10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein - We Are The Mighty
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10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein

Dictators tend to be colorful people. They’re constantly alone, afraid of lots of weird things, and really paranoid everyone’s going to kill them. They have absolute power but their egos are eggshell thin. They’re fragile, volatile and worry all the time. Or maybe they’re just a little crazy from the non-stop high of having absolute power. 

A look back at other dictators shows that all of them have strange quirks. For example, Hitler refused to eat meat but thought it was fine to take meth every day. Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier was so obsessed with JKF that he sent someone to collect the air around the late president’s grave. Duvalier though the air would help him control JKF’s spirit. Spoiler alert: that didn’t work. Muammar Qaddafi’s crush on Condoleezza Rice rivals anything we’ve ever seen come out of Hollywood.

And that’s just the beginning. The deeper you look at dictators, the more bizarre you realize they are. They’re all a little bizarre. Saddam Hussein was no different. 

1. He penned a best-selling romance novel

His book was originally published anonymously, but everyone knows Hussein wrote “Zabiba and the King“. In the decade between its publishing and the Gulf War, the Iraqi dictator encouraged Iraqi artists to tell stories fabricated stories about the “idyllic life” of citizens in Iraq. He wanted to “bring the feats of the ‘Mother of All Battles’ home to the people.”

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein

Typical of an ego-driven dictator, the author of the book claimed he wanted to remain anonymous … all the while feeding leaks to the news. Iraqi newspapers started to report that Hussein might be the author and the legend was born. The novel became an immediate bestseller. Then it was turned into a musical spectacular. We’re not sure if we’d ever be able to sit through that performance, though. 

The CIA believes the book was probably ghostwritten with Hussein’s guidance. 

2. He received a UNESCO award for raising Iraq’s quality of life

Hussein served as the Ba’ath Party vice-chairman from 1968 to 1979. In that time, he created a nationwide literacy program, setting up reading circles in Iraq’s cities. Missing these classes was punishable by three years imprisonment.

He built roads, schools, and hospitals and carved out a public health system that was tops in the region. The UN’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization honored his achievement in helping to eradicate illiteracy in his country.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
(Iraqi News Agency)

Then, in 1979, he seized power. His actions in the coming years would make his development work look like a planned deception.

3. A Saddam-like character was featured in a Justice League comic

In a 1999 comic book, the Justice League of America – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Arrow, and others – watched as UN weapons inspectors were ejected from the rogue Middle East nation of Kirai. Meanwhile, a well-meaning but naive new member of the League name Antaeus kills the dictator (who looks a lot like Saddam) of the country rather than do things the JLA way.

The country descends into a multi-faction civil war, ethnic conflict, regional powers exerting military influence, and a battlefield for the ongoing fight between Sunni and Shia Islam.

This was in 1999. If only President Bush read DC Comics.

4. He wiped out an entire civilization

Saddam accused Iraq’s Marsh Arabs of colluding with the Iranians during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. In order to kill them all easier, he drained the legendary marshes – once thought to be the biblical garden of eden. The 9,000-square kilometer area was slowly dwindling to 760 by the time of the 2003 American invasion.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
(Photo by Salim Virji, used by permission)

The people inhabiting those wetlands were either killed or forced to flee Saddam’s paranoid wrath. After the dictator’s ouster, the Iraqis destroyed the dams preventing water from flowing back into the wetlands and its ancient inhabitants started to return.

In 2016, UNESCO named the wetlands a World Heritage Site.

5. Hussein pledged $94 million to help America’s poor

Well before September 11, 2001, changed the future of American foreign policy and the day before President George W. Bush took office, Saddam Hussein sought to send $94 million to the United States. The reason: “humanitarian aid for the “homeless and wretched Americans living in poverty.”

6. He received the key to the city of Detroit

The year he took power in Iraq, Hussein received a congratulatory note from Reverend Jacob Yasso in Detroit. The dictator sent Yasso and his congregation of Chaldean Christians $250,000. Chaldeans are a sect of Christianity with roots in modern-day Iraq.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Yasso (right) presents the Key to Detroit to Saddam Hussein. (Iraqi State Media)

Saddam invited Yasso to come to Baghdad for a meet and greet. Yasso decided to gift the Iraqi dictator with the key to the city of Detroit, courtesy of then-Mayor Coleman Young. As a way of saying thanks, Hussein then gave the church another $200,000.

7. He hated Froot Loops

The personal jailer for Saddam, while he was a prisoner, fell to U.S. Army Spc. Sean O’Shea, a Pennsylvania National Guardsman. O’Shea mopped the floors in Saddam’s cell, served him meals, and was essentially a sort of valet for Saddam Hussein.

The old man gave him advice on everything from women to home remedies. One of the few times O’Shea ever “saw him look defeated” was when the jail ran out of Raisin Bran Crunch and had to serve the guy Froot Loops. The dictator hated them.

(Read more about Spc. O’Shea’s life with Saddam over at GQ)

8. He offered to debate George W. Bush on live TV

In an effort to prevent the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, the dictator offered to debate U.S. President George W. Bush on live TV. In a three-hour interview with CBS News, he offered a satellite link-up to debate the U.S. President.

“I am ready to conduct a direct dialogue – a debate – with your president,” CBS quoted Saddam as saying. “I will say what I want and he will say what he wants.”

The White House said the offer wasn’t a serious one but Hussein reiterated his stance.

“This is something proposed in earnest out of my respect for the people of the United States and the people of Iraq and the people of the world. I call for this because war is not a joke.”

9. He commissioned a Qur’an written in his own blood

Despite the fact that using blood to write a Qur’an is considered haram – forbidden – in every sect, branch, an offshoot of Islam, that never stopped Saddam Hussein. He commissioned one on his 60th birthday. Calligrapher Abbas Shakir Joudi wrote 6,000 verses and 336,000 words of the Qur’an using 50 pints of blood over the course of two years.

 

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein

 

If you’re a blood expert who questions if it’s possible to give that much blood over two years, you aren’t alone. A blood donation expert once estimated it would have taken at least nine years to safely donate that much blood. That sort of thing never stopped Saddam Hussein either.

10. Young Saddam was raised by a single mother and wanted to be a lawyer

Saddam was raised by his mother after his father popped smoke one day. His dad was a shepherd, so there’s no real telling where he went. But the major male influence in Saddam’s life was his uncle, who was a member of the Ba’ath Party. Saddam’s brother died from cancer. Then his mom couldn’t afford to take care of him. So, Saddam got shipped off to live with his Arab nationalist uncle and a dictator was born. Saddam eventually went to Egypt to study law. But that was only after a failed assassination attempt on the sitting Iraqi president, Abd al-Karim Qasim. 

When Qasim was ousted for good in 1963, Saddam the educated lawyer returned to Iraq and the Ba’ath party.

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The CIA’s manual for how to be a terrible employee sounds like it was written by the E-4 Mafia

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein


In 1944, the CIA’s precursor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), distributed a secret pamphlet that was intended as a guidebook to citizens living in Axis nations who were sympathetic to the Allies.

The “Simple Sabotage Field Manual,” declassified in 2008 and available on the CIA’s website, provided instructions for how everyday people could help the Allies weaken their country by reducing production in factories, offices, and transportation lines.

“Some of the instructions seem outdated; others remain surprisingly relevant,” reads the current introduction on the CIA’s site. “Together they are a reminder of how easily productivity and order can be undermined.”

We’ve collected below some of the timeless instructions on how to be a terrible employee. What’s most amusing is that despite the dry language and specificity of the context, the productivity-crushing activities recommended are all-too-common behaviors in contemporary organizations everywhere.

See if any of those listed below — quoted but abridged — remind you of your boss, colleagues, or even yourself.

Organizations and Conferences

  • Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
  • Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.
  • When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committee as large as possible — never less than five.
  • Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
  • Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
  • Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
  • Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable”and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

Managers

  • In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers.
  • Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw.
  • To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions.
  • Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
  • Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.

Employees

  • Work slowly.
  • Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can.
  • Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right.
  • Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.

You can read the full manual at the CIA’s website »

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4 night terrors America’s enemies have about Jim Mattis

Retired Marine Gen. and current Secretary of Defense James Mattis was recently asked what kept him up at night and he responded, “Nothing. I keep other people awake at night,” because Mattis is a stone-cold killer. And he’s right.


Here is how four enemies of America try, and fail, to get sleep:

1. Supreme Man-Child Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-un ends every night surrounded by the young women of his personal harem, but even that isn’t enough to distract him from his one true fear, Jim Mattis. When Mattis ruled only the Marine Corps, the dreams were frightening enough. Marines assaulted North Korea’s miles of exposed coastline while Harriers roared over Pyongyang.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
(Image: YouTube/JoBlo TV Show Trailers)

But now, Mattis has a hold of the entire military, and the sick dictator tosses and turns in his bed with the images of stealth-enhanced Blackhawks swooping over his palace and depositing the elite operators of SEAL Team 6. Their attack dogs tear out the throats of his most loyal bodyguards as the SEALs sweep, slightly crouched and sighting down the barrel for new threats, through polished hallways.

In Kim’s mind, the SEALs stealthily stack on his bedroom. He looks across the massive bed at the slight gap beneath the door and searches for any change in the light, any flicker that may indicate that Mattis’s mad dogs are here at last.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
(Photo: Department of Defense)

Nothing. No shadows, no lights, and no quiet boot falls interrupt the night. But Kim knows he will go without sleep once again.

And Kim isn’t the only enemy of America who is more afraid of the dark than ever before. Here are three others who share in his terror-ridden insomnia:

2. ISIS’s top dude Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi holds his final meeting each nightfall for as long as possible, offering pine nuts and Chai to his few remaining aides and field commanders until they beg for sleep. He reluctantly agrees, allowing them to file out of his chambers. But the moment the door closes on them, he can feel the dread closing around him.

He forces himself not to look over his shoulder as he has so many times before, but that doesn’t stop the thoughts. The wall suddenly explodes inward as charges create three openings for Delta Force to pour through. Their suppressed weapons chuckle in the dust clouds from the explosions. Amid the cracks of the rifles and guns, another sound is audible. It’s Jim Mattis, and he’s laughing in full kit.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein

Al-Baghdadi feels the first round pierce his lung as the second rips through his shoulder. He imagines himself slumped over, coughing, as the lights go out. He finally looks over his shoulder and prays the wall, and his crumbling “caliphate,” survives for just one more night.

3. Taliban’s current leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. John Bainter

A former Taliban judge and professor, Hibatullah Akhundzada is a true believer of his perverse version of Islam. But he also believes in patterns, and his predecessor was killed in a drone strike just like many of his peers. He has to force his anxiety down every time he gets into a car or walks outside for too long. But by nightfall, he doesn’t have the energy to keep the phantoms at bay.

He can hear the soft buzz of the drone’s engines as it circles him in the sky. He knows the thermal sensors can see which room he’s in as even his breath is enough to heat the small room he hides in. He wonders what kind of weapon it will fire when it comes for him.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Predator firing Hellfire missile. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Hellfire would approach with a roar as its engine propelled it through the night, but the Paveway would fall with a slight whistle.

He knows it’s wrong, but every time he thinks of the drone that will finally end the nightmare, he imagines it has a full cockpit with Mattis, grinning, at the controls. Mattis flips up his visor, takes a long pull from a beer bottle, and toasts the bomb as it lands.

4. Leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri

Ayman al-Zawahiri has watched al-Qaeda go from the most infamous terror organization on Earth to a group of zealots barely visible in the shadow of ISIS. But he knows that some of his enemies will never forget which organization attacked on 9/11. Leaders like Mattis aren’t distracted black flags.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Photo: (U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Akeel Austin)

He knows it’s Mattis who will keep the analysts working daily to find him, to track his patterns. Is tonight the night? The night that Mattis passes hand signals down the line as the Osprey approaches the compound and transitions from forward to vertical flight.

The rotor wash beats against al-Zawahiri’s building as Mattis and the Marine Raiders fast rope onto the roof. The al-Qaeda fighters rush to their assigned defense posts, prepared to make the Marines bleed for every room. But Mattis expected this. A young Marine detonates a charge on the roof directly over al-Zawahiri.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Lance Cpl. Corey A. Ridgway fires the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Rosales)

When it explodes, the blast wave disorients everyone in the room with al-Zawahiri, and Mattis descends through the hole headfirst with an M27 in his hands. The 5.56mm rounds rip through the bodyguards and then al-Zawahiri himself.

Al-Zawahiri shakes himself and turns on his TV to spend another night watching the videos Osama Bin Laden sent him before his death.

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‘One of the largest human experiments in history’ was conducted on unsuspecting residents of San Francisco

San Francisco’s fog is famous, especially in the summer, when weather conditions combine to create the characteristic cooling blanket that sits over the Bay Area.


10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Photo: Flickr/capnvynl

But one fact many may not know about San Francisco’s fog is that in 1950, the US military conducted a test to see whether it could be used to help spread a biological weapon in a “simulated germ-warfare attack.” This was just the start of many such tests around the country that would go on in secret for years.

The test was a success, as Rebecca Kreston explains over at Discover Magazine, and “one of the largest human experiments in history.”

But, as she writes, it was also “one of the largest offenses of the Nuremberg Code since its inception.”

The code stipulates that “voluntary, informed consent” is required for research participants, and that experiments that might lead to death or disabling injury are unacceptable.

The unsuspecting residents of San Francisco certainly could not consent to the military’s germ-warfare test, and there’s good evidence that it could have caused the death of at least one resident of the city, Edward Nevin, and hospitalized 10 others.

This is a crazy story; one that seems like it must be a conspiracy theory. An internet search will reveal plenty of misinformation and unbelievable conjecture about these experiments. But the core of this incredible tale is documented and true.

‘A successful biological warfare attack’

It all began in late September 1950, when over a few days, a Navy vessel used giant hoses to spray a fog of two kinds of bacteria, Serratia marcescens and Bacillus globigii — both believed at the time to be harmless — out into the fog, where they disappeared and spread over the city.

“It was noted that a successful BW [biological warfare] attack on this area can be launched from the sea, and that effective dosages can be produced over relatively large areas,” concluded a later-declassified military report, cited by the Wall Street Journal.

Successful indeed, according to Leonard Cole, the director of the Terror Medicine and Security Program at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. His book, “Clouds of Secrecy,” documents the military’s secret bioweapon tests over populated areas. Cole wrote:

Nearly all of San Francisco received 500 particle minutes per liter. In other words, nearly every one of the 800,000 people in San Francisco exposed to the cloud at normal breathing rate (10 liters per minute) inhaled 5,000 or more particles per minute during the several hours that they remained airborne.

This was among the first but far from the last of these sorts of tests.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Photo: Flickr/Roman Kruglov

Over the next 20 years, the military would conduct 239 “germ-warfare” tests over populated areas, according to news reports from the 1970s (after the secret tests had been revealed) in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Associated Press, and other publications (via Lexis-Nexis), and also detailed in congressional testimony from the 1970s.

These tests included the large-scale releases of bacteria in the New York City subway system, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and in National Airport just outside Washington, DC.

In a 1994 congressional testimony, Cole said that none of this had been revealed to the public until a 1976 newspaper story revealed the story of a few of the first experiments — though at least a Senate subcommittee had heard testimony about experiments in New York City in 1975, according to a 1995 Newsday report.

A mysterious death

When Edward Nevin III, the grandson of the Edward Nevin who died in 1950, read about one of those early tests in San Francisco, he connected the story to his grandfather’s death from a mysterious bacterial infection. He began to try to convince the government to reveal more data about these experiments. In 1977, they released a report detailing more of that activity.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Serratia marcescens turns bread red as a bacterial colony grows. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/DBN

In 1950, the first Edward Nevin had been recovering from a prostate surgery when he suddenly fell ill with a severe urinary-tract infection containing Serratia marcescens, the theoretically harmless bacterium that’s known for turning bread red in color. The bacteria had reportedly never been found in the hospital before and was rare in the Bay Area (and in California in general).

The bacteria spread to Nevin’s heart and he died a few weeks later.

Another 10 patients showed up in the hospital over the next few months, all with pneumonia symptoms and the odd presence of Serratia marcescens. They all recovered.

Nevin’s grandson tried to sue the government for wrongful death, but the court held that the government was immune to a lawsuit for negligence and that they were justified in conducting tests without subjects’ knowledge. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Army stated that infections must have occurred inside the hospital and the US Attorney argued that they had to conduct tests in a populated area to see how a biological agent would affect that area.

In 2005, the FDA stated that “Serratia marcescens bacteria … can cause serious, life-threatening illness in patients with compromised immune systems.” The bacteria has shown up in a few other Bay Area health crises since the 1950s, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, leading to some speculation that the original spraying could have established a new microbial population in the area.

While Nevin lost his lawsuit, he said afterward, as quoted by Cole, “At least we are all aware of what can happen, even in this country … I just hope the story won’t be forgotten.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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These 7 recruiting ads from around the world just might get you to sign up (again)

The military recruiting playbook in the U.S. is pretty standard. The commercials show off the coolest gear while epic music plays. Maybe a Medal of Honor recipient makes an appearance.


Around the world, nations like Canada and Russia take a similar tack while Ukraine and others go with a quieter ad that focuses on the individual soldiers.

1. The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command

The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command keep it simple when making their commercial in 2013. It’s just a few simple, repeating music notes and a highlight reel of cool stuff they do, from rappelling out of planes to violently ending hostage standoffs.

2. The Swedish Military

Sweden wants you to know that their military may not dominate feature a lot of awesome special effects, but they have some great careers where you get to make a difference. It’s shockingly honest. Wanna bet Swedish soldiers still complain about their recruiters lying to them?

3. The Ukrainian Armed Forces

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7mj8KGRgKI

Ukraine is recruiting soldiers while fighting a much larger and more powerful military. Their commercial reminds Ukrainians that troops come from all backgrounds but come together to defend their people from violence.

4. The Russian Navy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWK03XePbXk

The Russian Navy commercial is pretty high-speed, but features a few unexpected scenes like when the naval gun turns towards the camera at 1:50 with the barrel covered. Of course, the glimpses of sailors working out shirtless around the 2:00 mark were expected.

A Russian Army commercial from the same time is also good.

5. Finland Defence Forces

Sure, you can have a normal job instead, but Finland wants their potential recruits to know that they could have a range target as a resume, an armored vehicle for their drive to work, and have their trade secrets protected by thick steel doors. It’s a quiet but poignant ad.

6. Australian Army

The Australian Army commercial feels more like the opening to a new TV show than a military recruitment ad. It features photogenic troops in parades and hangars while zero people fire a weapon. It also mentions the surprisingly small number of troops they field, less than 45,000.

7. Japanese Army

The Japanese Army walks a fine line. Japan became a relatively un-military country after World War II (by design) but is expanding military programs in response to Chinese expansion and terrorist threats. Their recruiting ads reflect this fine line, using innocuous graphics and pink backgrounds right after showing troops on the march.

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The Navy Carrier Called The ‘Top Gun Of The Pacific’ Is Headed To The Scrapyard

Despite an effort to save the USS Ranger and turn it into a museum, the Navy aircraft carrier once known as the “Top Gun of the Pacific” is heading to the scrapyard, Military.com reports.


Also Read: 37 Awesome Photos Of Life On A US Navy Carrier 

Military.com’s Ed Friedwrich writes:

The Navy announced a deal Dec. 22 to pay International Shipbreaking a penny and the value of the ship’s scrap metal to take it away. It must make a five-month, 16,000-mile trip around South America because it can’t fit through the Panama Canal. Crosby Tugs of Golden Meadow, La., has been contracted to tow it.

A Navy spokesman confirmed to Military.com the ship would towed away on Thursday from Bremerton, Wash. The decommissioned ship will be dismantled in Brownsville, Texas.

As WATM’s Orvelin Valle previously reported, the Navy kept the Ranger on standby from 1993 to 2004 for possible reactivation until the carrier was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register, and redesigned for donation. Unfortunately, no group put up the funding or plans to have the ship converted a museum or memorial during that time.

The Ranger appeared in television shows such as “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “Black Sheep Squadron,” as well as the films “Top Gun,” “Star Trek IV,” “Flight of the Intruder.”

There was some effort made to try and save the ship, to include an online petition.

“We know that saving the USS Ranger would have significantly more far-reaching economic, historic and social benefits than scrapping it,” Michael B. Shanahan, a leader of the effort to save the ship, said in a statement. “This is our last chance to stop the loss of an irreplaceable cultural and historic asset.”

NOW: 21 Photos That Show What It’s Like When Soldiers Assault A Taliban Stronghold 

OR WATCH: Here’s What Every Fighter Pilot Remembers About Their First Air Support Mission 

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How a Soviet jump jet lead to a version of the Joint Strike Fighter

The F-35B is a short takeoff, vertical landing fighter intended to replace the AV-8B Harrier, but it uses a very different system to achieve its V/STOL capability than the Harrier.


10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
PACIFIC OCEAN– A F-35B Lightning II hovers before landing aboard the USS America (LHA 6) during the Lighning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration, November 19, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Thor Larson/Released)

The Harrier uses vectored thrust, having four nozzles tilt to get the jet to take off vertically. It works well, and the Harrier did win the Falklands War for the British in 1982. But why does the F-35B use a different system? It’s an interesting tale – and to tell it, we must look to the Soviet Union.

Now, this tale kind of goes back to when the F-35 was merely the X-35, one of two competitors for the Joint Strike Fighter title. There was a rival from Boeing, which had acquired McDonnell-Douglas who had teamed up with British Aerospace to make the AV-8B.

Boeing’s plane was the X-32, but it quickly got the nickname “Monica.” And no, not the one played by Courtney Cox on “Friends.”

Like the AV-8B, the X-32B used vectored thrust to achieve its V/STOL capability. The approach was proven and worked well.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
The X-32 takes off for Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, from Little Rock AFB in 2001. The X-32 was one of two experimental aircraft involved in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. The program is intended to provide a universal air attack platform for all branches of the American armed services. (DOD photo)

Lockheed’s X-35B, though, went with a very different approach. The F-35B uses a lift-fan that gets power diverted from the main engine, while the rear nozzle also can vector downward.

This was not the first time someone decided not to use vectored thrust to gain V/STOL capability. The Yak-38 Forger, the Soviet Union’s only operational V/STOL multi-role plane, used a pair of additional lift jets for its V/STOL capability.

Now, the Forger was a notch or two below the Brewster Buffalo in terms of being a decent combat plane. It had a top speed of 795 miles per hour, a range of roughly 800 miles, and could carry two tons of bombs. No internal gun was present, and the only air-to-air missiles it could use were the old AA-2 “Atoll” or the wimpy AA-8 “Aphid.” Neither, it should be noted, were all-aspect missiles.

Modern avionics? Well, the Yak-38M that saw service never had them. The Yak-38MP was to get the same suite used on the MiG-29 Fulcrum, but the end of the Cold War meant that bird never flew.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Right side view of a Soviet Yak-36 Forger aircraft on the deck of a Soviet aircraft carrier.

But it was an effort to replace the Yak-38 that arguably lead to the F-35B being the way it is. Yakovlev began to design the Yak-141 Freestyle as the limitations of the Yak-38 became obvious. The end of the Cold War meant that the program never left the prototype stage.

But the data was acquired by Lockheed in 1994.

So, why did Lockheed buy that data when Yakovlev’s only operational V/STOL fighter was a piece of junk? The answer is that vectored thrust compromised the combat flight performance of the AV-8B.

Lockheed’s way of powering the lift fan worked out well. They didn’t need two extra jets on the Forger, and they ditched the thrust-vectoring. The X-35 won the competition, beating out the X-32.

So, in one sense, the Yak-38’s legacy now includes the F-35B Lightning II.

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Here is how Russia could shoot down a North Korean missile

North Korea’s latest missile test, carried out this past weekend, ended about sixty miles off the Russian coast. Russia is not happy about the test, as one might imagine. In fact, they may get angry. Of course, we should note that Putin has options aside from sending Kim Jong-un a letter telling him how angry Moscow is.


Russia has long pushed the development of surface-to-air missiles, and the Soviets put that system on the map in 1960 by downing the Lockheed U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers. In one sense, Russia needs to have good air defenses since their fighters tend to come out second-best when tangling with American or Western designs.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
A USAF Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady. When Russia shot one down in 1960 with a SA-2 Guideline, it proved the surface-to-air missile was a factor in warfare. | U.S. Air Force photo

So, what options does Russia have to shoot down a North Korean missile? Quite a few – and it can be hard to tell them apart.

1. SA-10 Grumble

This is probably the oldest of Russia’s area-defense systems capable of downing a ballistic missile. Like the Patriot, it was initially intended to provide air defense for important targets by shooting down the strike aircraft. It eventually began to cover the tactical ballistic missile threat as well – much as the Patriot made that evolution.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the baseline SA-10, or S-300PMU, now exported to a number of countries (including Iran), had a maximum range of 124 miles. A navalized version of this missile, the SA-N-6, is used on the Kirov and Slava-class cruisers.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
The SA-10 Grumble system. (DOD image)

2. SA-12 Gladiator

The Russians consider the SA-12 to be a member of the S-300 family. While the S-300 was initially designed to handle planes, the SA-12 was targeted more towards the MGM-52 Lance. Designation-Systems.net notes that the Lance’s W70 warhead could deliver up to a 100-kiloton yield. That could ruin your whole day.

But the development of a conventional cluster munition warhead for the Lance really bothered the Russians, who expected to see a many as 400 Lances launched in the early stages of a war in Europe. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-12 with a range of about 62 miles – not as long a reach as the SA-10 but more than enough to take out an incoming missile before it can do harm.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
The SA-12 Gladiator system at an arms expo. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3. SA-20 Gargoyle

This is an improved version of the SA-10, according to GlobalSecurity.org. It has the same maximum range as the SA-10 version (about 124 miles), but there is a capability to engage faster targets than the baseline SA-10, which usually translates into neutralizing ballistic missiles launched from further away.

The system, also uses several types of missiles — including in the 9M96 family (9M96E1 and 9M96E2) that are smaller than baseline SA-10 missiles. Like the SA-10, there is a naval version, called the SA-N-20, which is on the Pyotr Velikiy and China’s Type 51C destroyers.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
The SA-20 Gargoyle – an improved version of the SA-10. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

4. SA-21 Growler

This is also known as the S-400. The system made headlines when it deployed to Syria after Turkey shot down a Su-24 Fencer jet. The system is often compared to the American Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, but unlike THAAD, it is also capable of hitting aircraft and cruise missiles. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-21 with a range of about 250 miles.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Launch vehicle for the SA-21, which has a range of about 250 miles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

5. SA-23 Giant

What the SA-20 is to the SA-10, the SA-23 is to the SA-12. This is a substantially improved version of the SA-12, and is intended to deal with longer-range ballistic missiles than the MGM-52 that the SA-12 was intended to take out. The SA-23, also known as the Antey 2500, has a range of 124 miles according to GlobalSecurity.org.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
SA-23 launch vehicles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Russia’s born-of-necessity work on surface-to-air missiles has lead to some very capable options in air defense. The real scary part is that Russia has been willing to export those systems – and that could mean they will face American pilots sooner rather than later.

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Mattis says US still debating ‘big ideas’ on Afghan plan

The Trump administration is still sorting out “the big ideas” for a new Afghanistan strategy, beyond troop levels and other military details, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said July 21.


“We’re close,” he said in an impromptu exchange with reporters at the Pentagon one day after President Donald Trump met with him and his military chiefs for a broad discussion that aides said touched on Afghanistan and other issues.

The US has been fighting in Afghanistan for nearly 16 years, and as recently as June, Mattis said, “we are not winning.”

Mattis told Sen. John McCain at a hearing last month that he would have the Afghanistan strategy ready by mid-July. On July 21 he was asked what is holding it up.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Photo courtesy of the DoD

“It just takes time,” he said. “It wasn’t that past presidents were dumb or anything else. This is hard work, so you’ve got to get it right. That’s all there is to it.”

He also said it is vitally important to “get the big ideas right,” meaning to establish a consensus within the government on what problem Afghanistan poses and what policy goal is being pursued by committing US troops there. He called this “orders of magnitude” more difficult than deciding military tactics.

“It’s easy only for the people who criticize it from the outside and who don’t carry the responsibility for integrating it altogether,” he said, referring to making diplomatic and economic elements a part of the overall strategy.

Although Mattis did not mention him July 21, McCain is among the more vocal critics of the administration’s lack of an Afghan strategy.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
DoD photo by Chief Petty Officer James Foehl

On July 20, McCain mentioned his frustration on Afghanistan in a statement on the separate matter of the administration reportedly deciding to end a program to assist the Syrian opposition to President Bashar Assad.

“Six months into this administration, there is still no new strategy for victory in Afghanistan, either,” McCain said. “It is now mid-July, when the administration promised to deliver that strategy to Congress, and we are still waiting.”

In his remarks at the Pentagon, Mattis revealed no details of the ongoing administration debate.

He cast the Afghanistan problem in the context of past American wars, including those that did not end well — such as Vietnam — and those that still have not ended, such as Iraq. He said he wants to be sure there is administration agreement on the political goals as well as the military means.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Secretary of Defense James Mattis greets U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after arriving at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2017. DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

“I realize this probably looks easy, but it is not easy,” he said.

Mattis said a decision disclosed by the Pentagon on July 21 to withhold $50 million in “coalition support funds” for Pakistan — money it receives each year as reimbursement for logistical support for US combat operations — was separate from deliberations over a new Afghanistan strategy. Officials have said the US approach to Pakistan is an important part of the Afghan strategy debate, in part because a Taliban faction known as the Haqqani network enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan. US officials called the Haqqani network the most lethal element of the Taliban opposition in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon said in a statement July 21 that Mattis has informed congressional committees that he could not certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network to deserve full reimbursement this year. Of $900 million in proposed reimbursement, Pakistan earlier received $550 million and Congress a few months ago withheld $300 million.

Mattis’ certification decision means the remaining $50 million also will be withheld.

The Pentagon chief said this was not a reflection of a new, tougher US policy toward Pakistan.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
A U.S. Army adviser from Task Force Forge conducts a room clearing drill with an Afghan trainee. (NATO photo by Kay M. Nissen)

“This is simply an assessment of the current state of play” with regard to suppressing the Haqqani threat. “It’s not a policy. It is the reality.”

Pakistan is authorized to receive up to another $900 million in support funds this coming year, of which $400 million is subject to Pentagon certification of sufficient Pakistani effort against the Haqqani network.

“In our discussions with Pakistani officials, we continue to stress that it is in the interest of Pakistan to eliminate all safe havens and reduce the operational capacity of all militant organizations that pose a threat to US and Pakistani interests as well as regional stability,” a Pentagon spokesman, Adam Stump, said.

Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter determined the Pakistani effort against the Haqqani network was insufficient, and as a result, $300 million in support funds was withheld.

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Engine falls off Air Force B-52 bomber while in flight

One of the eight engines powering a Boeing B-52 bomber flying over Minot Air Force Base on Wednesday quite literally fell right off the aircraft.


The unarmed aircraft, which was on a training flight at the North Dakota base, landed safely and none of the crew were injured, an Air Force spokesman told Defense News.

The service has already initiated an investigation into what went wrong. All crew members of a B-52 that crashed in May 2016 escaped without injury, though a 2008 crash killed all six crew members on board.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong

The B-52 is a long-range, heavy bomber jet aircraft powered by eight Pratt Whitney engines. It was first introduced in 1955, though it has continually been upgraded and maintained.

The Air Force has just over 75 B-52s still in service today, which are slated to last into 2040, according to Defense News.

The B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber is expected to replace the aging B-52 fleet once it’s introduced some time in the mid-2020s.

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Here are 10 wars that could break out in the next four years

The incoming Commander-in-Chief already has a handful of issues waiting for him or her on January 20th and surely doesn’t need any more foreign policy headaches. Unfortunately, the job is “Leader of the Free World” and not “Autopilot of the Worldwide Ramones/P-Funk Block Party.”


10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
If only the UN were led by GEORGE Clinton and run by Parliament.

Inevitably, things go awry. Reactions have unintended consequences. If you don’t believe in unintended consequences, imagine landing on an aircraft carrier emblazoned with a big “Mission Accomplished” banner. By the middle of your replacement’s second term, al-Qaeda in Iraq is now ISIS and the guy who starred on Celebrity Apprentice is almost in charge of deciding how to handle it.

Think about that . . .

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein

Here are ten imminent wars the incoming Chief Executive will have to keep the U.S. out of… or prevent entirely.

Check out the WATM podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss the incoming Commander-in-Chief’s war challenges come January 20th.

1. China vs. Everyone in the Pacific

In 2013, China declared the Senkaku Islands (or Diaoyu Islands, depending on which side of the issue you’re on) to be part of its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. Since then, Chinese and Japanese air and naval assets have taken many opportunities to troll each other. The Chinese people see these provocations as violations of their sovereignty and anti-Japanese demonstrations erupted in China. World War II memories die hard.

The islands themselves are just an excuse. The prominent ideology espoused by Chinese President Xi Jinping is that of the “Chinese Dream,” one that recaptures lost Chinese greatness and prestige. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is a hardline nationalist, is unlikely to bow to Beijing just because of a military buildup. On the contrary, Japan’s legislature just changed the constitution to allow Japanese troops to engage in combat outside of a defensive posture for the first time since WWII.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Don’t mind us.

Elsewhere, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam are all vying for control of the Spratly Islands. The Spratlys are a small, seemingly unimportant set of “maritime features” in the South China Sea that would extend each country’s maritime boundary significantly. They sit on trade routes. Oh, and there are oil and natural gas reserves there. China started building artificial islands and military bases in the Spratlys, which is interesting because the U.S. now has mutual defense treaties with Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan. So the next U.S. President will also have to be prepared for…

2. China vs. The United States

The term “peaceful rise” isn’t thrown around quite as much as it used to be. That was Chinese President Hu Jintao’s official ideology, but he left power in 2012. China under Xi Jinping is much more aggressive in its rise. Chinese hackers stole blueprints for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter just before China’s military revealed a homegrown design, which looked a lot like the F-35. The People’s Republic also finished a Russian-designed aircraft carrier, its first ever. It now has a second, entirely Chinese one under construction.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
The Russians wish they had a ship like this.

Related: Russia’s only aircraft carrier is a floating hell for the crew

The Chinese specially developed the DF-21D Anti-Ship missile for use against carriers and other advanced ships of the U.S. Navy. The ballistic missile looks a lot like nuclear missiles and can carry a nuclear payload. Once a Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile sinks its first U.S. carrier, there’s no going back – a downed carrier would kill 6,000 sailors. This is why China develops weapons to deny the U.S. sea superiority and deter American aggression in their backyard before a war begins.

3. Russia vs. NATO

The expansion of NATO as a bulwark against Russian hegemony in Eastern Europe is a challenge to the status quo of the last thirty years. While the end of the Cold War should have changed the way the Russians and the West interact, Russian influence is still aggressive. Russia does not take kindly to the idea of NATO’s expansion into former Eastern Bloc countries like Ukraine, which resulted in the 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
A map from 1900 – some things never change.

Now the Alliance is deploying thousands of troops to Poland and the Baltic countries as a counter to Russian aggression. Threats made by Russian President Vladimir Putin are always serious. He didn’t just annex Crimea. In 2008, he invaded the former Soviet Republic of Georgia to “protect Russian-speaking minorities” in the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Putin claims the right of Russia to protect the rights of Russian-speaking minorities abroad and uses military force to do so.

4. Iran vs. Saudi Arabia

The Sunni-Shia religious civil war rages on by proxy all over the Middle East. In Yemen, Iranian-backed Houthi tribes ousted the Saudi-backed government of Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi. The Houthis are still fighting for deposed dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose regime was a victim of the 2012 Arab Spring.  Saudi Arabia intervened shortly after with a coalition of Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE. The war in Yemen now includes al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi warned the sudden uptick in sectarian violence may spill over into the greater Middle East.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Wargasm?

The proxy war is already in Iraq. The Iraqi government is using a makeshift alliance of Americans, Shia militias, and Iranian advisors to retake territory captured by ISIS in 2014. In Syria, forces loyal to al-Qaeda are funded by Sunni proxies while the Asad regime and Hezbollah fighters are supported by Iran and Russia (meanwhile, everyone is fighting ISIS). At the same time, both Iran and Saudi Arabia continue to stockpile weapons and develop new weapon systems. There may come a time when the two decide they’ve had enough of proxy wars and just decide to duke it out for keeps. In the meantime, the two keep battlefields in the countries between them to avoid fighting at home.

5. Civil War in Iraq

It’s great to form an unlikely alliance against a joint enemy, especially when the enemy is ISIS. Once the terror group is gone the Sunnis in Anbar will demand equal treatment under the law, only now they’ll be surrounded by Shia militias and Iranian arms and money. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see Sunnis in Anbar seek autonomy like the Kurdish regions enjoy in Northern Iraq, except Anbar doesn’t have the resources for independence like the Kurds seek. Speaking of which…

6. Kurdistan Independence War

The Kurds in Iraq and Syria bore the brunt of rescuing minorities in Iraq and Syria from the atrocities of the Islamic State. They also were the workhorse behind turning the tide of the ISIS advance and putting the terror group on the defensive. They shifted the momentum against ISIS at places like Sinjar and Kobane and the terror group has never recovered. ISIS is slowly collapsing as the Kurdish YPG in Syria approach the ISIS capital at Raqqa. The Kurdish people will feel they’ve earned an independent Kurdistan for doing the region a solid, especially if the YPG capture Raqqa before the Syrian government.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein

An independent Kurdistan would carve out parts of Iraq, Syria, and maybe even Southern Turkey. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been an active terrorist organization in Turkey for decades. The Turks, a NATO ally, see the Syrian Kurdish YPG (People’ Protection Units) as an extension of the PKK – in their eyes, a terrorist army. In Iraq, the Kurdish Autonomous Regions are rich in oil and are unlikely to be given away by the government in Baghdad. The Kurds will have to fight all three governments and will come to the U.S. for help.

7. Israel vs. Hezbollah

For those out of the know, Israel takes its security seriously. When Hezbollah fighters switched their focus to support the Asad regime in Syria, Israel took the opportunity to disrupt any Hezbollah supply line that might be used against the Jewish state. Many high-profile Hezbollah figures have died in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 – including Mustafa Badreddine, the military commander of the militia in Syria.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Israeli soldiers return from southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah isn’t a country. The group’s power base is in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, which is far from Lebanon’s border with Israel. When the fighting in Syria stops, Hezbollah will not forget its age-old enemy and is likely to retaliate. The Israel Defence Force has never hesitated to invade Lebanon with the aim of taking out Hezbollah fighters. The last time was in 2006 and Israel is already planning for the next one.

8. Civil War in Turkey

The Turkish people are facing an identity crisis. The current President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has slowly brought the Turkish economy to a more modern, robust level. The cost was a turn away from the secular democracy that defined the Turkish government.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Turkish women protesting the AKP government in Istanbul.

Turkey’s military has traditionally been the guarantor of its democracy, overthrowing the government whenever it felt a slide toward religiosity, as it did in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997. In 2012, Erdoğan purged the military, jailing dozens of officers to prevent a coup. As he and his ruling AKP become increasingly authoritarian and insufficiently responsive to terror attacks from ISIS, rumors of such a coup will only start to spread.

9. Civil War in Afghanistan

The U.S. and NATO allies can’t stay in Afghanistan forever. The Taliban doesn’t face the same opposition from Western troops they once faced before the drawdown in 2014 and the citizens of those countries aren’t interested in sending their troops back. In 2014, the Pakistani military’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb in its Waziristan tribal regions unseated thousands of fighters who likely found their way back to Afghanistan, ready to start again. The Afghan security forces are unlikely to be able to stand up to these battle-hardened jihadists without U.S. support.

10. China vs. India

China and India went to war in 1962 because Chairman Mao thought India was against its takeover of Tibet (Indians granted asylum to the Dalai Lama). The war lasted all of a month and only resulted in slight boundary changes which have never been fully addressed. The coming war may be nominally over the Himalayan boundaries between the two countries, but in reality, it will be about water. The two countries both want the hydropower and water from the Yarlung Tsangpo–Brahmaputra River. The river starts in Tibet then flows into India and Bangladesh. In 2008, a Chinese dam project on the Yarlung–Tsangpo worried the Indians about the diversion of the water and the use of water as a weapon and is now a major issue in bilateral talks.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein

In the event of a war with China, their perpetual enemy, Pakistan would likely join in on the Chinese side. The Chinese are heavily invested in Pakistan, especially in the disputed area of Kashmir. This investment allows the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to project power well into Central Asia and keep jihadists away from its borders. Individually, India can beat Pakistan and make a stand against China, but is unlikely to win against both.

Bonus: North Korea vs. Anyone

If anyone was going to invade North Korea, they would have done it by now. Seriously, what does this country have to do to get its government ousted?

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Canadian sniper sets new world record for a long-distance kill

A Canadian sniper operating in Iraq set the world record for a long-distance confirmed kill at 3,450 meters, or 2.14 miles just last month.


According to Robert Fife of the Globe and Mail, this soldier functions as part of Canada’s contribution to the war against ISIS, and serves as a member of Joint Task Force 2, the country’s top-tier special operations unit.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Joint Task Force 2 recruiting poster. (Photo Canadian military)

Fife reports that the shot was part of a response to an ISIS attack on Iraqi security forces. To break up the attack, coalition forces, including sniper teams, engaged the enemy element from a distance, picking out targets and dropping them from afar. The JTF2 sniper’s kill shot took around 10 seconds to reach its mark after exiting the barrel of the rifle.

Yet-to-be-released video footage of the shot apparently further adds credence to the claims surrounding this incredible feat.

It may surprise you that this isn’t the first time Canadians have held the record for a longest confirmed kill. In 2002, Cpl. Rob Furlong, a marksman with 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry set a record for a kill at 1.5 miles breaking the previous record set at 1.43 miles, held by… you guessed it, another Canadian – Master Cpl. Arron Perry, also of the same unit.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, during a 2017 military exercise. Photo by Sgt JF Lauzé (Canadian Army)

Furlong’s shot was exceeded in 2009 by a British army sniper, Craig Harrison, who dropped a pair of Taliban machine gunners while serving in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

The JTF2 sniper reportedly used a McMillan Tac-50 rifle, known as the C15 Long Range Sniper Weapon in Canadian service. The C15 is chambered to fire the same .50 caliber round the M2 heavy machine gun utilizes, though for shots that require considerable amounts of precision.

Interestingly enough, the record prior to Perry’s 2002 kill stood at 1.42 miles, held by legendary US Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock, who actually used a modified M2 outfitted with a scope to take his shot in early 1967. Both Furlong and Perry used the C15 for their long-distance shots in 2002.

The secretive JTF2 exists in the same vein as the US Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group, also known as DEVGRU. Like its American counterpart, the Canadian unit is primarily tasked with counterterrorism, though it can be used for direct action, high value target capture, and reconnaissance operations as needed. It’s also one of the smallest units of its kind in the world, recruiting very selectively from the three branches of the Canadian military.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
CANSOFCOM operators practice a rooftop insertion during a building takedown exercise (Canadian Army)

Potential JT2 “assaulters” are put through a difficult selection and training phase, designed to weed out candidates quickly so that only the toughest remain. Following selection, assaulters can be assigned to various specialties within two operational fields, air/land and sea. The unit regularly cross-trains with foreign partners around the world and at home in Canada.

Though JTF2, in comparison with similar units like the Special Air Service and DEVGRU, is very young in its history, it has already racked up a number of commendations for its actions on the battlefield, especially with its service in Afghanistan over the past 15 years.

In 2004, members of the unit were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation because of their actions as part of Task Force K-Bar, the first Canadian unit to hold such an honor since the Korean War.

Very little is known today about what JTF2 does in Iraq. It is known that the unit was first deployed late last year to the beleaguered country, supplementing other coalition special operations units currently active in the area.

Though it’s possible that JTF2 has carried out direct action assaults, it’s generally understood that their primary mission in-country is to serve in a training and advisory role with Kurdish fighters in the battle against ISIS.

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These states have their own armies not under the control of the Commander In Chief

A State Defense Force (SDF) is a state militia under the command of the chief executive of that state only. Twenty-five states in America have some kind of SDF, and all states have laws allowing one. Whether they call it state guards, state military reserves, or state militias, they are not a part of the National Guard of that state and only partially regulated by the federal government and cannot come under federal control.


Title 32 U.S. Code § 109 subsection (c) provides for these SDFs.

In addition to its National Guard, if any, a State, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, Guam, or the Virgin Islands may, as provided by its laws, organize and maintain defense forces. A defense force established under this section may be used within the jurisdiction concerned, as its chief executive (or commanding general in the case of the District of Columbia) considers necessary, but it may not be called, ordered, or drafted into the armed forces.

During World War I, Congress authorized states to create Home Guards as reserve forces aside from the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. During WWII, the 1916 legislation was amended to allow state militaries to defend their own states. Now called State Guards, they were trained and equipped by the federal government but maintained their separation. It wasn’t until 1956 that Congress allowed for the continual existence of these units outside of a wartime role. For a time, these SDFs existed only on paper. During the Reagan Administration, that changed. Reagans Department of Defense wanted SDFs in all states.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
A Georgia State Defense Force Volunteer passes a sandbag to a Georgia Army National Guard Soldier during a flood preparation mission near Augusta. The sandbags will be used to protect citizens of Georgia and South Carolina from rising flood waters following rains from Hurricane Joaquin. (Georgia State Defense Force photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 W. Kevin Ward)

The last part of the legislation says an SDF cannot be drafted into the Armed Forces of the United States, but that same legislation says that an individual member can. This is to ensure the independence of the SDF from the state National Guard. While typically organized as Army units, the SDFs vary, with some akin to the Navy and Air Force.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Members of the California State Military Reserve perform squad drills.

Before rushing to join your state’s SDF, be advised there are a lot of controversies surrounding SDFs. In the late 1980’s, the governor of Utah had to fire 31 officers for creating an SDF full of neo-nazis, mental patients, and felons. After September 11, 2001, Alaska disbanded its SDF because their lack of actual military training was more of a liability. New York’s SDF was full of Generals who have never had any military training, they were appointed by the governor as a reward for support. Some SDFs have no fitness or weight standards (California) while others are highly restrictive (Tennessee requires its SDF members be honorably discharged from the U.S. military).

State Defense Forces have assisted in many disaster-related capacities, however. They augmented forces in support of Hurricane Katrina relief, especially in states surrounding Louisiana, to assist with the expected influx of refugees. In Texas, the SDF responds to local emergencies (like flash floods) that aren’t declared disaster areas but need help anyway. They provide security augmentees for regular military forces and provide emergency medical training to National Guard units and other areas of the U.S. military.

10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein
Members of the Virginia Defense Force, Shelter Augmentation Liaison Team provide assistance to the Virginia State Police during the 2011 State Managed Shelter Exercise (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The state SDF could be a good way for a military veteran to continue serving their country while providing those without that experience their much-needed expertise. Every state has a different enlistment process and requirements, so there isn’t a single portal to joining, but be sure to do the research on the training and operations for your home state before applying.

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