Although the H-6 was initially fielded by the U.S. Army in the early ’60s, it wasn’t until the failed “Eagle Claw” mission in 1980 that the service started getting serious about supporting special operations with helicopters.
Since that time “Little Birds” have been used in crucial special operations missions across the globe from Panama to Somolia to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Little Birds are operated by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the “Night Stalkers”
The Night Stalkers operate a variety of helicopter models including the Chinook and Blackhawk, all modified for special operations missions.
Little Birds come in two basic variants — troop transport and attack. The attack version — the AH-6 — is armed with two M134 miniguns, two M260 7-shot Hydra 70 rocket pods. Alternately, the AH-6 can be armed with Hellfire anti-tank missiles, air-to-air Stingers, Mk-19 40 mm automatic grenade launchers, or .50 caliber machine guns.
In September 1987, Night Stalkers participated in Operation Prime Chance, engaging and neutralizing an Iranian ship that was being used for mine laying. Little Birds attacked the threat while using aviator night vision goggles and forward-looking infrared devices over water, the first successful night combat engagement under these conditions.
The Little Bird can carry up to six troops, three on each side, but usually they limit the number to two per side.
Little Bird pilots get specialized training in close quarters flying and night ops and those skills are heavily leveraged once they get to the Night Stalkers.
When not at war Little Bird pilots train as intensely as the special operators they carry.
After all, they set themselves to a very high standard: According to it’s mission statement the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) is constantly ready to arrive time-on-target plus or minus 30 seconds.
And here’s the last thing an insurgent might see . . .
McEwen teamed with Zinke — a former SEAL Team Six Commander and the only US Navy SEAL in Congress — to write a book about the now-politician’s life.
Zinke is also Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Interior.
Zinke’s military career began in 1985 when he graduated from Officer Candidate School and attended SEAL training (BUDS class 136). He was first assigned to SEAL Team One in Coronado, California, then was later selected for SEAL Team Six where he was a Team Leader and a commander.
As McEwen tells it, after a decade of service, Zinke was assigned as Deputy and Acting Commander of Combined Joint Special Operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom where he led a force of over 3,500 Special Operations personnel. In 2006 he was awarded two Bronze Stars.
An author experienced in telling the stories of high-level special operators, McEwen goes on to explain how Zinke retired from active duty 2008 after serving 23 years as a Navy SEAL. Zinke later ran for Congress and was sworn into the House of Representatives on January 6, 2015, and became the first Navy SEAL in the House.
David Miller is VA’s Male Volunteer of the Year. A Marine Corp Veteran, Miller served in Vietnam during the TET II offensive with 3rd Marine Division (9th Marines).
Miller says he got involved in volunteering “due to the fact that the Vietnam Veterans were ignored and mistreated and misdiagnosed for years after they returned home. I just wanted to make positive experiences to help all Veterans and also to help them with their issues for health and benefits.”
“I speak to youth about how important it is to honor all our Veterans. And after I was diagnosed with my cancer and in a wheelchair for five years, I kept volunteering to not think about my illnesses as well as to help other Veterans with the same problems. This was self medication for me as well.”
The National American Legion Hospital Representative at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center, Miller has volunteered for 27 years and finds the most emotional part of his volunteering is the interest he takes in the hospice and the really sick and disabled Veterans. “It made me thankful for my life, being a cancer survivor.’
He and his wife Kathy Ann live in Largo, Florida. His two grown sons, Jeremiah and Adam, live in Orlando. “They have accomplished so much in their lives.”
Miller says his only real hobby is, “speaking to children and youth about the importance of patriotism and how important it is to honor all our Veterans. They provide the protection that allows them to enjoy the freedoms that they take for granted.”
And he encourages them to volunteer. “I would hope we can start getting more younger people and younger Veterans to volunteer at our VA hospitals and in the community. They would get so much satisfaction from helping our heroes from the past, present and future. Our Veterans are the life blood of this great country of ours. We must make sure that is never forgotten in all our future generations.”
As part of his volunteer duties, Miller visit patients daily and meets several times a week with Veterans them with their claims and benefits. “I also am an advocate for all Veterans who need help with appointments or any other issues at the hospital or in the community.” He also speaks with young Veterans at MacDill Air Force Base who need guidance or help with any VA issues when they leave the service.
Miller adds, “I would just like to say that I am honored and humbled to accept this great accolade as National Volunteer of the Year. With all the service organizations that are involved, there are so many deserving people that should have won this award. I love to help Veterans in all facets of their lives both at the VA and in the community. It gives me great satisfaction to be able to donate my time for such a worthy cause! God Bless our Veterans and God Bless our great country.”
Expelled from their main stronghold in northern Iraq, Islamic State militants are now trapped in a military vise that will squeeze them on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.
Mattis arrived in the Iraqi capital on an unannounced visit August 22 just hours after President Donald Trump outlined a fresh approach to the stalemated war in Afghanistan. Trump also has vowed to take a more aggressive, effective approach against IS in Iraq and Syria, but he has yet to unveil a strategy for that conflict that differs greatly from his predecessor’s.
In Baghdad, Mattis was meeting with senior Iraqi government leaders and with US commanders. He also planned to meet in Irbil with Massoud Barzani, leader of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region that has helped fight IS. Mattis told reporters before departing from neighboring Jordan that the so-called Middle Euphrates River Valley — roughly from the western Iraqi city of al-Qaim to the eastern Syrian city of Der el-Zour — will be liberated in time, as IS gets hit from both ends of the valley that bisects Iraq and Syria.
“You see, ISIS is now caught in-between converging forces,” he said, using an alternative acronym for the militant group that burst into western and northern Iraq in 2014 from Syria and held sway for more than two years. “So ISIS’s days are certainly numbered, but it’s not over yet and it’s not going to be over any time soon.”
Mattis referred to this area as “ISIS’s last stand.”
Unlike the war in Afghanistan, Iraq offers a more positive narrative for the White House, at least for now. Having enabled Iraqi government forces to reclaim the Islamic State’s prized possession of Mosul in July, the US military effort is showing tangible progress and the Pentagon can credibly assert that momentum is on Iraq’s side.
The ranking US Air Force officer in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Croft, said that over the past couple of months IS has lost much of its ability to command and control its forces.
“It’s less coordinated than it was before,” he said. “It appears more fractured — flimsy is the word I would use.”
Brett McGurk, the administration’s special envoy to the counter-IS coalition, credits the Trump administration for having accelerated gains against the militants. He said August 21 that about one-third of all territory regained in Iraq and Syria since 2014 has been retaken in the last six or seven months.
“I think that’s quite significant and partially due to the fact we’re moving faster, more effectively,” as a result of Trump’s delegation of battlefield authorities to commanders in the field, McGurk said. He said this “has really made a difference on the ground. I have seen that with my own eyes.”
It seems likely that in coming months Trump may be in position to declare a victory of sorts in Iraq as IS fighters are marginalized and they lose their claim to be running a “caliphate” inside Iraq’s borders. Syria, on the other hand, is a murkier problem, even as IS loses ground there against US-supported local fighters and Russian-backed Syrian government forces.
The US role in Iraq parallels Afghanistan in some ways, starting with the basic tenet of enabling local government forces to fight rather than having US troops do the fighting for them. That is unlikely to change in either country. Also, although the Taliban is the main opposition force in Afghanistan, an Islamic State affiliate has emerged there, too. In both countries, US airpower is playing an important role in support of local forces, and in both countries the Pentagon is trying to facilitate the development of potent local air forces.
In Iraq, the political outlook is clouded by the same sectarian and ethnic division between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish factions that have repeatedly undercut, and in some cases reversed, security gains following the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
An immediate worry is a Kurdish independence referendum to be held September 25, which, if successful, could upset a delicate political balance in Iraq and inflame tensions with Turkey, whose own Kurdish population has fought an insurgency against the central government for decades. McGurk reiterated US opposition to holding the Iraqi Kurdish referendum.
“We believe these issues should be resolved through dialogue under the constitutional framework, and that a referendum at this time would be really potentially catastrophic to the counter-ISIS campaign,” McGurk told reporters in a joint appearance with Mattis before they flew to Iraq.
With the Iraqi military’s campaign to retake the northern city of Tal Afar now under way, Mattis has refused to predict victory. He says generals and senior officials should “just go silent” when troops are entering battle.
“I’d prefer just to let the reality come home. There’s nothing to be gained by forecasting something that’s fundamentally unpredictable,” he told reporters traveling with him over the weekend.
What once hosted notable figures like Winston Churchill and Leonid Brezhnev — and where historic decisions like the precursor to SALT were made — has now become a nest for raccoons.
The USS Sequoia, which once was used as a presidential yacht, is falling apart and is the subject of a fierce legal fight over ownership.
According to a report by CBSNews.com, the yacht is no longer the “floating White House” where Richard Nixon reached a high point of his presidency (discussing the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with Leonid Brezhnev) and a low point (deciding to resign in the wake of the Watergate scandal).
The USS Sequoia was purchased in 1931, initially to serve as a floating sting operation against alcohol smugglers. However, it soon found itself used by President Herbert Hoover for fishing (the President once used it to sail to Florida – not something that would likely happen today).
Two years later, the Commerce Department handed the Sequoia to the Navy, and it became the presidential yacht, replacing the USS Mayflower, which was decommissioned in 1929. It remained in service until President Jimmy Carter auctioned the vessel off for $286,000 in 1977.
Afterwards, it served on a private charter, but was still used by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush to host events.
Today, the condition of the boat is shocking. While it is drydocked in Deltaville, Virginia, the vessel has not received any maintenance. A family of raccoons have taken residence in the vessel, eating some of the ship’s keepsake candy bars and the ship might not even make it through this winter.
“The status of the vessel is we need to protect it immediately, get it through the winter. Currently, she is stressed,” Matthew Vilbas, the captain of the vessel, told CBS. “There [were] a few rooms where the animals defecated on carpets, including presidential carpets where presidents spent time with their families and foreign and national persons.”
It was Vilbas who discovered the family of raccoons using an American flag as a nest. Vilbas is desperate for the legal situation to get resolved.
“I spent hours, days, evenings with and without family on board in what I felt has been a great honor to serve and provide experiences for many different persons. And when you spend that time on her, it becomes an extension of yourself,” he told CBS.
Even after the legal ownership is resolved, it will take millions of dollars to fix the vessel. Whoever owns it will also have to locate enough shipwrights who are knowledgable about classical wood building techniques.
It reportedly could take as much as 10,000 hours to fix the ship.
The UK Foreign Office has issued a bizarre terrorism warning for citizens wishing to travel to its territory in Antarctica – a security chief has criticized the move as “pointless back covering”.
The message on the department’s foreign travel advice section reads: “Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the British Antarctic Territory, attacks can’t be ruled out.
“There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.”
The British Antarctic Territory is a 660,000 square mile stretch of the icy continent that includes the South Pole. It is uninhabited, except for two scientific research stations – and several species of penguin.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who led the British Army into Afghanistan in 2003, told The Sun: “MI5’s then-director-general once said there was a terror threat almost everywhere except Antarctica. Now they’ve put Antarctica on the list.
“We expect guidance based on intelligence, not a pointless exercise in back-covering – unless I’ve missed the Islamic State Polar Brigade.”
The British Antarctic Territory is the largest of the 14 British Overseas Territories, which include the tiny Carribbean islands of Bermuda and The Bahamas.
Similar advice concerning terrorist attacks has also been issued for these paradise holiday destinations.
He had been suspiciously summoned to Moscow. They had got him drunk on cognac while a KGB general grilled him for four hours. He’d be executed if they could catch him. They seemed to be closing the net. But the MI6 double agent couldn’t risk openly fleeing.
After he sobered up at home, Oleg Gordiyevsky turned to his last resort — an emergency escape plan devised by the British intelligence services that was hidden in invisible ink in a collection of Shakespeare sonnets.
Pulling bed sheets over his head to elude surveillance cameras in the ceiling and walls of his Moscow apartment, Gordiyevsky soaked the book cover in water, revealing a set of instructions. He set about memorizing them.
The plan sketched out a risky rendezvous with two British diplomatic cars at the bend of a road near Finland. From there, Gordiyevsky would be smuggled across the border in the trunk of a car right under the nose of Soviet guards.
If the plan failed, the British security services would lose a prized asset, sometimes considered the West’s most valuable Cold War intelligence source. The plan was backed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: if uncovered it would spark a major diplomatic incident; for Gordiyevsky it would mean certain death.
Recruited in 1974 in Copenhagen by MI6, Gordiyevsky, a KGB colonel, was an unparalleled source within the secretive Soviet state, passing reams of information to the British, who shared it with the CIA. It led to him being compromised. Gordiyevsky blames Aldrich Ames, a KGB mole in the CIA, who he says told Moscow there was a leak in the KGB London station where Gordiyevsky was posted.
‘Toward Death’s Embrace’
Gordiyevsky was summoned to the KGB’s Lubyanka headquarters in Moscow, ostensibly so that he could be confirmed as station chief. But Gordiyevsky suspected something was up.
“I realized I was going toward death’s embrace. But I still decided to go to show that I’m not scared,” he said. He took with him a backup escape plan written by British spy John Scarlett, the man who went on to become “M,” the head of MI6.
All he had to do was inform the British of the proposed date of his extraction. But even that proved hard.
A first “control” meeting arranged at Kutuzovsky Prospekt was botched. A second rendezvous was planned at St. Basil’s Cathedral, where he was meant to pass a note to a British spy on the narrow staircase leading up to the iconic tourist site’s second floor.
But after walking for three hours to shake off his KGB tail, Gordiyevsky arrived to find the plan had been foiled — the whole of Red Square was closed for renovations.
Finally, a third control meeting was successful. The plan was on.
At five o’clock on a Friday afternoon on July 19, 1985, a short, thick-set man in a worn jacket and corduroy trousers stepped out of a west Moscow apartment. Staying close to the bushes to avoid detection by a surveillance vehicle, he quietly slipped across to an adjacent street.
Within an hour Gordiyevsky was at Moscow’s Leningrad train station, where he bought tickets to Leningrad before travelling by suburban electric train to Zelenogorsk. From there, he jumped on a bus to Vyborg.
Hours Of Waiting
The meeting place was somewhere along the way, but he had only a description of the meeting place and no precise location.
Unsure exactly where to get off but having passed a big bend in the road that resembled the meeting place, he feigned sickness and nausea to convince the driver to let him off, and walked back along the road until he found the designated meeting place.
“I was surrounded by woodland where I laid down waiting for the diplomatic car of the [British] embassy. I lay there three hours waiting for the moment when the car was meant to come. At 2:20 a.m. two cars with two drivers arrived. They managed to hide around the bend for a few minutes away from the KGB car following them from Leningrad.”
“I dived into the trunk of one of the cars. The whole operation took no longer than a minute, we managed to get going again before the KGB tail appeared round the corner.”
Luckily, a slow goods train chugging through a railway crossing had separated the British diplomats from the KGB tail and put considerable distance between them. The KGB sped forward to catch up, but the British cars had waited by a small hill out of sight and the KGB overshot them.
“Our pursuers, having reached a traffic police post, asked the police: ‘Where are the English cars?'”
“‘What cars? No one has passed,’ [they answered]. And then our cars appeared. They surrounded the English: ‘Right, that’s it, now they’re going to arrest us,’ they thought. But the KGB were also tired. It was half past five, Saturday, end of the working day. They’d been on duty since about 7 that morning and let us go through to the border point without checking us.”
From the trunk of the car, all Gordiyevsky could hear was the driver turn on a piece of music by Sibelius called Finlandia.
“That’s how I realized we were on Finnish territory.”
In Finland, Gordiyevsky was let out of the stuffy trunk of the car and met by a young British diplomat named Michael Shipster. He called MI6, Gordiyevsky recalls, and announced: “The luggage has arrived. It’s all in order.”
In the wake of a recent spate of terrorist attacks in London, the government of Prime Minister Theresa May has turned to the country’s elite Special Air Service counter-terrorist forces to blend into the city’s landscape in hopes of stopping another attack before it starts.
While they’re reportedly deploying alongside police units wearing special uniforms and carrying the latest commando gear, the SAS troopers are also said to be disguising themselves as homeless people and sleeping on city streets.
“The threat level is still assessed by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre as severe and that means an attack is highly likely so we must be ready,” a military source told the Daily Mail. “These soldiers provide a very good layer of immediate response at least to minimize casualties or stop injuries or deaths if they react quickly.”
Other SAS operators posing as civilians are offering handouts to the “homeless” commandos to keep them fed and supplied, the paper said.
Unlike the United States, the United Kingdom doesn’t have a Posse Comitatus Act that prohibits the deployment of military forces within the country at the direction of the government. While this might have some scratching their heads, it has many feeling much safer in the wake of recent terrorist attacks which have left scores wounded and killed.
In order to diminish the threat to UK residents and citizens, May has not-so-subtly authorized the British military to turn the SAS loose throughout the country in an effort to prevent further attacks and to hunt down would-be terrorists before they can carry out their dastardly plans.
Soon after initial reports on the May 22 bombing in the lobby of the Manchester Arena surfaced, Blue Eurocopter Dauphins belonging to the British Army Air Corps’ 658 Squadron appeared on rooftops of the city, offloading kitted-out SAS troops, armed to the teeth with assault rifles and sub-machine guns.
In the days since, news media across the UK have noted that these SAS warfighters have been assisting British police teams in assaulting the hideouts of terrorists around the country, sweeping for accomplices who may have been involved in the planning and execution of various terror attacks this year.
According to The Mirror, troops from the SAS’s G-Squadron and Counter Revolutionary Warfare Wing have also been posted in the UK’s largest cities, walking among the general public without anybody the wiser in the hopes of catching terrorists unawares while they attempt to attack unassuming civilians going about their daily lives. These fully operational troops have been trained to blend in, only stepping out with their weapons drawn if the need arises.
The Special Air Service was formed during the Second World War in Africa, an asymmetric warfare detachment of the British Army equipped with jeeps and machine guns to harass German military units when they least expected it. First led by eccentric officer and adventurer, Sir David Stirling, the SAS proved its worth and began operating in the European theater during the war.
In the Cold War, its mission evolved along with the threats the rest of the world faced, and counter-terrorism became a priority, remaining its top directive to this very day.
Recruits vying for a shot at joining the SAS and earning its coveted beige beret face an arduous journey ahead, involving grueling physical tests, sleep and meal deprivation, and a long-distance forced march across a mountain in Wales which has to be accomplished within a time limit. The attrition rates have consistently been incredibly high throughout the selection course’s history and, controversially, the course has even claimed the lives of a few of its attendees.
Upon being selected to the SAS, candidates are trained to be master marksmen, expert drivers, free-fall skydivers and more in a diverse array of climates and environments.
By the end of their training, these soldiers stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of the very best special operations forces in the world.
This is not the first time the SAS has seen action inside British borders. In early 1980, the unit was deployed to London to take down the Iranian embassy after terrorists seized control of the diplomatic house, taking a number of civilians hostage. After negotiations failed, SAS teams assaulted the embassy, killing all but one of the perpetrators while arresting the sole survivor. This event is recounted in vivid detail in the upcoming movie “6 Days.”
In the years since the Iranian embassy siege, the SAS has been sent to a number of combat zones throughout the world, operating from the Falklands in the early 1980s to the Middle East in the present day. In Iraq, members of the SAS served as part of a joint multinational hunter-killer unit known as Task Force Black/Knight, systematically rooting out and eliminating terrorists in-country. More recently, it has been rumored that the SAS is once again active in the Middle East, functioning alongside allied partners with the goal of destroying ISIS through both pinpoint attacks and brute force.
While British citizens can sleep well at night, now knowing that their nations’ finest walk incognito in their midst, potential terrorists will likely quiver with the knowledge that these elite operators stand ready in the shadows to visit violence upon those who would do their countrymen harm.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency recently reported that the country may seek to buy Raytheon SM-3 ballistic defense missiles from the US as tensions rise with North Korea and in the broader Pacific region.
The missiles, if acquired, would replace the SM-2 missiles currently fielded by South Korea’s Aegis destroyers and improve their range from about 100 miles to more than 300 miles, significantly extending their layers of missile defense.
The move to acquire better missile defenses comes after North Korea launched two “No Dong” intermediate-range ballistic missiles, one of which landed near the Sea of Japan.
The South Korean Navy plans to build three more Sejong the Great-class guided missile destroyers that use the same radar and launch system as the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class BMD guided missile destroyers, the US Naval Institute reports. As the current ships cannot accommodate the SM-3 missiles, the newer ships may be modified for their use.
The SM-3 missiles would leverage the South Korean Navy’s powerful radar to accurately and reliably destroy incoming ballistic missiles while they’re still in space, and safely distant from targets on the surface.
The Naval Institute also notes that the news of South Korea’s SM-3 deliberation was met with immediate and harsh rebuke from a Chinese state-run news agency: “It is unmistakably a strategic misjudgment for Seoul to violate the core interests of its two strong neighbors, at the cost of its own security, and only in the interests of American hegemony.”
Afghanistan. Distant, foreboding, little understood.
Known as the “Graveyard of Empires” the carcasses of countless soviet war machines rust away in mute testimony to the futility of that savage war. The more I read about Afghanistan the less I seemed to know. Watching the news was even more confusing and it appeared America had entered this same graveyard and that we were now fighting elusive ghosts otherwise known as the Taliban.
I remember watching the newscasts in the 1990’s of the Taliban as they rose like a cancer throughout the country, oppressing women, killing those who opposed them and imposing their radical version of Islam on all. Nothing made a deeper impression on me than the public destruction of the massive Banyam Buddhas and the wholesale “cleansing” of Afghanistan’s precious ancient history. Then came 9/11.
In 2010, then our 9th year of the war, I was still struggling with understanding why we were there, who we were fighting and maybe most importantly who were we helping? I got it in my mind that I wanted to make a sort of “combat travel film” that didn’t just following brave men in combat but one that also helped to explain more about the land and the people. Digital technology now makes every soldier a potential documentarian and it was under these auspices that I started to look for a story. It didn’t take long and it would change my life.
Enter Team Cobra
A Sergeant friend of mine told me about a group of all-volunteers from the Oregon National Guard who, in 2008, wanted to deploy to Afghanistan to “impart change” by helping the local population and training the Afghan National Army. They would return a year later as one of the most decorated units in Oregon National Guard history. While I didn’t at the time know the particulars, I knew I had to tell their story.
Of the 17 men that deployed, I interviewed 6 of them. I had between 2 and 4 hours of initial interview footage from each man. With each interview their stories started to intertwine and after the interview process my real work began. I listened to these stories on my headphones over and over again. Their journey to Afghanistan was over, but mine was just beginning. I watched countless video clips and looked at thousands of photos, each one representing a puzzle piece. Weeks turned to months. The sound of the newspaper being delivered in our driveway served as a reminder that I might have missed another night’s sleep. I was learning about Afghanistan, about the diversity of the people, about courage, about honor and about loss.
Watch Gary Mortensen’s ‘Shepherds of Helmand’ on The Mighty TV here.
Earlier that year I had lost my mom to a long and protracted battle with cancer. My father followed a few weeks afterwards. In my own sorrow I consumed myself with telling the story of Team Cobra. They too knew loss. One of their leaders, Bruno DeSolenni had died in an IED attack and the impact on these men would be profound and everlasting.
Each night as I worked on the film I felt closer to these guys, even though they had only met me months earlier for a few hours. But that didn’t matter, I felt a huge responsibility to tell their story in a way that would honor them. I was nervous to show the final cut to them because I wanted to tell the story right. They were gracious and thankful and said to my relief that it was faithful.
When the film finally debuted almost a year later everyone of the soldiers were there for the premiere. They stood on the stage after the screening and answered questions. It was after this that I really got to know them, not just as soldiers but as people.
In my attempt to make a film about Afghanistan, I ended up making a film about America. It’s seems so easy to accept the popular indictment that we have lost it as a country. But I would submit that all around us are exceptional people. I am proud to say I know six of them. They are simply some of the finest people I have ever met and I know that if I was ever in need I could call any of them and they would be there for me. Not because I’m special, it’s because that’s just what they do. They went to Afghanistan to help, some of have gone back, one didn’t come back and some of them are there today.
I am honored to call Jerry Glesmann, Paul Dyer, Marking Browning, Dave Hagen, Dominic Oto and Steve Cooper my friends. They helped me more than they will every know.
Gary Mortensen is an award-winning documentary film director, President of Stoller Family Estate (a premiere Oregon winery), and is active in helping to preserve and share the stories of our veterans. See more at www.veteranslegacies.com.
As Russia focuses on militarizing its Arctic region, the Kremlin is trying to develop military technology needed to operate in one of the world’s harshest environments. Russian military planners are now setting their sights on the development of Arctic rescue robots.
Admiral Victor Chirkov, the head of the Russian Navy, has called for the development and construction of “Arctic underwater search and rescue robots,” Newsweek reports citing Itar-Tass, a state-owned Russian media organization. The robots would be designed to withstand difficult Arctic conditions and cold temperatures.
“We have formulated our requirements and set the task for manufacturers to create both manned and unmanned underwater vehicles, which can be used to provide search and rescue support with proper effectiveness in the harsh conditions of the Arctic seas,” Chirkov said.
Chirkov’s urging for robot development coincides with Russia’s Arctic militarization push and the Kremlin’s efforts to develop autonomous robotic technology. In January, Russia premiered a prototype for a robotic biker, proof that Russia was interested in developing humanoid robots with possible military applications.
Russia’s new military doctrine designates the Arctic as one of three geopolitical areas that could serve as strategic beachheads. To achieve this goal, Moscow has increasingly deployed advanced weaponry along its northern coast, created a unified military command for the region, and planned a construction blitz through the region that would include a series of ports, airfields, and military bases.
Moscow has also announced that it plans on sending a drone fleet to the eastern reaches of the Arctic region.
Russia’s focus on the Arctic stems from unclaimed natural resources under the ice. The US estimates that a possible 15% of the earth’s remaining oil, 30% of its natural gas, and 20% of its liquefied natural gas are stored within the Arctic sea bed.
Currently, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Canada, and the US all have partial claims to the Arctic Circle.
Movies would have you believe that every unit has a guy nicknamed “Hawkeye” or “Snake” or some other generic, tough name. As fun as films and video games make those monikers seem, it just doesn’t work that way in real life.
In actuality, nicknames fall into one of four categories: Either the troop is a freakin’ legend, it’s the unit’s name plus a number or letter, it’s just a shortened version of their last name, or it’s an insult in disguise.
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Even with all of The Punisher swag that Chris Kyle wore, he never insisted that anyone call him “The Punisher” — even if he was one of the few people on Earth worthy of that title.
Let’s kick this list off with the freakin’ legends. Take Secretary of Defense James “Warrior Monk” Mattis for example. He’s a highly revered military mind within the U.S. Armed Forces and his nickname reflects that.
As is the case with most nicknames, they’re typically invented and popularized by others — not by the legends themselves. These nicknames are even more intimidating when they’re created by the enemy. Chris “the Legend” Kyle, for example, was known as “Al-Shaitan Ramad,” which translates into “the Devil of Ramadi.”
The reason why both Kyle and Mattis have such badass nicknames is because they earned them.
Why, yes. They do call me “Romeo” for a reason…
(Photo by Cpl. Charles Santamaria)
People often confuse nicknames with call signs, so let’s hash the difference right now. Call signs are official unit designations given to members of the chain of command. Sometimes, a call sign will become more familiar than your own name.
If you’re, let’s say, the company commander of the alpha company “Spartans,” you’ll get the designation of “Spartan 6.” The XO gets “Spartan 5,” Senior Enlisted gets “Spartan 7,” and so on. Drivers, gunners, and radio operators can swap out the number designation for D, G, and R, respectively.
“Hey, Ski!” “…which one?”
(Photo by Sgt. Lauren Harrah)
Butchered last name
The next nickname variation is especially terrible if your last name is anything outside of the standard, common English name. Unless you’re a “Smith” or a “Brown” or a “Johnson,” no one is going to try to pronounce what’s on your name tape — no matter how phonetically simple it may seem.
A whole nine letters broken into three syllables — you know, something simple like Milzarski (pronounced Mil-zar-ski) is too complicated. So, most will just shorten it to “Ski.” Good luck if there’s more than one Polish troop in the squad. Not that I’m ranting or anything…
If it’s dumb and it sounds like an insult, don’t take it personally. It’s meant with brotherly love.
Remember when you screwed up?
The most common way to get yourself a nickname of your very own is to f*ck up. Don’t worry if it’s not a record-shattering mistake — people will constantly remind you of what you did. It’s not pleasant and it’s usually a way to rib one another, but you don’t want to be known as “Fumbles” by everyone.
Don’t worry if you get one of these dumb names. It’ll pass as soon as you PCS or ETS.
A recent Navy Times article notes that the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) joined the “Order of the Blue Nose” — a distinction reserved for ships and crew that crossing the Arctic Circle.
That list includes both well-known orders and not-so-well known orders. They are for notable feats — and in some cases, dubious ones.
Perhaps the most well-known is the “Order of the Shellback,” given to those sailors who have crossed the equator. The “Crossing the Line” ceremony has been portrayed both in the PBS documentary series “Carrier,” as well as being the plot point for an episode of “JAG” in the 1990s.
But there is more than one kind of shellback.
If you cross the equator at the International Date Line (about 900 miles east of Nauru), you become a “Golden Shellback” (since those who cross the International Date Line are called Golden Dragons).
If you cross the equator at the Prime Meridian (a position about 460 miles to the west of Sao Tome and Principe), you become an “Emerald Shellback.”
Now, we can move to some lesser-known, and even dubious orders.
The “Order of the Caterpillar” is awarded to anyone who has to leave a plane on the spur of the moment due to the plane being unable to continue flying. You even get a golden caterpillar pin.
The eyes of the caterpillar will then explain the circumstances of said departure. The Naval History and Heritage Command, for instance, notes that ruby red eyes denote a midair collision.
Then, there is the becoming a member of the “Goldfish Club.” That involves spending time in a life raft. If you’re in the raft for more than 24 hours, you become a “Sea Squatter.”
Using the Panama Canal makes you a member of the “Order of the Ditch.”
Oh, and in case you are wondering, crossing the Antarctic Circle makes you a “Red Nose.”