Tag Archives: banana wars

“We won’t forget about Irregular Warfare, we promise”

The DOD last week made a big deal of putting out a 12-page summary of the “Irregular Warfare Annex to the National Defense Strategy.”

The IW Annex details that irregular warfare endures, even as the military pivots from two decades of counter-insurgency and nation (re)building to near-peer Great Power Competition, and that the Pentagon will keep IW skills sharp as “an enduring, economical contribution to America’s national security, and will remain an essential core competency of the U.S. Department of Defense.”

The paper goes on to detail that the American way of war in the past was to build COIN skills and asymmetric warfare assets when we needed it (see Seminole Wars, Plains Wars, Philippine pacification, Banana Wars, Vietnam, El Salvador/Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Iraq), then put it aside and essentially throw away the manual when we didn’t need it on a daily basis any longer, requiring the military to start from scratch the next time. In each case, the lost muscle memory had to be regained with blood.

“In short, the IW Annex is a road map for deterrence and provides off-ramps for the U.S. in options short of kinetic warfare,” said a DOD official in firm language via a related press release.

No, really guys, we mean it this time

Sgt. Maj. Raymond Hendrick (left), Asymmetric Warfare Group Adviser, explains specifics of the blast radius of the man-portable line charge system during a training exercise just outside of Forward Operating Base Zangabad, Afghanistan, Oct. 20, 2013. (U.S Army photo by Cpl. Alex Flynn)

And in pure DOD logic, the word also surfaced last week that the Army will be disbanding both the Asymmetric Warfare Group and the Rapid Equipping Force as it transitions from counterinsurgency operations to better concentrate on “multi-domain and large-scale combat operations.”

AWG, for those following along at home, was founded in 2006 to help the Army gain an edge in low-key COIN and hearts-and-minds type operations through learning lessons that could be applied quickly to simultaneously save Joes and ghost Tangos. Similarly, REF– formed in 2002 as the Desert Storm/38th Parallel-oriented Army was faced with a new war of movement against fast-moving groups of guys armed with nothing more advanced than AK47s, IEDs, and cell phones– was designed to get urgently needed capabilities such as UAV jammers and MRAPs into the field in 180 days or less.

Insert Benny Hill chase scene, here.

Getting to the bottom of Col. Pendleton’s gun

Marines at Camp Pendleton recently reworked a cannon most likely captured in Nicaragua during the Banana Wars in 1912 by then-Colonel Joseph Henry Pendleton.

A graduate of the Naval Academy in the class of ’84 (that’s 1884), Pendleton had already fought in Cuba and the Philippines, sailed around the world a couple times, and was commander of scratch unit of 29 officers and 750 enlisted– the First Provisional Regiment, U.S. Marines, drawn across the old Corps –that came to assist ole Col. Smedley Butler’s expeditionary battalion fighting Nicaraguan rebels near Coyotepe Hill in October 1912.

Fortress at Coyotepe circa 1912

Fortress at Coyotepe circa 1912

Two Marines with Coyotepe Hill in the background, 1912

Two Marines with Coyotepe Hill in the background, 1912

For his deeds in helping crush the rebel force led by Gen. Benjamín Zeledón (whom the Marines buried after the battle), Pendleton was presented with one of the four black powder cannon captured from the old fortress (built in 1893) which he kept in the man cave the rest of his life.

After his death, Maj. Gen. Pendleton’s widow donated the artillery piece to Camp Pendleton in 1943, where it has sat under increasing layers of paint for generations.

Now, after some 40-50 hours of work, Marines at Camp Pendleton have cleaned and refurbished the cannon– even finding out it is actually an old U.S. Army field piece from the 19th Century.

As for the Coyotepe, after the Marines pulled out the locals built a more legit fortress there which turned into a real shit hole apparently:

During the dictatorial regime of the Somoza family a dungeon was constructed below the fortress. The dungeon served as a prison for political enemies, and housed at times more than 800 people who lived there under terrible conditions. The prisons had barely any light (some of the prisons actually had no light whatsoever), and were packed with people. Torture rooms were also found.


Pendleton likely would not have been down with that.