Sunday, December 21, 2014

In Which Winter Solstice Arrives at The Compound

Why, look! The Winter Solstice has arrived! Finally, daylight now shall increase. This makes me so happy, I just want to ride my horse into the sunrise. 

The sun really is returning. See? There it is, just on the horizon...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Most Heartfelt Holiday Song in Years: "Soldier's Christmas," From Madison Rising

I love this new song from Madison Rising so much, I have to post it again. It gets me all choked up, and I can't get the tune out of my head. 

I am so proud to call these guys my friends.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Back From Reporting on Pennsylvania Shooter, Who Never Saw Combat, a Marine Says

This was a difficult story to report, especially during the holidays. My heart goes out to those who know and love the families involved. The story is here, on

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An Entry for the Jeepstakes: A Suggestion, Via Dream, From Risty

The ghost of Risty, my Sacred Horse From Childhood, sends this entry for the Jeepstakes. He submitted it via my dreams. Very nice, Risty! I love it. But it's a bit low on horsepower. Great color, though. I definitely love the black. And will keep searching...

Sunday, December 14, 2014


The Army-Navy game was well fought. Both sides played fabulously well. But, still. My team did not prevail. I now must take the day off, and commune with the trees in an effort to understand the outcome of the game. I had high hopes. Such high, high hopes...

Friday, December 12, 2014

One More Sleep Before Army Meets Navy!

Tomorrow. The game will be on.

Army-Navy Game Day Approacheth; Guess Who I'm Rooting For?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Old Mossback Reviews "Naked and Afraid:" A Professional Assessment

Against my better judgment, I have agreed to allow Old Mossback to post a review of his favorite television series, Naked and Afraid. Myself, I have never seen the show. As Mossback recently revealed in the comments, I do not own a television. I have been clean and sober for at least five years. I have not seen the show in question. But Mossy tells me that our readers most likely have taken a professional interest in the program, because it revolves around survival techniques. Based on Mossback's assurances, then, I give you his assessment of Naked and Afraid.

Take it away, Mossy... 

As you all know, SKK has trouble believing that  the Discovery Channel (the same network that gave us the two hour snooze fest, Man vs. Snake) has presented anything positive in their series, Naked and Afraid. I, however, believe there are several things that can be learned from the show.

For those who are not famiilar with that series, it features a man and a woman alone in an isolated part of the world while not wearing any clothes. They are allowed only one survival item per person. With the exception of one show, the item always has been a survival sharp edged tool and a fire starter kit. 

So far and so good. 

Through careful observation and study, I have learned several lessons while watching the show. In the entire series with the exception of gathering rain water, every Boy Scout trick for obtaining fresh water did not work. More often than not, one (usually both) of the survivalists ended up very ill. Some had to drop out entirely because of bad water. 

Over the course of the entire series, the trained outdoors survivalists also failed to kill or catch one decent meal despite all the snares and traps they laid out. A person can make a bow and arrow in a short time, but it takes years of practice to become effective in its use. The same applies to traps both on land and in water. The lesson here is simple: learning how to catch a meal is not enough. Time must be devoted to practicing the art of stalking and tracking.

On one show I saw something I found hard to believe. The male member of the team claimed to be one of those former Special Forces types who can use a live rabbit for toilet paper, a snake head for a fingernail file, and a sapling for a tooth brush. So what did he do on the show? He walked around in the open for hours, got a sunburn, and then laid on the beach moaning and groaning in pain. 

Milspotters' Challenge, Solved by Minicapt

Ta-da! Minicapt for the win! The cannon lives in the basement of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio. That place is filled with wow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Milspotters' Challenge Returns: Identify This Thing That Goes Boom!

We haven't had one of these in a very long time! So okay, Milspotters: sharpen thy wits, and tell me what this item might be. And, no; "cannon" is not an acceptable answer! Hint: I stumbled upon it whilst on my recent cross country adventure with Little Squid.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"Call of Duty" Versus the Real World of Contracting: Old Mossback Tells All

More from the Old Mossback! Take it away, Mossy...

Having taken the advice of SKK and toned down my addiction to reality television,  I went ahead and looked up the cut scenes of the latest Call of Duty video game starring Kevin Spacey. As hard as it to believe but every time one of these video games is released there is a spike in the applications to work for overseas contractors. To those people who think work will be like for Atlas, let me give you a reality check.

1) We see in the video state of the art and even prototypes just ripped and beaten by the Atlas team during training. In the real world, the first thing a new person will be told is, the gear was bought with real money (translation: private employer) and if you bust it, you bought it. 

Here is an example of a different mindset. In the military, the issued firearm is expected to be returned to the  armory as clean as a whistle. In private industry, more weapons are worn out by improper cleaning. The weapons cleaning, then, is done by the armorers.

Also, the mission is function and not looks. 

2) In the Atlas complex we see all the employees doing what appears to be cool stuff. As to the real world? Where was the long line at the travel claim office were we will see all of our soldiers of fortune in line with travel claims complaining about the new policy whereby the employer will no longer pay for excess luggage, while we have to lug 50+ pounds of the employer-issued gear on our dime? Even today the situation is getting worse, as the airlines are nickel and diming the teams to death. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Madison Rising Rocks the Yule With "Soldier's Christmas"

Madison Rising rocks the Yule with their gorgeous new song, Soldier's Christmas. Hankie warning: you'll need a couple, especially when lead singer Dave Bray pleads: "Get me out of this place; take me back to the States..." and affirms that he will stay in the fight for those who will never come home. Wow. Just, wow.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

"The Wing is Covered in Ice! Should I Freak?" Our Trusty Ask-a-Pilot Tells All

So there I was, my seat in the full upright position and my tray table stowed, when I happened to look out the window of my one-step-up-from-a-bugsquasher jet leaving Minneapolis. As you might imagine, the outside temp was cold. So cold as to allow ice to form on the wings. On the leading edge, no less. The instant I saw the ice, all of my pleasant thoughts about my recent sojourn to Texas to visit my daughter Erin and family vanished, and were replaced by: Uh-oh.

Not one to panic, I snapped the pic at left and texted my trusty airline pilot pal Mitch "Taco" Bell, known on this blog as Ask-a-Pilot.

"Yo, Taco!" I wrote. "Should I freak?"

Taco responded: "Yes."

Fortunately, my air crew was on it, and resolved the issue before we attempted to launch. But the episode prompted a longer response from Taco, who now very kindly provides us with answers to serious aviation questions: “Hey is that ice out on the Wing?" and, "Should I tell the pilot?”

Take it away, Taco...

Hi Guys,

It’s that time of the year when we are in De-icing mode here at the airlines, and the white stuff is all over the place. Here is what is going on from the front of the plane as the pilot walks down the jet-bridge with his Starbucks double diet decaffe Pepsi Latte at 0600 in the morning.
Just walking from the hotel lobby to the van in the fresh three inches of snow since the crew arrived the night before, he’s already in the de-ice mode.  Me personally, step one is to make sure I don’t bust my hump out there.  I have those little rubber slip-on cleats that go over my boots so I don’t break a chicken wing out on the ice rink ramp below the airplane.

Of course the Captain never does the walk-around unless you are in Maui and the weather is a nice 80 degrees out there.  We do our cockpit preflights while the F/A’s in the back do theirs as well.  

I usually walk back to the mid section and shine my flashlight out on the wing (assuming we are talking dawn patrol) to see how bad the wings are. No plane is allowed to take off with ice or snow on the tops of the wings or tail, but there is allowed 1/8th inch of ice under the wing where the fuel tanks are located.  The bottom is not as important as the top, but that goes into the aerodynamics of lift etc., and being a History major, I can tell you that it’s all magic to me and would take pages of L over D max to explain it and I don’t have that much coffee left as I type.

After I walk around the freezing airplane noting the engine nacelles, leading edges on the wings and the general shape of the outside airplane, I go back and give my report to El Hefe sitting in the left sipping on his warm coffee while I’m still trying to thaw out.  It usually is “Yep, full de-ice…” since I care about my passengers arriving safely and back to the fact that being a history major and not an aerospace engineer, I couldn’t tell you how that plane could handle a full ice take off.

About the time we are up there talking about all this, you-all are boarding the plane and meeting your new best friend for your three hour tour.  You have survived the ice filled roads of idiot drivers in their 4x4’s, made it past the hour long wait at TSA, stripped down to nothing to get your new chest X-ray done and finally reassembled your shoes, belts, change, pens, forgotten full water bottle that you lost etc.  (if they ever ask me if I have any weapons on me, I always show them my Marine Knife hands and smile…)

You are adjusting to your cramped seat and look out on the wing through the small window.  

Oh snap, the whole wing is covered in snow and ice.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Another Saturday Without Army Football; We Know What That Means

Next Saturday against Navy! Woot! Go Army!

Old Mossback Reports on Life in Retirement: A Tail of True Sacrifice

Our resident retired contractor, Old Mossback, drops in with another NSTIW story of life after the combat zone. Take it away, Mossy...

After all my time spent working and living overseas, I am still finding how things have changed over the years. 

Some time ago I adopted a rescue dog from the local pound, and soon I will have to take him to the vet to get fixed. I never thought there was anything wrong with the dog in the first place, but in order to enroll him into the local doggie day care I had to get him fixed. Soon I will be waiting on the curb for the doggie day care bus to pick him and later that afternoon I will be waiting on that same curb in order to pick him up, rain or shine. 

Getting him enrolled and accepted at the doggie day care was not easy. There was a screening interview for both of us, medical records filed, and as I mentioned before, the visit to the vet to get fixed. Only after all this is done will my dog be admitted to doggie day care. 

An applicant for this upscale doggie day care has to suck up big time in order to get his or her dog enrolled.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Back From Thanksgiving...

It's been a long and much appreciated Thanksgiving break here at The Compound. I decamped for Texas to whoop it up with my oldest daughter Erin and family, and to celebrate the kids' grandpa's 80th birthday. I had a fabulous time. I would have posted, but I, uh, left my laptop behind, and couldn't get anything to post from my phone. If this were an email, this is the spot where I'd add the sheepish emoticon...

Friday, November 28, 2014

Cooking With the Troops Serves Thanksgiving Lunch to Our Troops

And a grand time was had by all. I love this work. Oh, yes, I do. How else would I get to hang out with my wonderful pardners Chad Longell, Concrete Bob, and Fishmugger, plus my treasured soldiers? I got it made, I tell you...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Memories and Fellowship, With Yet Another Visit From the Mopslingers

Ah, Thanksgiving. Here we are again. A day of reflection, family, and friendship... and memories of holidays past.

This one was fun., when Famed International Milbloggers Concrete Bob and Uncle Jimbo joined my family and friends for a quiet, peaceful, and reflective dinner at The Keating Compound. Bob generously offered the use of a genuine concrete thermometer to check the progress of our turkey, and Uncle Jimbo very kindly carved the bird into edible portions.

That meal went remarkably well, seeings how a Navy's-army guy and Green Beret were involved. No mops nor Rolodex watches were harmed in the making of the meal. Even after dinner, when all the kidlets retreated to play word games while the Groan-Ups sat at the table to tell war stories, no harm was done. Has it really been three years since that gathering?

This one was touching. Has it actually been five?

Now here we are at Turkey Day 2014. Family and friends again will gather. still have my hand turkey, and I still am fending off the mopslingers. They just can't stop themselves from slapping their own silly hand turkeys on top of mine. "Goats rule, mules drul 4 Evr?" Seriously? Tsk, tsk. So juvenile. Silly swabbies...

Happy Thanksgiving to all. May your reflections and fellowship be as happy as mine.

Monday, November 24, 2014

From the Pup Tent: This Dolphin is The Bomb!

Well, not exactly. But close... he's Navy EOD!

Koa, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, rides in a rigid-hulled inflatable boat en route to U.S. Navy HM 14 Squadron in San Diego. The Navy uses dolphins, operated by Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 1, to locate and mark mines for neutralization or exploitation.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Basking in the Glory of Army's Win Over Fordham

Army 42, Fordham 31. Ahhhh.... Next up: You-Know-What. I may need extra chocolate just to get me through the next couple weeks.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cooking With the Troops Prepares a Thanksgiving Feast

The turkey is smoked, and the fixin's are in the oven. Tomorrow Cooking With the Troops descends upon Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, to serve up a feast to our beloved troopies. For now, though, our aprons are on, and we are in the kitchen! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Weather Envy Continues: Training Atop the Sands of Hawaii Without a Snow Suit

The Army says this is a waterborne challenge test in Hawaii. Well, alrighty, then. The only thing I notice is, this soldier isn't wearing a snow suit. Or jacket. Or much of anything, for that matter...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Speaking of Winter Training: Camp Pendleton Also Remains Snow-Free

Weather envy continues. The Marine Corps' Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos recently captured these images of training involving one of those way-cool Osprey aircraft. It looks as if it isn't snowing at Camp Pendleton, either. Sigh...

More warmth, after the jump...

Monday, November 17, 2014

An Emboldened Moscow: Remembering Defector Yuri Nosenko

I just can't quit the Cold War. I first wrote this post a couple years ago, when Yuri Nosenko, a famous Soviet defector, died. Now, in light of fresh shenanigans from Moscow, I keep going back, especially to Nosenko. Nearly 50 years after he first fled the USSR, and 80 years after his birth, his case remains intriguing. 

By modern standards, this may not sound like much; but I clearly remember that one of the most frightening episodes of my childhood was when it emerged that Soviet agents had bugged the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. 

In those days, the Cold War was very much a simmering brew that seemed destined to spill into hot war at any provocation. The hidden microphones, announced in 1964, were discovered after a KGB defector dropped the dime on his former bosses. That whistleblower, Yuri Nosenko, died on 2008 while living in secret in the U.S. under an assumed name.

Nosenko had a rough time defecting. He crossed over shortly after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In those tumultuous days, Nosenko became caught in the crossfire of an intense internal war within CIA. Opposing factions within the agency held vehemently different views on whether CIA had been infiltrated by foreign agents, and whether certain communist defectors were legitimate. 

Although Nosenko provided good information on the embassy bugs, other factors surrounding his defection aroused such suspicion that the defector was placed in long term solitary confinement and was interrogated under horrific conditions. Although Nosenko officially was found to be a genuine defector, debate persists to this day. Was he real? Was he a Soviet plant? Was he a mix of both? The only person who knew the full truth has now, like a good spy, taken his secrets to the grave. Meanwhile, as we are beginning to see from current events and en emboldened Putin,  we still have reason to cast a wary eye on Moscow.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rangers in Winter: Weather Envy Strikes

For those of you who are chilling out, literally, in the clutches of the Polar Veloceraptor (or whatever it's called), I thought I would warm you up with images of our treasured Green Berets and Army Rangers training in winter. In Florida. Sorry about that. I couldn't resist; they just look so happy in their kayaks. Army photog Capt. Thomas Cieslak captured them in action last month at Eglin AFB.

More frolicking, after the jump. Hand me my Polar fleece jacket, will ya, guys? The sight of all that water is giving me the shivers...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

From the Pup Tent: A Dog and Horsie Two-fer!

It's bonanza day for the Pup Tent: A dog-and-horsie twofer! This is one from the archives, when the USAF still ran Howard AFB in Panama. The base had more than a dozen miles of unfenced jungle perimeter. What better way to patrol it than with the help of two trusty four footers? Pictured here before 1999, when Howard was transferred to Panama, are Senior Airman Jimmy Jones with his MWD and Staff Sgt. Max Talley. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Maxine and Veterans, Part Two: Thank You, and Bravo Zulu!

This just in from Navig8r, who spotted this pic on a calendar. It makes a great sequel to the previous dustup involving Maxine (see Popular Posts, at left). Thank you, Hallmark! Bravo Zulu to you and Maxine!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dear SKK: Eric Frein Read Your Blog While in Hiding

A source connected to law enforcement told me Eric Frein read this blog while in hiding following the shootings of two Pennsylvania State Police officers. I have no idea whether this is true, but if so, I wonder: are any of the hundreds of comments on the Frein posts from him? At some point, I would like to arrange a jailhouse interview to ask what this all was about. I won't hold my breath. Even Frein's lawyer couldn't see him when he first arrived to meet his new client.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Giving Thanks to Veterans on Their Special Day

To all of you who wore the uniform in service to our country: Happy Veterans Day. Thank you, always, for your service. I am forever indebted.