The ‘Stan

First-Strike-RationThe deadline for ISAF personnel to depart Afghanistan is allegedly 31 DEC 14. As the drawdown gathers steam, a lot of amenities currently available to deployed troops will disappear (including a few that probably never needed to be there in the first place). Ethnic food, food specialty nights, some hot chow meals entirely – it’s all slowly going away. You have no doubt seen the outraged posts and comments on social media from people whose idea of supporting the troops is sharing a picture or someone else’s outraged post, comment or picture about our troops having to miss meals – an inaccuracy, in large part, because the meals in question aren’t being denied, they are being replaced with MREs or UGRs.

Apparently not everyone understands the concept of “tooth to tail”.

“Ye Gods. They gave a war and garrison came.” Nate M.

“You’re not going to believe this s&!t Dave. Less than forty minutes from where we were eating MREs and showering once a week they had surf and turf night every Friday. Steak and lobster. Once a week. We were glad to get boxes of frozen corndogs. It’s like two different worlds.” Chad G.

In any case, MREs will be coming back in a larger numbers than deployed troops have seen in recent years. Part of this is due to an infrastructure that allows hot chow to be served with far greater frequency than any previous war in history. Part of it is because MREs are actually more expensive than a number of other options, including among other things boxed nasties. This is euphemistically referred to as returning to “expeditionary standards” and unfortunately it’s a necessary part of the drawdown. It will begin in the more outlying locations (those that had any amenities in the first place) and will slowly affect larger and larger installations. Presumably they’ll eventually pull out the ice cream stands and burger huts too.

The original article refers to as MREs as “dreaded”. I wasn’t sure that was a completely accurate term..then I remembered the old egg and cheese omelet packages (not the more recent #4s, the older ones) and thought…maybe dreaded isn’t such a bad word after all.

Brig. Gen. Steven Shapiro advises the hot food reductions must be in place by 01 October.

More here: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/04/03/as-us-packs-up-return-of-dreaded-mres.html?ESRC=eb.nl

1stCAV Soldier eats MRE 1_1002640880_3AsJD-L-1_2007 released army pic

(On an only vaguely related note, this will make troops feel better: http://www.duffelblog.com/2013/03/military-quietly-phasing-out-horse-meat-mres/)

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ADS Inc., recently released its entry into the Army’s Camouflage Improvement Program, but it doesn’t seem likely that we will see all the players in the competition until much later in the game. Kit Up!,  Soldier Systems Daily and Army Times  have been beating our heads against the Army’s door for a look at all of the patterns the service selected for further testing as part of the final phase of the camo improvement program. PEO Soldier has decided it doesn’t have the legal authority to release the five patterns.

The Army is letting the individual companies decide whether they want to unveil their patterns. So far, the ADS Transitional A pattern and Kryptek Inc.’s Highlander pattern are the only contenders to come out of the shadows. Crye Precision LLC, the company that created MultiCam, was also selected as a finalist, but the company is keeping its new pattern hidden for now. The one government pattern selected was developed by Army scientists at Natick, but service officials still haven’t released it.

The Army launched the camouflage effort in response to a June-2009 inquiry by Pennsylvania’s Democratic Rep. John Murtha, who was then chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Before he died in February 2010, Murtha pushed the service to look for a better camouflage pattern after receiving complaints from sergeants about the Army Universal Camouflage Pattern’s poor performance in the warzone. The Army ended up selecting MultiCam to replace the UCP in Afghanistan in early 2010.

The Army is scheduled to evaluate the finalist patterns in field trials that will likely last until spring 2013. But with defense spending on a steep decline,  it seems hard to believe the service will shell out the money for new camouflage uniforms.

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Marines in Afghanistan Urinating on Taliban Fighter's Bodies

I got a call today from the local NBC affiliate to come in and give a Marine’s perspective on the video that surfaced of the Marines in Afghanistan urinating on dead Taliban fighters. So, I headed in to the studio completely conflicted. [click to continue…]

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PAS 13 Thermal by Raytheon

Looks like our friends at PEO soldier are getting it right with their fusion training course.  The fusion comes from integrating training with Night Vision Goggles (NVG’s), the IR pointer and Thermal weapon sights. The AN/PSQ-20 Enhanced Night Vision Goggle, AN/PAS-13C, D and E Thermal Weapons Sight and AN/PEQ-15 Advanced Target Pointer Illuminator Aiming Light are all in play here. [click to continue…]

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Australian “diggers” fighting over in Afghanistan are facing the same problems as US troops on the durability of their trousers.

The Diggers are generally happy with the Multicam clothing. It is more comfortable and more suited to mixed terrain than previous combat clothing, but the pants with stretch sections and built-in knee pads are not up to the job in many cases.

They are tearing along seams where stretch fabric around the crutch meets non-stretch fabric and the rips are then spreading across the cloth itself. Some soldiers can no longer wear them, others have patched them up and some are happy to wear shredded pants.

The Australian media is trying to pump the idea that this is a problem with the “American made” products. As you all know, these ensembles are made by Crye precision.

Australian papers report:

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Aussies preparing to deploy to Afghanistan are now being issued a pelvic protection system (read, bomb-resistant skivvies). (Warning: if you read the comments under the original Australian article, you’ll find the Aussies commenting there run the same strange gamut of fiercely patriotic to pro-troop-but-anti-war to just plain monumentally stupid you find in US citizenry.)

Rolling out with our Aussie mates.

Based on the ballistic protective underwear currently worn by Brit soldiers, it is part of the package developed by Australia’s Diggerworks and is expected to be issued by early- to mid-October and should worn by Australian troops by November. They are also currently working on a soft armor ballistic groin piece to be worn over the Diggers’ combat uniforms (who as Kit Up! has reported are now wearing multicam) for increased protection against larger pieces of shrapnel. The new ballistic silk undies cost $55 each and are part of a $5 million dollar overhaul for deploying Aussie troops.

Diggerworks is also the organization responsible for the Tiered Body Armor System, which came out back in January of this year and is now by Aussies working outside the wire in Afghanistan (such as those deployed as Mentoring Task Force Three). Think along the lines of Gruntworks; it’s a “specialist team” of combat soldiers, scientists and engineers tasked with developing and delivering new equipment to Diggers in Afghanistan. This is a Good Thing, as we have a great liking for Aussies (except for the ones we made the mistake of drinking with when we were down there).

TBAS is said to be lighter, more comfortable and better designed for soldiers to move into shooting positions than the “Modular Combat Body Armor System” that preceded it. The unit we trained with down under had not yet received their TBAS when we were there, but e-mail conversations since seem to indicate they like it. We’ll soon see how they enjoy their new underwear (that does not mean we’re asking for pictures, fellas).

Oh, and if you’re interested, watch A Careful War. It’s about Diggers in Afghanistan last year. Sometimes folks need reminded we’re getting real fighting help from parts of the Coalition, from guys who pay for it the same way our personnel do, and from that perspective we encourage you to pass it on (especially to those folks who remain at the mall, while the rest of us are at war).

aussies_tbas20110724adf8114832_129.JPG20110728adf8114832_.113JPGAUSCAM was hard to get in our size.Prepping for a patrol with our Aussie mates.

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In a reality-meets-sci-fi story, the New York Times reports today that several cities across the country are using computer programs to predict crime hotspots and send police to nab crook before anyone has broken the law.

The arrests were routine. Two women were taken into custody after they were discovered peering into cars in a downtown parking garage in Santa Cruz, Calif. One woman was found to have outstanding warrants; the other was carrying illegal drugs.

But the presence of the police officers in the garage that Friday afternoon in July was anything but ordinary: They were directed to the parking structure by a computer program that had predicted that car burglaries were especially likely there that day.

Sure it’s like the movie Minority Report but without the precogs. A computer program takes previous crime data, analyzes current outbreaks and with a little pixie dust, predicts where crimes are likely to happen at a future time.

Santa Cruz’s method is more sophisticated than most. Based on models for predicting aftershocks from earthquakes, it generates projections about which areas and windows of time are at highest risk for future crimes by analyzing and detecting patterns in years of past crime data. The projections are recalibrated daily, as new crimes occur and updated data is fed into the program.

On the day the women were arrested, for example, the program identified the approximately one-square-block area where the parking garage is situated as one of the highest-risk locations for car burglaries.

So my question is: how much of this “science” was derived from military analysis of insurgent networks and, on the flip side, how can something like this be useful in the COIN and CT environment? Seems to me it could work well with predicting IED emplacement, especially since we have about 10 years of data in Afghanistan to feed into a predictive and anticipatory model.

In this case, a tool like this could be used to emplace a sniper team over a route or run clearance in one area instead of another. In a COIN environment, we might be able to use this to predict insurgent “shadow government” takeovers and strong-arming, or predict infiltration routes from Pakistan and times of ingress.

Very intriguing … and we don’t need to maintain a team hairless psychics in pink ooze to do it.

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