Saturday, December 31, 2011

31 DEC 11

New Year's Eve

My 2012 resolution:

Expect nothing.


                                                  
-Fini

Friday, December 30, 2011

30 DEC 11

As the year winds down...  
(I borrowed this first bit from Bob Roth, on the ASA Open Discussion page on facebook.)

From a U.S. Marine currently serving in Afghanistan:

U.S. Weapons:
1) The M-16 rifle: Thumbs down. Chronic jamming problems with the talcum powder like sand over there. The sand is everywhere. Jordan says you feel filthy minutes after coming out of the shower.

2) The M-4 carbine version is more popular because it's lighter and shorter, but it has jamming problems also. It lack the ability to mount the various optical gun sights and weapons lights on the Picatinny rails. The weapon itself is not great in a desert environment. All hate the 5.56 mm (.223) round. Poor penetration on the cinder block structure common over there and even torso hits can't be counted on to put the enemy down.

3) The M-243 SAW (squad assault weapon): .223 cal. Drum fed light machine gun. Big thumbs down.. Universally considered a piece of sh-t. Chronic jamming problems, most of which require partial disassembly (that's fun in the middle of a firefight).

4) The M-9 Beretta 9mm: Mixed bag. Good gun, performs well in desert environment; but they all hate the 9mm cartridge. The use of handguns for self-defense is actually fairly common. Same old story on the 9mm: Bad guys hit multiple times and still in the fight.

5) Mossberg 12ga. Military shotgun: Works well, used frequently for clearing houses to good effect. (Great weapon - I used these when transporting prisoners.)

6) The M-240 Machine Gun: 7.62 NATO (.308) cal. belt fed machine gun, developed to replace the old M-60 (what a beautiful weapon that was!!) Thumbs up. Accurate, reliable, and the 7.62 round puts 'em down. Originally developed as a vehicle mounted weapon, more and more are being dismounted and taken into the field by infantry. The 7.62 round chews up the structure over there.

7) The M-2 .50 cal heavy machine gun: Thumbs way, way up. "Ma Deuce" is still worth her considerable weight in gold. The ultimate fight stopper - puts their dicks in the dirt every time. The most coveted weapon in-theater.

8) The M-1911 .45 pistol: Thumbs up. Still the best pistol around. Everybody authorized to carry a sidearm is trying to get their hands on one. With few exceptions, one can reliably be expected to put 'em down with a torso hit. The special ops guys (who are doing most of the pistol work) use the HK military model and supposedly love it.. The old government model.45's are being re-issued en masse.

9) The M-14: Thumbs up. They are being re-issued in bulk, mostly in a modified version to special ops guys. Modifications include lightweight Kevlar stocks and low power red dot or ACOG sights. Very reliable in the sandy environment, and they love the 7.62 round.

10) The Barrett .50 cal sniper rifle: Thumbs way up. Spectacular range and accuracy and hits like a freight train. Used frequently to take out vehicle suicide bombers (we actually stop a lot of them) and barricaded enemy. It is definitely here to stay.

11) The M-24 sniper rifle: Thumbs up. Mostly in .308 but some in 300 win mag. Heavily modified Remington 700's. Great performance. Snipers have been used heavily to great effect. Rumor has it a marine sniper on his third tour in Anbar province has actually exceeded Carlos Hathcock's record for confirmed kills with OVER 100.

12) The new body armor: Thumbs up. Relatively light at approx. 6 lbs. and can reliably be expected to soak up small shrapnel and even will stop an AK-47 round. The bad news: Hot as sh-t to wear, almost unbearable in the summer heat(which averages over 120 degrees). Also, the enemy now goes for head shots whenever possible. All the bullsh-t about the "old" body armor making our guys vulnerable to the IED's was a non-starter. The IED explosions are enormous and body armor doesn't make any difference at all in most cases.

13) Night Vision and Infrared Equipment: Thumbs way up. Spectacular performance. Our guys see in the dark and own the night, period. Very little enemy action after evening prayers. More and more enemy being whacked at night during movement by our hunter-killer teams. We've all seen the videos.

14) Lights: Thumbs up. Most of the weapon mounted and personal lights are Surefire's, and the troops love 'em. Invaluable for night urban operations. Jordan carried a $34 Surefire G2 on a neck lanyard and loved it.

( I can't help but notice that most of the good fighting weapons and ordnance are 50 or more years old! With all our technology, it's the WWII and Vietnam era weapons that everybody wants! The infantry fighting is frequent, up close and brutal. No quarter is given or shown. )
(Emphasis mine.)

Bad Guy Weapons:
1) Mostly AK-47's. The entire country is an arsenal. Works better in the desert than the M16 and the .308 Russian round kills reliably. PKM belt fed light machine guns are also common and effective. Luckily, the enemy mostly shoots like sh-t. Undisciplined "spray and pray" type fire. However, they are seeing more and more precision weapons, especially sniper rifles. ( Iran , again)

2) The RPG: Probably the infantry weapon most feared by our guys. Simple, reliable and as common as dogsh-t. The enemy responded to our up-armored Humvees by aiming at the windshields, often at point blank range. Still killing a lot of our guys.

3) The IED: The biggest killer of all. Can be anything from old Soviet anti-armor mines to jury rigged artillery shells. A lot found in Jordan 's area were in abandoned cars. The enemy would take 2 or 3 155 mm artillery shells and wire them together. Most were detonated by cell phone and the explosions are enormous. You're not safe in any vehicle, even an M1 tank. Driving is by far the most dangerous thing our guys do over there. Lately, they are much more sophisticated "shape charges" (Iranian) specifically designed to penetrate armor. Fact: Most of the ready made IED's are supplied by Iran , who is also providing terrorists (Hezbollah types) to train the insurgents in their use and tactics. That's why the attacks have been so deadly lately. Their concealment methods are ingenious, the latest being shape charges, in Styrofoam containers spray painted to look like the cinderblocks that litter all Iraqi roads. We find about 40% before they detonate, and the bomb disposal guys are unsung heroes of this war.

4) Mortars and rockets: Very prevalent. The soviet era 122mm rockets
(with an 18km range) are becoming more prevalent. One of Jordan 's NCO's lost a leg to one. These weapons cause a lot of damage "inside the wire". Jordan 's base was hit almost daily his entire time there by mortar and rocket fire, often at night to disrupt sleep patterns and cause fatigue (It did).. More of a psychological weapon than anything else. The enemy mortar teams would jump out of vehicles, fire a few rounds, and then haul ass in a matter of seconds.

Fun Fact:
Captured enemy have apparently marveled at the marksmanship of our guys and how hard they fight. They are apparently told in Jihad school that the Americans rely solely on technology, and can be easily beaten in close quarters combat for their lack of toughness. Let's just say they know better now.

Bad Guy Technology:
Simple yet effective. Most communication is by cell and satellite phones and also by email on laptops. They use handheld GPS units for navigation and "Google Earth" for overhead views of our positions. Their weapons are good, if not fancy, and prevalent. Their explosives and bomb technology is TOP OF THE LINE. Night vision is rare. They are very careless with their equipment and the GPS units and laptops are treasure troves of Intel when captured.

Who Are The Bad Guys?
These are mostly "foreigners", non-Afghan Arab Jihadists from all over the Muslim world (and Europe ). Some are virtually untrained young Jihadists that often end up as suicide bombers or in various "sacrifice squads". Most, however, are hard core terrorists from all the usual suspects (Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas etc.). These are the guys running around murdering civilians en masse and cutting heads off. The Chechens (many of whom are Caucasian) are supposedly the most ruthless and the best fighters. They have been fighting the Russians for years. The terrorists have been very adept at infiltrating the Afghan local govt.'s, the police forces and the Army. They have had a spy and agitator network there since the Iran-Iraq war in the early 80's.

Fun Fact:  
Random autopsies on dead insurgents show a high level of opiate use.

Bad Guy Tactics:
When they are engaged on an infantry level, they get their asses kicked every time! Brave, but stupid. Suicidal Banzai-type charges were very common earlier in the war and still occur. They will literally sacrifice 8-10 man teams in suicide squads by sending them screaming and firing AK's and RPG's directly at our bases just to probe the defenses. They get mowed down like grass every time (see the M2 and M240 above). Jordan 's base was hit like this often. When engaged, they have a tendency to flee to the same building, probably for what they think will be a glorious last stand. Instead, we call in air and that's the end of that more often than not. These hole-ups are referred to as Alpha Whiskey Romeo's (Allah's Waiting Room). We have the laser guided ground-air thing down to science. The fast mover's, mostly Marine F-18's, are taking an ever increasing toll on the enemy. When caught out in the open, the helicopter gunships and AC-130 Spectre Gunships cut them to ribbons with cannon and rocket fire, especially at night. Interestingly,artillery is hardly used at all.

Fun Fact:
The enemy death toll is supposedly between 45-50 thousand. That is why we're seeing less and less infantry attacks and more IED, suicide bomber sh-t. The new strategy is just simple attrition. The insurgent tactic most frustrating is their use of civilian non-combatants as cover. They know we do all we can to avoid civilian casualties and therefore schools, hospitals and especially Mosques are locations where they meet, stage for attacks, cache weapons, and ammo and flee to when engaged. They have absolutely no regard whatsoever for inflicting civilian casualties. They will terrorize locals and murder without hesitation anyone believed to be sympathetic to the Americans. Kidnapping of family members, especially children, is common to influence people they are trying to influence but can't reach, such as local govt. officials, clerics, tribal leaders, etc.. The first thing our guys are told is "don't get captured". They know that if captured they will be tortured and beheaded on the internet. They openly offer bounties for anyone who brings in a live American serviceman. This motivates the criminal element who otherwise don't give a sh-t about the war. A lot of the beheading victims were actually kidnapped by common criminals and sold to them. As such, for our guys, every fight is to the death. Surrender is not an option. The Afghani's are a mixed bag. Some fight well; others aren't worth a damn. Most do okay with American support. Finding leaders is hard, but they are getting better. Many Afghani's were galvanized and the caliber of recruits in the Army and the police forces went right up, along with their motivation. It also led to an exponential increase in good intel because the Afghani's are sick of the insurgent attacks against civilians.

U.S. Morale:
According to Jordan , morale among our guys is very high. They not only believe that they are winning, but that they are winning decisively. They are stunned and dismayed by what they see in the American press, whom they almost universally view as against them. The embedded reporters are despised and distrusted. They are inflicting casualties at a rate of 20-1 and then see sh-t like "Are we losing in Iraq " on TV and the print media. For the most part, they are satisfied with their equipment, food, and leadership. Bottom line though, and they all say this, is that there are not enough guys there to drive the final stake through the heart of the insurgency, primarily because there aren't enough troops in-theater to shut down the borders with Afghanisan and Pakistan. The Iranians and the Syrians just can't stand the thought of Afganistan being an American ally (with, of course, permanent US bases there).
__________________________________________________________
                 _____________________________________

From years ago...
a memory surfaces: I'm attending the Tactical Training Course
at Fort Devens, MA. Been living in the woods, in a foxhole,
for just over a week... am tired, cold, dirty.
The Colonel (Millett) enters the compound with an ABC film crew...
he's been pushing this course (TTC) to the Army and being rebuffed.
The ABC crew is part of his latest try at being accepted by the powers-that-be.
We, the trainees, were all in a foul mood. It had rained and snowed on us,
plus the resident "enemy forces" had kept us from sleep.
(That being the whole point of the training.)
Anyway... each time a camera was turned on any of us, the finger was given
to the lens... thus negating the use of that piece of film on a TV broadcast.
(You gotta realize, this was 1967... a whole different moral compass was in use.)
We disliked the broadcast media...
considered them to be no more than blood-sucking leaches.
In the end, ABC got the footage they wanted.
COL Millett, angrily, had ordered us to stop with the finger thing.
We complied.
(In truth, we all were a bit afraid of Millett... and very much in awe of him.
He'd been awarded the Medal Of Honor for actions during the Korean War.
He'd been a soldier for longer than any of us had been alive.
He would have been promoted to general officer if he didn't scare the piss out of
the chair-bound gentry who were running the pentagon at the time.)

                  Colonel Lewis Millett, being honored in Seoul, South Korea. (He was in his 80s here.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

26 DEC 11

Now, it can be told...

My step-father, Don Vermilye, was an engineer.
He was schooled at Princeton.
When he married my mother, they both worked
for RCA Camden (NJ) on various programs for
NASA. Don's engineering team developed the
ranging RADARs used on the Lunar Module.
When he was laid off from RCA, in the
post-Apollo world, he worked as a consultant
for a time until he was approached by Perkin-Elmer.
That's how he and my mother ended up in Connecticut.
While he was with Perkin-Elmer, the work he did
was highly classified.
He never spoke of it.
He never told my mother a thing...
even though she also held a TS clearance.
(No "need to know")

Now, it can be told.
Fox News article on the Perkin-Elmer Danbury, CT facility.
                   ( Click image to enlarge )
http://i76.photobucket.com/albums/j33/snuffyny/wwwfoxnewscom-us-2011-12-26-decades-later-cold-war-secret-is-revealed-.png



Christmas 1972, Haddon Hts, NJ - My mother and step-father, Don Vermilye. After Christmas dinner.


                         ca. 1983, Bethel, CT - My mother, me, Don w/their dog, Chris, in front yard


(This is the last photo taken of Don. He was diagnosed with lung cancer not long after this was taken. He fought the good fight for three years... lost in '87.)


-Fini

PS:
Perkin-Elmer declared bankruptcy. The Danbury building was sold to B.F. Goodrich.
The facility was still making precision mirrors for the space program.
My brother worked there as a lens grinder until he was laid off in '99 (?).


A posting on Don and Mom's RCA days
http://jmawelsh.blogspot.com/2011/07/20-jul-09.html

Saturday, December 24, 2011

24 DEC 11

"All is calm..."

Saturday night.
A Christmas Eve...
and all is quiet.
The day was bright and cool...
near chilly.

The Giants won NYC bragging rights,
beating the Jets 29-14 in the pro game
played today.

My wife and I puttered around the house.
She prepared a dish for tomorrow's dinner
at her daughter's home in Connecticut.
________________________________

Passing strange... though I now profess to be agnostic,
I was reared Catholic and the one thing I find
myself missing on Christmas Eve is attending
midnight mass with my mother.

As a kid, I used to love the look and smell
of the decorated church...
fir boughs and beeswax,
festive red ribbons, green wreaths...
a flood of poinsettias.
There was that gut-shaking rumble
of the pipe organ...
the soaring voices of the full choir...
the priestly vestments...
that satiny sheen, white and gold.
I loved the spectacle of it all.
The full Roman Catholic High Mass...
celebrated in Latin.

But most of all, I appreciated being treated as
being adult enough to attend the midnight ritual.

Merry Christmas to all.

                                              ( Kyrie eleison )

-Fini

Views on religion

Monday, December 19, 2011

19 DEC 11

"But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?" ( Wm. Shakespeare )

Trying to photograph my band, Artsongjazz, yesterday, at the Museum Village gig.


In this picture: From left... Cosmo Policriti (Sax), Me, Joe Welsh (Drum),
Dov Dixler (Keyboard), Shane Bordeau (Bass), Naomi Kennedy (Vocals).

Obviously, we played our first gig yesterday.
We performed in a "coffee house" setting in the
Museum Village complex, Monroe, NY.
The village is a recreation of 19th century life. 
The venue was, definitely, from the 19th century. 
Heated by fireplace... 24 degrees out yesterday. 
Everybody kept coats on for the first set.
The second set, everyone huddled by the hearth.
Good gig anyway. 
We cooked!

                                             ( Not literally! )
 -Fini

PS: More Photos, of a much better quality.
       Audio files to follow shortly.

                                       Artsongjazz,  setup at Museum Village

                                      Artsongjazz, catching the rhythm at Museum Village


                                     Artsongjazz, cookin' at Museum Village

Friday, December 16, 2011

16 DEC 11

"...Hallowed Be Thy Name"

The subject is God, or gods, depending on the belief system.
I was reared in the Roman Catholic Church...
though it's precepts didn't take with me.
Never believed the tales that were told... even as a small child.
Could never get my head around the "Holy Trinity" thing...
a convoluted explanation for matters of faith that could only
have come from a committee.

My own personal view:
Humans and religion... this pairing goes back in time
to when our ancestors huddled in trees at night,
watching thunderstorms sweep the savannah.
Surely SOMETHING BIG was responsible for
that light show, all the ground-shaking noise.
An evolving intelligence, the evolving brain, sought answers...
and the concept of a Supreme Being was born.

-Fini
                    ( ... chicken or the egg. )

PS:
Christopher Hitchens died yesterday, sorry to say.
His was a voice for reason in an, often, unreasonable world.
He succumbed to esophageal cancer... an affliction that
I beat with surgery and great good luck.
I'm not sure that I should wish for the well being
of his soul, given his predilection.
(I'm agnostic, not atheistic.) 
            __________________________________

05 JAN 12

After having written all that, I find this... which I also agree with: 
                                    Cobb
                ______________________________


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

13 DEC 11

American Icon ...




An ice-cold Coke.
Funnily enough, when I think of that icon
I'm remembering Vietnam.

July 1967 ...
110 in the noon-day sun ...
work detail (repairing the trench line) ...
metallic-tasting warm water in the canteens.
The NCO in charge leaving us ...
going to the EM Club ...
returning with a case of Coke ...
a bucket of ice ...
sleeve of paper cups.
Break time!
Sucking down Coke over ice ...
guzzling Coke on ice ...
cold 'n wet.
Coke on ice ...
Nirvana,
on a brutal hot day.


A memory carried for more than 40 years.
Don't drink much soda now.
Never did drink much to start with.
Probably wouldn't be drinking it nowadays
at all... except for that memory of Vietnam.
(I've become diabetic.)
Nothing else has ever tasted quite as good since.

Despite what the Docs say ...
every once in awhile, I just gotta have
                 
 ... a Coke! 


-Fini 
                            ( ... not a Pepsi. )

Sunday, December 11, 2011

11 DEC 11

"The time has come..."

Just watched Barbara Bachmann on "Face The Nation."
It was more of the same ol', same ol'.
Bob Shieffer asked her a yes/no question...
she runs off on a tangent, repeating to us why she is the
only candidate who can beat Obama... ???

Once again, my political poem rings true:



-Fini

PS:
I wrote this poem, 20+ years ago, after watching Bob Shieffer go round 'n round with
Sen. Ted Kennedy while trying to get him to answer a yes/no question.
It's obvious that the "running off at the mouth" phenomenon is not confined to any one
political party.
                                                              ( ... of cabbages, indeed! )

Saturday, December 10, 2011

10 DEC 11

Becoming...

I think that one becomes a curmudgeon when
the list of what is disliked becomes longer than
the list of things that are liked.
When disliking becomes habitual...
when unsolicited opinion is constantly offered...
Viola! ...a curmudgeon is born.

I think I've entered that stage in life.
There's an awful lot that I don't like in today's world...
and this blog is the perfect tool for bitchin' and complainin'.
I do understand that much of my discord is due to age,
to time and changing mores.
__________________________________________

(I'm not sure if what follows is truly curmudgeonly or just ordinary generational differences.)

A granddaughter thinks that Lady Gaga is the Second Coming.
I beg to differ.
Surely, the Beatles were the Second Coming!
... though my mother never thought so...
but, then, she was a 1930s type of gal...
more attuned to Gershwin and Cole Porter.

-Fini

PS:
My wife, who is a bit older than I am, thinks that Elvis was the Second Coming.
Me... I never much cared for Elvis. (Except for his rendition of, "Don't Be Cruel.")
Life goes on.
                                             ( ...that would be "Presley." )

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

07 DEC 11

Pearl Harbor Day

A day for remembering.

Was stationed in Japan for two years...
at the 14th U.S. Army Security Agency Field Station, Hakata, Japan.
It was near the city of Fukuoka, on the southern island of Kyushu.

I traveled some while there... paid a visit to Nagasaki.
Went to the "Ground Zero" monument, actually.
I stood there a long while, looking, watching, thinking.

I wondered why, since I had Japanese friends,
that I felt nothing while standing there, at a monument to
their defeat and our own (now) perceived barbarity.

I decided that it was due to my own understanding of history.
In 1945, the Japs were the barbarians, while we were the
"Knights In Shining Armor."
We'd prevailed, survived to lop off the head of the great
dragon that had been a rampant Nippon.

It also mattered that my step-father had been a U.S. Marine and
fought at the battle for Okinawa. While he never spoke much
about his war years, he did once say he felt that Harry Truman
most probably saved his life by dropping The Bomb.
He had been scheduled to be part of the invasion force for Japan.

After Okinawa, the ordinary foot soldier and marine had no
illusions about the cost of that upcoming fight.


-Fini


                    My step-father, Don Vermilye (far left), on pass in Honolulu 
                                    prior to shipping out to Okinawa.

                                             Ground Zero, Peace Park, Nagasaki, Japan


                                           Me, in the city park, Fukuoka, Japan - ca. 1971
  
PS:
I don't have many pictures from my tour in Japan... this is the only one I have loaded in my computer.

PPS:
I'm also reminded that life has a way of just plodding on.
Today may have been "Pearl Harbor Day" (70 years on) but today was also the day for my wife's second podiatry appointment.

ALSO:
Another Japan memory surfaced... visiting the home of a bartender friend... sitting around the kotatsu (table) eating squid, drinking beer... his grandmother telling me that the one thing she had feared most during the war was the "Bee Nijuu-Ku" (the B-29 Bomber).
I had no reply for her.

THEN, THERE'S THIS:
Fukuoka POW Camp
___________________________________________

Another look back...

 Neptunus Lex
 

Monday, December 5, 2011

05 DEC 11

"A Charley Brown Christmas"... and other stuff

Winter's comin' on.
It's chilly out... gray sky and fallen leaves.

"A Charley Brown Christmas" on the television,
warm pumpkin pie (fresh from the oven) and
a glass of good red wine.
All I need this time of year.

I find that the older I get,
the less my world needs to encompass.
The things I love are held close...
family and friends.
Wife. Child. Grandchild.
All else matters less... or not at all.

                        ( Life... writ small )

-Fini

Sunday, December 4, 2011

04 DEC 11

"I remember ten."

So said I... in a previous posting concerning the perversion scandal
occurring at Penn State University. (And now at Syracuse!)
                   
                                      (21-NOV-11)

... and I do.
At ten, the world is a very big place.
At ten, you feel very small.
At ten, adults rule your world... from your parents to the teachers at school.
At ten, you cannot do much without permission.

I was taught to be always respectful to adults... to NEVER sass them.
If I felt that an adult had wronged me, I'd been instructed to then tell my
parents and let them deal with the problem.

I was carefully taught that I was to NEVER get into a car with a stranger.
I was to be ever aware of the actions of strangers and others and NEVER
allow anyone to play with, or remove, my underwear.
(This caused some problems with the Cooper Hospital nursing staff when
I was to have my tonsils removed.)

I wonder what happened at Penn State.
Were these boys not taught the same as I was?
Are these cautions not universal in nature?
Dunno.
I'm going to think on this some more, so for now...

-Fini
________________________________________

16 Dec 11

My (subjective) conclusion:
Sandusky WAS the perceived father-figure.
It was expected that he be obeyed.
He was known.
He was trusted.

If he is adjudged to be guilty,
then he violated that most sacred trust
and...
I'll gladly sing him a "Him":

       "Himmm... Himmm... Fuck Him." 
(To be chanted in the choral manner of medieval plain song)             

      ( a vestigial memory from my USASA days )

Friday, December 2, 2011

02 DEC 11

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful..."

Back on the 16th of October I wrote that my new band, "Artsongjazz,"
was to play it's first gig on Sunday, 30 October, at the Museum Village
Coffee House. It never came to pass... a Nor'easter blew through here
on the Saturday before, bringing a foot of heavy wet snow. All that
snow, in combination with the remaining leaves not yet fallen, brought
down whole trees and a tangle of broken branches.

Power was lost for several days over a large portion of the Northeast.
Here, we lost power Saturday afternoon... were forced to find a hotel (again).
We were out of the house until Tuesday afternoon.
Not bad when you consider that people living in the upscale community
of Ridgefield, CT (about 10 miles from here) had no power for near onto
two weeks... and nights were getting cold.

The Coffee House had entertainment booked for every week-end of
November... so our first gig is now Sunday, 18 December 11.
We practiced last night and we were cookin'. Just hope that we can
hold on to this musical high til after the gig. All bands have flat days and
when that happens no amount of trying will fix the music.

-Fini

PS: Gonna have to stop referring to "Artsongjazz" as being my "new" band.
       It's now just my band.

                        Ad, from the Museum Village web page (and, as is usual, misspelled my name)