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  1. #121
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    That is treading very close to Schmedlap Truth number 2: The morale value of a reward or luxury is inversely proportional to the amount of planning and organization necessary to provide it.
    I like those points you make. Not sure I agree fully with number 2 though (for reasons stated elsewhere). But then again what we considered a reward or luxury 30 years ago in a small African backwater is nowhere near what is possible and maybe even demanded by today's troops.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post

    Troops in the base camps don't need to live as rough as Joe the Grunt -- but they don't need to live like they're not at war either. That is every bit as inimical (if not more so) to decent performance and morale for both the REMFs and the grunts as no amenities at all.
    So the problem is confined to the base camps then?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    So the problem is confined to the base camps then?
    Yes, that problem is all about the bigger bases.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Good ideas. But...

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Getting too fat? For a soldier on active service how is that possible in the first place.
    It's the folks in the rear, about 70% of the deployed force, not the 30% that is actually performing active service.
    ...If you live and work in a place where you can have a row of junk food outlets then you can have a gym and you can have fitness tests and send the failures home in disgrace.
    Sorry, we used to do that. No more. The US culture of entitlement has grown so great that the rationale of Courts, Pundits and others is that "We provided him / her the means and opportunity to gain weight, therefor it is isn't his / her fault." Yes, there are gyms but the clod who adds pounds isn't usually a gym visiting type. Stupid, I know but that's us.
    Honestly I think the first step to fixing the overweight problem would have been to let a handful of fire blowing sgt majors ( sergeants-major) loose in these bases to clean them out. A sgt major in the US is still allowed to blow fire?
    Er, no, generally they are not -- those that do often get 'counselled' for being excessively harsh, thus most now devote their efforts to unimportant things like uniforms and haircuts -- and boots, boots are big. For all but perhaps 20%, tactical competence and performance of their troops are not issues. We are obsessed with appearance, though.
    But then again what we considered a reward or luxury 30 years ago in a small African backwater is nowhere near what is possible and maybe even demanded by today's troops.
    Well, 40 years ago what we considered rewards or luxury in any one of several Southeast Asian backwaters was nowhere near what is possible today -- nor was it demanded by troops then; it was just gratefully accepted. I suspect that is the case today, i.e. no demand, just grateful acceptance by most. There will be a few who grumble about harsh conditions and being deprived. Good riddance if they leave. Nobody needs them in any event...

  5. #125
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    It's the folks in the rear, about 70% of the deployed force, not the 30% that is actually performing active service. Sorry, we used to do that. No more. The US culture of entitlement has grown so great that the rationale of Courts, Pundits and others is that "We provided him / her the means and opportunity to gain weight, therefor it is isn't his / her fault." Yes, there are gyms but the clod who adds pounds isn't usually a gym visiting type. Stupid, I know but that's us.Er, no, generally they are not -- those that do often get 'counselled' for being excessively harsh, thus most now devote their efforts to unimportant things like uniforms and haircuts -- and boots, boots are big. For all but perhaps 20%, tactical competence and performance of their troops are not issues. We are obsessed with appearance, though. Well, 40 years ago what we considered rewards or luxury in any one of several Southeast Asian backwaters was nowhere near what is possible today -- nor was it demanded by troops then; it was just gratefully accepted. I suspect that is the case today, i.e. no demand, just grateful acceptance by most. There will be a few who grumble about harsh conditions and being deprived. Good riddance if they leave. Nobody needs them in any event...
    I submit we have identified the problem. Now how to solve it? Is it solvable?

  6. #126
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Certainly. Easy, common sense fixes. However, the question then becomes

    will we solve it?

    I suspect not, lacking a major war. The US governmental system is purposely, slow, infinitely variable due to political whim and a short electoral cycle. It is also tilted toward maximum freedom and individual choice. While that latter attribute has been ameliorated to an extent by communitarian requirements, the other three factors still exist and mitigate any rigorous much less draconian tightening of disciplinary measures.

    We tend to do that only when confronted with a really big emergency or an existential war -- and we've only had one of those, the American Civil War. WW II was a close second. All the others, including Iraq and Afghanistan, the nation was effectively at peace and just parts of the Armed Forces went to war. Even the Pentagon doesn't really go to war, at least they have not since 1945...

    So we'll piddle around the edges but change little -- until we believe we have to do so. Then we will do it and it'll work out okay. No big thing, it's terribly inefficient but in spite of mediocre training and odd rules the kids will make it work until then. And there will be a 'then.'

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    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Default Though it pains me to have to agree with Jon ...

    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    Personnel were getting ridiculously fat as a result, and we were wasting too many resources on the amenity.
    Can anyone here tell which guy is the Marine in this photo?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    Can anyone here tell which guy is the Marine in this photo?
    Yeah. The guy with the clean uniform, who looks like he took a shower recently, and is eating a meal in a DFAC. Well, I guess that describes everyone in the photo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    will we solve it?

    I suspect not, lacking a major war. The US governmental system is purposely, slow, infinitely variable due to political whim and a short electoral cycle. It is also tilted toward maximum freedom and individual choice. While that latter attribute has been ameliorated to an extent by communitarian requirements, the other three factors still exist and mitigate any rigorous much less draconian tightening of disciplinary measures.

    We tend to do that only when confronted with a really big emergency or an existential war -- and we've only had one of those, the American Civil War. WW II was a close second. All the others, including Iraq and Afghanistan, the nation was effectively at peace and just parts of the Armed Forces went to war. Even the Pentagon doesn't really go to war, at least they have not since 1945...

    So we'll piddle around the edges but change little -- until we believe we have to do so. Then we will do it and it'll work out okay. No big thing, it's terribly inefficient but in spite of mediocre training and odd rules the kids will make it work until then. And there will be a 'then.'
    The Rhodesian forces were lumbering along with the old Brit colonial pattern as well. It took the birth of the Selous Scouts to break the mold. Firstly as their cover (for their pseudo work) was that they were a combat tracking unit in came the beards and all and the uniforms were all cammo.

    Then 'Uncle Ron' Reid-Daly (first commander of the Selous Scouts) was an ex-RSM (Regimental Sergeant Major) so the strict officer NCO structure became a little less formal.

    Basically Reid-Daly as able to cut through all the crap and do only what worked (not flawless as any Selous Scout will tell you but a hell of a lot better than units shackled by so-called tradition.)

    And as the RLI became almost totally deployed on Fire Force the RLI adapted accordingly. We had to, people were dying and we had to get better and smarter at what we were doing so the holy cows were discarded one by one. And of course the Selous Scouts had attracted most of the best senior NCOs from the RLI and this had a significant impact.

    So maybe such units may be the bridging force between the current traditional units and formations deployed in Afghanistan and the final hand over to the Afghan army which should be considered? Perhaps with a progressive integration of Afghans?
    Last edited by JMA; 04-03-2010 at 09:07 AM.

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    I would like to comment upon this in more detail. I would preface this by saying I really don't have a solution to the Afghanistan situation but am able to ask some questions. If the questions make for discomfort please resist the temptation to shoot the messenger.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    It's the folks in the rear, about 70% of the deployed force, not the 30% that is actually performing active service.
    If I understand this you are saying that 70% of the force level supports the 30% who actually do the fighting? If this is correct it is outrageous.

    Sorry, we used to do that. No more. The US culture of entitlement has grown so great that the rationale of Courts, Pundits and others is that "We provided him / her the means and opportunity to gain weight, therefor it is isn't his / her fault." Yes, there are gyms but the clod who adds pounds isn't usually a gym visiting type. Stupid, I know but that's us.
    Gee, well you make your own bed you must lie in it. But there must be a way around this? What percent of support 'troops' are obese?

    Er, no, generally they are not -- those that do often get 'counselled' for being excessively harsh, thus most now devote their efforts to unimportant things like uniforms and haircuts -- and boots, boots are big.
    Are they happy with this role? I'm sure those who have some fight left in them would be valuable to the units doing the actual fighting?

    For all but perhaps 20%, tactical competence and performance of their troops are not issues. We are obsessed with appearance, though.
    That's a damn shame.

    Well, 40 years ago what we considered rewards or luxury in any one of several Southeast Asian backwaters was nowhere near what is possible today -- nor was it demanded by troops then; it was just gratefully accepted. I suspect that is the case today, i.e. no demand, just grateful acceptance by most. There will be a few who grumble about harsh conditions and being deprived. Good riddance if they leave. Nobody needs them in any event...
    I understand as it appears similar to my experience... but once again I say any fool can be uncomfortable.

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    Council Member 82redleg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    If I understand this you are saying that 70% of the force level supports the 30% who actually do the fighting? If this is correct it is outrageous.
    Well, the US has somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 troops in A-stan. We'll use 70,000, giving the ratio the benefit of the doubt.

    According to http://www.understandingwar.org/file...OrbatMarch.pdf, this 70,000 yields 2 x SF BNs, 1 MSOB (all under the CJSOTF), 6 BCTs and 2 USMC RCTs (with 6 IN BNs). Assuming that everyone in a BCT is a shooter (they AREN"T), that's 6 x 3200 (19200) for the Army plus 6000 give or take for the USMC.

    I can't speak for the tooth-to-tail of the USMC, but out of 3200 +/- in an Army BCT, about 1400 are in IN COs, CAV TRPs, FA BTRY and EN COs. That's a very imperfect # (it doesn't count the BN mortar and scout platoons, for instance). Those rough numbers also don't count helo crews or EN route clearance companies (for instance), but overall they give you a pretty good idea of the tooth-to-tail.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 82redleg View Post
    Well, the US has somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 troops in A-stan. We'll use 70,000, giving the ratio the benefit of the doubt.

    According to http://www.understandingwar.org/file...OrbatMarch.pdf, this 70,000 yields 2 x SF BNs, 1 MSOB (all under the CJSOTF), 6 BCTs and 2 USMC RCTs (with 6 IN BNs). Assuming that everyone in a BCT is a shooter (they AREN"T), that's 6 x 3200 (19200) for the Army plus 6000 give or take for the USMC.

    I can't speak for the tooth-to-tail of the USMC, but out of 3200 +/- in an Army BCT, about 1400 are in IN COs, CAV TRPs, FA BTRY and EN COs. That's a very imperfect # (it doesn't count the BN mortar and scout platoons, for instance). Those rough numbers also don't count helo crews or EN route clearance companies (for instance), but overall they give you a pretty good idea of the tooth-to-tail.
    It would be fascinating to find out what all these 'support' people do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    It would be fascinating to find out what all these 'support' people do.
    "EN route clearance companies" are these engineers? What do they do?

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    Default Hi Redleg (& JMA)

    Are "EN route clearance companies" = e.g., our local 1431st Engineer Sapper Company, which was in Astan during 2009:

    1421st /107th deployed to Afghanistan:

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008
    1421st /107th deployed to Afghanistan

    More than 100 members of the Michigan National Guard’s 1431st Engineer Company–former members of the 107th- Company A, are preparing for deployment to Afghanistan.

    They will meet at the Calumet Armory on Friday, Nov. 28 to prepare for a Nov. 30 departure to Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, MS. The Baraga and Calumet armories were separated from the 107th Engineer Company and given their own identity, the 1431st Engineer Sapper Company.

    They will train for approximately two months at Camp Shelby before they deploy to Afghanistan. Once in Afghanistan they will provide route and convoy clearance and security during their tour.
    and U.P. troops coming home (Nov 2009) and 1431st Sapper Company Freedom Salute (Mar 2010).

    Regards

    Mike

    PS: from Soldier, husband, dad return home:

    By Brad Soroka
    Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 7:57 p.m.

    CALUMET -- They're the 1431st Engineer Sapper Company; between them: 42 Purple Hearts, 26 Bronze Stars and one newborn baby.
    So, more tooth than tail from the PHs.
    Last edited by jmm99; 04-03-2010 at 03:00 PM. Reason: Add PS and link

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    Quote Originally Posted by 82redleg View Post
    I can't speak for the tooth-to-tail of the USMC, but out of 3200 +/- in an Army BCT, about 1400 are in IN COs, CAV TRPs, FA BTRY and EN COs. That's a very imperfect # (it doesn't count the BN mortar and scout platoons, for instance). Those rough numbers also don't count helo crews or EN route clearance companies (for instance), but overall they give you a pretty good idea of the tooth-to-tail.
    I always get annoyed when people compare the "tooth to tail" ratio of the USMC to the Army, and neglect that the USMC is incapable of above RCT level logistical support over time. The USMC logistics elements dont do theater sustainment. The Army performs that function for the USMC. That skews the overall ratio greatly. It's easy to dismiss "support troops", but without them combat units can't operate.

    (Not targeting you 82redleg, just an FYI for the board)
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
    Who is Cavguy?

  16. #136
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    Default Sergeants Major: Duties, Responsibilities and Authority

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Honestly I think the first step to fixing the overweight problem would have been to let a handful of fire blowing sgt majors ( sergeants-major) loose in these bases to clean them out. A sgt major in the US is still allowed to blow fire?
    It's been 25 years since I was in the Army so my observations may be a bit out of date, but as I saw it the role of command sergeants major at battalion level and higher in the U.S. Army was rather nebulous. Their main duty description was to serve as the commander's chief advisor on matters relating to NCOs and other enlisted personnel; other than that his duties were pretty much as the commanding officer chose to define them. In addition to monitoring enlisted selections for leadership schools, promotions and disciplinary issues, as Ken pointed out they often focused on uniforms, haircuts, the barracks and the police (tidying up) of the unit's area. One thing they are certainly not are the hellfire-and-brimstone type of sergeant major the British Army is famous for. It also seemed to me that the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy turned them into homespun philosophers who go on and on about how "the young soldier" adapts to his new military environment. What is really needed is a better definition of their duties, responsibilities and authority, even if it infringes a bit on the traditional prerogatives of company/battery commanders and first sergeants. Perhaps Ken may have something to add because he knows a lot more about this subject than I do.
    Last edited by Pete; 04-03-2010 at 10:54 PM. Reason: Fine-tune

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    Council Member 82redleg's Avatar
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    JMM- yes, that is what I meant by EN route clearance companies. They are very much tooth, but are outside the BCTs, so I couldn't easily count them from open source. I also don't count the helo crews as tail, since they are conducting a necessary mission, usually outside the wire, every day.

    JMA- everything from the necessary but mundane (fuel handlers, mechanics, etc) to inteligence analysts, to watchstanders/RTOs in command posts, to planners, to civil-military coordination, to finance/personnel/mail clerks, to running the garrisons (thats what the bigger FOBs are) to you-name-it.

    Some of it has to be done in theater, some could be done stateside. Some of it could be curtailed (I've yet to see a finance unit that keeps the hours of an infantry unit), but are necessary if overmanned. Some is just plain superfluous.

    Cavguy- roger all. I was thinking more of at the tactical level (I don't know how many trigger pullers are in a USMC RCT vs others), but your point is even more valid at the operational/strategice level of logistics- the USMC simply doesn't have it (by design, not an attack) because the Army does it for them.

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 82redleg View Post
    JMM- yes, that is what I meant by EN route clearance companies. They are very much tooth, but are outside the BCTs, so I couldn't easily count them from open source. I also don't count the helo crews as tail, since they are conducting a necessary mission, usually outside the wire, every day.
    I know only one definition of tooth/tail in the military realm.

    Tooth are those who are meant to shoot at the enemy as a unit.
    Tail are those who are only meant to shoot at the enemy in self-defence.
    Both are supposed to have a necessary mission.

  19. #139
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default We're too rich and that makes us too fat...

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    The Rhodesian forces were lumbering along with the old Brit colonial pattern as well. It took the birth of the Selous Scouts to break the mold...So maybe such units may be the bridging force between the current traditional units and formations deployed in Afghanistan and the final hand over to the Afghan army which should be considered? Perhaps with a progressive integration of Afghans?
    The problem is that politicians do not want to do that sort of thing in peacetime -- the Mothers of the Troops get all upset at a 1 or 2% killed loss in realistic training. As I said elsewhere, make no mistake, the US is at peace and has been since 1945. In the war that ended then, a near existential thing as was your war existential for you, we did the same thing, formed units ad hoc and charged them with producing results. Commanders who did not produce were fired and quickly. The rules change quickly and harshly. Can't do that in peacetime; tradition and protecting the institution get in the way -- and the politics of it all are not helpful.

    The Selous Scouts and their roles and missions have been discussed here and a search should show the threads. However, the US is highly unlikely to use those techniques, successful as they are, for a variety of reasons. So we'll bumble along in Afghanistan, realize a medium level of success and depart. That's okay, no one ever really wins an insurgency, the best that can be obtained is an acceptable outcome. That's what we wanted going in and we'll get it on the way out.

    That said, I'll reiterate that in an existential war, the nice stuff goes out the window and we can be as effective as anyone and more so than most. We just need a real reason to do that, otherwise we just want to argue amongst ourselves and ponder Jesse James (the modern one, not the outlaw).
    I would like to comment upon this in more detail. I would preface this by saying I really don't have a solution to the Afghanistan situation but am able to ask some questions. If the questions make for discomfort please resist the temptation to shoot the messenger.
    No reason to shoot anyone for sensible questions. Non-sensible ones might require a second or two of thought...
    If I understand this you are saying that 70% of the force level supports the 30% who actually do the fighting? If this is correct it is outrageous.
    No. It is not at all outrageous, it's fairly typical today. Check this whole, short thread on the topic: (LINK). You might also ponder who else can put 150,000 troops in Iraq and 40,000+ in Afghanistan from another continent 12,000 miles away and sustain them. That capability comes with a cost.
    Gee, well you make your own bed you must lie in it. But there must be a way around this? What percent of support 'troops' are obese?
    Nah, not really, Politicians make the beds we all have to lie in; US, Rhodesia, south Africa, UK. Makes little difference what country, all do dumb things. not the same things perhaps, but still dumb.

    To answer your question, Obese about 5-10% on a guess (none morbidly so); simply overweight another 10% or so and marginally heavy about 10 more -- that means 70 % are okay. In the US population at large, we've got BIG problem (pun intended) (LINK). That's what happens when you have too much money and too much free time. The interesting thing is that we've had the problem for about 25-30 years and got to be a laughing stock to the rest of the world -- who are now catching up. (LINK). In South Africa you do a bit better: LINK. Also, we've already started cracking down on the excess, it was allowed to slide to keep troop numbers up with on and off deployments. now that we're able to one on and two offm the housekeeping will get caught up.
    Are they happy with this role? I'm sure those who have some fight left in them would be valuable to the units doing the actual fighting?
    My guess would about half the Sergeant Majors are happy with it, it becomes a bureaucratic sinecure sort of thing -- and make no mistake, we are very bureaucratic. Plus most are in their forties when one realizes one is not immortal and that things break easily in field service. Of the other half, about half of those aren't happy with it but accept it for one reason or another; that leaves one lonely fourth -- or about the 20% I mentioned earlier -- that actively try to improve the tactical and technical performance of their units.

    I believe Bertrand Russell commented that 80% of the work in the world is done by 20% of the people or words to that effect.

    Pete's comment elsewhere is pretty accurate; we have effectively tried to create a slightly different category of NCO. It may work; I'm skeptical but we'll have to wait and see.

    Yes, it is a damn shame but, like the tooth to tail ratio it also is more typical of other Armies than many are prepared to acknowledge, particularly Armies from wealthy western nations. All Armies have their problems. This LINK is old but I suspect if that problem has gone away, there are others equally debilitating...
    I understand as it appears similar to my experience... but once again I say any fool can be uncomfortable.
    Once again I suggest you're missing the point, possibly because the excess has to be seen to be believed. I spent almost 30 years as an Infantryman, believe me when I say that the Base Camps in theoretical war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq feature a far higher standard of comfort and convenience than I saw on my last peacetime tour in Korea in 1975 and in some respects exceeds the levels I can obtain today as an old retired Dude in the at peace United States.

    Not a question of being uncomfortable -- it is a question of removing excessive comfort producing items that provide for what can only be called a cosseted existence. American have a bad tendency to overdo everything. We're not talking about removing good food, the gyms or soft drinks and the occasional beer or air conditioned billets, they stay. We're talking about taking away civilian fast food outlets and shopping facilities that exceed the per capita availability factor for most American cities.

    Those Fast Food outlets by the way are a significant contributor to that obesity in the rear problem (pun again intended).

  20. #140
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Why, they support. What else would they do?

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    It would be fascinating to find out what all these 'support' people do.
    Aviation units maintain and fly aircraft; Engineers build stuff; Artillery shoots guns and rockets, Medical units keep the 'died of wounds' rate down in single figures, a worldwide wartime first; Supply and maintenance units do those things; Signal units provide comms; Military Police provide law enforcement, security and do convoy escort, Intelligence Brigades provide intel and operate some UAVs / drones (other are owned by combat units but the folks operating them are support types, not riflemen), SF do both combat and support stuff; Transportation types move stuff and people.

    Combat units have mechanics and cooks who are support types. The significant US fixed wing and helicopter presence, with aircraft from all services requires a lot of maintainers, armers and fuelers to support 24 hour operations. Not to mention control tower operators...

    Don't forget that the armed forces of the US are providing people to assist in rebuilding Afghan infrastructure (LINK) -- and these guys: LINK. All sorts of stuff going on there. Those US numbers also include the Air Force (fihters, transports and helicopters plus crews and support folks) and the Navy (yes, a lot Navy types there; all the Marine Medical Corpsmen and Doctors are Navy, as are the Chaplains).

    P.S

    In addition to the big military support package, there are a host of civilian contractors also supporting the effort.

    Modern warfare is expensive and expansive...

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