The failed coup in Turkey has thrown that country into a very high state of tension. What makes the stakes even higher is that according to the Federation of American Scientists, the United States military has about 50 “special stores” stored at Incirlik Air Base, bout 25% of the total stockpile in Europe. Those “special stores” are B61 gravity bombs.
The B61 is America’s primary tactical nuclear weapon that can be carried by just about all of the U.S. military’s attack aircraft, from Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers to the Air Force’s B-2 Spirit bombers. NATO aircraft like the Tornado flown by the Royal Air Force, Luftwaffe, and Italian Air Force can also carry it.
The bomb first entered service 50 years ago, and weighs about 700 pounds – slightly smaller than the M117 bomb often used by the B-52 Stratofortress for “grid square removal.” It features a “dial-a-yield” capability – setting the weapons to deliver as much as 340 kilotons (depending on the version), about 20 times the power of the bomb that destroyed Nagasaki. The United States produced over 1300 of these weapons. The B61 can be set with a variety of fuse options, but the most common delivery is a lob-toss method, using a parachute to delay its fall.
Since its introduction into service, the B61’s received upgrades to keep up with the times. The proposed B61 Mod 12 would give it a tail-guidance kit similar to that of the Joint Direct Attack Munition. The B61 Mod 12 has a yield of up to 50 kilotons, about one-seventh of earlier versions. Then again, when GPS guidance puts a nuke within 20 feet of its aiming point, 50 kilotons will be more than enough to deal with most targets. So far, plans are for about 500 B61s to be upgraded to the Mod 12 standard.
The B61 became the basis for a number of other warheads in American service. The B83,a strategic nuclear weapon with a yield of up to 1.2 megatons, is one derivative. The AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missile’s W69 warhead was also based on the B61. So were the W80 warheads used on the BGM-109 Tomahawk, AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile, and the AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile. The W84 warhead used on the Ground-Launched Cruise Missile was also a variant of the B61 by way of the W80. The W85 used on the MGM-31C Pershing II was another derivative of the B61, and after the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed, the W85s were recycled into B61 Mod 10 gravity bomb.
The B61 Mod 12 will have a design life of nearly 20 years – meaning this bomb will likely serve until 2035, around the time the B-52 will be ready to retire.
Staff Sgt. Ricardo Branch told The Washington Times that he must leave the Army by Aug. 1. His crime was mentioning in an internal military email the name of the aviation unit that flew Navy SEALs inside Pakistan airspace to kill the al Qaeda leader.
The irony: He was trying to keep that fact out of a proposed article in an industry newsletter.
The Times featured Sgt. Branch’s plight in March, noting his excellent performance evaluations since the 2014 incident. His last chance resided with the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, which Sgt. Branch said rejected his plea.
The sergeant said he was “floored” by the decision.
“With honor and with integrity I fought this battle and even took it into the realm of public court/discussion in my Times story and it was for one reason only to let everyone know, like my commander said when giving me my notice May 10, 2016, that the Army is getting this one wrong,” he said July 19 in an email to the board.
“Moving forward, I would love to give this one last go round; however, I know now that without the military-level support I received for my third appeal I’m in a realm of hurt in that it will take forever to get another answer.”
His attorney, Jeffrey Addicott, who runs the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, said the married sergeant, with one child, did all he could to maintain his career.
He said Mr. Obama singled out the unit, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and that Mrs. Clinton did far worse in handling secrets and received no punishment.
Mr. Addicott told The Times on July 19: “The good news is that your story pushed the Army to move off its criminal investigation that he was facing when I took his case. We then also got the Army to consider his request to stay on active duty, and he was retained for many months while his appeal was considered. They have now denied his appeal to stay, but he will leave with an honorable discharge. Not a complete satisfaction for Branch but far better than it could have been. There is no inherent right for the Army to retain him. I know he is disappointed, but we accomplished all that could reasonably be expected. This is a win.”
Sgt. Branch’s problems began in February 2014 while he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, doing public relations work for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. He was fact-checking a proposed article by the Boeing Co. for its internal news site that told of regiment personnel visiting a contractor facility. It mentioned that the regiment conducted the bin Laden raid.
Sgt. Branch sent an email to his boss recommending that the bin Laden reference be stricken because the Pentagon never officially acknowledged its role.
That was his crime: repeating the Boeing sentence in an official, internal email.
A higher-up saw the email thread and reported Sgt. Branch to Army intelligence. Instead of facing a court-marital, he opted for nonjudicial punishment and received an oral reprimand.
Mr. Addicott, who did not represent the sergeant at that time, said no court-martial jury would have convicted the sergeant because his motives were pure.
Part of Sgt. Branch’s defense was that Mr. Obama all but said that the aviation regiment conducted the raid by visiting the soldiers at Fort Campbell right after the successful operation.
The Army officially disclosed the regiment’s role in news stories.
“The leaders’ first stop after landing was to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment compound where the distinguished guests spoke privately with the 160th SOAR leadership and Soldiers,” said the Army’s official story on the visit, found on its web address, Army.mil.
On Army.mil, a May 9, 2011, Army News Service story on the Obama visit said, “It was the Night Stalkers who are credited with flying the mission in Pakistan that transported the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 on an operation that resulted in the capture and kill of terrorist Osama bin Laden.”
“I love the Army,” Sgt. Branch told The Times in March. “I like my job. The reason I’m so in love with the Army is I’m a career soldier. I’ve done three tours in Iraq. I’ve survived cancer twice. The Army is my career. It’s what I know. It is my life. My dad was a soldier. My brother’s a soldier. My grandfather was a soldier. I like telling the Army story because I’m a writer. That’s what I do.”
TripAdvisor is a great place to get travel tips from fellow adventurers. It can tell you what cafes are best in Paris or which museums are best in Germany. And, it can apparently tell you which bases are best in Afghanistan.
Some hilarious person decided to add “Bagram Airfield” to TripAdvisor’s list of “Things to do in Afghanistan,” and vets have been filling it with unfiltered and often sarcastic opinions about what life on the base is like. It’s currently ranked as the “#1 of 1 things to do in Bagram, Afghanistan, Asia.” Read the 4 selected reviews below to learn why:
1. BAF4DAYZ nailed the Afghanistan experience with just the headline of his review:
2. Other reviewers gave a nod to the locals who make all visits to Bagram so memorable:
3. People gave five-stars to the communal living areas and fine dining options:
4. Other amenities, like the free gyms and the opportunities to create memories, received four stars.
For some odd reason, the beloved airfield sports a travel alert about safety and security concerns in the area. (Not sure what that’s about.) Read more reviews at the TripAdvisor webpage. Vets that have visited the facility can also leave their own two cents in the form of a new review.
When you go to the page, be sure to answer TripAdvisor’s questions about Bagram Airfield such as, “Do you find this attraction suitable for young children?”
On Sep. 7, 1940, the German Blitzkrieg against the city of London began.
Earlier that summer, the Nazis launched the first bombing attack on Great Britain after a defeated France signed an armistice, leaving the United Kingdom alone against the German war machine.
Wanting to capitalize on his momentum, Hitler set his sights — and his Luftwaffe — across the English Channel. That first day, 190 German bombers and fighters struck British military targets, but the Brits fought back in what would become the first battle in history fought solely in the air.
Meaning “lightning war,” the Blitz was a bombing campaign against Britain by the German Luftwaffe. In September alone, German forces dropped 5,300 tons of explosives on the British population.
The raids persisted for 57 consecutive nights and continued frequently until May of the following year. By the time Hitler began to focus his attention on Russia, 43,000 British civilians had been killed.
But the strength, determination, and spirit of the United Kingdom could not be diminished, and the Battle of Britain would become a decisive victory for the English, whose Royal Air Force dealt the Luftwaffe a nearly lethal blow from which it never fully recovered.
It became a turning point in the war, strategically preventing Hitler from gaining control of the English Channel or invading the British Isles. Britain became a base of operations for the American invasion of Normandy on D-Day in 1944, securing a major blow against Hitler in his waning days.
Finally, the Battle of Britain was a mark of British courage and resilience — the people of Britain are still known for their “Blitz Spirit” — and their perseverance allowed Great Britain to remain free from Nazi occupation.
Today, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser is the epitome of a vessel designed with the primary purpose of protecting capital ships from an aerial threat.
With the Aegis fire control system, two 64-cell Mk 41 vertical launch systems, and a pair of five-inch guns, among other weapons, the Tico can handle just about anything the enemy has that flies.
But this wasn’t the only cruiser designed to primarily confront the aerial threat. That honor falls to the cruiser USS Atlanta (CL 51), which was commissioned 17 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Atlanta was also designed to serve as a scout or a flotilla leader for destroyers, but her main battery of 16 5-inch/38 guns gave her a powerful anti-aircraft armament.
The Navy originally ordered four of these cruisers, but doubled the total after the start of the war. Three slightly modified versions, known as the Juneau-class cruisers, were later acquired, but not finished until after the war.
According to the “Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships,” the USS Atlanta saw action in the Battle of Midway, the invasion of Guadalcanal, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, and the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. In that last battle, she was heavily damaged by both friendly and enemy fire, and ultimately had to be scuttled.
Other than the second ship of the class, USS Juneau (CL 52) — best known as the vessel that the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo, Iowa, perished aboard — the rest of the Atlanta-class cruisers survived the war.
The USS Reno (CL 96) did have a hell of a fight for survival after being torpedoed in November 1944.
The last Atlanta-class cruiser to serve in the United States Navy was the USS Juneau (CL 119), the lead ship of her sub-class that was completed in the months after World War II.
In the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 1942, Vice Adm. William Halsey had a sleepless night. A major Japanese force was steaming towards Henderson Field bent on a massive bombardment.
Halsey had sent two small groups of ships under the overall command of Rear Adm. Daniel Judson Callaghan to stop them.
Callaghan’s force faced long odds. He had two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers (two of which had been optimized for the anti-aircraft role), and eight destroyers. The opposing force had two fast battleships, a light cruiser, and 14 destroyers.
In essence, Halsey knew he had probably sent Callaghan and many of the sailors under him to their deaths.
Only as the seconds turned into minutes, and the minutes turned into hours, one thing was obvious: Henderson Field had not come under attack.
Dawn would soon reveal that one of the fast battleships, the Hiei, was crippled, while American sailors on two cruisers — the USS Atlanta (CL 51) and USS Portland (CA 33) — were fighting to save their ships.
The Japanese fast battleship Haruna. (Photo from Wikimedia)
Reports trickled in. Four destroyers sunk, Callaghan and Rear Adm. Norman Scott, the hero of the Battle of Cape Esperance, were dead.
Later, when commanders sorted out what happened, it turned out Callaghan had – whether by accident or design – gotten his force intermingled with the Japanese bombardment group. When he ordered, “Odd ships fire to port, even ships fire to starboard,” he touched off a melee that scattered both forces across Ironbottom Sound.
At one point during the maelstrom Callaghan’s flagship, the USS San Francisco (CA 38), got within 2,500 yards of the battleship Hiei, and put a shell into her steering compartment. By the time the fight was over, the Japanese had exhausted most of their ammunition, and it was too close to dawn to reassemble their forces, hit Henderson Field and escape American air power.
Rear Adm. Hiroaki Abe instead ordered a retreat, leaving Hiei to its fate.
In the aftermath of the battle, Hiei would be sunk by air strikes launched from the USS Enterprise (CV 6) and Henderson Field. The USS Juneau (CL 52), damaged during the battle, would be sunk by a Japanese submarine. The officer in charge of the surviving vessels, Capt. Gilbert C. Hoover, would inexplicably fail to look for survivors, leaving over a hundred men behind. Only three would be rescued.
The Japanese tried to bombard Henderson Field again two days later, but this time the Kirishima met up with two battleships, the USS Washington (BB 56) and USS South Dakota (BB 57), with four destroyers under the command of Rear Adm. Willis Augustus Lee. Even though the Japanese put USS South Dakota out of action and sank or damaged the four destroyers, the USS Washington was able to fatally damage the Kirishima.
The USS Callaghan in 1987. (Photo from Wikimedia)
Callaghan would receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on Nov, 13, 1942, one of five presented for actions in that battle (the others were to Norman Scott, Lt. Cmdr. Bruce McCandless, Lt. Cmdr. Herbert Schonland, and Bosun’s Mate 1st Class Reinhardt Keppler). The Navy later named two ships for Adm. Callaghan. The first USS Callaghan (DD 792) would be sunk by a kamikaze attack while on radar picket duty off Okinawa in 1945. The second USS Callaghan (DDG 994) saw 20 years of service with the United States Navy until she was sold to Taiwan.
As the Taliban entered Kabul and the Afghan government dissolved on Sunday, one of the thousands of Afghans who served the United States as an interpreter — and has since waited more than a decade for his visa to be approved — watched the scene in despair.
“I can’t even talk right now,” the interpreter, who asked to be identified only as Said, said in an interview Sunday. “I’m just about to cry, because we lost everything.”Advertisement
He watched over the years as the U.S. and NATO allies tried to support the Afghan government and spent vast sums of money to do so.
“But, unfortunately, the Taliban can destroy everything in just the blink of an eye,” he said, referring to the deposed government in Kabul.Advertisement
As Kabul fell without a shot and the nearly 20-year Afghanistan campaign unraveled, the United States scrambled to shore up its hasty evacuation of personnel from the capital. A Defense official confirmed Sunday that the Pentagon was sending another battalion of 1,000 troops into Afghanistan — on top of the 1,000 announced Saturday – from the infantry brigade combat team that was slated to be deployed to Kuwait to bolster security at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
Those troops are from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Defense official said that the battalions announced Saturday and Sunday will go straight from Bragg to Afghanistan, and that a third battalion is still headed to Kuwait in reserve.
Said, the interpreter who had worked with U.S. government groups, briefly left his home in downtown Kabul earlier Sunday and saw Taliban fighters patrolling the streets in their signature white robes and black turbans. The Taliban were driving Ford and Toyota pickup trucks they had captured from Afghan police and the National Directorate of Security, the deposed Afghan government’s intelligence and security service, he said.
He’s still trying to find a last-ditch way to get a visa and make it to the U.S. But even if that works and he were called to go to the airport, he’s not sure how he would manage it. He said he surely would have to bring documents proving he worked for the U.S.; if he were stopped at a Taliban checkpoint along the way and searched, those papers would seal his fate.
And even reaching the airport may not be a guarantee of safety. The U.S. embassy in Kabul on Sunday issued a security alert advising U.S. citizens at the airport to shelter in place, and said there were reports the airport, the last citadel of American power during the exodus, was taking fire.
Some Kabul citizens came out to high-five the Taliban, Said said, and they offered a friendly greeting of “Salaam” to one another. There were no Afghan military personnel to be seen.
For years, activists and others have sounded alarms about the need to evacuate Afghans who worked for the U.S. in interpreter, driver and other jobs, and about the dismal failings of the highly bureaucratic and understaffed Special Immigrant Visa, or SIV, process. Those advocates often called for relocating the Afghans — at one point estimated to be about 18,000, plus their family members — to locations outside of Afghanistan, such as Guam.
Those calls had become increasingly desperate since April, when the Biden administration announced plans to completely withdraw the U.S. military later in the year. Last month, the administration said it would start moving the first group of Afghans — about 2,500 in all, including 700 who were SIV applicants whose cases were far along — to Fort Lee in Virginia.
The Defense official stressed Sunday that part of the mission of the new wave of troops being sent to Afghanistan is to help the State Department accelerate the processing of SIV applicants.
SpyTalk reported Sunday that the State Department’s SIV application system had a glitch that limited how many emails it could receive, and had become overwhelmed by the volume of applications from desperate Afghans in the last few days. State told SpyTalk that it has fixed the glitch.
But though Said knows friends who have scheduled flights upcoming, flights that may well be disrupted by the rapid victory of the Taliban that has placed the airport within their sights, he still has heard nothing from the U.S. Embassy.
He fears for his and his family’s safety.
“I think this is the beginning,” he said. “When they settle up, they will start looking at people who helped [the United States].”
When asked whether he feels betrayed by the United States, he said, “Of course.” He points to a stack of ceremonial coins he received from officials, and recommendation letters from doctors and officers who knew him and vouched for him during his six-year stint as an interpreter at the hospital at Bagram Airfield — now in the hands of the Taliban — as evidence of his reliability and proof that his visa should be approved.
In an interview in July, Said said he has tried unsuccessfully to obtain a visa for more than 12 years. He believes at least part of the problem is due to a clerical error.
He’s perplexed that his life is in danger because of the paperwork issue, which he claims mistakenly lists his departure from American service as a firing for poor performance. He said he was laid off because there weren’t enough positions for him, and that he was a hard worker — a characterization backed up by his former supervisor who spoke to Military.com last month.
Had the U.S. outright rejected his second visa application earlier, he said, instead of letting it hang on for years, he might have taken his family to another country. But now, it’s too late, and he doesn’t have enough money to relocate.
He said family members came by to see him Saturday night and were concerned that he still had bundles of recommendation letters and certificates.
“They said either grave it, or burn it,” he said. “Because it’s useless now, and will threaten your life.”
But these are not the first Americans to have been held hostage. A 2017 list from USA Today before Warmbier’s release noted some other incidents dating from 2009 to the present. These cases have involved civilians. However, prior to 1996, when Evan Hunziker swam across the Yalu River, there had been some incidents where American troops were held hostage.
The environmental research ship USS Pueblo (AGER 2) was attacked and captured by North Korean Forces. One American was killed in the initial attack, while 82 others were held for 11 months. The vessel is still in North Korean hands.
2. July 14, 1977
A CH-47 Chinook was shot down by North Korean forces, killing three of the crew. The surviving crewman was briefly held by the North Koreans until he was released, along with the bodies of the deceased.
The U.S.-led coalition fighting against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria has rejected a claim by the Syrian army that a coalition air strike hit poison gas supplies and killed hundreds of people.
A Syrian army statement shown on Syrian state TV on April 13 said that a strike late on April 12 in the eastern Deir al- Zor Province hit supplies belonging to IS, releasing a toxic substance that killed “hundreds including many civilians.”
“The Syrian claim is incorrect and likely intentional misinformation,” U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the coalition, said in a statement. He said the coalition had carried out no air strikes in that area at that time.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on April 13 that it had no information on fatalities in a coalition air strike in Deir al-Zor and was sending drones to the area to monitor the situation.
Representative Duncan Hunter has declared that Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, is “a greater threat to the Marine Corps than ISIS” because of his efforts to open combat roles to women in spite of a study conducted by the Marines that indicated that warfighting effectiveness would suffer as a result.
“The reason the military is there is not to be a transgender, corporate organization,” Hunter told POLITICO, referring to the Pentagon’s plans to allow transgender service members to serve openly. “The military is there to execute American policy overseas, protect our allies and kill our enemies. It’s not a corporation. We’re not all treated equal.”
Hunter is most tweaked about Mabus’ memo to the Corps directing them to gender-integrate boot camp and to lose the word “man” from military job titles.
“These are long lasting,” Hunter said. “These changes that they’re making are not thought out, they’re not researched, they’ve not been debated. The American public has no idea what’s going on … It’s going to get people killed.”
On Sep. 17, 1862, Confederate rebels and Union troops fought the Battle of Antietam.
President Abraham Lincoln charged Major General George B. McClellan with the defense of Washington D.C. against Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North.
Earlier in the month, Lee had divided his men, sending General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to capture Harper’s Ferry. After Jackson’s success, Lee decided to make a stand in Maryland at Antietam Creek. While nothing about Antietam Creek, located near Sharpsburg, Maryland, was of true strategic value, both commanders knew that the moment was crucial. Keeping France and England on the sidelines required a Union victory, while the Confederates needed a huge win to influence the Union elections.
The road to Antietam began when Lee marched his troops across the Potomac and into Union-aligned Maryland while attempting to influence the midterm elections of 1862. He was hopeful that a few decisive Confederate victories on Union soil could cause a surge in votes for candidates opposed to the war, potentially leading to the start of peace negotiations at home. He also had a shot at diplomatic recognition of the Confederacy from European powers, like England and France.
After two days of posturing, fighting began early in the morning on Sep. 17 and lasted well past sundown, with staggering casualties on both sides and no ground gained. The next day, both armies gathered their dead and wounded and Lee retreated south.
It was the bloodiest one day battle in American history. When night finally fell, the two forces had suffered approximately 23,000 casualties with an estimated 4,000 killed, the worst loss of American life in a single day in history. To put that in perspective, approximately 2,500 Americans were killed taking Utah and Omaha beaches on D-Day.
Featured Image: The bridge over Antietam Creek where much of the bloodiest fighting took place. (Library of Congress)
In any case, it’s probably the coolest thing any movie spy was ever issued. James Bond, with his “00” designation has one, and maybe a whole handful of real-world MI6 agents do too — because they’re real.
The result was no, of course they didn’t. But what it did reveal was a look at how the intelligence agency operates, especially in regards to targeted killings. It turns out British operatives are allowed to kill their enemies.
But first they need a Class Seven Authorisation and the personal signature of the Foreign Secretary.
Richard Dearlove, the former head of Britain’s spy agency, revealed this during the inquiry. Diana and her lover, Dodi al-Fayed, were killed in a 1997 car accident in Paris. Ten more agents were required to give testimony in 2008 as the royal family faced accusations of wrongdoing from al-Fayed’s father, Mohamed.
Actually getting the Class Seven Authorisation is easier than it sounds. According to Dearlove’s testimony, once the paperwork is finished, it has to be signed off by a “senior regional official.” Then, it would have to go through the chief of the agency — in Diana’s case, it would have been Dearlove.
After that, it would have to “go down restricted channels to the Foreign Secretary.”
Socialism turns even the smallest tasks into a whole bureaucratic ordeal. I bet the process was much smoother when Maggie Thatcher was in office.
The Marine Corps is most famous for stripping away one’s individuality at boot camp and spitting recruits out 13 weeks later as Marines, formed into bands of brothers (and sisters).
But those bonds were tested when some of its strongest, toughest competitors battled one other in the second-annual High-Intensity Tactical Training Tactical Athlete Championship. When the dust settled after the fourth day of competition, the top male and female Marines were crowned “Ultimate Tactical Athlete.”
Sgt. Calie Jacobsen chewed up the final obstacle course event and took the top prize among 13 women who competed along 19 men to vie for bragging rights in the Aug. 15-18 service-wide competition at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, California.
Jacobsen, 23, a nondestructive inspection technician at Miramar, spent eight weeks preparing for the championship and held the lead going into the final event, the obstacle course. The other women wouldn’t make that easy, but it was her strongest event. “I wasn’t planning on winning. I just wanted to go out there and do good,” she said. “The females definitely were at a higher level than I was expecting to see.”
Jacobsen and the male winner, Cpl. Ethan Mawhinney, each received a championship belt and 53-pound kettle bell.
Mawhinney, a 22-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, beat 18 other male Marines in his second shot at the service championship. He placed sixth last year in the inaugural contest. “I trained a lot harder for the prelims this year,” said the Marine air-ground task force planner from Camp Allen, Virginia. Winning “was surreal. I had left last year really hoping to take the title.”
HITT is like CrossFit, but for and by Marines. That means using brute strength, endurance and determination to survive tactical battles against fellow Marines on the athletic field, in the water and on the paintball battlefield.
“Competition was tough,” said Lance Cpl. Isaac Namowicz, an admin clerk with Marine Security Guard headquarters and this year’s Quantico Marine Corps Base, Virginia, HITT champ. “There’s a lot of passion.”
Marines traded tips and even encouraged each other during the championship, but each had a mission: Win. “You’re a brother, but at the same time, you are trying to beat everyone,” Mawhinney admitted. That included the male 2015 Ultimate Tactical Athlete, Cpl. Joshua Boozer.
Boozer, ammo tech with 1st Tank Battalion at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., was champ this year at his home base but met his match at Miramar.
“It’s not easy competition,” he said, catching his breath after enduring the “500 Yard Power Shuffle” where competitors did nearly a dozen events including tire flips, box jumps, dummy carry, weighted sled pull and push and a variety of weight lifts — on a sweltering athletic field. It was the longest event, time-wise.
The Marine Corps organized its first HITT competition last year, held at Twentynine Palms. Like last year, Marines learned events’ details at the start of the competition, so they didn’t really know what they’d face.
Ryan Massimo, the Corps’ HITT program manager and event coordinator, said the intent is to include some base-specific events – this year’s “Maneuver Under Fire” took place at Miramar’s paintball park – with physical challenges that reflect the strength and conditioning program. Last year, the run up and down the desert base’s hills while lugging heavy items made “sugar cookies” of a weakened competitor.
This year’s championship included a timed water event, the “Amphibious Tactical Challenge.” Competitors in boots and utes swam multiple laps bearing their pack and rubber rifle, and then they traversed the pool, diving and ducking with a pack under markers before cranking out 10 (men) or 5 (women) pushups wearing the pack. “It did definitely throw a curve ball for some people,” Mawhinney said.
Namowicz said he struggled in the pool.
“I was not expecting all that weight. It felt like cinder blocks,” he said. “My upper body was getting tired.”
At times, he’d talk to himself as he pushed weighted sleds or carried 35-pound ammo cans and 120-pound dummies in the sweltering heat. “I just kept saying, ‘Finish this.’ You have people in the stands pushing you, and it just keeps you motivated,” he said. “You just want to be done.”
Jacobsen hadn’t real plans to become competitive until the Miramar HITT Center coordinator encouraged her to the local HITT combine challenge. “I didn’t know how big it was, that it was Marine Corps-wide,” said the Nebraska native. “We just went in unassuming.”
And she finished first among the women, getting the ticket to compete against other installation winners for the championship.
She’s a HITT convert. The isolation workout she previously did for weightlifting “isn’t applicable to everyday life,” she said. Interval training demands endurance and strength and “is a lot more applicable to everyday life. That’s definitely changed my mindset.”
Thin crowds watched this year’s competition, but Jacobsen said she was glad to see her station commander and sergeant major on the sidelines. “It’s an awesome event, and it needs to be more widely broadcast,” she said.
It’s certainly not as well-known as the military’s most famous tactical-physical competition, the “Best Ranger.”
The 60-hour event at Fort Benning, Georgia, pits Army Rangers against each other in two-man teams to test their skills, including land navigation, small-arms firing, obstacles and, in true Ranger style, parachuting.
Not to be outdone, Marines run the less-known but still grueling and gung-ho “Recon Challenge” at Camp Pendleton, California. After a predawn swim in the Pacific, two-man Marine Recon and Marine Raider (and Navy recon corpsmen) teams run in boots-and-utes with rucksack and weapon, enduring a nonstop series of grueling events in the pool, on the range and along Pendleton’s roller-coaster scrubby hills.
A close parallel to the HITT championship may be the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition, a four-day contest where soldiers complete tactical challenges, written exams and fitness events in more battlefield-like environments. The top 10 soldiers and 10 noncommissioned officers who’ve bested their local competitors will vie for the title at this year’s contest, to be held Sept. 26-Oct. 3 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virgina. The Army National Guard held its own contest on June 22 at Joint Base Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Events included a 14-mile ruck march.
The Air Force’s 1st Air Support Operations Group put airmen through grueling individual challenges and 22 events over a week in July for “Cascade Challenge 2016.”
The contest, held at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska this year included navigating the wild Alaskan forests with body armor and 50-pound rucksack.
The Navy takes a different tack in sailor competition. Its surface fleet of destroyer, cruiser and frigate crews each year showcase their athletic and professional naval skills during “Surface Line Week.” Sailors went toe-to-toe in firefighting drills, valve packing, welding, small-arms shooting, sailing and stretcher-bearer races. Team events include dodgeball and soccer, so fun is the operative word.