Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Falling Stars

A brazen assault by 15 insurgents on Camp Bastion, a fortified coalition base in Afghanistan last September left two US Marines dead and more than 12 aircraft destroyed or damaged. In the wake of the attack, several investigations were conducted to find out how security could have been breached and what factors allowed the attack to happen. The results of the investigations however did not adequately address issues of responsibility.

The Commandant of the US Marine Corps, General James Amos requested that CENTCOM, the parent command for Middle Eastern operations, conduct a more thorough review of the Camp Bastion incident, with specific focus on determining accountability. 

The finding revealed that Maj. Gen. Charles “Mark” Gurganus, then commander of Regional Command Southwest in Afghanistan, and Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant, then commander of the Marines’ aviation wing in the region, underestimated the enemy and should have been prepared for a range of attacks as opposed to their focus on ones coming from inside the perimeter.

[L] Maj.Gen. Mark Gurganus, [R] Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant

The highly organised and bold assault took the coalition by surprise however, as the insurgents cut through a fence at night and crept toward the flight line. They targeted aircraft and what they believed to be a living area for troops. They completely destroyed six $24m AV-8B Harrier jets, severely damaging two others and six more assorted aircraft. More than 100 coalition troops responded, triggering a furious counterattack that lasted at least four hours. Marine Sgt. Bradley Atwell and Harrier squadron commander, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible [who charged at the insurgents armed only with his sidearm] lost their lives in the attack. 

Gen. Amos said the two commanders did not take adequate security measures or exercise the high level of judgment expected of general officers. “In their duty to protect their forces these two generals did not meet that standard,” he said. The Commandant formally requested the resignations of both Maj. Generals Gurganus and Sturdevant. Additionally recommended that Gurganus’ already announced nomination to the rank of lieutenant general be rescinded and that Sturdevant receive a letter of censure from the secretary of the Navy, a rarity during war. Amos said it was the “hardest decision I have had to make as commandant of the Marine Corps” and that he had served with both men in combat, calling them “extraordinary Marine officers.”

Some of the flag officers in the other services haven't been doing so well either this month. Two weeks ago Navy Vice Admiral Timothy Giardina deputy commander of US Strategic Command  which oversees everything from America's land-based nuclear missiles to space operations governing military satellites, was relieved of command. He became subject of an NCIS investigation after being accused of using counterfeit gambling chips in "a significant monetary amount" at an Iowa casino. Giardina's loss of assignment means he automatically reverted to a 2-star rear admiral.

[L] Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, [R] Vice Admiral Tim Giardina

At the same time the Air Force announced that Maj. Gen. Michael Carey had been relieved of command of the 20th Air Force which is responsible for three wings of intercontinental ballistic missiles - a total of 450 missiles at three bases across the country. The measure was taken in response to an investigation into alleged personal misbehavior.

Last Friday, Stars and Stripes revealed that Army Brig. Gen. Bryan Wampler, commander of the 143rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, currently deployed in Kuwait was “temporarily suspended” on Oct. 10th, pending the outcome of an investigation.

It was widely reported earlier in the year that due to the withdrawal of permanent forces in Afghanistan, that the Pentagon would require fewer general officers going forward. However it was assumed that natural retirement attrition would reduce the numbers in an organised and reasonable fashion; not something that looks almost suspiciously like a purge.

Sources: BBC / FOX News / Military Times / Stars and Stripes

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Movie review catch-up 09-10-13

Due to reasons of international security, being away from the bunker for a series of military operations and attending the general officer's orientation course, my movie reviews slipped but I do have time for a quick rundown...

Kick-Ass 2

In the sublime original Kick-Ass we saw our geeky hero get the idea that anyone can be a superhero in the modern world if you’re prepared to put up with both the hilarious, and dire consequences of putting on a wetsuit and wading knee-deep into the criminal underworld. It was an OTT action setup and a uniquely fresh entry into the saturated genre. Kick-Ass 2 is different, now Kick-Ass decides that he’d be better off as part of a team and so seeks out and finds an unlikely band of social misfits led by Jim Carrey - who delivers a superb performance as Colonel Stars & Stripes [a pity you can’t actually stand by the performance Jim, it’s one of your better ones] and together they go and dispense justice, with baseball bats.


To be honest however, it’s actually the movie’s b-story that seems more fluid and less forced and this centres on Chloe Grace Moretz Hit-Girl as she basically comes of age. To be honest it’s far more entertaining to see a schoolgirl/professional vigilante try to fit in to ‘normal’ [un]civilised society than it was to watch Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the idiotically-titled The Mutherfucker, deliver another failed attempt at being evil [including the always unwelcome “comedy rape” scenario] with the most ridiculous dialogue ever.

Kick-Ass 2 is one of those rare occasions not seen since Men In Black II, when the second movie of a series pales in comparison to the original. It is more likened to Superman 2 as a sequel - it had all the action and excitement of the original but none of the charm which breathes life into a movie and enables repeat watching years down the line. I can’t see myself deliberately watching this again sadly. 

Colonel Creedon rating: **



There was never any doubt that Neill Blomkamp would make another movie after the success of District 9. This time he got more money, and sidelined his former leading man The A-Team’s Sharlto Copely to the role of the antagonist in favour of Hollywood A-lister Matt Damon. The result is a competent and often thrilling yet somewhat derivative science fiction tale that could have been an extraordinary example of modern cinematic excellence, but falls short due to Jodie Foster’s woeful performance [and strange dubbing] as well as over 100 glaring plot holes that make confetti of an otherwise solid screenplay.

Colonel Creedon rating: ***1/2

2 Guns

The cinema is a time travel device. Through the images on the screen and sounds surrounding you, you can literally be transported to any place, any time. To use this wonderful prose to describe a bog-standard action-buddy-movie made in 2013 and by all reckoning, set in 2013 may seem a waste but that's not the type of time displacement at work here. 


No, you see this movie is from 1990. It's as if it was made in the late 1980's early 1990's, it's story, it's action, Denzel and Markie Mark's acting, it's singular simplicity and sense of purpose is straight from that glorious era of cinema. There have been many recent contenders to it's genre The Last Stand, Bullet to the Head, 12 Rounds, but none of them capture the essence of the 90's as well as this hidden gem!

Colonel Creedon rating: ****

Pain & Gain

A pun on 'No pain, no gain' this flick is at it's heart, a bodybuilding movie but it's wrapped up in a crime caper. The main hook of this movie is not that it's Mark Wahlberg and The Rock together on screen [although that's certainly interesting], it's the fact that the movie is directed by Michael Bay.


What you have to try to do is forget the usual formula of the majestic and explosive banality that is Bay. This is different. Here there is a message. It's as if for the first time, Bay is actually trying to tell us something, to tell a story! Sadly he chooses to alter the true events in such a manner as to portray the 'Sun Gym crew' in a sympathetic light, much to media [and victims relatives] chagrin and I can see their point.

While it is entertaining, it's leads do some of their better acting of their careers as well as excellently supported by Tony Shalhoub and the legendary Ed Harris, it's still insanely edited with the usual helping of slow motion for which there is no place in something like this, a bizarre satirical comedy crime-caper - based on true events.

Colonel Creedon rating: ***


Isn’t Riddick great? He can fall hundreds of feet with tonnes of rock resulting only in a dislocated ankle - which is easily reset of course and held in place with screws through some armour. He can tame predatory wild beasts by kicking them in the face and glaring at them menacingly. He can immunise himself against toxic alien poison by deliberately introducing it into his bloodstream. He can behead people on the other side of room with both hands tied behind his back. He’s so masculine that he can ‘cure’ lesbianism. Yes Riddick is great, even when the script is the written equivalent of a 14 year old’s book report.


Bottom line, nowhere near the excellence of Pitch Black but easily surpasses the nonsense of The Chronicles of Riddick and allows to to see that only Vin Diesel can actually be out-acted by CGI.

Colonel Creedon rating: ****


Read this and tell me if you’ve heard this plot before:
A young rookie cop gets recruited by a secret organisation unknown to the world and gets partnered up with a old crusty veteran. With the aid of advanced technology they go off and apprehend/shoot abnormal beings before the world finds any of them exist.
If at any point you thought “Colonel! That’s Men In Black”, you’d be right - but this is R.I.P.D., a cheap knock-off that’s substitutes the aliens with undead but otherwise is exactly the same premise.


While it’s fair to say it was fun, the lack of charm mixed with the woefully wooden Ryan Reynolds coupled with Jeff Bridges phoning it in is a stumbling block that will push this movie into oblivion. Thankfully it bombed so we’ll be spared any sort of sequel which could have similarly R.I.P.D.O.F.F. the plot of the already substandard MIB2 – shudder!

Colonel Creedon rating: *

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Tom Clancy 1947 - 2013

It is with profound regret that I must report the death of geopolitical, military and espionage novelist Tom Clancy at only 66 after a short illness.

Clancy was best known for an entire genre of novels that are set in a sprawling single universe that often feature the character of Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst who later becomes the President of the United States. His first novel The Hunt For Red October became an international bestseller and was turned into a major motion picture by Paramount with Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery and is considered by many to be the best submarine movie of all, further cementing Clancy's place in history.

A further three of Clancy's best selling novels; Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears were also given the Hollywood treatment with Harrison Ford and later Ben Affleck portraying Ryan. Several attempts to start work on the 1993 novel Without Remorse have been made but nothing has yet come to pass. Chris Pine will however protray the titular character in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit due for release at Christmas.

Clancy was no stranger to Television. In 1995 a book series he created with Steve Pieczenik known as Tom Clancy's Op-Center was turned into a TV miniseries starring Harry Hamlin. Later in 1999 Scott Bakula starred in Tom Clancy's Net Force, based on a second series of novels created by Clancy and Pieczenik.

Tom Clancy's name is known by almost every video gamer in the western world. He founded Red Storm Entertainment in 1996 to develop games based on the Tom Clancy's Power Plays novel series but the developer earned more attention for their acclaimed hostage rescue simulator Rainbow Six which was developed concurrently with Clancy as he wrote the novel of the same name. Ubisoft later purchased Red Storm and all IPs including Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon along with the licencing rights to Tom Clancy's brand name which had earlier been attached to Ubisoft's own Splinter Cell. Ubisoft continues to produce games under the Tom Clancy brand with new entries every year such as Ghost Recon: Online in 2012, Splinter Cell: Blacklist this year and both Rainbow Six: Patriots and The Division slated for 2014.

A life member of the NRA, Clancy was a conservative and held Republican views. He wrote his dedication to figures such as Ronald Reagan who had called The Hunt for Red October "my kind of yarn." After September 11th 2001, he publicly accused the left wing of being partially responsible due to their gutting of the CIA.

Born Thomas Leo Clancy Jr. in Baltimore, Maryland, he lived there until his death. He divorced his first wife Wanda King in 1999 before marrying Alexandra Marie Llewellyn later that year. He is survived by his wife and 5 children.

The personal influence Tom Clancy has had on my life is evident as you look at some of the contents of my office shelves here; All four movies adapted from his books are in my DVD collection [as is the Net Force miniseries]. All the Ubisoft games I own have Clancy's name on the cover. And on the bookshelf sits the hulking 336 page tome - Marine: A Guided Tour of a Marine Expeditionary Unit, a rare non-fiction book by the man which I purchased not long after I first pinned on my eagles and was offered command of an MEU. It helped me make a decision which maneuvered my career to bring me to where I am today. So thank you Tom Clancy, and rest in peace because without you there may never have been a Whopper's Bunker.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013


Following their unanimous adoption of resolution 2118, which called for the speedy implementation of procedures drawn up by the OPCW to expedite destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons programme; the Security Council also resolved to officially merge two of the UN's Specialised International Military Commands, UNETIDA and UNPASID into a single operating entity.

In reality, following the death, disappearance or arrest of UNPASID senior command in the summer of 2012, the directorate's operations and resources had already been absorbed by UNETIDA in the wake of this tragedy. However, additional factors which had already been researched required lengthy deliberation before a structure could be agreed.

That agreement came on Friday and as of October 1st UNETIDA/UNPASID was rechartered as the Special Paranormal & Extra Terrestrial Research, Handling & Elimination Directorate or 'SPEARHEAD' with responsibility for military defence, combat, intelligence, containment, research and information operations in both Extra Terrestrial and paranormal situations. 

Lieutenant General "Stomper" Santorno US Army, who was brought out of retirement and appointed as UNETIDA/UNPASID Director, will serve as the first Commander, SPEARHEAD. The Russian Federation fielded Colonel-General "Kóbec" Yurkov, former Air Operations Commander for UNETIDA and recently Strategic Commander of the Russian Air Force to serve as Vice Commander, SPEARHEAD. Finally, Australia's Air Marshal "Cuckoo" Hawes was appointed as the SPEARHEAD Chief of Staff with Rear Admiral "Smokestack" Henderson USN, to serve as Deputy Chief of Staff.

During October, the senior SPEARHEAD officers will meet, discuss the findings of the Unified Command Plan and solidify the organisation's structure and operations from November 1st onwards.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Zalzala Jazeera not "Cobra Island"

In contrast to the devastation and destruction caused by a 7.9 earthquake in Pakistan that killed more than 500 people on September 24th; a new terrestrial body emerged from the depths of the sea off the coast of the country. Locally called Zalzala Jazeera [earthquake island], the formation is 380km from the quake’s epicenter in Paddi Zirr Bay near Swadar, Pakistan.

“The island is really just a big pile of mud from the seafloor that got pushed up. This area of the world seems to see so many of these features because the geology is correct for their formation. You need a shallow, buried layer of pressurized gas—methane, carbon dioxide, or something else—and fluids. When that layer becomes disturbed by seismic waves (like an earthquake), the gases and fluids become buoyant and rush to the surface, bringing the rock and mud with them,” Bill Barnhart, a geologist at the US Geological Survey told NASA’s Earth Observatory.

It was speculated by some international observers that UNETIDA/UNPASID weapons testing in the Arabian Sea on September 22nd may have lead to the massive earthquake. However Rear Admiral "Tridente"Carlos, Director of Naval Operations for UNETIDA/UNPASID denied the claim citing that the tests were carried too far away and in fact, closer to the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sri Lanka.

UNETIDA/UNPASID's Director of Research and Development, Dr. "Quantum" Pataal also confirmed that the weapons being tested were not capable of increasing tectonic stress. "What do you think we were trying to do? Create a sort of Cobra Island; a new sovereign nation from which to launch super-clandestine black operations around the globe without being answerable to any specific country's government? Nonsense!"

Image: NASA