Friday, January 29, 2016

"Just walk away, Cletus..."

Dear remaining traitors in arms.

No. Not just no, but fuck no.

The only place you get to be a heroic rebel and then use your awesome Jedi mind powers to force the Evil Stormtroopers that you're not the rebellious fucksticks they're looking for is in George Lucas' head.

So when you say:
"We are willing to leave peacefully...if the FBI will let us leave without arrest or forcing us through the checkpoint, we will all go home."
you're talking complete nonsense. It don't work that way, Cletus.

And CNN? When traitors in arms tell you that they will either walk away without facing the consequences of their armed sedition or they will make the earth and sky red with blood? That's not "saying they're ready to leave peacefully". That's demanding that they escape the consequences of their armed sedition and giving the rest of us peaceful citizens the big ol' rebel-in-arms finger.

Figure it out, goddamn.

But're going to get a wonderful choice, my dear traitors.

You are going to get to surrender without being hung out of hand as has been the traditional fate of traitors in arms. You will get an expensive and public trial in which you are very likely to be given a ridiculously vast amount of privilege to spout your idiotic, treasonous nonsense and justify your greedy and selfish seizure of our public patrimony. And, even if you are convicted of the crimes you have so self-evidently committed, you will have careful and relatively benign jailers who will ensure that you are released unharmed to resume your deluded and delusional defiance of both republican government and common sense which I know you will because...well, you're you and can no more stop being you than a howler monkey can stop flinging its poop.

In short, you are some seriously lucky sonsofbitches and you need to accept that and go quietly to the lawmen and surrender.

Before your fellow traitors find out why the snacks were gone.
Because, looking at you?

It's not that hard to guess where all the Cheetos went, genius, and no matter how slow your pals are they'll figure it out eventually and then who's gonna save you when they go all Second Amendment Solution on your porky ass?

Just sayin'.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

L'Art de l'Affaire

You know my love affair with the women's soccer game and our Portland Thorns in particular, right?
This winter the Thorns are supposedly negotiating with one of France's top players, Amandine Henry. The news was announced nearly a month ago. deal so far, and nobody seems to know why.

Here's my suspicion: I think the Henry, who has been playing for one of Europe's wealthiest clubs, can't believe the teensy-weensy little salary she's being offered by the salary-capped NWSL. Not sure what the maximum for a non-allocated (that is, a player whose salary isn't payed by one of the national soccer organizations) will be this year, but last season it was only about $37,000.

Even for a women professional getting paid significantly less than a man (and, while this isn't really fair, the women's game also makes far, far less than the men's, so you can see how a team would justify that) this is a pittance by European standards, where a good player can command at least twice that. Henry is said to have made about $70,000 last season playing for the big club Paris St. Germain.

So my guess is that Henry, or her agent, or both, are gobsmacked and unwilling to get over the whole "league maximum" thing and that this is making negotiations...difficult.
Here's how this is playing out in my head:

Henry: "C’est impossible! I cannot believe this, me. Les Thorns d’Portland, home of ten t’ousand seeinging fans and ze maniac Reeveters, smoke bombs bursting in ze air…and zees is EET? Ze boot-polishaire at PSG ees making more than thees!"

Merritt Paulson (owner of the Thorns): "This is it, really. I’m not kidding. This is all we can offer given the hard cap. I wish…but, no. This is really it."

Henry: "Ridicule! Zees ees America! There is always a way aroun’ ze rules, hein? Here, I tell you what; I see in le pissoir you ’ave special pieces of paper for to covair ze seat (which is imbecile, but, whatevair…). You tell ze league zat I am tres délicat and have l'grand fantods de horreur at ze nasty pissoirs ’ere in Portland, so you must stock $120,000 worth of zees papairs! Zen you don not buy ze papairs and geev ze money to me. Corrigé!

Paulson: "Ummm…I…let me see what my general manager has to say. Gavin! Little help here!

This part of the US soccer year is the equivalent of what in England is called the "silly season" (because there's no soccer and everyone gets to trot out their silly speculations). Consider this my bit to keep it as silly as possible...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dreaming in Mid-winter

An Archaeology of Snow Forts

There’s not much left to be said
Some well-washed stone hasn't heard before.

History is composed of broken walls and bad neighbors:
Just ask these chips from Berlin, the Parthenon and Cathay
Or these cool magma hands of Pompeii, dark and grey.

If you listen carefully in the right place
On University Avenue, you will learn
There is a minor wall near the Yalu River
Dancing on the hills of Qin for the moon,

Who knows exactly what I mean
In every tongue worth mention.

She’s moonlighting as a curved garden serpent
Coiling around old Laocoon,
The Suspicious One with his astute eye,
Crooning with a sly wink,

"Come, touch true history."

And how the moon must laugh when she spies
The tiniest hill in Minnetonka,
Where the small hands of the earth have erected

A magnificent white wall,
A snowy miniature Maginot
Raised some scant hours before,
Already melting into a hungry, roiling river
Who is not yet finished eating Louisiana for brunch.

~ Bryan Thao Worra

No particular reason. Just loved this poem, and the thought of a minor wall in the mountains above the Yalu dancing in the moonlit snow.

Irritating Blogger Tricks

Yes, I know; it's free, and if you're not paying for a product YOU'RE the product, yadda, yadda...


I'd been noticing this for a while; since late in 2015 or early this year and I hadn't really paid attention to it until now, but...

Used to be that when you pulled up an older post Blogger would give you a link to all the posts you put up in that month in the archive gadget. So, for example, if I looked up a post from May, 2008, I could see in the "Calls for Fire" sidebar all the other posts from May, 2008.


Nothing. The posts for 2016 are shown by month. But for all the earlier years? Nothing; just the year and the number of posts. Doesn't matter what the date of the post you're looking at.

And that's goddamn irritating because I often string together a series of posts in a sort of stream-of-consciousness way; one provokes another which nudges loose a third. So it's nice to see the month's posts surrounding whatever I looked up just to see what the hell I had been thinking about. Now I have to scroll all the way back through pages and pages of posts if I awnt to do that, and that's not worth a damn.

Who the hell thought that was a good idea, Blogger? Your IT guys? Corporate? Or some marketing genius? Sheesh.

It's like the irritating-as-hell thing that Facebook has decided to do where it shows me every fucking thing my friends "like". WTF? I need that, Facebook? Seriously? Who the hell thought that was a good idea?

Sometimes I want to slap the people who administer these applications like Moe did the other Stooges. Ya knuckleheads!

And you little bastards get the hell off my lawn, too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

18 U.S. Code § 2384 - Seditious conspiracy

It appears tonight that at least part of the armed seditionists and traitors in arms are dead or in federal custody.

Hopefully the arrest, trial, and imprisonment of the remainder will follow swiftly.

Because these people are not simply traitors. They are madmen and idiots who would invoke their insane concept of "common law" to destroy our republic for their own benefit. It is also worth noting that the shootout and arrests occurred as the traitors-in-arms were on the road to spread their treason to neighboring Grant County, Oregon, where the county sheriff is another whackadoodle seditionist and wanna-be sovereign-fucking-citizen.

My only regret is that they will not, as they should be, as their predecessor traitors typically were, speedily and publicly hung as a warning to those who are tempted to follow in their path; thus perish all traitors.

Because in order to not lose the Whiskey Rebellion, as Bill Sherman said; fear is the beginning of wisdom.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Army I Knew: M*U*S*T

If you remember, last time we heard from young Doc Chief was in the winter of 1987 when I had reported to my Army Reserve unit, a combat support hospital in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

In 1987 the 99th Combat Support Hospital (USAR) MTO&E was what was known as a "MUST" unit.

The acronym stands for "Medical Unit, Self-Contained, Transportable", and stood for the physical type of facility that was used to house the patients in the wards as well as all the medical, surgical, lab, and administration of the hospital.

The heart of these things were long rubberized half-pipes that were inflated and then supported by compressed air, sort of like ginormous kiddie pools laid out on their sides. Here's how it is described in the Wiki entry for "combat support hospital":
"MUST...contained all necessary functions to provide care for 250 beds, including 2 intensive care units, 8 medical wards, emergency room, 4 operating rooms, orthopedic room, laboratory, X-ray and pharmacy. It consisted of hard containers which housed the operating rooms, laboratory, X-ray, and pharmacy. Inflatable shelters were used to provide double wall insulated areas for the patient care areas of the hospital.

These "inflatables" required a power system called a Utility Pack (also known as a U-Pack or power station) to provide utility services. The U-Pack provided electricity, heating, air conditioning, compressed air, vacuum, and hot (and) cold (running) water. At 250 beds the hospital required 8 U-Packs. Each consumed 30 gallons of jet fuel per hour. After several years of using inflatables they were abandoned in the mid 1980s, largely due to the weight of the inflatables, and the amount of fuel required just to keep the tents from collapsing."

The other problem that this entry doesn't mention is that, just like the kiddie pool, the inflatable "buildings" would DEflate if you put a hole in them by, say, shooting rockets or mortars at them.

Can't imagine how THAT'd happen, eh?

The MUST system was more than twenty years old when I met it, and had been deployed to Vietnam with somewhat mixed results, including the whole "collapses when holed by shrapnel" thing.
(Nice little article about one of the Vietnam MUST units here at the 25th ID page, by the way, and here's a link to the 45th CSH page that provides some PDF documents by Garrett, the MUST system manufacturer...)
By the late-ish Eighties these things were almost out of the RA inventory; the DEPMEDS system of hard shelters was first fielded sometime around 1984.

What was true then (and is probably still true today ) is that the USAR was the poor, raggedy-ass, neglected-when-forgotten-and-beaten-when-remembered stepchild of the regular Army.

Without the powerful lobby that the state National Guard organizations had and have the Reserve had to make do with and mend whatever hand-me-downs they got from the regulars. The MUST system was one of these hand-me-downs and remained in place for at least as long as I served with the 99th CSH and probably much longer.

I have to say that I thought the the MUST was actually sort of ingenious, in a Sixties-Space-Age-y-Tang-and-dehydrated-meal kind of way.

The ORs, labs, and other technical facilities had their own containers that would travel and arrive ready to go. The containers had a pair of wheeled dollies that you'd shove up against the ends, lock in place, and then raise the container off the ground ready to roll, a very neat gimmick.
The ward units were, even in peacetime and stateside, something of a nightmare and that was without the whole "collapses when holed by shrapnel" thing.
Hard to move, physically demanding to set up, and once inflated a bit of a maintenance headache, but for all of that they had a couple of huge, immense, unbelievably, incredibly wonderful advantages.

They were usually warm.

And dry.

And clean; it's hard to express what an amazing feeling it was to go "to the field" and remain clean.

I had been living a bit of a pampered life as a medic in Panama, running the Evacuation Section and having a six-wheeled house to live in. The line medics lived like grunts, which means like domestic livestock only without the pampering.

But the notion of sleeping on a cot, and taking a daily shower with actual hot water? That was unspeakable luxury, and one that I'm not embarrassed to say that I took to like a Republican presidential candidate to wog-bashing, hippie-punching, and slut-shaming.

So for all their drawbacks I got okay with the MUST gimmick most quick smart.

The thing that was harder to adapt myself to were...well, the "soldiers" of the Army Reserve circa 1987.

Because at the time it was unusual for prior-service people to come out of the regular Army and want to keep serving part-time. Most guys who ETSed just wanted to be actual civilians again; it wasn't that we worried about going to war, as Reservists and Guardsmen do now. Most of us had just had our fill of playing soldier and wanted to grow our hair and beards and lie around getting fat.

There was little in the way of institutional memory from Vietnam left in the USAR by the late Eighties and there was little in the way of new-hewn experience coming in from the Regular army, so the vast, seething primordial mass of USAR soldiers of the day were, very often, "soldiers" only in the sense that they kept tree-colored clothing somewhere in their closet to wear once a month.

Don't get me wrong; they were good people. They wanted to serve, and they wanted to soldier; that alone set them apart from most Americans of the time, who could have cared less - the Army just wasn't the sort of place where an ambitious, real up-and-comer, sort of person could be found in January 1987. The ones who DID want to soldier went on into active duty.

Many of the people who made up the Reserves had gone to nothing more than the Basic and Advanced Individual training - the same I had gone through back in 1980 - and it showed. They wanted to soldier; they just just didn't know how to soldier.

The only net positive about the USAR's combat support hospital staff - for me, anyway - was that about half of them looked, and as often as not smelled, far better than my former battle buddies.

Because they were women.

The notion of serving along with female troops wasn't really a problem for me.

For one thing, I didn't expect them to look like this:

We'd had female medics in Division, and I'd had a lot of female pals in the maintenance outfit of the 210th Aviation Battalion in Panama. Good troopers, most of them.

I expected female troops to soldier and was seldom disappointed. It sure didn't hurt that they were both less-inclined to dick-wave and more-inclined to bathe and wash their uniforms regularly than the hairy-chested types I'd been serving with.

The Reserve female troops, though, had the same problems their male counterparts did; most of them had only the sketchiest idea of what actual soldiers did and how they did it.

I wasn't Sergeant Rock, exactly - I'd scampered off Active Duty just to get the fuck out of the Pearl of the Pacific, remember - but I sure as hell could tell that these people weren't exactly ready for prime time.

As an E-5 buck sergeant I had barely clambered onto the lowest branch of the NCO tree. In an infantry unit I would have been considered capable - barely - of supervising three or four privates...but under the constant supervision of my squad leader from his august dignity of E-6 staff sergeant and the benign (but ruthless) authority of my E-7 platoon sergeant.

But in the land of the blind, or the Eighties U.S. Army Reserve, the one-eyed man - or the prior-service buck sergeant - is king.

And so it was that I found myself in a very peculiar position of having the least rank but the most actual military knowledge and understanding of any of the NCOs in the 99th CSH, and in the completely unauthorized but ridiculously-badly-needed position of "Assistant to the Chief Wardmaster".

(Next; The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Untrainable, or, (seriously, no shit for-real-this-time, I promise) Lucy in the Sky With Diamond Earrings)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Joo keep using dat word...

From Sunday's edition of the World's Worst Newspaper:

So. Let's see. "Free federal lands" is Oregonianspeak for these douchenozzles' expressed intention; "take what public land we want, pay nothing for it, and we have guns, so, freedom!"

What a shock!

It turns out that a group of armed traitors to their government believes that their "...government has no constitutional authority to hold vast land tracts" and, instead, think that "freeing" these lands means that they should be able to take them for themselves and do with them what they want.

Free the lands!

Well, okay, free them until I can take them, fence them, and run my cattle all over them.

But oh, you whacky Oregonian editors and your "free"! Are you joshing me, you pranksters, or do you really think that "free" means what these goddamn traitors say it means? Next thing you know you'll be expecting me to believe that "free" means what the North American Man-Boy Love Association says it means; that men should be free to poke young lads up the backside!

What's infuriating about this - beyond confirming the overall spinelessness of the response to this fucking armed insurrection - is the World's Worst Newspaper being a willing accomplice to these traitors' vomiting their nonsense all over the public record.

The only remotely-nice thing about Oregon's Paper of Record bending over for the Bundy Bandidos like a debutante at a NAMBLA key-drop party is that it allowed my own personal favorite Oregonian Ursula LeGuin to come out swinging her Big Battle Axe of Fuck Your Stupid Bullshit and lop off the empty gourd that this idiot Payne uses to keep his cowboy hat off his shoulders:
Ammon Bundy and his bullyboys aren't trying to free federal lands, but to hold them hostage. I can't go to the Malheur refuge now, though as a citizen of the United States, I own it and have the freedom of it. That's what public land is: land that belongs to the public — me, you, every law-abiding American. The people it doesn't belong to and who don't belong there are those who grabbed it by force of arms, flaunting their contempt for the local citizens. Those citizens of Harney County have carefully hammered out agreements to manage the refuge in the best interest of landowners, scientists, visitors, tourists, livestock and wildlife. They're suffering more every day, economically and otherwise, from this invasion by outsiders. Instead of parroting the meaningless rants of a flock of Right-Winged Loonybirds infesting the refuge, why doesn't The Oregonian talk to the people who live there?
Get some, Ursula!

Erik Loomis over at Lawyers, Guns & Money has some more on this, but for Oregon's only daily newspaper to act as the butt-trumpet for these fetid droppings of the Right Wing fever swamps is unacceptable and beyond a mockery of journalism. But that's why it's the World's Worst Newspaper, after all.

Meanwhile, we're still fucking losing the fucking Whiskey Fucking Rebellion.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Enemy Below

So I picked up a secondhand copy of Paul Fussel's The Great War and Modern Memory at the Goodwill down in South Medford today. One of the hazards of being away from home and bored is that I run through reading material very quickly so I'm always on the q.v. for more.
I had it with me at the New China (where the Garlic and Green Onion Shrimp was decent belly-timber) and was reading along blithely until I came across this:
"Near Messines, south of Ypres, British miners had been tunneling for a year under the German front lines, and by early June (1917) they had dug twenty-one horizontal mineshafts stuffed with a million pounds of high explosive a hundred feet below crucial points in the German defense system. At 3:10 in the morning (7 JUN) these mines were set off all at once. Nineteen of them went up, and the shock wave jolted Lloyd George in Downing Street 130 miles away. Two failed to explode. One of these went off in July, 1955, injuring no one...The other, somewhere deep underground near Ploegsteert Wood, has not gone off yet."
Fussel isn't quite correct, by the way. As the Wiki entry notes, a total of 26 mines were originally dug.

One ("Peckham 2") of a pair was abandoned after the gallery was breached and saturated ("flowing") sand filled the tunnel. Another at La Petite Douve Farm was compromised by German countermining and abandoned to prevent alerting the German counterminers.

Four more, placed under a German strongpoint called "The Birdcage" located at Le Pelerin, near the southern end of Messines Ridge, were never fired because the German defenders abandoned The Birdcage prior to 7 JUN 1917.

That left twenty, and all were detonated that morning.
The mines - actually buried anywhere between about 60 and 140 feet below ground surface - did a hell of a lot of damage. Observers reported massive columns of flame and debris, including entire dugouts and other defensive works tossed into the air. Thousands of German troops were killed outright, thousands more injured, or stunned, and quickly captured.

But the mines of Messines were no more decisive than any other of the technical innovations of WW1. The ensuing attack gained about two miles (three if you start from the furthest end of the original German salient) before the German IV.Armee consolidated and ground the Allied advance to a halt. The killing went on another 16 months until the Armistice of November 1918.

The mines of Messines weren't done in 1918, though.

Not surprisingly, nobody wanted to go back in and laboriously drag all those explosives out of Birdcage 1 through 4, Peckham 2, and La Petite Douve. The groundwater is dangerously high, the running sand dangerous to dig, and the mines themselves were both touchy (guncotton, or nitrocellulose, is notoriously sensitive) and designed to resist water damage. I can't find the plans, but Simon Jones, one of the commentors on the Messines thread at the Great War Forum, said back in 2006 that
"These charges were very carefully waterproofed - the detonators and primers were sealed in bottles, the detonator leads placed in armoured hose and the explosives put into petrol cans covered with canvas coated in tar."
That these explosives were still patent nearly forty years later was proved by the detonation of one of the three Birdcage mines:
"One of the...mines went off unexpectedly on 17 June 1955 during a thunderstorm, near Le Pelerin. Electrification of the area had arrived in the 1940s and 50s, and a pylon was unknowingly erected above the site of the mine; lightning struck the pylon, detonating the mine below. The only casualty was a dead cow, although surrounding damage was extensive. The resultant crater has since been filled in, although after heavy rainfall a slight depression in the ground indicates the location of the crater."
That leaves five; Peckham 2 (a relatively small mine of about 20,000 pounds of explosive), the other three Birdcage mines, and the Petite Douve mine.

Which is, at the moment, about 25 tons of high explosive buried about 70 feet (23 meters) below one of the barns of the farm in the picture below.

M. Roger Mathieu, current owner and resident of the farm now known as La Basse Cour, isn't worried. "It doesn't stop me sleeping at night. It's been there all that time, why should it decide to blow up now?"

(If you're interested, the Clevelode battlefield tours website has a very good little photo tour of the Messines sites today.)

As William Faulkner said; sometimes the past isn't just "not dead".

Sometimes it's not even past.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

The Army I Knew: DEROS

When last seen, young SGT Chief was in the dank jungles of Panama, serially attempting to preserve the honor of winsome REMFs, fighting a neverending battle against mildew, or firing flaming balls of asswipe across the greensward.
As I mentioned in the previous installment of this series, the enticement of NCO school was part of the cunning plan of my then-superiors to try and keep me around. Unfortunately for them, there was a hitch in their re-up giddyap.


In case you're not familiar with the term, it stands for Date Eligable for Return from OverSeas. Any soldier (or airman; I think the zoomies use the same acronym) who is deployed gets one. How long the tour determines the DEROS, and in my case my initial DEROS was based on a "short tour" of 18 months which would come due late in December of 1986.

However. During my tour conditions in Panama were getting less-fun for both the United States and Panama. General Noriega, the then-caudillo of Panama and the guy who had ditched my Hootch Jump School graduation, was feeling the heat from the gringos now that the amount of Bolivian marching powder skating north through his joint was more irritating than his looking the other way whilst we screwed with his Nicaraguan pals was helpful.

It was getting harder to find suckers volunteers willing to come serve a year and a half in the tropical paradise. So the Army did what the Army does when it can't find eager dupes young American heroes willing to get stuck in for God and Country; it involuntarily extended our tours.

We (who were already posted there) now had to do a full 3-year "long tour" if we re-enlisted...regardless of what we wanted to re-up for. So if I re-upped for, say, sputum-sucker school (otherwise known as "91 X-ray", a whites-wearing, barracks-living REMF hospital job highly coveted by line-dog medics tired of living out of a rucksack) I'd have to do another 18 months in the Xanadu of the Isthmus. With an increasingly unpleasant citizenry that was getting increasingly willing to show me how little they liked to have me in their crib.

My alternative was to ETS. Drop the mike and walk off. Pull the pin. Get out of active service.

So, in December 1986, I did.
I want to stop here for a moment and mention something that was odd about the Regular Army of the 1980s

First of all, though, I need to talk about Vietnam.

So, here's the thing. You remember that back in the Sixties and early Seventies there was this thing called a "draft", right? Where you got to go be a soldier whether you wanted to or not and, if you were unlucky, got an all-expenses-paid year-long trip to the land of formaldehyde beer, pretty girls in ao dais, and irascible locals who would try and kill you?

OK. So the thing is that if you were one of those guys what you probably wanted most from Vietnam was out. And - short of a horrendous wound - the only way to get out was to get to the end of your time in service - your ETS - and so you damn sure kept track of how many months, weeks, or days you had left. There were even special calendars to help you, many of them designed to remind you of one of the big reasons you wanted to go back to the Land of the Big PX...
When you got down to about 90 days left or so you could officially call yourself a "short-timer" or just "short". This was usually announced as a barking cry of joy when, for example, you passed an officer. Instead of the usual "All the way, sir!" or "Wolfhounds, sir!" you'd back "Short, sir!" whilst snapping off your brightest sniper-pointer salute.

Not surprisingly, officers and senior NCOs hated the whole "short-timer" business and spent a tremendous amount of time and effort hunting it down to try and kill it.
So the funny thing is that, hard as they tried, the Army powers-the-were couldn't put the kibosh on the business. The short-time enthusiasm persisted into my Army of the 1980s...which is frankly odd when you think about it. We weren't getting shot at. Hell, we were all genuine volunteers; nobody had a real reason to rush for the door. You'd think that the shorttime countdowns and "Short!" giddiness would have died along with the draft.

But no. I and most of the guys I knew counted down our last days, yelped "Short!" when our names were called, gleefully informed anyone who asked that we were so short that we had to roll our socks down to take a shit, and ostentatiously took our boots out to the powerline outside the barracks on our last night to hang there as reminders that another inmate had made it over the wall.

So in the Eighties it was an oddity, a bizarre relict of a war, and an Army, long gone.

But I sometimes wonder. With the reality of endless deployments and stop-loss and repeated tours, I wonder if short-timer syndrome has returned to the GIs of today and the boots hang again on the wires outside the barracks..?

I returned to the States from sunny Panama to a freezing-ass cold winter, without a job and without any real skills. I had a degree in geology that I hadn't used in years and enough medical training to be hired as an assistant ass-wiper in any of the finest nursing homes in eastern Pennsylvania. Oh, and because of the peculiarities of the M782 Gama Goat ambulance I was fair at wrenching on diesel engines.

So I got a job working in a Ford tractor shop and - since my pay wrenching on Dearborn's products wasn't exactly princely - signed up to put in a weekend a month in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Those of you who are unfamiliar with the U.S. of the 1980's may find this amazing, but at the time the Army Reserve (or USAR) really was a "reserve". USAR units would drill two (or two-and-a-half, mustering in Friday evening and getting released Sunday afternoon...) days a month and then two weeks a year for annual training, usually in the summer hence "summer camp". Occasionally units would get deployed to, say, Honduras for annual training and spend some time supporting some sort of U.S. foreign policy there.

But the notion that these units, and these reserve soldiers, would end up in a war, an actual, shooting war short of WW3 or the Second Korean War?


So it was with a sort of holiday getting-off-work feeling that I drove up the road to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to my new unit of assignment; 99th Combat Support Hospital, 79th ARCOM.

Here's a funny thing; the unit I was joining is still there, at the Reserve Center on Ranck Mill Road in Lancaster. It's not part of the 79th ARCOM anymore; the old ARCOMS have been converted into "Regional Support Commands" and the RSC for the 99th is now the 99th RSC (which must be fucking confusing...). But the CSH is still there.

Although probably not as it was when I arrived in the winter of 1987.

I must have looked like a freak. I hadn't bothered to do much upkeep on my BDU uniforms in tropical Panama, where we got to strut around in our OD jungle fatigues, so I wore a pair of OG 507s under my BDU field jacket. And although I did have a BDU cap it had been used only for fieldwork, so it was fairly dingy and adorned with a pair of luminous "ranger eyes" and my nametag on the back.

I was as hardbitten and salty as only a young buck sergeant can be. So far as I was concerned, I was a real loose cannon, a firey furnace ready to chew up steel rails and piss out iron filings, and I was going to be the baddest-ass medic this little rural Reserve hospital had ever seen, and I walked in the doors of the Ranck Mill Reserve Center with a chip on my shoulder the size of a surfboard.

Next: Lucy in the Sky With Diamond Earrings

Friday, January 08, 2016


Over at his joint Defence and Freedom Sven links to a paper discussing a topic I've mentioned here (but more often over at the MilPub) before; the actual military value of airborne troops in modern times.

I had a fun time playing paratrooper back in the day, but even in the 1980s I had a hard time imagining surviving the run-in to a truly well-defended drop zone. The combination of better target acquisition devices (i.e. radar) and a profusion of shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles seemed to present an impossible thicket to force compared to the big drops of the 1940s.

That and the fact that a defending force with even a small group of relatively light armored vehicles (like Paraguay's old Shermans!) could do some pretty serious damage to paratroops if they were on hand before the units could assemble and scrounge up their light antitank weapons. The linked paper's author, one Marc Devore, points out all of this and that, based on their unwillingness to hazard airborne operations in real wars, the planners and operational commanders of the major airborne powers know this.
The other fun thing about the Devore paper (which is called, delightfully, When Failure Thrives) is that it notes that the people whose paratroops have actually done the best work militarily - the British - have shrunk their airborne force to next to nothing. The holders of the House Cup for Airborne Disasters, the Soviets, hung on to a pantsload of blue-beret wearing heroes, while my Army, intermediate in action was also middling in its affection for us devils in baggy pants. But...that the realities of budgets, tactics, and priorities suggest that my old division really needs to be rolled up and put away in the toy closet of military treasures alongside the old horse cavalry divisions...

Tuesday, January 05, 2016


We're still thawing out from the icy depths of Icepocalypse 2016.

It's hard to decide which is sadder; the insane panic that hits this burg every time it snows, or the way that everybody in this burg seems to completely forget what they learned about what happens every time it snows. Until the next time.

Dear wingnut...(an open letter to "conservatives" on the Malheur Morons)

I've been reading your responses to the outpouring of anger and vitriol that has greeted the news that a bunch of self-identified pals of yours had "occupied" the vacant headquarters building at Malheur NWR out in the lesser paved portions of my home state.
You were angry yourselves, and scornful, that the "libtards' heads were exploding" over this. You seemed incredulous that these scruffy seditionists had aroused such ire on the Left, apparently as much because it is the Left as the subject of that furor. After all, we're supposed to be all "tolerant" and "squishy" about taking stands, except when we nag you about your hatred for things like homos marrying and Muslims...well, being "intolerant" and "rigid". You don't get it. Why are we so fucking pissed off about a handful of patriots exercising the Constitutional Second Amendment right to protest gummint tyranny?

So let me try and explain why this particular incident got up our collective wick so quickly and so badly.

First, a lot of it is the cumulative hammering you've been doing since...well, it feels like forever but at least the fifteen years since 9/11. We got used to - not okay with, but used to - being called "traitors" and "cowards" and "pussies" because we questioned your excitement about bombing and/or shooting the shit out of the public enemy de jour. We grew to expect that you would call anything we supported, whether it was abortion or freedom from theocracy or using cunning (or economics, or diplomacy, or pretty much anything) instead of bullets, "foolish", "impractical", "cowardly", and "anti-American".

We got used to hearing you describe our belief that taxes are the price of civilization as "stealing" and our conviction that regulation of the commons helped prevent the sort of greed and selfishness that got these Hammond people in trouble as "tyranny".

We didn't like it. Oh, hells, no. But we pretty much gave up trying to unscrew your heads on that subject, figuring that this was just your default setting.

We also got used to the big media outlets giving your whackadoodle ideas equal time just like they were actual human thoughts. So when we tried to discuss things like heading off climate change or not going all Operation Wetback or treating women as women and not as life-support systems for wombs and you started shrieking "Liar!" and "Babykiller!" we just sighed. Forget it, Jake, it's Wingnuttown, we would mutter. It's not worth the aggravation.

We especially gave up trying to warn you, and the newspeople, about the fire you were fucking with your fondness for wild talk about "Second Amendment solutions" to "government is the problem". See, we kept saying, We the People ARE "the government"; that's the idea, anyway.

Right? Kinda baked into the pie back in 1789?

That the problem with "Second Amendment solutions" pretty much led to the sort of "solutions" proposed by the western Pennsylvania whisky distillers and Dan Shays and Jeff Davis. And that those "solutions" were the kind of solutions that led to "solutions" like burning down your kitchen to get the roaches out of the oatmeal bin; ugly and violent and not really "solutions" at all.

Because every time we'd bring that up you'd start shrieking about "gungrabbers!" and "tyranny!".

So. Here we are.

A bunch of your pals - or, at least, people who claim to be your pals - have taken their bullet launchers and their energy drinks (but not enough jerky or cheeze doodles, apparently...) and done, in effect, what Shays and Davis and the whisky rebels did; taken a patch of ground that the U.S. government claims and broken rules the U.S. government has made and are defying the U.S. government to come and make them behave.

And are you guys ashamed about this, this armed sedition? Are you angry that these stupid jamokes are saying the quiet parts of Tentherism and "Second Amendment solutions" out loud? Are you out there with a bullhorn telling these screwheads to knock it the fuck off?

Hells, no. Once again, we're left to remind you that part of "a republic, if you can keep it..." is not losing the fucking Whisky Rebellion.

And, once again, the news media is fucked up like a football bat about this and giving your screwhead pals all sorts of free airtime to blarb their nonsensical screeds and, once again, you're giving, and going to give, us nothing but shit about it.

And we're really, really, really fucking sick and tired of it.

But since we've long figured out that arguing with you about this stuff is like trying to teach German irregular verbs to a cat we're reduced to screaming at these HeeHawsbullah morons and at our federal government to quite treating them like they have a point other than on their fucking heads so's we don't lose the fucking Whisky Rebellion.

Will that work? Doubtful. It hasn't so far. Christ, you're on the verge of electing Donald Fucking Trump your presidential candidate, forcryinoutloud, and the feds have let these goddamn screwhead VanillaISIS teahadis off the hook before. It's not like we're really hoping to get you knuckleheads to try a taste of realism for once.

It's just that sometimes the bullshit gets to the point where a liberal's just gotta fucking vent.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Blindados adelante!

Why I find this ridiculously cool I have no idea, but I find ridiculously cool the notion that the Ejercito de Paraguay - the Army of Paraguay - has reactivated it's seventy-five-year-old M4 Sherman (76mm) tanks at their Regimiento de Caballería N°4, the armor school for the REP.

Maybe it's that these tanks are older than I am and still going. Maybe because if they can do it, so can I, dammit.

Just a reminder that this year I'll be working on a series of posts covering the Chaco War of the Thirties between Paraguay and Bolivia, one of perhaps the bloodiest, most pointless wars every fought, and that's saying a hell of a lot...

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Dare call it treason

I was genuinely surprised yesterday at the incandescence of my anger when I read about the rebel militia seizing the Malheur NWR headquarters building.
Partly, I suspect, because that lonely stone structure has many fond memories associated with it. It is a "desert oasis", disproportionately attractive to the passerine migrant through the deserts of Malheur County. The notion of a passel of gunlicking Tenther rebels lolling about the place where I whiled many happy hours birding was infuriating, to be sure.

But the most part is the degree to which none seem to dare call these treasonous bastards what they are.


Worse; traitors in arms. They fulfill perfectly the definition of the enemies I swore to defend the Constitution of my nation from, foreign and domestic; defying the laws and regulations of the duly-elected government of the United States and bearing arms against the officers of the same.

For a mad moment I wanted - wanted so badly that it made my throat tighten - to take up my old rifle and rise on my bad leg and hobble down to the federal courthouse in Portland city and volunteer to follow the colors out to the sagebrush wastes south of Burns to shoot down the traitorous enemies of my country. Suddenly I understood how so many other men stood up in 1861 to do the same. The hatred and loathing of these rebel traitors burns within me still, banked but glowing like a balefire in the night.

The news agencies, the current crop of candidates, Oregon politicians...they need to call this what it is. It is black, dirty treason; rebellion in arms against our nation, and I can think of no better response, no better description of the response that is needed and should be applied to the treasonous bastards than those of the man who flayed the last rebellious treason in this country:

"My aim, then, was to whip the rebels, to humble their pride, to follow them to their inmost recesses, and make them fear and dread us. Fear is the beginning of wisdom."
I had a blissful moment imagining a modern Bill Sherman staring at the gaggle of dirty, hangdog prisoners standing under guard as the old stone building burns behind them, removing the cigar from his mouth to spit;

"Shoot them, major? Shoot them? I think not."

He would pause for a moment before jerking the stogie towards the big trees standing nearby, and growling;

"Rebels taken in arms aren't honorably shot. Rebels, major, are hung like the criminals they are."

"See to it."