Friday, March 17, 2006

Air Assault 
The press is accusing the military of "overselling" Operation Swarmer. The military is accusing the press corps of overblowing the operation. Who's right?

Well, we know the press is simply incompetent. And this case looks like no exception to me. But there's blame to go round on both sides.

It's a 101st Infantry Division (Air Assault) operation. The words "Air Assault" in parentheses simply means that the division's equipment and organization is tailored to support helicopter-borne operations (The 101st is no longer an "Airborne" division. The only division-sized element that is still "Airborne" is the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg).

You know the old saw "if all you've got is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail?" Well, in a unit like the 101st, everything starts to look like an LZ. All their soldiers go through Air Assault school (where you learn how to sling load supplies, hook up vehicles to helicopters, and rappel out of helicopters, and march around and yell a lot, for which they are, on successful completion, granted authorization to wear the coveted "Bullwinkle Badge..."

...so named for obvious reasons.

Upon graduation, the typical 101st division soldier gets paid to obsess over Air Assault missions for the next 3 years he's stationed at Fort Campbell. They love it. It's all they think about.

My unit, the 53rd Infantry Brigade, is technically Air Assault configured, too, as is my former unit, the 29th Infantry Brigade in Hawaii and now California. No, in four years with the 53rd and three years with the 29th, I never once saw the inside of a helicopter. But the 101st will actually give their troops a helicopter ride on a regular basis, and they love it.

Air Assaults are almost never done against a hot LZ. Modern anti-air missiles and the widespread existence of .50 caliber machine guns pretty much make any hot LZ a near suicide mission against serious resistance, as helicopters are especially vulnerable while disgorging troops and equipment into a clearing. Even in Viet Nam, you occasionaly had a hot LZ, but you didn't do it on purpose. It was better to land in a cold LZ a mile or two away and march into the fight, or even better, set up a blocking position through which you hope to force the enemy to retreat.

But any airmobile operation is deemed an "air assault." You can "air assault" into the PX parking lot on Fort Campbell and it's still an air assault.

And so the 101st Division press office - being themselves creatures of the 101st, and inflated with self-importance, believes that the simple fact that they are conducting "The Largest Air Assault Since X" is for some reason a big deal - as if anyone should really care, when what it really means, most likely, is the spare parts truck arrived so they can finally get more than a dozen helicopters into the air at the same time.

really, what probably happened is someone in the 101st J-3 shop probably said, half-asleep over bad coffee, "You know, it's been a while since we've done a major air assault. We should probably conduct some refresher training."

And the Baghdad press offices, being themselves creatures of the clueless media, see the words "LARGEST AIR ASSAULT SINCE X" and they've got visions of Robert Duvall and Ride of the Valkerie in Apocalypse Now.

And so the press release goes out. And the press overreads it. But what it really is is a division staff flexing its air assault muscles and keeping them limber, and exercising the doctrine so they don't get to rusty, just like they used to do at Fort Campbell. Really, there aren't a lot of brigade-sized terror training camps for them to move against at the same time, so that any single piece of intel warrants a division-sized operation. This is really striking an egg with a sledgehammer.

Which is, once your base is secure, the best way to conduct offensive operations.

But the Division PAO got the division logo into the nightly news, which of course is far more important than informing the public. And so there will be much back slapping throughout the 101st.

Splash, out


(P.S., The 101st is truly a terrific outfit (even if they did trash the Baghdad Airport in April and May of 03), I've got good friends in that division, and I even plagiarized my own HHC Tactical SOP from the Rakkasans.

Decades ago, I lived in the shadow of Schofield Barracks in Mililani, and we had Hueys flying over our heads every day while I was playing four-square in the playground. I'm sure that now it's Blackhawks running up and down the central valley nowadays instead. (And I'm sure they love it.) Just saying it surprised me that you an Air Assault unit in Hawaii wouldn't regularly ride choppers, because I remember seeing 'em overhead all the time. Then again, that's decades ago.
I'm right under one of the main flight paths out of Ft. Hood, maybe a half hour flight away. Today was a *quiet* day--under a dozen birds total.

The "BIGGEST AIR ASSAULT SINCE 2003" thing made me roll my eyes, because the 101 didn't really make a lot of huge assaults back then--a good number of them got stuck in hummers playing security with Fedayeen behind the lines. They *were* going to be big in Baghdad, until 3ID decided to camp on the lawn and break the enemy's will on 4/8.
well, you know that the MSM is basically a gore-whore. 'if it bleeds, it leads', and they pander to the average person's morbid fascination with crash- and-burn, looky-loo voyeurism. So of course, they arrived , all hepped up, appetite whetted for the horror they could use to sell airtime on the 6 o'clock news, and they didn't get any. They were disgusted at being gypped out of their dose of addictive tv violence. The hypocrisy is rich. They pride themselves on advocating 'peace, human rights, compassionate policy' and purport to 'disdain all that violence and warmongering', doncha know---and then get caught out with their dingdongs in their hands, exposed for the tragedy addicts that they actually ARE.
Now, see, the British would have resoundingly approved of how well the operation went. all controlled, civilized, bloodless, highly effective without any messiness and unpleasantness, a spanking good show, old chap---but not the six o'clock panderers. they came home whining that there was 'nothing to see'. they got all dressed up and ended up with noplace to go. poor deprived children. guess they'll just have to go back to their rooms and play Big Red One till they slake their thirst for mayhem...

they just can't stand it when things go right. it's just no Fun. there's no one to criticize! there's nothing to gossip over! there's no material to crow over and feel superior about! there's nothing to fret about and rail at and worry over! THAT's not gonna sell papers!!!!----------------Janet in Venice
I guess the media would have preferred something like Anaconda, also an air assault, but one that did not go as planned (or the planning was bad.)
When are they going to
issue "Combat Bullwinkle
Badges" for those rare hot
LZ's....me and my buds need
at least half-dozen apiece...
Spoken on behalf of the MEN
who pioneered in the field the
operating characteristics of
Air Assualt...199th LIB Vietnam
and Cambodia 1966 to 1970...
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