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From Home Page Archive:
as originally published in November 2012
Our Association is a
not-for-profit fraternal organization. It's 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
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To Signal Is To Be Alive
But what does it mean: to signal?
And how do you build an organization to
Maj. General Orlando
Ward, the Chief of Military History in the 1950s, once said
that “the more mobile an armed force becomes, the more
rugged the terrain it encounters, or the more widely the
force is deployed, the greater becomes the difficulty of
securing and maintaining rapid, completely linked
communications.” Securing and maintaining rapid, completely
linked communications, that’s the problem. It’s the problem
the Signal Corps faces today, and it’s the problem the
Signal Corps has always faced since its inception.
Yet while today the
advance of technology has helped the Signal Corps keep pace
with the needs of the troops in the field, at the beginning
of World War II this problem of securing and maintaining
rapid communications was more acute than it had ever been.
The reason is that back at the beginning of WWII U.S. combat
forces were gaining mobility faster than the Signal Corps
was in terms of its ability to rapidly deploy the
communication systems needed. In WWII everything from
motorcycles to airplanes were hitting the field, while
communication technology was still operating at a level
little changed since the days of WWI. For the Signal Corps,
then as now, the challenge was to resolve the dilemma that
is created when combat units can get to the field faster
than the Signal Corps can get its field communication
systems up and running.
Today WIN-T, because of
the technology and architecture it borrows from the civilian
mobile (cellular) telephone network concept, is able to
nearly match the speed of deployment of communication
capabilities with that of the troops (click picture above to
see how the Army is still struggling to accomplish this
seemingly simple goal). But back at the beginning of WWII
cellular communication didn’t exist, and so on a practical
basis matching the speed of troop deployment to that of
communication was impossible to do. The result: the only
thing left was for the Signal boys to ride shotgun with the
grunts as they stepped out on their missions and engaged the
enemy, doing their best to provide some form of
communication along the way, then getting the bulk of it up
and running once everyone arrived and hit the ground.
As a matter of fact, that’s why portable radios were
developed… to help fill the communication void that existed
as the troops were being deployed, not just as they were
engaging the enemy.
Back in the mid 60s when
this author was stationed at Ft. Hood with Old Ironsides,
just prior to being posted to Vietnam, cellular phones were
still a long way into the future. Back then to accomplish
the WIN-T capabilities seen today we developed our own
solutions. Practical as our solutions were, they flew in the
face of SOP and caused no end of difficulty for this
blossoming butter bar, as I struggled with the learning
lessons of my first command. To solve the problem of getting
our communications up and running as fast as we could once
everyone arrived at the battle site, in my platoon I gave
orders to tie a spare fly swatter antenna, fully assembled
but not fully raised, to the side of each of our M109
deuce-and-a-halfs. By doing this I was able to reduce our
actual deployment time to near instantaneous once the truck
stopped rolling. All each crew needed to get the links up
was jump out, pivot the antenna so that it was vertical, aim the antenna, power up the gear and start
communicating. If it turned out we needed to raise the
height of our antenna a bit more, so what… we were already
half way there.
We called it a shotgun
mount, and I’ll bet you can guess why we called it that?
Because as far as my platoon was concerned we were riding
shotgun for the Abrams units we provided communication for.
While I got my tail chewed many times by my C.O. for my
non-standard approach to antenna deployment, he never
directly ordered me to stop using our home made shotgun
mount approach and I never did. The result: we were always
the first to have our communication links up and running,
long before the other guys had even unpacked their antennas.
something a rock farming Yankee takes pride in.
Back in those days the
ability to beat my fellow Officers in getting my lines up
and running was like a drug to me. A fresh out of Army
Signal OCS Lieutenant, being first to get my signal out gave
me a high for the rest of the training exercise. What I
learned then was that to be able to communicate—to
signal—was to be alive. And I still feel that way today.
What Does It
Mean To Signal?
Going back to WWII
though, things were different then. This was especially true
at the start of the war.
As it has always been
since the first field of battle was taken at Meggido in 1500
BCE, every margin of efficiency able to be gained in battle
is a vital prize armies contest for. And so it was in WWII,
and always is with communication.
When it comes to
communication, the need for speed, efficiency and efficacy
in getting it in place and operating is one of the most
valuable prizes to be gained, as not only must the message
get through but it must get through in all of its forms:
from the spoken word to the ability for those words to be
heard, written, and read.
What this means is that
the communication methods employed must enable the messages
transmitted to be received without interference from others,
be communicated over long distances, arrive both when
expected and when needed, be so precisely transmitted that
they leave no room for doubt as to what they mean, as well
as allow for messages to be deliberately garbled and
obscured, when desired, so that interception will be without
value for the enemy. And while it has always been this way,
during WWII when the mobility of troop deployment was
pushing its envelope in terms of speed, the form of
communication the Signal Corps was able to provide proved
less than ideal for these very factors. Ideally what the
Signal Corps was striving for back then was swift, strong,
adaptable, simple, and secure communication… based on a
standard that could be replicated in each theater of war. In
the early days of the war though, that wasn’t to be had.
Rebalancing Our Strategic Imperatives:
Turn up volume and click icon above to play.
is the fifth in our series of articles on the
changes the U.S. Army should make in order to
throw its support behind the State Department's
new Pivot Strategy. In each article we try to
understand the lay of the land of the countries
the U.S. military will need to embrace more
closely if it is to achieve the strategic
military imperatives that the Pivot Strategy
creates. Enjoy each one, and let us know what
your views are.
– Vietnam –
In case you missed it, the Vietnam
War is over.
From what we hear, it turned out to
be a draw of sorts. Some people say we lost it, others we
won it, still others say that what our military won our
politicians tossed away either to burnish their place in
history (Kissinger and McNamara) or for their own political
gain (Nixon). All in all, if you ask me, considering that
America goes to war at the behest of the Executive and
Congressional branches, you can blame the result of any war
where the military’s efforts are successful but the end is
still less than satisfactory on a complete lack of
understanding in those two branches of government as to how to
achieve a successful outcome in a kinetic war.
Just in case the lessons from Vietnam
still have not come home to roost, let us tell you here: in
today’s world to have a successful outcome from a military
engagement between two nations you need more than just
military success on the ground. You also need to change the
means, methods and principals that determine how the enemy
government runs the target country after it has been
defeated militarily, as well as the mindset of the people of
that nation in terms of the role they see themselves playing
in the world writ large.
As to how long such an effort takes,
unfortunately this is where the real problem lies, because
while it can take anywhere from one day to ten years to
achieve the military goals desired, changing how a nation
governs itself and what role its people see themselves being
stewards of among the nations of the earth when the fighting
dies down takes between one-and-a-half and two generations.
For a nation like America, accustomed to taking a pill to
instantly stop any discomfort it feels, the idea of staying
engaged with a country like Vietnam (or Iraq or Afghanistan
for that matter) for a couple of generations is simply not
in the making. Or put another way: bomb a country into the
dark ages, yes, we can do that; but help it come back to the
world from those dark ages, no thanks. We the people, with
our politicians leading the charge, don’t have the patience
for such a lengthy undertaking.
Which makes the outcome of the
Vietnam War all the better for Vietnam. That is, since it
was never in the offing that the U.S. would have stayed
around for a generation to help the government of South
Vietnam acquire the necessary means, methods and principals
to become a modern country playing a constructive role in
the world, or work to educate the people of North and South
Vietnam on their role as a people in governing their own
nations, it’s probably for the better that we walked away
when we did, leaving the North Vietnamese to their own
devices to figure these things out for themselves.
And that’s where Vietnam is today.
It’s nearing the end of its own first generation of effort
to establish itself as a successful country, able to meet
the needs of its people as well as play a constructive role
in the world.
So how have they done?
Surprisingly, the answer is: not bad.
After a few fits and starts they seem to have finally
figured out how to build a modern nation, albeit with
Before delving into our objective in
this article of understanding what the military imperative
are that the U.S. Army must work towards in order to support
the objectives of the Pivot Strategy, it would be useful to
reflect on what has happened inside of Vietnam since we left
it in 1975.
From Chieu Hoi to Doi Moi
While it’s clear that Vietnam is
today emerging as a key player in Southeast Asia, the
question is why? One of the reasons is that it sits
strategically in the heart of the Asia–Pacific region, a
region that continues to play a major role as regards how
peaceful the rest of the world is. With a population of 88
million today, and a growing economy showing an annual
growth rate of 7% for the past 10 years, neither the country
of Vietnam nor its economic strength can be ignored. But
how, considering the state it was in at the end of the war,
did Vietnam get to where it now has enough economic clout to
warrant the world’s attention? What magic did the country
use to drag itself from the sorry state it found itself in
during the 70s to a vibrant and increasingly important
member of the world community?
Part of the answer lies in the
success of its ‘Doi Moi’ (‘renovation’) program. Instituted
in the late 1980s, Doi Moi was a set of policies that
outlined how the government would go about pursuing a
practical approach to foreign policy, one aimed at
diversifying the number and ways by which it approached the
world at large, building new multilateral relations with a
number of western and democratic countries along the way.
Whether it learned this lesson from watching the results of
China’s opening to the west, or came up with this approach
on its own, the result has been both a broader and deeper
international economic integration with the world for
Vietnam, as well as the gaining for itself of a greater
political role in how the region it lives in operates.
Simply put, Doi Moi brought this once pariah state out of
the dark and into the sunshine, giving it a chance to engage
with countries that could do it good for both the purpose of
increasing the quality of life of its people as well as
contributing to building a peaceful, stable and prosperous
With a new attitude on life, a
growing and stable economy, close relations with China, and
considering its physical location in Southeast Asia, whether
we like it or not Vietnam will soon be playing a significant
role in the future regional security architecture that
evolves in this region, especially with respect to China’s
muscle flexing and the contestation of the disputed islands
of East and Southeast Asia. Against this backdrop an
understanding of Vietnam’s strategic thinking and
policymaking is critical to helping the U.S. military
develop a set of strategic imperatives and tactical programs
able to achieve America’s goals… goals focused on
maintaining regional peace and security in the Pacific. maintaining regional peace and security in the Pacific.
This page last
updated 1 November 2012. New content is constantly being
added. Please check back frequently.
1 November 2012 –
you who haven't read our Chaplain's writings in a while
should take a moment to do so this month. It won't take
you more than 1 minute to read the entire page. It's
good stuff. Good pause for thought. Best of all,
following his advice will make you a better person.
Click here to get to our Devotional Page.
Continued from left column...
To be clear our military, especially
the Navy, has worked hard to develop closer ties to the
Vietnamese military over the past 15 years, as has our State
Department with the Vietnamese government. Yet while these
efforts are to be lauded, in our view they fall far short of
leveraging to our benefit the lessons the Vietnamese learned
from their own failures over the past 40 years. That is, if
one looks at what Vietnam wants today in light of how it
failed to attain these goals through their own misguided
efforts of the past, one can find a way to work with Vietnam
today that reflects and leverages the new policy goals
Vietnam has, as well as utilizes a set of new practical and
pragmatic tools that Vietnam is making available to those
members of the world community that want to engage with it.
In this regard the U.S. military, and the Army in
particular, can help.
New Policies Call For New
Rationales and New Policy Methods
Everyone knows that following the
reunification of Vietnam in 1975 the Vietnamese Communist
Party ("VCP," also, interchangeably, "CVP" - see paragraphs
below) excitedly rolled out a series of efforts to
transform the country along the socialist path that
underwrote its war effort. Unfortunately, while the dogma
that it tried to follow sounded good as rhetoric in support
of a war effort, serving well to recruit fighters to stand
up against America, the ideas they espoused failed to show
any value in terms of running and managing a country in
today’s modern world.
With dramatic consequences these
socialist policies caused people’s living standard to
actually deteriorate after the war, in noticeable and
occasionally spectacular ways. Stubbornly standing behind
its socialist path doctrinaire, the VCP only made things
worse when it undertook (after America went home) two wholly
unneeded new wars: one against China in 1979 and another
against the Khmer Rouge, this latter one lasting from 1979
to 1989. A key result of this political mismanagement was
that the people began to doubt the legitimacy of the VCP
itself. Throughout the mid-1980s the Vietnamese people’s
belief in their government fell sharply, at such a rate that
the legitimacy of the socialist approach to government
itself was beginning to be called into question by the
As any student of
socialist/communist government orthodoxy knows, the primary
purpose of a socialist/communist government is to keep
itself in power. That is, the people exist to serve the
needs of the central government, which in turn exists to
serve the needs of the people. Thus, as long as the people
of a country continue to keep the central
socialist-cum-communist government party members in power,
the members of this group will continue to use the assets at
their disposal to serve the people. But woe be told any
population that turns against its socialist/communist
inspired government. That government will then turn with
vengeance on its people, using all the assets it has to
obliterate any dissenters, as it strives to maintain itself
Want an example of how this works in
the real world? Think back on the Communist Party of China
and its actions in re. the Tiananmen Square Massacre (承天残杀).
This author was in Tiananmen Square
in 1989 and can tell you without equivocation what a
communist inspired government will do to stay in power.
Crushing a few thousand students under the tank treads of
its Army, in full view of the world, is nothing compared to
what they were prepared to do if the local people of Beijing
rose up in revolt.
In Vietnam’s case this same
determination came to the fore as it crafted its policies
from 1975 through the late 1980s. With little compunction
for consequence or world opinion it tried everything from
centralized asset allocation to reeducation and resettlement
to kick start its economy. Unfortunately, nothing worked…
the economy did not As year after year passed, it began
to become clear to the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV)
(Vietnamese: Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam; the 160 member group
that runs the country) that communist inspired central
planning was proving to be a failure. More to the point, by
the late 1980s they could see that this approach to
governing and managing a country had failed many other
countries too, like the USSR, China, Cuba, the former
Eastern Bloc countries, Cambodia, Laos, East Germany, and
Yugoslavia to name a few. In fact, what the CPV saw was that
there were some 29 other countries that had tried socialism
and/or communism as a practical form of both government and
economic management, and they had all given up on it…
eventually turning to either straight capitalism or some
modified version of it in order to move forward.
The fact of the matter was that while in some
areas central planning worked, in most areas it proved to be
a drag on economic growth. More specifically, what was seen
was that in Vietnam’s case what it failed at was a) creating
the economic means to address the reconstruction needs of
the country post the Vietnam, China and Cambodia wars, b)
creating the infrastructure of people, capital, and market
dynamics needed for Vietnam to produce goods that the world
wanted to buy, and c) addressing the aspirations of its
people to live a better life. ) addressing the aspirations of itsThis failure of socialism/communism
as a form of government drove Vietnam’s leaders to try to
find a way to modify the socialist inspired policies it was
implementing, soon enough to avoid a revolution from within.
Their solution was the Doi Moi program, a set of new
policies officially put in place at the country’s sixth
national congress, in late 1986.
What Doi Moi did was rewrite
socialism so that in all practical aspects it worked, looked
and smelled like a market economy, but was spoken of with
words that were normally reserved for socialism. Under Doi
Moi an effort was undertaken to develop a series of
multisector market‑based economies, an effort to reorganize
the underlying economic structure of the country so that it
more closely approached that of free enterprise, use of a
series of investment schemes designed to stabilize critical
areas within the socioeconomic environment, a new emphasis
on promoting scientific and technologic thinking as an
acceptable form of expression for the young, and the opening
up of the country to foreign relations with countries
previously considered as dangerous to orthodox communist
thought… i.e. democratic, free enterprise oriented western
nations… like America.
slowly in 1986, by 1991 Vietnam was proudly touting to the
world its new outlook of promoting economic reform that
facilitated the use of foreign resources (e.g. capital,
markets and technology) to attain better education and a
higher standard of living for its people. By 1995 Vietnam
had normalized its relations with the US, established
diplomatic relations with 172 other countries and become an
important member of nearly every major international or
regional governing or trade organization. major international or
regional governing or trade organization.
Has this coming out party on
Vietnam’s part diminished the need of its central government
to protect their monopoly on power? Probably not, but it has
transferred an immense amount of power to the private
enterprise sector and the people themselves… so much so that
one doubts whether, as in the case of China, the government
retains either the ability or the will to stand up to a real
internal revolution hell bent on throwing communism out… if
it ever comes to that. Either way, because of the changes
made, the country’s strategic policy is no longer restricted
to ensuring national security and the maintenance of the
communist party power base, it is now focused on economic
development and international prestige.
How successful has Vietnam been over
these past 30 years? Its GDP has increased sevenfold since
1985 to US$103 billion in 2010, bringing Vietnam into the
ranks of what are called the ‘low middle income’ countries.
Its poverty rate has been reduced from nearly 60% (1980s) to
10.6% (as at 2011). For a country that won the war but lost
the peace, stumbling around in the dark for some 10+ years
trying to figure out how to rule the unified people of this
dualistic, split thinking and still bifurcated country,
these are impressive gains.
Editors Note: This month we are
adding this new column to our Home Page. It won't appear
every month, just on occasion when we have something
interesting for you to think about. It's purpose is to
stimulate your thinking about how the military world is
changing, and what your position should be regarding those
changes. Please enjoy these little snippets and if you have
a few military morsels of your own send them along to us.
Whether you are civilian, ex- or current military, or simply
a curious surfer of our website, if have an interesting and
unique fact or two about our military, something that will
stimulate all of us to think, send it along and we'll be
glad to broadcast it to the world. Just mark your eMail with
the subject "Military Morsel."
Where Does The Money Go That We Borrow From China?
Consider whether our form of government functions well or
not, and our beloved DoD too. Bob Woodward recently
published a book called The Price of Politics. We encourage
you to buy a copy and read it. In it a series of comments
from Senator Kent Conrad were quoted. Conrad said that if
the veil was lifted over the Defense Department's spending
it would be possible to reduce their budget in a way such
that "savings could be found that would not compromise the
military's real capacity an iota."
He said that while serving on the Simpson-Bowles commission
he heard witnesses "testify that 51 percent of all federal
employees, including uniformed military, were at the
Department of Defense [and] that did not count the Defense
contractors..." When he asked how many Defense contractors
there were he was told between 1 and 9 million... an
astounding range by his reckoning, and an equally astounding
number. He said that the people testifying said that the
Defense contractor program was so out of control that they
were unable to get a more accurate number, and admitted that
the DoD had "a huge contractor problem."
That's an understatement. Nine million contractors and 51%
of all federal government employees in the DoD?
November Crossword Puzzle
Theme: Combat Leader's Guide - Part I
Join 2 and 3 word answers together as one complete word.
For answer key to this month's
see icon at bottom of page
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