Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Military Operations

In a blog post in today's USA Today, author Lionel Beehner, discusses names of Military operations. He writes of how some of these names are created naming some of the better, and worse, operation names throughout the years.

Some names are inspiring (Operation Noble Eagle), others less so (Operation Productive Effort). Some sound lifted from a bad '80s action flick (Operation Haven Denial), others literally are lifted from a bad '80s action flick (Operation Red Dawn). Some, like the 1983 invasion of Grenada, channel a mad man's diary (Operation Urgent Fury); others, like our 2006 southern Afghanistan invasion, sound vaguely kinky (Operation Mountain Thrust). Even the operations given foreign names, such as Operation Tawakalna Ala Allah (roughly "God help us"), do not inspire confidence.
This got me thinking about my military days and especially my time as the operational planner. As the S-3 Air (as the position is formally called ... just call me 3-Alpha) for my task force, I was charged with creating names with corresponding numbers for all of our operations. Some commanders are big into picking the names; my boss was not. The Operations Sergeant Major was supposed to create a numbering system but we didn't have one so that fell to me, as well.

Even at Fort Hood, I knew we were going to conduct a lot of missions (based on my experience from Bosnia and Kosovo). So, I had to think of a system that would be easy for me to create numbers and names for these operations.

Enter 1st Lt. Dave Irwin (pictured here) and his 50th Anniversary issue of Playboy.

It turned out that the fine folks at Playboy were nice enough to catalog all of their playmates from issue one in December 1954 with Marilyn Monroe as the centerfold up through (what was then) the current playmate. Darn nice of 'em, huh?

And there I had it. I had my list of names and numbers. Our deployment order was Operation Monroe (54-12). It continued from there. About three months into the deployment, my brigade commander, Col. Abrams (yes, son of Creighton Abrams), asked me in a briefing about our naming convention. He was that impressed.

One of the operations named after Joanie Nicely (Operation Nicely 56-08) made U.S. News and World Report (I can't find a link to it as it was published in 2004 ... still looking). The title was called "On a Mission called Operation Nicely". I remember the young reporter. She was way out of her depth; sitting in the abandoned warehouse turned tactical operations center in the heart of Sadr City. She assumed that the name was sarcasm; that we were going about our operation 'nicely'. Only if she would have asked ...

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