The hater's guide to the US Army - We Are The Mighty
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The hater’s guide to the US Army

This is the third in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.


The military is like a family that gets together and holds backyard wrestling tournaments every once in a while. They’re violent, they protect one another from outsiders, and are ridiculously mean to each other.

We’ve already shown how the other branches make fun of the Air Force and the Marine Corps. Here’s how the other branches hate on the Army (and how they should).

The hater’s guide to the US Army
Photo: US Army

The easiest ways to make fun of the Army

Like the Marine Corps, the Army gets called ‘dumb’ a lot. Since they gave out a lot of waivers for the military entrance test in the early 2000s, this isn’t without merit. Also, soldiers try to defend themselves by pointing out all the tough Army jobs that require a surprising amount of intellect such as Special Forces or Satellite Communications Operator. Coming from most soldiers, this is kind of like a mailroom employee pointing out how smart the computer engineers at Google are.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

Soldiers also get ridiculed for the admittedly useless uniform they wore for most of the Global War on Terror. All sorts of reasons were given for why it was secretly brilliant, but two other camouflage patterns outperformed the ACU in the Army’s own tests before it was fielded. Since the Marine Corps had just gotten their own sweet digital camouflage before the ACU was fielded, there were a lot of (quite possibly true) accusations of copy-catting.

Body fat is another area the Army takes a lot of flak. Even though their body fat standards are actually in line with the other services, photos like the one below and an Army motto of “Army Strong” just made the jokes too easy.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

Speaking of which, quite a few Army slogans have been duds with service members. “Army of One” worked for recruiting the video game generation, but it supported a lone warrior ideal that is the opposite of how the Army fights. “Be All You Can Be,” was extremely successful and ran for twenty years, but like “Army Strong” it’s perfect for memes with fat soldiers.

Why to actually hate the Army

As the largest ground force in the U.S., the Army has a lot of control over what gear and weapons go to both soldiers and, in a few cases, the Marines. When they choose correctly, all troops from all the branches usually end up with better gear for patrols like these weapon sights that let shooters see enemies through smoke and dust.

When they choose incorrectly, they spend $1.5 billion just to shut down a failed program, like they did with the Future Combat System. This was not a one-time thing.

This power to choose what ground combatants wear comes from the fact that the Army is the largest branch and by doctrine is the one in charge of taking and occupying enemy territory. But soldiers get really prima donna about this, making jokes any time airmen screw up on a rifle range or Marines get a vehicle stuck. “Not used to using a rifle, airman? It’d be easier if you were kicking back on the beach, right Marine?”

The hater’s guide to the US Army

This is stupid since soldiers screw this stuff up too. Regularly. And when they crash a truck in the mountains or desert, they can’t even use the excuse that their equipment was primarily designed for fighting amphibious battles.

The hater’s guide to the US Army
Yeah, soldiers did this while in their own vehicles, driving around their own base, operating near their own defenses.

The hater’s guide to the US Army
Above: Not an airman’s fault.

The hater’s guide to the US Army
Zero Marines in this picture.

Also, the Army makes really bold statements about how they’re “more tech-savvy than you,” which feels a bit arrogant and misguided coming from an institution whose public-facing website got hacked a few months ago because they didn’t use https. They also risked the exposure of thousands of Army families’ personal information with a faulty system in paying for childcare.

Why to love them

The hater’s guide to the US Army

Besides the fact that they began defending America the year before America existed? Or that they marched across Nazi-occupied Europe? Well, there’s the fact that American soldiers served more troop years in Iraq and Afghanistan than all the other services combined. Or, you could love them because their most elite soldiers, Delta Force, just liberated 70 ISIS hostages in a daring raid.

The hater’s guide to the US Army
Photo: US Army

Then there’s the fact that they operate not only on the ground, but also in the water, the air, and space. Army Airborne units provide contingency response forces for both the European/African theaters and the entire world. That’s before you count the Army Rangers who can break into an enemy country and topple its land forces in hours or days of fierce fighting with little rest.

When it’s time to fight more subtle conflicts, Green Berets can slip into foreign countries and begin training up friendly militias and armies, safeguarding American interests while limiting risk.

The hater’s guide to the US Army
Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon, The National Guard

The Army is also boss at disaster and humanitarian relief. They supported rescue and rebuilding efforts in Haiti, Nepal, and Japan. When the mission is closer to home, troops deploy as well. In just 2015, they’ve helped rebuild after hurricanes in South Carolina, rescue Texans from floodwaters, and fight forest fires in California.

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Marine Corps asks other services for training ideas

It’s possible the next big innovation in Marine Corps classroom or tactical training could come from an airman or a soldier.


Marine Corps Training and Education Command is in the final days of soliciting ideas for an innovation challenge focused on how to improve small-unit training, from policy to curriculum and classroom instruction to the use of tools like simulation and gaming. Any federal employee is eligible to submit ideas, including uniformed members of all service branches, including the Marine Corps, to defense department civilians.

“Sometimes it’s hard for this organization to look inside itself for new ideas,” Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, commanding general of TECOM, told Military.com in an interview. “So one of those ways that you get good ideas is, you go outside the organization.”

Related: Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

To date, TECOM spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena said, about 150 submissions have been collected; those eligible to submit ideas have until March 31 to send them in via a dedicated site accessed through DoD credentials. Submissions for the innovation challenge will be reviewed in April, and winners will be notified in May, officials said.

Last year, the Marine Corps has conducted a Corps-wide innovation challenge on autonomous systems and robotics, and another challenge specific to the logistics community.

“The specific focus was on how to create better decision makers,” Lukeman said. “The idea is that the ability to make good decisions quickly with limited information is critical for success on the battlefield, so how do we change our training and education that creates better decision makers for the Marine Corps.”

The Marine Corps is not promising a financial reward for winners of the challenge, or even a guarantee that their ideas will be implemented. But the authors of the best ideas will get a free trip to TECOM at Quantico, Virginia, where their proposals will be workshopped with subject matter experts.

“We just had a discussion the other day about the commandant’s reading list, on books that are out there for Marines to read, and they’ve been out there for a while,” said Sgt. Maj. Justin LeHew, the senior enlisted adviser for TECOM. “Somebody said, ‘well, they have audiobooks that are out there to do that. I could learn by using an audiobook.’ There are different things that are just provoking thought.”

Also read: Pentagon says rules of engagement haven’t changed after Mosul strike

Even as ideas still roll in, changes are taking place at Quantico that affect Marine Corps training. In a January message to the force, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller called for the Marine Corps to develop a new plan for Marine Corps-wide use of simulation and virtual training environments no later than this June. He also ordered that a plan be developed to build a world-class simulation and gaming center at Quantico to enhance realistic training and better prepare Marines to fight.

With retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, who once told fellow officers that “Powerpoint makes us stupid,” now at the helm of the defense department, Lukeman said TECOM was also working to minimize slide-lecture briefings and presentations.

“This is what we’re trying to get away from, is sit in a classroom and get taught,” he said. “The other thing that we’ve shifted to is, where possible, we want for Marines to get taught by other Marines … We’re going with the method of having a unit leader discussion over having a class.”

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These photos show what our veteran presidents looked like in uniform

Twenty-six of the 44 American Presidents served in the Armed Forces of the United States. Most served in the Army or Navy, and they all looked pretty sharp in uniform.


1. George Washington: Revolutionary War (Continental Army)

The hater’s guide to the US Army
You wish you were that stoic.

Washington’s greatness stems from his precedents. He set the standard for civilian control of the military by resigning as General of the Army before becoming President. Photography wasn’t invented during Washington’s lifetime, but you can rest assured that the image of the man was larger than life.

2. James Monroe: Revolutionary War (Continental Army)

President Monroe also served during the Revolution and was the last founding father to serve as president. Unfortunately, no photos of him exist, either in uniform or out. The foreign policy laid out by Monroe still bears his name. The Monroe Doctrine states that any effort by European nations to colonize or interfere with affairs in the Western Hemisphere would be viewed as acts of aggression requiring U.S. intervention.

3. Andrew Jackson: War of 1812, Seminole War (Army)

The hater’s guide to the US Army

This photo may not be of President Jackson in uniform, but is it not amazing that there is a photograph of Andrew Jackson at all? Jackson’s legendary defeat of the British at the Battle of New Orleans propelled him into the White House.

4. William Henry Harrison: Indian Campaigns, War of 1812 (Army)

The same reason that a photo of President Jackson in uniform doesn’t exist applies to William Henry Harrison, as well as President John Tyler. When they served, photography just wasn’t invented yet. Harrison subdued the Shawnee chief Tecumseh. During the War of 1812, Harrison pushed the British out of Ohio and Indiana, recaptured Detroit and successfully invaded Canada.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

5. John Tyler: War of 1812 (Army)

Amazingly, daguerreotypes (a kind of early photography which used silver and mercury) exist of some early presidents, including Harrison and Tyler. Tyler organized a militia to defend Richmond, Virginia during the War of 1812 if a British attack ever came. It didn’t, but the British were in nearby Hampton, threatening Richmond.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

6. Zachary Taylor: War of 1812, Black Hawk War, Second Seminole War, Mexican-American War (Army)

Gen. Taylor served the U.S. in a number of wars. It was almost a given that someone who served so masterfully that the press compared him to George Washington and Andrew Jackson would also be President like those generals before him.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

7. Franklin Pierce: Mexican War (Army)

Pierce was a Brigadier General in Winfield Scott’s army fighting in the Mexican-American War. His experience in the Battle of Contreras was less-than-stellar, however. His horse tripped and he was thrown groin-first into his saddle. The horse fell onto Pierce’s knee, giving him a permanent injury.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

8. Abraham Lincoln: Black Hawk War (Indian Wars) (Army)

Unfortunately, the nascent technology of photography couldn’t capture Abraham Lincoln in his Illinois Militia uniform. He was 23 at the time. The first known photo of Lincoln is below. The then-36-year-old was just elected to a two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

9. Andrew Johnson: Civil War (Army)

Johnson was made a Brigadier General when President Lincoln appointed him military governor of Tennessee. He did not have full control of the state until 1863. There are very few images of Johnson in uniform, and no photographs exist.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

10. Ulysses S. Grant: Mexican War and Civil War (Army)

Grant was the architect of the Confederacy’s final defeat. Just a year after President Lincoln gave Grant control of all Union Armies, Grant oversaw the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House. He gave generous terms to all rebels and began the long Reconstruction of the South.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

11. Rutherford B. Hayes: Civil War (Army)

Hayes joined the Union Army after the shelling of Fort Sumter and was commissioned a Major. One of the Privates under his command was a young William McKinley. He served honorably throughout the war, garnering attention from General Grant, who wrote:

“His conduct on the field was marked by conspicuous gallantry as well as the display of qualities of a higher order than that of mere personal daring.”

The hater’s guide to the US Army

12. James A. Garfield: Civil War (Army)

Garfield had no military training but still received a colonel’s commission and was tasked with raising a regiment of Ohioans to drive the Confederates out of Eastern Kentucky. Garfield was so successful, he was promoted to General and later fought at the Battle of Shiloh.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

13. Chester A. Arthur: Civil War (Army)

Arthur was appointed Quartermaster General of the State of New York. He was in charge of provisioning and housing New York troops.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

14. Benjamin Harrison: Civil War (Army)

Harrison was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in 1862 and rose to Brig. Gen. by 1865. He led armies with Gen. William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

15. William McKinley: Civil War (Army)

McKinley, unlike most of the men on this list, started his career as an enlisted Private. He was promoted to Commissary Sergeant before his regiment was sent East. He fought at the Battle of Antietam, where his actions earned him a commission to 2nd Lieutenant.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

16. Theodore Roosevelt: Spanish-American War (Army)

Theodore Roosevelt served in the New York National Guard, quickly becoming his unit’s commanding officer. When war broke out in Cuba, Roosevelt resigned from his civilian job and quickly raised the 1st U.S. Volunteer Regiment. His actions in Cuba earned Roosevelt the Medal of Honor, the only president to receive it.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

17. Harry Truman: World War I (Army)

Truman had poor eyesight and couldn’t get into West Point, so he enlisted in the Missouri National Guard. He memorized the eye chart to pass the vision test. Eventually elected Lieutenant, Truman led men in battle in WWI Europe. During one encounter where his men began to run away, Truman let out a string of profanity so surprising his men stayed to fight.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

18. Dwight Eisenhower: World War I and World War II (Army)

The Supreme Allied Commander and General of the Army never actually saw combat. He was masterful at strategy, planning, and logistics. It was almost a given that Ike would run for President.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

19. John F. Kennedy: World War II (Navy)

After his PT boat was struck by a Japanese destroyer in WWII, he and his crew swam to an island three miles away. Kennedy, with an injured back, carried a wounded crewmember to the island via a life jacket strap clenched between his teeth.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

20. Lyndon B. Johnson: World War II (Navy)

Johnson was on the Staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Australia in 1942. While there, he was also personally reporting to President Roosevelt on the status of the Pacific Southwest.

The hater’s guide to the US Army
The White House released this photo October 14, 1966, showing Lt. Cmdr. Lyndon Johnson in the headquarters of Gen. Douglas MacArthur near Melbourne, Australia, in June 1942. The young Navy officer is pointing to New Guinea where he received the Silver Star on a bombing mission.

21. Richard Nixon: World War II (Navy)

Nixon was a birthright Quaker and could have been exempted from service and from the draft. Instead, Nixon joined the Navy in 1942. After some time in Iowa, he requested a transfer to the Pacific where he was made Officer in Charge of the Combat Air Transport Command at Guadalcanal and the Solomons.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

22. Gerald Ford: World War II (Navy)

Ford signed up for the Navy after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He served aboard aircraft carriers in the third and fifth fleets. He fought at the Philippine Sea, Wake Island, and LeEyte landings, among other places.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

23. Jimmy Carter: Cold War-Era (Navy)

President Carter is also a nuclear physicist who helped develop the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarine program. He worked on the USS Seawolf, the second nuclear submarine ever built. Carter is the only president to qualify for submarine duty, which is why the Navy deemed it appropriate to name a submarine the USS Jimmy Carter.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

24. Ronald Reagan: World War II (Army Air Corps)

Originally landing in the Army Cavalry, he was transferred to the Army Air Forces’ First Motion Picture Unit and sent to the Provisional Task Force Show Unit called “This Is the Army.” He also managed the Sixth War Loan Drive in 1944.

The hater’s guide to the US Army
No wonder we elected this guy twice.

25. George H.W. Bush: World War II (Navy)

Bush joined the Navy shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. At age 19, he was the youngest naval aviator to date. Bush was a brave bomber pilot and was shot down after hitting Chichijima. He flew 58 missions over the Philippine Sea and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to his ship, the USS San Jacinto.

The hater’s guide to the US Army
Lt. George H.W. Bush

26. George W. Bush: Vietnam War era (Texas Air National Guard)

The younger Bush was commissioned in 1968. He flew F-102 Convair Delta Daggers. He was honorably discharged in 1974.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

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This retired Navy pilot rocks the nation with speed metal karaoke at 82 years old

John Hetlinger left the Navy pilot ranks for aerospace engineering. He succeeded in that field, working for NASA on the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA before retiring in his late 60s.


That’s when he got into karaoke, singing at karaoke bars in pleated shorts and pants and nice polo shirts. He’s apparently got a thing for polos with toucans, which is kind of sweet.

Oh, but the songs he sings are heavy metal, and Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” appears to be one of his favorites to perform:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfR5O2PXzfc
That’s Hetlinger on his recently aired episode of “America’s Got Talent” where he wowed the judges with his performance. You can see Hetlinger perform a longer version of the song, where he includes some profanity, in this 2014 show from when he was a spry 80 years old.
(H/T NPR)
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North Korea to the US: You can kiss a nuke-free Korean peninsula goodbye

More defiant North Korean nuclear weapons tests will be dependent on US moves in the Korean peninsula, the Hermit Kingdom announced on Tuesday.


North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Washington had ruined the possibility of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports.

The hater’s guide to the US Army

Earlier this month, the Pentagon upped the ante by agreeing to equip South Korea with a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery — one of the most advanced missile defense systems in the world.

Pressure to deploy THAAD was spurred after Pyongyang tested its fourth nuclear bomb on January 6 and then launched a long-range rocket on February 7.

The hater’s guide to the US Army
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor. | AiirSource Military | YouTube

Speaking to reporters at a meeting in Laos, Ri claimed that Pyongyang was a “responsible nuclear state and would not use its atomic arms unless threatened,” Reuters reports.

However, the audacious tests have yet to cease.

Last week the Hermit Kingdom fired three ballistic missiles, equipped with a range (between 300 and 360 miles) capable of reaching all of South Korea.

And the latest show of force took form in a ballistic missile test simulating a strike on South Korean ports and airfields, which are heavily operated by US military forces. Currently the US maintains approximately 28,500 troops in South Korea.

Earlier this month, South Korea’s defense ministry said THAAD will be located in Seongju, in the southeastern part of the country. In conjunction with the US, Seoul plans to have the unique air-defense system operational by the end of 2017.

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Israel honors US soldier who defied Nazi captors: ‘We are all Jews here’

U.S. Army Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds was captured with thousands of others during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge in 1944. In all, he spent 100 days as a prisoner of war at Stalag IXA POW camp near Ziegenhain, Germany.


The hater’s guide to the US Army
Stalag IXA circa 1942

As the highest ranking non-commissioned officer, he spoke for the group. When it came time for the Nazis to implement the policy of separating the Jewish prisoners and sending them off to labor camps where their survival was unlikely, Edmonds would have none of it. He ordered all his men to step forward and self-identify. The camp commander didn’t believe it.

“We are all Jews here,” he said.

Even when his captors put a gun to his head, the Tennessee native wouldn’t budge. His will was stronger than the Nazi’s threats. Edmonds continued, telling the Nazi camp commandant:

“If you are going to shoot, you are going to have to shoot all of us because we know who you are and you’ll be tried for war crimes when we win this war.”

The hater’s guide to the US Army
Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds

His defiant stand saved 200 Jewish lives. He posthumously received the highest honor Israel gives non-Jews who risked their lives to save those of Jewish people during WWII. He is one of four Americans, and the first GI, to receive this honor.

“Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds seemed like an ordinary American soldier, but he had an extraordinary sense of responsibility and dedication to his fellow human beings,” said Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and memorial. “The choices and actions of Master Sgt. Edmonds set an example for his fellow American soldiers as they stood united against the barbaric evil of the Nazis.”

The names of those who risked it all to save the Jewish people during the Holocaust are engraved down an avenue in a Jerusalem memorial called Yad Vashem.  It is the Jewish people’s living memorial to the Holocaust, safeguarding the memories of the past and teaching the importance of remembering to future generations.

The hater’s guide to the US Army
Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem

The honor the Jewish nation bestows on such people is “Righteous Among the Nations,” created to convey the gratitude of the State of Israel and the Jewish people to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Edmonds joins the ranks of 25,685 others, including German industrialist Oskar Schindler and Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.

Edmonds died in 1985. While in captivity, Master Sgt. Edmonds kept a couple of diaries of his thoughts, as well as the names and addresses of some of his fellow captors.

The hater’s guide to the US Army
An ID tag from Stalag IXA (Glenn Hekking via Pegasus Archive)

 

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Ukraine could get this deadly US missile to defend against Russian tanks

Reports emerged July 31 that the US is planning to send defensive weapons to Ukraine in order to deter Russia, which has managed and funded rebels in the Donbas.


The plan includes sending Javelin anti-tank missile systems, and possibly anti-aircraft and other weapons systems.

Developed by Raytheon in 1989, the FGM-148 Javelin is a large, shoulder-mounted, infrared-guided missile system capable of piercing 600mm to 800mm steel armor.

The Javelin is a medium-range missile system that fires up to 1.5 miles, weighs about 50 pounds, and costs about $126,000 — plus $78,000 for each missile.

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Army photo by Spc. Patrick Kirby, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division

Once the soldier has locked onto a target using the infrared guided system, he or she simply squeezes the trigger and then can take cover, according to the National Interest, because it’s a fire-and-forget system. This means the operator doesn’t have to make any adjustments to the missile flight after firing — as they do with most long-range systems.

Ultimately, it’s “one of the premier portable anti-tank missile systems in the world,” the National Interest said.

Reports have shown that Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas have Russian T-34, T-64, variants of T-72B, and even T-90 tanks.

Javelins can take out all of these, except possibly the T-72B3Ms and T-90s. The latter two sport new Relikt armor, which consists of an explosive layer of armor on top of another layer. They also have grenade and flare decoys that can divert missiles.

Either way, the Javelin has never been tested against Relikt armor, and therefore it’s unknown if the missiles can take out the T-90s and T-72B3Ms.

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T-90A main battle tank. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin.)

In any event, President Donald Trump still needs to sign off on the plan — which could take months — to send Ukraine the Javelin and other defensive weapons.

There also remains speculation about the plan’s intentions.  “This idea doesn’t flow from a policy or strategy” and could be a political move rather than military one, Michael Kofman, a Wilson Center senior fellow, told the Washington Post.

Questions also remain about whether or not providing weapons to Kiev will inflame the conflict.  While France and Germany are concerned that fighting will increase, some US officials, such as Kurt Volker, the US special representative to Ukraine, think it will decrease the fighting.

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Dept. of Defense photo by Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Jackson

Russia — which has used Syria to test out its new armaments — and even some US generals, however, are champing at the bit to test how the east and west weapons match up against each other.

At least 10,090 people — including 2,777 civilians — have been killed, and nearly 24,000 have been wounded, through May 15, according to the UN. More than 1.6 million people have been internally displaced.

Watch the Javelin in action:

(Gung Ho Vids | YouTube)
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US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

The sun has set over the scrubby Savannah. The moon is full. It is time for Ryan Tate and his men to go to work. In camouflage fatigues, they check their weapons and head to the vehicles.


Somewhere beyond the ring of light cast by the campfire, out in the vast dark expanse of thornbushes, baobab trees, rocks and grass, are the rhinos. Somewhere, too, may be the poachers who will kill them to get their precious horns.

The job of Tate, a 32-year-old former US Marine, and the group of US military veterans he has assembled in a remote private reserve in the far north of South Africa is simple: keep the rhinos and the rest of the game in the bush around their remote base alive.

The men are not mercenaries, or park rangers –they work for Tate’s Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife (Vetpaw), a US-based nonprofit organization funded by private donations. All have seen combat, often with elite military units, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

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DoD Photo by Staff Sgt. Shejal Pulivarti

Though equipped with vehicles, trail bikes, assault rifles, sniper suits, and radios, the most important weapons in the war against poaching, Tate believes, are the skills and experiences his team gained on successive deployments in conflict zones over the last decade and a half.

“We are here for free. We are not going anywhere. Whether it is cold or hot, day or night… we want to work with anyone who needs help,” Tate says.

The initiative is not without controversy. Some experts fear “green militarization” and an arms race between poachers and gamekeepers. Others believe deploying American former soldiers to fight criminals in South Africa undermines the troubled country’s already fragile state.

But the scale of the challenge of protecting South Africa’s rhinos is clear to everyone, with a rise in poaching in recent years threatening to reverse conservation gains made over decades.

Though rhino horns are made of keratin, the same substance as fingernails, a kilo is worth up to $65,000. The demand comes from East Asia, where rhino horn is seen as a potent natural medicine and status symbol, and is met by international networks linking dirt-poor villages in southern Africa with traffickers and eventually buyers. Patchy law enforcement, corruption and poverty combine to exacerbate the problem.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons

In South Africa, home to 80% of the world’s wild rhinos, only 13 were poached in 2007. In 2015, the total was nearly 1,200, though losses have declined slightly since.

“These criminal gangs are armed to the teeth, well-funded and part of transnational syndicates who will stop at nothing,” a South African government spokesman said in February.

Tate founded Vetpaw after seeing a documentary about poaching and the deaths of park rangers in Africa. His team now works on a dozen private game reserves covering a total of around 200,000 hectares in Limpopo, the country’s northernmost province. One advantage for local landowners is the protection heavily armed combat veterans provide against the violent break-ins feared by so many South Africans, particularly on isolated rural farmsteads. The team has also run training courses for local guides and security staff.

But if one aim of Vetpaw is to counter poaching, another is to help combat veterans in the US, where former servicemen suffer high levels of unemployment and mental illness.

“Everyone gets PTSD when they come back from war … you are never going to get the brotherhood, the intensity again … [There are] all these veterans with billions of dollars of training and the government doesn’t use them. I saw a need in two places and just put them together,” says Tate.

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Vetpaw operates primarily in Limpopo, the northern-most province of South Africa (in red). Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Vetpaw base in the bush in Limpopo, though considerably less spartan than most “forward operating bases”, is familiar to anyone who has spent time with US forces. There is a rack of helmets and body armor, a detailed map pinned to the wall, and banners with the insignia of US Special Forces hung above a dining table. There is the banter, and the jargon. The team talks of tactical missions, intel, and “bad guys”.

Despite lines on a whiteboard reading, “In the absence of a plan move towards the sound of gunfire and kill everything,” Tate says he has selected combat veterans because they will resist the temptation to use lethal force. Poachers are told to put down their arms, and then handed over to the police.

“This is textbook counterinsurgency here. It’s unconventional warfare,” says Kevin, a British-born veteran who quit US Elite Special Forces last year after a decade and a half largely on active duty, frequently in close quarter combat. “Shooting and killing is easy. The hardest thing is not shooting but figuring stuff out… if you kill someone do you turn a family, a village against you?” Like other members of Vetpaw, Kevin did not want to be identified by his full name.

The thinking is rooted in the “hearts and minds” approach developed by the US military a decade ago when senior officers realized their massive firepower was winning battles, but not campaigns.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Tate says poachers coerce local communities into providing safe houses or other support – much as US army officers once explained assistance given to insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Francois Meyer, who grew up in northern Limpopo and runs a local conservation NGO that works with Vetpaw, says villages vary. “In some, the poachers are seen as heroes. They give out money. There is a kind of Robin Hood syndrome. Taking from the rich white man to give to the poor. But in others, the poachers get the living shit kicked out of them,” Meyer said.

There is little consensus on what response to the problem of poaching might work best, and fierce debate rages among conservationists, farmers, and officials.

A moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horn in South Africa implemented in 2009 was controversially overturned by a court in April. Though there has been an increase in arrest of poachers, there are few convictions and “a lack of political will” means many of the “kingpins” remain untouched.

The complexities of the issue seem distant to the veterans out on patrol in remote northern Limpopo, high on a rocky crag, listening to the grunt of a leopard or the cough of the baboons in the gathering night.

“After what I’ve done, I couldn’t just go and do a nine to five. I’ve never had nightmares or flashbacks or anything … [but] after years of doing what I’ve done, this is good for the soul,” says Kevin, the former Green Beret. “It’s in a good cause and you get to watch the African sunset.”

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These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy

Military heroes aren’t all the spit-and-polish types like Gen. Robert E. Lee or Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz. These five men were great leaders who also knew how to party with the best of them:


1. Fleet Adm. Ernest J. King

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Photo: US Navy

Fleet Adm. Ernest J. King was the man who took over the U.S. Navy on Dec. 23, 1941, just a few weeks after the Pacific fleet was crippled at Pearl Harbor and while the Atlantic fleet was hard-pressed fighting against Nazi subs. King was the Navy’s Dwight D. Eisenhower, carefully selecting strategies, technologies, and commanders to win the war at sea.

But King’s reputation wasn’t nearly as clean as his land-based counterpart. King was known for visiting other officers’ wives before and during the war as well as being the “d-mnest party man” in an illegal drinking club at the Navy’s flight school during Prohibition in 1927.

2. Gen. George Washington

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Photo: Public Domain

We’ve previously discussed Gen. George Washington’s hard-partying habits, including his epic birthday bash at Valley Forge. He had refused a $15,000 annual salary for his services in the war, asking instead that Congress simply pick up his costs. Then he racked up $450,000 in expenses, a fair portion of which was rich food and booze.

But when a general wins a war against one of the world’s most powerful empires, things like Congress-funded parties tend to get swept under the rug. Congress readily paid the bill Washington racked up, and then begged him to please serve as president. But when he took that position, Congress gave him a salary and told him to pay for his parties on his own dime.

3. Maj. Gen. Ethan Allen

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Maj. Gen. Ethan Allen demands the surrender of Fort Ticonderoga. Photo: New York Public Library Digital Library

Maj. Gen. Ethan Allen was a huge part of America’s survival early in the Revolutionary War. He and his troops captured Forts Ticonderoga and Crown Point, allowing America to limit British movement in New York and prevent an invasion from Loyalist Canada.

But Allen’s route to heroism was an odd one. As a young man, he was kicked out of two communities, one in Conneticut and another in Massachusetts, for his hard drinking and profanity. He then settled into the Green Mountains and started a militia, the Green Mountain Boys, who knew him as much for his legendary binges as for his military leadership.

4. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mathew B. Brady

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant entered the Civil War as a colonel but would be the General-in-Chief of the Union Army by war’s end. He won most of the battles he was in, at times through masterful strategy and tactics but occasionally by simply advancing his troops until Confederate units were overrun.

Grant’s critics claimed he was both insane and an alcoholic. It was Grant’s drinking that forced him to resign from the Army in 1854, keeping him out of uniform until the outbreak of the Civil War.

5. Winston Churchill

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Photo: US Army Signal Corps

“The British Bulldog” in World War II cut the deals that got American equipment into the fight before the U.S. itself entered. He inspired his people and rallied them around the Union Jack and promised Hitler a vicious fight if he crossed the channel. British forces under his leadership pushed back against the Axis advance and eventually rolled into Berlin with the U.S. and Russia.

Sir Winston Churchill was an equally successful partier. When he lost re-election in 1945, he went on a consolation holiday with his doctor and daughter where the trio drank 96 bottles of champagne in two weeks. His normal drinking was rigorous too. A journalist tried to emulate Churchill’s daily regimen last year and was forced to throw in the towel after a single day.

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The top 5 weapons the US Navy needs right now

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As weaponeers, budgeteers, and lawmakers wage their annual death match over the defense budget, here’s some input from the margins of Fight Club. And yes, I know the first and second rules of Fight Club. But no one obeys them inside the Beltway, and they yield to the seventh and eighth rules anyway.

It’s tough to winnow the U.S. Navy’s priorities list down to five weapon systems. However, I applied a secret method to come up with the definitive, incontrovertible list of the Top 5 Weapons the U.S. Navy Needs Now. The list employs such metrics as a system’s national-level importance, its capacity to multiply the fleet’s offensive and defensive fighting power, and its ability to exploit enduring enemy weaknesses at manageable cost to the United States. This is science, remember. Don’t be a science denier!!!

One caveat: exotic weaponry like lasers and railguns is conspicuously absent from this list. These prospective game-changers will doubtless qualify—once they stop hovering along the frontiers of science fiction and start fulfilling their promise at fleet air and missile defense. It feels a wee bit premature to jump on that bandwagon—the potential of ray guns and other golly-gee armaments notwithstanding. Now, onward. In reverse order:

5. Offensive minelayers. We make much of the U.S. Navy’s vulnerability to sea mines, but rivals are acutely vulnerable as well. As mine-warfare expert Scott Truver aptly notes, mine countermeasures is an orphan in want of a champion. Offensive mine warfare is an orphan of an orphan. That’s a shame, as the option of closing straits, harbors, and other narrow seas at low cost could come in handy in a host of contingencies. Manifold airborne, surface, and subsurface platforms can lay mines. Mine warfare should find its champion soonest—and provide that champion with the implements to make life tough for prospective foes.

4. Long-range combat aircraft. We may exaggerate the range problem, whereby shore-based aircraft can smite aircraft-carrier strike groups long before these groups close within reach of enemy shores. No one assumed carrier task forces would pound away at the Japanese home islands during World War II while remaining safely out of harm’s way. U.S. forces had to fight their way into the theater, wresting control of sea and sky from Japan before exploiting that control to strike at the island empire.

Still, long range opens up new tactical and operational vistas for American commanders while attenuating the effectiveness of enemy counterbattery fire. Maximum effective firing range isn’t the same as maximum firing range. Weapons typically start to lose accuracy at extreme range. The capacity to operate around the outer limits of, say, Chinese anti-access weaponry would buttress deterrence in peacetime and combat power in wartime—a net bonus for U.S. commanders.

Long range also lets airmen turn geography to advantage. If U.S. Navy and Marine warbirds can operate from temporary “lilypad” airfields erected on islands around the Asian periphery, they can convert these islands into unsinkable—though also immobile—aircraft carriers. Let’s harness maritime geography for operational gain.

3. More attack submarines. This one may seem like a cop-out, but the undersea fleet desperately needs more attack boats. Joseph Stalin isn’t one of my go-to sources of strategic wisdom, but he was correct to note that quantity boasts a quality all its own. A simple differential equation tells the tale: Cold War-era Los Angeles-class subs are being retired faster than new-build Virginia-class boats replace them. As a result the submarine fleet may dwindle to as few as 41 boats in the coming years. That may sound like a lot, but under the prevailing maintenance and training cycle, it means commanders can count on something like 28 boats at any time…to police the entire globe and face down aggression.

That’s a serious shortfall. Like mine countermeasures, antisubmarine warfare is an enduring weakness of potential antagonists like China’s navy. By all means let’s build more Virginias. Or, let’s go back to the U.S. Navy’s conventional submarining past. Japan’s navy operates a fleet of diesel boats acclaimed the world’s finest. They’re eminently suitable for patrol grounds in crucial theaters like, well, Asia. To add numbers of hulls, why not buy some of these relatively inexpensive craft and use them to constitute a permanent, forward-deployed allied squadron alongside Japanese boats. Let’s buy American—and Japanese.

2. Modern anti-ship cruise missiles. Our navy suffers from a severe deficit of cruise-missile firepower. Cruise missiles of the anti-ship variety, I mean. The navy ditched an anti-ship variant of the Tomahawk cruise missile two decades ago, going all-in on land attack, while the elderly Harpoon missile finds itself outranged by virtually every serious foe out there. That means missile-armed enemy ships, subs, and planes can lob missiles at U.S. naval task forces long before American units can reply. U.S. forces will have to close to missile range under fire, in all likelihood taking losses as they do. That’s a perilous position for any fleet—and one that demands to be remedied.

Surface-fleet chieftains are saying the right things. They’ve started talking about “distributed lethality,” meaning arming as many ships as possible—not just cruisers and destroyers but amphibious transports, and even logistics vessels—for defensive and offensive purposes. A fine aspiration—provided we have something to arm surface vessels, subs, aircraft and even bodies of Marines ashore with. Distributed lethality is a worthy concept. Whether it’s a neo-Tomahawk anti-ship missile, a newfangled long-range anti-ship missile, or something else, fielding a new “bird”—and thus righting the range imbalance—must top fleet designers’ tactical to-do list.

1. Replacement ballistic-missile subs. Which leaves top honors on this list to a replacement for navy’s aging Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs). Nuclear deterrence is a matter of national survival, and the undersea component of the U.S. “second-strike” capability remains its most survivable—and thus credible—component. SSBNs are strategic assets of utmost importance.

Small wonder top navy leaders have designated the replacement “boomer” now on the drawing board the nation’s foremost shipbuilding priority. They have warned, moreover, that all other procurements may have to yield to submarine construction unless Congress funds the new SSBNs through a special account outside the normal shipbuilding budget. Yet anchoring the nuclear deterrent is that critical. That makes the Ohio successor #1 on my—and probably anyone’s—list of U.S. Navy acquisitions.

James Holmes is Professor of Strategy at the Naval War College and coauthor of Red Star over the Pacific, an Atlantic Monthly Best Book of 2010. He is RCD’s new national security columnist. The views voiced here are his alone.

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This article originally appeared at Real Clear Defense Copyright 2015. Follow Real Clear Defense on Twitter.

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General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis got Trump to rethink his position on torture in under an hour

President-elect Donald Trump often asserted that “torture works” on the campaign trail. But one meeting with legendary Marine Gen. James Mattis appears to have made him rethink that stance.


On Saturday, Trump met with the retired four-star general at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course for about an hour to discuss the possibility Mattis could be tapped to serve as defense secretary.

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General Mattis speaks to Marines in 2007. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

Details about the private conversation are hard to come by, but Trump did reveal an interesting bit Tuesday to reporters at The New York Times when asked about waterboarding.

From the Times:

“He said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful,'” Mr. Trump said, describing the general’s view of torturing terrorism suspects. He added that Mr. Mattis found more value in building trust and rewarding cooperation with terror suspects: “‘Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I’ll do better.'” He added: “I was very impressed by that answer.”

Torture, Mr. Trump said, is “not going to make the kind of a difference that a lot of people are thinking.”

It amounts to a “remarkable” reversal for the president-elect, as the Times put it. It also somewhat contradicts the position of  Trump’s national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has said that “all options are on the table.” Before he campaigned for Trump, however, Flynn criticized the practice.

If indeed Trump has changed his tune on the use of torture, that’s good news to a number of national-security experts who expressed concerns in light of Trump’s election win.

“I don’t think it’s going to come back,” Tom Nichols, a professor at the Naval War College speaking of his personal views, said recently. “But that’s more hope than anything else.”

Mattis appears to be the frontrunner for the job of defense secretary. Trump told the Times he was “seriously considering” the retired officer for the position.

The debate over waterboarding in enhanced interrogations has a larger legal barrier than what President George W. Bush faced in the past. While Bush authorized the practice after the 9/11 terror attacks through legal memos, President Barack Obama ordered the practice to stop through an executive order. That order was later codified into law in 2015.

Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in March that the use of waterboarding is “inconsistent with the values of our nation.” Dunford previously served as Mattis’ deputy at 1st Marine Division.

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The brief history of the Panjandrum, the Brit D-Day weapon that failed miserably

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The Great Panjandrum | YouTube


When it comes to weapons failure, the panjandrum, or “The Great Panjandrum,” is right near the top. Designed by the British during WWII, it was basically two wheels held together by a bomb and included rocket propulsion. The plan was to break out the panjandrum on D-Day in order to penetrate the Nazi’s coastal defense and fortifications, the Atlantic Wall.

The Panjandrum was projected to break through the concrete Atlantic Wall in order to create a gap wide enough for tanks to penetrate. The theory seemed flawless and the weapon was thought to be feasible and an effective. It would allow the British to storm the beach without sending a large numbers of soldiers to face lethal enemy fire. However, a plan and execution are two very different things in war.

However, after a few modifications, the panjandrum proved during its final test to have the reliability of a last-minute high school mouse-trap car project. The result: one dead dog and one dead project.

As the rockets continued to fire the Panjandrum spun erratically, and people (generals included) went running for cover. The cameraman was almost bowled over, and eventually the machine disintegrated. The dog of one of the army officers present chased down one of the rockets strewn on the beach and was killed by it.

Head over to War History Online to read more and check out videos of the failed test and a recreation of the prototype from 2009 on the 65th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

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North Korea threatens missile strike on US military in Guam

North Korea says its seriously considering a plan to fire nuclear-capable missiles at Guam, according to state-run media.


A spokesman for North Korea’s military told KCNA that it would carry out a pre-emptive operation if there were signs of US provocation.

The warning comes after President Donald Trump warned North Korea it would be met with “fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the US in a marked escalation of rhetoric.

The statement from North Korea mentioned using the Hwasong-12, the intermediate range missile tested in May. North Korea said at the time the missile can carry a heavy nuclear warhead, and independent analysis seems to fit with their statement.

The US military keeps a continuous presence of nuclear-capable bombers in Guam, which would make it an attractive target for a nuclear strike. North Korea specifically mentioned these bombers “which get on the nerves of DPRK and threaten and blackmail it through their frequent visits to the sky above Korea.”

CNN’s  Jim Sciutto says   that the  US flew  two  B1-B bombers over Korean Peninsula Mon out of Anderson AFB in Guam, part of “continuous bomber presence.”

But the US maintains a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile interceptor in Guam specifically made to protect from medium-range missiles. THAAD has performed well in test conditions but never intercepted a shot fired in anger.

Earlier, Pyongyang said it was ready to give Washington a “severe lesson” with its strategic nuclear force in response to any US military action.