Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016 - Visiting A Hero

Today I took the family to the Machpelah Cemetary in Ferndale, Michigan.

Section 6 is the Veterans' Section.

Veterans lie there who have served and died in World War 1, World War 2, Korea and Vietnam.

There was one in particular to whom I wanted to pay respect to this day.

2nd Lieutenant Raymond Zussman, Born July 23, 1917 Died September 21, 1944. A tank commander in the 756th Tank Battalion he had first earned the Purple Heart after being wounded at Monte Cassino. Declining a headquarters position after recovering from the wound and requesting a combat command, he took part in Operation Dragoon.

For his actions on September 12, 1944 at Noroy-le-Bourg, France he was awarded the Medal of honor. His citation reads:

On 12 September 1944, 2d Lt. Zussman was in command of 2 tanks operating with an infantry company in the attack on enemy forces occupying the town of Noroy le Bourg, France. At 7 p.m., his command tank bogged down. Throughout the ensuing action, armed only with a carbine, he reconnoitered alone on foot far in advance of his remaining tank and the infantry. Returning only from time to time to designate targets, he directed the action of the tank and turned over to the infantry the numerous German soldiers he had caused to surrender. He located a road block and directed his tanks to destroy it. Fully exposed to fire from enemy positions only 50 yards distant, he stood by his tank directing its fire. Three Germans were killed and 8 surrendered. Again he walked before his tank, leading it against an enemy-held group of houses, machinegun and small arms fire kicking up dust at his feet. The tank fire broke the resistance and 20 enemy surrendered. Going forward again alone he passed an enemy-occupied house from which Germans fired on him and threw grenades in his path. After a brief fire fight, he signaled his tank to come up and fire on the house. Eleven German soldiers were killed and 15 surrendered. Going on alone, he disappeared around a street corner. The fire of his carbine could be heard and in a few minutes he reappeared driving 30 prisoners before him. Under 2d Lt. Zussman's heroic and inspiring leadership, 18 enemy soldiers were killed and 92 captured.

The 756 Tank Battalion Website has an except from the book, The History of the Third Infantry Division in World War II, that fills in more details of this series of heroic acts:

Lieut. Raymond Zussman, 0-1014997, Cavalry, Company A, 756th Tank Battalion, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, in action involving actual combat. On 12 September 1944, at 1900 hours, Lieutenant Zussman dismounted from his command tank and proceeded on foot, armed only with a carbine and followed by a lone M-4 tank, and assaulted Nory-le-Bourg, France. Forging ahead on the tank into blazing small-arms fire, he located and neutralized an improvised roadblock which had been booby trapped. Although intense enemy machine-gun and small-arms fire from a German position only 50 yards distant ricocheted off the hull and turret of the tank, Lieutenant Zussman stood beside it, fully exposed, firing on the enemy with his carbine and directing the tank's fire. When three Germans fell dead, the remaining eight surrendered to Lieutenant Zussman, who immediately proceeded to direct the fire of the tank on another center of resistance, killing three and compelling an additional seven to surrender. Having already exhausted his carbine ammunition, he seized a Thompson submachine gun from a member of the tank crew and advanced well in front of the tank, toward a group of houses occupied by the enemy. machine-gun and small-arms fire opened up on him from another enemy strongpoint 75 yards to his right front. Disregarding bullets which kicked up the dirt at his feet, he again stood in an exposed position and directed the fire of his tank until resistance was broken and 20 Germans surrendered. Leaving the tank behind, he rushed toward and enemy strongpoint in a house, firing his submachine gun as he ran, while the Germans tried to stop him with small-arms fire and threw hand grenades in his path. After a brief fire exchange, he brought up the tank and directed its fire on the house, forcing 11 more Germans to give up. His submachine gun blazing, Lieutenant Zussman again dashed forward into rifle and automatic weapons fire to another German held house, emerging after a short exchange of fire with 15 more prisoners. As the Germans fled before his whirlwind attack accurate tank fire accounted for 11 more killed. Noting an ideal antitank position, he plunged forward alone to reconnoiter. His submachine gun fired; his voice was heard above the tumult, shouting "Hände hoch!" and in a few minutes 30 prisoners, including the crews of two AT guns, filed around the corner. As night fell, he again went forward alone, to a truck; there was a hand grenade explosion, but when the smoke cleared Lieutenant Zussman returned with another prisoner. With lightning rapidity, Lieutenant Zussman had overwhelmed one enemy position after another. Fighting against all odds and on his own volition, he had blasted his way into and through the strongly defended town ahead of the infantry, killing 17 and capturing 92 soldiers, and capturing 2 antitank guns, one 20mm flak gun, two machine guns, and two trucks.

11 days after the incredible series of actions in Noroy-le-Bourg for which Raymond Zussman was recognized with the Medal of Honor, he was killed by a German mortar shell.

We said a prayer and we each left a stone to mark our visit to a fallen hero on this day.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Flying Lesson #52 - A Long Bumpy Solo Cross-Country

Today was the long solo cross country that became a bit longer than planned. It almost didn't happen at all, as the Outlook and standard briefing gave "VFR not recommended" due to thunderstorms coming in.

Dejectedly I went to the airport anyways.

Ray instead said based on the actual weather and radar tracks I could go - it would be the windiest I've ever been flying solo, but he wanted me to have a challenge. Was it ever.

He checked off my planning, endorsed me and sent me on my way. Good preflight and I taxied to runway 27 and asked for flight following at departure and got clearance to takeoff.

I held in the cross-wind correction on takeoff and things were good. I then contacted Detroit Approach per Pontiac Tower and got flight following and was handed off to Lansing approach as I headed for Marshall.

It took awhile to get to Marshall, and I could not get to my planned altitude of 6,500 feet - there was a line clouds that kept descending to a nice haze all the way there so I was at 4,500 to stay clear or clouds. The haze was annoying and I was making a habit of scanning the outside and instruments on a regular basis to prevent any disorientation. Light to medium turbulence that followed me throughout the flight made for a bit of a ride.

On the way there I got a traiffc advisory that there was a plane at my 12 o clock at 7,000 descending. I indicated that there was a solid cloud layer between me and the other plane and I would not be able to see it. Not a problem, they tracked it and let me know it would not be a factor after a while. Flight following is quite helpful that way.

Landing at Marshall sucked - crosswinds up to my limit and no one else flying in the area.

Then on to KFPK, Charlotte, a short flight north. Again my crosswind landing was not the best by any means and the winds did blow. I'm sure most of my issues with crosswind landings are mental by this point, just need to work them more I guess.

Then head back to KPTK - I picked up flight following from Lansing and they indicated there was a weather cell ahead of me and did I have any weather equipment on board?

I replied in the negative and requested routing around it as thunderstorms are bad.

So I got routed north towards Flint and handed off to Flint approach.

Flint nicely routed me around the cell and then sent me on my way back east to Pontiac. Again, flight following is a very good thing.

I then landed at Pontiac after two go rounds as the wind was 10-17 knots gusting and shifting, and again if the approach doesn't look right then it is not right and time to go around. Third time was the charm and I was safely down with a little bounce to continue the humbling theme of the flight. Just when you think you're getting decent . . . .

I tied the plane down and headed back to the shop, and Ray was waiting for me. He noted that he had deliberately made it a challenging flight to push my limits, but knew I could handle it.

That's 2.4 hours and 196 nautical miles flown, and my long solo cross country is done. I need more solo time and a lot more polishing but I'm getting there.

It is starting to thunderstorm and actually hailing large pieces of hail here now, but I've been on the ground over an hour. I'm sitting here nursing an Irish Coffee and thinking about how I can do things better on the next flight.

Friday, May 27, 2016

A Laughingly Good Listen By Larry Correia

The latest release by Larry Correia The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent available from Amazon on Audible is a hilariously good listen.

You won't be able to consider insurance boring after you read it, that's for sure.

Narrated by Adam Baldwin, yes that Adam Baldwin, it is hilarious - the story is funny as all get out, Adam Baldwin's narration is dead on, and at times deadpan. There's lots of good in-jokes most of which are funny even if you're not acquainted with the "in" part of the joke, as well as Firefly references and Wendell the Manatee has a speaking role.

Well worth the time that you will spend laughing while listening to it, and you can tell Larry Correia had a whole lot of fun writing it and Adam Baldwin is enjoying reading it.

After reading it, when you pick yourself up off the floor after falling there from laughing, you'll also realize that it's not too late to write in Adam Baldwin as a candidate for President. We could do a whole lot worse, and probably will.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Flying Lesson #51 - Slip, Slide And Landings

Today was a beautiful day. Sunny and not a cloud below 8,000 feet.

Winds from 240 at 10 gave a crosswind factor of 5 knots down runway 27R.

So I did the preflight on 73455 and after adding some oil all was good.

I met up with Ray and he decided that today was an excellent day to work on crosswind landings and no-flap slip to land. I had not done forward slips to landing before, I've done many side slips in cross-wind landings but this was to be a new experience.

So I handled the takeoff and he then demonstrated a forward slip, no flap landing.

Basically you're flying sideways towards the runway and dropping like a rock when you do a forward slip. It lets you quickly descend without gaining a ton of airspeed. You use your aileron in the direction of the wind and use lots of rudder to prevent any turn and to keep the nose of the plane opposite to the aileron side.

It was the most aggressive slip I've ever been in and it took awhile to get used to making that big of a slip and bank. Half the fun is holding the aileron in, easing the rudder to line up the nose with the runway as you land but also pulling back on the yoke all at the same time. You come in both higher and faster which makes for a fair bit of float down the runway until the plane is ready to stop flying.

I then gave them a try with Ray doing less and less each time and did it all by myself quite a number of times.

Ray also demonstrated a power off 180 and worked on sharpening up my pattern work and getting used to flying a tighter pattern.

15 no flap touch-n-go landings later I think I've got this forward slip maneuver reasonably well down. Ray thinks I'm doing well and wants to move me along, which is a good thing.

Let's hope the weather holds so I can get in my cross country long solo this weekend.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

NRAAM - IWI Galil Ace

I toured the IWI booth at the NRAAM.

First there are the Galil Ace models.

The Galil Aces seemed very well built, with a lot of nice features. The fit and finish are very impressive and there is no appreciable gap for the operating rod, yet it operates and functions incredibly smoothly for an AK variant. The safeties are ambidextrous and easy to use. There's a nice top rail on the rifles. Flush fit rail covers are nicely fit to the rails on each sides so that they look like regular handguards.

There are pistol models that come with and without the stabilizing arm brace, and you can do the paperwork to SBR them accordingly.

In addition to 7.62x39, there are also Galil Ace models available in 7.62x51 (7.62 mm NATO) caliber.

MSRPs range in the $1,700-1,800 range which make them on the high end for AK variant rifles. In the late 80s, prior to the bans, Galils had MSRP's at about $900. An inflation calculator shows that is $1,820 in today's dollars. Like the Australian AUG, they've stayed rather stable price-wise when taking inflation into account.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Don't Be The Unarmed Opponent In A Battle Of Wits

I've blogged before of the dangers of going in to a police interview without an attorney present even when you know you've done nothing wrong. Indeed you may be sure down deep in your soul that you've done nothing wrong so why not go in and be helpful, you don't need an attorney, right?

Well one of my clients, before they became a client, did so as they clearly believe they did nothing wrong in a dispute with another person over something. Any guesses where this is going?

Without going into any details of the case, which for the purposes of this post don't matter, here's the lesson to be learned:

This person was invited in to give their side of a story in an incident.

When you're invited in to give your side of a story that's a warning - you're not being considered a victim, you're being considered a suspect.

Of course, this person agrees and goes in voluntarily, without an attorney, because why would this person possibly need one, they didn't do anything wrong, right?

Person goes in and meets a detective, in a small room that is delightfully well-equipped with a video camera with excellent image and audio pickup qualities.

Now detectives, as you realize, have some level of training and skills at interrogation. Indeed you may call them professionals at interrogation. After all, it's what they do.

Now our dear person is clearly an amateur at being on the receiving end of an interrogation. Are they ever.

The detective however, is a professional and a darn good one.

No good cop / bad cop games, no pounding the table or any other such silliness you might see on TV that would shut a person down and stop them from talking. No rubber hoses come out. Instead, there's just a nice gentle friendly opener with "My name is detective so-an-so, thanks for agreeing to come in and talk. I'm just here to get the truth and I promise to play it straight with you, I'm not hiding anything or lying to you and I hope you'll do the same with me." A rather masterful opening, complete with friendly and open body language. Followed by masterful gentle follow-up questions that elicit more and more statements that dig our person in deeper without our person even realizing what's going on or where this is going.

Our person in question doesn't have a chance, and it's cringe-worthy to watch in full color.

The helpfully and happily make lots of incriminating statements. Many statements are made, some of which are clearly due to the person not quite getting the drift of the conversation and not knowing how to effectively convey their side of the incident. Many of these statements, had the person had time to talk with an attorney and think about them and they certainly would have been answered differently to actually match the actual story the person presents and the events that allegedly occurred. Questions likely also would have been challenged for containing assertions without any evidence to back them up. Our person however flies right through and answers the loaded questions with a happy and unloaded mind and mouth.

Person finally retains an attorney, me, and all there is left to do is damage control.

As much as the person will now state they meant to say this rather than that, they darn well said that and did not say this, on video. Voluntary statements are fully admissible and it's rather well-nigh impossible to walk them back after making them.

Unfortunately, even if you're a good guy, you can talk yourself into a felony too darn easily, most especially when you think you've done nothing wrong in a dispute with another person.

Since you're a good guy, do what a smart good guy would do when you're invited in by the police to give your side of a story in a dispute:

Tell the police you'd be happy to cooperate just as soon as you've had a chance to talk with your lawyer to find out their schedule and then you can arrange for a mutually convenient time where you can give your statement with your attorney present. Then meet with your attorney first, and only after that arrange for the interview.

I'd much rather have the police focused on catching the bad guys rather than catching good guys who have managed after an incident to mishandle an interview and talk themselves into appearing to be the bad guy.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Lithgow Brings The Australian AUG To America

Lithgow Arms USA is importing the ATRAX rifle into the US.

A civilian variant of the Australian military rifle, the F90, The rifle is an update on the Steyr AUG.

This version takes AUG magazines, and a later variant to come will apparently accept STANAG magazines.

The Atrax rifles will come in both 20 and 16 inch barrel lengths. With a 20" barrel, the overall length is only 31.57 inches compared to a 20" AR-15 with an overall length of 39.49". The 16 inch variant has an overall length of 27.56" and is quite a handy little rifle. At 7.17 pounds it's rather light in weight as well.

Models should be available for purchase in the US at the end of 2016 and the suggested MSRP is around $2,000, with likely store price in the $1800-1900 range.

The trigger on the display model felt better than a typical Steyr AUG, though not quite as good as a Tavor. It's certainly a lightweight and handy rifle and if you like bullpups it's an interesting one with its Australian pedigree. It would also make a nice companion to a Lithgow Lee Enfield.

The fellows at the booth were very enthusiastic about the rifle and eager to talk about it.

They also had on display two very nice bolt action rifles, the L101 and L102. The LA 101 comes in .17 HMR and .22LR and the LA 102 comes in .223, .243, and .308. Both have integrated picatinny rails on top of the receiver for mounting optics.