Thursday, July 27, 2017

Appendix 1: Logistics from a Marine's POV

I did not write this. It was given to me by a friend of mine, Marine Corporal LaForce. - Erin Palette

In this, I am trying to answer a series of common questions and problems presented by the current standing order of our Commander-in-Chief. By way of introduction, I am a former Marine Veteran who served as a Field Artillery Cannoneer in 1st Battalion, 12th Marines (henceforth 1/12) from 2009 to 2013. They were the most eye-opening and enriching years of my life. In many ways they defined the man I finally have become and set the bar for what I try to be. Currently, I’m a student in my junior year of college seeking an English degree. I am also an amateur historian and somebody who loves to find answers. After watching several arguments unfold yesterday in the wake of the White House’s announcement, I started looking for answers and trying to formulate a statement on how and why this all makes sense. After 3 hours and 27 minutes of writing, here it is.

I am going to begin with budget. Some have said “But it’s only 1% of the budget!” Each year’s budget is decided on in advance, and once funds are distributed they can not be reassigned or apportioned without high-level signing off along the way. A Marine's unit operates on such funds. If he is to be deployed, funds would have to be specifically set aside for not only that, but all terrain-specific and mission specific gear. I checked with my buddies in supply about that one and per man, that comes to roughly $5,000. As an example, Master Sergeant Coca made sure to request and obtain nearly 600 pairs of steel-toe capped Danners, enough for every 0811 in 1/12th Marines to have one pair. That’s $350 on one pair of boots. I wore them every day for 7 months. By the time we came home they were separating from the sole and had to be thrown away. $350 high quality boots used and discarded like a stolen mule. This gear is sent out with the expectation that it’s not coming back.

Take a standard size battalion of 800 Marines and sailors. Multiply by 5,000. That’s $4,000,000 in gear out the gate, and you’re expecting it to all get used past the point of being recoverable for another unit to use.

Next comes training: bullets for live-fire training, fuel for vehicles to maneuver. Marine Corps Reference Publication (MCRP) 5-12D, dated 13 October 1998, gives us these figures for weapons loadout of an infantry battalion.

Weapons for Three Rifle Companies
  • M9 9mm pistol, 245
  • M16A2 rifle, 645
  • M249 SAW, 81
  • M240G machine gun, 29
  • M2 .50-cal machine gun, 6
Now let me break this down in terms of cost for each of the cartridge-fed weapon systems, to wit the M16, the M9, the M249, the M240 and the M2.

  • 1 Case of 1,600 rounds 5.56x45 Federal M855 from Lake City on costs $715. That accounts for everybody with an M16. Each man in the battalion could easily shoot a quarter of that in 45 days of maneuvers without real difficulty. That’s $115,293.75 just for the M16s.
  • Lake City Belted 5.56x45 is used for the M249 SAW. My last field op where I carried a SAW, I was given 4 belts, or 800 rounds. That’s $456 for 4 belts of SAW ammo on 1 man. $36,936
  • 9mm Parabellum by Federal in FMJ is $280 per case of 1,000 and figure 3 magazine per M9. Go with 12 cases of ammo. That’s $3,360.
  • .50 BMG loadout is typically 400 rounds per system, and those run $250 per 100-round belt. $6,000.
  • 7.61x51mm for the 240s is 600 rounds per system. They come in cans of 200 at $165 per can. Total for that is $14,355.

Are we starting to see how this adds up? Just training stocks is expensive. Bulk fuel runs $3.73 a gallon. A line infantry unit under the previous specifications would’ve had 41 Humvees, which are 25 gallons capacity apiece. 1025 gallons per vehicle, maneuvering for 30 days (they need to be topped off every other day) means 15 refuelings for $57,349, and that’s without trying to get real crazy. And if you think that’s bad, go check an artillery battalion further along in the manual - they have 58 5-ton trucks!

All of this adds up very quickly. It's just under $4,250,000 and the battalion hasn’t even left for Afghanistan yet. How many infantry battalions does the USMC have? 32 active and reserve battalions. By the time I went to Afghanistan, they tried to keep the deployment schedule such that only 3 battalions of infantry from a single division were forward deployed at one time.

What means is that every 5 months, a battalion was being readied to go from each regiment. 1/1, 1/5, 1/7 go to Twentynine Palms for Mojave Viper in February. 1 April they deploy to Afghanistan. They will be home approximately 10 November. By 1 August 2/1, 2/5 and 2/7 will all be at Mojave Viper. 15 October they will deploy to Afghanistan. Assuming nothing crazy occurs (for the sake of the model), they will be home by 30 March. That is $25,500,000 spent on training and gear, in a single calendar year. And you cannot expect that any of the gear which the first 3 battalions bring back from downrange is going to be serviceable or usable. You must expect that 12 million investment is all used up. So when the 3rd battalions from each regiment start their preparations in January of the following year, they will also need to buy entirely new gear, with no hand-me downs.

Now multiply this by 2 divisions - 25.5 million to 1st Marines, 25.5 million to 2nd Marines and 17 Million to 3rd Marines (which has only 2 infantry regiments). You’ve now spent 68 million dollars in gear, ammunition, and fuel to get a unit it’s final workups for deployment. Meanwhile, you will do more than one field op in a 6-month workup, especially if you’re at Pendleton or Twentynine Palms. That $250,000 for one battalion in the field at a time? That can be spent 4 times on 30-day ops, over a 6-month period without any trouble. $1,000,000, multiplied by 8 active duty battalions all out in the field doing that grunt thing at once, is 8 million dollars in 6 months, which drives the price tag some more.

What haven’t we included in this? Toilet paper, spare parts, replacement parts, medical needs, all the little stuff that makes a battalion of Marines function and work like it is supposed to. How about chow? Marines need to eat, and in the field, it is not unreasonable to need to consume in excess of 2500 calories per day. $300 (roughly) per man, per month in the field. 8 battalions out at once puts that at $1,920,000. Multiply by 4 (30-day field ops) and you get $7,680,000.

How about pay for those guys? Pay is important, because when the grunts come in from the field, they’re going to want real food, real drinks, and probably go find attractive company to enjoy the weekend with. Should they lack pay for some reason, expect problems. Armed problems. Clement VII can tell you how well things go when your very capable troops don’t get paid.

All of these numbers continue to add up, and suddenly we’re talking very real money. This is where we come to a hard fact of life: there is never enough money. We do not live in a perfect world. There is never enough money to spend on fuel, bullets, food, and all those thousands of items so necessary to properly train professional soldiers to wage war upon the enemies of this nation. I served 1 ½ years in a National Guard unit in Northern Utah. It was an artillery battery which was so low on funds they could only afford to operate 4 of their 6 Paladin tracks at a single time. They were hard on gear accountability because they simply could not afford to lose any of it if at all possible. Short of extreme circumstances, if your gear became unserviceable, you were paying for it, and that can really hurt.

Try losing just the stupid parts to the flak vest and see how much that hurts. Supply will make you purchase a whole new system to replace that one measly stupid part. How do I know? PFC LaForce learned the hard way on account of a throat protector. $2,000 is a lot of money to charge a PFC in 2010 for a whole brand new flak jacket he’ll never even get to wear because the manufacturer was so backed up that ordering single pieces of gear was impossible when the production line had a 3-year backlog to fill!

As part of the battalion Administration section post-deployment, I got to see this play out as 1/12 Marines returning to America were told that they had missing gear to account for. They’d been hit with IEDs, and that gear had quite literally gone missing between an IED blast and their trip via helicopter to a hospital where medical personnel worked to save their life. You’d think that signing their gear as “lost in combat” would have happened right? Not under that battalion commander. Here’s your purple heart, you owe $500 for a gas mask.

So that’s the material, supply side of things, but it’s not the logistical. Everything which gets shipped downrange, from beans to toilet paper, has to be accounted for. It has to fit inside conex shipping containers, helicopters, and on the back of trucks. How many rolls of toilet paper we can carry is weighed against the number of pallets of 5.56 ammo versus new socks for the grunts versus mail, versus grenades, versus howitzer shells, versus tents, versus generators, versus bulk fuel bladders, versus everything.

Everything has a price and a cost affixed in terms of "Can it be carried and brought along this time." Everything has a priority. If medicine is coming along, we have to make sure it stays properly stored (for certain items) because if they’re supposed to be refrigerated and the fridge breaks mid transit between Ramstein Air Base and Camp Leatherneck, we just wasted several thousand dollars and a whole lot of time moving it. Diabetics who need insulin cannot be deployed because of exactly this logistic constraint. After checking with a trans woman, I now know that the hormone therapy has to continue for the rest of her life. Please tell me how those items are going to be stored and moved and what will have to be displaced to make room for them?
On the personnel side, we must consider the standard enlistment contract: 4 years active duty, 4 years Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). If Reassignment surgery takes place 18 months into an enlistment and they’re going to be undergoing intensive hormone therapy which makes them non-deployable for the next several months, what has the US Taxpayer gotten from their investment into that person becoming a US Marine? Nothing. They will instead have to be removed from their unit in order to make room for somebody who can deploy. And personnel are a premium. When I left 1/12, many of our 18 guns were down to 5 Marines including the chief, which is the bare minimum allowable to fire under combat conditions. Regulations allow for up to 10 plus the chief. Think about what this does for morale and good order and discipline, because the same workload exists in total, whether you’ve got 10 guys or 4.

Some have suggested this is exactly the same as women in the military, or colored folks (like me) coming into the service. They would be wrong. All jokes aside, there is nothing physiologically different between a white man and a black man. One could make an argument about the skinny Asian stereotype, but Sergeant Yan was one stocky man. (Ain’t nobody who could accuse him of being weak. I darn sure didn’t.) A black man in good shape can perform the same duties as a white man, same with Latinos, Asians, Polynesians, et cetera.
If we wish to discuss gender though, there are physiological differences between genders, which is why women have a different PT test scoring matrix. Will a trans woman be able to pass a female PT Test? Yes. If we flip that around ,though, I very seriously doubt a trans man would pass the Male PT test because they lack the benefit of 18+ years of male hormones and musculo-skeletal development which create the male body.

That’s just the PT test though. What about daily duties? In an infantry unit, this involves marching with heavy loads and fighting when you get there. In the artillery, this involves an extreme of upper body strength, as 155mm shells weigh 100 pounds or more and our towed tubes are in excess of 9,000 pounds. Capable of 6 rounds a minute rapid fire, 4 rounds a minute sustained. In a single Final Protective Fires mission, we did 25 rounds before the Fire Direction Center called for "cease loading". Our platoon sergeant was walking the gun line and had arrived on Gun 6 just minutes before the mission came down, and Staff Sergeant Boughton jumped in alongside the ammo team humping rounds from the ammo truck to the gun. By the time we finished he was soaked with sweat.. in January... at Twentynine Palms, Californa. He looked like he’d taken a bath in his utilities.

“Israel has a coed unit! The US Navy has coed ships!” Yes they do. They also have different circumstances, wherein we run up against a different problem. Israel’s Caracal unit is 70% female. In an 800-person unit, this accounts for 560 women, 240 men. They are an infantry unit, therefore they go out and do infantry things. Of that 560, how many are unfit for full duty at any given time?

35%, which is 196 personnel. Nearly an entire company's worth of personnel are non-deployable at any given time. It only takes 15% losses before a unit is combat ineffective. The Caracal battalion is entirely unusable before it even leaves a staging area. That is not a slight against those women, it is not to say that they are less patriotic or less deserving of respect. But those physiological differences are huge.

 A study conducted by an army physical therapist determined that women are evacuated from Afghanistan and Iraq at better than 2:1 compared to men. And these are men out on patrols, on route clearance, performing fire missions and kicking in doors! That’s the toll that military service takes on a body. Men handle it better... but only for a time. Grunt units have low reenlistment rates for this very reason as bad knees, bad feet, bad back and inches of spinal compression are not uncommon.

In the US Navy, carriers fluctuate between 40% to 50% of their female personnel leaving the boat before the cruise is over due to pregnancy. Not injury, pregnancy. They are removed from the ship and returned to a stateside naval base. The cost of this last year came to a grand total of $173 million dollars, which is the equivalent of sending every single active duty infantry battalion in the USMC to Afghanistan with full equipment after proper training, spent just on bringing pregnant female personnel off the carrier. And no, replacement sailors are not sent out. Current policy does not allow for that, which is how you can go from 6 sailors in a ship’s division manning the guns aboard an Arleigh Burke Destroyer to 2 in a matter of 3 months at sea, and their workload steadily increasing every week. That’s a problem for which there are no good win-win answers, and it is every bit as problematic for all involved as the questions about trans personnel.

Notice what was never brought up in all this? Any slander against trans folks, colored folks like me, or women. Why? Because it’s unnecessary. Trans folks aren’t awful or bad anymore than I’m awful or bad for being Hawaiian.

I keep seeing reports of atrocities taking place against the LGBT community in various countries and frankly, it irks me. As a practicing Mormon, I believe all people, regardless of their choices, to be children of God. I’ve never seen anywhere in the religious text which my church uses any language which suggest that there is justification for an imam-inspired mob throwing a man off a roof simply because he’s gay. There is no reason why Chechen police should be rounding up gays, lesbians and transsexuals into concentration camps or Russia imprisoning a band who supports gay rights. Such behavior is anathema to what we profess and believe as Americans. At times we may trip, we may stumble (Lord knows Mormon history is replete with examples of how badly we got screwed over by government - thanks, Lilburn Boggs and Martin Van Buren), but as Americans we have a will to try and be great.

What we are faced with is a problem which can only be overcome through science and the continued pursuit of knowledge. But until that day comes, we can not in good conscience do other than what our Commander-in-Chief has stated is now the official position of the United States Government. Because if our martial forces cannot win wars, we will cease to exist as a country, and the rights we enjoy right now disappear.

If we wish to have a military capable of protecting us at all times, and in all places, we must be willing to have one which is full of the best trained, best equipped, best led professional soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on the planet. It cannot be done any other way.

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