Category Archives: Unconventional Warfare

Remember Flight MH17?

Russkiy Kultur: looted luggage from Flight MH17.

They call themselves “kulturny”: looted luggage from Flight MH17.

Here’s the latest report by a guy on the scene, who interviews both a Russian Cossack separatist  ataman, and a Ukrainian government official, as well as visits the crash site as locals sheepishly turn in victim IDs (but notably, not valuables), spirited away by looters after the crash.

Follow the link to see the video; there’s no transcript.

The Russian separatists have really bungled their handling of the crash site, insuring that conspiracy theories will go on forever. (This is nothing new or particularly Russian; the FBI did something similar with its mishandling of TWA 800 evidence, dropping a windfall in the laps of conspiratroid nut jobs).

The most interesting thing, we thought, was the reporter’s suggestion that the Dutch investigators are slow-walking any conclusions, for fear that they’ll lose access to the badly contaminated and unprotected site if those conclusions cut against Russian propaganda themes.

One of the next most interesting things is the suggestion that Ukraine was using movements of civil aircraft to mask their movement of military aircraft. Wouldn’t be the first time such a thing had been done, but the Russian suggestion that this justified targeting MH17 is a bit of a stretch (imagine it with the players reversed).

It’s nice to know that someone is still reporting on this act of barbarism and its aftermath, even after the bulk of the media have rolled on to new amusements. And he’s if anything too even-handed, but you get a sense of how much the propaganda of both sides has muddied the waters here; enough that, whatever the truth was, the true believers on both sides will be comfortable placing all blame on the other guy.

Air Defense screwups (or worse) have been a recurring global problem over the years, with the US Navy inexcusably shooting down an Iranian airliner (1988) and Israelis blasting an off-course Libyan one in 1973, but most of the shootdowns have involved Russians, former Soviets, or former-Soviet-sponsored rebels. For example, Russian-catspaw militia shot down three Georgian airliners in 1993; Soviet-armed-and-trained guerrillas shot down two Rhodesian airliners in 1978-79; the vodka-powered Soviet Russian air defense system shot down a Korean 747 in 1983, and the Ukrainian military (!) shot down a Russian airliner (!) in October, 2001, in a crime the Ukrainians initially tried to brazen out with lies, and later attributed to a training-exercise screwup.

The 1968 LRRP Conference on Weapons: Vol. II.

Since we knew you were going to ask, here’s the weapons stuff out of Vol. II., which was the Recondo School presentation. But it’s notable that before they discussed weapons, they discussed two more crucial elements — helicopter support (both logistics, in terms of slicks, and fires, in the shape of a Light Fire Team of attack and scout helicopters). But they did get to weapons in due course.

Weapons – The type of enemy positions, type of operation planned and the AO requires a supply of varied weapons. Most of the time a major commander will make weapons available regardless of the MTOE. However. to solve the problem. a weapons pool at the company or detachment headquarters with some of each type of weapon should be created. This would include such items as the M-79 grenade launchers, M-l6 machineguns, silenced pistols and rifles and other special purpose weapons.


Straightforward enough. We have always struggled agains the Big Green bureaucracy, in our efforts to maintain a pool of foreign and obsolete weapons, as well as other low-density US weapons, for training and operational purposes. Conventional officers, especially logistical types, tend to come from way out on the left tail of the bell curve, and have a really hard time understanding this. They really hate it when sensible preparations for combat interfere with their systems of orderly and regular inventories.

Next, the report addresses the patrol member’s dream date, the CAR-15 (which is very, very rarely called “XM177E2,” its real Army name, in period reports. Of course, some were XM177s and XM177E1s, and others were combat tested with just a Colt model number, or a Colt GX — “Government Experimental” — model number).

The CAR-15 appears to be a popular and desirable weapon and should be available. However, it is questionable as whether every man should have one. Much of its popularity is due to its newness and novelty. The point man and radio operator should have them to reduce the welight they must carry and because of the convenience offered by their shorter length. Sometimes the accuracy at long ranges of the M-16 is needed and the M.16 rarely malfunctions; therefore, it must also be available.

Of course, Colt’s whole production run of CAR-15s was, according to Colt records, 10,000 weapons. Not counting odd lots and rarities like this “GX” model (“Government Experimental,” usually indicating a toolroom prototype).

Colt GX-5857


When the Son Tay Raid was standing up, there were none in the Army’s inventory in new condition, so Task Force Ivory Coast acquired a stock of either Air Force or Export guns. The handful of existing Son Tay photographs show that the carbines resemble Colt Model 639/XM177E2 “submachine guns,” but lack the characteristic forward assist.


Even though airborne insertions were never used in RVN by Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol or Long Range Patrol teams, the conference concluded it was valuable:

The group was unanimous in desiring airborne qualification. First of all they felt LRP’s had to be considered on an army wide basis and not just on operations Vietnam. They felt units in Europe would be hindered if this capability was taken away. As a bonus the group contended the airborne qualification increases a man’s ability and confidence. It is not that being a jumper is so important: it is the mere fact that a man has proven to himself that he can go through the training and overcome a natural fear, the fear of leaving an aircraft. He has accomplished something that he had probably felt was beyond his capability. He also has learned to pay attention to detail. You have to see a new jumper or a halo jumper check his equipment to see attention to detail.

An LRP team requires this meticulousness in preparing their weapons and equipment, in planning for the patrol, and in intelligence collecting and reporting. In the CIDG program all of the MIKE forces, Mobile Strike Forces and recon units are sent through jump training. The man who is cocky enough to jump out of an airplane will probably be more willing to move into that hole in enemy territory. Some felt the graduation from Recondo School should be a prerequisite for airborne pay but the majority were opposed to this since there are only a limited number of spaces at the Recondo School.

Interesting thoughts. Even today, 46 years later, most of the world’s elite forces undergo parachute training even if they will never, ever make an airborne insertion. And recent events have proven that an airborne insertion is still a useful capability.

The documents are worth the study, if you’re interested in these things. Part I is the conference, 50 pp: LRRP Conference 1968 Part 1.pdf; Part II is a presentation on Recondo School, 10 pp:LRRP Conference 1968 part II Recondo School.pdf.

The 1968 LRRP Conference on Weapons: Vol. I.

usarv_conference_coverA great deal of mythology about the M16, CAR-15 and other weapons in Vietnam continues to circulate. Here are real lessons-learned as discussed in a period document, the 2-part USARV Long Range Patrol Conference Summary, which discussed a conference held from 9-12 August 1968, in other words, at the height of the US Army’s combat involvement in the Vietnam War. While those attending were primarily officers in grades of 2LT through MG, they clearly brought the experience of the units most involved in running long-range patrols, including the “letter” Ranger companies then of the 51st Infantry Regiment, the greek-letter projects, Mike Forces, MACVSOG, the SAS from OZ, and the Special Forces-run RECONDO school, where LLRP leaders from many US and Allied units trained.

So what did they say about weapons (with, maybe, some operational and equipment digressions)?

f_51 LRP ScrollII Field Force Vietnam (Co. F., 51st Infantry (LRP)), p. 22-23:

Equipment carried by the patrol includes as little food and water as possible, M-16s, a Light Antitank Weapon (LAW), an M-79, and an M-60 MG with 700 rounds. The patrols remain in the area for five days and are extracted only if they have wounded personnel. If the wounds are slight, they will be treated and then reinserted.

Note that this is a 5-6 man patrol. F Company Rangers practiced what they called “saturation patrolling,” where 10 to 14 of these teams would be on the ground seeking the enemy. The heavy firepower assisted in breaking contact by “impersonating” a larger unit. Unlike some other long range patrol elements, they would not be extracted unless a member was wounded; their instruction, and ethos, was “break contact, continue mission.”

Harassing and interdictory (H&I) fire continues in the AO even while teams are being inserted or on the ground. To stop the fire signals the enemy something is happening. The teams move between the fires. The fires are plotted 800 meters from the team, except at night when defensive concentrations are as close as 300 meters or closer if desired.

Details like this, which would have been extremely useful to the enemy, are why the report was classified. It would not be declassified until 31 December 1974, long after the withdrawal of American forces.

In the III CTZ operation areas where shots are heard in the jungle all day, the teams snipe at close ranges. A noise suppressor would be beneficial to assist the sniping.

Another tactic especially effective at night is to set up a trip flare behind a team that is being pursued. If gunships are on the scene, they can fire at the trip flare when the enemy trips it.

Some of these TTPs would work just as well today as they did 50 years ago. Case in point.

The teams use the starlight scope and have found it effective. The LAW is used mainly as a psychological weapon to make the enemy think twice before assaulting a team. The weapon deceives the enemy as to the size of the team. Time pencils and fragmentation grenades are used, especially at night to mislead him on the location of the team. Claymores are used extensively. Wrist compasses are used also. .It saves the man from fiddling with the lensatic and getting it caught in the brush.

Many of these small defensive possibilities have been eliminated since then, by unilateral anti-mining decisions taken by American political leaders. No more grenades with a time fuze, or tripwire Claymores on your back trail. Note that these less-well-resourced patrollers didn’t get toe-poppers and minigrenades like SOG elements did. They didn’t even have CAR-15s:

Survival knives are on the MTOE but extremely hard to obtain. The M-l6, while a good weapon, is not as suitable to LRP operations as the CAR 15 because it is too long and catches in the brush. The present camouflage uniform tears easily and mosquitoes bite through the material. The CIDG tiger suit is better.

It was complaints like these about the ripstop ERDL camouflage uniform that led to the sweat-bag first edition of the abominable BDU — 12-15 years or so later. The survival knives were, of course, pilfered in the supply chain. That still happens; team guys would stop in at Camp Vance and see every clerk in the S4 wearing the high-speed gear intended for the teams but mysteriously never issued.

SAS CrestSpecial Air Service Regiment (Australian Army), pp. 24-25.

The XM 148 is used extensively by the Australians. The trigger arrangement is dangerous as issued–it catches on vines and fires unexpectedly–so it is cut off and the sear is used to fire the weapon. The sights are removed also. Since contact range is normally five to ten meters, the sights are not needed. One XM 148 is carried per patrol.

Another piece of equipment is an anchor device for the McGuire rig or for rappelling ropes. It can be fitted to the UH-l series helicopter in about five minutes and deploys six ropes, three on each side. A pull of a lever releases the rope in an emergency. The UH-IH can extract a six-man patrol with full equipment using this rig. The present McGuire rig lifts only three people and cannot be cut· away in an emergency.

The XM-148 was a Colt-designed grenade launcher (Colt nomenclature was CGL-1 through -4) that preceded the M203. AAI’s M203 would, a few years later, provide the same capability, but without any of the 148’s problems.

Yes, SASR really did roll with XM148s. Three troopers on right have them (left hand guy has an M203) on M16s and L1 FAL. Image source.

Yes, SASR really did roll with XM148s. Three troopers on right have them (left hand guy has an M203) on M16s and L1 FAL. Image source.

The SF STABO rig ultimately adopted that Australian innovation which was, as SAS Major Wade noted, quite superior to the improvised (but working) McGuire rig.

25th Infantry Division, Company F, 50th Infantry (LRP), p. 35:

75th ranger 25th ID scrollThe old AR belt is a very useful item of equipment. It has numerous pouches for ammunition or grenades, which distributes the weight and does not have to be taped. The wrist compass could replace the lensatic if it had a sighting device on it. It is accurate and handy, and is immediately available not in a pocket. Light weight web gear made from CS cannisters [sic] is being experimented with at the present time and also the M-16 noise suppressors. The new face camouflage made by Elizabnth Arden that is used by the SEAl.s seems better than our issue camoufhLge. The time pencils are very useful but hard to get.

The “old AR belt” that Captain Dawson of the 25th mentioned is the BAR belt. The then-standard Army issue equipment, the M-56 field gear, had metal buckles and snaps and, without a liberal application of green tape or duct tape, would make a patrol jingle like Santa’s reindeer. (Garrison-oriented commanders and especially sergeants major and first sergeants tended to oppose addition of tape to issue web gear, and it was a constant source of friction between combat troops and chairborne REMFs, until the M-56 and its equally shoddy successor, ALICE, passed out of service).

101st Airborne Division (Airmobile), Company F, 58th Infantry (LRP), pp. 37-38:

This is actually the later L/75th Ranger scroll. All these scrolls come from this site,

This is actually the later L/75th Ranger scroll; we didn’t find one for F/58. All these scrolls come from this site:

The 101st’s program seemed particularly mature and well-thought-out to exploit the Division’s copious helicopter mobility. While their notes on operations and ARVN integration were most personally interesting, they had some interesting observations on weapons and equipment, too:

The use of CS dropped by helicopters has proven successful but required the team to take a gas mask along. This is deemed worth the extra effort. …

Air support is preferred to artillery in the AO due to triple canopy vegetation. It is difficult to observe and adjust ar tillery and a LFT can respond in 10 to 15 minutes.

The first light insertion is utilized most frequently. It allows reaction in case of contact on or near the LZ and an air relay, a U-1A Otter from Phu Bai. can standby during insertion or until the team establishes communication with the base camp or ground relay station. The teams do not move during the noon period or when another team is in contact because a team is less likely to be discovered when it is stationary.

The standard 65-foot Chinook suspension ladder cut in half and strung through a UH-1 model helicopter so that about 12 feet hangs down on each side is effective for insertion and extraction in stumpy areas, thickly vegetated areas, over uneven ground or where rotary clearance is needed. Rappelling is used also but its use makes McGuire rig extraction required, and this is avoided when possible. However, one McGuire rig wHh handcuffs on the riser is used to extract prisoners.

The company has three British Sten guns with silencers which are extremely quiet. They have not been fired in the course of an operation although they were taken along.

36th Mobile Strike Force Command, Vol. 1, p. 42:

(probably fake) mike force patchThe patrols carry one AN/PRC-25 radio with two headsets per patrol (the headset has proven to be the most likely part of system to fail). Their base station has an RTT capability and single side band in addition to the AN/GRC-46 radios. The Americans armed with the CAR-I5 and the Cambodians carry the M-16. There are Sten guns and two pistols, all with silencers, available in the unit. Three of the American members carry the Swedish K submachinegun.

“Swedish K” was the Special Forces nickname for the Swedish Carl Gustav M45B submachine gun, which was commonly carried with 36-round box magazines but could also use 50-round Suomi magazines by removing a retaining pin and magazine housing. We think they could also use the Suomi drum but never tried it ourselves!

The Swedish M45B was copied in Egypt as the "Port Said." It is a typical 2nd-Genrration SMG.

The Swedish M45B was copied in Egypt as the “Port Said,” which is the version seen here (file photo). It is a typical 2nd-Genrration SMG.

The MACV Recondo School, p. 49:

recondopatchPersonal appearance is deemed important by the school. While a student is at school, the individual is required to maintain a high standard of personal hygiene and appearance. Mustaches must be nearly trimmed, haircuts must be short, and the normal appearance ·of an elite l.RP trooper does not include rings in ears Qr bracelets. The school is a MACV school and these standards must be maintained.

The school had previously mentioned some problems they were having with unmotivated students (definitely a problem as Recondo school used the enemy as a training aid). It attributed these woes to poor selection and neglect of published selection standards by sending unit. The school listed the goodies each student got, as well as some problems with what he was expected to bring along:

… provide each graduate with six Recondo patches and a diploma. Honor graduate receives a
special knife purchased from the fund.

USARV Regulation 350-2 contains a list of equipment that the individual should bring to the school with him. Many students do not realize this and the school does not have enough facilities to provide this equipment for every student. Critical items are camouflage fatigues and M-16 magazines.

So as early as 1968, the training base and the troop units were already scamming M16 mags (in those days, 20-rounders) from one another.

One little detail: everywhere in this report M16 (which is the weapon’s actual designation, although the Army model was always the XM16E1/M16A1) is rendered as M-16. This instantiates the well-known idea that, even though an item’s official nomenclature is one thing, the troops may call it something different — even in official reports.

IIIrd Marine Amphibious Force (1st & 3rd Recon Battalions), p. 45.

Once again, the Marine contribution was most interesting for their tactics and operation art, very different from any of the Army approaches. But they did have this to say about weapons, and interesting take on CS gas (non-lethal tear gas):

One way of using CS is to employ it by fixed wing. A ton of it can be placed in the napalm tanks with sand to get it through the jungle canopy. It can saturate 4,000 square meters :in five minutes. It is a good technique for taking prisoners but an extra gas mask must be taken along for the prisoner or he will die.

So, even with normally non-lethal gas, the dose makes the poison. One suspects that was learned at the expense of some fellow named Nguyen.

Note well: these comments are all from Volume I of the Conference proceedings. There’s more cool stuff in the shorter Volume II but we’re already knocking on the door of 2,000 words, awfully long for a web article.


The documents, if you please: Part I is the conference, 50 pp: LRRP Conference 1968 Part 1.pdf; Part II is a presentation on Recondo School, 10 pp:LRRP Conference 1968 part II Recondo School.pdf.

Longest-serving draftee nearly went to Canada

This one is pretty far out there. But the guy who went on to be in the longest-serving draftee in the US Army, nearly didn’t serve at all. He was already to go to Canada. It was his mom who talked him out of it.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Ralph E. Rigby, a native of Auburn, New York, began his military service when he was drafted, in 1972, during the Vietnam era. Today, he is known as the last continuously serving draftee on active duty in the U.S. Army.

As a young boy, Rigby always had a love for vehicles. He would walk around carrying any tool he thought could assist someone who was having car issues. Rigby had just started his own mechanic shop when he received a draft notice.

At the young age of 19, joining the Army was far from his life plans. He was clueless as to what would be in store for him.

His first response to the notice was, “I don’t have to put up with this! I can just move to Canada like everyone else, and avoid all of this,” he said jokingly. On the other hand, his mom, Dorothy Rigby, wasn’t going to allow this to happen.

Her exact words to him were, “No Way! You are not a quitter,” she said. “We do not quit in this family.”

Dorothy was scared that her son had to serve, but her daily prayers reassured her that he would come back home safely. With his mother’s advice, Rigby set out on his military journey.

“I took my mother’s words and kept on going,” said Rigby. “After all, being drafted was the closest I have come to winning the lottery.”

via Last continuously serving draftee retires after 42 years of service | Article | The United States Army.

We wish Chief Rigby all the best in retirement, and realize that the draftees we knew all beat him out the door.

Back in the day, you weren’t supposed to serve in SF unless you were a volunteer. So draftees who passed the SF Aptitude Battery test in basic training were given the opportunity to get discharged from the Army of the United States (draft Army) and enlist in the Regular Army. But the Army didn’t manage the personnel rules intensively, so sometimes a guy finished his training and Vietnam tour and still had an AUS rather than a RA serial number. (In the 1970s, before our time, everyone began using the Social Security Number as their serial number. All our old orders have the Socials of everyone on the orders on ‘em).

When old SF guys get together, there are always stories about how jacked up the personnel system is. We have to wonder if Rigby and his buddies in the maintenance world were also ill-served by the personnel bureaucracy.

Like Rigby, we didn’t expect to do anything but minimum time in the Army. Just wanted some college money. But we found things we weren’t expecting.

World War I as a Bar Fight

This came in email. I wish I knew who the original creator was, because he’s worth following, whoever he is:

imageThe best lines?

“Australia punches Turkey, and gets punched back. There are no hard feelings because Britain made Australia do it.”


“America waits till Germany is about to fall over from sustained punching from Britain and France, then walks over and smashes it with a barstool, then pretends it won the fight all by itself.”

Any mook can write Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August. To write the same thing as a 21-paragraph allegory is an elevated level of brilliant.


Courage is not the property of extraordinary men

A Veteran’s Day Message from Col (Ret). Jack Tobin, US Army SF, President, Special Forces Association. 

To all of you on Veterans Day:

At the end of “Band of Brothers”, Major Dick Winters related a story.

The other day my Grandson asked “Grandpa are you a hero”

I said “No but I served with many of them”

I know what Dick Winters meant. Since I arrived at Ft Bragg in 1968, I have been surrounded by heroes, some recognized with medals, some with the quiet respect warriors pay each other. One of my favorite stories came from a man well known in SF circles when the subject of medals came up, “The SOB put me in for the Silver Star, so I decked him.” I personally know several men who went AWOL from hospitals to avoid a Purple Heart that would send them home, and men that extended their tours for they could not leave their friends or the troops.

Emerson (Ralph Waldo, not the Gunfighter) defined a hero “as one who was brave five minutes longer”.

In the A Shau, Duc Lap, the Iraqi Desert, Tora Bora, Helmand Province, from Central and South America to the Philippines, on mountains, in valleys, in small camps at the end of the world, the men of Special Forces have measured their five minutes in hours.  They exemplify the principle that Courage is not the property of extraordinary men, but of average men doing extraordinary deeds. One might say that their deeds made them extraordinary men; they would say, “It was my job”.

Back in May, we quietly saluted our “absent friends.” Veteran’s Day is for those of us that remain to call old friends, gather and sing our songs around the campfires, “our deeds remembered in our flowing cups”. Call an old friend, remember years ago, when you called on whatever radio we had, he was there, and you were damned glad to hear his voice.

Gentlemen I believe that President Reagan addressed Veterans Day much better than I:

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free. This weekend we celebrate the American heroism that has allowed freedom to flourish in the United States of America.

I don’t know why you men allowed me to march with you, but I will die proudly knowing that you did.

Gentlemen, charge your glasses; the moment of silence for “absent friends” is over,

“To the United States of America, and to the brave men of the Special Forces Regiment, who have, are and will proudly serve her”


Jack Tobin

President, Special Forces Association

Even a Good Police Response is Too Late: Aurora Analysis

Screenshot 2014-11-07 22.43.06The city of Aurora, Colorado paid to have a third-party operations-analysis shop, much like the one that we occasionally work for, review their response to the Century 16 theater shooting.

A redacted copy of that report has been posted by the state courts, thanks to a public-records lawsuit. And we have some interesting takeaways from that report. First, our link to the .pdf on the Colorado website:

And here’s a copy from our servers, in case that one goes paws-up: Aurora After Action Review Report Redacted.pdf

And two things leap out from that report, which lacks an Executive Summary:

  • The police response was pretty damned good;
  • The police response was entirely insufficient.

The Police Response Was Outstanding

Unlike the reportedly leisurely response of the Newtown, Connecticut PD to their shooting nightmare (20+ minutes), the Aurora cops rode to the sound of the guns with spurs on. Public Safety Dispatch was quickly overwhelmed with calls; seven calls were received in one minute before a patrol unit was dispatched. The first patrol car, Cruiser 11, was onsite in under two minutes from the inital 911 call (51 seconds from the call going out over the radio); 6 cars were there in under three, and 14 units by the time the four-minute bell rang. (When it was clearly a mass-response event, the responding officers did not report in on air, to keep the channel clear; their cruisers were tracked with onboard GPS).

The response was as skilled as it was timely. The officers who responded had recent and recurrent active shooter training, and they were tasked to respond, identify and neutralize the active shooter without delay and without waiting for SWAT or other specialized units. Those units were called out, and quickly responded, but the shooter was already in custody. The exact time he was apprehended is unclear — with his trial still pending, that part of the report is redacted — but it appears clear that he ceased firing on the arrival of police, if not before, and attempted to escape by stealth. He was unsuccessful.

The first reported contact of police with a victim came when patrolman 514 called in at 3:02 elapsed (since the initial 911 call). The next reported victim contact was at 4:10 elapsed.

The department is well organized and manned; there are more cops per capita than in typical Western US cities. They conduct frequent exercises alone and with other agencies; they do an exercise in the schools every year. The fire department is similarly ahead of the national curve, with all FFs being EMTs and new hires required to become EMT-Ps for almost a decade now. Prior to the incident, the FD had participated in many active shooter training exercises with the police.

Emergency response distancesAnd the circumstances favored a rapid response: unlike in Connecticut, where the incident happened during a period of heavy traffic, the Aurora crime took place after midnight, with empty roads, a mere mile by road from the nearest police station (a half mile directly). The incident happened right at shift change, so 126 officers were on duty. As noted above, they started responding right away, and kept responding (an hour later, there were over 50 cars on scene from Aurora alone, despite many of the initial responders having used their cars to evacuate wounded. (Indeed, the cars would cause a logjam interfering with ambulance access, common in such incidents).

There were some other lucky breaks. When firefighters were held back because of uncertainty about the security situation, victims were triaged and, in some cases, treated, by a police paramedic, muting the consequences of holding the fire paramedics back. There were no less than six trauma centers close by; no victim bled out waiting for treatment.

While the report finds some room for improvement in police and fire responses, and makes suggestions for improvements (some of which have already been made), the Aurora public safety officials have much justfication for pride. Thanks to the efforts of first responders, the shooter was stopped, and every victim with survivable wounds did survive.

That’s about as good as a police and fire response can ever hope to do.

…But it was Still Too Late

By the time that first cop car was on the scene, 82 people had been injured, 12 of them fatally. 10 of the 12 were clearly DRT and were pronounced at the scene; two were transported and pronounced, one on arrival and one shortly thereafter. An amazing 58 had received survivable gunshot wounds. (In combat, we note that 1:4 is a typical ratio of killed:wounded, so this is not far off the median). In addition to the 70 shooting victims, 12 more people had been injured, some seriously, in the panicked escape from the theater.

The criminal did all this in two minutes. Of which less than one minute elapsed between Dispatch putting the call out and Unit 11 calling in at the scene of the crime. Now, the sections of the report dealing with the criminal’s actions have been redacted (as we mentioned, because his trial has yet to begin), but these conclusions from the report pretty much brings the limitations of police response into stark relief:

Members of the Aurora Police Department followed the active shooter strategy, acting bravely and professionally as they encountered an unknown shooting situation with multiple seriously injured victims. Police units arrived very quickly, less than 3 minutes from the first 911 call. XXXXXXXXXXXX. All victims with survivable injuries were saved. (p. 13)

Overall, there probably could not have been much better deployment and results than the Aurora police achieved. They deployed on the fly, with self-deployments initially, then gradually implementing more formal incident command. The one large exception to the success was the inadequate relationship with fire department command during the key part of the incident, but that did not affect the outcome—at least not this time. (p.27)

This incident gives additional evidence that rapid response to active shooters is imperative; XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. Every minute counts in reporting and responding to an incident. (p.27)

(X’s are redactions). One way in which rapid action worked was the transport of several critically injured patients. While the first patient was not moved by an ambulance until over 15 minutes had passed, several had been hauled in Aurora PD patrol cars, and one actually ran to Aurora Hospital. The use of patrol cars to transport casualties was never planned, exercised or even permitted; instead, it was a brilliant improvisation by the officers at the scene that day.

What Would Help?

Since a cop got there less than a minute after the call, and the shooter desisted on that cop’s arrival, if not before, it’s pretty clear that you can’t do anything to improve the results of police response, unless you plan to station a cop in every theater. So your choices come down to accepting such massacres1, or hardening the target. Conventional methods of target hardening include armed guards or metal detectors; an unconventional method would be to allow patrons to be armed2.

The report punts on a gun recommendation, but makes some rather laughable recommendations for victims trapped in a similar situation:

Inform the public on appropriate measures if caught in a shooting situation. Nationally, thousands of people have been exposed each year to small- and large-scale shooting incidents. There are likely to be more. The key guidance to offer is:

  • Flee if you can.
  • If not possible, hide or shelter.
  • If neither is possible, consider attacking XXXXXXX, preferably in concert with others, throwing anything handy to distract or injure him.

The X’s represent a redaction, again. While it is better to counterattack with an improvised weapon, “anything handy,” than to cringe helplessly in expectation of imminent death, it seems self-evident that a counterattack with deadly force would be preferable.

Other recommendations were remarkable in their simplicity for the relative benefit they would convey. One example is simply to have all the police cruisers in the fleet keyed alike, or to have master keys available to supervisors. This would have solved the gridlock caused by dozens of cars left standing by responding officers.


1. There is some belief that superior policies towards the mentally ill might prevent such massacres, but it’s extremely hard to define a policy that would have disabled the criminal in this case, without creating a civil rights monster. While he was clearly a disturbed individual, the ability of psychiatrists or psychologists to predict violent behavior based on his past conduct is extremely limited.

2. The theater chain that owned this property, Century, has a “no-weapons for licensed carriers,” or Victim Disarmament Zone, policy, on political grounds; and thereby assumes responsibility for patrons’ safety, and welcomes strict and unlimited financial liability for violent crimes on its property. The shooter bypassed several other theaters that were closer to his apartment, larger, or otherwise more suitable, to go to the one that was placarded against non-criminals carrying guns.

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws cops will have axes

axeIt is Pakistan, so it’s a little different from our bucolic home, but Foreign Policy sends us the following:

Police officer kills man in custody

On Wednesday a police officer in Gurjat in Punjab province brutally killed Tufail Haider, a man who had been arrested the previous day for injuring two people. The officer, Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Faraz Naveed, fatally hit Tufail with an axe when the two men got into an argument during an interrogation. ASI Naveed later said that Tufail had insulted Islam while other officers in the department said that Tufail was mentally unstable. ASI Naveed has been taken into custody and legal proceedings against him have already begun.

Make the wrong comment about Sumdood’s vision of God, and he whacks you upside the head with an axe, and officialdom calmly plucks the axe from your dead head, and concludes you’re crazy. Welcome to a country founded on the premise that Utopia arises, if only Muslims can ethnically cleanse their lands of other religions, and the “crazy” people that believe in them, or don’t. Welcome to Pakistan.

The Pakistani papers have a few more details. From Dawn we learn some specifics of the victim and his alleged blasphemy:

45-year-old Jhang resident Syed Tufail Haider was arrested a day earlier for wounding two people from a locality in Gujrat. According to police authorities, Tufail came to Madina Syedan in Gujrat three days ago to attend a majlis.

During interrogation, Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Faraz Naveed got into a heated argument with Tufail and struck him on the neck with an axe lying in the room, a blow which resulted in immediate death.

He later accused Tufail of making derogatory remarks against companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), with other police officials saying the arrested man was mentally unsound.

The Express-Tribune has even more detail, including the important details that Tufail was of the Shia sect, which has been having a bit of a rough go lately, as Pakistanis everywhere “assist the authorities” by implementing ad hoc death penalties for blasphemy, and the police form their own crime wave:

Around 1,000 Shias have been killed in the past two years in Pakistan, a heavy toll on the community that makes up roughly 20 per cent of the country’s 180 million-strong population, most of whom are Muslim.
There has been a recent surge in extra-judicial killings linked to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
A Christian bonded labourer and his pregnant wife were killed Tuesday for alleged desecrating pages of the Holy Quran in the eastern village of Chak 59, sparking condemnation from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
A Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, who has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) during an argument with a Muslim woman lost an appeal last month.
The latest incident also has shades of the shooting in September of an elderly British man with severe mental illness, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in January.
An internal investigation has found that the guard had been radicalised and goaded into the shooting by Mumtaz Qadri, a police bodyguard who murdered the Punjab governor in 2011 for suggesting reform of the blasphemy laws.
In Gujrat alone, three persons have been killed on the account of police torture.
Just last month, an individual on a Rawalpindi-bound train was beaten to death by police after a fight broke out between him and another passenger.
While on October 4, police allegedly tortured a woman to death during a raid in Sargodha.

All of you Americans who rave about lawless cops, you have no earthly clue.

Mind you, there are still people in Pakistan that will arrest ASI Naveed, put him on trial, and imprison or possibly even hang him. And there are other people in Pakistan — people who don’t see what he could possibly have done wrong, except perhaps some finer points of axe-beheading technique vis-a-vis heretics. Be glad that, whatever problems you have, governing Pakistan is not among them.

And, speaking of Pakistan, very curious news today about Ambassador (rank, not position at present) Robin L. Raphel, a soi-disant Pakistan expert who, prior to these recent revelations, was just one of the toxic personalities of Foggy Bottom. But the Washington Post says she’s been fingered in a counterintelligence probe. Presumably she’s been turned, but by whom? These investigations are normally very closely held, and barely one in twenty becomes a court case (another one gets doubled, and the remaining eighteen are merely cut off from classified materials and brushed under the rug. When an investigation leaks, it’s often because investigators are lashing out at an under-the-rug call from their overseers).

Anyway, we may yet be able to determine who turned Raphel. Watch to see whose diplomats get PNG’d, now that the story has broken. The biggest surprise is that they’d actually pursue such a case — in the State Department in general, the idea of American exceptionalism is anathema, and loyalty is something deserving only a sneer; but one of the unwritten laws of CI was that at a certain grade you can no longer touch a traitor, and that particular immunity attaches well below Ambassadorial rank. (Raphel was not only an Ambassador in rank, she had served as one, in Tunisia, a fairly typical post where the top dog is a career bureaucrat, not a political appointee).

Did Hagel Ransom a Deserter?

mad-magazine-trading-private-bergdahlWow. The accusation has arisen that the DOD paid an extremely large ransom to Taliban and/or Haqqani Group terrorists for the freedom of suspected deserter Bowe Bergdahl.

But wait, it gets better. Supposedly, the TB/HQ intermediary took the money and the terrorists absconded with it. This was an entirely separate deal from the one where five terrorist leaders were released for the defector’s safe return. The five Taliban leaders are presently in Qatar, bur the “decent interval” that was part of the deal ends soon, and they’re expected to return to active terrorist leadership, with Hagel’s blessings.  The Hill:

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said Wednesday that sources have told him the U.S. military unsuccessfully tried to pay a ransom for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, despite repeated denials.

In a Nov. 5 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Hunter wrote “it has been brought to my attention that a payment was made to an Afghan intermediary who ‘disappeared’ with the money and failed to facilitate Bergdahl’s release in return.”

Hunter said “according to sources” that the payment was made between January and February 2014 through Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), whose activities are mostly classified.
Hunter said he recognized the “reluctance to describe the payment as a ransom” and that the allegations of an unsuccessful payment is supported by JSOC’s pursuit of at least two lines of effort to get Bergdahl back — through a military rescue operation and payment to his suspected captors and terrorist group the Haqqani Network.

Hunter did not identify his sources.

The Pentagon didn’t reply to Hunter directly, but did reply to the press:

The Pentagon reiterated its denial Wednesday that any cash was paid to secure Bergdahl’s release, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Note the extreme narrowness of that denial, and parse its words carefully. That is a denial written by a lawyer to be factually true, but to give a false impression.

For example, the administration also denies that they negotiated the prisoner-release deal with the Haqqanis, using a similar meaning-of-is-is dodge:

The administration also argued it negotiated the swap through Qatar, not directly with Bergdahl’s captors.

Oh, well that’s okay then. Wonder how much they paid the month before to not get Bergdahl back?

No Easy Day, the Rifle

We received the following advert in the mail. Posted without extensive comment. It doth embiggen with a click:


More information, and sales, at this link.

The promised non-extensive comments:

The carbine is made by USM4, which has a dope deal with the Special Forces Association (which is what the Special Forces Outdoors store is, a store where proceeds in part support this fraternal org for former and current Special Forces members). Obviously USM4 and the SFA have cut some kind of dope deal with Mark Bissonnette (aka Owen) as well.

The carbine seems extremely pricey, but it comes as a complete package. The description of all the included goodies is missing from that ad above, but it’s on the website, and we’ll reproduce it here:

Each No Easy Day Special Missions Carbine rifle package is supplied complete with all components installed including a Geissele SSA trigger, Magpul stock and vertical foregrip, Ergo pistol grip, Centurion rail with matching rail covers, AAC flash hider permanently pinned, Surefire M600U weapons sight, L3/EOTech HSS I Holographic weapon sight/G33 magnifier, two Magpul QD sling mounts, two Magpul 30-round magazines, Princeton Tec Remix Pro LED headlamp, Viking Tactics wide padded MK2 sling, and an autographed and serialized ‘No Easy Day’ hardcover book. The package is available in black or digital desert camo finish. Optional equipment ordered with package will be supplied in matching black or camo/tan finish where available.

There’s a typo in that description (the Surefire M600 is a weapons light, not a weapons sight), but if you look you’ll see that that’s a pretty comprehensively equipped rifle. In fact, that laundry list of goodies doesn’t mention that the set comes in a Pelican case (but it does). The Geissele SSA is the semi-auto version of the trigger Geissele provides to certain SOF elements.

Now, how you feel about Mark “Owen” and his decision not to submit his book for prior review (which would, almost certainly, have spiked the book; there’s one set of rules for suits and admirals, and another set for guys whose war involves discharging firearms), will probably color how you feel about this carbine. Given its high price we expect it to be a relative rarity, but it’s unlikely to be a wise investment (bear in mind what we’ve said about guns as investments). In the long run (20 years +) we expect it to appreciate, but probably not when measured in constant dollars or relative to other possible uses of the money.

Update: Further Description of the Kit

Introducing the ‘No Easy Day’ Special Missions Carbine (SMC), engineered to fulfill the demanding requirements of military combat and designed from the ground up by Mark Owen, conceived at the ‘Tip of the Spear’ during his 14-year career as a U.S. Navy SEAL. The No Easy Day SMC is a complete system, developed with the unique knowledge and experience Owen gained from hundreds of special operations missions. Every component of the No Easy Day SMC has been hand-selected by Mark and the rifle is built and assembled to his exact specifications. Everything you need in a package built for action, at a price you can afford.

The USM4 SMC is a strictly limited production rifle destined to become part of history, born out of direct experience at the front line of America’s defense against terrorism. This is your once-in- a-lifetime opportunity to secure a truly military-grade weapon system, in the configuration personally specified by Mark Owen as his rifle of choice for any special combat mission. “The No Easy Day SMC is simply the finest complete weapon system available,” says Mark Owen. “I would have carried this SMC on any one of my combat deployments.”

Comprised of Mil-Spec all-US-made components by premium manufacturers, the SMC features a Colt SOCOM upper and barrel mated to a USM4 billet lower receiver etched with the No Easy Day logo. Equipped with a Geissele SSA trigger, Magpul furniture, Ergo grip and Centurion rail, the SMC is completed with the L3/ EOTech HSS I Holographic Weapons Sight with matching G33 magnifier, Surefire M600U Ultra Scout Light, AAC Blackout flash hider/QD 51T suppressor mount, and a Princeton Tec Remix Pro LED headlamp, the item of equipment Owen would not go on a mission without. A custom- cut Pelican 1750 hard case houses the complete system.

Every system sold includes a personally autographed copy of Mark’s book, “No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden”, serialized to match the rifle serial number.

This limited edition package includes special offers to obtain optional tactical combat equipment including a civilian version of the L3/Insight APTPIAL-C AN/PEQ-15 Advanced Target Pointer/ Illuminator/Aiming laser with both visible and IR lasers; a TNVC/Sentinel Binocular Night Vision System; an AAC M4-2000 Suppressor (subject to NFA regulations); and an Ops-Core FAST Base Jump military helmet. The Pelican case is supplied with cut- outs ready to accept all this optional equipment.


To this we’d add, why not a SEAL charity? We have been advised that “Owen’s” attempts to donate proceeds to various frogman charities have been rebuffed, in the light of his OPSEC violations. (We initially typed OOPSec, which might have been a Freudian typo).