A brief history of the Berlin Wall, "the monument to Communist failure" - We Are The Mighty
Articles

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”

As of 2015 the Berlin Wall has been down almost as long as it stood separating the German people. The wall built by the Communist German Democratic Republic (GDR – better known as East Germany) around the Western sectors of Berlin became a longstanding symbol of the divide between Western Capitalism and Eastern Communism during the Cold War. In the 28 years it stood, no place on Earth was so central to world events as Berlin and the reason for that is the Berlin Wall. Twenty-six years after its fall, it’s worth a look to see the how Cold War history played out surrounding such a central, divisive symbol.


After World War II, West Germany was occupied by France, England, and the United States, East Germany was occupied by the Soviet Union. Berlin, despite being deep in Soviet-occupied territory, was also partitioned in a similar way. After the Berlin Airlift ended a Soviet blockade — really an attempt to push the West out of Berlin through economic strangulation — fears of further drifts toward a full Communist state in the East prompted many to emigrate to West Germany in exponential numbers. These were mostly young, well-educated Germans whose flight became known as a “Brain Drain” of East German intelligentsia and workers. Only 61% of the East’s working age population remained. Something had to be done and what better way to make people want to stay in your country than by walling them in and threatening them with constant torture and execution?

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Memorial crosses of those killed by East Germany while trying to cross to West Germany

The borders around West Berlin were closed on August 13, 1961 as the Soviets tore up the streets, erected fences, and placed barbed wire. Families were suddenly split, jobs were lost and the United States had no official response. The U.S. didn’t actually think there was valid reason for its permanent erection. Then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk said, “The Wall certainly ought not to be a permanent feature of the European landscape. I see no reason why the Soviet Union should think it is—it is to their advantage in any way to leave there that monument to Communist failure.”

Erected in 1961, it was called the “Anti-Fascist Protective Wall” by the GDR, who placed rows of barbed wire a guard towers along the wall. It would soon become a symbol for the corruption and lack of freedom for those living in the Soviet Union-dominated Eastern Bloc, as the world recognized it as a true “Iron Curtain,” a means to keep East Germans from getting to West German freedom, instead of keeping West Germans out of the East Germany. It would be upgraded three times after its construction.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Robert Kennedy and Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt at the Berlin Wall

President Kennedy denounced its construction and appointed retired Army General Lucius D. Clay as Ambassador. Clay was the mastermind of the Berlin Airlift, former military governor of American-controlled Germany, nicknamed “the Kaiser” and was wildly popular with Berliners. Following Kennedy’s order to reinforce the Allied defenders of West Berlin, Clay ordered 1,500 men with vehicles and trailers from West Germany, through East Germany to West Berlin, where they were met by Clay and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson as a show of strength and a reassertion of the Allies’ access to Berlin.

In June, 1963, President Kennedy visited the Berlin for the first time with General Clay to reaffirm the U.S. dedication of support for West Germany and to remind the Soviet Union of that support.

Hundreds of East German died trying to get to freedom on the other side of the wall, thousands were successful in defecting across the wall. They would dig tunnels below the wall, flying hot air balloons, through the sewers, or just driving cars at max speed through weaker sections. One East German guard even drove his tank through the wall to defect. Western guards were not able to help defectors until they were on the Western side of the wall.

In 1988, the year before the Berlin Wall fell, Bruce Springsteen played the Berlin Wall in a concert organized by East German Communist authorities in an attempt to pacify East German youth. Communist authorities saw rock music as a “nefarious cultural weapon” (and for much of the music of the 1980’s, that assertion isn’t far off), so the concert was a surprising shockk to much of the world, most of all East Germans. Springsteen didn’t miss the importance of the event. After playing Born in the U.S.A. in front of 300,000 East Germans, he delivered a short speech in German:

“I’m not here for any government,” he began. “I’ve come to play rock and roll for you in the hope that one day, all the barriers will be torn down.”

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Springsteen in East Germany (wikimedia commons)

The crowd went wild. Sixteen months later, on November 9, 1989, the government of the German Democratic Republic, better known as East Germany, announced Germans living in the East would then be free to visit West Germany and West Berlin. That day, East and West Germans crowded the Berlin Wall, and systematically chipped away and demolished it.

Articles

New tiltrotor aircraft can fly at 280 knots

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Bell Helicopter


Bell helicopter has now attached the wing to the fuselage of a new, next-generation tiltrotor aircraft engineered to reach speeds of 280 knots, fly for 800 kilometers on one tank of fuel, hover and maneuver in “high-hot” conditions and function as both a utility and attack helicopter platform.

The intention is to build an advanced, high-tech tiltrotor demonstrator aircraft to take flight in November of 2017 as part of an effort to ultimate build a future aircraft able to begin operations in the 2030s.

“There is one long wing. We attach the middle of the wing to the fuselage – the entire wing is one piece bolted to the fuselage of the airplane. One wing covers both sides. The wing is attached with aircraft grade structural fasteners. There are enough aircraft fasteners to provide sufficient strength to hold the aircraft together,” Vince Tobin, Vice President of Advanced Tiltrotor Systems, Bell Helicopter, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The new Bell tiltrotor, called the V-280 Valor, is part of the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program aimed at establishing requirements and paving the way toward a new Future Vertical Lift aircraft designed to meet a wide range of new requirements.

The concept behind the Army’s joint Future Vertical Lift program is to engineer a forward-looking, future aircraft able to reach airplane speeds and yet retain and ability to hover and maneuver like a helicopter.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Bell Helicopter

“The aircraft will have an ability to come to a hover in challenging conditions and then, while at a hover, operate at low speeds with maneuvering capability to roll and yaw. We want it to have the handling perspective to make the aircraft able to do what it is able to do,” Tobin added.

In addition, the future aircraft is intended to be able to use fuel-efficient engine technology to allow an aircraft to travel at least 800 kilometers on a single tank of fuel. Such an ability will enable the aircraft to operate more easily one a single mission without needing Forward Arming and Refueling Points, or FARPs.

The idea is to engineer and aircraft able to fly from the west coast to Hawaii without needing to refuel.

“FVL is a high priority. We have identified capability gaps. We need technologies and designs that are different than what the current fleet has. It will carry more equipment, perform in high-hot conditions, be more maneuverable within the area of operations and execute missions at longer ranges,” Rich Kretzschmar, project manager for the FVL effort, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.

Requirements for the program are still being refined for the Army-led program, which is aimed at service future aircraft for all four services.

These requirements, now being put into actual demonstrator aircraft built by both Bell and a Boeing-Sikorsky industry teams, include building and aircraft able to reach speeds greater than 230 knots, hover in thin air at 6,000-feet and 95-degrees Fahrenheit, achieve a combat radius of at least 434 kilometers and be configured to include emerging sensors and mission equipment technologies likely to emerge by the 2030s.

“We had set 230 as the speed requirement because we wanted to push the technology.  We wanted people to bring new ideas and new configurations to the table,” Dan Bailey, JMR TD Program Manager, said in an interview with Scout Warrior several months ago.

 Advancing Tiltrotor Technology

Bell intends to build upon and advance existing tiltrotor technology such as that which is currently operation in the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey aircraft. The Osprey continues to perform well in a wide range of missions and has recently been selected by the Navy to perform the Carrier On-board Delivery or COD mission transporting troops, equipment and weapons on-and-off surface ships.

The V-280 Valor is designed to be slightly bigger than an existing Black Hawk helicopter and use 24-inch seats to carry 11 passengers with gear, Tobin said.

“What Bell has done is taking its historical V-22 aircraft, and all the demonstrators before that, and applies them to this next-generation tilt-rotor. It is a straight wing versus a V-22 which is not straight. This reduces complexity,” Bailey explained. “They are also building additional flapping into the rotor system and individual controls that should allow for increased low-speed maneuverability.”

The tiltrotors are slated to go on in November, Tobin added.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Bell Helicopter

“We will get the gear boxes and transmission in before we get those blades on,” Tobin explained.

Depending upon ultimate requirement established by the Army and DoD, Bell expects to engineer an attack variant of the aircraft with a slightly different fuselage configuration.

“An armed attack version will have a gun, 2.75in folding-fin rockets and some type of point-to-point missile – hellfire or some later generation missile that would guide off of a laser or IR. We are being open ended in that we are not designing any specific requirement,” Tobin explained.

Next-Generation Sensors

The new attack variant is expected to use a modernized or next-generation of existing Apache sensors and targeting systems called the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor, or MTADS/PVS.

When it comes to sensors and mission equipment, Bell engineers are building a tiltrotor aircraft with what is called “open architecture,” meaning software and hardware able to quickly integrate new technologies as they emerge. The concept is to construct a helicopter that is not intended to operate today but rather advance technology well into the 2030s and beyond. Therefore, it will need to anticipate the weapons, sensors, computer processors and avionics likely to emerge by the 2030s.

Part of this effort includes the integration of a 360-degree sensors suite quite similar to the one used on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter called a Distributed Aperture Systems, or DAS.

“Instead of having sensors mounted to the turret, you have sensors that are mounted to the aircraft – so essentially you have sensors staring in 360-degrees around the aircraft at any given time. Those images are stitched together so it appears as one continuous image to the pilot. Both pilots can make use of the same system,” Tobin said.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Bell Helicopter

This technology will also allow troops riding in the back of the aircraft to wear goggles or a helmet giving them a view of the surrounding sensor feeds as they transit to a mission, Tobin added.

The DAS system will also form the basis a small-arms enemy fire detection technology which will search for and locate the signature of incoming enemy attacks. The sensors will be able to discern the location and heat signature coming from enemy small arms fire, giving the aircraft and opportunity to quickly attack with its weapons – lowering risk of injury to the pilots, crew and passengers.

The V-280 Valor will also have yet-to-be-determined Degraded Visual Environment technology that allows sensors to see through obscurants such as brown-out conditions, bad weather and other impediments to navigation. Part of this will also include a system called Controlled Flight into Terrain wherein an aircraft has an ability to quickly re-route itself it is approaching a dangerous obstacle such as a mountain, rock wall or building structure.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Bell Helicopter

This will likely draw upon a semi-autonomous navigation technology built into the aircraft known as “fly-by-wire.”  Bell Helicopter developed the initial algorithms for this technology, which is also now on the V-22 Osprey.

Another survivability technology potentially slated for the aircraft is a system known as Common Infrared Countermeasure, or CIRCM; CIRCM is a lighter weight variant of an existing technology which uses a laser-jammer to throw incoming enemy missiles off course – therefore protecting the aircraft.

“We are looking to the DoD customer to see what they want. Either way we can get that on the airplane,” Tobin explained.

Articles

Osprey crash shows how dangerous Marine aviation can be

The Dec. 13 crash of a MV-22B Osprey off the coast of Okinawa is the eighth involving this plane – and the fourth since the plane was introduced into service in 2007. Over its lengthy RD process and its operational career, 39 people have been killed in accidents involving the V-22 Osprey.


Sounds bad, right?

Well, the Osprey is not the first revolutionary aircraft to have high-profile crashes. The top American ace of World War II, Richard Bong, was killed while carrying out a test flight of a Lockheed YP-80, America’s first operational jet fighter.

The top American ace of the Korean War, Joseph McConnell, died when the F-86H he was flying crashed.

That said, the V-22 came close to cancellation numerous times during the 1990s, and killing it was a priority of then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. He failed, and the United States got a game-changing aircraft.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

It should be noted that most of the 39 fatalities happened during the RD phase of the Osprey program.

A 1992 crash near Quantico Marine Corps Base took the lives of several personnel, according to a report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The July 2000 crash was the worst, with 19 Marines killed when the V-22 they were on crashed during a simulated night assault mission. According to an article in the September 2004 issue of Proceedings, the Osprey involved crashed due to a phenomenon known as “vortex ring state.”

The December 2000 Osprey crash that killed all four on board had a more mundane cause. The plane suffered a failure in its hydraulic system, causing the tiltrotor to start an uncontrolled descent.

Wired.com reported in 2005 that a software glitch caused the plane to reset on each of the eight occasions that the crew tried to reset the Primary Flight Control System. The Osprey’s 1,600-foot fall ended in a forest.

Since entering service in July 2007, the Osprey’s track record has been much stronger.

Counting the most recent crash, there have been four Osprey accidents in the nine years and four months the V-22 has been operational. Two of those crashes, one in April 2010 that involved a special operations CV-22 in Afghanistan and an MV-22 in Morocco that crashed in April 2012, killed six personnel.

The crashes in December 2012 and the one earlier this week, resulted in no fatalities.

Three other personnel died in accidents: A Marine died in October 2014 when a life preserver failed, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. In May 2015, a fire after an Osprey “went down” killed two Marines per an Associated Press report.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado

Despite the recent incidents, the V-22 has been remarkably safe, particularly in combat.

None have been lost to enemy fire, a distinction that many helicopters cannot boast. The CH-53 series of helicopters, saw over 200 personnel killed in crashes by the time of a 1990 Los Angeles Times report, which came 15 years before a January 2005 crash that killed 31 personnel.

The BBC reported at the time that the helicopter was on a mission near Rutbah, Iraq.

Articles

This soldier thinks it’s time to retire the Pathfinder badge

The de-activation of the Pathfinder Company at Fort Campbell and the Army’s recent decision to do away with Long Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance Detachments got me thinking: Why do we even have Pathfinder school anymore?


Don’t get me wrong, Pathfinder was a tough course, and I proudly wore the winged torch for much of my career.  But the only reason I went to the school was for the badge, and if most people are honest with themselves, that’s why they went, too.  After all, the course is often derisively referred to as “Badgefinder.”

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
U.S Army Civil Affairs Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Soldiers earn their Pathfinder Badge at Fort Bragg, N.C. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres

I learned some useful skills in Pathfinder School, but I probably didn’t need to go to a dedicated school to learn them.  The hardest part about Pathfinder was memorizing the capabilities, tables, and charts necessary to calculate things like forward throw, HLZ and DZ sizes, and cargo capacity.  Those are important things to know how to do, but (like for Air Assault School), you will rely on hard copy versions of that information, not your memory, if you need to do it for real.

Additionally, most of the people who attend Pathfinder end up never being in a Pathfinder unit, much less use those skills operationally.

Pathfinder has a long and proud history, but it has outlived its utility.  It’s time to furl the school’s colors, retire the badge, and put those resources to better use.

Articles

This guy got kicked out of both Soundgarden and Nirvana before becoming a Green Beret

The mindblowing journey of Jason Everman took him from being the guy who got kicked out of both Nirvana and Soundgarden to U.S. Army Special Forces to Columbia University philosophy grad.


Only the most devoted Nirvana fans remember Everman, who became the band’s fourth member when he joined as second guitarist for the Bleach album tour in 1989. While a lot of fans loved the metal guitar flair he brought to their sound, things didn’t go well in the van and the band abandoned a tour in New York City they fired him. His tenure in the band yielded exactly one recording session, a cover version of “Do You Love Me” that appeared on a long out-of-print KISS tribute album.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Everman (far left) with Nirvana (pre-Dave Grohl).

During his brief time in the band, Everman (who was the only guy who’d ever held a job and was therefore the only one with any cash) paid the long overdue $606.17 bill for the Bleach recording session so the band could release the album. They never paid him back.

That blow was quickly softened when he was asked to join Soundgarden (a band he preferred to Nirvana) as their bass player shortly after returning to Seattle. That gig lasted about a year before he was fired again for what sounds like the crime of being moody on the bus.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Everman (far right) with Soundgarden.

Everman kicked around, took some jobs and played in another moderately successful band before deciding to join the Army. He was in basic training at Ft. Benning when Kurt Cobain killed himself and a drill sergeant recognized his photo from an article about Cobain’s death.

Those of us who worked at Nirvana’s record company at the time knew Jason as “the metal guy” (Kurt’s description) and no one had much idea what had happened to him, although there were incredibly vague rumors that he had something to do with the military.

“Something to do with the military” turned out to be a career in the Special Forces and service in Afghanistan and Iraq. The article is light on details, mostly because Everman didn’t choose to share many details and the writer had access to a lot more background about the punk rock years.

The profile was written by Clay Tarver, a veteran of the ’80s underground punk scene (and a guy I know from WHRB, our college radio station in Cambridge MA). Tarver first met Jason when Clay’s (excellent) band Bullet LaVolta opened for Soundgarden on tour. Clay later played in the (also excellent) ’90s band Chavez, became a writer and is now on board to write the screenplay for the upcoming sequel to (underrated ’00s classic) Dodgeball.

Everman left the service in 2006 and got into Columbia with a letter of recommendation from General Stanley McChrystal. He earned that degree in 2013.

This article from the New York Times Magazine published last year is a must-read for anyone who followed the underground rock scene of the ’80s as it became the mainstream rock of the ’90s. There are dozens of guys who’ve never recovered from their near-miss careers in rock and Jason got kicked out of two of the biggest bands in the world. That he quietly went out and forged a complete different kind of success is a truly amazing tale.

For the doubters, here’s some proof that Jason really was in Nirvana and Soundgarden:

And here’s a different interview with Jason that’s been hiding out on YouTube:

Also at Military.com:

For Military Families, ‘Tis The Season For Purging

Pentagon To Send 250 MRAPs Back To Iraq To Fight ISIS

Obama Will Decide On Top Honor For Black WWI Hero

Articles

These Fidel Castro assassination attempts are crazier than your Saturday morning cartoon plots

Fidel Castro famously held onto power through 10 U.S. presidents — from 1959 to 2008 — as Cuba’s ruler before finally calling it quits for health issues.


Related: The Cuban Missile Crisis: 13 days that almost ended the world

Surviving as a communist leader for half a century just 90 miles from the U.S. is a surprising achievement considering the estimated 638 CIA assassination attempts, according to Cuba’s chief of counterintelligence Fabian Escalante in the video below.

Castro was on the naughty list from the very beginning for overthrowing President Fulgencio Batista and converting Cuba into the first socialist state under Communist Party rule in the Western Hemisphere. He stood for everything the U.S. was fighting during the Cold War, and his friendly relationship with the Soviet Union only made things worse — especially after allowing Moscow to place its nukes pointed at the U.S. there during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

It was a no-brainer; Castro had to go. And the U.S. attempted his removal by economic blockade, counter-revolution, and by assassination. This short animated History Channel video explores some of the most outlandish Fidel Castro assassination plots by the CIA.

Watch:

History Channel, YouTube
Articles

Here’s how the Cactus Air Force made all the difference at Guadalcanal

The fight for Guadalcanal was a brutal first step in driving back the Japanese in the Pacific. The main objective for the campaign was to deny them use of the Solomon Islands. They threatened U.S. supply lines to Australia and the U.S. wanted to use the islands as a starting point for the larger war in the Pacific. The battle was fought on land, at sea, and in the air and involved every branch of the U.S. military. The aerial battle was fought mostly by the “Cactus Air Force” flying out of Henderson Field.


A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Cactus Air Force Aircrew Roster Meeting

The Cactus Air Force was a conglomeration of Marine, Navy, and Army Air Corps assets operating in some of the worst conditions imaginable. Although the Marines jokingly referred to the campaign as ‘Operation Shoestring’ because of the lack of the supplies, the Cactus Air Force was actually named after the codename for Guadalcanal.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Henderson Field getting hit by Japanese aerial attacks.

The 1st Marine Division attacked the Solomon Islands on the night of August 6th and morning of August 7, 1942 with the bulk of the division landing unopposed on Guadalcanal. The Marines captured the airfield on August 8th and immediately set to work completing the airstrip. The airfield was ready for use by August 18, and the first two Marine squadrons, one of F4F Hellcats and one of SBD Dauntless dive bombers, arrived on the 20th to begin combat operations the next day.

Two days later the Marine aviators were joined by five U.S. Army Air Force P-39 Airacobras. On August 24, eleven more Dauntless dive bombers landed at Henderson Field after being unable to return to the USS Enterprise due to damage it received during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. By the end of August, another Marine fighter squadron and another dive bomber squadron had also arrived on the island.

This assortment of men and planes were the beginning of the Cactus Air Force, and they were in for a hell of a time.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”

At the time of the Guadalcanal campaign, the Japanese Empire was at its peak and, aside from being denied at the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway, had yet to lose any territory they gained and were loath to do so. As such, the American airfield and its inhabitants were under near constant bombardment and attack. The Imperial Japanese Navy would shell Henderson Field from the sea while the Japanese Air Force sent daily bombing missions against the Americans. The constant bombardment continually damaged the runway, destroyed valuable aircraft, and inflicted numerous casualties.

To make matters worse, the island was not yet secure and the Japanese were continually attacking the perimeter attempting to dislodge the Americans from Guadalcanal. The 1st Marine Division reinforced by the 164th Infantry Regiment of the newly formed Americal Division held the line against Japanese assaults. During the Battle of Henderson Field, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines held out against some of the worst attacks, and it was during this action John Basilone earned the Medal of Honor and Lt. Col. Chesty Puller earned his third Navy Cross.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”

If the constant attacks on Henderson Field wasn’t bad enough, the living conditions were terrible as well. When the Americans captured the airfield it was far from complete and had no permanent living quarters. The pilots and mechanics were housed in mud-floored tents in a flooded coconut grove they referred to as “Mosquito Grove.” The squalid living conditions led to many diseases, including malaria, dysentery, dengue fever, and fungal infections.

The local climate contributed to the misery too. In the heat, black volcanic dust covered everything and when it rained the ground turned into a quagmire. Major Marion Carl, a Marine aviator stationed at Henderson Field, commented that it was “the only place on Earth where you could stand up to your knees in mud and still get dust in your eyes.”

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”

Just surviving at Henderson Field was difficult enough, but the Marines, sailors, and soldiers still had to fly and fight. The dust fouled the engines of the planes, the mud kept them from moving, and the Japanese bombardment destroyed the planes and the runway. The runway was in such poor condition in the early stages of the battle that nearly as many Cactus Air Force planes were damaged just using it as they were in fighting against the Japanese. There were also no facilities for the aircraft: no hangers, no fuel trucks, and no bomb hoists. Damaged aircraft were cannibalized where they stood for their spare parts. Bombs had to be loaded by hand as did the fuel. Without fuel trucks the only way to fuel the planes was to hand pump it out of 55 gallon drums.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”

Despite all of these challenges, the Cactus Air Force fought tenaciously and was successful in helping the U.S. achieve victory. Six different airmen were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions while serving with the Cactus Air Force. An even greater number of pilots became aces during the campaign. Though total victories for the Cactus Air Force cannot be confirmed for the six months they were involved in combat, they claimed over 250 aerial victories. The dive and torpedo bombers from Henderson Field sank seventeen large Japanese naval vessels and damaged another eighteen. Most importantly, they sank transport ships that were attempting to deliver supplies and reinforcements to the Japanese on the island. These victories came at the price of 94 pilots killed or missing and a further 177 wounded or evacuated due to illness plus numerous ground crew killed or wounded. After the Guadalcanal campaign, the Cactus Air Force was consolidated with other allied air units under Aircraft, Solomons (or AirSols) which continued to support Allied operations in the Solomon Islands and Southern Pacific.

Articles

Don’t you wish you had these military chefs in your chow hall?

More than four decades later, the military’s premier culinary training event has evolved into something much greater than its meager beginnings.


It is larger — more than 200 competitors compete yearly, substantially more than the few dozen who competed at the start.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Contestants compete in a past Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training event. MCACTE, in its 43rd year, endeavors to improve the skills of military food service personnel thereby enhancing force readiness. (U.S. Military photo)

It is more inclusive — over the years, the Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force and foreign countries have all thrown their hats into the competitive ring.

Its appeal to spectators combined with the camaraderie, spirit and competitiveness of participants has made it one of the most unique military training opportunities in the Defense Department, despite ongoing budget restraints, said Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 J.D. Ward.

“This event is healthy despite a fiscal climate of zero growth,” said Ward, the coordinator for the annual Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event scheduled at Fort Lee, Virginia, March 4-9. “We’ve had to reduce the size of the competition and the overall expenditures in order to remain fiscally responsible, but it still remains the largest culinary competition in North America.”

The MCACTE, in its 42nd year, was created specifically to improve the culinary skills of participants — and thus the readiness of the force — in an environment that is intensely competitive yet nurturing and educational. Featured among the American Culinary Federation-sanctioned events, are the Armed Forces and Student Chef of the Year competitions as well as a team event pitting installations and services against one another to determine an overall winner.

In addition to the competitive events that will be ongoing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, MCACTE features live cooking demonstrations, celebrity appearances and food displays that can be described as varied and illustrative.

Furthermore, the popular Military Hot Food Kitchen Challenge — the event in which the public is invited to try out gourmet-inspired meals prepared during the competition — will make a return appearance. The meals are $5.55 and seats are available on a first-come basis.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
A pair of master chefs from the American Culinary Federation judge a meal at the 41st Annual Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event (MCACTE). The MCACTE is the largest culinary competition in North America, and has been held since 1973. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan McDonald/Released).

Among the changes to this year’s event is a change in venue. The MacLaughlin Fitness Center here will accommodate this year’s competition rather than the Post Field House, which has hosted portions of MCACTE for more than a decade. The change is expected to have minimal impact on the competition from a competitor and spectator perspective, Ward said.

Among the differences this year include a change in cooking facilities used in the Military Hot Food Kitchen Challenge. The mobile trailers that were standard in the event will not be used this year, but competitors still employ the same cooking equipment. Diners may not even notice the change, Ward said.

“In fact, it may be easier for them to better observe competitors’ cooking,” he said.

Ward, who first competed in MCACTE as a private first class, said the competition is full of highlights, but from his viewpoint, the student team of the year event is the most inspirational.

“These are groups of less-experienced, younger soldiers competing and demonstrating advanced and fundamental cooking skills for the judges,” he said. “It’s a wonderful event because it exposes young service members to the profession in an entirely different light.”

The winners in the student event go on to compare their skills against regional winners at the American Culinary Federation competition in July.

“It’s an opportunity for those young chefs to compete against their civilian counterparts and demonstrate to the civilian sector just how talented military culinarians can be,” Ward said.

The student chef of the year winner also will go on to compete at the same ACF event with the possibility of representing the United States at a 2018 international event in Switzerland.

Articles

SEAL Team 6 vet agrees to pay feds profit from bin Laden raid book

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”


After a four-year legal battle, Matthew Bissonnette, a former member of the elite SEAL Team 6 who participated in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, has agreed to forfeit to the Justice Department all of the proceeds from “No Easy Day,” his first-person account of the raid written under the pen name “Mark Owen.”

“I acted on the advice of my former attorney, but I now fully recognize that his advice was wrong,” Bissonnette wrote in a formal apology, as reported by NPR. “It was a serious error that I urge others not to repeat.”

“No Easy Day,” co-written by military journalist Kevin Maurer, was the first public account from someone who actually participated in the high-profile raid to kill the al Qaeda leader. That impact was enhanced by the fact that not only did it deal with the killing of the terrorist mastermind, but it was written by a member of SEAL Team 6, the one of the nation’s top special operations units whose methods and techniques are highly classified and seldom written about.

The book was a bestseller, and that as much as anything is what got the author in trouble with the Pentagon. Officials claimed that Bissonnette had violated a non-disclosure agreement he’d signed as a Navy commando and also failed to have the book’s manuscript reviewed by proper authorities before it was published.

“Ironically, Matt didn’t want the book to be about him,” co-author Maurer said in an exclusive interview with WATM. “He always intended for it to be a tribute to his teammates and one that would allow readers to truly understand what SEALs do. It was also supposed to be a nod to the CIA, helicopter pilots, and Rangers — all the elements of these sorts of missions.”

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”

Maurer, who sat down with Bissonnette in Virginia Beach five days a week for a month recording the story before writing it out, said the former SEAL was focused on security.

“He was never cavalier about the details,” Maurer said. “We talked a lot about things we weren’t going to include. It was a conscious decision.”

After experiencing firsthand the hew and cry from veterans — as well as members of the special operations community displeased that one of their own had broken ranks by socializing their tactical world on a grand scale — Maurer said he understood the Justice Department ruling. But he added that “the real travesty is that the money [estimated at more that $6 million according to court documents, as reported by NPR] is now going to the government instead of veteran charities as Matt had always intended.”

Bissonnette’s current lawyer, Robert Luskin, hinted that his client had been made a scapegoat by government officials embarrassed by the information that has come out about the bin Laden raid and other operations in the wake of “No Easy Day” landing on shelves.

“The government has a right to keep its secrets and to enforce procedures that are designed to protect them from inadvertent disclosure,” Luskin said in a statement. “But it is shameful that — of all the people who leaked, talked, whispered and backgrounded about the mission — Matt Bissonnette, who risked his life to make it a success, is the only one to pay a price.”

Articles

‘Noose around the neck of ISIS’ as carrier airstrikes move south

ABOARD THE USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH, Persian Gulf — The hiss and scream of F/A-18 Super Hornets launching from the flight deck is business as usual on this city at sea, where sorties on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria have been launched a dozen or more times a day since early February.


When aircraft loaded with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and 1,000-pound bombs aren’t being catapulted into flight, training and qualification flights commence.

Constant through the action is a sort of deck ballet of positioning, as the 74 aircraft based on the ship are guided onto elevators for maintenance and storage, or moved to make room for the daily C-2 Greyhound delivery of people and Amazon packages.

The routine of life aboard the carrier is perhaps the most conventional element of the unconventional war against ISIS.

American troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria, mostly special operations and advisory elements, operate in relative secrecy, with few opportunities for journalists to observe them up close.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

On the carrier, by contrast, public affairs officers host three or four media visits per month, boarding them in comparatively luxurious “distinguished visitor” berthing, complete with monogrammed bathrobes, and offering them interviews with pilots and unit commanding officers.

Aboard the carrier, multiple sailors said they are on their second deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve — the coalition anti-ISIS fight — and compared the consistency of operations today favorably to the frenetic nature of the campaign when it first began in 2014.

With OIR about to enter its third year next month, the commander of the Bush carrier strike group said he is seeing progress in the fight.

Related: Iran tests advanced torpedo in Strait of Hormuz

While many strikes continue to target enemy positions in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, where assaults on ISIS’s urban strongholds continue, the carrier’s fighter pilots are seeing more missions to the south, along the Euphrates River Valley. The strikes follow the path of retreating ISIS leaders, Rear Adm. Ken Whitesell said.

“Their vision of a geographic caliphate is coming to an end,” Whitesell told Military.com. “As they move and that unblinking eye stays on top of them, they will be targeted as they move down the valley.”

The number of fighter sorties launched from the carrier daily ranges from 12 to more than 20, plus several EA-18G Growler electronic warfare sorties, said Capt. Will Pennington, commanding officer of the Bush.

Pilots fly punishing eight-hour missions one to three times a week, in addition to daily training and currency flights. But the mission tempo has stayed largely steady since the carrier deployed, and the air wing has yet to be pushed to its limits, he said.

“We’re not surging to make this happen; this is a comfortable pace. We could up it and still get comfortable,” Pennington said.

The fight is proceeding carefully and deliberately from the air in large part because of the complexity of the urban ground battle. In Iraq, where a little more than half of the air wing’s sorties are tasked, the strike mission was simpler before coalition forces arrived in Mosul, he said.

“There were more targets and less complicated aerials,” Pennington said. “Now that the effort is moving forward and being successful … that operation, both from the ground and the air, needs to be carried out with much more prudence, given civilian entanglement.”

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Neo Greene III

In both Mosul and Raqqa, the ground fights have been slow-moving. Coalition troops began their first assault on Mosul in October, and began a campaign to retake Raqqa the following month. Whitesell pointed optimistically to the words of Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Othman Al-Ghanmi, who predicted earlier this month that the fall of ISIS in Mosul would be complete in just three weeks.

It’s not the first time a top official has predicted victory close at hand. But the changing nature of strike targets also gives Whitesell reason to believe the end is near.

In addition to targets including enemy personnel, vehicles and improvised explosive devices, Whitesell said pilots are being tasked with destroying a key source of the militant group’s economic survival: oil wells.

While previously aircraft would target vehicles used to transport the oil, most of those are gone, thanks to the air mission, he said. “Now we get it before it comes out of the ground.”

Whitesell contrasts today’s operational picture to that of 2014, when the Bush became the first aircraft carrier to launch airstrikes on ISIS.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

“ISIS had made the push out of Syria and Raqqa, way down, so they had incredible geography. So this carrier was the first striking on the Iraqi assets to stop ISIS at the gates of Baghdad and start moving them back,” he said. “Fast-forward three years to where we are. We’ve got, essentially, a noose tied around the neck of ISIS.”

On a given day, a pilot might be tasked with engaging a specific target over Iraq or Syria, or with flying to a region and remaining “on call,” to be assigned a future target, sometimes with scant notice, by a controller on the ground.

Also read: Here’s how the F-16 Falcon could replace the F-15 Eagle

While pilots’ assignments can change at any time during the mission, they generally know the day’s mission set by the time they’re walking to their aircraft on the flight deck, said Lt. Cmdr. “Butters” Welles, a pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 37, the “Ragin’ Bulls.” The squadron flies the F/A-18C Hornet.

Multiple pilots who spoke with Military.com asked that their full first and last names not be used, a subtle acknowledgment of online threats ISIS militants have made on various occasions against U.S. troops and their families.

Welles, who is on his fourth combat deployment, said he still feels the power of the moment when dropping ordnance on a ground target.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano

It’s a sense similar to other high-stress moments, whether it’s landing on the ship at night or doing something that requires intense attention,” he said. “There’s a sense of time compression, where everything sort of slows down, but you feel like it’s still moving very quickly … it’s definitely a very intense moment.”

At that point, a pilot’s day is far from done. Still ahead are a series of tanker refueling operations, a flight back to the ship, and hours of debriefs. The workday of a pilot with a strike mission can easily stretch to 12 hours or more, the work continuing long after exiting the cockpit.

But after a day in the fight, they return to the ship, where four meals are served daily, gyms and movie channels are available for free time, and routine keeps chaos at bay.

And pilots are well aware of the contrast between the reality of the island-like carrier and that of coalition troops in the gritty, drawn-out ground battles.

“It’s a very different perspective and involvement for us to be up and somewhat detached from what’s going on down on the ground,” Welles said. “So I would say it’s a sense of pride, knowing that we contributed in some way to a very difficult effort on the ground. Because once we’re complete, and we either leave to airborne refuel, or need to go home, then the people we’re talking with are still there in the fight.”

Articles

Obama just gave President-elect Trump a powerful new weapon in the War on Terror

With just weeks left on his presidency, Barack Obama created an organization to expand the reach of the executive office in the fight against terrorism.


According to the Washington Post’s Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Dan Lamothe, Obama created an organization within the existing Joint Special Operations Command they describe as a “new multiagency intelligence and action force.”

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
(DoD Photo)

Related: SEAL Team 6’s plan to surrender and 7 other amazing JSOC tales

Called the “Counter-External Operations Task Force” – and dubbed “Ex-Ops” in the Pentagon – it takes the JSOC targeting model and expands it to a global scale, bypassing regional combatant commanders, answering to the Special Operations Command, to expedite the U.S. efforts to attack global terror networks, the story says.

Previously, methods used to target and kill individual terrorists or small cells involved deploying a unit under SOCOM command to regional combatant commands, who would direct the SOCOM assets. The new changes under the Obama administration will, in practice, elevate SOCOM to a regional combatant command.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
President Barack Obama and members of the national security team receive updates on Operation Neptune’s Spear in the White House Situation Room, May 1, 2011 (White House photo)

The Post cites anonymous sources who say the new task force is the “codification” of the U.S. military’s best practices honed over the past 15 years in the War on Terror.

Some fear that elevating SOCOM authority and allowing its mission to bypass existing commanders will cause friction between commands, but reducing layers of authority and red tape is the purpose of the Ex-Ops mission.

“Layers have been stripped away for the purposes of stopping external networks,” a defense official told the Washington Post. “There has never been an ex-ops command team that works trans-regionally to stop attacks.”

Articles

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star Spangled-Banner’ is about?

The “Star-Spangled Banner” is American lyrics laid on top of a British song to make one glorious national anthem. It details the endurance of American troops against a British naval bombardment at the Battle of Fort McHenry in 1814.


But while Americans singing the song at baseball games know that the U.S. came out victorious, Francis Scott Key and other witnesses of the battle had little to be optimistic about. The British brought more ships to the fight than the Americans had cannons on the fort.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Lots of ships versus one teeny fort. (Image: Public Domain)

In Sep. 1814, America was reeling from the sacking and burning of Washington D.C. The first lady, Dolly Madison, had made it out of the city with crucial documents and a portrait of George Washington, but the presidential mansion and much of the capital was destroyed. The victorious British military made its way up the coast, this time targeting the important port at Baltimore.

The British planned a two-pronged assault on the city. The army would march overland to attack the city on foot while the navy was to destroy Fort McHenry and follow the river to the city. There, it would bombard the city and assist in its capture.

The ground attack seemed doomed from the start. About 12,000 American troops, many more than the British had expected, were guarding the city. So the British troops sat back and waited as dozens of British ships, including five of Britain’s eight bomb ketches, moved forward to bombard the fort that only had 19 guns with which to defend itself.

Luckily for the Americans, shallow waters around the fort kept some of the ships away. Unluckily for them, 16 ships were able to get within range of the fort while staying outside the range of the American guns.

Starting early on Sep. 13, the British fired on McHenry with rocket ships and bomb ketches. Bomb ketches were ships with a mortar or howitzer built into the deck. The gun could not be turned, so the ships were pointed at the fort and kept in place with spring-loaded anchor lines. The “bombs bursting in air,” came from these devastating ships.

Meanwhile, ships firing Congreve rockets sailed into range as well. The rockets were made in a variety of sizes. The ones that lit the night at Fort McHenry were mostly 32-pound rockets that carried seven pounds of explosives. They could explode in the air but were designed to be incendiary weapons, setting fires within forts and enemy ships.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Col. William Congreve, the inventor of Congreve rockets, created this lithograph to show how rocket ships worked in fleet action. (Image: Public Domain by British Col. William Congreve)

One moment was more dangerous than any other for the defenders; a bomb fired from one of the ketches landed in the fort’s gunpowder supply. It failed to go off and the troops were able to split the gunpowder into smaller stores around the tiny island.

At another point, British Rear Adm. George Cockburn thought the fort had been badly damaged and moved the ships closer for better accuracy. American artillerymen rushed through the incoming shells and began firing when the British came within range, driving them back.

The intense naval attack lasted for 25 hours.

Key watched the battle play out from a small American sloop behind the British force. He had been rowed into the harbor to negotiate the release of a friend held prisoner by the British. He and his friend were both allowed to leave the British prisoner ship as long as they did not return to shore until after the British bombardment.

The men weren’t allowed to row ashore because the British suspected they had heard the British plans to destroy the city. Key had and knew that a collapse of Fort McHenry spelled certain doom for Baltimore. Throughout the night, he watched the fort’s small storm flag wave through the wind and rain as rockets and bombs rained on the defenders below.

In the morning, he looked to the flagpole at first light to see if the fort had survived. If British colors were flying, Baltimore would be destroyed and America would lose a second major city in less than a month.

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Spoiler alert: The flag still flies over Fort McHenry. (Photo: Owen Byrne Halifax CC BY 2.0)

The flag had changed overnight, but not to the Union Jack. A storm that raged throughout the battle had forced the fort to fly its smaller American flag. Since the morning dawned clear, the garrison changed to its normal flag, a 42-foot by 30-foot beast.

Key saw the garrison flag filling the morning sky and wrote the lyrics to the future national anthem in a fit of inspiration. Contrary to popular belief, the amateur poet wrote them as lyrics from the start, not as a poem. He was familiar with the popular song, “To Anacreon In Heaven” and wrote the lyrics to match up with it.

Meanwhile, the British troops ashore saw the American flag flying and knew that the naval assault had failed. They withdrew and left Baltimore in relative safety.

The “Star-Spangled Banner” would be published in newspapers up and down the coast over the following few days under a variety of names, usually “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” One publication called it, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the name stuck.

Articles

6 reasons to fear the knife-hand

The “knife-hand” is the multi-tool gesture of the military. Actually, you can think of it as a Swiss army knife – pun intended.


The knife-hand is used in a plethora of ways ranging from administrative to instructional and even to gauge anger, according to Terminal Lance creator Maximilian Uriarte. “Never, anywhere in the Marine Corps, have I ever seen the knife-hand so flagrantly used. I always took note, however, that the higher the knife-hand is on the drill instructor, the more pissed off he is.” 

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”
Image courtesy of Terminal Lance

Perhaps the reason the knife-hand commands so much attention is because they’re deadly, according to Duffel Blog. Here are six videos showing knife-hand devastation:

1. A Marine demonstrates the knife hand knockout on his curious buddy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ej5mQODqwM

2. Another Marine nearly hits the deck after a knife hand attack.

3. This guy takes two hits but is still able to walk.

4. It’s a good way to stop friends’ annoying shenanigans (if you know what you’re doing).

5. This nice couple practices their knife hands in front of their kids.

NOW: 23 photos of drill instructors terrifying the Hell out of Marine recruits

OR: Marine veteran chokes the hell out of a guy trying to rob a gas station