#army

It costs HOW MUCH?

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The mind boggles. War is expensive to conduct. Once wars finish, the cost of looking after veterans is massive. In 2000, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in America spent $43.6bn to look after returned servicemen and women. In 2020 it is expected to exceed $212bn (c. 5x), the equivalent of what the Chinese currently spends on its military.  Digging deeper into the data reveals that the cost of the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation New Dawn (OND) on veteran treatment keeps growing in a straight line.

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Total obligations for OIF/OEF/OND patients has grown 19-fold in the last 14 years to over $7bn. Total veterans from those campaigns now totals 965,000 and is expected to hit 1.1mn by 2020. Cost per veteran patient over the 2006-2020 period will virtually treble.

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Expenditure on prosthetic devices (e.g. limbs, hearing aids) has near as makes no difference quadrupled in that period.

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Spending on pharmaceutical products is up 1.9x since 2006.

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Drugs such as Oxycontin which contain opioids have found their way to creating problems in the US armed forces. 15% of Army troops admitted to taking illicit drugs (cocaine, heroin, marijuana) and opioids back in 2008.

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Spending on programs to prevent substance abuse is up 1.8x since 2006.

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The VA notes key clinical metric trends from Quarter Four of 2012 to Quarter Four of 2017 show:

• 67% reduction in Veterans receiving opioid and benzodiazepine together;
• 44% reduction in Veterans on long-term opioid therapy (> to 90 days);
• 38% reduction in Veterans receiving opioids;• 56% reduction in Veterans receiving > 100 Morphine Equivalent Daily Dose;
• 51% increase in Veterans on long-term opioid therapy with a Urine Drug Screen
(UDS) completed within last year to help guide treatment decisions.

Spending on mental health programs is up almost 4x since 2006. The VA plans to promote the development of skills in VA providers to diagnose and assess PTSD
by developing a computer-based training using simulated virtual patient
technology that will allow clinicians to practice and receive customizable feedback
on giving CAPS-5 to a lifelike virtual patient.

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The 2019 VA Budget requests $8.6 billion for Veterans’ mental health services, an increase of 5.8% above the 2018 current estimate. It also includes $190 million for suicide
prevention outreach. VA recognizes that Veterans are at an increased risk for suicide and
implemented a national suicide prevention strategy to address this crisis. Veteran suicide in the US is at a 22/day clip.

The price of freedom. All said and told the US over the last 20 years will have spent the equivalent of $2.476 trillion with a “T” on veterans. That is the equivalent of one entire year of UK GDP.

Smart technologies are an absolute must for the VA. The cost of veteran health is the equivalent of 29% of what the US spends on defence, up from 14.8% two decades ago. Asking for yearly increases is a band aid solution.

Sniping a VC winner with ambush journalism

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How ridiculous could Fairfax Media be to attack and smear Benjamin Roberts-Smith VC – a decorated Victoria Cross winner – as a war criminal, a “callous, inhumane” murderer and a bully? Winning a VC is nigh on impossible without heroics which change the course of a battle with complete disregard of self preservation.

Since 1861, 3,502 Congressional Medals of Honor have been granted to US military personnel. The VC has seen 1,358 winners since 1856 to soldiers of Her Majesty. That isn’t to say a VC is twice as hard to get. It’s to say it takes someone doing pretty special deeds to win either.

Here is what Roberts-Smith won his VC for:

“For the most conspicuous gallantry in action in circumstances of extreme peril as a Patrol Second-in-Command with the Special Operations Task Group on Operation SLIPPER.

Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith enlisted in the Australian Regular Army in 1996. After completing the requisite courses, he was posted to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, where he saw active service in East Timor. In January 2003, he successfully completed the Australian Special Air Service Regiment selection course.

During his tenure with the Regiment, he deployed on Operation VALIANT, SLATE, SLIPPER, CATALYST and SLIPPER II. Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for his actions in Afghanistan in 2006.

On the 11th June 2010, a troop of the Special Operations Task Group conducted a helicopter assault into Tizak, Kandahar province, in order to capture or kill a senior Taliban commander.

Immediately upon the helicopter insertion, the troop was engaged by machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire from multiple, dominating positions. Two soldiers were wounded in action and the troop was pinned down by fire from three machine guns in an elevated fortified position to the south of the village. Under the cover of close air support, suppressive small arms and machine gun fire, Corporal Roberts-Smith and his patrol manoeuvred to within 70 metres of the enemy position in order to neutralise the enemy machine gun positions and regain the initiative.

Upon commencement of the assault, the patrol drew very heavy, intense, effective and sustained fire from the enemy position. Corporal Roberts-Smith and his patrol members fought towards the enemy position until, at a range of 40 metres, the weight of fire prevented further movement forward. At this point, he identified the opportunity to exploit some cover provided by a small structure.

As he approached the structure, Corporal Roberts-Smith identified an insurgent grenadier in the throes of engaging his patrol. Corporal Roberts-Smith instinctively engaged the insurgent at point-blank range resulting in the death of the insurgent. With the members of his patrol still pinned down by the three enemy machine gun positions, he exposed his own position in order to draw fire away from his patrol, which enabled them to bring fire to bear against the enemy. His actions enabled his Patrol Commander to throw a grenade and silence one of the machine guns. Seizing the advantage, and demonstrating extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry, Corporal Roberts-Smith, with a total disregard for his own safety, stormed the enemy position killing the two remaining machine gunners.

His act of valour enabled his patrol to break-in to the enemy position and to lift the weight of fire from the remainder of the troop who had been pinned down by the machine gun fire. On seizing the fortified gun position, Corporal Roberts-Smith then took the initiative again and continued to assault enemy positions in depth during which he and another patrol member engaged and killed further enemy. His acts of selfless valour directly enabled his troop to go on and clear the village of Tizak of Taliban. This decisive engagement subsequently caused the remainder of the Taliban in Shah Wali Kot district to retreat from the area.

Corporal Roberts-Smith’s most conspicuous gallantry in a circumstance of extreme peril was instrumental to the seizure of the initiative and the success of the troop against a numerically superior enemy force. His valour was an inspiration to the soldiers with whom he fought alongside and is in keeping with the finest traditions of the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.“

Having spent time with a veteran in recent weeks, it is clear the majority of us have never had to face live fire in war. We aren’t across the mental and physical stresses of being in battle and seeing mates killed or severely wounded. Soldiers and veterans quite rightly don’t take kindly to people they’ve put their lives on the line for  calling into question their dedication and service of country.  Even letters CM has read from WW2 veterans show the pressures they faced. Does the SMH know some 46% of people that serve in the military come out with some variant of PTSD? Why not show some dignity rather than sift through trash to besmirch a hero?

Fairfax Media taking potshots at the bravest of the brave looks daft. Is it any wonder Benjamin Roberts-Smith is fixing his legal bayonet to skewer those who tried to impugn his valor? He made a point of his fighting was to ensure freedom of the press but equally they have to be responsible for reporting accurately.

The Sydney Morning Herald just took a potato peeler to a gun fight. Having said that, the VC special forces veteran could probably force the paper into surrender with an unpainted pinky finger. Roberts-Smith would be the first to admit he killed in battle then again as General Patton once said, “you don’t win wars by dying for your country but making the other son-of-a-bitch die for his!

Loose lips sink ships

Here is an example of a pre drafted postcard for servicemen in action. No details. Just the date and signature.

What do we really want from an army?

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It is a serious question. What do we really want from our armed forces? We pay billions in taxes to hopefully arm them to the teeth with the best technology, skills, training and capabilities to win wars should we ever find ourselves in one. Victory is the only choice in war. The ideal scenario is to make the enemy fear you enough such as you won’t end up in battle. However the military should never be a place that is used to test social experiments.

Then why the push for making the military or any other emergency service anything other than the best? Gender balance and diversity are irrelevant. News has resurfaced that the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) are being set gender recruitment targets. It is insanity. Merit should be the only criteria. If 100% of them happen to be women based on merit then so be it but setting gender targets as a slated goal is obtuse. If more women wish to join the armed forces through desire, hunger and passion than men then that is expressing a clear will.

Eligibility standards are being lowered to help hit diversity targets. You can see the standards difference in these two charts posted by the ADF.

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Recruiters at the ADF have been told they must hire women or face relocation if they don’t comply. The recruiters say there are no jobs available for men in the in the infantry as a rifleman or artilleryman. But these positions are marked as ‘recruit immediately’ if a female applies. If a 50kg woman is in the artillery a 43.2kg M-107 shell is over 80% of her weight. An 80kg man would be lifting the same shells at around half of his weight. This is basic physics.

The West Australian newspaper reported one recruiter who said, “This is political correctness gone mad. I don’t care if it is a man or a woman – I just want to get the best person for the job.”

Yet the political correctness is promoted from the top. Defence chief, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, stressed the importance of diversity for the ADF. “A diverse workforce is all about capability. The greater our diversity, the greater the range of ideas and insights to challenge the accepted norm, assess the risks, see them from a different perspective, and develop creative solutions.”

Let us not confuse diversity with skills. In WW2, the US Army employed Native American Indians to work in intelligence. The idea that their native tongue was next to impossible to decode if transmissions were intercepted by the enemy. The US military wasn’t making a diversity play to even out race, gender or religion. It was employing a clear tactical advantage to help win a war. Such intelligence is vital in planning battles and tactics. The enemy wants to know our plans in advance such they can ambush or counter. The Navaho language meant the Japanese intelligence forces were completely flummoxed and suffered huge losses as a result. The merit was the rarity of the Navaho language, a skill no one else had. Think of how hard the British worked at breaking the codes of the German Enigma machines at Bletchley Park. Skill is is the defining factor.

It gets more ridiculous. One senior retired military contact has said that those who are recruited are now allowed to raise a red card in protest if a drill-sergeant is offending their sensitivities. Seriously? Surely an army is as strong as its weakest link and if leaders can’t drill discipline into his or her troops what hope have they in battle? Perhaps they can just disobey orders and avoid a court martial because they deployed a red card on the battlefield. Surely no one joins the army expecting it to be a life of late morning lie-ins, frequent recreation and late nights at the bar.

The military should never be a social experiment. It is off limits. This is not to say women should not have a chance to join it. In fact the desire to serve one’s country is indeed an excellent trait to have but putting in place a system that excludes Victor, a fitness freak with a black belt in martial arts from joining the infantry, for Victoria, a lady with a BMI of 30 makes no sense. If Victoria is the black-belted gym junkie and Victor is a slob then of course it makes sense to recruit her.

At the end of the day with bullets whizzing around and artillery shells exploding around them it is not hard to envisage that every soldier looks to the person to the left or right of them wondering only about their capability to do the job, not celebrating the army’s pro-diversity drive. Anything that potentially damages morale should be avoided at all costs. Dropping standards for both genders is fraught with long term risks and turning the ADF into an organization that puts more emphasis on feeling warm and cuddly versus a gung-ho group of steely-eyed effective combat troops lowers our capability to defend.

We must move on from this politically correct nonsense because in the end it will literally kill us. Then again we are getting our submarines built in Australia, not because they will be better built but because our defence capability took a back seat to buying votes. Don’t think our enemies aren’t always keeping on top of our (growing lack of ) capabilities.