Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons - We Are The Mighty
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Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons

Is the Chinese People’s Liberation Army learning more of a lesson from the U.S. military’s Millennium Challenge exercise than the United States? Judging from its new corps of communications pigeons, it could be. 

In 2002, the U.S. military held one of its largest wargames ever, pitting the United States against a fictional Iran-like country. The U.S. was pretty surprised when its Marine Corps leader, retired Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper took control of the Iranians and soundly beat the United States with old-style tactics and communications that made America’s playbook useless. 

Van Riper was as old school a Marine as they come. He knew the U.S. would target his communications infrastructure, so he planned to defend his fake Iran without it. Instead of microwave communications and cell phones, he coordinated his defense with motorcycle couriers and fake prayers broadcast over loudspeakers. 

When it came time to fend off the attack, the U.S. lost in two minutes. 

Instead of learning a lesson from Van Riper’s tactics, the planner just tied his hands and put him in a situation where he couldn’t win. In his opinion, nothing was learned from the exercise. 

Maybe the United States didn’t learn anything from it, but China might have. China is pouring billions of dollars into new defense spending as tensions with the United States ramp up. Some of that might be going to its own version of a stealth fighter, but another portion is going to what Chinese state television calls a “reserve pigeon army.” 

pigeon
Winkie the pigeon, who received the Dickin Medal after she completed an arduous 120-mile flight home from the North Sea, where the crew of a Bristol Beaufort had been brought down by enemy fire in February 1942. Her efforts lead to the crew’s successful rescue. (Air Force Museum of New Zealand)

In 2020, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army purchased more than 10,000 military pigeons so it could bolster its internal communications abilities, in case its more modern methods suddenly, somehow became unusable. 

“These military pigeons will be primarily called upon to conduct special military missions between troops stationed at our land borders or ocean borders,” Chinese military expert Chen Hong told China Central Television.

The earliest recorded use of pigeon messaging was in the Roman Empire, 2,000 years ago, and pigeons have been vital to communication in peace and in war ever since. The only way to stop them is hawks, and later, shotguns. 

Military pigeons are able to fly at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour while carrying a load of up to 3.5 ounces, as the Chinese have been breeding pigeons for racing sports for centuries. As for range, it could be virtually limitless, depending on how fast the message is needed to arrive. One pigeon sent by Emperor Li Shimin of the Tang Dynasty flew a message for 177 miles. 

Messenger pigeons, also known as homing pigeons, are not only useful to Chinese military planners trying to maintain communications over oceans during wartime, they can also be used in the vast mountainous areas of the Himalayas, which have seen recent clashes with India along its border.

Homing pigeons are easily trained to fly between one or two locations by using food as an incentive for the animal. Changing the route is as easy as changing the food. 

Using pigeons isn’t new to the Chinese. Chinese armies have been using messenger pigeons for centuries. Pigeons were among China’s earliest domesticated animals and were used as pets and messengers as far back as the Eastern Han Dynasty in 25 A.D. 

They were also used to great effect during World War II — and the pigeons left behind by American aviators who flew against the Japanese in China are central to the PLA’s new communications backup plan. 

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Afghan Army-piloted A-29s will soon attack the Taliban

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
Photo by Embraer


Afghan pilots will soon be attacking Taliban forces with machine guns and 20mm cannons firing from airplanes in Afghanistan — flying U.S.-provided A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, Air Force officials said.

Loaded with weapons to attack Taliban forces and engineered for “close air support,” the A-29s are turboprop planes armed with one 20mm cannon below the fuselage able to shoot 650 rounds per minute, one 12.7mm machine gun (FN Herstal) under each wing and up to four 7.62mm Dillion Aero M134 Miniguns able to shoot up to 3,000 rounds per minute.

Super Tucanos are also equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9L Sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons such as the AGM-65 Maverick and precision-guided bombs. It can also use a laser rangefinder and laser-guided weapons.

Four A-29s have been delivered so far as part of an effort to equip the Afghan Army with up to 20 aircraft, Heidi Grant, Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“Afghan pilots have been training here and learning English in the U.S. A class of eight pilots recently graduated a class at Moody AFB. They are back in Afghanistan. My hope is that in the next month or so you are going to see them doing some close air support for their Army,” Grant added.

Close air support will enable the Afghan Army to better target and destroy groups of Taliban fighters in close-proximity to their forces, giving them a decisive lethal advantage from the air.

The Super Tucano is a highly maneuverable light attack aircraft able to operate in high temperatures and rugged terrain. It is 11.38 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.14 meters; its maximum take-off weight is 5,400 kilograms. The aircraft has a combat radius of 300 nautical miles, can reach speeds up to 367 mph and hits ranges up to 720 nautical miles.

The U.S. is buying them for the Afghans through a special Afghan Security Forces fund that Congress has appropriated, she explained. They are being built by Sierra Nevada out of Jacksonville, Fla. – an effort which brings jobs to the U.S., she added.

“They are right now doing top off tactics training. They trained here in the U.S. but they needed to get into country to do the top-off tactics training,” Grant said.

The presence of armed “close air support” aircraft for the Afghan Army could have a substantial combat impact upon ongoing war with the Taliban – who have no aircraft.

Also, the arrival of the air support comes at a time when some observers, military leaders and lawmakers are concerned about combat progress in Afghanistan, openly questioning President Obama’s plan to reduce U.S. forces from 9,800 to 5,500 by 2017.  Outgoing CentCom Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III and Sen. John McCain have been among those expressing concern.

At the same time, the presence of combat-changing air-attack ability for Afghan forces could engender a circumstance wherein the U.S. could reduce its presence without compromising ongoing progress in the war against the Taliban.

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Hilarious Hoax: A drunken sailor didn’t use a raccoon to pass a breathalyzer test

A hilarious incident report involving a Navy sailor using a raccoon to pass a breathalyzer test so he could drive his car home  was passed around on the internet like wildfire this week, but … it was too good to be true: It’s all a hoax.


A few days ago, WATM noticed an image being passed around, purportedly from an incident report from Camp Pendleton police, telling the full story of what happened after a sailor left the bar in San Diego. Here it is:

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons

We were skeptical, though we read it and basically went all Ron Burgundy afterward (“I’m not even mad, that’s amazing”). It sounded quite unbelievable, and it also had a suspicious watermark in the background. The watermark reads, “Always Watching, JTTOTS,” the tagline and acronym for a Marine-focused Facebook page called Just The Tip, of the Spear.

Since it picked up steam and has hit quite a few websites — including making international news — journalists reached out to the military for comment on the incident (We’d love to know how these calls went). Here’s what they said:

“While humorous, it’s not real,” Eric Durie, spokesman for Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, told the New York Daily News.

“I called police records, and while they were highly entertained, they confirmed (the story) is absolutely a hoax,” 1st. Lt. Savannah Frank, a public affairs officer at Camp Pendleton, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

So this story may not be true, but we have a strong feeling a drunk sailor will someday be inspired to try this.

NOW A REAL STORY: Marine gets arrested for throwing drunken foam party in Air Force hangar

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United States of Al is the military comedy we all need right now

Hot off their Big Bang Theory success, Chuck Lorre, Maria Ferrari and David Goetsch are bringing a new comedy to CBS. United States of Al will follow the relationship between a Marine combat veteran (Parker Young) and his unit’s Afghan interpreter (the extremely charismatic and endearing Adhir Kalyan), who has recently moved to the United States.

Premiering April 1 on CBS, here’s the official trailer:

https://youtu.be/SQEwuapZ5RA

While it’s definitely a challenge to tell military stories that honor the reality of combat and service while striking an uplifting and, in this case, comedic tone, Ferrari and Goetsch have armed themselves with plenty of military veterans in their crew. From the writers room to the COVID compliance officers to technical advisors, they’re getting feedback directly from the source – including WATM’s own Chief Content Officer, Chase Millsap.

The Big Bang Theory showed me the power of the [multi-camera comedy] format. It’s our hope that we can reach people — those who might have lived this experience and also those who haven’t — to tell an important story,” Ferrari told We Are The Mighty.

The concept for this series began near the end of The Big Bang Theory’s epic 12-season run when Goetsch read articles about the struggles U.S. service members were having finding protection for their Afghan interpreters. In 2009, Congress approved a Special Immigrant Visa program, which has over the years granted thousands of Afghans and their dependents protection. Still, the number of visas needed lagged behind, often taking years to find approval. During that time, Afghan interpreters faced grave consequences at the hands of the Taliban.

United States of Al

Like I said, not an easy subject for a comedy.

United States of Al follows the friendship between Riley, a Marine who is adjusting to civilian life back home in Ohio, and Awalmir (Al), the Afghan interpreter he served with and who has just arrived in the U.S. to start his new life. Riley has returned home to live with his father, who is also a veteran, and his sister, who plays a grieving military spouse. 

“Through creating this series, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation of what the military can do, as well as how powerful the unit is and how challenging it can be to lose the mission and the community when veterans come home,” Goetsch observed. He and Ferrari wanted to honor the veterans and their families who struggle with these issues every day. 

The first few episodes are a far cry from the gritty realism of Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down, but they aren’t meant to serve the same purpose. This is a show that wants to tackle hard topics and leave the viewer feeling uplifted at the end. 

We’re rooting for United States of Al. Tune in April 1, 8:30 EST on CBS.

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9 ways you can show appreciation on Armed Forces Day

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
Sailors assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) practice for the San Diego Padres’ opening day flag ceremony. | US Navy photo


On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day which serves as a day to honor all those who serve in the sister-service branches.

The men and women of the military have made exceptional sacrifices and so on Armed Forces Day and all other military appreciation days, we can do small acts to show our gratitude to them.

Below are some ideas of how to show your appreciation:

1. Volunteer at a VA hospital or donate your time to a veterans group. There are 152 veteran medical centers in the US as well as hundreds of clinics, outpatient and nursing facilities. Call your local VA medical center or community to learn more about donating your time.

2. Talk to veterans or an active service member. Ask questions about their service, why they joined the military and listen to their stories. A little interest can go a long way.

3. Visit a memorial. All across the US, military members are honored through monuments that memorialize their service and sacrifice. Washington DC is home to 8 but monuments dedicated to members of the military can be found throughout the nation. If you’re near D.C., we suggest reflecting in Arlington National Cemetery.

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon marches in front of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial on their way to perform for the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington April 12, 2014. | U.S. Marine Corps

4. Put together a care package. With so many USO centers sending a comforting package is easy. Check with your local center to ensure that they can send out the package. You can fill them up with snacks and non-perishable food, toiletries, stationery or purchase a pre-made package. Microsoft is matching gifts to servicemen and women during May in honor of Military Appreciation Month so send a gift to a soldier.

5. Donate to a worthy cause. Organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Homes for Our Troops or Disabled American Veteransall work to assist military members, both active and vets, in rebuilding their lives. Organizations like Operation Homefront assist the families of servicemen and women with food, school supplies, finances and housing.

6. Attend a parade. Cities across the US celebrate Armed Forces Day with parades. Some of the most famous parades can be found in the cities of Torrence, California, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Washington D.C.

7. Offer to help a military spouse. While expressing gratitude to service members is encouraged, so is helping out their families. With one person at home, daily tasks can get overwhelming and a break is welcome. Offer to cook a meal, drive them somewhere or watch their children for a few hours.

8. Fly a flag, the correct way. Sometimes the simplest expressions of gratitude are the most appreciated. Make sure that if you do fly America’s Stars and Stripes you follow the code.

9. A simple thank you. Sometimes this is the most honest expression of gratitude to those who serve our country.

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A brief look at the 350+ year history of the Royal Marines

The United Kingdom’s Royal Marines are heirs to a warfighting legacy older than the entire U.S. military.


They fought in both Gulf Wars, both World Wars, and literally dozens of other conflicts around the world since the Royal Marines were established in 1664.

The Royal Marines were first organized as a group of 1,200 land soldiers assigned to sea service in the Royal Navy. They made a name for themselves 40 years later when they seized the Gibraltar fortress alongside Dutch allies and then held that fortress against sieges for nine months.

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
(Photo: YouTube/Royal Navy)

They were instrumental in the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and conducted numerous amphibious assaults throughout World War I and World War II.

It was during World War II that the Royal Marines began organizing as commandos and adopted their distinct dark green berets. Since the end of World War II, these troops have been deployed to combat every year except 1968.

To learn even more about the Royal Marines and to see footage from their exploits since 1664, watch this video from the British Royal Navy:

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Mattis: US faces ‘a determined enemy’ in Afghanistan

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said May 9 that American forces in Afghanistan face “a determined enemy” but are dealing significant blows to the enemy.


Speaking at a news conference in Copenhagen alongside his Danish counterpart, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, Mattis said both the Islamic State group and al-Qaida are losing ground and power in Afghanistan as the government, under President Ashraf Ghani, “wins the affection, the respect and the support” of the people.

“In Afghanistan, the enemy has lost about two-thirds of its strength and this past weekend, President Ghani announced the death of the emir of IS Khorasan — this is the IS group in Nangarhar…” Mattis said. “In our anti-IS campaign, we’re dealing that group one more significant blow with the loss of their leader.”

U.S. and Afghan officials announced recently that Abdul Hasib, the head of so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan, had been killed in a military raid. He was believed to have been behind an attack that killed 50 people in a Kabul military hospital earlier this year.

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Danish Minister of Defense Claus Hjort Frederiksen host a press brief at Eigtveds Pakhus in Copenhagen, Denmark, May 9, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

Mattis said the United States will continue integrating its military and non-military efforts in Afghanistan and do everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.

“We have to remember that the battlefield that we are fighting on is also a humanitarian field where innocent people live right now, sometimes forced to stay on a battlefield by IS,” he said.

The comments from Mattis come as U.S. media report the Trump administration may significantly increase the number of U.S. troops and intensity of the fight in Afghanistan.

According to reports, Trump is weighing whether to send as many as 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan. The U.S. currently has about 8,400 troops stationed in the country.

Also read: NATO requests more troops for Afghanistan

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump has asked military advisers “to relook at the entire strategy” in Afghanistan.

News accounts say the prospective plan would give the Pentagon, not the White House, the final say on the number of troops in Afghanistan, while the U.S. military would have greater range in using airstrikes to target Taliban fighters and remove Obama-era policies limiting the movements of military advisers in the country.

Trump will reportedly make a decision on the Afghanistan policy prior to a May 25 NATO summit in Brussels.

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This massive nuclear sub just surprised two fishermen

Two Russian fishermen were just minding their business when a true predator of the sea popped up right next to them.


Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
GIF: YouTube/Vlad Wild

That’s a nuclear submarine of the Russian Navy. According to translations in Russia Today, the fishermen released a stream of curse words when they realized that a nuclear submarine was so close to them, and one of them asks the other to check out how badly his hands are shaking.

YouTube user Vlad Wild played it cool when he uploaded the video, though. He titled it “Nothing unusual, just submarine.” Check it out below:

Submarines work using stealth, so it’s rare to see them in the wild. These two men were extremely lucky to be able to see the boat in action.
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How the feds used prison labor to build defective combat helmets

Spoiler Alert: This is not an Article 107 News article.  The federal government paid over $53 million to two companies to build combat helmets between 2006 and 2009.  The cost is not the problem.  The problem is almost 150,000 Army and Marine Corps combat helmets were defective.


And oh by the way, prisoners made the helmets.

First of all, the prisoners came from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, working under… wait for it… a federally owned company called Federal Prison Industries.  But wait, there’s more!  FPI, also known as UNICOR, received the sub-contract from a privat vendor, ArmourSource LLC.

So, a private company was awarded a government contract to make combat helmets after normal bidding procedures. No problem.

The private company then sub-contracted out a federally owned company for cheap prison labor and reaped a $30.3 million windfall as a result. That’s a problem, even if just from a perception viewpoint.

Furthermore, FPI received its own contract to make helmets for the US Marine Corps.  A federally owned company received a contract from its “owner,” and all without competitive bidding.  True to form, the government recalled the helmets after multiple deficiencies. This isn’t a case of “lowest bidder;” this is a case of negligence.  It is negligent to entrust the lives of American soldiers with equipment made by federal prisoners.

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
Army photo by Spc. Alexandra Campo

A recently released Justice Department summary details the negligence and lack of quality control. Deficiencies included:

  • Scrap kevlar used in between layers (therefore, won’t stop bullets)
  • Blisters and bubbles which caused decreased effectiveness (therefore, won’t stop bullets)
  • Prisoners pried off kevlar pieces to use as potential weapons against guards (less material means, yep, won’t stop bullets)

And my personal favorite:

  • Prisoners prepared and conducted quality certifications on order from the FPI staff, and FPI staff signed the certifications without checking the prisoners’ work.

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
Advanced Combat Helmet. Photo from US Army.

Consequently, ArmourSource settled for $3 million and still makes products for the military. The loss to the military was over $19 million. That seems like an unfair trade if you ask me.

If ever there was a time for people to call for accountability in the government contracting process, this is it. Discuss it, debate it, and actually support the troops you say you support.  War is a money-making machine and if you didn’t understand that after the $5 billion “Universal Combat Pattern” debacle then you do now.

I understand prison industry is a vital tool for teaching job skills and reducing recidivism rates.  What I do not understand is how anyone with a simple knowledge of course of action analysis felt it was a good idea to allow federal criminals to build US military equipment and put soldiers’ lives at risk.

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This Confederate regiment was nearly wiped out in minutes

The 1st Texas Infantry Regiment was a group of veteran soldiers by the time they took part in the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. That day still stands as the bloodiest single day for American soldiers in history, and the hardest hit was the 1st Texas.


Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
The Battle of Antietam. (Photo: Public Domain)

Antietam was the disastrous end to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s attempt to liberate Maryland from the Union ahead of the 1862 midterm elections. Lee’s advance north was initially successful as the Southerners hit Union garrisons in Maryland and forced the surrender of 13,000 Union soldiers at Harper’s Ferry.

But Union Gen. George B. McClellan had found a copy of Lee’s strategic plans and used them to maneuver into position on the Confederates, and Lee’s army was woefully undersupplied and had low morale.

The two armies finally came together on Sep. 16 and began scoping out each other’s positions. By that night, small skirmishes were breaking out as forces maneuvered for better position for the following day.

On Sep. 17, the 1st Texas Infantry was part of a defensive position near a church. A Union advance through a nearby cornfield was overzealous, and the Union forces were relatively scattered when a Confederate brigade that included the 1st Texas suddenly leaped up from the ground and began firing on the soldiers in blue.

Union Maj. Rufus R. Dawes would later say, “Men, I can not say fell; they were knocked out of the ranks by dozens.”

Dawes and his men retreated, and the Confederates gave chase, led by the 1st Texas Infantry.

But the 1st Texas made the same mistake that the Union soldiers had. The men advanced too fast and became disorganized.

“As soon as the regiment became engaged . . . in the corn-field, it became impossible to restrain the men, and they rushed forward,” 1st Texas Commander Lt. Col. Philip A. Work later said.

The 1st Texas had advanced until there were Union soldiers not only to their front, but also to their flank and rear. Its flanks were especially hard hit as Union 12-pound guns began firing into it.

Work ordered a retreat and the regiment began a disorganized withdrawal, but three Union regiments chose that moment to hit the 1st Texas with volleys.

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
The Burial of the Dead on the Antietam battlefield. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The regimental colors were dropped at least twice as the men carrying them were shot. The colors were lost and the 226-man regiment suffered 186 men killed.

That was a loss rate of 82.3 percent, most of whom were killed in those few minutes in the cornfield. This was the greatest casualty rate suffered by any infantry regiment in the entire war, and most of the men were lost in the 45 minutes between the counterattack at the church and the retreat from the cornfield.

The regiment’s Company F was wiped out. Companies A, C, and E combined had only six men. In total, the regiment had only 40 men.

The 1st Texas was later partially rebuilt. It was one of the Confederate units that attempted to take Little Round Top at Gettysburg and then helped break the Union lines at the Battle of Chickamagua.

The lost colors were found by Union soldiers and taken as a trophy, but were returned to Texas in 1905 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

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These US soldiers spent Christmas Eve raining hell on ISIS

On Christmas Eve, Soldiers in Staff Sgt. Johnathan Walker’s section shiver as freezing rain falls upon their position.


U.S Army Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, load a round into M777 artillery piece to support the Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counter offensive, Dec. 24, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson) U.S Army Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, load a round into M777 artillery piece to support the Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counter offensive, Dec. 24, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)

“Fire!” yells Walker as he makes a cutting motion through the rain with his hand. A round leaves the tube of the M777 artillery piece with its trademark boom and smoke, and the artillerymen begin to move again. The sounds of their boots impacting the mud and gravel echo through the gun pit.

It may be the holiday season, but the mission for the Soldiers of Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, continues. The Iraqi Security Forces are battling ISIL in Mosul, and the artillerymen are supporting them with indirect fires.

U.S Army Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, execute a fire mission to support the Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counter-offensive, Dec. 24, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against the ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson) U.S Army Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, execute a fire mission to support the Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counter-offensive, Dec. 24, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against the ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)

“We provide overmatch capability to the maneuver commander,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Scott Young, the platoon sergeant of 2nd Platoon, Battery C, during his rounds of the gun line. “When air support isn’t available, either due to weather or not having the assets in the area, we can bring effects onto targets. As long as there is an observer out there, we can shoot.”

“Task Force Top Guns” has provided fire support for the Iraqi Security Forces ever since arriving in early May. The battery has fired more than 4,000 rounds in support of their maneuvers.

They’re also credited with conducting the first conventional air assault mission during Operation Inherent Resolve, during which they rapidly moved artillery pieces by air to establish a new firing position. At the completion of the fires, the guns were moved back to their starting location.

“We’ve denied territory so the enemy can’t maneuver, obscured friendly movements, and we have precision capability, which is critical in this fight,” Young said, pointing in the direction of Mosul to emphasize his point.

“If there is a target in a built-up area, we can hit it while minimizing damage to the surrounding area. We pride ourselves on our accuracy.”

U.S. Army Sgt. Scott Martineau, Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, moves towards his position on an M777 howitzer during a fire mission to support the security forces during the Mosul counteroffensive, Dec. 25, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson) U.S. Army Sgt. Scott Martineau, Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, moves towards his position on an M777 howitzer during a fire mission to support the security forces during the Mosul counteroffensive, Dec. 25, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)

The rain picks up and a slight fog takes shape in the distance as Walker’s crew awaits their next command. The weather has changed in Iraq, and the Soldiers have switched from their summer lightweight combat shirts to multiple layers in an attempt to stave off the wind-chill.

“Fire mission at my command,” comes the transmission over the radio, and the artillerymen spring into action, beginning the crew drill to load the artillery piece, just as they have done for the past eight months. The Soldiers move quickly through their tasks, and Walker gives the signal once more. Another boom reverberates in the pit.

“It feels good to know that we’re being called on to support the fight and we’re having an effect,” Walker said in between missions. During each crew drill, he encourages his men to keep up the effort. “That’s the reason why we’re out here. We do everything with a sense of urgency and there’s no room for mistakes.”

Battery C has received multiple calls for fires as the Iraqi Security Forces have moved deeper and deeper into Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq and the site of a major operation with the goal of liberating the city. ISIL has been dug into the city for two years.

“There’s a lot more variables in weather like this,” said Walker. “People move a little slower, the rounds are slippery, and morale may drop. It’s the job of crew chiefs on the line to keep on pushing the sections to complete the mission. Rain or shine, when we get the call, we have to react.”

The radio sounds soon after, and the artillerymen are once again called to action.

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This former paratrooper is cycling across America for vets

Devin Faulkner is an infantry veteran of the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team who is pedalling across America on a bike in an effort to raise money for veteran causes.


The 24-year-old began his journey Jun. 4 in San Francisco with the intent of riding to New York across 3,900 miles, mostly avoiding major highways and sticking to roads filled with people and other cyclists.

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
Devin Faulkner takes a short pit stop on Jun. 6, his second day of riding. Photo courtesy Devin Faulkner via his blog.

Faulkner left a job at Monster Energy to attempt his trip. Faulkner began at Monster as a photography intern assigned to cover military and veteran activities. This quickly led to him getting involved with the Warrior Built Foundation, a veteran-ran group sponsored by Monster which provides vets with recreational therapy through racing events, camping trips, and vehicle fabrication.

While working for Monster with Warrior Built Foundation and other veteran groups, Faulkner found himself thinking back to an idea he had mentioned to his old medic, a ride across the entire continental U.S.

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
Devin Faulkner during training in the U.S. Army. Photo courtesy Devin Faulkner

And now he’s doing it in what is tentatively planned as a 48-day ride. Faulkner planned the route by looking at weather concerns and finding roads frequented by other cyclists.

“So, my original plan,” Faulkner told WATM, “was to ride from San Bernadino, California, where I live, to New York … but then I thought about, ‘This is June. It’s hot out there. There’s no way I’m built to survive in Arizona on a bicycle without water.'”

So Faulkner looked North and used Strava heat maps to find roads commonly ridden by other cyclists. The final route leads through Nevada and Utah east through Chicago and across to New York. He is hoping to finish in about seven weeks but is leaving himself open to stopping in cities to speak with veteran groups along his route, potentially delaying his arrival in New York.

To keep costs low, he’s carrying a tent and sleeping wherever he can find a spot to pitch it.

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
Everything Devin Faulkner will have for the ride is packed on his bike. Photo courtesy Devin Faulkner via his Go Fund Me page.

Unfortunately, he faced trouble even before he could leave for the trip. Faulkner is coming off of two injuries. The first came during a training ride when he moved to avoid a car and struck an obstacle on the road, hurting his wrist and delaying his training. Right after he was able to return to training, he was hurt again when he was riding a motorcycle to work and was sideswiped by a car.

Still, Faulkner was set on beginning his ride on time and climbed back onto the bike just in time to leave for his trip.

All money he raises on the ride is going to post-traumatic stress and groups, such as Warrior Built, that seek to help veterans suffering from PTSD.

Supporters can contribute to Devin’s ride through his Go Fund Me page and can follow his trip through his blog, Downshift With Devin.

Articles

WWII Museum explores homefront’s ‘Arsenal of Democracy’

Museums, by definition, are repositories of the past.


But the good ones continue to keep things fresh – and not with small changes.

That certainly applies to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, which continues to add exhibits and space.

Following the success of its Air Power Expo and the launching of the restored PT 305, the museum’s latest permanent exhibit, “The Arsenal of Democracy,” opens to the public Saturday, the week of the anniversary of D-Day.

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The 10,000-square-foot salute to the homefront is funded by the Brown Foundation, of Houston, which is linked to the war by Brown Shipbuilding, a major supplier to the military during WWII.

“Until now, the museum’s main focus has been on the fighting,” said Rob Citino, the museum’s senior historian. “But if you want to tell the story of World War II, you have to give at least equal time to the homefront.”

Indeed. Although 16 million Americans were in uniform during the war, that’s only a little more than 10 percent of the country’s population at the time.

And not all of the young men were away. Of the major combatants, only the U.S. and China had less than half of its men ages 18-35 in the military.

But there were few, if any, American families who weren’t directly affected by the war to some degree, even those without a close relative in the service.

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“There are so many stories wrapped up in the big story of World War II,” said Kim Guise, the museum’s assistant director of curatorial services. “We’ve kind of kept the homefront on the back burner until now.

“But now it’s time to bring it forward.”

The exhibit also is a reminder of the origins of the museum – outgoing museum CEO Nick Mueller and museum founder Stephen Ambrose, both then history professors at the University of New Orleans, were intrigued by the contributions of the Higgins boat, manufactured in New Orleans, in helping to win the war. The desire to tell that story resulted in what began as the D-Day Museum, which opened in 2000.

“Arsenal of Democracy,” which has been two years in development and is on the second floor of the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, spotlights the massive mobilization of American manufacturing, which produced more goods than the Axis combined, tipping the scales in the Allies’ favor.

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

It’s a tribute to American ingenuity and know-how. Seemingly overnight, factories went from making typewriters to machine guns and from refrigerators to airplane parts, because there was no time to waste.

The exhibit also highlights the domestic side, complete with a “Main Street” showing how shop windows and movie marquees of the time looked, along with a home decorated in the style of the period – right down to a Radio Flyer, the classic little red wagon, sitting on the back porch full of metal collected for a scrap drive.

The living room features a world map, a reminder of a February 1942 fireside chat in which President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked listeners to follow along as he described the status of the global conflict.

There are poignant reminders of the human cost of war, too, such as letters home from Myron Murphy, a sailor from Vermont who died aboard the battleship Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor, along with the gold star flag his mother hung in her window to signal her loss.

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
Photo from USAF

There’s also the oral history of Lorraine McCaslin, who was alone at home when the word was delivered that her brother had been killed in action.

Noble sacrifice was a hallmark of the times. But there also were discordant voices.

The first gallery – “The Gathering Storm” – addresses the arguments made by isolationists that America should stay out of the war.

After the fall of France in spring 1940, those voices were less prominent, and in December, Roosevelt coined the phrase “arsenal of democracy” in a radio address, announcing manufacturing support for Great Britain.

The war effort demanded that the nation utilize more of its human capital than ever. Women went to work, and new employment opportunities emerged for African-Americans, both in the South and in places such as Ford’s Willow Run assembly line in Michigan.

It’s cliché now to say that the homefront was unified in its fight against the Axis. And it’s not entirely true.

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons

Thousands of Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps during the war. There were riots in Detroit and Los Angeles and continuing discrimination against African-Americans. The military was still segregated.

In fact, the war created tremendous social upheaval from the beginning of civil rights movement to the diaspora of thousands of African-Americans from the South to the Midwest and West Coast. Women’s horizons broadened with the absence of so many men in previously all-male fields.

Those are issues that didn’t get much play when the museum opened in 2000, when the heroism of “The Greatest Generation” was unquestioned.

“History can be messy sometimes,” Citino said. “As heroic as the American war efforts were, then and now this country has work to do to build a just society.”

The war changed American life in other ways, too.

Why the Chinese military is creating an air force of 10,000 pigeons
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

There were momentous developments in science, technology, food production and medicine, ranging from the creation of the atomic bomb to the invention of MM’s because ordinary chocolate rations for soldiers melted too easily.

The exhibit itself has more interactive features than its predecessors. And, Citino added, the museum isn’t finished. “Liberation” is the next major project, and the postwar world has yet to be addressed.

“With visionary leadership and good fundraising, you can move mountains,” he said. “We’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeves.”

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