29 August 2009 – Civil Affairs

Since getting called to Active Duty, a number of people have asked me what I do. While my present duty assignment is as a staff officer, I’m a Civil Affairs officer first and always. What is Civil Affairs? Well, the name sounds incongruous, and perhaps that is intentional. It would take a Chapter to explain fully what we do, which is beyond the scope of this blog. Civil Affairs is perhaps the most misunderstood Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) in the Army. A Civil Affairs soldier serves with 3 others on what is called a Civil Affairs Team (CAT). A CAT is comprised of a Captain/Major, an E-7 Sergeant First Class, an E-5 Sergeant and a E-4 Specialist. Civil Affairs soldiers come in two shades – SOF (Special Operations Forces) and Conventional. SOF CATs include a specially-trained medic. CATs often operate in the hinterland, far from base and learn to fend for themselves. What does Civil Affairs do? Civil Affairs is an art and a science. When performed properly, it can be much more decisive than the weapons that a Civil Affairs soldier carries. Often called Statesman-Warriors, Civil Affairs soldiers interact with the civilians anywhere the U.S. Army goes. Many have specialties suited to the region they are deployed. These specialties include languge training, cultural training, and non-military training, such as engineering, education, agriculture, etc. Once deployed, a CAT acts to support the desired goals (also called the end-state) of the Commander (the higher headquarters from which a CAT deploys). Once on the ground, a CAT identifies the good guys and the bad guys (and those operating somewhere between good and bad), finds gaps in the civilian infrastructure, and builds support for the U.S. missions and goals. It’s a complicated process. Civil Affairs soldiers are few and far between. Usually, a 4-person team is allocated for every battalion of ground forces.  The team must often provide their own security and arrange for their own logistics. A CAT operates within the civilian terrain of a battlefield, identifying personalities, groups and organizations to build a network to reduce civilian frictions (frictions meaning things that might interfere with the Commander’s wishes). A CAT isn’t there just to do good things for the populace or win hearts and minds. They are there to support the aims of the U.S. Sometimes supporting these aims involves doing things that help the populace, therefore a win-win for both the US and the civilians is often achieved.

The picture at the top is that of a good friend of mine – Dave Hoffman. I taught with Dave at the U.S. JFK Special Warfare Center & School at Ft Bragg for a few years. Dave is shown doing what CA does – mingle with the populace and determine their concerns and needs. Civil Affairs found out long ago what military planners are only now realizing – that a civilian is less likely to pick up an AK-47 and fight US forces if they have a job, a roof over their heads, food on the table and other basic elements of subsistence.  The stresses on a CAT leader can be intense. There’s usually too much to do and not enough time to do it. But when performed properly, a CAT can be a Battalion Commander’s biggest Combat Multiplier, equalling the effectiveness of kinetic (kinetic meaning gun-based) weapon system.  The picture of Dave was taken during his deployment to Afghanistan prior to being selected to instruct at the U.S. J.F.K Special Warfare Center and School.  I miss Dave, and think of him often.  PTSD has many side-effects, one of them being it aggrevates pre-existing weaknesses in one’s constitution. Dave committed suicide last year, two years after returning from Afghanistan. I consider him a war casualty.

In Ducati News, with Casey sitting it out for a few races, it’s up to Nicky to carry the Ducati Corse flag. Indy is one of his venues, so we’ll see how he does in front of the hometown crowd. I don’t see any hurricanes om the radar like last year, so maybe the weather will be a bit better.

Enjoy your Weekend.

18 August 2009 – Another vendor bites the dust

I knew that Paulimoto was slowly bailing on the Ducati market when he pulled his clutch covers from production last year. Well, now he’s pulling the spyder retainers and clutch pressure plates from production due to continued sluggish sales. That means folks will have to use my more expensive Slingshot or Speedymoto pressure plates. I’d stock the Barnett brand pressure plates, but they aren’t any cheaper than the ones from Slingshot. In terms of spyder retainers, the Paulimoto one was the best, and one that I had a hand in fine-tuning. So, when my stock of Paulimoto pressure plates and spyders is sold, they’re gone for good.

I’m all in-processed and ready for action in Tampa. I’ll be under 4 sets of orders between now and when my Mobilization order hits. The upside is that if it doesn’t look like I’ll get a mission that is appealing (i.e. one that I feel isn’t challenging and could be tackled by another idiot of lesser worth than me), I do have the option of bailing on things. Yup, I have an OUT. Any time before the end of October, I can throw the flag and say I’m going home to Mama after my “mini-orders” run out. It’s rare to be in control of one’s own destiny in the military, so I’m watching things unfold. I find that as I get older, my BS meter pegs out sooner. I have NO tolerance for wasting my time by sitting around — and you do a LOT of sitting around in the military. I started scouting out downrange (overseas) missions today, so we’ll see. Once I have the Mobilization order in my hand, it’s too late to bail, and I’m committed to a year of duty.

8.5 August 2009 – The MCN Article

A vacant workshop is the result of completing the last 2 customer bikes. No more torque wrenches and shims until the Fall of 2010.

The mailman delivered my MCN issue yesterday, with our naked-test article being the bulk of the issue. I know I forewarned you about the results with my twitter posts, and I wasn’t surprised that my ranking was the overall ranking of bikes. All I can say is that if somebody like me, a devout Ducatisti, ranked the SF-S so low, there must have been something wrong. Again, it isn’t anything that a few thousand dollars couldn’t fix, and I’ve fixed far worse in other Ducatis, but in this day and age, having to pump money into a “premium” bike just to fix deficiencies isn’t really acceptable in our (MCN’s) book. Yes, I’ll probably own one one day, but it would be nice to not have to screw with supposedly top-shelf suspension just to make it work. The bars, seat, and exhaust heat shield can be dealt with for less money than fixing that suspension. We’ll see if they get it right for the 2010 release, or maybe Ducati will be too focused on their testa-Adventure tourer to deal with fixes to existing products.

The last 2 bikes are out of the shop and awaiting pickup. Things are wrapping up here in Pcola and I’m in mid-packing mode for my move to Tampa. I’m glad that the property will have “eyes-on” while I’m away. I got a price on tearing down the detached garage to build a new 35×40 “Ark-2”. Gulp! I guess I have a lot of saving to do while I’m away.

Enjoy your Sat.