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Robin Burk Archives

March 26, 2007

Photos from northern Afghanistan

By Robin Burk at 18:22

A colleague of mine emailed some recent photos from Afghanistan ... thought y'all might enjoy seeing them. We got yer cute kids, we got yer stunning views, we got .... well take a gander and see.

Cute kid #1:

My%20first%20new%20friend.jpg

Stunning view 1 (from Gar summit):

The%20Gar%20VI.jpg

Lots more in the rest of the post, including photos of the new Afghan National Military Academy cadets taking their oaths.


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  • KJB43: Well said J, and I had thoughts along the read more
  • J Aguilar: Hmmm a cold day, blue skyes and a mountain that read more
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February 8, 2007

Almost Half Of IEDs In Iraq Defused By GIs

By Robin Burk at 19:00

From Aerospace Daily & Defense Report. (No link - sorry.)

U.S. troops are now finding and defusing nearly half of the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq, and casualties from the devices are holding steady despite a sharp increase in the number being placed, according to the chief scientist for the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).

The number of IEDs being found and cleared has gone up five- or six-fold since 2004, according to Col. Barry Shoop. The number of monthly IED incidents doubled over the course of 2006, but less than 10 percent are now causing casualties, he said. This is largely due to the effectiveness of jammers that prevent the signal that arms the device, as well as improved vehicle armor.

Nonetheless, IEDs remain the number one killer of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shoop likened the situation to the U-boat problem of World War II, for which there was no "silver bullet" solution, requiring instead a mix of offensive and defensive capabilities as well as science and technology work to counter the submarines.

Most IEDs in Iraq are made from unspent ammunition, of which the JIEDDO estimates there are 70 million tons still in the country. In Afghanistan the devices are mostly converted land mines. In other countries, IEDs are more likely made of homemade explosives, he said at the Precision Strike Association's Winter Roundtable in Arlington, Va., Feb. 1.

The most lethal type of IED is the Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP), which makes up only about 2 percent of the devices found but accounts for a very large percentage of the U.S. soldiers killed by IEDs, Shoop said.

EFPs are often built into replacement curb sections, or fake rocks. They are triggered by passive infrared devices and often armed by a call made to a cell phone. The blasts are set at specific angles to hit the weak points on Humvees and so-called "icon vehicles" such as Strykers and M113s, Shoop said.

To counter the devices, the JIEDDO has been investing in a wide variety of technologies, ranging from jammers to unmanned aerial vehicles to robots such as iRobot's PackBot. A version of PackBot dubbed "Fido" is capable of "sniffing" a potential IED for traces of explosive vapor.

Troops are receiving extensive IED training prior to deployment at the Joint IED Center of Excellence at Ft. Irwin, Calif. There they must train with low-power surrogate jammers, Shoop said, because if the full-power jammers being used overseas were activated domestically they would raise the ire of the Federal Communications Commission and FAA.

COL Shoop is an Academy (think: tenured, senior) Professor at West Point with a PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford. He is the Director of Region 1 of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and a member of the Board of Directors of both IEEE (the international society) and IEEE-USA. He was tapped temporarily to lead JIEDDO's research efforts.

Just one example of the ways in which the US Military Academy faculty are supporting the GWOT, over and above teaching cadets. Thought our readers might want to know these efforts are bearing fruit.


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  • Buck Smith: Fabio, Right on, man. What is maddening is why we read more
  • FabioC.: In my humble opinion, EFPs aren't very improvised, but rather read more
  • Mrs. Davis: I miss you. .com's gone. Happy Valentine's Day. read more

November 16, 2006

"How to Think" - Scientists Opposed to Religion

By Robin Burk at 01:32
A few days after WOC published Donald Sensing's thoughtful discussion of science (or scientism) as religion comes this WaPo story
Think Tank Will Promote Thinking

Concerned that the voice of science and secularism is growing ever fainter in the White House, on Capitol Hill and in culture, a group of prominent scientists and advocates of strict church-state separation yesterday announced formation of a Washington think tank designed to promote "rationalism" as the basis of public policy.

The brainchild of Paul Kurtz, founder of the Center for Inquiry-Transnational, the small public policy office will lobby and sometimes litigate on behalf of science-based decision making and against religion in government affairs.

The announcement was accompanied by release of a "Declaration in Defense of Science and Secularism," which bemoans what signers say is a growing lack of understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry and the value of a rational approach to life.

"This disdain for science is aggravated by the excessive influence of religious doctrine on our public policies," the declaration says. "We cannot hope to convince those in other countries of the dangers of religious fundamentalism when religious fundamentalists influence our policies at home."

I've been worried for some time about a serious decline in math and science skills and plain old rigorous thinking in many of our high school and college graduates. But this group, a reworking of the old Council for Secular Humanism, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal and the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, seems to have an agenda that goes well beyond restoring scientific literacy in our graduates. What do you think: useful? tendentious? or irrelevant?


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  • Mity Wongkit: To all We-people in the whole wide world are having read more
  • alchemist: Treefrog, Better to guess, find out the truth, try again, read more
  • Treefrog: I know which I'd prefer to trust, thank you. Ironically, read more

October 27, 2006

Bypassing the Media - Pentagon on the Offensive

By Robin Burk at 14:34

A major newspaper prints a story which DOD believes is factually incorrect in important ways. The newspaper not only refuses to issue a correction, it refuses to publish a letter to the editor or an op ed with DOD's position. It also refuses to publish a letter from 5 senior generals speaking in their capacities as citizens who are also military leaders.

This happens, with minor variations, again and again.

What to do? Bypass the dying print media and open a website that gives blow by blow accounts of the interaction and sets the record straight.


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  • JOHN RYAN: The weekly Standard recently had an article on how the read more
  • Robin Burk: I was able to get to the site with no read more
  • Robin Burk: The site is being accessed heavily, I suspect. Maybe also read more

July 4, 2006

These Are the Times ....

By Robin Burk at 13:32

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated ...

I have as little superstition in me as any man living, but my secret opinion has ever been, and still is, that God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction, or leave them unsupportedly to perish, who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war, by every decent method which wisdom could invent.

Neither have I so much of the infidel in me, as to suppose that He has relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils; and as I do not, I cannot see on what grounds the king of Britain can look up to heaven for help against us: a common murderer, a highwayman, or a house-breaker, has as good a pretence as he.

-- The Crisis, Thomas Paine, December 23 1776


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  • Little Tom: Surely, if there is any courage to be drawn from read more
  • Robert M: I am sure she is talking aboout King George Bush read more
  • Love: Those are fighting words. read more

May 12, 2006

More on the Afghan military academy

By Robin Burk at 00:52

Over a year ago we posted exclusive pictures of opening day at the National Military Academy of Afghanistan.

Yesterday reader Gene Ressler kindly called our attention to the new NMAA website. Check it out! I was taken by the several of the goals they have set for themselves, including, well ... read them for yourselves:


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  • uavking: You are quite correct; we were the very first engineerng read more
  • Robin Burk: I guess it does sound like that to us. But read more
  • Yehudit: Some organizational development types have been at them. I bet read more

March 22, 2006

Those Military Death Statistics

By Robin Burk at 18:47
Proud Kaffir over at RedState.org criticizes MSM reporting about military deaths, earning an Instalanche today.
Even during the (per MSM) utopic peacetime of Bill Clinton's term, we lost 4302 service personnel. H.W. Bush and Reagan actually lost significantly more personnel while never fighting an extensive war, much less a simulaltaneous war on two theaters (Iraq and Afghanistan). Even the dovish Carter lost more people duing his last year in office, in 1980 lost 2392, than W. has lost in any single year of his presidency. (2005 figures are not available but I would wager the numbers would be slightly higher than 2004.) In 2004, more soldiers died outside of Iraq and Afghanistan than died inside these two war zones (900 in these zones, 987 outside these zones). The reason is that there are usually a fair number that die every year in training accidents, as well as a small number of illness and suicide. Yet the MSM would make you think that US soldiers are dying at a high number in these zones, and at a significantly higher number than in past years or under past presidents. This is all simlpy outright lies and distortion.
Unfortunately, this analysis is flawed in several ways, as the following graph shows.
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  • Discerning: I wonder how the use of contracted services has changed read more
  • Robin L. Torske, CPO, USN(RET): 09 June, 2007 Just "stumbled" onto your article and discussion read more
  • John Barbour: Nobody cares about 'percentages of those who died' until someone read more

Iraqi cameraman for CBS to go on trial

By Robin Burk at 17:52

Last April I posted about the arrest of a CBS cameraman in Iraq who was suspected of aiding insurgent attacks.

Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein will go on trial in Iraq on April 5th. Expect intense media focus on this.


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  • alchemist: Haven't you realized? News outlets NEVER comment on politics in read more
  • Tom Holsinger: Here is a post on the 2006 congressional races which read more
  • PD Shaw: One thing the media appear to be misunderstanding is that read more

February 21, 2006

First-hand account of military relief efforts in Pakistan

By Robin Burk at 15:42
A colleague passes along this from an email about LTC David F. West, head of preventative medicine for the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH). Thought you might like to know what he and team are doing as part of the relief effort after Pakistan's massive earthquake.
David's Preventive Medicine team (usually 7 people but at times as many as 11) gave over 20,000 immunizations to more than 6,000 people in the 4 months of actual operational time they spent in Pakistan. They also distributed more than 200 boxes of clothing, blankets and toys that were donated by the Landstuhl Army Community.

They usually worked with the village school teacher or elder because they knew the communities and made distributing the clothing orderly. In one village the teacher said they had already "all the usual" vaccinations, now they needed the one for air pollution...that's an example of how advanced they believe American technology is! In another village the people had already been vaccinated (perhaps by Canadian or Australian Forces) and they had good clothing. When David asked what they needed the teacher said they had no books for the school. So David and his team got a list of the books needed, went back to the MASH and collected money (15,000 rupees, or about $250), bought the books and took them to the village...

David says the local people were friendly, very hospitable and welcoming, and knew the US Army personnel were there to help.

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February 14, 2006

The Mayor of Tall 'Afar Writes to the 3rd ACR

By Robin Burk at 03:06
Any comments of mine would be superfluous: if you haven't read this letter at Greyhawk, do it. Now. Here's how it begins:
In the Name of God the Compassionate and Merciful

To the Courageous Men and Women of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tallí Afar from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life.

To the lion-hearts who liberated our city from the grasp of terrorists who were beheading men, women and children in the streets for many months.

To those who spread smiles on the faces of our children, and gave us restored hope, through their personal sacrifice and brave fighting, and gave new life to the city after hopelessness darkened our days, and stole our confidence in our ability to reestablish our city.

Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi ..

The 3rd ACR is rotating home.


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  • Joe Katzman: Yes, Bobby. That's what happens when you forget to wear read more
  • bobby fletcher: Please, it's Pentagon war propaganda dissiminated by defendamerica.mil back in read more
  • ricki: Having received this from conservative relatives as the "smoking gun" read more

February 11, 2006

Giving up MLB to serve in Iraq

By Robin Burk at 14:54
There aren't many professional athletes who seem willing to set aside their own celebrity or wealth to serve others. Schuyler Williamson, a promising young catcher, is one of those few:
Former Army catcher Schuyler Williamson spent last summer fulfilling his lifelong dream of playing professional baseball.

It was an experience he will never forget. But Williamson felt something else calling him during all those long bus rides in the minors. It was the U.S. Army.

Williamson knew deep in his heart he was born to be a soldier. Not a ballplayer. So Williamson has traded in his uniform for fatigues and left the Detroit Tigers' organization.

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  • Robin Burk: Oh, I'm pretty sure Schuyler knows about killing people and read more
  • T. J. Madison: "I want to go over (to Iraq) and save lives. read more

February 6, 2006

Wake for a Sioux Warrior and U.S. Marine

By Robin Burk at 15:20

From a Native American colleague of mine who is also an Army officer:

This is a slide show that shows a Lakota Sioux wake and ceremony for a Marine that was killed in Iraq. It shows you the integration of 2 cultures and the specific Sioux culture. Native Americans have the highest per capita service than any other ethnic group. We are only less than 1% of the total US population.

Native Americans do not typically allow photography at traditional ceremonial events; this is why I am sending this to you. You may never be able to see this again.

There are a couple photos with Cpl. Brett Lundstromís body in the coffin, so please review before you show any one else.

Semper Fi, Lone Eagle. We honor your bravery and sacrifice.


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  • Navy Mom from Montana: It is the thing we do best as a people...we read more
  • Robert: I will pray for Him as I pray for all read more
  • Steve in Utah: Wow, that is probably the most powerful slide show I read more
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