Giant Rabbits, Air Force One, Warrior Transition, Religion in the US
- Paul J. Caffera
Saturday, April 8, 2006
Whenever the president travels, security is a prime consideration. Motorcade routes are kept secret, and premature release of information about a presidential trip aboard one of the twin Air Force One planes can result in the Secret Service canceling a visit.
Thus, the Air Force reacted with alarm last week after The Chronicle told the Secret Service that a government document containing specific information about the anti-missile defenses on Air Force One and detailed interior maps of the two planes -- including the location of Secret Service agents within the planes -- was posted on the Web site of an Air Force base.
The document also shows the location where a terrorist armed with a high-caliber sniper rifle could detonate the tanks that supply oxygen to Air Force One's medical facility.
As of Friday, the document was still posted online. The Secret Service refused to comment on the document's release.
"It is not a good thing" for that information to be in the public domain, said Lt. Col Bruce Alexander, director of public affairs for the Air Mobility Command's 89th Airlift Wing, Andrews Air Force Base, which operates the presidential air transport fleet. "We are concerned with how it got there and how we can get it out. This affects operational security."
Information about Air Force One's anti-missile systems is considered particularly sensitive.
"Having information about a target's countermeasures does two things," said Daniel Goure of the Lexington Institute. "It gives you an opportunity to choose a different weapon and to choose a different attack style ... perhaps choosing to launch a salvo attack, or choose a missile that uses an active beam."
"It is tough enough for the Secret Service to do its job without this," said Leon Panetta, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, who now runs a public policy study center at California State University at Monterey Bay. "If I were still chief of staff, I would order the damned site (to) pull it down."
Speaking of the military, the Army is hurting for people. So, one way they are getting people is that they are retraining selected Navy and Air Force enlisted and officers to be in the Army and serve in Iraq. The course lasts 26 days:
During this period of 'right sizing' the Air Force and Navy, the Army recognizes the need for our Armed Forces to retain highly qualified men and women in our ranks. Operation Blue to Green offers you an alternative to civilian life. Operation Blue to Green will allow you to continue to serve your country, to maintain the benefits of military service, and to expand your horizons by gaining new training and trying new things. It facilitates the transfer of qualified Air Force and Navy individuals to active duty in the Army, depending on your service's willingness to release you from your current active service obligation. Selected members of the United States Marine Corp or Coast Guard, who are otherwise qualified, may be eligible for opportunities in the Army. However, Marines and Coast Guard will be required to complete their current term of active service.
SPC Beverly Sage jumped ship to answer the Army’s call. Today she wears combat boots instead of Navy blues, and can fire an M-16 like her life depends on it. “The Army is on the frontlines of the war. If joining means I have to serve in Iraq, I’m ready,” said the ex-sailor.
Sage’s confidence is a product of the Army’s new Warrior Transition Course at Fort Knox, Ky. The course is designed to make Soldiers of former Airmen, Sailors and Marines. It’s also an incentive for second-time volunteers wanting to rejoin the Army’s ranks without repeating nine weeks of basic training.
“We train these Soldiers with the expectation that every single one of them will see combat. The accepted generalization is that about 50 percent of them will be in combat within six months. Over a three-year period, they all will be,” said MAJ Ralph Hudnall, executive officer for 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment, which trains WTC students.
The Army Way
Trainees spend the first week at WTC learning the Army’s rank structure and military courtesies, and brush up on such core tasks as teamwork development, first aid, drill and ceremony, and land navigation. The goal is to introduce those coming from other services to the Army’s way of working, and to refresh the skills of former Soldiers.
Week two is spent at the firing range, where trainees engage targets with a variety of weapons in day- and night-firing exercises.
By midcourse, trainees feel the strain of having to pass a physical-fitness test with just three weeks to prepare.
“The hardest thing is the physical part,” said SGT Jeffrey Coleman. “I exercised at home, but it was nothing like this. This reminds me that I’m not 18 anymore.”
Coleman, 36, served five years in the field artillery before entering the civilian workforce.
“I got out because my wife wasn’t comfortable with the deployments, but I always felt I was out of my element after that,” said the Desert Storm veteran. “This is where I’m meant to be — in the Army.”
Tactical training is the longest and final part of WTC. This segment is a reality-check for trainees who expect they’ll never cross enemy lines.
“We’re training students on the specific tasks they’ll need to survive in Iraq,” Hudnall said.
Skills taught to make Soldiers combat-ready include convoy and checkpoint operations, urban warfare, live-fire operations and recognition of improvised explosive devices.
Training sites mirror the operating bases Soldiers currently see in Afghanistan and Iraq, complete with convoy routes, checkpoints, media representatives and milling locals. Wrecked vehicles, telephone polls and guardrails also cover the convoy route, and scenarios are peppered with enemy ambushes and IEDs.
The final exercise takes squads through a four-hour convoy mission. They receive indirect fire during movement through an urban area, fight back, get hit by an IED, and clear and secure a building — all while treating and evacuating casualties.
“The capstone exercise is a very detailed event that pushes them to their limit — it’s a taste of reality, especially for Soldiers who will go to support units, which are just as likely to be in a firefight as any other unit,” Hudnall said. “There is no rear area on today’s battlefield, no safe zone.”
Students serve in leadership positions twice during the course. As in professional-development classes, trainees are expected to put their experience and maturity to work.
“Some of these students were NCOs when they left their prior services, or they were NCOs before taking a break from the Army,” Hudnall said. “We take advantage of that, and let drill sergeants be teachers, coaches and mentors instead of stern, authoritarian figures.”
Some maps of interest: (click to see a larger image)
Unitarians; note the central part of Illinois and the north east.
UCC: sometimes joking called "Unitarians Considering Christianity"
Baptists; gee what a shock!!!
People belonging to one religion or another. Someone on the Illinoize blog noted that there is a light yellow string along I-74 and that red Indiana, in terms of percentage, is less religious than blue Illinois.