One of my direct subordinates, one of my guys that worked for me, he would call me up or pull me aside with some major problem, some issue that was going on. And he’d say, ‘Boss, we’ve got this, and that, and the other thing.’ And I’d look at him and I’d say, ‘Good.’
And finally one day he was telling me about some issue that he was having, some problem, and he said, ‘I already know what you’re going to say.’
And I said, ‘Well, what am I going to say?’
He said, ‘You’re gonna say, Good. He said, ‘That’s what you always say. When something is wrong and going bad, you always just look at me and say, Good.’
Willink wasn’t being snide or dismissive. Rather, he was forcing his troops to find a way to grow from a failure or challenge they were having difficulty overcoming.
If they didn’t get the supplies they needed, for example, he’d force them into a mindset where they could excel in spartan conditions.
It’s an approach he’s applied to his entire life, and one he teaches with his former second-in-command, Leif Babin, through their management consulting firm Echelon Front.
“Didn’t get promoted? Good. More time to get better,” Willink said, giving another example.
In another episode, Willink explained how one of his friends told him he was able to see this philosophy in action even when his father died. It wasn’t literally “good” that his father died, but when he was done grieving he was able to see that he was presented with an opportunity to take responsibilities in areas that he could normally rely on his father for, and to make the most of them.
The “good” approach is a way to move forward without giving into overwhelming emotions, whether on the battlefield, in the office, or in your personal life.
“That’s it,” Willink said on his podcast. “When things are going bad, don’t get all bummed out. Don’t get startled, don’t get frustrated. If you can say the word good, guess what? It means you’re still alive. It means you’re still breathing. And if you’re still breathing, well then hell, you’ve still got some fight left in you. So get up, dust off, reload, recalibrate, reengage, and go out on the attack.”
An Army Ranger assigned to the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command will be awarded the Medal of Honor Sept. 11 for his actions in a 2015 raid that rescued approximately 70 prisoners from Islamic State militants in Iraq, according to the Associated Press.
President Donald Trump will award the nation’s highest award for military valor to Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne in a White House ceremony set for the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Payne will receive the medal for his actions Oct. 22, 2015, as a member of an American and Kurdish raid force that sought to rescue 70 prisoners — including Kurdish peshmerga fighters — from a compound in the town of Huwija, Iraq, roughly 9 miles west of Kirkuk. The Kurds and Americans had reliable intelligence reports that ISIS was planning to kill the prisoners.
“Time was of the essence,” Payne said, according to the AP. “There were freshly dug graves. If we didn’t action this raid, then the hostages were likely to be executed.”
Fast rope training with US Army Special Operations Aviation Regiment forces. US Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite.
When ISIS militants opened fire after Kurdish forces attempted and failed to breach the compound with an explosive, Payne and his unit climbed over a wall, entered the compound, and quickly cleared one of the two buildings where the prisoners were held, the AP reported.
Clearing through the building, the team used bolt cutters to break locks off prison doors and free nearly 40 hostages.
After other task force members reported they were engaged in an intense firefight at the second building, between 10 to 20 soldiers, including Payne and Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, maneuvered toward the second building, which was heavily fortified and partially on fire.
“The team scaled a ladder onto the roof of the one-story building under a savage fusillade of enemy machine-gun fire from below. From their roof-top vantage point, the commandos engaged the enemy with hand grenades and small arms fire,” the AP reported. “Payne said at that point, ISIS fighters began to detonate their suicide vests, causing the roof to shake. The team quickly moved off the roof to an entry point for building two.”
As ISIS fighters continued to exchange gunfire with the raid force as they entered the building, Payne worked to open another fortified door, cutting the first lock before heavy smoke from the fire forced him to hand off the bolt cutters to an Iraqi counterpart and retreat out of the building for fresh air.
Rangers pull security while conducting a night raid in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
After the Iraqi partner had to retreat for fresh air, Payne grabbed the bolt cutters and reentered the building to cut off the last lock. After kicking open the door, the commandos escorted about 30 more hostages out of the burning building, which was about to collapse and still taking enemy gunfire.
Payne reentered the building two more times to ensure every prisoner was freed, having to forcibly remove one of the prisoners who had been too frightened to move during the chaotic scene, according to the AP.
Payne joined the Army in 2002 as an infantryman and has deployed several times to combat as a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and in various positions with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal for a wound he sustained in Afghanistan in 2010, according to the AP report. Payne also won the Army’s Best Ranger Competition as a sergeant first class representing USASOC in 2012. He is married with three children and is stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He is from the South Carolina towns of Batesburg-Leesville and Lugoff.
The news of Payne’s Medal of Honor comes just nine days after another soldier was recommended for the extraordinary honor.
In a letter to lawmakers Aug. 24, Defense Secretary Mark Esper endorsed a proposal to upgrade to a Medal of Honor the Silver Star Medal Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe was awarded after he died of the catastrophic burns he suffered while pulling six soldiers from a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Iraq, on Oct. 17, 2005.
The “Miracle at Dunkirk,” when 338,000 troops were evacuated in Operation Dynamo where optimistic estimates topped out at 45,000 might be rescued, was a turning point for the allies, allowing them to salvage troops that would fight in North Africa, at D-Day, and beyond.
In 7 steps, here’s how the British Expeditionary Force was trapped on the beaches of France and then rescued in Operation Dynamo.
The military maneuvers and buildup between the two sides were dubbed the “Phoney War.” Belgium, the Netherlands, and other countries across Europe prepared for the likelihood of a German invasion.
2. The Germans invade
On May 10, 1940, the “Phoney War” came to a violent end as the Germans invaded the Netherlands and Belgium. The Germans quickly took ground and captured bridgeheads on the River Meuse, allowing them to invade France through the Ardennes Forest.
4. The French and British withdraw towards the beaches
As army after army and country after country surrendered to the German war machine, those still fighting were forced to withdraw further and further east and north. They were pushed against the beaches of France. Panzer forces attacked and captured the French deep-water ports at Boulogne and Calais on May 25 and 26, limiting the potential evacuation options.
5. The Panzers stop
The 48-hour timeline was agreed upon because it was the longest that forces could reliably hold out against German armor. But the German tanks had mysteriously stopped their push towards Dunkirk itself on May 23 by order of Gen. Ewald von Kleist. The next day, a full “stop order” was given by Hitler.
The Allies responded by quickly shoring up their defenses as best they could. What was a loose line of troops on May 23, likely to be brushed aside quickly, became a much more formidable line of dug in but exhausted forces.
One of the most shocking events in the evacuations began on May 27 when the Royal Navy requisitioned small vessels for use in the evacuations. Most of the ships were manned by the Royal Navy, but some ship owners insisted that they would pilot their craft to assist in the evacuation.
The Military Assistance Command — Studies and Observations Group, now better known as SOG, was one of those true dark-arts units that hid dangerous men with dangerous jobs behind a boring name. The missions that these special operators, including a large number of U.S. Army green berets, undertook helped save the lives of infantrymen fighting across Vietnam.
Now, these warriors are telling their story.
Then-Sgt. Gary M. Rose, a member of Studies and Observations Group, is led away from a helicopter after heroic actions that would later net him a Medal of Honor.
Warriors In Their Own Words, a podcast that captures the authentic stories of America’s veterans as they tell them, spoke with two members of the unit. You can enjoy their riveting tales in the episode embedded above — but make sure you carve out time for it. The episode is just over an hour, but once you start listening, you won’t want to stop.
J.D. Bath and Bill Deacy describe their harrowing experiences serving in Vietnam with the SOG, and they both tell amazing stories.
J.D. Bath was an early member of SOG, recruited after his entire team was killed in a helicopter crash. He tells of how his SOG team bought pipes, tobacco, and bourbon for local tribes to enlist their help. Later, he and his team came under fire from a U.S. helicopter that had no idea that Americans were so far behind enemy lines. Luckily, another U.S. aircraft threatened to shoot down the helicopter if it didn’t stop immediately.
Bill Deacy, on the other hand, survived multiple firefights and endured a bad case of malaria before ending up on the wrong part of the Ho Chi Min Trail. The Special Forces soldiers planned an ambush against a small North Vietnamese force, and Deacy had no way of warning his men when he spotted a massive column of enemy soldiers approaching just as the ambush was being sprung.
These are incredible stories coming straight from the heroes who were there. We’ll be featuring a story each week, so keep your eyes peeled. If you can’t wait, Warriors In Their Own Words has a massive archive on their website.
Much of the world knows the Grenadier Guards from their roles as formal guards in London and at Windsor Castle. Their distinctive ceremonial uniforms are a symbol of the British Crown. They are also one of the world’s best light infantry units who joined the British Army in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But while they left their distinctive bearskin hats at home, they did bring many traditions to desert wars with them.
“Make way for the Queen’s Guard.”
One of those traditions surrounds saying the word “yes.” Apparently, members of the Grenadier Guards find the affirmative to be redundant. According to one guardsman in a 1989 BBC story called the “Weird and Wonderful Traditions of the Grenadier Guards,” saying yes is redundant as a guardsman always obeys his orders. The only alternative would be saying “no,” something a guardsman would never do.
So in the Grenadier Guards, they simply respond to direct orders with “sir.”
The Grenadiers’ unquestioned obedience doesn’t limit their ability to communicate. According to a ranking Guardsman of the time, they can still pass different meanings through the word using different tones and inflections. If you’re given a bad assignment, you just say “sir.” It doesn’t mean you’re happy about it, but you accept it. If you’re told something you simply just can’t believe, you might say “sirrrrrr?” Or maybe you disagree with it entirely and don’t like it one bit.
A monotone “sir” is an acceptable response. Tune in to the above video at around 6:15 to hear the Guards tell it.
The best backyardgames, the ones that earn a coveted spot in your warm weather rotation, are casual activities that work as well for crowds as they do for one-on-one matchups. While we won’t ever turn down a game of cornhole, kanjam, ladder toss, and horseshoes, the best backyard games and lawn games come from Scandinavia. Why? Simple. Because of their soul-witheringly long winters, Scandinavians know how to celebrate summer. That celebration often includes participation in simple, fun games that lend themselves to hours of time on that oh-so-important sunlight. The games on this list exist are those that require you to throw one thing at a set of other things. They’re easy to pick up but still require skill and, when the time is right, lend themselves to serious competition. Think cornhole gets competitive? Try a game of Kubb or Mölkky and get back to us. Here are a few games to consider adding to your backyard this summer.
Yard Games Kubb
The Swedish game Kubb dates back more than 1,000 years, when Vikings first conceived of the game as a pastime during those, long light-filled summer nights when they were finished sinking Skeggøx into the chests of their enemies. Legend has it, they’d lob the skulls and limbs of their slain foes across a decreed playing area; eventually, over centuries, it evolved into a more civilized game. In recent years, its exploded in popularity. Modern Kubb sets are, thankfully, made of carved wood instead of cadavers. Each contains 10 wooden blocks, called kubbs, as well as a foot-tall king (marked by a set of points to designate a crown) six tall blocks, and six skittles, the latter of which are used to demarcate a playing field. Once the field is set up properly, the object of the game is to lob kubbs in an attempt to knock down an opponent’s pins and, finally, their king. Accidentally knock down the king before the other pins results in an automatic loss. Simple, but good for hours of warm weather entertainment.
More or less a mash-up of cornhole and bowling, Mölkky is a Finnish lawn game similar to Kubb. Twelve slim, numbered pins called “skittles” are set up on the grass. Teams take turns throwing a wooden block, or karttus, at said pins in an attempt to knock them down. The team who is first to knock down 50 points worth of pins wins. As is the case with games that have been around for a very long time, the rules vary and some are more complicated than others. Regardless of which you follow, the outcome is the same: fun.
A board game that can be played anywhere but is best befitting of the backyard, Sjoelbak is the Dutch version of shuffleboard. It consists of a 16-inch wide, 79-inch long wooden board and 30 wooden pucks. Each side of the board has four wooden channels; players take turns sliding pucks, trying to get them in appropriate lanes. After three rounds, the pucks are totaled (scoring is a bit confusing, but the rules are explained here) and the winner is decided. Again, it’s quite simple. But set up the board on a back table and don’t be surprised if it’s played long into the evening.
The technological evolution of warfare is cyclical. As weapons become deadlier, armor becomes stronger. As armor becomes stronger, weapons become deadlier. During WWII, tank technology rapidly advanced from small light tanks to battlefield behemoths like the German Tiger. In order to better protect themselves from enemy fire, tank crews often added extra layers of protection to their tanks. Some added armor was more effective than others, though.
Sandbags stop bullets, right? Generally, yes. Short of a high-caliber round like a .50 BMG, sandbags are able to stop bullets. Not tank shells, bullets. Still, this reality didn’t stop American tankers from fortifying the front, sides and turret of their M4 Shermans with an array of sandbags. Arguably more of a psychological armor than a protective one, Sherman crews were desperate for any advantage against the deadly German anti-tank guns they went up against. However, not only did the sandbags offer no additional protection from tank shells, but the extra weight added undue stress to the suspension and drivetrain. By the summer of 1944, General Patton himself banned the addition of sandbags on his tanks. Where sandbags did have some potential is as protection from magnetic mines. Some tank crews placed sandbags on their vehicle’s underside to deter such weapons.
2. Spare tracks
Seeking additional armor, Sherman tankers took to welding spare track-links to their tanks. Like the sandbags, the tracks were applied to the front and sides of the tank hull as well as the turret. However, the effectiveness of the track armor is doubtful. Tracks were not made of armor-grade steel and offered little, if any, additional protection. In fact, the soft track steel could normalize an incoming AP round and turn it directly into a Sherman’s hull, negating the protective effect of its sloped frontal armor. Again, the added weight put extra strain on the suspension and drivetrain with dubious benefits. Still, this didn’t prevent American, British, Canadian or Polish tankers from slapping spare tracks on their tanks.
Logs were another improvised armor added to tanks during WWII. However, they could also be removed from the tank and placed under the tracks in boggy terrain for additional traction. In fact, many Soviet tanks left the factory with logs mounted for this reason. As armor, however, logs did not offer much protection. Like the sandbags, a full-power AP round could penetrate a log and reach a tank’s hull armor with very little lost velocity. However, it did provide some stand-off distance to protect against shaped charged weapons. Still, the molten jet of copper created by these weapons was generally unfazed by the extra spacing of a log.
4. Spaced Armor
In order to keep a shaped charge from reaching the tank itself, a layer of armor needed to be placed far enough from the tank to give the warhead enough space to detonate harmlessly. At an angle, the extra layer of armor could also reduce the effectiveness of kinetic projectiles like tank AP shells and anti-tank rifle rounds by altering their angle of attack. Spaced armor could be mounted on the turret and/or the hull. The Germans used spaced armor extensively in the form of Schürzen. These armored skirts were fitted primarily against kinetic rounds and proved effective against light anti-tank weapons.
5. Tank armor
What’s the best type of extra tank armor? Actual tank armor. Although Patton banned the application of sandbags to his tanks as extra armor, crews were eventually allowed to cannibalize armor from destroyed tanks and weld it onto their own tanks. The salvaged armor was applied to weak points like hatches, ports and flat sections in general, and proved to be effective. The concept of extra armor on the Sherman culminated in the M4A3E2 “Jumbo” Sherman. From the factory, Jumbos were fitted with thicker armor on the hull front, turret, and gun mantlet. Though the extra armor slowed the tanks down by 3-4 mph, it made them nearly unkillable from the front, even by a Tiger.
Those mad bois over at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency are at it again. This time, they want to create a system that would let you eat your own trash, and to be honest, you’d probably like it. (The system, not the taste.)
Senior Airman Frances Gavalis tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit March 10, 2008, at Balad Air Base, Iraq.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)
Right now, the U.S. military either carts out or burns much of its trash, depending on security and environmental factors. This is resource-intensive for a force, especially during missions that are already logistically strained like special operations, expeditionary task forces, and disaster response.
But that means that the military has to burn fuel to bring supplies in on trucks, then use more fuel to cart out the trash or burn it. If the trash can be recycled locally instead, especially if it can be turned into high-need items like fuel, lubricants, food, or water, it could drastically cut down on the logistics support that troops need.
And that’s why DARPA wants you to eat your own trash. Not because they find it funny or anything, but because macronutrients can be pulled out of trash and re-fed to troops to supplement their diets.
A DARPA graphic shows how a military force’s trash and forage could be fed through a system to create organic products like fuel and food.
And that leads us to ReSource, a new program under DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. It’s led by Program Manager Blake Bextine, and he said in a press release that, “In a remote or austere environment where even the basics for survival can’t be taken for granted, there can be no such thing as ‘single use.'”
A successful ReSource system will be capable of completing three main processes: breaking down mixed waste, including recalcitrant, carbon-rich polymers like those in common plastics; reforming upgradeable organic molecules and assembling them into strategic materials and chemicals; and recovering purified, usable products. In the case of food, the ReSource output would be a basic product composed of macronutrients ready for immediate consumption.
Spc. Mary Calkin, a member of the Washington State National Guard, takes a plate of food at the Freedom Inn Dining Facility at Fort Meade, Maryland.
(U.S. Army photo Joe Lacdan)
Operators would feed waste into the system and then select what supplies were most valuable to them at the time. Need food? Well, it sounds like you’re getting a paste, but at least you’ll have something to keep you going. But when there is plenty of MREs or locally sourced food to go around, commanders could opt for fuel for generators and lubricants for equipment.
And there’s no reason that the feedstock would necessarily be limited to strictly trash. After all, a bunch of tree branches may not be edible for troops, but the ReSource setup might be able to extract the nutrients and create something that troops could consume, maybe with a lot of spices.
Systems would range in size depending on what is needed, potentially as small as a man-portable system for small teams but going as high as a shipping container that could support much larger operations. Ideally, no specialists would be needed to run the system. Troops don’t need to know how the system works; they just feed waste in and take supplies out.
It’s a new DARPA program, meaning that DARPA is looking for researchers to bring ideas and nascent technologies to the table for consideration.
Their Proposers Day meeting for ReSource will take place on August 29 in Phoenix.
Mallory and Stacy “Lux” Krauss are deeply proud of how far things have come since the riots of Stonewall, but they also know this country still has a lot more work to do.
“When I joined the Coast Guard, it was right after they repealed ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’. Honest to God, I went to the recruiter that very next day,” Lux shared.
She explained that prior to the repeal, she had wanted to join, but said she couldn’t be a part of something that wasn’t inclusive and accepting of all people.
When the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ repeal was being discussed within congress, the Coast Guard and the Navy were the only two branches of service that didn’t initially oppose it.
(Courtesy of Military Spouse)
Mallory and Lux met at the 2013 pride parade in San Francisco, while they were both in California attending “A” schools for the United States Coast Guard. It was the first year that the military was allowing participation in pride events and both had been asked to walk in the parade.
“The pride parade is important because it’s a remembrance of Stonewall, but it’s also to say, ‘Hey, we are here and this is who we are’,” Lux shared.
Following that parade, they began dating. They returned to that same parade a year later. It was there that Mallory proposed to Lux. They married not long after that and eventually Mallory decided to leave the Coast Guard. They now have two sons, born in 2016 and 2020. Both boys were carried by Lux and Mallory is also listed on both of their birth certificates as their mother, something that only became legal shortly before their first son was born.
(Courtesy of Military Spouse)
Although things are moving forward, a lingering fear is always present for both of them.
“It still makes me nervous to go to any new command and share that I have a wife and children. You never know, you could have that one person who may be of the extreme who has the ability to ruin your career because you are gay,” said Lux.
She explained that even now when the Coast Guard puts something official out about pride or inclusivity on their social media, the comments can turn hateful fast and many of those commenting negatively are in the Coast Guard themselves.
That feeling of nervousness is ever present in everything they do and it’s something that many in the LGBTQ community are deeply familiar with. Despite multiple laws being passed to assure equality, there are still those in this country who are adamantly opposed to acknowledging and accepting them.
Once while standing in line at a candy story in Tennessee, a man behind them asked if they were gay. Although this was the first time they’d ever been rudely asked that question, they were very familiar with stares of others. Everywhere they go, especially in the southern states, they wonder if they’ll be accepted.
Now, they have to worry for their children too.
While getting one of their boys registered for a recent medical procedure, Mallory was filling out the paperwork when she was asked who the mom was. She explained that both she and Lux were his moms. The response was one they had always dreaded hearing, ‘but who is the real mom?’ This is a question that most straight couples will never have to face hearing.
Most will also never have to worry about legal custody being questioned either.
“There’s a grey area, if something were to happen to Lux and her parents wanted to take our children, they might legally be able to,” said Mallory.
She explained that although she is on their birth certificates, because she isn’t biologically related to them that risk is present unless she legally adopts them or specific laws are passed to protect them. Although Mallory said she knows her in-laws would never do that, it’s still something that no parent should ever have to think about.
Every time they move on Coast Guard orders, they wonder how the new doctor or school will react to their family. They both shared that so far, their experiences have been positive but they look forward to the day they don’t have to think about it. Although this country has come a long way since Stonewall, more work still has to be done. When asked what pride month means to them and what they want other military families to know, it was easy for them to respond.
They don’t want to be treated like unicorns.
“People need to realize, we are not any different from any other family,” said Mallory with a laugh. “We have our kids and we are worried about their future, there’s nothing special about us. We just want to be like everyone else,” Lux shared.
To learn more about the history of oppression and violence those in the LGBTQ community experienced and the inequality they still face today, click here.
Written on the flag that commemorates U.S. service members that are being held as prisoners of war or have gone missing in action is a promise: You are not forgotten.
Unfortunately, those who aren’t directly affected by a loved one or military coworker who is a POW or MIA likely only actively remember these service members at important functions, with the setting of the POW/MIA table. That being said, there is a less well-known moment to take time to remember those who served and have not yet — or may never — make it home.
In 1979, Congress and President Jimmy Carter passed a resolution declaring the third Friday in September to be the date in which we, as a nation, remember those whose fates remain unknown.
The remembrance day is not just to honor those who have been lost fighting for the United States, it’s also to assure current and future service men and women that the people of the United States and its military will do everything they can to find those who were captured or went missing. And we will bring them home.
The following is an accounting of all those who’ve been captured or have gone missing since World War II.
American airmen held in a Nazi Stalag Luft POW Camp during World War II.
World War II
As of 2005, Congress reported 130,201 service members were imprisoned during World War II, 14,072 of which died. There are approximately 73,014 from World War II who are still missing, but those numbers are incomplete at best due to limited information from the time period.
Americans captured by Communist forces in the Korean War.
Of the 7,140 service members who were imprisoned during the Korean War, 2,701 of them died as a result of their captivity. There are still 7,729 missing in action.
In 2016, the DPAA accounted for 61 missing from the Korean War. Recently, President Trump’s efforts to repatriate remains from North Korea yielded the return of 55 sets, two of which have been identified.
Americans held by North Vietnam during the Vietnam War were marched through the streets of Hanoi.
Roughly 64 prisoners of war held by the enemy during the Vietnam War died as a result of being held captive out of a total 725 held prisoner. An estimated 1,603 are still unaccounted for from the conflict in Southeast Asia.
Pfc. Jessica Lynch (left) was captured by Iraqi forces after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Her friend, Pvt. Lori Ann Piestewa (right), was killed in that action.
Conflicts Since 1991
Since 1991, a further 37 servicemen and women have been captured by the enemy during various conflicts, including the most recent in Iraq and Afghanistan. None are still in captivity, but six are still missing from those conflicts.
This brings the total number of American missing from conflicts since World War II to a whopping 82,478. A full three-fourths are believed to be lost in the Asia-Pacific region of the world, with 41,000 presumed lost at sea.
First the good news: Despite Internet memes about Putin having Turkey for dinner last week, the chances are low that Armageddon will be on the menu any time soon.
In other words, the chances that World War III will erupt this holiday season are mighty slim because a Turkish F-16 fighter shot down a Russian Federation Su-24 Fencer M bomber last Tuesday after it apparently violated Turkey’s airspace.
But does that mean Russia will forgive and forget? Hardly. Comments by Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin indicate he is not only infuriated by events, he’s also willing to escalate Russian military presence in Syria as well defend Russian national pride.
Here are three reasons why things could still get out of hand very quickly in one of the world’s most volatile places:
1. In Putin’s world, nobody shoots down a Russian plane and gets away with it
Russian aircraft routinely test the limits of different nation’s sovereign airspace – including the U.S. and Britain. Those missions are absolutely designed and principally intended to appeal to Russian pride and national identity, as well as show the world that Russia military power is a force worthy of respect.
But even though we scramble fighters to intercept the bombers, the U.S. and other NATO nations don’t shoot them down. Turkey did, principally because in recent weeks Russian warplanes bombed Syrian rebels who are also Turkmen, an ethnic group considered kinsmen of the Turkish people.
What’s more, the rebels killed one of the Russian plane’s crew members as well as a Russian Marine who was part of the search-and-rescue operation.
To put it bluntly, Putin is pissed off by the shoot-down and what he considers a war crime committed against Russian fighting men. In addition, he describes what happened a provocative act on the part of Turkey, hence his “stab in the back” comment.
As far as the Russian government is concerned, their men are heroes. Lt. Col. Oleg Peshkov, the dead Fencer pilot, posthumously received the Hero of the Russian Federation award “for heroism, courage and valor in the performance of military duty,” the Kremlin announced today. Both Alexander Pozynich, the Russian Marine killed during SAR operations, and the surviving Fencer co-pilot Capt. Konstantin Murakhtin both received the Order of Courage, the Kremlin said.
Yes, Lavrov says there will be no war between Russia and Turkey. However, the Russian president is also well-known for practicing the old maxim about revenge being a dish best served cold – and Putin has already amply proved he has no concern about civilian casualties when Russians fight their wars.
True, the protest could have been a good old-fashioned exercise in agitprop – as far back as the Soviet era Kremlin employees were often organized into groups for “spontaneous protest.”
But Russian social media is white-hot with comments like “f**k the Turks” and calls for revenge. There is even a parody of the Eiffel Tower peace symbol that went viral after the Paris attacks by Daesh – except the Russian version has the silhouette of a Su-24 with its fuselage and wings where the lines of the peace symbol should be, superimposed on the Russian flag.
So, Russians fury toward Turkey is also linked to fierce Russian nationalism. Consequently, the shoot-down is an incident that will not just blow over with the Russian people – and Putin knows that.
3. Syria is getting pretty damned crowded with belligerents
The area is rapidly filling up with the aircraft and missile systems of many nations. Turkey, Russia, France, Canada, Australia, and the United States all have planes in the air either over Syria or near Syrian airspace.
In response to the shoot-down, Russia is deploying its S-400 “Triumf” air defense missile systems (NATO name: “Growler”) to its Hmeymim air base near Latakia, Syria. Using three different missiles with varying ranges and an upgraded radar system, it can strike airborne targets up to 400 miles away.
All this hardware and manpower milling around in a very small place could cause things to get out of hand very, very quickly. The result could be old-fashioned nation-on-nation warfare. All it could take would be one more downed warplane.
One other thing to note: Past is not always prologue, but it’s interesting to consider that Russia and Turkey (in the guise of the Ottoman Empire) fought one of the longest conflicts in European history.
The Russo-Turkish Wars from the 16th century until the early 20th century included none other than Ivan the Terrible sending the so-called Astrakhan Expedition in 1569 to pound on 70,000 Turkish and Tatar soldiers, Peter the Great and his army capturing Azov in 1696, and Tsar Alexander II sending Russian troops into Ottoman territory in 1877 to protect Christians from Muslim subjugation.
Russian forces overwhelmingly prevailed over the Ottoman Turks during those wars.
One of my NCOs gave me a copy of Joseph Heller’s satirical novel Catch-22 as a promotion gift when I became a captain.
It was an ironic gesture, given that he was probably the person I commiserated with the most about ridiculous military rules. Now, George Clooney has directed a six-episode adaptation of the book so you can relive the blood-boiling insanity of active duty all over again.
The series centers on Christopher Abbott’s Captain John Yossarian, a World War II bombardier going crazy trying to stay alive while his commanding officer, Colonel Cathcart (Kyle Chandler), tries to impress his superiors by continually increasing the number of missions his men must fly. Yossarian has already flown 50 and he wants out.
There’s a rule which allows pilots who are crazy to be grounded, but because being driven crazy by fear is fundamentally rational, he’s certified fit to fly. This is the titular catch-22 —and the reason everyone now knows the phrase.
In Heller’s words, “[He] would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.”
The military’s response to logic.
Based on the jokes in the trailer, it looks like the series will attempt to capture Heller’s satirical commentary on the absurdity of war (especially when bureaucracies are involved) — and Heller wrote Catch-22 before the United States even became completely entrenched in asymmetrical war-fighting!
Any veteran, especially one who has served in combat or during wartime, can attest to the fact that military decision-making is often based on antiquated laws, procedures, and mindsets. While the United States has continued to maintain global military superiority thus far, we’re certainly not achieving our prime objectives so much as holding a defensive line — and we’re definitely not taking care of our service members the way we should (especially for the amount of money allotted in the defense budget).
Been there, buddy.
I have a feeling the series will capture what it feels like to serve in a system that expects its troops to “shut up and color,” rather than fostering innovation, mental health, and, oh I don’t know, watering the grass with water instead of blood blood blood?
The TV adaptation debuts on Hulu on May 17, 2019, and also stars Kyle Chandler, Hugh Laurie, Giancarlo Giannini, and Daniel David Stewart.
During World War I, France created the Croix de Guerre to decorate its bravest troops, and it gave the decoration to members of foreign armies who took great risks or who achieved great things in service of liberating France from German occupation.
In the years following the Battle of Verdun, France issued the Croix de Guerre to units with 2,500 White Company trucks and named the vice president of the company, Walter C. White, as a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor in recognition of how important a humble truck was in France’s ultimate victory over Germany, especially at Verdun.
White Motor Company trucks at Fort Riley. Full panoramic image available here.
(Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General)
The story of the White Motor Company is a strange one. In 1902, it was the White Sewing Machine Company, and the Surgeon General proposed that the Army Quartermasters purchase a motor vehicle to serve as an Army ambulance in future conflicts. R. H. White, already looking to diversify the company’s offerings, pushed the company to take part in the competition.
But the company wasn’t done. They developed more truck designs and, in 1916, one of their trucks was upgraded with armor and sent on the Mexican Punitive Expedition. By the time World War I rolled around, White trucks were trusted by plenty of military men.
The automotive business proved to be a great investment for the company, and the White Sewing Machine Company opened itself a second company, the White Truck Company. This particular confederation of engineers and businessmen found themselves a ready market for reliable trucks and sold thousands of Model A trucks to France and other allied militaries.
From 1914 onward, France was sending these “Little trucks” into combat and seemed to have been more than pleased with the trucks’ performance. In the 1916 Battle of Verdun, the trucks were used to transport supplies and troops. At the Battle of Château-Thierry in 1918, the trucks moved U.S. troops into position in time to stop a German advance.
But it was at the 1918 Battle of Verdun, when many of the same trucks returned to that blood-soaked stretch of land, that the trucks earned their major laurels.
White Trucks of Cleveland advertisement
(Thoth God of Knowledge)
It was there that France needed to move hundreds of thousands of troops to the front over a stretch of just a few days, and they turned to the 2,500 Model A trucks of Great Headquarters Reserve No. 1. The drivers and trucks carried 200,000 troops to the front, some for over 100-mile stretches.
The task was tremendous, the crisis very grave. A supreme effort was necessary to stop the German advance last March on the British front. Without this unprecedented movement of French reserves right into the teeth of the fighting, the issue might have been serious indeed for the Allies.
According to the same article, drivers often drove for 24 hours straight. One unit averaged driving 20 hours a day, and another pulled 60 hours straight of duty.
It was the only time that a motor convoy unit would be awarded the medal, and some chalked it up to the service of the trucks. According to Time Magazine in 1932, the only White trucks to break down in the battle were those disabled by shells and so, “The result was that 2,500 of them received the distinction of France’s Croix de Guerre.”