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The Baldwin Files – The Army Green Uniform

November 19th, 2018

This article is about Pinks & Greens or OGs or whatever we eventually call the newly approved U.S. Army dress uniform. However, it is about larger concepts as well. When I was a lieutenant in the 2nd Bn, 505th PIR, 1985-88, I had the great good fortune to get to spend time with LTG(R) James Gavin (picture right). He had been the WWII commander of the 505th and later the 82nd Airborne Division. He made four combat jumps during the war and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) twice. During the mid-80s, he was our honorary Colonel of the Regiment. He took the ceremonial duties seriously and came to almost all of our unit events during that time. I took every opportunity to talk to him and we even had a couple of one-on-one discussions about leadership. It was an honor and an education. When General Gavin’s health began to fail, COL(R) Benjamin Vandervoort took over the duty. Vandervoort had commanded the 2nd Battalion during the war and he too had earned two DSCs. He was played by John Wayne in the movie “The Longest Day” and did break his ankle during the Normandy jump. He recovered, jumped into Holland, and was seriously wounded by German mortar fire at Nijmegen three months later.

From a professional development perspective, I have had many such fortuitous encounters over the years. Heck, I had Aaron Banks over to my house for dinner and beers when I was a Detachment Commander in 5th Group and spent an afternoon chatting with John Singlaub in the Group area on one warm summer day. Both were WWII Jedburghs and Special Forces legends. Therefore, these historical figures are perhaps a little more real and relevant to me than they may be for the current generation of soldiers. Big wars make big heroes and fewer and fewer of these giants are still with us. We may never be blessed with their likes again. I have talked a great deal about symbolism before. How important it is to appreciate and perpetuate unit histories, heraldry and special customs. These intangibles are not trivial. Instead, they are key building blocks in creating and sustaining unique group identities and unit cohesion. However, symbols only have as much power as we consciously imbue in them. If leaders teach soldiers that the service uniform is anachronistic and superfluous they will treat it that way rather than displaying the appropriate respect. Not esteem for the clothing item itself, but rather for what the uniform represents. That should not happen. Good units revere their symbols and take pride in their uniforms.

The Army has made this fundamental mistake many times. Despite having won a worldwide war on multiple continents, the Army actually suffered an identity crisis and loss of confidence after 1945. Because of the atomic bomb, there was a growing belief – even within the ranks – that traditional ground combat itself was obsolete. Rapid post-war demobilization gutted experienced officer and NCO leadership. Tiny budgets barely supported constabulary duties in occupied countries like Germany and Japan. Readiness, training and basic unit cohesion was not a priority. This leads us to Task Force Smith and the dark early days of the Korean Conflict. Marine Corps funding and state of training was not significantly better that the Army’s. However, there were considerably different levels of esprit between the Army and Marines. This disparity is evident in the retreat from Chosin Reservoir. In that campaign, Marine units maintained good order and performed notably better than many Army units. It was not gear or tactical training that made the difference but rather a shared unit identity and stubborn pride that proved to be the critical factor. Make no mistake, symbols like the Eagle, Globe and Anchor (EGA) and the uniform of a Marine only mean something in combat because the Corps makes the concerted effort to give those items significance and power.

Unfortunately, the brutal but ultimately indecisive Korean Conflict did nothing to reestablish Army confidence in itself. Rather, the “lesson” of Korea was that the early and widespread use of atomic bombs would be necessary to avoid any future, similar strategic stalemate. Therefore, the Army decided it needed a new “modern” identity. That in turn meant discarding prominent symbols of the old Army. The Army dress uniform or “Dress Greens” that most of us grew up with was one of the misguided results. That new dress uniform was deliberately cut in a business rather than martial style. More obviously, the color had no historical connection with any previous Army uniform. Furthermore, although there was still conscription, the Army began – for the first time – to sell itself to the American people as a job rather than a profession. It was a huge mistake precisely because it erased a strong identity and replaced it with a muddled professional ethos that was inferior and less resilient.

The Army has an unfortunate habit of forgetting history and disregarding heraldry because, I suspect, there are too many people who do not think it is important for combat readiness. Those people are wrong. On the other hand, the Marine Corps has been exponentially more successful in avoiding similar identity pitfalls. For example, on the left side of the picture is GEN Dunford, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, visiting Belleau Wood this last week. While his uniform is perhaps not identical to the early 20th Century Marine dress uniform, it is close enough that a WWII Marine would instantly recognize it, as would just about every American – and many people in other countries around the world. Are dress uniforms important in shaping that desirable and unbreakable unit identity?  I say yes. However, one need not take my word for it; the evidence is clear that the Marine Corps’ leadership thinks so and has thought so for generations.

It is no coincidence that the American people have much more difficulty in identifying their own soldiers. The Army has done a bad job of establishing an enduring “brand” or strong collective identity like the Corps. It is sad but all too true. The Army has had a strong sense of distinctiveness in the past, most notable during the post-Civil War period (1866-1898) and the post-WWI period (1920-1940). Both time periods saw an all-volunteer but woefully underfunded Army in which a career was no less than thirty years and selfless service was almost a given. The first era was indelibly shaped by leaders like Sherman and Sheridan and gave us the classic blue uniform. Leaders like MacArthur, Marshall and Eisenhower left their mark on the second while wearing P&Gs. It is only fitting, in my opinion, that we reestablish a link back to the uniforms of that period.

Some argue that because less than perfect or even bad decisions have been made about uniforms in the pass we must now forgo making any future decisions. Nonsense. When it becomes clear that a decision is not achieving the desired result it is the obligation of a leader to make a correction. Many of the mistakes in this arena were made in the name of cost cutting in one way, shape, or form. The Army has always been penny wise and pound foolish. Probably that is because the return on the investment in symbols and esprit de corps is only discernable in the toughest of situations. Others argue that dress uniforms have no utility because they are not worn often enough to be “cost effective.” Since when has the intrinsic value or the symbolic power of an item depended on frequency of use? Take the American Flag for example. It is unquestionably one of the most powerful symbols of our national identity. It has always been with me – whether it was visible on my uniform or not – because I have long since internalized its meaning and power. When going into battle, soldiers now wear it on our sleeves while Marines do not. Yet it accompanies and bolsters the resolve of all of us – visibly displayed or otherwise. A dress uniform may not get much use but it should nevertheless mean something when it is worn – no matter how infrequently.

Other times the Army has been driven by some vague sense that we needed to discard history in order to effectively move into the future. Wrong again. Service and Unit histories are cumulative, built over generations, and become more powerful over time. We do not shake the etch-a-sketch, erase unit histories and start over after each conflict. A point I tried to make about the 5th Special Forces Group Flash some time ago. Except for the 82nd, none of the WWII Airborne Divisions had a history. None of the 500 series Parachute Infantry Battalions or Regiments had a history. Leaders recognized the need so they expended a great deal of precious time and energy to build a collective identity. Mostly that involved symbolism. Jump Wings were essentially the paratroopers EGA, and jump boots clearly set him apart from all other soldiers. Moreover, creating that mystique was not a training distractor but rather essential in preparing those soldiers to prevail in combat. Today, Jump Wings and bloused jump boots may seem inconsequential and even unnecessary in a peacetime garrison environment, but they meant a great deal at Bastogne. Ask any man who was there.

I admit I have been surprised about how many people have waxed nostalgic over the old Dress Greens. By my recollection, from day one people were constantly bitching about how unmilitary they looked and especially about the god-awful color. As early as the mid-70s, surveys consistently showed that soldiers would have preferred to re-adopt a P&G type uniform. Several times, including the mid-80s, there was even serious movement in that direction. Instead, the Army doubled down and made the situation worse. First, as a cost saving measure the Army stopped issuing the well-liked Khaki summer Class-B uniform; then replaced the tan shirt – the last vestige of the older era uniforms – with a blue-green version also without any historical precedent. The last major decision that converted the Dress Blue, formal uniform, into the ASU actually ruined two uniforms at once. Kluging the purposes and the heraldry of both into a hybrid that serves neither purpose well. The blue pants and white shirt of the ASU make a particularly unflattering Class-B uniform. And it does not help unit cohesion that there is an accommodation for a wartime service unit badge on the ASU pocket, but no place for the current unit of assignment.

However, even now the situation is not hopeless. It is up to leaders. Uniform items can mean everything or nothing. The Green Beret for example is just a piece of dyed wool – but just try to take it away from someone who has earned it. The Airborne Maroon Beret was not important until GEN Rogers took in away in 1978. The Airborne community made their displeasure known until they got in back in 1983. If berets are not important, why are people still re-litigating the Ranger Beret decision twenty years later? These pieces of headgear are significant – as are badges, tabs and unit patches – but only in as much as they are a visible reflection of the unit’s identity and character. Unfortunately, as we all know, the Army failed to give the black beret any power when it became standardized service headgear. I expect better results from the P&Gs simply because they do reflect history, are indeed iconic, and the American people can actually tell that it is the uniform of a soldier.

As to the question of cost, a new dress uniform purchase – of any flavor – can be a considerable individual expenditure. However, in the time between announcement, availability and required to have dates, soldiers have the opportunity to plan and budget for the eventuality. Many soldiers need not worry at all. Approximately 75% of soldiers get out after one term or less, 50% of officers leave after completing their initial obligation. Because these uniform changeovers are deliberately spread out over years the majority of soldiers will never need to buy the new uniform and will leave service with whatever they were initially issued. Even if that were not true, I think the current Army leadership has made a decision that is good for the service. They have reembraced storied organizational history and it is long overdue. In fact, I would like the Army to go faster and further and issue P&Gs to all soldiers RFI style – the sooner the better. Moreover, it should come with a pamphlet that outlines the history AND the Army should pay for initial fittings and additional tailoring every three years or upon promotion to sergeant and each grade after.  It would be a small investment that could pay huge dividends. I also look forward to ASUs reverting to a cleaner formal “Dress Blue” status. No doubt P&Gs will provide a more suitable and professional looking Class-B configuration as well. In any case, the Army will only get out of this uniform change whatever leaders put into it.

Bottom line: Do I think a modern soldier – commissioned, warrant, noncommissioned or enlisted – can and should be proud to wear a dress uniform reminiscent of those worn before and during WWII thru Korea by leaders like: James Gavin, Matthew Ridgeway, Reuben Tucker, Robert Frederick, Aaron Banks, John Singlaub, Lewis Millet, Hal Moore, Audie Murphy and William Darby – just to name a few?  Damn right I do.

Administrative addendum: Earlier discussions on this site about this subject has been contentious at times and frankly overly personalized. We have all – myself included – resorted to ad hominem attacks when we are angry. I have said it before and will say it again; in adult and professional debates, smearing an opponent’s character does nothing to strengthen an argument, provide evidence in support of a position, or prove a point. Another thing, I am the soldier I am today because of NCOs. I actually sought a commission on the advice of an NCO. I came out on the SFC promotion list at just nine years of service (which at the time was fast for infantry). I was feeling confident in my enlisted career prospects at that point. My First Sergeant sat me down and gave me a different perspective. He said, “You are doing great. In four years, you will probably have my job. Or, in four years, you could be commanding an infantry company. I think you would be good at that too. Which would you prefer?” I thought about it and decided I was more intrigued by the challenge of command and dropped my OCS packet soon after.

In doing so, I benefited from the full support of my chain of command, NCOs and officers alike. These were the kind of professionals I grew up with and admire. They reinforced what I had always been taught. NCOs and officers are teammates and partners in building and leading units. I have never had time for anyone who – for any reason – cannot be a teammate deserving of full trust and confidence. I have done some things in my career, drunk and sober, that are worthy of a reasonable amount of ridicule. I have made more than my share of bad decisions that merit being called out. Good teammates – of all ranks – have consistently done that for me when necessary; and I am the better leader and person for it. While there has been a very few occasional exceptions – the odd bad leader – I have served in units where the relationship between almost all NCOs and officers has been one of mutual respect and shared purpose. That should be the standard. NCOs denigrating all officers or officers disparaging all NCOs is unhelpful, unprofessional, and unnecessary. Good leaders do not do that. It is never “us versus them” in good units.

Finally, I would never have the audacity to equate my service to those who saw combat in WWII, Korea or Vietnam. Those stalwart soldiers participated in engagements of a size, scope, duration, hardship and danger well beyond anything I ever experienced. However, I am confident enough that the length and girth of my professional “resume” is adequate when compared to most soldiers that have served since Vietnam. Not the longest or the most impressive…but not embarrassingly small either. So – although I do not see any sense in it – if someone feels any compelling need to measure his resume against mine to judge who is or is not a “real soldier,” I suppose we can go down that rabbit hole. However, I would prefer a more productive and reasoned discussion. I expect that a good number of people may take a divergent or even opposing position from mine. That is fine. I will not question your intellect, professionalism or your integrity just because we disagree. I only expect the same in return.

De Opresso Liber.

LTC Terry Baldwin, US Army (Ret) served on active duty from 1975-2011 in various Infantry and Special Forces assignments. SSD is blessed to have him as both reader and contributor.

B&T USA Awarded The Contract To Supply The Westchester, NY Police Department With Integrally Suppressed APC9-SD Carbines

November 19th, 2018

Tampa, FL – Quick turnaround and unique capabilities, gave B&T USA the advantage in landing the recent RFQ to supply the Westchester NY Police Department with rapid deployment, 9mm carbines. B&T USA’s LE Division won the contract with the integrally suppressed APC9-SD Carbine equipped with Glock lower receivers.

Compact, lightweight and reliable, the APC9 carbines have been proven with countless European Law Enforcement agencies. The integrally suppressed APC9-SD models being supplied to the Westchester PD allow the Department to use their existing Glock magazines without the need to purchase any additional. B&T USA was awarded the contract by being able to deliver the 14 weapons within the specified 60-day requirement.

For more information on these products and other B&T products please visit our website www.bt-ag.ch/eng.

For information on becoming a B&T USA dealer please contact Jon Scott at B&T USA, +1 (813) 653-1200. Or email sales@bt-arms.com.

2018 Black Friday / Cyber Monday Sales List – Sponsored By Tactical Distributors

November 19th, 2018

Once again, Tactical Distributors is sponsoring our Black Friday/Cyber Monday master list, updated regularly with the latest sales info. To see the entire list, click here.

SERE Combatives Enhancing Self-Defense

November 18th, 2018

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. — The Air Force recently implemented an advanced Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Combatives Program to enhance SERE specialists’ capability to instruct self-defense techniques to aircrews, thereby increasing survival chances in an unfriendly environment.

U.S Air Force Senior Airman Skyler Pendleton, 22nd Training Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialist and SERE Combatives Program instructor, blocks punches from Airman 1st Class Justin Croteau, 22nd TRS SERE specialist, during a four-hour block of combative training at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Nov. 7, 2018. The 80-hour program trains on projectile, striking, clenching and grappling self-defense techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st class Jesenia Landaverde)

The combatives class trains in advanced projectile, striking, clenching and grappling self-defense techniques for SERE specialist Airmen.

“The program is not about learning how to fight,” said Senior Airman Skyler Pendleton, 22nd Training Squadron SERE specialist and SERE Combatives Program instructor. “It’s about learning how to defend yourself whether it is downtown, in a deployed location or in a worse environment where you may need to evade or escape.”

U.S Air Force Senior Airman Skyler Pendleton, 22nd Training Squadron Survival Evasion Resistance Escape specialist and SERE Combatives Program instructor, demonstrates self-defense moves to other SERE specialists during a combatives class at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Nov. 7, 2018. The Air Force recently implemented an advanced SERE Combatives Program to enhance SERE specialists’ capability to provide self-defense techniques and increase survivability in an unfriendly environment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st class Jesenia Landaverde)

The 80-hour program is an advancement of the 40-hour course SERE specialists take in technical training.

“Some of the techniques are more complex than we’re used to,” said Staff Sgt. Erik Wieland, 306th Rescue Squadron SERE specialist reservist from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. “It’s challenging to take every step and perform it perfectly- not only to complete the course, but to go back to your unit and teach it to your customers correctly, so they are prepared in the field.”

Instructors evaluate specialists on various moves from across the entire spectrum of combatives through hands-on demonstrations and through a question-and-answer portion. Specialists must explain the importance of combatives moves and tell instructors why certain moves may be more efficient than others in combat scenarios.

“This training is different than MMA, boxing, wrestling, etc.,” Pendleton said. “One must realize this is the game of life, there are no rules and anything is fair play. You might have to knee someone in the face or do whatever it takes to get out of a situation and survive. We keep the training controlled but try not to get stuck in a rule-based system of fighting where you can’t do certain moves because it is considered dangerous.”

SERE specialists prepare isolated personnel for any emergency event or captivity situation. This advanced program will increase mission readiness for aircrew by creating a heightened level of assurance in their ability to prevent or escape precarious situations and return home with honor.

By Airman 1st Class Jesenia Landaverde, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

SCUBAPRO Sunday – SeaWing Nova and Jet Fin Skins from MATBOCK

November 18th, 2018

SCUBAPRO and MATBOCK have teamed up to make Skins for two of SCUBAPROs most iconic fins. The SeaWing Nova’s and the Jet fins. The Patent pending MATBOCK Skins is a multi-layer adhesive/fabric laminate designed to give the user the ability to camouflage/ change any surface desired. The Skins are waterproof and oil resistant and can be used multiple times. These skins are designed and laser cut specifically for the SCUBAPRO SeaWing Nova’s and Jet fins.

www.matbock.com/collections/skins/products/scuba-pro-skins

Operator Coffee Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sweepstakes – FREE COFFEE IN 2019!

November 18th, 2018

Houston, TX. (November 17, 2018) – www.operatorcoffee.com Operator Coffee (OC) is pleased to announce that one lucky customer is going to receive a free 1 year supply of Operator Coffee.

For every order placed via the website starting at midnight eastern time on Black Friday – 23 Nov 2018 and ending at midnight eastern time on Monday 26 Nov 2019, the customer will be entered for a chance to win a free supply of coffee for all of 2019! We will announce the winner following Cyber Monday once all entries have been tallied and run through a random generated winner system!

The winner of the Operator Coffee for a year Black Friday/Cyber Monday raffle will be put on an auto delivery subscription for 4 -12 oz bags of coffee per month to be delivered to their door at no cost!

In addition, customers will now receive Free Shipping on all orders over $60.00!  Operator Coffee is very excited to offer this option to their customers as this allows customers to get their coffee at an overall lower price to their doors on each order.  Every Operator Coffee roast supports several outstanding Veteran and/or First Responder charities to include Special Operations Wounded Warriors (SOWW)  https://sowwcharity.com; OATH Inc https://oathinc.org; Wheelchairs for Warriors https://www.wheelchairsforwarriors.com

Operator Coffee is proud to support these and other great charities, and when you purchase coffee from Operator Coffee you are making this possible!  We are very thankful for our customers who support our brand, and assist us in our mission and vision.  In the coming months, there will be many new exciting announcements for Operator Coffee – Strength and Honor in Every Cup!

We are also part of a great network of partner companies, the Anteris Alliance – www.anterisalliance.com.  This is a group of over 50, Patriot owned, manufacturers and service providers who are working in community to support each other, and do more to support our Vets and First Responders together than we could do alone.  Become a member of this great network today and you will receive invites to special events, an awesome member pack, and great discounts on Alliance company products, including 20% off Operator Coffee!

Interested Manufacturers, Dealers, and Individuals can visit www.anterisalliance.com for more details and also follow Anteris Alliance on social media on all major platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter!

Berlin Police Take Delivery of Rheinmetall Survivor R Special Operations Vehicle

November 18th, 2018

Rheinmetall has formally handed over a heavily protected Survivor R special operations vehicle to the Berlin Police Department. Dr Barbara Slowik, Chief of the Berlin Police Department, symbolically handed over the keys to the Operations Directorate, represented by Criminal Investigation Division Director Martin John. This versatile vehicle, ordered as part of a package of counterterrorism measures in late September 2017, is specially configured to meet the needs of the Operations Directorate of the Berlin Police. Berlin follows Saxony as the third German state to equip its police special operators with the Survivor R.

Made by Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles, the Survivor R epitomizes Rheinmetall’s commitment to the twin modern imperatives of security and mobility. Developed in cooperation with Austrian special vehicle maker Achleitner, the Survivor R is superbly suited to police SWAT team-type operations. Vehicles of this kind are particularly important in high- risk situations when special operators need to be transported safely to the area of operations, or for evacuating persons from the danger zone.

The Survivor R is based on a high-performance 4×4 MAN truck chassis, outfitted with a steel armour passenger compartment. Capable of reaching a top speed of over 100 km/h, this high-mobility vehicle combines tried-and-tested automotive engineering from large-scale production runs with state-of-the-art force protection technology from Rheinmetall.

Systematic use of civilian off-the-shelf and standard military components results in a sensibly priced vehicle, while simultaneously benefitting from Rheinmetall MAN’s global service and maintenance network. This makes the Survivor R a cost-efficient, easy-to-maintain vehicle with low lifecycle costs and high operational readiness.

Rheinmetall – a powerful partner of the police and security services

AeroVironment Awarded $3.2 Million Puma AE Unmanned Aircraft Systems Contract by United States Department of Defense for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Ally

November 17th, 2018

• Puma all-environment system supports ground, riverine and maritime missions

• United States Department of Defense Foreign Military Sales program facilitates interoperability among U.S. and allied forces

MONROVIA, Calif., Nov. 6, 2018 – AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV), a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems for both defense and commercial applications, today announced it received a $3,228,856 firm-fixed-price contract on Sept. 14, 2018 from the U.S. Department of Defense to provide RQ-20B Puma AE II small unmanned aircraft systems, training and support to an allied nation in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) area of responsibility.  Delivery is anticipated by March 30, 2019.

“The vast, diverse landscape of the INDOPACOM area of operation demands small unmanned aircraft systems that can support ground, riverine and maritime operations effectively,” said Kirk Flittie, vice president and general manager of AeroVironment’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems business.  “The combat-proven Puma has demonstrated its unique effectiveness in a wide range of operating environments, from mountains to deserts, from the Arctic to Antarctica, on land and on the open ocean, delivering actionable intelligence to help customers proceed with certainty.”

AeroVironment’s family of small drones comprise the majority of all unmanned aircraft in the U.S. DoD inventory and its rapidly growing international customer base numbers more than 45 allied governments.  “This contract is a good example of the additional procurement potential among our international customers,” said Flittie.

The AeroVironment Puma is designed for land-based and maritime operations. Capable of landing in water or on the ground, the all-environment Puma, with its Mantis i45 sensor suite, empowers the operator with extended flight time and a level of imaging capability never before available in the small UAS class.