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Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Thank you for our freedom.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Somali Pirates: Aussie Navy Takes Down Some Suspected Pirates

Reported as Australian navy stops Somali pirates:
An Australian naval vessel has stopped a boatload of pirates believed to have been plotting attacks on merchant ships off the east coast of Africa.

The HMAS Parramatta was patrolling a shipping lane in the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia, on May 25 when it intercepted a skiff carrying a group of suspected pirates.
When first sighted, the suspected pirates were throwing items overboard, including some weapons.
Australian crew boarded the boat, but found no additional weapons.

They seized any items that could have been used in a piracy attack, and then left the vessel with enough supplies to make its way safely back to Somalia.
More on Anzac class frigate HMAS Parramatta here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Somali Pirates: French Navy Breaks Up Attack

Reported as FS Nivose saves Merchant vessel Nordneptun from pirates
A helicopter from the EU NAVFOR warship FS Nivôse was launched against a pirate skiff leading to the disruption of a pirate attack against the merchant vessel Nordneptun off Zanzibar, Tanzania on the morning of 25 May.

EU NAVFOR continues to successfully patrol, intercept and disrupt pirate attacks throughout the EU NAVFOR area of operations. The French EU NAVFOR warship Nivôse responded immediately to a distress signal from Nordneptune, a tanker, which indicated she was under small arms attack from a pirate vessel. As a result of the application of ‘Best Management Practices ‘against pirate attack, the Nordneptune was able to evade the attack.

However, within an hour, the Nordneptune was under further more serious attack by two pirate skiffs. In the interim, EU NAVFOR warship FS Nivôse closed with Nordneptun and was now in a position to launch her helicopter. On arrival, Nivôse helicopter fired warning shots and both skiffs gave up their attack and moved into Tanzanian territorial waters where the Tanzanian Coast Guard was alerted to continue the pursuit.
 Lower photo shows some pirates who escaped.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Somali Pirates: The EU Has a Plan and is Acting on that Plan!

Wonders never cease, as the EU (the Dutch Navy, really) is putting a squeeze on some Somali pirates in advance of "crunch time" for the pirates.

All as set out in EU NAVFOR warship HNLMS Johan de Witt blocking pirate access to the sea:
EU NAVFOR HNLMS Johan de Witt has effectively blocked known pirate camp on the Somali coast from access to the open sea.

As an amphibious ship, HNLMS Johan de Witt is able, from a dock within the ship, to launch a number of smaller vessels, LCVPs (Landing craft for vehicle and personnel transport), that can provide a blockading role on selected known pirate areas of the Somali coast.

Under orders from the Swedish EU NAVFOR Force Headquarters Ship Carlskrona, the warship Johan de Witt was positioned on the Somali coast to provide surveillance and reconnaissance patrols with the aim of gaining useful information while restricting and interdicting pirate movement on the coast. With the onset of the monsoon, increasingly poor weather conditions making pirate activities very difficult, creating an urgency amongst the pirates to get to sea quickly.

EU NAVFOR HNLMS Johan de Witt is providing an excellent blocking force and very effectively denying pirate access to the high sea at a time when worsening weather conditions is making pirate operations increasingly more difficult.
Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?

An earlier report here. I like the Dutch.

North Korea: South Korea Ratcheting Up, Threatens "Blockade" of North Korea

The Chosun Ilbo: Torpedo Sinks Inter-Korean Relations to Cold-War Depths:
The sanctions the government announced on Monday include steps to blockade North Korea, which became unavoidable after clear evidence showed that the sinking was an act of military aggression against the South. That ends 10 years of rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula and returns inter-Korean relations to the dark days before 1989, when the two sides agreed to step up exchanges.
The two Koreas are still technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with merely a ceasefire. The South Korean public has once again been reminded of this reality. Lee in a public address Monday said the peninsula faces a "major turning point."

South Korean troops are preparing for action. They resumed so-called psychological warfare against North Korea on Monday, and plan to shift their rules of engagement from defensive to offensive mode. Around next month, U.S. and South Korean forces will hold joint anti-submarine exercises, and when maritime blockade drills begin during the second half of this year in line with the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative, North Korea will be forced to heighten its awareness for a prolonged period.
A naval blockade? Oh, my. That's pretty bold after losing a ship to a torpedo.

On the other hand maybe, "...[W]e've got ourselves another war. A gut bustin', mother-lovin' Navy war."

ReliefWeb has a report on the DPRK (that's North Korea) food status here. Oh, yes, while Kim Jong-il is investing in nukes and missiles, his people were having such food as they get catered to them from more useful countries:
Using the apparent per capita cereal consumption of about 140 kg per year in recent years and a population of about 24 million, the country would require about 3.36 million tonnes for human consumption. Considering other uses such as seed, feed, post-harvest losses and some stock changes, FAO estimates that the country would have import requirements of 1.10 million tonnes for the marketing year 2009/10 (November/October). However, given the ongoing economic constraints it is unlikely that this deficit could be covered by commercial imports. As of April 2010 only 177 000 tonnes of cereals have been recorded/declared as imports. Thus a significant international food aid is needed to meet the shortage.
The country continues to suffer from chronic food insecurity, high malnutrition rates and economic problems, and has great difficulties meeting the needs of its about 24 million people. The FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) conducted in the late 2008 confirmed a significant deterioration in food security in most parts of the country in recent years. The poor, especially those living in urban areas, continue to be affected by soaring food prices. It is very likely that the financial and economic situation of most households has worsened after recent monetary measures taken by the government to replace the devalued currency by a new legal tender for all transactions.
World Food Program has a similar report:
Since 1995, WFP has played a central role in mobilizing and delivering food assistance to millions of the DPRK’s hungriest people, saving countless lives and helping to achieve significant reductions in malnutrition rates. Emergency operations between 1995 and 2005 secured more than four million tonnes of commodities valued at US$1.7 billion and directly supported up to one-third of the population.

In response to a government request for relief assistance and confirmed new food needs, WFP launched an emergency operation in September 2008. The US$504 million operation set out to target 6.2 million of the most vulnerable groups, mainly young children, pregnant and lactating women and the elderly, addressing immediate humanitarian needs of the population while simultaneously improving the nutritional quality over the medium-term.

Vitamin-and-mineral enriched foods produced at WFP-supported factories are given to young children and pregnant and nursing women, and cereal rations to underemployed workers through food-for-community-development schemes aimed at improving food security and mitigating natural disasters. All of these activities are vital investments in the future of the beneficiaries.
 And aiding in propping up a nasty, corrupt regime by feeding its huddled masses while the DPRK government spends money on weapons instead of plowshare.

Another "worker's paradise."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

North Korea: Fearless Leader Tells DPRK Troops to "Get Ready for Combat"

From the South Korean newspaper The Chosun Iibo here:
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has ordered the military to be ready for combat, a Seoul-based defectors' group said Tuesday quoting a source in the reclusive country.

North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity said when South Korea announced the findings of a probe into the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan last Thursday, O Kuk-ryol, the vice chairman of the North's National Defense Commission, in a statement said Kim ordered the entire military, the Ministry of Public Security, the State Security Department, the Worker-Peasant Red Guard, and the Red Youth Guard to be ready for combat."

Kim's order was relayed via wire broadcasting to a speaker installed in each home. These broadcasts are often used by the regime when it disseminates information that it does not want to be known abroad.
That doesn't sound good - what with the DPRK being all "nuked up" these days. I wonder if any one has told old KJ-il about the fallout patterns that might come from nuking the South Koreans, including all the world of hurt the USAF and USN might rain down on his lairs? Maybe he figures his bunkers are deep enough...

Meanwhile, on the surface, the U.S. seems to be willing to try to talk KJ-il to death . . .

On the other hand, there is this:
South Korea and the United States will hold a large-scale combined exercise to deter North Korean submarine infiltration and block sea lanes to the North between June and July, top naval commanders from the two allies announced Tuesday.

The joint naval exercise would be a step toward the resumption of an annual large-scale field exercise by the South Korean and U.S. militaries, observers said.
Earlier in the day, Rear Adm. Peter Aguon Gumataotao, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea, visited the ROK Navy headquarters in South Chungcheong Province, to meet with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Kim Sung-chan for discussions over joint efforts against North Korean provocation in waters near the sea border.

"To support the ROK Navy's countermeasures against the North, U.S. Naval Forces Korea will use all available capabilities to play a significant role," Gumataotao was quoted by a South Korean Navy spokesman as saying.

Kim and Gumataotao discussed details to prepare for a ship-interdiction exercise in waters around and outside of the Korean Peninsula later this year, the spokesman said.

Defense sources said the forthcoming naval training would involve up-to-date warships of the U.S. 7th Fleet, such as a nuclear-powered submarine, Aegis-equipped destroyers and an aircraft carrier.

The South Korean Navy's Type-209/214 attack submarines, Sejong the Great-class KDX-III Aegis destroyers and KDX-II destroyers will join the exercise, they said.

Generally, if you have an aircraft carrier involved, there are more than a couple of destroyers along for the training exercise. See here.

60 years ago in June, the Korean War got started when North Korean forces rolled across the border.

And, just for speculative purposes, here's map from the Congressional Research concerning North Korean missile ranges:

For some reason, Guam is not shown on that map. Or maybe it's just a dot in the South Pacific. Where America's day begins.

UPDATE: An intel guy has his own take with a long list of previous North Korean provocations.
And, to appear well-informed, you might like North Korean Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States (pdf), though it is 2 years old.

Somali pirates tried under 17th century law

Somali pirates tried under 17th century law :
Five Somali men went on trial in a Dutch court for the 17th century crime of “sea robbery” Tuesday in Europe’s first piracy trial since a surge of attacks on shipping off the Somalia’s lawless coast. One defendant wept and shouted that poverty had forced him into his situation.
That's a pretty sad defense, since almost all robberies can be justified that way.

Maybe you remember the song lyrics:
Breaking rocks in the hot sun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I needed money 'cause I had none
I fought the law and the law won
The pirates could get up to 12 years in prison.

17th Century law? Hey, it's an old crime.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Reading

Is the idea that North Korea might be a threat slowly dawning on you? You should be reading One Free Korea regularly. Parts 1, 2 and 3 of Joshua Stanton's four part series on "What to do about North Korea" are posted: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. UPDATE: Part 4.

Socialist political hackdom meets illegal immigration (from Investors Business Daily):

 I told you that it would be fun seeing the federal government trying to take on a state for attempting to enforce existing federal law that the feds have decided not to enforce. For a link to the Arizona law (read it before President Obama and Attorney General Holder do!) go here and for comments by the law professor who helped craft the bill, go here. Of course, it you were really thoughtful, you might contemplate what would happen to Mexico's ruling oligarchy if the U.S. border was controlled and all those unhappy souls who vote with their feet were sitting at home wondering why such a potentially wealthy country isn't doing better.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fearless Navy Bloggers Took to the Air: Episode 22 Navy Air in the Korean War 5/23/2010 - Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

We fought through some technical issues and talked about a war that started 60 years ago - more specifically with a war hero, Captain Thomas J. Hudner, Medal of Honor recipient for an attempted rescue of a downed pilot. The rest of the show featured David Sears, the author of an excellent book on the role of naval aviation during the Korean War, Such Men As These. Listen at Episode 22 Navy Air in the Korean War 5/23/2010 - Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

If my questions seem odder than usual, I blame technology.

Next week is Memorial Day and we're taking a short hiatus. A "Best of Midrats" show will be aired at 5pm on Sunday.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Somali Pirates: Bad Weather Off Somalia and a Rescue at Sea

A bit of uncomfortable weather off the coast of Somalia, as observed here:

As a result a NATO ship had some rescue work to do:
A Royal Navy warship on Nato counter-piracy operations rescued the crew of a merchant vessel after it was caught in a tropical cyclone off the Somalian coast, it has emerged.
The drama began early on Thursday when HMS Chatham received a distress call from the cargo ship MV Dubai Moon which was listing heavily and was in danger of running aground on a reef.
In a three-hour operation in rough seas and high winds, the warship's helicopter was launched and 23 seamen winched to safety.
Commander Simon Huntingdon, HMS Chatham's commanding officer, said: "This rescue was conducted in the most challenging sea conditions imaginable and I am extremely proud of my ship's company whose sole focus was to assist the Master and crew of MV Dubai Moon.
"It was, without doubt, the professionalism and courage of my sailors and aircrew that ensured this rescue was a success."
Speaking after the rescue, Hassan Madar, the Ethiopian Master of the MV Dubai Moon, said: "Normally we operate close to the coast, but we had to go far out to sea to avoid pirates. That meant we could not find shelter from the storm.
"If we had not been rescued by the Royal Navy and Nato we would have died with my ship. They were the only people to respond to our distress call. We owe them our lives."
Well done, Chatham!

UPDATE: More on the weather in the Gulf of Aden here:
Tropical Cyclone 02A has formed in theArabian Sea off the coast of Somalia. This system could bring heavy flash flooding to Yemen by the weekend. The storm has already lashed Socotra Island, Yemen, with torrential downpours and high winds.
If the storm continues on its predicted track, it should impact the coast of mainland Yemen, with the biggest impact occurring Saturday into Sunday.
The arid climate could experience very heavy rainfall, which could lead to flash flooding.

Mexico/Texas Border Pirates

Mexican "lake pirates" on the Texas border at Falcon Reservoir reported here in a video report out of San Antonio.

It's probably the fault of rich Americans for owning boats.

And they aren't really pirates, just dirtball armed robbers.

South China Sea Pirates: Pirated Malaysian Tug and Barge Found in Philiippines

When last heard from, the tug "Atlantic 3" and its barge, "Atlantic 5" were taken by pirates off Malaysia, the crew set adrift and the vessels were thought to be heading northeast through the South China Sea.

Now comes a report that this tug and barge have been located in the Philippines. Reported asPiracy query over ships found in Philippines:
The Philippines coast guard has apprehended a Malaysian barge and tugboat in the country's waters, in the process of having registration details altered.
Information on the vessels' documents and in machinery, as well as their registration numbers and the names "Atlantic 3" on the tugboat and "Atlantic 5" on the barge were being defaced.
Philippines Coast Guard officials suggest some sort of regional piracy ring is in operation.

Point "A" on the map shows approximate location of the taking of the vessels by pirates, Point "B" is approximate location where they were found.

Philippines Coast Guard report here:
Commodore Lino Dabi, Commander of Coast Guard District South Eastern Mindanao said that personnel of Coast Guard Station General Santos who boarded and inspected the said vessels have confirmed the vessels to be MT ATLANTIC 3 and Barge ATLANTIC 5. According to the apprehending team, the said vessels are apparently in the process of altering their ships’ description by defacing their names on the hull and ships’ documents and machineries, and their IMO registration numbers. Investigation is ongoing with the end in view of establishing the identities of suspects. The incident has already been reported by the PCG to the Regional Cooperation Against Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea (RECAAP) based in Singapore in order to gather and disseminate more information about the recovery of the said vessels.

Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Wilfredo D Tamayo commended personnel of Coast Guard Field Station and Coast Guard Station General Santos headed by CDR Charlie Rances for the said apprehension, and further directed all Coast Guard units around the country to increase their vigilance and intensify campaign against pirates, recover hijacked vessels, and go after vessels reportedly involved in drugs, human trafficking, and other transnational crimes.  With the said recovery of hijacked vessels, both present and in recent months, Admiral Tamayo believes that a regional “modus operandi” on piracy of vessels and smuggling has virtually been uncovered.
Photo montage from Philippines Coast Guard.

ReCAAP report (pdf) can be found here (pdf format).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fearless Navy Bloggers Take to the AIr: Episode 22 Navy Air in the Korean War 5/23/2010 - Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

This time with a Medal of Honor winner - Episode 22 Navy Air in the Korean War 5/23/2010 - Midrats on Blog Talk Radio at 5pm Eastern U.S.:
Join "CDR Salamander" and me with our guests - holder of the Medal of Honor from the Korean War CAPT Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., and author of SUCH MEN AS THESE, David Sears as they talk about the role of Naval Aviation in the Korean War. Stuck between the Greatest Generation's high-water mark of World War II and the Baby Boomer's Vietnam War - the Korean War often gets lost in the shuffle despite its critical role is setting the foundation for the Cold War and our ultimate victory with the fall of the Berlin Wall. When the average person thinks of the role of Navy Air in the Korean War, they think of James Mitchner's novel and movie THE BRIDGES OF TOKI-RI. As usual, the real story is better than fiction. We will talk to CAPT Hudner about his and his shipmates experiences - and will finish up with David Sears exploring what he discovered in researching his book on what happened in the skies over Korea in the early 1950's.
The name Jesse Brown will come up.

Fearless Navy Bloggers Took to the Air: Episode 21 Naval Academy Special

We talked to two soon-to-be US. Naval academy grads and one grad now undergoing flight training Episode 21 Naval Academy Special 5/16/2010 - Midrats on Blog Talk Radio/.

Outstanding young men. Thanks to them.

The future is in good hands.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Somali Pirates: HMS Chatham destroys pirate boats

 Everyone seems to be picking on the Somali pirates.

From the British MOD - HMS Chatham destroys pirate boats:
In a co-ordinated search with an EU Naval Force maritime patrol aircraft, operating out of the Seychelles, HMS Chatham's Lynx helicopter spotted a larger vessel towing the two attack boats approximately 150 miles (240km) off the coast of Tanzania on Friday 14 May 2010.

After monitoring the vessel through the night, at dawn, in a well planned operation, the pirates were forced to surrender by the overwhelming force posed by HMS Chatham, her Lynx helicopter and fast boats containing the ship's Royal Marines detachment.

The Royal Marines team boarded the larger craft and found ten Somalis and a large amount of fuel on board; the suspected pirates had been observed throwing items, including their weapons and other piracy-related equipment, into the sea.

The two smaller attack boats were fitted with powerful outboard engines and again contained a considerable amount of fuel. These were separated from the larger craft by the Royal Marines team and HMS Chatham and her Lynx helicopter used their combined firepower to destroy the smaller craft, ensuring that the suspected pirates could not continue with their mission.

Disarmed and without the means to commit an act of piracy, the ten Somalis were left with only enough fuel in the larger vessel to return to Somalia.
To which I must say, "It's about time." Keep it up!

More on Chatham here.

Hat tip to reader Simpson##### for the "heads up" email.

Somali Pirates: Yemeni Court Sentences 6 Pirates to Death

Reported here:
A Yemeni state security court on Tuesday convicted six Somalis to death, and sentenced six others to 10 years in jail, for attacking two Yemeni oil tankers and killing two Yemeni soldiers, court sources said.

The sources said the 12 convicts were present at the court when the verdicts were delivered by Chief Judge Muhssein Alwan.

Yemeni naval forces captured the 12 men in a rescue operation after they seized an oil tanker and attempted to take over another tanker sailing along with in the Arabian Sea on April 26.

The two ships were empty of cargo and were sailing from the Arabian Sea Yemeni port of Nashtoon to the southern port city of Aden when the pirates hijacked them, Yemeni officials have said.

Two Yemeni soldiers were killed in the operation and a third went missing, they said.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cameroon: A Couple of Russians Taken by Pirates - and that may just be the beginning of the story

Two Russians, including former Arctic Sea sailor, abducted in Africa:
Two Russian seamen, including a former member of the Arctic Sea cargo vessel at the center of a hijacking saga last year, have been abducted in Cameroon, a Russian sailors' trade union said on Monday.

The North Spirit vessel, flying the flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and owned by Greece's Balthellas Chartering S.A., was attacked by pirates on Sunday while anchored in Cameroon's largest port of Douala.

"At 22:40 local time [21:40 GMT] two boats with about 20 armed men approached the vessel. The armed men ordered the crew to gather on the upper deck and made them lay them face down. Another group of pirates broke into the cabins of the crew members and the captain and took their personal belongings," the union said in a statement.

The attackers took captain Boris Tersintsev and chief engineering officer Igor Shumik hostage and left the ship.

Shumik was among the 15 crew members on the Arctic Sea cargo ship, which disappeared for more than three weeks last summer while carrying a $2 million shipment of timber from Finland to Algeria.
Most of you will remember the remarkable saga of the MV Arctic Sea (see also here and here). You might also note a couple of 8 suspected "pirates" ended up in A Russian prison.

Earlier reports had the ship being captured by pirates, but that doesn't seem to be the case.UPDATE: Fairplay says the ship was taken.

Photo of "North Spirit" by Alec Sansen at and used in accord with that site's terms.

Asian Alliances: Doubts

Interesting piece by Walter Lohman of The Heritage FoundationU.S. Policy in Asia: Managing Alliances in an Upside-Down World (picked up by Taipei Times here):
Fortunately, our alliances in Asia do have a real geostrategic objective: Managing the rise of China. All of the other things we do with our allies, while important in their own right, are ultimately secondary.
The policy crowd in Washington has largely coalesced around some version of a China-hedging strategy: trying to bring China into the existing international order as a “responsible stakeholder” while preparing for an alternative, more adversarial outcome. In government circles, however, this clarity is obscured by the real-life complexities of the U.S.–China relationship: economic dialogue and diplomacy around hot-button political/security issues like the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs.

The Obama Administration, like the Bush Administration before it, has reconciled the complexities through indirection. The North Korean threat is a problem on its own, but it also stands in for the China threat. Administrations talk about the security of sea lines of communication, but the real problem is not pirates in the Straits of Malacca, but Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea. Weapons sales to Taiwan are about an imbalance in arms strongly in favor of the Chinese. The trilateral dialogue among the U.S., Japan, and Australia was about China. The U.S.–India relationship is in large part about China. Engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is about China.

By denying the hedges, we keep open the full range of options for working with the Chinese. Regrettably, we also obscure the real rationale for our alliance network and create uncertainty over our long-term staying power. (emphasis added)
Read it all.

And the ponder our communications to our allies and our own history.

Is The U.S. going through another one of those "isolationist" periods as far as refusing to accept a responsible role in international security - like that following World War I? See here.

Are we trying to force our allies to do more for themselves?

What is the third order cost of a U.S. weakening in the western Pacific and Southeast Asia?

Is the "pacifist" streak in the Democratic Party- that old isolationist crowd that has never really gone away- setting us up for a disaster in the Far East?

Add This to the LIst of Things to Worry About

Falling tree kills Raleigh woman:
A 32-year-old woman was killed today when a tree crashed down on a house on Rock Quarry Road.

The victim, Sabrina Allen of Middlesex, was fatally injured late Sunday afternoon when a thunderstorm swept through the area and uprooted a large tree.

The tree, nearly 4-feet in diameter, crashed down on the home at 5332 Rock Quarry Road, shortly before 6 p.m., according to Jeffrey Hammerstein, district chief for Wake County EMS.
There are a lot of ways to die, but this is going to skew the "killed by falling tree" column.

Leading causes of death 2006:
  1. Diseases of heart (heart disease)
  2. Malignant neoplasms (cancer)
  3. Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke)
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases
  5. Accidents (unintentional injuries)
  6. Diabetes mellitus (diabetes)
  7. Alzheimer’s disease
  8. Influenza and pneumonia
  9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis (kidney disease)
  10. Septicemia
  11. Intentional self-harm (suicide)
  12. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis
  13. Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease (hypertension)
  14. Parkinson’s disease
  15. Assault (homicide)
Now your "odds of dying" from any cause may vary, though there is a 100% chance you will not get out of here alive. Some odds from The National Safety Council:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Russian Navy Captures and Destroys a Pirate Mothership (Video)

An explanation of this video (NSFW unless sound is off) is found at Fred Fry's post Russian Navy Captures and Destroys a Pirate Mothership (Video):

Somehow, I just don't think the Russians are sympathetic to the Somali pirates, even if the pirates are just "poor misunderstood fishermen fallen on hard times."

Memo to Somali pirates: Stay away from the Russians.

Fearless Navy Bloggers Take to the Air: Episode 21 Naval Academy Special 5/16/2010 - Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Sunday 5pm EDT (US).

Episode 21 Naval Academy Special 5/16/2010 - Midrats on Blog Talk Radio:
"As we get ready for another class of Midshipmen to graduate from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland - we have a chance to discuss with the leaders of tomorrow what brought them to Annapolis; what they gained from it; and what they see going forward as they serve their nation. We will have guests from the Class of '09 and '10 to talk about that and more."
Part of my end of the discussion will be to look at the differences, as perceived by these USNA alums, and their ROTC, OCS and other officer source contemporaries.

Join us and pepper us with questions from the chat room.

As an aside, some of you might be interested in a study of "cost effectiveness" of Navy officer sources, comparing the Naval Academy with NROTC and OCS. The pdf of the study can be downloaded here.

For those of you without patience, the author concludes that in the long run the USNA, despite its higher initial cost per officer produced, is ultimately the least expensive source of active duty officers.

You can question his methodology if you care to.

I have some doubts myself. But then again, I am ROTC product and was a reservist after I left active duty.

As we all know, reservists are a lower cost personnel pool compared to the active force and I don't think the author took that into consideration in looking only at the active duty components.  Since he limited his research to active duty service, I think he missed out on some additional measures he should have looked at, especially since Naval Academy grads are a minority in the the reserve officer corp. Let me be clear, I think only including active duty types pursuing at least 20-year careers ( a pool that favors USNA alums) fails to account for the reserve officers (majority ROTC/OCS) who still serve this country but at a much lower cost.

Nor did he examine the impact of adding ROTC programs from "less elite" universities as they may have skewed ROTC stats, whereas the USNA remains a constant. No offensive to the distinguished grads of East Underwater State, but I suspect you have tougher row to hoe in succeeding in the Navy (just as grads of EUS may have a tougher time getting into Harvard Law or Medical schools) than do grads of Auburn, Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina, USC, UC Berkeley, Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Harvard, Cornell, Ohio State, Penn, Penn State, Vanderbilt, UVA, Rice, Texas, Texas A&M, VMI, Virginia Tech, and Washington.

I'll be happy to be proven wrong on this last point, as I suspect the Navy has these stats someplace that would show how it is working out for all institutions participating in NROTC or schools attended by OCS grads.

But you can have fun looking for your own holes.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 3 at Joint Warfighting 2010: Combatant and Coalition Commanders: What will they need five years from now?

"Joint Publication (JP) 1, Joint Warfare of the Armed Forces of the United
States, serves as the capstone publication for all US joint doctrine." An excerpt from Chapter V of JP1:
Unified action describes the broad scope of activities taking place within unified commands, subordinate unified commands,or JTFs under the overall direction of the commanders of those commands for the purpose of achieving unity of effort in mission accomplishment. Unified action requires the integration of effort across the command. This includes joint, single-Service, special, and supporting operations; as well as interagency, NGOs, PVOs, and multinational participants
into a unified effort in the theater or joint operations area. Military support of unified action is facilitated by operations under a single commander, in execution of a single plan, that encompass all assigned and supporting military and nonmilitary elements. Unified action within the military instrument of national power supports the national strategic unity of effort through close coordination with the other instruments of national power.
     a. Unified action requires unified direction. The combatant command and theater strategies, including their derivative campaign and operation plans, provide that direction. The principles and considerations for unified action apply to US participation in multinational and interagency operations. Multinational operations may require unique command relationships that maintain unity of effort while not establishing a single multinational force commander.
Getting everyone to pull in the same direction, even if their motives and visions of the future may vary, is a leadership challenge. As seen at the photo nearby, the challenge is akin to that of tug of war - in the case of the photo, U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen end their first year tugging against each other - a metaphor, perhaps, of their future, when the tugs of budgets and all those other matters that can take away from the main effort of getting a unified effort to head in a unified direction - which is the question that underlay the entire conference as it wound to an end:
"How can we get all the players (the "joint, single-Service, special, and supporting operations; as well as interagency, NGOs, PVOs, and multinational participants") pulling in the same direction - now and 5 years from now?"
To which has been added-
"In the times of austere budgets how can we and our allies join together to meet the defense needs of our alliances without loss of the current levels of excellence? Can we deliver nearly the same bang for less buck? When appropriate can we simplify, downgrade, and use lower cost solutions to problems we will face? Now that we have an experienced highly trained force, how can we retain the "warriors" and not allow a return of the bureaucrats who always seem to come to dominate between wars? How can we help our "strategic corporal? What decisions do we need to make today?"
For the final day, there were two key addresses, the first by General Craig McKinley, USAF, chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen Mckinley noted that "value-added" aspects of the Guard and Reserve - part-time soldiers who are substantially less expensive than the active duty force but who are competent and capable of taking on either front line assignments or providing "breathing space" for AC force to recover from operations. Noting that the Guard is dual-hatted with state governors having control of the units when not called to active duty service, the Guard has a split personality - be prepared for war and for emergency operations at home. With recent call ups, National Guard units have "paid in blood and treasure to become a full spectrum force." Maintaining that edge in the future is a concern. The General noted that most Guardsmen and Reservists have prior service experience and that the country needs to retain that expertise - and not allow, as has happened in the past, the Guard and Reserve to be "put back in the can" after their wartime employments end.

Part of the issue is adequate training for the part-time force- which may be harder in times of austere budgets, but which may be helped by better use of computer training.

From my personal view, have been through a couple of recalls, the Reservists and Guard members are exactly the same people who were valued while serving in the active force and many have added to their military experience with lessons learned in civilian careers.

Most of the time getting them back up to speed involves making sure they are training on the same equipment as the active component and are given the opportunity to train alongside experienced active duty forces. General McKinley addressed these last points during his speech noting that some Guard squadrons are sharing first line equipment such as F-22 fighters as they train.

The key afternoon speech was an address by General Mattis, USMC, Commander Joint Forces Command, the details of which are mostly covered here. Going back to my "tug of war" analogy, General Mattis expressed it very well:
Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis told the assembled audience that an ability to create harmony among services, alliances, partnerships and civilian agencies is absolutely essential for commanders today and in the future.

“In this age, I don’t care how tactically or operationally brilliant you are, if you cannot create harmony – even vicious harmony – on the battlefield based on trust across service lines, across coalition and national lines, and across civilian/military lines, you really need to go home, because your leadership in today’s age is obsolete. We have got to have officers who can create harmony across all those lines.”
In short, the key is getting everyone to pull in the same direction in the term while keeping an eye on the long term. Even more, General Mattis sees the value of decentralized command - a plan that often the corporal in the field may be able to articulate extremely well and learning to trust the junior NCOs and officers in their roles as the tactical and strategic spear point:
“I don’t think we have turned off a radio in the last eight years of active operations. What kind of officers are we creating? What kind of NCOs are we creating today if in fact we have this robust command and control that you’re never out of touch with higher headquarters? We congratulate ourselves on initiative, but how much initiative are we leaving to our subordinates in a world like this?”
General Mattis also spoke of "rewarding ferocity in battle" and maintaining a "warrior ethos" - which I understood be driven in part by "doing the right thing" and not necessarily just the "legal" thing. If al Qaeda is setting up situations where in order to get at AQ personnel innocent civilians might be harmed, the corporal in the field has to see the trap and not provide AQ a propaganda talking point even when it would be lawful act otherwise. This may involve "courageous restraint" and substantial risk, but the long-term payoff may be greater than a short term victory.

He encouraged juniors to "challenge the assumptions"  citing a quote "The only thing worse than obsolete weapons is obsolete thinking." Essentially saying that warfare is not a mathematics problem, General Mattis described the importance of critical thinking in young officers, who can grasp new realities as they present themselves and adopt new strategies to deal with them. These leaders must "operate under uncertainty" while being guided by the Commander's Intent (which needs to be understood at the lowest levels). Leaders must avoid excessive worry over "lawfare" by applying ethics and legitimacy to their actions . In the right situation, "open fire legally and ethically." "Everything we do should be okay to be visible . . ."

He also encouraged openness with the press especially since the enemy is seizing the initiative more than willing to do so and is thus sometimes "winning the battle of the narrative." Don't be afraid of being judged: "We are the good guys, not the perfect guys" but our narrative ought to be better than that of the enemy. As quoted here:
The general said coalition forces are winning the war in Afghanistan on the battlefield, but losing on another front.
"The enemy is winning at times in the press. We all know that," said Mattis.
He also said the media too often uses a passive voice to describe terrorist attacks.
"How many of us have heard that? 'A bomb went off in Baghdad today,'" Mattis asked. "No, a bomb didn't just go off in Bhagdad today. Some murderous thugs who knew there were women and children in that market place intentionally blinded, burned and maimed people."
When asked how the service can keep this quality of warrior and avoid a post war "putting them in a can" as described by General McKinley, General Mattis replied:
Train them. Educate them. Reward them. Promote them. Provide warrior training by letting experienced warriors do the training.
He also suggested that we need to take a look at the oddities of an antiquated personnel system and be consistent. Pointing out that the Air Force has only officer UAV pilots while the other services may have E-4s doing the same job, he sees a need for reform.

So, after 2.5 days. What's the answer to the title question: "Combatant and Coalition Commanders: What will they need five years from now?"

1. Empowered "Strategic Corporals;"
2. A reformed personnel system that rewards warriors;
3. Reality checks on our thinking (e.g. A 2 billion dollar cruiser being used to take on some pirates in speed boat? Really?);
4. A willingness to accept the idea that "the way we've always done it" is not the only way to do it - a need to be open to the ideas and thoughts of allies and friends;
5. Unity of effort in our efforts. See Joint Publication Number 1 as cited above.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Somali Pirates: "Anti-piracy efforts treat symptom, not disease"

Reported at AFP: Anti-piracy efforts treat symptom, not disease: navy leaders:
Navies attempting to halt the reign of terror at sea by Somali pirates can only treat the symptoms, naval leaders say, pointing out that the real solution lies in stability on land in Somalia.
Yeah, I think I've heard that before some place.

Like here.

Day 2 at Joint Warfighting 2010: Combatant and Coalition Commanders: What will they need five years from now?

If I had to choose one word to sum up the second day of the Conference, it would be "communicate."

Of course underneath that terms comes a slew of of add-ons:
1. Always be honest in your communication. With others, with yourself. Always.
2. Make sure your "say" and your "do" match up.
3. Understand how others might receive your message.
4. Seek to understand the messages you are getting from others.
5. Understand your audience
       a. don't assume they have same time lines
       b. don't assume they have same urgency
       c. put yourself in the shoes of the audience
6.  Share your message and your thoughts behind it to enhance communication
7.  Double check to make sure your message was taken how it was meant
8.  KISS
9.  Train together so that communication is more easily grasped in context
10. Train together.Rehearse. Train like you'll fight.
11. Create teams that are used to communicating together so that not much communication is required.
12. Technology is a tool that makes communication easier. It is not the final answer. If the tech tool breaks, find go arounds. Keeping communicating as you can. Runners can carry messages if needed. It may slow you down, but it won't stop the show.

With that in mind, here's a look at the conference second day:

Started with NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, Gen. Stephane Abrail, French Air Force discussing transformation as nations get used to working in coalitions in various operations. Fundamental to success in such operations is - communication. Information sharing breeds trust. Communications systems should be interoperable to avoid miscommunication and unnecessary expense. My perception in this is that inherent in this process is a common understanding about what the communication means - which can be eased by regular exercises and working out kinks. Everyone has to know with a degree of precision what to expect when rubber meets road.

Second session, "What Needs to Be Done to Make the Interagency Pieces Work?"- mostly was a look at internal U.S. agency communications between the DoD forces, the State Department diplomacy efforts and the Agency for International Development (AID). As history has shown, ad hoc coordination between these agencies can cause a degree of friction in many areas -friction that can be lessened by learning to speak the same language (or at least to understand the agency-speak of the other agencies) and by making sure the roles of the agencies are understood before everyone get tossed into a crisis. More embeds (military into State), rehearsals and fiscal equality all would help. Much more effort on presenting a coordinated U.S. effort with goals understood across the board (what we Cro-Magnon military types call "unity of effort") instead of "coincidence of effort." Congress could help. Part of the problem lies in the differing time lines under which the above agencies operate, with State's interests being much longer term and AID even longer. State and
AID assert a need for more people and a follow up on the "expeditionary capacity" effort that was started under the Bush administration.There was also a suggestion of the need for a "NATO of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)" to smooth out the efforts of these international agencies. Working with NGOs can be challenging. Again, communications and training together could smooth out some of these bumps.

Emphasis on training together, training, training, training. You get the idea.

Third session: "Battles of Competing Narratives: Why Do They Matter?" Again, communicating effectively means that the "enemy's narrative" has to be defeated - communicating with the target audience in terms they can understand what it is your are about and why your narrative is more trustworthy than the enemy's narrative. As LTG Huber put it "Operations happen at the speed of trust." Honesty is everything. While none of the panelists brought him up, I was reminded of Saddam Hussein's spokesman, old "Baghdad Bob" as an example of how not to set the narrative. One of the keys is that every soldier/sailor, etc is a "strategic communicator." Since we are apparently intent on relearning lessons from the past, I refer you to General Charles Krulak's The Strategic Corporal.

Lunch speech:
General Petreus's remarks. Given the time he had, the general did make several valuable points, especially regarding "information sharing" - he stated the focus should be on "need to share" instead of the old standard "need to know." Maybe - there's a discussion of this concept in the final paragraph of the work found here. Apparently the idea is sweeping into many governmental levels:
One of the things that truly stuck with me from the panel discussion came from Richard Boly, at the State Department. He talked about how, during the Cold War, everything was on a need-to-know basis. Everyone was so paranoid and afraid of leaks and security issues that communication was absolutely kept to a minimum.

We’re living in very different times. No longer is it need-to-know, Boly said. We’re moving on to a “need-to-share” phase of government.

There are a lot of pros to this. Empowered employees, increased collaboration, greater openness and transparency, increased interaction with the public, bridging the divide between private industry innovation and government advances–the list could go on and on.
Well, maybe.

Speaking of the "Strategic Corporal," the fourth session was on "Small Unit Excellence; What Will It Take?" More missions are being driven down to the small unit level. To succeed in those missions, the units need communication to insure they are on top of the strategic vision of the highest command levels and are properly trained and equipped for their missions.

Right training, right equipment, right personnel, right communications and honesty, honesty honesty. Walk the talk. Train like you'll fight. And that includes insuring the trainee is getting the strategic vision.

The lack of effective use of the standard institutionalized "lessons learned" was discussed. If you assume that the discussion could have been held 5 years ago, 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, you might sense the frustration with field forces on that topic.
Final session: "How Do We Fight Through a Digital Meltdown?" I'm no techno geek, but it sounded like the answers are being worked on - but the best answer is back to that Strategic Corporal - when you can't use the high tech tools, revert to the "old school" techniques - and the "digital meltdown" may slow you up, but it won't stop you. Back to the basics, you know.

UPDATE: More here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Somali Pirates: Greek Ship Taken

BBC report:
Pirates have seized a Greek-owned ship with 23 people on board in the Gulf of Aden, the ship's managers say.

The Eleni P, which is managed by Eurobulk, was carrying a cargo of iron ore from the Black Sea to China.

Eurobulk's Marcos Vassilikos told the BBC that pirates fired shots when they took the ship, but that the crew were not thought to have been injured.
Ship info here.

Spy Tale: "The Navy's Biggest Betrayal" Uncovered 25 Years Ago

From the pages of the June issue of Naval History Magazine, the story of the "Walker family" spy ring in "The Navy's Biggest Betrayal" by John Prados:
The Navy, in which John Walker served for 20 years, was enormously damaged by his espionage. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger concluded that the Soviet Union made significant gains in naval warfare that were attributable to Walker's spying. His espionage provided Moscow "access to weapons and sensor data and naval tactics, terrorist threats, and surface, submarine, and airborne training, readiness and tactics," according to Weinberger. A quarter-century after John Walker's arrest, it is illuminating to revisit the story of his naval spy ring, both for what it reveals about espionage versus security and for how it highlights the ambitions and frailties at the heart of spying.
The piece is worth reading, although "understanding" Walker's motives (bad childhood, family issues, needed money)hardly makes his situation unique nor acceptable.

As for the suggesting that part of the spy's motivation was to end the Cold War ("'The farce of the cold war and the absurd war machine it spawned," he commented, "was an ever-growing pathetic joke to me.'")seems like a pathetic attempt at self-justification for a man who sold out his country, family and shipmates for cold hard cash. That the author of the piece seems inclined to accept that Walker's spying may have added in calming tensions between the Soviet empire and the U.S. is not exactly a "value free" suggestion on the author's part.

Did Americans die as a result of what Walker and his "family" did? We don't really know, but it certainly cost a few billion dollars to turn the communications security systems around. Hard to justify that by a post facto claim of "good intentions." We all know the road those lead to.

By the way, Walker is reportedly ill in prison, but has a potential release date in 2015.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Somali Pirates: Bulgarian-flagged Chemical Product Ship Hijacked

From MSC(HOA):
Bulgarian Chemical product tanker hijacked in the Gulf of Aden
11/05/2010 18.08 UTC

This afternoon 11th of May a Bulgaria flagged ship, MV PANEGA, was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden approximately 100 nautical miles east of Aden (Yemen).
The ship was on route from the Red Sea to India when she was attacked by pirates.
MV PANGEA with a dead weight of 5,848 tonnes, has a crew of 15 all Bulgarian. EU NAVFOR will continue to monitor the situation.

Ship photo by Ilhan Kermen from and used in accord with the terms found there.