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September 2017

— This Month —

Army Things

–  Guns, Warriors and Bases 

MISSION STATEMENT

 

Our Association is a not-for-profit fraternal organization. Its purpose is a) to foster camaraderie among the graduates of Signal Corps Officer Candidate School classes of the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War eras, b) to organize and offer scholarships and other assistance for the families of Officer and Enlisted OCS cadre who are in need, and c) to archive for posterity the stories and history of all of the Signal Corps OCS Officers who served this great country. We are open to ALL former Army Signal Corps OCS graduates, their families and friends, as well as other officers, enlisted men, those interested in military history, and the general public. Please, come join us. For more information about our Association, to see a list of our Officers and Directors, or for contact details, click on the OCS Association link at left.

Please note: The views and opinions expressed on this website are offered in order to stimulate interest in those who visit it. They are solely the views and expressions of the authors and/or contributors to this website and do not necessarily represent the views of the Army Signal Corps Officer Candidate School Association, its Officers, Directors, members, volunteers, staff, or any other party associated with the Association. If you have any suggestions for improvements to this site, please send them to WebMaster@ArmySignalOCS.com. We are here to serve you.

 



 

ArmySignalOCS Editor

Take A Break, Summer's Over

With so much heavy stuff in the news these days, we thought that as summer slides into fall we might give you a break from the craziness of Washington and talk instead of more sanguine military matters—like guns, the excitement of new forms of combat that the Army may take up, and new "Little Americas" U.S. soldiers may soon be calling home… or as we say below, Guns, Warriors and Bases.

Before we do though, we thought we would reproduce for you the first few minutes of President Trump's speech on the evening of 21 August, this past month, wherein he unveiled in broad strokes his U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan. For a guy who can’t seem to open his mouth without spouting a rhetorical faux pas, this speech was on the money. And considering how most readers of this website served this great country, it is interesting to read what he said both to and about us:

Trump Saluting The U.S. Military“I am here tonight to lay out our path forward in Afghanistan and South Asia. But before I provide the details of our new strategy, I want to say a few words to the service members here with us tonight, to those watching from their posts, and to all Americans listening at home.

“Since the founding of our republic, our country has produced a special class of heroes whose selflessness, courage, and resolve is unmatched in human history. American patriots from every generation have given their last breath on the battlefield for our nation and for our freedom. Through their lives, and though their lives were cut short, in their deeds they achieved total immortality. By following the heroic example of those who fought to preserve our republic, we can find the inspiration our country needs to unify, to heal, and to remain one nation, under God. The men and women of our military operate as one team, with one shared mission and one shared sense of purpose. They transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed, and color to serve together and sacrifice together in absolutely perfect cohesion.

“That is because all service members are brothers and sisters. They’re all part of the same family. It’s called the American family. They take the same oath, fight for the same flag, and live according to the same law. They’re bound together by common purpose, mutual trust, and selfless devotion to our nation and to each other. The soldier understands what we as a nation too often forget: that a wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all. When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together. Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. Love for America requires love for all of its people. When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry, and no tolerance for hate. The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home. We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other.”   

 

For a man prone to tongue tied gaffs and an addiction to both interjecting humor inappropriate for the topic he is speaking of, and stepping all over himself with equally unsuitable ad-libs, this time his words of thought regarding who and what us men and women who fought for America are is spot on. He’s right, the men I know who fought in WWII, Korea and Vietnam—and America’s more modern wars—are all: ·        

“A special class of hero, whose selflessness, courage, and resolve is unmatched in human history,” and ·        

“American patriots all… men who have given their last breath on the battlefield for our nation and for our freedom.”

It’s nice to hear these words from our President.

It’s nice to know that Donald Trump, if not the rest of America, knows who America’s soldiers really are.

Thank you Mr. President. Now get back to work.

As for our topics this month, let’s start with Guns.  



Army Things #1

Army Guns

We’ll bet that you old WWII, Korean and Vietnam vets didn’t know that the Army awarded a 10-year, $580 million contract to Sig Sauer earlier this year, to produce a new handgun destined to be the first replacement for the M9 Beretta that’s been in use since the post-Vietnam days? Yup, for over three decades now the M9 Beretta has been the side arm of record for American soldiers, not to mention fresh tailed Second Lieutenants in the Signal Corps.

What you say? What happened to the Colt M1911A1 .45 ACP?

M9 BerettaWell, sometime after you left Vietnam and settled into civilian life, a bunch of smart aleck guys in the Pentagon decided that the M1911A1, as good as it was, was getting long in the tooth—like there was something wrong with a gun that served America’s Army since 1912. So they brought in the M9 Beretta. For us Vietnam vets, looking back on those days when we traipsed through the jungles of ‘Nam with a Colt strapped to our hip, we tend to forget the condition the M1911’s were in when they were issued to us.

Most were what might be called badly worn “mix-masters,” while others were little more than a recently refreshed arsenal rebuild. Mine was put together out of an M1911 frame, with an M1911A1 slide, something our armorer called a short hammer, with the whole thing held together by a short safety grip, flat housing and short trigger. The simple fact is, while there were a few pistols in new condition, by Vietnam most of the .45's in military inventory were a packaged mix of parts from WWII and the Korean War.

Hey, this is understandable, no? When Korea and Vietnam came along, the only thing the Army had to do to outfit us with a sidearm was to dig into inventory and pull out what they had sitting around. And of course, what they found there were a bunch of M1911s and M1911A1s.

Colt M1911A1 .45ACPWhile the pistols themselves were kluged together from any and all parts, to make them look new for us new Second Lieutenants, the Army was kind enough to buy new grips, and while they were in the process of fitting these onto the weapon, they added a chrome-lined barrel for good measure. And there you had it: a new looking—albeit reconditioned—M1911 in WWII trim.

Sitting here today, it’s kind of humorous how we young guns could fall so in love with our Colts, considering the miserable condition most of them were in. Yet again, this is understandable. For one, the original military M1911 pistols were produced from 1912 through 1919. A bit later, in 1924, Colt made their first small batch of M1911A1 pistols. The actual production number is lost, but was said to be no more than 10,000 at the time.

Other small lots didn't come along until 1937 and 1938. It was around then that Army Officers decided that they really, really liked the M1911A1, and so around 1939 regular orders began to be placed with Colt for pistols. Obviously, when WWII came along production ramped up big time, and continued through to the end of WWII. Production during WWII even included a few third party contractors, like Remington Rand.

With the end of WWII production stopped. Period. No new M1911A1s were ever made for the US military after that.

By the time we got to Vietnam, all of us Officers were relegated to carrying our dads’ pistols. But hey, if it was good enough for my dad, it was damn good enough for me. This young Lieutenant carried his .45 ACP in Vietnam with pride, practiced with it every moment he could, and used it well.  At least one American is alive today because of it, and that’s no lie.

Still, time puts an end to everything. The M1911A1 was declared obsolete in the early 1990's, although many seemed to resurface in the Iraq wars, and a few can still be found in armories today.

Sad as it was to see the Colt .45 ACP we all carried replaced with the Beretta M9, its replacement didn’t prove to be any barn burner.

As Wikipedia tells us, “The Beretta M9, officially the ‘Pistol, Semiautomatic, 9mm, M9,’ is a 9×19mm Parabellum pistol [that was] adopted by the United States Armed Forces in 1985. It is essentially a military specification Beretta 92FS.”

That is all well and good, except that it appears that while the weapon was picked by competitive bid—which included an analysis of the gun’s performance—it seems that the final decision was made more on the basis of the lower cost of the pistol than it’s fitness for purpose.

Thanks Uncle Sam.

Either way, the gun has earned a fair number of detractors during its time in service.

To begin with, one upgrade (called version M9A1) was needed in 2006, with another upgrade (version M9A3) being needed again in 2015. And while some of the features added were useful, like the addition of a 3-slot Picatinny rail, others were such that they should have been part and parcel of the weapon when it first left the factory.

Among those were the addition of a 17-round magazine, an earth-tone finish (so the enemy didn’t see the sun glinting off of your weapon… duh???), thinner vertical grips for improved control by those with smaller hands (Hey, how about if we make the Army more friendly and add a few women to our combat infantry platoons??? Won’t that be a good idea… then we can order all of our weapons in two sizes, big and small!!), removable sights so that users can select sights to suit their environment (e.g. luminescent dot sights for dark situations, or taller sights for use with a suppressor), and most important of all, sand-resistant magazines.

Gosh, "sand resistant magazines"... really? Considering how many wars we fight in sand-filled countries, one would have thought that whoever picked this beast of a weapon in the first place would have at least made it jam proof.

Sig Sauer P320Add to this the controversies that ensued over slide failures, the guns inability to handle rounds that exceeded the recommended NATO pressures, soldier concerns with the weapon’s stopping power, mismatching of magazines with the pistol (due to the magazines being made by a company other than Beretta), and it all added up to a bunch of unhappy campers carrying Beretta M9s into combat.

Which leads us to the apparent selection of the new Sig Sauer P320 that the Army has set its sights on. Touted as having a “ground breaking modular design” (yeah, but can it shoot???), the Sig Sauer P320 is a polymer-framed, striker-fired design.  

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Vietnam Campaign Ribbons

This page last updated 10 September 2017. New content is constantly being added. Please check back frequently.

New!Update 10 September – What's WAR with North Korea going to look like? Read this excellent article by a former Army Officer that strategized war games with the NORKOs. Some of it is a bit far fetched, but most of it is spot on. You'll enjoy it.

Update 14 August SHORT NOTICE! 221st Signal Company REUNION! Atlanta, Georgia; September 14 -- 18. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!!

 

Update 7 July – Registered yet for the 2017 Army Signal OCS Reunion? No? How could you miss it? It's time to settle down and register right now! Click here Go to Reunion Registration Page to see who has already registered, then click on the bottom of the page and register yourself! Do it now Smack!

 

 
2017 Army Signal OCS Reunion

Army Things #2

Combat Drone Warriors

Back in September 2015 we wrote an article about robot wars. It appeared on our Home Page, and talked of GIANT ROBOTS that were being built—one here in the U.S., originally named MegaBot, and another in Japan, called Kuratas—that when they were completed would do battle against each other. We thought it interesting, and suggested that you follow the story and watch what happens.

Well, it’s been a while, but it appears that the two robots are soon to be completed, and will bring on the fight soon. Not only that, but China has tossed its hat into the ring too. At the moment China is busy building its own giant robot, intending to do battle against the winner of the MegaBot – Kuratas encounter.

As the robot news media says, the U.S. robot, built by MegaBots, but having changed its name to Eagle Prime, “is expected to take on challengers from both Japan and China in a demonstration of robotic engineering prowess.”

The U.S. version under development stands 16 feet tall and is powered by a massive Chevrolet V8 LS3 engine. By itself, the engine puts out 430 horsepower and costs more than $8,000. All totaled, the combat robot weighs in at a very respectable 12 tons.

Among the weapons the U.S. robot has are included a gruesome claw and a large twin-barrel cannon. These are backed by an agile robot core, boasting impressive handling capabilities.

Since our first article on this was published in late 2015, the robotic team from Japan went underground, refusing to let outsiders see their plans. China, hearing of the coming fight, asked to take on the winner. While for the most part it too has gone quiet about what it is building, it has at least released a short video talking of their plans.

 

While the final schedule for the U.S. – Japan match has not been set, the Japanese developer says they expect to face off against Eagle Prime this month… September. China’s robot, called Monkey King, will fight the U.S. robot at a later date.

For those who see the coming of robots to the battlefield, this is a must see event. Unfortunately, the actual battle between the U.S. and Japanese robot won’t be open to the public. Instead, it will be a private affair, recorded for release after the battle is over. The supposed reason for this is due to the danger inherent in such large kinetic contraptions flailing away at each other. Both sides are concerned that a true, freewheeling fight could pose serious danger to the general public, if it were allowed into the arena.

AI military robot dronesFor our part, while we are curious to see how this U.S.–Japan–China matchup will turn out, our real interest is in how this kind of robotic development will impact the thinking of the U.S. Military.

Is it time for America to take its robotic warfare capabilities to the next level? If flying drones are fine for combat purposes, why not devices like Eagle Prime? And what about Artificial Intelligence? Surely there is a place for AI in not just these robot games, but also weaponized robots for military combat purposes?

In our view, while it’s fun to watch the development of these giant robots, when it comes to turning them into fighting machines we think the real question as to their utility will center around two questions:      

• Must they be manned, such as with a soldier-operator sitting inside of them—as these game robots are—or can an unmanned kinetic fighting GIANT ROBOT be built and turned loose on the battlefield, to act on its own?

• In determining what target to take on and how best to fight it, can Artificial Intelligence be used to drive the GIANT ROBOT’s decision making process?

For us former Army men, it goes without question that if GIANT ROBOTs are to be brought to the field of combat, they must be given all of the mechanical and logical strengths and capabilities possible. Yet while that makes sense for us, the U.N. does not think this approach is such a good idea.

For example, UN officials are already considering adding robotic weapons to the UN’s  Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons. Originally drawn up in 1981, the Convention and the treaties that followed it presently restrict chemical weapons, blinding laser weapons, mines, and other weapons deemed to cause “unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering to combatants or to affect civilians indiscriminately.”

AI military combat robotsNaturally, as a militarist at heart, we would ask if blinding lasers cause any more suffering than, say, having the left side of your face blown off? Clearly, those who write conventions for the UN are of a different mind than those of us that are sent into combat. If I, as a field combat commander, can send an unmanned robot like Eagle Prime into a house to flush out the enemy, rather than send my own men in, I would certainly do so.

Still, people like Elon Musk—hypocrite that he can be—are calling for the banning of almost all kinds of AI driven military weapons. Oh sure, it’s fine for him to use AI to push his electric cars on the public and flood our highways with vehicles that he thinks are better at driving than we are, but let’s not use AI for combat purposes. Instead, let’s send our warm bodied, blood filled American soldiers into combat. Better to spill American blood than hydraulic fluid.

If one listens to Elon Musk, “robotic warriors could arguably reduce casualties among human soldiers – at least, those of the wealthiest and most advanced nations. But the risk to civilians is the headline concern.” Musk writes that “these can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways."

Duh, and guns are not?

Our question would be, do you really think that the U.S. would use robotic weapons to terrorize the civilians of the countries we go to war against? It’s the despots of those countries that will use these weapons against their own citizens, not us. Look at Bashar al-Assad and his use of chemical weapons against his own citizens. Does he give a damn what the UN  Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons says? Nope. Will he care a bit if that convention bans unmanned robotic weapons driven by AI? Not likely.

People like Musk who run around spouting platitudes do more harm than good. He’s just like those Hollywood personalities that think that because they have public notoriety, we all care what they think. This author, for one, doesn’t need the Kardashians telling us what values we should adhere to, nor Elon Musk.

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Army Things #3

U.S. Military Bases

It’s interesting how America decides where to set up a military base. We went to war in Germany, and never came home. We went to war in Japan, and never came home. The same for Korea, and 800 other military bases—in over 70 countries—around the world. As Americans, we sure do like to spread our military out.

What’s your guess about Afghanistan, do you think we’ll ever come home? How about if we go to war with North Korea, do you think we’ll be nice to the Chinese and not put a military base up in the middle of North Korea, just a few hundred miles from their border? Do you think this might be one of the reasons they aren’t exactly helping us fix this North Korean problem?

All these “Little Americas,” all around the world, sure does make the world take notice of us. When you stop to think that Britain, France and Russia together have less than 30 foreign bases, it makes one wonder if this is good practice or not.

U.S. Global Military Bases

From our standpoint—that is, the American soldier—it’s kind of nice to have so many places to hang one’s hat and get a good night’s rest, not to mention the benefit of touring the world, learning of new cultures, meeting new people and enjoying new foods.

Take Guam… a place in the news these days… can you think of a nicer place to spend a tour of duty? Or better still, take the term “tour of duty” itself; it says it all, doesn’t it? Tour: as in see the world and enjoy your life. And Duty: as in if you’ll just do this little bit of work for us, we’ll pay all of your expenses.

How could life get better?

Oh sure, there are a few little hell holes tossed into the mix of 800 vacation spots, but so what? Isn’t that what we are trained to do anyway, fight a war or two here or there? The best part of this is that we know something the world doesn’t know, and that is that after the war that brought us to a country is over, if we  build a military base and stick around for about 30 – 40 years, things will normalize and the place will go from being a hell hole to paradise.

Nice deal, isn't it?

The science isn’t good on this, but David Vine of Politico Magazine figures it costs between $85 and $100 billion to keep all of America’s bases overseas. He says that just those bases in warzones cost us about $160 to $200 billion. He asks the question, “are they really making us safer?”

We’ll let you answer that question. As a veteran, this author’s only concern is whether our Army works better because of them, and whether when it comes to wars they help us achieve our mission or not.

Which raises a question or two about some of the lesser places we have troops today, but don’t yet have bases of our own—that is, bases that we intend never to vacate.

What about Syria? Never, you say… because of our relationship with Turkey, and our bases there, we’ll never need or build bases in Syria.

Hhhhhmmmmmm… we beg to differ with you. If you go far enough back in history you’ll find that Turkey hasn’t always been on our side—the side of the West, that is. While today most people assume that the Turks look to the West to build allied relationships, that hasn’t always been the case. And to be honest, these days it’s beginning to look more and more like Turkey is sinking back into its old Ottoman days when it considered itself the star of the East. After all, how better to explain its recent taunting of Germany, blaming her for “interference” in Turkish politics? Better still, how can one explain the noise Turkey has been making about America being a foul friend for not turning over Fethullah Gulen, insisting that he masterminded the July 15, 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan? One wonders if Turkey isn’t turning more to the East than the West these days.

Turkey then presents a diplomatic problem. With surety she is tossing her weight around, telling the EU where to get off, slapping America’s wrists whenever she can, and siding with Russia on the most egregious of matters. Does this portend a time when Turkey will stand on its own, like Switzerland, trying to be BFFs with the East and the West? While physically it is true that she sits astride that spot in the world where East meets West, has she decided to take on that roll… of being a broker between the two? And if so, does this mean that bases like Incirlik are soon to be history?

Whether Incirlik goes away or not, Uncle Sam would do well to look now to create other long term, permanent bases in that area of the world. And considering that with every day that passes our military gets closer and closer to the Kurds, in fighting the Islamic State in Syria—and this pisses the Turks off royally—it may be that now is the time to start building those bases in Kurd controlled areas.

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2017 OCS Reunioin List of Attendees

**REUNION ALERT** 

Our Reunion is proving to be so popular that the Westin Dulles Airport Hotel is concerned about being sold out for that weekend.

YOU NEED TO MAKE YOUR ROOM RESERVATIONS ASAP!

The Room rate is still $109. Those who reserved earlier at the mistake-rate of $116 will have their bill adjusted and credited the difference at check-out. If the hotel sells out, they have an over-flow agreement with the hotel next door. Don't miss this opportunity to be a part of our best reunion ever.

  
 
   

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