American Elephants


Sometimes a Picture IS Worth a Thousand Words. by The Elephant's Child

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(h/t: http://pjmedia.com/rogerkimball/)



The Drawdown Diet for Marines: by The Elephant's Child

While the workday here is usually considered to be eight hours, for the Marines at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province the workday is twelve hours long. The midnight ration service — known as “midrats” —supplies breakfast to Marines on the midnight-to-noon shift, and dinner to the Marines who are ending the noon-to-midnight work period.  It’s described as one of the few times the Marines can be together in one place.

Starting Saturday, they don’t get a hot cooked meal, but a pre-packaged MRE (meal ready to eat). They are also removing the 24-hour sandwich bar. There aren’t a lot of luxuries at Camp Leatherneck. A hot meal doesn’t seem too much to ask. The federal government has lost interest in Afghanistan and the dismantling of U.S. military facilities. More than 30,000 U.S. service members will leave Afghanistan in coming months as the U.S. prepares to hand the country over to the Taliban in 2014. ["responsibility for security to Afghan forces in 2014"].

This may seem to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as a good way to save money, since they are winding down. But it is a huge blow to morale. Since Mr. Hagel’s only qualification for his current position was that he had been an enlisted man in Vietnam, one would think he would be more sensitive to the needs of the troops on the ground. It’s embarrassing. MREs are meant to be an alternative when real food is not possible. The Marines are furious. Lt. Col Cliff Gilmore who has been deployed to Afghanistan since February has the unenviable task of enforcing rules handed down.

“The fact is our force in Afghanistan is shrinking fast and all the creature comforts and services deployed military-members have grown accustomed to over the past decade are going to be reduced,” Gilmore wrote in an email to NBC News. “When serving we are challenged to endure different things — to face different challenges — over time. But we’re an odd bunch, we Marines — probably no surprise that we’ll complain more about losing the sandwich bar on the way out than we did about getting shot at on the way in.”

The tactical reason for the cooking scale-down is that the people who are assigned to “support services” — such as food workers — “need to go home before the people who provide the security which enables those services,” Gilmore wrote. “This is a natural outcome of the drawdown process unrelated to sequestration or the ongoing budget issues back in the States.”

Here at home military families are gearing up to spur food donations for all the troops in Afghanistan, and have launched a Facebook page called “Breakfast for Bagram,” to try to relieve  the monotony of MREs.



Careless Mistakes Can Have Big Consequences! by The Elephant's Child

Yesterday on American Independence Day, British Prime Minister David Cameron found himself addressing U.S. Marines at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan.  July 4 is an odd moment for British leaders, as Americans are celebrating an historic military and political defeat for Britain.

The Daily Telegraph took up the story:

“Maybe if one of my predecessors hadn’t screwed up so badly, we’d all be one army,” Mr. Cameron said.

Graciously done sir.

Lord North has a lot to answer for, but we’re grateful.



A Letter from General John Kelly, from Iraq. by The Elephant's Child

Michael Ledeen posted a letter, at National Review, from Marine General John Kelly which was sent to Blackfive after the recent Iraqi elections.

This is what everyone should see, and what President Obama should be celebrating — the incredible American victory in Iraq.  Kelly writes of Anbar Province, as Michael Ledeen says, “once the most dangerous province in the country, and now the most peaceful, thanks to the Marine Corps, the Army, and a lot of brave Iraqis.”General Kelly said:

I don’t suppose this will get much coverage in the States as the news is so good.  No, the news is unbelievable.

Something didn’t happen in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, today.  Once the most violent and most dangerous places on earth, no suicide vest bomber detonated killing dozens of voters.  No suicide truck bomber drove into a polling place collapsing the building and killing and injuring over 100.  No Marine was in a firefight engaging an Al Qaida terrorist trying to disrupt democracy.

What did happen was the Anbar Sunnis came out in their tens of thousands to vote in the first free election of their lives.

Read the rest of the letter here.  It’s not long, but oh my, it is heartwarming.



They can proudly claim the title of United States Marines. by The Elephant's Child

Michael Ledeen posts a stirring account of Marines fighting in Afghanistan, at the Corner.

Marine Makes Insurgents Pay the Price November 18, 2008 Marine Corps News
by Cpl. James M. Mercure

FARAH PROVINCE, Afghanistan – In the city of Shewan, approximately 250 insurgents ambushed 30 Marines and paid a heavy price for it.

Shewan has historically been a safe haven for insurgents, who used to plan and stage attacks against Coalition Forces in the Bala Baluk district.

The city is home to several major insurgent leaders. Reports indicate that more than 250 full time fighters reside in the city and in the surrounding villages.

Shewan had been a thorn in the side of Task Force 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Afghanistan throughout the Marines’ deployment here in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, because it controls an important supply route into the Bala Baluk district. Opening the route was key to continuing combat operations in the area.

“The day started out with a 10-kilometer patrol with elements mounted and dismounted, so by the time we got to Shewan, we were pretty beat,” said a designated marksman who requested to remain unidentified. “Our vehicles came under a barrage of enemy RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) and machine gun fire. One of our ‘humvees’ was disabled from RPG fire, and the Marines inside dismounted and laid down suppression fire so they could evacuate a Marine who was knocked unconscious from the blast.”

The vicious attack that left the humvee destroyed and several of the Marines pinned down in the kill zone sparked an intense eight-hour battle as the platoon desperately fought to recover their comrades. After recovering the Marines trapped in the kill zone, another platoon sergeant personally led numerous attacks on enemy fortified positions while the platoon fought house to house and trench to trench in order to clear through the enemy ambush site.

“The biggest thing to take from that day is what Marines can accomplish when they’re given the opportunity to fight,” the sniper said. “A small group of Marines met a numerically superior force and embarrassed them in their own backyard. The insurgents told the townspeople that they were stronger than the Americans, and that day we showed them they were wrong.”

During the battle, the designated marksman single handedly thwarted a company-sized enemy RPG and machinegun ambush by reportedly killing 20 enemy fighters with his devastatingly accurate precision fire. He selflessly exposed himself time and again to intense enemy fire during a critical point in the eight-hour battle for Shewan in order to kill any enemy combatants who attempted to engage or maneuver on the Marines in the kill zone. What made his actions even more impressive was the fact that he didn’t miss any shots, despite the enemies’ rounds impacting within a foot of his fighting position.

“I was in my own little world,” the young corporal said. “I wasn’t even aware of a lot of the rounds impacting near my position, because I was concentrating so hard on making sure my rounds were on target.”

After calling for close-air support, the small group of Marines pushed forward and broke the enemies’ spirit as many of them dropped their weapons and fled the battlefield. At the end of the battle, the Marines had reduced an enemy stronghold, killed more than 50 insurgents and wounded several more.

“I didn’t realize how many bad guys there were until we had broken through the enemies’ lines and forced them to retreat. It was roughly 250 insurgents against 30 of us,” the corporal said. “It was a good day for the Marine Corps. We killed a lot of bad guys, and none of our guys were seriously injured.”




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