This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat - We Are The Mighty
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This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat

People who like compelling, well-crafted tales of America’s soldiers in action will like Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s recently released book tells the story behind the first team of female soldiers to join American special operators on the battlefield. The key to this book, however, is not simply that they are strong females, but that they are strong soldiers.


That message appears in the very first pages of the book, where she follows two soldiers on their first mission. The “newbies,” as she calls them, are preparing to go on a dangerous operation with an aggressive, seasoned Ranger team to capture an insurgent leader deep in Afghanistan. Lemmon identifies the newbies as “Second Lieutenant White” and “Staff Sergeant Mason,” sharing only at the very end of the introduction that White and Mason are women.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat

 

The book then flashes back to the story behind the creation of this unique unit, called Cultural Support Teams or CSTs. In 2010, the military’s Special Operations Command faced a problem – due to cultural mores that at best frowned on male-female interaction, American combat troops were effectively prohibited from communicating with Afghan women. That left half of Afghanistan’s population – potential sources of intelligence and partners to build lasting relationships – out of reach to American troops. So senior special operations commanders developed the CSTs to place female soldiers with American special operators in combat situations and engage with Afghan women on sensitive missions.

In describing the genesis of the CSTs as a unit, Lemmon also presents several of the individuals who volunteered for the pilot program. They are a cast of real characters, but make no mistake – these are smart alpha-women who are as fit and committed to success as any elite athlete. Readers learn about Anne Jeremy, the “serious, no-nonsense” officer who proved herself in combat by leading her convoy through a Taliban ambush of heavy arms fire that endured intermittently for 24 hours; Lane Mason, the 23-year-old Iraq War veteran who was a high-school track star in Nevada and volunteered for the CSTs to face down some demons in her past; Amber Treadmont, the intelligence officer from rural Pennsylvania who printed out the CST application within one minute of learning about the program; and Kate Raimann, the West Point grad and military police officer who played on her high school’s football team for all four years even though she hated football, just to prove that she could do it.

Lemmon’s depictions of these women are vivid, giving readers a textured understanding of who they are and what drove them to volunteer for an unprecedented program that would place them in incredibly dangerous situations.  In fact, these nuanced profiles raise my sole problem with the book – namely, that there were so many interesting personalities that I couldn’t keep track of them all. Lemmon used a few Homeric epithets, like reminding readers late in the book that Lane was “the Guard soldier and track star from Nevada,” but a few more mental cues might have helped keep everyone straight.

But those are small drops of concern amidst an ocean of good writing and compelling moments. Lemmon deftly draws readers through the brutal candidate assessment (“100 hours of hell”), the women’s anxiety about whether they would be selected, their post-selection training at Fort Benning, and their subsequent deployments to Afghanistan.

One scene in particular encapsulates the challenging nature of the CSTs’ role. Kate, the football-hating football player, was on a raid of a compound to capture a key Taliban fighter. Her job, like all of the CSTs, was to assemble the compound’s women and children, gather as much information from them as possible, and protect them if necessary. Soon after the Afghan and American forces entered the compound, heavy contact erupted, and Kate began shepherding the group of women and children to a building nearby.

As she directed [the interpreter], Kate scooped up a small baby, barefoot and crying. She threw the little guy over her left shoulder and took off running as the sound of gunfire grew louder behind her. Using her right arm she grabbed the hand of a small girl and drew her close to her body.

“Stay with me, stay with me!” Kate urged, hoping the child would trust and understand her movements even if she didn’t understand her words.

Suddenly Kate felt the jagged terrain take hold of her left foot. She began tumbling forward as one of her boots got trapped in a deep hole she hadn’t detected through the green film of her night-vision goggles.

The baby, Kate thought. Instinctively she held him tight against her chest as the momentum of her fall sent her spinning into a diving, forward roll. She released the little girl’s hand just in time to keep her from falling, too.

A second later Kate lay on her back with the baby tucked up against her body armor. He hadn’t moved despite the somersault and was now just looking at her wide-eyed and silent.

Kate felt the baby’s warm breath on her neck, looked up at the twinkling stars above, and heard the rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire around her, maybe three dozen feet away.

What the fuck is my job right now? she asked herself as she hugged the baby tight and again took the hand of the little girl who was standing nearby. This is crazy.

The book juxtaposes “crazy” moments like that with poignant moments that further illustrate the CSTs’ unique position as women in combat environments. In one anecdote, a female civilian interpreter from California named Nadia meets three new CSTs, and they bond over perhaps the most non-military item of all: mascara.

The four women – Ashley, Anne, Lane, and Nadia – were in the washroom getting ready for the first meeting of the day when Anne and Lane broke out their traveling cosmetic kits. It was a small gesture, but for Nadia, it spoke volumes.

During her years overseas she had been around a lot of military women who frankly frightened her. They conveyed the impression that any sign of femininity would be perceived as weakness. But here, in this tiny bathroom, were three incredibly fit, Army-uniformed, down-to-earth gals who could embrace being female and being a soldier in a war zone. She found it refreshing – and inspiring.

“Oh my God, you wear makeup!” she burst out.

Anne laughed as she put the final touches on an abbreviated makeup regimen.

“Oh, yes, always have to have mascara on,” she replied. “I am blond and look like I have no eyelashes. I don’t want to scare people!”

Lemmon also peppers the book with several sidebars that add interesting and important context, like the value of interpreters and the history of military dogs. While a discussion about the evolution of female soldiers’ uniforms may not seem terribly interesting on its face, she deftly weaves it into the story because it mattered to the CSTs – the ill-fitting gear was obviously designed for men and therefore had bulges in places where the women didn’t need them and lacked material where they did. That seemingly whimsical anecdote illustrates just how unprecedented their mission was.

The book builds to an emotional climax with – spoiler alert – the first death of a CST soldier. It’s an undeniably tough moment, and Lemmon treats the subject – the agonized reaction of the soldier’s family and her sister CSTs – with appropriate respect. The Rangers serving with the deceased soldier sent the family a condolence card, with an important quote:

“Having a woman come out with us was a new thing for all of us,” wrote her weapons squad leader. “Being one of the first groups of CST, she really set a good impression not only on us, but also the higher leadership. I am sorry for your loss, but I want you to know that she was good at her job and a valuable member of this platoon.”

That statement, to me, seemed to summarize the whole point of the book: these women are not just strong females – they are strong soldiers.

* * *

Mark Lee Greenblatt is the author of Valor: Unsung Heroes from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front, (Taylor Trade, 2014), which is available on Amazon and at Barnes Noble and independent bookstores across the country.  Mark has been appeared on NBC, CBS, MSNBC, Fox News Radio, CSPAN-Book TV, Wall Street Journal TV, Forbes​.com, and dozens of other media outlets.  Visit Mark’s website to learn more about the heroes in Valor or to send an email to the heroes.

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
Screenshot CCTV News/YouTube


The largest naval exercise in the world is underway in the Pacific, and to show the world that it means business, China officially commissioned its fourth vessel of a new model of guided-missile destroyers on Tuesday.

Equipped with advanced weapons that can engage other ships and submarines, the independently developed Yinchuan will be China’s most advanced guided-missile destroyer in service. The ship will be able to engage in all manner of operations, including aerial defense, anti-sea operations, and antisubmarine missions.

The Yichuan, at more than 150 meters long and nearly 20 meters wide, has an estimated load displacement of 7,000 tons.

Although the unveiling was met with fanfare and a parade, Chinese military expert Cao Weidong told China Central Television that the Yinchuan was inferior to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in terms of size and munitions capabilities.

But other unnamed experts, according to China.org.cn, have speculated that the Yinchuan would outperform the Japanese Atago-class, the South Korean Sejong the Great-class, and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

The Yinchuan is the fourth ship in its class to be unveiled by China to date.

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How some special operators are turning to illegal drugs to deal with deployment stress

They have achieved cult hero status for their exploits since 9/11, but their success on the battlefield is taking a personal toll on Navy SEALs and members of other US special operations elite forces.


Reports of rampant illicit drug abuse by special operators — while on deployment and at home — have prompted congressional lawmakers to call for an accountability review of the “culture” inside special operations units.

Drug and alcohol use by some members of special operations units is nothing new to the culture within the teams, who see such behavior as a coping mechanism in response to the unforgiving tasks these soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have been asked to carry out.

“They are pretty much out there on a daily basis in very dangerous situations and working with [partners] who you don’t know if they are going to put a bullet in your back,” one former team member with knowledge of personnel issues told The Washington Times. “The level of stress these people are experiencing is off the charts,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The unprecedented pace and tempo in which US special operations forces have been used in the post-9/11 global war on terrorism, beginning with al Qaeda and the Taliban and now encompassing Islamic State, Boko Haram, and other groups, has exacerbated those stress levels, leading to even riskier coping behaviors.

“Kill/capture” missions by US special operations units combined with clandestine drone strikes formed the backbone of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism doctrine. Six months into his term, President Trump has shown little sign of abandoning that strategy. Defense Secretary James Mattis said in May that the United States is entering an era of global conflict defined by protracted small wars with extremist militant groups.

“This is going to be a long fight,” Mr. Mattis said.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley.

Aside from deploying hundreds of special operations military advisers to the front lines of the Islamic State fight in Syria and Iraq, the Trump administration has ordered the expansion of US Special Operations Command’s mission in Africa, battling the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabab.

“You see our forces engaged in that from Africa to Asia. But, at the same time, this is going to be a long fight. And I don’t put timelines on fights,” Mr. Mattis told CBS News.

‘Something has to give’

The operational tempo for Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other “Tier One” US special operations forces units, which spend a majority of their time overseas on deployment, is a vicious cycle but a prerequisite for the job, the former team member said.

“We’re not talking about 18-, 19-year-old kids. You have to have a level of resilience to get where they are,” he said. But even with the most seasoned and battle-hardened veterans, “something has to give” from the relentless demands to deploy.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
Photo credit Tanjila Ahmed

A pair of random, command-wide drug screenings conducted from November through February uncovered a total of 59 cases of illicit drug use among sailors serving in Naval Special Warfare Command.

Seven command members tested positive for illicit drug use from among more than 6,300 subjected to a sweep of random tests late last year, according to figures that command officials provided to The Times. The command also uncovered 52 cases of illegal drug use among 71,000 tests carried out since August 2014.

Of the 52 command members who tested positive for illegal drug use during the most recent round of tests across the Navy command, 10 were SEAL team members. Command officials could not confirm how many SEAL members were part of the seven positive drug tests found during a round of testing in November and December.

Drug abuse, domestic abuse, or other behaviors tied to the seemingly constant rotations to conflict zones are “endemic of what these people are going through,” the team member said. “These are your franchise players. They want to be the best of the best. It’s a quality you need but also makes it hard to disengage. A lot of it is just coping just the physical toll [the job] takes on you. You have to find an outlet.”

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
USAF photo illustration by Senior Airman Chad Strohmeyer

The problem of drug use within the special operations community gained unwanted attention in April when news leaked of a closed-door speech by Capt. Jamie Sands, head of all East Coast-based Navy SEAL teams. The captain warned all 900 Navy special operators in the command about cracking down on the use of illicit drugs — including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, and ecstasy — among the SEAL teams that went public.

One active-duty SEAL attached to the East Coast teams told CBS News at the time that a number of his team members had tested positive for illegal drugs multiple times but remained on active duty since the Navy was unable to monitor their drug usage on a regular basis. Their frequent, extended deployments overseas allowed team members to avoid regular drug screenings.

Capt. Sands said that would no longer be a loophole in the command.

“We’re going to test on the road,” the officer said. “We’re going to test on deployment. If you do drugs, if you decide to be that selfish individual, then you will be caught.”

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
DoD Photo by Maj. Will Cox

Accountability review

Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat, in June pushed for legislation requiring US special operations command and the head of the Pentagon’s special operations directorate to conduct an accountability review of the military’s elite units amid reports of heavy drug abuse within the teams.

The review was included in the House draft version of the Pentagon’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which sets aside $696 billion for military programs and operations. The full House overwhelmingly approved the defense spending package this month.

The measure would require Mark Mitchell, acting assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, as well as top brass from Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, “to provide a briefing regarding culture and accountability in [special operations forces].”

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley Gardner

Critics say the Pentagon’s policies do not properly address the problem of illicit drug use among special operators, a claim US Special Operations Command officials vehemently deny.

“No one has turned a blind eye to the challenges special operations forces face after a decade and a half of continuous combat operations,” command spokesman Kenneth McGraw said in a statement to The Times.

Command officials and their counterparts in the services’ special operations directorates formed a task force to address issues such as drug use and other symptoms related to prolonged deployments of the elite US troops. The task force takes a “takes a holistic, integrated approach” to post-deployment issues unique to Special Forces units “designed to maximize access to treatment and minimize any stigma associated with seeking help,” Mr. McGraw said.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay

Despite the command’s task force and other associated efforts, lawmakers are pressing command officials on the problem of drug use inside the teams.

Ms. Speier’s office declined repeated requests for comment on the legislation and the level of cooperation House members are receiving from command officials and the Pentagon. But her characterization of the need for accountability within the special operations teams to address drug use is the wrong way to view the problem, the former team member said.

“I do not know if this is an accountability issue. It is not just about bad people. I think a lot of it is just what they have been through,” he said. “You have to realize you are not going to eradicate this [problem]. You cannot eradicate those experiences” of war.

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The Marines want self-repairing smart trucks

In the not-too-distant future, Marine Corps 7-ton trucks may be able to diagnose worn-out parts before they go bad, put in an order for a relevant replacement, and get the part 3D printed and shipped to their location to be installed — all without a human in the loop.


It’s an aspiration that illustrates the possibilities of smart logistics, said Lt. Gen. Michael Dana, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for Installations and Logistics. And the process has already begun to make it a reality.

In the fall of 2016, Marines at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri equipped about 20 military vehicles, including Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements, known as MTVRs or 7-tons, and massive tractor-trailers known as Logistics Vehicle System Replacements, or LVSRs, with engine sensors designed to anticipate and identify key parts failures.

It’s a commercially available technology that some civilian vehicles already use, but it’s a new capability for Marine Corps trucks. Testing on those sensors will wrap-up this summer, and officials with IL will assess how accurately and thoroughly the sensors captured and transmitted maintenance data.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
A Logistics Vehicle System Replacement at work. (DoD Photo by Lance Cpl. Joey Holeman)

If all goes well, the Marines then will work to connect the sensors with an automatic system that can order parts that will then be 3D printed on demand and delivered to the vehicle’s unit.

“How do we use that data and how do we link that back to our fabrication or supply network to make the system operate in theory without a person in the loop, to make sure we’re doing push logistics [versus] pull logistics,” said Lt. Col. Howard Marotto, a senior member of the Marine Corps’ logistics innovation team and the service’s additive manufacturing lead.

“Now we have the part there waiting when the vehicle gets back in from the convoy, or it’s already there a week in advance before we know we need to change it out. So that’s the concept and that’s what we’re going to try to prove with that.”

Dana, who spoke with Military.com in June, is eager to bypass maintenance supply chains that sometimes have gear traveling thousands of miles to get to a unit downrange, and inefficient logistics systems that create lag while maintainers wait for parts to arrive.

“If we had the ability to print a part far forward, which we have that capability, that reduces your order-to-ship time. And you then combine that with what we call sense-and-respond logistics, or smart logistics, which is … it can tell you with a predictive capability that this part is going to fail in the next 20 hours or the next ten hours,” Dana said.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
3D Printing. (Photo by Jonathan Juursema.)

The goal of having trucks that can do everything but self-install repair parts is in keeping with the Marine Corps’ newfound love affair with innovative technology. The Corps recently became the first military service to send 3D printers to combat zones with conventional troops, so that maintainers could print everything from 81mm mortar parts to pieces of radios in hours, instead of waiting days or longer for factory-made parts to arrive.

For Dana, it’s simply time for the Marine Corps to cash in on technologies that industry is already using to its advantage.

“You look at Tesla, their vehicles literally get automatic upgrades; it’s almost like a vehicle computer that’s driving around,” he said. “My wife’s [2006 Lexus] will tell you when it’s due for an oil change. That predictive capability exists in the private sector. Hopefully we can incorporate it on the military side.”

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Mattis tells NATO to pay its fair share

Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned NATO defense ministers in a speech that the “impatience Secretary Gates predicted is now a governmental reality” when it came to America’s share of the military burden of the alliance. “Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” he added.


According to a report by the European edition of Politico, Mattis was passing on a warning from President Donald Trump, who had been critical of the lack of defense spending by NATO allies.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis talks with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon during a North Atlantic Council meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 15, 2017. (DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

“Disregard for military readiness demonstrates a lack of respect for ourselves, for the alliance, and for the freedoms we inherited, which are now clearly threatened,” Mattis told the assembled ministers according to the Defense Media Activity. Mattis particularly mentioned the events of 2014, including Russia’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine.

Mattis wasn’t only there to spank NATO for being defense-spending cheapskates, though. Referring to the alliance as “my second home,” he noted that NATO “remains a fundamental bedrock for the United States and for all the transatlantic community” in his opening remarks.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
M1A2 Abrams Tanks belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division fires off a round Jan. 26, 2017 during a gunnery range. The Soldiers are completing gunnery ranges before taking part in combined exercises with their NATO counterparts later this year. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Corinna Baltos)

In remarks welcoming Secretary Mattis, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg cited Secretary Mattis’s past service as Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, saying, “You made sure that NATO adapted to a new and more demanding security environment.  But NATO has to continue to adapt and that’s exactly what we’re going to address at our meeting today, how NATO continues to adapt to a new security environment.”

Stoltenberg also addressed concerns about NATO members paying their fair share, saying, “Our latest figures, which we published yesterday, show that defense spending among European allies and Canada increased by 3.8 percent in real terms in 2016.  That is roughly $10 billion U.S. dollars.  This is significant, but it is not enough. We have to continue to increase defense spending across Europe and Canada.”

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, front row, center right, and fellow defense ministers pose for a photo at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 15, 2017. (DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

Politico noted that NATO has set a benchmark of 2 percent of GDP as the minimum size of a defense budget. An April 2016 report by CNN.com noted that only five NATO countries met that benchmark.

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Here’s a look at the “Davy Crockett bomb,” the world’s smallest nuke

Known as the “Davy Crockett bomb,” America’s smallest-ever nuclear weapon packed a relatively small punch when compared to its larger cousins — between a 10 and 250-kiloton yield.


But what it lacked in straight firepower, it made up for in ease of transport and delivery. It could be employed by a three-man team, and its launcher could be mounted directly on a Jeep.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
(Photo: Department of Defense)

Since it wasn’t actually a bomb, it was more properly labeled by its full name: the Davy Crockett Atomic Battle Group Delivery System. The weapon was a recoilless rifle that came in two calibers, 120mm and 155mm.

It could fire conventional warheads but its big draw was the ability to fire a W-54 warhead with a variable yield between 10 and 250 kilotons. This would have allowed American infantrymen in Eastern Europe to directly counter Soviet armored units if the Cold War went hot.

The immediate blast from the W54 would have killed tanks in the center while radiation poisoning would have killed most tank crews within a quarter mile of the epicenter.

Check out more about the weapon in the video below:

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Top sniper squads from around the world just competed in Germany

Military trainers in Germany just wrapped up a four-day competition to determine the best sniper squad in Europe and a Norwegian team took first place at the end of 27 events designed to test key tasks that snipers must complete in combat.


Eleven countries sent squads to the competition, and the U.S. sent five squads including paratroopers and Marines.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
A Spanish soldier fires at a target from a Zodiac boat during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Oct. 24, 2016.(Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)

The competition, hosted by the U.S. Army Europe and organized by the 7th Army Training Command, took place at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany. Participants took part in multiple shooting competitions as well as casualty evacuation, ruck marching, and other general military events.

Also read: Meet the 62-year-old sniper who has over 170 ISIS kills

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
Spanish soldiers master the Rough Terrain Run task during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

“The competition challenged the competitors’ physical and mental toughness as well as their marksmanship proficiency,” said U.S. Army Maj. Erick Nyingi, the officer in charge of the competition.

One of the most suspenseful and distinctly sniper-oriented events was the stalking lane, where squads had to proceed as far as possible without being detected by observers.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
A Latvian soldier checks the camouflage of his weapon before taking part in the stalking challenge of the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)

Some high-octane events included a high-angle shot lane where snipers rode in a Black Hawk helicopter and had to engage two targets in under two minutes using three rounds or less. There was also a water shoot where the snipers engaged targets from a boat.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
U.S. Marines conduct the high-angle shot lane during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 24, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

The sniper squad competition is the 2016 version of the annual Best Squad competition held by U.S. Army Europe. Each year focuses on a different type of squad. Last year, it was infantry squads.

No matter which type of unit is highlighted, the goal is to bring NATO members and other allies together to share tactics and engage in friendly competition so the troops can share new tactics, and training techniques.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
The Norwegian squad finished in first place during the 2016 European Best Squad Competition, hosted by U.S. Army Europe at 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Oct. 27, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

“Overall the competition will definitely meet the objective of getting the squads to exchange ideas and [tactics],” Nyingi said. “There was a lot of collaboration after each day’s events, and I believe the greatest dividends will be realized from this exchange of ideas.”

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Navy SEALs are cracking down on drug use

The Navy’s elite SEAL teams have taken on a lot of America’s enemies, and have proceeded to kick ass and take names. Now, though, they are facing a potential challenge from within — a streak of drug use.


According to a report by CBSNews.com, five SEALs were kicked out for drug use in a three-month period late last year, prompting a safety stand-down.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
Navy SEALs retreat after a training exercise. (U.S. Navy photo)

“I feel like I’m watching our foundation, our culture, erode in front of our eyes,” Capt. Jamie Sands, Commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group 2, said in a video of a meeting carried out during the December 2016 stand-down.

“I feel betrayed,” Sands added. “How do you do that to us? How do you decide that it’s OK for you to do drugs?”

One of three SEALs who went to CBS News outlined some of the drugs allegedly being used.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
Navy SEALs train. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“People that we know of, that we hear about have tested positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy,” the SEAL said in an interview. CBS disguised the SEAL’s voice and concealed his identity.

Leadership in Naval Special Warfare Group 2 viewed the drug use situation as “staggering,” according to the CBS News report. One of the SEALs who went to CBS said that “it has gotten to a point where he had to deal with it.”

“I hope he’s somebody that we can rally behind and hold people accountable, but I’m not sure at this point,” the SEAL added.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat

One thing Sands has done has been to carry out drug testing even when away from their home bases, something not always done in the past.

“We’re going to test on the road,” Sands told the SEALs in a video released to CBS News. “We’re going to test on deployment. If you do drugs, if you decide to be that selfish individual, which I don’t think anyone’s going to do after today — I believe that — then you will be caught.”

During the stand-down, drug testing was done, and one SEAL who had earlier tested positive for cocaine ended up testing positive again, this time for prescription drugs. That SEAL is being kicked out.

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This friendly fire incident hamstrung the P-38

The P-38 Lighting was a superb long-range fighter in all theaters of the war. The plane is best known for the “Zero Dark Thirty” operation of the Pacific Theater – the shoot-down of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto by Capt. Tom Lanphier.


But the P-38 didn’t get there right away.

In fact, given its ground-breaking design, it was going through a lot of teething problems.

According to AcePilots.com, one of the biggest problems was compressibility. The P-38 was one of the first planes to deal with it due to its high speed (up to 420 miles per hour), especially when they dove.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
This P-38 compressibility chart is taken from a USAAF P-38 pilot training manual. Pilots of early P-38s (ones without the 1943 dive flap retrofit) were advised against steep dives as compressibility would force the plane to dive more steeply as well as immobilize the controls, a situation that could prove fatal if initiated below 25,000 feet. (U.S. Air Force graphic)

What would happen is a shock wave of compressed air would form, keeping the plane’s elevators from working. The P-38s would be caught in a dive, and unable to pull out until they got to lower altitudes.

As a result, German fighters knew that diving was a way to escape. One pilot who had a close call was Air Force legend Robin Olds, who described his incident in an episode of “Dogfights.”

After a lot of work, Lockheed designed some flaps that would help address the issue by changing the airflow enough so the elevators would be able to function.

A number of kits were put together to be installed on P-38s in the field, but those destined to go to England never got there, hamstringing the P-38s there.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
Douglas C-54 Skymaster. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The reason?

A Royal Air Force pilot mistook the United States Army Air Force Douglas C-54 Skymaster cargo plane carrying the kits for a Luftwaffe Fw 200 Condor maritime patrol plane. Given the Condor’s reputation, they were prime targets. The C-54 was shot down, and the kits were lost.

As a result, the P-38s went into combat unable to pursue a German fighter diving to escape the “Fork Tailed Devil” and fight another day.

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An SAS sniper killed 5 ISIS suicide bombers with 3 bullets

A Special Air Service sniper who spotted a group of Islamic State fighters leaving a suspected bomb-making facility in Iraq fired three shots that detonated two suicide vests and killed all five fighters, according to reports in British media.


The SAS sniper was operating 800 meters away from the factory when he noticed the group wearing unseasonably warm and bulky clothing. The 10-year veteran of the SAS hit the first man in the chest and detonated his vest, killing three fighters. As the two survivors attempted to escape back into the factory, the sniper shot one in the head and the other in the vest, which detonated the second vest.

Also read: 7 longest range sniper kills in history

“This was a classic SAS mission,” a British Army source told the Express. “About three weeks ago the intelligence guys got information that a bomb factory had been set up in a nearby village. With just three well-aimed shots, that single team has probably saved the lives of hundreds of innocent people. The unit was sent in to see if they could identify the house and the bombers.”

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
UK (Ministry of Defence photo)

The decision to attack with a sniper was made due to concerns about collateral damage.

“There were too many civilian homes nearby and children were often around so an airstrike was out of the question,” the unidentified British Army source said. “Instead, the SAS commander in Iraq decided to use a sniper team and the operation was a complete success.”

In another engagement in Aug. 2015, another British sniper reportedly saved an 8-year-old boy and his father who were about to be executed.

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Experts say missile defense alone won’t stop growing North Korea nuke threat

North Korea launched on Sunday a land-based version of the KN-11 nuclear-capable ballistic missile that may have traveled further and faster than any North Korean missile before it.


The missile flew about 300 miles before hitting the Sea of Japan, likely further than any test before it and used solid fuel that allowed it to be launched off a tank-like truck in a matter of minutes, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters on Monday.

Older North Korean missiles have used liquid fuel, which requires them to travel with huge convoys and to gas up prior to a launch, which gives observers time to prepare and respond.

Related: Here’s why North Korea’s latest type of missile would be a nightmare to stop

While Davis said the launch made clear the “grave threat to our national security,” he added that the US is “capable of defending against a North Korean ballistic missile attack.”

Experts on North Korea and missile defense told Business Insider a different story about the US’s ability to defend against North Korean attacks.

The US is “certainly capable of addressing the North Korean threat both regionally and to the homeland,” Abel Romero
, the director of government relations
 at the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance,
 told Business Insider. But he added that the systems in place have considerable flaws.

Though the US has guided missile destroyers and local missile defense batteries in the region, missile defense is not “solely the answer” to stopping threats from North Korea, Romero said.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
The Heritage Foundation: 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength

Kelsey Davenport, the director of nonproliferation at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider that missile defense isn’t a good enough response to North Korea’s missile tests — diplomatic engagement is needed.

The latest test “underscores the urgency for a new approach to North Korea,” Davenport said.

“The major issue with relying on the missile defense system is capacity,” Ian Williams, associate director at the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Business Insider.

The US has 25,000 troops deployed to South Korea, and more than 50,000 in Japan. While most military sites have ballistic missile defenses, North Korea could potentially trick missile defenses by using decoys, exhausting the US’s supply of interceptor missiles, which can knock out incoming missiles.

The US just doesn’t “have enough interceptors to sit and play catch with everything that North Korea can throw,” Williams said. “US and allied missile defenses could likely absorb a first wave, but there would need to be coordination with strike forces to start knocking out North Korea’s missiles out before they could be launched.”

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
Heritage Foundation

The second major issue, according to Williams, is coverage. The US uses multiple layers of missile defense systems like Patriot missile defense batteries and guided-missile destroyer ships, but they provide uneven coverage in the region.

The US has been pushing to deploy a larger range missile defense system to South Korea, known as Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD), as a kind of admission that the current systems have weaknesses and flaws.

But like other systems, THAAD isn’t perfect. It has an excellent track record within it’s range, but North Korea could simply send a submarine outside of range and fire away.

“Missile defense is not a surefire way to negate the threat posed by another country’s nuclear-capable ballistic missiles,” said Davenport.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
The THAAD missile system. | Lockheed Martin photo

For example, while the US may have systems in place to counter North Korea, it has no defenses built specifically to counter Chinese or Russian nuclear missiles, which are far more advanced and capable, according to Romero.

“As of right now I’ve never heard anyone come out and say we need to build a missile defense system to defend us from Russia and China,” said Romero.

Instead, the US uses diplomacy and the doctrine of mutually assured destruction to coexist with Russia and China. As the nuclear missile threat grows from North Korea, the US must find a way to coexist with them as well.

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That time a British SAS soldier knocked out a US Recon Marine

“It was the ’90s.”


That’s all the explanation you really need when you watch this clip of a former British SAS soldier going up against a US Recon Marine in a sensationalized “boxing” match.

In 1998, an obscure company called Universal Warriors hosted the “Commando Knockout Challenge,” where contestants, all of them elite servicemembers hailing from several different countries, went head-to-head in spectacular fashion.

This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat
Screenshot via Wanna Fight/YouTube

This gloriously America-themed event centered around a pentagon-shaped ring and even had its score card labeled “USA vs The World”.

Wearing camouflaged pants, Carl Richardson — the 5’9″ and 171 pound former SAS instructor, faced against Matthew Ortiz — the US Recon Marine at 5’11” and 168 pounds.

“I’m gonna bring America back to Britain and show [them] who’s boss,” said Richardson prior to the fight.

In response, Ortiz struck back with, “We kicked the British out once — and we’ll do it again.”

On this particular night, however, history failed to repeat itself as Richardson (wearing the red gloves) dealt Ortiz a knockout blow.

Watch the entire clip below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vi0c8KRorJI
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Today in military history: US Constitution ratified

On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, establishing the document as the “supreme law of the land.”

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Post Revolutionary War, it quickly became apparent that the Articles of Confederation — America’s first national government wherein states acted together only for specific purposes — needed a makeover. Cue the Constitution of the United States, which created, among other things, a system of checks and balances for a more centralized federal government with the power of the union vested in the people.

The Constitutional Convention began in May of 1787, with delegates shuttered within the State House and sworn to secrecy so they could speak freely. By mid-June, they had decided to completely redesign the government. One of the biggest arguments was over congressional representation, which resulted in a compromise: the Senate would comprise two representatives from each state while the House of Representatives would give each state one representative for every 30,000 people. In this agreement, enslaved persons were counted as three-fifths of a person, even though they were stripped of their power or voice.

Ratification of the Constitution required nine out of the thirteen states’ approval, which took about six heated months to accomplish. 

The Constitution took effect in 1789. It has been amended 27 times to meet the needs of the nation, with the first 10 amendments making up the Bill of Rights. Fun fact: The United States Constitution is the oldest written constitution still in use in the world.

Featured Image: Washington as Statesman at the Constitutional Convention (Junius Brutus Stearns, 1810-1885).

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