battalion commander concludes that his task force is “locked in an endless war for an irrelevant valley.”   Ask any Soldier and Marine that has served in the Pech Valley, Kunar Province since 2005 and they will tell you the same thing.

It’s about time commanders are finally telling it like it is.  “There is nothing strategically important about this terrain…we fight here because the enemy is here. The enemy fights here because we are here.”

“The best thing we can do is to pull back,” he said, “and let the Afghans figure this place out.”

Go figure, the truth.

Taliban Fighters Appear Blunted in Afghanistan

I wouldn’t put much stock into the fact that the Haqqani network “appears blunted” because they have failed to conduct a large-scale operation in Kabul proper in over seven months.  Haqqani has joined forces with Mullah Omar (Quetta Shura) and Hekmaktyr and continues to direct assaults into eastern Afghanistan.  Haqqani is a wily foe who can strike at will in Afghanistan, to assess otherwise is a grave mistake.

Afghanistan to look into missing medicine

It’s called endemic corruption – to the victor goes the spoils…

Key Highlights:

  • The Afghanistan Defense Ministry said Sunday it will investigate missing U.S.-donated medicines and pharmaceutical supplies meant for its army and police. A statement said that the ministry will assess and investigate how much is missing from the $42 million worth of medical goods the U.S. has donated this year.
  • The statement came after Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak told The Associated Press last week that an investigation had been launched into the issue, and that Surgeon General Ahmad Zia Yaftali had been removed from his post as part of the inquiry. Three officials from the country’s top medical facility, Dawood National Military Hospital in Kabul, were fired, he said then.
  • It’s unclear just how much has disappeared from the medical goods the U.S. has donated this year.
  • U.S. officials say they do not account for the supplies after delivering them to the Afghans.
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Military News Highlights: December 21, 2010

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For Brain-Injured Soldiers, Top Quality Care From a Philanthropist, not the Pentagon

The primary health care plan for our active duty force, called TRICARE will not provide “cognitive rehabilitation therapy” (CRT) for treatment of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) because the treatment is “still unproven.”  Project Share, a charity based out of the Shepard Center for Brain and Spinal Cord Injury in Atlanta is singularly focused on assisting brain-damaged soldiers – their efforts, to serve as a model for the Department of Defense and provide CRT as a means to close the gap created by TRICARE and military hospitals that lack the expertise and staff to treat complex TBI injuries, are falling on deaf ears. 

The 2007 ECRI Assessment on Cognitive Rehabilitation for Traumatic Brain Injury report provides specific details on CRT costs and benefits.  CRT is not some hokey-incense burning-meditation protocol – it’s a proven therapy that our servicemembers need access to.

 Admitting that CRT is timely and oftentimes complex, the former Home Depot executive and philanthropist Bernie Marcus and founder of Project Share makes the compelling case that our servicemembers that are grievously wounded and affected by TBI deserve only the best treatment and options.    SFTT agrees!

NATO fails to deliver half of trainers promised for Afghanistan

The trap door out of Afghanistan is supposedly lined with the premise that the Afghan National Security Forces will stand up beginning in 2011 and begin to assume increasingly more security responsibilities – the trap door is the US/NATO exit plan.   But the required effort to make this possible will cost $6 billion per year in perpetuity and require a host of trainers and equipment resources – problem is, that by the end of 2010 NATO can only provide half of the required trainers.  Making matters worse is the ad hoc nature of the training effort and programs and the lack of accountability of ensuring training standards are being met – most startling is that Kabul (NATO) “is still discovering training programs operating around the country that headquarters commanders did not know existed.”   Can you imagine that?  A critical training mission staffed at 50% with a $6 billion tab and training programs that no one knows exists?

 25,000 Soldiers headed to Afghanistan in 2011

 The roster of units deploying to Afghanistan are as follows:

  •  I Corps Headquarters, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
  • 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.
  • 82nd Airborne Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
  • 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox, Ky.
  • 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
  • 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska
  • 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.
  • 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.
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Military News Highlights: December 20, 2010

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Life and Death Decisions Weigh on Junior Officers

To command soldiers in combat is a privilege, one that this young infantry company commander relishes.  To be clear, life and death decisions weigh more heavily on rifle company commanders than any other combat line officer because of the nature of command and control that battlefield tactics require.  Rifle companies are organized by three-to-four platoons and operate exclusively at the whim of his command.  Often these companies are assigned large swaths of terrain to operate in, and carry out missions issued to him by higher headquarters with little appreciation for their on-the-ground tactical judgment.  It is a lonely perch at the tip of the spear.   What is most compelling about this particular rifle company commander is his commitment to compassion, the prism he uses to gauge his duty while leading his company with steely resolve.    

Afghan War Just a Slice of U.S. Coverage

As the grind continues, U.S. media coverage of the war accounts for only 4% of the news – and as described by the New York Times, “like a faint heartbeat.”  Unfortunately, the old adage that “no news is good news” can’t be applied to the “4%” that gets out to the public since all of the news is one more story or report concerning new casualty records beings set, increased Taliban operational strength in areas that NATO can’t operate in, outlandish tales of government corruption, and so on, and so on.  Simply put, while it may only be “4%” of the total media coverage, the news coming from the war in Afghanistan is bad 100% of the time.

Foreign troop death toll hits 700 in Afghanistan

This weekend the war in Afghanistan claimed its 700th foreign troop death as a result of an IED strike in southern Afghanistan – setting a new record for the number of combat deaths. 

The grind continues.

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Military News Highlights: December 16 & 17

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Uncertainty marks White House review on Afghanistan, Pakistan

In regards to the highly touted release of the administrations review of Afghanistan, one-step up and two-steps back. 

 One-step up, “strategy is showing progress”; two-steps back, no new information on how soon Afghan Security Forces will be able to assume responsibility for security and when the “rat-lines” coming out of Pakistan can be severed.

 One-step up, “we are on track to achieve our goals”; two-steps back, gains are still “fragile and reversible” and the size of the July 2011 drawdown is unknown.

 One-step up, “COIN is working”; two-steps back, but we can’t truly measure its progress until late Spring 2011, which may shift the strategy to pure-kinetic counter-terrorism. 

Oh, and the word “corruption” is only mentioned once in the report.  Two-steps back. 

While the report mentions six times in the sparse five-page summary/report that success hinges on Pakistan shutting down its borders and “safe havens.”  Two-steps back. 

The official White House report summary can be read here:

 A summary of how the report exposes a split over Afganistan pullout timelines can be read here:

Key highlights:

  •  Already, parts of the country with fewer troops are showing a deterioration of security, and the gains that have been made were hard won, coming at the cost of third more casualties among NATO forces this year.
  • Then there are the starkly different timelines being used in Washington and on the ground. President Obama is on a political timetable, needing to assure a restless public and his political base that a withdrawal is on track to begin by the deadline he set of next summer and that he can show measurable success before the next election cycle.
  • Afghanistan and the American military, are running on a different clock, based on more intractable realities. Some of the most stubborn and important scourges they face — ineffectual governance, deep-rooted corruption and the lack of a functioning judicial system — the report barely glanced at.
  • A fundamental conundrum, unmentioned in the report, is that the United States and its NATO allies constantly speak of Mr. Karzai and his government as an ally and a partner and try to shore up his image as the leader of his people. Yet many Afghans view his government as a cabal of strongmen, who enrich themselves and their families at the expense of the country.
  • Also largely glossed over in the report is the extent and implications of pervasive corruption. Bribery and nepotism remain a feature of daily life for the vast majority of Afghans, and nowhere is it more clear than in the judicial system.
  • The elephant in the room is that whatever the trajectory of the war, the Afghan government does not envision a defeat of the Taliban, but a negotiated peace. Unmentioned in the report is what the Americans may be looking for in such a deal, and what they are willing to do to bring that peace.

A summary of what the White House report on the Afghanistan War didn’t mention or highlight can be read

Key highlights:

  • State Department diplomats have complained that President Hamid Karzai has been an unreliable ally. Political resolution is key, but the review’s language on governance questions and on the shape of an Afghan “end-state” is vague.
  • Coalition support has helped the Afghan army meet its targets in terms of troop buildup. The Afghan force quality is a mixed bag. The majority of Afghan soldiers lack basic skills, including literacy. Preparing the Afghan army and police to be capable of providing security as Western troops depart has become an increasing focus of coalition efforts but remains a challenge.
  • The administration’s review summary highlights NATO’s “enduring commitment beyond 2014,” yet it’s clear that European leaders face considerable political pressure back home to withdraw, and only Britain has a sizable number of troops on the ground. As a result, the war is becoming increasingly Americanized. On Thursday, Germany’s foreign minister confirmed that country’s intention to begin withdrawing its 4,600 troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year.
  • The review summary devotes considerable attention to the problem of AQ and Taliban leaders finding a safe haven across the board in Pakistan.  The document calls for greater cooperation with Pakistan but is short on specifics about how to get there. Pakistan clearly has ambivalent feelings about the U.S. effort in Afghanistan. It doesn’t want Western forces to leave behind a mess in its backyard, but at the same time it doesn’t trust the government in Afghanistan.
  • The review summary highlights “significant progress” in disrupting al-Qaida’s leadership in Pakistan. “Al-Qaida’s senior leadership has been depleted, the group’s safe haven is smaller and less secure, and its ability to prepare and conduct terrorist operations has been degraded in important ways,” it states. The war’s initial aim of driving al-Qaida from Afghanistan has also largely been successful. Yet al-Qaida remains a mobile threat, and it’s unlikely the U.S. can readily muster 100,000 more troops to chase it outside the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

Ratlines’ threaten White House Afghan war plans

While US troops logistics and lines of communications are held hostage to: the tyranny of terrain, the necessity of maintaining logistic hubs in a very inhospitable nature of Pakistan (and now the end around the bordering “stans”), the growing contractor base of support, and the necessity of pushing supplies to forward combat outposts and patrols.  It appears that the insurgency has little trouble maintaining their flow of supplies and refitting at their leisure while ensconced in Pakistan (and in controlled Taliban areas within Afghnistan, i.e. anywhere outside of Kabul, Kandahar, and Khost). 

The border with Pakistan remains porous and US/NATO/Afghan efforts to seal the flow of supplies “threaten Afghan war plans.”   Practically speaking we should dissuade ourselves from thinking that there are “safe havens” per se – a clearly marked area or region – in fact the entire country of Pakistan is a safe haven for the Taliban, AQ, and their confederates (i.e Haqqani and Hekmatyar network). 

Ultimately that is the root of the problem and one without a solution.

U.S. Army Modernization Review Set for Dec. 22

“Here we go again, same old stuff again.  Marching down the avenue…”  Next week senior Army leaders will conduct a modernization review to determine the future of weapon and equipment systems.  Called the Early Infantry Brigade Combat Team (E-IBCT) equipment set, it was originally developed as part of the whiz-bang, bells-and-whistles Future Combat Systems (FCS) program which thankfully Secretary of Defense Gates ended.  But here we go again, marching back up that avenue to see if the Army can get some of the FCS components and systems approved for further development and tactical issue.  The question Undersecretary Ashton Carter should ask is, “would any of these equipment sets and systems, if deployed tomorrow to a Soldier in Afghanistan, and given the costs required to field them, improve his/her force protection while defeating the threat he/she faces?”  It’s a simple standard, because what Joe needs right now, this very moment, is equipment and small-arms that will increase his force protection posture while providing him a dead-certain lethality.  If the “Tactical and Urban Unattended Ground Sensors, the Class 1 Unmanned Aircraft System, the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle and the Network Integration Kit can’t meet this standard, then don’t waste the money, time, industrial base, or organizational energy that is being put into the E-IBCT.

Yearly Price Tab for Afghan Forces: $6 Billion, Indefinitely

Speaking of guns and butter, the waiter serving security in the outdoor cafes of Kabul, Kandarhar, and Khost just gave Uncle Sam the tab for training and equipping Afghan security forces — $6 Billion annually – indefinitely.   No problem, we’ll pay with a Chinese credit card.

Unused in Afghanistan, Longbow Deliveries Continue

The vaunted “Longbow” didn’t help the 11th Aviation Regiment in support of the 3rd Infantry Division’s fight north in OIF I, yet we still are procuring the system and deploying it to Afghanistan where it is not being put to use.  Great investment.  Great idea.

 

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