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"Optimism (light) is the power that ultimately defeats fear (darkness)."

Sunday, January 29, 2006

God Shines Down on Those Protecting us All

In a story written by US Army Sergeant Rachel Brune, 101st Sustainment BDE, I found this photo she took as the 454th Transportation Company headed out to Forward Operation Base Warrior. There is only one thing that came to mind when I saw this photo:

God is watching over those that are protecting us. And as these brave men and women do their duty with honor, it is only fitting that Jacob shines down on them.
Genesis, Chapter 28, Jacob's Dream at Bethel
11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.
12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
God Speed, and God Bless.

Stay Tuned to ...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Combatants, Fuel, and Grease Pencil Idiots

Look, I love the US Air Force, and I am sure you can tell that by now! If you are among those that believes we are just glorified bus drivers and fair weather combatants, you probably want to stop reading this particular post, right now. I do not intend to be mean, cut you off, or offend you in any way at all. I am going to discuss something that even at the highest levels is deemed "bunk", a "pipe dream", "nitwit shenanigans", "damned nonsensical", and "otherwise transitory advantages". I'd like to spend some time talking about the US Air Force's role in combat.

In the story "The Strategy of Desert Storm", Air Force Magazine, January 2006, Vol. 89, No. 1, John T. Correll wrote:
"In recent years, it has been fashionable to emphasize the Air Force's commitment to supporting the nation's ground forces."

"In time of crisis, however, it has usually turned out that "Global Reach-Global Power" had it right. Airpower can be the supporting force in war. It can also be the supported force, or it can act independently. Field Manual 100-20 had it right, too. Airpower is not an auxiliary of land power."

"The understanding of that is the strategic legacy of Desert Storm."
Everyone remembers that the Gulf War was deemed "The Hundred Hour War" or the "5 Day War". And that is a very true statement, if you subtract the numerous hours and sorties flown prior to the actual land battle. The preceding "war" lasted 38 days - not 38 hours or 38 minutes, but 38 days. There were lives on the line the whole time. In the first few hours of the war, there were airmen and sailors behind the lines -- deep behind enemy lines -- taking out infrastructure, materiel, combatants, and vehicles. US combat aircraft in Desert Storm by branch were as follows: 58% USAF, 27% USN, 15% USMC. This is where the technology, from my first post, shoulders the weight of the "non-war".

Have any of you taken the time to watch "Discovery Wings" channel (now the Military Channel)? There have been a few shows that show Desert Storm and a few are of pretty decent length and depth. Each piece, if covering the entire war, shows the intense and deep strike taken to the heart of the enemy. The "new girl" in the air was the "Stealth Fighter" or F-117. She was flanked by F-15s and F-16s to take the "ball" all the way to the "cheap seats" and drop it right in Saddam's lap! Even he was to miscalculate what the United States Air Force is all about. In his own words from Mr. Correll's work:
"The US relies on the Air Force. The Air Force has never been the decisive factor in the history of war."
It is a fact that twice, Saddam has had his hat handed to him. And twice, the war began with deep penetration into the heart of the beast to destroy infrastructure, materiel, combatants, and vehicles. Yesterday, technology and the F-117 was a prime factor. Today, technology and the "Stealth Bomber" or B-2 and the Predator and Globalhawk paved the way. Yesterday, total loss of our brave all volunteer US Military suffered 148 dead and 467 wounded (coalition allies had 99 dead and 434 wounded). Today, 3 plus years into the Global War on Terror (one theater yet two battle areas) we've lost some 2,100+ brave men and women. Now, stop and do some quick math - 36 times as long and not 36 times as many casualties! (36 x 148 = 5,328)

Again, technology is causing significant reduction in combatants per square kilometer. Newer technology is also playing a big part in the amount of fuel required to prosecute an air-focused battle. There is a considerable amount of hemmin' and hawwin' going on in regards to fuel consumption in the US Military. Taking my second post in this series into consideration, with the improvements in technology and the reduction in combatants per square kilometer, fuel is becoming less of a factor in what the Air Force (and the other branches) to prosecute a war today.

It's no secret that if we had to prosecute a 1-to-1 air battle with the Iranians (no small air force, I assure you) or with Communist China (another sizable force, people) you'd really need a strong showing in the skies. No ground battle is ever going to be successful again without control of the air. The F-22 is the platform we need, coupled with the F-15 and F-16, to get control of precious air space. Once the air is secure, bringing technology to the fore and prosecuting a ground battle with newer air combat vehicles like UCAVs:

(such as the MQ-1 Predator)

(and RQ-4A Globalhawk)

we are reducing the strain on personnel and materiel (man hours and fuel spent per sortie per kill). Newer weapons that can deliver the munitions directly to the target providing 100% elimination of that target. Newer tactics like combined forces on the ground increase the effectiveness of overall combat operations - and camaraderie.

We don't need no stinkin' grease pencils!

Gimme the new Raptor to take back the air!

When folks at the higher level speak about turning all the United States Air Force fighter-type aircraft over to the Navy and Marines (yes, it was proposed in the QDR!), I get a little, upset. In an article from the same Air Force Magazine (January 2006) titled "Washington Watch" by Executive Editor John A. Tirpak, he writes the following:
"Throughout the QDR, the Marine Corps has had its eye on the funds intended for the F/A-22 program."

"They want that money right now -- preferably yesterday -- to expand the Corps in the near term."

"Once in possession of the fighter account, the Marine Corps could kill the F/A-22, shift all fighters to close air support, and use the savings for other purposes."
Huh? Go back up a few paragraphs here. Are we to then believe that the best way to be efficient on the battlefield, and with growing tensions in other countries, by trashing our "Global Reach-Global Power" and hamstring the US Air Force?! Who the hell is really thinking these things up? Myopia is a terrible thing, so is target fixation, and even believing that you have the only true battle plan. The following astute leaders put together one massively successful 38 day "non-war" code named "Checkmate" and "Instant Thunder":
Lt. General Charles A. Horner
General Michael J. Dugan
General John Michael Loh
Colonel John A. Warden III
Lt. Colonel David A. Deptula*
Brig. General Buster C. Glosson
Major Ernie Norsworthy
Colonel Tony Tolin
*Although Glosson led the effort, the architect of the air campaign was Deptula, who created both the attack strategy and the specific plan.

Are we going to go back to "sticks and rocks" or can we all admit that twice now, the US Air Force has proven it can take it to the enemy and provide an adequate theater of operations that propels the ground forces through the enemy "like buttah"!?

These types of situations (infighting for funds and prestige) are never going to go away. The only way that the Air Force can survive external, and internal, attack is to become more efficient and provide a broader role in overall strategy and operations. Plus, the Air Force Brass has got to start standing up for themselves and show that we are a fighting force! And, we are a force to be reckoned with, no matter your allegiance.

Save money? Or, is this still about fighters fight and pilots shuttle?

Take a moment to review the total force that the Air Force brings to the battle: C-5, C-17, B-1, B-2, E-3, E-8, EC/RC-135, E-4B, U-2, A-10, F-15, F-16, F-111, F-117, AC/EC/MC/WC/HC/C-130, KC-135, KC-10, E-10, Predator, Globalhawk, and now the F-22. We move, we jam, we attack, we survey, we target, and we defend - what is coming next? Ever heard of the airborne laser?

The ABL Laser

The often forgotten piece of the Air Force is Missile Defense and Space Command! A formidable force, indeed, and something that many take off the table - yet should not be sold short! When it is time to take the field against Iran, North Korea, and China, who ya gonna call? Who can take the fight to the air, and hold it? Who has been doing quite well, thank you, keeping us all safe from an attack from the skies for the last 58 years?

C'mon, Ronald Reagan didn't build all this back up just to have it fretted away by short sighted people over influenced by the dopes on Capitol Hill?

Did Capitol Hill ever win a war? Have they proven to be adults today?

Bah! They're just trying to get re-elected.

What's the Joint Chiefs excuse?

Stay Tuned to ...

H/T to Laurie of Soldiers' Angels NY for her kindness in helping our family adopt an airman in Iraq, and pointing me to the ABL photos above - oh yeah! Steevie likeee! (Tommy Boy Voice There, Laurie!)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Nope, Duh, Nope, Uh-huh, I Guess So

Those are the five most important answers to some very prevalent statements we hear today. OK, so I changed the answers a bit for the title of this post! In fact, this post is to provide the reader with enough information to develop a stronger argument against the fifth answer, "I Guess So." I intend to show that I believe the is changing drastically enough that the answer should be, "Nope."

My previous post, the giant is now awake and dancing on the enemy's head, is threaded through this post and then ends at the follow on post to come. These three posts are in order, for a reason - like a friendship bracelet! (sorry, my oldest daughter is into these things ... wha' ?? how does a bracelet ... never mind, back to earth)

Let me first provide some background for this post. Colonel Richard Fullerton's article, "The Future: Oil, America, and the Air Force", can be found in the latest Air and Space Power Journal (Winter 2005, Volume XIX, No. 4). Colonel Fullerton is professor and head of the US Air Force Academy's Department of Economics and Geography. He also credits and thanks Duane Chapman of Cornell University for some, as Colonel Fullerton puts it, "... insightful comments." There is an extensive amount of information in his article, and I have brought quite a bit of it here. The reason is that there is so much disinformation out there on this subject. To have a valid argument we need to be on the same plane with the same information, not conjecture and less than factual points of view driving the debate.

What I think is key to agree upon is a subject that many take very little time to understand, yet they feel very strongly about their answer(s). When you bring up the subject of oil, folks either in the Air Force, or not, have some idea about a world view and can argue with confidence. But to take the time to study the conflict and the facts that are rooted in economics provides a better platform from which to argue. Really, this subject has bugged me ever since I stood on the flightline launching KC-135 tankers. We sent a TON of fuel into flight! Can we keep doing this? I mean, what we hear is the old faithful line from the regurgitators of pap, "The World is Running Out of Oil":


Did you know that these purveyors of re-pap have been saying this for more than a 100 years?! Colonel Fullerton writes that geologist Kenneth Deffeyes put a date on when the world would be out of oil. Deffeyes said that, "world oil production will reach its ultimate peak on Thanksgiving Day 2005." Yet the US Geological Survey reports "the mean estimate of the world's recoverable oil" to be at three trillion barrels. Colonel Fullerton states that is "more than three times the amount the world consumed in the entire twentieth century!" The US Energy Information Administration put a guess on the table for peak consumption to be about 2037. Just remember, there are two very large countries that are dramatically increasing their consumption of the world's oil supply - that to come later. But, what about the fact that "The United States is Running Out of Oil":


The one thing we all need to understand: no matter what, the world price is set by a world market and that oil is a "fungible commodity", folks. Colonel Fullerton shows that even if the United States was completely self-sufficient and provided it's own supply domestically, we are still vulnerable to "oil shocks" from the world market. Colonel Fullerton provides proof using the British gasoline debacle in September of 2000. As he writes:
"Britain's North Sea fields produced far more oil than the country needed domestically, but when the price of oil rose, it did so worldwide. British consumers felt the same pinch in their pocketbooks that we felt in America and that the Japanese felt in Asia."
Oil prices rose in unison, worldwide, regardless of the location of source or production. The slidebars are all tied together. I think of it this way: to change the values of my Technics stereo equalizer I bought at the Audio Visual Club on base at Rhein Main AFB in 1983, I'd use a stick across all the keys (lame, I know, but that's reality). No matter what, changes take effect across the whole spectrum (worldwide) not just one frequency (country). Now this seems to always lead everyone into my favorite, "An Oil Embargo is a Threat to the United States":


Just because the "Middle East has two-thirds of the world's remaining proved oil reserves" doesn't mean you need to get your knickers in a twist. No matter what, oil is going to end up in the hands of whoever can pay the price. In simple terms Colonel Fullerton says it best:
"Just as the global market for oil prevents us from achieving oil independence, so does it ensure that no country has a practical way of embargoing the United States, beyond a merely symbolic gesture."
I am sure that you are screaming at your monitor saying, "The oil embargo of 1973 is proof that our prices got jacked to the ceiling, you moron!" My answer is simple enough and I'll coin the phraseology of a previous administration, "It's international trade and domestic economic policies, stupid!" Colonel Fullerton provides the reason through the words of Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren of the Cato Institute:
"price controls imposed in 1971 by the Nixon administration prevented major oil companies from passing on the full cost of imported crude to consumers at the pump. "Big Oil" did the only sensible thing: it cut back on imports and stopped selling oil to independent service stations in order to keep its own franchises supplied. By the summer of 1973, gasoline prices were exploding, pumps were running dry, and long lines were commonplace. And that was before the Arab oil embargo or production cutbacks were announced."
Look, we are affected if production is cut and limits on the sale of oil are imposed on everyone. Oil exporters are more dependent on us, the consumers, than we are on them. Did you know that 85% of export revenues in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, and Iraq are all from oil? There is no other primary revenue generator from these regions. Let's face it, it's an arid, desolate place - ask the troops! And no matter what you hear out there, the two largest exporters - Saudi Arabia and Iran - have different politics and differing views when it comes to dealing with the United States. That said, what about the tried and true, "Oil Will Continue to be a Catalyst for Conflict":


The Middle East can take this one to the bank: "at $50 a barrel, the estimated value of recoverable oil in the Middle East comes to roughly $77 trillion - more than five times the US gross domestic product." Yeah, he said 77 TRILLION DOLLARS Do you think there'd be a conflict? Sheesh, everyone in the world needs oil, and China and India are increasing their own demands at an ever accelerating rate. Another world war could put this whole thing into a situation that is worse than the effects of the United States and coalition forces working to stabilize the Middle East. Right from the Colonel's article regarding consumption rates, the "United States is expected to increase over the next decade at an annual rate of about 1.5 percent, oil consumption in China is forecast to grow almost 6 percent per year." Hello! That is 4x our consumption rate, folks. If you think we consume an unbelievable amount of oil, wake up! If China is at 6% what do you think is going on in India with all the outsourcing and manufacturing of US consumable products? To be honest with ourselves, this is going to be true until we get this under control, like now! And, Colonel Fullerton's last cloak room statement heard in the halls of say, the Pentagon, "Energy's Future in the Air Force Will Look Much Like its Recent Past":

Disappointing but True

Now, the Colonel states as oil prices rise and supplies become ever increasingly more volatile that:

  • R&D into "alternative energy sources and technologies will proliferate"
  • the "public will not flock to them until the become economical"
  • transition "to new energy sources will take an evolutionary rather than revolutionary path"
  • consumers "will gravitate towards more efficient diesel engines and hybrid gas/electric autos"
  • the utility companies "will move from oil for electricity generation"
  • the oil industry "will explore and develop previously unprofitable oil fields and bitumen deposits"
  • the oil industry "will begin producing escalating quantities of synthetic liquid fuels from natural gas and coal"
  • better batteries "will spur the commercial development and marketing of plug-in" hybrid vehicles using gas or "coal-based methanol engines"
  • the clunky and awkward "hydrogen fuel cells will not become a leading energy source for private autos before the second half of the century - if ever"
All these may ring true, and I believe that everything he has listed is true or will be true very soon. Colonel Fullerton asserts that the Air Force will continue to consume in the same manner. I, however, believe that there is a fundamental shift in strategy, operations, and tactics (Charlie Munn at The Officers' Club has a great graphic to help) that shapes the consumption of fuels and energy in a very significant way. He lists all the big-honkers (aircraft) that slurp fuel like a teenager on a hot day with free Icee refills at the local 7-Eleven!

I don't buy it. There are a few new birds crossing the horizon at sunset now, and there are more on the drawing board. There are changes to our defense shield that reduces our reliance and consumption of all fuels. There are changes taking place through joint forces operations that have reduced staff (combatants per square kilometer, remember?) and their vehicles required to move personnel and materiel. There are minor, and OK major, changes to equipment that make our fighting forces so much more efficient and less reliant on vehicles, be that aircraft, ground vehicles, or ships, that once again prove out to consume less and less product (fuels and other energy sources [nuclear, etc]).

I believe that we're reducing our consumption rate and capable of stabilizing the Middle East at the same time. In fact, this is the best thing we can do, for everyone!

Stay Tuned to ...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sleeping Giant? You've Got Zeus Dancin' on Your Head!

When will they ever learn? You taunt us with your words, we glare and take it all in. You poke us on the shoulder, we muster our control and size up the enemy. You poke us in the eye, we turn to collect our mettle - and then we take control. You strike any of us down, we bring it on, full force, with confidence, alacrity, and accuracy that could put an atomic clock to shame!

As has been a constant thread in my previous postings, science and technology have propelled the United States Military into uncharted territory: less manpower required to prosecute a war, with surgical precision, at greater distances, with excessively marginal casualty numbers. Strategy, tactics, mixed forces, and combined mission goals are taking the fight to foreign soil like no one has ever seen before.

In the latest Air and Space Power Journal (Winter 2005, Volume XIX, No. 4) I was pleasantly surprised by the story entitled, "The War Fighter's Need for Science and Technology". The analysis provided by the authors Dr. J. Douglas Beason, Colonel, USAF, Retired* and Dr. Mark Lewis was outstanding. It's amazing what one can learn in a few short moments of reading.

I knew in my heart back in 1984 that the future of the United States Air Force was beyond what anyone could dream. I was asked to assist our brothers down the flightline, the 7th SOS, in installing new technology on a few birds. When I was told how the accuracy of this new technology would dawn a new era in warfare, I believed it but wondered how we'd make it happen. Our systems were clunky, big, heavy, and, well, finicky! As the scientists of the 50's through the 80's would soon prove, the giant may have looked asleep, but he was thinking the whole time.

This opening paragraph says it all:
"Since the beginning of World War II, we have seen the introduction of radar, precision-guided weapons, atomic bombs, ballistic missiles, transistors, semiconductors, computers, jet aircraft, stealth technology, satellites, cell phones, lasers, the global positioning system (GPS), and so forth. The list of scientific and technical applications in warfare is staggering. Each of these technologies has had a profound impact on the way we fight and, equally importantly, on the way we keep our war fighters out of harm's way. Furthermore, the pace of inserting winning technology is increasing. In the millennia since humankind has kept records, estimates indicate that the world has seen a doubling -- a 100 percent growth -- in knowledge from the dawn of time until the 1950s. That knowledge, which has doubled several times since then, has spilled over to the war fighter. In many cases, it has actually been driven by his or her needs."
What a mouthful!

For those of you that remember, warfare was tough, dirty, deadly, and expansive. The campaign theater required multiple managers to prosecute any war. Varying levels of strategy managers and tactical leaders required staggering numbers of combatants to take the field. As Dr. Beason writes, the number density of combatants (the number per square kilometer) has decreased over the years due to:
"... the introduction of state-of-the-art weapons. One may understand the increase in firepower by considering the way technology has enabled fewer war fighters to levy more damage at a longer distance: the range of a spear was extended by the bow and arrow, whose range was extended by the bullet, whose range was extended by the artillery shell, whose range was extended even farther by missile technology. New technologies such as hypersonic missiles, which can cover hundreds of miles in a matter of minutes, or directed-energy weapons, which can engage the enemy at the speed of light, allow us to extend a weapon's range beyond national borders or even around the world, reducing manpower density on the battlefield even further."
The numbers of combatants that take the field looks like this:

Did you see it?! Just take WWII and the Gulf War. Per square kilometer for WWII, we needed 2,200 combatants to be in the fight, and in the Gulf War only 0.5 combatants per square kilometer were required!


And, this is only the first two paragraphs! I mean, his next point is the effectiveness of the military. I'll really condense what he provided into a short list:
  1. Bullets (1500AD) have a military effectiveness of 102 or 100 times greater than arrows (1000AD)
  2. ICBMs (1970AD) are 108 or 100 million times more effective than artillery (1900AD)
  3. Lasers (2020AD) as 10 billion times more effective than the same artillery (1900AD)
They always say that a picture can say so much more. Well, check out this graph and the accompanying little nuggets that follow:

"Although military tactics and strategy have played a role in increasing the effectiveness of these weapons, advances in military effectiveness stem chiefly from the exploitation of science and technology..."

"... the dramatic increase in such effectiveness on a logarithmic scale; that is, the vertical axis of the figure shows exponential powers of 10, so the maximum value of 25 is not a simple factor of five greater than 20 but 105 — 100,000 times greater."

He said 100,000 times!

Here, some hard numbers:
"To hit a 200,000 square foot German factory in World War II with a 96 percent chance of success required a squadron of 108 B-17 bombers (carrying 1,080 aircrew members and 648 bombs) and approximately 100 single-seat escort fighters, bringing the total force to nearly 1,200 human lives. Typically, 15 of the bombers and their 150 men would not make it back home."

"Today we could perform the same mission either with a single F-117 stealth fighter dropping two precision-guided bombs or with one cruise missile. Furthermore, to date only one F-117 has ever been shot down in combat."

"In the 45 years between World War II and the first Gulf War, the average miss distance of a bomb decreased from over half a mile to 10 feet."

"... we are reaping the benefits of decades of investment in S&T. Weapon systems from the F-22 to the airborne laser owe their existence to years of aggressive, vigorous Air Force support of S&T investments."

OK, now for the funny quotes and technological strides comparisons ... rich, just rich!

"In 1921, when told of Billy Mitchell's claim that airplanes could sink battleships, Secretary of War Newton Baker growled, "That idea is so damned nonsensical and impossible that I'm willing to stand on the bridge of a battleship while that nitwit tries to hit it from the air."

"Similarly, in 1938 Maj Gen John K. Herr remarked, "We must not be misled to our own detriment to assume that the untried machine can displace the tried and proven horse."

"And in 1939, Rear Adm Clark Woodward sniffed, "As far as sinking a ship with a bomb is concerned, it just can't be done."

"More recently, some individuals even scoffed at precision-guided weapons: "Who would need to be so precise when a grease pencil mark on the cockpit window has worked for years?"

"Others decried the Airborne Warning and Control System [AWACS] aircraft for controlling the air battlefield: "The Soviets did this and lost!"

Fluorescent lamp, 79 years
Gyrocompass, 56 years
Cotton picker, 53 years
Zipper, 27 years
Jet engine, 14 years
Radar, 13 years
Safety razor, nine years
Wireless telephone, eight years

This is truly a great read! A bit hefty in price but it is full of great history, new technology, and future training advancements.

* Portions of [the article from Air and Space Power Journal] come from Dr. Beason’s book DOD Science and Technology: Strategy for the Post–Cold War Era (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 1997).

Stay Tuned to ...

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Mrs. Reagan Christens the "Spirit of Ronald Reagan"

Yesterday was a great day for the dedicated Airmen at March AFB. The eighth, and final, delivery of a C-17 Globemaster III was christened by Mrs. Nancy Reagan. I am sure that for her, this was a beautiful, yet poignant ceremony - her best friend Ronnie was not by her side. (those who know, know, she always called him "Ronnie" [not me])

Through a scene that is always powerful, a red carpet flanked by the guard, Lieutenant General John Bradley escorted Mrs. Reagan to the observation area. Even though Mrs. Reagan, a spry 84 years young, did not speak to the crowd, she did provide a few words for the ceremony:
"Ronnie believed that it is the responsibility of every American to help guard the freedoms we hold dear. So I know he would be especially pleased that this plane will be flown by citizen aircrews, providing support for our troops fighting in faraway lands."
I think it is amazing that in all these years, this woman's attention to detail when it comes to the written and spoken word is still at the forefront. The key words are, "citizen aircrews", where she is paying a special commendation to the Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard. It is true that the major compliment of our fine Airmen are active duty. And often times, the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserves are sometimes a tad bit overlooked - except in a time of war. Mrs. Reagan knows, and so did our former President Ronald Reagan know, that our Reserve and Guard forces are a very important part of our national defense, and very deserving of the respect and admiration of the entire country!

If you all have forgotten, President Reagan served in the Army Reserve and Army Air Corps during World War II! He holds a special place in the heart of the United States Military as he, and only he, brought us back from the brink of extinction. After so much strife, derision, defunding, hamstringing, and external bickering (outside the US Military), one man's vision returned our brave fighting forces back to the worlds greatest fighting force!

As California Congressman Kenneth Calvert put so succinctly:
"The fact that our Airmen are equipped with unsurpassed military assets like the C-17 is a testament to those leaders, especially President Reagan, who demonstrated the commitment to sustaining our military strength."

I couldn't have said it better. Yet, Lt. General Bradley added this extra point to the spear by saying that President Reagan had:
"the vision to provide the kind of capabilities that we need today."
It is sad that President Reagan was not able to see his vision come to fruition. He died June 5, 2004, at the amazing age of 93. Just two more years and he would have seen "his" C-17, "his" aircraft carrier, and the F-22A become operational. Hmmm.

As the ceremony continued, Lt. General Bradley said:
"The C-17 has phenomenal capability and flexibility. It can go into places that many other airplanes cannot. It can carry huge loads (and) great numbers of troops into very austere environments. It will help the Air Force in its continued war on terror."

"This aircraft will fly around the world and do wonderful things for America and for many other people. It will deliver troops and equipment (and) deliver humanitarian supplies to people around the world who've never seen anything from America."
A beautiful day for the team at March AFB. It is a great story provided by Senior Master Sergeant Matt Proietti of the 452nd Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs at AF.mil. Good thing that the weather held, until today - raining again in sunny California ...

Stay Tuned to ...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Baby Raptor's First Steps - HOW CUTE!

Alright, this is when the Air Force really puts her best foot forward! The Navy has beautiful ceremonies for all to see, like christening a new flat-top or destroyer or boomer. But, for aero-Nuts like myself, nothing raises major goose bumps like chocks being pulled to release a new bird! What on earth possessed the Air Force to create such a Big Honkin' Bird like this, anyway?

Be the biggest, baddest, fastest, deadliest, and meanest in the sky? And why not?!

From Sky to Space, no one tops the U.S. Air Force!

Today, as the press release went out about the F-22A being released for flight ready ops, our little Baby Raptor took her first steps! The 1st Fighter Wing is a VERY PROUD MAMA today!

(i've got serious hard rock goin' in the background while i typed the last post and this one - ahhh, the office is rockin' - can i get a FLY BY PLEASE!?)

I mean, really, can we have some ABs trashin' the neighborhood? I waaaannnnaaaaa have a RAPTOR!

Sorry, got a little carried away there. Hey, not to worry, it's not like their gonna let me fly one!

2nd Lieutenant Rachel Sherburne of the 1st Fighter Wing Public Affairs office writes:
"The IOC declaration proves the F-22A is mission ready. The base now has 19 Raptors."

"The 27th FS -- the Air Force's oldest fighter squadron -- is now the first operational unit to fly the service's newest fighter aircraft."
The oldest fighter squadron is graced with the newest and brightest. Sounds good to me!

Wing Commander Brigadier General Burton Field basically nudged the Baby Raptor on her first steps with this statement:
"This next generation fighter can now be employed by combatant commanders and the national command authority for various missions both at home and in other areas of responsibility."
Everyone was there to watch her take her first steps (well, OK, except us!). The Air Force Vice Chief of Staff General John Corley, former Air Force Secretary Dr. James Roche, and retired and former Air Force Chief of Staff General John Jumper. During the ceremony, the guest speaker, General John Corley said:
"I can't thank each of you enough. You all played a critical role. Your children and children's children will reap the benefits of the technology (of this aircraft)."
Wing Commander General Burton Field said, and this is my favorite:
"This aircraft, and more importantly, the people who have brought it to the realm of operational flying, deserve to celebrate and be celebrated."
Yeah, this is a great day! We get a new C-17 at March AFB christened as the "Spirit of Ronald Reagan" and the Raptor's First Baby Steps. It really is sad that the Raptor's Grand Father, President Ronald Reagan, was not there to see her cross the hangar floor ... at least, maybe there's a few old warriors up there above the clouds sharing it with him?

Stay Tuned to ...

F-22A ...:FLIGHT.:.READY.:.TO.:.FIGHT:...

Today, thanks to AF.mil, here's the best few paragraphs giving the GREEN LIGHT to the F-22A:
Release Number: 050106
1/13/2006 - KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center recently completed the F-22A Raptor Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation and has rated the Air Force's newest fighter as mission capable in the air-to-ground role.

"This was a significant milestone in terms of validating the F-22A's combat capability," said Major General Robin Scott, AFOTEC commander. "We are confident we have provided Air Combat Command and senior Air Force leaders with an accurate and complete picture not only of the Raptor's impressive operational capabilities but also where additional resources can be focused to further mature and sustain this 21st Century fighter."
Oh yeah!

There is one more bit of good news, and that is in a follow on post. Right now, I'd be worried if I were on the receiving end of any F-22A sortie.


Stay Tuned to ...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Long Convoy - Brothers in Blues

If asked, I bet everyone out there thinks that all the Air Force does is fly stuff around and send Stealth Aircraft in to take out a radio tower or two. Maybe some of you have bumped into some AFSOS folks - yeah, they actually carry weapons and get to shoot stuff. I know that, while shipping in and out or rotating from your duty station, you've seen the SPs (Security Police) on the Flightline, securing the entry points, or maybe on the perimeter in the tree line (and some you don't see).

How many of you have bumped into a convoy, and as the convoy team jumps out, see some "upside down chevrons" on the sleeve?

How many of you have been in the chow hall line and noticed something sorta outta place - like, somebody said "Air Force" and "Mike 88" in the same breath?

has a great story that I tripped over while traversing the web. The story is about the Airmen of the 424th Medium Truck Detachment and their primary mission: move the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division's supplies and materiel from Kuwait into Iraq. The trips are long, the danger is real, and this team loves the mission!

If you looked at anyone assigned to a convoy and they were in an Air Force chow hall line with folks from the flightline and CBPO (Central Base Personnel Office), I think you'd find it hard to tell their specialty. I know that unless I knew the person because I either saw them on the flightline, or in a shop, or at CBPO, the only way was their hat! (FMS, AMS, OMS, ok, I'm dating myself here). When I was at Rhein Main AFB, we all wore an FMS cap. I worked in avionics (AMS), and I am still proud to have been in the 435th FMS, mind you, but I'm making a point. These Air Force folks are wearing the same hats and BDUs - they all blend in with one another!

Yet, in the Army, if you are in a chow hall line at a new post, one glance at someone's patches or cover and you can start a quick conversation. In fact, I bet it is pretty easy to find somewhere to sit with folks talking about the same stuff. The bond is quick and the stories are often new. Sometimes you find out that that one story was a myth 'cause you're sitting right next to the subject of the story! Even in war or peace the Army can find someone in the same specialty and strike up a friendship pretty quickly.

And here, they are all one:

This photo jumped right out at me! Whether in green or blue the mission is clear. This whole team watches out for one another, and a higher power is watching over them. It's great that they take the time to share a prayer that they all make it through safely.

The Air Force has a limited few visual distinctions. Sometimes there is a badge or insignia, but mostly we all have the same stuff. Planes are all the same, except for their two letter base codes on the tail. There really isn't any way to pick out any one team, but then I saw the door on their vehicle!

Now, that says, "I'm coming so get outta my way!"

This whole team approaches their mission with conviction and ease. I really liked this part of the story:
"... a few decided to have breakfast before stretching out on a cot. The dining facility was crowded and more than a few looks were directed toward the convoy Airmen -- the only "non-Army" troops in the building."
Then, Technical Sergeant Bill Bellmore's quote about chow hall lines - Army chow hall lines:
"It's the same thing everywhere we go, Soldiers always ask, 'What are you [Air Force people] doing here?'"
Funny looks and questions - not bad, just, Huh?! Is there an Air Force base around here we didn't know anything about?!

I've only experienced this once on a TDY (Flintlock), and it was pretty funny. Being so different, I found LOTS of people to talk to because everyone else wanted to know what I was doing in their chow hall (not in a bad way, just, Huh?!)

Once they have delivered their cargo on the first leg of the trip, their next job is to backhaul stuff heading out of Iraq. As Sergeant Bellmore said:
"We've got one Army division moving in and one going out. That's a lot of cargo."
This team takes care of their vehicles and do "pre-flight" checks before hitting the road.

They are a self-sufficient unit, as is everyone in the U.S. Military. You bring what you need and you request what you forgot -- or realize you need now, 'cause the mission has changed. So, in comes the 424th to get it to you.

It turns out that the Airmen surprise lots of Soldiers. The team says that even though they get the same reactions every time they stop, it doesn't bother them. They like explaining what it is they do, and that the Air Force is there to move stuff on the ground too - not just the air. As Airman Ginocchio said:
"We're the equivalent of '88 Mike's.' But we drive anything."
Seems the team even surprises Soldiers using the right lingo for what they do. The writer, Staff Sergeant Scott Campbell of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs, said the following:
"Almost every time, the surprise came with a look of newfound respect. Because, while this convoy was safe, the roads of Iraq are deadly. Convoys must brave improvised explosive devices, hostile fire and other enemy activity on a trip. That is in addition to the common, everyday road hazards most are familiar with."

"But each day, Airmen conducting convoys is a more common sight."
The best quote, I think is from Senior Airman Marchuk. He he doesn't mind the questions and looks from the Soldiers, because:
"No matter what branch of service you're in, if you're called to do something, you have to do what you have to do."
Well said.

Stay Tuned to ...

UPDATE: Missing some credits to other blogs
I just read, thanks to the Officer's Club, that they had posted the photo of the USAF and USA team sharing a prayer for their safetly and a successful mission. The photo is amazing, and I didn't know that they had posted it last week. So, belated HT to the Officer's Club!

Oh, and they linked back to me today in reference to this article. Thanks again, Officer's Club!

MaryAnn over at Soldiers' Angels Germany, also had the photo. Wow, I must have really been out of it this last week (did have a bad cold, but). Thanks MaryAnn for leaving kind word in the comments here, too.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Optimism Trumps Fear #11

is puttin' on the wrap-up for week 1 of CY2006. This is actually the first week of the year and the first posting! We'll get to this quickly since there aren't a ton of stories from the site. We have more positive than negative - and last week was pretty hectic. For the stuff I like to talk about, we have on tap: 3 separate captured weapons cache stories, Joint Forces to work on a security berm (giant speed-bump to keep out the riff-raff!), and recon stops an IED emplacement.

TONS of ordnance was seized this last week! Three separate stories really show how hard everyone is working to reduce the terror network's ability to intimidate and kill. First, reports on Operation Green Trident which is U.S. Marines of the First Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8, captured 72, yes I said SEVENTY TWO caches over the last week! This equaled ten metric tons for the 72 sites uncovered (at 2,200 pounds/metric ton we're at 22,000 pounds!?) They report about 1,000 artillery and mortar rounds plus RPGs and hand grenades. Great JOB! Second, Iraqi and MNDCS Soldiers nabbed some pretty bad stuff: 75 mines, 40 artillery and mortar rounds, 7 RPG launchers and 69 rounds, 50 hand grenades, and some sniper rifles, machine guns, and explosive material. That's some bad stuff, and a good thing it's out of the terrorists hands! Third, this next story was so peppered with stuff that I have to put it all into list form:

  • Task Force Band of Brothers snagged 4 caches and 11 terrorists
  • One group of the 101st Airborne Div. 1st BCT netted 8 terrorists (3 on the run and 5 in the truck) and lots of weapons and explosives (RPGs and launchers, machine guns, and IED making materials)
  • Another group of the 101st Airborne Div. 1st BCT picked up 3 terrorists and 30 pistols (hmmm, 1 gun per person doesn't fly in California!)
  • The local gentry said we could find some bad stuff, and told us where - turns out it was approximately 6,000 anti-aircraft artillery rounds
  • Another 25 artillery rounds was discovered - we transported it, then destroyed it (hmmm, fire in the hole!)
That's a bunch of stuff in just one posting!

In an effort to transfer security over to the Iraqis, there has been a ton of training going on at every level. One outfit that is committed to this mission is MNSTC. The team at MNSTC coordinate operations to help Iraqis learn new tactics and strategies to the point where they can then assume complete control. In this specific story the 101st Airborne, 3rd BCT works with local leaders to build a berm with watch towers to protect their village. As marked use of IEDs is increasing, 80% of the time it is the civilian population that is killed or injured. In As Siniyah, a small village near Bayji in northern Salah ad Din Province, local police, city council members, sheiks and religious leaders met with leaders from the 101st Airborne, 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment(Air Assault). Captain Christopher Judge, 101st Airborne, 3rd BCT, discusses the operation whereby a berm will be built that is approximately 10 kilometers in length and nearly eight feet in height - with guard towers to control entry points into the village. These entry points will be guarded by Iraqi police officers and soldiers.

This should work - a desert moat, so to speak!

And, last but not least, there is a story you may have seen on SMASH's page the Military Outpost where he linked to the Officer's Club. The story is about a UAV that caught some bad little boneheads messin' around trying to emplace an IED - BUSTED! As reports, a UAV from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (NOTE: I believe this is the 101st Airborne, 3rd BCT UAV, not a USAF UAV/UCAV - see below) was patrolling a road near Bayji after 9PM on January 2nd, 2006. Some terrorists were digging a hole that looked to be the SOP for these scum, so the 3 men's position was relayed to close air support pilots. Once the bad-guys left the road site they were followed by a UCAV (there is a difference between UAV and UCAV) to a nearby building. The UCAV crew took aim and trashed the place - with them inside.

Now, for the difference between a UAV and a UCAV. The UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) is 99% of the time a recon bird only. The reason UCAV (unmanned or uninhabited combat aerial vehicle) came about is why not watch them from above, and if needed, prosecute termination immediately. The UCAV has a dual role in mission use because it can just watch or be employed to take out targets. UAVs watch and report. I believe that in all other branches than the U.S. Air Force, in theater at this time, the use of UAVs is prevalent. I believe that in this instance, the reporting team was the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne 3rd BCT, and they have quite a few UAVs (see photos below).

As reported by , once the activity was seen to be hostile to both U.S. Military personnel and civilians, the hand off came to the close air support pilots - who then prosecuted the termination of the terrorists. To fly and then fire is traditionally the task of the U.S. Air Force's two birds in the sky - the Predator (nice size and focused mission, used in joint branch missions) and the GlobalHawk (too big and broader mission). The Officer's Club has a snap of the GlobalHawk for this mission, yet I think that this mission profile required the use of a UCAV in the Predator size (see photos below of these two UCAVs).

I am in the process of confirming the use of one or more UAV/UCAVs. I think it is a nice little side-project. I just hope that between and CENTAF I can get an answer? Seems slim, but, gotta try - I love the exactness of a story and the joint tactical nature (U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force) of teams working together.

One can hope!

Alright, on to the links and the wrap-up!

The GOOD = 5
Security Berm Under Construction -- 01/06/2006
Weapons Seized, 11 Suspects Detained -- 01/05/2006
Iraqi and MNDCS Soldiers Seize Cache -- 01/04/2006
Air Support Preempts Possible IED Emplacement -- 01/03/2006
Operation Green Trident Turns up 72 Caches -- 01/02/2006

Male Iraqi Detainee Dies -- 01/05/2006
Suicide Bomb Explodes in Ramadi -- 01/05/2006
Four U.S. Civilian Contractors Killed in Accident -- 01/02/2006

Suicide Bomb Explodes in Ramadi Update -- 01/05/2006

Stay Tuned to ...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

President Bush Personally Thanks Pentagon Troops

Yesterday the President made a point of greeting and personally thanking troops that work at the Pentagon. The article on AF.mil by Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez gave a brief look into the agenda for the President at the Pentagon. His first priority was to discuss the war in Iraq. After the meeting the President made a point of walking down the hall outside SECDEF's office for a personal "Hello!" The hallway was full of Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines just ready (like the US Military is never ready!) to get a chance to shake the President's hand and to get a few moments of his time.

Staff Sergeant David Kolcun from the office of the Air Force Surgeon General said of his chance to see the President:
"I was so nervous. The Secret Service was talking to us and keeping it lively."

The President thanked them individually - Staff Sergeant Kolcun thanked the President for his service. Now, that's someone that gets the chain of command and the service that everyone plays in the Global War on Terror. As Staff Sergeant Kolcun says:
"I told him I also appreciate what he was doing. It was pretty neat [to] shake the hand of the commander in chief - and not just in a crowd - but a one-on-one handshake."
Senior Airman Erik Nelson of the Air Force Honor Guard and a Pentagon tour guide said about his one-on-one with the President:
"I asked if he'd watch the University of Texas [-vs-] University of South California [Rose Bowl] game today. He said he had a feeling the 'Horns' might pull it off."
Obviously, the President wasn't the only person there! Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace also shook hands with the troops.

Stay Tuned to ...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

C-17 - Spirit of Ronald Reagan


Well, you knew that the same day that the Navy launches a ship named after Ronald Reagan, our 40th President, (Cap'n Bob has the story here) the US Air Force wouldn't be too far behind with an aircraft naming ceremony! Just today on AF.mil, Release Number: 020106, I noticed that Mrs. Nancy Reagan is going to unveil the "Spirit of Ronald Reagan". This is the eighth C-17 in the Air Force Reserve Command.

On January 13th at March Air Force Base at High Noon, or 12 O'Clock High, the ceremony begins with the arrival of the C-17 being piloted by Lt. General John A. Bradley, Commander, Air Force Reserve Command.

This aircraft is named “Spirit of Ronald Reagan” in honor of and in tribute to Ronald Reagan, our nation’s 40th president. As part of the arrival ceremony, the aircraft will be piloted by Lt. Gen. John A. Bradley, Commander, Air Force Reserve Command. After she is marshaled to a stop, the dedication ceremony begins.

Some background on the C-17 was provided in the release:
"The C-17 is the newest, most flexible cargo aircraft to enter the airlift force. The Globemaster III is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main operation bases or directly to forward bases in a deployment area. The aircraft is also capable of performing tactical airlift and airdrop missions when required. The C-17 further improves the ability of the total airlift system to fulfill the worldwide air mobility requirements of the United States from March ARB."
Obviously, reporters are in
vited to be there. Hopefully they can get this news item straight? I mean, they'll actually be there in person.

I also want to point out that the above photos are all from the final ceremony commemorating 60 years of Rhein Main AFB service to USAFE. The 435th MAC was my first duty station. Even though we always lived in the "shadow" of Ramstein AFB, we had tons of pride and a long history: from the Berlin Airlift, to countless troop movement and materiel moves for all branches serving in USAFE, and on sad occasions like the Marines who were slaughtered by terrorists of an earlier age.

Once again, goodbye Rhein Main AFB. But, be glad! The "Spirit of Rhein Main" and her sister aircraft the "Spirit of Berlin" have a new, very famous sister:

The "Spirit of Ronald Reagan"!!!

UPDATE: Ceremony covered here!

Mrs. Reagan Christens the "Spirit of Ronald Reagan"

Stay Tuned to ...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Optimism Trumps Fear #10


This blog has been running for just over 4 months and providing the Wrap-ups for just greater than half that time, or two months. In this very short amount of time, there have been many folks that have helped to make all this happen. I want to especially thank SPC Claude Flowers from who has been very helpful, supportive, and a responsive (to a blogger of all people!). It has been great corresponding over the past two months and I look forward to continuing the relationship!

The list for this last week is really short. The greatest news is that there are no setbacks and no corrections! You couldn't ask for a greater end to a spectacularly positive change in both theaters: Afghanistan and Iraq. While all this has been going on, the US Military has been handling flood and tsunami relief, a huge earthquake in Pakistan, and an increase in tension in Korea and China. Once again, the greatest volunteer military in the world shows what it's all about: helping people in need and protecting us all from terrorists while providing hope and support from which freedom will grow.

First up there are two stories that show you just how hard the US Air Force is working to help people in need. One is now buried beneath the fold and the other is very recent, so, you know the drill.

The story that no longer hits "the big time" in the media these days it the continued support being provided to Pakistan after the earthquake. US CENTAF reports that over the last week 3 C-130s flew more than 41,000 pounds of food and water, medicine, construction materials, and aircraft parts. In total, to date, the US Air Force has delivered north of 10 million pounds of aid using 54 C-130s, 45 C-17s, and 53 other civilian/private/corporate aircraft that have been contracted to help. This is humanitarian relief for the long haul, and it just keeps going!

When it comes to the humanitarian side, and you need to get someone way across the world for much needed assistance, and it has to happen now, well, call the US Air Force (ok, it's not that easy). In the case of a family in dire need of a life saving procedure for their daughter born with spina bifida, there was an amazing series of events that made it all happen. While some Gainesville Georgia National Guardsmen of the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th Brigade BCT were searching a house, the grandmother of a baby girl asked the soldiers for help. As the story unfolded in front of these soldiers, they realized that this little girl had a slim chance for survival unless she received treatment - somewhere with advanced facilities. Members of the guard unit contacted their congressional representatives, were able to get a doctor in Atlanta to help for free, get free airfare to Atlanta (the portion that was not on a C-130), and a non-profit in Atlanta that will pick up all the other expenses. AND, Charles Glatz, consul for the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait got clearance for these folks to fly over Kuwait without needing visas and such (yeah, I know, FLT LVL says ya don't really touch the ground, who needs a visa!?). Here's to the crew from the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, 738th Expeditionary Air Squadron, that were to have a day off yet turned right around and fired up their C-130 to get the baby and her family on their way!

Another great story coming out of Tikrit, Iraq, is the capture of 23 suspected terrorists in three separate raids in two days. And you might say, "But, hey, the teams capturing these terrorists weren't Americans but were Iraqis!" That's very true. And the US Military has been working very hard to get the Iraqi Army trained and ready to protect themselves! This is what we need to do to get freedom to pervade the country of Iraq. What is even better is if you read the article, locals turned the terrorists in to the Iraqi Army - so, they went in and scooped 'em up! Hats off to soldiers from Iraq's 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Army Division and 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division! They netted a Ba'ath Party leader who was behind many attacks. They also scooped up terrorists believed to be responsible for IED and small arms attacks. The best quote from the whole story,
"None of the Soldiers involved in the two days of operations were injured as they continued to remove those responsible for acts of terrorism and violence against the civilians and security forces in the area."
Uh-huh, it gets better and better. Just stay on the positive and keep the pressure on. Yes, there are setbacks and sometimes bad people get lucky. But to win a conflict of this magnitude requires fortitude, perseverance, and hope - OK, mix that in with a little bit of Blackhawks and A-10s for good measure!

So, for the last wrap-up of 2005, here we go!

The GOOD = 12
Combined Raids Result in 23 Captures -- 12/31/2005
Weapons Seized, two Suspects Detained -- 12/31/2005
Air Force Evacuates Baby Noor From Iraq -- 12/31/2005
ISF Rescues Kidnapping Victim, Arrests Three -- 12/30/2005
US CENTAF Provides Pakistan Aid -- 12/30/2005
Coalition Forces Transfer of Authority -- 12/30/2005
Iraqi Security Forces Take Charge Against Terrorism -- 12/30/2005
Afghan Interior Ministry Selecting General Officers -- 12/30/2005
Teamwork Clearing Ramadi Streets -- 12/29/2005
First Battle Space Transition in Nineveh Province -- 12/29/2005
Citizens of Paktika Province Welcome New Road -- 12/29/2005
Joint Statement by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George Casey -- 12/27/2005

The SETBACKS = 0!!!
None, and what a way to end the YEAR of 2005!!!

None here too, Wooo-Hooo!

Stay Tuned to ...

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