Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Does Obama Know About This Place?

In yesterday's presidential debate on foreign policy issues, Barack Obama said in response to Mitt Romney's criticism of the downsized Navy being smaller than the 1916 US Navy, ""You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed."

I don't think any of the president's handlers ever bothered to inform him of the US Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Pickel Meadow, California. Established in 1951 to help train Marines for the cold weather conditions that they would have to fight in during the Korean War, the MWTC provides training in fighting in high altitude and cold weather conditions. The training it provides is being put to use daily in the "good war" in Afghanistan.

One of the more interesting courses that the MWTC provides is one on animal packing. It trains Marines as well as soldiers and airmen in the use of pack animals to deliver supplies and carry heavier equipment.

Lance Cpl. Tyler Langford, anti-tank missileman, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, leads his pack mule during a hike at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif., Oct. 13, 2012. Photo by Lance Cpl Ali Azimi.
The MilitaryTimes just had a story on the pack animal training course a few days ago. They noted that the course had been taught for almost 30 years. The course lasts for two weeks and teaches the students how to pack and handle the animals in the mountainous terrain.

An official USMC public affairs story says of the training:
As the Marine Corps tries to solve the challenges of getting provisions to Marines in hard to reach battle spaces, they do not always look toward technology but rather apply solutions that were effective in the past.

The Animal Packers Course started as a concept course at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif., in 1983.

The course is still taught today after nearly 30 years, but the United States had been using this technique since the early 1980s.

“It’s been around since both World Wars and the last time they were utilized was in Korea,” said Sgt. Justin Head, staff noncommissioned officer in charge, Animal Packers Program. “It’s been around for thousands of years. It’s something that's worked for countless militaries.”

The 16-day course teaches Marines how to use animals in the region they find themselves in as a logistical tool to transport weapons, ammunition, food, supplies or wounded Marines through areas vehicles cannot reach.

“After coming through the course and learning the basic fundamentals they can pack any kind of animal, from llama, camel, anything,” Head said. “If you’re going to fight compartmentalized conventional war in the mountains, you’ve got to utilize animals. If you don’t, you’re not going to be able to get your logistics, your ammo, basically the five Bs, to your Marines.”
If you know anything about mules, you know they are a cross between the symbol of the Democrat Party - the donkey - and a horse. More specifically, between a jackass and a mare or female horse. While the nature of the military has changed, some aspects of warfighting haven't changed. Too bad Obama didn't realize that when he made his snarky, jackass of a comment last night.


  1. Good one! AND the Army still has horses at Ft Myer with the Old Guard.

    1. @Old NFO: They most certainly do. The caisson unit has quite a few horses.

      My best friend's son is a platoon leader in the Old Guard (4/3 INF). His platoon does much of the graveside duty as well as the Spirit of America shows.

  2. Obama-bashing is all well and good, but in this post, it was unnaturally forced into what might have been an informative post about the quadrupedal members of our armed forces. The President didn't say we have NO horses, just "fewer," which is entirely factual and which you don't seem to be arguing. Governor Romney, on the other hand, made an inappropriate comparison that doesn't at all take into account the evolved missions of our Navy or the increased capabilities of those fewer ships. I'd say Obama won this one handily.

    I have serious grievances with Obama, but stuff like this isn't the way I would express them. If we try to argue against Obama the way this blog post does, we only look dumb, and we make all the opposition look dumb by association.

  3. One long-time ago, spent a few weeks packing into the NorCal Trinity Alps with a mule and a horse. The knots and methods of using a single rope to make a "trucker's hitch" are memorable in their difficulty.

  4. Many don't know that the farmer who was our first commander-in-chief and President, George Washington, worked hard to breed quality mules at Mt. Vernon. He also distilled a very good rye whiskey. A good warrior knows how to improvise with whatever is available in the battle space. And our military needs to provide the training for them to succeed in the multitude of areas of the world where the unconventional warfare will take them. We need more mules, and bayonets and tomahawks in the military.

  5. Today's naval vessels are certainly more capable than the vessels of a century ago, but fewer of them means they can be in fewer places at once. Despite the disputes about the origin of the saying (Stalin or Lenin), "Quantity has a quality all its own," it remains true. Numbers matter.

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