Friday, April 29, 2016

Adding Army Information to Wikipedia

Yesterday I went to a monthly open workshop on how to contribute to Wikipedia.  The organizer of the workshop is Mary Mark Ockerbloom, the Wikipedian-In-Residence at Chemical Heritage Foundation, the place where I used to work.

This month, with Mary's help, I contributed to three Army-related pages.  My first question was whether I could add all the information I compiled in spreadsheet about all the tanks in service around the world.  I got the info from a Wikipedia page, my spreadsheet just made it possible to sort it and get totals.  As it turns out, it is not possible to add spreadsheets to a Wikipedia page, but I could add a one-paragraph summary of the data with a link to my blog post offering the spreadsheet to anyone who wants it.

And I did just that.  Here's the page listing all of the main battle tanks by country.  Scroll to the end of table and just after tanks in the Army of Zimbabwe is the paragraph summary I added.

By the way, I just love the data on that page.  Particularly that Mali has just one tank, a 50-year-old Soviet-built T-55 tank.  Imagine the pressure on the guy in charge of that one tank.

Mary also helped me to add the video I did comparing C-Rations and MREs to the Wikipedia pages on C-Rations and MREs.

I'll be going back next month to learn more about adding photos to the Wiki Commons.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Blog Milestone: 250,000 Page Views


Yesterday, Blogger told me this blog went over 250,000 page views, or about 35,000 per year.

Still the most popular post ever is about the trailers we lived in at Camp Adder with 2,750 views

With CSM Kepner a close second at 2,650.

Recently, the most popular post is about the new Russian T-14 Armata tank.

And for the past several months, I have had more page views of posts about the Cold War than about my recent service in the Army.  I will keep writing about the Cold War after my enlistment ends.  I will also be writing about things I could not write about as a soldier.  On May 4th I will be a civilian, not a retiree.  So I will be free to talk about the Army as I see it.

Let me know what you think.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Nearly 100,000 Tanks in Service Around the World--Most are Russian

Recently, I wrote an article about the new Russian T-14 tank as a real innovation in a world that is moving away from armored forces.  While writing the article I found a Wikipedia page listing all the tanks in service around the world by country.  While the page is useful, it can't be sorted.

So I made a spreadsheet with all the tanks by country so I could sort it and add up numbers.

The first number is the total of all tanks in service or in reserve for all armies in the world:

99,534 tanks

Wow!  The world is not building a lot of new tanks, but there are a lot in service. 

Wikipedia lists 142 countries with armies.  Of those, 28 have no tanks, leaving 114 countries with armored forces.  From Afghanistan with 771 tanks to Zimbabwe with 77 tanks, it is clear that Russian-made tanks are the backbone of the world's armored united.  Of those 99,534 tanks in service around the world, Russia made 54,853.  

Of the 114 countries with tanks, 49 have Russian-made T-55 tanks for a total of 13,776 tanks.  Fewer countries have the T-72 tank, but including Russian reserves, there are 20,478 T-72s in service.  These are by far the tanks in widest use around the world.

By comparison, the world's number two tank maker is the United States with 15, 538 tanks in more than 20 countries.  About a third of American-built tanks in world service are M48/M60 variants, mostly M60A3s.  The rest are the M1 Abrams in its various forms.  

M1A1 Abrams

The next biggest tank maker is China with 10,902 tanks in service in fewer than 20 countries.  But the Chinese tanks owe a lot to Russian design.  

Chinese Type 69 owes a lot to Russian design

Germany is the number four supplier of tanks with 4,395 Leopards in many variants in service in more than a dozen countries.  

In yet another example of the 80/20 rule dominating all of life, the top four tank-making countries made more than 95,000 of the 99,000 tanks in service in the world.  France and Great Britain are the next leading suppliers with a dozen other countries making tanks for their own use including Israel, Taiwan, Japan and Thailand.  

The two countries that have the most serious on-going development of tanks are Russia and Israel.  The T-14 Armata and the latest Israeli Merkava show these two countries as the most committed to the future of armored warfare. 

Israeli Merkava

The smallest armored force in the world is Malawi with one T-55 tank.  The largest is Russia with almost 22,000, or about one in five of all the tanks in the world.  

I cannot post a spreadsheet on blogger, but if you want a copy I would be happy to send it.  Email me at if you want a copy.

Many Tanks...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Мой первый блог Сообщение на русском языке (My first blog post in Russian)

I just finished my fourth semester of Russian language at Franklin and Marshall College.  The final project was a 600-word article.  My general topic was politics, so I wrote about the new T-14 Armata Russian Tank and its political dimension.

If you read Russian, here it is.  If you don't read Russian, most of the content is in English in this previous post.

Редакционная статья

Новый Русский Танк Угроза Соседям

Сержант Нил Гуссман, Армия  CША

В прошлом году русская армия показала миру совершенно новый танк на параде победы России во Второй мировой войне.

Новый танк, Армата Т-14, представляет собой настоящий прорыв в технологии танка.  В течении следующих  пяти лет Россия  будет строить более двух тысяч  новых танков для своей армии.

Когда Россия производит новые танки она говорит  миру что танки становятся центральным стратегическм  оружием для будущих сражений. США и другие западные армии медленно удаляют танки из своих военных планов.

С 1976 по 1979 год, когда я был командиром танка в армии США в Европе, мы тренировались бороться  против вторжения советских войск. Советская Армия имела больше людей, больше танков, больше самолетов.  Война никогда не произошла, но мы считали что это произойдет. И мы готовились к отчаянной борьбе. 

Наши танки были лучше, но у Советского Союза было гораздо больше танков. Почти все что мы знали о советских танках мы узнали из отчетов 1973 года арабо-израильской войны или войны Судного дня.

Один из этих докладов дал  статистику по травматизму  в зависимости  от места нахождения в танке:

          Командующий 60%
          Канонир 25%
          Погрузчик 10%
          Водитель 5%

Другой способ проанализировать эти цифры: 95% ранений происходит в башне, 5% в корпусе.

В  Т-14 членов экипажа в башне нет. Трое членов экипажа сидят в корпусе танка.  Т-14 первый танк с дистанционным управлением башни.  Конструкция Т-14 обеспечивает защиту экипажа намного больше, чем у других танках.

Две основные причины использования танков в современной войне:
1. Борьба с другими танками.
2. Прорваться через линию фронта чтобы атаковать линии снабжения.

Создавая новые и лучшие танки, Россия заявляет, что будет бороться   танками.

Русская армия планировает сражаться в таких местах где  легко можно транспортировать большое количество танков. Это означает вдоль своих границ или в соседних странах. Отправлять танки через океан медленно и дорого. Россия рассчитывает бороться в местах где грузовики и поезда могут  транспортировать танки.

Я считаю, что строительство 2000 новых танков говорит что Россия не собирается  вести войну с Америкой, но собирается воевать со  своими соседями. США планирует вести войну с террористами. Большая современная танковая армия может атаковать соседние страны или защищать Россию от Китая.

Т-14 сравнивается с другими передовыми танками в статье веб-сайта. Они опубликовали большую статью  Сергея Кузьмичева о Т-14 .Он говорит что Германия и Франция планируют построить современный танк, но он не будет готов в течение многих лет. США не имеет никаких планов для  строительства нового танка. Китай разрабатывает новый танк, но его новый танк похож на западны танки  20 лет назад. Только у Израиля есть танк который соответствует Т-14.

Т-14 далеко впереди других крупных стран в области технологий. Почему бы Россия тратит так много денег чтобы сделать лучший танк в мире? Потому что Россия может продать танки в страны, которые покупают российские танки. Россия делает танки, которые находятся в армиях во всем мире.

Россия делает танки чтобы иметь сильную армию. Россия также делает танки чтобы продавать в другие страны. Википедия перечисляет танки всех армий мира. Список включает в себя тип  и страну, в которой были построены танки.

Почти во всех странах есть танки и большинство стран имеет танки сделанные в России. Потому что Россия имеет так много "клиентов", новый Т-14 также  является оружием маркетинга. Россия делает новейшие поколения танков. Наций которые покупают российские танки покупают новейший танк с новейшей технологией.

Лучший танк в мире российский танк Т-14. Это также принесет  Россие большой доход от стран мира которые покупают Т-14.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Chapel Service During My Last Drill

At 0800 hours on most drill weekends, there is a Chapel service in the Aviation Armory at Fort Indiantown Gap.

Chaplain Knepp is new to the unit.  Most of those who attend, including the Brigade Commander, are veterans who have been with the unit a long time.

SSG Mike Pavasco played at Chapel serves throughout the unit's deployment in 2009 and still plays on many Sundays now.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Done!!! 3 May 2016

Today I was talking to a guy who asked if I could be recalled if (when) there was another war.  I smiled and said, "I am so done!"

And really, I am about five miles past all done.

I am not retiring because I do not have 20 years of service.  I have 19 years of service and 17 for retirement because it is counted differently, so I cannot be recalled as a retiree.

Even if I was a retiree, I am three years past the recall age for enlisted retirees.

In fact, I am now too old to be recalled as an officer.  The upper limit for them is 63 years old.

In addition I served during the Viet Nam War.  I served in the Iraq War.

So they would be recalling 59 year-old veterans from the Gulf War before they get to me.

I am so done.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Volunteering to Enforce the Rules--So Much Fun!

No Coffee in this Theater!
Even if You Just Paid Seven Dollars for That Latte!

With less than three weeks to go in my final enlistment, I had a chance to be the sergeant at the door at the final plenary session of the engineering conference I am attending.

A young woman on the event staff was posted at the door of the 1000-seat theater and told to keep people from from bringing food and drinks in the auditorium.  

It was the only meeting in the the three-day event that barred food and drink, but the theater at the Houston Convention Center has a horrendous cleaning fee, so the rule was absolute.  And the bright, positive young woman assigned to keep drinks out did not want to tell people to throw away their drinks.

I was happy to help.  If sergeants do nothing else, they enforce the rules.  If the rules are arbitrary, so what, it's the rules.  About 100 people walked to the meeting with drinks.  Most tossed their cups and cans.  Two groups of people who wanted to finish their drinks formed on either side of the door. The young woman stuck with enforcing the rules backed away and let me take over.  

Only one guy started to walk past me.  He said, "I can stand in the doorway." I said, "After you finish your drink."  We had an eye-to-eye moment and he threw his drink away.

By the way, Lattes really were $7.  The Starbucks in the conference hotel charged almost $2 more per drink than other Starbucks.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Comparing MREs with Russian Army Field Rations IRPs Индивидуальный рацион питания (ИРП)

After I returned from Iraq, I made a video comparing 1970s C-Rations with the current Meal Ready to Eat or MRE.  The video currently has about 75,000 views and  continues to get steady stream of comments.  Here it is:

Next month I am planning to make a new video of the current Russian Field Ration, the Individual Food Ration (IRP) or Индивидуальный рацион питания (ИРП).  Wikipedia has a site with field rations of many nations including Russia.

The Russian ration is a 24-hour emergency pack which is only for use when there are no field kitchens. The instructions say soldiers should not eat these rations for more than six days in a row.

I was planning show eat the IRP then compare them with the MRE.  I am open to suggestions about what you would like to see in the video.

Let me know in the comments, or on facebook or by email:

Saturday, April 9, 2016

OJ Simpson on a Russian Train: Book 9b of 2016, "The Kreutzer Sonata" by Leo Tolstoy

If OJ Simpson fled the scene of murdering his wife and her (possible) lover on a train instead of in a white Ford Bronco, then told the story to a fellow passenger, the story would be "The Kreutzer Sonata" by Leo Tolstoy.  The jealous Russian husband, like the football player, was acquitted of murder, but guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.

Whether the wife and the suspected lover were actually lovers is in doubt in both stories.  The murder weapon in both cases is a knife.  But in the Russian story, the lover gets away.  The jealous husband in the Russian story is not a former NFL running back, so he only stabs his wife.

The story opens with a half-dozen passengers discussing love and marriage in a compartment on a slow-moving train.  The argument, like so many arguments everywhere and through all of time, is based on misunderstanding the subject they are arguing about.  In this case, Love.  A very modern (in the 1890s) woman and her friend say marriage should only be based on Love, by which they mean Romantic Love--mutual attraction between the man and the woman.

An old man in the compartment asserts that marriage can only be based on a strong man controlling a weak woman and keeping her from following her natural inclination to sleep with every man in the village.  He says a marriage based on Romantic Love is doomed and that Love in marriage is "learned."  Tolstoy makes very clear the old man thinks it is perfectly fine for men to sleep with other women, just not the reverse.  When confronted about his double standard, the old man goes quiet.

Into this lively argument steps the Podnischeff, the recently acquitted murderer of his wife.  He asserts "with glowing eyes" that Romantic Love leads to tragedy, and says why he knows this.  Most of the other passengers, finding out they are riding on a slow train with a murderer, leave at the first opportunity, but the narrator sticks around to hear the story of the murder.

In the Podnischeff's story of the murder, Tolstoy makes clear the problems with basing a marriage on Romantic Love.  But Tolstoy also questions marriage itself.  However they get together, can two selfish people spend years and decades together and still love?  Tolstoy's own marriage answered that question with an emphatic No!

By the time he wrote this story, Tolstoy was 61 years old and becoming more of a radical both in his politics and his religion.

There is no military angle to this story, but it is clearly a story written by a soldier.  Love, death, passion and tragedy are intertwined in a way that I find in many authors I love who were soldiers.  

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Book 9a of 2016: "The Death of Ivan Ilych" by Leo Tolstoy

Why is a story about the life and death of a middle-aged, middle class, mid-career, mid-19th Century Russian bureaucrat on a 21st Century American Military Blog?  I'll tell you.

First, Leo Tolstoy was a soldier.  He served on the front lines in the brutal Crimean War near Sevastopol in some of the heaviest fighting.

Second, I am a soldier.  So I react to stories as a soldier.  And what I read is what at least one soldier reads.

Third, this time is my fifth reading of this wonderful story since I first read it in 1983.  It gave me a vivid picture of how suffering can be good and a haunting picture of what death can mean.

Soldiers face suffering and death as part of their job, but this story is not just an acknowledgement of that fact, it is a meditation on both.

Now to the story.

"The Death of Ivan Ilych" opens at Ivan's funeral.  In a scene only a career soldier or other government bureaucrat could appreciate, we first meet Ivan's best friend.  He is scheming about how to leave the funeral as quickly as possible and get to a card game.  At the card game, the discussion is about the vacancy left by Ivan's death.  Who gets Ivan's job?  And what of the vacancy left when someone moves into Ivan's position?

At the funeral Ivan's grieving widow begins wheedling and scheming to be sure she gets as many benefits as possible now that her husband is dead.

In the military, the best plan for advancement is to volunteer for leadership in the most dangerous jobs.  Lots of vacancies open up.  And the ambitious soldiers will speak quite matter-of-factly about who gets the next rung up the ladder of success when a vacancy opens.

After this tragic-comic opening of the story. We get a brief biography of Ivan.  He is ambitious, moderately successful, and strives to be correct in everything.  Just as he achieves a big promotion and prominent success, he falls ill and his life unravels.  In the final days of his suffering, he is cared for a selfless servant named Gerasim.  The care Gerasim gives him and the wrenching suffering push Ivan to question whether he lived as he should, and at the end, reject the life he lead.

Many fans of Tolstoy and scholars think "The Death of Ivan Ilych" is the best of Tolstoy's huge body of work.  I have read "Anna Karenina," "War and Peace," and many of Tolstoy's short stories and remain convinced that "The Death of Ivan Ilych" is his best work.

For those who know of my love for Dante's Divine Comedy, you know I can tell you the relative merits of each of the seven translations I have read.  The same is true of Bible translations.  Richmond Lattimore's New Testament is the best translation available in English.

Not so much with Ivan Ilych.  I like the translation I just read by Pevear and Volokhonsky, but I was not bothered by other translations.  So get a cheap copy on Amazon and read the best of a very great writer.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Russians Introduce New Tank, Armata T-14, While We Mothball Armor

Last year, the Russian Army showed the world a brand new tank at the parade celebrating the Russian victory in World War 2.

The new tank, the Armata T-14, represents a real advance in tank technology.  Russia plans to build more than 2,000 of these new tanks for its Army over the next five years.  

Designing and building new tanks means Russia plans to make tanks central to its battle plans in the future, differing sharply from U.S. and other western armies which are slowly removing armor from their war plans.

From 1976 to 1979 when I served as a tank commander in the U.S. Army in Europe, we trained to fight an overwhelming invasion by Soviet forces who vastly outnumbered us.  The war never happened, but we believed it would.  And we prepared for a desperate fight.  If you want to know what that war might have looked like, read Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy.

Our tanks were better, but they had a lot more tanks.  Almost everything we knew about our tanks and the Soviet tanks in battle we learned from reports of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War or Yom Kippur War.

One of those reports gave a breakdown of casualties by position in the tank:

  • Tank Commander 60%, mostly hideous face and neck wounds.
  • Gunner 20%, the gunner was the aiming point both sides used when they fired armor piercing rounds at enemy tanks.
  • Loader 15%
  • Driver 5%

Another way to break down those figures:  95% in the turret, 5% in the hull.

The T-14 has a fully remote-controlled turret and sighting system.  The three crewmen are in the hull of the tank.  Enemy tanks will, of course, aim for the hull, but it is easier to protect the hull than the turret.  Also, tanks seek places where they can hide the hull behind earth and walls and just expose the turret to fire.  These hull defilade positions as we called them will protect the crew while allowing the guns to fire.

The two main uses for tanks in modern warfare are to:

  1. Fight other tanks.
  2. Break though enemy lines and attack their supply lines.

By upgrading their tank force, the Russians are signaling they expect to be fighting an armored war, or they plan to use armor to punch a hole in enemy defenses and send an armored force to wreak havoc with supply lines.

Either way, they are expecting to fight in a place where they can transport large numbers of tanks easily.  That means along their own borders or in neighboring countries.  Sending tanks across oceans is slow and expensive, even for America.  The Russians clearly expect to fight in a place where trucks and trains can carry their tanks close to the battle.

In the next post, I will talk more about the specifications of the Armata T-14 and compare it to the U.S. Army's M-1 Abrams tank.

Gas Explosion vs. Guns in Texas

In March 1937, 295 students and teachers died  in a natural gas explosion in a Texas school  When students in school die, the communi...