Smart thinking

MissionReady_IrregularWarfareAs my long time readers know, I have been following developments on the Air Force choosing a possible replacement for the A-10. Well, they have really surprised me.

It seems the AF is going to deploy two finalists in their competition to an actual combat theatre for a final test. An article here tells about their decision.

As I wrote in an earlier post, one of the aircraft that will be deployed is the Textron AT-6, a stout, deadly little turboprop. This is an aircraft tailor made for the CAS role- lots of loiter time, tons of munitions, and capable of taking some hits.

However, the Air Force will test the bird for real. In combat. And the winner will get the contract.

I have to hand it to the boys (and girls) in blue. This is a no-kidding common sense way to pick a combat aircraft. Put up or shut up, load it with munitions and send it into harm’s way.

It’s a genuine acid test that no amount of simulation can equal. I wouldn’t have believed the DOD was capable of common sense with weapons procurement, and then they go and do something like this.

Good luck, and may the best aircraft win.

No oxygen = no rust or rot


Something I’ve been following a bit for a while is research being conducted in the Black Sea off of Bulgaria. Saw a new article about it today, check it out. It seems there is a bit of water there that is very deep with an “anoxic,” or oxygen depleted zone.

While that may be bad for fishers, it’s great for researchers. Turns out that stuff that falls into the anoxic zone stays there, and doesn’t rot. Within the zone are an unknown number of ships from the distant past with apparently perfectly preserved wooden structures and cargoes.

Wow. I’m a bit of a sucker for relics and exploration, and this really interests me. I’m sure there are any number of historians and nautical hobbyists who think this is cool as well. Imagine, a seabed strewn with wrecks from the past several thousand years.

All kinds of really cool stuff waiting to be found down there.

You know, we supposedly know so much about this wonderful planet of ours and stuff like this still pops up. I think we really don’t know half of the story.

Imagine what we’ll find if we ever manage to leave Earth and go out into space. It’ll be one crazy discovery after the next, and we’ll never more than scratch the surface for many thousands of years.

Be nice to see a real move in that direction within my lifetime. We’ll see.

A long walk

crashed at mangal

I’d like you to think today about the longest walk you’ve ever made. Maybe some of you have never walked more than a few kilometers, maybe some of you are backpacking fanatics who have walked hundreds of klicks, camping and taking in the fresh air.

Well, I came across an article about a guy who puts us all to shame. It’s about a dude who goes by the nickname “string bean,” and he walked the entire Appalachian Trail (some 1700 miles) in forty-five days. Forty-five days. The forestry service recommends that you set aside four or five months of your life to walk that hike, and this guy did it in a fraction of the nominal time.

Amazing. In his final leg of the journey he walked for thirty-seven hours straight, some 117 miles non-stop.

Holy crap. His example goes to show you what humans are actually capable of- I think of twenty-five miles as a good day’s pace- and this guy walks over a hundred.

And he did it over broken, arduous terrain carrying all of his own equipment.

I bow before the master.

Yeah, I’ve done some long hikes loaded down like a mule, that’s why I included the pic above. Not to admire my ugly mug, but because this is the one photo I have of me that shows the bottoms of my feet clearly- the lugs are worn off of my desert boots, those things saw a lot of walking over there. (BTW, I still have those boots.)

So yeah, I have a little feel for where this guy is coming from. But I can’t fathom walking over a hundred miles without a pause. The article talks about his recovery from the hike, he talks about swollen joints, battered feet, and a ravenous appetite. No kidding.

Funny enough, but the worst walk I can remember was during training, not combat. I was at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and we had to make an assault at dawn. We started walking at sunset on a frigid evening and we moved all night long to our jump-off point, a nameless point on the map. We walked up and down hills, through streams and swamps, we thrashed through brush and generally humped our gear beneath the cruel stars. I was carrying the 240B, my arms went entirely numb. At some point a dude went crazy, he started screaming about his feet. My canteens froze shut, no hydration for me. It was a pretty miserable experience.

But like many Army experiences, I learned from it. The lesson was that no matter how heavy the load, no matter how far or pointless the walk, you can persevere.

Just keep setting one foot in front of the other.

It was an important life lesson.

I’d like to hear from you all about similar experiences, your own version of the long walk. It need not be a vignette that involves physical movement, but rather a journey either physical or mental that helped to build character.

We’ve all had those moments in our lives.

A soldier’s dream


Well everyone, we could talk about Kim Jong Crazy getting the H-bomb. Nope. We could discuss the flooding in Houston. Nope, it’s been covered everywhere by almost everybody. We could talk about how the 173rd Airborne isn’t ready for peer-on-peer combat, according to internal Army documents. Nah, not going there, either.

No, I’m going to discuss chickens. Or rather, what chickens mean for an old soldier trying to come to terms with normal life.

Some six years ago I got back from my last tour and everything was crazy. Lots of drinking, confusion, and bad stuff. I won’t get into details, but it was rough. Add onto that the stress of going through the Army Medical Board, and times were tough. I threw myself into projects on the old house I bought years ago. My family has done a lot of fine-tuning on this old homestead.

Of course, in the midst of all of this, I wrote books, too, and eventually retired.

The whole time I’ve been looking for peace, and I have stayed in contact with other guys who were on my advisor team. One of them was Pete the Ranger, for some of his tales look through older posts below and in the archive.

Well, one day this spring my wife had the idea that we needed chickens for the eggs. I took the idea and ran with it- sometimes I go overboard. That was the case this time. I built them a fancy chicken house and enclosed a part of the lawn. We built perches, feeders, special laying boxes, the works.

The other day I ate my first omelet from their eggs, it was hands-down the most expensive omelet I have ever eaten.

The omelet was delicious.

But my flock was missing something. I was raised on a farm, and one of the things I always enjoyed was seeing a rooster going about his business and crowing. Yeah, I like hearing a rooster crow. It drives some people nuts. I don’t know why, but hey, everyone has their thing.

Well, I’m not the only one who has picked up some animals since returning to the ‘States. Pete the Ranger did too. His collection dwarfs mine, and his son is huge into chickens. So I texted Pete and asked if he had a spare rooster. He did. I got in my car and made a road-trip to his house to see his menagerie.

We used to live in the villages in Afghanistan on tiny combat outposts. The two of us saw a lot of Afghan rural life and it rubbed off on us. When I came home, I felt naked for years because I had no walls around my house with an AK by every window. Well, guys on the team have had a penchant for collecting animals, I guess I’m no different.

Pete took it to new levels. He even bought a donkey. As I stood in his lawn looking at various beasts and drinking a cold one, the clucking of the chickens and the sight of the sad-looking donkey really took me back. Took me back to the dusty villages along those mountain rivers.

Funny how you can collect the sights and smells of a deadly dangerous place, and you can later transform them into an inner peace.

Pete and I have sub-consciously done just that. We came home and created a soldier’s dream. I didn’t think of it until I sat down to type this blurb.

His son gave me a fine looking Easter Egger rooster, my kids named him Texas.

I think I’ll privately call him ‘Stan.