Tuesday, October 31, 2017

It's Always Sumthin'

Note the drip within the circle. One of many.

As I was preparing to retire for the evening, Sunday last, I could hear the wind and rain increasing outside my window. Checking the weather forecast, I saw that very heavy rains and very high winds were expected during the overnight hours into Monday.

Oh joy.

I went to bed, but what with all the howling and driving rain 'gainst the side of Chez Sarge, sleep was long in coming. I started a countdown around midnight.

Midnight. [Groan] Well, I can get six hours of sleep before I have to get up. I can hack that.

One AM? Seriously? Five hours, I've got through work with less. Might as well read for a while.

Two AM. Guess I better try and sleep. Four hours will be rough, but I've done it before.

Then at 3 AM I am awakened by a frantic feline. Seems that Sasha wants me to get up for some reason.

What's wrong girl? Did Tuna fall in the well again? It's okay baby, it's not time to get up yet. Uh, why do I hear water running? Did I leave the water on in the bathroom sink? Sounds awfully loud for that.

I swear that cat followed me into the bathroom meowing all the way, I think what she was saying was -

No, you idiot! It's not in the bathroom, follow me!

So I did. Damn it.

Pissing through the lintel atop the closet opening (that first photo is what's called foreshadowing) was something like this -

Yes, a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. Not when being awakened out of a sound sleep (finally, and doesn't that figure) and finding that the floor in the computer room in front of the closet is awash with more water pouring in from the overhead.

I half expected to hear this...

Followed by the sounds of depth charges splashing into the water overhead.

Well, not really. I was too busy yelling fire truck and mustering all of the trash cans and towels I could find. I may have uttered a few Germanic phrases as well. The progeny have noted in the past my ability to swear in multiple languages. (I know a couple of bad words in French and Russian as well. I tend to bring out the entire repertoire when stressed.)

Yeah, just like that. Without the strafing aircraft. Without the red lighting. Certainly there were no fireworks aloft.

Just me, and the cats watching, manning the bucket brigade.

As it was the middle of the night, I had no real hope of getting my guy to come out to fix the damage caused by the storm. But I called him anyway, left a message. He actually responded via text that he would call me in the morning. Well, yes, it was morning, going on 0400 as a matter of fact, but I assumed he meant "morning when the sun is up."

Now I wonder, as I write this, just how much this is going to cost. When the rain had let up, I could tell because the waterfall slowed down, I went outside with flashlight in hand (that would be a torch to my British and Commonwealth readers) to see what I could see.

Wasn't much, but a couple of shingles on the front of the house looked somewhat the worse for wear. I can imagine what the top might look like. We had gusts in the 60 mph range, so I don't know. Maybe the insurance will cover some of it.

My guy showed up around 0930, though we had swapped a number of texts beforehand as to the color of the shingles on the roof and the type. Dark gray, architectural (I think) and oh yeah, I have about ten left over from when the job was done 14 years ago. He likes to hit the ground running. While I was his first stop on the road to fixing leaking roofs, I wasn't his last.

Turns out that the winds in parts of Little Rhody were gusting to over 100 mph Sunday night into Monday morning. While I doubt we got that high, the winds were coming in at 60+ at times. Stripped off a section of shingles right down to the bare wood right above that closet door in the computer room.

My leftover shingles were enough to finish the job. Cost me 3 and a half C-Notes. Which hurts but isn't all that bad, so I'm told.

I informed The Missus Herself (who is forward deployed to Virginia for the nonce) and she was less than pleased. She is under the impression that roofs should last forever. While I am in agreement with her on that, I know that that isn't really realistic. Still and all, beats replacing the roof entirely.

For now.

As Buck was wont to say, "It's always sumthin'."

The hero of the hour.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! *

So....I don't know if it's something about October, or it's the Juniper pollen, or whatever.  The last week in September, I got a letter in the mail from the local government.  Seems someone might have done something bad and they would need someone of my outstanding, and discerning, character to decide if he actually did.  

Other than a Court Martial I sat on while at Holloman, I haven't sat on a jury.  I wasn't thrilled, but I would show up and do my part. I glanced at the date 10/17 and made the requisite notation in my portable electronic brain for 8:30 on the 17th.  

Showed up at the district court promptly at 8:30 and had no trouble finding parking.  Didn't seem like much activity, so I flagged down somebody who looked officious and asked where everybody was.  

Puzzled he was.  I showed him the summons.  He showed me the date. 10/10/17.

"Awwwww.........Nuts!"  Or something along those lines.

 He directed me to the District Clerk's office where I professed my stupidity and was let off with a warning not to do this again.  "No, Ma'am".

Well, I did it again, but this time with a higher power. Somehow I got myself convinced that this past Saturday was the 27th.  October 27th is an important date, maybe THE most important date in the history of my universe.  

My Wife's Birthday.

So, we're at lunch last Friday, and she's giving me this funny look.  


"What's today's date?"

"26th, why?"

"Might want to check that."

"Awwwww.........Nuts!"  Or something along those lines.

After I prostrated my self before her august throne, begging forgiveness, she relented.  I had been planning dinner with the Most Beautiful Daughter and her boyfriend for Saturday and had miscounted days when planning.  

Or maybe it's Altzheimer's.  Who knows?.

But...My Sister was working Saturday, and the Daughter-in-Law went to watch the Aggies play in College Station (Rats...Ignominious defeat), so were unable to attend.

Which means we're celebrating again on Sunday, so they can bring their swag to present.  I am relegated to Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. 

So...."Honey, what would you like for Birthday Dinner on Sunday?"  

"I don't know, surprise me."

So...If I'm never heard from again...You'll know what happened.

My version!

*Gomer Pyle

Sunday, October 29, 2017


Someone dear to me has been hurt, not physically mind you, at least not directly. Those of you who have experienced betrayal might know the feeling. No blows fell, but the psychological pain feels every bit as real as being struck with a baseball bat.

I would like to say that I'm incoherent with rage, but I'm not. I'm disappointed yet remain unsurprised at how many broken people there are in the world. Perhaps they know that they aren't quite right in the head, perhaps they are oblivious.

I don't know.

I know that this shall pass, but this irks me. Really gets under my skin. What's more, I don't understand the sort of behavior evidenced by the guilty party. I really can't understand it.

But in all things there is a balance, one which we may not see in this lifetime. But you know, what goes around does indeed come around. Karma, as they say, is a bitch.

I am beside myself, these sort of things always seem to crop up around the holidays, I can't say why, maybe it just seems that way to me. But, as I'm not the one directly impacted, I have no vote, no say in the matter. All I can do is provide support. Which I have been and will continue to do.

Damn it!

Some people's kids.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Bearcat Blues

Screen capture from the video
With a tip o' the hat to RHT447. There's no such thing as too much Blue Angels.

Let's go back to 1946...

Man those Bearcats are beautiful birds.


Last year it was the call from a very nasty sounding older woman indicating that unless I acted soon, the IRS was going to file a lawsuit against me.

Gee, I ain't never been sued by the gubmint, wonder what that's all about?

No, the IRS doesn't run around suing people for back taxes, nor do they want those back taxes paid with Target gift cards. At least not the last time I checked.

Friday night I get a threatening call (hhmm, sounds a lot like the same nasty lady from last year) indicating that I'm in deep trouble with the gubmint and unless I acted quickly...
We'll have the cops come arrest you.
Well yes, of course, of course. We all know that the gubmint employs people with really bad language skills to call folks and threaten them.

Anybody with any sense knows that when the gubmint wants you, they just show up.

I did a little research and there's a lot of this crap going on, seems to run in cycles. The scammers like to target immigrants and the elderly.

Well, at Chez Sarge one of us is indeed an immigrant (The Missus Herself is a naturalized American, and she's way smarter than any scammer) and while we're both older than we will fess up to, we don't consider ourselves "elderly." Not by any stretch of the imagination.


In other news, on Thursday there was some oddball roaming the neighborhood, going door to door. At first I thought he had a rifle slung over his shoulder. Then I noticed it was an umbrella. It did rain quite a bit the other day. (And yes, I'm the guy who when he hears hoof beats, he thinks zebras, not horses. Hey, I'm complicated.)

Now I haven't seen any one (other than a couple of religious groups) going door to door in a while. Didn't know what this guy was up to.

Normally I just ignore the knock on the door, but Thursday I was right there in the kitchen and was feeling a mite feisty. Not looking to be an a-hole mind you, but I wouldn't walk away from the chance to "speak my mind." So I answered the door.

The fellow immediately goes into a spiel about me paying too much for my cell phone and why if he could just have a minute of my time...

As he actually reached for the door, somehow assuming that telepathically I was inviting him in, I stopped him with a rather abrupt, " I am not interested."

As he started to blather on, I hit him with the Sarge glare and said, "Please get off my property. Now."

"Uh, sure sir, right away sir." And off he scurried into the dusk.

Scammers, unwanted solicitations, and folks wanting money from my wallet.

Seems to be all the rage these days.

Friday, October 27, 2017

A Dentist?

Captain Ben L. Salomon
United States Army Dental Corps
Medal of Honor

Heroism knows no race, no religion, no creed, no gender. Heroism is usually demonstrated by ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. The story of Ben Salomon is one such instance.

While casting about for a topic for today's post, I came across the story of Ben Salomon, the first reference I saw indicated that he was a dentist in the Army, yes, that's right, a dentist who had been awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his actions on Saipan during World War II.

Captain Salomon didn't start out in the Army as a dentist. Though the young man from Wisconsin went to the University of Southern California Dental School and returned home to Wisconsin to practice his craft, the world outside of the USA was in chaos. In 1940, Captain Salomon was drafted into the Army as an infantryman.

Some sources have indicated that the Army didn't know he was a dentist (or if they did, they didn't care, they needed infantrymen, not dentists). Regardless, Ben Salomon threw himself into being a infantryman and had been praised by his commander as the "best soldier in the regiment." He made sergeant but eventually the Army woke up and commissioned him into the Dental Corps as a First Lieutenant. The troops don't fight well when their teeth hurt.

From what I read, here and there, Captain Salomon didn't get into the war until the invasion of Saipan in June of 1944. Well, let's turn it over to Wikipedia for a moment...
In June 1944, Salomon saw his first combat — going ashore on Saipan with the 105th Infantry. With little dental work to do during active combat, Salomon volunteered to replace the 2nd Battalion's surgeon, who had been wounded. As the 2nd Battalion advanced, casualties were high. On July 7, Salomon's aid station was set up only 50 yards behind the forward foxhole line. Fighting was heavy and a major Japanese assault soon overran the perimeter, then the aid station. Salomon was able to kill the enemy that entered the hospital tent and ordered the wounded to be evacuated, while he stayed to cover their withdrawal.
The good doctor stayed at his post, covering the withdrawal of the aid station's wounded and staff. He gave his life for his patients, apparently fighting like an enraged tiger as they fell back.
At 5 o’clock in the morning on July 7, 1944, a 30 year-old Jewish dentist from Milwaukee head-butted a Japanese infantryman straight- up in the f**king face and then shanked him with the knife he’d taken off another enemy soldier he’d just killed two seconds earlier.  All around him, the surgical tent of the 105th Infantry Division was in chaos – wounded men were scrambling to their feet, nurses were urgently barking directions to troops, and the sounds of heavy machine gun and rifle fire ripped through jungle from every direction – but Captain Ben L. Salomon had officially morphed from a mild-mannered surgeon to an utterly-unstoppable one-man destroyer of worlds.  Surrounded by the bodies of nearly a dozen enemy troops who had dared to threaten the lives of his patients, Salomon grabbed a fresh rifle off a table, fixed a bayonet on the end, slammed a clip into the breach, and rushed out of the tent.  His final order before racing bayonet-first into the frenetic sounds of gunfire was to tell the wounded to get the fallback position ASAP.  He’d cover their retreat himself, one man against a battalion of Japanese Imperial Infantry, and buy his patients as much time as he could. (Source)
Though it took the United States fifty-eight years to acknowledge the heroism of this dentist from Wisconsin, eventually it did. You can read about that here, a nice synopsis of the long struggle to recognize this hero.

You never really know who will step up and fill the breach when all Hell is breaking loose. Sometimes, it's a dentist from Wisconsin.

Captain Ben L. Salomon was serving at Saipan, in the Marianas Islands on July 7, 1944, as the Surgeon for the 2d Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division. The Regiment's 1st and 2d Battalions were attacked by an overwhelming force estimated between 3,000 and 5,000 Japanese soldiers. It was one of the largest attacks attempted in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Although both units fought furiously, the enemy soon penetrated the Battalions' combined perimeter and inflicted overwhelming casualties. In the first minutes of the attack, approximately 30 wounded soldiers walked, crawled, or were carried into Captain Salomon's aid station, and the small tent soon filled with wounded men. As the perimeter began to be overrun, it became increasingly difficult for Captain Salomon to work on the wounded. He then saw a Japanese soldier bayoneting one of the wounded soldiers lying near the tent. Firing from a squatting position, Captain Salomon quickly killed the enemy soldier. Then, as he turned his attention back to the wounded, two more Japanese soldiers appeared in the front entrance of the tent. As these enemy soldiers were killed, four more crawled under the tent walls. Rushing them, Captain Salomon kicked the knife out of the hand of one, shot another, and bayoneted a third. Captain Salomon butted the fourth enemy soldier in the stomach and a wounded comrade then shot and killed the enemy soldier. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Captain Salomon ordered the wounded to make their way as best they could back to the regimental aid station, while he attempted to hold off the enemy until they were clear. Captain Salomon then grabbed a rifle from one of the wounded and rushed out of the tent. After four men were killed while manning a machine gun, Captain Salomon took control of it. When his body was later found, 98 dead enemy soldiers were piled in front of his position. Captain Salomon's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

As my Jewish friends say, May his memory be a blessing...

You can read more about Captain Salomon here, here, here, and here.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Colors

Screen capture from HBO Mini-series "Rome"
In Roman times each Legion was issued a standard, the aquila, a pole topped with a bronze eagle. Sometimes there was a cloth banner attached to the pole with the Legion's symbol and number (LEG XII for example). But the eagle was the important thing, the pole wasn't important, nor was any banner.

When Napoléon became the Emperor of France in 1804, he had eagle standards made for his troops. The initial issue of these eagles was immortalized in a (rather melodramatic) painting by Jacques-Louis David -

The eagle was often thought of as the "soul" of the regiment. Again it was the bronze eagle atop the pole, not the fancy embroidered flag, nor the pole itself which was considered important.

The French Army of Napoléon was not the only army to carry standards into battle. In nearly all armies of the period the standard provided a rallying point in the heat and smoke of battle. If one stayed with the colors (as they were known) one could not go wrong.

These standards were usually decorated with battle honors for the engagements a regiment had participated in, after the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, Napoléon ordered that each of the regiments which had participated in that victory were now allowed to attach a wreath to their eagle. It wasn't enough to have AUSTERLITZ embroidered on the flag itself, which was really only a swatch of color in the smoke of battle, the eagle stood out, as did that wreath, signifying a regiment which had fought at the Battle of the Three Emperors. (Another name for Austerlitz as the emperors of France, Austria, and Russia were present.)

Whether the French infantry regiment who lost their eagle to Russian cavalry received a wreath is not chronicled.

Capture of the Eagle of the 4ème Régiment d'Infanterie de Ligne by the Russian Chevaliers-Gardes.
(Painted by Bogdan Willewalde - Source)
British battalions carried two standards into battle, the Regimental color, which had the Union Jack in the corner next to the pole and was typically in the color of the regiment's "facings," that being the color of the color and cuffs of the jacket. The King's Color was the Union Flag and was embroidered with the regiment's symbol and number in the middle. A very nice example of that is here.

The French lost a number of Eagles during the Napoleonic wars, they also captured quite a few. They lost two at Waterloo during the charge of the British heavy cavalry, one taken by the Scots Greys (by a sergeant I might add) and the other by the Royal Dragoons (an English regiment). Now those two regiments, along with a third, belonged to a brigade known as the Union Brigade as it consisted of one English, one Scottish, and one Irish regiment, the latter were the Inniskillings. Rather than capturing flags I'm quite sure my Irish cousins were happily sabering Frenchmen. Nothing like a good fight to get an Irishman to pitch in.

The French seized their last enemy color during the Waterloo campaign. The King's Color of the 2nd Battalion of the 69th Foot, the South Lincolnshires. I wonder if the Duke of Wellington mentioned that in his dispatches?

While it may seem silly to die for a flag, or an eagle. It was considered a great disgrace to lose the color. As late as our own Civil War seizing an enemy color was considered a brave and heroic act. With good reason, the men guarding the color would rather die than lose it and would fight like demons to keep it.

The French of the Second Empire under Napoléon III also carried standards but not topped with an eagle. I have seen a number of these at the Musée de l'Armée in Paris. These are treated with great reverence by the curators of the museum, as a Norwegian colleague of mine discovered when he walked into the darkened room still wearing his Minnesota Vikings ball cap (no, seriously, a Vikings cap) and was asked to take it off. He, being something of a wit, asked, "But why? Didn't you lose that war?"

No, the French did not find that amusing. Not at all.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

NATO - Part IV


I was sitting quietly at my desk, perusing the latest data from our monthly report on aircraft computer performance. Not really looking at the data, just making sure that it was formatted correctly. Which it was.

Our Italian Sergente Maggiore Capo, a pleasant chap named Felice (well that was his given name, I do remember his last name, Felice was a hard fellow to forget, but in the interests of anonymity I won't tell), was behind schedule on a task our Major had given him. He needed to get some classified data to finish this task. The data was locked in our office safe, looked like a file cabinet, but in reality it was a safe.

Now Felice was from Sicily, I had been told that the Sicilians were an excitable lot, but in my experience, many Italians were of a passionate nature. Those from the south a bit more than there somewhat phlegmatic cousins to the north. (Many of whom could pass for German until they spoke, lots of blond hair and blue eyes up that way.)

So, ahem, There I Was...*

Sitting at my desk, while Felice came in and went over to our classified safe (much like that in the opening photo but quite a bit more substantial, with a spin dial lock on the front of the bar) and began entering the combination to the safe.

It wouldn't open.

Felice sighed and tried again.

Again, no luck.

Turning to me, he asked if I knew the combination. I assured him that I did and would he like me to open it for him? He thanked me but said he was keen to try it himself, one more time.

I told him the combination and he made an "Ah HA!" sound, indicating that he was off in one number, now he should be fine. He began spinning the dial once again.

Click, yank, rattle, rattle.

No dice. The bar remained locked. As I stood up to assist him, he waved me back to my seat...

"No, no, no, grazie, I can do this. Proverò ancora una volta. One more time..."

So he again spun the lock, this time there was a click and the bar lifted easily from its locked position.

Felice turned and smiled, then proceeded to drop the bar on his foot.

Did I mention that the bar was a rather heavy affair and probably weighed close to twenty pounds.

I didn't?

Well, it was heavy.

When the bar glanced off of Felice's boot, he seemed to take that as a personal insult. In fact, he was now convinced that the safe had intentionally refused to open for him, and then, at his moment of success, the safe intentionally attacked him.

Felice looked at the bar, then looked at the safe.

At which point he lifted the bar and began to beat the safe with it.

Yes, it made a lot of noise.

Eventually he got it out of his system, he got the material he needed. Returned the bar to its place, somewhat chipped and battered in its paint job but still intact, and locked the safe.

Moments later one of the German sergeants came in and looked at the safe. Now bear in mind that these are very rugged affairs, meant to take a lot of abuse and still function. But our safe was no longer pristine. The bar had missing flakes of paint and the top edge was, shall we say, rather dented.

Benny, the German sergeant, looked at me with raised eyebrow and said, "What happened?"

"Felice tried to murder the safe."

Benny laughed, leaned into Felice's half of the office and said, "Hey Felice, the safe isn't dead yet, I think it's still breathing!"

Now, I don't know a lot of Italian, a few words here and there, but I do believe that the language used towards Benny and his jest about the battered safe was not of a polite variety. Even the other Italians were blushing.

Well, Felice was a Chief, he was also Sicilian. Let's just say, he had an excitable nature.

That safe opened for him with no difficulty after that day, every single time. I do believe it was scared of him.

Can't say I blamed it.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bad Idea

Général de division Alexis Joseph Delzons at the Battle of Maloyaroslavets
24 October 1812

Two-hundred and five years ago this month, La Grande Armée of the French Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte was busily trying to extricate itself from the depths of Russia. In the category of "Bad Ideas," invading Russia ranks near the top of the list.
  • Charles XII of Sweden tried in 1707. Peter the Great and the Russian army kicked his ass.
  • Napoléon I of France tried in 1812. The Russian army and the Russian weather kicked his ass.
  • Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany tried in 1941. The Russian army and the Russian weather kicked his ass.
It seems that no matter how often it is attempted from the West, it doesn't work. It seems that Europeans can't quite grasp just how big Russia is. Or how primitive it can be in spots. And how terrible the weather can get in those vast forests in the North and those sprawling steppes in the South.

No one has ever successfully invaded Russia coming in through the front door. However, the Mongols did it twice, via the back door, in 1223 and again in 1236, Of course it wasn't really Russia in those days. More of a group of principalities, not always working in harmony with one another. (Which would lead me to surmise that in order to resist a foreign invasion, working together is a pretty damned good idea. Memo to Europe, your conquerors are already in place. You effed up. Big time. Read this.)

So rather than rant and rave about our current society, and the evils therein, I'm going to be getting all historical this week. It calms my soul and it's one of the few things I'm actually good at, though you readers are the true judges of that. So, off we go, into the Wayback Machine for, "The Invasion of Russia, Part Deux." (Not counting the Mongols mind you.)

La Grande Armée crossed the Nieman River on the 24th of June 1812. They were over 600,000 strong, only half of which (if that many) were soldiers from within the borders of France (to include areas which had been annexed to France, like Belgium and Holland). The others were a mixture of Poles, Italians, Westphalians, Saxons, Badeners, Bavarians, Bergers, Swiss, Austrians, Prussians, Danes, and Spaniards. (From what I recall there was even a Portuguese outfit present.) It was truly a European army.

The preparations had been extensive, the Emperor had ordered that 30 days worth of rations be carried along in the trains. In reality only one corps, that of Marshal Davout, came anywhere close to obeying the Emperor's orders to the letter. The remainder assumed they could "live off the land" the same way they had done in western Europe.

The weather started out hot, within the first few weeks the army had lost 10,ooo horses, a lot of it through the boneheadedness of Marshal Murat. A brilliant leader of cavalry on the battlefield, not the brightest bulb on the tree when it came to strategy and any tactic other than the headlong charge. Sort of a hey-diddle-diddle, straight up the middle kind of guy.

All the while the Russian generals fell back, not through any grand scheme but because the Russians had multiple armies facing Napoléon and in all honesty, the generals in command didn't like or trust each other very much. Also, they couldn't agree on a place to try and stop Napoléon. So they fell back.

So why did Napoléon invade Russia in the first place? Economics old boy (or girl), that and the fact that the French Navy sucked and couldn't defeat the British Royal Navy. Trafalgar was the last time the French (with their, at the time, Spanish allies) attempted to break the English blockade of the Continent. So Napoléon couldn't get at the English directly, so he decided to close the Continent to English trade.

One of the reasons for the invasion of Spain in 1808 was to get at Portugal, who were merrily trading away with their old English allies and giving the French the Portuguese version of the finger. No, the Emperor didn't like that. Nor did the Spanish when the French decided to throw their weight around and tell the Spaniards how to run their country.

While all that was going on, the Russians decided that they too would go ahead and trade with England. After all, Moscow and St. Petersburg are a long way from Paris, even further away than Lisbon. So the Czar and his advisers figured that Napoléon would be far too busy trying to subdue the Portuguese and the Spanish to bother with the Russians.

Well, the Emperor was a bit of a megalomaniac, the old saying that power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely is true. And Napoléon was the undisputed ruler of France, his power was more extensive than many, if no most, of his Bourbon predecessors.

So into Russia he plunged.

The French managed to catch a Russian army at Smolensk. Which was a French tactical victory (at the cost of 10,000 men) and the Russians had to retreat. Which they probably would have done anyway without a battle.

Deeper into Russia went La Grande Armée, bleeding men and horses along the way. Detachments to guard supply depots and the like were necessary as the French had discovered that there was no "living off the land" in Russia. The serfs barely managed to support themselves, let alone multiple large armies running about the landscape.

On the banks of the Moscow River, at the little village of Borodino, some 80 miles from Moscow, the Russians finally stopped retreating. Here was the big battle that the Emperor preferred. Destroy the Russian army and the rest would fall into his hands like an overripe plum. After all, it had been that way in Austria (twice) and in Prussia. Here was the chance to impose his economic policies on these untrustworthy Muscovites.

The battle was massive, 250,000 men engaged, 70,000 casualties inflicted. What's more, the Russians really outfought the French, held their line and damaged the Emperor's army grievously. Of course, the Russians had also been badly hurt. So the night after the struggle, the Russians slipped away into the night.

The Emperor declared victory and captured Moscow. Expecting the Czar to surrender, he was prepared to camp out in the Russian capital until the Czar came to his senses.

Well, in those days Russia had two capitals. Moscow and St. Petersburg. While the seizure of Moscow didn't really help the Russians, it didn't really harm them either. Russia is not like Western Europe. Seizing the capital, or even both capitals, wasn't enough to get the Russians to throw in the towel. After all, it was October. One of Mother Russia's most fearsome allies was about to make an appearance.


While the Emperor knew that, he was a bit nonplussed as to his next move. Things were particularly bad as fires had broken out in multiple districts in the city, destroying many supplies. (Russian histories claim that it was deliberate, which may not have been the case. Then, as now, the Russians will take credit for events fortuitous to them whether they were coincidental or not. No big deal, the end result was the same.)

On the 19th of October, Napoléon got the heck out of Dodge, er, Moscow. Rather than retreat back the way they had come (which had been stripped of all forage and supplies), the French went further south. Where they ran into a Russian army at Maloyaroslavets.

That chap in the opening painting commanded a division of Italian troops in the corps commanded by Napoléon's step-son, Eugene de Beauharnais (son of Josephine, yes, that Josephine). He fought like a tiger at that battle as did his Italians. They covered themselves in glory. Their general fell to a Russian musket, as did his brother, a major in the same unit, who rushed forward to drag his brother to safety. He too was shot down.

While the French were initially checked, the Russians had already decided to retreat if the French pushed forward again, the Emperor lost his nerve. He commanded the army to fall back to the north and retrace their steps over the way they entered Moscow. Over the battlefield of Borodino, where to the horror of the French and their allies they discovered a charnel house of unburied bodies, human and horse, and where one regiment actually recovered their lost eagle. (Each regiment had an eagle, much like in Roman times, to lose one was a disgrace.) Seems that the standard bearer, while dying, had shoved the flag up the anus of a dead horse rather than let the Russians capture it.

The eagle was still intact, in the skeleton of the horse.

Horror upon horror followed as the Emperor's army fell back, harassed by the Russians and the weather the entire way. First it froze and snowed, then there was a thaw, reducing the primitive roads to a sea of mud. Most of the cannon were abandoned. Then it got cold. Really cold, the kind of cold that even Russians barely tolerate.Then it began to snow.

Napoléon ordered the bridge train destroyed to enable the army to move faster. Of course, the head engineer managed to "forget" to destroy everything, he kep a few wagon loads of tools. (You can build a bridge out of any available wood, can't cut it or pound nails with your bare hands though. And you can read more about that here.)

When the army finally left Russian territory in December, only 120,000 were left of the original 600,000. Of the main army under Napoléon at the Berezina, scarcely 30,000 remained.

Some have called the invasion of Russia the death knell of the Napoleonic Empire, and it was in one sense, Napoléon never again was able to put together such a large army of veterans. His armies, until Waterloo, were mostly young conscripts and some of the battered and weary survivors from the Russia campaign. So yes, Russia crippled the French.

But they were already being bled white in Spain. With the help of a small British army under Wellington. Napoléon never understood the English, and only defeated then once, at Corunna. But that, mes enfants, is a story for another time.

Night Bivouac of La Grande Armée - Vasily Vereshchagin
Yeah, invading Russia. Bad idea. (Damn but that looks cold!)

Monday, October 23, 2017

To sleep – perchance to dream *

Well, last week, I woke up to a new record low for the area.  38 wonderful degrees.  The workout session even involved turning off the fan, I was getting cold.  So, Fall must be upon us.  In that light, this week's foodie vector contribution will be Cassoulet!

I've made this several times and it was PDG everytime.  Now that I've retained ownership of the foodie vector at Chant du Départ, back to this week's post.

Yesterday as I was perusing links on the interwebz, I came across this.  The Air Force is allowing 1500 retired Majors-Lt Cols to "unretire" and return to the active duty.  Hence the title of the post.  One of my recurring dreams is that I'm back in a fighter squadron and on the flight schedule, but something precludes me from actually getting airborne.  Sometimes it's that I can't find my flying boots.  Other times it's that I can't find a lineup card that hasn't already been used.  Weird, I know.
Could it be me?

So, interested, I click on the link to find the devil in the details.   I don't qualify. First, I'm above the max age (60).  Additionally, I've been gone more than 5 years (rapidly approaching 20), and I'm medically disqualified now.  Bummer!  

But....there was a brief period yesterday where all was good and I was finally in command of an F-15 Squadron taking off at Dawn to smite the enemy.  It was a glorious feeling, if fleeting.

Because...I realized that these retreads were going to fill desk jobs to free up active duty guys to go and smite the enemy.  Nothing wrong with that per se, but.....

The Air Force has changed enormously in the last 20 years.  I had to quit reading John Q. Public, it was getting too depressing, it made me too angry.  

So after that brief flight of fancy, I realized that even if I could go back.  I wouldn't.

Here's why. 

Our fearless leader, aka Sarge, has been hitting on an issue that has been on my mind for years.  His last two post's ( here and here) hit about major symptoms of the problem.
The second link above contained a comment that I believe to be spot on:

My theory is that once the war is over generically speaking) the officers who have seen the most combat are heartily sick of it and return to civilian life. Those who spent the bulk of their time "in the rear with the gear" stayed in and became generals and advisers to politicians. Those who had learned nothing from the last war rose to command the bloody debacles of the next.
I've mentioned before my belief that this is the basic problem with the Air Force.  It has been a problem for years before my time.  Rewatch the movie "12 O'Clock High", specifically the opening scenes before Gregory Peck takes command, as an example.  (I know, Movie? If it wasn't historically accurate, the movie most likely wouldn't have been made. Nor would the Air Force (and Army) have used it as a leadership training film back after Carter and before Clinton.) However, due to a combination of factors, primarily declining force structure and political policies that were/are, whether intentionally or unintentionally, destructive, the death spiral is nearly complete.

I believe this all stems from a structural problem.  

Line Officers (Officers in Combatant units) in the Army and Marines start out their careers (after training of course) in charge of enlisted personnel in their units.  LTs command platoons with an NCO to actually run things and keep the LT from screwing things up too badly.  This continues all the way up the chain.  They compete for promotion with others who are doing the exact same type of thing.  Command units intended for combat.

The Navy has a somewhat similar structure.  Line Officers are given charge of a section on a ship, with enlisted folks actually doing the work.  Even pilots on carriers are given duties to supervise enlisted.  (I'll grant that there are probably exceptions to this.)

No, not the Air Force, however.  With the exception of Medical, Chaplains, and Jags, every officer is a Line Officer.  Fighter Pilots are Line Officers, which is as it should be. but so is a Personnel Officer. The mission of the Air Force is to "Fly, Fight and Win" (or it should be.  It's actually "The mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and win...in air, space and cyberspace." How do you fly in cyberspace?)

Ergo, Aircrew perform the mission of the Air Force.  That is the definition of Line Officer.

Why then are Personnel Officers Line Officers? Finance Officers, Logisticians, Engineers ...  I could go on for hours.  All are Line Officers.

Do not misinterpret what I'm saying.  All those functions are important, necessary and hard work.  The mission of the Air Force could NOT be performed with out the efforts of all.

My gripe is that I'm competing for promotion against them.  Which, on the surface, seems like a "so what?".  Well...

So, hypothetically, let's compare two hypothetical OPRs (Officer Performance Reports).

OPR A.  Lt Juvat has successfully completed F-4 RTU and is on path to Flight Lead.  He is qualified in both Pave Spike and Maverick weapons systems and is Nuclear Certified.

OPR B.  Lt Mrs. Juvat leads the promotions branch for the Personnel Office in charge of 20 enlisted.  During this period, she developed a new system for processing OPRs 50% faster than before.

Which has the better chance of promotion?  The person who has completed 50-60 missions spending countless hours studying, reading, practicing, briefing and debriefing and can now basically build a Maverick, Pave Spike or a rescheduled sunrise?

Or the person who processes paperwork and has 20 enlisted working for her.

Unfortunately, the promotion board is composed of Line Officers from all AFSC's.  Most of whom think Maverick was a television show from their childhood.

As opposed to:

So, it's difficult to explain to someone who doesn't fly, why it's important to retain pilots in general, fighter pilots specifically on active duty especially if there's no war on, and we're in a force reduction period, and....(Well, let's not go into the SJW aspects of current personnel policies) 

Since it's very difficult to compare and contrast a 10 meter bomb at 6 O'clock dropped on a practice mission with 50% faster real world OER processing, it's very easy for the non-rated members of the board to vote differently on whom to promote. Since failure to promote is also grounds for termination, this has become a big portion of the AF's problem now. 

The second conundrum has acquired a new term, "queep", BITD it was called NFBS.  The first two words of the acronym being "Non-Flying".  A select group, most of whom graduated from a school located between Denver and Colorado Springs, realized that the road ahead wasn't being the best fighter pilot (bomber...Transport....whatever!), but it was being the best at non-flying quantifiable "things" like Highest United Way contribution rate, best time on the 2 mile run etc.  

You know, things that really make the Air Force a fine combat organization.  

And it worked.  As a scheduler, we had a semi-official term for these folks.  Seagulls. You had to throw a rock at them to get them to fly.  But, they were ALL OVER United Way!

The Seagulls got promoted. (Back when TAC had stars on their sleeves, gold for combat time and silver for non-combat, it was VERY easy to identify these people.  Which is why the stars on the sleeve quickly went away.  Ras and Vegas had, IIRC, 4 and 3 gold stars respectively indicating over 1500 and 1000 hours combat time.) 


The Seagulls promoted folks just like themselves. Who promoted folks just like themselves.

And the cancer grew.

Now we've got Seagulls in leadership positions with Non-judicial as well as Court Martial authority making the rules.

Those rules don't include being the finest combat ready aircrewman in the world or training or leading them.  

Nope. Managing or ruling them, maybe.

That whirring sound just outside the USAFA Chapel is Robin Olds, spinning in his grave.

If it were up to me, the Line of the Air Force would be much like the other services.  Officers who held an AFSC as a Combatant, would compete for promotion against like officers with like Officers on the board.  Officers with different skill sets (i.e. Personnel, Finance, etc.) would compete for  promotion against others in that category.

Because promotions no matter how delineated, devolves into a numbers game ("My Bomber pilots constitute 20% of the folks up for promotion, we should get 20% of the promotions"), failure to promote for a line officer would no longer be grounds for termination.  After some number of non-promotes, their commission, at their discretion and retirement/separation as an option, would be  transferred to a warrant officer's commission with the same courtesies, effective rank and pay where they could stay until 20.  Most of the Fighter Pilots (as opposed to pilots of fighters) I knew would have jumped at the chance.

This next proposal will really annoy non-combatant officers, but.....When drawdowns come as they always do, non-flying billets would be filled with rated officers. This would retain the Service's combat capability until the next expansion came and they were returned to their flying billets.  It was called Rated Sup (rated supplement) in my Dad's day.  He hated it, but he did return to flying. 

I didn't.

So take that fact and my opinions expressed herein under advisement.

Would this solve the Air Force's problem?  It would be impossible to do worse than the people in charge are doing now.

Hamlet, Act-III, Scene-I

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Are the Service Academies an Anachronism?

The Course of Empire, Desolation - Thomas Cole
So, about this Army lieutenant, the fellow who is, apparently, an avowed Communist. A fellow who, apparently, seeks the destruction of the government and our way of life.

Based on my experiences, one cannot enlist in the armed forces or obtain any sort of a security clearance without swearing that one does not belong to, nor adhere to, any organization which seeks the violent overthrow of the United States government. On the surface, this lieutenant (who shall remain nameless, I don't care to repeat this traitor's name) either lied about this when he enlisted, thus rendering his enlistment fraudulent, or became a Communist sometime during his enlisted service.

I have to believe that he was a Communist when he entered West Point. How that came to pass still boggles the mind. At any rate, he is a self-admitted enemy of our way of life and should be, at the very least, dishonorably discharged from the Army. A little time at Leavenworth to contemplate his sins also seems appropriate.

This letter from LTC Robert Heffington (USA, Retired), a former instructor at West Point, made me nearly physically ill when I first read it. It seems that standards at West Point have fallen drastically in the past couple of decades.

This article by Bruce Fleming, a Professor at Annapolis, had me nodding my head in agreement throughout. Do the service academies still serve a purpose?

I have friends who graduated from both West Point and Annapolis, damned good men, but I have also known graduates of those two schools who I wouldn't cross the street to micturate upon if they were engulfed in flame. That though, is neither here nor there. There are useless bastards in all walks of life and in all professions.

I have long pondered the reason for the service academies. While they have great tradition behind them, are they serving the purposes for which they were created? I wonder, I really do.

Why do we need prep schools for the service academies? (The one for the Navy is just down the road a piece from where I live.) Is it because we can't find enough qualified applicants for slots at the schools? Or is it, like some say, meant to improve the sports teams at the academies? I have my opinion on that, it isn't favorable.

I served with officers who gained their commissions from ROTC, some from Officer Training School, and a few from the Air Force Academy. All ran the gamut from very good to a complete waste of oxygen. As is the case in most professions.

But are we satisfied, as taxpayers, with those sort of results?

I'm not.

What do you think?