Sunday, May 28, 2017

Earn This

Image is from a WWI Canadian propaganda poster by Frank Nicolet Lucien.
I owe a debt to those who went before me. To those who have given their lives so that we might live in freedom. It's not a debt I can ever really repay, how do you repay someone for dying so that others might live?


While the debt can't be paid in full, it can be paid in part.

How?

Live a good life. Never take your freedoms for granted, remember those who paid the last full measure.

I hear their voices every day, echoing down through the years, from Bunker Hill to Fallujah...



There are names I say every Memorial Day, I remember them and will until the day I die...

Captain Carroll F. LeFon, Jr.
United States Navy
Lance Corporal Kurt E. Dechen
United States Marine Corps
Major Taj Sareen
United States Marine Corps
Lieutenant Nathan T. Poloski
United States Navy
Private Robert Bain
Royal Scots Fusiliers

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They were friends, they were relatives, they were friends of friends, but I knew them all. All of them died in service to their country. I miss them...

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal 
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres, 
There is music in the midst of desolation 
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young, 
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. 
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted; 
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; 
They sit no more at familiar tables of home; 
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; 
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound, 
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, 
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known 
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, 
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; 
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, 
To the end, to the end, they remain.

For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

Really. Earn this...






Saturday, May 27, 2017

Warriors And Soldiers

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The other day, whilst casting about for something to post about, I started off by considering the whole "officer" thing. If someone in the military says that they were an officer, you would probably figure that person were one of these -

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You wouldn't be wrong for thinking that. But the military has two more types of officers: warrant officers (which the USAF doesn't have, but the other three services do) and non-commissioned officers. For that latter category think sergeants and petty officers. I was, of course you know, a sergeant. Technically I retired as a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer or SNCO.

Anyhoo, I started poking around and recalled at some point in my service that we had been required to know the Code of Conduct, which applied to all American troops. It was issued by President Eisenhower in 1955 as Executive Order 10631, it has six articles and reads -
Article I:  I am an American, fighting in the armed forces which guard my country and our way of life.  I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

Article II:  I will never surrender of my own free will.  If in command I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.

Article III:  If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all means available.  I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape.  I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

Article IV:  If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners.  I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades.  If I am senior, I will take command.  If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.

Article V:  When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service, number, and date of birth.  I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability.  I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.

Article VI:  I will never forget that I am an American, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free.  I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.
I still adhere to that code. Now the Air Force used to have a bunch of creeds, which I never really paid much attention to, the Code of Conduct above seemed enough for me, but those multiple Air Force creeds were all replaced in 2007 by something called The Airman's Creed. (All members of the Air Force are airmen by definition. Not to be confused with the actual rank of Airman. And the Code of Conduct still applies.)
The Airman's Creed 
I am an American Airman.
I am a Warrior.
I have answered my Nation’s call.
I am an American Airman.
My mission is to Fly, Fight, and Win.
I am faithful to a Proud Heritage,
A Tradition of Honor,
And a Legacy of Valor.
I am an American Airman.
Guardian of Freedom and Justice,
My Nation’s Sword and Shield,
Its Sentry and Avenger.
I defend my Country with my Life.
I am an American Airman.
Wingman, Leader, Warrior.
I will never leave an Airman behind,
I will never falter,
And I will not fail.
Seems to me like something a staff pogue might dream up. In other words, I'm not a fan. Doing a little digging I discovered that...
The Airman's Creed is a creed for members of the US Air Force. It was introduced in 2007 by General T. Michael Moseley, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force. In a letter introducing the creed, Moseley wrote that one of his "top priorities" was to "reinvigorate the warrior ethos in every Airman of our Total Force."Thus, the intent of the creed was to enhance the building of a warrior ethos among its Airmen and to provide Airmen a tangible statement of beliefs.

The Airman's Creed helps establish a coherent bond between the members of the USAF. The creed is fueled by the Air Force's heritage and, in the words of Moseley, "the warfighting-focused culture, conviction, character, ethic, mindset, spirit and soul we foster in all Airmen". Wikipedia
Considering the direction the Air Force has gone since I retired, I don't think the creed thing is working out all that well.

Warriors? In the Air Force, well sure, they're called fighter pilots, everyone else is a shoe clerk. Remember, Juvat often likes to point out that "fighter pilot" is not just a specialty, it's an attitude more than anything else. While a shoe clerk can fly fighters, no fighter pilots are ever shoe clerks. And geez, Moseley actually flew fighters, I can't tell from his record whether he was a fighter pilot or a shoe clerk. Though I lean a certain way on that, I'll hold my water, I don't know the man. (There seem to be a lot of staff jobs on his Air Force bio, a lot.)

Now in that opening painting* we see the Gallic chieftain, Vercingetorix, surrendering to Gaius Julius Caesar at the conclusion of the Siege of Alesia in 52 B.C. This period of history is one I will often refer to when I look to describe what a warrior is. (As opposed to a soldier, in my lexicon there is a definite difference though the two may, and often do, overlap.)

The Gauls were warriors in the classical sense. They weren't professionals, they fought to either defend their own tribe or clan and/or fought to take things away from other tribes or clans. One didn't campaign when it was time to sow the crops or bring them in, there was a time and a season for such a thing. I view warriors as being less organized, they don't really form armies or have formal hierarchies outside the normal ways their societies were organized. In essence, every man of a certain age was expected to work the fields and such and, when necessary, take up arms and become a warrior.

The Romans were originally that way, only taking up arms when a threat was offered. When the fighting was over, back to tilling the fields and herding they went. Until the Gauls swept down the Italian peninsula in 390 B.C. The Romans were defeated by the Gauls and Rome was sacked.

The leaders of Rome decided they'd better be a little more organized in the future. In my book that was the birth of the soldier. Let's look at a couple of definitions:

warrior - c.1300, from O.N.Fr. werreieor (O.Fr. guerreor) "a warrior, one who wages war," i.e. Being a 'warrior' implies very generally that one fights in wars/battles (as the word itself suggests).

soldier - c.1300, from O.Fr. soudier "one who serves in the army for pay," i.e. Being a 'soldier' implies being a payed member of an organised fighting force.
Overall then, you might consider a soldier to be a type of warrior, but not vice versa. The term 'warrior' is therefore often reserved for fighters in barbarian or unstructured armies, though it would not be incorrect to apply it to a member of the U.S. Army today, in fact. (Source)
Being a soldier (sailor, airman, Marine) implies being a professional, you get paid to do that. You belong to an organized unit with certain standards, raised up with standardized training as well. You didn't grow up fighting (though in some neighborhoods you did) as ancient warriors often did. (Also note, while mercenaries fight for pay, they don't serve their country, while technically they are soldiers by definition, I consider that they fall outside of that term. There is a certain lack of honor in being a mercenary. But that's just my opinion.)

The Roman legionaries were soldiers. Professionals, paid by the state, equipped and trained to a standard. Those standards and that training were what allowed them to defeat their warrior enemies.

We want soldiers in our military, people amenable to training and discipline. Being a warrior seems a bit haphazard in my view. While I like the attitude of the warrior, ya gotta have the discipline of a soldier to win.

There are a number of interesting discussions of warrior vs soldier out there, here and here for example.

Perhaps I quibble, perhaps in these modern times the difference is moot. I don't know, what say you?

Warriors versus Soldiers (Source)




* Which has a number of historical inaccuracies but I still like it.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Wild Weasels

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'Tis a weekend for remembering...



Remembering the Wild Weasels, and all those who went "Up North."




Thursday, May 25, 2017

Labels

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One of the things which gave our species an edge back in the way back was pattern recognition, it's something we humans are very, very good at. While many animals have this ability, we are the reigning world champions. At least for now. Some computer wienies predict that eventually machines will surpass us in this ability. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. I have worked in software far too long to believe anything a computer wienie predicts. Especially if the problem is complex enough.

Imagine, if you will, a time many eons ago, Grok and Grom are out hunting when they see a species they've never encountered before. Let's say, for argument's sake, that what they see is a rather large animal with sharp teeth and claws and with an attitude. No grazer this, no, this is a meat eater, a predator. Looks kinda like the smaller species they have near their village but this one is bigger. This one attacks the two hunters. Grok barely escapes while Grom has become cat food.

Returning to his village the other villagers are somewhat concerned that Grom isn't with him.

"What happened to Grom?" the village headman inquired, looking rather sternly at Grok.

"We were attacked by a really big version of that little animal that eats mice." Grok manages to gasp out.

"What, you were attacked by a cat?" asked the village shaman.

"Way bigger than that and a lot more aggressive. And when did we start calling the little furry mouse hunter a 'cat'?" Grok wanted to know, his curiosity overcoming his shock at his recent near death experience.

"Shaman stuff, you don't need to know." said the shaman.

So yes, we humans like to name things, label them if you will. When we recognize new things, we give them new names. While a tiger is similar in pattern to a cat, one learns that while you probably won't die from a cat attacking you, odds are the outcome of a similar encounter with a tiger will be far different. So referring to both as "cats," while technically accurate, is not all that useful in the wild.

"Watch out for the cat!" doesn't have the same urgency as "Watch out for the tiger!"

Similar patterns, but different enough to require a different label.

One drawback to this pattern recognition ability is that we tend to see what we expect to see. Our brains will often leap to a conclusion of what we're seeing before we've really seen it. Does that make sense? For instance, if I walk into an area where I'm not supposed to be, where there are no distinguishing marks to indicate who should and shouldn't be there, well, if I act like I belong there, the locals, so to speak, will pay no attention to me.

Camouflage works because of that. Cover a tank with branches and place it amongst a bunch of trees, bingo, you won't really notice the tank. Unless it moves, while trees will move with the wind, the base of the tree tends to stay in the same spot. A patch of forest isn't going to move across a field, unless driven by a major wind storm.

Another way to use our pattern recognition skills against us is to confuse the brain. Dazzle camouflage was used for that reason.

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Really, it's the same ship in both pictures. Ah, but that's a painting you say, a photograph would look so different as would viewing it with the naked eye. You think? What does the following photo depict?

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Okay, it's a ship. But which is the bow and which is the stern? (Front and back for you lubbers.) Interesting stuff, Neh? You can read more about dazzle camouflage here. (I'm rather off topic but I wanted to show you dazzle camouflage, a subject I find fascinating.)

So patterns and the labels we attach to them and other things.

Modern society seems to have a big problem with patterns and labels. If young men from certain areas of the world and practicing a certain religion have a disturbing predilection for blowing themselves up in public places in order to kill and maim as many innocents as possible, are we wrong to look for that pattern of individual? Well, many in these idiotic modern times call that "profiling." Well, duh. Yes, of course it's profiling. When there is a certain pattern, or profile, to be aware of, even wary of, it's stupid, nay, criminal to ignore it. It goes against our survival instinct, it flies in the face of evolution.

We also need to be very careful in how we label, or name things. Referring to Islamic terrorism is a big no-no in certain circles. Because then they'll get mad and want to kill us? Calling incidents of terrorism "work place violence" will make it go away? I guess you could say that technically the events which took place on a string of beaches in Normandy on the 6th of June 1944 was workplace violence.

I mean for the Germans defending the beach, that was their workplace. They were paid to be there and, well, defend the beach. Against the Allies who were also paid to be there. While it wasn't their workplace at dawn, it certainly was by evening. Nah, wasn't a war, wasn't a battle, that's too pat, too obvious. Had to be something else, right?

Modern times. Where we can't call things what they really are. Where mental confusion, if not outright mental illness, is treated as normal and must be accommodated at all costs. Where a violent attack on innocent kids attending a music concert causes worry among the pointy head set that it will cause Islamophobia. Well duh, of course it will.

We're not allowed to be wary and on our guard any more, it's offensive and hurts the precious special snowflakes. Can't have that now can we?

Labels, I have one for the modern day so-called social justice warriors, gender benders, snowflakes, and left-leaning socialists of every stripe...

Morons.

Then again, if we let them have their way, then we're the morons.

Bunch of jerks.




Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cool Toys

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I'm a big toy guy, love 'em. My idea of a good time is hanging out in Toys "R" Us, especially in the Lego department. When The Naviguesser was a wee lad, we introduced him to Legos, he loved them, probably still does. All the grandkids love their Legos.

As does The Nuke's significant other, who has a nom de blog, but I haven't revealed it yet as The Nuke does not find it all that amusing. He and I though giggle like school girls about it. When I have sufficient notice that The Nuke is visiting Japan, or the United Kingdom, or some other place a long ways away I might reveal it, it's an excellent callsign.

Anyhoo...

Last time I visited The Nuke I saw that item pictured above in her living room. Of course, I immediately started right in with noting how cool it was and oh-my-gosh I want one. I'm that way with cool toys.

Then I ran across this video, might have been on koobecaF. I don't think I'd spend all that time assembling that cool model and then do this.



But it is kinda cool. I think that's what those German fellas are on about near the end. Of course, being German, they're also probably discussing ways to over-engineer the thing. It's what Germans do. Which is something they did with this beast as well. (And yes, I want one, of course I want one.) In the video, those action figures (they're not dolls damn it) are 12 inches tall. That's a remote controlled Tiger I from the Second World War. I was seriously looking into one of these about ten years ago. At $2000, The Missus Herself figured that money could be used more wisely elsewhere. Yes, she was right. Smart lady that.

But still, isn't it awesome?



For those of you who might have a spare wheelbarrow of cash lying around, you can get that Tiger and other tanks here. I could drop some serious coin over there. (I envision a fleet of RC tanks wandering the neighborhood, with me laughing maniacally in the background.)

Someday, someday.




Did ya know that Porsche also designed tanks?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Minnow Turns 21

Gotta hijack the blog for a minute.  This story has been already told, but it happened 21 years ago today- when my life got scary, exciting, and full of meaning, all at the same time.  Happy Birthday to my son Tristan, AKA "The Minnow." 

New Job, New Stories, Maybe*

(Sept. 15, 2009) Capt. Ross Myers, right, commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, explains the F/A-18 simulator to U. S. Ambassador to Japan the Honorable John Roos inside Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi's simulator building. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Steven Khor)
* Just to be clear, this would be The WSO with a new job. Not Your Humble Scribe. I envision my next job as being a man about town, a man of leisure, in short - retired.

Back in '13 I had the opportunity to fly the F/A-18 simulator out at NAS Lemoore, current home of The WSO and her branch of the tribe. Okay, technically it's where The WSO and her husband Big Time both work. He as a uniformed Naval Aviator in the naval service, she as a newly minted contractor working in, of all places, the F/A-18 simulator.

I wrote about my inability to land on a simulated aircraft carrier while flying a simulated aircraft here. Not only was I unable to trap, my attempts to do so got progressively worse. Which I fessed up to in that post I linked to. I think. If not, I do so now. I suck at carrier landings. I wouldn't even make the greenie board, let alone ever score the coveted "OK 3."

Now before LUSH, as she demands the students call her (as opposed to Ma'am, which pisses her off), got out of the Navy (oh yeah, The WSO and LUSH are the same person, in case I confused you there, that person being my youngest child and second daughter) she had heard tell of this rather lucrative position in the flight simulator building. As she was getting out, she thought about being a stay at home mom for a while, then decided that losing her salary as a lieutenant might be painful, I mean who can live on the salary of a Hinge, er, lieutenant commander anyway? (Well, I could, but I'm used to enlisted pay. Then again, we never lived in California, which, in case you didn't know, is pretty deuced expensive.)

So she interviewed with the head guy, a former Naval Aviator yclept Dude. As that moniker is in italics you may rest assured that that was (and still is) his callsign. How did he get that, you might wonder. Has something to do with this, well, dude -

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I can't wait to meet this guy. A most laid back, well, dude. Anyhoo...

You might wonder exactly what it is The WSO does in the simulator. Well, she flies it.

Uh, wasn't she a backseater, hence the nom de blog of The WSO? She didn't fly the bloody thing just gave directions, twiddled with the knobs on the radar and the bombing computer (yes, twiddled is a technical term). Yes, yes she was a Naval Flight Officer, aka NFO, aka WSO, aka backseater. But no more. She has been civilianized (as opposed to civilized) and now has the enviable task of driving the simulated jet so that brand new WSOs can learn their trade. They taught her to do that without doing the whole controlled flight into terrain thing. (Heck, even I can do that in the sim, well until I run out of go juice as I can't land it.)

Mind you, she's not actually training the new kids to be WSOs, she just drives the bus while they do their WSO things in the back seat (ya know, twiddling). Essentially, she does what any nose gunner, er, pilot does and that is do what the backseater says. So that the backseater can learn their trade and develop unreasonable expectations that someday their GIF (guy/gal in front, aka pilot, aka stick actuator, aka stick monkey) might, in real life actually listen to them. (HA!)

So okay, the GIF and the GIB (guy/gal in back) are a team, they fight the jet together, etc., etc. I get that, I am not biased against pilots, not at all, the aircraft will not, no matter how much the backseater wishes, fly itself. Someone has to point the bird in all the right directions so that the honed and professional GIF/GIB team can deliver ordnance onto the misbegotten hoards of anti-freedom, anti-social bastards who mean to cause the collapse of Western Civilization.

What's that? No, I didn't mean Democrats. I meant foreign bad guys. And yes, some are bad gals, just to be all inclusive here at The Chant, and I'm sure some of those bad people might identify as being non-gender specific or something so here on out let's just call them assholes. While this is a kind of family friendly place, they actually use that term on TV and the radio, so...

If they ain't heard it by now they will soon. (And I'm pretty sure no Amish read the blog, they can't have computers right?)

I see I have digressed. Apologies, where were we?

Ah yes, The WSO in her new job is a simulated naval aviator. Simulated as in she can't actually crash the sim bad enough to break things and hurt people. I discovered in the sim that one can actually tie the low altitude record and walk away to fly again another day. (Provided the sim operator actually resets everything properly.) Oh, and did you know that the engines on the F/A-18 simulator will actually run on seawater, I know, I tried. I guess it might depend on the "realism" settings being employed but my sole time in the cockpit did see me flying at sea level, or slightly below, scaring the crap out of the wildlife. Not to mention myself. Big Time had a chuckle over it, I'm just glad he didn't refer to me as "the U-Boot captain."

So that's The WSO's new job in a nutshell. She's basically a chauffeur for WSOs in training. One thing about the job though is that she has to do what the WSO tells her, that and no more (and no less). So if the GIB gets target fixated or perhaps has a helmet fire (so task overloaded that confusion sets in) she simply maintains course, speed, and pitch setting. So if she's got the bird in a dive, like when simulating dropping ordnance, she stays there. No matter how close the simulated flying machine gets to the simulated ground.

Can't do that in a real jet, well you can, but only once.

So it seems the other day she had a student in the back and she was merrily toodling along (another technical term), pointing the simulated bird wherever her WSO told her and said WSO got a little distracted. As our own LUSH (said tag I will use when she is in the simulated cockpit) watched the altimeter wind down, and watched as the pretty simulated terrain got closer and closer, she was sore tempted to point out to the student that perhaps the ground was getting a might close and was there anything in the way of "stick back, throttles forward" that she could do to perhaps keep them in the simulated sky a while longer? At least until said student finished the day's lesson.

She sat there, wondering what the protocol was, this was her first time chauffeuring an actual student. Should she yell at him? Should she just pull up? Or should she obey her training and let the poor student fly them into the ground, learning (perhaps) a valuable lesson?

She adhered to her training and just about the time she resigned herself to ending the day's mission on a low note, the student in the back came out of whatever reverie he was engaged in and gave her instructions to pull up, rather abruptly I gather. Seems he'd got hung up on some task in the back cockpit and lost situational awareness momentarily. Of such things obituaries are made in real life.

But in the sim, it's lesson learned, move on and oh yeah, don't do that in the real jet, your real pilot will obey your instructions but he/she will (if they're smart) preserve themselves to fly and fight another day.

I trust and hope that LUSH will share stories of the simulator in the future, bearing in mind the needs of the service and the need to preserve operational security and all that. Uncle Sam, and my current employer, often stress the need to keep a secret. I'm pretty good, check that, damned good at keeping a secret.

So I've got that going for me.

And, perhaps, a new source for stories of the naval service.

We shall see.