Friday, November 30, 2007

Marine Corps versus Army: the Rank Problem

Given the current flow of information from the Department of Defense, one might assume that there aren't enough ranks in the military to properly control and command our armed forces. After all, while already having nine enlisted grades, there are often reports of the services trying to approve a tenth grade, to be reserved for the top enlisted man (or woman) in a particular service. On top of that, the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps are inundated with an oft-confusing "warrant officer" system that is, to be quite honest, redundant and pragmatically unnecessary.

Both of these quirky little facts, combined with an officer system that contains up to eleven ranks (ten in peacetime), and what we actually have is a system that is too large, overwrought, and bad for business. Particularly when it comes to discipline.

While the majority of what I'm going to rant about concerns the enlisted ranks, let's go ahead and gloss over the officer system.

Eleven ranks. With the exception of the Navy, the rank structure for officers proceeds like this:

1. Second Lieutenant
2. First Lieutenant
3. Captain
4. Major
5. Lieutenant Colonel
6. Colonel
7. Brigadier General
8. Major General
9. Lieutenant General
10. General
11. General of the Army (Air Force - the USMC has no equivalent).

What's the problem, you might ask? Well, for starters, this rank system is designed to deal with an armed force based on a regimental system. A system that we quit using nearly a century ago. But to spell it out, let's take a look at the "natural progression," shall we?

In the Army and Marine Corps, units commanded by officers progress as such:

1. Platoons - commanded by Second Lieutenants
2. Companies (or their "regimental equivalent" - basically, whether it's cavalry, artillery, or infantry) - commanded by Captains
3. Battalions - commanded by Lieutenant Colonels
4. Brigades - commanded by Colonels, or, depending on the make-up, Brigadier Generals (which is where the name "Brigadier" originated)
5. Divisions - commanded by Major Generals
6. Corps - commanded by Lieutenant Generals
7. Armies - commanded by Generals

There are more above armies, but unless another true world war breaks out, they're not likely to be used ever again. Indeed, even the "basis unit" has shifted downward to brigades, rather than divisions.

Anyway, take a look at that unit/officer chart. Where are, for instance, the natural positions for First Lieutenants and Majors? I understand that I'm asking you to infer a lot on your own, and I will probably follow this up with another article explaining the inherent problem with those ommissions, but just bear with me.

From that chart alone, and without any other justification, we have two officer ranks too many. More evidence, including some implied above, would also suggest that colonels should shift down to battalions, leaving brigadier generals in their natural position of commanding brigades, allowing the lieutenant colonel rank to also be ommitted.

Ugh... on to the enlisted ranks.

Here are the Army/Marine Corps ranks for enlisted:

1. Private / Private
2. Private / Private First Class
3. Private First Class / Lance Corporal
4. Corporal (Specialist) / Corporal
5. Sergeant / Sergeant
6. Staff Sergeant / Staff Sergeant
7. Sergeant First Class / Gunnery Sergeant
8. Master Sergeant / Master Sergeant
9. Sergeant Major / Sergeant Major

Those soldiers and Marines reading this will know there are some variations to some of these ranks, but, again, bear with me.

Okay... nine ranks... and for what?

To put this in perspective, let's look at the basic infantry squads in both the Army and Marine Corps.

In the Army, the basic infantry squad is a nine-man unit, with a squad leader and two teams consisting of a team leader, grenadier, automatic rifleman, and rifleman each.

The squad is commanded by a Staff Sergeant (E-6), while the teams are commanded by Sergeants (E-5). The remaining six soldiers are a mix of Privates (E-1 or E-2), Privates First Class (E-3), Specialists (E-4), or Corporals (also E-4).

So, basically, the building-block unit of the Army has three Non-Commissioned Officers, and six other enlisted. A 1:2 ratio. Keep in mind, the non-NCOs can consist of all E-1s or all E-4s, or any variation in-between and thereof.

Where's the rank structure? Where's the top-down? How fucking stupid is that? Six separate grades for nine people?

The Marine Corps' setup is, undeniably, far more logical. A basic Marine Corps infantry squad is thirteen men, with a squad leader and three teams consisting of a team leader, an automatic rifleman, an assistant automatic rifleman, and a rifleman each.

The MC squad is commanded by a Sergeant (E-5), while the teams are commanded by Corporals (E-4). The remaining nine soldiers are a mix of Privates (E-1), Privates First Class (E-2), or Lance Corporals (E-3).

Though still a bit of a muddled mess, there is far more of a semblance of a proper rank structure in the Marine Corps squad than is found in the Army squad.

However, in both systems, we have revealed at least two too many enlisted grades at the squad level.

Here is how it should progress:

1. Privates - in charge of nothing
2. Corporals - in charge of fire teams
3. Sergeants - in charge of squads
4. Staff/Gunnery Sergeants - Platoon Sergeants
5. Master Sergeants - Company First Sergeants, etc.
6. Sergeant Majors - Senior Battalion(+) enlisted.

An elimination of three enlisted ranks, a streamlining of the enlisted chain-of-command, an increase in respect for the lower enlisted ranks, and a true merit-based promotion system.

Counter-arguments against doing such a thing (besides the totally irrelevant and inane "tradition" argument) will probably focus on the ability to promote soldiers to increase their wages. While I'm always for making more money, do we really want soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen shooting for promotions ONLY because the next rank pays more? Fuck no, we don't. We want sergeants who WANT to be sergeants, because they WANT the power and responsibility that comes with it... not because they want another $200 or $300 a month. And regardless, that problem is so easily fixed, I'm going to point out how in the next paragraph.

The Army and Marine Corps' pay and promotion system is already heavily computerized, and separating pay grade from rank would be as simple as modifying the computer software. Hell, in that aspect, the military could create as many pay grades as it deems necessary, all while leaving the rank structure streamlined, intact, and with a clear chain-of-command. It's high-time we start streamlining things and bringing back respect for our ranks.

(Yes, I'm just glossing the surface, and, yes, I realize this post is a little chaotic, but hopefully your eyes are opening a little bit. Feel free to hammer me with questions and arguments.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Chargers’ Coaching Circus

For those of you who feel that coaching has little to do with a game, you need only look one place to find out that you're wrong: the San Diego Chargers.

The Chargers coaches are sub-standard, it's affecting the players, and the only man to blame is the San Diego General Manager, A.J. Smith.

See, under the Chargers' previous head coach, Marty Schottenheimer, the team went from the basement of the NFL to the attic. His disciplinarian style and ability to lead turned that team around, and he was summarily rewarded by being fired... and all because A.J. Smith didn't like him, and never did.

But when Marty was there, he had a decent offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron, an excellent defensive coordinator in Wade Phillips, and a suprisingly outstanding set of coaches.

Exit Cam to Miami, exit Wade to Dallas, and exit Marty to wherever the Hell he is. In Mythology, those three-headed animals can be a pain to deal with as long as one head remains, but San Diego lost all three in one off-season.

A.J., rife with the self-belief that he's a genius, brings in Norv Turner (whom Cam Cameron stole his offensive system from), a man who has never been an effective head coach, but has always been an excellent offensive coordinator.

This, however, created more problems than it solved.

First, the man hired as the new offensive coordinator by Marty, Clarence Shelmon (former running backs coach for the Chargers), effectively "lost" his new job, as Norv calls all offensive plays himself. This ain't going to make Clarence happy, and it removes him from a coaching position that he excelled at. Let's not forget that the new running backs coach is far less notable. Any wonder why the Chargers running game is way below their standard this year?

Second, Norv is not the motivator Marty was. Norv, like Philip Rivers, appears to give up from time to time. Marty fought tooth and nail to make a point, even if his team was down by 30 points.

See, when Marty and Cam ran the offense, Cam would generally call the plays, but if Marty had a problem with it, the play-calling would shift. Similarly, if Marty wanted something, Cam would adjust his plays to make Marty happy. Two heads, as they say, are better than one. With Norv, he answers to no one, and what he says is it... even when what he says is so obviously stupid.

For proof of this, simply look at Turner's career. As an offensive coordinator, he turned a struggling 49ers offense into a pleasant suprise the last couple of years. Now that he has left San Francisco to be the head coach in San Diego, both teams are suffering. The 49ers offense once again sucks, and the entire Chargers team once again sucks. Coincidence? I doubt it.

How does this explain the defensive problems San Diego has? Well, look at it this way... if you're a defensive player and you're always stuck on the field, and you have little faith that your offense is going to score even if you stand your ground, how long can you go before you quit giving a shit?

Norv Turner has to go, and he has to go before Philip Rivers truly does become a lost cause. Otherwise, the Spanos family better find some way to get Drew Brees back.

And Marty, too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Political Incorrectness that Is

I suppose in my last entry I should have put something to effect of "it's acceptable to call your girl friends bitches," or maybe not.

For those of you who follow the soap opera that is the Presidential campaign, you probably saw or heard of the woman who asked Senator John McCain "How do we beat the bitch?" She was, obviously, referencing Senatory Hillary Clinton.

Yes, it was funny in that sort of way. Yes, it was a legitimate political question (well, in essence). And, yes, it was entirely inappropriate and more of a slight to McCain's supporters than to Clinton herself.

For years now, people have been complaining about the American political system and how completely distasteful and unprofessional its campaigns have become. And now McCain, one of the more vocal proponents of taste and professionalism, has now been caught in his own net. Yeah, that's a broad statement, but you get the drift.

Regardless of whether Hillary Clinton is a bitch or not, regardless of whether she's Presidential material or not, such labels do not belong in the (public) realm of our national politics. The woman who asked that question, clearly a bitch herself, should be ashamed she asked it, and on camera no less. She must have thought she was "standing up" and "dishing a blow" for her world view in an honorable, noticeable sort of way. She got the noticeable part right. Perhaps she's just a jealous old hag, or a mindless bimbo married to a dictatorial man who forces his political opinions on her, or perhaps not. Either way, she's an idiot.

I'm not voting for Clinton, nor do I even like her, but she is a studied, worldly, and intelligent woman. She is also Senator McCain's peer and colleague. McCain, politics aside, should have stood up for that fact more forcibly than he did. And though it was "an excellent question" pertaining to the campaign race, he should not have acknowledged that in public. I understand he was caught off guard and scrambling for a response, but he is a politician, and politicians are supposed to be masters in situations like that.

Keep in mind, in a country where most of its eligible citizens don't "waste their time" to vote, that woman is of the type of people that does vote. Whether you like Clinton or not, McCain or not, this is who you're up against.

And I guarantee you that bitch will fill out a ballot.

Vote Eastwood. And keep the name-calling in the locker room.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Political Incorrectness that Isn’t

Over the years, in my own experience of course, I have discovered a few things:

Telling a deploying soldier "kick some ass" is perfectly acceptable.

Calling gay friends "faggots" and black friends "niggers" is also acceptable. Naturally, what they usually call me back is not printable.

Posting a "That Includes Bible-Thumbing" sign underneath a "No Soliciting" sign on your door saves everyone involved a ton of grief.

Fist fights resulting from left versus right political arguments can acceptably and peacefully be resolved with free alcohol.

"Thou Shalt Not Kill" is a debatable Commandment.

Neo-Nazis are people, too. Stupid people, but people nonetheless.

The cuter an animal is, the better it usually tastes. Which leads to...

Dogs and cats can be eaten.

My incorrect opinion is still better than your correct one.

Kids who think they're cool because they dress in black and listen to punk or emo either A) continue to listen to punk or emo and fail in life or B) change their loser ways and wind up classic rock fans.

Stereotypes are surprisingly accurate, even if not absolute truths.

A single American hostage is reason enough to go to war. Conversely, for other countries, a single hostage of their citizenry is reason enough for them to go to war.

Men and women are not mental and physical equals. They are, however, social equals, and should be treated as such.

Having retarded (for lack of better term) children in our school systems increases the amount of tax dollars we put in to pay for said school systems. Tax dollars better spent elsewhere.

Many of you are referring to me with despicable words right now, and that's your right. Humor me and post some of them. I'm curious.

Clint Eastwood isn't running for President, but I'm voting for him anyway.

Ugliness in Charger-ville

Somehow they did it. Somehow the Chargers held on after watching a 23-0 lead dwindle to a 23-21 lead. A 23-21 lead that saw the Colts with the ball on the Chargers 11 getting ready to kick the game-winning field goal. Somehow... oh, wait, no... they won because Adam Vinatieri missed two field goals. An act even LaDainian Tomlinson admitted he didn't expect would ever happen.

Darren Sproles and Antonio Cromartie, by themselves, saved the Chargers season. For now, at least. Sproles returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and later added a punt return for a touchdown. Cromartie intercepted Peyton Manning three times (Manning threw another three during the game and still somehow managed to lead his team within two points of the Chargers).

Sure, LT added a rushing touchdown, but Philip Rivers returned to his "what the fuck is going on and where am I" ways and did just about nothing to help the Chargers, even losing a fumble in the endzone and knocking it into the hands of an opponent, which resulted in a Colts touchdown instead of a Colts safety. Oh, wait, no... he also threw two interceptions.

So, Darren Sproles and Antonio Cromartie saved the Chargers season. Despite everything Norv Turner and Philip Rivers could do to lose the game (Turner even threw two absolutely worthless challenge flags), Sproles and Cromartie saved the season... this week, at least.

As you can probably infer, I'm not celebrating the Chargers victory. I'm actually loathing it. Sure, a win is a win, but I've never missed Drew and Marty so much.

Ugh.

Fun fact: the Chargers are 3-1 versus the Manning brothers since Eli spurned San Diego in the 2004 draft, with only Peyton pulling off a single victory.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Environmental Musings

I don't believe in global warming. Not yet, anyway. I do feel that most evidence supports it, and I don't think that Al Gore is trying to "pull the wool" over anyone's eyes (though I think his statement that "the debate is over" is both ignorant, foolish, and dangerous), but I think we need about another 10 years to really know.

Still, while the pro-Gore nuts are walking around with their noses in the air and the anti-Gore nuts are fuming about anti-Liberal politics, work needs to be done.

With or without Global Warming, there is no doubt that we are killing our planet. Fuck the thermometer, we only need to look at our rivers and the brown haze over Los Angeles to know that.

Not to be such a harp on Gore, but buying "carbon-neutral" CERTIFICATES to offset the energy your way-too-large house uses is not a good way to set an example. Either you want to live richly or you don't. Shut the fuck up.

Ethanol is a crock, and more and more evidence is coming out to support it. Case in point: Presidential not-so-hopeful John Edwards changed his language supporting ethanol from "Yes, let's do it!" to "It's a good way to transition from oil to whatever we end up with." Those are both paraphrases, mind you, but they're accurate.

By the way... ethanol doesn't lower emissions all that much, lowers your fuel efficiency, and drives the price of corn and its replacement food products up A LOT. The only people truly with anything to gain from long-term ethanol use are farmers... who are whole-heartedly behind the ethanol movement. Go figure.

Iceland is switching to hydrogen-only fuels. Nay-sayers state that Iceland can do such a thing because Iceland has near 100% access to geothermal energy, and can therefore pull the hydrogen required from the ground. Everyone else is making excuses as to why they can't. Let's see... the most common element in the UNIVERSE is (gasp) hydrogen, and now people are saying we can't FIND ANY? Good thing no one is trying to run cars off of cigarettes and alcohol, because then those would suddenly become hard to find, too.

I've said this before, but building a physical fence along the US-Mexico border is the dumbest thing I can think of (well, maybe not, but right now it is). This is for a couple of reasons: 1) we have the technology to build a "virtual" fence, and 2) we're destroying an ecosystem. Oops.

Do I agree with Al Gore that the emerging environmental industry will create at least as many jobs as it will destroy (as in big oil, etc.)? Yes. In that aspect, the environmental industry is truly a capitalist one. And why the fuck are we worried about hurting big oil, anyway? If they were in such trouble, they wouldn't be giving sub-par former CEOs nine-figure severance packages.

Every species that becomes extinct is an embarrassment to the human race. Okay, not every. The ones that died out on their own obviously "deserved" it, but the ones that we contribute to... well, we're just stupid.

Environmental groups that don't want companies to profit from saving the environment are full of fucking morons. Hello! Profit is the ONLY way to sustain a movement. Find me a movement that was sustained with pure "heart and soul" and I'll show you a movement that ended with a whimper.

Not really an environmental point, but nature is full of four inescapable things: eating, sleeping, fucking, and killing. So why do we complain when the latter two show up in film, television, and other media? Nobody seems to give a shit about the former two. Maybe I'll start a movement...

In the early 90s, Mazda actually developed a car that got 80 miles per gallon. 80! But, the naysayers kept it off the road because the vehicle was TOO LIGHT and would have been dangerous. Um... motorcycles are legal, you know? $100 says the Big Three and Big Oil kept that fucker off the road.

Vote Eastwood.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Pointless Musings All Over

Well, it'll be official at midnight tonight, the Writers Guild is going to strike. This means that movies and TV shows are going to get really, really bad in the near future. Cool.

The Chargers are 4-4. Norv Turner and Philip Rivers are to blame. Yep. Despite not generating much offense, it didn't appear that Mr. Turner made any half-time adjustments. Yeah, his defensive half-time adjustments simply didn't work against that monster that is Adrian Peterson, but he didn't even try anything different with the offense until it was way too late.

As far as Philip Rivers... at least when Drew Brees had things start going bad, he didn't get rattled. Rivers fucks up once, and you can count on him fucking up the whole game.

Last week started bad for me, but ended well and was a very good week in retrospect. This week is off to an even worse start... and while I'm hoping that means it will end even better than last week, I doubt it.

I'm almost motivated to start working on my time travel script again... and after seeing the first part of the absolutely horrible A Sound of Thunder, it's clear Hollywood is in dire need of a good time travel script. Oh, but wait... there's a strike.

Another band you should be listening to, but probably aren't: Barcelona.

There's a credit union in Nevada called Greater Nevada Credit Union. Avoid doing business with them at all costs. Ripping you off is the name of their game.

My interest in Prison Break is fading fast.

My interest in the East Coast is fading even faster.

Best lyric ever written (and I might have said this before): "Little old lady got mutilated late last night."

I just saw a documentary concerning that teenaged Palestinian girl who killed that teenaged Israeli girl. Wow. Those two cultures really hate each other. I mean, really. Like, reciprocated hatred. Good luck solving that problem anytime soon.

More on the Writers Guild strike... do the unions not realize that they're biting the hand that feeds them? Take a look at the United Auto Workers union... if one can point a finger at what kicked American car companies off the top of the mountain, the UAW's demands over the years is it. Next year the Directors Guild and Screen Actors Guild get a chance to strike, too. Hollywood is so fucked.

Since BRAC started under the first Bush, the military has lost dozens and dozens (hundreds and hundreds, really) of military installations and training grounds. Guess what's happening now? Yep, the military is trying to "eminent domain" about 5 million acres for training areas. I haven't done the research yet, but I'm guessing that's about how much land the military has lost under BRAC. Way to plan that one out, morons.

Vote Eastwood.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

And We'll Never Know His Name...

A sad song plays on the radio. The lyrics reflect a life that was not his, but his memories wander anyway. Eventually they find their way to two specific points in time.

The first, the first time he had seen a dead body. He was a soldier, but the death had not been caused by combat. The woman had merely been a victim of a car accident. An accident in some Latin American country. The woman's daughter stood nearby, crying as she watched her lifeless mother placed on a gurney and loaded into the ambulance, red and blue lights glistening off her tears.

And then the tears became his own. Tears in another time, another place.

This time, the dead body was on his back. His best friend. He carried his companion across the desert, ditching his own survival equipment along the way in order to bear the weight of the man he shared drinks with not three days earlier. This death was from combat. Many more deaths surrounded the incident, but the man did nothing about the others. It was only for his friend that he was concerned.

No, that isn't true. He remembered the rage he felt when blood splattered from his friend's neck onto his uniform. He remembered the decisive, yet chaotic, response of firing half-aimed shots into the crowd where their assailants were firing from. He remembered the woman with the baby. He remembered her falling. On that trek through the blistering heat, he remembered replacing the baby in his mind with a bomb.

Until the song, he would remember only the bomb, and not the cries of a baby crushed under the weight of its mother.

Then, however, he only knew one thing. He had to bring his friend home. It was only 70 more miles to the nearest border. His friend had to make it home.

Later, he would be told that the actions of he and his team saved many lives. At the cost of many. At the cost of a dead friend whose body lies less than 15 miles within an enemy country, for the weight became too much to bear.

A sad song plays on the radio. A man some call a hero begins to cry. He doesn't stop until he falls asleep. A hero... shamed.

He never talks about what happened. He doesn't talk about what he did or didn't do, and when he does his replies are inconsistent, shrouded in self-mystery. He won't admit to being a hero. For he was, is, a soldier. And the world doesn't need to know his name.

Irreview, Book Review: The Story of English in 100 Words

Along with geoscience, another academic interest that has taken hold in me as of late is anthropology and, more specifically, linguistics.  ...