Archive for July, 2010

I have long thought the Army’s little Navy had the potential to drive some innovation–unencumbered by the Navy’s biases and relatively unfamiliar with the traditional way of waging influence at sea, the Army’s fleet has a chance to generate some creative tension by stealing a march or two on the Navy and Marine Corps. Fabrication of the Army’s new littoral tool, “Spearhead,” the first JHSV, got underway this week.

But I’m not talking about the shiny new ship–I’m cheering the doughty old Littoral Support Vessel, a platform we already have.

If you read the July 2010 Proceedings–all the way through–you might have found a little technical note detailing one of the more thankless contributors to America’s “National Fleet”, the U.S. Army’s Logistic Support Vessel (LSV).

It’s a great note–The 8 General Frank S. Besson Class LSVs are next-generation LSTs–expendable, beach-able, plodding, “fill-with-what-you-will” vessels (the picture is one of the Philippine Navy’s 2 helicopter-ready LSV’s working in Balikatan 2010). They are long-legged, lightly-manned utility infielders–perfect for experimentation, maintenance support, logistics aid or, well, almost anything but “high-threat” stuff.

I write about it over at defensetech, but, I’ll say it here too–the LSV is a perfect example of defense “humbletech”–a technical asset so mundane it gets completely overlooked by the wiz-bang gadgetry of modern defense technologists. (The LSV is also a small-yard project, so it doesn’t have a big lobby like the oddly named “American Shipbuilding Associationwriting editorials in favor of the platform, either.)

We should be putting these platforms to work in the field. For low-threat regions, the $32 million dollar LSV is a great platform. We should be using it for presence missions, and planning to see how it could support influence squadrons or work in support of a JHSV or LCS. They are simple to make, so we should be handing out contracts to make variants of these things, get ’em into the fleet and then hand ’em out to our friends. They’d be perfect for Africa and the South Pacific–but we’ll have more on that later.

In the meantime, head over to defensetech, read the post, and take a moment to cheer USNI contributor Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael W. Carr for taking on the thankless task of popularizing this low-profile and under-appreciated platform! (As some of us in the USNI crowd might say, “HUZZAH!”)


-Mutatis Mutandis.-

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned about military history came from Victor Davis Hanson who taught me that war is like water: its chemical properties have remained unchanged throughout the ages. Dr. Hanson taught us about the Roman notion of mutatis mutandis; the idea that, taking account for time and space, things remain the same. The emotions a young Athenian felt griping his shield before clashing with the Persians on the plains of Marathon are no different than what a young Marine feels on a combat patrol just before contact with the Taliban in the valleys of Marjah. Fear, the desire to prove one’s mettle before the enemy, and will to not let down the man by your side has always dominated the moral element of war’s design.

What has changed with both war and water is the speed of its distribution. Death in the Marne, for example, came faster (and in enormously greater numbers) than death in Plataea. And Dr. Hanson’s truth remains, war is war. And though the delta of war’s bleak calculus has been the speed with which death is produced, the constant has always been that the ultimate reality of war – that it is sanctioned murder, delicately and inelegantly tied to the dark human condition – has not. So long as men are men, so long as politics and diplomacy fail, so long as greed and evil and opposite and opposing value systems exist there will be as much a need in the post-modern age to field rifle platoons as there was in the pre-Modern age to field Hellenic war parties or Roman legions. Water is water. War is war.

Piracy is an ancient extension of this essential historical principle. It will continue to be so long as there is disparity in wealth among men in this world, criminals with nothing to lose, littoral regions with little or no rule of law, and so on. Though we have a tendency to glorify it in our Western literature, film, and lore, piracy is what it has always been: a criminal act of violence, theft, terror, murder, intimidation, and terror on the seas. That it occurs today daily in the waters of the Arabian and North Arabian Gulfs, the Somali Basin, the Indian Ocean and the China Sea (and centuries ago off the Barbary coast, in the Caribbean and off what is now our own country’s shores) is no surprise. The fact that it happens almost anywhere in the world that there is the prospect for someone to make gain from a weak target is a natural extension of this simple truth: war is like water. And Hobbes was right.

There is a way to end piracy in Somalia but it has little to do with counter-piracy operations at sea. It requires a political appetite we just don’t have. And so we must continue to deter piracy from the sea. This is an approach we cannot sustain in the longest term, but it is an approach that we must continue to advance in the near and long terms. In the near term, the word must get out that pirates will be aggressively hunted, then killed or captured and prosecuted, if nothing else to make them think twice. And while such deterrence poses significant challenges, we must continue to drive on with gusto.

– How do we define piracy? –

The Department of Defense defines piracy as an “illegal act of violence, depredation, or detention in or over international waters committed for private ends by the crew or passengers of a private ship or aircraft against another ship or aircraft or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft.”

There’s a fundamental criminal element to piracy that daily disrupts and threatens our nation’s financial and diplomatic interests abroad. And there’s a much more frightening characteristic that could very well develop that would extend piracy’s scope from the criminal world into the realm of terrorism. Such a reality means our national security would be at stake here is well.

– Why’d it all start? –

The current piracy epidemic stems from Somalia’s socio-economic combustion that began with the fall of the Barre Regime in 1991 and the departure of the United Nations’ patrols from its coastal waters in 1995. International fishing vessels took advantage of the power vacuum created when what little regulation and enforcement vanished. They moved in and dominated the vast fishing grounds off Somalia’s coast. Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Korean and other international super-harvesters shamelessly exploited Somalia’s waters, destroying local fishermen’s nets and boats – their very livelihood.

With no government, and no legal recourse, the fishermen formed militias and sailed out to meet the vessels with force. It was the classical sort of mess: post-modern industry with no regulation practices bad business among a hungry pre-modern people with no government. Disaster.

By decade’s end, these fishermen-militias organized and began calling themselves “coast guards.” They started collecting fees as retribution for the intruders’ spoils and made them purchase “fishing licenses.” Their efforts influenced areas in-sight of the coast and their targets were dhows and other coastal traffic of opportunity. Profits at sea rose in concert with the increased lawlessness across the country. When the Ethiopians withdrew from the south, warlords established dominance at once in southern Somalia and the central Mudug region. They immediately recognized the potential for profit from their fishermen’s revolution and moved to exploit them. Now the displaced fishermen’s raison d’être was replaced by a mob-style culture of crime, centered on the desire to extort quick wealth by means of brute force, intimidation and murder. Contemporary Somalian piracy was born.

– Who are these pirates, where are they from and what’s the impact? –

There are 8 million people in Somalia. Nearly 95% of them belong to just 6 clans, and ¾ of them belong to either the Darood, Hawiye, Dir and Issak clans. All clans and sub-clans maintain their own armies and shadow administrations. There are no long-standing alliances among these clans, but loose coalitions are established and maintained when it suits them and are structured along the lines of the dark human devotions: tribal history, vengeance, greed and demand for scarce resources. This is the foundation of the Somalian pirate identity.

The U.S. and coalition navies swarm that great expanse of ocean surrounding Africa’s northeastern Horn where two Somali clans – the Darood and the Hawiye – dominate and operate with relative impunity in Puntland and the ungoverned areas north of Mogadishu. All along Somalia’s coast they, and sub-clans like them, have established a thriving underworld of pirate camps brimming with experienced seaborne criminals.

In a place where the average Somalian makes about $2 USD a day and one in every two receives food aid, the appeal of piracy – the most lucrative business in Somalia – is immense. In these pirate enclaves it’s beginning to look like what would happen if Capone’s Chicago circa 1925 met Escobar’s Medellin circa 1985, without the Feds or DEA to stand in the way of thugs making fortunes. By all accounts piracy is not only acceptable by local Somali standards, it’s fashionable. Pirates cruise the streets in luxury cars to a bizarre sort of hero worship by the masses; they hold court alongside the masterminds and gangsters of other crime syndicates and host decadent parties with exotic drugs and top-shelf alcohol in waterfront palaces. They even start legitimate businesses of their own. They are celebrities.

The first organized piracy ring in Somalia was started in Harradera. In 2004 the Harradera cartel expended their hunt for ransoms beyond the near-coastal waters and into an over-the-horizon effort targeting larger ships, with bigger payoffs. In 2005 they determined they could extract immense payoffs from commercial merchant ships and by 2006 began capturing larger “motherships” to give them the legs they needed to capture the big prizes – merchant cargo vessels with no security and large insurance umbrellas. Motherships became platforms to launch small skiffs and extended their attack range hundreds of miles off the coast. They also formalized their tactics, rehearsed their attacks and executed relatively complex take downs. In some cases the target ship was identified by scouts before the ship even left its home port. Between 2005 – 2007 there were 60 total attacks, including 24 hijackings and a total ransom of $7 million USD. In 2008 there was a 113% increase in attacks and a 614% increase in ransom collected to $50 million USD. In 2009 there was a total of 198 attacks and each single ransom averaged $2 million USD. Business has been good.

-What are the challenges?-

Countering pirates at sea is a lot like fighting drugs on the highways. While it does have a deterrent effect in the near term, (and even positive effects in the long term) it does little to stop the problem in the longest term. As coalition efforts continue, attacks shift from this basin to that sea in counter-balance with patrolling efforts. If a pirate is caught, he’s typically set free. And if he is captured, most countries (like Kenya) have been unwilling to accept the burden of prosecuting them.

The international community has formed impressive coalitions like JTF 151, the European Union’s CTF 465, and NATO’s TF 508. It’s a robust patrol effort, but the extent to which these individual patrols are effective depend largely on the freedom of maneuver that ship is allowed by its own higher authority. The Dutch warship TROMP, for example, conducted more than 80 opposed boardings in 60 days, with impressive results. But they were also actively patrolling known pirate lanes and given tremendous freedom of movement and orders that expressly authorized their hunts. Such conditions are rare among the counter-piracy task forces.

Even if patrols increase both in duration and number, and hunting conditions are optimized, our own Admiralty warns that, with Somalia’s 1500 nautical mile coastline and an objective area that extends from Oman and east from Kenya covering more than 1,000,510 square nautical miles, we cannot sustain such a Herculean endeavor against the pirates over time.

And while patrols and engagements with the pirates continue, a unique and complicated nexus is forming among our Fleets, the Departments of Justice, State, Commerce and our intelligence activities. The recent cases of pirate attacks against the MV Maersk, USS Nicholas, USS Ashland and the related pirates now in our custody who face prosecution by the US Attorney’s Office in New York City and Norfolk, for example, highlight the legal challenges of counter-piracy work. And across the spectrum of warfighting – from intelligence gathering to execution – the challenges are many.

At the tactical level the principle issue is that the target vessel almost immediately becomes a crime scene and the operators must transition from assaulters to evidence collectors. At the operational level friction arises around command and control, transfers of authority, turn-over of suspects, management of property and related though largely unfamiliar domestic evidentiary procedures; to say nothing of the complications that arise when dealing with a largely messy coalition of scores of foreign navies each operating with its own agenda, tactics and marching orders.

At the strategic level, the problem is the most difficult: how to police the open sea, respond to crimes already committed, deter crimes not yet but soon to be committed, and address the fact that piracy is a natural next step for Al Qaedists, regional terrorist networks like Al Shabaab, and other terrorist organizations world-wide as a means to profit and move illicit goods and materials with relative impunity all to facilitate future acts of terrorism. All this while accounting for political matters I hear about and understand intellectually but can’t seem to explain.

– The way forward –

Overcoming these challenges, at least at the tactical and operational level, are genuinely possible; if given the opportunity units like the PELARG 15th MEU, who are uniquely trained and capable to conduct counter-piracy operations, will drastically influence the battlespace.

At the national-level there are three dimensions to our success in counter-piracy – success in the near term, success in the long term and success in the longest term. Success in the near term requires the US and coalition Navies continue aggressive counter-piracy patrols despite the challenges. Quality warships like the USS Dubuque, reinforced by the USS Pelilu, and the USS Pearl Harbor, are manned by the most capable seamen and surface warfare officers in the world. They take station highly trained, armed with helicopters, fast small watercraft and an assault element capable of taking down any size ship in short order. They must be given the freedom of movement to actively locate and destroy the pirates, and their motherships while simultaneously being prepared to recapture a seized vessel. This MEU maintains a unique and incredible offensive skill set capable of turning a corner in what should escalate to an all out war on pirates on the high seas. If nothing else, the pirates must be aggressively hunted, and killed or captured.

Success in the long term requires a union of increased signint and humint collections effort, commercial best industry practices, continued joint maritime dominance and increased regional security initiatives. Private industry has been aggressively involved in the piracy debate and rightly and predictably interested in protecting their ships, cargo and crew. Discussions among the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Transportation, and maritime insurance and shipping companies have made significant progress in identifying innovative methods to combat piracy. One such example has been the use of private contractors (Embedded Security Teams) who provide physical security while underway. ESTs are gaining popularity despite initial resistance and have validated their capabilities in numerous real world scenarios. Regional security initiatives are increasing and should continue to increase, to include multi-national training, the continued employment of joint task forces but with more aggressive and unified taskings, and a means to share, real time, any ship in the coalition’s piracy after-actions, lessons learned and intelligence. Success across these spectrums will produce long term results.

Success in the longest term is thorny. Success here depends on the active advancement of progress made in the long term while addressing the reality of things: piracy is never defeated at sea. We’d also have to address the reality that the calculus drastically changes if terrorist organizations infiltrate and co-opt the Somalian piracy trade just as regional warlords did from their own fishermen. We’d not only have to ensure maritime dominance, increase joint intelligence efforts (while fighting two other land wars requiring the same resources), improve best industry practices and regional security initiatives but also have to launch an aggressive and systematic campaign to destroy known terrorist camps all along the coast and be prepared to continue to strike ground targets as they reappear.

What’s more, and here’s the hard part, if we want the Somali piracy problem to disappear for good in the longest term, we’d then need to invest in Somalian infrastructure, security, in their government and economy. We would have to eliminate not only the reasons why fishermen turned to piracy in the first place, but also treat it then as an additional front in our war on terrorism and attempt to stabilize the region for good. And given our current two-front war, past experiences on the ground in Somalia, the state of our own economy, and hundreds of other really good reasons, that option is not at all appetizing, politically or otherwise, for anyone really. Not today. And so it seems we must focus on success in the near and long terms, which means we must embrace the first reality that Somalian pirates will continue to plunder and second that we must sail out to meet them and fight back. And perhaps even engage them at their camps ashore. If we don’t, this piracy reality will continue. Because piracy is like water. Mutatis mutandis.

I visited Norway last summer and was struck by the unanimous kindness of every single Norwegian I met. It was truly remarkable that every stranger on the street, behind the counter and in the next seat was friendly, helpful and politely deferential to me and my fellow traveling companions. It was amazing. So it was not surprising to me to read a true story about a Norwegian resistance fighter in World War II who was saved from capture and certain death – solely by the kindness of Norwegian strangers.

Norwegian exile Jan Baalsrud volunteered for a military mission in World War II that had only a small chance of success. And all 12 of the men who volunteered with him knew that failure meant a certain death. They were tasked with sailing from northern England to Nazi-occupied Norway to train resistance fighters and stage resistance operations in-country – behind enemy lines. The most challenging and dangerous part of the operation was the landing. Unfortunately, their cover as fishermen was blown and they were ambushed by the Nazis. Jan was the only survivor and his harrowing tale of surviving, foiling the Nazis and crossing to neutral territory in Sweden on foot is the stuff of legends. But, his story is all true.

Despite being shot at and chased by a small army of Nazis, he evaded capture on the coast by enlisting the help of some village children who stumbled onto his worn out body. Amazingly, the children and their family took him in and revived him – much to their own peril. This family was the first of many who risked their lives to save his and to ensure his safe crossing to Sweden. Each of several families would patch him up, stuff provisions in his pockets and send him on his way – until he became incapacitated and had to be carried.

Frostbitten and snowblind by an avalanche, he literally stumbled into a house of Norwegians who happened to be friendly to the resistance movement. This family hid him in a remote cabin and then physically carried him on a gurney up a mountain to be passed off to another group of resistance fighters who lived in the village on the other side of the mountain plateau. Through a variety of circumstances, he was forced to remain on the plateau for more than a month, while the weather improved and an adequate team could be assembled to transport the crippled Jan to Sweden. His stories of self-amputation in order to prevent gangrene from killing him, abating his hunger and warding off severe depression during this period of isolation in the wintry tundra are unfathomable. But, his survival could never have happened without the good Samaritans and Norwegian “neighbors” he encountered on his journey. It reminded me of the Underground Railroad in our own country, although I wonder if the risk to the Railroad hosts was as high as it was during World War II. Resistance fighters who were discovered by the Nazis were swiftly sent to concentration camps, tortured and killed. After meeting so many Norwegians from a variety of backgrounds last summer, I am not surprised by their daring attempt to save him and transport him to safety.

We Die Alone was first published in 1955 by a World War II veteran who ran a spy ring, David Howarth. A prolific writer of more than two dozen books, he died in 1991. The book was reprinted in 1999 with an introduction by Stephen Ambrose, which undoubtedly gave the book a bit more notoriety and reintroduced this unbelievable story of pluck, determination and survival to a new audience. But why isn’t Jan Baalsrud’s survival story more well known?

Major General Luo Yuan, deputy secretary general with the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, recently engaged in an unprecedented online debate about the U.S. intent to conduct a major, combined US-RoK exercise in the Yellow Sea in response to North Korea’s sinking of the Cheonan. Following are the summaries of his arguments, courtesy of People’s Daily, with my responses:

First, in terms of security, Chairman Mao Zedong once said, “We will never allow others to keep snoring beside our beds.” If the United States were in China’s shoes, would it allow China to stage military exercises near its western and eastern coasts? Just like an old Chinese saying goes, “Do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you,” if the United States does not wish to be treated in a specific way, it should not forcefully sell the way to others.

Would the US allow such exercises? In a word, yes. Unless Washington was willing to publicly abandon freedom of navigation as a vital interest, it would have no other choice but to permit such an exercise. In fact, while many Americans have forgotten, for decades it was rather routine for Soviet naval forces to prowl up and down the Eastern Seaboard. The American response was merely to track, observe and wait for the next time.

Second, in terms of strategic thinking, China should take into account the worst possibility and strive to seek the best results. The bottom line of strategic thinking is to nip the evil in the bud. The ultimate level of strategic thinking is to subdue the enemy without fighting. Preventing crisis is the best way to resolve and overcome the crisis. China’s current tough stance is part of preventive diplomacy.

I’m really not sure what this means. If on one hand General Luo is characterizing Beijing’s stance towards Pyongyang’s behavior as “tough”, he and I obviously have different understandings of the word “tough”. If on the other hand the General is characterizing Beijing’s stand against the combined exercise as “tough”, the general may be right–Washington may be subdued “without fighting” and Sun Tzu will be smiling in his grave.

Third, in terms of geopolitical strategy, the Yellow Sea is the gateway to China’s capital region and a vital passage to the heartland of Beijing and Tianjin. In history, foreign invaders repeatedly took the Yellow Sea as an entrance to enter the heartland of Beijing and Tianjin. The drill area selected by the United States and South Korea is only 500 kilometers away from Beijing. China will be aware of the security pressure from military exercises conducted by any country in an area that is so close to China’s heartland.

The aircraft carrier U.S.S. George Washington dispatched to the Yellow Sea has a combat radius of 600 kilometers and its aircraft has a combat radius as long as 1,000 kilometers. Therefore, the military exercise in the area has posed a direct security threat to China’s heartland and the Bohai Rim Economic Circle.

Again, I can’t be certain where this is going, but it appears to be yet another attempt to try and lay claim to historical ownership of a wide swath of international waters and limit not just military access, but all access, betraying Beijing’s long-term desire to shape the interpretation of the Law of the Sea to China’s advantage.

Fourth, in a bid to safeguard security on the Korean Peninsula, the U. N. Security Council has just issued a presidential statement, requiring all parties to remain calm and restrained to the so-called “Cheonan” naval ship incident, which had caused a major crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

On the other hand, the joint military exercise by the United States and South Korea on the Yellow Sea has created a new crisis. This is another reason why China strongly opposes the military exercise on the Yellow Sea. In order to safeguard security on the Korea Peninsula, no country should create a new crisis instead they should control and deal with the existing one.

I read a lot, and from what I’ve read, the exercise only represents a “crisis” to Beijing. No one–not even the leadership in Pyongyang–believes such an exercise might be used to stage a reprisal for the sinking of the Cheonan.

Fifth, in terms of maintaining China-U.S. relations, especially the two parties’ military relations, China must declare its solemn stance. China has been working to promote the healthy development of China-U.S. military relations. Therefore, China has clearly declared that it is willing to promote the development of the two parties’ relations. Deputy Director of the General Staff Gen. Ma Xiaotian has also expressed his welcome to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to visit China at a proper time.

This a classic, passive-aggressive response if I’ve ever seen one. Perhaps translated it might read, “Sec. Gates can visit China when America learns how to behave.”

Chris van Avery is a Military Professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. The views represented herein are his own.

As we move into our second decade of conflict with Islamist terrorism, what have we learned, relearned, or having to unlearn about Counter Insurgency (COIN)? As those who control the budget look towards a post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan military – what moves will be made towards USMC force structure and equipment?

Please join my co-host and fellow USNIBlogg’r EagleOne and me on Midrats, today, Sunday 18 JUL 2010 at 5pm EST.

Our guest the first half-hour will be Dr. Andrea J. Dew, Co-Director, Center on Irregular Warfare & Armed Groups (CIWAG), Strategy and Policy Department U.S. Naval War College Newport, RI.

For the second half of the show, we will look at the moves being made already to gut the USMC force levels at first chance – how do we get the narrative right to fight this coming battle? To help us along with the discussion will be returning guest, fellow blogger USNIBlog’r, UltimaRatioRegis.

Join us live if you can and pile in with the usual suspects in the chat room during the show where you can offer your own questions and observations to our guests. If you miss the show or want to catch up on the shows you missed – you can always reach the archives at blogtalkradio – or set yourself to get the podcast on iTunes.

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When a fellow Marine aviator asked Capt Dan “Trigger” Brown if he had a workout regime he could use while his squadron was deployed in Afghanistan, he delivered much more. He sent forward a Letter of Instruction on how to be beautiful that he and his old squadron-mates created a few years ago in Iraq. This LOI articulates a complete ethos. He calls it “The Beautiful Man Project” and it’s a solid-gold approach to a Marine’s TOTAL fitness of the mind, body and soul. But mostly it’s an ode to being beautiful. To any of you Marines and Sailors currently deployed overseas in defense of our great Nation, here’s a fitness program you need to embrace.

From: Captain U. B. Beautiful 000 00 0367 /7565 USMC
To: Men of Beautiful Potential

(a) MCO 1775.R
(b) Miscellaneous Health and Fitness Magazines

ORIENTATION: The BEAUTIFUL MAN PROJECT is no mere project. It is, in essence, a journey. This journey is one where men with sufficient willpower, devotion, and courage intend to better themselves both inside and out. “Beauty” in this case should not be construed as that which is typically associated with the feminine. To the contrary, this is indeed an exercise in masculinity. Nor is this form of beauty to be construed as superficial vanity. This project is not solely intended to be a reconstruction of the narcissistic exterior and posterior, but the interior as well. The founders of the BEAUTIFUL MAN PROJECT highly encourage reading, writing, enlightening conversation, tactical shrewdness, witty banter, professional development, picking up hobbies such as jazz flute, trident throwing, and memorizing the boards in HALO 3, all in addition to the obvious pillars of working out and a healthy diet.

SITUATION: You are presently located in a cold, desolate, and unrefined region of the world which has forever teetered on the brink of chaos. Ironically, said region developed into a thriving civilization millennia before your beloved country existed and flourished with the riches of a bountiful landscape into one of the first agricultural societies in the world. Therefore, it is particularly appropriate that you should seize this opportunity to flourish using your bountiful energies without the normal diversions of paradise cities and hot girls in love. The sobering reality is that you have nothing better to do than to employ the philosophies and program required to become a Beautiful Man.

MISSION: During your time trapped among the rigid Hesco Barriers and flexible, yet sharp concertina wire, you too are to become rigid in muscular tone and develop a sharp, yet flexible mind in order to transform the literal and the figurative you into something better for the benefit of your health, society, and the chicks you find next to you on mornings after successful evenings on the town. A “suck less every day” philosophy provides a basic ethos. What can you do to improve physically, mentally, socially, artistically? How can you navigate the river into your own, personal heart of darkness and emerge a better man? What can you do to make your brother better? Within the confines of our close circle “I am my brother’s keeper” is a staple. When one falters, the others pick him up. When the collective begins to languish in mediocrity, the individual invigorates the group with novel concepts for self improvement.

EXECUTION: The BEAUTIFUL MAN PROJECT consists of 3 distinct phases. For doctrinal purposes, only those phases which directly impact the physical will be delineated with parameters. The mental ramifications and possibilities of the program are far too complex and extensive to be covered in this forum. A simple guideline following the phase breakdown in this document will serve to scratch the surface of developments in habit and character. Phases for the physical maturation are below; hard dates are subject to flexibility based upon individual circumstance.

The Bulking Phase consists of regular workout routines, using heavy weights and low numbers of reps. You may supplement as you like, in accordance with MCO 1775.R, in order to achieve maximum gains. In the Bulking Phase, you may eat whatever you want. Historical analysis reveals, however, this may not be the most prudent course of action. Careful consideration of one’s individual metabolism, self discipline, and reaction to extreme diet changes may warrant an “easing” into Phase 2 or a less extreme interpretation of the Bulking Phase. For an insightful perspective on the actions required to properly recover from an orthodox interpretation of the tenets of this phase, a personal counseling with Eric “Meat” Mitchell regarding his experience in 2007 is highly recommended. The preponderance of experiences has shown, however, that some potentially beautiful men have failed to attain their goals because they indulged heavily during bulking and the next phase was too much to bear mentally and physically.

This phase consists of regular workout routines using light weights, high reps and loads of cardio such as long slow runs (LSRs), elliptical, rowing machines, etc. The ripping period is also concurrent with the commencement of Food Fascism. You had your fun eating whatever you wanted, so tell Mom to knock it off with the brownie care packages. The Keebler elves will not mistake your mustache for their tree, with all the cookie remnants and whatnot. A dramatic reduction in calories, especially those from simple carbohydrates, is paramount to meeting these goals.

As Beautiful Men unite, we will not allow weakness to pervade our circle or shame our pious efforts. Be wary, that when the time comes, Food Fascism shall be strictly enforced. This phase distinguishes the true believers from the posers and will require strong action from the team. Actions such as slapping unacceptable chow from a brother’s hand, to beat downs, to awakening a fellow follower for a morning run are not only acceptable, but required. Those that are unwilling to accept the tenets of this phase are also unwilling to accept the entire Beautiful Man Concept and, just as chaff, will be separated from the “wheat” of believers.

PHASE 3: POLISHING. (First Step Outside of Afghanistan)
This is the time to finalize your masterpiece. This phase consists of a continuation of Phase 2, with the addition of tanning, flexing for added tone, bodily hair grooming and growing hair on your head back to something respectable looking, or shaving it entirely if your head is nicely shaped and not blinding. This phase should include increased use of dermatological, hair care, and dental products. In short order, you will post before your significant others, families and friends. They are well aware of your ability to be “All Jarred Out,” now is the time to display your range of abilities; to prove your beauty. When you do, they will behold what you have become and they will cheer. But they will only cheer if you have polished. Otherwise they will see you for what you really are, broke on life currency.

Phase 3 must also consist of mental preparation for your return. Those sharing in the difficult times of Food Fascism should now share their sense of style and ritually study the newest trends in music, clothing, and attitude. Communications of such topics with trusted sources at home should be shared with all Beautiful Men. Gentlemen of refinement should consider putting aside funds for at least one new suit from a reputable source and a substantial sum- on the order of hundreds of dollars- for new shirts, trousers, and shoes. One must also remember that shortly after the end of Phase 3, there is a good chance someone will see you completely naked. What you will unveil is up to you. It is not coincidence that the polishing phase is coincident with the manufacturer’s recommended Whitestrip cycle, so plan accordingly and supervise your brother.

You now are not only a combat hardened warrior, but a shining example of mind, body, and spirit. In general, the rallying cry for Phase 3 should be “Return with Style.” Do so, and you may truly consider yourself a Beautiful Man.

Coordinating Instructions: Hardening yourself physically may be the most simple of endeavors tasked to a Beautiful Man. As mentioned before, the “Character Renaissance” necessary to bettering yourself, your squadron, and, in a macro sense, society as a whole, is not definable by phase. Physical headway is measurable as progression is readily evident. Those aspects of character are not quantifiable but are just as apparent. Since there are no phases associated with the intangible nature of progression of mind and spirit a simple guideline of the most basic of goals will suffice as a starting point, much like the poem “If”, by Rudyard Kipling. While these bullet points may seem pedestrian and trite, think of them as cobblestones on the path you must travel.

1. Your mission will always come first. Improving yourself will aid the mission.
2. There is no room for vanity or ego. Individual progression will improve the whole.
3. Do not accept or become comfortable with professional mediocrity. Hone your warfighting skills at every opportunity.
4. Take a casual disinterest in your own well-being but never that of your compatriots.
5. Limit your complaints. Refurbish those grievances into something constructive.
6. Learn something new every day.
7. Establish your personal standards. Hold others to do the same.
8. When others slip, be the rock that provides safe haven from the current. They will do the same in time.
9. Respect the power of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Bring substance to the warrior-class elite.
10. Your background and circumstances may have determined who you are. You are responsible for who you become.

Admin: You may document your progress as you see fit. Within the project there are three quantifiable measures of progress: 1. The scale, 2. The mirror, 3. The measuring tape. You may have personal goals of your own, such as slimming so that you can see your own feet or other appendages.

Logistics: Maintain a Beautiful Man Project (BMP) Read Board in the HMLA chow hut with the Beautiful Man of the Week (BMW) changed every Saturday for motivation and communications posted as required. Feat of Strength of the Week (FSW) is also encouraged. Supplements are the responsibility of the individual.

COMMAND AND SIGNAL: You are in command of your own destiny. Communications regarding upcoming phase changes, motivation, and general entertainment will be passed via NIPR electronic mail and posted on the BMP Read Board in the HMLA chow hut.

IN CLOSING: The great American poet, Robert Frost, famously spoke of a road “less traveled.” We invite you to cast aside your shell of mediocrity, to stop being a no load and become something different and better than you were. The diverging paths of your current journey are before you. BECOME A BEAUTIFUL MAN. It will make all the difference.


Captain Daniel “Trigger” Brown is a Cobra pilot by trade and currently serving as the 15th MEU’s Assistant Air Officer and the Force Recon platoon’s Forward Air Controller (FAC). Trigger is from Santa Barbara, CA and a Dartmouth grad. His biggest accomplishment to date (in my humble but mostly-always-accurate opinion) is landing a girlfriend so far out of his league he can’t see her with a telescope. Dan’s very-special-lady-friend, if you’re reading this, there’s still time…

Have been a bit sparing of late on posting here and at homeplate, in large part because the day job(s) have been demanding their pound (more like tens of pounds) of flesh. And developments appear to promise a major surge on one front in the next few weeks, so we’ll take advantage of the relative calm afforded during the next day or two to catch up on some previously reported events. Today — Russia and some updates on the PAK-FA and Bulava SLBM…

17 июня 2010 года 17:30 | Сергей Турченко 17 June 2010 17:30 | Sergei Turchenko

Putin's Introduction to the PAK-FA (17 June 2010 | (c) Sergei Turchenko)

Russia: Putin Pledges 30 Billion Rubles for Fine-tuning PAK-FA

(Source: Свободная Пресса, 18 June 2010 (translated))

Russia’s fifth generation fighter program began roughly the same time as the US’ effort that yielded the F-22A, according to Russian sources. Delays stemming from defense and industry reform and economic slowdown in the wake of the breakup of the Soviet Union drew out the program. Cul-de-sacs beginning with the Berkut and later the MiG 1-44 added further delay until Sukhoi was back in charge of the project with the PAK-FA proposal. Taking the occasion during a recent demonstration/test flight (16th since first flight in January?), Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin identified about 90B rubles (руб) (~ US$ 3.3B ) in development funding for the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI), the Aircraft Construction Center at Zhukovsky and the PAK-FA. 60B руб is to go for building three additional tunnels at TsAGI and another 11B руб to the new center to be constructed at Zhukovsky. The former will be spread out in installments over the next several years, the new center is slated for completion around the end of 2012.

As for the PAK-FA — I think the expression in the photo above bespeaks volumes. As the US has discovered in the prolonged gestation periods for the F-22 and now the F-35 with commensurate rising production costs, the ticket for entry into the 5th generation fighter program is indeed an expensive one. Despite happy-talk about the PAK-FA being “two and a half and three times less than of its foreign counterparts” it is still too expensive for the Russian economy. Over 30B руб has been expended thus far on PAK-FA development and it is still sans the 5th gen engines necessary for all aspect stealth and a good bit of development remains on the weapons system. Even with the promise of another 30B руб forthcoming, much like the F-35, the PAK-FA will be heavily reliant on outside funding to come close to meeting any kind of production numbers. India has stepped to the plate, offering cash but also demanding a healthy portion of the early production, demanding 250 aircraft by 2017. And those are to be two-seaters.

Despite the acclaim the PAK-FA has received, as an expensive sink-hole in the Russian re-armament program, it has garnered its fair share of domestic criticisms:

Independent analysts give an overall negative forecast for the national rearmament program. The country has virtually wasted the 20 years which have passed since the break-up of the Soviet Union, said Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Moscow-based Center for Military Forecasts.

Not a single new tank or fixed-wing aircraft has been developed since 1991, with only one helicopter being developed and used. “Fifth-generation planes are very expensive. Comparing total costs, Russia and the United States spend approximately the same amounts on their development and production,” Tsyganok told the paper. (Nezavisimaya Gazeta – translated)

Calvin Coolidge once waspishly commented on the high price of aircraft by asking why not buy one airplane and let pilots take turns flying it. With the advent of triple-digit million dollar fighters, we may be reaching such a point and it is evident that the US isn’t the only nation happening upon this circumstance. But, as far as the Russian leadership is concerned, for now at least the PAK-FA is flying, the same cannot be said about an even more vital element in the national defense plan, the Bulava SLBM…

Bulava SLBM to Resume Test Flights in August 2010

President Dmitry Medvedev and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov observe the Borei-class SSBN, Yury Dolgoruky underway for sea trials. 16 July 2010 (c) Sergei Turchenko

(Source: Свободная Пресса, 18 June 2010 (translated))

A recent interview with the former commander of the Soviet and Russian Navies, Admiral Vladimir Chernavin (translated), was revealing on several fronts insofar as the much troubled Bulava is concerned. Of first note was the fact that it appears testing of the Bulava will resume earlier (August 2010) than previously reported (November 2010 at earliest). At the time of the previous announcement in May, it was stated that a production run of three identical missiles was required before the next round of tests began – whether the earlier date is a reflection of that requirement being dropped or discovery of the root cause of the series of failures (particularly with the liquid-fueled third stage*) remains to be seen. Perhaps after having seen the head of the Strategic Missile Forces get sacked after less than a year on the job over probable readiness issues, Navy and industry found renewed enthusiasm for a more aggressive schedule.

The Bulava and its development trials and travails have served as a poster child for a larger view of a Russian defense industry that increasingly is finding it difficult to meet the demands for new forces while adjusting to the post-Soviet era. Consolidation has struck the industry as hard, if not harder, than its US counterpart. In his interview, ADM Chernavin pointed to the need for a replacement for the Sineva SLBM (ed: R-29RMU/RSM-54 Sineva/SS-N-23 SKIFF). The Sineva, while an exceptional missile in service (duration and capability — the last test launch was to its full 11,547 km range) is also a completely liquid-fueled missile, utilizing exceptionally dangerous hypergolics, which present a hazard to the boat and crew as well as demanding special care in materials selection and construction to avoid/contain any leakage. The drawbacks of hypergolics (ed. research and work on, I would note, have been part of the reason behind the paucity of posts – SJS) are the chief reason all US ICBMs and SLBMs as well as all new Russian ICBMs are solid-fuel. An earlier attempt at a solid-fuel SLBM, the R-39 (NATO: SS-N-20 Sturgeon) brought forth a 10-warhead missile, but one that was exceptionally heavy, with a launch weight of 90 tons. A follow-on to the R-39, the R-39UTTH “Bark suffered three consecutive failures in its first stage in early testing and was canceled. The Bulava followed in part, because the institute building it was also building the Topol-M land mobile ICBM and figured to gain efficiencies in development and production by emphasizing commonality between the two.

Chernavin points to the beginning of problems when the Bulava designers learned that, surprise, submarines move whereas the Topol, while a mobile missile, is fixed in place for launch. Compounding the flawed foundation decision-making was a series of cost- and schedule decisions to speed up the development process and shaving tests. The lead designer of the missile, Yury Solomonov, points the finger at Russia’s defense industry in general:

“I can say in earnest that none of the design solutions have been changed as a result of the tests. The problems occur in the links of the design-technology-production chain,” Solomonov said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper published on Tuesday.

“Sometimes [the problem] is poor-quality materials, sometimes it is the lack of necessary equipment to exclude the ‘human’ factor in production, sometimes it is inefficient quality control,” he said.

The designer complained that the Russian industry is unable to provide Bulava manufacturers with at least 50 of the necessary components for production of the weapon. This forces designers to search for alternative solutions, seriously complicating the testing process.

That and evident quality control problems have led to a test program with between 1 to 5 (depending on whom you are talking to) successes in 12 launch attempts. However, with nothing else even on the drawing boards and a new class of SSBNs designed such that the Bulava is the only missile they can take, the die has been cast. Chernavin underscores this state of affairs with a verbal shrug and dose of fatalism, noting so much effort has already been spent that eventually “they will force it to fly” (“Но, уверен, «Булаву» все-таки заставят летать”).


* Why a liquid third stage? That is the post-boost vehicle (PBV) that carries the MIRVs — a liquid-fuel engine allows controlled start/stops to precisely maneuver the PBV as it releases the MIRV payload.

(crossposted at

Last week, Galrahn and I separately discussed the power of rumor in US warship movements. Specifically, how the rumor of an eleven warship American fleet passing through the Suez channel might affect the behavior of certain Mideast states. This week, we have a second example of this type of rumor. Two days ago a Global Post blog reported that 46 US Navy warships and 7,000 Marines were on their way to Costa Rica. Yep, you read that right, 46 ships.

The truth is more mundane. There are Marines on their way south, but not to fight. The 600 Marines are part of Operation Continuing Promise 2010, which set sail with USS Iwo Jima on July 12. USS Iwo Jima will be home to 1,600 personnel conducting medical assistance, construction, and other assistance programs in Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Panama, and Suriname. Why did the Global Post misreport the story? There are many possibilities: bad fact checking, sensational reporting, etc… However, my personal favorite comes from a commenter on Daniel Lamothe’s Marine Times Blog, Battle Rattle: “Well Dan,” the commenter says, “that’s because 1 marine is worth about 700 other military fighters”.

From Our Archive: You know what’s weird?

What’s weird is that an Iwo Jima veteran…once more…an Iwo Jima veteran, dies with little notice. I love this man, GEN Fred Haynes and I love his wife Bonnie. Hell, his nephew is famous too, Butthole Surfers and all that..and in some inexplicable way, I think his nephew’s song Pepper, is a great tribute to his Uncle’s life line.

You never know how you look through other people’s eyes.
You never know just how to look through other people’s eyes.

So. Awesome.

Gen Haynes

So. Awesome.


Funeral Services in Arlington on July 22nd, family would appreciate a show of support.

Twelve pages into Samuel Eliot Morison’s The Two-Ocean War and I’ve already found myself setting the work aside and getting lost in thought regarding the stark similarities between the interwar Navy of 1917-’41 and the Navy I serve in today. I feel compelled to quote from it at some length. The Author received a letter from VADM Deyo while he was still writing the work.

The surface Navy, despite lack of funds from Congress or interest by its civilian heads, produced a reasonable semblance of a balanced fleet and operated effectively as one in its training. The spur of officer selection and ship competition was most noticeable. But gradually the means became the end. Thus, while everyone worked hard, we began going in circles. The Fleet became more and more tied to bases, operating out of Long Beach–San Diego on a tight fuel budget, chained to the increasingly artificial, detailed mandates of the Office of Fleet Training whose word was law. The pencil became sharper than the sword, everyone tried to beat the target practice rules and too many forgot there was a war getting closer. There was a waiting line for top commands, and tenure of office was so short–often only a year or less–that high commanders came and went, leaving little impression. Paper work wrapped its deadly tentacles around cabin and wardroom. Smart ship handling, smart crews, eager initiative received little attention, as did the reverse. Glaring defects in guns, ammunition, torpedoes, battle tactics, went unnoticed for so long as the competition rules made due allowances and gave everyone similar conditions.

The Competition the Admiral is speaking of is the Battle Efficiency Competition instituted by President T. Roosevelt in 1902 as a solution for the Navy’s poor gunnery in the Spanish-American War. The competition worked Morison says, for the first seven years. After which time however, the competition became institutionalized and the effort became more about the process itself than it was about increasing our efficiency in battle.

Looking at where we are today, we find ourselves in a very similar situation. The Commands charged with the training of the Fleet have changed, the methods by which we choose to train have changed. But, the same basic problem with ‘process worship’ or ‘churn’ exists today.

One issue that seems to be a constant undercurrent is the amount of time, resources, focus and energy we spent on establishing, refining, and participating in various processes instead of on the actual output of the process. This worship of process over product (“churn”) results in people going through the motions, with little to no understanding of its original purpose, resulting in very little output.

Admiral Harvey said that at his place last April. The solution to churn in ’35 was that CNO Admiral Standley ended the battle efficiency competition and had his Fleet train in more realistic and less idealized conditions. What ADM Standley did was not exactly innovative, rather it was new for the time. I am sure that the salty old Chiefs at that time were telling their Sailors that ‘this is how we used to train’ or ‘we’re getting brilliant on the basics’. From what I have read, he didn’t institute a replacement program–as large and complex as the original–for the Battle Efficiency Competition program. Rather, he just removed what was not necessary and counterproductive, adding only small substantive changes.

Any process over time will accumulate churn, or become bloated. We should assume this to be unavoidable and accept that we must eliminate major portions of programs and start anew with the same basic goal we had with the initial program, so that that this cycle can start over again, as those who’ve gone before us have had to do.

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