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Saturday, October 16, 2004

Mr. Christian! Mr. Christiaaaaaaaan!!!!!! 
A platoon of truck drivers has been arrested for refusing a fuel delivery mission in Iraq.

According to The Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson, Miss., a platoon of 17 soldiers refused to go on a fuel supply mission Wednesday because their vehicles were in poor shape and they did not have a capable armed escort.


Link.

The Associate Press says they were released, 5 members were reassigned pending an investigation, and the whole unit taken off the road until a safety and maintenance inspection could be completed.

The AP also notes that the troops involved were alleging that the fuel--to be delivered to an aviation unit, was tainted, which could cause the helicopters to crash (thereby enhancing the OR rating of the aviation unit.)

The mission was executed anyway, by other members of the company. Well, they would probably have taken the same trucks. The article doesn't say whether they got that armed escort they were asking for.

I'm not one to tolerate soldiers refusing lawful orders. But this one deserves a close look to see if higherups were negligent, too. For one thing, the troops are alleging that their vehicles had "deadline faults."

A deadline fault is a fault that, according to the "dash 10" manual for that piece of equipment, renders it nonmission capable, or unsafe to drive. It is a violation of military regulations to operate a deadlined piece of equipment unless and until the company commander personally signs off on the form 2404 or form 5988 E, authorizing the use of that equipment.

Which we do all the time, but only for a limited use. For example, I might sign off on a broken headlight, a deadline fault, with "may be driven in daylight ONLY." Or I may sign off on it, saying "vehicle may be driven as far as motor pool."

So the first thing I'd look at is what were the deadline faults, were they documented on 2404s or 5988 E forms, and did the commander 'circle X' those faults, authorizing the soldiers to operate those vehicles.

I don't fuck around or take chances in a combat mission. And I've personally kicked vehicles out of my convoy at the last minute if I didn't trust something. (Convoy commanders--as part of your checks, try to have the vehicles staged some hours before you move out. Then look under the vehicles for oil puddles or other fluids. If you stage at the last minute, all bets are off. But I caught several vehicles that way that otherwise could have caused me problems on the road.)

The second item is this: What is the guidance on armed escorts? Because we normally couldn't move trucks around Ramadi without a couple of crew-served weapons --belt-fed 30 cal. machine guns or heavier, and usually a MK 19 or .50 cal, though an M240 B would do in a pinch.

Sometimes we violated that rule, to make a run to the police station or something, if it was just headquarters guys. But not often.

I can't imagine sending 8 fuel tankers out without some gun trucks to go along, for a couple of reasons:

1.) You know the fuel tankers are targets.

2.) The insurgents have already demonstrated the ability to stop lightly armed convoys and kidnap people. They did it with Brown and Root before.

3.) Without a gun truck or infantry escort, a convoy of tankers will have NO security on the port side of the convoy. You have two soldiers per truck, and the guy on the port side is busy driving. He can't simutaneously be effective on his weapon.

(Note to convoy commanders: Make sure you have coverage on the drivers' side of the convoy. Detail some guys to ride in the back of a truck if neccessary, and sprinkle those trucks throughout the convoy. You have got to plus up the drivers' side of the convoy to make up for the fact that your drivers can't shoot and drive at the same time.

4.) There is nowhere to evacuate a casualty, if need be. Much less have someone work on him while you're on your way back to the base.

5.) The fuelers would not have vehicle-mounted radios, like the gun trucks would have At best, they'd have manpack radios, with just a fraction of the range. These manpack radios are woefully inadequate for anything other than communicating between the front and rear trucks in the convoy. You can't use them to call in air cover. You can't rely on them to call in medevacs.

I didn't always have a vehicle mounted radio in the early days. But I hated it. And I knew we were taking a huge risk. We was getting water for the boys, without which they couldn't survive, so it was worth it. But I fought like a cat at bathtime until the XO finally said "Lieutenant, I hear you. We just don't have one for you. Now execute."

Hey, I can take a hint.

But I always made sure we had some way to evac my casualties on another vehicle, I could defend myself out of both sides of the road, I could at least bring a dedicated SAW gunner or three for security, and I wasn't hauling anything that exploded except my temper.

So I'm not going to condemn the actions of this platoon. Their tact was stupid, maybe. They should have shown for the meeting. But I want to look real hard at the command before casting aspersions on anyone.

Because I can't imagine 8 unescorted fuel trucks having any business on the road.

Splash, out

Jason

UPDATE: More here from Salon.

Apparently the fuel had already been rejected by one base. It was contaminated with diesel, according to one of the drivers. Which tells me that it was JP-8. Which is considerably more flammable and dangerous to transport than diesel.

The trip was also, apparently, to be more than 200 miles long. If there was ANY kind of a maintenance issue with those vehicles, that's too long a run. How would you recover a breakdown? And if you did recover, would you have them driving around unfamiliar territory, unescorted, with inadequate coms, at NIGHT????

The Army is now denying that any soldier was ever detained.

Well, that's obviously not the case, as multiple families report getting phone calls from their sons and daughters saying they WERE detained (although they still had access to phones, so how detained could they have been? )

Looks like the Army stepped on its crank on this one, and is trying to backpedal.

Now watch for active duty idiots who try to paint this one like its indicative of the poor discipline of reserve component soldiers.

I still wanna see their 5988 Es, though.



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Computer News
Microsoft lawsuit is called a 'charade'

In a simmering legal tussle, Google, the Internet search company, is asking a judge to reject Microsoft's bid to keep a prized research engineer from taking a job at Google, saying that Microsoft filed a lawsuit to frighten other workers from defecting.

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Google countersued last week, seeking to override Microsoft's noncompete provision so that it can retain Lee.

"In truth, Kai-Fu Lee's work for Microsoft had only the most tangential connection to search and no connection whatsoever to Google's work in this space," Google said in court documents.

The judge in the case, Steven Gonzalez of Superior Court, who heard arguments in the case on Wednesday, said he expected to issue a ruling on Thursday.

Google's filings include details about a conversation Lee had with Microsoft's chairman, Bill Gates, suggesting that his company was becoming increasingly concerned about Google's siphoning of talent, and perhaps intellectual property.

Lee said Gates told him in a meeting on July 15, referring to Microsoft's chief executive, Steven Ballmer: "Kai-Fu, Steve is definitely going to sue you and Google over this. He has been looking for something like this, someone at a VP level to go to Google. We need to do this to stop Google."

A Microsoft spokeswoman, Stacy Drake, declined to comment on Gates's statement directly.

"Our concern here is the fact that Dr. Lee has knowledge of highly sensitive information both of our search business and our strategy in China," she said.

Lee said Google did not recruit him and had not encouraged him to violate any agreement he had with Microsoft.

Microsoft countered that Lee's job with Google gave him ample opportunity to leak sensitive technical and strategic business secrets. Microsoft noted that Lee attended a confidential, executive-only briefing in March, which was labeled "The Google Challenge."

"In short, Dr. Lee was recently handed Microsoft's entire Google competition 'playbook,"' Microsoft said.

Lee joined Microsoft in August 2000 after he helped to establish its research center in China. At one point, Microsoft said, he was in charge of the company's work on MSN Search.

Microsoft and Google, along with Yahoo, are locked in a fierce battle to dominate search, both online and through desktop search programs. Google has begun offering new services, including e-mail, that compete with Microsoft offerings.


Microsoft said it had paid Lee well in exchange for his promises to honor confidentiality and noncompete agreements.

The company said that Lee made more than $3 million during nearly five years at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington, and that he earned more than $1 million last year.

Microsoft asserts that there is "an extremely close between the work Lee did at Microsoft and what he will be doing at Google.

Google argued otherwise, insisting that Lee is not a search expert and noting that his most recent work at Microsoft was in speech recognition.


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