Monthly Archives: December 2012

Hysterical levels of sales continue.

FirearmBlog readers stripped gunshop photoThere has never been a run on guns like there is right now.

  • Item: dateline Denver. Everything from $500 AKs to $13,500 Barretts cleaned out in three days. Stores screaming for inventory.
  • Item: dateline Internet. Brownells sold out all their PMAGs and all their own made-in-house AR magazines, also many of their pistol mags, and placed them on backorder. How many sales? We don’t have Brownell’s numbers, but we’d estimate over 100,000 magazines this week. For the PMAGs, they sold 42 months’ usual sales rate of these magazines. In 36 hours. That’s around a 5,000% increase in sales rate.
  • Item: dateline Philadelphia. Shops cleaned out, same as Denver.
  • Item: dateline New England. No service rifle ammo to be had in small shops or large. No service pistol (9mm, .45) either, but mainly this is a rifle-driven frenzy. At Kittery Trading Post, a pallet of ammo is torn apart like a buffalo by piranhas, leaving nothing but the indigestible dunnage in seconds. That’s once you get in to KTP, which has an incredibly jammed parking lot. On the other hand, foot traffic seemed light at Dick’s in the Newington, NH Fox Run Mall. “They’re Dick’s, all right,” the Kid muttered. “They’re dead to me.” Young, but he learns fast.
  • Item: dateline Tennessee. Ditto.

The hysteria is driven, of course, by fear of what Leviathan might do. The more one sees politicians, the more one realizes that important decisions are in the hands of people you would not let walk your dog.

For the buyer… if you didn’t stock up yet, panicking now may be premature. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a chance to panic later, but right now, prices are necessarily going to bubble to get the market back to clearing at its usual pace. It’s a natural result of the scarcity of Naughty Black Rifles vis-a-vis the number of would-be buyers. The prices will zoom, then dive, and ultimately stabilize at a new level. Which is necessarily going to be somewhat higher than before some creep shot his way into a school.

NRA press conference collapses into chaos

NRA Life MemberThe NRA — which is now over 8 million members, with a membership surge underway — held a press conference today, or tried to, before a hostile press corps.

How hostile? Several members of the Alinskyite Code Pink group were given press credentials by major outlets (reportedly including NBC News). The Code Pinkos screamed, chanted and were removed.

And then the actual reporters took up the screaming and shouting.

NRA Preident David Keene spoke, NRA owner (for all intents and purposes) Wayne LaPierre spoke, and retired Rep. Asa Hutchinson tried to speak but was drowned out by shouting, chanting reporters (after the removal of the Code Pink characters) so it’s not at all clear what he said, and it surely won’t be appearing in the media as it didn’t seem that any of them were taking notes.

Hutchinson is heading a new NRA initiative, the National School Shield Emergency Response Program offering free training materials and assessments (as near as we can determine) for school security.

LaPierre’s speech was rambling, weak tea, but he did not endorse any new gun control laws (just more cops in schools), He did make a social-values attack on Hollywood violence: “A child growing up in America witnesses 16,000 murders… by…the ripe old age of 18.” He also attacked the media, which is unlikely to appear in their reports of the presser. In sum, this was a speech for NRA members, not for the press or the public. But the take-away is: no concessions from the Fudds. Yet.

Update: the LaPierre and Hutchison prepared statements are online now at NRA. LaPierre’s speech reads just as disjointedly as he delivered it, so it wasn’t that he was rattled by the hostile press or their protester pals. He has an old and feeble affect. It may be time for him to look at retiring to Fire Island and letting someone with more youth and vigor do this.

Update II: This post apparently got hung up in WordPressistan, and spent a few hours being subjected to mock executions by the warlords there, before being freed by an elite strike force of retired operators. (Heh). Meanwhile, the Daily Caller called out a number of the ill-bred reporters.

In his blog, 2nd Amendment expert attorney David Hardy noted that the Washington Post spun the press conference as a threat to unleash “another Conn.-type shooter.” That’s shockingly dishonest even by the usual low standards of the press. In another story, the Post’s Chris Cilizza was “hoping to get a mea culpa from … LaPierre” but “came away sorely disappointed.” In a later report on the conference, a veritable scrum of no fewer than five Post reporters sketched the NRA position and highlighted the Obama administration (and by extenson, the Washington Post’s) counterarguments. They were careful to leave Asa Hutchinson’s prosecutorial experience out of their capsule bio of him.

Update III: NRA’s LaPierre and Chris Cox are reportedly going to do the Sunday morning talk shows where they’ll face the Code Pink media wing again. No word if Keene or any other more effective advocate will join them, yet.

Only angels tread without footprints

footprintAnd footprints are unique, or close enough for government work. A short time ago Michael Yon put up an intriguing post that only someone with his experience and long persistence in the UWOA could have imagined, and as you should have come to expect from Mike, it’s well written, with some of the imagery flirting with us, ducking behind and scooting out from the edges of the veil of poetry.

The post covers foot tracking, print/sole databases, and the mystifying shoe/sandal culture of rural Afghanistan. Here’s a taste, but you know what we’re going to tell you to do afterwards:

With thousands of tiny factories, and many big ones, no single mind can catalogue all of the footwear that exists. The variety of footwear helps tracking, but if you plan to maintain a footwear database—which numerous organizations do—you will need a staff, a budget, and a strategy.

Footwear is not as unique as snowflakes and fingerprints, but it is different enough for combat work.  An entire law enforcement industry revolves around the forensic study and the statistical incidence of sole and tread.

In combat, forensics are simple.  The enemy commits an attack.  Troops find the prints at the site, and track them down.  No more evidence is required.

For combat tracking, the hunter does not need to know who made the shoe.  He does not need to be ready to discuss the nuances of Bayes’ Theorem.  He needs to draw, to measure, and to remember the pattern.  He needs to be able to communicate it to other teams.  He needs to know how to track it.  He needs to have the heart and the martial skill to kill the guerrilla wearing that sole.

Shoes come in different sizes, they wear out differently, and nobody walks the same.  Combining all of these variables brings the prints closer to snowflake status: no two are alike, and they are sufficiently different to tell each of them apart.

The fact that humans can easily distinguish many voices, baby cries, and dog barks should dispel the idea that tracking is voodoo.  We can hear a voice and say, “That is a woman, and I think that she is French.  She sounds happy.”

Likewise, a skilled tracker can glance at tracks and say, “My quarry looks tired.  He is carrying a heavy load.  He rested here.  He has an AKM with at least one magazine.  He is about six feet tall, so he is not a local.  He is wearing American jungle boots.  He put on his gear and walked to here.  He looked over his right shoulder, then ran three steps here and hid for a short time.  Maybe this was when the helicopter came ten minutes ago.  It is all fresh.  He started running.  He did not dump his gear, so he thinks we still do not see him.  I bet that he is hiding in the swamp 100 meters ahead, and in fact I see where something pushed through the grass 100 meters ahead.  Fresh.  We are in danger standing here.  I recommend that you box him against the river.”

via Wolf Pack 103: Sole Mates | Michael’s Dispatches.

Like Heinlein’s Arthur C. Clarke’s famous comparison of technology to magic — it was him, right? — (correction in the comments below, thanks!) tracking seems mysterious to those who know it not because they don’t know the information the tracker does — they don’t have his principles and rules, not just his experience. In the real world, it’s more science than art.

Actually, James Fenimore Cooper did tracking, as a practical military art, a terrible disservice with his overheated description of the skills of the frontier Indian and his famous half-breed Natty Bumppo. (Maybe once-famous. Schoolkids that once suffered through Cooper would be doubly appalled to see the politically-correct Noble Savage dreck that has replaced him and those like him in the public school canon).

Like door-kicking CQB once was, tracking is a skill that is probably held too close in the military. It is useful to  much wider range of soldiers than are currently taught it.

One thing that does show up in Yon’s writing is the 1970s and 80s SF appreciation of the counterinsurgency skills of what was arguably the most successful COIN campaign in all history, that of the UDI Rhodesians 1965-80. They ultimately lost on the world geopolitical stage, not in the field; President Carter and other world leaders thought black men ought to be ruled by a black man, even if he was a dictator, and many of the black men wanted that, and so they got it — good and hard.

The racism of the white minority government makes it untouchable today, but it doesn’t make the tactics of its shoestring-funded military any less worthy of study. In the 70s and 80s in SF, we studied them intently, and Mike remembers that.

And so, as you knew we were going to tell you, Read The Whole Thing™. And then check out his follow ups.

Open Carry: doing it wrong

This guy is doing it wrong: open carry drives other customers out of busy Walmart.

Scaring people doesn’t do what he thinks open carrying does. I get what he’s trying to do, but don’t think he’s having the right effect.

We must say that the cops did well here (not just because nobody at all got shot, but there is that). They didn’t hassle the guy, they just tried to reason him out of it. Didn’t happen. Afterward, they even stuck up for him to the press:

The gun carrier wasn’t doing anything reckless, according to [Seabrook, NH police sergeant Robert] Granlund, who was the first officer to find him in the store.

“He was shopping,” Granlund said. “He had the assault rifle on his back in a sling. He was pushing a carriage.”

The guy had a cock-and-bull story about why he was slinging an AK: he said he was bringing a troubled gun for the Walmart’s sporting goods clerk to examine and diagnose. Yeah, that’s always the first place we think of to look for gun expertise, Walmart. But once the cops said he was within his rights, he admitted he was an open-carry advocate, pushing the envelope.

The Walmart manager asked the open-carry advocate to leave. He did. End of drama.

Sleeping Vietnam War mortar shell awakes: 4 kids dead

mortar-1This story’s been sitting for a while, but it’s a worthwhile reminder that high explosives, while maybe not a diamond’s rivals in the “forever” department, have a durability that can have ill and tragic effects.

In this case the HE takes the form of a mortar shell like the one illustrated here. The headline at the link is, “Mortar shell left from Vietnam War explodes, killing 4 children; 5 other people injured.” No idea whether it was an American, ARVN or enemy round. And at this remove of years, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

Mortars are the infantryman’s artillery. Little considered by civilian shooting-sports enthusiasts, this simple muzzle-loading, usually smoothbore, usually gravity-fired weapon is one of the greatest casualty producers in warfare. Unfortunately, unlike jet fighters or snipers with rifles, unexploded projectiles of all kinds can lay in wait far beyond the constraints of human senses and patience.

HANOI, VIETNAM –  December 2. A mortar shell left from the Vietnam War has exploded in a southern village, killing four children and seriously injuring five other people.

Hieu Nghia village official Le Van Giang says three children aged 4 to 11 died at the scene Sunday afternoon and a 6-year-old boy died at the hospital. The blast seriously injured two other children and three men.

Giang said the shell exploded when the children who found the shell from bamboo brush were playing with it. A villager found the shell five years ago when dredging a canal.

The village in Vinh Long province was a communist stronghold during the war.

Vietnamese government figures show unexploded ordnance have killed more than 42,000 people since the war ended in 1975.

via Mortar shell left from Vietnam War explodes, killing 4 children; 5 other people injured | Fox News.

That’s rather a high body count — 42,000 people. (The US losses in 10 years of active warfare were under 60,000). But the enemy were big fans of mine and booby-trap warfare, and the friendlies fired so jeezly much ammunition that tons and tons of ordnance sit just waiting for an opportunity to renew the old quarrel, long after its principals wrote it off as settled. France and Belgium, where occasional loss of life still comes from World War I and II hardware that’s been in the ground 70 to 100 years, show what the future holds for Vietnam, or at least for some unfortunate Vietnamese. It’s just amazing the body count today isn’t higher.

You do know what to do if you ever find one of these things, right?

Wrist slap for phony hero

Schroeder in his costume as a PTSD counselor. See ya after prison, he-ro.

Schroeder in his costume as a PTSD counselor. See ya after prison, he-ro.

Prosecutors and judges come from demographics in which military service is held in contempt, and this characteristic of these official lawyers means that phonies and frauds are very seldom punished, no matter how egregious their misrepresentations, no matter how much they profited by it. When they are punished, the punishments are puny.

The latest fraud sharing a laugh with his judge over the chumps that go in the Army is Paul A. Schroeder. Schroeder milked the system for everything he could get, based on a forged DD 214 that made him an SF, Ranger, Airborne, Silver Star hero. It was all bullshit, of course. He scammed money, jobs, accolades, and just about anything imaginable; it was an application for unearned “decorated hero” license plates that did him in.

FBI agents compared the document Schroeder presented with his actual service record from the Department of Defense. The legitimate forms showed no Silver Star or a record of attending the elite military schools he claimed, officials said.

Schroeder resigned from the PTSD Foundation of America after confessing to a Houston Chronicle reporter that he had lied about his record.

In June, a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of altering a military discharge certificate.

On Monday, he admitted altering his discharged papers in federal court. In addition to serving 30 days in prison, Schroeder will be on supervised release for a year. Also, he must pay a $3,000 fine.

via Fake war hero from Houston area gets 30 days in prison – Houston Chronicle.

But hey, they’re going to fine him $3,000, which isn’t even a dollar for every US serviceman’s life lost in the various wars Schroeder falsely claimed to have been in.

3 Companies that don’t, or didn’t, want your business

going-out-of-businessRemember Jim Zumbo? Vaguely? Used to be a gun writer. Let it out that he’s against guns. Took a large career hit, despite anti-gun TV types throwing money his way for shows sportsmen turn off. But then, you remember Zumbo. These three dumbos didn’t.

Dick’s Sporting Goods has stopped the sale of modern sporting rifles. (Their reason? The nutbag Newtown shooter tried to buy guns at a local Dick’s… and they wouldn’t let him). Now, though, they don’t want any of the sort of people who buy and use firearms as customers. Point taken, and our Christmas shopping isn’t done. But there’s nowhere else to buy sporting goods! Oh, wait….

Then, there’s a company called Cheaper Than Dirt, which tends to offer products that live up to its name, if you get my drift. They are the sort of big-box volume dealer, with some storefronts in Texas at least, who move most of their product a low margins on the net, undercutting your local stocking FFL. They canc’d all their internet sales of firearms with some noise about sympathy for the families of murder vicitms or some such bozosity — the smell of bull scat was so strong we had to pinch our nose, which blocked our eyes, preventing any attempt to read it through. But the real motivation was clearly money, as seen by their trebling PMAG prices. They make a lot more by moving firearms in their storefronts than at near-wholesale internet prices, so they closed the net sales to keep inventory close. Meanwhile, if you want to support an anti-gun gun dealer, you can still pay triple for a PMAG from them online, you just can’t find a gun to plug it into. But what are we going to do? There’s nobody else selling guns! Oh, wait…

Coloseum [sic] Software Corp. may be a no-name to most of you, but they make — made — excellent software for maintaining your Bound Book. If you don’t know what a Bound Book is, you’re not an FFL, for which you may be thankful. In any event, the CEO of Coloseum not only can’t spell “Colosseum” but also badly misjudged the temper of the times, and called for a one-day gun sales moratorium in January. After getting flamed, the CEO, one James Lamonte, is now calling for a Buy a Gun Day in January. Has he saved his company? Wait and see.

Dick’s desserves the mercantile death penalty for this, and they’ve got it — never another dime from our household, but plenty of word of mouth. “Don’t bother with Dick’s — they’re no good”. Let them survive on the 30-40% of their customers who, like them, support gun bans.

Cheaper Than Dirt was not worth doing business with before, so they’ll not feel the sting of a boycott. There’s always a market for a dodgy middle man.


Thingiverse deletes 3D weapons files w/o warning


Have Blue’s 3D-printed lower receiver as tested in live fire on a .22 pistol.

The website Thingiverse, a repository for all kinds of 3D-printable objects, declared itself a gun-free zone on December 18 and deleted all the various weapons projects that had been posted there, several of which were linked to from this site. ORYHARA’s 2-part AR-15 was nuked, as was Have Blue’s.

Thingiverse is owned by MakerBot. In a comment to cNet, MakerBot attorney Richard McCarthy took credit for Thingiverse’s new anti-gun position, and defined guns out of their desirable universe of things “positive” and “creative.” At least one of the AR-15 parts, Have Blue’s receiver, was posted before McCarthy added anti-gun language to Thingiverse terms and conditions; in that case, at least, McCarthy changed the conditions to suit his and the firm’s politics, and then booted the files for violating them. Several anti-gun tech journalists, including cNet’s Rich Brown and Business Insider’s Dylan Love crowed about this development, taking credit in turn for motivating McCarthy into pulling the plug.

As one of the nuked projects’ designers says, “their site, their rules.” He goes on to point out that a lot of the stuff they do host is empty files or crap that won’t print. Read The Whole Thing™, but start with the excerpt here:

I’ve never really liked the manner in which it was run.  There was far too little quality control and far too much useless junk.

Thing 21574 … but the actual file (required when posting a ‘thing’) is an empty file.  So what does this mean?

It means that a user made a thing, printed it, took a picture of it, and posted it as a ‘thing’ with a picture but did not include the file others would need to print it.

And this thing became featured on their front page!  this empty thing.  this thing with no actual thing in it.  This thing is a very clear violation of the terms of use, which prohibit posting of a thing without the source files needed to make it.

Thing 19294 is not a thing at all.  It is a pile of scrap ABS from failed prints…. I could spend hours combing through thingiverse looking for all of the things i don’t like, but i have better things to do with my time.

Every time I see a thing posted with “I haven’t printed this. hope it works,” I sigh and shake my head.  This user has now unloaded the testing of his or her model onto the other users of thingiverse.  We have to spend our printer time and filament proving out this untested design.  And if the model in question is not marked ‘work in progress’ then one should expect it to work out of the box.

There is a bit of “sour grapes” in that, perhaps, but the guy is just hosting his own file now, and he’s out of the reach of, dare we call it, McCarthyism. Information wants to be free… and you can’t kill the signal. 3D image files are pure digits, pure signal, they are dimensionless, weightless, spaceless things, things that can cross borders, mountains, oceans, political boundaries and internet blackouts with seeming ease, and be gone without a trace.

No wonder totalitarians, whether fully-realized or merely incipient, don’t like this technology. All the more reason for us to learn and adopt it.

When you do this, Sun-Tzu smiles

smiling-sun-tzuIn a minute, we’ll give you four concrete steps you can take to preserve your guns and your gun rights — and not coincidentally, make Sun-Tzu, the greatest of ancient strategists, smile. But first, an assessment of the position.

We’re under attack, but it’s not unprecedented. It’s just the usual suspects, taking delight in a crisis they won’t let go to waste, frolicking in the bloody shirt. If you’re young you haven’t seen this before. If you’re older, you saw it in the mid-nineties. A little older, you saw the 80s hysteria that led to the Hughes Amendment and the Bush import bans. And if you’re old enough to be throwing junk mail from AARP in the dustbin, you saw it in the 1960s, when a demand to do something! rocked America after political assassinations and race riots seemed to be early outriders of a dawning chaos.

Keep calm and chin up. We shall fight them in Biden’s kangaroo commission, we shall fight them in the Congress, we shall fight them in the courts, we shall never surrender. (And we shall beat them like a rented mule, so we do not need to fight them in all the places described in the original Churchill quote). We are many, we are intelligent, we are articulate, and, most importantly of all, we have reason and right in this fight. They have emotion. As time passes and they continue to wave the bloody shirt to stir emotion, it will become more and more unseemly. And more and more reasonable people will notice that the remedies proposed would not have prevented the crime at issue.

“But,” you ask, “what can do? I am but one man (or woman). My Congress creature, freshly elected, has no fear of nor interest in me. I cannot reason like a lawyer nor write like a pundit.” That’s all OK. Here are three ways you can add your unique voice to the chorus.

  • Join the NRA. (You may want to wait on this until Friday’s press conference. If they come out flying the Uncle Fudd flag, throwing some of their members under the bus, you can disregard this one. But we don’t think they will). Here’s a link. If you’re already a member, upgrade to Life, extend your membership, or donate money. The knuckleheads in Washington can’t grasp numbers on a balance sheet or income statement, but they sure as hell are numerate about membership organizations and voters.
  • Call (don’t write) your Congressman or -woman and Senators and make your voice heard. Faxes and emails go in File 13. We bet you’ve never written your representatives before. Well, now it’s time. You can call the switchboard and find out who it is, if you don’t know. You can get your Senators’ numbers here. You can get your representatives’ here.  (If you don’t know which district you’re in, here — unfortunately it doesn’t give you his phone number directly, so you then have to go to the other link. What do you expect? The Government built that). If your representative(s) is/are changing in January, call both the lame duck and the representative-elect. So it might be more calls. The incoming pols may take a little more finding. You will probably get a flunky, or voicemail. Tell them  who you are and where you live, so they know you’re a constituent. Tell them in your own words that you oppose gun restrictions, and why. Be calm, reasonable, pleasant, brief and direct. (Alternatively, tell them that you want greater gun restrictions because the voices in your head say it’s not time until there are more gun-free zones).
  • Write your newspaper. Include your name, address, and phone number (many papers used to call to confirm they’re not being pranked. Some have stopped because of declining staffing). Don’t write the paper that inflamed you with an editorial online, write the one that actually delivers to the neighbors in your street. All the same warnings apply, but also, we underline brevity here. A short single message, and hold yourself to 250 to 300 words or they’ll cut you. Write 700 words — the length of their editorials — and they won’t even read you. Not fair? Maybe, but there it is. Send a real letter and an email in this case. They may be read by different editors, giving you double the chance to get to their readers. Using liberal newspapers to spread pro-gun messages is somewhere between jiu-jitsu an asymmetric warfare. When you do this, Sun-Tzu smiles.
  • Buy a gun or guns and ammo. This is the most important of the four (and it may be the hardest, as picked-over as shops look right now). This underlines to the politicians that they have lost control of the arms of a free people — if they ever thought they had it in the first place. Don’t know where to buy? This link will find you a dealer. You can also buy at an auction site like GunBroker, and get your gun delivered to a local dealer for pickup (GunBroker maintains a list of local dealers).

Don’t expect immediate results. But as future Senator John Blutarsky famously said, “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

So give it a week and call a new fire mission on the same targets. What would Sun-Tzu do?

The losses do get to you

Tamara Long-ArchuletaEven though the losses in the Long War have been far fewer than any other major conflict, each one stings. It makes it almost impossible to understand the bolus of grief that must have hardened the hearts of the world in 1918, 1945 and in many nations at similar times. (Even prehistoric societies must have known this feeling).

Call us sexist pigs, but just like the kids who are native to the combat zone get to you, the losses of women get to you. We may have lost thousands of fine men, but we’ve lost scores, (hundreds?), of fine women, many of them wives and moms, just serving like the guys do.

One of those happened on our watch, sort of. Like a lot of us, she came from a military family.

It was a bleak spring day in the Hindu Kush and all but one of the medical officers who came out for a MEDRETE (where we build rapport by treating the locals’ illnesses) had gone back. One great doc was an extra back in the rear, and enjoyed his time in the guard rotation and on patrols with us. We made him pay for his “vacation” by teaching advanced techniques to our medics: everybody wins, except for the docs back in the rear who wanted another guy to rotate in and cover the sick-call clinic. They’d survive.

Forgive us, Lord, but we weren’t very worried about the emotional state of the docs, or anyone else, back at Bagram or K2.

We weren’t supposed to treat the locals’ ills, and got periodic rockets from the bureaucratic elements of Coalition Joint Task Force 180, the local representatives of Big Green bureaucracy, on the subject. Some underemployed lawyer was complaining that we used medical supplies bought by Title 10 DOD funds to treat foreigners. We needed bandages, antibiotics, and Ringer’s Lactate bought from some other bucket of money, which we didn’t have, and CJTF-180 wasn;t going to give us, either.

We asked if we should just let the Afghans die, and the CJTF 180 lawyer said. “yes,” which is pretty much all you need to know about the character of people who become lawyers these days. And we were in big trouble, he warned us, if we treated any more old Afghan men or kids, or medevaced them.  It was a waste of his precious bodily fluids our irreplaceable medevac resources.

We even tried to comply with this heartless, shortsighted diktat. We had a guy who was brought in with his abdomen open and his intestines out, over a marriage-contract dispute (not a rare thing in tribal Afghanistan) that went to edged weapons (ditto. That this was a friendly dispute kept it from being resolved with AKs and RPGs). Our docs stabilized him, gave him some antibiotics and pain meds (if the jitbag lawyer is reading this, we’re pretty sure the statute of repose immunizes us at this remove of time).  And we put him on a Toyota minivan taxi to Bamian, 8 hour of the worst roads in the world away. We expected him to die, despite the abilities of the NGO hospital, but we underestimated his toughness.

The knife-wielding brothers of the runaway bride ran away to Pakistan and probably joined the Taliban. If so, they’re probably dead now. And the jilted suitor is still tending his herd and farming his plot.

But that day, family members brought in a guy whose situation was cut and dried. He needed surgical intervention — and we couldn’t really do proper surgery here, despite the medical skillz of our hooky-playing surgeon. We didn’t have sterile conditions, we didn’t have life support equipment. This guy needed a hospital. The NGO guys, whose salvation of the stabbing victim had raised them two notches in our esteem, were called and our doctor and their doctors talked intense doctor stuff for a while.

And then we called a medevac for the man. To hell with CJTF-180 and its plush-bottomed lawyers.

We think it was Bushmaster w/sfxs, the call sign for the theater Combat Control honcho that told us an Air Force Pave Hawk helicopter, Komodo 11, with a Pave Hawk wingman, was going to come for him that night. We remonstrated: we were in really, really crappy helicopter terrain, at about 7000-9000 feet above sea level and surrounded by 14,000 to 18,000 foot rocks. They told us the crew could handle it. Piece of cake.

A while later they called and told us that Komodo 11 had diverted to another A-camp or safe house that had another, even more critically ill Afghan. In fact, they had two sick kids to collect. But there would be no rescue that night. They hit am MC-130 tanker for fuel, and the wingman, tanking himself, had lost sight of 11, which hadn’t reported in afterward. Had they come to us?

Negative. We called our higher who called all our call signs — all the SF in northern and eastern Afghanistan. No joy.

We’re not sure why we got that query, because there had never been any question of what happened to 11. The other Komodo callsign saw the results of the crash, if not the actual moment of impact or the aircraft’s flight path before ground contact. In a standard maneuver after disconnecting from the tanker, the crew of Komodo 11 flew into a mountainside at cruise speed. No survivors. Pilots and air-safety folks call it CFIT, Controlled Flight Into Terrain, and it’s usually the result of a loss of situational awareness, but nobody who was on the doomed Pave Hawk was able to tell us.

It was only after leaving the field that we learned the names of the crew, and it seemed particularly tragic that one of the pilots who risked their lives and their crew’s to save some Afghan that could never even have thanked them was a woman, 1st Lieut. Tamara Archuleta (as initial reports had her name). Sure, the losses of the guys were every bit as tragic, but it’s the women that get to you.

A retired Air Force officer who thought a lot about medical evacuation, even though he was an Air Force cop, Van Harl, wrote a moving piece about 1st. Lt. (Captain promotable) Long-Archuleta, who came from an Air Force family (her uncle had been a PJ).

Everybody thinks their child is special–but Captain Tammy was. She was a world class Karate champion. Distinguish college graduate, an Air Force officer & rescue pilot and a mother. She was supposed to be leaving Afghanistan in a few weeks and come home to be married. She had wanted to be a rescue pilot since she was a little girl. She even developed a board game in school called “Rescue Princess.” But this game was different, the Princess went out and risked her life to save, not be saved. This was what she was doing on her last mission, trying to rescue two injured Afghan children. She wanted to be a career Air Force officer and most likely would not be home in New Mexico for Christmas this year if she was still on active duty.

via She Will Never Be Home For Christmas.

Oh yeah.

While the loss of this young woman has a particular sting, the entire crew of Komodo 11 deserves to be remembered:

Lt. Col. John Stein, aircraft commander

1st Lt. Tamara Archuleta, co-pilot

Master Sgt. Michael Maltz, pararescueman

Staff Sgt. Jason Hicks, flight engineer

Staff Sgt. John Teal, flight engineer

Senior Airman Jason Plite, pararescueman.

Not sure how the Air Force works this, but the aircrew were from one squadron and the PJs from another. There is a memorial page to the tragic heroes of Komodo 11 on the net. For all we know, this is not the only one.

By the way, we did hear from the CJTF-180 lawyer. He accused us of killing that aircrew “for nothing.”  But we did medevac our Afghan patient. and more besides him. (Most of them got well. Some were beyond earthly intervention). We got hell for it, the medevac crews got hell for it, and the doctors and nurses in the combat support hospital got hell for it.

To the extent some guy sitting behind the wire writing memos could give us hell.