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“We were already in a practice THREATCON Delta, the highest threat condition. I said lock her down for real. My deputy came in, Lt. Colonel Paul Tibbets—his grandfather was the pilot who flew the Enola Gay [which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima]. He told me that at THREATCON Delta, general officers have to wear sidearms. I tried to refuse, but he insisted. So I was wearing my sidearm, which I never do.” – Lt. Gen. Tom Keck (above, left) in ‘We’re the Only Plane in the Sky’ [via]


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  1. I thought that the unarmed schtick was relatively recent. I just don’t understand how the Armed Forces would not, you know, carry arms–always. It’s in the job title.

    • You’re applying a civilian way of thinking to military operations. An individual may arm him or herself to defend themselves and others around them in the civilian world. The military doesn’t fight as a gaggle if individuals but as an organized group. As such, they are only issued firearms when their duties call for it. I.e. training, guard duty, or entering a high threat environment. The military doesn’t normally consider many places outside of an actual declared war to be a high threat environment.

      • I disagree. An unarmed soldier is just a civilian in a fancy suit. They should all be appropriately armed while in uniform, either pistol, carbine, or rifle. If you can’t trust your soldiers while carrying weapons then something is wrong with your selection process and training.

        • Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. A military that doesn’t differentiate being at war from being at home will start to act like they are at war when they are at home.

        • Most of the people in the military nowadays are specialists who have no need of a firearm.
          Many are gang or cartel members and would probably “lose” any weapon issued to them or start shoot-outs on base.

        • “A military that doesn’t differentiate being at war from being at home will start to act like they are at war when they are at home.”
          Wise man. Lets think about this, also. The Romans recruited soldiers from one colony to keep order in a different colony. That way they are not constrained by the realization that they are oppressing their own people.
          Barack Obama’s “national police force” would take soldiers from, say, Chicago – the most racist big city in the US – and place them somewhere else, in a “different” neighborhood.

    • It is repetitively recent, 1994 IRRC. My cousin was in the Army at the time and it was explained to her that it was part of “professionalizing” the military because companies don’t/didn’t allow you to wander around with a sidearm so the military wasn’t going to either if you were stateside. The rationale, supposedly, was that it got people used to working in a professional environment and therefore made separation and transition back to civvie life easier.

      Outside the US it’s different. She wore a sidearm to work every day when she was stationed in Germany and would joke that she hated the M9 so much that if it hit the fan she’d order someone to give her their rifle.

      • At “Defense Condition DELTA”, No one gets on, OR OFF, a military base. At that time, it may be handy for all service persons to armed (if the base is being overrun), or not [as chains of command become truncated].

        On September 11, 2001, Barksdale, AFB, Shreveport, LA, went to DELTA. AF Security Forces essentially locked the base down and set an armed perimeter with I.D. checks every few hundred yards. ~2 hours later, Air Force One landed, and things seemed surprisingly even tighter. If you were crossing that base (perhaps in an attempt to join up with your main body of forces elsewhere, you would have interrupted base security with their ‘monitoring’ of you). If you were ‘armed’ you might have been ACOG monitored all they way to the point you fell on the grass.

        I agree that demobilization of active/deployed forces need to occur from Cook to Commanding Officer, and that the process is aided by ‘demilitarization’ (removal of daily-carry of weapons [and it’s a real bitch for all parties concerned]).

        I don’t agree with a “kinder/gentler” approach, especially ‘at war’. And if we’re never not “at war” than tough sh_T.

        I don’t agree with softening the military during ‘peacetime’ because there is no such thing.

    • I’m a retired USAF E-7. I was only armed twice during my 27+ years. Both times were in Iraq. We weren’t allowed to have the magazine inserted.

      Typically, firearms and aircraft don’t mix.

      • “Typically firearms and aircraft don’t mix”???????????????

        I carried literally thousands of heavily armed infantry troops into dozens of landing zones in Vietnam along with thousands of other helicopter crews all over the country. The airborne troops of World War II and Korea and every war since were also heavily armed as they parachuted from USAAF and USAF aircraft over Europe and the Pacific.

        They seemed to mix firearms and aircraft just fine

        • I was a C-141 and C-5 crew chief. I don’t recall ever seeing aircrew armed. That said, I know you guys were armed. As were the helicopter guys I met in Iraq.

          There are very specific guidelines for flying on our transport aircraft.

        • The C-141 and C-5 crews were armed, by the aircraft itself (in some form or fashion). The individual in the quote doesn’t seem to have that going for him.

        • I carried an M16-A2 into Iraq from Kuwait, an M-9 and 9 & 7 full mags for each, respectively. I had spare ammo in my pack. The AF wouldn’t let me carry a small-ish Ken Onion designed lockback folding knife on the C-17 into Al Asad !!! (further, I had to mail it home because ARMY Postal Intel Recon SPECOPS Command said I could mail it to myself at my in-country APO and would I arrive ahead of time and it would come to me. HOWEVER, per Murphy’s Law # 45930/k-p(ii)(Sir) ARMY Kuwait Post Office said NOPE, so I had to mail it home [scared the wife to see it come home and think that I’d let it go, but I later replaced it with a nice CRKT]).

          Yeah, Guns don’t mix with AF planes, knives don’t mix . . . sh_t I bet they’d let me bring golf clubs.

    • I don’t think he was afraid, I think he thought it was wholly unnecessary and perhaps sent the wrong message.

      If the general staff needs to defend themselves with small arms despite being in a military base surrounded by massive amounts of force protection including heavy weapons there’s a serious problem.

      (particularly since that pistol isn’t going to take down an incoming 747. I know that the worry was that there could be other types of attacks but that is what all the non-generals are there to deal with)

  2. ‘…his grandfather was the pilot who flew the Enola Gay [which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima]’

    It’s a sad testimony to the state our our educational system that anyone would feel compelled to provide an unsolicited explanation for ‘Enola Gay’.

    • It’s a sad testimony to the state our our educational system that anyone over the age of 10 would need to request an explanation for ‘Enola Gay’.

    • ‘Tis a Common Core ‘educational basic’ that facts that don’t promote the current explanations and/or theories, are not to be presented or discussed, to prevent any thought-questioning (AKA “NewSpeak”). See UN “Agenda 21” and “Global Education 2030 Agenda.” (“if you need to know, we’ll tell you what you need to know”)

  3. the military certainly should be armed at all times…but so should the rest of us who wish to be any time any where we want to.

    Today, we need a nation of Minutemen, citizens who are not only prepared to take arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as the basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom.
    — John F. Kennedy

    “Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. This is not to say that firearms should not be very carefully used, and that definite safety rules of precaution should not be taught and enforced. But the right of citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.”

    –Hubert Humphrey, Democrat when it actually meant something and didn’t mean socialist communist panderer to racists and the lazy Takers.

  4. Gun Control “Feelz” have always been commonplace with Flag Officers of every branch. Its a trade-off between one potential loss/injury of troops vs the potential loss in career mobility of that same Flag Officer should any Soldier/Sailor/Airman/Marine under him/her become an IGOTD. The likely hood that someone would be stupid enough to attack soldiers on American soil is pretty low, while the likely hood of one of those, often young, enlisted men/women making a poor decision is much higher. I’m sure in the heads of Flag Officers its just a matter of probability.

    Men and Women, when deployed, regardless of age, have a tendency to act more responsibly, thus less likely to make poor decisions regarding firearms. Making the decision to arm them an easy one in that environment.

    It sucks and I don’t agree with it, but I can certainly understand the logic behind the decision.

    In any case, when at THRETCON Delta, EVERYONE should be armed and armored, regardless of location, period.

    • Not arguing with your explanation, which I believe is the truth. My argument is the same thing I said throughout my 25+ years of service; “treat them like children and they will act like children.”

  5. Unrelated, but it was a good read. What stuck out to me was that President Bush wanted to go back to DC, but everyone else essentially went insubordinate.

      • Yes, he wanted to go back to reassure the country, but continuity of government protocols dictated that he be held in a secure location until the threat could be ascertained. It’s smart in time of war against an adversary with real offensive capabilities, but with a terrorist strike, idk.

        I remember all the armchair commentators claiming things were going to get worse and we’d see more attacks. BS. You only get one bite from the apple. The alert went out after the first three hijackings, but stupidity allowed 93 to be hijacked. That’s why the attacks were timed together.

  6. Ask any of the top Army, Navy and Air Force brass and they’ll tell you that guns are icky and only belong on the battlefield in the hands of cannon fodder.

    Marines seem to have a different mindset for now, but they’ll be corrupted soon enough.

  7. 1. Armed Forces? My military ID card says “Uniformed Services” because we are usually disarmed and force sounds too aggressive.
    2. Having said that, it is common for tanker/transport aircrew to be armed. We just conceal them.

  8. It used to be that officers carried swords primarily to enforce discipline on unruly soldiers. That is why it is customary for officers, but not enlisted personnel, to carry swords. (Marine sergeants are allowed to carry swords, but they are still NCO’s).

    The same sort of thing carried forward to pistols. When an officer carried a pistol and not a musket or rifle, he subtly sent the message that he will enforce discipline drastically if he has to, no matter where he is, because the pistol never left his side. The pistol was more of a badge of authority than a fighting tool.

    It’s probable that this general understands the history of officers carrying sidearms all to well. To his credit, he probably doesn’t feel the need to display a pistol to demand respect.


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