Category Archives: Lord Love a Duck

Deep off the Grid, Two Years Later

Two years and four months ago, Weaponsman featured a guy we called, “the rural Maine equivalent of the Japanese soldiers who stayed off the grid in the Philippines and Guam for ridiculous lengths of time.” He lived in a rude, camouflaged, and solitary camp and survived on what he could steal from others’ empty vacation homes. And then spirited his booty back to his rural G-Camp.

Chris Knight’s concealed hermitage near Rome, Maine. GQ Illustration.

Michael Finkel was fascinated by Christopher Knight. He visited, and befriended, him in prison (Knight served seven months in prison, and is still on seven years’ probation). While the story Finkel penned for GQ has some insights into Knight’s survival methods (so do the links in our original post. We just checked the Portland Press-Herald repop of the Kennebec Journal link by Craig Cros, and it’s still live). We could share some of the insights into Knight’s long survival off the grid, but as another PPH story points out that, “[he] didn’t hunt, fish or forage,” just stole what he needed, we reckon you can read our original post, Finkel’s GQ update, or the news stories to see how Knight managed it.

Instead, we’ll leave you with the incomplete philosophical end of the Chris Knight story, as told to Finkel:

Anyone who reveals what he’s learned, Chris told me, is not by his definition a true hermit. Chris had come around on the idea of himself as a hermit, and eventually embraced it. When I mentioned Thoreau, who spent two years at Walden, Chris dismissed him with a single word: “dilettante.”

True hermits, according to Chris, do not write books, do not have friends, and do not answer questions. I asked why he didn’t at least keep a journal in the woods. Chris scoffed. “I expected to die out there. Who would read my journal? You? I’d rather take it to my grave.” The only reason he was talking to me now, he said, is because he was locked in jail and needed practice interacting with others.

“But you must have thought about things,” I said. “About your life, about the human condition.”

Chris became surprisingly introspective. “I did examine myself,” he said. “Solitude did increase my perception. But here’s the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn’t even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.”

That was nice. But still, I pressed on, there must have been some grand insight revealed to him in the wild.

He returned to silence. Whether he was thinking or fuming or both, I couldn’t tell. Though he did arrive at an answer. I felt like some great mystic was about to reveal the Meaning of Life.

“Get enough sleep.”

He set his jaw in a way that conveyed he wouldn’t be saying more. This is what he’d learned. I accepted it as truth.

“What I miss most,” he eventually continued, “is somewhere between quiet and solitude. What I miss most is stillness.” He said he’d watched for years as a shelf mushroom grew on the trunk of a Douglas fir in his camp. I’d noticed the mushroom when I visited—it was enormous—and he asked me with evident concern if anyone had knocked it down. I assured him it was still there. In the height of summer, he said, he’d sometimes sneak down to the lake at night. “I’d stretch out in the water, float on my back, and look at the stars.”

via The Strange Tale of the North Pond Hermit.

Knight demonstrated, like the Japanese soldiers did, that the key supply to have for long-term solitary survival is an active intellect. For instance, he never lit a fire, ever, fearing that the signature smoke would lead others to him (he used a propane stove to cook with, and fed it with stolen tanks. In the winter, he simply suffered). He had selected an alternate camp, and had supplies cached in case his first camp was compromised. He used to deliberately pack weight on with carbs — sugar and alcohol — before Maine’s tough winters set in on him. When he sallied on his burglar raids, he jumped from rock to rock, leaving no prints, leaving no trace. (In the end, he left over 1,000 unsolved burglaries behind). He was finally caught, first on camera by a surveillance booby-trap, then physically when a suspicious caretaker wired a camp storeroom with a motion detector and silent alarm.

In fiction, people who live long in the wild become wild, and lose their ability to speak. Knight kept himself clean and clean-shaven (only growing a “wild hermit beard” when he went to prison). He was never ill, despite a dreadful diet of pilfered snacks. When caught, Knight had lost little of his command of English — one of the items he commonly stole was books — but was uncomfortable interacting with people, which is as likely to be due to a mild autism spectrum disorder as it is to being out of practice.

One key to Knight’s long survival was his solitary existence, although that also created risks for him that a group of two or more would not have had. As a rule of thumb, your signature in every detection domain, and therefore your risk of exposure, increases exponentially, to the power of your group size. The solitary man is the stealthiest, but the world’s militaries tend to deploy a team of no fewer than two men for any task, even the most surreptitious, clandestine recons.  (Even SF and SOF, which take great pains to select men who can operate solo, try not to send them out that way).

Knight’s general approach is a poor model for behavior in TEOTWAWKI. It’s true that he was in a survival milieu much more rural than most people imagine. He drove north until he parked his Subaru BRAT (remember those? It was new) and left the keys in it, and started walking. He was out there, off the grid. But he was dependent on, parasitic on, really, human civilization. Theft from remote camps as a lifestyle depends on campers and hunters restocking the camps, and not living there, planning to ambush you.

Chris Knight’s story is one worth reading. You might as well start with Finkel’s update; Read The Whole Thing™. You’ll know then if you want to read the other links in this post.

This explains a lot: Falling IQ. Or does it?

dunce_capThe human race never fails to astound us in its perpetuation, despite the existence of large numbers of people with the terminal dumbs. Life, after all, is an ongoing IQ test, and humans have come up with an incredible range of ways to fail at it. But one news story says that whole populations are getting dumber:

IQs have largely increased since the 1930s thanks to better living conditions and education – a trend known as the Flynn effect. But IQ test results suggest people in the UK, Denmark and Australia have become less intelligent in the past decade.

Opinion is divided as to whether the downwards trend is long-term. Some studies have shown the average IQ of Westerners has plunged 10 points or more since Victorian times and others claim it will keep decreasing. But other experts argue that even if we are becoming more stupid, better healthcare and technology means the ‘problem’ will regulate itself.

via Are we becoming more STUPID? IQ scores are decreasing | Mail Online.

Maybe it’s just the triumph of the Neanderthal genes in us. That’s been in the news, too, lately.

But maybe the original populations are still getting smarter — but smaller, relative to the whole. And a new generation of immigrants is responsible for this turn on Flynn. Maybe the three nations in question are undergoing a demographic shift that is depressing national IQs, given that different populations have different mean IQs and that each individual population appears to have an IQ distribution centered about the mean in a bell-shaped normal curve.

Data points: Most common boy’s name for newborns in the UK is Mohammed. Arab IQs are about 1 SD (10-15 points) below the Eurasian mean (~100). South Asian IQs are not as depressed, but they are still depressed relatively to European or East Asian IQs (most Moslems born in Britain are descended from South Asians).

A generation where many youths have no prospect beyond government or protected clerical and menial work, or the dole, and who lack the impulse control thad keeps higher-IQ people away from violence and crime. What could possibly go wrong? Will declining mean IQ be the cause of a coming dystopia, or merely a comorbid condition?

In Case You’re Looking For Someone to Blame for ISIL

Abu Bakr al-BaghdadiRemember, we had the top ISIL leader under lock and key, until the seas stopped rising and the planet began to heal:

The leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS,) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was formerly held by the U.S. military at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq from 2005 to his release in 2009.

Hmmm. The US Department of Justice wanted page for Abu Bakr doesn’t mention that, to steal a construction from the Man Who Would Be King, but wound up as Secretary of State: we were for al-Baghdadi before we were against him. But now we’re definitely against him, to the tune of ten million smackers’ reward.

We have always been at war with Eastasia, brother.

Note that we’re all that against him, like we were in the bad old days of Cowboy Bush. We’re not offering the reward for the head of this clown, FOB Fallujah, in a cooler with some dry ice. Somewhere, old KGB officer Vladimir Vladimirovich is shaking his head at American amateurishness, remembering how his service solved the problem of jihadi kidnappings of a random Russian in Lebanon. (Messy KGB wet-work applied to random jihadi leaders. Message received, jihad out. The Russian captive was released with an apology). No, we’re looking for the guy so that Covington and Burling can pocket millions in Gulf Arab jihad money, to tie the US courts up with him wink-nod “pro bono”.

Yet we had the guy, perfectly neutralized in a small, uncomfortable cell. Hmmm. What happened in early 2009 that led to mass releases of terrorists? We seem to recall some calamity or other that gave rise to this.

Why such a dangerous man was slated for release in 2009, or who made the decision is not known. The Telegraph offers that “one possible explanation is that he was one of thousands of suspected insurgents granted amnesty as the US began its draw down in Iraq.”

In 2010, shortly after his release, al-Baghdadi was announced as a new al-Qaeda leader. When bin Laden was killed in 2011, Baghdadi pledged to revenge his death “with 100 terrorist attacks across Iraq” – but with al Qaeda leaders dropping like flies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, no one took him seriously.

via ISIS Leader in Iraq was Released from U.S. Detention Camp in 2009 | CNS News.

Exercise for the reader: How many Italian POWs from the Desert Campaign were ordered released after Italy sued for peace in 1943? (Hint: it’s the number of White House officials who attended the state funeral of MG Greene. But they sent three to the funeral of the wannabe cop killer who started the Ferguson riots).

How many Japanese POWs from Guadalcanal were let go because the war had moved on to Iwo Jima?

But just about everybody we had in the bag on 20 Jan 09 is back in the jihad business today (if they weren’t so incredibly unlucky as to get whacked in the interim).

The country’s in the very best of hands.

In Red Square he’s on display, but in Berlin Lenin Stays Buried

German Communists nostalgic for the days of Stasi surveillance and torture have failed in an attempt to have a gigantic “socialist realism” statue of Russian dictator Lenin exhumed for display.

The real Lenin statue gets the chop: 1991.

The real Lenin statue gets the hook: 1991. German Communists want him back.

Lenin, creator of the Soviet Union, the lawless government which held the undisputed world record for mass murder until the rise of Mao Tse-Tung, was imposed on East Germany by a massive 22-division Soviet army, the Group of Soviet Forces Germany, and a regime of German quislings. Many of the first-generation Stasi were Gestapo retreads, who served their Soviet masters as ruthlessly as they’d served Nazi ones. Only the uniforms changed.

Curators of an exhibition about the German capital’s monuments had proposed to including the Russian revolutionary’s 1.7-metre (5.6ft) head in their show, scheduled for spring 2015. Between 1970 and 1991, the statue had stood on Lenin Square in Berlin’s Friedrichshain district. After its removal, it was cut into 129 pieces and buried in a pit in Köpenick.

Lenin wasn’t melted down because he was a low-budget stone statue: the Workers’ and Peasants’ proletarian paradise couldn’t afford bronze. (People remember him as metallic because he, or at least his prop version was upgraded to bronze in the Ostalgie flick, Good-bye Lenin). 

Movie Lenin gets the hook: Good-Bye Lenin's prop.

Movie Lenin gets the hook: Good-Bye Lenin’s prop. Communism is the terrorist totalitarian ideology that never gave up, just got tenure at university and dreams of a comeback.

But last week the Berlin senate rejected the curators’ proposal to excavate Lenin’s head, arguing that they didn’t know its precise location and would therefore have to dig up the entire pit, long overgrown with shrubs and trees: too costly an undertaking for the city’s cash-strapped authorities.

Politicians and historians have criticised the decision.

What politicians? What historians?

Members of the leftwing Die Linke went as far as suggesting that the mayor, Klaus Wowereit, was ideologically motivated: “They are even still scared of that stupid old head,” the MP Wolfgang Brauer told the Taz newspaper.

Ah, those politicians. Die Linke is the euphemism for the former Socialistiches Einheitspartie Deutschlands, the guys who brought you the land mines along the Berlin Wall, hundreds of murders,  torture chambers in every city in their dystopian cesspool, and systematic and pervasive surveillance. Brauer is a guy who wants to bring all that back. (Complete with Russians to do his thinking for him? Probably).

via Berlin’s giant Lenin statue may have been lost, say city authorities | World news | The Guardian.

It’s all about the art and the history, Brauer mumbles (his mouth is full of Brezhnev’s private parts, still). Hey, didn’t Arno Breker sculpt another famous 20th-Century leader? Where’s that sculpture if it’s all about the history?

Of course, if you want to see Lenin, his mausoleum in Red Square welcomes his devotees daily (and worship of the rotted mummy of the syphilitic old goat is expected). Thanks to Vladimir Vladimirovich, the man’s mortal remains have a continued appeal as a tourist attraction that the many monumental statues of him that slave labor erected across half the globe have not done.

Government Corruption — in the National Guard

camp grayling signThis is a Michigan story that hasn’t gone national, but it probably should. An insular, highly political National Guard unit had become so corrupt that mass sackings of leadership and full-timers were required to get it back under control. The Detroit Free Press reported that the investigation found, “widespread theft, moonlighting, destruction of government property and nepotism” at the lakeside Maneuver and Training Equipment Site (MATES) at Camp Grayling (in the north of the state’s lower peninsula). 

The Freep also noted that  the “scandal… extends to the nearby city of Grayling… with allegations of longstanding and too cozy relationships between those who buy supplies and services for the Maneuver and Training Equipment Site (MATES) at the base and vendors and contractors.”

The fix remains in: the criminal investigations the investigating officer recommended never transpired. But the officers and NCOs whose corruption and incompetence wasted millions in Army equipment, supplies, and labor, remain fired.

Of course, some of them are fighting it: a government job of any kind is seen as an entitlement that no misconduct or criminality should shake.

Camp Grayling“Many … employees thought it was allowed to ‘look the other way’ when theft (wood, copper, diesel, time) was occurring, and the majority aimlessly followed direction when told to throw thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment away,” investigating officer Col. Scott Doolittle said in a January memorandum to Gen. Gregory Vadnais, adjutant general of the Michigan Army and Air National Guard.

[The report] referenced a “Grayling mafia” and said the MATES suffered from “toxic leadership” and lack of discipline.

“I am concerned for the safety and well-being of all persons who have come forward and provided detailed accurate statements against persons who are ‘well-connected,’ ” Doolittle said in the memo to Vadnais.

Of the seven “well-connected” Guard members named in Doolittle’s report, two “toxic” lieutenant colonels slunk off into retirement, two NCOs dual-hatted as Guardsmen and civilian employees were dealt a two-week suspension from their jobs, and two more were fired. A fifth NCO was not punished.

The two fired NCOs (who were fired in their capacity as civilian National Guard employees) are fighting for their right to steal from the public. They’re represented by experts at ripping off the public, their union. (Yes, these dual-role Guard pogues have a union).

The findings of the report, per the Freep:

■ MATES personnel threw away “hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of new and used equipment and parts,” including shock absorbers, engine and transmission parts and electronic equipment, on the orders of Golnick and McNamara, so the facility would look better for an April 2013 inspection.

■ Several people who worked at the facility were running businesses on the side using government equipment and time, including a stock trading operation and a lawn care business.

■ Theft was widespread and worsening, and appeared “to have started with nuts/bolts, progressing to tools, progressing to bigger tools, to time, to copper, to diesel (fuel), and to wood.”

■ Theft of time involved abuse of leave time, such as “trash can” leave, in which leave time would be requested and granted but the request would be thrown in the trash so there was no record of it having been used.

■ Lack of discipline, with personnel not wearing proper uniforms and addressing one another by their first names.

■ “Fractured or completely broken” communication, with the mutual animosity between Golnick and McNamara so strong that McNamara told the investigator he only talked to Golnick when he had to.

■ Nepotism in which relatives were hired and, in some cases, reported to relatives.

■ An inappropriate too-close friendship between Golnick and Reed, who are both married to other partners. He spent considerable time in her work area and the two worked out and socialized together. Doolittle’s report said there was no direct evidence they had a sexual relationship, but their closeness made many at the facility uncomfortable and some felt Reed received favored treatment.

■ Doolittle said he heard it was common to give base business to friends who lived in Grayling, and one supplier gave two MATES employees a chartered fishing trip and allowed hunting on his land.

In our experience (in all three components: USA, USAR, and ARNG) the fulltime Guard was very political in both senses of the word. (The M-day guys just wanted to soldier, or for some of them, to play soldier).

The various defenestrated Michigan Guardsmen have an excuse for everything; the bottom line is, since that’s the way Camp Grayling always did it, they don’t see where they did anything wrong.

One of the strengths of National Guard units is that they build strong relationships over time. One of the vulnerabilities of Guard units is the exact same thing.

From Nimitz to Numbnuts: RIF Poison Pills in Action

You're Fired!

Wake up, Bumstead! You’re Fired!

Thanks to all who read the post on the Army’s Officer Retention Board and the way the ongoing Reduction In Force is being used to shape a New Model Army (sorry, Ollie) of knob-polishing yes-men (and -women, and -people-of-no-fixed-gender-identity. “Progress” is… interesting, and it’s a damned good time to be retired).

We thought we’d follow up with links to a couple stories of individuals whose careers were terminated by the same Poison Pill — long past alcohol-related incidents.  One is a combat-decorated (Purple Heart) Army officer sacked by this exact ORB. The other, illustrating that this is not an Army or officer corps problem alone, is a Marine NCO with the Silver Star Medal, which is awarded for “gallantry in action, while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.”

We have expressed concern that this ongoing, all-services RIF would, if badly managed, have results like the disastrous post-Vietnam RIF. More and more that is looking like a best case scenario. Post Vietnam, there were still places off the books for the warriors to hide (one of those was Special Forces). Nowadays those bolt-holes have also been brought under the purview of the personnel mismanagers. While the Army officer below is a case where there’s a colorable argument on both sides, the Marine NCO case is the sort of “own goal” we see more and more.

An Army Officer Tells His Tale

The first, a former Army officer’s letter published by the genially anti-military reporter Tom Ricks, tells the human story of one of these “rejects.”

I was selected for the recently convened Officer Separation Boards for the Department of the Army for a mistake over eight years ago. The mistake was a DUI in which I received a General Officer Memorandum for Record in 2006. Since this incident, I strived for excellence in every job that I performed.

I trained soldiers for deployments to Iraq as part of the surge into theater from 2006-2008. From 2008-2011, I attended and completed Ranger School, Air Assault School and earned the Expert Infantryman Badge. I commanded troops in combat in Afghanistan where I earned the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal for Valor, and the Purple Heart for actions against a determined enemy in RC East. After the deployment, I was selected as the executive officer for the deputy commander for the Combined Arms Center of Training at Fort Leavenworth serving in the capacity as the daily assistant for a general officer. The following year I was selected among a field of majors to attend the Commanding General and Staff Officer College at Fort Leavenworth, as well as the school of advanced military studies. Both prestigious institutes serve as the educational nexus for field-grade officers. Upon graduating from SAMS in May 2014, I was notified that I would not receive an assignment due to being assessed as high risk the GOMAR in my restricted file.

The officer in question, Major Charles V. Slider, was ejected from the Army this summer.

Slider also notes:

[M]y interpretation of this entire process is that it involved no critical thinking…. the board process chose individuals for elimination that met all of the requirements, but possessed one black mark. …. This created a system in which officers were selected based on a mistake rather than their overall contribution to the Army. One lapse in judgment does not constitute a pattern of misconduct, nor a judgment of overall character.

I believe that we should be judged on our body of work, not one isolated incident.

Usually Ricks is not worth reading, but in this case he just stepped back and gave his pen to Maj. Slider. Slider is clearly very upset (enough that it’s affected his grammar). Do Read The Whole Thing™. Read the comments too, most of which tend to be along the lines of: “F him, he got a DUI, *I* never did that because I maintain laser focus on my career 24/7.” (That cheeser must be a real delight to serve under). One unwritten subtext to the moralizing is that Army officers are disproportionately members of certain abstemious sects and religions, some of which encourage them to attempt, by fair means or foul, to make their religion your religion too. It’s not the enormous problem that militant atheist Mikey Weinstein (who would like to make his lack of religion your religion, too) makes it out to be, but it’s there.

One commenter also noted that black officers (like Slider, did we mention that about him? Probably not) were more likely to be binned by OSBs than whites, and one of the organization-defenders demanded data. It’s actually in the slides: “too much” melanin doubles your chances of being bilged. This is probably, given the crude and mechanistic way the OSB was just a purging of men with a black mark, just because minority officers are more likely to have one of the Four Poison Pills. (As did Slider: the GOMOR).

An Enlisted Marine’s Experience with a Poison Pill

Jesus says youre firedWhile dismissing Slider can be defended on several grounds, the next case seems to be the Marine Corps, which is mistakenly thought to be a smarter institution than the Army, actively rejecting an NCO who is a model to his subordinates (and to those of his superiors who are alert).

As a rule of thumb, things that are career killers in the white-glove world of the officer corps have been less so in the enlisted world: second chances are real there, and a guy can soldier his way out of a junior screwup. But just in the way that pointless, ticket-punch and content-light “schools”  have seeped down into the NCO corps, the “zero defects” system of personnel-management has done so as well. Consider Frank:

Frank… selflessly exposed himself to blistering enemy fire to search for targets with his MK 11 sniper rifle in order to alleviate pressure on the Marines in the kill zone. Frank was able to positively identify an enemy fire team moving through the trench to flank the Marines in the kill zone with three RPGs, an RPK and a PK machine gun. With no regard for his personal safety, Frank ignored the fire being directed at his position, controlled his breathing, relaxed, and began engaging targets.

Frank destroyed two RPG gunners with rounds to the head and another with a round to the sternum. In return, an enemy machine gunner targeted him with long barrages of machine gun fire that impacted within a foot of his position. Frank made corrections for wind and distance and killed him with a single round to the torso. At this point the RPK gunner attempted to break contact but Frank was able to strike him down with a round from his MK 11 before he reached cover, killing him with his second round.

Still under intense enemy small arms and machine gun fire, Frank observed enemy fighters reinforcing the trench line from compounds to the north, targeting his fellow Marines who were pinned down in the trench to his east. He engaged fourteen enemy combatants with fourteen rounds, wounding two, mortally wounding another eight and killing four outright.

Frank repeatedly exposed himself to heavy enemy fire with no regard for his personal well-being during a decisive point in the battle to effectively neutralize and destroy twenty one enemy combatants. He continued to engage and destroy enemy targets as our platoon surged forward in a vicious counter attack that drove the Taliban from the battlefield after inflicting over a hundred casualties on the enemy. He was later awarded the Silver Star for the exceptional heroism he displayed in this battle.

What a great story right? Here is the punch line. While most of you are probably wondering when this exceptional Marine will become Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, you may be surprised to find out that he is being forced out of uniform. Frank has reached service limitations because he has been on active duty over ten years and the Marine Corps will not promote Frank to Staff Sergeant. Does that make any sense to anyone else? I certainly can’t make any sense of it. I forgot to mention a small detail. Frank used to have a bit of a drinking problem.

Frank racked up two alcohol incidents, was reduced from Sergeant to Corporal, and went to rehab and dried out — six years ago. Been dry ever since, got his Sergeant stripes back, but in today’s zero-defects USMC the man who fought in that engagement described above — and that’s far from his only one, you must Read The Whole Thing™ — is not what they’re looking for.

Now, imagine this: you are a Marine officer preparing an element to deploy, who has been granted, by the beneficent shade of Chesty, a boon no Marine officer gets: you can choose your gunny rather than take the one hand-receipted to you by the Corps. Your two options are, a guy who has never transgressed, and whose membership in an approved abstemious sect keeps him from being any kid of a DUI risk, or Frank.

The Marines chose the other guy.

Future Marines will suffer the consequences of that decision. But that’s the way all the services roll, these days; the Marines were merely the last bastion of warrior-hood to fall to the tea drinkers.

It means that the service, then, is more and more like a Turkish water-pipe full of opium: the more you suck, the higher you go. As a result, first-time screwups (especially officer screwups) happen at higher and higher levels. What used to be the tolerable 2LT dumbs is now the rather more consequential COL or BG dumbs. And instead of mentors and confident subordinates to keep him straight, that senior officer has, careerlong, been surrounded by superiors he has toadied to and juniors who toady to him, and who would sooner walk the plank than utter a word that might be taken as criticism of their lord and master.

There’s a lot of bullshit from the personnel managers about how they consider “the whole man” during the 3.5 seconds an officer or NCO’s file is on their desk. It’s bullshit designed to cover for a mechanistic system that produces mediocrity (at best). In a centralized system, all the incentives are for a mechanical, quantifiable, check-the-box approach, and mirabile dictu, that is what we get. In a decentralized system, which has not existed, perhaps, for a century, we get whining (from the same toadies who excel under the current system) that it’s not faiiiiir.

Note Nimitz's grade when he autographed this picture of DD-5 USS Decatur.

Note Nimitz’s grade when he autographed this picture of DD-5 USS Decatur.

Once, a young naval ensign recovered from career damage after being convicted at court-martial of “hazarding his ship.” It was an open-and-shut case: the overconfident young man had run USS Decatur aground, nowadays such a career killer than some officers shrink from shiphandling. This took place, mind you, 107 years ago. You know him as Adm. Chester Nimitz; the Navy of a century past didn’t see a problem with  Today’s armed services have concluded they need no Nimitzes and more numbnutses.

Ave atque vale: Robert Richards, Cpl. USMC, Ret.

micturating marineYou may not remember Richards (l.), but surely you remember the Micturating Marines, a scout-sniper element who were pursued like Ahab pursued the white whale, with Marine Commandant James Amos cheerfully playing the Ahab role, demanding that the convening authority “crush” the offending Marines, legalities be damned.

Amos has been quietly taking his revenge on the survivors of the unit, including the former company XO, whom he squeezed out of the Corps in 2013, and their former lawyer, James Weireck, who himself got “crushed” last September after daring to send an email to a former Amos horse-holder. But Richards’s death appears to be related to his combat wounds and the resulting medical problems.

After his “crushing” over the incident, he was never again promoted but was deployed and wounded seriously. He suffered lasting injuries and was medically retired as a Corporal. He always identified as a Marine and stayed close to his fellow Marines for the rest of his life.

Retired Cpl. Robert Richards, 28, died at his home in Jacksonville, North Carolina, according to Guy Womack, his attorney and friend. An autopsy is being conducted, Womack said, adding that the cause of death does not appear to be self-inflicted. A medical examiner will look at the mix of medication Richards was taking, he told the paper.

Richards had said in recent years that he regretted the whizzing, and the less easily explained act of filming the whizzing. He accepted responsibility at court-martial:

Richards pleaded guilty to failing to obey a lawful order and violating Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He was reduced one pay grade but avoided jail or a bad-conduct discharge and was later medically retired.

His explanation of the incident in a post-retirement video:

I’m really tired of explaining why we pissed on them. What led up to it — what really led up to it is, they desecrated one of our Marines…. When you’re under that much stress, and you’re in that environment, your whole mental being changes. You’re no longer Joe the Family Man.

Five other enlisted Marines were punished judicially or nonjudicially for the incident. The Marine leadership also lashed out against the unit’s XO, binning him after being unable to pin charges on him, and on the attorneys that represented the Marines.

The Marine Corps dropped the criminal charges filed against the only officer implicated in the video, Capt. James Clement, but he was involuntary separated from the service early this year.

via Marine who urinated on Taliban in video found dead – News – Stripes.

Yeah, it's Army camo. Tell it to the Marines.

Yeah, it’s Army camo. Tell it to the Marines.

Another officer avoided charges, perhaps because he was the son of a former Commandant himself. After all, the military is a society of ranks, not of laws. This probably is the end of the line for the story of the Micturating Marines, except that it will forever be an asterisk or footnote on James Amos’s turn as Commandant.

Typical of the command climate in the Marine Corps lately: in May, investigators working for Marine prosecutors raided defense attorneys and searched their files in a fruitless fishing expedition, with a phony “warrant” that had never been seen by a judge; this week, they scheduled a second trial of a Marine convicted of murder in 2007 on the basis of a tainted “confession,” after an appeals court threw out the conviction.

Who’s Getting Riffed?

A little birdie visited the other day, and among its droppings we discovered a very interesting .pptx document: Its title was HUMAN RESOURCES COMMAND: Briefing to to General Odierno, CSA, 10 July 2014.

hrc_brief_splash_slideYes, the double “to” is in the title, and yes, it was shown to the Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) that way, and yes, he missed it, too. The country’s in the very best of hands.

We’ve had the document for about a week now, and have shared it with some Army friends, and we’re sure we’re not the only ones. It’s unclassified, but we didn’t want to share it all publicly for one very specific reason: since much of it deals with the officer RIFs, there are some specific slides that are potentially damaging to the reputations and privacy of individual officers selected for separation by several recent boards. One slide in particular uses the DA photos of four individuals selected for termination (three of them combat vets with the CIB or CAB) and demeans them in the process of arguing HRC’s position, which stripped of personnel-wallah cant is basically: these are the slugs we’re getting rid of.

As we’ll see, the HRC definition of a “slug” is somewhat different from ours. (Ours encompasses much of the Human Resources Command, for starters). But our concern is that these four proud officers, and others whose individual selves may be clearly identifiable from elements in the presentation, need not be personally dragged in the mud in public, just because they were privately dragged through the mud — unknowingly — for the edification of the Chief of Staff. Maybe they are slugs, but to have that decision made by a Washington-based personnel drone whose plush bottom has polished his chair smooth is some gross violation of the 6th Amendment’s guarantee of an impartial jury. As in the 1970s RIFs, there seems to be a bias against combat vets and for the combat-shy baked into the system.

The Agenda of the meeting was the following.

Agenda

Officer Separation Board (OSB) Follow Up
Command Selection List (CSL) Audit Update
CSL Briefing Due Outs (7 Apr 14)
Branch Monitoring Update
Cyber Branch Update
Korea Rotation Business Rules and Manning Timeline
Building NCOs for 2035
Other Key Initiatives

 

Each item deserves analysis, but we’re going to stick to the Officer Separation Board (OSB) in the interests of brevity and focus. We’re most likely to circle back, in future posts, to the Korea Rotation and Building NCOs bits (2035? Yeah, FY 15 is just around the corner, and career NCOs joining as privates today will be senior NCOs in 2035… if we still have a nation and an Army, and HRC hasn’t mismanaged it into strategic defeat). And the “Branch Monitoring” thing? That’s Affirmative Action quota management in action, especially for combat arms. Surely there’s a post in that. But we need to fixate on the OSB for now.

How Does A Captain or Major Get out of this Chickenshit Army? The OSB!

7,957 Majors, a rank that normally comprises only career, not obligated-service, officers, were considered, and 550 of them were selected .

What was a career killer? Having Officer Evaluation Reports that list you as “Center Of Mass” of your peers (“COM”s). Even if three of your last four were “Above Center Of Mass,” one COM could kill you. Now, commanders can’t give everyone ACOM, and the COMs often go to the new guy who volunteered to fill in on a deployment, etc. In other words, the system has an intrinsic bias against voluntary deployers and independent thinkers, and an intrinsic bias towards toadies and suck-ups. Courtney Massengale, call your office. You didn’t get riffed. There’s also a Below Center Of Mass (BCOM). If you got one of those, you’re history; HRC treated it as one of the four Poison Pills.

An officer of our acquaintance used to mentor cadets thus: “There are only two kinds of OERs, perfect and career-ending. You just don’t know when and how the second kind ends your career.”

The Four Poison Pills were derogatory reports in an officer’s file. Those included a General Officer Memorandum Of Reprimand (for which the Army has two acronyms: GOMOR and GOMAR), Article 15 Nonjudicial Punishment, the above-mentioned BCOM, and something called an NLJ, an acronym that is not in the HRC acronym glossary, and that no one we know could explain. We believe it to be the existence of a comment on an officer’s OER that indicates Non Leadership Judgment — a severe condemnation from a rater or senior rater, if that’s the case. ETA: NLJ has been explained by many helpful commenters as “Not Left Justified,” meaning an officer has an OER with a check in any box other than the one that says he or she is superior to his or her peers. We’re grateful for the correction and explanation. In any event, one of any of the poison pills was a career killer.

Of the 550 Majors selected for disposal:

Number Percent Reason
226 43%. Derogatory information in file (GOMOR, etc). Guys who blotted their copybook. (Or pissed someone important off).
190 34% NLJ OER. We believe that to be “non leadership judgment” Basically, a non-max OER; see the comments for a detailed explanation.
 108 20% COM OERs. Most of them had ALL COMs (87), some had one ACOM and 4 (the ones pictured in the slide mentioned in the text) had multiple ACOMs, but at least one COM.
26 5% had a BCOM OER. This is essentially a rater’s method of ejecting an officer from the army (albeit a delayed-action method).

The derogatory information didn’t have to be recent. Got a GOMOR as a 2nd Lieutenant for Dumb LT Tricks, eight years ago? Kiss your ass goodbye. Got an Article 15 as a private before soldiering your way back into the Army’s good graces, and then getting a ROTC scholarship? You’re gone.

A non-GO Memorandum Of Reprimand was also a career killer, if you got it for something the Chief of Staff doesn’t like — like carrying a personally owned weapon. That sent one combat-vet with a Purple Heart to the Dreaded Private Sector.

Being overweight, or looking overweight in your photo: killer.

A more trivial career killer, but one the board actually used: having your official DA photo in the old Army Green service uniform, not the new blue Army Service Uniform. Given the few seconds’ consideration the board gave to each officer, the photo has an outsized impact. (Some board veterans say they look at other things besides the photo, but by that, they mean “look for signs of a COM or BCOM OER.”)

Another career killer: being in the AFPak Hands program. Captains in this program got borked at a higher level, and Majors at a double level, than average for those ranks. In addition to the RIF that decimated the company grad and junior field grades, LTCs who volunteered for the AFPAK program have also committed career seppuku: in FY 14, only 6& were selected for command and 3% for promotion to Colonel (compared to 27% and 40% of officers who declined this particular forlorn hope).

Why is command selection a big deal? The LTC Command Selection List is probably the single most key event in a senior officer’s career. Only one in twelve or so is selected. Roughly ¾ of the officers selected for Command at that level will be promoted to COL and offered attendance at a Senior Service College such as the US Army War College, an important grooming milestone for general officer. Roughly half of the COL selectees will make the COL level Command Selection List, so the gating function of the LTC CSL is clear.

hrc_brief_why_ltc_csl_counts

Similarly to the poor bastards of the once-emphasized but now-radioactive AFPAK program, officers in the understrength Functional Area 48, Foreign Area Officers, were hit hard. And the hardest hit among them were officers whose area was in the CENTCOM Area Of Responsibility (AOR) — the most deeply understrength area.

hrc_brief_fa_48_majorsFive of these 48Gs were among the 14 48s binned, for such HRC violations as one of the Four Poison Pills and, in one case, the crime of wearing greens in his DA Photo. From the outside looking in, it looks like one more war-vet purge. One of the terminated 48s was the current Army Attaché in a nation where the USA cooperates closely with the government while we together fight a strong insurgent presence. The geniuses at Human Resources Command haven’t any prospect of laying hands on an Arabic speaker to replace him until January of 2015, so they’re hoping he’ll take one for the team that screwed him and forego terminal leave.

See, that’s why we need professional personnel officers, to make brilliant moves like that.

Most of the officers selected were in troop units, but that’s where most officers in these grades are.

What Amulets Protected and What Didn’t

Having come into the Army the “right” way was a big factor, but all it did was change the rate of selection (the only source of commission from which nobody was selected was service acadmies other than USMA. Service academy grads can elect to take their commission in a different service; very few do. The Army has only seven such majors in the nearly 8,000 member ORB pool: less than one in a thousand, and none of them was selected; too little data for statistical significance).

Still, USMA “ring-knockers” were selected at a fraction of the rate of other sources of commission; indeed, at less than half the rate of the next most immune group, ROTC scholarship students. Still, 25 Academy grads and 178 of the scholarship grads were on the hit list. Those were the only groups selected at below-average rates. The most unlucky were interservice transfers, officers initially commissioned in another branch. Of 25 of them considered, 4 were selected (16%) compared to the <3% selection rate for USMA grads. Still, 3% is not zero; get a GOMOR or BCOM and even The Ring can’t save you.

Not only did combat tours not save an officer, and lack of combat tours not put him at risk, even a Purple Heart didn’t spare him. Seventeen combat-wounded officers are among the casualties.

We’ve talked primarily about the Majors (this is long enough) but the fate of the Captains was similar. One notable thing is that a small but distinct number of CPTs were binned for Article 15s or Letters of Reprimand that they collected during prior enlisted service. As with the Majors,  having the Ring of Power halved one’s chances of being booted — but so many captains have been selected that 6.2% of the considered academy grads are among them.

How SF/SOF fared

Generally, SF officers did better than their conventional peers. Again using Majors data, either 341 or 353 officers were considered (the data are inconsistent), and 11 were selected. Of these, one was one of the PH recipients. None of the SF selectees was African American (overall, AA officers were selected at a higher rate than average). The SF captains were selected at an even lower rate, one that rounds to 1%.

Aviation officers also were selected at a below average rate, but other combat arms (Armor, Artillery, Combat Engineers) were selected at higher than average rates; Infantry split, with Majors selecting below average and Captains above (as the saying goes, lower is better, in this measurement). SF was the lowest-percentage combat arms branch, and the only consistently lower branches were extremely low-density ones like Space Operations and Operations Research.

The Bottom Line

So what does it all mean? The Army is reshaping itself into a peacetime service again. This requires disposal of a large number of combat vets. And this won’t be the last RIF by any means, either. Combat and what the Army is getting ready for (mostly, to fight the budget battles with the Marines, et al., on the playing fields of Congress, endless corridors of the Pentagon, and leaks to the Washington Post) are different and incompatible things.

Thanks for serving your country, Major. Now hit the bricks.

What if a kid took your gun to school?

hp_SauceThat really happened to Richard Tuite of Kingston, NH. He left his pistol in a dresser drawer. A middle school student — whose identity and relationship to Tuite, if any, have been closely held by authorities — stole the pistol and brought it to school to show his friends. One of the other students ratted him out, and a search of his backpack — it wasn’t clear whether this was by school administrators of police — turned up the firearm, producing a pretty good case of HP. (Note: this case is different from either of the two cases of NH seacoast school HP in that story. It’s another one, saints preserve us).

In the end, they figured out that the kid meant no criminal harm, but was just showing off (apparently he intended to sneak the gun back before Tuite noticed it missing), and wound down the panic, the lockdown, and all the things that go with that. All that was left was the shouting — in court.

A Kingston man who owned the loaded handgun that a Cooperative Middle School student brought to school in April pleaded guilty Monday and was fined $1,000.

Richard Tuite…. was sentenced in Plaistow Circuit Court after pleading guilty to a charge of negligent storage of firearms – a violation-level offense.

According to the police complaint, Tuite left the semi-automatic handgun unsecured inside a dresser at his house.

Police said the middle school student took the gun sometime between April 25 and April 28 and brought it to school on April 29 to show other students. School administrators found the loaded gun in the boy’s backpack.

As part of his sentencing, Plaistow Circuit Court Judge Sharon DeVries ordered Tuite to pay a $1,000 fine, which was suspended for a year based on good behavior. He was also ordered to complete a firearms safety class within 90 days and perform 20 hours of community service through the Kingston Police Department.

If Tuite had not pled guilty, he might well have won in court, as it does not seem that all the elements of the crime were present.

Kingston police brought the gun charge against Tuite under a state law that allows a gun owner to be prosecuted if a loaded firearm isn’t properly stored and someone under the age of 16 gains access without permission and uses it in a threatening or reckless manner.

There was no threat, although you can make a case the kid was reckless. Scary thing is, unless the kid’s been gunproofed (and this stunt suggests he hasn’t), he doesn’t even have a clue just how reckless it is.

The statute doesn’t define “properly stored,” but we think we can all agree that if you think it’s resting comfortably in your top drawer while Kid or Grandkid and his friends are trying to finger it to arousal in the Boy’s Room, it’s not properly stored. Q.E.D. Obviously Mr Tuite agrees, too, or he’d have fought this. As it is, he has a blot on his copybook like a bad traffic ticket, and can even hang on to his $1k fine if he can stay out of court, and keep Junior’s dickskinners off his firearm.

The kid, too, may face a day court:

Stratham police also charged the boy with reckless conduct, a Class A felony, and carrying a firearm without a license, a Class A misdemeanor. The status of those charges wasn’t known Tuesday.

You can follow this link if you want to Read The Whole Thing™. The headline writer was all excited about the $1,000 fine, which is why you should never trust headlines — the fine is a legal fiction, unless Tuite blots his copybook again in the next year.

Something tells us they’re not going to mark the kid a felon over this — this is New Hampshire, after all, not New JerSSey. So all in all, this is probably a pretty reasonable outcome, enabled by the fact that this youthful irresponsibility (and adult irresponsibility, or at least, misplaced trust) didn’t lead to a discharge of the firearm and all the drama that would have caused — especially if it hit someone.

As we write this, it’s 2200 hours. Do you know where your firearms are?

US Secures Border — Against Bagpipes

bagpipesWe confess no love of the amorphous and shrill instrument; instrument of music or of torture, the decision is in the ear of the bepiped-upon. But it’s a free country, it says here. (Sometimes we wonder).

We were surprised to see that, while on one side our border agents are reduced to powdering babies’ bottoms and waving vanloads of gangbanging cholos through to their new horizons in crime turf, on the opposite, Canadian, border, eternal and relentless vigilance is keeping us safe from… vintage bagpipes.

Take it away, Mark Steyn:

Every day in this country tyranny’s whimsy descends on some law-abiding person out of the blue. You buy an imported vintage car, and you wake up with Homeland Security agents surrounding your home and confiscating your property. This weekend it was two of my fellow Granite Staters – 17-year-old Campbell Webster and Eryk Bean, of Concord, New Hampshire.

Instead of enjoying meth and twerking like normal well-adjusted teens, they like bagpipes. Master Webster comes from a long line of bagpipers: his father Gordon was pipe-major for the 1st and 2nd Batallion the Scots Guards and personal piper to the Queen. So he passed on the 1936 family bagpipes to his son, and young Campbell uses them to play in pipe championships in North America and around the world. So this weekend he was returning to New Hampshire from a competition in Canada, which is how a newspaper story comes to open with a sentence never before written in the history of the English language:

BAGPIPERS have expressed their fear over a new law which led to two US teenagers having their pipes seized by border control staff at the weekend.

They can chisel that on the tombstone of the republic. On the northern border, bagpipers are “expressing their fear”, while on the southern border gangbangers have no fear and stroll through the express check-in. Putin has no fear of American power, the mullahs have no fear of American power, the Chinese politburo has no fear of American power, ISIS has no fear of American power, but the world’s bagpipers fear it, and with good reason.

The figleaf of a pretext for seizing Messrs Webster and Bean’s bagpipes is what The Scotsman (as usual, any real news about America has to be gleaned from the foreign press) calls “new laws” introduced a month ago. By “laws”, they don’t mean something passed by the people’s representatives in a legislature – there’s not a lot of that going on these days – but a little bit of regulatory fine-tuning by some no-name bureaucrats at the Department of Paperwork. The upshot of which is that, if you own a vintage bagpipe containing ivory and you wish to take it to a competition in Montreal, you have to get a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) certificate from the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Got that? You have to get your musical instrument approved by Fish & Wildlife.

Oh, but Messrs Webster and Bean were on top of that. They’d gone to Fish & Wildlife, gotten their CITES certificates, and presented them to the US Customs & Border Protection agent upon returning to the United States via a Vermont border crossing (presumably either Highgate or Derby Line, both of which I use frequently).

At which point the Commissar of Bagpipes said, “Ah, yes, the CITES certificate is valid but…”

Here it comes, boys and girls! Stand well back; it’s the Bollocks of the Day from your friendly all-American Bureau of Compliance:

“The CITES certificate is valid but…it’s only valid at 38 designated ports of entry.” And this wasn’t one of them. So he confiscated the bagpipes.

Why don’t they just put a big sign up on the border? “US Government Paperwork Not Accepted At This US Government Border Post.”

So Customs & Border Protection will wave through “unaccompanied minors”, but if the minor’s accompanied by a bagpipe the guy in the full Robocop will seize it and tell the kid he’s “never going to see them again”. And then the Robocop goes home having done a full and rewarding day of work.

We have quoted it rather extensively, but you really ought to Read The Whole Thing™.

Mark Steyn, from whom we lifted all that, notes that here in New Hampshire there are exactly zero politicians this election year who have taken any interest in the case of the expropriated pipers and the amped-up, hopped-up, regulation writers and the even worse cops who take glee in enforcing these insane regulations. The Democrats actually favor this kind of thing, and the Republican front runner for the Senate seat is a Democrat Lite, who has no particular problem with it.

Somehow this character has come to be defined as an Enemy of the State:

Campbell Webster and the confiscated pipes

What did he ever do?

The Scotsman has updated their story to note that Campbell Webster (photo, above) and Eryk Brown got their pipes, in Webster’s case, a family heirloom, back:

After beginning a campaign online, Mr Webster had his pipes returned on Tuesday.

He said: “My friend and I both had our pipes seized by the US government Sunday night.

“We were told we were never going to see them again.”

“There is no way to describe the feeling watching border patrol agents seizing your bagpipes right in front of you.”

Campbell’s vintage 1936 silver and ivory Robertson pipes previously belonged to his dad Gordon Webster – pipe-major with the 1st and 2nd Battalion Scots Guards and once an official piper to Queen Elizabeth II.

An online petition to reunite the youngsters with their bagpipes attracted almost 3,000 signatures – with many supporters expressing their outrage at the seizure.

We don’t know how to break it to the drooling subgeniuses who staff the Fish & Wildlife Service and the Customs and Border Patrol agency, but today’s elephants are not being poached to make 76-year-old bagpipes.

The Scotsman notes that pipers everywhere are making loud noises in unaccustomed ways:

Glasgow-based piper Craig Munro, the owner of Wallace Bagpipes in Anniesland and a member of pipe band the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, offered to lend Campbell a set of pipes when he heard what had happened.

He said: “It’s been a real scare for the bagpipe community.

“But it shows the strength of the community that everyone came together to help Campbell.”

He added: “There seems to be a crackdown.

“This is the first time I have heard of anyone actually having their pipes confiscated from them.

“It’s really going to damage the antique market – because let’s be honest, what’s the point in owning an old set of pipes if you can’t take them anywhere.”

US piper Ron Bowen, who runs website The Bagpipe Place, said: “We are all very nervous over here.

“This has caused significant concern within the Canadian and US bagpipe communities. The law and its requirements are complicated and confusing.”

Scots pipers have also slammed the “bureaucratic” rules.

Stuart Milne, 24, from Aberdeenshire, will be competing in the World Championships with Stamperland Pipe Band.

He said: “This has been a bureaucratic nightmare, and the legislation seems to be quite new and not widely publicised.

“The cost and transport for these antique instruments seems excessive.

“The piping world is waiting to see what happens with this particular instance, everyone is freaked out about what will happen to these instruments when pipers are travelling from North America.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service says that this time those pesky kids got their pipes back, but from now on it’s no more Mr Nice Guy:

To take bagpipes with elephant ivory out of the United States and back, musicians need to obtain a CITES document from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and leave and return to the country via one of our 38 designated ports.

Musicians should contact the port 48 hours in advance to arrange to declare their instrument and obtain Service clearance on departure or arrival.

They should also check with the country they’re visiting to see if that nation has any requirements of its own.

If musicians want to travel internationally from other U.S. airports or across land borders, they must also apply for a designated port exception permit and pay inspection fees.

And you’re supposed to know all this crap: “Ig’nance a th’ law is no excuse,” as the steroid-addled Tactical Tommies on the border will tell you. Even though it changes on the fly: these “laws” have, as Steyn noted, no basis in statute, but were made up on the fly by their would-be enforcers.

Hey, we have a better idea: how about a 50% personnel budget cut, loss of authority to pay overtime and bonuses, and 75% cut in Senior Executive Service positions and spokespersons for the Fish & Wildlife Service? The fishes and game animals don’t even know they’re there, and surely we can find a way to deliver the agency’s signature product, high-handed abuse of American citizens and foreign visitors, for less money.