Saturday, May 24, 2008
In the late 20th century, warfare began to change drastically, as larger nations grew very strong and world powers arose in such a way that the world had never witnessed before. The industrial age, followed by computer technology ushered in a new era of warfare.
But despite overwhelming technological superiority. Modern nations still found themselves combating a new enemy in "asymetrical warfare", which proved that the individual soldier armed with a rifle was still a value within the equation of warfare.
In the late part of the 20th century, major powers began to shift, as the former Soviet Union had disolved, and we in this time period stood witness to the destruction of the Berlin wall. A barrier that was the product of cold war fears and extreme militant politics which divided Europe after world war two.
But like any shift in the world political landscape, this change of scenery created a power vacumn, in which many new radical regimes could flourish and soldiers of Islam would light the world on fire. It would also embolden both the weak and the strong. The next twenty years of history would be among the most important years of American history.
I would like to dedicate this Blog to my Daughter Jessica who is also a former Sailor and now a Soldier in the U.S. Army. My Wife Jodi, Jeremy, Asa. Aaron, Rachel and Issac.
Friday, May 23, 2008
My dad loved baseball and was a die hard Cubs fan. His best years were when he was in the Navy as a Ships Cook and when he worked for the railroad. So I grew up with him telling me stories about the Navy and the railroad. He also encouraged me to always think out of the box and to not be afraid to do things. He always used to yell at me to "get off of his apron strings". The other great thing he did for me was to see that I went to Washington DC wih my 8th grade class, this ignited of love of history in me that has'nt been extinguished to this very day. So when the time came, it was only natural for me to join the Navy and to see a good portion of the world.
I enlisted in 1978 and was immediately sent to the Great Lake Naval Recruit Training Center, north of Chicago. Ironically, it would also be the last ride that I would take on a Chicago and Northwestern Train, the rairoad that my dad worked for, as by the time that I got out of the Navy, the CNW would be almost gone.
I was quickly introduced to my Company Commanders, Chief Sufficool and Chief Edgar. Both were tough, older Sailors and well seasoned Navy Chiefs. I did well in basic, and quickly put to use a lot of the things that my dad had told me over the years. I knew what was going on right aways, because my dad was a chief, and his oral history of his Navy experience paid off in flying colors. Many of the habits that dad had developed, he kept through civilain life and he had explained these habits to me more than once. So when the Red Ropes (meaning Company Commander, CC's wear a read braided sash around their shoulder) spoke, I understood their language.
But basic also made realize that I could do things that I did not know I could do. By week four of basic, I realized I had both a brain and a body that when used together, yielded results.
The basic training experience has been potrayed in writing and hollywood on more than one ocassion, so I won't expand on being a boot. But for the younger reader, I will say that the basic training phase is not freightening experience that it is made out to be by some writers and screen writers, it is the best thing that a young person could do for themselves. There is no better person to discipline than yourself.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
About three weeks into the course, I was bombing academically. I was called into the office by the head of the Signalman school, Chief Warshawski. The Chief was a tough bird and he asked why I was doing so poorly? I explained that I wanted to be a Radioman, and if I could not do that, I would rather be sent to the deck force. Chief Warshawski looked me in the eye, and said "bull-shit" your going to finish Signalman A-School" After completion of Signalman school, the supervisors at the school were very savvy, and knew what each Sailor needed to become better at his job. They cut me orders to an oiler. They knew that Signalmen on supply ships were indeed very busy sailors.
I was sent to the USS Wicita AOR-1. An AOR (Auxiliary Oiler) is basically a huge floating quickmart, where Navy ships can pick up toilet paper, bombs and fuel. I got more than I bargained for on board the Wichita, as she was a highly operational naval vessel. My job also kept me outside in the elements during my entire naval career. So I learned what both military and logistical operations were about.
I arrived at Alameda Naval Air Station in the summer of 1978. Which was also the same place that my dad was stationed during World War Two. I learned very quickly that the Wichita was a hardworking ship, as she was constantly under orders to sail and spent very little time in liberty ports. Having our liberty ports denied for operational reasons was a comon occurrence on board the Witch.
The logistics ships in the U.S. fleet are an extermely important part of naval operations. No military force in the world can operated without logistics support, and the Wichita was the first ship in her class, her crew strived to maintain her good reputation, and to serve the fleet well.
Our main thrust of operations was "UNREP" (Underway replenishment). UNREP is something the average person would'nt believe if they did'nt see it. A fast moving Navy supply ship can go into a battle group and refuel and resupply an entire group in approximately three hours. It does not matter what time of the day or night it is either, nor does sea condition. The most important aspect of UNREP is the fact that the navy supply ship completes replenishment while moving at the top speed of the supply ship, which is generally 25 knots or so. The first time I saw an UNREP, especially night ops, we were alongside an aircraft carrier. I was so exhilirated I was jumping around like a kid in toy store. My shipmates thought I was nuts.
We also had two CH-46 helicopters on board, which performed more than a couple of functions, the most of impressive of which, would be to ferry cargo to ships in a battle group during UNREP Ops. So not only could we be refueling ships that were alongside, we could also deliver supplies simultaneously to distant vessels. The CH-46 crews had an extremely hazardous job and we lost two helicopters while I was on board theWitch. I think of the the Aviators who lost there lives often. I was on duty when one went into the ocean, taking the entire flight crew with. It was a tough loss for everyone.
UNREP was an inherently dangerous process. Seeing people injured or killed during UNREP became pretty routine. Everything from rouge waves to equipment failures and human error became our enemy during UNREP. It seems no matter how safe we tried to be, murphy's law would kick in.
On one ocassion. We were transfering cargo over to another ship via a "star rig". Which is basically two cranes attached to each other on each ship, which is attached by a high tension steel cable on which a winch (which about the size of a Volkswagen car) is attached that carries heavy pallets of cargo from the supply ship to the receiving ship. A steel cable parted shooting the rig towards the ship that we were resupplying. The rig hit the side of the other ship leaving a huge dent in its side.
In Iran, the incident was seen by many as a blow against U.S. influence in Iran and its support of the recently fallen Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who had been restored to power by a CIA-funded coup in 1953 and who had recently been allowed into the United States for cancer treatment. In the United States, the hostage-taking was widely seen as an outrage violating a centuries-old principle of international law granting diplomats immunity from arrest and diplomatic compounds sovereignty in the territory of the host country they occupy.
The ordeal reached a climax when the United States military attempted a rescue operation, Operation Eagle Claw, on April 24, 1980, which resulted in an aborted mission and the deaths of eight American military men. Before deployment, we watched in shock as pictures from the Iranian desert showed burned military aircraft which were destroyed in an astounding accident that occured there. This incident along with obvious intelligence of big trouble brewing in the middle east would set the tone in the military for a number to come. The Cold War was winding down, and would be just a few years more when the Berlin Wall would crumble, and the days of communisim (at least in the former Soviet Union) would be changed forever. Though in 1980, we would see the Soviets flex their muscle throughout the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. We would be shadowed by Soviet spy ships and monitored by Soviet long range aircraft (Soviet Tu-59's). We arrived in the IO (Indian Ocean) in the fall. The weather during this time was rough, as we rode 30 to 40 fot ocean swells for at least 30 days or more.
Our mission was toprovide logistical support to the battle group that was parked off of mouth of the Persain Gulf, at a place refered to operationally as MODLOC Station and Gonzo Station. This are war a fifty mile circle, in which the battle group(s) would sail back and fourth on patrol, exercising America's naval strength in the region.
The Wichita's mission was to run to a place called Diego Garcia or to a remote airstrip loacated at a place called Al Masir Airhead to obtain supplies. Diego Garcia was a small spit of Islands located in the middle of the IO surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean, occupied by a handful of military personnel and not much more. Al Masir was part of the country Oman and was just as remote, though only a small detachment of men were allowed to leave the ship there and those who were there were told not disclose any information about the location due to the fact that the location was classified.
Al Masir was a most forbidding place. A sand and rock Island with an airfield alledgedly run by mercenaries. When we approached Al Masir. I could hear british chatter on some of our radios and fighter pilots swung in low over the water next to us. At least one gave us the middle finger when flying by. On one occassion, I was looking through the "Big Eyes" (Ships binoculars) and I could see a guy on horse back, wearing the traditional garb of an arab carrying a rifle. Shades of Lawrence of Arabia. I was also told that the detachments who went there, were warned not to look around too much as the installation was guarded by children soldiers who would not hesitate to shoot anyone who was percieved to be a spy.
Diego Garcia (DG) was an anti-climactic adventure where nothing really exciting happened, except for one time, when a Sailor came up missing, then they noticed a liferaft missing, we could actually see the inflsted raft on the beach closesest to the ship. It turns out the guy who was missing, was going nuts, so he hijacked the raft and rowed it to the beach. We left him at DG and he got an airplane ride home. I also grew up a little more and in hind sight, it made me realize how important the middle east region and oil is to our culture. I turned twenty one while at DG, the Wichita was tied up to a Tender (Repair Ship) for repairs that were needed. During this time. I did'nt bother to leave the boat. There was'nt anywhere to go.
In the distance, at DG I could see several ships anchored in the harbor, but if there were crew with these ships, there would have been a couple of thousand sailors on the Island and there was not. After making some inquiries about the ships. I came to find out that these ships were part of a rapid deployment force and were packed full of everything an army might need if they were called into action. Later in life after 9-11, I found out that federal government had an unwritten policy that said; if the worlds oil supply were threatned, that the United States would go to war for its protection. My experience at DG would couple these two items together as corroborating evidence. Whereas, I can understand the strategic importance of the world fuel supply, even if some people cannot. The one thing that the federal government failed to tell the American people was, that we were at war over oil for many years.
When I went on WESTPAC, the Commanding Officer of the Wichita was Captain Anthony (Tony) Less. I really appreciated Captain Less. He was open minded, fair and supported the crew. He was also an ex- Navy Fighter Pilot and was with the Blue Angels, which may explain why he was open minded. After leaving the MODLOC Station for our first liberty port, which was Thailand. We were in the South China Sea, when we came up on some Vietnamese refugees in a boat. We had just arrived when we saw a boat pulling away from their disabled sanpan. The boat that was pulling away, was crewed by Thai Pirates who had just taken the last of everything these people had that mattered, except their lives. We dispatched a helicopter to follow these pirates, but it did'nt do much good.
After we picked up the refugees, I was near the bridge and I could hear Captain Less on a portable radio, talking to the crew who was handling the Sanpan. They did'nt want to leave it float unattended in sea lanes and they were trying to figure out what to do. So I walked up to the Captain and made a couple of suggestions,. Captain Less actually listened to my suggestions and passed them on over the radio. They ended up flooding the sanpan with a firehose to sink it. But thats how Tony Less was, if you had something pertinent to say, he would listen.
The next time I heard of Captain Less, was sometime around the Gulf War. At this point in time, he was an Admiral. He was the Officer that gave the order to the USS Vincense to shoot down a suspect aircraft that was thought to be an enemy plane. It was later found to be a civilian jet liner full of passengers. Muslim Passengers.
The Wichita and crew, were in the IO for approximately one hundred and nine days straight in 1980, without any sort of liberty. We refueled countless ships, sailed independently and in a Battle Group several times. During this time, another significant player entered the scene. This was Iraq, and it was leaked to the crew that a war had broken out between Iraq and Iran.
THE QUIET TIME OF SECRETS
We would frequently be sent to Coronado Island (CI) in San Diego California.
CI was a huge base that housed many frontline naval units, including the U.S, Navy Seals. It was around this time, when I began see indications of more Navy Seal activites from observing them in our operating areas when we were out to sea. On one ocassion, we were told that we would be boarded by Seals for a training exercise. And they did board from a rubber inflatable boat.
This was just one small indicator of a fairly new method of warfare. "Special Forces" had started during world war two, but gained a real foothold in modern warfare during the Vietnam war. The U.S. Government while downsizing the regular military had taken to utilizing small special forces units, such as, the Navy Seals to conduct covert warfare. In conjunction with this, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was also involved in covert warfare in various parts of the world including Afghanistan.
There were some short term large scale military operations that the public knew of, including Grenada and Panama. But the public was not necessarily privilaged to this information until the operations were underway. But as time passed, the covert operations and the secret war for oil would come home to roost for the United States. To add insult to injury, the U.S. became a staunch supporter of Israel, the small state of Israel was (and is) hated by their Arab neighbors. The leaders of the various hostile middleast nations would be brought to the peace table multiple times, sign multiple peace accords, only to watch them fail, only to watch the military solution come into play, especially between the Israelis and Palestinians..
MY QUIET TIME
After my enlistment was up, I was out for about a year and pretty bored, so I went into the Naval Reserve. I was with a Unit called NCSO 413. This units job was to sieze control of civillian shipping assests in time of war. We pushed a lot of paper, and after being in the fleet, I needed more action, so I went into the Illinois National Guard and was a Sergeant with the 133rd Signal Battalion. During this time, I was getting busy in my personal civilian life. I attended the Chicago Police Academy with he suburban class, and went into law enforcement for a small suburban police agency in Fox River Grove Illinois. It was during this time that we saw pictures of the Soviet Army bogged down in Afghanistan, fighting against the majaudin, in which we would later find was directly supported by the CIA.
Then under the Reagan administration, the Berlin wall came down. Ronald Reagan spoke the magical words "Mr. Gorbacheve tear down that wall". Reagan obviously knew more than he said. Because the days of the former Soviet Union were numbered, surely a victim of the covert warfare apparatus.
All things considered, the 1980's and 90's, were very prosperous for the United States. The U.S. had come out of a resession under the Reagan administration and the nation seemed on track. I was well out of the military, working in civilian law enforcement in the nineties, when the Gulf War erupted. One of the earlier players, Iraq, under the regime of Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait.
Another thing that I had learned while I was in the IO, was that most of the oil tankers that sail the oceans of the planet are registered in Kuwait. This is because Kuwait is a huge oil producing nation. So when the Gulf War kicked off. I knew why it did. By the time of the Gulf War, I had been married, had two children, got divorced and was close to being remarried.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Since the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 had been called the "Gulf War" or "Persian Gulf War" by many news sources, the 1991 war has sometimes been called the Second Persian Gulf War, but more commonly, the 1991 war is styled simply the Gulf War or the "First Gulf War", in distinction from the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Operation Desert Storm was the U.S. name of the air and land operations and is often used to refer to the conflict.
Shortly after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, US President George H.W. Bush started to deploy US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard units to Saudi Arabia (Operation Desert Shield), while at the same time urging other countries to send their own forces to the scene. UN coalition-building efforts were so successful that by the time the fighting (Operation Desert Storm) began on January 16, 1991, twelve countries had sent naval forces, joining the regional states of Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states, as well as the huge array of the US Navy, which deployed six aircraft-carrier battle groups; eight countries had sent ground forces, joining the regional troops of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the seventeen heavy and six light brigades of the US Army and nine Marine regiments, with their large support and service forces; and four countries had sent combat aircraft, joining the local air forces of Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the US Air Force, US Navy, and U.S. Marine aviation, for a grand total of 2,430 fixed-wing aircraft. US personnel and materiél dwarfed the contributions of the others.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
When the second plane crashed into the towers in New York, we knew that this was no accident. I had thought that the attack was probably related to the some middle eastern terrorist organization. Due to the fact that the World Trade Center had been attacked before by radicals from that area.
As the hours passed we found out that the attacks were more widespread, and that the Pentagon had also been attacked, and that another plane had been downed somewhere in Pennsylvania.
In retrospect, I don't think anyone knew what to think of what happened. There was a lot of confusion. Over the next few days, the skies over the U.S. would fall silent, as every aircraft in the country would be grounded until the incident could be investigated and the reasons determined behind what had gone wrong.
Though it remained vague for sometime, there was a pattern here, an MO (Modus Operendi), a history. A history that went back many years, but in my recent memory, back to the days of the Munich Olympics, when Israeli athletes were killed by Arab terrorist at the Olympic Games. Not to mention the steady flow of war, aircraft hijackings, mass murders, bombings and all in the name of intafada and Jihad.
But on 9-11, though I had watched the violent images on television of death dished out by these unchecked winged tigers, I felt nothing. No anger, no hatred, no fear, NO nothing. My soul went silent, as did many Americans. It is unfortunate for our enemies, but I don't know of one American who lost a lot of sleep over what happened, we mourned in the obligitory sense, we felt a little patriotism, waved some flags. But when it was over, we simply went back to work, back to our families, back to our lawns, back to our gardens, back to our sports, back to the things that matter to each indiviual American. I hate to say that the famed attack of 9-11 had no real impact on us, because in some ways it did, for collectively, it slowed us down a little at the airpoirt, it created the Patriot Act and made some minor threats against our liberty. But as far as having any real impact, the attack failed to shake us to the bone, because we as Americans have so much more to worry about, that the attack in New York was like a bad car accident on the highway. We saw it, we cared the best that we could, and then we drove on. So therefore, caring about Jihad, Intafada, Islam, or anything complicated that pertains to holy war. Most Americans just did not (and still do not) care. We cared in a sense of the basic type of caring, but anything deep, thoughtful or profound never happened.
I myself had internalized what happened. My wife had noted that I never really said much about it, and this is a little unusual for me, as I would probably be the first one to sound off about such things. But what was there to say? who was to blame? who knew? Who knows now?
As time passed, Americans found out some basic things about the attack. For one thing, the terroists were all young Arab men. All were possibly linked to a terroist group called "Al Queda". Up until this point in time, Americans had never heard of Al Queda, we did'nt know who they were, where they came from or what they had against us. And it would be years until we got any type of decent information about this group of killers.
We also learned that their leader was a guy by the name of Osama Bin Laudin, another Arab, a very close friend of the Saudi oil families. Apparently Bin Laudin was self-made cast out of the Saudi family, who was a bi-product of the earlier CIA supported Afghan war against the Soviet Army. And he hated the U.S. because of the Gulf war and American intervention. This is of course unusual as the Gulf war was surely sanctioned by the Saudi family in defense of Saudi oil..
Also in the equation is the State of Israel. The small state has been a thorn in the side of the Arabs since the late 1940's and had been at war with its neighbors since that time. And anytime that any leader tried to make peace with Israel, generally found themselves dead, example being the bold assassination of Anwar Sadat of Egypt, when he along with many other politicians and military leaders were attacked and killed at a large military parade. All of which was prominently shown on TV.
What time has told us about the attack on the World Trade Center was, that it was perpetrated by Arabs, supported by Arabs, admired by Arabs, funded by Arabs. It was Arab, it was Islam interpreted by Arabs, carried out by Arabs. It was Arab.
But even knowing this, Americans are hard pressed to clearly recognize any particular ethnic group as an enemy, as this would be considered racism, and racism in America is severly punished at all levels. If you were in your workplace in America, and identified the attackers of 9-11,as Arabs, indians, blacks, orientals or any other ethnic group for that matter, you would quickly find your job in jepordy. If you were an American politician, you would find yourself redering a public apology.
Another aspect of pre /post 9-11 America, is the fact that the U.S. is more "corporate" than anything else. Most states in the U.S. are "at will states". Which means that any employee can be terminated at any time for any reason. So there is no political voice in the workplace, there is no sexual voice in the workplace and no racist voice in the workplace. This means, that the place where a majority of our life is spent, is spent on work and work only. Then we go home, see our families (after two thirds of our day gone at work and related commute), eat and go to bed. So the terrorist message is lost, on tired deaf ears, it falls.
The average American is not a warrior, the U.S. is not Sparta, though we would like to think this so, it could not be farther from the truth. The U.S. is a country of workers and immigrants who for many years now, had left their warfare to the quiet warrior, the special forces and the streamlined military, the professional soldier and the part time warrior. Those who were versed in fast moving warfare, and after the initial stages of the attack did not change this, and the goverment was looking for the "terrorist".
AFGHANISTAN The War on Terrorism
For a Soldier, it does not matter
For the volunteer soldier, war is an operation, a mission. A phase which is expected and prepared for. This is part of the "job description" of the professional soldier. The attack on the twin towers invited the professional soldier to react as trained.
So the Secret Warriors, alongside the regular soldiers and the part time soldiers went looking for the terrorist in Afghanistan. They were all there, the CIA, the regular troops, the airmen, the marines and more, they were there, in the montains, in the snow at Tora Bora, fighting the terrorist. For the Soldier, it does not matter, Americans are workers, "workers at will". And for these warriors. War is their work. It's how they earn their pay.
But some of these workers carried with them, small pieces of the World Trade Center in their pockets, when they achieved victory, which they did. They buried these pieces of the WTC in the Afghan soil.