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01 December 2010

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b

Having seen the movie myself now, I agree with the Colonel's analysis. I'd have used some harsher words ...

I am not sure though that Major Jim Gant's way is that much better. Very early in his paper he tells how he sided with one tribe/village against another without really knowing about either. He made some friends, but also some enemies. Sure that's better than what was done in the Korengal and at Wanat. A solution for the conflict it was not.

There is a Danish documentary, "Armadillo", out now that was filmed over a complete tour of a Danish platoon. (It is not in English but easy to "get" even not knowing the language.)

I recommend it for comparison with Restrepo.

walrus

Col. Lang, How many other officers are there like this and can anything be done to "retrain" them?

RFB

While CPT Kearney did come across a little lacking in the leadership department, it was clear that his strength was coolness under fire. Agreed that he and LTC Olstrum had very poor people skills when dealing with the villagers.

The boys of B company just want to go home - and they are fighting in someone else's home. What I took away from this film, more than anything, is that a superior military, with technological advantage and even the ability to call in air support at will, is still no match for peasants and patriots defending their homes, families and villages. To the poor villager, Olstrum and his men are not liberators. They are foreign occupiers. I'm not sure any amount of careful dealing in the weekly meetings with elders can change this view. What does the villager know of the promise of jobs? He's a farmer, a goat-herder. You killed his children? You will never win him over. And here comes Joe Taliban right on Olstrum's heels, giving the villager a gold watch. And he looks like them and doesn't need an interpreter.

Given our history, starting with the Revolution, we might've learned this lesson by now.

Patrick Lang

RFB

Cool under fire? You haven't seen people who make jokes while calling in air strikes a hundred yards away. I have seen villagers more hostile than these wooed away from the true hostiles. The problem with that is that since you don't own the place you are going to leave and then the true hostiles will come and cut your friends heads off. pl

bank cd rates

I remember the last time there was a "Wikileaks," and it very much like this time.

Now, as then, I encountered very strong but differing opinions/perceptions about it. Some/many people explicitly support "Wikileaks" and regard it/Julian Assange as good, and others explicitly condemn it/him -but I've yet to see anyone clearly identify much less defend their reasoning. This seems strange to me, and almost makes me suspicious. What exactly is the issue here? For disclosure, I'm undecided on the issue -because I simply do not know enough to know if Wikileaks is good or bad. I'm aware that JA is accused of a sexual crime in Europe. I will say that as someone who values truth and honesty, I have at least a little suspicion and/or skepticism of advocacy of GOVERNMENT secrecy (although I understand it it necessary at least sometime). What exactly is going on with WikiLeaks and why exactly is it wrong or right? And HOW is this information being obtained? It confuses me that I hear people harshly condemning it and saying "this person should be tried for treason and executed, etc."IF a serious law has been broken, I'd expect it to be cited and used as the basis for advocating the pursuit of formal charges.Was the information leaked acquired by consent (shared/sold by those who controlled it) or stolen? I haven't seen this clearly established anywhere, which seems weird as it is clearly a significant consideration. If anyone can clarify this, I'd be grateful, thanks. I'm also VERY curious why I've yet to hear it clearly identified.


Neil Richardson

Dear Col. Lang:

"What were the available all weather fires for close in defense of this position? etc."

I am curious about this as well. It appears the terrain constraints of Afghanistan make the deployment of direct support artillery quite challenging. What did the Army do along the Annamite Range? Were they mostly deployed at firebases?

Patrick Lang

walrus

The young paratroops in this film are in the main frightfully immature. The idiot clowning on trains in Italy and the questionable horseplay at Restrepo are indicative. I have never seen a man become hysterical over casualties DURING an ongoing action. The grief comes later and is often deeply personal and inside the man. These men should have been kept busy building Restrepo every day until it resembled an Afghan Gibraltar made of sand bags and barbed wire. If they were engaged enough they would have had less time to sit around thinking up mischief. A really good company or battalion commander would have scrounged a satellite dish so that TV would have been available up there. Was there a mortar pit in this place? I saw one at the KOP but not at Restrepo. Recoilless rifle with flechette rounds? Any of that?

The ground forces are trying to re-train officers like these to make them "people useful." It is an uphill struggle. A lot of them got themselves into the infantry because they didn't want to be like that. pl

Patrick Lang

Neil Richardson

Artillery was echeloned by caliber and type. Corps artillery was grouped in my experience in fortified batteries scattered around the countryside so that their fires could reach most places. A typical battery had two eight inch howitzers and two 175(?) mm.long guns defended by 20 mm. gatling guns, 40. mm Dusters and quad .50 machine guns with searchlights. Division artillery was light enough to be moved around by air into impromptu fire bases to support ongoing operations, then moved again. The RVN and Regional forces had artillery in the smaller calibers (155 and 105). These were often located in or immediately near population centers. Mortars were everywhere. The SF B Camp at Song Be had 2 4.2 inch and four 81. mm. All these fires were pre-plotted for defense. the ubiquitous natire of these available fires made it esasier to cover "dead space" created by terrain mask. the smaller field pieces were often used in direct fire with canister (flechette). that made their eyes water. Does that help? pl

Neil Richardson

Dear Col. Lang:

Thank you very much for the information. I was just wondering who'd respond if Restrepo had to call in final protective fire.

Neil Richardson

Dear Col. Lang:

I remember Kearney mentioning that Restrepo changed the (sic) "security dynamics" of the whole valley. Was KOP getting hit a lot more often before they placed the OP there? If so, I'm surprised the Taliban didn't contest it. I'll see the movie again but I don't recall a direct assault on the OP other than that cow. Another question is what was the usual engagement range at Restrepo? All I remember was seeing a .50 and an MK 19 grenade launcher plus a couple of M240s. I'd defer to GZC and your expertise but did these guys have enough reach with their small arms fire as squad level?

William P. Fitzgerald III

Pat Lang,

I've not seen the film but did read Junger's book several months ago and have a couple of observations. The first is that the villages in the Korengal Valley seem to have been insular and "mind their own business" places until the 2/503d occupied the place. The other is that the tactical situation in that valley makes the terrain analysis problem in Swindon's "The Battle of Duffer's Drift" (Are you familiar with it?)seem quite simple. Which, I think, begs the question of whether a rifle company should have been placed there in the first place.

Concerning shutting down the DADT conversation. I recognize the problem. Madame Fitzgerald has been tossing around epithets such as "illogical" and "bigot". My solution to the problem is to take her to Chicago for the Opera and a good dinner.

WPFIII

Patrick Lang

Neil Richardson

It doesn't seem to me from what was showing that there was much of anything that had any "reach" in Restrepo. An 81 mortar and a recoiless would have made me feel better about that.

Final protective fires? Well? If an attack on Restrepo and an attack on the KOP were made simultaneously who do you think would get the fires? pl

Patrick Lang

WPFIII

"Madame Fitzgerald has been tossing around epithets such as "illogical" and "bigot"."

You should be ashamed of yourself. Weren't you taught to play nice with the other kids? pl

Adam L Silverman

Sir,

A couple of interesting links pertaining to the Korengal Valley:
http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2010/04/learning-from-the-korengal-val/
http://www.registan.net/index.php/2009/05/15/revisiting-the-korengal-highlights-impotence-of-policy-review/

b

Fresh relevant literature on the issues from the CNA: Counterinsurgency on the Ground in Afghanistan - How different units adapted to local conditions

b

Another recent literature on the issue: Wanat - Combat Action in Afghanistan, 2008 by the Staff of the US Army Combat Studies Institute (pdf, 274 pages)

Herb

This blogger, Michael Cummings was deployed in the Korengal valley. The following is one of many posts describing his experiences.

http://onviolence.com/?e=93

Patrick Lang

All

Some neocon clown afraid to use his own name has written an extremely insulting comment on this post in which he says that the unit was right not to pay for the dead cow because" they would just give the money to the insurgents." He also thinks that it was a good idea to bully the village elders because that showed them who was boss. He also told me that I would have been more sympathetic to the man who fell apart on the battlefield in the presence of death if only I knew how hard such things are. Well... Words fail me.

I deleted his comment on the basis of the no insults rule - mine.

He can write me off line if he or she chooses to explain his credentials to me. pl

Herb

There certainly seems a lot more to this "cow incident" than meets the eye. First, it seems to come up again and again, and over a period of time. Second, they make a point of describing how one of the men was there best cook, especially with that fresh, day-old beef they just had.... Then there was the final scene where the Restrepo unit are butchering the cow and there is a distinctly mischevious air to the affair. I can't believe there wasn't some suspecion that these guys decided to harvest some "slow elk", out of boredom, or weariness with the cuisine.

On the flipside, the amount of money asked ($400) seemed like a lot in a society where people are making 1-3 dollars/day currency. Not saying it was outrageous, but my inclination would be to say "We apologize. We will replace the cow, we can even give you a cow and a calf. Unfortunately it might take a few days. What kind of cow would you like? In the mean time, we can give you x and such additional compensation, food, milk, building materials, etc.."

I'm sorry that some feel it is welcome to come to your blog and insult you. The internet is filled with uninteresting people....

optimax

I watched Restepo last night and I may be wrong, but thought the Sargeant fell apart because they may have, on his orders to strafe the top of the hill, killed their own man. Nobody says they did but they found him dead ontop the the hill they had just fired on. Or so it appears.

optimax

The Sargeant who fell apart was also showing signs of high-level anxiety when he was telling his men they had to go over the hill, there might be enemy on the hill and they needed to fire on it first.
Wish I had rewatched the DVD instead of returned it.

Neil Richardson

Dear Col. Lang:

I don't know if you have seen this, but Sgt. Sal Giunta was part of "Rock Avalanche." I'm not sure if this is part of the deleted bonus scenes for the DVD, but I ended up shaking my head after watching this segment. I didn't know that Giunta's squad had walked into an ambush after Kearney decided to recover the weapons and gear of Sgt. Rougle. I don't know Kearney and obviously I wasn't there. However I'm just amazed by his decision after the first contact.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50RFJfUzNsY

Apparently MAJ Kearney is with the Special Operations Command (He told an interviewer that he couldn't go further than that). I don't know if he's still with LTC Ostlund who IIRC is the deputy CO of 75th Ranger Regiment.
You mentioned that it's becoming harder to understand some of the younger people in the Army. (For my part I couldn't understand why Andrew Exum would engage in wrestling matches with the men of his platoon when he was in 10th Mountain.) Perhaps, you might recognize Sal Giunta.

Cadet

Sometimes I believe it is necessary for leaders to emulate styles of command that their soldiers can relate to. I saw a lot of that in Captain Kearney, the way that somehow he spoke the same way as his men, but a level above them to the degree where you knew that he was in charge from the first interview. I think that those qualities are what made the "high school" locker room scene viable and not completely unprofessional. I think he displayed exemplary performance when it came to the warrior ethos. He always placed the overarching mission first - he never accepted defeat even when he was ambushed - he never quit and he remained emotional discipline throughout (what we saw) of the movie. Although, sometimes I did get the feeling that interpersonal tact could have been improved, I think for the most part the relationship he had with his men was a constructive and proficient for this line of duty.

Of course, this is as an outsider looking in, as an ROTC Cadet. I look to certain aspects of his officership in order to improve myself and emulate his positive leadership qualities.

Anonymous MSIII CDT

patrick lang

cadet

"his positive leadership qualities."

I disagree. pl

Cadet

sometimes the best leaders are the ones that you hate?

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