Thursday, January 26, 2012

Finding a balance between Paul Revere and the boy who cried "Wolf!"

Every time the military holds an urban warfare training exercise on U.S. soil, people freak right the heck out. I remember the Birchers complaining about it in the pages of The New American in the late '80s/early '90s. I remember using a 1200-baud modem hooked to an IBM XT to debate the hidden meaning of USMC training exercises in Atlanta on a dial-up BBS*.

Tell me, if the US military is going to train in a realistic urban environment, are they going to:
  1. Build a completely realistic duplicate city. (No, I don't mean one of those fake training camp cities.)
  2. Use a foreign city. (And boy, won't the city fathers of Sydney be surprised!)
  3. Use a handy, dandy pre-built city right here.
Incidentally, do you remember where you were the night the U.S. military actually deployed against U.S. citizens with live ammo on those very same Los Angeles streets twenty years ago this April? I was riding through the nearly deserted city streets of Atlanta that night, leaning out the passenger window with a Canon AE-1 loaded with 1600ASA film to snap photos of a column of GBI guys in riot gear jogging down the street. "Make sure you get my good side!" called one...

The redcoats in Boston drilled every day, had guard mounts, helped little old ladies across the cart path, did soldier stuff... for decades.

If every time they had stepped outside the barracks door, Paul Revere saddled up and rode around yelling "The Regulars are coming!" how many people would have just ignored him come April 18th? "Oh, it's just that Revere guy again, always goin' on about the government..." All I'm saying is that desensitization cuts both ways.


*And, having done this for a number of years, I will note that it is a dead cert that I will get a commenter saying "Gooo to sleeep, citizen! Nothing to see here! Gooo tooo sleeep!", or some variant thereof.

44 comments:

Bubblehead Les. said...

Didn't Clyde Barrow use to rob National Guard Armories to get his BAR's? And no one seems to care when the U.S. Military has Drill Weekends at those sites all across the Country. And the U.S. Military Airdales always seem to be doing practice Bombing Runs all over the Republic.

The only problem I have with the Military using American Soil for Training is those Dam %&^$&^ Convoys on the Interstate doing 50mph, then some Overloaded Teamster tries to pass them going up hill, all in a 70 mph zone.

Anonymous said...

Gooo to sleeep, citizen! Nothing to see here! Gooo tooo sleeep!", or some variant thereof.

Bram said...

Every major Infantry base has #1 but they end up more like a block of plywood buildings that you know by heart after a couple times through. Hardly realistic.

Most Marines and soldiers HATE cities and hate the thought of fighting in one. But sometimes you don't get to chose the playing field.

Anonymous said...

BL,

At least the convoys stay in the right lane. If only other pokey drivers could be so nice.

Move over people!

Gerry

RobertM said...

They don't need that kind of training. It's not like our enemies have cities!

Bubblehead Les. said...

Gerry, as a Vet, I know that it's not the Convoy's fault. They have those Stupid Fracking Governor's on the Vehicles for some silly reason. "Oh, we only get 2 MPG, so let's not waste Gas!" It's that jerk in the Peterbuilt in the Left Lane, or the idiot slowing down to look at the Green Trucks that torques me.

Of course, it's the same principle where there's that 5 mile backup where everyone slows down to look at the wreck that's off the side of the road.

Trust me, I'm sure our Troops would Love to be able to ride in the Heated/Air-Condition Van that is hauling the Officers rather than riding on a Wooden Bench Seat in the back of a Deuce and a Half.

Bubblehead Les. said...

And I'm not slamming you at all, Gerry. Just amplifying my Rant.

Guffaw in AZ said...

I flashed on Allan Sherman's "Go To Sleep, Paul Revere!", with the guy complaining about Revere's making noise at night.
The last line, "The KING will here of this!"

Woodman said...

Hah, try a practicing beach assault in Hawaii...

Get some odd looks there, especially when I got to watch the Marines wade out into the surf because they wanted to practice advancing through the waves and didn't have any landing craft.

First time in my life I ever saw an in-line advance through fire (speaking of redcoats), and thankfully I was on the right side of that little exercise. 200ft from us was a public beach too, so there was an audience.

We had a great MOUT site, concrete village/town, but yeah, after a few times through it got old. Putting in additional sheets of plywood to change things up helped some, but the buildings were where they were no matter what.

Cities are death traps. I can't imagine fighting through the streets of a fully modern city like Indy or LA or something. How do you defend from sniper in an office building on the 20th floor? Try simulating that on an Army Base.

IZinterrogator said...

Les, hope I see you Sunday when my convoy is out on the interstate! (Just FYI, we're going to be going 45, not 50)

Anonymous said...

Geez. I didn't know I was supposed to get all paranoid about the A-10s that occasionally grace us with some low-level practice. I thought I was supposed to grin and wave.

Lergnom said...

I live under the direct flight line between Dover AFB and McGuire-Dix, so I got to see the .mil aircraft when they were winding up to go do something somewhere. The formation of Thunderbolts overhead was well received by our barbecue guests.

Ken said...

"I can't imagine fighting through the streets of a fully modern city like Indy or LA or something. How do you defend from sniper in an office building on the 20th floor? Try simulating that on an Army Base."

Apparently, you're supposed to use either an RPG or a knife....

Anonymous said...

You went an entire blog post on this and did not say one of your favorite words--Muscatatuck?

Indiana: we do urban warfare training with funny sounding names.

Shootin' Buddy

DaddyBear said...

I've gotten some flak from both sides of the political/ideological aisle for volunteering to be a training aide at the urban warfare center down at Fort Knox. Soldiers have to learn to fight in an urban setting. I'd rather they learned before someone was using live ammunition against them, be it in a bunch of concrete and steel mock-up buildings or in the streets of LA or Atlanta.

SGB said...

I'll happily allow them to use my neighbors house and land for any training necessary.

Anonymous said...

Can't we all just along?

Anonymous said...

Hell when I was a kid we'd have loved to see the Marines around -- we thought of them as "the good guys"... And I'd bet they'd wave back too.

Mark

Anonymous said...

Long, long ago, when Aegis wasn't even a dream and we Navy missile techs were still mourning the demise of the Typhon system, when we were at sea we would run our DSOT (Daily System Operation Test) by locking onto an airliner arriving or departing LAX or SFO. I wonder how many hoplophobes would have had to change their underwear if they knew that a US Navy missile equipped ship was practicing shooting them down?

cap'n chumbucket

docjim505 said...

Good point.

I recall photos from Army exercizes right before WWII that sprawled over most of the entire South. Somehow, our forebears didn't have an attack of the vapors when columns of men with pie plate helmets and Springfields came marching down the lane.

As a former National Guardsman, I've always been amused at the idea that GI's would start shooting other Americans just because some so-and-so in DC says that they ought to. Dealing with a riot is one thing; rounding people up is likely to get a bit less cooperation from the average GI.

Caleb said...

I lived in LA County, and I had no idea that the Marines and Army actually deployed during the LA Riots of '92. I mean, I was 10 so my memory more consists of being worried about my dad, but still.

Boat Guy said...

I'm with docjim; the overwhelming majority of the folks who do this stuff have a pretty good handle on the document they've sworn (usually) repeated oaths to.
Not to say there weren't "...men with pie plate helmets and Springfields..." rounding the Neisei up, but I really do think that was a one-off. The spectre of Manzanar, would give most (again, MOST) folks who would be tasked with such a thing sufficient pause to refuse an illegal (unConstitutional) order. 'sides THIS time there'd be enough folks shootin back to provide lots of other "pause"

Bram said...

The National Guard isn't going to go out and round up guns. We live local to the armory and own more guns than most civilians. Most would go home and add the M16 to their personal collection.

Anonymous said...

I also remember where I was on the afternoon of August 11, 1965: Third guy from the right, Second Platoon, Class 3, Rio Hondo Police Academy, standing at attention on the parade ground, squinting West-South West through the smog, watching the city of my birth begin to burn down.

We had all of a week's training by then and were wondering if we had made a good career choice.

The old Academy was on the highest hill in Whittier, so we had an excellent view of things which partially made up for the brown stains in our underoos.

So, yea. I exactly remember where I was when the troubles began.

Two days shy of a year of the date you mention, I retired. Thirty days after that, we were 200 miles away in city x, population 3,500. One road in. One road out. Easy peasy, as long as long as someone could find Festus.

Sigivald said...

DocJim said: As a former National Guardsman, I've always been amused at the idea that GI's would start shooting other Americans just because some so-and-so in DC says that they ought to. Dealing with a riot is one thing; rounding people up is likely to get a bit less cooperation from the average GI.

Yeah, that, and BoatGuy's comments, too.

I know a fair number of people who've served, and I'm not at all sure the guys on the ground would even get the order to "Round Up Them 'Mericans For The UN One World Government", because I suspect we'd see a "Say what? No, I don't think so." reaction before we even got down to the Majors, let alone to the NCOs.

And it's the NCOs who run the Army (and the other branches, 'cept maybe the Air Force - dunno how they work).

Can you imagine a few thousand Sergeants going along with that, in the Armed Forces we have today? I can't.

Our military culture and the oath is better security against such abuses than anything else we've got.

Anonymous said...

errr What?

How did we forget the National Guard and police breaking into homes and confiscating firearms in the aftermath of Katrina?

I'm sure Louisiana was one of Obama's 57 States at the time.

Robin said...

docjimm, the Louisiana maneuvers at the beginning of WWII are rather famous, for several reasons. The first was General Patton refueling his unit on his personal credit. The second was that the army had few real vehicles, so a lot of the "tanks" were painted up trucks.

docjim505 said...

Robin,

I'm no expert, but I think that the Army had several maneuvers all over the South. I recall one pick of a mortar crew in the Sand Hills here in NC; I've spent some time at Ft. Bragg and know just how friggin' miserable it can be!

Must have been a sight back then: a few hundred thousand (I suppose) GI's roaming the land, trying to learn the art of modern warfare just a few months after having been a farm hand, factory worker, soda jerk, store clerk, etc.

Sigivald - [I]t's the NCOs who run the Army (and the other branches, 'cept maybe the Air Force - dunno how they work).

This conjures an amusing scene:

NCO#1 - Can you believe this? Orders came down to round up a bunch of people.*

NCO#2 - Yeah, same here. We told 'em to get stuffed. What about you?

NCO#1 - Naw, the lieutenant thought it was a great idea. Figured it would look good on his OER.

NCO#2 - So, what happened?

NCO#1 - Nothing. He never found the place we were supposed to go, much less the people we were supposed to get.

NCO#2 - Why couldn't he find... OH! Never mind.

(*) O' course, soldiers don't actually talk like this. See Tom Wolfe's discussion of "Army Creole" in The Right Stuff.

Anonymous @ 3:29PM - How did we forget the National Guard and police breaking into homes and confiscating firearms in the aftermath of Katrina?

You may have a point there.

Stuart the Viking said...

I was in the Marines during the Clinton administration and there was a day when I was asked if I would follow orders if ordered to go house to house and search for and confisgate firearms if Clinton managed to ban them.

Of course I said "HELL NO! And get the fuck out of my office!" The response was "Corpral, we were warned about you, but we had to ask anyway." Quite frankly, I was flattered that someone cared enough to warn them. Still never did find out who it was that was doing the asking.

I suspect they got a lot of NO answers that day. Marines tend to be a very patriotic bunch. Loyalty to Country and Corps, but not so much to some silly dip-shit that managed to get himself elected.

s

Will said...

The cops involved in the Katrina Gun Confiscation were largely out-of-town/out-of-state types, IIRC. Supposedly, a large contingent were Cali CHP who volunteered to go "help out".

Having worked with them for a few years prior to this episode, I can say they would, in most cases, have no problems acting in a fascist manner. The dept is the epitome of paramilitary organizations.

Due to the manner in which they decide where an officer will serve, both the base area and the beat, they never develop a connection to the local people.

To a certain extent, even the local po-po have a similar disconnect, since they are not required to live in, or anywhere near, the jurisdiction they patrol. The "infamous" Oakland PD officers can actually live in San Jose, and I'll bet some live even farther out in the boonies for the cheaper housing.

I suspect that when the Natl Guard is called out for "civil unrest" duty, the politicians and top ranks(but I repeat myself) would likely order them bused as far across state as possible, to avoid having the troops deciding they don't like the orders they will be given to harm their neighbors.


wv: fobster. A fobbit with gangster connections.

Anonymous said...

@BubbleheadLes -- As an officer, I rode with the troops.

MAJ Mike

Steve C said...

Will; Your point about local troops is correct. Even at Tiananmen Square, the Chinese had to get out of town troops because the locals refused the job.
On the original problem of a training area for the troops. If they need an empty realistic city in a war zone training area, I would recommend Detroit.

Anonymous said...

...I would recommend Detroit

Only if they issue live ammo

Anonymous said...

For a while, in my more paranoid moments, I've thought that, looking at the demographics of US Army recruiting, a really clever tyrant would start creating de-facto racially based regiments. Then, when we need to crack down, we'll send the urban black kids to hold down the South, and the good ol' boys to hold down the ghettos.

Deliberately manufactured race war for the purpose of expanding tyranny.

Kristopher said...

Anon: One Oklahoma NG Lt. had his men participate in the Katrina firearm round up.

He was cashiered for it by OK state authorities.

Old NFO said...

Good post, and nobody seems to complain when the military comes out to support natural disasters... or major fires.

God, Gals, Guns, Grub said...

If they need practice deploying, attacking, and destroying a city... can we nominate one... like Washington D.C...

Dann in Ohio

Josh K. said...

It will depends on if the millitary buys into helping local oficials round up "Domistic Terrorists." or not. NDAA?

All military training can be turned against the citizenry, is the millitary then supposed to not train at all?

Joanna said...

a really clever tyrant

See, that's where your idea falls all to pieces. :-P

Anonymous said...

What is the old saying? Just because you are paranoid, it doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.

Rich

Firehand said...

DocJim, others beat me to it: SOME NG would take the order and carry it out.

I still remember the video of a OK NG troop holding an M16 on a bunch of locals while other assholes in uniform went through their homes to steal their guns, and the bastard saying "Never thought it would come to this, but we've got our orders."
I realize it's overreaction, but I've not been able to look at the NG the same way since.

SDN said...

Oh, Patton's maneuvers in the South were infamous long before WWII. Supposedly, while he was commanding 2nd Armored, he got annoyed at the city fathers of Phenix City AL (just across the river from Columbus GA and Fort Benning) and their reluctance to restrain the local Mob from rolling his troops on leave. So he asked for a meeting with the Mayor and City Council, and told them if they didn't shape up, he would use their city for a river crossing exercise... with live artillery support. The legend goes that this was an effective argument....

Matt G said...

From comments there:
"The only reason they would train in Los Angeles is because American cities are seen as future battlegrounds."

What's that sound I hear? Oh, it' the baby Jesus crying. I wish they'd stop making him do that. . .

Dr. Feelgood said...

NMT bought a whole town to operate as a law-enforcement training ground. Maybe the DoD should be eyeballing Detroit.