Archive for the '26th MEU' Category

26th MEU Homecoming

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 2 months ago

It’s nice to receive my son home from his second deployment, the first in Fallujah in 2007, the second on the 26th MEU.  We stayed on beautiful Emerald Isle for the week, and the LCACs were a bit late getting on to shore on Monday.  The reception was a night time event.


Here on Emerald Isle for the Return of the 26th MEU

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 3 months ago

So we’re here on beautiful Emerald Isle, N.C., right outside of Camp Lejeune, to welcome my son back from his second deployment.  His first was in Fallujah, 2007, and this one was with the 26th MEU functioning as ready-reserve for CENTCOM.

I’ve been pondering and worrying over the whole idea of MEUs held in ready-reserve aboard Amphibious Assault Docks when there is such a heavy need for troops in Afghanistan, while Somalia turns headlong towards jihadi militancy, and when there is a need for force projection in the Caucasus in order to hedge against Russian hegemony and ensure logistics supply to Afghanistan.  Yet there is also a need for force projection in the Persian Gulf and in the Middle East generally.

Really.  I have pondered these and related issues until it hurts.  I have also been clear in my advocacy for responsible budgetary and engineering decisions.   The Captain’s Journal has been clear concerning our disapproval of the poor engineering and cost overruns of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.  We even recommended against continuation of the program.  After all, if cuts are coming to the Department of Defense, then we must do our part.

No more.  As it turns out, the current administration is planning to make drastic cuts in everything from nuclear weapons refurbisment to the F-22 program.  Because the DoD is filled mostly with responsible people who implement policy, it has been targeted for cuts, while we throw away multiple trillions of dollars on only God knows what for only God knows what reason.

So to the extent that I am read in the circles of power, I have helped to justify the jettisoning of an important element in the Marine Corps’ expeditionary program.  I feel that I have sinned against God and the Commandant of the Marine Corps.  After this post I will engage in protracted prayer and then drop and give the Commandant 100 pushups.

If it’s okay for a sniveling lackey like Timothy Geithner to print a trillion dollars and throw it down the drain, then it’s okay for the Marines to have their EFV.  They deserve it more than any other recipient of Geithner’s money.

In fact, in addition to repenting of the responsibility that I feel towards the fiduciary fidelity of the U.S. economy, I have adopted a new slogan.  “Show me the money!”  I want to see every weapons system currently in the design or manufacture stage followed through to completion, and then I want to see a two or threefold expansion in the weapons systems being planned and funded.  I want to see the number of MEUs increased at least threefold, and the size of the Marine Corps increased similarly or greater.  No more worrying for me.

So as I receive my son back from his hard work overseas and Mr. Obama ponders his NCAA bracket picks, my having agonized over the hard decisions has made the coming years easy for this administration.  No fuss, no trouble and no looking back.  Build the weapons and swear in the boys.  If anyone asks how we’re going to pay for it all, just tell them we’ll print the money.

2/6 Marines Counterpiracy Mission

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 4 months ago

Battalion Landing Team 2/6, Golf Company, 3rd Platoon, a unit with which The Captain’s Journal is intimately familiar, is now engaged in counterpiracy.

Members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are participating in counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, a spokesman for Marine Corps headquarters said Thursday.

Amphibious transport dock San Antonio, the flagship for Combined Task Force 151, is carrying a reinforced Marine platoon, said 2nd Lt. Josh Diddams. Officials will not say how many Marines are on the ship, which left Camp Lejeune, N.C., in late August with the Norfolk, Va.-based Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group. A typical Marine infantry platoon consists of about 40 troops.

Task Force 151 is a multinational force recently organized to conduct land and air attacks on pirate bases along Somalia’s coast, where last year more than 40 vessels were hijacked, including a Saudi tanker carrying $100 million worth of crude oil and a Ukrainian ship loaded with tanks and other weapons bound for Kenya. The task force is operating in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea.

Sailors and Marines on the San Antonio spent weeks preparing the ship for its role as the command ship and afloat forward staging base for the task force, according to a Navy report. Marines on the ship include those with 3rd platoon, Golf Infantry Company, a military police detachment and intelligence personnel, according to the report.

The MEU, which recently left Kuwait after two weeks of training at Camp Buehring, did not respond to questions about the anti-piracy mission.

The Marines are currently (or were) on board the amphibious dock USS San Antonio.

The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio transits the Gulf of Aden to serve as command ship for Combined Task Force 151. The task force conducts counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.

The folks at Information Dissemination are engaged in some hand wringing over comments made by Tom Ricks.

I was disappointed when I read Thomas Ricks strategic assessment regarding the Navy’s approach to piracy.

Tom Ricks is an astute observer of military strategy, and if he sees the pirate situation off Somalia as simply a way to take a cheap shot at the disaster called naval shipbuilding strategy, then I’m afraid nobody in the media may understand what is and has happened. I’d like to welcome Thomas Ricks to the blogosphere by suggesting that when it comes to maritime strategy as it relates to the issue of Somali piracy, he doesn’t appear to know what he is talking about. Thomas Ricks writes:

Better late that never to be going after the Somalia pirates. To me, this is a strategic issue. Keeping the sea lanes open, especially for oil, should be a top priority for the U.S. military. Instead we seemed to defer to the Indians, Chinese and others, letting them take the lead. The Navy may feel that all its special operators — the guys trained to board and take over ships — are busy in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, admiral, does that tell you that you probably need more ship boarders, and maybe fewer aircraft carriers or anti-missile systems? You think maybe?

I noted that Yankee Sailor left a comment on the thread. I’m betting Thomas Ricks has no idea who Yankee Sailor is, nor why Yankee Sailor’s opinion is more informed. We know better. I have a lot of problems with the assessment Tom is making here, starting with what the top priority for the US military should be. If the top priority of the US military, including the Navy, isn’t winning the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, then something is wrong. There is a reason why there are more sailors deployed on land in the CENTCOM area of operations than at sea, and that reason is absolutely valid.

This is a strategic issue as Tom contends, but with the assertion of “better late than never” and the suggestion that “Indians, Chinese and others” taking leadership roles is somehow representative of a failure of maritime strategy, Tom Ricks is essentially admitting to me that he has never actually read the US Navy’s maritime strategy.

They go on to fret over comprehensive modifications of strategy and the question whether the Navy has the “right equipment” to address piracy.  This is a boring and wasteful discussion, and Ricks’ counsel is just fine.  The Navy has the right equipment in theater right now to address piracy.  An Amphibious Landing Dock, Amphibious Assault Ships, and Marines with guns who want to kill people.  Nothing else is necessary.

There have been other articles here and there questioning the need for the U.S. to address piracy in the Gulf of Aden.  Again, boring discussions, one and all.  Ships with weapons, ships with oil, and ships with other strategically important materiel were and are being taken hostage for huge sums of money, making Somalia a haven not only for pirates, but a wealthier place to boot, this largesse perhaps falling into hands that may later provide safe haven for Islamic militants.

Even if the pirates and militants do not currently get along, largesse flowing into a country without a government and under the control of warring factions cannot possibly be good for U.S. interests in the region.  If the Marines, as soldiers of the sea, cannot tackle the issue of piracy, then we are surely lost in a strategic malaise with too many pedantic people saying too many wasteful words.

One more point is in order.  The constant worry and hand-wringing over the legalities of counterpiracy operations and rules of engagement makes the Navy – and the law of the sea lawyers – and Information Dissemination – look weak and fragile.  Is this a nice way of saying it?

The problem is easy to tackle, and Ralph Peters, Lt. Col. P and TCJ have weighed in before concerning the methodology.  It involves killing pirates, dumping bodies overboard, and destroying their domiciles and enablers.  The prose is not for shock effect.  It’s serious, with recommendations that, if followed, would save lives and be a catalyst for safe seas.  This is the best strategy of all.  No need to retool ships, worry over strategic vision or call the lawyers.  It’s best when problems driven to the simplest solutions.

USS San Antonio Heads Back to Sea

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 7 months ago

The San Antonio Express-News gives us the conclusion of weeks of repairs in Bahrain for the USS San Antonio.

The USS San Antonio, docked in Bahrain the past several weeks for repairs to a leaky engine oil lubrication system, left port Tuesday and prepared to rejoin its strike force in the Persian Gulf.

The Navy said that poor welds and joints that lacked support caused the leaks, which sprang up during the ship’s maiden voyage this fall.

But spokeswoman Pat Dolan said the Navy team that spent 25 days making the repairs still had not determined who was responsible for the sub-par construction: the service or Northrop Grumman Ship Systems. It also isn’t clear if three other San Antonio-class ships in the fleet have the same problems.

“They’re just returning from Bahrain,” she said of the repair team, “so we don’t have the root-cause analysis complete yet.”

The San Antonio will rejoin the USS Iwo Jima expeditionary strike force, now in the Navy’s 5th Fleet area of operations. As the ship continues its mission, the Navy will press its investigation into the cause of the leaks as well as learn if there are problems with oil lubrication systems aboard the USS New Orleans, USS Mesa Verde and USS Green Bay.

Dolan said the Navy hopes to have the analysis of those ships finished by mid-December.

Troubled by design flaws, construction delays and a failed inspection last year, the San Antonio entered the fleet well behind schedule, its $1.8 billion price tag three times the original estimate. The San Antonio left the East Coast for the Persian Gulf at the end of August but put into port in Bahrain last month when the crew discovered the leaks.

A special 40-member team that included pipe fitters, inspector and engineers was flown to Bahrain and spent more than three weeks analyzing and repairing the oil lubrication system.

Dolan said the team repaired the systems for two of the ship’s four engines in the forward and aft main machinery rooms of the San Antonio. She said she was unaware of any other problems with the ship.

Inspectors found an inadequate number of hangers to support lubrication pipes that feed oil into the engines, Dolan said. The lack of hangers, coupled with vibration throughout the ship, caused some of the welded joints to come loose, she said.

The failures can be attributed to inadequate piping support, poor welding, material selection and insufficient quality assurance,” she said. “They ended up putting in additional pipe support, going in and taking out in some cases whole sections of pipes and joints. I can’t tell you the blow-by-blow, what they did or repairs. I can tell you that’s in general what they did.”

It’s good that a root cause analysis is being performed, but this analysis should include fully independent engineers, contracted from a pool of engineers not associated with defense contractors. The team should include experts in welding, fracture mechanics, mechanical and vibration engineering, and fluid flow and corrosion (chemical) engineers.

Furthermore, the analysis shouldn’t stop with a technical analysis, but should include the whole management and decision chain that led to the circumstances we face with the USS San Antonio, such as the use of Management Oversight and Risk Tree analysis. The problems listed above must be categorized into root and contributing causes and a full open source report issued on the management and engineering failures, along with recommended corrective actions.

Prior and other resources:

Time, The Navy’s Floating Fiasco.

The Captain’s Journal, The 26th MEU Stuck at Bahrain.

The Captain’s Journal, The 26th MEU, The USS San Antonio, and Military Equipment.

26th MEU Stuck at Bahrain

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 7 months ago

In The 26th MEU, the USS San Antonio, and Military Equipment, we detailed our objections to the job that Northrup Grumman had done in constructing the amphibious transport dock USS San Antonio, with its snarled electrical cables, unreliable steering, and general poor craftsmanship throughout the physical plant. It is wasteful of time and resources, and certainly hampers the ability of the U.S. Marines to perform during their duties.

In a time when pirates are endangering shipping lanes in the extremely busy Gulf of Aden, the U.S. Marines should be engaging and killing pirates. Ralph Peters, OpFor and The Captain’s Journal have weighed in describing the solution to the problem of pirates. But the Marines are wasting time in Bahrain rather than contributing to the global war on terror or protecting shipping lanes.

The USS San Antonio has yet another major mechanical problem. It has sprung an oil leak, and is in port in Bahrain to repair and weld piping.

Their ship is stuck at a Bahraini port, but that doesn’t mean extra liberty for some leathernecks with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Marines and sailors with the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based MEU who are aboard the amphibious transport dock San Antonio “continue to train aboard and from that vessel,” according to a MEU spokesman.

The ship’s maiden deployment with the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group out of Norfolk, Va., was interrupted Oct. 31 when it entered a yard in Bahrain to fix major oil leaks. Navy officials projected the maintenance would be finished within two weeks. This marks the latest problem for the ship, which has been plagued with performance problems, and was delivered late and $1 billion over budget.

But problems with the ship — criticized Monday by Navy Secretary Donald Winter, who said he “continues to be unsatisfied” with its performance — have not stopped its Marine inhabitants from participating in training exercises and classes.

“This training includes leadership, martial arts, physical training, infantry and other job-skills training they would normally conduct underway,” MEU spokesman Gunnery Sgt. Bryce Piper said in an e-mail. “Accessibility to land actually expands these Marines’ opportunities to conduct physical and small-unit training outside the confines of the ship, and unit leaders exploit these opportunities whenever possible.”

Elements of the MEU’s battalion landing team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, and Combat Logistic Battalion 26, are on the ship, but they were not scheduled to participate in current training exercises, Piper said.

The 26th MEU set sail for a six-month deployment aboard the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima, the San Antonio and dock landing ship Carter Hall Aug. 29. Those ships are currently in the 5th Fleet area of operation.

As expected, the Marines and Navy put a good face on this, but many Marines are surely grumbling under their breath, while their brothers suffer in Afghanistan, pirates plague the Gulf of Aden, and Islamists continue their takeover of Somalia. The long war is proving to be too difficult to encounter these kinds of problems during deployment. With radiograph, dye penetrant testing, and visual inspection, there is absolutely no excuse – none – for welding problems to become manifest while at sea on a new ship. This demonstrates that there is a QA problem somewhere that badly needs to be fixed.

But this also raises the important question of whether the existing MEU structure is the best way to implement the strategic vision of the Marine Corps Commandant for an expeditionary force. It might be wise to train to perform naval-based and amphibious operations, and perhaps this should be among the regular qualifications of Marines of all billets. But first of all, the use of an MEU with all of its expense, to work out the problems associated with a new ship is a questionable value judgment. Second, the use of a Battalion Landing Team (BLT) to spend seven months aboard a ship performing humanitarian missions, shows of force and practice maneuvers while their brother suffer in Afghanistan and pirates maraud the Gulf of Aden forces the question of whether command deployed this MEU in the most efficient manner to perform the most important mission.

Aboard the USS Iwo Jima

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 9 months ago

The 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment aboard the USS Iwo Jima.

More Troops for Afghanistan?

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 9 months ago

General David Petraeus is apparently going to recommend that a Brigade be redeployed from Iraq to Afghanistan prior to the new administration taking over.

A senior U.S. Defense official who has seen Petraeus’ recommendations to the Joint Chiefs, Defense Secretary Gates and President Bush told FOX News the likely brigade to be shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan is the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, N.Y.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team is scheduled to deploy in the spring and their training could be shifted to match terrain in Afghanistan instead. The 10th Mountain Division, a light infantry unit, is well suited for such terrain.

Several reports also suggest that Petraeus is also recommending 1,500 Marines also be redirected from service in Iraq and sent to Afghanistan.

The Captain’s Journal has previously weighed in stating that we believe that the campaign will require an additional three Marine Regimental Combat Teams (RCT) and three Army Brigades. We now believe that this counsel was on the low end of the true requirements, and that General Petraeus will be obliged to redeploy much more that he has stated above.

The advisers to President Bush are said to object to the redeployment out of Iraq, and Bush will apparently decide this week. But in the spirit of our previous counsel that we don’t have until next year to bolster forces in Afghanistan, there is a revelation from Operation Enduring Freedom command that convinces us that there won’t likely be a Taliban winter rest this year.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALAGUSH, Afghanistan — American troops in Afghanistan will step up offensive operations this winter because insurgents are increasingly staying in the country to prepare for spring attacks, a U.S. commander told The Associated Press.

Maj. Gen. Jeffery J. Schloesser said a 40 percent surge in violence in April and May was fueled in part by militants preparing stores of weapons during the winter, which generally is a slow period for fighting, particularly in snowy Afghan mountainous areas.

“If we don’t do anything over the winter the enemy will more and more try to seek safe haven in Afghanistan rather than going back to Pakistan,” Schloesser said.

U.S. and NATO officials say militants cross into Afghanistan from Pakistan, where they rest, train and resupply in tribal areas along the frontier where the Pakistani government has little sway.

Schloesser estimated 7,000 to 11,000 insurgents operate in the eastern part of Afghanistan that he oversees — a far higher estimate than given by previous U.S. commanders.

He said the U.S. military realized more militants spent last winter in Afghanistan after speaking with elders and villagers who had been pushed out of their homes. The spike in violence in the spring occurred because insurgents were already in position to unleash attacks, though U.S. officials didn’t know it at the time, he said.

“They didn’t have to come over the passes, they were already here,” Schloesser said during an interview while flying in a Black Hawk helicopter Monday to a small U.S. outpost in Nuristan, a province that borders Pakistan.

Kudos to Maj. Gen. Schloesser for this perspective. The Captain’s Journal loves honesty and forthrightness. The Major General understands the need to continue operations, and so does General McKiernan, who doesn’t want to lose the terrain taken in and around Garmser after the Marines of the 24th MEU took it.

Introducing the general to his officers and senior enlisted, company commander Dynan briefs McKiernan on their recent fight against the Taliban, and the improving situation with the villagers.

Weeks later, McKiernan will explain how the problem with Pakistan and the ISI was affecting the local ground war. “There is a continuing issue of the very porous border with Pakistan and it has allowed insurgent militant groups a greater freedom of movement across that border . . . . They have the freedom to move across the border unimpeded and can easily resupply and recruit in Pakistan,” McKiernan told the Associated Press on 9 July. He added that rocket and mortar attacks launched by militants in Pakistan at U.S. and Afghani border outposts had spiked dramatically in May and June.

But today all the Army general wants to do is talk to “his” Marines. The 24th MEU was deployed specifically to Afghanistan in response to Canadian and British calls for additional American troops, and McKiernan uses it as his Quick Response Force, to be thrown into whatever emergency situation arises.

McKiernan asks Captain Dynan for permission to address the Marines of Alpha Company. Surrounded by Leathernecks, the new commanding general speaks quietly to the young men. “You’ve knocked the insurgents, the Taliban, out of the area,” he said. “They had no idea of how Marines can fight. They do now. You’ve given the locals the courage to stand up with us, and that’s what it takes to win down here.”

Pleased by the recognition, the Marines smile and pepper McKiernan with questions, then take turns shaking his hand. As the general and his entourage depart, the men of Alpha Company prepare for their evening patrols, where they will continue to walk through villages, meeting the locals, and letting friend and foe alike know that the Marines have landed.

Marine Corps Commandant Conway predicted that this would happen.

Conway anticipated the Corps’ predicament when the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, deployed to Afghanistan this spring, to provide a surge of forces there.

“I said, with all due respect … ‘let me predict something: Commanders will fall in love with the Marines because they will do a great job,’ ” Conway said. “There will be a request for an extension. There will be requests to replace them with other Marines.”

The Marines were, in fact, extended. And if new Marines are to fall in behind those slated to depart in November, a decision would have to be made soon.

That could come in a variety of forms. The 26th MEU departed North Carolina in August for an undisclosed location in the Middle East, while the 13th MEU is slated to push out of Southern California in January.

This is the first time The Captain’s Journal has seen in print the possibility that the 26th MEU might be replacements for the 24th MEU. But if this is going to happen, the decision will be made soon. The 24th MEU is scheduled to return stateside in November. Leaving port in January of 2009 and arriving in February of 2009, doesn’t really do justice to the needs of the campaign, although the 13th MEU might also be in the works for Afghanistan if our counsel is followed.

Either way, Operation Enduring Freedom is in dire need of troops, and the security situation is degrading. Security for the population is a hinge upon which much of counterinsurgency turns, and without adequate force projection, we cannot hope to win the campaign. As we have pointed out, at the height, Soviet General Gromov had up to 104,000 troops, while General Petraeus currently has only 32,500.

The 26th MEU, the USS San Antonio, and Military Equipment

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 10 months ago

The Captain’s Journal will take great interest in the 26th MEU for the remainder of its current deployment. The 26th MEU consists of the USS Iwo Jima and USS San Antonio, are they are joined by amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall, the guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf, the guided missile destroyer USS Ramage, the guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt and the fast attack submarine USS Hartford.

The USS Iwo Jima, which carries the 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment (2nd Marine Division), left the Norfolk Naval Station on Tuesday. On the other hand, the USS San Antonio has had equipment malfunctions that kept her in port.

Hydraulic problems have delayed the maiden deployment the amphibious transport dock San Antonio (LPD-17), which was supposed to leave Aug. 26 with the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group.

The ship, which has endured lengthy delays and cost overruns, had to stay back in Norfolk due to a broken stern gate that will take days to repair, said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Herb Josey, spokesman for Naval Surface Force Atlantic.

The amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima left the pier at 11 a.m. without San Antonio and is headed to North Carolina to onload the rest of the Camp Lejeune-based 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Capt. Brian Smith, Amphibious Squadron 4 commander, said the problem with San Antonio was discovered Aug. 24 and he expects the new amphib – the lead ship of the LPD 17 class – to be repaired and outbound by the end of this week.

“There is nothing that will keep San Antonio from getting underway,” he said. The problem is a mechanical failure in a ram cylinder piston that controls the stern gate, he said, crucial for conducting well-deck operations, an amphib’s very reason for existence.

San Antonio’s fleet debut has been a rocky one. It underwent two scathing inspection reports and had to miss its first shot at deployment in February with the Nassau ESG.

Smith defended both San Antonio and the San Diego-based amphib New Orleans, the second ship in the class, which was deemed “degraded in her ability to sustain combat operations” by a recent Navy inspection.

“Any new ship is going to be scrutinized and discrepancies will be generated,” he said.

But intense scrutiny isn’t really the problem. The problems run far deeper, into management of the design and construction process.

… the San Antonio had a troubled fleet debut. After arriving late and over-budget in 2005, an initial inspection report revealed major problems.

Board of Inspection and Survey officers found the ship “incomplete” and unsafe for crew members to board in a July 5, 2005, report. Inspectors found “poor construction and craftsmanship … throughout the ship.”

Wiring was also problematic.

“Poor initial cable-pulling practice led to what is now a snarled, over-packed, poorly-assembled and virtually uncorrectable electrical/electronic cable plant,” the report states.

The San Antonio made headlines again in April 2007, after the ship was deemed “unsuccessful” because of several equipment failures and “unreliable” steering during March sea trials. However, the report commends the crew for presenting the ship “professionally.”

Still, the catalog of problems prompted Navy Secretary Donald Winter to write a June 22, 2007, letter to shipbuilder Northrop Grumman complaining that two years after commissioning, the fleet “still does not have a mission-capable ship.”

Over its early life, San Antonio’s price also rose from a 1996 estimate of $876 million to $1.85 billion, once all of its discrepancies were corrected.

Unless the cable raceways and trays are done per specification, the wiring and cabling are all marked and labeled, the terminal cabinets are all labeled, the terminations are all numbered, the sliding links are all clearly marked, the relays are all labeled, and electrical engineering, logic diagrams and wiring tabulations are all certified and quality assured, the contractor has left the Navy with an unmaintainable situation.

We’ve discussed this before in Can the Navy Afford the New Destroyers, where we cataloged the demise the ship building industry in the U.S., concluding that:

Anything as complex as the engineering behind shipbuilding cannot be long sustained if a country is not actively engaged in the process. Certainly, contractors who bid the jobs believed that procedures for doing dye penetrant and radiography on welds were the same as before, and protocols for QA had not changed since the last time ships were constructed. Engineers are, after all, plug-and-play, white jumpsuit experts at everything under the sun, and also certainly the technology can be rapidly learned and applied by new, young engineers straight out of school, or who had been the understudy of engineers who had done this work before.

Only, none of this is exactly true … To be sure, accountability is the order of the day, and strict management of costs will be necessary for the Navy to be allowed to move forward with its Destroyer program. But shipbuilding is a lost science in the U.S., and recapturing it as an institution will be difficult and fraught with hidden problems for the DoD to deal with. This is not so much an issue with the Navy, or what they call the ‘Destroyers’, or how much they control the contractors, as it is with the fact that the U.S. has lost the ability to do large scale steel projects and shipbuilding.

The USS San Antonio is not a destroyer, but the basic principle remains the same. Day laborers are no substitute for professionals, hope is not a substitute for a QA program, poor design and construction practices lead to problems with maintenance, and rework always increases the cost and decreases the quality.

While at least somewhat unrelated, this brings up the issue of the refueling tanker. We have previously weighed in on this issue, but a good technical discussion is contained in a Human Events article by General John Handy, USAF (Ret.). A brief quote gives his perspective on the tanker controversy.

Somewhere in the acquisition process, it is obvious to me that someone lost sight of the requirement. Based on what the GAO decided, it’s up to people such as myself to remind everyone of the warfighter requirement for a modern air refueling tanker aircraft.

Recall that we started this acquisition process in order to replace the Eisenhower era KC-135 aircraft with a modern version capable of accomplishing everything the current fleet does plus additional needs for the future. Thus the required aircraft is of small to medium size much like the KC-135. Not a very large aircraft like the current KC-10, which may be replaced later with a comparably large aircraft.

Why a smaller to medium size aircraft? Because, first of all, you want tankers to deploy in sufficient numbers in order to accomplish all assigned tasks. You need to bed them down on the maximum number of airfields around the world along with or close to the customer — airborne fighters, bombers and other mobility assets in need of fuel close to or right over the fight or crisis. This allows the supported combatant commander the ability to conduct effective operations around the clock. The impact of more tankers is more refueling booms in the sky, more refueling orbits covered, wider geographic coverage, more aircraft refueled, and more fuel provided. A “KC-135 like” aircraft takes up far less ramp space, is far more maneuverable on the ground and does not have the risk of jet blast reorganizing your entire ramp when engine power is applied.

Just so. And TCJ wondered why, if from the beginning the specifications targeted a medium refueling tanker, extra credit would be awarded to larger air frames. It makes absolutely no sense. But regardless of this technical point, there is a more salient point that TCJ made several months ago concerning who holds a major share of EADS.

Even more worrisome is the power grab by Vladimir Putin, who is buying up the depressed shares of EADS like a corporate raider. The prospect of the authoritarian Russian leader, whose political opponents are harassed and jailed while prying journalists turn up missing or murdered, having a heavy hand in EADS affairs is deeply troubling. Russia opposed the invasion of Iraq and has sought to undermine U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The most troubling aspect of the tanker contract is the danger it poses to U.S. national security. According to a report by the Center for Security Policy, EADS has been a leading proliferator of weapons and technology to some of the most hostile regimes in the world, including Iran and Venezuela. When the U.S. formally objected to EADS selling cargo and patrol planes to Venezuelan despot Hugo Chavez, EADS tried to circumvent U.S. law by stripping American-built components from the aircraft. Chavez is now building an oil refinery in Cuba to keep Castro’s failed Communist state afloat, funding terrorists seeking the violent overthrow of Colombia’s government, and recently meddled in the presidential election in Argentina with secretly smuggled cash contributions. If EADS had its way, Chavez would now be advancing his anti-American designs in the Western hemisphere with U.S. technology and components.

EADS entanglements with Venezuela make the Pentagon’s decision to waive the Berry Amendment, which prohibits the export of technology that might be developed during the building of the tanker to third parties, indefensible. Given the sophisticated radar and anti-missile capabilities of military tankers, this is no small matter. Such technology falling into the hands of state sponsor of terrorism would devastate our war fighters.

EADS entanglements with Venezuela make the Pentagon’s decision to waive the Berry Amendment, which prohibits the export of technology that might be developed during the building of the tanker to third parties, indefensible. Given the sophisticated radar and anti-missile capabilities of military tankers, this is no small matter. Such technology falling into the hands of state sponsor of terrorism would devastate our war fighters.

And such a scenario is hardly unreasonable. EADS executives recently attended an air show in Iran and were caught red-handed trying to sell helicopters with military applications. When confronted, an EADS executive said the company was not bound by the U.S. arms embargo against Iran. EADS also sold nuclear components vital to exploding a nuclear device to an Asian company that in turn sold them to an Iranian front operation.

As TCJ coverage of the unwarranted Russian aggression against Georgia has made clear, we consider Vladimir Putin to be a gangster and international criminal. Any involvement with Putin – any involvement, including the Airbus – should be rejected without further consideration.

Technology is hard to regain once it has been lost. This is true of ship building, engineering QA, and air frame design. It is not only good for the U.S. economy and technological capabilities to have this done in the States, but it enables holding contractors accountable, something that we can never do with gangsters and criminals. It is yet to be seen how this will play out. But only the U.S. could be so stupid as to award a contract for our military refueling tankers to Vladimir Putin.

Marines Continue Heavy Engagements in the Helmand Province

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 11 months ago

U.S. News & World Report recently had a very important update on the 24th MEU in the Garmser area of operations. The entire report is well worth reading, but several paragraphs will be given below as very much related to things we have discussed in our coverage.

Many of the men here are not new to combat. The 24th MEU fought during the toughest years of the insurgency in Iraq, where urban street battles in cities like Fallujah and Ramadi “were like getting into a fistfight in a phone booth,” recalls 1st Lt. Tom Lefebvre, a Weapons Company platoon leader. During its 2004 deployment to Fallujah and then in Ramadi from September 2006 to May 2007, the battalion weathered brutal attacks on a daily basis. Soon after the unit’s tour was extended to nine months from six as part of the surge, the marines began to see progress. “It wasn’t a matter of if you thought you were making a difference,” says Cpl. Scott Oaks of Stewartville, Ala. “You could see a difference.”

Here, they are not so sure. They have watched British colleagues fight to retake from the Taliban some of the same hills where old British forts from colonial-era campaigns in the 1800s still stand. Since 2006, control of this town has changed hands three times. Marines say that they are willing to do the hard fighting to clear out the area again. But, they occasionally wonder, to what end—and at what cost? “I’ve got no problem going after the Taliban,” says Weapons Company 1st Sgt. Lee Wunder. “But we’d all like to see, for all our effort and hard work, when we leave that there is someone to backfill for us” …

Because they thought it would be a quick operation, Alpha Company marines traveled light, carrying only bare essentials on their backs. They each filled CamelBaks with the equivalent of 54 water bottles each for the first three days. Many left even sleeping bags behind. With food and ammunition, gear for each gi weighed an average of 125 pounds, minus the body armor …

In May, Weapons Company was ambushed by Taliban forces and pinned down in the 90-minute firefight. “We didn’t think they’d pour it on like that,” says Abbott. “It was one of those things where they just keep turning the volume up, and it was getting louder and louder. There were 30 minutes when we were full-bore reloading,” he says. “The next morning, we were like, ‘How the hell did we survive that?’ ” …

Troops here debate what is worse—repelling groups of Taliban fighters with good command and control in Helmand or the asymmetrical guerrilla hit-and-run attacks they weathered in Ramadi. “In Iraq, it was just a guy and a couple of his buddies. These guys are better,” says one marine. “We saw more RPGs here in the first two days then we’d ever dreamed of in Iraq.” They also miss air conditioning on foot patrols in Iraq. “We’d stop in a house and get to watch Spaceballs in Arabic,” adds Cpl. Richard Fowler wistfully.

Here, too, the mud brick walls that surround homes—and that Taliban fighters use for protection—have proved disconcertingly resistant to U.S. artillery. Alpha Company has also discovered textbook trenches and fortified bunkers—some booby-trapped—in and around the compound that it took over after a recent battle with local Taliban. Marines are relieved, though, that they are able to more freely use air support in this rural area and that they haven’t come across the sheer volume of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that they encountered in Iraq. But they also fear that the use of roadside bombs is on the rise …

… since their arrival, they have been struck not only by the ferocity of the fighting but by the immense poverty they have encountered. In Fallujah and Ramadi, families had tables and china cabinets and televisions, the marines note. “You look at these areas, and there is just nothing,” says Oaks. The literacy rate in many villages is in the single digits. “Education here is just way too low, and even if you’re just talking about bringing in electricity, it’s going to take years and years and years.”

This report should be studied by every counterinsurgency practitioner and authority in the country. There are so many nuggets of gold that we cannot possibly hope to flesh out all of the lessons. But there are a few recurring themes here at The Captain’s Journal.

First, note that the Marines are asking for the same thing we have asked for here at TCJ. If we are going to commit troops and sustain casualties, then the bloody ground become sacred. It runs against honor for fallen Marines to allow terrain – physical and human – to be retaken by the enemy. The Marines want someone to fill in for them upon their departure, and not troops who wish to negotiate with the Taliban, run to the nearest FOB, and be inhibited by their ROE when faced with fire fights. The Marines want replacements who can hold the terrain.

Second, notice the battle space weight, something we have discussed in painful detail in our coverage of body armor. As we have argued before, the solution is not to give up protection, but to spend the necessary dollars to design lighter weight SAPI plates (as well as lighter weight field equipment).

Third, notice that just as we observed in the kinetic engagement in Wanat in which nine U.S. soldiers perished, the Taliban have not only become accustomed to the use of standoff weapons such as roadside bombs, but have taken to direct military confrontations via fire and maneuver. They are well trained and are becoming bolder. So much for the notion (proffered early in the year by Army intelligence – and which we disputed) that there wouldn’t be a spring offensive.  The Pentagon should listen to TCJ rather than their own intelligence.

Fourth, note the increased use of air power because of the lack of urban terrain, one of the positive things about being out of cities.

Fifth and finally, note the intensive nation-building that the Western world will have to sustain in Afghanistan before it is even up to par with Iraq. This is indeed a long term commitment.

The 26th MEU Invades Indianapolis

BY Herschel Smith
16 years ago

The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is set to invade Indianapolis.

Hollywood special effects and Arabic-speaking actors will be helping Marines train for urban combat when Indianapolis and other nearby communities begin hosting mock combat missions Wednesday.

A special effects company will create realistic explosions in a mock Middle Eastern village at Camp Atterbury, Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Timothy Patrick said in a written statement.

Arabic-speaking actors have been hired to play villagers and hostile insurgents, Patrick said.

“We will patrol through a mock village, interact with the villagers, determine enemy threats (and) meet with village leaders,” Patrick said. “There will also be simulated improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades on strings providing explosions — all courtesy of the special effects production company.”

For the next two weeks, about 2,300 Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., will conduct urban warfare training at locations in and around Indianapolis.

Helicopters will land at the old Eastgate Consumer Mall, Brookside Park, the old Bush Stadium, Raymond Park Middle School and 22 other Indianapolis locations.

The Marines have been cleared by state, federal and local authorities, Fletcher said. The unit’s commander promised to try to keep noise to a minimum and give neighbors plenty of warning.

The Marines will practice firing weapons, conducting patrols, running vehicle checkpoints, reacting to ambushes and employing nonlethal weapons, according to a statement.

Arabic, and not Pashto or Dari?  Does this mean that the 26th MEU is headed for Iraq?  At any rate, the Indianapolis Star has another interesting take on things.

U.S. Marine helicopters will land at the old Eastgate Consumer Mall, Brookside Park and other Indianapolis locations when the city becomes a mock battlefield next week.

About 2,300 Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., will conduct urban warfare training from Wednesday through June 19 in and around Indianapolis.

Most of the troops will be deployed at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and the Raytheon facility on Holt Road, said Debbi Fletcher of the Indianapolis/Marion County Emergency Management Agency.

“We don’t want anyone thinking that there’s an invasion happening or that we declared martial law or something like that,” Fletcher said …

“Our aim in Indianapolis is to expose our Marines to realistic scenarios and stresses posed by operating in an actual urban community, thereby increasing their proficiency in built-up areas,” Col. Mark J. Desens, commander of the 26th MEU, said in a statement. “While some of the activity will take place around Camp Atterbury, residents in many areas can expect to see helicopters flying overhead, military vehicles on the roads and Marines patrolling on foot,” Desens said.

Basically, the Marines are doing MOUT training in Indianapolis.  Sounds awesome.  But the comments at the Star are telling.

Oh hell no! The last thing we need is more right wing stormtroopers running around loose! Indy needs to say NO just like other cities have!


I was wondering when this would happen.

Really?  Were you really wondering when the Marines were going to do MOUT training in Indy?

It does look like prelude to martial law. But they dont even need our troops to perform do (sic) this. According to what Ive (sic) been told, Bush has signed an agreement with Canada giving them the right to come to America and perform martial law. If our own troops wont (sic) shoot at us, the Canucks probably will. It’s really getting hard to tell who the enemy is anymore. Keep those guns handy men, it’s getting closer to lock & load.


One thing I forgot to mention, one of the largest congregations of muslims are supposed to be in the Danville area. Hmmm, the jar heads on the eastside, the muslims on the westside.

No, seriously.  You can’t make this stuff up.  Fact is better than fantasy.  Then finally, this:

Thank you for expressing your concerns regarding the Marine maneuvers. The federal, state, and local authorities, including the Mayor, are in full support of this training initiative. Local emergency management authorities are also fully aware of the situation. We understand some of the concerns that are being expressed and have fully weighed those; however, the greater good is being served by allowing them access to our urban setting for future planning purposes. Any impacted neighborhoods will be notified.

Thank you,

Mary Grattan

Constituent Services Assistant

Office of Mayor Gregory A. Ballard

317-327-2580m the mayors office

We’ll see if the 26th MEU imposes martial law and shoots up Indy.  It’ll be sure to hit the news.

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