Monday, March 08, 2010

U.S. armed forces still using outdated equipment

The M16 scandal has been going on for years. Why can the g*ddam thing not be scrapped and a fresh start made with something reliable?

American TV screens not long ago were full of images of U.S. Marines spearheading a NATO coalition sweep in southern Afghanistan. These familiar scenes evoked memories of the Marine assault on Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004, and countless similar operations in the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Vietnam and other regions over the last half-century.

Inspect the photos closely, and you would see one constant: the M16 rifle. Since the Vietnam War, the U.S. Air Force has progressed from flying F-4 Phantoms to B-2 Spirit stealth bombers and F-22 Raptors. These combat aircraft are superior to the Vietnam-era planes by at least an order of magnitude. But the M16 has not evolved in kind.

To be sure, the M16 has been improved upon since it was first introduced almost 50 years ago. But U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan use largely the same weapon.

I was issued an M16A2 when I was mobilized and deployed to Iraq as a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve's 341st Military Police Company (San Jose) in the spring of 2003. However, we should have been issued an M4, the more modern version of the M16, which active-duty MPs were given. Instead I was handed a weapon that was state of the art during the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

And the M16A2 wasn't the only piece of equipment I found lacking. I remember being issued magazines for my M9 pistol that simply did not work. Ammunition fell out of the magazine because the spring was too weak. Others in my unit had the same problem. Had I ever discharged the weapon in self-defense during my 14-month deployment there, I'm confident the first round would have fired. Subsequent rounds? I'm not sure.

Parents even mailed their sons and daughters new magazines purchased from local gun shops in California. My roommate jokes that in past wars parents mailed their children cookies and letters, not gun parts and body armor.

Toward the end of 2003, my company was transferred to a town north of Baghdad where we performed convoy escort and combat patrol missions in the volatile "Sunni triangle." Three armored Humvees were required for each squad. But initially, our company lacked enough armored Humvees for each squad to have its full complement.

Before missions, we flipped a coin to decide who would get the "thin-skinned" vehicle. I told a friend back home about this. "Isn't that dangerous?" he asked. "How safe are you then?" "About as safe as you would be driving around Iraq in your Ford," I said.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said, "You go to war with the army you have — not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time." I went to war with the army we had at the time. But since then, vast improvements have been made. Soldiers and Marines now patrol in vehicles much better suited to deflect improvised explosive devices and other threats that I encountered six years ago.

Have the improvements gone far enough? The young enlisted troops doing the hard work of our nation don't generally have a voice that's heard in the editorial pages of our nation's newspapers. So we don't know for sure.

Nothing would make me prouder than to learn that U.S. troops now have the best equipment we can possibly give them. It's the least we can do to help them accomplish their missions with a modicum of safety. But I can't help but worry as I watch the news footage of the young warriors going into battle in Marjah today, clutching their M16s.


Note for those who take an interest in military equipment: I will be putting up later today on DISSECTING LEFTISM some videos that show, among other things, some interesting German WWII equipment

Miss. store's owner shot gunman in self-defense: "Vicksburg police say they won't charge a store owner who shot and killed an armed robbery suspect. Assistant Police Cheff Jeffery Scott says the suspect fired first, and was shot in self-defense. Police were still looking on Saturday for a second man accused in the holdup Thursday at La Chiquita grocery store, and had not released the dead man's name. Scott says the men put a rifle to the clerk's head, ordered her to the ground, hit her in the back of the head, and took cash, merchandise and a customer's wallet. He says the clerk told the owner, who was in an adjacent restaurant and chased the gunmen's car to try to get a license number. Scott says the car crashed on an overpass, the gunmen got out and one shot at the store owner, who fired back. [Good shot!]

FL: Store clerk shoots would-be robber: "A robbery attempt was foiled after a store clerk shot a thief. The incident occurred at the Snappy Convenience Store, located at 115 S.E. 10th Street, Friday night. Store clerk Samir Al-Madi, 25, told Broward's Sheriff's Office Robbery detectives he was on the telephone when he saw a hooded man approaching the store. According to BSO, when the suspect, 24-year-old Alexander Brown, pulled out his gun on Al-Madi, Al-Madi reached for a gun and shot Brown in the jaw. Freddy Al-Madi, owner of the convenience store and father of the victim, said, "He walked in and he tried to kill him. He did not come in here just to rob. The guy was ready. The gun was ready." When Brown tried to get up, Al-Madi felt threatened once again and shot Brown again. Brown was taken to North Broward Medical Center. He is expected to survive. There were no customers in the store at the time of the attempted robbery. BSO said once Brown is out of the hospital, he will be charged."

Jews with guns - not only in the Israel Defense Forces: "Much of the Jewish community has remained outside the debate: Some 90 million U.S. residents hold 200 million firearms, but only a tiny minority of American Jews have guns. However, there appears to be a revival among supporters of the right to bear arms among Jews who say that attitudes are changing because of new threats they face. One of them is Dovid Bendory, an Orthodox rabbi, 42, from New Jersey. Not only did he buy a gun, he also became an authorized shooting instructor and is giving lessons to members of the Orthodox community. He also distributes material that explains, on the basis of biblical texts, the right of Jews to self-defense. "I did not grow up with guns, not even with toy guns," he says. "I think that the first time I saw a real gun was when I visited Israel at age 16. But I began to think about weapons seriously after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As far as I'm concerned, the Twin Towers disaster changed the entire scene, because until then we thought that the terrorist threat existed only outside the United States." Another turning point was the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, where one of the targets was the Chabad House. "I realized that this is no longer political terrorism but anti-Semitism," he says. "In May 2009 they arrested people in Riverdale, New York who wanted to blow up a synagogue in that neighborhood, which is a 40 minutes drive from my community." "I think that in view of our history, every Jew who is physically and psychologically capable of carrying a gun should do so," he says. "We must be ready to defend ourselves..."

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