I call bullshit

| December 25, 2010

From an otherwise asinine OPED in the LA Times, from “Retired Marine Lt. Col. Tom Brannon.”

Two years ago I was in Afghanistan as a defense contractor providing special resources to a forward base near the Hindu Kush mountain range. My bunker was next to a U.S. Air Force Air Police detachment. A young black Air Force enlisted woman, probably 19 years old and 110 pounds, walked by me on her way to a position on the line. She flashed me a dazzling all-American smile and said, “Good morning, sir.” On her shoulder was a 50-caliber machine-gun, a very heavy and effective weapon. When I joined, young women would not have been allowed to operate a machine. Now our lives depended on her presence in the sector. And I have every confidence she performed her duty well.

Really? She was carrying a .50 cal to her guard tower was she?

Total horseshit I call. I believe women work just fine as well, I never saw one carrying around the .50 from guard tower to guard tower. Go ahead and tell me I am wrong, but I call bullshit. Why would you carry that as a personal weapon instead of just keeping it in the tower?

Category: Politics

Comments (28)

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  1. SSG David Medzyk says:

    He did say she was going to ”A” position, not a tower. Humping just the receiver isn’t too hard, even for a smallish female.

    To quote Mythbusters; ”Plausible”

  2. ponsdorf says:

    I just don’t remember the weight and a search didn’t help much. Still I DO understand your reservations concerning the quote.

    Well, perhaps excepting the a 50-caliber machine-gun, a very heavy and effective weapon. part?

  3. Jonn Lilyea says:

    An M2 weighs 84 pounds w/o the tripod and T&E. And if a perimeter postion was already established, an M2 would already be in that position along with the range card.

    The whole tone of the article seems false starting right at the beginning when Colonel Tom says he was drafted into the Marine Corps at the end of the Vietnam War. I know some Marines had been drafted (more accurately, they volunteered for the Marines when they were drafted into the Army) but how many draftees went on to become officers? This guy just smells like a liar.

  4. Sporkmaster says:

    Could it be confused with a 240B? It is heavy enough to be a used for perimeter defense and light enough to carry by on person.

    Because we moved out .50 Cal with the Barrel and everything else. We used them on MRAPS so the mount was already there. But we had more 240B then .50 cals. Also I saw more 240B being used then .50s.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Well, the last man was drafted in 1972… if he did his 3 years, went to college, and came back in ’78, that’d make him have 30 years TIS as a light colonel. Is that possible in the Marines?

    Alternatively, he could’ve re-upped and went to OCS, but still unlikely. I recall seeing on a Vietnam War statistics site that only a few thousand were drafted into the Corps during the entire length of the war. On this, Mythbusters says plausible.

    However, a 110lb, 19 year old girl carrying an 85lb machine gun over her soldier? Unlikely. If that were the cause, I’d expect to see 200lb men carrying Vulcans with a backpack full of shells…

  6. Dave Thul says:

    While the female enlisted carrying a 50 cal is possible, it is far fetched. In a forward base, not having your largest MG on the line is a serious issue. I can only see it being taken off the line for repair.

    But the part that gets me (and I will say up front I have not deployed to Afghanistan) if the notion that a female Air Force Air Police member would have anything to do with base security on a ‘forward’ base. The only AF security forces I ever saw in Iraq were at actual air bases.

    As to the main point of the article, can anyone actually find a Marine Sergeant Major who is now openly gay, and with a website to boot? That would seem to be the critical point.

  7. otho says:

    IF she had been ordered to carry the 50 and IF she actually did so, which sounds unlikely even IF she could lug it, I call BS on the “smile” and the cheery “good morning, sir”.

  8. Rodger Young says:

    BS, female soldiers have always been allowed to use, and be trained on all small arms. Plenty of female truck drivers out there have a BHMG mounted on their cab and I’m not forgetting the number of female small arms repairers on the line.

  9. Mike says:

    I checked out the guy’s op-ed at the LA Times and these two statements kind of jumped out…

    “I am a retired U.S. Marine, having been drafted at the end of the Vietnam War.”

    “At the end of the Vietnam War, I was a young first lieutenant flying the venerable F-4 Phantom jet.”

    I suppose it’s possible to get drafted, go to boot camp and ITR, get a commission, be promoted and get through flight school, all “at the end of the Vietnam War”, but that part about one Marine referring to another Marine as “fabulous”… now that’s bullshit.

  10. UpNorth says:

    I’m totally impressed, especially after finding out that this guy was drafted at the “end of the war”, but managed boot camp, ITR, then OCS and flight school, then transition to fighter aircraft, then get promoted to 1st LT. And then fly F-4’s before the war actually ended? Wow, just wow.

  11. Marine 83 says:

    There is a Thomas Brannon, LtCol (ret) listed on the Marine Corps Online locater, so I assume the gent is legit. And to be fair in the old Corps you would not have found a WM (Woman Marine) within a couple of hundred miles of a FOB, and one would certainly not been allowed to pull duty on the perimeter. So I guess what I am saying is that think a little too much is beeing read into his statemnts.

  12. Dave Thul says:

    He was promoted personally by LT (JG) John Kerry, that’s my guess. That was just after the Christmas mission across the border.

  13. YatYas says:

    His use of the term Air Police is suspect since the Air Force has been using the term Security Police since at least the early Seventies. Also find it hard to believe that he was drafted at the end of Vietnam, completed Boot Camp, got selected for OCS then be selected for flight school and finish in time to fly before the war ended.

  14. Eric in OC says:

    M2HB receiver weights about 50 pounds, the barrel weights in at around 20 pounds. Not much different that the M85.

    way back when, I remember having my TA50 on my back, a M85 with barrel over my shoulder, and a M219 receiver hanging from my web gear; then shulping the 1500 meters from the arms room to the motor pool at 4AM during an alert.

    At the time I was a strapping young man at 165 pounds or so packing well over 100 pounds of crap from the billets to the tank line.

    An 100 pound woman with a weapon that weights in at 50 to 60% of her body weight can be done. Just not fast and not far.

  15. YatYas says:

    Looked the LtCol up on the web and it appears that he went to the Basic School in 1971. It also appears he retired as a LtCol from the air wing. I still think he likes to stretch the truth which is not unheard of for veterans whether officers or enlisted.

  16. YatYas says:

    Looked him up on the web and he appears to have graduated from the Basic Course in 1971 and went on to retire as a Lt Col from the air wing. Still think he likes to stretch a sea story a bit after reading the OPED.

  17. WOTN says:

    Air Police? I think they have them in the movie “5th Element” but probably a different name there too.
    A Marine retiree would know the correct term “Security Forces”

    “Forward Base” well, he *could be* talking about anywhere in Central Asia.

    A Marine that can’t identify a 50 cal? Hell, no. He’s purposely lying. And there is no way an AF kid was hauling it to the wall on their shoulder by herself. “Two man lift” means “the law” to the Air Force, regardless if they would have cleaned the weapon or even been able to ID it. Not to mention, the Air Force would have found some mechanized manner to move anything more than 10 lbs a distance more than 10 feet. No one be-bops along with 76% of their body weight over their shoulder.

    In the Army, a Soldier might have attempted to invoke “Why walk when you can ride?” But an NCO would likely have replied with “PVT Snuffy & SPC Shamshield, get out there and help him carry it to the wall and get that 50 change out.” (Assuming there were some reason for weapons and equipment to be changed out, ie. an assumption of responsibility from one unit to another.)

  18. Jacobite says:

    To quote “Plausible”, but unlikely.

  19. Doc Bailey says:

    I can carry a .50 And i can manage a smile. But I have yet to see a female that weighs 110 lbs carry HALF HER WEIGHT, and mange a smile thats anything more than exhausted.

  20. ROS says:

    I’m not even remotely short and very athletic, but I can’t be-bop along with our .50 cal. No way in hell.

    And I especially liked the way he invoked the ultimate minority example by making her a black female. Why was she walking instead of astride her skittle-shitting unicorn?

  21. Just Plain Jason says:

    When I was a private I would carry the .50 with a smile, as a spec I knew how to do the job easier, as an NCO I would make sure Joe didn’t screw it up, and now just thinking about moving it makes my back ache.

    As far as the story goes I smell a little bs…

  22. CavRick says:

    I had to have help getting the .50 mounted on our M113. There is now way a woman could do that.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Is it possible that maybe she was a world class ultra-lightweight powerlifter before she joined the AF? 😉

  24. USMC Steve says:

    If it was the standard M-2 machine gun with a barrel installed, it weighed 85 pounds with nothing else attached to it. No 110 pound chickie was humping an 85 pound machine gun with her, and in any event, those guns are typically kept up in the guard positions, not humped around like sidearms.

  25. DaveO says:

    There are a number of assumptions floating out here about the ability of a woman to carry a heavy load:

    1. One assumption is that the woman in question is 110 pounds. The author says “probably.” I’ve known women who look smaller than they are, but because they are a weightlifters, are heavier and stronger than the women you see in the mall.

    2. Ma Deuce is heavy and awkward, but not impossible to carry. Does this FOB have a radius of kilometers, or meters? Has the woman been carrying the weapon for hours, or in the space of time necessary to move it from one place to another?

    3. We don’t know why Ma was offline. Maintenance? New weapon just received and being deployed? Pulled off for use as a training aid? Transfer from a downed vehicle to another?

    These assumptions, and my own questions, lead me to believe that one aspect of the story, of a smallish woman carrying a heavy load, is plausible enough to get on with the rest of the article.

  26. Mark says:

    I suspect it was an M-60, 7.62 “general purpose” machine gun.

    In 2009 I saw a similarly sized female SP carrying an M-60 out of a chow hall (sorry, “DFAC”)… She was so tiny that in her case it really LOOKED like she was carrying an M-2.

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