Photo of the Day: Pacific Partnership 2012


This kitten was photographed during a Pacific Partnership 2012 veterinary project in the town of San Juan in Samar province, Philippines.

Pacific Partnership is a US Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic aid mission designed to strengthen regional relations and develop disaster response capabilities, involving military and NGO personnel.

The Australian Defence Force has been involved since 2006, with 41 personnel assigned this year from 23 May to 11 August to deliver engineering and medical aid to Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Image by Camelia Montoy, courtesy of Flickr user DVIDSHUB.

240mm Heavy Mortars in Syria – a closer examination

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones

This post originally appeared at The Rogue Adventurer.

Identifying weapons systems can sometimes be a tricky business. Often, practitioners are forced to make educated guesses, or give ‘best estimates’ to stakeholders. Nonetheless, it is important that any such assessments are characterised accurately any time they are repeated, and the requisite caveats included. One recent incident highlights this pertinently.

Some video footage from conflict in Syria featured remnants of massive 240mm mortar rounds – the largest calibre mortar currently in active service. These are fired from two weapons in active service, both of Soviet/Russian origin: the M-240 heavy mortar, and the 2S4 Tyulpan self-propelled heavy mortar (a mechanised mortar carrier). Bjørn Holst Jespersen appears to have been among the first to have identified the tail end of what is likely an 53-F-864 240mm HE round, publishing a brief piece on the find on his blog on the 16th of February. The source of the original video screen captures can be found here.

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All of the Teams! On CST, FET and Lioness Teams

A quick note on female teams in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is an excellent interview with a female member of a US Cultural Support Team (CST) and Special Forces enabler who deployed to Afghanistan. It sheds light on women in combat from first-hand experiences, but tells us very little about CSTs.


At present there is only limited publicly available information of CSTs’ function and deployment conditions. Objective analysis of their challenges or efficacy is scarce.

There has been however an increase in academic research into Female Engagement Teams (FETs). When I wrote this piece in February last year, there was little analytical material, just media releases and news coverage.

In supplement to my piece earlier this week on research and women in combat, here are some articles for those interested in FETs:

  • Stephanie K. Erwin, ‘The Veil of Kevlar: An Analysis of the Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan’, March 2012, available here.
  • Keally McBride, Annick T. R. Wibben, ‘The Gendering of Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan’, Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development, Summer 2012, see here.
  • Thomas W. Moore et al, ‘Opinion Dynamics in Gendered Social Networks: An Examination of Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan’, December 2011, PDF here.

Like FETs, Lioness Teams were established to engage the population, particularly women and children, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. There are news stories and even a movie about their work, but only a few academic articles:

  • Major Sheila S. McNulty, ‘Myth Busted: Women are Serving in Ground Combat Positions’, Air Force Law Review, July 2011, PDF here.
  • Major Karen J. Dill, ‘Removing the Rose Colored Glasses: Exploring Modern Security Environment’s Effect on the Army Assignment Policy for Women’, US Army Command and General Staff College thesis, 2009, PDF here.

McNulty’s chapter documents the history of the US Army’s Lioness Team program and the development of the Marine Corps equivalent, as well as discussing FETs in Afghanistan. Dill’s thesis analyses the documentary ‘Team Lioness’ to demonstrate how the understanding of women’s roles in the military have evolved.

In summary, this is still a developing area of academic literature, and I’m sure there are some references I’ve missed, so feel free to supplement this with suggestions. Happy reading!

Image by US Army SSG Russell Lee Klikam, courtesy of Flickr user USAJFKSWCS.

US MARSEC Capability Development Programs in West Africa: Current Status and Future Prospects

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones &  LT Chad R. Hutchins, USN

This piece originally appeared at Information Dissemination.  

USS NICHOLAS (FFG-47) Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) team members train Kenyan naval personnel on proper apprehension techniques while in port Mombasa, Kenya during Africa Partnership Station – East 2010.

West Africa[1] today is plagued by a variety of serious maritime security (MARSEC) concerns. Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, trafficking of persons, arms, and drugs, oil bunkering, illegal migration, and piracy have contributed to a maritime environment characterized by crime and corruption. The costs of these illegal activities are significant; the cost of illegal fishing alone is over $1 billion US Dollars annually, and an estimated 600,000 people are trafficked illegally each year[2]. Pirate attacks targeting oil product vessels in West Africa are occurring with increasing regularity, and are becoming increasingly violent. Like much of the rest of Africa, the nations of West Africa have traditionally held a land-centric view of security. National navies, as well as other maritime entities such as coast guards and fisheries patrols, have never been in the vanguard of training or financial investment. Despite this, recent years have seen a renewed focus on maritime security in West Africa, driven by concerns of piracy, threats to oil production, and international programs of assistance. Many nations and organizations have strategic interests in building strong MARSEC partnerships with West African nations, most in the hopes of protecting or establishing maritime enterprise relationships. The United States Department of Defense (DoD) Strategic Doctrine for 2012, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, discusses the importance of partnerships around the world, including those in Africa. This document sets forth a goal to “become the security partner of choice” in nations of interest, and advocates an “innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approach”, with an emphasis on exercises, rotational presence, and advisory capabilities.

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Blame Canada! On women in combat and research


A few quick points about developments in women in combat. An article published this morning quotes Chief of the Defence Force General Hurley as saying that, as a result of examining the Canadian experience, all combat arms would now likely be opened up to women at the same time.

At Senate Estimates in May General Hurley stated the following lessons learned from the Canadians:

  • A targeted proportion of women in combat arms will not define success;
  • It is better to recruit 1 or 2 women into combat arms rather than wait until a critical mass is formed;
  • Don’t separate women into a distinctive group; they’re there to be part of a team.

The ADF was smart in engaging and hosting a Canadian military delegation in May and has now formulated a cautious approach informed by these experiences.

The bottom line is that, political decision-making aside, this issue is being developed in Australia via research. While women in combat continues to provoke emotional debate spurred by anecdotal exchanges based often on legitimate concerns, there is a lot of research available related to women in combat  that could usefully inform discussion. The following are but a few:

  • Cawkill et al, ‘Women in Ground Close Combat Roles: The Experiences of other Nations and a Review of the Academic Literature’, UK Ministry of Defence, 2009, PDF here.
  • Felman and Hanlon, ‘Count Us In: The Experiences of Female War, Peacemaking, and Peacekeeping Veterans’, Armed Forces & Society, April 2012, available here, research based on experiences of Australian female veterans.
  • Fasting and Sand, ‘Gender and Military Issues: a Categorized Research Bibliography’, The Norwegian Defence University College, 2010, PDF here.
  • Harrell et al, ‘The Status of Gender Integration in the Military: Analysis of Selected Occupations’, RAND Corporation, 2002, available here.
  • Major J. Rogers, ‘Gender Integration in the New Zealand Infantry’, US Army Command and Staff College thesis, 2001, available here.
  • Nuciari, ‘Women in the Military: Sociological Arguments for Integration’, Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research, 2006, available here.
  • Lindstrom et al, ‘The Mental Health of U.S. Military Women in Combat Support Occupations’, Journal of Women’s Health, 2006, available here.

After a decade of Afghanistan and Iraq, I’m sure we’ll see more Australian-based research emerging. Until then, some valuable thoughts from Canadian military delegation member, Lieutenant Colonel Jennie Carignan:

“The (main) lesson learned from our integration adventure is that operational effectiveness is only related to leadership and the actions of the leader. We had this twisted around, and this was another message we had for the ADF: Operational effectiveness has nothing to do with the gender of the folks composing your force.”


Image by Gary Ramage, courtesy of

Photo of the Day


This amazing mid-air shot of Australian Explosive Detection Dog, Matilda, was too good to pass up. Matilda is deployed to Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan, with her handler Sapper Adam Thomlinson as part of Mentoring Task Force 4 (MTF-4).

In 2010, then Minister for Defence, Senator Faulker, announced additional counter-IED initiatives, including $4.9 million to begin training additional dogs. The cost to maintain an EDD annually is $90,000.

Photo by Corporal Mark Doran, Department of Defence.

Wounded warriors: disability and the military

As our overseas expeditions wind down, Australian soldiers, particularly those who have served in Afghanistan, will return home. Of those who served in Afghanistan, 226 have been wounded—that is, they have been serving in war-like conditions and hurt during contact with the enemy. Of these, many have permanent disabilities.


I came across commando Private Damian Thomlinson’s story on CNN in relation to the US’ “Wounded Warriors” and Canada’s “Soldier On” programs. Injured by an IED in 2009, Private Thomlinson has both legs amputated. In an interview with 60 Minutes, he indicated he was willing to go back to work. However, when his former commanding officer, Colonel Paul Kenny, was asked about this possibility, he was non-committal.

One area that remains difficult is where soldiers with disabilities or injuries wish to return to work and to their mates.

For example, I read the story of Marine Staff Sergeant Dave Marino who, despite traumatic brain injury sustained in Iraq, fought his way to remain with his corps. It was an uphill battle.

While we are doing away with various forms of discrimination—like gender restrictions in the Australian Defence Force and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy of the US military—it remains the case that employment in the military with a disability is challenging. Continue reading