Archive for February, 2012


Completely Preventable KIA

February 2012



Pfc. David Sharrett and his father

Pfc. David Sharrett was killed on January 16, 2008, in Balad, Iraq. This is an unfortunate learning moment for everyone in the military. The full Washington Post article can be accessed here:

On the morning of January 16, 2008, a helicopter spotted six unarmed insurgents running into a brush. At 0515, the company’s executive officer, Lt. Hanson, led a team to capture the insurgents. Lt. Hanson failed to tell his men to activate their infrared sensors, which help air support and fellow soldiers identify friendlies. Meanwhile, the insurgents armed themselves from a hidden weapons cache in the brush. As the team approached the brush, the insurgents opened fire, killing Pfc. Danny Kimme and Cpl. John Sigsbee.

In the midst of shooting back at the insurgents, Lt. Hanson shot his own soldier, Pfc. Sharrett, at point blank range, severing his femoral artery. During the firefight, Lt. Hanson said to one of his men, “We’re getting shot at, and I don’t know where any of my guys are.” Then, Lt. Hanson left the scene on the first helicopter to land, leaving his men behind with no leader to get accountability. The unit did not realize Sharrett was missing until over an hour later. At 0635, the unit finally recovered Sharrett. He died soon after arriving at the combat hospital.

I understand that mistakes happen in combat, but Pfc. Sharrett would not have died had Lt. Hanson acted like an officer both before and after the actual combat. During the mandatory investigation of the incident, Lt. Hanson did not mention that he had fired his weapon. The Army initially told Sharrett’s family that Sharrett was not killed in a friendly fire incident. Lt. Hanson completed his tour with his unit, returned back to the U.S., and eventually made captain.

I’m amazed this story hasn’t garnered more media attention after the strikingly similar Pat Tillman incident. If everyone involved had been forthright from the beginning, this incident would not have landed on the front page of the Washington Post. I want to believe that the U.S. Military will learn from this mistake and remember the simple adage the upperclassmen taught us during Plebe Summer: honor above all else.

Posted by jjames in Army | 8 Comments

A two-sport athlete at UCLA, playing in a Rose Bowl with the football team. An all-conference catcher in baseball. He was a teammate of Jackie Robinson in both sports.

A Los Angeles Police Officer, a Detective, and a prosecuting attorney.

In fact, he was the lead prosecutor who was responsible for the conviction of assassin Sirhan Sirhan.

Appointed by Governor Ronald Reagan to the 2nd District Court of Appeals in 1970, retiring in 1990.

Quite a life.

Except that Lynn “Buck” Compton achieved his greatest fame at age 80 for his wartime service with Dick Winters’ Easy Company 506th PIR, of the 101st Airborne Division. The magnificent HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers” immortalized the men of Easy Company, 1st Lt Buck Compton among them.

Lynn “Buck” Compton died on February 25th, at the age of 90.

Our nation is poorer for his loss.

h/t B5

Yes, Byron, CURRAHEE!



We do this a couple of times a year – yes, my friends, it is a “Midrats Free For All.”

Radio Central

Is there a topic we have not covered that you want Sal from “CDR Salamander” or me to address? Better yet – do you have a question you want us to answer?

Well, now is your chance. We’ll cover the topics of the week on our own – but for a change you can jump the line.

Call in or hop in the chat room this Sunday from 5-6pm EST, you never know what topic will come up.

Click here to join us. If you miss the show, you can listen to it or download from that same location or on iTunes.


Instant Karma (v 2.0)

February 2012


It’s gonna get you! (At least we hope it does.)

From the Associated Press (via N&O):

LAS VEGAS — Marine Cpl. Alexander Degenhardt is crediting karma for landing a $2.9 million progressive slot jackpot in Las Vegas.

Degenhardt was accepted as a bone marrow donor to an anonymous patient only a couple of days before hitting the jackpot Sunday at the Bellagio, the Las Vegas Sun reported (

“They asked me if I was sure I wanted to go through with it because it’s kind of painful, but what’s a little pain if it will save someone’s life?” Degenhardt said. “I look at this jackpot as kind of good karma for that.”

You might think the young Devil Dog NCO will blow it on all sorts of stuff, like new clothes and new cars. Nope.

He decided to buy some clothes after the jackpot – at a thrift store, where he buys all of his clothes. He said he won’t part with his car that has rolled up some 250,000 miles, either.

“I plan to keep driving it until I can’t anymore,” he told the Sun. “No sense in wasting money. I’m really pretty thrifty.”

What, then?
Degenhardt, who will receive about $100,000 a year over 20 years, said he plans to first help his pregnant sister and his mother catch up on bills.
Semper Fi, Devil Dog! Here’s betting that there will be a whole stack of Marine units requesting training at Nellis AFB!







I had the opportunity to attend the premiere of Act of Valor at the beginning of the month. In all, I found it an exciting and entertaining piece of cinema.

If you’re looking for a good way to spend a couple of hours this winter weekend, go check out this action packed film.

My detailed review can be found at Proceedings Online:



Also, you should read a better written and more relevant review by friend, teacher and SEAL Bob Schoultz:


For more detail on the film, check out the following reviews:



Posted by Alexander Martin in Navy | 13 Comments

History shows that the national mood determines spending priorities as much if not more than even economic needs. In a representative republic, our elected officials respond to the mood and desires of their constituents in fits and starts – but usually head in that direction.

If you are making long-range plans, like military budgets and systems development, to avoid spending time and money on systems that Congress or a future Pentagon will never support for production – because they don’t meet the mood and direction the nation is going – you need to make sure you can see the big picture.

To do that, you need to make sure you are not stuck in either group-think in your small circle, or worse than that – have tunnel vision such that you are unaware of what is going on around you.

A nation and a society can often have trouble with self-reflection. In the national security arena, a professional must make the effort to read widely and deeply; seeking out not just like-minded ideas, but even more importantly contrary ideas. Better than that, make an effort to read foreign sources of opinion and analysis.

Where do you look? Well, if you want to get an outsider’s view, the Anglophere-centric The Economist is good. The English version of Der Spiegel works. The major British papers and their English language counterparts from Japan, Singapore, Al-Jazeera works too. Everyone finds their mix.

There is no nation that is more like the United States – and therefor more likely to pick up our nuanced trends – than our friends to the north, Canada. Some don’t really “get” us – but our fellow North Americans usually do.

You could do worse than to take the time to listen to a relatively objective opinion from a friend. The Canadian Conference of Defence Associations Institute (a non-partisan think-tank) has its strategic assessment out. It is well worth your time to read the whole thing, but the opening section on the United States has an interesting hook;

Americans are war-weary, disappointed with what has been achieved at great expense, and feeling exploited by ungrateful allies. Debate is intensifying over how national interests should be defined and the degree to which the security of Americans requires expenditure of lives and treasure in faraway places. There is a rising mood of disengagement which will translate into actual disengagement in selected areas no longer deemed to be in the national interest.

There will be no going back to Iraq whatever happens and 2012 will feature continued drawdown of US forces and involvement in Afghanistan. The Administration will find it very difficult to send forces anywhere in 2012 unless the security interests of the United States or those of its closest friends and allies are openly threatened or humanitarian needs are overwhelming. With the economy improving but remaining fragile, the United States would be hard pressed to finance or gain public support for any new foreign policy or defence initiative not directly in support of the supreme interests of the country.

In the event Washington cannot avoid sending forces into harm’s way in 2012, there is every indication the Pentagon would want any engagement to be short and sharp, with objectives which are as narrow and clearly defined as possible, and with little or no chance of stretching into a lengthy and complex intervention of the type which characterized the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. One should expect the Administration’s posture to prefer persuasion over force and, when diplomacy and sanctions fail, to favour the employment of military force with as much precision as possible.

If they are correct – what are the implications for the defense budget and the Navy-Marine Corps team? Are we training and equipping our forces to be ready for this in a shrinking resource environment? Are we adjusting our manpower allocations to ensure that the “high-demand-low-density” assets will be there in the right amount, or will they be put under the same haircut as everyone else?

If the American public’s mood continues along these lines – are we being realistic on what kind of budget we will have in 10-years? Are we being too optimistic, too pessimistic – or just about right?

Having served with the Canadian forces, have Canadian friends, and heck – even took the family to Canada for our summer vacation last year, I admit to being a Canadaphile – as a result, agree or disagree, I always give them a good listen.

This time, I think they about nailed it.

Hat tip T.E. Ricks.


23 February 1945

February 2012


Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.

-Admiral Chester Nimitz

America lost 6,821 of her sons on Iwo Jima. More than 19,000 were wounded. Twenty-seven Medals of Honor and more than 200 Navy Crosses were awarded for heroism on that island.

Where is USS Michael Strank? USS Franklin Sousley? USS Harlan Bloch?

The decision last Friday by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to name the newest littoral combat ship the USS Gabrielle Giffords was met with widespread opposition, and active duty service members, retirees, and even civilians have not been shy in voicing their discontent. Upon closer inspection, however, much of this displeasure appears unjustified.

First, detractors claim Secretary Mabus’s decision to name a ship after Congresswoman Giffords was unabashedly political and, therefore, inappropriate. The authority to name Navy ships traditionally rests exclusively with the Navy Secretary, who acts as a representative of the President and within the boundaries legislated by Congress. Like nearly all decisions made inside the Beltway, this process can be influenced by sensitive—but palpable—political considerations. As a political appointee, it is not unreasonable to expect the Secretary to weigh political ramifications in his decision-making (though, in this instance, there is no proof such an analysis took place).

Even if this decision was made based on politics alone, it would not be without precedent: Other ships which commemorate congressmen with military ties include Carl Vinson (“father of the two-ocean navy”), John Stennis (“father of the modern American Navy”), and John Murtha (longtime House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairman) to name a few. In the 1960s, the politically savvy Admiral Hyman Rickover even persuaded the Secretary to name four submarines after congressmen who supported his nuclear program.

Second, opponents argue Congresswoman Giffords had no association with the Navy and is, therefore, undeserving of such an honor. This argument is specious for several reasons: Rep. Giffords’s husband is a career Naval Officer and astronaut; she was the only sitting Member of Congress whose spouse was serving on active duty, earning her a de facto place in the Navy family; and she served on the House Armed Services Committee, where she was a consistent and steadfast supporter of the military—and the Navy in particular. During her tenure, she introduced pioneering legislation aimed at expanding mental health services for veterans; requiring the military to cut its dependence on fossil fuels; and relieving housing financial pressures for service-members.

Third, some note that the namesake does not fit the naming convention for the ship’s class (other littoral ships are named for moderately-sized cities) and that ships are not typically named after living people. Both arguments hold merit; however, the littoral ship class’s naming convention was already disjointed (the first ship is called the Freedom). Moreover, it is not the first class of ships to have non-uniformed naming: Ticonderoga-class cruisers were named for famous battles (except the USS Thomas Gates) and Ohio-class submarines were named for states (except the USS Henry M. Jackson). Additionally, the USS Giffords will not be the first ship named for a living person: Active ships in the naval register include the USS George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and John Warner, and many other ships were named or christened for individuals who were, at the time, alive.

Finally, and perhaps most troubling, critics claim that Rep. Giffords was a “victim” and not a “hero” and that, consequently, her case does not pass a phantom ship naming litmus test. To be sure, defining a “hero” is difficult and subjective. The sad reality is that after a decade of war, there are far more military heroes deserving of such recognition than there are ships awaiting a namesake. However, the decision to name a ship after Rep. Giffords was likely less about memorializing the victims of the violence in Tucson than it was about acknowledging the fundamentally democratic activity in which she and her constituents were participating when she was attacked. For a profession whose leaders swear to support and defend the Constitution, what better way to commemorate the set of cherished principles that are at the core of our democracy than to honor a courageous and persevering public servant who personified them?

The name also honors the indomitable spirit and grace that Rep. Giffords has displayed in her remarkable comeback. USS Giffords will carry this sense of purpose with her wherever she sails and the ship will stand ready to guard the principles of liberty—at any cost.

Though the decision to name the newest littoral combat ship after Gabrielle Giffords was not without controversy, it is an appropriate way to honor a strong supporter of the United States Navy and is a fitting tribute to the ideals that make our imperfect democracy the world’s standard-bearer. Indeed, we should take care to heed Abraham Lincoln’s patriotic warning: “A nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.”

General Norton A. Schwartz, USAF and Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, USN have authored a story over the weekend that focuses on AirSea Battle. The article attempts to answer many lingering questions, and takes on the difficult task of laying out more detail behind the purpose of AirSea Battle.

Worth reading in full.

Regardless of what ‘else’ AirSea Battle doctrine ultimately does for the United States, the daunting task of working out the technical integration challenges of the US Navy and US Air Force so that both services can be interoperable during combat operations is a worthy enough task to make the AirSea Battle effort important. From an outside perspective, realizing genuine interoperability might seem like an easy thing, but it is likely one of the more difficult challenge of AirSea Battle doctrine facing both services. There are more than a few stories where a Navy aircraft and an Air Force aircraft would be over the same mission target in Iraq or Afghanistan, and neither pilot could talk to the other. That seems so basic at casual glance, and yet it is anything but simple.

Posted by galrahn in Air Force, Navy | 11 Comments

The large standing Army and active duty military we have known in our lifetime may seem the norm – but it isn’t.

Is there a way to maintain a strong military capability – available and scalable if needed – without the structure we have become accustomed to?

Is there a better way to balance our Reserve and National Guard forces that is better in line with our economic, national security, and yes – Constitutional requirements?

This Sunday, 19 FEB from 5-6pm EST, join us with our guest, General Ron Fogleman, USAF (Ret) for the full hour. Using his recent article in Defense News, Going Back to the Future: Militia Model Could Cut U.S. Expenditures as a starting point, we will discuss these ideas and more as we look for a way to maintain strength and options as the budget crunch starts.

You can listen live by clicking here.You can listen later by getting the show at that site, or from the Midrats podcast on iTunes.

Posted by Mark Tempest in Army, Podcasts | 19 Comments
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