Friday, July 31, 2009

Thug vs Warrior

The Urban Samurai asks whether MMA training is useless for street defense.
He makes some great points, and I agree with his overall assessment: an MMA fighter is better equipped to defend himself than someone who doesn't train at all, but MMA is definitely not the comprehensive solution to self defense. However, I think I came to that conclusion via a different route than the Samurai. I think he and I are at some variance as to our philosophical, technical and legal reasoning.
First, on the legal side, I think that there is something amiss in the UK right now. More and more, the courts are punishing individuals who defend themselves against violent criminals. One could even make the case that there is no inherent individual right to self defense in the UK right now (I know, I need to round up some links to back up this supposition. Later).
Here in the US, I'm thinking that you can reasonably expect to escape criminal sanction (although maybe not civil) if you can demonstrate under the "reasonable man" doctrine that you acted to negate the threat against yourself. So, unless your caught curb-stomping an unconscious assailant, you shouldn't be rolled up by the law. I'm not a big fan of martial artists who only aim to subdue or "control" an assailant, because I think they are underestimating both the danger, the consequences of screwing up, and the skill level required to only subdue a fully adrenalized, motivated attacker without injuring him. It can be done, but would you risk your life to spare your assailant a couple weeks/months in traction?
The problem with bringing MMA skills into a self defense situation is that the mixed martial artist is trained to fight. Your attacker isn't looking for a fight, he's looking for predation. So, as the US points out, your attacker isn't going to constrain himself to the "rules," pattern, or tempo of the fight an MMA guy has trained for. He's going to try to neutralize you as directly as possible. If a predator decides to target you, reduce his ability to do so by every means available. In most states, the use of lethal force is legal if it is employed to avoid grevious bodily harm.
Here are some more shortcomings of bringing your MMA game to a fight:
-As US points out, the environment will be different. Look at the significant difference in fighters' tactics and techniques between Pride and UFC, simply because one fight takes place in a ring, and one in a cage. To an extent, MMA fighters train and compete, over and over again, in order to perfect the same fight. Same cage, same matted flooring, same gloves, mouthpiece, rules and fight duration (excepting KOs).
-I've bitched here about gloves before; I'll do so again. The purpose of gloves in MMA is to protect the slugger, not the sluggee. The crowds love a good knockout, and the gloves allow a professional fighter to swing for the fences without endangering his livelihood. Swing for the fences like that barefisted, significantly amplifying your power through the hips and shoulders, and when you make contact with that punch you will reduce your punching capability by 50%, because you just broke your hand. That treasure trove of combative knowledge, FM 3.25-150 states that
The boxer is a better puncher than the traditional martial artist not because of the mechanics of punching, but because his technique has been refined through competition. (App B, Para 1)

Um, no. The boxer is a better puncher with gloves on than the traditional martial artist. After a barefisted fight, he'll have earned the appellation "Cast Boy."
-Fight Fashion: how wrong have things gone if you're in a no-shit fight with a sweaty guy wearing a spandex bikini? The ordinary street clothes that an attacker (and hopefully you) will be wearing make a distinct difference. Both participants have a wider range of fight options on a fully clothed opponent.
-Improvised Weapons: Original Japanese Jujutsu was developed to give a samurai who'd lost his sword the ability to survive on the battlefield until he could procure another weapon. If you are attacked when you are (for whatever insane reason) unarmed*, the odds are good that you will grab the first field expedient weapon to hand.
-Asphalt, gravel, and tarmac sort of change up the dynamic of groundfighting and "ground and pound."
-Targeting: an MMA fighter is, sure, defending himself as completely as possible. But his "muscle memory" doesn't encompass eyes, balls, kidneys, throat/larynx. Stick a thumb in the eye of the guy with even the best fight composure, and you'll generate an effect. Get kicked in the balls enough, and lo, you can learn to ride it out, but has a MMA guy been kicked in the balls enough? (I'm in the Army, so the institution takes care of that training requirement).
On the philosophical side, if someone is willing to attack me, then they are willing to kill me, even though that may be inadvertant. So, I'm fighting for my life and will use the most powerful response I can. Also, I will not try to reply with an unarmed version of escalation of force; there isn't time and my opponent faces no such restrictions. I am sure that some of the lessons I've learned in my MMA adventures will come in handy, but I definitely would not opt to rely on MMA as my sole source of skill sets.

*Yuh, looks like I've got to re-test the BATTLEMIND training.

Weather Update

Starbuck posts a great description of our recent meteorologic travails.
From a sensory point of view, it is kind of cool to look outside to see the world in what can only be described as sepia tones.
Otherwise, the weather sucks.

Suasion of the Battlemind

The Army starts us on our redeployment bureaucratic milestones about 100 days out from taking the freedom bird. There are all kinds of administrative tasks that needs be accomplished (evaluations, awards, follow-on orders, etc), property must be accounted for and prepped for turnover to the next team, and mandatory classes must be attended to ensure we're ready to assimilate back into "the world."
I'm posting on the training that the Mungadai did today because, for once, I was reasonably impressed by the Chain Training we were given by the unit Chaplain. The training centered on transitioning from the mental state required here to the mental state that you need to adopt when you get home (if you want to avoid jail, disciplinary proceedings, divorce court, etc). The training was centered on the keyword BATTLEMIND.
Keywords are basically mnemonic devices for finding the "key" to succeeding in different situations. For example: stuck in a cold weather survival environment? Don't forget keyword COLD (stay Clean, don't Overheat, dress in Layers, stay Dry). Screw up your knee yesterday diving for cover when Voodoo snuck up behind you and yelled "bang?" Keyword ICE (Ice, Compression, Elevate). Today was the first time I've seen BATTLEMIND, and I thought it did a good job of breaking down the dimensions in which returning soldiers need to adjust their mindset.

Buddies (Cohesion) vs. Withdrawal
In Combat: No one understand your experience except your buddies who were there; your life depended on your trust in your unit.
At home: You may prefer to be with your battle buddies rather than your spouse, family, or friends; you may assume that only those who were there with you in combat understand or are interested; You may avoid speaking about yourself to friends and family.

Accountability vs. Control
In Combat: Maintaining control of weapons and gear is necessary for survival; ALL personal items are important to you.
At home: You may become angry when someone moves or messes with your stuff, even if it is insignificant; You may think that nobody cares about doing things right except for you.

Targeted vs. Inappropriate Aggression
In Combat: Split second decisions that are lethal in highly ambiguous environments are necessary. Kill or be killed; Anger keeps you pumped up, alert, awake, and alive.
At home: You may have hostility towards others; You may display inappropriate anger, or snap at your buddies or NCOs; You may overreact to minor insults.

Tactical Awareness vs Hypervigilance
In Combat: Survival depends on being aware of your surroundings at all times and reacting immediately to sudden changes such as sniper fire or mortar attacks.
At Home: You may feel keyed up or anxious in large groups or situations where you feel confined; You may be easily startled, especially when you hear loud noises; You may have difficulty sleeping or have nightmares.

Lethally Armed vs. "Locked and Loaded" at Home
In combat: Carrying our weapon at all times was mandatory and a matter of life or death.
At Home: You may feel a need to have weapons on you, in your home and/or car at all times, believing that you and your loved ones are not safe without them.

Emotional Control vs. Anger/Detachment
In Combat: Controlling your emotions during combat is critical for mission success and quickly becomes second nature.
At Home: Failing to display emotions around family and friends will hurt your relationships. You may be seen as detached and uncaring.

MissionOPSEC vs. Secretiveness
In Combat: You talk about the mission only with those who need to know; You can only talk about combat experiences and missions with unit members or those who have "been there, done that."
At Home: You may avoid sharing any of your experiences with family, spouse, and friends; You may avoid telling your family etc where you are going or when you will get back (and get suspicious when they ask).

Individual Responsibility vs. Guilt
In Combat: Your responsibility is to survive and do your best to keep your buddies alive.
At home: You may feel you have failed your buddies if they were killed or seriously injured; You may be bothered by memories of those wounded or killed.

Non-Defensive (Combat) vs. Aggressive Driving
In Combat: Driving unpredictably, fast, using rapid lane changes and keeping other vehicles at a distance is designed to avoid IEDs and VBIEDs.
At Home: Aggressive driving and straddling the middle line leads to speeding tickets, accidents, and fatalities.

Discipline & Ordering vs Conflict
In Combat: Survial depends on discipline and obeying orders; Following orders kept you and those around you safe and in control.
At Home:Inflexible interactions (ordering and demanding behaviors) with your spouse, children, and friends often lead to conflict (ooh; apparently these guys know Mrs. Mongo).

The training presents templates for transitioning the combat skills into acceptably peacetime behaviors, with modification tips and mental health resources. I thought it was post-worthy because a) somebody obviously did a decent analysis of combat vs homefront mindset and behaviors and b) the Army is often portrayed in the media and popular culture as an uncaring monolith that views soldiers as expendable, disposable means. This is untrue and unfair, and I thought an example of our redeployment (mandatory, hours and hours long) training was a good counterpoint to that.
I'm not saying I agree with everything here (scan down for Mongo's Rule #1), but I'm saying a more than significant effort was made to help troops make the jump with the least amount of friction--and there always is friction. The first time you go to a mall or Walmart when you get home (excluding those adjacent to military posts) you are generally overwhelmed with a sense of "who the fuck are these people? Don't they get it?" As the keyword above intimates, tempers are pretty volatile, mostly because, for over a year, whenever someone absolutely needed a world-class ass whuppin', you By God administered a world-class ass whuppin'. From what I hear, that's generally frowned on in Walmart.

It's Time To Go, or Mr. Congeniality Has Left the Building, or Total Paranoia Equals Total Awareness

Some anecdotal proof that one year is about the tracer burnout for a combat advisor.

First, I do believe I'm getting a little cranky as my tour here winds down. Things that I should be taking in stride are irking the shit out of me, to the point where it is showing through my usually sunny disposition. Some examples:
-the DFAC: look, the Mungadai are really lucky to live on a large FOB with a large DFAC that has about everything you could want to eat (whether you should actually eat everything you want is a different story altogether, especially now that we're not spending fourteen hours a day burning calories by running around the ville in body armour). But, not all DFACs are set up uniformly, and you kind of need to know where you're going to get what you want. If you've never been in the DFAC before, step to the side, out of the human traffic flow, in order to do your recon. Don't stand in the middle of the "path" gawking. Otherwise, there is a very good chance (and getting better every day) that certain combat advisors will counsel you with a ballistic application of a food tray up against your damn head. Capische?
Next, the purpose of the DFAC is to allow you to grab and consume your chow and then haul your happy ass back to work. The fact that our DFAC is very large ups the percentage that you can find some food that you will actually enjoy consuming. But hey, all of our chow is line-hauled in. Which means that you don't stand at the salad bar trying to cherry pick the very best of the veggies, dumbass. All of the lettuce is slightly brown and wilty. All of the cucumbers are freezer burned. Either eat it or pass on it, but don't stand there holding up the line in pursuit of building the perfect salad. The rest of us have jobs and therefore don't want to stand there all damn day. Again: Tray. Head.
-Showers. I've been in the Army a long time. I've deployed a lot. So I've pretty much got the ergonomics of my morning ablutions down pat. But I'm not that good. There are 14 showerheads in two abutting trailers for about 167 swinging dicks. That means that there is not enough hot water to go round. If I can enter the trailer, brush my teeth, shave, shower, towel off, and exit the trailer and you've been in the shower the whole time, then you are a hot water Blue Falcon.
-Paranoia. I've been sitting with my back to the wall, scanning people's hands and eyes, and dodging every trash and rubble pile in the street for quite a while now. Total paranoia is total awareness. So maybe I'm just interpreting the news a little differently than I otherwise might. But does knocking out and hospitalizing 34 people with just a little spritz sound like a bad batch of froo-froo juice, or a trial run? And a Google-employed computer super genius gets bonked on the head by a 100-pound tree branch in Central Park? And all the trees in the area are healthy, even the tree from which the offending branch fell? C'mon, what world are you living in?
12 months, I'm good with. 24 months? That's stretching it.

And Now, From The Polio School of Handgunning

Got this video of a gangbanger accosting a skateboarder via Mr. Rummel at Hell in a Handbasket.
Couple of observations:
-Keep teaching gangbangers that this is how to hold/use a pistol.
-How lame do you have to be to approach an unarmed skateboarder whilst brandishing a pistol and still get your ass kicked?
-I'm amazed that no one was shot. Just goes to prove that sometimes it's better to be lucky than be good.
-The skateboarder in red board shorts--i.e., the intended victim--probably broke his hand while admonishing the gangbanger.
-If I was the 'boarder, immediately after this little donnybrook I'd whup my buddy's ass for a less than surgical application of his skateboard.

Well, then, I'll Just Take My Bat, And My Ball, And Go Home.

Holy Schnikes.
COL Timoithy Reece, who I think is the Baghdad Operations Center Transition Team Leader, just published a brutal strategic assessment of our post-30 JUN operating environment in Iraq.

The GOI and ISF will continue to squeeze the US for all the “goodies” that we can provide between now and December 2011, while eliminating our role in providing security and resisting our efforts to change the institutional problems prevent the ISF from getting better. They will tolerate us as long as they can suckle at Uncle Sam’s bounteous mammary glands. Meanwhile the level of resistance to US freedom of movement and operations will grow. The potential for Iraqi on US violence is high now and will grow by the day. Resentment on both sides will build and reinforce itself until a violent incident break outs into the open. If that were to happen the violence will remain tactically isolated, but it will wreck our strategic relationships and force our withdrawal under very unfavorable circumstances.
Hey, sir, don't beat around the bush, tell us how you really feel. Actually, word on the street from Huggy Bear is that this was an internal memo/assessment that got leaked.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Digital Black Belt...or not

Man, does this new policy mean I can now finally run out an start MyBook and FaceSpace accounts? Cool...

True Friends, Capable Allies

This should be interesting: Colombia has ponied up to assist the US/Coalition effort in Afghanistan. Elements of Colombian SOF will be deployed in support of OEF.
Colombia, as I've stated here before, should be the preeminent model for COIN, and demonstrates what a determined, long-term (and often low profile) US counterinsurgency effort can achieve.

Turn Off the Good Idea Generator

I don't have the time to put on either the Cyprus Hill or RATM version of Pistol Grip Pump, crack my knuckles, and do a detailed takedown of this unsolicited recommendation from MAJ Smiley in the SWJ that Transition Teams need to extend their tours of duty to at/about 24 months. Let's just say that I disagree.
Hey, brother, turn off the good idea generator, euthanize the Good Idea Fairy, and get your head in the game.
Extending tours (or programming longer tours) for combat advisors may, in fact, be a good idea. But the Transition Team program is so rife with problems that the added "goodness" of extended tours is minimal.
Right now, Transition Teams have got bupkiss when it comes to the Army handing them the tools to do their jobs. All a Team has in order to influence its counterpart unit and build operational capacity is looks, brains, and personality. No money, no equipment fielding, no authorities, variable proficiency, and a host of execution problems minimize the effect a Transition Team can have on its counterpart. Fix all those problems, and then perform a detailed analysis on whether TTs are on the ground long enough.
Has it occured to the author that it is the profound lack of lickies & chewies/carrots & sticks that the Transition Team can bring to the fight that retards the growth of interpersonal relationships in the first place? After all, while shared danger on the battlefield goes a long way in US eyes toward building mutual rapport, our counterparts live in a constant state of danger. Being brave enough to share the dangers of the battlefield with one's counterpart, is--in his eyes--kind of an entry level requirement for the job. The first friction a TT leader gets from his counterpart stems from the question: what can you do for me, right now? Because of the dearth of tools at the TTs disposal, this quickly grows into the second, enduring friction point: what have you done for me lately?
From the counterpart's perspective, the TT is a bunch of guys who show up and operate with him--i.e., tell him continually where he's fucking up and what he needs to do better. But, often, we don't have the equipment or funds to escalate the rate of growth of his operational capacity, or even to ameliorate the problems that we continually point out. I will guarantee you that a TT that shows up with the money and equipment to inject a significant jump in operational capacity is going to build a stronger relationship more quickly.
Instead, MAJ Smiley recommends that we take the one asset we have dedicated to the Combat Adivsing dimension of COIN, and break it through over-employment. Instead, the Army needs to perform a no-shit analysis of its perfomance objectives for TTs, and then organize, equip, train, and empower the team to be a nested part of the Coalition campaign. TTs should be able to offer their counterparts more than just time.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

This guy should have extra years added to his sentence just for being a dumbass.

Twinkie Time

I'm a big fan of a "body weight" workout paradigm. Move your own weight, through space, in as little time and in as many interesting and varied ways as you can. And I usually think I'm doing well, until I watch someone like this guy. I suck

I'm gonna go eat a twinkie, now.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Punch, Kick, Choke, Twist, Snap

From Mr. Rummel, over at Hell in a Handbasket, is a link from which you can download the Army Combatives Manuel, FM 3-25.150

Let me preface my comments with the statement that, hey, I'm a Judo/Jiu-Jitsu guy. I have the utmost respect for both (as I've stated previously--and heretically--they are the same Martial Art, just different sports). My problem isn't with the art(s) as much as it is with the Army's interpretation of how to adopt, train and maintain them.
The Army re-vamped its Combatives system (and the training emphasis on Combatives) in the early- to mid-90's with the rise of the UFC and the greater American public's exposure to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu--and that is its problem. The Army system can basically be described as "The Ranger Regiment meets the Gracie Brothers."

At the time, Brazilian (read Gracie) Jiu-Jitsu was being hailed, based on UFC results, as the dominant form of unarmed combat. However, the fix was in. The UFC, before the name brand passed to Dana White, was initially started by the Gracie family in order to promote BJJ and to develop a market within the US (mission accomplished). However, as the original promoters of the event, the Gracies were also intimately involved in the selection of the competitors. Note that in the first couple iterations of the UFC (and as an aside, I was a huge fan of the tournament-style competition back in those days, not so much of the "card" system used today) there were no other practitioners of grappling arts entered in the contest. You didn't see, say, a broken-nosed scuff-eared hardass from the NYC Judo Club participating. This was a great marketing tool for the Gracies, and did a great job raising awareness amongst US martial arts practitioners that if you had no grappling skills, you were chum in a freestyle fight.

In the Army, astute Army Rangers figured that, since going live on a hand-to-hand combat scenario was a real possibility in the execution of their duties, they had better get in on this whole Jiu-Jitsu thing. (Cutting out a lot of detail) The program was eventually moved to the Infantry Center at Fort Benning and became the Army Combatives program.

One of the problems in the development of the Army Combatives system was that developers had to take the Jiu-Jitsu of the Gracies and, applying combat experience, reverse engineer a sport into a combative system. The result is a manual that contains "combat techniques" that are not plausible in actual combat.
Below, for your edification, are pieces of either the manual, or the system itself, that I find odious in a fighting system designed for combat

-In at least two instances, the manual declares that: strikes are an inefficient method of ending a fight. Really? Really? It seems to me that if I spend as much time striking as I do rolling on the mat (ah, and there's the rub) and I can put my fist through my opponent's skull at the temple, reach to the back of the rack, retrieve his medulla oblongata and show it to him as his eyes (well, probably "eye," singular, in this case) glaze over, that's pretty darn efficient. What would be more efficient than that? A triangle choke?
-The triangle choke. Need I say more?
-The only true throw in the manual is the hip throw (O Goshi). It's not a bad throw, but the deep entry required is problematic in a dynamic fight. I'd rather see (meaning I could justify better) the inclusion of Tai Otoshi and/or Osoto Gari (the latter especially if we are going to break down and include strikes in our training regimen).
-The manual includes single- and double-leg takedowns. Eh. In a combat scenario I'm a little leery of moving ballistically in a manner that, if countered, leaves me in such an inferior position. Wearing the basic issue kneepads helps, but shooting in on an opponent while wearing body armor and helmet, with the added weight and loss of mobility that entails doesn't seem real practical.
-Most practitioners of BJJ (and therefor, by default, Army Combatives) will emphasize the fact that "90% of all fights go to the ground." Maybe. I think the point is debatable and depends on how one defines "going to the ground." Still, even if we posit that the statement is accurate, there's no need to sacrifice a sound and reliable stand up position to get there, so expunge the sacrifice throw (rear takedown in the manual).
-I'm not a big fan of the courses developed to train instructors in Army Combatives (note: I have not attended any of these courses). In courses ranging from one week(40 hours of training) to four weeks (160 hours of training), the Army purports to generate instructors that will teach what it takes most practitioners years to learn to execute correctly.

Years ago, I was told to quite bitching during an Army tactics course. The course was chock full of (mostly computerized) simulations, and I disliked all of them. The turn-based sims were too constraining, the simultaneous sims were too slow and we sat around a lot while our virtual units were "in transit." On and on. Finally, the instructor made me delineate the positives of each sim, and asked why I wasn't solely concentrating on those tactical skills each sim would actually enhance.
I've taken the same approach to MA training. Whatever system or style you use, your training is only a simulation. It will have advantages to improve your performance in combat, and disadvantages that do not forward your combat ability. Being aware of these advantages and disadvantages has been key to progessing. There are good points to the Army Combative program: it builds an outstanding kinesthetic awareness, it is great PT, it has the potential to give Soldiers tools they would not have had without the program. After all, you can train a lot more frequently, and to a higher level of realism and intensity (I'm talking sparring, here) with a grappling based martial art than a striking based martial art. Training full speed on striking will lump you up pretty good and impede training for quite some time.
I just think the Army could well have done better.

When Courage Is the Job

Last night, while I was flailing myself against the Tire of Woe, the Engineers that live across the "quad" from us were performing their PCI (Pre-Combat Checks and Inspections) before rolling out on a route clearance mission. Imagine having a job in which you go out and drive the routes US Forces frequently travel, looking for IEDs. And, of course, once you find them you have to reduce them.
The route clearance teams usually go out late at night, after "IED hour" when the insurgents use the cover of darkness to emplace their ordnance. Because IEDs have to be distinguished from the trash, rubble, and refuse that litter every main thoroughfare in Mosul, the route clearance teams travel under white light. Actually, the team's vehicles are festooned with High-Lumen lights (that make them look like an extraterrestrial convoy in a John Carpenter movie) in order to better see the dangers. And, because they have to scan every inch of the road, gutters, culverts, pylons, and guard rails on their route, clearance teams move at about 3 to 5 mph. The combination of being lit up like a football stadium and moving at a snail's pace makes them a lucrative target for every jihadi, insurgent, and criminal out there with an RPG, a BKC (I know; I call it a PKMS, too), or an RKG-3--and did I mention that they're out there looking for bombs?
This is a job that I would not want. Unlike a lot of us who occasionally have a "spike" in the danger quotient of our duty performance, guys like the route clearance team have a job in which danger is an integral, significant dimension of the job, and risk assumption is as much a part of the day as putting on the body armor. When all military personnel and first responders join their respective professions, they know that risk is an inherent part of the job. Still, there are some for whom the danger is high, clear, and always present, and we owe a debt of gratitude to all of those who, knowing the risk, strap on their kit and roll out anyway. These guys are often anonymous and the jobs are frequently thankless, like the route clearance studs, EOD technicians (pull quote from the linked article: "[your job] is who you are, down to your DNA.") and the "meat shields" of the Secret Service (being the muttonhead that I am, I can't help but wish I could meet Mr. Mixon in his mat room, for, uh, a mutually beneficial, professionally edifying exchange of tactics, techniques, and procedures to enhance interagency cooperation and interoperability).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Guiness Makes You Strong

Guiness. One of the fundamentals of a life well-lived that I'm sorely missing at this point of the deployment.
Ah, Guiness...

H/t Boa2

What a Bargain!

Al Qaeda in Afghanistan has offered us a "peace plan": Convert to Islam or be ruled by Islam and pay the dhimmitude tax. Sounds like a bargain, eh? With good faith negotiators like this, we ought to have this whole War on Terror thing wrapped up in short order.
This same AQ leader is advocating using Pakistani nukes on the US., highlighting the importance of shoring up political, ethnic, and religious fault lines in Pakistan.

And from another part of the globe, a "mainstream" muslim cleric tells us that terror by Islamic extremists will continue unabated until we recognize the supremacy of Islamic law. Is terror really appropriate? I mean, does killing innocent women and children really advance the cause?
"People such as women and children who are not involved in the fight against Muslims should not be killed.
"But the problem is we don't know for sure that the victims weren't involved in the fight against Islam. Even the thought of fighting against Islam is involvement. Everyone that thinks like that is allowed to be killed."

Ah. So that kid in the corner playing with his Tonka toy, he might have been thinking about fighting against Islam, or he might've someday grown up to think about fighting Islam, so he's a legitimate target. And as for his mother, well, refusing to wear the hijab is fighting against Islam, so yeah, she's toast, too.

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting...

sounds so insensitive. Still, to say "everybody was Tae Kwon Do Fighting" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Ah, democracy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Effective Information Operations?

Anyone who has been posted to Ft. Bragg knows that the appellation for the neighboring city of Fayetteville is "Fayette-nam." Apparently, Fayetteville is trying to give its reputation for exploiting soldiers a makeover, and is declaring itself a "sanctuary city" for the military.
Nice try, guys. But it'll take more than a cutesie commercial to make up for my evenings spent, uh, biding time in the Cumberland County Jail.

H/t AoS

Outreach, Dialog, and Engagement... a reasonable way to modify these guys' behavior. And, hey, the downside is only that they'll get nukes. What could possibly go wrong?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Huffing and Puffing in Three Quater Time

I had the opportunity to go to the gym this morning (and it's looking like I may get a lot more of those opportunities) and do some grappling training with some of the boys. I'm rusty, but it was a good time. The lads with whom I was training were enthusiastic but not real experienced, so I just ended up staying on the mat, rotating guys in every two minutes. I learned a long time ago, that I'm pretty much responsible for training myself regardless of whether I'm the instructor or the student. So when there's a clear ability/experience gap, I try to put myself in the most vulnerable positions I can and then work through it. It takes a while to put ego aside and learn that "if you're not tapping, you're not training." With the guys today, I was coaching them along, trying to get them to polish their fundamentals. "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast" is an easy mantra to verbalize, harder to internalize.
After a couple of hours, I was the only guy that wasn't huffing and puffing and blown out, wind-wise. Part of it is just experience, and learning to relax during randori. When I made a jump in training from grappling-pure (Judo/Jiu-Jits) to MMA, I learned that I needed to achieve a whole new level of fitness, and I had to re-learn how to relax and breath. It is of note, though, because I really don't "train cardio."
I hate running. Running is da devil. Unfortunately, the Army is enamored of running its ass off, so I get to do it whether I like it or not. Fortunately, I'm usually in a job where I can dictate my own PT and as long as I excel at my PT test every six months, I'm left alone. And, I do do well on my run times. To paraphrase from Quigley Down Under, just because I say I have no use for running, doesn't mean I can't run. So, being that I get graded twice a year on my two mile run, in a good year I'll usually run a grand total of...four miles. I'm a big fan of sprint workouts, but don't count sprinting in my run totals.
Living so far south, in a tropical zone, even if I did want to run I'd only be able to early, early in the morning (when I should be at the DoJo) or late, late in the evening (when I should either be at the DoJo or drinking beer). There are other forms of "cardio" that I do enjoy, although my main goal is pursuit of a decent workout, not aerobic excellence. I'm a big fan of swimming, and all the canals and big blue open water around my house offers plenty of opportunity for both raw swimming and finning. Mongo's #1 Wife has started giving me grief about it though, ever since "Elvis the Crocodile" started making appearances in the canal.
I enjoy swimming, I don't love swimming. To each his own: while I can never, ever imagine getting up at 0330 in order to drive three hours to participate in a Triathlon (You want me to run, swim, and bike? Which circle of hell am I in?) I would and have done the 0330 wake-up to get into a decent fight.
The point of all this is just to posit that I think a lot of people mistake cardio/aerobic fitness for breathing discipline and the ability to employ relaxation techniques while under duress. Baseline aerobic fitness is pretty easy to achieve. If you can run linearly for hours without getting winded, that's great. But if you can do that but can't go two minutes on the mat, or diverge through some obstacles or hurdles without losing your rhythm and getting out of breath, you might want to expand your "wind training" beyond aerobic road work.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Another recurring theme on this blog is the friction between the individual and the bureaucracy. Especially as to how the nature of the bureaucracy is anathema to one trying to follow the warrior ethos.
I recently had a run in with the bureaucracy. I was in Iraq, minding my own business, and somehow got sideways of the bureaucracy. While the hit wasn't catastrophic, failure to resolve it appropriately would have mandated my separation from the service as a matter of conscience. As I've written before, the Military Departments are the best of our governmental bureaucracies. Not because we've cracked the code on organizational efficiency or efficacy, but because we take good, decent men and women and put them on the line for a number of years before making them transition to the functionary role of mid-level bureaucrats. These individuals are often imbued enough with the warrior spirit, and conscious enough of the linkage between their actions and effects on the troops, that they work until the job is done. A mid-level staff officer logs more hours by far than his counterpart anywhere else in the government. I've seen it. And yet still, when someone gets sideways of the machine, or doesn't quite fit within the cookie-cutter, the amount of work required to square away an individual at righteous odds with "the system" is daunting, sometimes even insurmountable, and always invidious. I owe a debt of gratitude to the multitudes of people, some who know me, many who don't, that put in the extra time and effort to get me unfucked. A significant reason for my recent dearth of posting has been that I was walking around ass-sore, and not sure that I was professional enough to keep it from bleeding over into my blogging.
I'm still going to endeavor to keep politics out of this blog, but I must admit that throughout my recent ordeal, I kept thinking "and this is how they want our health care run?"

Meditations on the 2nd Amendment

If you've followed this blog at all, you've seen Mongo's Rule #1: If you don't have a gun, you're chum.
The Motor City Madman himself expounds on this theory. What I find disheartening is that so many Americans consider this position to be extreme.

H/t Pops Mongo

Heart-Broke (Hard-broke?) in Baghdad

This article from the Washington Post articulates the frustrations of senior commanders over the apparently shifting definitions of the tenets of the US/Iraqi security agreement. A classic example of an overly optimistic COA making ballistic contact with the cruel, real world. I guess Mosul isn't the only place where the Coalition feels like it had the rug jerked out from under its feet.
What flummoxes me, though, is the fact that no one saw this coming, or had detailed talks/planning sessions beforehand to "set conditions," or had bolstering, written, detailed agreements under the Security Agreement umbrella.
The catch phrase--dare I say, talking point--has been that the Iraqis don't like us, but they trust us. Well, they trust us to be predictable and to try to act like honest brokers. So who thought Iraqis want honest brokers? They want us to get out of the way so that they can roll up their sleeves (in a "get ready for a donnybrook" way vice a "let's get to work" way) and get their formal and informal power relationships established and settled. All of the power relationships within and between sects, tribes, clans, security forces, political parties, ethnic groups etc. are still nascent because the "honest brokers" have been there preventing the Iraqis from sorting things out "the Iraqi way." Now, they are getting ready to begin getting to it. We apparently aren't invited to the ball.
UPDATE: Just read the review for Steven Metz's Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy in SWJ. The reviewer states "Metz concludes that the United States has a long-standing, continuing problem 'developing sound assumptions when the opponent operates within a different psychological and cultural framework'.” Well duh...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Easing Back In

I haven't posted anything new in two weeks. Main reason is that I have some, uh, rage-inspiring events going on in two or three areas and I was not sure that I could keep it from bleeding over onto the blog. While blogs are a pretty good place to lodge a rant, I've found myself meditating on the correct and professional protocol for expressing criticism and/or skepticism when one is blogging on professional endeavors, standards, and OAAs (operations, actions, and activities).
First, as I stated on the very first posts of this and the team blogs, OPSEC is the primary consideration of any posting. Second, if a post has to do with events impacting me or the team, I've kind of taken the tack of "if you can't wring the emotionalism from the post, don't post." Finally, there is what I've been coming to think of as the "due diligence and notification" policy.
Long ago, when I was a very junior staff officer, my commander taught me that you don't blow someone out of the water in a public venue without going to him one-on-one to give him the opportunity to change his wayward behavior. Before announcing at a Command & Staff meeting "I couldn't accomplish my task because I didn't get input from Staff Officer X," you give Staff Officer X the courtesy of telling him privately--and in person, if at all possible--you are fucked up, and if you stay fucked up and refuse to do what the Army is paying you to do (i.e., your job), especially with regard to how it impacts my own duty performance, I'm going to brief it to the boss and let the chips fall where they may. Once you reach that point in your professional relationship with another officer then, as GEN Gary Luck once quipped, "a dime dropped is a dime well spent."
Blogging while deployed, though, is a little different. One is wholly consumed by the daily execution of OAA, and commenting on the always-ugly matriculation of plans into actions on the ground is often inappropriate. I have a very limited optic here, and am not always privy to the analysis and considerations that yield the decisions that are handed down, so better not to post.
So, anyway, with a little effort on finding subject matter that doesn't make me grind my teeth, I'll try to post more frequently (which, given my post-tempo over the last two weeks, shouldn't be too difficult).

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Let's Do This!!

The TL for Team Viper just passed off this great article to me, the theme of which is: Leeeroy Jenkins and the American Way of Advising.

Great stuff, and wholly accurate. My only criticism to this article would be that it omits the parallel problem that external transition teams do not have the authorities or resources to do the job right, anyway.