Saturday, September 11, 2010

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Remembering 9/11

Posted: 10 Sep 2010 11:58 AM PDT

I will never forget 9/11.

I was eating breakfast at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, when I saw the first plane hit on TV. I rushed to the office just after the second plane hit the WTC, grabbed my recorder and pens and went to the grounds of the White House.

Secret Service officers were shushing people away from the White House with MP5s pointed in all directions. The White House roof bristled with black-clad snipers and scopes. Smoke rose from the just-hit Pentagon directly to the south. F-16 and and F-15 fighters streaked overhead as security officers began pushing people further and further up Pennsylvania Ave. yelling that another suicide plane was inbound.

That one hit Shanksville, PA.

I went to the Pentagon on 9/12 to survey the damage. It was a weird feeling after all the stress and restrictions of the day of the attack. Now it was eerily quiet and as a credentialed Pentagon reporter I could go as close as I wanted. I remember the smell of burning wood thick in the air — evidence of the still-smoldering rafters in the otherwise imposing stone building.

From then on it was war. Everything I did from that day forward in my career has been somehow influenced by the 9/11 attacks. It’s like our grandparents’ generation who lived through Pearl Harbor, but for many of us (Kit Up! readers) whose careers are so closely tied to the military, it had a much deeper effect. It has literally shaped a large portion of my life for the last nine years.

So on this anniversary of this generation’s Day of Infamy, I’d invite you to share with us your thoughts on that horrible day and please be sure to watch our video commemorating 9/11 through the eyes of a young fireman who made one of his first calls on that day.

IMINT: What’s With this M40?

Posted: 10 Sep 2010 10:42 AM PDT

I included the above picture in the previous post on the pirate takedown, but I noticed the M40 sniper rifle the Marine is using has an extended magazine on it.

I’ve never seen that before and would appreciate it if someone could fill in the details of what that is and when it started being used.

Inside the Pirate Takedown: “I Could See the Change in His Eyes”

Posted: 10 Sep 2010 09:58 AM PDT

Kit Up! just got off a conference call with the BLT commander, Recon platoon commander and assault leader for yesterday’s takedown of the Magellan Star in the Gulf of Aden.

I’m sure you’ve all read the storyabout the assault, which included a recon platoon from the 15th MEU and shooters from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines and some Coasties who made the arrests of the nine suspected marauders.

The U.S. team from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force launched the assault from aboard the USS Dubuque, an amphibious transport ship, a U.S. Navy statement said.

[The Navy] said details of the operation could not be disclosed under Navy policies. But he noted the Marine Expeditionary Unit has the capability to board ships both by sea and air.

We got some details on how the raid went down from the 4th Recon platoon commander, Capt. Alexander Martin and his assault team leader, Staff Sgt. Tom Hartrick during this morning’s call in. Basically, the boarding team had been training for this kind of operation for 11 months, so their scenarios were honed to a sharp edge.

They had been in comms with the crew, who had barracaded themselves in the engineering spaces below the super structure – a place the captian called “The Citidel.” At around dawn, the Recon Marines sped over to the Magellan Star in RIBs with a full assault load of M4s, body armor and flashbangs. There were no non-lethals brought on the raid.

While Hueys and Cobras orbited overhead, the pirates scanned the action from the bridge, Martin said, basically with a look of detached interest.

But that all changed when the Marines came bounding up the ladders.

“There was one pirate that was visible to me with my 3x scope — and I could see the change in his eye go from being cautious and observing to one of throwing his hands up once [the lead element] began their move toward the super structure.

That was a physical change I saw in his demeanor and posture. … He saw the aircraft and I think he saw 24 6-foot, 200-pound Marines rushing toward him. I saw him look into the bridge, call out to two other pirates and they came out with their hands up.”

The assault took all of ten minutes to subdue the nine pirates in four different spaces. The Marines recovered five AK-47s, nine fully-loaded mags, knives and some phones and radios. And not a single shot was fired.

So oorah! to the leathernecks who took down the pirates and used the kind of restraint expected of such well-trained professionals.

“You Want that Freeze-dried Schnitzel, Hans?”

Posted: 10 Sep 2010 09:42 AM PDT

So you’re hanging out around the outpost outside of Kandahar and you decide you’re sick of the MREs you’ve been eating day in and day out.  What do you do?  You swap with your coalition buddies, of course!

Jim at “Under the Radar” flagged a NYT killer app that allows you to stroll around the various nation’s meals and see what’s different between the Polish main course (sorry, but we’re thinking “frat party gone too long”) or the German dessert (what, no German Chocolate Cake?).

From the look of things, MREs are universally . . . um . . . interesting.  And nothing says “it’s a small world after all” like TABASCO!

New MOH. Why So Few MOHs?

Posted: 10 Sep 2010 07:15 AM PDT

The president announced last night he would honor Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller with the nation’s highed award for valor– only the third such Medal of Honor given to an Afghan vet since 9/11.

Army officials said Miller's unit was supporting an Afghan Border Police security patrol in the Chenar Khar Valley in Kunar Province when they were ambushed by Taliban fighters hiding in nearby buildings. The unit called for close-air support to bomb an insurgent position, but were attacked again when they moved in to survey the damage.

Miller's team captain was seriously wounded. Fellow Soldiers said as he was moved to safety, Miller remained at the front of the patrol and continued to lay down suppressive fire on multiple insurgent positions, ultimately saving his commander's life, officials said.

Even after being wounded by enemy machine-gun fire, Miller, 24, continued to fire his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and throw grenades into Taliban positions. Army officials said his courage enabled his teammates and the Afghan security forces to gain cover and return fire

The thing that perplexes us at Kit Up! is that there have been only three MOHs bestowed on US service members from the Afghan fight, and all of them have been posthumous — as is Millers.

Why is that?

Our good friend Gordon Lubold who writes for Politico’s Morning Defense Blog noted that Gates had ordered a report into the nominating and award process to answer that very question. And only four US troops have been honored with the MOH from the Iraq front. All of those were killed as well.

Is this a political move by Congress an administration to keep a living person from being a spokesman for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Is it because some people feel that person in such a media saturated era would face huge life-changing obstacles with that kind of notoriety? I don’t know. But reading Miller’s heroics, it doesn’t seem to me like there isn’t a live trooper out there who did similar things…Brian Chontosh?

UPDATE: In the third MOH announcement this week, the Obama administration has leaked that the first living trooper to be awarded the distinction since 9/11 will be Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta. Hmmm, three MOH announcements in one week? Strange…

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