The Ripsaw

All,

“Immolation,” the final installment in the Paul Thompson military sci-fi trilogy, is proceeding through its paces with my publisher. Right about now the manuscript is being put through the copyediting wringer. In a couple of weeks, I will get it back with about a million track changes that I need to approve. You never know how bad your grammar actually is until you do something like this. It’s humbling. My cover design is also being finalized, I think it looks pretty cool. Whether anybody else does… lol, we shall see.

In any case, today’s blurb is about the Ripsaw, the coolest looking mini-tank ever. To see an image of this wild little machine, just click on the link above. Apparently, the little war machine can go about 60 mph and climb very steep grades. The engine is a 600 hp diesel, it doesn’t lack for power. It has the option of two operators. Note that I said option. This little tank can be remotely operated, as well. Pretty cool.

However, the US Army can’t seem to find an appropriate use for the little buggy.

Really? That must require a truly terrifying lack of imagination. As the article above states (the first half that you can read for free, anyway), uses proposed have been as an anti-tank platform, an ambulance, an ammunition hauler (amen, brother), etc.

I’ll go with a tank killer, although the other ideas are pretty good, too. Imagine mounting a Javelin and a .50 cal on this mean little machine. Holy crap, it would run rings around regular tanks, have a very low profile, and just generally be able to shoot-n-scoot. And it doesn’t even really need human operators. I’ll bet it costs a small fraction of what a regular tank would cost, too.

That’s probably why the Army hasn’t found a “use” for this little machine yet. Its potential scares the crap out of some people.

Yeah, I know I’d talk about Trappist-1, and I will. That’s just too juicy of a subject to not comment on- seriously, three planets within the goldilocks zone and only 39 odd ly away. But this caught my eye. That robot-thing Bezos was playing with did, too.

Write soon about both.

 

The PKM vs. the M-240B

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There are a lot of things to discuss this week, one of the big items being the exciting discoveries in the Trappist-1 system, some 39 LY from Earth. Four planets in the “goldilocks zone” of a neighboring star, exciting stuff. For the millionth time, I wish we had some kind of feasible FTL transportation. This system is worth looking at, and in terms of interstellar distances, it is fairly close by.

But that’s not what I’m going to discuss this week, I will get to it soon. Today, I will lay out my subjective judgment on two of the most widely used general purpose-machine guns in use worldwide.

These two guns are the PK series machine gun, and the M-240B, also known as the FN MAG. Both weapons have been used extensively in wars and conflicts worldwide, and they are frequently used by opposing sides, but certainly not always. I have had the pleasure of being trained on the use and employment of both, and I have used both in combat operations.

I won’t get into mechanical descriptions of the two weapons. You can read about the PK here, and the 240B here. Instead, I will give you my subjective judgment on the two based upon personal experience.

First, impressions and differences. When you set the two weapons next to each other, the first thing you notice is the “tinny” appearance of the PKM and its relatively slender build. It has a cheap looking skeleton stock, the gun looks as if it would fall apart with heavy use. That goes to show you, however, that appearances are deceiving. The PKM is tough as nails.

In contrast, the 240B looks well-made. Its receiver is a bulky block; its furniture looks solid, heavy. And it is heavy- it weighs nearly 28 pounds. Trust me, the thing is no joke to carry over long distances. The biggest walk I’ve ever made with one was some twenty miles. I thought I would die at the end of that.

The relative weights of the weapons, 17 pounds (9kg) for the PK, and 28 (12.5kg) for the 240B, is an important subject. I will return to that in a bit. Needless to say, the 240 has more heft than the humble PK.

Also, the weapons feed differently. The 240B feeds left to right, belt “sunny-side (brass exposed in the links)” down. In contrast, the PK feeds right to left, belt “sunny side” up. Also, the 240B uses the NATO standard disintegrating link, while the PK uses the old-fashioned one-piece belt.

The rounds used are more or less as powerful as one another. The 240B uses 7.62 NATO, while the PK uses the 7.62x54R. If either of these rounds hit a human target, the results are dramatic. No lack of potency with either choice. Accuracy is excellent with the 240B, it is good enough with the PK.

Field-stripping of both the weapons is pretty easy, too. If you don’t do anything dumb, there are no small parts to lose or put in backwards. By dumb, I mean tearing down the feed-tray in the field. I knew a guy who did that once, and when he went to use his weapon (the 240B) the feed mechanism fell apart into tiny parts after the first shot. Springs and pawls went everywhere; the weapon was inop. A combat mission was delayed because the guy was overzealous and did something he wasn’t supposed to do. The feed-tray on the PK is much less prone to curious-soldier tinkering. However, if used properly, both do the job very well.

Older, widespread versions of the PK can’t mount optics, while the 240B does. In a fixed position, that’s a major advantage. The 240B is known as “an automatic sniper rifle” because of its inherent accuracy, and the use of scopes like the ELCAN make it so that you can drop a burst on a dime. Also, it’s nice to have thermals mounted on a 240B at night, it gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling to know that no one is sneaking up on you in your crummy outpost in the middle of nowhere.

So which weapon is better?

My answer is ambiguous. It depends on what you’re doing, really.

Here are my subjective impressions of the two weapons.

First, some background. I worked as an advisor attached to the Afghan Army once upon a time, we used a mixture of US and Warsaw Pact weapons- we used the NSV, DShKM and M2 heavy machine guns, the Mk19 grenade launcher, the 82mm Soviet mortar, the M-240B and PKM GPMGs, the AK-47 and the M-4 rifles, the M-24 and M-107 Barrett, numerous pistols, the RPG and an M-3 grease gun. We had a real mix of stuff.

As one of my additional duties was a vehicle gunner, I got to use a lot of this stuff regularly. Also, I was the lead US advisor to an Afghan rifle company and a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. So sometimes I rode, and a lot of the time I walked.

I think the PKM is a better weapon on a dismounted patrol (dismounted=walking). Why? It weighs ten pounds less! And it works well within 500 meters- past 500 you have a lot of trouble ID’ing targets, anyway. One pain with the PK is that you have a partially expended belt dangling from the weapon, but you can stuff the thing into a pouch or something. The weapon works well, it has a nice rhythm and is dead reliable. One night on an ambush I carried a 240B up the side of a mountain- I wish I would have brought the PK, instead. By the time I made it to our position at the top, those extra ten pounds were crushing me.

For fixed position work, the 240B is the best. It is very stable, very accurate, and has the side bennie of the optics that I mentioned earlier. If you put it on a tripod with a traversing and elevation (T&E) mechanism, it cannot be beat.

The weapons are tied when used in vehicular gunnery. As weight is no longer a problem in this application, either gun does the job. I do think that the PK is a tad more responsive when you swing it onto a target, but the 240 is more accurate so it cancels out. I’ve used both off of trucks, and both work very well.

Both weapons have good ergonomics; neither weapon has truly significant flaws.

Bottom Line:

Both machine guns are first-class weapons. They share a lot of plusses, but both have some different minuses.

The 240’s big drawback is its weight. However, its weight becomes a strength in a fixed position or in a turret- the extra mass makes for more operator control. Another drawback is that you must remember to disengage the safety before cocking it; otherwise you can jam the bolt up.

The drawbacks of the PK are that stupid non-disintegrating belt, and the barrel change is not as smooth as the 240. Also, older, widespread versions can’t mount optics, a definite disadvantage. Later versions can mount optics, though. I’d love to do a field test of the two weapons side by side with optics and fixed-distance targets to get a true apples-to-apples comparison. I never had the opportunity, though, and I probably never will. Out of the business, these days.

On balance, I think the 240B edges out the PKM. However, both are excellent, first-class weapons. In an ideal world, the soldier would have his or her choice between the two for different missions. However, one rarely gets those types of choices. My team and I simply had the luck to be able to choose from a wide variety of tools in the toolbox.

Soldiers in “line” outfits get what they get. But if the choice is either a 240B or a PKM, then either way the soldiers have a fine machine gun.

You don’t want to be on the receiving end of either.

Immolation

Hey, everybody.

I’ve been in a flurry of motion with the finalization of the final book in The Valley Trilogy, Immolation. I started writing in December, finished the rough draft by mid January. Then I put it out there to my crew of Betas, who did an awesome job of tweaking the product. I set an internal deadline of 15MAR17 to have the completed manuscript ready for submission to my publisher.

I am pleased to report that it’s ready for submission, all 94866 words of it. Going off of past experience, the publishing process will take several months. My company will design a cover, lay the book out in both print and ebook format, and put the script through the wringer of professional copyediting. At the other end of the process will be a shiny new book with my name on the cover, and the Valley Trilogy (and Paul Thompson’s tale) will be complete. Barring some unforeseen disaster, the book should be available NLT June.

Not sure yet where I’m going in the future, but there are some intriguing prospects out there. We shall see.

Keep an eye peeled for excerpts from the book and other stuff.

Limits

As we stood around and Pete shared his tales of Ranger School between swigs of Natural Light and the occasional tobacco-laced gob of spit, the thought struck me that everyone has his or her limits. That applied no less to an elite soldier like Pete. We had both seen those physical and mental boundaries in training and in combat.

Napoleon said “Poverty, privation, and misery are the school of the good soldier.” By those measures, Pete was an excellent soldier indeed.

Each phase of Ranger School brought new forms of punishment. Pete started at Darby, at FT Benning Georgia, where there was a five-mile run, the Army Survival Water Test, and a twelve-mile ruck. Then his class moved on to desert phase where they did “long walks between objectives.” Then they moved on to mountain phase where they did rappelling and mountaineering. Finally, there was Florida phase, where the students would finish in the swamps.

“The purpose of Ranger School is teaching people to lead in a combat environment. Because you can’t put them in combat, you take away their sleep, and you would take away their food to put everyone on edge.” He paused and continued. “People get like zombies.”

“You try to stay awake, but you’re asleep, and you don’t know you’re asleep.” Sleep was the enemy, being caught sleeping could result in flunking out of the course. According to Pete, the worst times were when you were laying in the prone. However, he was quick to add that he had fallen asleep when kneeling, or even standing or walking. “I’ve seen people fall asleep, and fall onto the ground… they’d stay asleep, after they just fell over.”

“I had started down the zombie path.” Pete was on a patrol base, pulling security. “Somehow I fell asleep. When I woke up, I was standing in the middle of a road.” This meant big trouble for Pete. He was outside his perimeter without his weapon, position unknown. “I had no idea where I was. This was an oh-shit moment at Ranger School.” He went on to say that if he had been missed, he was “fucked.”

Pete started walking up the road, and the endless ten or fifteen seconds he walked before he saw other Ranger students was “terror.” He had no idea how he had gotten to where he was, and he was frightened by what had just happened. Eventually, as low-key as he could, he found some guys from his squad, located his gear and weapon, and went back to pulling security as if nothing had happened. It was a close call. “I didn’t get caught.”

Pete mentions that they called his class the “Sunshine Class,” because they didn’t get rained on until the last phase, Florida phase. Then the rain started. “And I mean rain,” Pete says with emphasis. “In Ranger School, you’re not allowed to put on that poncho you’ve been carrying around with you in your rucksack, because the RI didn’t say you could.” It was November, and it was cold. “It sucked. You’re laying there in the prone, and water is running down the crack of your ass.” Pete was sick of lying there, soaking wet, with a thousand other places he’d rather be. A lightbulb went off in his head. He had a trash bag in his ruck, everyone was required to have one. So he got his out and put it on under his t-shirt, no-one could see a thing. He began to warm up, his misery factor ticked downwards slightly. “I was snuggly warm, like a hug from your mother.”

“People noticed what I had done.” Before he knew it, lots of people were putting on trash bags underneath their clothes. He didn’t care, “I didn’t think it would go bad.”

But it did. That night, as the students were getting into boats to paddle down a river, a Ranger Instructor was giving the students a hard time. He bumped into a student, and he heard the noise of a trash bag rustle beneath their clothes. He grabbed the student, heard the trash bag, and said “What the fuck?” The RI realized that everyone probably had the unauthorized trash bag beneath their clothes. He started grabbing students by their shirts, and if he heard the crinkle, he singled them out for punishment.

Pete knew he had to do something. Something that no-one wanted to do was to jump in the cold water first to paddle the boat. Pete really didn’t want to face the punishment that the increasingly irate RI was threatening, so he jumped in the water and swam to the back of the boat, unscathed and undiscovered. “I got away with it, I didn’t get caught.” He managed to get the trash bag off in the dark, he left it in the river.

In desert phase, “You would start moving as soon as the sun went down and the rattlesnakes came out.” The students would walk twelve to fifteen klicks, fully loaded, to an objective. Then they would walk to the next one, over and over again. Pete could hear singing in his head, he thought he was losing his mind. The walking was endless, he was bored and a little bit crazy by the end of it.

Florida phase seemed to have made the biggest impression on Pete, he came back to it again. The surging ice-cold swamp water made an impression on him, “you were in it continuously.” One night they were in chest deep water again. The RI that accompanied the students called into range safety (called “Watertown”) because the students had to build a rope bridge. Range safety called back and said that the students weren’t allowed in the water, it posed a real hypothermia risk. “Motherfucker, I’d been standing in chest deep ice-cold water for hours!” Pete said.

The RI was in trouble, and he knew it. He marched the students up on to a dry road, and they crossed the river via a permanent bridge. Pete’s toenails had mostly fallen out, but one that had not was partially loose and was digging into the toe next to it, every step was agony. His feet were bleeding.

The Ranger Instructor told the students they could turn on their “Ranger TVs.” That meant they could start a fire, one fire per four students. He needed to bring everyone’s body temperatures up. It had been a close call.

Finally, Pete had another bad experience with a rope bridge. He got volunteered to swim the rope across the river and tie off to the tree on the far side. So Pete jumped into the November water with all of his gear and a rope tied around his waist. He successfully managed to tie off, and he stood by. That’s when he heard that Watertown had again forbidden the students from swimming; it was too cold.

Pete was pissed. He was soaking wet and bone-cold; he had made the swim for nothing. He heard the RI call out. “Ranger, swim back over here. We’re not getting wet tonight.” Pete was furious. He told the RI to “Fuck off.” Pete had lost thirty pounds when he had come to the school with none to spare. He was at the end of his endurance. The RI didn’t care. Pete lost the argument; he had to swim back.

In the middle of the river, “he couldn’t do it no more.” His platoon had to pull him in by his rope, they fished him out of the scummy swamp creek like a drowned rat.

On another occasion, a carelessly tossed artillery simulator blew him out of an inflatable raft, with ringing ears and a headache he was at least relieved of the duty of paddling the boat.

By the time he graduated, he was “one scrawny, starved, smelly Ranger.”

Pete had discovered his limits, and he had learned that while the limits were real, one could always find that little bit extra that would help you cross the finish line.

Pete the Ranger showed back up at Ranger Regiment with a Ranger tab sewn to his uniform, he felt like a “god.”

Thus concludes Pete’s Ranger School tale.

More to follow from Pete.

Ham Slice

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After giving the overview of Ranger school, Pete took another drink of his favored brew, Natural Light. He topped off his tobacco supply and continued.

First, a little explanation of terms and concepts is needed for the layman. A lot of Ranger School consists of establishing patrol bases and moving from one point to another. A patrol base is essentially a place where soldiers camp in a tactical environment. When a mission comes down (a raid would be a good example, or an ambush) some soldiers leave to execute. Others remain behind. The soldiers that go forward to do the mission travel to an established Objective Rally Point (an ORP) where final preps are made before the raid or ambush. Once the preps are finalized at the ORP, the mission gets done.

There are a lot of steps involved in the process that I have roughly outlined above, and at Ranger School the students are graded on all of them mercilessly. Also, it cannot be emphasized enough that this stuff gets done at all hours of the day on barely adequate sleep and with a daily maximum caloric intake of 1200 (that’s a typical MRE, or one US Army ration pack. A soldier should be supplied with three MREs daily- but not at Ranger School).

“After a mission you would return to a patrol base, and usually it was in the middle of the night or early morning.” The Ranger Instructors or RI’s would change shifts, and the next nightmarish day would begin. “While this was happening a lot of stuff would derail at Ranger School. An instructor would come in who was pissed off at his wife or kids… that would usually play in to how much you were going to get fucked with that night.”

“So we were in Florida Phase of Ranger School, the final phase of the school, and everyone was tired and worn out.” According to Pete, it was a dark night, with no illumination. “Someone was fucking around at the Patrol Base.” He went on to add that they had been in the woods for weeks, and that everyone’s sense of smell was heightened, in addition to being ravenously hungry. The student Platoon Leader was trying to make things happen at the Patrol Base for that night’s mission, and things weren’t going well.

Someone opened a ham slice MRE while he was trying to brief for the evening’s mission. Everyone could smell the tasty treat due to the aforementioned sharpening of the senses. The student Platoon Leader got pissed off and started to yell. “Who’s eating the fucking ham slice!?” The RI who was present called out. “Hey! This is a tactical situation! Everyone needs to maintain tactical whispering! The enemy could be anywhere at this point, and if you’re yelling out, then you’re wrong, Rangers.”

At that point, someone in the Patrol Base called out. “Fuck You!”

Pete laughed at the memory. “You have to remember that this wasn’t the millennial generation yet, yelling that to a RI was a pretty risky move.”

The Ranger Instructor was angry. He whipped out a huge Maglite, and shined his beam towards the twelve o’clock position of the Patrol Base.

“Who said that!” he demanded. He swept his beam around, trying to find the student who had sworn at him in the brush.

As soon as he called out, another disembodied voice shouted in the pitch dark, this time from the six o’clock position. “I did! Fuck you!”

“Like a dumbass,” the RI turned and swept his beam to the six o’clock. “Who down there said that!”

The words had barely left his mouth when another voice called out from the nine o’clock. “Fuck You! I did!”

From all directions, the “fuck you” chorus came in. The RI was definitely pissed. “Out came the artillery simulators,” Pete recalled.

As an aside, an artillery simulator is a fairly powerful pyrotechnic device (a quarter stick of M1 dynamite) that produces a loud whistle and heavy “bang.” The blast can definitely injure someone who is too close by; care must be used when they are thrown.

At Ranger school, they were thrown about like candy. Their use signaled that a position had been compromised.

Well, after being defied, the RI decided that the student’s position had been compromised, and he would pay them back. He started throwing the artillery simulators around and “everyone had to pack up all their gear and rucksacks in the dark.” The students had to hasten to their alternate patrol base in the swamp. They had to crawl and run several kilometers through chest deep water and heavy brush. It was a bad experience; no one got any sleep.

However, Pete thought things balanced out. “Several students got away with yelling fuck you to a Ranger Instructor.”

I asked Pete if he was one of those students. Pete smiled a shit-eating grin and answered.

“Yes.”

And then he laughed his ass off.

More follows, readers.

Our unknowable neighbors

I spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid. Frequently, I would lie in our hayfield at night and look up at the stars. We really didn’t suffer from much light pollution, and on some nights the Milky Way stretched above me like a rhinestone rug. The views were breathtaking, and I always wondered what was out there. Later in life I spent time in places that were really out there, and the stars were even more spectacular.

Even on those squalid firebases in the middle of Godforsakenville I stood in awe of the carpet of stars. I reflected on the grubby, deadly little pursuits we were entangled in and I thought “hey, we need to do better than this.”

That’s why I am excited about some bits of news I have seen lately in regard to planets being within feasible interstellar striking range of our own beloved Sol. Whether these planets are capable of supporting life, who knows. That all remains to be seen.

What is interesting about this is that a large amount of planets are being found, at distances from four to 300 light years away. I think it’s exciting. The more of these planets that are discovered, the higher the likelihood that one of them is capable of supporting life. The closer they are, the better (maybe- they could always harbor some horrible reptile things who think human faces are the height of cuisine).

Of course, with our current (unclassified) sad state of affairs in interstellar travel technology, four light years is still an awful long way away, let alone 300. I’ve looked into various scenarios for FTL travel, and most of them involve technologies which are still pie-in-the-sky. One promising project, the original Project Orion, was terminated in 1963 for arms-control reasons.

Still though, in the late fifties some very bright scientists figured out how to cross interstellar distances at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light by detonating nuclear bombs behind a spaceship. Pretty impressive, and it was figured out over fifty years ago.

Surely we can do better now. The stars await, and we know now that they have planets nearby.

I say we should go look.

Pete’s Ranger School Overview

I interviewed Pete for the first time on the tenth of February 2017. We were standing in his shop surrounded by various tools, agricultural implements and an odd firearm or two. It was a relaxed atmosphere, a case of the infamous Natural Light beer was open and Pete would take an occasional swig and worry the tobacco in his lip with his tongue.

Pete began with a rough description of Ranger School itself, as seen through his eyes. He described it as “the hardest leadership school in the United States Military.” He went on to state that the school maintains about a sixty percent failure rate, and he asked me to confirm that he was right on the Ranger Training Brigade webpage. Later on I checked, and he had his facts straight, the school has an exact 59.5% failure rate. Pretty high.

With justifiable pride, he described it as the “School of Schools.” However, he followed this statement with the perception of veterans of the 75th Ranger Regiment. He said guys there called it “Stupid School.” The reason for that was because in the Regiment, it was expected that you passed Ranger School. It was a “rite of passage,” according to Pete. In the Army as a whole the Ranger tab sets a soldier apart, in Ranger Regiment it was par for the course.

Pete attended Ranger School as a Private First Class. He went on to describe how the Ranger tab set lower enlisted soldiers apart within his home unit, the Ranger Battalion. If a lower enlisted soldier in Ranger Regiment wore a Ranger tab, he was granted certain privileges. He no longer had to ride on the pile of rucksacks in the center of a truck, he could “smoke” other privates, and other soldiers had to address him while standing in the position of Parade Rest. (“Smoking” is the act of giving a soldier corrective training by means of physical exertion.) Also, a “tabbed” Ranger was viewed as ready for leadership positions. A tabbed PFC or Specialist was viewed as a junior NCO; they were frequently made leaders of fire teams upon successful completion of Ranger School.

He returned to the subject, which was the school itself. Pete said that at the school “no one wears rank” or “patches from the unit you’re from” but that everyone knew who the “Batt Boys” were, or soldiers from the 75th Ranger Regiment. The separate Battalions that make up Ranger Regiment are known as “Batts.” Pete said even though no one wore identifiers, you could always tell who were from West Point, the 82nd Airborne, OCS, and who the officers were, and who were enlisted.

Oddly enough, Pete didn’t have much to say about the first four days of Ranger School, which is where the majority of failures occur according to the Ranger Training Brigade Website (36.5%). It could be that he skipped over the hellish first four days because he didn’t think it was hellish, but I don’t know for sure. He began to discuss the meat of the school, the Patrol Phases, and how you could see what position soldiers had held in the Army by what graded positions they were given on the missions.

As an important aside, it must be stressed that leadership assignments in Ranger School are given on a random basis; they can change at any time. This adds to the stress the students are undergoing, and adds an element of unpredictability to the environment. A “fail” grade in leadership can lead to expulsion from the school, or possibly a “recycle” on a phase of training. US Army leadership schools use this as an effective technique across the board, but Ranger School represents the rotating leadership technique at its sadistic best.

Pete continued. “Platoon leaders, platoon sergeants and squad leaders were the hardest graded positions” and the toughest position “depended on what you were doing.” For example, if the soldiers were in a patrol base and you had a “dickhead RI (Ranger Instructor)” and a soldier’s current assignment was Platoon Sergeant, then one of the tasks the Platoon Sergeant would have is making sure he knew how much ammo all of his troops had. The RI would make all of the soldiers “dump their mags in a patrol cap” and he would count each round to make sure the student Platoon Sergeant’s count was accurate.

If the count was wrong by so much as a single round, the student Platoon Sergeant could be graded with a “fail” for his mission which was to report accurate information to his Platoon Leader, another student. Of course, the student Platoon Leader in a patrol base would be in charge of planning the next mission, which had its own unique series of pitfalls.

The platoon leader would call in his squad leaders and plan a mission for whenever. It is important to remember that everyone would be operating on no sleep, and very little food. “It could be a good mission, if he’s a smart guy, and it would be easy.” Then the leadership roles would switch, and someone else would be made the Platoon Leader and he would have to execute the other guy’s plan. This is where the trouble would start. One guy would “collapse the patrol base” and be in charge of movement, the RI’s would change leadership roles again, and another Platoon Leader would have to execute the plan that was hatched two people back.

It was a perfect recipe for confusion, and it reinforced the point that there had better be a rock-solid, simple plan with very little room for misinterpretation. Hungry, tired and pissed-off people would carry out the mission brief.

“You could be screwed by the guy four people back that came up with a shitty plan.”

Pete laughed. “There you are, three hundred meters from the objective, trying to bring everybody up to speed on a plan that you didn’t even make.”

I commented that the school seemed to set people up to fail.

Pete disagreed. He brought up the “Batt Boys” and the significance of the non-graded positions at the school. He mentioned team leaders; there are two in a squad. Soldiers from Ranger Battalion would frequently be used in these non-graded positions to help their fellow students pass the mission. Of course, if the person who needed help were a “dirtbag,” then help would not necessarily be forthcoming. Pete did say, though, that “Batt Boys” were expected to help people, he mentioned West Point students in particular.

That point brought him back to “Stupid School,” in that he perceived that soldiers from Ranger Battalion were expected to perform at a level much higher than other students at Ranger School. One of his perceived missions at Ranger School was to help other soldiers to pass.

Having already served awhile in a Ranger Battalion, Pete’s expectations for a school with a sign that read “Not for the weak or fainthearted” were pretty high. He “feared the smoking” given to him by his platoon mates in his Ranger Batt far more than any punishment he received by an RI at Ranger School, and he seemed oddly disappointed by this. On the last day of Ranger School, as he was sitting in the wood line waiting to graduate, he recalled thinking, “Is that it? Is that all there is?”

Pete feared failure back at the Battalion much more than “this bullshit school.”

It says something about life in the Ranger Regiment that one of the hardest of schools in the US Military, which Ranger School is, made little impression on Pete.

He spat in his can and drank some more beer. And then he proceeded to tell me Ranger School stories.

Stay tuned, readers.

Pete the Ranger

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Been pretty busy the past week or so. I’ve been doing a lot of work on my third book, “Immolation,” it’s coming along nicely with some local help and the assistance of some kind folks down in Australia. I have also been busy gathering material for this site, I did some traveling to visit a friend and comrade, Pete the Ranger. He agreed to an interview, I recorded some pretty good stuff. I plan on inserting some tales from him from time to time onto this website.

First, let me start by saying that Pete is what is known as a “tabbed and scrolled” Ranger. This means that he served overseas with the Ranger Regiment (the 75th) during wartime, hence the term “scrolled.” He is entitled to wear the unit scroll of his Ranger Battalion on his uniform’s right sleeve. By “tabbed,” I mean that he is also a successful graduate of the US Army’s Ranger school, a fairly famous months-long torture test.

Pete is a long-service NCO, he has served in South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia. He is the recipient of numerous decorations and awards. He wears the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and jump wings, of course. I’m pretty sure he has some foreign wings and a German Schutzenschnur, but frankly the guy’s dress uniform looks like General Patton’s so it’s easy to get confused. In any case, he doesn’t put much stock in all the bling, anyway. I’m just putting it out there for biographical info.

Pete would like to remain anonymous, so I can’t paste his ugly mug up on this website. It’s a shame, because I have some pretty cool photos of him in various places doing things. So here goes a thumbnail sketch: He’s an average sized man of stocky build. He has a full head of sandy hair, usually done up in a high-and-tight. He likes to drink Natural Light, and his lip is perpetually full of Grizzly fine-cut chewing tobacco. Pete is usually pretty laid back as long as people don’t act like jerks. When that happens, it’s best to step aside for a moment or two, the results aren’t pretty.

I have seen Pete do amazing things on combat operations. He is a master improviser, a sound tactician, and he is an expert on any weapon system you care to name under the level of a howitzer. Well, he could probably figure one of those out, too, given enough ammo and a lazy afternoon. He has ridden to battle on trucks, a dirt bike, donkeys, various aircraft, and his own two feet.

Pete is the Renaissance Man of 20th and 21st century combat, and I count myself lucky to know him. Better still, I have the additional luck that he agreed to do the interviews.

I should have the first story out within a day or two. Keep an eye peeled.

Drones

As you, the reader may have surmised, I have a little experience with drones. Most of the time, it was intel that we would get from them. I didn’t have anything to do with targeting.  That kind of call was way above my pay grade.

The future of the battlefield, however, will be shaped more and more by the machines, and regular soldiers will operate them routinely. Imagine a portable drone that the average joe could carry that would tell him or her what was behind that wall in front of them. Those would have all kind of uses, and they will be developed. In my books, I write about such a toy, and the impact that the capability will have on the battlefield. It’ll be a real leap forward, kind of like the internet linking of all of the combatants. Mark my word, that will happen too. We are close to it now.

What I’d like to talk about today is another type of drone, one that will be death on armor. I read an interesting article about a requirement that the US Army has put out, they want an artillery shell or a rocket capable of projecting a small swarm of Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP) bearing drone ‘copters above the battlefield for the express purpose of taking out scads of armored vehicles.

Oh boy. Imagine what that would do to a mechanized formation headed to Point A. All of a sudden, they would be headed nowhere. If you combined the killer cute little drone helicopters with a weapon that exists today, FASCAM, the column of tanks is going nowhere fast. And if airpower can get there too… it would make the highway of death look pretty tame.

All the more reason I don’t envy tankers, for the same reason I wouldn’t want to be a pilot. You are a big, fat target that everyone who can do so will light up with any available arms.

Of course, for every action there is a reaction, and I am curious what people will come up with to deal with the swarm of drones that will descend upon the combatants in our next war. A quick firing laser? A flechette auto cannon? Flying mines? Enhanced jamming? Hard to tell, really. I can’t imagine that such a defensive weapon would be manually operated, however.

Those little drones will be very hard to hit.