Wheeler, 39, was killed by enemy gunfire during a raid to free approximately 70 hostages being held by ISIS (also know as Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh). His death marked the first American combat death since troops returned to Iraq for Operation Inherent Resolve in mid-2014.
The hostage rescue operation — which involved U.S. special operations troops along with Kurdish and Iraq forces — took place in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk province in the town of Hawija, according to CNN. At around 3 a.m., the area was bombed by coalition air power in support of two helicopters used to land in the vicinity of the makeshift prison, The Guardian reported.
Commandos entered the makeshift detention facility, killing several ISIS militants, and detaining five others, according to Army Times. Four Peshmerga soldiers were wounded in addition to Wheeler.
Wheeler joined the Army as an infantryman in 1995, later joining the 75th Ranger Regiment which he deployed with three times in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was later assigned to Army Special Operations Command where he deployed 11 times, the Army said.
Wheeler’s decorations included four Bronze Star Medals with Valor Device and seven other Bronze Star Medals. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
Two military officials told ABC News that Wheeler was currently assigned as a team leader for the Army’s Combat Applications Group (CAG), better known as “Delta Force.”
“We deeply mourn the loss of one of our own who died while supporting his Iraqi comrades engaged in a tough fight,” Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, told the BBC.
Let’s face it, today’s soldiers and Marines have a lot weighing on them.
Between gear, ammo, and weapons, some are carrying over 100 pounds. But how do you reduce that burden?
Barrett Firearms, which created the mighty M82A1 and M107 .50-caliber sniper rifles, has managed to do just that by improving the M240 medium machine gun. Now, the M240 is based on the FN MAG, which is is a classic machine gun used by many NATO allies.
This gun even replaced the M-60, which was the backbone of squad firepower for the U.S. military through Vietnam and Desert Storm.
The question comes: How do you improve a machine gun used by just about all of the Western world? The Army has developed the M240L, which uses titanium to lighten the gun, but they kept the riveted design, albeit with a 5-pound weight reduction.
However, Barrett managed make its 240LW medium machine gun five and half pounds lighter than the M240B without the use of exotic materials. The secret was in how they made the receiver. Barrett machined the receiver from forgings and welded them together, according to a brochure handed out at the National Defense Industry Association’s 2017 Armament Systems Forum.
Not only did this reduce the number of components from 64 to two, it also helped take about five and half pounds off the machine gun. The change also has boosted the reliability of the gun – by removing the rivets – which can be shaken loose by firing thousands of rounds.
There’s also less metal, due to the fact that there is no need to overlap the metal components.
Will the 240LW make an impact with the United States military? That remains to be seen, but it does show how Barrett manages to be very innovative when it comes to designing – or improving – small arms.
Medics and corpsman can be trained in a variety of ways. They can operate on troops in cut suits, a fake abdomen and torso filled with simulated organs. They can practice on medical dummies. They can even work in hospitals on real civilian patients. But one of the most realistic training programs for medics is the most controversial, operating on live animals intentionally injured for training.
PETA has been fighting against this training practice for years. The program is referred to by a few names with “live tissue training” being one of the most popular. In live tissue trauma training, or LTTT, animals are given surgical levels of anesthesia before an instructor inflicts trauma on them — everything from broken bones to puncture wounds. In the most intense classes, the animals may be shot or burned.
The medic or corpsman then has to save the animal’s life. As they do so, the instructor can continue injuring the “patient,” forcing the student to continuously decide what to treat first and how to save the animal. LTTT can go on for hours while the animal sleeps.
Then, when the training is complete, the animal is euthanized without ever re-gaining consciousness.
Live tissue training has been restricted for many training programs and legislation has been re-introduced to halt LTTT within the next five years. PETA and others who protest the training method point to the cruelty of killing and injuring animals for the purposes of training.
The program has plenty of advocates in Special operations. Jim Hanson, a former Special Forces soldier, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Times in 2010 supporting the practice by saying it is the only training that provides “the visceral reaction each medic must face when a life is in danger.”
Glen Doherty, a former Navy SEAL who was killed in the Benghazi, Libya attack in 2012, once wrote an opinion piece supporting animal training that said, “You can simulate performing a surgical crycothyrotomy on a mannequin a dozen times, but until you’ve cut through living tissue on a creature whose life is depending on your timely and successful procedure to survive, you’ve never really done it.”
In the video below, medics operate on a goat while training on surgical procedures. Surgical live tissue training has been discontinued.
When the coalition of Western and Arab allies banded together to fight ISIS, the idea of fighting the good fight was met with a lot of zeal. When Jordanian fighter pilot First Lieutenant Muadh al-Kasasbeh was captured and burned alive by the terror organization, Jordan’s King Abdullah vowed “punishment and revenge” and led to the Jordanian King, an accomplished fighter pilot himself, releasing a photo of himself in his flight suit, geared for battle.
The Western world was wowed once more when a female pilot from the United Arab Emirates, Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri, led that country’s air war against Daesh. Many in the West aren’t familiar with the customs of each individual Arab country, especially when it comes to their views on the rights of women.
“She is a fully qualified, highly trained, combat ready pilot, and she led the mission,” Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE’s ambassador to the U.S., told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“We are in a hot area so that we have to prepare every citizen,” Al Mansouri said. “Of course, everybody is responsible of defending their country — male or female. When the time will come, everybody will jump in.”
The allies still allow U.S. planes to use their bases, but now the Gulf states who spearheaded the effort against ISIS are focused elsewhere. Emirati forces joined Saudi Arabia in fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Jordan also joined in the effort in Yemen. Qatar limited its sorties to reconnaissance missions.
Bahrain last struck targets in Syria in February, the UAE in March, Jordan in August, and Saudi Arabia in September.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter criticized local allies efforts, saying the Gulf states, known as the GCC or Gulf Cooperation Council, saying “some of the Gulf states are up there at 30,000 feet. If you look at where the Iranians are able to wield influence, they are in the game, on the ground.”
“The reason they lack influence, and feel they lack influence in circumstances like Iraq and Syria, with [ISIS],” Carter continued, “is that they have weighted having high-end air-force fighter jets and so forth over the hard business of training and disciplining ground forces and special-operations forces.”
According to the Atlantic, the Obama Administration consistently complains about local allies, notably Turkey and the Gulf, expecting the U.S. to fight their regional enemies more than U.S. national security.
Dover Air Force Base in Delaware is well known as the place where Americans killed in action abroad return home on their journey to a final resting place. Whether it was the Vietnam War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or any conflict or incident in between, most of America’s fallen heroes have been honored with a Dignified Transfer Ceremony when they arrive.
Now, some 170 years after having made the ultimate sacrifice in service of the United States, the remains of 11 soldiers killed during the Mexican-American war finally received their due honors at Dover Sept. 28.
According to a report by Fox News Latino, these American troops fell during the Mexican War at the Battle of Monterrey, which raged for three days in September 1846. American forces under Gen. (and future President) Zachary Taylor — a mix of regular troops and militia — decisively defeated a larger Mexican army under Pedro de Ampudia, Jose Garcia-Conde, and Francisco Mejia.
American casualties in the battle were somewhat light, with 120 dead, 43 missing, and 368 wounded. The fight ended when Ampuida surrendered the city of Monterrey, but Taylor’s decision to sign a two-month armistice and to allow the Mexican forces to fall back drew criticism.
Mexican casualties totaled 367.
The American troops whose remains have been recovered are believed to have been from the 1st Tennessee Regiment, a militia unit that served as part of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Volunteer Division under Taylor’s command, dubbed the Army of Occupation. At least 30,000 volunteers came from Tennessee, and 35 were killed during the war.
The United States not only secured Texas after a lengthy border dispute with Mexico, but it also received parts of New Mexico; Arizona; Colorado; Utah; Wyoming; Nevada and California in the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo.
The first of the skeletal remains were discovered in 1995, and other remains were found over the next 16 years. The return of the remains was negotiated by the Mexican government and the U.S. State Department. Middle Tennessee State University professor Hugh Berryman is slated to lead a team of scientists to try to identify the remains.
“After working for several years with the State Department and our U.S. consulate in Monterrey, Mexico, I was pleased to learn that the remains of these U.S. soldiers will finally be returned to American soil,” said Tennessee Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais in a statement. “This joint effort embodies the longstanding commitment to our men and women in uniform that the United States does not leave our fallen soldiers behind,” .
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has allegedly launched a chemical weapons attack on a base used by American military forces to support Iraqi efforts to retake the city of Mosul. The Sept. 21 artillery attack on Qayyara Air Base that reportedly contained a chemical shell caused no casualties, but some American troops underwent decontamination procedures as a precaution.
The attack, which Pentagon chief Gen. Joseph Dunford said is suspected to have used mustard gas, is the first time American troops have faced hostile chemical weapons since World War I. A 1984 paper for the United States Army Command and Staff General College noted that the United States suffered over 70,000 casualties from German chemical weapons in that conflict, of which just over 1,400 were fatal.
A U.S. Soldier with the 76th Army Reserve Operational Response Command decontaminates a vehicle after a simulated chemical weapons attack during a base defense drill in Camp Taji, Iraq, July 23, 2016. This drill is one way Coalition forces maintain readiness and practice security procedures. Camp Taji is one of four Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve build partner capacity locations dedicated to training Iraqi security forces. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson/Released)
Military officials said a massive aerial attack on a former pharmaceutical plant near mosul Sept. 13 destroyed what they believe was an ISIS chemical weapons production facility.
Mustard gas, a liquid that is properly called “sulfur mustard,” is a blister agent that not only can be inhaled, but also takes effect when it contacts the skin. This nasty chemical agent causes large blisters on the skin or in the lungs when inhaled. The agent can last a long time – unexploded shells filled with sulfur mustard have caused casualties in France and Belgium decades after the German surrender in World War I.
Chemical weapons were widely used in the Iran-Iraq War, most notoriously by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq during the Al-Anfar Offensive. The 1988 attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja, using nerve gas, gained world attention, particularly due to the casualties suffered by civilians. Chemical weapons use was widely feared during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein’s regime was supposed to end its chemical weapons program, but played a shell game for over a decade.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, concerns about Saddam Hussein’s apparent non-compliance with the terms of the 1991 cease-fire and United Nations Security Council Resolutions lead the United States to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
While no large stockpiles of chemical weapons were found, coalition forces did encounter sarin nerve gas and sulfur mustard that had not been accounted for in pre-war inspections, and a 2014 report by the New York Times reported that over 5,000 shells filled with chemical weapons were found by American and Coalition forces during the Iraq War.
A series of troubling reports have been coming out from the U.S. military asserting that decades of U.S. military supremacy has eroded in the face of a resurgent Russia and a booming China, but the US Navy has conceived of some new technologies that they say can restore the U.S. to its former glory.
“We face competitors who are challenging us in the open ocean, and we need to balance investment in those capabilities— advanced capabilities — in a way that we haven’t had to do for quite a while,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in a statement.
As it is, Russia and China can effectively deny US forces access to militarily significant areas, like Eastern Europe and the South China Sea.
In response, the U.S. Navy ran a “rigorous program of analytics and wargaming,” and came up with a bold new strategy to turn the tables on these rising powers—distributed lethality.
Simply put, distributed lethality means giving every ship, from the smallest to the biggest, a range of advanced weapons that can destroy targets dependably, accurately, and without interference from enemy missile defense.
In the future, ships “will be equipped with the weapons and advanced capabilities that it will need to deter any aggressor and to make any aggressor who isn’t deterred very much regret their decision to take us on,” Carter said.
In the slides below, see the new munitions the US Navy wants to put aggressive authoritarian regimes in check.
The Block IV anti-ship Tomahawk missile.
A Tomahawk missile launches from the USS Farragut.
The Tomahawk land attack missile (TLAM) missile has been around since the 70s, and has seen use in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, but a new anti-ship version of the missile with a 1,000 nautical mile range could be deployed onboard Navy ships of all types within a decade.
In February of 2015, the USS Kidd fired a Block IV anti-ship Tomahawk variant that successfully hit a moving target at sea from long range, immediately drawing praise from top naval brass.
“This is potentially a game changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1000 mile anti-ship cruise missile,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work after the successful testing. “It can be used by practically by our entire surface and submarine fleet,” Work added.
Length: 20 feet long
Weight: 3,000 pounds
Range: 1,000 nautical miles
Navy plans to acquire: 4,000 Tomahawks over five years for $2 billion
Watch the successful test of the newly improved Tomahawk missile. Keep in mind that to keep the cost of testing down, the missile was not meant to sink the ship.
“[Along with] our surface brothers and sisters, we got to get the long-range missile so we’re not held out by that A2/AD (anti-access/area denial) bubble and we have the stick to hit inside,” said Vice Adm. Joseph Tofalo, commander, Naval Submarine Forces said.
The SM-6 Dual I
USS Dewey test-fires the Navy’s first SM-6 missiles, March 31. 2011 | U.S. Navy
The SM-6 interceptor may be the first missile capable of intercepting both ballistic missiles, which fall from the sky, and cruise missiles, which fly along the surface of earth, sometimes even snaking through mountains.
In the past, these two distinct types of missiles, ballistic and cruise, have required different missiles to stop them, but the SM-6’s advanced signal processing and guidance control capabilities make it a useful defense against both types.
Length: 21 feet long
Weight: 3,300 pounds
Role in 2017 budget plan: $501 million to acquire 125 SM-6s
Watch the SM-6 intercept both a ballistic and a cruise missile.
“It’s the only missile now out there that has what we call dual-mission capability,” Raytheon program manager Mike Campisi told BreakingDefense.com.
“That allows the combatant commanders to have choice. Instead of having separate boutique missiles for each mission… they can put SM-6s,” Campisi continued.
AGM-158C LRASM (Long Range Anti-Ship Missile)
An anti-ship missile LRASM in front of a F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet on 12 August 2015 .
The LRASM is a precision-guided anti-ship standoff missile with a penetrator and blast fragmentation warhead. The Navy wants the LRASM to replace the harpoon, which has been in service since 1977, and is easily foiled by today’s modern defenses.
The LRASM on the other hand, is stealthy due to it’s angular shape, making it hard for enemies to detect. Also, in the case of electronic interference, the LRASM has advanced anti-jamming GPS guidance.
Additionally, the LRASM can be fired from ships and planes, like the F/A-18 pictured above.
Length: 14 feet
Weight: 2,100 pounds
Range: more than 200 miles
Speed: high subsonic
Navy plans to acquire: $30 million for the first 10 missiles
The continental United States has never been attacked by a foreign air force, with one crazy exception. On September 9, 1942, a floatplane launched from a Japanese submarine attacked the small logging town of Brookings, Oregon, dropping incendiary bombs.
The Imperial Japanese Navy was one of the most formidable sea forces in World War II. At the time of the Pearl Harbor attacks, it was the most powerful navy in world, which allowed the empire to dominate the western Pacific in the early years of the war. They had the heaviest and most armed battleships ever built, the sister ships Yamato and Musashi. Their naval aviation was second to none at the beginning of the war, and it took years before the United States could effectively counter the nimble and deadly Mitsubishi A6M Zero. And while the famous German U-boats were the most effective submarine fleet of WWII, the Japanese constructed the largest submarines of the war, many of which carried their own aircraft. The largest of the Imperial Navy, the I-400-class, could carry three floatplane bombers, underwater and undetected, and had a range that allowed it to travel around the world one and a half times (and this was before nuclear power – these subs ran on diesel engines).
But it was one of the smaller B1-type submarines, I-25, that carried out the only air attack on the continental United States in the war. During its first patrol in late 1941, the sub patrolled the waters north of Hawaii during the Pearl Harbor attacks, and even went as far east as the mouth of the Columbia River at the border of Oregon and Washington. Its second patrol took the sub on missions in Australia and New Zealand, launching its Yokosuka E14Y “Glen” aircraft on reconnaissance flights over Sydney Harbor, and Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne. Warrant Flying Officer Nobuo Fujita later flew over Wellington and Auckland, New Zealand. On the third patrol, the submarine bombarded Fort Stevens in Oregon from 10 miles off the coast.
I-25‘s fourth patrol sent the sub back to the Pacific Northwest. On September 9, 1942, Fujita launched the Glen aircraft carrying two 168-pound incendiary bombs. Their mission was to drop the bombs over the forested region along the Oregon/California border in an attempt to start devastating forest fires. The Japanese had also launched thousands of firebomb-loaded weather balloons with the same intention (some were discovered as far east as Michigan). One of Fujita’s bombs managed to land on Mount Emily, east of Brookings, Oregon, starting a small blaze. Due to wet conditions, and a rapid response from the U.S. Forest Service (his plane had been spotted during the attack), the fire, later dubbed the Lookout Air Raid, did little damage. Weeks later, I-25 launched the plane again for a less successful mission. Fujita reported seeing flames but the attack went unnoticed.
Fujita managed to survive the end of the war, and opened a hardware store near Tokyo, although it later went bankrupt. He later worked at a wire company and rarely spoke of his military service. His family had no idea of his attack on the U.S. mainland until he was invited to Brookings in 1962. He visited the town with his family’s 400-year-old samurai sword with the intent of presenting it to the town as an apology for the attack. If the town did not accept his apology, Fujita, a reserved and humble man, had planned to commit ritual suicide (seppuku) with the sword. “He thought perhaps people would still be angry and would throw eggs at him,” his daughter Yoriko Asakura told The New York Times. “If that happened, as a Japanese, he wanted to take responsibility for what he had done.”
Instead, the town welcomed him with open arms (local churches and businesses raised the money for his visit in 1962). He later paid for several Brookings students’ trips to Japan, as well as donating money to the town’s library for children’s books on Japan. He visited the town three more times in his later life and planted trees at the bombing site. His family’s sword was displayed in the Brookings’ city hall and is currently displayed in their library. He was made an honorary citizen of the town shortly before his death in 1997, and some of his ashes were buried at the bombing site.
The current attacks aimed at retaking ISIS-held areas in Northern Iraq are being supported by U.S. artillery fire on the ground, U.S. Central Command officials said.
Iraqi Security Forces have launched a series of offensive attacks to re-take villages from ISIS in the vicinity of Makhmour, an area south of Mosul where their forces have been preparing, maneuvering and staging weapons for a larger attack.
“The Iraqis have announced an operation in Makhmour to liberate several villages in the vicinity. The coalition is supporting the operation with air power,” Col. Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, told Scout Warrior in a written statement.
U.S. Coalition ground artillery and airpower can include a wide range of assets, potentially including 155m Howitzer artillery fire, F-15Es, F-18s, drones and even A-10s, among other assets.
Although its clear the Iraqis do at some point plan to launch a massive attack to take back the ISIS stronghold of Mosul, these attacks may be merely “staging” exercises, one Pentagon official told Scout Warrior.
“Staging” exercises are often used by forces to consolidate power, demonstrate and ability to make gains and solidify preparations for a much larger assault.
“We announced months ago that shaping operations for Mosul have begun. This is part of that effort. The coalition support is focused on helping the Iraqis liberate Mosul and conducted in close coordination with the Government of Iraq,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Roger M. Cabiness II, told Scout Warrior.
Officials with U.S. Central Command explain that “shaping” exercises for a full offensive into Mosul have been underway for several weeks.
“We began the isolation of Mosul from Raqqa and central Iraq when the Peshmerga took Sinjar and Iraqi Security Forces, retook Tikrit and Bayji. Operations in the Euphrates River valley support the eventual battle inside Mosul by preventing Da’esh (ISIS) from reorienting forces to that fight, and preventing easy resupply of the fighters in Mosul,” U.S. Central Command told Scout Warrior in a written statement.
At the same time, the U.S. military has established a special, separate fire base apart from Iraqi forces in Northern Iraq designed to protect Iraqi Security Forces massing in preparation for an upcoming massive offensive attack on ISIS-held Mosul, officials said.
The outpost, called “Firebase Bell,” includes roughly a company-sized force of several hundred Marines. While U.S. military units have previously established a presence to defend Iraqi troops in other locations throughout Iraq, this firebase marks the first time the U.S. has set up its own separate location from which to operate in support of the Iraqi Security Forces, U.S. officials explained.
Armed with artillery and other weapons to defend Iraqi forces, the U.S. Marines have already exchanged fire with attacking ISIS fighters who have launched rockets at the firebase.
On March 19, ISIS forces launched two rocket attacks at the Marine Corps firebase, killing one U.S. Marine and injuring others, Warren explained while offering condolences to the family of fallen Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.
U.S. Marine Corps counter-battery fire was unable to destroy the location from which the rockets were launched, as ISIS is known to use mobile launchers and quickly abandon its fire location.
The Marines, who are from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are armed with 155m artillery weapons able to reach targets at distances greater than 30-kilometers. The weapons are designed to thwart and destroy any approaching ISIS forces hoping to advance upon massing Iraqi forces or launch attacks.
When it comes to the eventual full assault on Mosul, Warren did not deny that U.S. military firepower from “Firebase Bell” might support attacking Iraqi Security Forces with offensive artillery attacks, but did not confirm the possibility either – explaining he did not wish to elaborate on potential future operations.
Overall, there are roughly 3,700 U.S. troops in Iraq, however that number could rise by a thousand or two in coming weeks – depending upon how many U.S. forces are temporarily assigned to the region.
Vice President Joe Biden is widely regarded as a good guy who’s quick with a joke (and capable of committing the occasional gaffe, much to the media’s delight). And he was true to form as he addressed the United States Naval Academy Class of 2015 at their commissioning ceremony in Annapolis on May 22. Along with hitting the high points of what the nation expects of them going forward (no sexual harassment!) he kept them (and their families and friends surrounding them in the stands of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium) in stitches with a string of rapid-fire one liners. Here are the top 9 among them (in the order that they were delivered):
1. “[Virginia] Governor [Terry] McCaullife, congratulations to your son Jack – top 10 percent, honor committee, captain of the rugby team. Terry, are you sure he’s your son? I don’t know. He’s a talented young man.”
2. “[Chief of Naval Operations] Admiral Greenert is always nice to me in spite of the fact I live in his house. The Vice President’s home is known as “NavOps.” It’s 79 beautiful acres sitting on the highest point in Washington. It used to be the CNO’s home. The Navy runs it, and I live there, and he still speaks to me. And I appreciate it.”
3.”On the one hand you’ve been subjected to unflattering haircuts. On the other hand you get to wear dress whites.”
4. “You spent your summers abroad on real ships rather than internships.”
5. Referring to the fact that all USNA grads automatically have jobs (in the Navy or Marine Corps) upon graduating: “The specter of living in your parents’ basement come graduation day is not likely to be your greatest concern . . . and that’s true across the board, even for you history and English majors.”
6. Referring to the fact that Navy has beat Army in football 13 years in a row: “When we go to the Army-Navy game it’s a devastating thing to sit next to my son [an Army officer].”
7. “Back in 1845, the Secretary of the Navy’s name was Bancroft, and he chose [Annapolis] for its seclusion – seclusion from temptation and the distractions of the big city. I wonder what he would have done had he known about McGreevey’s (editor’s note: the actual bar’s name is McGarvey’s), O’Briens, and Armadillos. I doubt he would have picked this place.”
8. “For all those on restriction, don’t worry. John McCain and I can tell you it’s never gotten in the way of real talent.”
9. Referring to the fact that midshipmen get a tuition-free education: “Usually when I address graduating classes I tell the parents “congratulations, you’re about to get a pay raise,” but you said that four years ago.”
WATM congratulates USNA’s Class of 2015 (along with the graduates of all service academies and ROTC units nationwide). Welcome to the fleet, shipmates.
…I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry Mountains…
Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da…
There’s whiskey in the jar, oh
— Thin Lizzy,
Whiskey in the Jar
Whiskey is a mountain spirit. After a cold day on the slopes, are you thirsting for a Cosmo? A margarita? Nope. And we’re not even offering rum as an option. In the mountains, you long for an end-of-day bourbon, scotch, or rye to light your insides on fire. It’s tradition and it’s awesome.
…complete me. (
Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
In Vail, Colo, there’s another mountain spirit that has to be reckoned with and unlike whiskey, it’s 100 percent military. It’s the legacy of the Army’s venerable 10th Mountain Division, the special alpine tactical force that trained at nearby Camp Hale during WWII.
Spirits, however, are made to blend. It’s tradition and
Now, almost 75 years after 10th Mountain defeated the Germans in Italy, a Vail whiskey distillery is honoring the Division by taking its name. In the tradition of service, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits Co. is distinguishing itself as an ardent supporter of area veterans.
Sensing the makings of a 90-proof military food story,
Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl made the trek out to the Colorado mountains to meet the founders of the 10th Mountain Whiskey over two fingers of their best bourbon.
The distillery was founded by Christian Avignon, the grandson of an 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment medic, and his friend and fellow Colorado ski obsessive, Ryan Thompson. Together, they made it their mission to honor the 10th, whose veterans are responsible not only for key victories against the Nazis, but also for the establishment and leadership of so many of America’s great mountain institutions.
The Northern Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the Sierra Club, the Peace Corps chapter in Nepal, even the famous ski resorts at Vail and Aspen, all count 10th Mountain Division vets among their founding leadership. A storied fighting force inspires a whiskey maker determined to give back. It’s a potent cocktail of tradition, patriotism, and mountaineering that will absolutely warm your insides on a cold day.
Marines at Camp Pendleton will get to field-test more than 50 different new technologies next month ranging from palmtop mini-drones to self-driving amtracs, from wireless networks to precision-guided mortar shells. Plus there will be plenty of classified systems the Marines can’t talk about, including cyber and electronic warfare gear. Technologies that do well may graduate to a more formal Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) or to further testing in the Marines’ big Bold Alligator wargame on the East Coast this fall, Col. Dan Sullivan, chief of staff at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory here, told reporters in March.
(The name of April’s exercise, in classically military fashion, is — deep breath — the Ship To Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2017, or S2ME2 ANTX).
That’s a lightning pace for the Pentagon. It normally takes 18 to 24 months to set up a technology demonstration on this scale, and this one is happening in nine, said Aileen Sansone, an official with the Navy’s Rapid Prototyping, Experimentation, Demonstration (RPED) office. The project launched last summer, when Col. Sullivan’s boss, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh — in charge of future warfare concepts — reached out to deputy assistant secretary John Burrow — in charge of RD, testing, and evaluation.
It was only in October that the project team put out its special notice inviting industry proposals. Well over 100 operators and engineers from different Navy and Marine Corps organizations evaluated the 124 (unclassified) submissions and whittle them down to 50 that would ready for the field by April, said Navy Capt. Chris Mercer, Burrow’s director of RPED. (Another 50 technologies, not quite as ready, will be on display for visiting dignitaries but won’t be used in the exercise).
“It drives the analysts crazy. Analysts don’t like to go fast,” Sullivan chuckled to reporters. “Are you accepting risk? Yes, you are.”
Some of the 50 technologies will probably just plain not work, the team told reporters, and that’s okay. In fact, failing “early and often” is an essential part of innovation. “If we don’t fail, we didn’t do our job,” said Mercer. “This is the time to fail” — before the Marines decide on major acquisition programs, let alone take a technology into combat.
The project has high-level support to take that risk, including the enthusiastic backing of acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley, who used to head Navy Department Research, Development, Acquisition.
“This exercise provides a unique opportunity for warfighters to assess emerging technologies and innovative engineering in support of amphibious assault operations,” Stackley said in a statement to Breaking Defense. “We are grateful to the government and industry vendors who participate and bring their expertise to assist in supporting our nation’s security.”
“SecNav’s committed to really accelerating the rate of our innovations and using the new authorities that have been coming to use since about 2015 to really rapidly prototype and rapidly field,” said Mercer. But even as you go fast, he added, you have to make sure “you’ve got the rigor in the process that allows us to use the new authorities.”
So what kinds of capabilities will this project deliver to the field? Almost all of them rely on rapid advances in information technology, and many are outright robotic, like the various drones and self-driving Amphibious Assault Vehicle. There’s no single silver bullet, Sullivan and co. said, and the real tactical payoff comes from combining technologies. That’s why the Marines organized the experiment not by technical categories — e.g. one team handles all unmanned aerial vehicles, another unmanned watercraft, another networks — but by mission, which required experts in different fields from different agencies and companies to integrate disparate technologies towards a single purpose.
The team defined six mission areas and gave them nifty codenames:
Shield: “early intelligence (and) reconnaissance,” using, for example wide-ranging swarms of robotic scouts in the air, sea, and land, which would allow Marines to identify far more landing sites and potentially bypass defenders by coming ashore in unexpected places. Instead of landing en masse at an obvious 1,000-meter-wide beach, said the Warfighting Lab’s Doug King, “I want to go through a gap in the mangroves.”
Spear: “threat identification,” e.g. covert drones coming in for a closer look with high-powered sensors and sending detailed data back using hard-to-intercept transmissions.
Dagger: “(follow-on) reconnaissance threat elimination,” e.g. more drones and manned platforms marking obstacles and mines.
Cutlass: “maneuver ashore,” e.g. unmanned boats carrying Marines ashore at high speed or unmanned Amtracs swimming in on their own power, with expendable decoy drones.
Broadsword: “combat power ashore,” e.g. battlefield 3D printing of spare parts and unmanned ground vehicles providing fire support or carrying supplies.
Battleaxe: “amphibious C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance),” e.g. high bandwidth networks, resisting to jamming and hacking, that can tie the whole operation together.
Because of the laser focus on amphibious landings, the Ship to Shore Maneuver task force deliberately didn’t look at other promising technologies, such as, well, lasers. For operations at sea, the Navy already has a drone-killing laser aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf, while the Marines are developing a truck-mounted laser for air defense ashore. Likewise, Sullivan said, the “Sea Dragon” effort with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment is focused more on smaller technologies that a Marine squad can carry with it once it’s landed ashore.
What the Ship to Shore Maneuver task force has taken on is the defining task of the Marine Corps: amphibious landing in the face of armed resistance. That’s especially hard when the armed opposition now has so-called Anti-Access/Area Denial defenses: precision-guided cruise missiles with hundreds of miles of range, strike aircraft, submarines, drones, with the sensors to find targets and the networks to coordinate them.
“Our generation grew up in an environment where we were the only ones who had precision guided munitions. We were the only ones who had UAS (drones). Air supremacy was guaranteed; maritime supremacy was taken for granted,” Sullivan said. That’s changed.
“For a long time, we were talking about countering shore-based defenses by standoff, but anti-ship cruise missiles (are) just going to continue to extend the range, so we’re going to have to get and persist within that envelope — and if you look at the totality of the capabilities that we’re experimenting, it’s giving us the ability to do that,” Sullivan said.
“At some point, we’ve got to dismantle the A2/AD integrated defense system,” said Sullivan. “To be considered a great power, you have to be retain a forcible entry capability.”