Archive for the 'Marine Corps' Category



Lessons To Draw From Afghanistan (Or, How Obama Really Lost The Campaign)

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 11 months ago

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, writing for The Washington Post, excerpts his book, beginning his article with the following indictment.

The day after he arrived in Kabul in June 2009, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, then the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, gathered his senior officers to discuss the state of the war. They barraged him with PowerPoint slides — the frequency of Taliban attacks and their impact; the number of local security forces; and an evaluation of the Afghan government’s effectiveness in each province. The metrics were grim, the conclusion obvious: The Americans and their NATO allies were losing.

The part of the country that concerned McChrystal most was the city of Kandahar and the eponymous province that encompasses it. Founded by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C., Kandahar city has long been the symbolic homeland of ethnic Pashtuns. In the 1990s, just as every other band of conquerors had done for the past thousand years, the Taliban used it as a springboard from which they captured Kabul and much of the rest of the nation. If the Americans were going to retake Afghanistan, they needed to start with Kandahar.

But the Pentagon had not sent most of the new U.S. forces that had arrived in Afghanistan to Kandahar. The first wave — a Marine brigade comprising more than half of the 17,000 additional troops President Obama authorized in February 2009 — had been dispatched to neighboring Helmand province, which McChrystal and his top advisers considered of far lower strategic significance.

“Can someone tell me why the Marines were sent to Helmand?” the incredulous McChrystal asked his officers.

The answer — not fully known at the time to McChrystal and his officers — would reveal the dysfunction of the U.S. war effort: a reliance on understaffed NATO partners for crucial intelligence, a misjudgment of Helmand’s importance to Afghanistan’s security, and tribal politics within the Pentagon that led the Marines to insist on confining themselves to a far less important patch of desert.

The consequences were profound: By devoting so many troops to Helmand instead of Kandahar, the U.S. military squandered more than a year of the war. Had the initial contingent of Marines been sent to Kandahar, it could have obviated the need for a full 30,000-troop surge later that year, or it could have granted commanders the flexibility to combat insurgent havens in eastern Afghanistan much sooner, allowing them to meet Obama’s eventual withdrawal deadlines without objection.

Instead, U.S. forces will begin heading home this summer with much of the east in disarray and security improvements in Kandahar still tenuous. Helmand is faring considerably better, but the gains there are having only a modest impact on Afghanistan’s overall stability.

Without the diversion into Helmand, U.S. troops could have pushed into more critical areas of the country before a clear majority of Americans concluded that the war was no longer worth fighting.

Analysis & Commentary

This is horse shit.  Obama and McChrystal have culpability, and we’ll get to that in a moment.  But the tale being spun here makes it sound like a few more sprinkles of magic counterinsurgency pixie dust and the whole thing would have gone much easier.  Perhaps unknown to many who didn’t follow the warp and woof of the campaign, this issue about why the U.S. Marines went to the Helmand Province is not a new debate.  Neither is the story that McChrystal was presented with the decision to send most of the Marines to Helmand as a fait accompli.  Logistical and institutional inertia made it impossible to change things.  Or at least, that’s the story.

Rajiv is telling a tall tale, and the issue was much more complicated than he hints.  I discussed this almost three years ago, and the same thing is true today that was true when I penned the defense of Marines in the Helmand Province.  McChrystal and the Pentagon were under the influence, even control, of the advocates of population-centric counterinsurgency.

Bring stability operations to the population centers, and good governance, goods, services, participation in government on the local level, redress of grievances, and so on, and it will render the outlier Provinces and lower population centers irrelevant, with insurgents unable to topple the central government from those far flung places.

But recall, this is the same Stanley McChrystal that allowed David Rodriguez to micromanage the Marines on their way through Marjah.  “Less than six hours before Marines commenced a major helicopter-borne assault in the town of Marja, Rodriguez’s headquarters issued an order requiring that his operations center clear any airstrike that was on a housing compound in the area but not sought in self-defense.”

Killing the enemy wasn’t a priority.  Rajiv even says so later in the article, exclaiming “the military’s counterinsurgency strategy was supposed to place troops near civilian population centers to protect residents from insurgents, not chase bad guys in the desert or remote valleys.”  But arguing for doing just that, I observed that the insurgents who destabilized Kandahar and other areas of Afghanistan came from Helmand, Kunar, Nuristan and other far flung places where we needed to chase and kill them.

In fact, the larger scale Marine Corps operations in Helmand were predated by intensive fights by the 24th MEU in Garmsir where they killed some 400+ Taliban fighters.  The hue and cry of the people at that time had nothing to do with wells, schooling, governance or anything of the sort.  “We are grateful for the security.  We don’t need your help, just security.”  Similar words were spoken at a meeting in Ghazni with the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan: ““We don’t want food, we don’t want schools, we want security!” said one woman council member.”

Corporal William Ash, a squad leader from 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), along with a stray dog lead a patrol through a city in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. When the platoon moved into the area, they found two stray dogs, and each time the Marines head out on patrol the dogs are right at the Marines’ side.

In fact, I remarked at one point how ironic it was that McChrystal, who was so concerned about inadvertent casualties that his ROE wouldn’t even allow illumination rounds for night time combat, and who wanted separation of the insurgents from the population in order to engage, was so unpersuaded by the Taliban invitation to join them in a fair fight in Now Zad, where they had completely run off the population and were using the place as an R&R haven.

So did the Marines have enough men to engage Kandahar and Helmand at the same time in order to prevent having to play whack-a-mole counterinsurgency?  Recall that while I was the only blogger at the time covering and commenting on Now Zad that while the men there were losing legs, arms and their lives, living in hobbit holes two or three Marines to a hole, I could not recall any time in the last four years driving across Camp Lejeune when there were so many barracks being built, so many Marines in the states, and so many units living in multiple different locations on the base because there wasn’t enough housing for them in the same barracks.

Recall that I also said that there were Marines who had finished entire periods of enlistment who, while spending time on wasteful MEUs floating across the seas and stopping in every port to become drunk, had neither been to either Iraq nor Afghanistan in the entire four years.

Yes, there were enough Marines to have pulled this off.  A Regimental Combat Team or two could have locked down Kandahar like they did in Fallujah in 2007, conducted census operations, and found and killed the Taliban fighters.  Kandahar could have been essentially cleared with enough focus and effort.

But McChrystal’s strategy not only abandoned far flung Provinces to focus on population centers … leaving the roads to the insurgents just like the Russians did … it abandoned the Pech River Valley in Kunar and Nuristan, along with the entire Hindu Kush mountains.  Every military strategist now acknowledges that this was an error, and we are back into Nuristan.

But only for a while.  After all, we have given a date for withdrawal.  With obfuscation like Rajiv’s article, it’s easy to forget that the administration which began its tenure with a commitment to “the good war” saw that commitment evaporate in the face of hard questions.  What was an effective campaign slogan soon became a byline, and rather than meet the military needs for a full scale surge, we saw a half-ass surge that gave them only some of what had been requested.

At the same time, an end date was set, with the enemy now knowing just how long it would take to run out the clock.  Puerile national security advisers turned Afghanistan into the WTF? war, and men who gave so much in this awful region of the world now see no reason for the loss, and are simply happy to have brought their men home.

There were many mistakes in the campaign: a half-ass surge, a childish national security adviser, McChrystal having surrounded himself with juveniles, overbearing rules of engagement, under-resourcing, strategy that could have been created with a random number generator any given day, poor communication to the American people as to the reasons for the campaign, failure to hold Pakistan accountable for harboring the enemy, loving up on corrupt politicians like Hamid Karzai and his brother Wali Karzai, sending billions of dollars to enlarge and ensure the corruption, and on and on the list goes.

But pointing a finger at the hard work of the U.S. Marines in Now Zad, Musa Qala, Sangin, Garmsir and other places in Helmand isn’t just unfair.  It’s scurrilous and dishonest.   The administration bears the responsibility for the failure.  Campaign slogans aren’t just word games, they are promises to be kept by men in authority and power.  The Soldiers and Marines who have perished demand better of our leaders.

Marines In Afghanistan Told To Disarm Prior To Panetta Speech

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

From MSNBC:

In an unusual move, around 200 U.S. Marines were asked to leave their weapons outside the tent where U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was set to speak during his trip to Afghanistan on Wednesday.

Although the military said the order was not given in response to the Sunday’s shooting of 16 Afghan civilians allegedly by an American soldier, it possibly underlined how high tensions were running after the incident.

Major General Mark Gurganus told reporters at Camp Leatherneck that he had given the order because the two dozen Afghan soldiers also there were unarmed and he did not want to treat them differently.

“You’ve got one of the most important people in the world in the room,” he told reporters, dismissing concerns related to the shooting. “This is not a big deal.”

“All I know is I was told to get the weapons out,” Sergeant Major Brandon Hall told The New York Times. Asked why, he replied, “Somebody got itchy, that’s all I’ve got to say. Somebody got itchy; we just adjust.”

Panetta’s visit comes after Sunday’s shooting that left 16 Afghan civilians dead, including nine children. Some of the bodies were reportedly burned. The suspect, who hasn’t been named, is in U.S. custody.

According to the newspaper, the Marines, who were waiting to hear Panetta’s speech, were abruptly told by their commander to get up, leave their weapons, including M16 and M-4 automatic rifles and 9 mm pistols, outside and return unarmed. Hall said he was acting on orders from superiors, the Times reported.

Disarming in this way was noteworthy, according to NBC News’ chief Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski.

He told NBC’s Chuck Todd that the move was “highly unusual” and that Marines in a combat zone are always supposed to have weapons within their reach.

Without going into too much detail, what the Marines were told to do violates everything about Marine Corps doctrine, from top to bottom, concerning not only self protection but protection and security that Marines provide to other Marines.  It runs counter to what they are taught in Boot Camp, School of Infantry, and as a fleet Marine.  And to have 200 Marines completely disarmed in a combat zone is worse than just stolid or ignorant.  It is immoral.

But as for Panetta, let’s be clear.  If his plane were to crash on the way back to the states, requiring us to find a new Secretary of Defense, the world would not come to an end.  Time moves on, as does daily events and decisions.  This is true of me, readers, and even “one of the most important people (sic) in the world.”  But doctrine is for little people. While the Marines were armed Panetta was in one of the safest places on earth – i.e., around 200 armed Marines.  With the Marines disarmed, Panetta unwittingly placed himself and his entourage in mortal danger.

The only analogue I can think of is new gun owners.  If they cannot bring themselves to become trained and practice and trust in their muzzle and trigger discipline, then perhaps they shouldn’t own guns.  If the Secretary of Defense is nervous about being around firearms, perhaps he should have just stayed home and avoided this photo-event.  It would have been better for him and the Marines.

Marine MEDEVAC

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

In Michael Yon Gets What’s Coming To Him, I discussed Yon’s latest concerning the issue of MEDEVAC in Afghanistan and whether airborne vehicles should be required to both (a) carry a red cross, and (b) be unarmed.  The reader can review what I said concerning this issue, but I pointed out that “The U.S. Marine Corps doesn’t do business this way.”

Now comes Matthew Burden at Blackfive to respond to Michael (and I guess, me too).  I won’t rehearse what he says about the issue, and if he feels like it, Michael Yon can respond to Matt’s problems with the issue.  But of me, Matt says the following.

The Army is the only Service that is dedicated to this essential mission. In fact, other uninformed bloggers claim that the Marines don’t do Medevac.  That part is correct.  However, to assume that’s because “The U.S. Marine Corps doesn’t do business this way” is incorrect.  That is because the Army provides that service for the Marines, Navy, and Air Force.  Just like the Marines don’t do CSAR – because the USAF has the lead on that.  Not because they don’t do business that way (bold his).

Well, goodness.  So now I don’t warrant a note (and Matt has my e-mail address), and my name doesn’t even deserve honorable mention.  I am now just an “uninformed blogger.”  This is extremely bad form.  I expect such things from some of the bloggers at Blackfive, but I had not expected this of Matt.

I never made the claim that the Marines don’t do MEDEVAC.  I just made the claim that they didn’t do it that way.  Matt has conflated two issues, i.e., MEDEVAC in Afghanistan with MEDEVAC generally.  I also never made the claim that the Marines do MEDEVAC in Afghanistan.  But the Marines did in fact do MEDEVAC in Iraq.

Let’s rehearse just a bit.  These are some of the things I already know.  I am just linking and pointing them out so that you do too.  Here is a Marine Corps CH-46 (Sea Knight) performing MEDEVAC in Fallujah, Iraq.

Did you see any red crosses?  Here is another MEDEVAC.

And as for my own personal knowledge of this issue?  Do you recall this picture?


This was when my own son had to be MEDEVAC’d out of Fallujah in 2007 (this turned out to be a leg injury that didn’t require his return to the States, and after a week or two of light duty, he was with his fire team again).  He is being carried out, the Marine on the far left is carrying his SAW.

The bird he caught out of there?  Why, it was a CH-46, Sea Knight.  By the way, I have strongly recommended delay in retirement of this magnificent aircraft, since it is the only platform from which the Marines can fast rope (the V-22 cannot fulfill that function).  But then, that may be beside the point, and oh well, I guess I am just being an “informed blogger” again.  Sorry to bore you with the facts.

This helicopter – you know – the one which evacuated my own son – didn’t have a red cross, and was armed.  But just to make sure that my memory doesn’t fail me and to remind you that I did my fact checking, I called this Marine yesterday to make sure.  He said, “All Marine MEDEVAC was done with armed helicopters, and none of them had red crosses on the side.  Of course, it isn’t that way Stateside, but that’s not what you’re asking.”

So there.  I guess that closes the case for me – again.  The Marine Corps and Army do MEDEVAC differently.  Like I said, I expected better of Matt than this.  But then, that’s not a mistake I’ll make again.  How sad.

U.S. Marine Amphibious Assault On America

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

From Breitbart:

With beach landings, 25 naval ships and an air assault, the United States and eight other countries are staging a major amphibious exercise on the US East Coast this week, fighting a fictional enemy that bears more than a passing resemblance to Iran.

After a decade dominated by ground wars against insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, the drill dubbed Bold Alligator is “the largest amphibious exercise conducted by the fleet in the last 10 years,” said Admiral John Harvey, head of US Fleet Forces Command.

About 20,000 US forces, plus hundreds of British, Dutch and French troops as well as liaison officers from Italy, Spain, New Zealand and Australia are taking part in the exercise along the Atlantic coast off Virginia and North Carolina.

An American aircraft carrier, amphibious assault ships including France’s Mistral, Canadian mine sweepers and dozens of aircraft have been deployed for the drill, which began on January 30 and runs through mid-February.

Monday was “D-day” for Bold Alligator, with US Marines stepping on to the beach from hovercraft, near the Camp Lejeune base in North Carolina.

The American military, mindful that Marines have spent most of their time in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan since 2001, said the goal was “to revitalize, refine, and strengthen fundamental amphibious capabilities and reinforce the Navy and Marine Corps role as ‘fighters from the sea.'”

With defense spending coming under pressure after years of unlimited growth, the Marines — which devoted a brigade to the exercise — also are anxious to protect funding for their traditional role as an amphibious force.

The exercise scenario takes place in a mythical region known as “Treasure Coast,” with a country called Garnet, a theocracy, invading its neighbor to the north, Amberland, which calls for international help to repel the attack.

Garnet has mined several harbors and deployed anti-ship missiles along the coast.

The threat of mines, anti-ship missiles and small boats in coastal waters conjure up Iran’s naval forces, but the commanders overseeing the drill, Admiral Harvey and Marine Lieutenant General Dennis Hejlik, say the scenario is not based on any particular country.

Good grief.  Just to be clear for the thousandth time on the future of the U.S. Marine Corps, the Marines aren’t going to conduct a large scale, sea-based, amphibious assault and forcible entry to Iran.  It would be ridiculous to believe so.  In fact, the Marines aren’t going to conduct a large scale, sea-based amphibious assault and forcible entry anywhere else, ever.  Marine Corps strategic thinking that prepares them for such an exigency is geriatric.

All the while, SOCOM is planning to park themselves in the Persian Gulf region using a Marine Corps amphibious assault dock, to conduct anti-piracy operations, air-based forcible entry and other missions and operations, conduct hostage rescue, and other assignments as the President decides.

Thus they have taken up the mantle of the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps is in the process of signing, sealing and delivering its irrelevancy to the twenty first century.  Apparently the Marine Corps doesn’t care any more.

Free The Final Haditha Marine

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

There is disposition of the cases against all of the Haditha Marines, except for one.

The former Marine officer who gave Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich the order to “clear” an Iraqi house near the site of an explosion that had just killed a Marine testified Friday that he expected Wuterich and his squad to “kill or capture the enemy I thought was in that building.”

William Kallop, who was a lieutenant in 2005 and is now a stockbroker in New York, said he believed insurgents inside the house were firing on Marines and thus the house could be deemed “hostile.”

According to the rules of engagement, Wuterich and his Marines were justified in using any amount of firepower in assaulting a “hostile” structure without identifying whether the people inside were combatants, Kallop said.

Kallop’s testimony came at the court-martial of Wuterich on charges of manslaughter, assault and dereliction of duty in the killing of 24 Iraqis by Marines on Nov. 19, 2005, in the Euphrates River community of Haditha. Among the Iraqis killed were three women and seven children.

While Kallop, who was a platoon commander, was called as a prosecution witness, his testimony appears to support the defense contention that Wuterich followed both his orders and training in assaulting two houses after the explosion that killed Marine Cpl. Miguel Terrazas and injured two other Marines.

The jury comprises four officers and four senior enlisted personnel, all with combat experience in Iraq or Afghanistan or both, as well as experience in “clearing” houses.

A Marine lawyer, testifying after Kallop, gave a different interpretation of the rules of engagement. Maj. Kathryn Navin, who had lectured Marines before they deployed, said a house cannot be declared hostile unless the people inside are known to have “hostile intent” or have committed “hostile acts.”

But Kallop said that in training at Camp Pendleton and March Reserve Air Base, and at briefings delivered in Iraq, Marines were not told they needed to identify individual targets as threatening when assaulting a “hostile” structure.

He said that he ordered “Clear south” and Wuterich responded, “Roger that, Sir.” He did not tell Wuterich that the house was “hostile,” Kallop said.

But Wuterich, in gathering his squad for the assault, told one of the Marines that the house was hostile and that the Marines should shoot first and ask questions later, according to testimony from former Marine Stephen Tatum.

No insurgents or weapons were found in two houses “cleared” by Marines. Dozens of Jordanian passports and stacks of American hundred-dollar bills were found in another house, however, indicating the neighborhood may have been used by insurgents as a staging point for attacks, Marine intelligence officers testified at preliminary hearings.

Kallop testified that after the explosion that ripped apart a Humvee, Marines were under attack by “a few bursts of small-arms fire.” He said he ordered a Marine to fire a grenade at the house after seeing a “turkey-peeker,” military jargon for a military-age male sneaking a look at Marines in a suspicious manner.

Kallop said he expected Wuterich to lead the Marines in his squad “to conduct movement to contact and kill or capture the enemy I thought was in that building.”

Responding to a question from defense attorney Haytham Faraj, Kallop said Marines are not required to risk their lives by stopping to identify individual targets while assaulting a hostile structure.

This whole legal conversation is dancing on the head of a pin, with wrangling over wording, the specificity of orders in the middle of heated battle, and second thinking that could work to make their future more hazardous if they allowed it to become self-doubt.

We have covered this before, but it pays to revisit this now that Wuterich is finally at trial.  When my son entered the Marine Corps in January of 2006, he completed boot camp at Parris Island and School of Infantry at Camp Geiger, having been trained in both by recent veterans of Operation al Fajr.

When he entered the infantry as a fleet Marine, he was trained by men who were veterans of al Fajr or other similar combat.  It is impossible to overstate the influence and affect that al Fajr had on the Marine Corps infantry at that time, from culture to core beliefs about battle tactics, to necessary equipment, and finally to training.

Clearing tactics were taught to boot Marines by veterans of al Fajr, and the tactics taught were those employed in Fallujah in 2004.  So when my son deployed to Fallujah in April of 2007, he employed the same tactics and culture taught to him by veterans of combat from 2004 in Iraq.

When he and other Lance Corporals attempted to teach those same tactics and apply that same culture to their own boot Marines in 2008, they usually got into significant trouble with senior NCOs and officers.  The Marine Corps infantry culture and tactics had changed to the point that the veterans of Iraq found no home for what they knew, and most or all of them left the Marines.

If this was true of my son, who joined late in 2005, this was true in the superlative of Marines who were deployed in 2005.  Again, it is impossible to overestimate the affect of al Fajr on the Marines at that time.

The Haditha Marines were charged on the watch of General Mattis.  While Mattis has a storied history of his own in Iraq and elsewhere, I do now and have always held against him that he knew all of this and still allowed the prosecution to go ahead.  The careers of many fine Marines were ruined over this.

It is now time to put this whole ugly affair behind us.  No, not any ugliness associated with what the Marines did on that day.  The Marines didn’t wait to identify inhabitants.  In room clearing operations after Operation al Fajr, room inhabitants perished.  That’s what the Marines were taught to do.

I am talking about the ugliness of the self-hatred on display in these despicable, perverse and obscene show trials.  It’s time to free the last Haditha Marine.

Concerning Marines Urinating On Dead Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

Most of the DoD establishment is outraged over the recently divulged incident of Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters.  Much of it is faux outrage, but these Marines won’t be very happy with the outcome of the inquiry.  Ever the one to point out the different standards for different people because of different political needs, I’ll mention that there is no way – no way – to square the burial of Bin Laden at sea with Islamic law (not that it really matters to me whether we followed Islamic laws concerning his burial; we could have treated him like they did Mussolini as far as I’m concerned — either way, he’s in hell.).  Additionally, the public display of Zarqawi’s bloodied and bloated body caused an outrage among Muslims across the world.  It’s okay to desecrate the dead as long as the DoD sanctions it.  It’s not okay to do it if you’re a Marine under fire in the Helmand Province.  Come back to me when you get some consistency.  Until then, I think I’ll turn my attention to other, more important things.

Speaking of Marines under fire, we should mention some recent heroics.

The secretary of the Navy next week will present the Navy Cross to the family of a Marine from Camp Pendleton killed while saving the life of other Marines in Afghanistan, officials announced Tuesday.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is set to present the medal Jan. 17 to the family of Lance Cpl. Donald Hogan in a ceremony at Camp Pendleton. The Navy Cross is second only to the Medal of Honor for combat bravery by Marines or sailors.

Hogan, 20, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, was killed Aug. 26, 2009, by a buried explosive device after pushing a Marine to safety and yelling warnings to other Marines. Hogan was on a walking patrol in Helmand province, long a Taliban stronghold.

According to the Navy Cross citation, Hogan spotted a trigger wire for a buried bomb and hurled himself into the body of the nearest Marine to push him away from the imminent blast.

Hogan then “turned in the direction of the Improvised Explosive Device and placed himself in the road so that he could effectively yell verbal warnings to the rest of his squad-mates. This desperate effort to warn the rest of the patrol bought the remaining Marines valuable seconds to begin moving away,” the citation reads.

And some recent heartbreak.

A Wilmington Marine has been seriously injured in Afghanistan.

According to a report from the Wilmington News Journal, Cpl. Josh Sams, 27, was on routine patrol Wednesday when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). He was taken to a hospital in Afghanistan where both legs were amputated above the knee.

Sams’ mother, Barbara Regan, told the Journal that Sams was serving his third and final deployment and scheduled to come home for good on Feb. 7.

Sams is currently at a hospital in Germany also suffering from a broken pelvis and arm. He is in stable condition and will hopefully return stateside by Tuesday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

He serves with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, H&S Company, Scout Sniper Platoon.

Sams is married to his wife, Lindsey, who lives in Jacksonville, N.C., where Sams is stationed.

Sams’ younger brother, Logan, died in an ATV accident in 2008.

Our men are still at war people.  Take a deep breath and recalibrate your perspective.

Negligent Discharges

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 6 months ago

Concerning one of Tim Lynch’s posts, I commented on a picture that:

Tim, the dude to your right needs to have better muzzle discipline. Tell him to stop pointing that dead blame thing at you! At least his finger isn’t on the trigger.

To which Tim responded:

That was one of the Afridi Tribal fighters and none of them have a clue about gun handling, combat marksmanship, known distance marksmanship, cleaning their weapons etc…. So you end up getting muzzle flagged often which, as I recall, earned you a 5 minute room of pain session in Bravo 1/8 back in the day. You get muzzle flagged a lot from the Brit military too – their weapons handling is also atrocious.-

Yea, I know one Marine who, when he was a Private, had a ND from his SAW, and let’s just say this “room of pain” thing … well, we’ll leave it at that.  Room of pain.  Concentrate on the word pain.  And … no ND ever occurred again from his SAW.  Not even one more time.

Recall that Michael Yon discussed an ND from Canadian Brigadier General Menard, and was deeply criticized for it?  Well, this is apparently a pattern within the Canadian military.

Officers in the Canadian military were partly to blame for lax firearms safety in Afghanistan, a military judge said as he sentenced a former reservist to four years in jail for fatally shooting a fellow soldier.

Lieutenant-Colonel Louis-Vincent d’Auteuil said on Friday that Matthew Wilcox was well trained and “should have known better” than to point a loaded pistol at his best friend, Corporal Kevin Megeney, on March 6, 2007.

However, Col. d’Auteuil also said senior officers at Kandahar Airfield hadn’t done enough to crack down on improper handling of firearms before and during the deployment of Mr. Wilcox’s unit.

“No discipline was imposed other than warning soldiers,” the judge said, referring to incidents in which soldiers failed to unload the magazines from their pistols after leaving a shooting range on the base.

“All combined brought an atmosphere … where a human being forgot to unload his weapon, pointed and fired at somebody and killed somebody. He is responsible, but the Canadian Forces must be blamed for not having the proper leadership in the circumstances.”

[ … ]

“Leaders, section leaders, the company commanders … created an atmosphere that let soldiers think if they forget to unload their weapons, it was not a big deal,” he said.

As a civilian shooter and firearms owner and holder of a concealed handgun permit, I have more discipline than this.  Much more.  This behavior is simply atrocious and should not be tolerated in any military anywhere in the world or by civilian shooters either.  The U.S. Marines make sure that its men know better with a … well, Tim called it a “room of pain.”

Men, Not Machines, Win Wars

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 7 months ago

As one who has argued for the involvement and importance of air power and conventional artillery, I don’t want to overplay this hand.  I say what I am about to say circumspectly.  I know the limitations of what I am about to say, and I’d rather have air power on my side than just about anything else.  That is, anything except an infantryman.

So am unimpressed with this report.

US forces are massing on the Pakistan border in eastern Afghanistan amid reports of an imminent drone missile offensive against fighters from the feared Haqqani Network, a Taliban faction which operates from safe havens in Pakistan’s North Waziristan Agency, Pakistan Army sources have confirmed.

The scale of the American build-up, including helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and hundreds of American and Afghan troops, caused panic in north Waziristan where tribal militias who feared they could be targeted gathered in the capital Miranshah to coordinate their response.

Local officials in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) warned that Pakistan’s armed forces would repel any incursion across the border by American forces, but military sources in Islamabad and Afghan officials suggested the build-up was part of a coordinated operation.

It’s not a coordinated effort, “hundreds” of troops will not significantly alter the outcome of the campaign, and sending helicopters into Pakistan will get them shot down by insurgents under the current protocol.  Not that I’m opposed, mind you, to sending helicopters into Pakistan, but this isn’t some bloodless, clinical way to run a war, any more than sending helicopters with 30+ Navy SEALS around in Afghanistan to get shot down.  Frankly, I was surprised it took as long as it did before tragedy happened with our elite troopers.

This report adds some clarity.

There were no signs of troop movement on the Pakistani side, locals and officials said, suggesting no plans for a complementary offensive in the neighboring North Waziristan region. Pakistan has long resisted U.S. pressure to launch an operation against extremists that use North Waziristan as a safe haven.

A senior Pakistani military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that Pakistanis hadn’t been briefed in advance about what the U.S.-led forces were up to but were “informed upon inquiring.”

Although few clear details emerged of what the U.S. and its allies were planning, rumor of the gathering forces spread a mixture of panic and bravado in Pakistan. Many North Waziristan residents believed that a surgical U.S. airstrike was imminent, while some said they were prepared to fight U.S. troops if they crossed over.

A senior NATO official dismissed the Pakistani fears, saying that the alliance wasn’t authorized to operate outside Afghanistan and wasn’t trying to threaten Pakistan.

“No, we’re not massing on the border,” said the official, who wasn’t authorized to be quoted by name.

Pakistan isn’t acting to press the Haqqani network on their side of the border, we still respect the border and won’t cross it, and thus the Haqannis still have safe haven.

I recall this depressing report on Marine Corps operations near Sangin.

It is a conversation, the military surgeon says, that every U.S. Marine has with his corpsman, the buddy who is first to treat him if he is wounded by an insurgent’s bomb.

The Marine says, “‘If I lose my manhood, then I don’t want to live through it,'” according to Navy Lt. Richard Whitehead, surgeon for 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, which is fighting in one of the most treacherous combat areas of Afghanistan.

“They ask us not to save them if their ‘junk’ gets blown off,” said Whitehead, using a slang term for genitals. “Usually, we laugh. We joke with them about it. At the same time, you know that you’re going to treat them anyway.”

This is a world of fear, resolve and dark humor that is mostly hidden from accounts of the human cost of the war in Afghanistan. American troops who patrol on foot in bomb-laced areas know they might lose a leg, or two, if they step in the wrong place. But for young men in their prime, most unmarried and without children, the prospect of losing their sexual organs seems even worse.

Whitehead said: “It’s one of the areas we can’t put a tourniquet on.”

Sangin, the district of southern Afghanistan where the Marine battalion is based, was a Taliban stronghold for years. It has one of the highest concentrations of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in the country. Robust Marine operations in the past year have weakened the insurgency in Sangin, and troops now seek to build up the authority of local government and community leaders.

But elusive fighters routinely strike with booby traps on trails and around patrol bases. Lt. Col. Thomas Savage, the battalion commander, said there was a rough average of five IED strikes, finds or interdictions a day in Sangin, in Helmand province. Estimates vary, but some Marines say roughly one in 10 IEDs hits a target.

Sixteen of the battalion’s Marines have died and at least 160 have been injured during a seven-month deployment that ends in October. Of those, about 90 were sent home because of the severity of their wounds, said Whitehead, the battalion surgeon. One lost both testicles, four Marines lost one testicle and two had penis injuries.

We’re sending “blast panties” or “ballistic boxers” to help, but that only helps to stop infection and decrease the damage of shrapnel.  It doesn’t save a Marine’s gonads.  Know what we’re also sending?  Robots.  That’s right, robots.

Listen.  I’m all for robots, and helicopters, and drones, and all manner of new-fangled gadgetry and high tech toys.  But we’ll win in the Helmand Province when we send Marines on distributed operations to sit in concealment and wait to find the IED emplacers, and we shoot them where they stand.  And we find the makers, and we take them out in their homes and in the roads.  We’ll find out who these bastards are when we enter their homes, and get in their faces – when we do census operations, when we press the villagers.  When it becomes too dangerous to emplace IEDs, the insurgents will stop doing it.  Governance and digging wells didn’t work in Iraq, and it won’t in Afghanistan.

And when we inform the Pakistanis that if they shoot at our troops chasing the Haqqani fightes in Pakistan we’ll turn the ground they are standing on into a sea of glass, then we’ll be on our way to ending the Haqqani threat, machines and ballistic underwear notwithstanding.

Night Raids, Prisons, Politics and the Afghanistan Strategy

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

From The Christian Science Monitor:

Over the past year, US and NATO forces say they have made considerable progress against the Afghan insurgency through the use of night raids. But a new study suggests that the long-controversial nighttime operations are doing more harm than good.

Despite a sharp rise in the number of night raids, there have been no benefits in the form of decreased insurgent attacks, and anger over the operations has continued to mount among Afghan civilians, found the report by the Open Society Foundations and The Liaison Office, a research and analysis group in Kabul.

“The dramatic increase in the number of night raids, and evidence that night raids or other operations may be more broadly targeting civilians to gather information and intelligence, appear to have overwhelmed Afghan tolerance of the practice,” wrote the authors of the report. “Afghan attitudes toward night raids are as hostile as ever, if not more so.”

International forces rely heavily on night raids to capture or kill high-level insurgents. Night raids are a critical component of NATO’s strategy here, but a growing number of Afghans, including President Hamid Karzai, have condemned the raids as disrespectful to Afghan culture, and say they undermine the authority of the government and security forces …

Even in the face of heated political debate about the night raids, there was fivefold increase between February 2009 and December 2010. Though newer statistics are unavailable, military officials indicated to Open Society Foundations that international forces still conduct a large number of night raids, possibly at higher rates than those previously documented. By one estimate, up to 40 night raids occur daily throughout Afghanistan.

“The night raids are perceived by the people, by the government, by Afghans as an insult. It’s a very big insult because they are insulting our privacy … so people hate them from the depths of their hearts,” says Rahim Khurram, deputy director of The Liaison Office …

The US and international forces have made a number of changes to their night-raid policy that have, by many measures, improved their accuracy and addressed Afghan concerns. Among other changes, Afghan officials are now incorporated in the planning process, and 25 percent of night operations are led by Afghan forces.

Presently, International Security Assistance Force officials say that they get their target 80 percent of the time during night raids. The report does not state what portion of the remaining 20 percent escaped or if they mistakenly arrested the wrong person. ISAF officials also point out that the night raids account for less than 1 percent of civilian casualties and that 85 percent are conducted without any shots fired.

“Night operations are an effective method of maintaining the pressure on the enemy while minimizing risk to innocent civilians,” says US Army Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, an ISAF spokesman.

Many of the improvements have been overlooked or gone unnoticed by Afghans, however, due to the sheer quantity.

Despite pervasive disapproval of night raids among many Afghans, if conducted properly, they are a valuable tool against the insurgency, says Mirwais Yasini, a member of parliament from Nangarhar Province, where night raids have been a serious point of contention.

“We cannot do without them, because if we do away with the night raids it means we are cutting [ISAF’s] operational capacity to the day, and if we do that it means we’re cutting their operational capacity to less than 50 percent,” says Mr. Yasini.

He suggests that instead of raiding houses during the night, international forces should try surrounding a village at night and make arrests during the day time.

Analysis & Commentary

Of course many of the Afghan people don’t like it.  But the edifice upon which this whole objection is built is population-centric counterinsurgency, with its adage that “if you kill one insurgent you create ten more.”  There isn’t a single shred of evidence that killing an insurgent creates ten more – that’s just a doctrinal mantra, and if repeated enough times it begins to be taken as science.  However, while the objection lodged by the Afghans to high value target raids may not be salient, there is a much more important reason that these raids are not as successful as they are purported to be.  Prisons.  Many or most of the HVTs are not killed, but captured and sent to prisons.  These prisons have become not only a laughingstock of the Afghan culture, they have become dangerous.

Cell Block 3 was in flames as prison riots continued in the next block over. The Taliban had grown too powerful, and the confinements of Afghanistan’s Pol-e-charki prison became little more than protective walls rendering them untouchable from the war raging outside.

The December 2008 riots at Pol-e-charki prison on the outskirts of Kabul served as a wake-up call to the severity of the corruption that had crept in through padded pockets and turning blind eyes. Captured Taliban commanders and radicalized prisoners had formed an operating center within Cell Block 3—armed with weapons, and with their own Shura Council to hold trials, vote, and eliminate those who refused to cooperate.

“The guards were not even allowed to go down into the cell block because they would be killed or kidnapped—I mean, its the Wild West out there,” said Drew Berquist, a former U.S. intelligence agent and author of “The Maverick Experiment,” in a phone interview.

Attention fell on the prison after the riots, and rebuilding efforts became focused on increasing security. This included eliminating cells for large groups, and replacing them with cells for smaller groups of between two and eight.

“You had a prison that was run by the Afghan government, but really, entire facilities within that prison were being used as training and education grounds for insurgent elements,” said Drew Quinn, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs director at the U.S. Embassy Kabul, on the NATO Channel in Nov. 2009.

Resolving such issues is no simple matter, and the battle behind prison walls continues to this day.

A rare news conference in Kabul, held by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security intelligence service in February, highlighted the breadth of the problem—noting that despite efforts to root out operations at Pul-e-Charkhi, it is still going strong.

Taliban commander Talib Jan, a prisoner at Pul-e-Charkhi, is one of the more extreme cases. He organizes suicide bombings across Kabul from within his cell—including the Jan. 28 suicide bombing of a supermarket that killed 14 people.

“Most of the terrorist and suicide attacks in Kabul were planned from inside this prison by this man,” said National Directorate of Security spokesman, Lutfullah Mashal, at the conference, New York Times reported.

The problem, according to Berquist, runs deep.

“The prison systems are corrupt,” Berquist said. “The safest place for the Taliban is the prisons because they can’t get caught again.”

But if killing an insurgent doesn’t in fact create ten more, imprisonment of one may in fact do just that.  To coin a phrase, “imprisonment one insurgent creates ten more.”  Remember that phrase.  Since HVT raids focus so much on imprisonment of insurgents, they are counterproductive.  Killing the enemy isn’t counterproductive, but because we place so much value in not doing that in the campaign, it has affected the entirety of the effort.

And this clouds the whole strategy.  Thus, Presidential candidate Rick Perry is not clear yet in his proposed strategy for Afghansitan.

Rick Perry is still laboring to articulate a clear position on Afghanistan. At Monday night’s Republican debate, Perry–who has no real foreign policy experience beyond flying Air Force cargo planes abroad–seemed to endorse Jon Huntsman’s call for a major drawdown from Afghanistan. Yesterday, an unnamed Perry adviser revised and extended the gentleman’s remarks for Foreign Policy:

“If increasingly the Afghans can do this kind of work, then of course we want to bring our people home. It’s good for us, it’s good for them. But Gov. Perry is not confident in the Obama policy, which seems to be driven largely by politics, and he’s not confident in the 100,000 troops number. He’d like to know if it’s possible at 40,000,” the advisor said, explaining that the rationale for the specific number of U.S. troops on the ground has never been clearly explained by the administration.”He would lean toward wanting to bring our troops home, but he understands that we have vital strategic interests in Afghanistan and that a precipitous withdrawal is not what he’s recommending.”

This position is incredibly tortured. A presence of 100,000 troops seems too high to Perry, but he opposes Obama’s plan for a modest withdrawal of about 30,000 troops because it’s apparently driven by “politics.” He’s against a precipitous withdrawal, yet he’s interested in a 60 percent reduction in forces–to a level that would make David Petraeus bang his forehead on his desk.

Perry isn’t the only Republican to send mixed signals on Afghanistan. That’s because the GOP candidates are torn between two powerful forces. One is the general public’s loss of patience with the Afghanistan war. Especially now that Osama bin Laden is shark food, a clear majority of Americans want us out–regardless of whether Afghan troops can execute jumping jacks. But Republican voters are still on board: As of June, 53% of them still favored fighting on until Afghanistan has been stabilized (whatever that means).

Even Andrew McCarthy, writing for NRO, observes that Perry’s answer was muddled (although McCarthy parrots the usual stuff about killing and capturing a lot of people which makes his case rather odd).  Since we have tried population-centric counterinsurgency and nation-building in the most backwards place on earth, the last ten years has seen a groundhog day rinse and repeat of the same thing, over and over again.  Of course our strategy is confused.  The people who implemented it were confused.

Mr. Obama has been content to go along with a confused strategy and cut his losses as soon as possible.  In challenging him, the GOP needs to see their way clear to a revised strategy and a justification for said approach.  This needs to fit within the framework of the larger war against the transnational insurgency, in which AQ, the Taliban, the TTP, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc., are just manifestations of the militant side of Islamism, with the Muslim Brotherhood being the manifestation of the more political side of (what will ultimately become the forcible implementation of) sharia law.

Whatever is decided, let’s be clear.  A small footprint, HVT raid-based approach by 10,000 – 15,000 troopers, mostly SOF, won’t work.  When there are no troops to provide security for the people who supply intelligence for the raids, the raids will dry up.  When logistics cannot get supplies to the troopers, it will take SOF missions to rescue the SOF troopers remaining in Afghanistan.  A small footprint is a silly, juvenile cop out, and a poor excuse for actually thinking through the difficult issues of the war.

The troops exist for the proper execution of the campaign.  The CJCS could tell the Commandant of the Marines to stop playing Iwo Jima, give up the ridiculous EFV, settle for a mission that includes air-based forcible entry capabilities, and send Marines all over the world in distributed operations (similar to SOF).  There are missions for the Marines to do, surely.

And as for what to do with the insurgents, they must be killed or released.  Prisons are not only not helpful in counterinsurgency, they are counterproductive.  As I have said before, prisons … do … not … work … in … counterinsurgency.

UPDATE: From The Washington Post:

Even as U.S.-led forces draw down in Afghanistan, U.S. officials expect the number of detainees at their main prison to increase — and by a significant margin.

Officials had already announced that they would retain control of the Parwan Detention Center north of Kabul well beyond the planned 2012 transfer date because of concerns that the Afghan legal system is still too weak. But U.S. officials recently said they intend to solicit contractors to help expand the facility’s capacity from about 3,500 beds to 5,500 beds.

Parwan, which has been expanded previously, holds about 2,500 detainees. Those detainees include high-profile insurgents as well as Afghans who are suspected of playing more of a peripheral role in the conflict.

The construction project “is part of our established and ongoing transition efforts” with the Afghan government, Capt. Kevin Aandahl, a spokesman for the U.S. task force that oversees detention operations in Afghanistan, said in an e-mail. Aandahl said the expansion was necessary to “accommodate an increase in the number of suspected insurgents being detained as a result of intelligence-based counter- terrorism operations, which we conduct with our Afghan partners.

There is a massive amount of hope in this plan.  It is being planned in order to “accommodate an increase in the number of suspected insurgents being detained as a result of intelligence-based counter- terrorism operations …”  All of which means that the U.S. wants to turn this even more into a SOF High Value Target campaign.  In other words, take that which hasn’t succeeded thus far, and intensify it without the troopers on the ground to supply logistics and security for those who supply intelligence.  This exemplifies the bankruptcy of our military thinking on Afghanistan.

Prior:

The Long Term Effects of Prisons in Counterinsurgency

The Great Escape – in Afghanistan!

Because Prisons Work So Well In Counterinsurgency

Afghan Prison An Insurgent Breeding Ground

Prisons Do Not Work In Counterinsurgency

Hamid Karzai: Defeater of the High Value Target Program

The Ineffectiveness of Prisons in Counterinsurgency

Jirgas and Release of Taliban Prisoners

Prisons in Afghanistan

Prisons in Counterinsurgency

Dakota Meyer to Receive Congressional Medal of Honor

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 10 months ago

It’s now official.

A Marine who braved intense enemy gunfire in Afghanistan to recover the bodies of four fallen comrades will receive the Medal of Honor for his heroism, defense officials said Wednesday.

Dakota Meyer, who left the service last year, will be the third living recipient of the award for actions in Afghanistan and the tenth man recognized for exceptional bravery in the current wars. He’ll also be the first living Marine to receive the honor since the Vietnam War.

White House and defense officials have not released details of the award or the timing of its presentation.

The 22-year-old’s heroics came while serving with an embedded training team from the II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Okinawa, Japan. In September 2009, his team was ambushed in controversial battle of Ganjgal, which claimed the lives of five Marines and nine Afghan allies.

A Defense Department investigation released five months later said that negligent leadership and a command refusal for artillery support directly contributed to the deaths of Meyer’s fellow fighters, and reprimanded three Army officers.

Contrary to the statement above, the warriors who perished included three Marines, a Navy Corpsman and a Soldier.  Readers might remember this as the engagement where a team was repeatedly refused airtillery support because it violated the rules of engagement.  Dakota fought his way through enemy fire, on foot, multiple times, to retrive his brothers from the field of battle.  The real delay in this had to do with the Marine Corps, which is notoriously exacting in things like this.

There are some loved ones who still grieve, and one particular article I wrote on the reprimands of field grade and staff officers who refused them support gathered their attention.

I have felt from the beginning that General McChrystal is ultimately responsible for the death of my son, his unit and SFC Ken Westbrook in Gangjal. I have written to President Obama for answers, as one father to another, to no avail. Seventeen months and 10 days later, we still greive for the loss of our sons. We feel the pain, and are engulfed in waves of grief with each each new casualty (and various other emotional triggers).

Our sons suffered Death by Incompetence, knowing at the end that those they considered brothers-in-arms abandoned them on the battlefield.

I have no wish to meet General McChrystal or hear his apology or condolences. I only hope that he lives a long life and is always tormented by the ghosts of those he called his brothers-in-arms.

Nothing will bring our boys back, so we move forward in life to honor thier (sic) sacrifice and cherish thier memory. To that end, I would like to voice support (and hope that others will too) for awarding the Medal of Honor to Dakota Meyer for the exceptional bravery that brought our boys home to rest. Thank you Dakota.  Semper Fi

I am Charlene Westbrook, widow of a United States Army Combat Veteran, SFC Kenneth Westbrook. My husband, Sergeant First Class Kenneth Westbrook, was grievously injured and later passed away from what was explained to me as graft vs host disease associated with whole blood, a rare blood disorder which doctors say he contracted while at the battlefield hospital in Afghanistan.

I was afforded the opportunity to review the redacted Investigating Officer’s Report. The eyewitness accounts of the unbelievable horror our American Warriors endured that day is unimaginable, unbearable and should have been avoided by all costs. The Investigating Officer’s findings and recommendations state that the officers appointed over those men were found to be negligent and derelict in the performance of their duties. The Investigator further recommended that the officers receive an administrative reprimand or a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR), however, no further information on whether those actions have been initiated and/or completed have not been provided.

My husband dedicated 22 years of his life proudly serving in the US Army with complete trust and honor to the very institution that in the end abandoned him and the other men who died that fateful day, September 8, 2009. I do, too hold McChrystal as the coward who has the blood of my husband on his hands.

“The American soldier is a brave one and he demands professional competence in his leaders. In battle, he wants to know that the job is going to be done right, with no unnecessary casualties. The non-commissioned officer wearing the chevron is supposed to know how to perform the duties expected of him. The American soldier expects his sergeant to be able to teach him how to do his job. And he expects more from his officers.” – General Omar N. Bradley.

I am Susan Price, the Mother of Fallen Hero Gunnery Sgt Aaron M Kenefick, USMC, killed that day on Sept 8th 2009. Like the Westbrook, Johnsons & Layton families, there are no words yet invented to share with you our sense of loss and void from our families lives!!!!!! Loosing a child or a spouse to WAR is one thing, loosing that special someone because of the deriliction and negligence of another, ESPECIALLY a “BROTHER IN ARMS” is something else.

We the families of the fallen five, have read the 15-6, Investigation report over and over and over again….It is unbelievable to read how many times my “BELOVED SON” called for help, and it is Beyond Human comprehension to read on further some smart ass remarks by some of these officers who discounted American Human Life, Special American Human life, front line Valor, not some back office cant get ahold of white gloved officer!!!

You cannot equate a piece of paper to the loss of human life, word has it that nothing came of this supposed reprimand!!!!! The word is that an order from a higher source told them not to answer the call for air support and artillery back up….The question is? Who gave the order and why?

So many unanswered questions this day. The actual mission was not even suppose to take place this day. Intel saids they were told that this would be a day filled with Taliban activity on the 8th. Who wanted my Son and the other Fallen Heroes put into this position? Why? So many unanswered questions!!!!!!!!!!!

McChrystal is responsible as well as the contributing 3 Officers who got off and those others who were a party to this knowledge. These men had families, they had a place in society besides the battlefield, they made differences in the lives of so many and for so many, who would want to scapegoat them out??????

Another comment made while my son called for 2 hours was “is this for Marines or is this for Army” I dont understand when you are at war what difference does it make what uniform you wear, all blood is the same color, and all I know is that my family and the other families of the fallen live in emotional pain every day of our lives due to this neglence. Where is Justice, does anyone really care about our men, really!!!!!!!!!!

As the father of James Ray “Doc” Layton, killed that day in Ganjgal, Afghanistan I will say this: This was the greatest loss a parent could endure. We all know the inherent risks our men and women take and to a point, we prepare for the worst. Knowing that our men were put into a situation in which they relied on help and were denied repeatedly, this is in-excusable. I have said before as a retired law inforcement officer, we rely on each other for back-up and know that when that call goes out our “backs” are covered. To know James, Aaron, Mike, Edwin and Ken lost their lives due to “inadequate” leadership in the operation center among several other cited incidents of “Negligence” on Sept 8th is sickening and unfortunately nothing new.

The post comments in the 15-6 investigation clearly states one of the Army officers in charge believed the Marines to be under “light, harrassing fire.” At 0530 hrs, the first shots rang out and the team said that they had been ambushed and were facing approx 150+ insurgents calling for help. At what point was this “light harrassing fire?” The 15-6 also states that what intelligence they gathered via intercepted radio traffic the day before from Ganjgal that they knew the team were going to be ambushed but thought by only approx 30 and yet knowing this they were sent into a “kill zone” a four man team including my son who were killed approximately two hours into the ambush still calling for air and artillery along with the rest of the unit, TWO HOURS!!!!!! The entire ambush lasted for hours.

It took 1,800 rounds of 50 Cal and two Hellfires to just get our son’s bodies, hours into the battle. The report clearly says the mission was compromised, the insurgents were well placed, even had recoilless rifles. The insurgents were well trained by military, wore uniforms similar to the ANA, even were mistaken as our counterparts by our own at one point, A clear setup. The mission was to take place the day before but was changed to the 8th “Oddly?” I think not. This whole ambush stinks of corruption and ass covering but by the enemy only, I also think not.

Brent Layton, proud father of fallen hero HM3 James Ray “Doc” Layton “Corpsman to the Core.” KIA 09/08/09 Ganjgal, Afghanistan

 There is no way to assuage the anguish of the loss of a son or husband.  But maybe with the CMH being awarded to Dakota, some small sense of righteousness may be brought to bear on a horrible, awful engagement where our warriors were abandoned.


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