Archive for the 'Army' Category

The House of Representatives recently passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act sponsored by Representative Ken Buck (R-CO) that would “prohibit funds to implement Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 4715.21 on Climate Change Adaption and Resilience.” It is a short-sighted and ill-conceived action that will jeopardize U.S. military effectiveness.

Successful, prudent planning requires considering all pertinent variables. For that reason, DoD needs the ability to factor climate change as a variable at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. If Congress wishes to limit the scope or cost of a specific program it should do so, but it must not limit the ability of the military to plan.

"Maritime Implications of Climate Change" discussion panel during the Chief of Naval Operations’ 21st International Seapower Symposium at the U.S. Navy War College in Newport, R.I.

“Maritime Implications of Climate Change” discussion panel during the Chief of Naval Operations’ 21st International Seapower Symposium at the U.S. Navy War College in Newport, R.I.

Having served as the senior environmental executive for the United States Air Force in the George W. Bush Administration, I would like to address this, both as someone who had the responsibility to plan for and respond to environmental contingencies, and as a Republican needing to work with a Democrat Congress to effectively govern.

The fact that the climate changes is not a political issue, it is reality. It has been changing for millennia. While the cause may be debated by some, the reality is that climates evolve and such developments have a major impact on security interests. You don’t have to believe that the cause is man-made. You can believe it is part of an ongoing cycle and point to whatever study you want to back up your point of view.

Irrespective of the cause, the climate changes and those changes affect the weather, sea level, crop production and migration patterns. Rising sea levels have displaced populations, land failing to produce crops due to drought has exacerbated already complex Syrian issues, and ocean temperature killing coral is moving fishing grounds further into the South China Sea; all of these can lead to conflict and must be prepared for. These are key variables that are affected by climate change and impact everything from broad strategy to discrete tactics.

In a statement, Representative Buck said, “The military, the intelligence community [and] the domestic national security agencies should be focused on ISIS and not on climate change.”

To understand the importance of climate and weather in very concrete terms, one only needs to look back at the critical value of a weather forecast for the D-Day landings. To bring off the invasion, General Dwight D. Eisenhower needed a full moon, a low tide, little cloud cover, light winds and low seas. (The low tide was necessary to allow soldiers to see, avoid, and disarm the mined obstacles that the Germans had placed in the surf.) He could have had the full moon and low tide on June 5, 6, or 7. He could have had the low tide without the full moon on June 19 or 20. But what about the weather?

Weather map of the D-Day invasion, 6 June 1944

Weather map of the D-Day invasion, 6 June 1944

The landing was originally scheduled for June 5, but was moved to June 6 based upon a weather forecast and succeeded not because of the brilliant work of any solitary forecaster, but because a group of forecasters imitated the weather. They jostled, yelled, scribbled, and cast malevolent looks at one another. They fought it out and voted. And in the end, they were just right enough.[1]

Imagine, if Congress, in 1944, had said that the military and the allied forces should be focused on the Germans and not on the weather, then passed an amendment that prohibited identifying and assessing the effects of the weather. Well, that is pretty much what Representative Buck’s amendment does in a 21st-century context.

The fact that the climate changes is a significant variable that needs to be considered by our military planners. Given the sophistication of modeling and analytic capability available to our military, being able to understand and predict broad patterns in the climate cannot be underestimated. It is a strategic advantage that will play out in tactics against the range of current and potential adversaries.

If you actually read Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 4715.2 [.pdf], you will find that it is not about pushing a “radical green agenda” as Representative Buck asserts. DoD Directives flow from policy and assign responsibilities for carrying out that policy. In this case, the DoD policy is to ensure that the DoD is able to adapt current and future operations to address the impacts of climate change in order to maintain an effective and efficient U.S. military.

Nowhere in the Directive is there language that speaks to the cause or reason for the climate changing. It is focused solely on identification and assessment of the effects of climate change on the DoD mission; taking those effects into consideration when developing plans and implementing procedures; and anticipating and managing any risks that develop as a result of climate change to build resilience.

Military planning is an art that requires an in-depth understanding of numerous critical elements or factors that may impact on the mission — both positively and negatively — and an assessment/analysis of how those elements or factors can be either negated, overcome or exploited to give the Commander the advantage required in the execution of the mission. The inability to take into account the changing climate would be catastrophic limitation. This limitation would be compounded by the fact that most of our efforts, against ISIS and other potential adversaries are carried out though multinational coalitions. U.S. joint strategic plans and contingency plans prepared in support of multinational efforts are developed, reviewed, and approved exclusively within U.S. operational channels. Currently, Combatant Commands are integrating climate-related impacts into their planning cycles to reduce the national security implications associated with climate change. This includes monitoring, analysis, and integration of climate related risks into existing overall risk management measures, as appropriate for each combatant command. The Buck Amendment would tie the hands of not only our Combatant Commanders and military planners, but render the United States ineffective in joint planning and operations.

If the purpose of the amendment is to limit spending on overly expensive showcase projects like the Navy’s Great Green Fleet, there are better ways to do that than prohibiting the assessment and analysis of a key long-term variable in our nation’s ability to fight and win.

For example, in 2007 and 2008 when the nation was facing oil prices of $140 per barrel, the Air Force undertook an effort to use domestically produced synthetic fuel in our aircraft to reduce the need for foreign oil. We made a conscious policy decision that the program would be market-based and that the Air Force would do only those things in our control that would create the conditions for success, but not to subsidize uneconomic alternatives.

The Air Force successfully certified every aircraft and associated system to be able to fly on a 50/50 blend of synthetic fuel, and we made a commitment to buy half of our domestic fuel requirement as a synfuel blend as long as the price of the synthetic fuel was competitive with conventional fuel.

RIMPAC 2012

Synthetic biofuel in the lab

At the same time, there were those in Congress who were concerned about the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of synthetic fuels from coal, but rather than completely stop the program, they passed Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which restricts the federal government’s procurement of alternative fuels that exceed the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional petroleum based fuels. While not ideal from the Air Force perspective, it was a proper and constructive use of Congressional prerogatives; it was congruent with the Air Force commitment to be good stewards of the environment, and simultaneously allowed the Air Force to move forward with our testing and certification.

Rather than Representative Buck’s draconian approach to prohibit funds to implement Department of Defense Directive 4715.21 and not allow planners to identify and assess the effects of climate change on the DoD mission, it is wholly appropriate for Congress to require that all efforts with regard to climate change be market-based and that the prices paid for biofuels and other alternative energy sources be competitive with the least cost alternative.

DoD’s ability to successfully counter terrorism, defeat a near-peer adversary, or respond to a natural disaster depends on its ability to collect, analyze and assess data regarding all contingencies, including changes in the climate. To limit that ability puts the lives or our sons and daughters who wear the cloth of our nation at risk.


[1] Air: The Restless Shaper of the World by William Bryant Logan.



Moral Bonds of War Word MapPer last month’s post on the USNI Blog, the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General Robert Neller, challenged veterans to “stay connected with those they served with” as an answer to help stop “young Marines from killing themselves.”

Strengthening personal moral bonds between veterans is part of the answer. So is strengthening moral bonds between U.S. Presidents, members of Congress and those they order to war. From 1798 to 2016, Congress made 11 declarations of war and 11 statutory authorizations for the use of military force. Congress did not authorize the Korean War. President Truman committed American troops to war in Korea citing U.N. authorizations and resolutions.

1798-2016 US Declarations of War and Statutory Authorizations

Click to enlarge

National moral bonds in the U.S. were strongest during World War II. The president requested and the Congress declared war against Japan and Germany. Three of President Franklin Roosevelt’s sons served with distinction in combat during World War II. James Roosevelt earned a Silver Star and promotion to brigadier general in the U.S. Marine Corps. Elliot Roosevelt enlisted in the Army Air Corps, flying 300 aerial combat missions as a pilot and commander and retiring as a brigadier general. John Roosevelt earned a Bronze Star as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy. Americans committed themselves to the personal and national sacrifices necessary for unconditional military victories over Japan and Germany. Their sacrifices included a draft, rationing, and military industrialization instead of commercial industrialization. From 1941 to 1945 more than 16 million Americans, about 12% of the U.S. population, served in the military and over 405,000 military members were killed.

declarations

Click to enlarge

From 1950 to 2016, the moral bonds between Presidents, members of Congress, most Americans and those ordered to fight their wars have become increasingly tenuous and sporadic. Presidential and Congressional strategies to avoid domestic political risks by incrementally side-stepping their constitutional duties repeatedly failed to produce military victories. Neither have they increased national security nor global security.

The most recent statutory authorizations in 2001 and 2002 started two ill defined and open-ended wars lasting more than three times as long as the declared wars with Japan and Germany.

Instead of spreading the cause of democracy these wars are destabilizing the Middle East and North Africa while forcing Europe to absorb tens of thousands of refugees. The sons and daughters of Presidents at war no longer wear the cloth of the nation and lead their fellow Americans to victory in combat against the nation’s declared enemies. The percentage of veterans in Congress continues to decline:

  • 18.7% in the 114th Congress (2015-2016)
  • 64% in the 97th Congress (1981-1982)
  • 73% in the 92nd Congress (1971-1972)

Presently, less than 1% of the U.S. population serve in the military. Most Americans connect with their military with a “thank you for your service” and heart-felt applause for military members and patriotic ceremonies at major sporting events.

The political and media attention presently given to our wounded and post war veterans is necessary but not sufficient. Strong and enduring national moral bonds are created and sustained before, during and after our wars. They require Presidents and members of Congress to lead a majority of Americans in fulfilling the moral obligations necessary to win wars. The difficulties in fulfilling these obligations necessarily constrain wars. They require that all Americans return to sharing wartime risks and sacrifices, not just the 1% in uniform.

Next — Changing the Veteran Narrative: Moral Injury



“The Battle of Anzio shows both the agony of command decisions and the heroism of men who carry them out.”

—Gen. William H. Simpson (U.S. Army, Ret.)

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. These words, spoken by the philosopher George Santayana, have enduring truth. Though daily operations claim much attention in a dynamic Europe-Africa theater, it is important to revisit the battles of the past, to contemplate the critical decisions made by military commanders, and reflect on the will of those who fought these battles. With Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2016, the premier Baltic maritime exercise that will feature amphibious landings in Finland, Sweden, and Poland, just around the corner, the staff ride was especially fitting as we applied the lessons learned from Anzio to our final exercise PLANORD.

Members of the U.S. 6th Fleet staff listen to a presentation at X-ray beach that describes the Allied actions in the invasion on Anzio Beach code-named Operation Shingle. Photo courtesy VADM James Foggo III photo

Members of the U.S. 6th Fleet staff listen to a presentation at X-ray beach that describes the Allied actions in the invasion on Anzio Beach code-named Operation Shingle. VADM James Foggo III photo

There is no substitute for walking the beachhead like those who came before us. More than 50 members of my U.S. 6th Fleet staff and I conducted a Staff Ride in early May of Anzio and the battle fought there during World War II, code-named Operation Shingle. We visited X-ray beach and the Sicily-Rome Cemetery, incorporating stories of bravery along the way.

Anzio native Alfredo Rinaldi is a living history of the standoff at the beachhead in Anzio and was the cornerstone of this staff ride. The only way to understand these battles is to step in the shoes of those that have gone before—and hear directly about what they experienced. And Alfredo gave us that essence in a truly touching way.

Vice Admiral James Foggo III, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, poses with Alfredo Rinaldi, an Italian national who embedded with a U.S. Army infantry unit as a translator after the Allied landing at Anzio code-named Operation Shingle. Photo courtesy of VADM James Foggo III

Vice Admiral James Foggo III, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, poses with Alfredo Rinaldi, an Italian national who embedded with a U.S. Army infantry unit as a translator after the Allied landing at Anzio code-named Operation Shingle. Photo courtesy of VADM James Foggo III

In 1944, Alfredo was an adventurous soul, a 16-year-old with an insatiable desire to live all that life had to offer. To him, in the thralls of a German occupation, war was a playground, an open door for new experiences. Alfredo Rinaldi and the many residents of the Italian seaside town of Anzio were relocated to Rome when it became obvious that the shorelines were going to become battlegrounds. Alfredo became sort of a transient in Rome, a teenage wanderlust hoping to see action and aimlessly roaming the cobbled streets of Rome in search of it. He was lucky to avoid the ranks of the German Army, apparently because he was young and scrawny; his brother had been drafted into the Wehrmacht, but he deserted and was hiding somewhere in Italy. And then the news came in that the Americans [and British too] had landed at Anzio.

With the Allied Italy campaign at a standstill, Allied Forces struggling to gain ground up the Boot, an amphibious operation—Operation Shingle—was hatched to land behind enemy lines. On Jan. 22, 1944, at an H-hour of 0200, a combination of U.S. Army, British Army, and British Special Forces came across a 15-mile stretch of beach between Anzio and Nettuno.

Troops with U.S. Army’s Fifth Army wade ashore from HMS LCI-281 during the first day of landings, near Anzio. HMS LCI-274 is extracting from the beach, in center. Smoke at far right is from the burning USS LCI-20, victim of a German air attack. National archive photo

Troops with U.S. Army’s Fifth Army wade ashore from HMS LCI-281 during the first day of landings, near Anzio. HMS LCI-274 is extracting from the beach, in center. Smoke at far right is from the burning USS LCI-20, victim of a German air attack. National Archives photo

As the reports flooded the hopeful Roman populace, vibrant with excitement that liberation was at their doorstep, Alfredo chose to start marching toward Anzio, a 20-kilometer journey roiled with barbed wire, snipers and German booby traps. He left in the early morning and arrived late that night, somehow steering clear of German munition dropped from above and well-laid land mines. Alfredo’s first contact with Allied Forces was with an African American U.S. army soldier who said, “What in the world are you doing here kid?,” and ultimately gave Alfredo a ride to Anzio in his jeep. Alfredo told us that until this point in his life, he did not realize that America included “people of color” and that this man had changed his life forever . . . Along the way, Alfredo saw his family’s abandoned house, unscathed despite the wreckage from the German air bombing campaign, elevating his mystical belief in America and its forces even more.

Alfredo ended up introducing himself to a group of soldiers, an infantry company, and instantly befriended them. Without any formal paperwork or agreement, he was essentially enlisted. The soldiers told him it was unsafe to for him to go back to Rome, and he preferred to stay anyway. And so he became their translator and their ‘mascot,’ a cheerful soul in a grim and beaten war.

Alfredo retells his story of those days on the beach in great detail. He remembers crouching in what where manmade fox holes as shells from “Anzio Annie,” the German 218-ton railway gun, pounded the beach. He describes hearing the whistling sound of the big rounds as they screeched by his makeshift bunker.

Alfredo was most likely the only Italian patriot embedded in an American unit, but he was not the only one from a fractured Europe to join the ranks for the Allies. Gunnar Erik Mettala was a Finnish-born U.S. Army combat engineer with the 345th Engineer General Service Regiment and the grandfather of my Deputy N6 Cmdr. Erik Pittman. Gunnar left Finland for the United States just before Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union invaded Finland in what was then known as the Winter War in 1939. He would join the U.S. army shortly after immigrating, enlisting in 1941, around the age of 23.

Cmdr. Erik Pittman, U.S. 6th Fleet Deputy N6, retells the story of his grandfather, Gunnar Erik Mettala, who landed on Anzio the second day of Operation Shingle part of the 36th Combat Engineers and alongside the 45th Infantry Division. Pittman retold the story while the U.S. 6th Fleet staff toured the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy, 10 May 2016. U.S. Navy photo/Lt. Adam Cole/em>

Commander Erik Pittman, U.S. 6th Fleet Deputy N6, retells the story of his grandfather, Gunnar Erik Mettala, who landed on Anzio the second day of Operation Shingle part of the 36th Combat Engineers and alongside the 45th Infantry Division. Pittman retold the story while the U.S. 6th Fleet staff toured the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy, 10 May 2016. U.S. Navy photo/LT Adam Cole

Gunnar landed on Anzio the second day of Operation Shingle landing with the 36th Combat Engineers and alongside the 45th Infantry Division. From the landing until the German counter attack on Feb.11, Gunnar’s Treadway Company was engaged in repairs near the port. He would later pass on to his son, who passed on to Erik: “Every day the German Luftwaffe would strafe and bomb the port; every day we’d rebuild and resurface the docks and the roads leading to the docks. Such was the tit-for-tat, hold-your-ground fighting that was the essence of a long period of entrenchment at Anzio.”

Gunnar was wounded after taking machine gun fire to his thighs, as he and others of his company were pushed to the front lines to defend the Allies extended perimeter from German counter attack. He recovered and would serve out the rest of the war in Allied Forces Headquarters in Naples as a staff judge advocate—ironically in the same place his grandson would serve 70 years later…

Despite the attrition faced by Treadway Company and a handful of other companies on the front lines during the initial German counter attack, four months passed with neither side giving or getting an inch. An Allied breakthrough occurred on May 23, 1944, in an operation known as Operation Diadem. While a combination of forces from Britain, Canada, Poland, and the U.S. broke through the Gustav Line, the United States’ VI Corps, controlled by 5th Army, took advantage of a reeling German force to race somewhat unfettered to Rome.

Veronica Stasio, Interpretive Guide of the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, explains to the U.S. 6th Fleet staff the history of the cemetery and about the ground where more than 7,861 Americans are memorialized. VADM James Foggo III photo

Veronica Stasio, Interpretive Guide of the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, explains to the U.S. 6th Fleet staff the history of the cemetery and about the ground where more than 7,861 Americans are memorialized, 10 May 2016. VADM James Foggo III photo

Meanwhile, our man Alfredo traveled with his unit, returning to his exiled home of Rome to raucous cheers from fellow Italians. Alfredo lived a storybook life from there, transitioning from military service to become a driver/caretaker at the American cemetery in Nettuno, constructed to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the Italian campaign. From there, he drove buses for ten years, then opened up a photography business with his son, and ended up returning to the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery as an official photographer, where he met then President George H.W. Bush during the cemetery’s annual Memorial Day commemoration.

Alfredo, now 88 and retired, continues to come every Memorial Day to the commemoration at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery at Nettuno. And this is where I first met him and became enchanted with his story, just as those Army men were enchanted with him in 1944. Alfredo still has that spark in his eye and spring in his step.

U.S. Marine Corps Captain. Tony Bates, deputy Executive Assistant to Vice Admiral James Foggo III, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, reads the citation of Sgt. Sylvester Antolak, a medal of honor recipient for his actions in Operation Shingle at Sgt. Antolak’s headstone in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery., 10 May 2016. Personal. VADM James Foggo III photo

U.S. Marine Corps Captain Tony Bates, deputy Executive Assistant to Vice Admiral James Foggo III, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, reads the citation of Sgt. Sylvester Antolak, a medal of honor recipient for his actions in Operation Shingle at Sgt. Antolak’s headstone in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, 10 May 2016. VADM James Foggo III photo

Walking through the cemetery—either on Memorial Day or just a beautiful spring day in southern Italy as was the case for our staff ride—one is reminded of the sacrifices made on behalf of freedom. The cemetery sits in the zone of advance of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division as part of Operation Shingle. The perfectly cut lawn now dotted with headstones sits beneath a mountaintop – the same perched position that allowed the Germans to hold so tightly to position with their counter attacks.

There are nearly 7,861 Americans memorialized in the Nettuno cemetery, a majority from the landings on Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio.

During our time at the cemetery, my deputy Executive Assistant, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Tony Bates had the privilege of reading the citation of Sgt. Sylvester Antolak, who heroically stormed a German machine gun nest on day two of the Anzio invasion, racing into enemy fire despite warning from his own troops. His heroics allowed the Allies to secure a perimeter and save countless others.

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Tony Bates, then as 1st Lt. advisor team leader for the Afghan National Armed Forces, poses with Afghan forces he was advising in Sangin, Afghanistan. Bates was awarded the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor device for combat action and Purple Heart, for his bravery in several actions while serving in that role. He was wounded in one patrol by an improvised explosive device (IED), which resulted in serious injury and his left leg being amputated below the knee. U.S. Marine Corps Photo/CAPT Tony Bates

U.S. Marine Corps Captain Tony Bates (center), then as 1st LT advisor team leader for the Afghan National Armed Forces, poses with Afghan forces he was advising in Sangin, Afghanistan. Bates was awarded the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor device for combat action and Purple Heart, for his bravery in several actions while serving in that role. He was wounded in one patrol by an improvised explosive device (IED), which resulted in serious injury and his left leg being amputated below the knee. U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy CAPT Tony Bates

Tony is sixty years removed from these men but is a living hero in his own right. He was an advisor team leader for the Afghan National Army serving in Sangin district of Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2011 working to equip Afghan forces to defend their homeland from the Taliban. Much of the work was patrolling and clearing neighborhoods of the Taliban, while working to build trust from communal leaders. From their Forward Operating Base in Sangin, they would often experience Taliban machine gun fire but withstood multiple ambushes through determination and combat skill. Improvised explosive devices were a common tactic used by the Taliban in this time as Marines and Afghan troops would set off IEDs while conducting routine patrols or even in the vicinity of where kids were playing, as it was common for children to lay parts and pieces of the IEDs. Tony’s unit discovered the maker of these IEDs in a remote village in Sangin and sought to apprehend him. During that mission, Tony stepped on an IED, which resulted in serious injury and his left leg being amputated below the knee. Tony was awarded the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor device for combat action and Purple Heart for his resolve in leading those Afghan forces, and he continues to serve with the utmost pride and honor.

We started the staff ride at X-ray beach and finished at with lunch at a restaurant that sits beside the beach, a picturesque spot where the waves ever-so-calmly splash over the rocks and sand. Standing there, looking out on the beach of Anzio with Alfredo brings so many thoughts to mind. You imagine each Soldier coming across the beach, uncertain if they’d immediately take enemy fire or if death lay over the horizon.

For my friend Alfredo, he considers himself—and rightly so—a U.S. Army World War II veteran. His patriotism is remarkable for someone that doesn’t claim any official nationality to America. As we part ways, he extends a sentimental, “God bless America.” We in America have come to make this saying cliché but I can tell that Alfredo truly means it, a reflection of the appreciation that he and thousands of other Italians expressed as they were liberated from Fascist and Nazi hands.

The courage of those that took up the call for freedom on the beach of Anzio, and so many other beaches across Europe and the Pacific, should never be forgotten. So many, like Sgt. Antolak paid the ultimate sacrifice, and for this, we must continue to pay homage to their legacy of heroism. As we always do, this Memorial Day, we remember . . .

Sailors commemorate Memorial Day.

We remember . . . U.S. Navy photo/MC1 Christoper Stoltz



The Commandant’s “Connection Challenge”

37th CMC Official PhotoCommandant of the Marine Corps General Robert B. Neller joined The Muster via Skype. Unlike previous speakers at the Idea Lab who had answers to the question what is your “Big Idea for America” the 37th Commandant had a request. He asked veterans to “stay connected” with those they had served with. “Too many of our friends are still struggling . . . . Please stay connected via any means possible.”

Speaking to a standing-room only crowd, “stay connected” was the only answer he had for a junior Marine’s question some months earlier about what the Commandant was doing to help those veteran Marines that were killing themselves.

While the “great majority are doing well,” the Commandant said, “the technology” was “probably there” to help veterans stay connected. Bunker Labs CEO, Todd Connor, told General Neller that Bunker Labs would take on the digital dimension of the Commandant’s “Connection Challenge.”

The Marine for Life Network is designed to connect “transitioning Marines and their family members to education resources, employment opportunities, and other veterans services that aid in their career and life goals outside of military service.”

Chicago’s Marine for Life community is strong, well supported and holds monthly meetings that alternate between the city and suburbs. In at least one case, however, there was a disconnect between Marine for Life and a Chicago Marine veteran who was told during his official transition to call Marine for Life only if he was considering suicide. Months later discovered Chicago Marine for Life was ideally suited to help Marine veterans stay connected and find jobs.

Changing the Narrative

150116-Z-ZZ999-002Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy’s “Big Idea for America” was to “change the narrative — veterans are civic assets, not victims.”

The Secretary noted that the veterans as victims stereotype was factually inaccurate and a barrier to recruiting all volunteer forces. Compared to their civilian counterparts, he noted, “veterans are more likely to run their own businesses and to succeed.”



Increasing numbers of post-9/11 veterans are dedicated to “changing the national narrative” — veterans are civic assets and not victims. Key leaders in this initiative include Chris Marvin and Todd Connor.

Chris Marvin flew U.S. Army helicopters in combat in Afghanistan until a crash near the Afghan-Pakistan border that ended his military career and began a four year recovery from his wounds. In 2012 Chris founded and was the executive director for the national veteran campaign Got Your 6 — a coalition of entertainment industry companies and nonprofits focused on veterans and military families. Chris and the Got Your 6 Team commissioned a 2014 report, “Strengthening Perceptions of Americas Post 9/11 Veterans.” [.pdf] The report described how America’s current view of veterans is fundamentally defines by a duality that allows people to view veteran’s as concurrently damaged and heroic, a combination that tends to produce charity rather than opportunity for continued leadership.

Source: Strengthening Perceptions of America's Post-9/11 Veterans: Survey Analysis Report (Drew Lieberman and Kathryn Stewart / Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on behalf of Got Your 6, 2014)

Source: “Strengthening Perceptions of America’s Post-9/11 Veterans: Survey Analysis Report” (Drew Lieberman and Kathryn Stewart / Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on behalf of Got Your 6, 2014).

The 2015 Veteran Civic Health Index for Chris Marvin and the Got Your 6 Team [.pdf] defined civic health as a community’s capacity to work together to resolve collective problems — the degree to which people trust each other, help their neighbors and interact with their government.

The 2015 report indicated that veterans strengthen communities by volunteering, voting, engaging in local governments, helping neighbors, and participating in community organizations— all at higher rates than their non-veteran counterparts. Key findings include:

  • Veteran volunteers serve an average of 160 hours annually—the equivalent of four full workweeks. Non-veteran volunteers serve about 25% fewer hours annually.
  • Veterans are more likely than non-veterans to attend community meetings, fix problems in the neighborhood, and fill leadership roles in community organizations.
  • 17.7% of veterans are involved in civic groups, compared to just 5.8% of non-veterans.
  • Veterans vote, contact public officials, and discuss politics at significantly higher rates than their non-veteran counterparts.
  • Compared to non-veterans, veterans are more trusting of their neighbors. 62.5% of veterans trust “most or all of [their] neighbors” compared to 55.1% of non-veterans. Veterans are also more likely to frequently talk with and do favors for their neighbors.

I spoke with Chris Marvin on 4 May 2016. His assessment was that the veteran narrative was becoming more of one of empowerment at the national level but that traditional veteran agencies were focused on service and charity.

Former U.S. Navy surface warfare officer Todd Connor, the CEO of Bunker Labs, is changing the veteran narrative by supporting veteran entrepreneurs: “Military veterans are builders, dreamers, and doers — who are committed to lives of service. Bunker Labs is committed to creating the place, across the U.S., where military veterans can realize their greatest potential, launch businesses, and build the next greatest generation.”

Since its founding in June 2014, Bunker Labs has raised over $23 M in total capital raised, generated more than $17 M in total revenue, supported more than 70 companies and created more than 290 total jobs. On 10 May 2016 JPMorgan Chase announced a two-year, $1.5M commitment to Bunker Labs for the Bunker Builds America Tour of twelve cities showcasing local veteran entrepreneurs and heralding new chapters of Bunker Labs.

It’s just before 6 P.M. on 11 May 2016. Millions of Chicago’s commuters are bound for home. Here in Bunker Labs (HQ), things are just getting going with young veteran volunteers who have just finished their 10+ hour day jobs are here to get ready for The Muster tomorrow on 12 May. This second annual Muster includes over 450 participants; keynote speakers, via Skype, include Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy and Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller; thirty three veteran entrepreneurs pitching their businesses; An Idea Lab for expert talks and panel discussions about defense innovation trends, veteran contributions to civil health; and Marketplace for Bunker member product and services.



Over at WOTR, the staff published a powerful graphic. Though simple, it tells a many layered story on how this nation has fought its wars and pursued its commitments over the course of the last 55 years. It uses as the base of comparison the commitments placed on the Army (demand), and then the budget allocation and personnel levels (supply).

What strikes me most is what we have done with the all volunteer force. In the Gulf War and the Long War, you see logical spikes in commitment and budgets, but no relative impact on personnel levels. That worked well for the short, sharp nature of the Gulf War – but not with the Long War.

USAWC-CSP-infographic_bitmap_hq

Some may argue that modern weapons give you the ability to substitute money and equipment for manpower, but that isn’t the story being told here. No, you are just short-cycling your people to burnout hoping that at some point the conflict will end. Bad thing is, they are ending. Ending when we lose our Strategic patience and quit. That doesn’t seem to be working out all that well.

While the Army has received a “breather” the last few years, with 8 to 9 month deployments in the Navy being the new normal, I would be very interested in seeing a comparable graphic for the Navy with “commitment” being Sailor-days deployed at sea and ashore, or something that captures that intent.

One simple graphic done right is better than 4,000 words and 14 spreadsheets.

Has anyone seen a comparable Navy graphic? In blue and gold; natch.

On a not unrelated topic, the authors point us to The Elihu Root Study on the Total Army where they look at where they come from as a reference point on where the Army should go. Well worth your time as well.

Navy; over to you.

Infographic Credit: Andrew Hill, U.S. Army War College, and Shayan Kheradmand, Boost Labs.


Please join us at 5pm (EST) on 24 Jan 16 for Midrats Episode 316: “Getting Female Combat Integration Right With LtCol Kate Germano”

How do we get combat integration of women right? The quest has moved well away from “if” and in to “how.”

With an apparent broad disconnect between biological realities, cultural norms, and political desires, what is the right way for military leaders to carry out their orders while ensuring that combat effectiveness is maintained.

Our guest to discuss this and related issues for the full hour will be Lieutenant Colonel Kate Germano, USMC.

Commissioned in August 1996, LtCol Germano has served for over 19 years on active duty in the United States Marine Corps. A combat veteran, she additionally participated in numerous operational and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief deployments. Ashore, her duties including a year as the Marine Aide to the Secretary of the Navy.

She was selected for command twice, most recently as the commanding officer of the Marine Corps’ only all-female unit, the 4th Recruit Training Battalion. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Goucher College, where she majored in History with a pre-law emphasis. In 2011, she graduated with distinction from the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, earning her Masters of Military Science degree. She is actively engaged in the struggle to end gender bias in the military, and is a vocal proponent for equal rights and the elimination of double standards and lowered expectations for female conduct and performance.

Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also pick up the later from our iTunes page here.



Please join us at 5pm (EST) on 17 Jan 2016 for Midrats Episode 315: “Where Next for our Ground Forces?” with Paul Scharre:

With a decade and a half of ongoing ground combat under our belt, what are the hard-won lessons we need to keep, and what should be left behind? Looking forward, what are the challenges our ground forces need to make sure they are prepared to meet?

From growing conventional strength from nations who desire to challenge our nation’s global position, to the unending requirements for Counter Insurgency excellence, what is the balance?

Our guest to discuss this and more will be Paul Scharre, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a former Army Ranger with service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

You can download a copy of his CNAS report, “Uncertain Ground: Emerging Challenges in Land Warfare,” from the CNAS site here.

Join us live if you can, or pick the show up later, by clicking here. Or you will find the show later at our iTunes pages here



Please join us at 5pm on 22 November 2015 for Midrats Episode 307: Our Own Private Petard – Procurement & Strategy with Robert Farley

This Sunday we are going to look at the big pixels that supports the entire national security infrastructure above it.

Using his recent article in The National Interest, The Real Threat to America’s Military (And It’s Not China, Russia or Iran), we will tackle the greatest challenge of a world power – those things it has no one else to blame for.

Procurement, strategy, and the choices we make. The run of the last 30 years of weapons development and strategic foresight has not been a very good one. Why?

Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here or by picking it up later by visiting our iTunes page.



M-60 main battle tanks are lined up in the staging area at the Dundalk Marine Terminal after being offloaded from the vehicle cargo/rapid response ship USNS ANTARES (T-AKR-294). The tanks were used by the 32nd Separate Infantry Brigade (Mechanized), Wisconsin Army National Guard, during Exercise Reforger '86.

“Hey 1980s! The second decade of the 21st century is on the POTS line, and they are wondering if they could make some copies of your stuff in the vault.”

As history shows, most times you don’t pick a war – a war picks you.

Of course, in a way, all wars are wars of choice. When faced with aggression, a people can always decide to surrender without a fight – or only after a token resistance. War is a test of national wills on many levels – big wars often result when one side misreads the national will of another.

In the 21st Century, could there possibly be a situation where we would, once again, have to fight our way across the Atlantic to support another entanglement in a European war? As 2016 arrives, are the odds of this greater or lesser than they were 1, 5, or 10 years ago?

Julian E. Barnes and Gordon Lubold at WSJ have a little required reading for you. From their article, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, General Philip Breedlove, USAF put out this call that should have all navalists sit up and notice;

“For two decades we haven’t thought about the fact that we are going to have to fight our way across the Atlantic.”

Let’s pull that thread a bit. Don’t bother on how you get there, just start with waking up one day and getting the D&G that you need to ready a sustained opposed crossing of the Atlantic.

For those 45 and older, this should sound familiar.

NATO countries are discussing increasing the number of troops stationed in members bordering Russia and putting them under formal alliance command. The next talks on that idea are likely to come in early December, when foreign ministers gather and begin discussing proposals to be formalized at a Warsaw summit in July.

The Army currently has two brigades—of about 3,500 soldiers each—based in Europe. It has assigned one additional brigade in the U.S. to serve as a regionally aligned force that will rotate into and out of Europe. Gen. Milley said he would like to add more brigades to those rotating to Europe, and add attack helicopter units, engineering teams and artillery brigades.

Throughout the later years of the Cold War, the U.S. military conducted a massive exercise called Reforger, that practiced moving tens of thousands of troops from the U.S. to Europe quickly. While there is no need to revive the exercise on that same scale, a new kind of drill that echoed the old Reforger operation would be helpful, Gen. Milley said.

“Nobody wants to go back to the days of the Cold War,” Gen. Milley said. “We don’t need exercises as big as Reforger anymore. But the concept of Reforger, where you exercise contingency forces … that is exactly what we should be doing.”

Technology has changed, but geography has not. There are some constants from the 1st and 2nd Battles of the Atlantic in the first half of the 20th Century that still apply a century later. Some will repeat, some with rhyme. Some will surprisingly not be a repeat factor, some new factors will show up unexpectedly. There will also be new technologies that no one should talk about that will change the odds greatly in favor or one force or the other. There will also be new technologies that on one should talk about that one force or the other thinks will be “war winning” but once put in to operational use will be a complete dud.

Here are some things that have a high probability of being true in a 3rd Battle of the Atlantic if it happens in 2016 or 2026 or 2056.

– You do not have enough escorts. Those escorts you do have do not have enough ASW or AAW weapons.
– Those ASW and AAW weapons you are going to war with, in addition to not being adequate in number, there is a very good chance that one bit of that kit does not work and cannot kill anything. Hopefully you have a backup for the pointy end of the kill chain. If not, you are going to have a bad first year.
– Higher HQ is asking for too much information from deployed forces, and as a result, deployed forces are talking too much. As a result, the enemy has a better idea of your location than you think, and may have cracked your code.
– Your allied forces that on paper look good? Many of them aren’t what your N2/3 think. Some of them won’t even deploy. Some of those that do won’t engage the enemy to an effective degree.
– The threat from the air will be easier to counter than the threat under the water, though in the early stages, the threat from the air may be a larger concern than you planned.
– This is a game where “body counts” actually matter. If something is being sunk faster than it can be replaced, you need to change what you are doing.
– It will be seductive to think attacking bases will be a shortcut. It will help, but will not be a magic bullet.
– Finally, the war will go on much longer than you think. Though you may think that it is industrial capacity that is going to be your greatest challenge, it may actually be your ability to find competently trained personnel fast enough.

War, if it came, would be very much a come as you are event. We do not have a huge mothball fleet to reactivate. We do not have a huge Naval Reserve to recall. We do not have a diverse industrial capacity to quickly build up, nor, unlike the period right prior to WWII, do we have a few years headstart in new construction.

So, think about it. The geography is the same, technology and enemy different, but the mission is the same; a sustained, opposed crossing of the Atlantic.



« Older Entries