Here's what embassy guards carry in case things get hot - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot

The upcoming movie “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” highlights the veteran security team who protected the U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya during the 2012 attack. Below is a list of weapons the defenders used to valiantly defend the compound:


1. Western assault rifles

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
A US Navy SEAL aims his SCAR during training. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Martin L. Carey

 

Private security contractors who are alums of elite US military units often prefer the same weapons they carried in the service such as the SCAR-L or M4 assault rifles that fire 5.56mm rounds. If they want to up the caliber a little, they can go with the SCAR-H or M14, which both use a 7.62mm round.

2. AKs of varying types

Contractors and their companies can’t always get the import/export licenses they need to bring weapons into their area of operations, so companies sometimes source weapons from local vendors.

Obviously, this results in a number of contractors carrying Kalashnikovs. This was especially prevalent in the early 2000s in Iraq when the State Department started hiring private companies for overseas security but hadn’t yet begun issuing them the needed licenses to import weapons.

3. Grenade launchers

 

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
A soldier fires the M320 grenade launcher. The M320 can be slung under an M4 or M16 or carried as a standalone weapon. Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman

While private military contractors are generally associated with lighter weapons, they’re sometimes authorized mass-casualty inflicting systems like M203 or M320 grenade launchers. The grenade launcher at Benghazi was one of the defenders’ most effective weapons.

4. Shotguns

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
The Saiga-12 Shotgun. Photo: Wikimedia/SpetsnazAlpha

Shotguns can be loaded with buckshot to cripple all enemies in a confined area or slugs to immediately shutdown a single target. They also allow contractors to quickly “unlock” doors if they need to evacuate their client.

5. Light machine guns

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot

Characters in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi carry modified M249s like their real-world counterparts did. Photo: youtube/Paramount Pictures

When their contract and laws allow, contractors like an automatic weapon as much as any uniformed shooter. Triple Canopy guards in Iraq used the RPK which is similar in appearance to the better known AK-47. At Benghazi, contractors carried a modified version of the M249 known as the Mk 46.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot

RSVP here to attend a free screening of “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” at ATT Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, on Jan. 13.

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These are the jets that the last man to walk on the moon flew

With the passing of Gene Cernan, a retired Navy captain and NASA astronaut on Jan. 16, 2017, the last man to walk on the moon has left us. While many remember him for that, it should be noted that Cernan was also a naval aviator.


According to his NASA biography, Cernan had over 5,000 flight hours in jets. While NASA notes that Cernan served with VA-26 and VA-112, his Popular Mechanics obituary has him flying with VA-126 and VA-112, and his memoirs place him with VA-126 and VA-113. According to airportjournals.com, during his basic flight training, Cernan flew the T-34, T-28, and F9F Panther.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
John Glenn standing beside the damage to the tail of his F9F Panther from antiaircraft fire after a mission during the Korean War. Gene Cernan flew the F9F Panther during flight training. (Ohio State University)

According to seaforces.org, VA-126 was a Fleet Replacement Squadron, and equipped with the FJ-4B Fury, and the F9F-8 and F9F-8T versions of the Cougar. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the F9F-8 Cougar was quickly rendered obsolete as a front-line jet due to new designs, but it did provide service as a fighter-bomber.

The F9F-8T was a two-seat trainer version of the F9F-8, Baugher notes that it stayed in service far longer than its single-seat counterpart. They were later re-designated F-9J and TF-9J in 1962.

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A F9F-8 Cougar with two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. Gene Cernan flew the F9F-8 during his time with VA-126. (U.S. Navy photo)

The FJ-4B Fury was a modification of the FJ-4 Fury, which was a navalized version of the famed F-86 Saber, the air-superiority fighter that controlled the skies over the Korean Peninsula during the Korean War. According to Baugher, the FJ-4B was a fighter-bomber, armed with four 20mm cannons and able to carry up to 6,000 pounds of bombs and missiles, including the AGM-12 Bullpup. The FJ-4B could also carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
FJ-4B Fury with VA-126. During his time with that squadron, Cernan flew the FJ-4B. (U.S. Navy photo)

When he was assigned to the fleet, Cernan flew the legendary A-4 Skyhawk with either VA-112 or VA-113, depending on the source. According to seaforces.org, both squadrons were equipped with the A-4B Skyhawk (then designated the A4D-2) when Cernan deployed on board USS Shangri-La in 1958 and in 1960.

Joe Baugher notes that the A-4B was capable of carrying a Mk 28 nuclear warhead. It also could carry the AGM-12 Bullpup, had two 20mm cannons, and the ability to haul up to 5,000 pounds of bombs.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
An A-4B Skyhawk. Gene Cernan made two deployments with VA-113 and flew the A-4B. (U.S. Navy photo)

As a NASA astronaut, Cernan also flew T-38 Talon supersonic trainers. According to a NASA release, the T-38s are used to keep astronauts current, and pilots are required to have 15 hours per month of flight time.

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Two NASA T-38s fly past the Space Shuttle launch pad. Gene Cernan got 15 flight hours a month in the T-38 to maintain proficiency as an astronaut. (NASA photo)

Gene Cernan walked on the moon, but let’s not forget the fact that he also flew a lot of cool planes much closer to Earth.

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This Israeli soldier survived getting shot in his grenades

The Israeli media dubbed it the “Double Miracle In Gaza” — a Hamas fighter took shots at an IDF soldier, hitting him in his cache of grenades. If life were a movie, we know what would happen next.


Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
Maybe not that big, but you get the idea.

Luckily life is most definitely not like the movies. The soldier in question (his name was not released by the media) was operating in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.

After the murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank, the IDF launched Operation Brother’s Keeper. The goal was for the IDF to move in and arrest Hamas leadership and the militants responsible for the killings. In response, the terror group fired a number of rockets into Israel from Gaza.

That’s when the IDF moved in on the missile sites.

The soldier’s unit was in Shuja’iyya, in the north of Gaza, where many of Hamas rockets are fired into Israel. Shuja’iyya is a major urban center and is also densely populated. Hamas fired an estimated 140 rockets from the city during the conflict.

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She seems more mildly annoyed at the rocket that just hit her house than she is afraid for her life. This is how common rocket attacks have become in Israel.

His unit was looking for the secret tunnels Hamas uses to sneak into Israel across a blockade. As they moved, an AK-47 round hit a grenade attached to his protective vest. The grenade stopped the bullet and –miraculously – didn’t explode.

The Israelis determined that the bullet was at the end of its effectiveness range, that it was fired from very far away, and didn’t have the energy required to penetrate the vest.

As for the grenade, it’s designed that way. A series of combat incidents involving grenades hitting grenades and exploding in the IDF caused the Israeli military to revamp their grenade design.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
I’d call that a success.

After the incident, the IDF cleared Shuja’iyya of Hamas fighters, then bulldozed a number of buildings to collapse the illegal tunnels — tunnels used to smuggle small arms, missiles, and other weapons into Gaza. The IDF then moved on to secure other areas near Gaza’s northern border with Israel.

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Could USS San Antonio be the basis for BMD’s future?

Ballistic missile defense has become a growing concern. Russia has been modernizing not only its strategic forces, but has also deployed the Iskander tactical ballistic system. China has the DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile. The need clearly exists for new assets to stop these missiles — or at least lessen the virtual attrition they would inflict.


Huntington Ingalls Industries has a solution — but this solution comes from a surprising basis. The company, which builds everything from Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to amphibious assault ships, has proposed using the hull of the San Antonio-class landing platform dock amphibious ship to mount.

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A close look at the radars and the VLS of a model of a proposed ballistic missile defense ship from Huntington Ingalls Industries displayed at the SeaAirSpace 2017 Expo. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

The design is still a concept — there’s a lot of options in terms of what radars to use, and how the exact weapons fit would work. The model shows at the SeaAirSpace Expo 2017 featured 96 cells in the Mk 41 Vertical Launch System, or the equivalent of a Burke-class destroyer. That’s a low-end version, though. A handout provided says the system can hold as many as 288 cells. This is 225 percent of the capacity of a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, and 300 percent of an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer’s capacity.

Of course, the Mk41 can hold a number of missiles, including the RIM-66 SM-2, the RIM-174 SM-6, the RIM-161 SM-3 — all of which can knock down ballistic missiles. For local defense, a quad-pack RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile is an option. The Mk 41 also can launch the RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROC and the BGM-109 Tomahawk. In other words, this ballistic missile defense ship can do more than just play defense — it can provide a hell of an offensive punch as well.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
USS Hopper (DDG 70) fires a RIM-161 SM-3 missile in 2009. (U.S. Navy photo)

The handout also notes other armament options, including a rail gun, two Mk 46 chain guns, advanced radars, launchers for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, and .50-caliber machine guns. Yes, even in a super-modern missile-defense vessel, Ma Deuce still has a place in the armament suite. No matter how you look at it, that is a lot of firepower.

The propulsion options include the diesel powerplants used on the San Antonio, providing a top speed of 22 knots. Using an integrated power system similar to that on the destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) would get a top speed of about 29 knots, according to a Huntinton Ingals representative at the expo.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
A look at the sern of a model of a proposed ballistic missile defense ship displayed at SeaAirSpace2017 by Huntington Ingalls Industries. The well deck from the San Antonio is converted into a hangar – reminiscent of late World War II surface combatants. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

The ship is still just a concept, but with President Trump proposing a 350-ship Navy, that concept could be a very awesome reality.

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Yes, World War II soldiers could throw mortar rounds like grenades

A few World War II movies feature incredible scenes of troops — usually soldiers or Marines — fighting tooth and nail against an enemy until they’ve expended most of their ammo, all of their grenades, and are stuck in their final defensive position.


That’s when someone does something crazy and starts throwing mortar rounds at the oncoming onslaught. The huge bursts of shrapnel wipe out groups of the enemy forces, breaking up the attack and allowing the heroes to emerge victorious.

Skip ahead to 0:28 in this clip to see this happen:

“Saving Private Ryan” was called out by some for this scene as many thought it impossible, and “Hacksaw Ridge” features a similar scene that caused a few raised eyebrows.

But most mortar rounds in World War II could be thrown this way. It was just incredibly dangerous and rarely done.

While new proximity fuzes — those which detonate a specified distance from the surface — were developed during World War II, most mortar rounds carried impact fuzes that used the physical force of the mortar striking a rock or something to trigger the charge.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
World War II mortarmen attack German positions in 1944. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

This caused surface bursts, and most mortarmen wanted their rounds that were detonating against the surface to explode immediately. The further the main charge makes it into the ground before it explodes, the greater amount of the explosion that will be absorbed by the mud and dirt.

So weapon designers made fuzes that were very sensitive. To prevent the fuzes from exploding prematurely, designers incorporated impact fuzes with a two-step arming process. This meant a safety pin had to be removed followed by a sudden force such as the propellant exploding to fire the round from the tube.

For soldiers looking to use these mortar rounds as a grenade, they had to remove the safety pin and slam the tail of the mortar round against something solid to simulate the force of the weapon firing. After that, the round would explode from any sudden force applied to the fuze.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
An American mortar crew attacks German positions on the Rhine in 1945. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

This method of triggering, combined with the greater explosive force of a mortar, made them way more deadly than grenades.

Most grenades work using a timer, meaning that a soldier throws it and hopes that the enemy can’t grab the weapon and throw it back before it detonates.

But a hand-thrown mortar round will usually explode as soon as it hits the ground or a solid object, making it nearly impossible to throw back.

At least two soldiers used this to their advantage in World War II. Technical Sgt. Beauford T. Anderson threw mortar rounds to drive off a Japanese attack on Okinawa, and Cpl. Charles E. Kelly used mortar ammunition during his final defense of a storehouse being overwhelmed by the Germans in Italy.

This procedure comes with high risks. A round that falls short of the intended throw will almost certainly go off, potentially killing friendly troops and the thrower, and a round that is dropped after arming could go off, killing the operators. Still, for a happy few, the risk was worth the reward.

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That time 120 Indian troops destroyed an entire Pakistani tank battalion

In 1971, Pakistan launched a preemptive air strike against 11 Indian airbases, touching off that year’s Indo-Pakistani War. The air attacks failed but dragged India into Bangladesh’s (then called East Pakistan) Independence War from Pakistan. The Indo-Pakistan War was one of the shortest wars in history, lasting less than two weeks.


The day after its surprise air attack, Pakistan moved 2,000 troops, a mobile infantry brigade, and 45 tanks to an Indian border post at Longewala. The post was manned by 120 Indian troops with an M-40 recoilless rifle – and access to strike aircraft.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
(Indian Army photo)

The Indians were heavily outnumbered, outgunned, and surrounded. The Air Force couldn’t help until dawn because the pilots didn’t fly at night. The defenders were given the choice between abandoning the post or making a gutsy stand at their position. They decided to stay and fight. It was just after midnight, and dawn was at least six hours away.

It was going to be a long night.

Pakistan’s artillery opened up on the Indians immediately. As the enemy infantry approached the Longewala outpost, the defenders held their fire until the tanks were 40-100 feet away.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
(Indian Army photo)

They fired on the thinly-armored tanks with the 106mm recoilless rifle, which turned out to be a devastating weapon. Advancing infantry ran into the Indian’s barbed wire and — believing they had walked into a minefield — freaked out.

The burning and exploding tanks lit the battlefield for the defenders while the smoke added to the Pakistani’s confusion on the ground. They wasted two hours waiting for sappers to clear mines that didn’t exist.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
A Pakistani T-59 tank, destroyed at Longewala (Indian Army photo)

With the field lit up and a full moon overhead, the tanks attempted to encircle the defenders but found themselves stuck in the soft sand — east targets for the Indian M40.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
One of the three HAL Marut used by the IAF against Pakistani armor at Longewala (used by permission)

The attackers were routed and their armored column became a turkey shoot for Indian pilots. They lost 500 vehicles, 34 of those were tanks. The infantry lost 200 troops. Indian armor soon launched their counteroffensive to relieve Longewala. The defenders lost only two men.

After two weeks, Pakistan was forced to surrender to India, which led to the formation of an independent Bangladesh. Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri was awarded India’s second highest medal for gallantry for directing the defense of Longewala. The actions of the men in at Longewala were portrayed  in the (slightly stylized) Bollywood film, “Border.”

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Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress

According to legend, Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain is a sleeping dragon that many years ago saved the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. In the Native American story, the Great Spirit punished the people by sending a massive flood, but after they repented, it sent a dragon to drink the water away. The dragon, engorged by the massive amount of water, fell asleep, was petrified and then became the mountain.


Unlike the dragon of legend, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex has never slept during 50 years of operations. Since being declared fully operational in April 1966, the installation has played a vital role in the Department of Defense during both peacetime and wartime.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
Cheyenne Mountain is about 9,500 feet tall, and the tunnel entrance sits about 2,000 feet from the top. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

Though the complex may have changed names during the past five decades, its mission has never strayed from defending the U.S. and its allies. Today, it is known as Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, with a primary role of collecting information from satellites and ground-based sensors throughout the world and disseminating the data to North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command — a process Steven Rose, Cheyenne Mountain AFS deputy director, compares to the work done by the stem of the human brain.

“Those sensors are your nerves out there sensing that information,” Rose said, “but the nerves all come back to one spot in the human body, together in the brain stem, entangled in a coherent piece. We are the brain stem that’s pulling it all together, correlating it, making sense of it, and passing it up to the brain — whether it’s the commander at NORAD, NORTHCOM or STRATCOM — for someone to make a decision on what that means. That is the most critical part of the nervous system and the most vulnerable. Cheyenne Mountain provides that shield around that single place where all of that correlation and data comes into.”

 

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

In the 1950s, the DOD decided to build the installation as a command and control center defense against long-range Soviet bombers. As the “brain stem,” it would be one of the first installations on the enemy’s target list, so it was built to withstand a direct nuclear attack.

Cheyenne Mountain’s 15 buildings rest on more than 1,300 springs, 18 inches from the mountain’s rock walls, so they could move independently in the event of a nuclear blast and the inherent seismic event. In addition, an EMP, being a natural component of a nuclear blast, was already considered in Cheyenne Mountain’s original design and construction features, Rose said.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

“Back then, it was just part of the effect of a nuclear blast that we were designed for at Cheyenne Mountain,” he added. “If you fast forward 50 years from our construction, the EMP threat has become more important to today’s society because of the investment that has been made into electronics. Just by sheer coincidence, since we were designed in the 50s and 60s for a nuclear blast and its EMP component, we are sitting here today as the number one rated EMP protected facility. The uniqueness of the mountain is that the entire installation is surrounded by granite, which is a natural EMP shield.”

The station, built 7,000 feet above sea level, opened as the NORAD Combat Operations Center. When NORAD and the newly stood up NORTHCOM moved their main command center to Peterson Air Force Base in 2008, many believed Cheyenne Mountain had closed. Today, Cheyenne Mountain hosts an alternate command center for NORAD and is landlord to more than a dozen DOD agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“When I bring official visitors up here, not only are they surprised that we’re still open,” said Colonel Gary Cornn, Cheyenne Mountain AFS Installation Commander. “Many are impressed by the original construction, the blasting of the tunnels, how the buildings are constructed inside, and some of the things we show them, such as the survivability and capability we have in the blast valves, the springs, the way we do our air in the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) filtering and the huge blast doors. It’s funny to see senior officers and civilians become sort of amazed like little kids again.”

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Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

The threats and sources have drastically changed from when the station opened at the height of the Cold War, but the station’s iconic 25-ton steel doors remain the same, ready to seal the mountain in 40 seconds to protect it from any threat. The underground city beneath 2,000 feet of granite still provides the protection to keep the station relevant as it begins its next half-century as “America’s Fortress.”

Longtime Cheyenne Mountain employees like Rose and Russell Mullins, the 721st Communications Squadron deputy director, call themselves “mountain men.” Mullins’ time in the mountain goes back to the Cold War era, about halfway through its history to 1984.

Although the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was the main focus, today’s Airmen conduct essentially the same mission: detect and track incoming threats to the United States; however, the points of origin for those threats have multiplied and are not as clearly defined.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

“The tension in here wasn’t high from what might happen,” Mullins said. “The tension was high to be sure you could always detect (a missile launch). We didn’t dwell on the fact that the Soviet Union was the big enemy. We dwelled on the fact that we could detect anything they could throw at us.

“There was a little bit of stress back then, but that hasn’t changed. I would say the stress now is just as great as during the Cold War, but the stress today is the great unknown.”

The 9/11 attacks added another mission to NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate – the monitoring of the U.S. and Canadian interior air space. They stand ready to assist the Federal Aviation Administration and Navigation Canada to respond to threats from the air within the continental U.S. and Canada.

Airplane icons blot out most of the national map on the NORAD/NORTHCOM Battle Cab Traffic Situation Display in the alternate command center. To the right another screen shows the Washington, D.C., area, called the Special Flight Restrictions Area, which was also added after 9/11.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

Whenever a crisis would affect NORAD’s vulnerability or ability to operate, the commander would move his command center and advisors to the Battle Cab, said Lt. Col. Tim Schwamb, the Cheyenne Mountain AFS branch chief for NORAD/NORTHCOM.

“I would say that on any given day, the operations center would be a center of controlled chaos; where many different things may be happening at once,” Schwamb said. “We’re all trying to ensure that we’re taking care of whatever threat may be presenting itself in as short an amount of time as possible.

“I would describe it as the nerve center of our homeland defense operations. This is where the best minds in NORAD and U.S. Northern Command are, so that we can see, predict, and counter any threats that would happen to the homeland and North American region. It’s really a room full of systems that we monitor throughout the day, 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, that give us the information to help us accomplish the mission.”

Protecting America’s Fortress is a responsibility that falls to a group of firefighters and security forces members, but fighting fires and guarding such a valuable asset in a mountain presents challenges quite different from any other Air Force base, said Matthew Backeberg, a 721st Civil Engineer Squadron supervisor firefighter. Firefighters train on high-angle rescues because of the mountain’s unique environment, but even the most common fire can be especially challenging.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
Photos by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

“Cheyenne Mountain is unique in that we have super challenges as far as ventilation, smoke and occupancy,” Backeberg said. “In a normal building, you pull the fire alarm, and the people are able to leave. Inside the mountain, if you pull the fire alarm, the people are depending on me to tell them a safer route to get out.

“If a fire happens inside (the mountain), we pretty much have to take care of it,” Backeberg added. “We’re dependent on our counterparts in the CE world to help us ventilate the facility, keep the fire going in the direction we want it to go, and allow the occupants of the building to get to a safe location – outside the half mile long tunnel.”

Although Cheyenne Mountain, the site of movies and television series such as “WarGames,” “Interstellar,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Terminator,” attracts occasional trespassers and protesters, security forces members more often chase away photographers, said Senior Airman Ricardo Pierre Collie, a 721st Security Forces Squadron member.

“The biggest part of security forces’ day is spent responding to alarms and getting accustomed to not seeing the sun on a 12-hour shift when working inside the mountain,” Collie said.

Here’s what embassy guards carry in case things get hot
Photos by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

Security forces must also be ready to respond at a moment’s notice because, when charged with protecting an installation like Cheyenne Mountain AFS, the reaction time is even more crucial. Airmen like Collie feel their responsibly to protect America’s Fortress remains as vital today as it was during the Cold War.

“The important day at Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t the day we opened in 1966,” Rose said. “The next important date isn’t in April 2016 (the installation’s 50-year anniversary), it’s about all those days in between. The Airmen who come here to Cheyenne Mountain every day will be watching your skies and shores in (the nation’s) defense.”

As Cheyenne Mountain AFS enters its next 50 years, the dragon remains awake and alert to all threats against the U.S.

 

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Coast Guard commandos guarding Trump, deployed to Med

A little-known group of specially-trained Coast Guardsmen are playing a key role in securing a presidential retreat in Florida and guarding against the smuggling of doomsday weapons out of war-torn Syria.


Few know about the Coast Guard’s cadre of special operations units but that doesn’t mean they’re sitting idle, says the service’s top commander.

“This is a team that’s not sand lot ball. These are the pros that have very unique weapons skills and training and not everyone makes this team,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft during a breakfast meeting with reporters April 12. “These teams are if anything probably over employed right now in terms of their optempo — both on the anti-terrorism front and on the counter-terrorism front as well.”

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The official patch of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Team. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Established in the years after 9/11 to provide another layer of special operations capability both in the United States and worldwide, the Coast Guard previously housed these various specialized teams under one command, dubbed the “Deployable Operations Group.” Comprised of highly-trained boat teams, crisis response forces and counter proliferation experts, the DOG was disbanded in 2012 and its units dispersed to separate commands.

Despite its troubled past, the Coast Guard’s special operators are front and center in some of America’s most high profile missions. Zukunft said his teams are providing maritime security for President Donald Trump when he visits his golf resort at Mar a Lago in Florida, working closely with the U.S. Secret Service to protect world leaders from potential attack.

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Security Zones in vicinity of Mar A Lago, Florida are established during VIP visits to the Miami area. (U.S. Coast Guard photo illustration by Seventh Coast Guard District)

“I had three teams providing force protection for presidents of the two largest nations in the world — China and the United States — at Mar a Lago. That’s what these teams do, Zukunft said. “We’re seeing more and more of these nationally significant security events in the maritime domain.”

The service’s capability also includes Coast Guardsmen trained to locate and secure chemical and nuclear weapons — operators that are part of the Maritime Security Response Teams. Similar to SEALs, the MSRT Coast Guardsmen can take down ships, oil platforms and other vehicles used to smuggle WMD material over water.

It’s members of these MSRT units that are currently deployed to help the U.S. military guard against doomsday weapons leaking out of Syria and other regional hotspots.

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The Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT) from Virginia participates in a training evolution in Hyannis, Mass., Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. The highly trained and specialized team, using a real-world underway ferry, practiced tactical boardings-at-sea, active shooter scenarios, and detection of radiological material. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)

“We have a full-up [counter terrorism team] deployed right now in the Mediterranean in support of CENTCOM. It’s an advanced interdiction team in case there is any movement of a weapon of mass destruction,” Zukunft said. “This is a team that if necessary, forces itself onboard a ship … and they have all of the weapons skills of special forces, but they have law enforcement authority.”

Despite the rocky road in the unit’s formation, Zukunft is confident the Coast Guard’s special operations units are here to stay.

“To turn the lights out and then decide ‘whoa we have this threat’ — it’s going to take [a while] to reconstitute that, and in doing so the assumption would be that we will never have a terrorist attack directed agains the United States ever again,” he said. “I am not willing to make that assumption. I am all in.”

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What a Veteran Service Officer wants you to know about your benefits

Did the VA read anything I submitted to them? Are these outside medical exams a scam? Who is willing to fight for me?


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Veteran Service Officer Joe Sapien.

These are all common questions that Joseph Sapien, a Southern California-based Veteran Service Officer and Army vet, encounters on a daily basis. Veteran Service Officers, or “VSOs,” serve as a free resource to help vets properly submit disability claims and steer them to all the benefits of their service.

WATM recently spoke with Sapien on what it’s like serving as a VSO and got some advice from him on how to handle issues veterans face during the process of filing claims with the VA.

1. Where do I find a Veteran Service Officer to help with my claim?

Finding a Veteran Service Officer is as easy as picking up the phone and dialing 888-777-4443 to locate the office nearest you or by visiting the Veterans of Foreign WarsAmerican Veterans, or the Disabled American Veterans. Visiting a VSO is free of charge. Veterans should refrain from paying out of pocket to any agency claiming to offer them help with their claim. There are veterans services available in all 50 states.

2. Who is willingly to fight for me?

One benefit that a lot of veterans don’t take advantage of is calling up their congressman. Sapien says it’s a good idea for all vets to know who their elected officials are and meet them in person.

“This guy listens and tries to help vets, I have seen him give his time and thoughts on veteran matters, and that impressed me,” Sapien says of his local congressman, Rep. Tony Cárdenas.

3. What are some benefits Veterans don’t know about?

Caregiver program: This program provides monthly stipends to pay for support caregivers along with home and vehicle modifications for those who qualify. Caregivers of eligible veterans are urged to apply through the Caregiver Program website or by calling 855-260-3274.

College fee waiver: This program is set up to waive tuition fees for dependents and possibly for spouses. This is a state-based program. Visit your local VSO for more information.

4. What paperwork should I have before visiting a VSO?

Having the most current medical record on hand is key. If it’s not up-to-date, consider tracking the paperworkdown by getting in touch with your previous commands. Have a good solid copy of your service record on hand as well as your DD-214. The better your records are kept, the fewer bumps in the road. Just remember, filing is a process.

If you’re missing some of the documents, you can request them from archives.gov. It typically takes four to six weeks.

5. What Joe would like you to know

“We need to take care of each other. The only reason our era of veterans are getting better treatment and benefits is due to the Vietnam veterans who fought for our government,” Sapien says. “They fought and kept fighting for what was right, not for what was popular, not for the status quo. It’s our turn to stand. It is our turn to fight for future generations, so when they come home, they will be taken care of better than we are today.”

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This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

From May 26 to Jun. 4, 1940, one of the largest evacuations in human history saved approximately 338,000 Allied troops and gave the Allies the strength to continue resisting Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich.


The operation was more successful than the planners’ wildest dreams, partially because of the skill and bravery of boat crews and troops but also because of horrible decisions by the German high command.

The days leading up to the evacuation were characterized by one of the most effective German Blitzkriegs. British, Belgian, and French forces were falling back across France and a thrust by Germany through the Ardennes successfully cut the Allied force in half. By May 19, Britain was looking for ways to get its expeditionary force back across the channel.

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Troops line up on the beaches in hopes of rescue at Dunkirk. Photo: Imperial War Museum

A failed counterattack on May 21 sealed France’s fate but Germany’s advances made it appear impossible to stage a large evacuation. The Germans crossed the canals near Dunkirk by May 24 and were about to capture Dunkirk, the last port the British could feasibly use. Luckily, Hitler ordered his Panzers to stop advancing and to even fall back a short distance to the canals.

Hitler’s reasoning is a source of debate, but two main factors are thought to have been uppermost in his mind.

First, Hermann Goering may have been successful in his attempts to convince the fuhrer that the Luftwaffe could kill the troops on the beaches of Dunkirk . Also, there was a chance that Hitler believed that Britain was more likely to surrender if it hadn’t been embarrassed and didn’t have the slaughter of approximately 200,000 of its own troops to rally around.

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French troops fill a ship evacuating Dunkirk. Photo: Public Domain

Unfortunately for Hitler, Britain sent nearly the entirety of the Royal Air Force, including planes from the defensive-in-nature British Metropolitan Air Force, to cover Operation Dynamo. Working with French and British navy ships in the waters below, they were able to establish a weak air superiority over the beaches and parts of the channel, limiting the chances for the Luftwaffe to attack.

On May 25, King George VI declared a national day of prayer and attended a special service at Westminster Abbey. The next day, Operation Dynamo kicked off. Almost 400,000 British, Belgian, and French troops lined up in the water and on the beaches in hopes of rescue. Senior commanders were skeptical that they could get even 25 percent of them to safety.

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British troops walk through the water to waiting ships. Photo: Imperial War Museum

In a perimeter around Dunkirk, British and French units prepared to fight delaying actions, often to the last man, to give their buddies a chance to retreat. On May 26, these troops were sorely tested. The Belgian King Leopold, whose troops were cut off in small pockets and being quickly overwhelmed, surrendered to the Nazis and Hitler allowed the Panzers to attack Dunkirk.

As the tanks crashed against the defenders, the Royal Air Force and other planes desperately fought to keep the Nazis away from the ships. The Royal Navy was attempting to evacuate as many men as possible, but found itself unable to keep up.

British leaders finally announced to the public how desperate the situation on the beaches was. Dunkirk was burning to the ground and troops were being bombed on the sand and strafed as they stood neck-deep in the water. The public responded valiantly, cobbling together hundreds of privately-owned vessels to form a flotilla of “Little Ships” that became a symbol of British perseverance.

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Troops rescued from Dunkirk celebrate on their way to safety. Photo: Public Domain

The action drug on for days as six destroyers, eight personnel ships, and about 200 small craft were sunk and tens of thousands of men were killed or captured. But, 338,000 troops were rescued, approximately 140,000 from the British Expeditionary Force and 198,000 from the Polish, French, and Belgian armies. Forty-thousand were lost, either captured or killed.

In Britain, “Dunkirk Spirit” became a symbol of national pride, an embodiment of how Britons could come together to face down any foe and overcome any challenge. Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke in the House of Commons, saying that Britain would fight on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields, and in the streets.

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77 years later, WWII vet shares memories at Marine graduation

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theChive


Last weekend, we got to spend time with a hero named Walter Jorgensen. Mr. Jorgensen is one of the oldest living U.S. Marines to survive the bloody battles in the Pacific Theater during World War 2.

Alongside a group of fellow veterans, Mr. Jorgensen attended the graduation of our youngest Marines at the USMC Recruit Base.

This is the same place Mr. Jorgensen went through boot camp and graduated at in 1939. Seventy-seven years ago. From here, he would prepare for America’s entry into WW2.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, his path into war would send him and his buddies to the islands of the Pacific to battle the Japanese Empire.

There he would fight in 3 of the deadliest conflicts: Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Saipan. During these battles, Mr. Jorgensen served as a Company Commander with the 2nd Division, 2nd Battalion from the 6th Marines.

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theChive

The following photos are just a glimpse of the horrors Mr. Jorgensen experienced as a leader of the legendary “Easy Company”.

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The battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands began on August 7th of 1942.

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The Marines were tasked with securing airfields for our aircraft to take-off from for both aerial defense of our Navy’s ships and ultimately to send bombers to the main land of Japan. This was the objective of America’s “Island hopping” campaign.

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Unlike the battle at Normandy (D-Day), this beach landing was uneventful…however, holding the airfield at Lunga Point would cost thousands of lives.

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In total, 1,600 were killed with 4,200 wounded along with 24,000 Japanese soldiers killed during the first island destination of the Pacific Campaign.

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Bullets weren’t the only killers during these campaigns. Malaria ran rampant in parts of the Pacific.

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The next island would be one of the costliest battles for the Marines of “Easy Company”. This was War; this was the battle for Tarawa.

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“There were 180 of us from Easy Company that hit the beach that morning. No more than 40 of us walked off the island.” — Marine Schultz Miller

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“Early on the morning of Nov. 20, 1943, the order came: ‘Hit the beach with everything you’ve got’. It was the first day of the assault on Betio Island – the struggle would come to be known as the Battle of Tarawa.”

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“Easy Company was a bonded group. I was part of a replacement unit, which was reinforcing Easy after the battle for Guadalcanal,” the 79-year old veteran recounted. “If there was one thing that was easy about Easy Company, it was that they really took all the younger fellows in. They didn’t treat us bad like some other units did with their new guys.”

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“We were taking machine gun fire from both sides of us as we came up to the beach,” he said. “Easy was one of the first companies to assault the island. Soon after that, all of our officers were dead.”

With the absence of commissioned leadership, Schultz described how the non-commissioned officers took over the company and carried on with the mission.

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“At one point the highest ranking person was a sergeant. However, we were trained well and every man knew the job of the guy above him. If a machine-gunner went down, the guy behind him picked up the weapon and kept moving forward,” Schultz said.

It was all close combat as we took the island, Schultz said. Japanese were deeply entrenched in concrete and metal pillboxes with machine guns, cutting down Marines with raking fire right and left.

“I saw a few Marines make suicide runs, sprinting into the pillboxes with grenades or satchel charges,” he said. “After losing so many Marines, it was a last (recourse).”

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The next destination was Saipan in the Mariana Islands.

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In Saipan a total of 3,426 Americans died with 10,364 others wounded.

Like the horrors on our side, 29 thousand Japanese soldiers died with an additional 22,000 civilians lost (many from suicide).

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Walter Jorgensen said little about what he experienced during the first 3 battles. He simply told me the following: “We began those campaigns with 29 Commanding Officers, all of them died on the battlefield.”

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The loss of leaders would result in the following for Mr. Jorgensen, he would become a leader of his men at the battle for Okinawa. His new title was Executive Officer of the 6th Div., 3rd Battalion with the Marine’s 29th Regiment.

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Like the first 3 battles, the numbers lost were unimaginable. The totals are so high that it becomes an estimate.

That estimate ranges from 77-110,000 Japanese killed. Along with the men from multiple Divisions of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps., the Marines battled for this final runway.

America’s total lost at Okinawa was 55,162 wounded and Thirty-Two Thousand, Seven Hundred and Fifteen men killed in battle.

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Back to the Marine’s graduation.

That morning we got to watch the band play as they raised the flag on base.

While driving into the base, Mr. Jorgensen pointed to a small building which he said, “that use to be the main entrance to the base”. The building in front of us, during the raising of the flag, was “new”.

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After the band played, we introduced Mr. Jorgensen to Brigadier General Jurney, the Commander of Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. Their conversation would later be called out during the up-coming graduation.

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After the soon-to-be United States Marines marched onto the grounds, Brigadier General Jurney asked any Vietnam Vets to stand in the crowd followed by calling out any Veterans from the Korean War.

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Finally he said, “We have a guest in the crowd. This man fought as a Marine in Guadacanal, Tarawa, Saipan and Okinawa. Please stand Walter Jorgensen”.

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The pride and power of his memories were both unmistakable.

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This is what a 95 year old United States Marine looks like…this is “Easy Company” Commander Walter Jorgensen.

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The best military Meals Ready-To-Eat, ranked

Ah, the MRE.


Known by such illustrious nicknames as “Mr. E,” “Meal, Rarely Edible,” and “Meal, Ready to Excrete,” the military meals ready-to-eat aren’t exactly known for their delightful taste.


Luckily, the taste of (at least) some MRE’s has improved over the years. Troops these days don’t have to deal with the terror that was the “Four Fingers of Death” — aka hot dogs — or the bean burrito. If you are opening a box of meals out in the field, these are the ones to look for.

#6: Chili with Beans

It’s got a Ranger Bar! Sadly, this bad boy comes with cheddar cheese and snack bread — which sucks — so you should probably trade that out with the one weird guy in your platoon who actually likes snack bread. Oh, and the chili is kind of good too.

#5: Maple Sausage

This is obviously better around breakfast time, since most of the contents are geared toward that very important meal of the day. The sausage, if heated up, isn’t half bad. But the big takeaway here is the Maple Muffin Top. Unfortunately they couldn’t jam a full muffin in there, but hey, the top is the best part anyway.

This also has the trail mix, crackers and cheddar cheese, and orange beverage powder. Don’t eat it all in one sitting.

#4: Cheese Tortellini

There are so many MRE’s with totally crappy main meals. I’m throwing it out there right now: I actually like the cheese tortellini. Unless you don’t heat it up. Not only is the main meal pretty damn good, but it’s got all kinds of goodies, including wet pack fruits, a first strike protein bar, peanut butter and crackers, and beverage powder.

And if you are feeling extra brave, throw that extra hot hot sauce on top of the tortellini. Just make sure a port-a-john is on standby.

#3: Beef Ravioli

If you are Italian, you are going to hate this meal, since calling this concoction ravioli is probably a grave sin. But for the rest of us, it’s actually a decent meal when it’s hot. But the best part: Bacon cheese spread. In the field, you can probably sell that stuff and make serious bank.

#2: Meatballs in Marinara

Just like the beef ravioli, this one is pretty decent. It also has jalapeno cheese spread and tortillas, and who doesn’t like that Jal-op-eno? The potatoes au gratin are fairly terrible, but at least there’s a first strike bar, and beef snack strips. Unless you are a fatty who eats the entire meal, there’s lots of trading opportunity here.

#1: Chili and Macaroni

Chili Mac is the best. There’s no question. Main meal: delicious. But wait, there’s more. This has a pound cake, jalapeno cheese spread and crackers, candy, and beverage powder. Even the accessory packet is the best: There’s coffee AND matches in there. Brew up a cup of joe then burn things when you’re bored.

There are way more MRE’s in existence of course. We didn’t rank them all. If you want to see what’s in the current batch, you can check out MREInfo.com.

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Every surface ship in the Chinese navy, in one chart

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Image: YouTube


China wants to become east Asia’s dominant power. And in order to do that, the country needs a navy that can balance out American and US-allied assets in the region.

China wants a force that is capable of operating for extended periods in the open ocean, away from the coasts or support bases. A “blue-water navy” would allow China to protect vital trade routes while also enabling Beijing to project force in areas far from China’s coastline.

Beijing’s naval development could be one of the biggest strategic challenges the US faces in coming decades. And the Chinese navy is already pretty formidable. The following graphic from the US Office of Naval Intelligence shows every surface ship in the Chinese Navy as of February 2015 (you can view a much larger version of the graphic here):

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The largest ship in China’s navy is currently the Liaoning aircraft carrier, a refurbished Soviet-built craft that’s had an array of problems. The vessel is several decades old and of questionable quality — it suffered an unexpected power outage during sea trials in October of 2014.

But the Liaoning may just be a practice carrier for the Chinese Navy. China is using the low-cost vessel to master the operation of carrier battle groups before purchasing and developing more expensive and capable vessels.

There are reports that China is planning on developing three carrier battle groups, in a massive ramping-up of naval force projection.

The Luyang II 052C class guided missile destroyer is also noteworthy. These ships are designed to operate in open ocean away from China’s coasts, allowing Beijing to press its territorial ambitions throughout the Pacific and the South China Sea.

Additionally, a ship model called the Jinan will feature a number of new-generation weapons, and is specially designed to protect any future Chinese aircraft carriers.

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Troops gather on the deck of the Liaoning, China’s single aircraft carrier.

“The guided missile destroyer Ji’nan (hull number 152), is equipped with multiple sets of home-made new-type weapons,” China Military Online reports.

“It is able to attack surface warships and submarines independently or in coordination with other strength of the PLAN. The ship also possesses strong capabilities of conducting long-distance early-warning and detecting as well as regional air-defense operation.”

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