Friday, August 26, 2016

Fullbore Friday

A man of my father's generation, this path sounds familiar;
Following high school graduation, Kettles enrolled in Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University), where he studied engineering. Two years later, Kettles was drafted to the Army at age 21. Upon completion of basic training at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, Kettles attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and earned his commission as an armor officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, Feb. 28, 1953. Kettles graduated from the Army Aviation School in 1953, before serving active duty tours in Korea, Japan and Thailand.

Kettles returned in 1956 and established a Ford Dealership in Dewitt, Michigan, with his brother, and continued his service with the Army Reserve as a member of the 4th Battalion, 20th Field Artillery.
He answered the call to serve again in 1963, when the United States was engaged in the Vietnam War and needed pilots. Fixed-wing-qualified, Kettles volunteered for Active Duty. He attended Helicopter Transition Training at Fort Wolters, Texas in 1964. During a tour in France the following year, Kettles was cross-trained to fly the famed UH-1D “Huey.”

Kettles reported to Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1966 to join a new helicopter unit. He was assigned as a flight commander with the 176th Assault Helicopter Company, 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, and deployed to Vietnam from February through November 1967. His second tour of duty in Vietnam lasted from October 1969, through October 1970.
Sublime.

Then there was that moment that solid, ordinary men find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and a measure is taken.
During the early morning hours of May 15, 1967, personnel of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, were ambushed in the Song Tra Cau riverbed by an estimated battalion-sized force of the North Vietnamese army with numerous automatic weapons, machine guns, mortars and recoilless rifles. The enemy force fired from a fortified complex of deeply embedded tunnels and bunkers, and was shielded from suppressive fire. Upon learning that the 1st Brigade had suffered casualties during an intense firefight with the enemy, then-Maj. Charles S. Kettles, volunteered to lead a flight of six UH-1D helicopters to carry reinforcements to the embattled force and to evacuate wounded personnel. As the flight approached the landing zone, it came under heavy enemy attack. Deadly fire was received from multiple directions and Soldiers were hit and killed before they could leave the arriving lift helicopters.

Jets dropped napalm and bombs on the enemy machine guns on the ridges overlooking the landing zone, with minimal effect. Small arms and automatic weapons fire continued to rake the landing zone, inflicting heavy damage to the helicopters. However, Kettles refused to depart until all reinforcements and supplies were off-loaded and wounded personnel were loaded on the helicopters to capacity. Kettles led them out of the battle area and back to the staging area to pick up additional reinforcements.

Kettles then returned to the battlefield, with full knowledge of the intense enemy fire awaiting his arrival. Bringing reinforcements, he landed in the midst of enemy mortar and automatic weapons fire that seriously wounded his gunner and severely damaged his aircraft. Upon departing, Kettles was advised by another helicopter crew that he had fuel streaming out of his aircraft. Despite the risk posed by the leaking fuel, he nursed the damaged aircraft back to base.

Later that day, the infantry battalion commander requested immediate, emergency extraction of the remaining 40 troops, and four members of Kettles’ unit who were stranded when their helicopter was destroyed by enemy fire. With only one flyable UH-1 helicopter remaining, Kettles volunteered to return to the deadly landing zone for a third time, leading a flight of six evacuation helicopters, five of which were from the 161st Aviation Company. During the extraction, Kettles was informed by the last helicopter that all personnel were onboard, and departed the landing zone accordingly. Army gunships supporting the evacuation also departed the area.

Once airborne, Kettles was advised that eight troops had been unable to reach the evacuation helicopters due to the intense enemy fire. With complete disregard for his own safety, Kettles passed the lead to another helicopter and returned to the landing zone to rescue the remaining troops. Without gunship, artillery, or tactical aircraft support, the enemy concentrated all firepower on his lone aircraft, which was immediately damaged by a mortar round that damaged the tail boom, a main rotor blade, shattered both front windshields and the chin bubble and was further raked by small arms and machine gun fire.

Despite the intense enemy fire, Kettles maintained control of the aircraft and situation, allowing time for the remaining eight Soldiers to board the aircraft. In spite of the severe damage to his helicopter, Kettles once more skillfully guided his heavily damaged aircraft to safety. Without his courageous actions and superior flying skills, the last group of Soldiers and his crew would never have made it off the battlefield.
Attention to CITATION:
OFFICIAL CITATION

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to

MAJOR CHARLES S. KETTLES
UNITED STATES ARMY

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Major Charles S. Kettles distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while serving as Flight Commander, 176th Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light), 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam. On 15 May 1967, Major Kettles, upon learning that an airborne infantry unit had suffered casualties during an intense firefight with the enemy, immediately volunteered to lead a flight of six UH-1D helicopters to carry reinforcements to the embattled force and to evacuate wounded personnel. Enemy small arms, automatic weapons, and mortar fire raked the landing zone, inflicting heavy damage to the helicopters; however, Major Kettles refused to depart until all helicopters were loaded to capacity. He then returned to the battlefield, with full knowledge of the intense enemy fire awaiting his arrival, to bring more reinforcements, landing in the midst of enemy mortar and automatic weapons fire that seriously wounded his gunner and severely damaged his aircraft. Upon departing, Major Kettles was advised by another helicopter crew that he had fuel streaming out of his aircraft. Despite the risk posed by the leaking fuel, he nursed the damaged aircraft back to base. Later that day, the Infantry Battalion Commander requested immediate, emergency extraction of the remaining 40 troops, including four members of Major Kettles’ unit who were stranded when their helicopter was destroyed by enemy fire. With only one flyable UH-1 helicopter remaining, Major Kettles volunteered to return to the deadly landing zone for a third time, leading a flight of six evacuation helicopters, five of which were from the 161st Aviation Company. During the extraction, Major Kettles was informed by the last helicopter that all personnel were onboard, and departed the landing zone accordingly. Army gunships supporting the evacuation also departed the area. Once airborne, Major Kettles was advised that eight troops had been unable to reach the evacuation helicopters due to the intense enemy fire. With complete disregard for his own safety, Major Kettles passed the lead to another helicopter and returned to the landing zone to rescue the remaining troops. Without gunship, artillery, or tactical aircraft support, the enemy concentrated all firepower on his lone aircraft, which was immediately damaged by a mortar round that shattered both front windshields and the chin bubble and was further raked by small arms and machine gun fire. Despite the intense enemy fire, Major Kettles maintained control of the aircraft and situation, allowing time for the remaining eight soldiers to board the aircraft. In spite of the severe damage to his helicopter, Major Kettles once more skillfully guided his heavily damaged aircraft to safety. Without his courageous actions and superior flying skills, the last group of soldiers and his crew would never have made it off the battlefield. Major Kettles' selfless acts of repeated valor and determination are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.
First person, spoken word. What a man.



A final selfish note after seeing that short video, reminds me of my father at his best, a lot, who passed away the year after I finally left active duty and came home for good. I think I'll ruminate on that for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The "T" in T-AKE stands for "Toothy"

This is a 100% Salamander endorsed effort. If we are going to discuss "Distributed Lethality," then let's also discuss "Distributed Risk."

Spreading assets around different platforms does more than just mitigate some risk, it also expands a Commander's options and complicates an enemy's targeting.

Via Lance M. Bacon over at MarineTimes;
Military Sealift Command is making Marine-driven changes to its nontraditional fleet to give amphibious forces a greater edge on an ever-evolving battlefield. The developments promise to advance the Corps’ use of alternative platforms for everything from maritime security and riverine missions to disaster response and flight operations.

The MV-22 is also key to this new concept.
...one key conversion will enable dry cargo and ammunition ships to stow an MV-22 Osprey.

MSC dedicated two dry cargo and ammunition ships (the two oldest) to the Marine Corps pre-positioning fleet: Lewis and Clark, and Sacagawea. They provide ammunition, food, repair parts, stores and small quantities of fuel — but the aft flight deck is a highlight among Marine strategists who have used ships from the T-AKE class as alternate command, control, operational and logistics platforms in recent exercises.

Landing an Osprey is not enough. The Corps has asked for a converted hangar that will allow an MV-22 to be folded and stowed. Sacagawea will receive these modifications during a regular overhaul planned to run from October through January, ...Dry cargo and ammo ships aren’t the only ones slated for an amphibious upgrade. Two expeditionary fast transports — Spearhead and Trenton — have upgraded cranes that allow boats and personnel to launch from the mission bay. That modification will eventually be added to all EPF ships, Thackrah said.
There are some issues to quibble - but let's not let the good and doable lose to the perfect and unattainable;
Because it is a USNS ship, rather than USS, it cannot conduct “belligerent acts.” While the shallow-draft catamaran can quickly move troops deep into littoral areas, it has no mounted guns or defense systems. And a reasonable explosion would likely tear through the commercial-based aluminum vessel.

In fact, its weak structure requires the ship be delivered to theater and remain there.

“They do not do well in rough seas,” Thackrah said. “They are a ship based off the design of a commercial ferryboat. There is a safe operating envelope for the ship, and they are proving that if you violate the safe operating envelope, you can wrinkle them up. But this is not an open-ocean vessel. This is a near-shore, high-speed vessel.”

Many hulls have cracked and been damaged by strong seas. This was evident when Fall River, the fourth ship in the class, was sidelined by one rogue wave off the coast of Florida. MSC has since started reinforcing the bow structure.
...
“What we do have to say no to is trying to put too many ideas on the same boat. We have run into that,” he said. The ships have been used to do “anything and everything you can dream of. What these guys are thinking of is just fascinating.”
It is good to hear this is getting people excited - and the fact that we are having to pull people back instead of kicking them forward tells you something.

There is "there" there.

Monday, August 22, 2016

If Forced to Choose; Iraq vs. Kurdistan?

There was a little I&W last week that needs your attention.

From just a few sources, in this case Kurdista24, the Kurds are seeing a moment they don't want to let pass. I don't blame them, it was only a matter of time. This isn't a new issue, just another card being pulled out of the deck as facts on the ground are meeting centuries of desire.

If this continues forward, there will be a point when we will have to make a choice. 

Since 1991, there has been one part of Iraq that has been reliable; Kurdistan. There is one major ethic group in Iraq that is respectful of religious and ethnic minorities; Kurds. If there is one ethnic group in the Middle East that offers a view of how we wish the rest of the area would behave, there would be just one; the Kurds.

Things are moving in a direction that may force us to choose between backing the chimera of dysfunction that is what ever power holds in Baghdad, or the Kurds. Here's why.
A member of the Iraqi parliament stated on Thursday that Peshmerga forces will receive the same treatment as the Islamic State (IS) if they do not withdraw from liberated areas.

Mohammed Saihoud an Iraqi MP from the State of Law bloc, led by the former Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki, said that “if Peshmerga forces do not retreat from the liberated areas, they will be considered as occupiers, not liberators.”

“IS and Peshmerga forces are equal before the gunfire of the Iraqi security forces and Hashd al-Shaabi if they insist on the occupation of the liberated areas,” the Shia MP told an Iraqi news outlet.
The Kurds are known for understated firmness. They do not fail to deliver;
...KRG spokesperson Safeen Dizayee told Kurdistan24 that Peshmerga forces will not withdraw from the areas in their control because Peshmerga is the source of security and stability for people.

Dizayee stated that Peshmerga forces will make further advances towards the Islamic State (IS)-held areas surrounding Mosul that are considered outside of the Kurdistan Region administration.

“The areas were liberated by the blood of the Peshmerga forces. Peshmerga will not retreat,” he reaffirmed.
I'd take them at their word.

Here is the part that shows where the game is;
Arif Taifoor, the commander of Peshmerga forces in Khazir frontline told Kurdistan24 on Thursday that the Peshmerga forces will liberate all the areas included in the Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, particularly IS-held Christian-populated areas and they will stay there.
What is Article 140?
Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution is supposed to deal with the country’s disputed territories – that is, land that Iraqi Kurdistan says is part of its quasi-independent region but which Baghdad says belongs to Iraq proper. This includes the much disputed area of Kirkuk. Article 140 outlines a series of steps that should be taken in order to resolve who exactly the disputed territories belong to – these are, firstly, normalization - a return of Kurds and other residents displaced by Arabisation – followed by a census taken to determine the demographic makeup of the province's population and then finally, a referendum to determine the status of disputed territories. Obviously whether a territory is home to mainly Kurds or mainly Arabs will have an effect on who can lay claim to the area.
As the Iraqis are learning, paper is paper.
“And if the Iraqi Kurdish region demands that Article 140 be implemented, then they would have to do that according to the Constitution,” Qurbani argues. “In which case, Iraqi Kurdish forces would need to withdraw from the land they are now occupying. But instead,” he concludes, “the Iraqi Kurdish are creating their own reality, on the ground.”
The scramble for the most land to negotiate with is well underway.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Farsi Island Incident and its Aftermath - on Midrats



The thankfully bloodless embarrassment that was the Farsi Island Incident is still making news after the January 12, 2016 seizure of 10 U.S. sailors by Iranian forces. 

Especially for our Surface Warfare community, there are a lot of hard, cold lessons here not just about the incident itself, leadership and professionalism – and institutional lessons about how conditions are set and organizations are sub-optimized to a degree that an incident - in hindsight – was just a matter of when vice if. 

Using his recent article at CIMSEC on the topic, our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss the background leading up to the Farsi Island incident, its aftermath, and the lessons we should be taking from it will be Alan Cummings, LT USN. 

Alan is a 2007 graduate of Jacksonville University. He served previously as a surface warfare officer aboard a destroyer, embedded with a USMC infantry battalion, and as a Riverine Detachment OIC. The views expressed in the article and on Midrats are his own and in no way reflect the official position of the U.S. Navy.

Join us live if you can with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.



Saturday, August 20, 2016

Airlander 10 - Underway

Yes, yes, yes - I know you blinkered troglodytes like to make fun of my and Campbell's faith in these aircraft - but I'm sorry; we should have at least two squadrons of these on order; one we give to the logistics guys, the other one to the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance guys and tell them; figure out what you can do with these.

From long-dwell ASW patrols to humanitarian assistance (not to mention a few SEAL missions I'll keep my mouth shut about), this platform has a lot of capabilities that have not been thought of yet. Perfect for the Reserves ... but that would require imagination and the willingness to take risks with proven technology. I know that isn't fun; but it sure has a good track record.

Well, we don't live in Salamander's world, so just watch her take off and ponder.



We believe in a new vision for air transport. That new vision is called Airlander. Hybrid Air Vehicles’ goal is to change the world of aviation through Airlander.
- We believe aircraft should be able to land and take-off anywhere.
- We believe aircraft should be able to fly for weeks at a time.
- We believe aircraft should be low cost and should pollute as little as possible.

Airlander takes the best of aeroplanes, helicopters and airships and combines them with the latest innovations in materials to create a truly revolutionary aircraft. The Airlander is a “hybrid” of an aeroplane and an airship – we get 40% of our lift from the aerodynamic wing shape of our aircraft, and 60% from the helium fill – it is therefore inherently more efficient than other forms of air transport. It uses the very latest fabrics to maintain its shape and is technologically years ahead of other aircraft. Airlander has flown before under a US Government programme, but is now being developed for commercial purposes, such as freight, remote access, aid distribution, advertising, surveillance, communications and luxury passenger transport.

Airlander aims to revolutionise transport and travel by:
- Being one of the lowest carbon emissions aircraft in the world, like for like.
- Having game-changing endurance (it can stay airborne for weeks rather than hours).
- Providing significantly lower delivery cost for airborne freight.
- Being able to land anywhere (water, land, desert, ice) thus opening up new point-to-point routes to previously inaccessible areas.

We will focus initially on Airlander 10, which has a 10 tonne payload, and ultimately could produce a range of hybrid aircraft capable of carrying up to 1000 tonnes.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Fullbore Friday

- 108 Australians of D Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (including 3 New Zealanders).

- ~2,000 North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong.

- A storm riden rubber plantation in Vietnam.

- A nine hour battle, 50 years ago.

Don't forget, the Australians and New Zealanders fought with distinction in Vietnam with us. This was one of their finest hours.
D Company left the base at 11.15 that morning bound for the Long Tan rubber plantation. As they departed Nui Dat the sounds of a concert by Little Pattie, the Australian entertainer, reached their ears. They entered the Long Tan plantation at 3.15 that afternoon. Less than an hour later the Viet Cong attacked in force, putting the Australians under mortar, machine gun and small arms fire. Only the quick response of a New Zealand artillery battery to desperate calls for support saved D Company from annihilation.

Almost as soon as the battle began a torrential downpour added to the gloom in the rubber plantation. The Australians, surrounded, short of ammunition and fighting an enemy whose strength they could only guess at, called for helicopters to drop ammunition to them. Flying at tree-top height, braving the terrible weather and heavy Viet Cong fire, two RAAF helicopters located the beleaguered Australians and dropped boxes of ammunition and blankets for the wounded.

The survivors of D Company along with accurate artillery fire from New Zealand's 161 Field Battery as well as the Australian 103 and 105 Field batteries and a United States battery inflicted heavy losses on the Viet Cong. As the fighting continued Australian reinforcements were committed to the battle. B Company was on the way and A Company, loaded into Armoured Personnel Carriers of 3 Troop, 1 Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron, which fought its way into D Company just before 7 pm as daylight was fading. The Viet Cong had been massing for another assault but were forced to retreat into the plantation. They had suffered terrible casualties, but only when the Australians returned to the scene of battle the following morning did they realise the extent of the defeat that they had inflicted on the enemy. The Australians counted 245 enemy dead still in the plantation and surrounding jungle with evidence that others had already been removed from the battlefield. Captured documents and information from prisoners suggested that D Company had faced some 2,500 Viet Cong. Eighteen Australians were killed in the Battle of Long Tan and 24 wounded, all but one of the dead were from D Company.
At the end of the battle, 18 killed, 24 wounded with the Australians.

For the Vietnamese Communists? 245 killed, 350 wounded (estimate), 3 captured.

A bit more detail on the battle here

Fullbore.