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Posted: 9/16/2004 1:49:57 PM EDT
I asked for permission from a fellow mod on another forum to post this info here. I was on the edge of my chair while reading.

This is what my pal 'Berg asked me to relay along with the info.

'Berg with your permission
South Hoof,

Permission's not necessary; I don't own it and it's not copywrited, but thanks for asking.

If you'd do me the favor, however, of making it clear that the author of the post isn't attempting to pass himself off as having had military experience, I'd appreciate it. I don't; I'm a lifelong civilian. I was merely passing along what John gave me. He clearly didn't tell me everything, as some of what he did and saw was classified, and in any case, you can't boil down a battalion CO's experiences of an entire year in-theater, much less his entire 21-year career, in a couple of thousand words.

I guess what I'm saying here is that the guys who are active-duty or reservists will probably find gaps in the narrative, gaps which I can't fill for reasons either of security or of ignorance, and which I won't try to fill with unattributable bullshit.


Here is 'Berg's narrative.

68 CSB

You may remember a year and a half ago when I mentioned that I had a buddy over in the sandbox. I just got back a few weeks ago from his Change of Command ceremony at Ft. Carson, just outside of Colorado Springs.

LTC John Collie has been a friend since 1985 when, as a freshly-minted 2LT, he was assigned command of a tank platoon with the 3/37 Armor stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas. John enlisted in the Army under the deferred-enlistment program. His recruiter told him that in order to learn how to be a good leader, he should first be led by one, and (regardless of the real reason for his recruiting sergeant telling him so, it’s probably true) John heeded the man’s advice, refusing a direct commission subsequent to his graduation from Grove City College in Pennsylvania in 1983.

John made it up to E-5 in a span of 14 months and was recommended for OCS. He accepted and received his commission in early 1985. When I met him, he was looking for a place to throw darts (the real kind) and drink a little beer. It so happened that I was managing just such a place in Aggieville, Manhattan, Kansas, at the time , Auntie Mae’s Parlor, and our little hole in the wall had a reputation amongst many of the junior officers in the 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley for good times, fair drinks, and good darts. We became friends almost from the instant he set foot in the place.

John was stationed at Ft. Riley for just under four years, and while there during an exercise at NTC, Ft. Irwin, California, was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal with 3 oak leaf clusters, the first of many, after digging a trapped tank commander (not of his platoon) out of his overturned tank – the M1 doesn’t have a floor hatch as the M60 does.

During his career, John participated in Gulf War I where, when the balloon went up, he was less (actually considerably less) than 100 kilometers from Baghdad. He couldn’t be specific because he was operating “black”, but he did say that he and his unit were preparing a clandestine fuel dump in the desert west of the capital city in case armored units were ordered to invade from northeastern Saudi Arabia. He did tell me that when the AAA started going up it was the damnedest fireworks display he’d ever seen. And so dense he thought he’d have to be getting a whole lot closer to the city in order to rescue downed pilots.

As a Captain, he commanded remains-recovery teams in Southeast Asia, making in all ten extended field exercises to Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand while stationed (nominally) at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He also (and this is where it gets a little murkier) spent time in Central America on drug-interdiction missions, which tells me (although he can’t talk much about it) that some of our more elite troops have been and possibly still are occasionally seconded to other governmental agencies from time to time for such operations. Think Tom Clancy’s “Clear And Present Danger” scenarios here; although he’s not Hispanic, he speaks some Spanish, at least well enough to communicate and be understood, but not enough to pass himself off as a native speaker. He’s Airborne- and Ranger-qualified, and yes, he does say that “jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft is not a natural act.” And although no uniform insignia exists (because the unit itself doesn’t officially exist) he’s worked with the Delta teams, too. He actually earned his black beret.

After receiving his promotion to Major in 1999, his services were specifically requested by a 2-star at the Pentagon to work on logistics. This was not a posting to which he looked forward; he wanted little if anything to do with The Big Office Building if he could help it. He prefers the barracks to the office (probably from his days as an enlisted man), and the field to the barracks -- he enjoys “going camping.” He was at a crossroads in his career when his choices were pretty stark: Accept the job or retire. We talked about it at some length just before he graduated from the Army Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. But he finally concluded that “wet-behind-the-ears Majors don’t refuse the requests of well-connected Major Generals.”

While there he helped write the book on supply operations in the post-Soviet, quick-reaction era. And regardless of what you may have heard concerning logistics problems during Gulf War II, I can tell you that much of it was pure bullshit (more on this later). His office was in the D Ring less than 100 yards from the point of impact of the plane that hit the Pentagon on September 11, 2001; he lost friends and coworkers in that atrocity, rescued several, and buried a few more. It would be fair to say that he was and is highly motivated to do his job during our current conflict. He would have been anyway, but that incident made it personal.

After his tour in Washington, D.C. and a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, he was assigned command of the 68 Corps Support Battalion stationed at Ft. Carson. Colorado. During his first ten months there, the Battalion arranged and implemented a 6-day road march which took the 43rd Area Support Group (to which 68 CSB belongs) to Ft. Irwin, so John got to go back to NTC. While there, he received orders to prepare 68 CSB for deployment to the Gulf. This is unprecedented; no unit had ever been informed of an impending deployment to a combat zone while on maneuvers at Ft. Irwin, and none has since.

They came home in January of this year. While there, the 43rd was nominally stationed at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, also known as “Camden Yards”, and the 68th CSB built this little facility:

entirely from scratch. All that was there prior to their arrival was a chunk of desert. That’s the main Camp Arifjan complex in the background. That complex served an Army Corps of roughly 65,000 combat troops, shipping them the beans, bullets, BDUs, mail, armorers’ supplies, fuel – well, you name it, if an Army needs it, they shipped it. There are six full companies or parts of companies (other than HHD) organic to the 68th Corps Support Battalion:

59th Quartermaster Company – Fuel Masters!, which sets up temporary fuel depots for both divisional and non-divisional unit supplies.

60th Ordnance Company – Wolfpack!, comprised of a Medium Lift Platoon and a Heavy Lift platoon – self explanatory, I think.

183rd Maintenance Company – Workhorse!. This company provides Direct-Support maintenance and the spares it needs to perform those duties, as well as back-up direct support to divisional units on an area basis.

360th Transportation Company (POL) – Backbone!. These are the guys with the 5,000- and 7,500-gallon fuel tankers. Interesting story coming up about them.

1st Platoon, 2nd Transportation Company (HET) – Beastmasters!, who do the heavy-lift transportation support for both divisional and non-divisional vehicle movement.

32nd Transportation Company (PLS) – Trey-Deuce!. They carry the Class V, Class IX, and general cargo to the combat units. They’re the beans-and-bullets folks.

All together, this battalion comprises roughly 1,200 soldiers at nominal strength. With the Guard and Reserve units that were attached while they were deployed, John commanded a little over 2,000 people. He had a year to train up his organic TO, and when his reservists joined up in-country, their COs were made to understand in no uncertain terms that he expected everyone under his orders to do their jobs and accomplish the mission, but not to do anything stupid that’d get them killed. Apparently, the message took. His people were very frequently in all the places of which most of us had never heard before last year: Najaf, Tikrit, Mosul, Baghdad, Karbala, Basrah, Umm Qasr, Fallujah. He brought every single one of those 2,000 soldiers back alive and in one piece, the one accomplishment of which he is most proud.

About the 360th; those guys driving the fuel tankers had a really wonderful job. Imagine, you’ve got a tankfull of flammable (if not explosive) liquid at your back, and people are shooting at you occasionally. In fact, John’s boys (and in this case, they were all boys) had two 7,500-gallon tankers shot out from under them by insurgents using RPGs. In both cases, the driver and shotgun got out before the thing went completely up, and subsequently did unto others before others had a chance to do unto them.

This was fairly typical. 68 CSB is not a front-line combat unit. However, drawing on his own fairly extensive combat experience, John made sure before his people got in-country that they had the skills necessary to survive combat operations. They needed those skills; the new Logistics doctrine (which I remind you, John helped to develop) places emphasis on not stockpiling materiel at the front, but rather delivering whatever the combat units need on a just-in-time basis, and doing that delivering at the FEB (Forward Edge of the Battlefield) when and as necessary. Meaning they get shot at, and often need to shoot back.

The copy the embedded reporters tended to file concerning logistics were reports from lower-echelon troops who didn’t see Wednesday’s MREs at their, most often temporary, bases on Sunday night, which got them to worrying about their ammunition load-outs and so forth – not an unreasonable concern. What they often were unaware of was that what they needed for the next leg of their mission was just a phone call away. Mission commanders knew this and were unconcerned. Well, you know the Traditional Press. “Combat Troops Underequipped”; “Logistics Tail Unmanageable”; “Pentagon Fears Supply Woes”; those are the headlines the editors of the Lamestream Media chose to print. Never mind that no Pentagon spokesmen ever said any such thing, and that none were ever approached for an opinion. The mid- and upper-level command structure on the ground did know what was going on because they’d been briefed in. And those “Supply Woes” never materialized, except in extremely isolated cases.

Now a question: What do you do with the trucks you sent to the front with the ammo and MREs after they offload their cargoes? Well, you reload them with captured materiel and send them back down the line. In several cases, the “captured materiel” were some pretty interesting items. So now we get to visit the question of “Where were the WMDs?”

They’re there. And they’re still being uncovered. We’re not talking about a few rusty old artillery shells full of half-decomposed sarin gas, either. Or rocket motor parts in a scrap yard in Jordan. John wasn’t as specific as passing along the serial numbers, but this information isn’t classified; it can’t be, because too many people without any sort of security clearance saw what I’m about to relate.

First, let me say that the Iraqi Republican Guard must have been extremely paranoid of rodent infestations at their ammunition depots. How else to explain the presence of large quantities of 55-gallon drums of liquid and powdered pesticides in hardened bunkers at so many of those sites? “By golly, Akhmed, even if we get bombed to pieces and lose our entire stockpile of AK-47 ammunition, at least the rats won’t overrun us!” Why the empty artillery shells in the same bunkers? Dunno; I suppose they’d make pretty good serving trays for laying out the pesticides so the rats could consume it. Hmmmm . . .

But that hardly merits passing comment. What John’s boys were toting back to the rear, and what DIA and CIA detachments are looking at as I type this, are binary chemical munitions of relatively new manufacture – tube artillery shells manufactured in 2001 and 2002. A binary chemical munition, as a good many of you will already know, is a chemical weapon with two (or sometimes more) separate containers with differing, relatively innocuous chemicals in the warhead. Once the shell is launched, the contents of the two containers are mixed in flight to form a potent and deadly chemical weapon, usually a nerve agent of some type. This type of munition is safer and easier to handle than a shell which has an already-toxic chemical premixed and loaded.

And in a minor detail that will no doubt shock – SHOCK! – everyone, those shells say, “Fabriqué en France” on their data plates. That’s right, Ladies and Gentlemen; our old pals the Frogs were building and selling chemical weapons to Saddam’s Ba’ath regime, even during and after September 11, 2001. John’s trucks, a good many times with John riding shotgun, were bringing back actual tonnages of chemical weapons from Iraqi Army stockpiles discovered in pretty well-hidden and hardened bunkers scattered throughout the U.S. Army’s areas of operations and responsibility.

A good question at this point would be, “Why haven’t we heard any of this from the press?” The answer isn’t as obvious as, “Well, they’re in Kerry’s pocket and don’t want Bush to look too good going into the election.” (Although that’s certainly true.) John made the observation that, “I don’t think we’re going to publicly embarrass a former (and possibly future) ally, and I’m not sure it’d be a good idea to do so anyway.” His reasoning is twofold, one practical, the other, political.

From a political standpoint, well, where do we take our grievance? The World Court? We’d look pretty silly, and certainly hypocritical, trying to bring a case to The Hague when we, or at least this Administration, doesn’t recognize their authority over our sovereignty (nor should they). The United Nations? After all, it was U.N. binding resolutions which forbade Saddam from possessing or attempting to buy such items. Uncomfortably, however, France has a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and would certainly employ their veto of any binding U.N. resolution censuring or demanding reparations from them.

Further, if the Bush Administration attempted to do either, his conservative base would poleaxe him for “internationalism”, while the other side of the aisle would simply refuse to believe the evidence was genuine. Since we’d be bound to fail in any case, the exercise would be seen as a futile attempt to rationalize going to war with Iraq when (the Left would proclaim) we “couldn’t prove to (either) the U.N. or The World Court that the things really were there, much less that France made and sold them.” Barring a wildly unlikely outcome, it’s a lose-lose proposition for this Administration.

Practically speaking, we’d be trumping our own biggest ace in the hole with respect to Franco-American relations; we know what they’ve done, and now they know we know it. The situation gives us a powerful lever with respect to French foreign policy should we need to use it to influence their behavior when their interests and ours aren’t coincidental in one or another area where we both are involved. The threat of going public with this information would, it is hoped, be enough to make them see reason. Bringing the facts to the public when no such situation obtains would effectively kick the fulcrum out from under this lever.

Also from a practical perspective, actually showing that the French government was involved in the deals that sent the material to Iraq would probably be at best difficult, and probably close to impossible. Simply knowing that they had to be (which I think is without question) isn’t enough. These transactions were more than likely done at third or fourth hand, each stage of which so constructed as to inject “plausible deniability”. The paper trails more than likely end with some Swiss or Luxembourger trading/holding company; both countries have rather strict regulations on releasing the particulars of business deals transacted within their borders. That France has a thriving chemical munitions industry is no secret. How so much of their production got into Iraq is most likely as closely guarded as they can make it.

Curiously enough, the 68th also moved some superannuated Soviet biological munitions back to the rear. Prior to 1980, Iraq was a sometime Soviet client state. We now know that Russian defense laboratories were turning out weaponized smallpox in large quantities from the mid-60’s onward. That some of their product crossed their southwestern border and wound up in the hands of their old pals the Ba’athists shouldn’t come as a shock. What is surprising is that Saddam chose to hold on to these weapons when they were all well past their “use-by” date; smallpox, unless kept deeply refrigerated, has a quite limited shelf life, and when discovered, these hadn’t been. They probably wouldn’t have given anyone much more than a mild sniffle.

So why would Saddam have kept these things in his arsenal when they could do him no plausible good had he deployed them, and could only serve to further prove his failure to meet the terms of his 1991 surrender and the subsequent 17 binding U.N. resolutions against his regime? Perhaps as a trophy to Iraqi sovereignty in the face of almost universal condemnation within the civilized world? It’s the only explanation I can come up with; if it’s true, it’s only further evidence of the man’s megolamaniacal madness.

John mentioned something else that I think bears some reflection. In the Tigris/Euphrates river valley complex (the region traditionally thought to be the site of the Garden of Eden) there are between 80,000 and 100,000 artesian wells. Very numerous (obviously) and many which would be very difficult to search without specialized remote-viewing gear, due to their size. It’ll be years before we can get that job done. Here’s the problem, and I’m not saying it’s necessarily extant, but John thinks it’s worth exploring: It is possible to store enough fissile and/or radiological material to make a very nasty and powerful device in a couple of three-pound coffee cans. Since Saddam’s traditional power base and home territory sits smack in the middle of the Fertile Crescent, John doesn’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility that some such material might be cached there.

Producing a fission (atomic) or fission/fusion (thermonuclear) weapon requires a good deal of specialized equipment and technical expertise. Making a “dirty bomb” is child’s play – it’s ridiculously simple. And therein lies John’s concern. Cesium 137, a fission daughter of both uranium and plutonium, is of particular concern here in that it is more widely available than most other radioactive materials (a good many industrial and medical instruments contain small amounts of it), it travels easily through the environment due to its chemical properties (and therefore cleanup of the material is technically demanding), has a half-life of some 30 years, and would aerosolize rather easily from the impulse of a chemical explosion. Some such material may be hidden in some of those wells; how likely it may be is a difficult question.

LTC Collie didn’t dream this up in a vacuum – he was briefed in by the intelligence types. He was on the customer list for this information because his assets would have been prime targets for such a weapon. That he is concerned about the possibility of the existence of this kind of device (or at least the materials to produce one) in the more remote regions of Iraq also concerns me. Over the years, I’ve come to trust his judgment with regard to such matters, and his breadth of experience certainly warrants that respect.

Oh, and remember these ugly critters?

At least some of what you may have read about camel spiders is not totally internet legend. They aren’t true spiders, but a member of the scorpion family. They are venomous, and their saliva has a quality similar to that of the common mosquito in that it contains a mild analgesic which deadens the pain of their bite. The XO of one of the 68th’s sister battalions was bitten on the foot by one early on in their deployment to the sandbox. He decided to “tough it out” and didn’t tell the medics for several days, by which time his entire lower leg had swollen to the point where he couldn’t even get his BDU pants on. Every standard antibiotic in the inventory failed to clear the infection; the doctors, in desperation, tried another one not certified for use in the U.S. and not approved by the Pentagon, either (the two categories are not necessarily identical subsets). It worked, and this Major was lucky that it did, because the only other course of treatment was amputation above the knee. John’s observation: “Shake out your damn boots every morning, without fail.”

Longwinded, but stuff I thought you should know. I’ll post some pictures of the Change of Command ceremony and the following celebrations in another thread.

Link Posted: 9/16/2004 1:57:51 PM EDT
Camel Spiders. YUCK!!!
Link Posted: 9/16/2004 2:36:50 PM EDT

Terrific read. That colonel sounds like a hell of a guy.

Link Posted: 9/16/2004 2:39:26 PM EDT
It's amazing how many of these Iraqi WMD stories are around. My son is in the 101st and is absolutely sure that he saw them. It's like a big open secret.

I can only hope at this point that it'll be a delicious October suprise that leaves the Dems flat on their faces.

Somehow that doesn't fit with my picture of GWB, but he is a shrewd politician, and he hasn't ever said anything but that the WMD's are/were there. So rolling out the truth in front of the world in October isn't all that improbable.

Link Posted: 9/16/2004 5:45:25 PM EDT
Regarding the WMD issue, Powell this week tossed out some red meat to the Dems when he commented about the faulty prewar intelligence on Iraq. Even the Dems realize there ARE weapons and they aren't that stupid to fall for the bait. I am confident in Kerry, he'll open his mouth in the debate and GWB will rub his botoxic face in it
Link Posted: 9/16/2004 6:55:50 PM EDT
SouthHoof, where was this copied from? Could you please post the web address and also date the text. Thanks.
Link Posted: 9/16/2004 7:06:35 PM EDT
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