Showing posts with label afghanistan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label afghanistan. Show all posts

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Reader Question: Rucking Weights, Fighting vs Approach March Loads, Afghanistan, etc

Rucking 101 Part 2 Training Plans got a comment that I thought was worth replying to on the main page:
I question the sense, even the rationality of trying to train up to the military 65 lb load. Training should have a purpose. What is the purpose of the 65 lb load? The military does it? So effing what. The military is losing in Afghanistan to poorly trained, poorly equipped light infantry in part because those heavy loads give the Taliban the choice of when to engage. And then when they do engage our troops carrying 65 pounds of gear cannot catch them when they disengage. The bulk and weight of the loads, to a great extent, limits our troops to roads and trails where they can be ambushed or hit with ieds. So why would you want to copy the military when what the military does doesn't work?

Ryan here: I am going to ignore the slightly condescending tone of the reply  so we will just stick to the issue at hand. First I have to say the plan I pretty blatantly stole is the brainchild of John Mosby. I am not going to try putting words into his mouth; all thoughts that follow are my own. In no particular order here we go:

-Let's talk about system levels first.

Level 1 is your survival load. I everyday carry mine.

Level 2 is a fighting load. A way you carry plenty of ammo, some water, a bit of food and medical stuff, etc. Level 2 can vary widely in weight depending on whether or not you choose to wear body armor. Even a stripped down set of plates with a plate carrier weights in the fifteen to seventeen pound range. Add side plates and it will be more. Choose a full on vest with class IIIA soft armor, side plates and front/ back plates and it's going to be more like 30 pounds.This is also called a fighting load.

Level 3 is a subsistence load. This will have food, shelter, water, spare clothes, ammo, etc all. This is a rucksack or something similar. It is also called an approach march load.

-Where you confuse things is by arbitrarily linking 65 pounds being the end weight of this program with what you perceive to be soldiers fighting loads in Afghanistan. These two things are entirely unrelated in my mind.

-As to taking lessons from our combat forces. Who else would you propose taking them from?

-To the single point issue of whether soldiers loads in our current operational environment, particularly high altitude mountainous Afghanistan are too heavy. One can make a legitimate argument, as I noted a couple years back in Thoughts on Insurgencies #1 that the current focus on wearing heavy protective equipment no matter what decreases mobility. Years and a trip to Afghanistan later I would argue in particular that it greatly limits our ability to do the long multi day presence/ movement to contact type patrols and SKT/ ambushes that would really deny the Taliban safe haven everywhere an MRAP/ Cougar can't drive. This means the Taliban have functional control of these areas only needing to worry about SOF types occasionally popping out of the sky to hit an HVT. Day to day that terrain and it's populace are theirs. You just can't haul enough stuff to survive for 3-4 days and wear full on body armor.

If I were El Supremo General Ryan I would delegate authority to forgo protective gear in order to increase mobility to the Company Commander, with review by the first 0-5 in the chain of command which is typically the Battalion Commander. Moving on.

-Beyond that to the larger question of whether our overall success, or very arguable lack thereof in Afghanistan can be attributed to our troops efforts (or even more arbitrarily the weight of their fighting loads).  One could argue that seperating military and political objectives is arbitrary. After all as Clausewitz said "War is a continuation of politics by other means".

The conditions determined to be success and by implication failure, as well as the limits of troops and force allowed being defined by civil leadership largely put success in a venture such as Afghanistan into the political spectrum. For example, our soldiers could stop the Taliban in a couple weeks simply by killing the known bad guys and their major supporters without waiting to catch them in the act with evidence that can convict them and subsequently gathering intel to go kill their buddies but it would not be pretty. In fact it would probably remind one of The Battle of Algiers.

Of course any legitimate effort to route the Taliban would need to include significant incursions if not outright occupation of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal areas. Taking it a step further our military would be quite capable of killing every human being in Afghanistan to end the problem that way. However we are not as a society willing to accept those costs; which is probably a good thing.

In closing on this point I'd argue our soldiers are doing a decent, though inherently less than perfect, job in pursuit of what could be argued to be an inadequately resourced, poorly defined and unrealistic, out right fantasy based often changing end state.

-You mentioned training having a purpose. So let us work backwards in terms of how much weight one might want to train up to carrying.

My fighting load including M4agery weights in around 20 pounds. Toss in body armor and it is closer to 35-40.

My sustainment load AKA BOB weights about 42 pounds (wet).

Carrying a light (sans armor) fighting load and my BOB puts me right around the 65 pound weight hack. I don't worry to much about a full on load out of fighting kit, armor and ruck. The reason is I can't see myself realistically carrying that for a prolonged period.  Where I can see myself sucking under a ruck is in some situation trying to get home. Often for long trips I toss my BOB and a rifle into our vehicle. Walking home a long distance would suck but it is my realistic walking worst case scenario.

The point I am trying to get at here is that 65 pounds is not out a crazy weight for a multi day sustainment load and some fighting gear. Instead of being an arguably bloated fighting load it is a lean fighting load and enough stuff to somewhat comfortably live for 3-4 days in realistic field conditions. Really add up the stuff and if your weights come across drastically different I'd recheck the packing list.

While not intentionally planned 65 pounds is just about right for me. Knowing John Mosby that probably isn't a happy coincidence. If you do the same math as I just did and come up with a drastically different weight then adjust accordingly.

That being said as one wise commenter noted "If you can carry 65 you can definitely carry 35" so maybe training hard even if you do not plan to haul a heavy pack has some wisdom after all.

Anyway that's my thinking on that. Hope it helps or entertains somebody.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Obligatory 9/11 Post

I am still angry. Not so much angry about the attack on 9/11 anymore. We pretty much squared that up by killing Osama Bin Laden, numerous Al Qaeda leaders and more foot soldiers than we could shake a stick at. We also invaded Afghanistan the divided chaotic country that harbored this network. Along the way we  got drunk then stomped some annoying but unrelated individual in a bar liberated Iraq.

Where does the world stand now? Some bad people are dead but in reality new bad people came up in the ranks to largely replace them. Iraq is a moderately functional psuedo democracy that could in time grow into a fairly functional one albeit by local standards; or degenerate into a Shia dictatorship maybe with a civil war. Afghanistan is still playing out but I suspect this history's rhyme will replay itself. Lots of Americans and people from various other countries have died. Billions or trillions of dollars were borrowed and spent. However I'm not angry about any of that.

I am angry because we did not learn the fundamental lesson of 9/11 which is that ignoring legitimate threats until they successfully attack us is foolish. Far better to do something to disrupt enemy networks before they hurt you than after. We have not learned this lesson. I fear the same sort of lawless terrorist chaos is happening in Yemen and a large part of northern Africa plus of course the whole Pastunistan problem has yet to be solved (if it can be). Even worse we may be aiding slightly better spoken front men to control nation states. The saying 'fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me' comes to mind here.

How are you feeling today?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Top 5 Afghanistan Books

1) Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the War against the Taliban. This book is not my favorite about Afghanistan but it is the best 'Afghanistan in 1 book' I have read.

2) The Bear Went Over The Mountain. A series of AAR type vignettes put together by the Russian Army. 

3) Charlie Wilsons War

4) The Other Side of the Mountain. A sequel to The Bear Went Over The Mountain but from the Mujaheddin perspective. 

5) Ghost Wars

I could consider the exact positioning of #1-4 but am pretty firm on the books themselves. That may of course change if I read something particularly awesome in the future.  

The Tribal Analysis Center has a lot of good stuff if you dig around a bit like Learning From History, The Soviet Experience in Afghanistan as well as their Research and External reference sections in general.  Also there is some good historic stuff on British experiences and tribal dynamics in the area.

Various honorable mentions:

Kill Bin Laden by Dalton Fury

The Kite Runner

The Places In Between by Rory Stewart

Anyway that should give folks who are interested some books to consider reading.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Book Review: Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001

Ghost Wars took a long time for me to read. Somewhere around 5 years actually. Some time at Ft Benning, it seems like a lifetime ago, I purchased this book then started reading it. Got about a third of the way through then lost interest. Put the book aside on the shelf.

Not too long ago I picked the book back up. This time I had a much better understanding of Afghanistan from reading various books and such as well as real life experience. Also I am a touch older and just maybe more patient. Anyway I finished the book yesterday.

This book starts in the end of the Soviet Afghan War. It goes into great lengths discussing the intertwined, hypocritical and generally dysfunctional relationships between the CIA, their Afghan "Warlord" partners, Pakistan, Pakistani Intelligence, the Arab gulf states particularly Saudi Arabia and Osama Bin Laden. It goes through how this combination of more or less cooperative forces ultimately defeated the Afghan Communists (though one could argue what defeated them was Russian aid ending but I digress) then created a coalition government then fell into civil war and total chaos. Ultimately this lead to the rise of the Taliban then Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda element arrived. It also touches on the rise of modern fundamentalist terrorism as it related to the rest of the story. To the usual format.

The Good: Very informative. It also covers a period in Afghanistan's recent history that is easy to gloss over. The period after the Soviet Afghan war is admittedly easy to miss but it lead to the rise of the Taliban then 9/11 which lead to our misadventures in Afghanistan. I got a ton out of this book. A real understanding of how many things came to be. Through understanding it really cleared up a lot about the period after 9/11.

The Bad: While it would be difficult to talk about all of these topics separately and I suppose the generally chronological method of the book makes sense but it left the reader jumping from Washington DC on one page to Saudi Arabia on the next then back to an Afghan hovel. It got a bit hard to follow at times. Also this is not a book for a beginner on the topic. To read this book you need a pretty decent understanding of Afghan history in general and the Soviet Afghan War to make much sense out of this book.

The Ugly: This book is long and dry, really long and really dry. The book (not notes) was just under 500 pages. It is a fairly large book with small font so it probably reads like closer to 600.

While it is informative the book is pretty darn dry. Even being interested in the topic I had a hard time digging through the book. There were parts where it picked up but it probably averaged slightly more interesting than a college Algebra text.

Overall Assessment: If you can manage to slog through it this book does offer value. It would probably be the 4th or 5th book I would recommend a person read about Afghanistan if they were sufficiently interested. However you definitely have to work to get it. Most people would probably be better off putting their time and money into a book that is easier to read.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ghost Wars

Trying to finish Ghost Wars by Steve Coll. Very interesting but long and dry. Really long and really dry. 50 more pages to go. Please excuse my lack of a full post today.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Liberal/ MSM Stupidity: Womens Rights in Afghanistan

Afghan lawmakers block law on women's rights

This article has been in the yahoo news you see when  checking your email for a few days. Honestly it baffles me. Clearly the person who wrote has either never been to Afghanistan or has been brainwashed and is borderline mentally retarded. 

 Women's rights in Afghanistan isn't going to happen. My odds out lifting Jim Wendler in the morning, beating George St Pierre in an MMA match before lunch, out shooting Gerry Miculek in the afternoon then making a better dinner than Rachel Ray are higher than the odds of women in rural Afghanistan having anything that resembled rights or freedom.  It's just not going to happen.

 Major cities may differ slightly, and are historically more western/ liberal, however in the majority of Afghanistan women have no rights and are essentially properly. Women can be raped, beaten, killed, sold or married (same difference in that culture) as the male head of the family wants with no repercussions. That is the culture and it is not going to change.  I do not say that happily but it is absolutely true. Changing rural Afghanistan, and do not be confused the majority of the population, as well as the real axis of power in Afghanistan is rural, is next to impossible. The Soviets tried for 20 years, spending untold billions and killing millions of people. If there is a way to more brutally attack a way of life than the Ruskies did in Afghanistan I don't know what it would be. Heck, We've been there for more than a decade trying the soft and nice approach. The Afghan and in particular Pastun culture is not going to change. 

 Without getting further into Islam or Afghanistan lets get back to what this article shows us. Liberals seem to believe they are capable of imposing their beliefs on anyone. They seem to believe they know what is right for everyone, everywhere. They are confused when their agenda's simply do not appeal to people. They are even more confused when legal statutes and the implicit threat of force fails to make people comply. The idea that people are willing to ignore laws, face risk or ultimately fight/ die for their viewpoints is something they do not understand.  

 

 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Odds N' Ends

The lettuce, spinach and green beans went into pots today. That was big fun. This whole growing my own vegetables thing is pretty cool. Also I'm excited to say it looks like I'll be involved with an intro to canning thing in the near future.

Had dinner and a couple beers at a local bar. Since neither driving slightly inebriated or taking a cab appealed to me I decided to hang out drinking water and reading till the booze wore off. I am currently reading Ghost Wars:The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. I got halfway into this book way back in IBOLC but it lost my interest. These days I am a lot better informed on Afghanistan and the players involved, through research and personal experience, and am probably more patient so it's a bit easier to get through.

On the plus side guns are becoming more available. The local shop has a variety of evil black rifles and semi automatic pistols. They are also doing pretty well on mags. A variety of AR mags including PMAGs at $22ish were present. They had limited pistol mags, I think mostly various Ruger and XD mags plus a few Glock 19 mags at $32ish.

Ammo is trickling into the shops and flying out. A lot of guys are showing up at Wally World early in the morning. Some to meet their own needs and some to resell at stupid prices. The local shop sold 7k in .223 in 2 days with a 3 box per customer limit. Personally I'm semi actively looking and buying when prices are right.

As summer hits here we are seeing consistent temps in the 80's. My little .38 J frame is definitely earning its keep. The G19 is really only viable for open carry these days. However given that it I'm in Arizona that option is legally on the table and socially acceptable to boot. Sort of depends on my mood and the risk of a given venture. Since I'm much more of a grocery store at 4pm than an ATM at 3AM kind of guy the risk is usually pretty low.

In writing this rambling, I'm too lazy to do something serious post I realized that a month ago I wrote basically the same thing. Big fun.








Sunday, January 6, 2013

Book Review: Wars of National Liberation by Daniel Morgan

Commander Zero loaned me this book with the conditions that it is eventually returned and I share my thoughts on it. Figured a book review is as good of a way as any to share my thoughts. So here we go.

Good:
Comprehensive- This book talks about a whole lot of different conflicts. China, Algeria, French in Indochina, Jews vs the Arab world I, II, III, IV, Vietnam and touched on themes of African and South American conflicts.

Well Researched- The guy definitely knew what he was talking about. The sheer amount of research put into this book is impressive.

Brought home key themes- Successful insurgencies have safe havens behind international borders, foreign support and tend to be fighting against unmotivated outside forces. Stuff I have talked about before.

Bad:
Bounces Around- This book seems to have sort of gone regionally then by time but could have been organized better. Specifically a set framework for discussing conflicts and another for battles would have been a huge help to this book.

Dove deep into some random conflicts/ battles but light in other probably more applicable ones. Talked a lot about Korea which was a pretty conventional fight. Also went deeply into a few other conventional battles. There really wasn't any rhyme or reason here. It was almost like they just made some old work fit into this project. They failed to really be descriptive enough to make sense when they tried to go deep too fast relying heavily on small diagrams Either needed to go deeper into battles or just stick to themes.

Ugly:
Misses significant conflicts like Chechnya and Northern Ireland. Also the Israelis vs the PLO (instead of the conventional fights vs the Arab world) would have been good. Some really useful stuff could have come from this.

Briefly and half heartedly mentioning Afghanistan in what they try to pass off as a closing. The Afghan war vs the Soviets is a great case study for a whole lot of information. The books failure to meaningfully discuss the Soviet Afghan War is almost irredeemable. It would be like talking pistol development through the 18th century and not mentioning Colt.

Sorely needed a good conclusion. Seriously they were going through the case studies then had a half halfhearted confusing chapter that vaguely mentions Afghanistan and mumbles about some other stuff and the book just ends.

Discussion: I got a lot out of the part on China which is a chapter of history I wasn't well informed on. The pieces on conflicts I was more familiar with were good and usually had an interesting new tid bit or three.  For a nonfiction book it managed to be informative while staying lively enough to stay interesting which is a definite balancing act.

This book would probably be on my fairly short list for studying insurgencies/ guerrilla war. It probably wouldn't make the top 5 but would definitely be in the top 10.

Overall assessment: Buy and read. The price on Amazon is like 7 bucks. I got stuff out of this book and considering my study of the field is pretty solid and I have some decent practical experience that says something.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thoughts On Insurgencies #8: Fundamentals of a Successful Insurgencies 101

It became apparent to me after a discussion with an invisible that I needed to take a step back in this series. Sometimes I am guilty of forgetting that most folks here have not spent a good portion of their live training for or being personally involved in an insurgency. We should discuss the fundamentals of a successful insurgency.

I am not saying that every insurgency must have each of these elements or it will not be successful. There are a certainly examples out there which do not fit every criteria but most tend to fit them if loosely. In no particular order.

Obviously some group or subset of a state needs to be unhappy with the current governmental system. Not just kinda unhappy but enough so to fight a war they may well die in. Taking a step back it isn't so much that there need to be people willing to take up arms but conditions that lead to people being willing to take up arms.

Some of these people will be active fighters. For every active fighter there are a few supporters or axillary types helping make things work.  These folks are involved to varying degrees. Some are full time intel, logistics or C2 types filling your conventional staff functions. Others may be a farmer who gives an old cow to feed some fighters or a Grandma with a big house who loves to feed and look after a bunch of teenage and early 20 something boys. For every person who actively aids insurgents they need a bunch of people who just keep quiet. The neighbor who sees something and goes about his business or the apathetic local cop who doesn't search for insurgents very hard.

For an insurgency to build from an initial nucleus to a group that has a real chance the government has to have problems. Maybe it is a backwards corrupt nepotistic regime, maybe it is an aging dysfunctional empire, maybe the economy is toast or the government is distracted by war. The reason for this is that functional governments can eventually use the stick and or carrot to decrease the total amount of people willing to take up arms. Eventually this makes insurgencies peter out until an 'acceptable level of violence' which varies from place to place. There are bombings and high amounts of murders in a lot of places but that is just normal.

Some sort of a safe haven is very helpful for insurgents. This safe haven is very important for insurgents to train, rest and plan and conduct a variety of logistical efforts. These safe havens can be due to political boundaries the insurgents can cross that the opposing force is unable to cross at least in a widespread regular way. Vietnam as well as the Pakistan/ Afghanistan border are good examples of this. Other times a safe haven can be due to an area's isolation in terms of rough geography, lack of improved all weather roads and low population densities. Areas outside aside from the AF/PAK border in Afghanistan fall into this category. The longtime Philippine insurgency  and the FARK in the jungles of Columbia are also examples.

Without this safe haven motivated governments can eventually wear down an insurgent group or at least prevent them from regrouping, recovering and training. This means they are not healing up injured fighters or training new ones which makes it hard to build numbers and win. Some sort of a (relative) safe haven is just about impossible for insurgents to do without.

Outside assistance is very important. It is cool to think about a bunch of guys running to the hinter boonies with rifles and fighting the big mean government but it is just not that simple. To keep things going insurgents need money, weapons, ammunition, food, medicine and often outside training. Admittedly money can handle most of those problems if the insurgents can get enough of it. For a long time during the good old Cold War a group could pretty much bet on assistance from whichever side didn't have a relationship with the regime they are trying to topple. Since the Cold War has ended it has become a lot more dicey but wide open. Islamic groups can get solid funding from various Gulf State groups. Other folks may have relationships that work for various reasons.

Those are the big ones that come to mind based on my formal and informal education on the topic as well as real world experiences. As always input is welcome but please try to keep it on topic. I hope that some of you get something out of this post.

Have a nice day,
Ryan


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tab Clearing

Lizard Farmer links to an interesting CALL article it gives the weight of a bunch of different military gear.

John Mosby weigh's in on the 'Combat Light' discussion. As with most things John writes I find little to disagree with. It is pretty obvious to me that the gear needed for a specific mission can vary widely. An afternoon or an overnight is different from 2 weeks (or indefinitely), summer is different than winter (especially in the mountains or way up north) and vehicle based operations, though they have their own issues, are different than hoofing it.

Fake gold bars have showed up in NYC. 

It seems that President Obama said "I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot." No comment here.

Mitt Romney said "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney could be heard saying in the clip, referring to those who don't pay federal income tax. "There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it." I am ambivalent about this. It is an oversimplification as there are rich and poor on both sides of the political spectrum. However it is probably not totally inaccurate. 

It turns out that the miraculously lucky spontaneous attack on our consulate in Libya by average citizens during a riot wasn't actually so spontaneous and involved some hard core Al Qaeda types. Imagine my face showing great shock at this recent revelation.

Along these lines there is a whole mess of rioting all over the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere. The whole thing is really ridiculous. I don't care what the guy next door thinks about my religion; let alone somebody in a country I need a couple minutes to find on a map. Things like this make the whole 'Islam is a religion of peace' argument an uphill battle.



Friday, August 10, 2012

Body Armor, To Buy Or Not And When To Use


The topic of body armor has come up again recently. I have talked a bit about it in the past. Anyway here we go, some of this will probably be new and some will be rehashed.The first question is if you should buy body armor. I would say that folks who think they might end up on the two way range some day would be well advised to acquire body armor. It saves lives and gives a useful advantage. It broadly comes in two types soft armor (like cops wear)  and rifle plates. Soft vests can sometimes be had pretty cheap. They will stop most pistol rounds and buckshot. It comes in class 2A, 2 and 3A. Each successively heavier type stops larger/ faster bullets but is also heavier and thicker. A lot of folks recommend class 2 as a good compromise. One of these might be handy if you have to make large cash transactions or otherwise function at increased risk in a normal non mad max world. Rifle plates are solid ceramics or steel plates that stop heavier/ faster rounds including most common rifle rounds up to the .308/30'06 range. They are relatively heavy, cumbersome and expensive. Then again they do stop rifle bullets. While a stripped plate carrier could theoretically be concealed under a coat or sweatshirt they are not something most folks would wear outside of a war zone or situation where a gunfight was likely. When to buy it is however a practical question. Once you have some basic weapons w/ ammo and ancillary stuff, some food and other gear it might be a good time to look at body armor. The subject of cost comes up here. My experiences as a consumer and brief google research show the following for prices. A soft vest will probably cost as much as a decent used revolver (around $300) and a plate carrier with rifle plates costs about as much as a mid shelf AK or lower end AR ($600ish or more). This is honestly something folks on really low budgets may have a hard time affording. I wouldn't fault somebody who was doing their best to slowly work through their families needs in a logical way and had to put off the purchase of body armor indefinitely.That being said if you have several nice pistols and a half dozen military pattern rifles but no body armor your priorities are skewed. I would recommend that you stop collecting guns. Delay the purchase of your next toy vital survivalist tool, consider maybe selling a safe queen and get the stuff you need to have every possible advantage on the two way range. Personally I would place body armor before gen III night vision. This is simply because of cost as body armor costs about 1/5th as much as a PVS 14 monocle. [While night vision is another topic most of the things said about body armor could be amplified about night vision. Very useful but very expensive.]When to use it. Personally body armor is part of my home defense plans. I want every possible advantage, fighting fair is for idiots and losers. Lots of folks talk about how body armor is not useful for insurgents or  guerillas or generally in modern "4G" warfare. I have to observe that most of them have not been a boots on the ground (vs say a senior FG officer in some redundant "command") participant in one of these conflicts. Lots of lives are saved by body armor. There is a reason that historically speaking fatalities are down (though amputees are up by percentage) in our recent conflicts. Body armor saves lives. A plate carrier will typically weigh around 20 pounds (plates at 7-8lbs each, a couple pounds for the carrier, potentially side plates, etc) give or take. A full up IOTV weights more and to be blunt I would not recommend it for most civilian or G applications.Some folks talk about how the added weight slows you down. Some argue this is a significant factor in recent conflicts, particularly Afghanistan. I read a great article about this called Bring Back The Light Infantry which I linked to in an old but if I do say so myself pretty awesome post.For me if things went all Red Dawn and I was playing guerrilla with remaining parts of my unit, buddies or whatever I would be inclined to wear body armor far more often than not. The decision would be a trade off between the protection body armor offers and the decreased mobility it brings. Mostly this would be an issue if we needed to carry a particularly heavy load to sustain ourselves for a long period or due to heavy items needed for the mission. Also if speed was important and the risk of contact was quite low I might consider ditching the armor. Certainly I would wear armor if conducting any sort of planned operation such as a raid or ambush. Basically unless there was a really good reason (or reasons) not to I/we would wear our darn body armor. Not too long ago I found myself doing a timed run in interceptor body armor, a uniform, boots and a helmet. Two miles took me 16 minutes plus a few seconds but I do not remember exactly; so about a minute to a minute and a half longer than it would in shorts and running shoes. Of course adding a chest rig with a bunch of magazines and a rifle would be an increase in weight but you would have that stuff either way. The point I am trying to get at is that body armor, especially a basic plate carrier with 2 rifle plates, just ISN'T REALLY ALL THAT HEAVY. If you have a strong core, a bit of muscle and run/ ruck regularly like you should be doing anyway wearing body armor, though it does increase the suck a bit really isn't an issue. I have to humbly submit for consideration that if a person who isn't fit enough to go play war wearing body armor isn't fit enough to play anyway.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Countries I Have Been In: Brigid is to Blame


visited 17 states (7.55%)

Brigid definitely has me beat though but I am doing OK in the grand scheme of things. Still a lot of traveling to do. We are probably going to take another trip while over here and will go to Mexico when we are down that way soon enough. However broadly speaking once we are back in the states travel will stop for awhile. One toddler is hard to travel with and adding a baby would be a bridge too far. For awhile we will go camping, to the beach and home to visit.

I will bet $50 that inside of 7 years I will go to Africa for work.  The aftermath of Arab spring has yet to sort itself out and there is a wicked mess brewing in Syria. Odds are there are some more paid travel opportunities to dirty places with terrible weather where people try to kill me coming in the future.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

So You Wanna Be a G?

The topic of armed paramilitary groups has always been a subset (or maybe they are separate with some overlap but let's not overthink it) of the survivalist movement. In the 70's and 80's folks talked about fighting off Soviet invaders Red Dawn style. After the fall of the Soviet Union the concern shifted to some sort of UN invasion. The latest concern seems to be more domestic in nature. Since I do what I do for a living there are a lot of things I do not talk about. To paraphrase Glen Beck "I believe everything that I say, but I don't say everything that I believe." This topic partly falls into that arena. It directly leads to some areas I choose not to talk about. Also it doesn't especially interest me. Maybe somewhat because of what I do for a living the kinds of skills and attributes needed to conduct small unit unconventional operations are largely already present.

For no particular reason I can think of this topic interests me today. Maybe it is the fact that a capable survivalist and a potential guerilla are both grounded in the same basic skills, I don't know. In any case I got to thinking about the sort of skills and capabilities and logistics one needs to develop in order to be a reasonably viable potential guerilla.

#1 Physical Fitness. I should not have to explain why this is really important. There is no way you are going to be able to fight anybody unless you are in some resemblance of decent physical shape. One of the funniest moments I can recall on this part of the web was when a man who could only be described as morbidly obese talked about how he plans to overwhelm (whoever it was) with "hit and run tactics". His fat ass couldn't hit and run the 2 blocks from his usual super sized ultra McFatty lunch at McDonalds to Baskin and Robbins for a post lunch milkshake; let alone outrun a bunch of 18-25 year old's who run multiple times a week, if not daily. Physical fitness or a lack theirof goes a long way towards establishing legitimacy as a potential or actual guerilla/ partisan or lack theirof. There is a sort of running joke that a militia is a bunch of fat guys sitting around calling each other Colonel. If I was a slightly different person with a very different life looking to join some sort of group and I got there to see they made group buys of extra extra fat multicam uniforms/ body armor/ chest rigs I would do a quick 180 and move on.

Aside from being a foundation for everything a tactical athlete such as soldier or guerilla does the reason I put physical fitness as number #1 is that it takes a long time to develop. There are no shortcuts. Physical fitness is truly a slow cooker concept requiring consistent, if not perfect, effort over months and even years. If you spend a week and a half or so at a premier tactical school you can become pretty good with a pistol and a rifle and probably learn some basic tactics. In a day you could buy a good pistol and rifle, as well as a .22, a shotgun, a "precision rifle", body armor, night vision, a chest rig, a ruck and camping gear, cases of ammo and boxes of mags as well as a years worth of food for your family. It would be a heck of a bill that very few people can afford but it could strictly speaking be done. Physical fitness does not work that way. There is no rush turkey fried/ pressure cooker way to significantly speed it up. When you realize that you need physical fitness there is unfortunately no way you can develop it in a manner timely enough to be useful.

That means you have to start yesterday. If you are too heavy then stop eating junk and have some discipline with portions. Start walking until you can work in some short jogs. Jog a telephone pole/ 100 steps/ a block then walk one. After a bit jog 2 and walk 1. Eventually cut out the walking from all but the longest runs. Take that backpack you bought and fill it with stuff then walk around. Do body weight exercises and lift stuff. In a slow and progressive manner add reps and sets to the body weight stuff and a few pounds at a time to the lifts.

#2 Build basic skills. Learn to shoot. Learn first aid and CPR. Learn some basic camping skills like starting fires, cooking over fires or backpacking stoves, building a shelter, land navigation etc all.

#3 Acquire basic weapons and equipment. We could talk about this one for a dozen blog posts but let's not get bogged down. Buy a fighting rifle and pistol. Get a setup to carry mags and ancillary stuff. At least one .22 is very useful and if you can afford it a shotgun and some sort of scoped precision type rifle are nice to have. Obviously you need plenty of ammo, mags and some prone to fail spare parts. Get sufficient wet and cold weather clothing, gloves, boots and headgear to operate in your region during the worst it has to offer. Get basic camping gear like a backpack/ rucksack, a sleeping bag, some sort of shelter like a bivy or tent, a water filter and all the little stuff in between.

#4 Acquire food, fuel, batteries and other logistical necessities. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to play Guerilla all day long then run out for a pepperoni pizza and a 6 pack of tall boys. If you are worried about running to the hills to play Red Dawn then it would be prudent to have a bunch of food, medical supplies, batteries and some fuel set aside to meet those needs. Also the kind of times when fairly normal folks are shooting at some sort of organized group are chaotic enough that even if you are not a G normal commerce will likely be disrupted.


Once you have this stuff it is prudent to put some consideration into where and how it will be stored. Unlike somebody with a more survivalist outlook your plan is probably not to stay at home (or your alternate location). If things are bad enough that you are playing G a basement full of food, while a great thing to have, may not cut it. Particularly if you have to leave in a hurry be it in a car or on foot having all your stuff in one place is problematic. Having some stuff at your home, more at some sort of bug out location/ basecamp and the rest in a couple caches around the area you plan to operate in is a much better answer.

#5 Build better skills. This was almost part of #2. The reason it is not is that while it is absolutely true that people are more important than stuff without some basic stuff it is pretty hard to do much of anything. I am pretty confident about the outcome of a gunfight between my boringly average self and just about anybody if I have a gun and they do not. If a guerilla war went on long enough there would be some extra stuff floating around but for awhile (and much more so without a convenient outside benefactor) things would be aweful tight. I would not say that a man without a rifle (and all the support stuff he needs) is exactly useless but he is a lot less useful than another shooter. In Afghanistan early on the Muj had to turn away volunteers who did not have weapons because they couldn't arm them. Now is the time to look at filling holes in your skillset's. Anyway.....

Getting some sort of professional firearms training from a fighting oriented school is an aweful good idea if you can possibly afford it. Medical skills are pretty darn important too. The new TC3 training and it's associated spinoffs are very worthwhile quality training.

#6 Find some friends. The whole lone wolf/ Rambo/ Chuck Norris/ Arnold one man army of death and destruction thing makes for a great action movie but that doesn't translate to real life. You need friends who are like minded and can work with you toward some sort of common goals. A sniper needs or at least can really use a spotter and local security. It is pretty hard to ambush a group by yourself, at most you can probably harrass them. Everybody needs somebody to pull security while they sleep and watch their 6 o'clock or help them should they get injured.


#7 Train with your new friends. People without an understanding of basic individual and team movement tactics as well as squad and platoon sized operations likely greatly outnumber those with an understanding of these things in most groups. If you somehow happen to have folks with meaningful experiences in these areas you all need to get onto the same page. Some of the most tragic accidents in military history come from ad hoc groups of otherwise trained individuals working together. If Bob zigs when Jim think he is going to zag or Tom is halfway down the wall when Rob thinks he should be at the corner people get shot. Training together will get everybody onto the same page, work out the kinks and build group cohesion.


#8 Develop plans. Based on your area, the local players and whatever sort of worst case scenario you guys see happening you can start to plan. Like any fight eventually it takes on a life of it's own but right away having a plan is priceless. Also the process of developing a plan leads you to see all sorts of interesting stuff like specific training or equipment or other preparations that should be made. Obviously doing things like making explosives or breaking federal firearms laws would be pretty foolish. However you can do all sorts of other stuff. Walk the terrain in your area to confirm or deny what map recon tells you. If you wonder how long it takes to move from Anderson butte to the ridgeline above Highway 25 then pack a lunch and go find out. If you wonder whether Deer Creek can be crossed on foot during the spring runoff go find out.

#9 Take advantage of your group's purchasing power. Make group buys to save money. I suspect if you call a school and ask them what kind of discount you get for filling the whole class they will work with you. Depending on your group dynamics consider the purchase of expensive or specialized equipment that is not practical for an individual but make sense for a group. Take advantage of the economics of scale which can be achieved. Renting a piece of specialized equipment you will only need for a short time is much more affordable if several folks can use it during the minimum time.

#10 Develop those around you. Some discretion is essential here but the more prepared that your extended family, friends and buddies are the better. Also a few may go whole hog into it and become assets. Also this is a great place to find and develop useful folks who could fill a more auxillary type role.

Note: One and two should be done successively as in one after another. You need to get started in physical fitness today (though you can pursue other things while developing your fitness) and work on basic skills until that requirement has been satisfied. They are really the basis for everything else. Three and four should probably be worked together. Six could really be done whenever but obviously has to be done before seven. The rest are somewhat more flexible, just use common sense.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Eating Expired Shelf Stable Foods

As a bit of background I recently returned from a year in Afghanistan. During that time Wifey went back home to stay with family in the PNW. We kept our residence in Germany through this time. We left all the shelf stable food in the kitchen. Over this time pretty much everything that was in the kitchen expired. Being cheap we want to use whatever we can. After all food storage is budget neutral or even positive (you can buy at sales since you don't need it for dinner that night) BUT ONLY IF YOU ACTUALLY EAT THE FOOD. Also I was just plain curious.

Before any more discussion there should probably be a disclaimer. I am going to write some anecdotal observations which come from evaluating and eating food that is past the "best by" date. Please do not take this as anything more than one families individual experiences. I am not a doctor or a nutrition expert or a scientist or in any way qualified to say that expired food is safe to consume.  I am just some yahoo sitting at home eating expired food and writing about it on the internet. Do your own research, talk to some experts and make your own decisions. If you eat a can of oysters that have been in a shed in Alabama for a decade, get sick an die don't have your survivors come complaining to me.

I think it is important to consider three things when it comes to the dates put on food. The first is that the dates are "best by" not "you will die if you eat after". Secondly we live in a very litigious society so companies have to error seriously (like belt and suspenders with pants that fit) on the side of caution. Lastly knowing that many people toss stuff at the date on the package and then go out and replace it companies have financial motivation to make the date a bit earlier to (over time and a large customer base) increase their sales. Due to these three things I think the dates on packages are often far earlier than the practical date where food is seriously degraded or unsafe to consume.

We will go item by item in no particular order discussing the edible then those deemed inedible. All items were in their original packaging.

The following items were solidly edible:

Cereal (Cherios 11 months past date, Captain Crunch 13 months past and generic Frosted Flakes 9 months past). No identifiable changes. Smells and tastes fine.

Flour, sealed, 6 months past best by date. It didn't rise quite as much as normal but tasted fine.

Folgers coffee opened 8 months past best by date. Maybe a little bit stale but perfectly drinkable.

Peter Pan chunky peanut butter, opened and partially used, 8 months past best by date. Starting to separate into solid and oil but smells and tastes fine.

Peter Pan creamy peanut butter opened and partially used, 10 months past best by date. No identifiable changes. Smells and tastes fine.

Crisco vegitable oil, 7 months past date. No identifiable changes. Smells and tastes fine. Used for cooking and baking.

Campbells tomato soup, 8 months past date. Slightly gelatinous and the soup came out with some lumps but otherwise tasted fine.
The below items were deemed inedible:
 
Manwich BBQ Sloppy Joe Sauce, 13 months past date. Opened the can and the contents were gelatinous and seemed to have some pockets of green discoloratation on the top that may have been some sort of mold. Needless to say we did not eat it.
 
Grape Jelly, Smuckers sugarless, unopened and 6 months past date. Smelled slightly like vinegar and we did not eat it.
 
It bears repeating that I am just some yahoo sitting at home eating expired food and writing about it on the internet. Just because something worked once for me does not mean it is necessarily so for all people under all circumstances. Do your own research, consult experts if necessary and use common sense before eating any food that is beyond the best by date or has been preserved/ stored questionably.
 
Anyway I thought this stuff might interest you all. As we try some more stuff I will keep track of it and report the results.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Quote of the day

Like the jellyfish, the absence of a backbone to be broken was the greatest defense
of the tribes against the waves of state power which beat upon them.
M. A. Yapp

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Books Worth Reading: Guerilla War and Insurgencies

I was talking to a fellow recently who asked me about potentially putting together some sort of book list. I guess this is the first in the series though if you dig through past book reviews you could get some ideas. Maybe at some point I will make a stand alone page or something.

I really enjoyed On Guerilla Warfare by Che Guevara. Yeah the guy was a Commie but he fought a successful guerilla war. I have nothing in common with his beliefs or goals but I got a lot out of his writing. Now that I have a bit of a sense of the man (assuming he wasn't dead) it would be interesting to sit on a patio with a good bottle of run for an evening and discuss all manner of things. Definitely some lessons to be learned here. It is a quick read and I got a lot out of it. Definitely worth reading.

I also read Mao Tse-tung on Guerrilla Warfare. A total pedo and generally a terrible person but he did execure a successful insurgency against the Japanese then took control of China and kept it. This one is relatively long at 128 pages. It has that Oriental way of talking in a circular fashion around subjects. All the same I got some stuff from it.

Over the deployment I read and really enjoyed The Other Side of the Mountain. At some point you will see a review on it (I think it got stashed for a rainy day). The book is a sort of Soviet after action review from the side of the Afghan guerilla fighters. These two Soviet guys tracked down and talked to a bunch of former Afghan guerilla fighters and leaders. It is pretty long, some of the vignettes are redundant or boring and the maps are next to useless (I have absolutely no artistic skills and could make better maps after drinking a half bottle of Whiskey) but it is very worth reading. The insight of highly motivated and poorly equipped guerillas fighting a well equipped mechanized fighting force that has way too much ground to cover and varying motivation is very interesting.

The first book in the "series" The Bear Went Over The Mountain is also worth checking out. The guy I borrowed it from said it was best read while drinking vodka in a smoky bar. It was very interesting to me when I read it prior to deployment to Afghanistan. Maybe less interesting to most folks who read this site than the second book but reading one probably helps to gain understanding of the other.

Anyway that is some of what I have been up to in terms of reading. If you are interested in insurgencies or have been thinking G thoughts then checking some of these out (all PDF and thus FREE!) would be a good idea.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Life Update Redeployment

Wifey and Walker are back in Germany after spending the deployment home with her folks. Walker misses Amma (maternal Grandmother; no it isn't one of those weird family names it is how he pronounces Grandma) a lot and keeps asking for her. As he lived with her for a year and she was a big part of his life that makes sense. Wifey is getting settled back into our place. Apparantly I left us with no toiletpaper and forgot to take a block of cheese out of the fridge. Woopsy.

Well I am on my way out of Afghanistan. I have been done working for a couple days and have been finishing up little things, packing and getting some time to relax. Yesterday I got to sleep past 0620 for the first time since leave so that was pretty nice. Depending on weather and transportation I should be back in Germany between the next few days and a week and a half. I am looking forward to getting back to Wifey and Walker a lot. We will be taking leave shortly after I get back. Got some traveling planned but since dates are up in the air nothing is locked in yet.

I am going to resume administrative blog functions shortly. Please give Wifey some thanks because without her hard work and dedication this place would have shut down over the last year. She did a great job taking care of things even though she isn't the blogs biggest fan. I think she may have called it my mistress at least once. In any case she kept things going because it is important to me which really shows how awesome she is.

Along those lines I am pleased to say the blog faired pretty well over the last year. Aside from missing my family and the possibility of death or serious injury this place collapsing was one of my biggest worries. Things probably slipped a little in terms of readership and such but things are still going pretty well so I can't complain. I have some plans for the blog over the next couple months but will talk more about that later.

Anyway I just wanted to let you all know what is going on.

Take care of each other
Ryan

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reality Bites

It is interesting to me that I have never met an anarchist or a libertarian who is basically an anarchist that has actually been to a failed state. Talking about anarchy from a dorm room or college party house or a nice quiet farm out in the middle of nowhere is very different from actually seeing it. I am not saying there isn’t a person like that out there it is just that I haven’t interacted with one yet.

First of all anarchy is a very relative term. It is sort of like socialism in that it never truly happens, and when it does it is only for a short period of time. There is going to be some form of government clinging at the greased string of power until the last possible moment. Either that or some sort of  a thug stepping up to try and carve out his own little princely state, most likely a lot of thugs trying to carve out their own princely states. You can have bad government or ineffective government or illegitimate government but some sort of system will at least be trying to keep or take power.

Secondly it is really not something you want to be involved in. Between crime, general lawlessness and assorted thugs and former government entities vying for power there is often a lot of fighting. Basic rights such as property and relative (there is always some crime) safety which we take for granted would be gone overnight. Now granted there hasn’t been a civil war or riot or massive disaster of Katrina proportions in Idaho or Minnesota but ever indicator we have is that these events bring about the worst in people. Sure there are a few neighbors helping each other out and some good Samaritan will save somebody’s grandma but those are few and far between. My observation is that folks will typically do about whatever they think they can get away with in these situations. Also these situations are more likely to lead to another, even worse government, not a better government or a long term lack of government.

Look at how the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan. After the Soviets left the Afghan commies fought on for a few years (till the money dried out with the fall of the Soviet Union if I recall) and then a transitional type government was set up for about a week followed by the big players like Heychmar and Massoud and other smaller regional guys fighting it out for power. The Taliban came to power because they could do a few things. They made roads safe to travel (a relative term in tribal central Asia). They had a court system that, while very harsh, was quick to deal with problems and most people found it to be fair. In short they offered the basic securities of rule of law.

The honest truth is that a pretty bad government is, by any functional measure, better than this sort of situation or the government which stems from it. It is not nice to say and goes against a lot of American ideals but if you look at history it is true. Our revolution is probably the only time in history that a revolution led to citizen’s lives getting better in the long run.

I file Anarchy under a “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”

Thoughts?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Back To The Stan

They say all good things must come to an end and at least that is true with leave. R and R was great. I got to spend a lot of time (minus a trip or two to the store all of it) with Wifey and Walker. Walker is a totally different kid and a complete riot. I caught up with my family and saw almost all of the friends in that area.
We got to take a scenic drive and stay in a great place for several days which was awesome. I ate and drank everything I wanted to so no complaints on that front. I accomplished my modest preparedness goal which was good also.

Now it is back to work. On the bright side I took leave late in the deployment so at least the end is somewhere in sight. I am eager to get back to the track and weight pile but other than that the only thing I am looking forward to is leaving this country and getting back to my family.

As Wifey noted having two stay at home parents is really the way to go. However the economics of that are to say the least difficult as we do not want to stay at home parents in a tent in a national forest. Our hopes in that department rest on winning multi millions in the lottery and since I do not buy lottery tickets and Wifey rarely does (less than $20 a year) the odds of that one are slim. Oh well I guess you can always dream.
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