Archive for the 'Animals in War' Category



More On Animals, Cops, Logistics And Survival

BY Herschel Smith
9 months ago

As a followup to my article Note To Cops And Survivalists: The World Is Full Of Animals, Embrace It!, Mountain Guerrilla posted a piece on animals and logistics (via WRSA), although he didn’t link back to my article.

Mosby spends some time rehearsing an Army field manual on animals and logistics, with some good suggestions for the proper use of horses.  Then he poses this.

Do you know how to ride a horse? I don’t mean sit on a horse in the lesson arena either. Have you ever ridden a horse across country, through the brush? Across steep terrain. Like I said, I’m not an expert, but I’ve done both of these enough to know…and witness…untrained people fall off horses all the fucking time in rough terrain, seldom with healthy results. Have you ever actually sat on a horse ALL day long? I helped some neighbors pack a camp into the Bob Marshall Wilderness area a couple of years ago. I’d always wanted to get into the backcountry of the “Bob,” and it seemed like a much easier alternative to walking in. What would have been a two-day round trip for them turned into a four-day trip because, after sitting on a horse for 16 hours straight on the ride in? I literally, could not walk the next two days, let alone get back on the horse to ride out. It was not pretty, at all…and I’m in pretty good condition.

Check.  All of the above.  I have fallen off, been thrown off, bitten, run over, kicked, and just about anything that can happen on or around a horse.  I have ridden horses all day long, and I do mean all … day … long, and gotten on to do it again the next day.  And the next day.  And the next day.  I have fed them, herded them, doctored them, and assisted them to mate.  If you’ve never witnessed horses mating first hand (and I’m not talking about watching the Discovery Channel), it can be a violent affair.  I’ve ridden with saddles and then also (in my much younger years) bareback over mountain tops along narrow trails while running the herd).  The hardest ride was bareback and (on a dare) without a bridle, only the halter.

From the age of fourteen and beyond into my early twenties, I worked weekends and summers at a Christian camp above Marietta, South Carolina named Awanita Valley (and Awanita Ranch in Traveler’s Rest).  We trained and trail rode horses, fed them and cared for them, hiked the trails and cleared them of snakes and yellow jacket nests (have you ever been on a horse when it came up on a yellow jacket nest?).

When we weren’t doing that, we were cutting wood, hauling supplies, digging ditches, and baling hay.  My boys did the same thing, and Daniel later (before the Marine Corps) worked for Joey Macrae in Anderson, South Carolina, an extraordinary professional horseman, breaking and training horses.  I have ridden in the rain, blazing sun, and snow.  I have seen my son Joshua and his horse buried up to his thighs in snow, and watched him ride the horse up from sinking in the drift and stay on him while keeping the horse and him safe.

Why is all (or any) of this important?  Because as I tried to convey in my earlier post, it is critical to have an understanding and mastery over animals, especially if what we think will happen in America really happens.  And Mountain Guerrilla is right about logistics too.  But I’m not so sure that the Army was the first to field this idea.  See my article on Marines and Mules.  The Small Wars Journal had discussion on the importance of animals to logistics long ago.

The problem is that the Marine Corps has forgotten the lessons, and I’m afraid that the Army will never really take them to heart.  The modern U.S. military is techno-weighted down, with gadgetry, doohickeys, and reliance on constant logistics.  The so-called big dog is a symptom of this sickness, as is the huge budget for DARPA every year.  Truthfully, I think this is all related to the effete pressure for gender neutrality in the military.

But don’t you forget these lessons.  Plan ahead.  Learn how to make fire, how to purify water, how to fight, how to make your way around terrain, and how to navigate with maps and a compass (rather than using GPS like the liar Marine Corps officer candidates who were found out during officer’s school).

And learn animals.  Your life will be better for it.  This goes for cops too.  Lina Inverse makes an interesting point.

It just occurred to me that this puppycide policy is extremely unwise, because the desensitization works both ways. Every time a thug in uniform needlessly kills a family’s dog, that family in turn is that much more ready to return the favor someday….

It’s what Mike Vanderboegh calls losing the mandate of heaven.  At one time in our history, constables were respected and admired.  Children wanted to talk to them, show them respect, and even be like them.  Nowadays, with enough rifles pointed at women and children while screaming obscenities, with enough dead animals, with enough abuse and danger from cops, it may not be long before the people turn on cops.

If you’re a cop, you don’t want that to happen.  Believe me.  You don’t want that to happen.  You want to maintain the “mandate of heaven.”  If you lose it, you’ve lost everything.

Make sure to drop by Mountain Guerrilla and read his informed article.

Skinny Marines and Mules

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 4 months ago

CBS Reporter Lara Logan observes of the Marines currently engaged in the Helmand Province:

These are the skinniest Marines I have ever seen, and I’ve been in some rough places with Marines, like Ramadi in Iraq, where more Americans died than any other part of the country.

But here, I stare in amazement — and some horror — at the uniforms hanging off their lean bodies. There isn’t an inch of excess anywhere. Every uniform is worn thin and faded, hanging off wily frames that still manage to haul over a hundred pounds of gear and weapons and patrol for miles.

These Marines have what they need to fight — and just enough to survive.

They don’t seem to care. I don’t hear them complaining or even talking about it. They make do with what they have and get on with it. It’s as if they don’t even think about it much anymore.

This is why Marine infantry is a young man’s work, not old men, and not women.  And this is also why the same tactic used by the CIA in Afghanistan against the Russians – supplying mules to the Taliban – will also be used against the Taliban now by supplying them to the Marines.

Prior:

Scenes from Operation Khanjar II

Concerning Marines and Mules

Infantry: A Young Man’s Work

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Concerning Marines and Mules

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

Yes, there is many a Marine NCO out there who after reading the title of this post, is asking himself “what’s the difference?”  Well, Starbuck at the Small Wars Journal Blog has written about the recent Marine Corps training in mule handling as a means of transport of heavy supplies, including ammunition, ordnance, and the other things that weigh the Marine down while patrolling and travelling.

With 75 pounds of military gear cinched on her furry back, Annie was stubborn the whole way.

The two Marines assigned to her pushed, pulled and sweet-talked her up the steep, twisting trail on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.

“C’mon, girl, you can make it,” Lance Cpl. Chad Campbell whispered in her ear.

“Only one more hill,” promised Lance Cpl. Cameron Cross as he shoved Annie’s muscular hindquarters.

The red-hued donkey snorted, nibbled on grass and let loose that distinctive braying, which begins with a loud nasal inhalation and concludes with an even louder blast of deep-throated protest.

She also dropped green, foul-smelling clumps, which the Marines carefully sidestepped.

On the rocky, uneven path, Annie never stumbled. A good donkey, Marines say, knows three steps ahead where it wants to walk.

For Campbell and Cross, the day with Annie could be a preview of days to come. The two may soon deploy to Afghanistan, where donkeys and mules have been the preferred mode of military transport for centuries — and remain so.

With the U.S. shifting its focus from the deserts of Iraq to the mountains of Central Asia, this course on pack animals at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center has become critical to the new mission.

I just have one bone to pick.  I dealt with this almost four months ago in Marines, Animals and Counterinsurgency.  I also linked and embedded the video of the Big Dog, a mechanized set of processors, servos and other components that will malfunction, have no power when the batteries degrade or die, and require constant maintenance due to dust, mud, and overuse.  Brandon Friedman at the SWJ has it about right.

The BigDog seems pretty ridiculous. We could probably buy a mule for every infantry squad in Afghanistan and feed it for a year for well under the price of one BigDog. How does the BigDog work in the rain? Can it make a water crossing? How many batteries does it require? How heavy are they? How are they charged? Who’s trained to do maintenance on it? Will he or she have to accompany the BigDog on missions? I really love the stealthy buzzing sound it makes, too.

Yes, the thing sounds like a million angry Africanized bees.  I am all in favor of weight reduction for warriors, and have constantly advocated R&D for ESAPI plates to reduce body armor weight.  But the low hanging fruit has been picked, and any further weight reductions will come at high expense and hard work.

I can’t escape the feeling that some of the drive at DARPA to build mechanical beasts to support logistics has to do with the eradication or neutralization of gender differences.  We have dealt with this issue before in:

Marines, Beasts and Water

Scenes from Operation Khanjar II

Where we discussed the fact that Marine infantry and Army Special Forces don’t allow females to occupy billets.  Females have different PT requirements than males, and suffered an inordinately high number of lower extremity injuries compared to males in the Russian Army while they conducted their campaign in Afghanistan.

When the average Marine Infantryman leaves the line at greater than 120 pounds, it’s obvious that gender differences become pronounced, as do differences in conditioning and training.  If one supposes that this load is reduced to 90 – 100 pounds, how does that allow for the eradication of gender differences?  In fact, suppose that the Marine is only carrying his body armor, hydration system, weapon (let’s suppose a SAW), ammunition (let’s suppose several drums of ammunition), and a few other essentials for a daily patrol.  How does a reduction in the weight to 60 – 70 pounds eradicate gender differences when the Marine needs to sprint from compound to compound in order to avoid sniper fire?

As for the mules and donkeys, I have previously described my view of what fathers should be doing with their sons.  My Marine knew how to train Quarter horses and care for dogs before he ever went into the Marines because I taught him.  He eventually became better than me.  Every Marine should know something about how to handle dogs, mules, horses, and other animals, and should also know something about the anatomy of animals (e.g., how do you prepare a snake to eat after you have killed it, how do you care for horses in the absence of a farrier, and so on).

As we pointed out before, the discussions about animals in the Small Wars Manual doesn’t seem so far fetched in this day and age, does it?  The Afghanistan terrain and climate that would kill most machines is ready made for beasts of burden.

In summary, weight reduction ought to be pursued with available funds to reduce the burden on the Infantryman.  But Marine infantry is for young men, and the push to eradicate gender differences, if that’s what this is about, makes the DoD and DARPA look stupid.  Marine Infantrymen must be males for a whole host of very good reasons.  The push to eradicate gender considerations should stop, as the money is needed elsewhere.  All Marines should know something about the proper care of animals, and there is no excuse for leaving this out of pre-deployment training.  The Marines aren’t so busy that they can’t rotate through a week long course with another Marine instructor who has himself been more thoroughly trained on animals.

Seriously.  What could possibly be controversial about what I have said?

Marines, Animals and Counterinsurgency

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 9 months ago

In More on Battle Space Weight we covered the almost frantic search for pounds as the fact became increasingly clear that the weight Soldiers and Marines carried in Iraq was heavy, but perhaps even prohibitive in Afghanistan.  Exhaustion, lower extremity injuries and lack of mobility mark the heavy weight our warriors carry today.  One possible remedy is the Big Dog, the otherwise cool machine that sounds like a million angry bees.  Here it is one more time.

To our observation that the warrior today carries at least 32 more pounds than in WWII due exclusively to body armor, commenter mwc33 responded:

Isn’t the other big difference between World War II and today the load our enemies are carrying? German and Japanese troops carried comparable combat loads; insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan don’t – and the disparity in mobility in Iraq’s urban environment has to be multiplied in mountainous and other difficult terrain.

Those 32 pounds of body armor are a big pain in the a$$ and everything possible should be done to lighten them. But while “big dog” may be kinda dumb, even with the lightest possible armor we’re still carrying 40 -70 more pounds than the bad guys; something has to be figured out to lighten the load – not just because of the weight itself, but because our combat loads can straitjacket us with TTPs and can make us predictable in the eyes of the enemy.

Outstanding point!  It’s not just that we’re carrying heavier loads, it’s also that the insurgent isn’t carrying any at all due to the fact that he lives among the population.  So even if the Big Dog works, what to do?

Animals.

The taxpayer has spent billions to make sure America’s fighting forces have the most high-tech modes of transportation.

But in a country like Afghanistan where the enemy hides in mountain lairs, where there are few foot paths, and no roads at all, sometimes a more primitive conveyance makes more sense.

And so soldiers and Marines possibly headed to Afghanistan were at the Animal Packers Course at the Hawthorne (Calif.) Army Ammunition Depot learning how to use mules, donkeys and horses to pack water, ammunition, weapons and medical supplies.

“With vehicles, you have to worry about things like lubrication, tires and fuel,” said Marine Staff. Sgt. Tyler McDaniel. “With animals, you have to think about stuff like shoes and grooming.”

True enough, there may be a call for Farriers in the Marines.  Wonder if that will become a billet?  At any rate, having trained them before, I am partial to quarter horses, and while on their back I have put them in some precarious and dangerous places and positions on the trail.  They are sure-footed and reliable.

But whether horses or mules, the solution may be a millennium old.  Well now.  It looks as if all of that discussion about the health of transport animals in the Small Wars Manual isn’t so dated and irrelevant after all.


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