27 September 2011

Everybody is CSI nowadays...

So far this deployment I've picked up pieces of a VBIED and photographed remnants of a projectile tail fin.  If I can get it back home I'm taking the dang half of a leaf spring from the VBIED and finding a bladesmith to make an officer's saber out of it.  More recently I thought the finned remnant was aft piece on an 82mm mortar round, but it didn't look right.  So I consulted an expert who identified it as the tail end of a Chinese 82mm recoilless smoothbore gun round.

For those who don't know, not all recoilless guns are "rifled."  Recoilless rifles of the American persuasion use a rifled barrel (duh, right?) but instead of forcing the projectile into the lands and grooves, there are engagement lugs built right into the projectile.  So when you load the recoilless rifle from the breech, you have to turn the round until the lugs engage the rifling and the round can be seated in the chamber.  It is a simple and effective system.  This ends up lobbing a very heavy projectile about as fast as your average Red Rider BB gun.

The smoothbore gun on the other hand, needs a stabilizing fin portion to keep the projectile going in the direction you want.  Smoothbore guns are cheaper to manufacture, although I'm not sure about cost savings on the part of the ammunition.  This also ends up lobbing a very heavy projectile about as fast as a Red Rider BB gun.  Although if you shoot your eye out it will likely be from the explosion of the warhead propelling shrapnel back your way.

Anyways, there is much to be learned from open source intel on Chinese Type 65 and 78 recoilless gun systems.  The bulk of good CSI work isn't getting DNA proof, it is simple gathering of evidence.  If you gather enough to paint a picture, quite likely you will be able to fill in the blank spots with hunches.

24 September 2011

Gluten Free Bleg

To anyone familiar with the Fort Knox, Louisville, Radcliffe, Elizabethtown area, are there ANY restaurants that offer Gluten Free options?

My wife has a wheat allergy and just moved to the area.  Also any grocery stores that offer a GF section would be awesome.  The Commissary has a limited selection so she'll be OK, but variety is always a good option.

23 September 2011

Thoughts on a speech by Major General Sacolick

If you don't know who Major General Sacolick is that is fine, neither did I until I heard him speak.  If you Google his background it is evident that he has "been there, done that" quite a bit. 

As a Delta Force Commander he said this, "My boys are so good that if you tell us where the bad guys are we'll knock on their door and take them out in 24 hours."  As a Major General he said this, "I now realize that the hard part isn't killing the bad guys, it is getting the intel to feed to the good guys.  Taking out bad guys is relatively easy in comparison."  These are not direct quotes, my memory is paraphrasing.

So prior to The War on a Noun our Special Forces really specialized in Foreign Internal Defense, training guerrillas, etc.  After ten years of fighting pretty much all our "Elite" operators are busy doing direct action missions (which is code word for killing bad guys).  In Afghanistan GEN McChrystal was very satisfied with a 50% accuracy on actionable intel.  Think about that for a second, for every time SEALs went in and double tapped the worlds most famous terrorist they went into a dry hole and possibly killed women and children.  And more than once those same "elite" operators would then call the "Land Owning Unit" and drop the entire mess into their hands for damage control.

As a consequence the Regular Army (and to a lesser extent the Marine Corps) got very good at damage control, foreign internal defense, civil support, Military Operations Other Than War, etc.  Ten years of fighting has turned everything around to the point where the Commandant of the Special Warfare School stood in front of a few hundred Captains and explained his plan to keep the Regular Army continuing the "partnership" missions (training indigenous forces, FID, MOOTW, civil support) beyond the end of the War on a Noun.

Pretty smart guy, Major General Sacolick.  This is not to say that SF will go away.  We could not have executed the Son Tay Raid without SF, however regular Air Assault Infantry Company could have executed the raid on Bin Laden's house in Abbotabad and the bad guys wouldn't have known the difference, dead is dead after all.  But there aren't enough Rangers, Force Recon, Special Forces, or SEALs in the inventory to actually do everything that falls outside the realm of traditional land warfare.

Doctrine has already changed to add "full spectrum operations" to unit mission statements.  However, I have not seen "Conduct Civil Support Operations" on an Infantry Company Mission Essential Task Listy (METL) yet.  There are very good reasons for that, training to perform wartime missions really does eat up your training schedule fast.  However, training Joe when not to shoot is every bit as important, so the number of Situational Training Exercises has increased in doctrine to reflect the reality of present and future conflicts.

I don't want to say that your average Infantryman is every bit as effective as your average Green Beret, that is simply not the case.  However, your average Staff Sergeant or Sergeant First Class (the two most common ranks in SF) will probably not have much difference.  Of course an Infantry Sergeant First Class is likely to be a Platoon Sergeant or Operations NCOIC and an SF Sergeant First Class is likely to just be the senior specialist on the team. 

So, until we change our force structure to reflect operational needs, SF will lack the grunt power of the Regular Army, and the Regular Army will lack the senior experience concentrated onto an SF team.  What do I think is the answer?  Well, the Army won't like it.  Make Company Commanders a Major billet, the Company Sergeant position a Sergeant Major slot, Platoon Commanders a Captain billet, Platoon Sergeant a Master Sergeant Billet, Squad Leader a Sergeant First Class Billet, team leader a Staff Sergeant position.

Each Platoon has a squad of Infantry, Medics, and Engineers.  A Commo team and Intelligence cell round out the fourth Squad.

Now you have a unit that has enough seniority at each level to act independently with maturity.  You have enough skills organic to the unit that they can truly perform full spectrum operations.

How many of these Companies do I think the Army needs to field?  At least a full Regiment (although two would be better).  That is 12 Companies.  With a "red/amber/green" cycle that means four companies could be deployed at any given time.  If each company has 3 Platoons of 40 men that is 480 more personnel on the ground anywhere you need them. 

These need to be SOCOM units, but they need to draw the personnel from FORSCOM, and those personnel need to rotate back to other FORSCOM units.  Quite the same way that Infantry Officers roll in and out of the 75th Rangers over the course of their careers.

But this is all pie in the sky thinking.

22 September 2011

Home Made Explosive

The biggest car bomb in my memory was Tim McVeigh's attack on the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  5000 pounds is a lot of "boom" to have go off near you.  Not exactly the same as 10 500 pound bombs (different explosive compound) but definitely big enough.

In Iraq and Afghanistan the bad guys have turned to the IED as the weapon of choice.  And every time we get a better vehicle the bad guys change their bomb making skills.  Deep buried IEDs just push a vehicle into the sky, maybe send it rolling a time or two.  EFPs punch through armor the same way anti armor missiles do.  None of this is new technology.

I won't teach anyone how to make a home made explosive, but your local library can help you on that all you want.  I will however talk about the effects on the country.

In Iraq the people had vehicles, and because they don't win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi's by blowing them up the bad guys in Iraq were actually quite careful to target the "foreign invaders."  You know, the ones trying to rebuild their infrastructure and help restore civil services.

In Afghanistan things are different.  Here vehicles are much less prevalent, so the targeting is less precise.  Also since much of the Afghan government employees drive around in pickup trucks civilian traffic is specifically targeted. 

Imagine how much damage to our economy, our way of life, if IEDs did nothing but crater major freeways in the US?  Sure the roads would be repaired, in some cases over night.  But here the locals know that they drive at their own risk.  As a weapon of terror the IED succeeds, like a hidden sniper that can strike at random.

You can Google the news of IED attacks over the course of the war.  You won't find them making headline news.  Of course since the invention of gunpowder we have gone from the petard, to foo gas and claymore mines.  The IED is nothing new.  What is new is how IEDs are literally tearing this country apart.  When a local cop balks at going on patrol because he might get blown up it is not a good thing to be his partner in trying to establish civil services.

21 September 2011

Shooting, riding, relaxing.

There is a sense of calm and relaxation that I get from spending time behind the trigger, and time on the bike.  I'm sure there are other activities that require relaxation to perform at your highest level, but for me it is shooting and riding.

I've had a lot of time to think about what life will be like when I get back to my family.  How to balance the things that I like to do alone with the obligations of being a husband and a father.  I think that the art of relaxing will be important to performing at optimum level as a husband and father.

19 September 2011

Libya

So taking the skies away from Qadafi forces allowed the insurgents to win.  Taking the skies away from the Soviets allowed the Muj to outlast the Red Army.  Taking the skies away from the Vietcong didn't give us victory.

So what can we learn from these three historical examples?

First that air power alone does not bring victory.  The insurgents in Libya won the fight on the ground because they could.  In Vietnam and Afghanistan air dominance did not translate into victory because victory is always won by "boots on the ground" to quote "This kind of war."

So how did the VC negate US air power?  Well they simply kept throwing bodies into the fight, set up triangular machine gun ambushes, protected North Vietnam with a massive array of SAM defenses.

And how did the Muj negate Soviet air power?  They simply kept throwing bodies into the fight, set up triangular machine gun ambushes, used man portable shoulder launched SAM systems (SA-18s, British Stovepipes, US Stingers) and based their HQ in Pakistan out of the reach of the Soviets.

The insurgents in Libya started off with none of those benefits, but by working with NATO to get a de facto Air Force of their own the insurgents were able to win.  Sure they ended up incorporating NATO forward air controllers to guide the planes, but the point is that having jet fighters destroy Qadafi's tanks and armored columns sure beats fighting them yourself.  Especially when all you have for heavy weapons is a DSHK tack welded onto a Toyota.

High performance aircraft are really a luxury of the developed world.  It takes a team of specialists to keep them flying, keep the pilots trained, keep the weapon systems operational, and even to load the bombs and cannons.  Much easier to kill a plane on the ground than a plane in the air.

Anyways, now that NATO has decided to topple the crazy dude in the desert the precedent of "no one is safe" has been firmly set.  Dictators everywhere will likely be trying to figure out how to minimize the advantage of Allied air superiority and precision munitions.  Once again we are back to the tactics of WWII, placing military assets in neighborhoods to discourage bombers...

18 September 2011

The feeling of powerlessness.

There is nothing more violating than feeling powerless.  Ask a rape victim, ask a former homeowner who went through foreclosure.  Whatever the situation, sometimes we are simply powerless.

And that is why the people of the gun fight so hard to keep from being powerless.  Because you don't need to be raped to know that being powerless, at the mercy of someone who lacks mercy, is a very bad thing.

There is the other side, those that believes simply that taking power from everyone will make the world better.  Unfortunately the weight of history is rife with examples of ordinary men and women going to extraordinary measures to gain power over their fellow men and women.

I appreciate the kind words many have written to me here, I think that I will always feel guilty for being powerless to protect other people.  I understand that the fickle hand of fate will deal with us as it chooses, but every time that I think I didn't give my all makes me flinch when I look in the mirror.  My guilt won't crush me, but some days it weighs me down more than others. As a rational human being I know that guilt is not rational.  But like all non-sociopaths I feel emotions that are not rational.

Now we don't get to judge our own impact on history.  Who knows, maybe I'll end up inspiring the next George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.  So while I have guilt about my past, I do have hope for the future.  I also think things are likely to get worse before they get better which explains my continual investment in ammunition and shelf stable food.

Being powerless doesn't take away your hope.  And hope is a powerful thing, it is what kept Primo Levi alive through his experience in a concentration camp.

I know that the vast majority of service members are like myself, simply doing a job and the vast majority of us never fire a shot in anger.  It doesn't make me feel any better knowing that my circumstance is normal, I feel like my friends are dying and I'm powerless to help them.

I know in my head that working with the ANSF to secure their own borders and country is the "main effort" of this war.  In my heart I wish I could do more.  In the end there is nothing to do but trust that "The Big Green Machine" will do the best it can with what I think is at best a stalemate.

17 September 2011

Guilt

In 2003 I was activated from as an Army Reservist for the initial invasion of Iraq.  My unit did not go anywhere, we ended up staying stateside and running SRP sites, resetting equipment, etc.

For years I felt incredibly guilty about not being able to prove myself by serving in a war zone.  I finished college, signed another contract, went to OCS, Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course, Ranger School, Airborne School, the Army Marksmanship Squad Designated Marksmen and CQB train the trainer courses, the Anti Armor Leaders Course, and even Sniper Employment Officer.  And finally, six years after my mobilization got to go to Iraq as a Platoon Leader.

And we had two rounds fired at us the whole time.  Either I was doing something very right, or the enemy was simply not targeting us.  Considering we were rolling in less than 16 man "platoons" I really hope that we were doing something right.

But that experience ended way too quickly, and I was sent back stateside to handle the most difficult job of my career to date, handling the Rear Detachment.  I gained twenty pounds and caught pneumonia.  Four and a half months of "deployed" time which was really three months of "combat leadership" was way less than I was willing to do.  I didn't sign up to be a baby sitter, but that was the job I was given.

So after nine months of misery I headed off to the Captain's Career Course and volunteered to join a brigade already in eastern Afghanistan, right on the Af/Pak border.  So I graduate, dropping thirteen pounds in five months and managing to tear the crap out of my left shoulder.  I make it to my new unit, abuse my rank ruthlessly to speed through the inprocessing paperwork and SRP shuffle and less than a month from signing in am on a plane across the pond to join my unit.

And I get sent to the Special Troops Battalion to do staff time.  No leadership position, not surrounded by Infantrymen, just replacing another unlucky Infantry Captain who did two years in the job I'm now filling before he got a shot at Company Command. 

So kids, the sad truth is this, if you choose a life of service you don't get much of a choice as to how that service will play out.  The hardest part about my particular military career is that, aside from a few AK rounds and a 1000 pound VBIED going off 100 meters away, ten year of wartime service has really been "go here, do this, do that, go there." 

Some days I feel guilty that I'm still alive when others aren't.  I don't ever want to see another toddler with a concerned look on his face while his 20 year old mother balls her eyes out.  I don't want to have to give condolences to grieving family members.  I'll do it if it is my duty, but that isn't what I had in mind when I signed on the dotted line.  I don't want to say goodbye to another hero as his family debates when to take him off life support.

Still to this day I feel guilty that I haven't done enough.  I've volunteered for everything that's come down the pipe, I've never turned down an assignment.  I've pushed and pushed to get into the fight.  And it has gotten me nowhere.  A companies worth of Soldiers have died not 100 miles from me in the last eight weeks and I couldn't do a blessed thing to prevent it.

“The worst pain a man can suffer: to have insight into much and power over nothing”. Herodotus.
 
I'll continue to do my duty.  I signed my name and entered into the contract of my own free will.  To give anything less would be an affront to all that I hold dear.  But I'll probably feel guilty for a while yet.  In my head I know I'm not God and cannot hold power over who lives and who dies.  But in my heart, I grieve that I couldn't save them.

16 September 2011

Tam posted this:

I'm so glad that someone else has thought about this

Phil at Random Nuclear Strikes asks one of life's important questions. If you were about to be overrun by a necrotic tide of shambling zombies...
As you load your last mag into your chosen weapon, what song comes up your MP3 player/IPOD?
It's good to know that others have put serious consideration into this.

For me, it depends... Does the universe go into Zach Snyder-esque synchronized slow-mo as I dual-wield my 1911s into the hordes of the brain-eating undead, à la the apotheosis of Tallahassee in Zombieland? ‘Cause if it does, then it’s “For Those About To Rock”.

Otherwise, it’s “Bodies” by Drowning Pool.
And my answer? There are WAY too many good songs to go down fighting to.  I have both "For Those About to Rock" and "Bodies" on my MP3 player.

I think I would have to choose Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath" simply for the lyrics.

"In the shuffling madness,
of the Locomotive Breath,
Runs the All Time Loser,
Headlong to his death"

Of course I'll be fighting long after I run out of ammo.  A katana is an antiquated weapon in these times, but when it comes to a last ditch stand I'll pull mine out and get to mutilating the undead until my arms can no longer swing the dang thing.

Alternately I think Lady Gaga's "Show me your teeth" would be a good choice.

15 September 2011

Dead Space

Today I helped an Army Engineer with a project involving an expansion to a Forward Operating Base.  I mentioned that the "star fort" concept came from the angles of fire of cannon and he looked at me like I was speaking Greek.

The star fort took away the rounded walls of the Medieval period and replaced them with sharp corners and acute angles.  This not only reinforced the walls by causing cannonballs to "glance" off, but also cut down on the amount of dead space between cannon emplacements.

The exact same concept happens today with guard tower and weapons emplacements.  Look at your lines of fire, then make your walls match them so you don't get dead space (or worse, a friendly fire incident).

11 September 2011

9/11

For the past ten years I've served.  I've served in war and in peace.  Stateside and in two sandboxes.

I'm closer to retirement than not, I've lost comrades in arms along the way.  Somewhere along the line I married a woman who has stuck with this whole lifestyle, even have two sons waiting back home.  My life has significantly changed, but I'm not sure I have.

I don't serve because of 9/11.  I was in a chow hall at Fort Hood eating breakfast when the world turned upside down.  Ten years is a long time to be at war, a decade.  I don't see it ending any time soon.  AFRICOM has stood up, the Phillipines aren't cooling down, Pakistan and India are not getting any better.

We have a generation of professional soldiers who have served, and will continue to serve.  We have a generation of military families who have never known peacetime service.  The Army isn't broken, far from it.  The Army is tired.  Tired but still ready to serve.

What bothers me more is that while we do have real enemies on the ground the continual erosion of civil rights and liberties due to the encroaching police state makes my service a mockery.  But at this point it is just my chosen profession.  I get paid twice a month to do a job that I'm pretty good at.  And as long as you are good at your job there is nothing dishonorable about honest work.  I can't guarantee that the freedoms other soldiers fought and died to protect will be there for you, only that there are still those willing to fight and die for them.

06 September 2011

Unrestricted Warfare

I've been digesting a work by the Chinese entitled "Unrestricted Warfare" recommended by Brandon (thank you btw).

And while the point of the essay/white paper is that warfare is advancing into unpredictable branches through technological advances and a wise General/Nation/Leader accepts that anything can be used to advance the military/economic/national goals one little point hasn't been brought up.

Casualties.  More and more people are talking about "Total War" meaning information, cyber attacks and defense, economic subterfuge and sabotage, all things that traditionally fall outside the realm of a teenager with a bayonet on the end of a rifle lacking adult supervision.

As we saw in Libya, a rag tag force of insurgents BACKED BY THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY (I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you want to win an insurgency you need international backers, it's a historical rule).  Of course when fourth generation fighter bombers are helping out a rag tag insurgency it really does make a point.

So the ultimate goal of all this smart technology, intelligence driven warfare, is to REDUCE casualties, not inflict them.  Humans want to fight, war is the natural state of humanity, but we are surprisingly squeamish about it.  We want to win and still be "the good guy" instead of winning and being Lenin or Mao.

So what will we do when the advance of war towards "total war" with few casualties turns into "total war" aimed at causing casualties?  We are not that far removed from firebombing Dresden or Tokyo.  What happens when the old concept of crushing your enemy UTTERLY (like we did to the Germans at the Treaty of Versailles) is combined with the knowledge to destroy vital infrastructure, deny civil services, and cause mass casualties and panic?

What will war be then?  Will people wander around muttering "I can't believe this is happening, this can't be happening" like some liturgy to turn back the hands of reality?  What do we do when someone realizes that they can't win without truly unleashing the full power and might of leveraged technology to utterly kill and destroy?

Mutually assured destruction only worked because the situation became unwinnable.  "The only winning move is not to play" so to speak.  What if the power of nuclear weapons combined with a sophisticated virus to deny the enemy ability to respond?  All of a sudden a nuclear war is winnable when you deny the enemy the infrastructure needed to assure mutual destruction.

So "unrestricted warfare" is a nice logical step to what war might be, but really somewhere the choice will be to commit mass genocide or lose a war.  And I know that there are enough of us willing to make the choice to not lose to make the future of warfare a frightening thought.

As nuclear technology continues to spread to tinpot dictators and theocracies those who value their lives will fight back in a highly restricted means such as precision strikes, stuxnet virus, or economic sanctions.  Our "unrestricted warfare" options ensure our enemies survival.

And when you ensure your enemy survives, you perpetuate the eternal state of warfare that defines humanity.  We want to win, but we don't want to kill.  We lock up those who want to kill, we call those who even envision a "final solution" as deranged monsters.  And some of them are deranged monsters.  But Stalin, Mao, and Hitler all would have disabled the US communications grid and nuked us to hell if they had the chance.

So who is the real monster?  Those who will kill to impose their will, and those who will selectively kill to impose their will?  Those who condemn North Koreans to die of starvation through sanctions, or those who firebomb Tokyo? 

05 September 2011

Corruption

One thing that has stuck in my craw is the raid on the Gibson Guitar Company.  Now other folks have done a very thorough job covering the hypocrisy of singling out the Gibson company by the DOJ.

Will you kill over a piece of wood?  If the answer is yes then congratulations, you are either a terrorist or a a freedom fighter (depending on if you win or lose).

So we can all say that a piece of wood is not worth dieing over or killing over, but what about when that piece of wood will turn you into a Felon (not kidding, felony over importing Indian Rosewood) and take away your freedom?

Is your freedom worth killing for?  Can you live like a fugitive to maintain your freedom?

It is my experience that anyone who is "just doing their job" and enforcing capricious rules on an apathetic public is no better than the train conductor hauling cattle cars of Jews to the gas chambers.  "I was just doing my job" lost all legal defense at Nuremburg (unless you happen to be a member of the Civil Law Enforcement club, then you can commit murder as long as you do it in uniform) and "just doing my job" has NEVER had any MORAL defense.

So sometimes a piece of wood is more than just a piece of wood.  Sometimes when the portions of the government meant to serve the people are turned into a club to discipline unruly (or unpopular) corporations, groups, and individuals, that the government has lost moral authority to govern.

This nation is headed towards a civil war, and it is not on the side of the "preppers" or the "Tea Party."  This country is headed towards a thugocracy, Chicago style.  No politician has the moral courage to roll back the encroachments on freedom.  None, not even the much vaunted Reagan.

So while I wouldn't have resisted the SWAT team as it poured through the Gibson Guitar Company, fighting when it is futile is the act of men more righteous than me, I take it as the act of civil war that it is.  I cannot see it as anything but a direct challenge to the sovereignty of the individual.  Remember not all wars are won by violence, but they are won through concerted and consistent action.

04 September 2011

33 out of a hundred? is that good or bad?

So NPR released the top 100 SciFi books and the blogosphere is rating themselves against the list.
If I had read any books in the series I counted it as read.  And while this list isn't exactly exhaustive of my reading history I think it is pretty biased towards new releases and recognized classics.  I've read some of Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" series but not his "Alera" series.  For the record I have read Max Brook's "The Zombie Survival Guide" from cover to cover but haven't read "World War Z" yet.  Tight clothes and short hair people.

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King
26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange, Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

Another year older, none the wiser

September rolls around and the anniversary of my Mother successfully carrying another child to full term delivery is celebrated.  Thanks Mom, and I'm sure that bottle of blackberry wine in the last trimester had nothing whatsoever with my slightly skewed outlook on life.

Second time in a "combat zone" that is only seeing sporadic combat.  Working a lot harder this time as a staff Captain than as a Platoon Leader.  But if the Staff is doing their job correctly then being a Leader is relatively easy.

I ordered myself a birthday present, a Scrapyard Knife Co 511.  I have a Swamp Rat Knife Works Mischief 6, but after a month of carrying a solid pound of steel on my kit in Iraq I chose a much less sturdy knife to carry.  Hopefully the lighter 511 gives me a good solid lightweight knife that can take some abuse.

Afghanistan is still being Afghanistan.  Like Kim Du Toit saying "Africa Wins Again" this place has a way of grinding down your soul.  Eventually I guess you just have to accept that backwards and stubborn people are that way because they want to be. 

At this point in my career I'm closer to retirement than to enlistment.  In four more years I'll have spent half my life in the service of Uncle Sam.  Some things have gotten better, others have stayed the same.

Over a hundred years ago a West Point graduate traded in his "out dated" Henry repeating rifles for the "modern" single shot Trapdoor Springfield before Little Bighorn.  Around a hundred years ago a British General opined that "The machine gun will never replace the horse as an instrument of battle." and that saw over 18,000 Tommies dead because of that statement.  After the bloody battles of WWII showed the world the supremacy of the Tank and Armored Tactics the Cavalry Officers of many nations argued that the horse should still be an "alternate mode of transportation."  In Vietnam US Army Officers were convinced they could win it "just like we did in WWII."  When the US Army transitioned to "running shoes" the old timers were convinced it was the end of the world and that we wouldn't be able to run in boots in combat.  Now we have a Sergeant Major who deems that "individual toed running shoes are unmilitary in appearance and will not be worn."  It is the same old backwards thinking crap that mid grade leaders have had to deal with since time began.

Sometimes it makes me want to scream.