Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Activities

I belong to an American Legion Post that has essentially abandoned its community role in participating in Memorial day activities in the local community…that is until this year. The post had not participated in services or marked the occasion of Memorial Day in at least 20 years that I’m aware of…leaving the void to be filled by other posts and veteran’s organizations in the area.

Fortunately, that changed this year and our post fielded its Legion Riders to the communities Memorial Day services with good effect.

During the Services I was fortunate enough to hear Captain Edward Smith provide a speech on the importance of Memorial Day and he tied it nicely to his personal experience in Iraq where he served with distinction with the Navy. His story tied in the human connection to the services when he visited the story of two soldiers caskets making the final journey.

I reflected that the services and Parade were well provided – not for the soldiers – nor their families – but for the young kids, community members and others so that they see the respect and reverence offered for our service member’s sacrifice. Hopefully our Legion will offer the lesson in subsequent years…I believe it’s valuable for our democracy to take the time to observe the tradition.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Armor Warfighter Conference

Just returned last week from the Armor Warfighter Conference. This conference is hosted each year at Ft. Knox for the Armor community to foster communication and educate on developments within the Heavy Force. It is always very informative and provides an opportunity to get updated on what is happening in my basic branch.

This year was a little quieter in terms of future plans with the FCS being recently de-tuned with regard to vehicle platforms. The future of the Armor force will include a varient of the M1 and M2 platforms well into the future. It was discussed that these platforms began development in the 70s and will likely still be part of the force into 2030 and beyond.

I guess that what we tankers knew when we recieved the M1 in the early 80s has proven itself. The M1 platform was an evolutionary step for the force. I'm sure the development of better systems to improve the M1 will be coming for some time.

Friday, May 01, 2009

FCS versus heavy force equipment

The big news in some Army circles is the decision by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to submit a budget that kills Army plans for the FCS program combat vehicles. Reading the news it looks like the Army has spent about $14 billion in research and development costs for the FCS vehicle fleet and, yes there is little in the way of actual vehicles to show for the effort. What we have seen and should have inherently known was that these vehicles were thinned skinned due to light force proponents setting requirements for FCS in the past.

The Army has been down this path before…a shift of priorities based upon the influence of a few …In the Army, there has been a gradual but decided push prior to OIF for a light force. M1s and Bradley’s where considered too heavy and hard to support for future conflicts…after all, the Army would need to quickly deploy to a hot spot and get out with minimum effort. Planning for vehicles and structures reflected this mindset.

Fast Forward to today… what we Tankers have been expressing in vain for years is now looking more like reality. We still need platforms that are reasonably durable in sustained operations, capable of protecting the crews inside and able to complete the mission. The M1 tank platform developed in the last Heavy Force era of the 70s remains the battlefield equipment in use 40 years later. (The B-52 Bomber comes to mind as a parallel piece of equipment with the Air Force)

I anticipate that the M1 in its several variants (M1IP, M1A1, M1A2 SEP &SA) will enjoy something of a renaissance…perhaps now the current force can get some development funding for long sought needs to further improve the platform we have until we sort out the force we want. I suggest some sort of crew compartment auxiliary power and air conditioning (heating and cooling) package. An electronics Fire Control package that is smaller (nano tech) and provides more capability. GPS, FBCB2 next generation, and improved comms gear should round out the vehicle nicely.

Gates' action reflects a bold initiative to take pause in designing weapons systems. He has shown a strong capability to challenge the failure to incorporate knowledge about improvised explosive devices — which have accounted for at least half of troop deaths in Iraq and are a growing menace in Afghanistan. I wish his efforts success for future programs.