The ultimate guide to having heated political conversations - We Are The Mighty
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The ultimate guide to having heated political conversations

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How long the US military would last in a war against the rest of the world

What would happen if the U.S. found itself facing off against the rest of the world? Not just its traditional rivals, but what if it had to fight off its allies like the United Kingdom, France, and South Korea as well?


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The British are coming! The British are coming! Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach

In short, America would stomp them. Especially if it pulled back to the continental U.S. and made its stand there.

First, the U.S. has the world’s largest Navy, by a lot. With ships displacing 3,415,893 tons, the mass of the U.S. Navy is larger than the next 8 largest navies combined. And the American ships, as a whole, are more technologically advanced than those of other countries. For instance, only America and France field nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. France has just one while America has 10 with an 11th on the way.*

And that’s before the U.S. Coast Guard gets into the mix. While the Coast Guard isn’t an expeditionary force, it could use its C-130s and other sensor platforms to give the Navy more eyes across the battlespace. It’s counterterrorism operators could protect government leaders and secure American ports.

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A U.S. Navy carrier sails next to a British raft aircraft carrier. Photo: US Navy Airman Robert Baker

So attacking America across the water is a horrible idea. (Got that North Korea and China?)

Second, America’s air power is the strongest in the world. Currently, it has approximately 14,000 planes and helicopters spread across the five services. That’s more aircraft than the next 7 countries combined.

The world’s only operational fifth-generation fighter, the F-22, would conduct constant air patrols across the land borders of the U.S. to prevent any incursion by enemy bombers. The Army’s Patriot missile launchers would help stop enemy jets or missiles and Stinger/Avenger missile crews would shoot down any low-flying planes or helicopters.

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Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Oelrich

So the rest of the world’s militaries have to fight their way across a land border with the U.S. while their air support is falling in flames around them.

Guess what happens next?

The Army and Marine Corps’ almost 9,000 tanks would team up with thousands of Stryker Anti-Tank Guided Missile vehicles, Apache and Cobra helicopters, and anti-tank missile teams carrying Javelins and TOW missiles to annihilate enemy armor.

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A U.S. Army Stryker combat vehicle firing a TOW missile. Photo: US Army Pfc. Victor Ayala

The world’s most advanced tanks, like the Leopard or the Merkava, would be tough nuts to crack. Artillery, aircraft, and anti-tank infantry would have to work together to bring these down. But most tanks worldwide are older U.S. and Soviet tanks like the Patton or the T-72 that would fall quickly to missile teams or Abrams firing from behind cover.

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M1 Abrams can kill most things. Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Julio McGraw

The other combat troops trying to make their way through the shattered remains of their air support and the burning hulks that were once their tanks would find themselves facing the most technologically advanced troops in the world.

American soldiers are getting weapon sights that let them pick out enemies obscured by dust and smoke. Their armor and other protective gear are top notch and getting better.

Chances are, even infantry from France, Britain, or Russia would have trouble pushing through the lines in these conditions. But even if they did, the Marines and 101st Airborne Division would be able to swoop in on helicopters and Ospreys while the 82nd Airborne Division could drop thousands of reinforcements from planes to close any openings.

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And all of this is before America becomes desperate enough to launch any nuclear weapons. If the enemy actually did make it through, they’d face nuclear strikes every time they massed outside of a city. And their forces still trying to reach the border would be easy pickings.

Minuteman III missiles are designed to strike targets far from American shores but they could annihilate an advancing army moving from Houston to Dallas just as easily. Navy Trident missiles could be fired from submarines in the Gulf of Mexico to destroy units waiting for their turn to attack at the border. Northern Mexico and southern Canada would become irradiated zones.

So don’t worry America, you are already behind one hell of an impenetrable wall.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said that only America field nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The Charles de Gaulle, France’s only aircraft carrier, is also nuclear-powered. WATM regrets this error.
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An Air Force officer flew a plane into a hurricane for the first time on a bet

Col. Joseph Duckworth was one of the Air Force’s most skilled pilots. Although a flyer during World War II, he never saw combat behind the stick of any aircraft. Despite that lack of combat experience, he would go on to be one of the USAF’s most legendary pilots. 

The reason for his fame stemmed from his technical knowledge, knowledge that allowed him to become the first person to fly into a hurricane, all the way to the eye, in a single-engine plane and live to tell about it. He did it all on a bet.

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Col. Joseph Duckworth at his desk at Columbus Army Air Field in 1942. In Columbus, he was known simply as “Joe Duck.” Today Duckworth is known as the “father of Air Force instrument flying.” Photo by: Army Air Corps photo

In 1941, flying in bad weather was hard. A lot of pilots died because they couldn’t actually use the instrument panel in the cockpit. This may sound insane by today’s standards, but according to Duckworth himself, even pilot trainers didn’t know the instruments. 

The weather, one pilot told Air Force Magazine, killed more American pilots than the enemy ever did. 

Col. Duckworth joined the Army Air Corps in 1927 and became a civilian pilot shortly afterward. In 1940, he was recalled to active duty. He was immediately surprised and appalled at how new pilots were being trained before going off to war. It was almost suicidal. 

“The first shock I received was the almost total ignorance of instrument flying throughout the Air Corps,” Duckworth said after the war. “Cadets were being given flight training as if there were no instruments and then directed to fly an aircraft across the Atlantic at night. Losses in combat were less than those sustained from ignorance of instrument flying alone.”

Duckworth, upon taking over training the Army Air Forces, implemented a system to train pilots on all instruments. Estimates say this training saved the lives of thousands of Air Force pilots worldwide and earned Duckworth the honorific title of “father of modern-day Air Force instrument flying.”

In 1943, Duckworth entered the world history books when he flew an AT-6 single-engine training aircraft into a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Without permission from his superior officers on base, he took off from Bryant Field in Texas and flew right toward the eye of a category-1 hurricane. 

The bet came on the morning of July 27, 1943 over coffee in the mess hall at Bryant Field. It turned out to be more of a bar bet. With a surprise hurricane on the way, the U.S. Army wanted to move its aircraft out of the storm’s path. 

A visiting group of British pilots stationed at the base and taking instrument flying classes scoffed at the idea. The weather back home was often bad. Back in England, they flew in storms and their planes weathered the rains all the time. They laughed at the fragility of the American air forces in the face of the oncoming storm. 

Then-Lt. Col. Duckworth took exception to their comments, so he bet the British aviators that he could take a single-engine trainer up, fly through the hurricane and come home with no issues. As the commander of Bryant Field, he knew he would be able to get a plane up, so long as no one above him knew what he was doing. 

He got a navigator, Lt. Ralph O’Hair, and immediately took off toward the hurricane. As they flew through sheets of rain, Lt. O’Hair thought about what it might be like to parachute from an aircraft in the middle of a hurricane. 

But Duckworth was as skilled as everyone thought, whether he could see out of the cockpit or not. Before they knew it, they were in the calm of the storm’s 10-mile-wide eye. After flying around for a while, they punched back into the storm itself and headed home. 

When he came back to Bryant Field, he went right back up into the storm, taking a meteorologist with him, making history twice in the same day. 

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The Air Force wants to replace ‘terps with tech

As anyone who’s ever deployed with a unit that required an interpreter knows, language barriers make a tough mission tougher. And considering how the U.S. military has treated the locals hired to do interpretation for U.S. ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s a wonder we’re able to recruit ‘terps’ at all.


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“He says: ‘So… this is the guy we kill when you leave yeah’?” (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Also Read: Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

So it makes sense the Pentagon would have a need for something that provides real-time translation to the boots on the ground. It should come to no surprise to anyone who regularly shops around on FedBizOpps.gov (the U.S. government’s business opportunities site with a name as legit as any Cash4Gold site), to see the Air Force Research Laboratory posting a need for what it calls “human language technologies.”

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Meanwhile, the Navy continues to pursue its strange obsession with dolphin language . (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho RELEASED)

The Air Force wants to conduct research and development in “automatic speech recognition, machine translation, natural language processing, information extraction, information retrieval, text-to-speech synthesis, and other speech and language processing technologies.” Maybe the military should just ask Skype how they made theirs.

The Air Force’s mind-blowing rationale is that “much of the information needed to effectively understand, anticipate, manage, and operate in the global environment is found in foreign language speech, text, videos, and images” and the military is especially interested in “lesser spoken languages that have high military interest but lack sufficient linguists and automated language processing capabilities.”

The ultimate guide to having heated political conversations

Basically, everything we want to know for via signals intelligence and human intelligence is another language and we don’t have enough people who will help us translate it and the Air Force will spend $10 million over a five-year span to develop the technology to do it without human help.

 

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Ukraine rocket maker denies leaking know-how to North Korea

The head of Ukraine’s top rocket-making company on August 15 rejected claims that its technologies might have been shipped to North Korea, helping the pariah nation achieve a quantum leap in its missile program.


KB Yuzhnoye chief Alexander Degtyarev voiced confidence that employees haven’t been leaking know-how to Pyongyang, according to remarks published August 15 by the online site Strana.ua.

While denying any illicit technology transfers from the plant in the city of Dnipro, Degtyarev conceded the possibility that the plant’s products could have been copied.

“Our engines have been highly appraised and used around the world,” he said. “Maybe they have managed to build some copies somewhere.”

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North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile. Photo from KCNA

The New York Times reported August 14 that North Korea’s rapid progress in making ballistic missiles potentially capable of reaching the United States was made possible by black-market purchases of powerful rocket engines, probably from KB Yuzhnoye’s plant. Ukrainian officials angrily rejected the claim.

Pyongyang had displayed a keen interest in the plant before.

Degtyarev mentioned a 2011 incident, in which two North Koreans posing as trade representatives tried to steal technologies from the plant, but were arrested. In 2012, they were convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison each.

KB Yuzhnoye and its Yuzhmash plant in Dnipro has been a leading maker of intercontinental ballistic missiles since the 1950s and produced some of the most formidable weapons in the Soviet inventory.

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Russian SS-18 ‘Satan.’ Photo by Clay Gilliland.

Its designs included the heavy R-36M, code-named Satan in the West, which is still the most powerful ICBM in the Russian nuclear arsenal.

After Ukraine shipped all Soviet-era nuclear weapons to Russia after the Soviet collapse under agreements brokered by the United States, the plant in Dnipro has relied on cooperation with Russia’s space program to stay afloat.

But the collaboration ended as the two ex-Soviet neighbors plunged into a bitter conflict. Moscow responded to the ouster of Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president in 2014 by annexing the Crimean Peninsula and supporting a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

The termination of ties with Moscow has left the Dnipro plant struggling to secure orders.

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Heavy R-36M ‘Satan’ missile. Photo from Flickr user dmytrok

Earlier this summer, a report in Popular Mechanics alleged that the Chinese expressed interest in a propulsion module designed by KB Yuzhnoye for the Soviet lunar program.

KB Yuzhnoye angrily dismissed the claim, insisting that it hasn’t transferred any rocket technologies to China.

Despite official denials, Ukraine’s past record with the illicit transfer of sensitive technologies have raised concerns.

Shortly before the 2003 war in Iraq, the United States accused the Ukrainian government of selling sophisticated Kolchuga military radars to Saddam Hussein’s military.

Ukrainian officials acknowledged in 2005 that six Kh-55 Soviet-built cruise missiles were transferred to China in 2000 while another six were shipped to Iran in 2001.

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


ARMY:

Soldiers, assigned to KFOR Multinational Battle Group-East’s Task Force Hurricane, made up of Soldiers from The National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, hiked to the peak of Mount Ljuboten in southern Kosovo, Aug. 23, 2015.

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Photo by 1st Lt. Krista Yaglowski/US Army

Soldiers, assigned to U.S. Army Africa, work with French Armée de Terre service members to offload a Puma helicopter from a United States Air Force C-17 in support of Operation Barkhane at Camp Kossei in N’Djamena, Chad, Aug. 23, 2015.

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Photo by Morgan Salingue/US Army

NAVY:

ARABIAN GULF (Sept. 1, 2015) The Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8) participates in a night underway replenishment (UNREP) with Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2).

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Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr./USN

ARABIAN GULF (Sept. 1, 2015) Sailors aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) conduct a night replenishment-at-sea (RAS) with the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8).

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Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Liam Kennedy/USN

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Aug. 31, 2015) U.S. Marines assigned to 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion observe the approach of amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) during well deck operations aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25).

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Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Vladimir Ramos/USN

AIR FORCE:

An F-15C Eagle flies over East Anglia, England, Aug. 27, 2015, during a flyover event at Royal Air Force Lakenheath. The F-15C, assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing, circulated until it flew in unison with the U.K. Avro Vulcan XH558 to mark the first and last time these aircraft will fly together.

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Photo by Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride/USAF

Staff Sgt. Saber Barrera, with 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron firetruck and refueling maintenance, works with a co-worker to replace an engine starter in Southwest Asia, Aug. 27, 2015.

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Photo by Racheal E. Watson/USAF

Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Stott, the 90th Medical Group superintendent, splashes through muddy water Aug. 29, 2015, during the second annual mud run at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. The run attracted more than 100 Airmen and their families.

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Photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle/USAF

MARINE CORPS:

An M1A1 Abrams main battle tank, from 2nd Tank Battalion, hides in the brush during a defensive maneuver on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 26, 2015.

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Photo by Cpl. Ryan Young/USMC

Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, practice loading and unloading rounds during sustainment training on Aug. 21, 2015. The CAAT, composed of heavy machine gunners and anti-tank missilemen, is used to combat hardened targets as well as provide security.

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Photo by Sgt. Paris Capers/USMC

A Marine assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, climbs a rope as part of the Dark Horse Ajax Challenge aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 20, 2015. The eight-mile course tested the Marines’ and Sailors’ endurance and leadership skills with trials spread across the San Mateo area.

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Photo by Cpl. Will Perkins/USMC

COAST GUARD:

Leading the way in maritime drug interdiction, the USCG Cutter Adelie interdicted an estimated 2,900 pounds of marijuana Saturday. This is the second interdiction of illegal drugs by Washington-based patrol boats within the last week.

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Photo by USCG

The 47ft motor lifeboats were conducting approaches to one another for training.

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Photo by USCG

NOW: More awesome military photos

OR: The 13 funniest military memes of the week

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Today in military history: Winston Churchill becomes prime minister as Germany invades

On May 10, 1940, Nazi Germany invaded Western Europe while Winston Churchill became prime minister of Great Britain.

Marking the beginning of Hitler’s Western offensive, German bombers struck Allied airfields in Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, and France while paratroopers rained from the sky at critical junctures. Ground forces invaded along two main routes, a northern route that was expected by the defending armies, and a southern thrust through the Ardennes forest that was not.

The Allies did not know about the southern attack and rushed most of their defenders to the north. The southern thrust quickly broke their backs. Luxembourg fell on the first day while Belgium and the Netherlands surrendered before the end of May. France would survive until June.

The war in Europe would continue for five more brutal years.

England knew the continent was doomed and accelerated their preparations for defending the isles. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, known for his policy of appeasement, was replaced by Winston Churchill, a man known for his bulldog temperament and military vision.

Churchill would go on to serve as Conservative Prime Minister twice, from 1940 to 1945 and from 1951 to 1955. A war veteran himself, he was active in both administrative and diplomatic functions during World War II, as well as giving rousing speeches that are credited with stimulating British morale during the hardship of war.

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Churchill in 1904 when he “crossed the floor“. (Public Domain)

He would live until Jan. 24, 1965, dying at the age of ninety and receiving the first State Funeral given to a commoner since the Duke of Wellington’s death more than a century before. 

“It has been a grand journey — well worth making once,” he recorded in January 1965 shortly before his death, possibly his last recorded statement.

Featured Image: “The Roaring Lion” photograph by Yousuf Karsh depicting Winston Churchill on Dec. 30, 1941.

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Here is how a war between the United States and Iran could start

The recent incident involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) and an Iranian speedboat is a reminder that the South China Sea is not the world’s only maritime flashpoint.


The Persian Gulf is such a hot spot as well — mostly with the many instances where Iranian vessels have harassed American ships, with the closest encounter being within 150 yards. When you are talking about ships weighing thousands of tons, that is getting awfully close. Ships cannot turn and stop on a dime. As a result, an incident like the one involving USS Mahan could very well touch off a war.

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The Flight II Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72). (U.S. Navy photo)

How so?

First there’s the risk of the warning shots actually hitting the incoming vessel.

There’s also the possibility that a suicide speedboat will hit an American ship. The October 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) took place in port with a small fiberglass boat.

Iran’s “fast attack craft” that have a history of harassing American ships are, in some cases, larger, and pack heavy machine guns and rocket launchers. Those incidents have also produced warnings of a “tactical miscalculation” that could lead to an armed conflict.

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Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. (Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi)

Something like the Boghammer, which became notorious for its attacks on tankers in the Iran-Iraq War, displaces about six and a half tons. It has a top speed of 45 knots (or nautical miles per hour). When these speedboats get within 1,000 yards, they are less than half a knot away — and at top speed, an American ship could have as little as 40 seconds to react. A Boghammer could easily carry a murder-suicide bomb similar to that used to attack the Cole.

The damage one of those boats can do is best reflected in the Cole attack. Only this time the damage would be suffered while at sea, not while refueling in a port where assistance is readily available. It cost $250 million to repair the Cole, which was out of action for 14 months, according to MaritimeTerrorism.com.

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USS Cole (DDG 67) is towed from Aden by the tug USNS Catawba (ATF 168). (U.S. Navy photo)

Understandably, an American ship commander would be very nervous about the possibility of such an attack.

All it would take would be one commander deciding that the Iranian “fast attack craft” posed a threat to his ship; defensively sinking the craft could kick off Iranian retaliation. American and Iranian forces would start exchanging fire in small naval and air actions. The United States would probably win most of those — albeit in some cases, there might be damage to ships or aircraft.

Iran, though, would likely start launching ballistic missiles at Israel, trying to use the same gambit Saddam Hussein did in 1991.

The Iranian-American War would then be on in earnest.

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This congressman wants to change the title of Department of Navy

As US Rep. Walter Jones continues a 15-year effort in Washington to re-designate the title of the Department of Navy, not everyone in his North Carolina home and military community sees the need.


Retired Marine Col. Pete Grimes of Hubert refers to the adage “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” when asked about Jones’ fight to re-name the Department of Navy the Department of Navy and Marine Corps.

Beyond the surface of the name change, Grimes doesn’t see any benefit to the organization by disrupting the status quo.

“Why change the name? What does it achieve? At the end, I can’t think of anything that would improve the stature of the Marine Corps,” Grimes.

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Emblems courtesy of US Navy and USMC

Jones has seen things differently.

He first introduced a proposal to change the title of the department to Department of the Navy and Marine Corps in 2001 and has stuck to his belief that the two separate services deserve equal recognition.

The House Armed Services Committee passed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018. As a member of the committee, Jones was involved in drafting the defense bill and has several measures attached, including the re-designation of the Department of Navy title.

“The Marine Corps is an equal member of this department, and therefore, deserves equal recognition in its title,” Jones said in remarks on getting the language included in the defense bill.

Jones said the defense bill is expected to go to the House floor for a vote in July. If successful, NDAA will then go to the Senate.

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Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joe Kane

Retired Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Ball of Jacksonville, who served 23 years in the Marine Corps, said whatever name is used is a matter of perception and will vary by a person’s point of view. Regardless of the name, Ball said the operations of the two services are separate and should stay that way.

He said the organization as it is now has been working well.

“Leave it the way it is,” Ball said.

Brian Kramer, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, said the unique Navy-Marine Corps relationship is an exceptional one within the Department of Defense that should not be changed. He questions whether a name change now could lead to larger, negative changes later.

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Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tim D. Godbee

“I am a traditionalist, and on this issue I think the longstanding relationship between the Navy and the Marine Corps should remain unchanged. This relationship has served both services exceptionally well over the centuries. We ( Marines) are called ‘Soldiers of the Sea’ for a reason,” Kramer said. “Our roots are with the Navy, and I see the short-term ‘feel-good’ benefit of a name change having possible long-term negative consequences. Might this be a first step to the Corps being a separate service? I am not certain we want to go there.”

Retired Navy Capt. Rick Welton of Swansboro doesn’t have a particular opinion on the proposed change the Department of Navy’s title but agreed that the two services have long had a history of working together.

“We’ve been working as a team from the beginning,” Welton said. “We have depended on each other, worked with each other, and done outstanding things together.”

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Marine commandant wants to extend dwell time, speed up aviation recovery

The commandant of the Marine Corps wants the service to come up with a strategy to give Marines more time at home between deployments before the end of the year and get new aircraft cranking off production lines ahead of schedule.


Those are two of the 25 time-sensitive tasks for service commanders published Tuesday alongside Gen. Robert Neller’s second major message to the force. In the task list, he calls on Marine Corps leadership to invest in people, build up readiness, and take training into the future.

Also read: This Marine just retired after 54 years of service

Neller’s checklist tasks Marine Corps Forces Command and Manpower and Reserve Affairs with developing a plan to give Marines on average more than twice as much time at home than they spend deployed.

Increasing “dwell time,” as it’s called, from the current 1:2 ratio has long been cited by Marine Corps commanders as a goal at odds with the service’s high deployment tempo and ongoing force reductions. As leaders await approval of a defense budget measure that would modestly increase the size of the force for the first time in years, Neller’s order is a signal that times may be changing.

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A Marine signals to move forward in an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) during an amphibious landing for Exercise Dawn Blitz 2015. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Riley

“The optimal deployment-to-dwell ratio will not be the same for all elements of the [Marine air-ground task force] and we must strike the right balance between risk-to-force, risk-to- mission, and risk-to-institution,” Neller cautioned in the document. “Potential factors to consider among others: increasing the end strength of the force, growing key Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs), and decreasing in Global Force Management (GFM) demands.”

Another goal dependent on budget decisions is the plan to accelerate aviation recovery for the service, which has seen aircraft readiness rates and pilots’ flight hours plummet and then begin to recover in the last two years.

In an interview this month in his office at the Pentagon, Neller said the Corps would try to buy new aircraft faster, including F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, to replace aging legacy platforms, and petition Congress to fully fund the service’s flight hour program and spare parts requirements so aviation readiness as a whole will improve.

“We’re going to be in a position where we’re fielding new aircraft and sustaining legacy aircraft for a number of years and it would be nice if the [operational] tempo would go down, but I don’t see that happening either. So we’ve got to do this all on the fly,” Neller said. “We’ve got to improve our readiness and continue to meet our requirements.”

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Gen. Robert Neller | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shawn Valosin

Whether or not the extra money rolls in within future defense budgets, Neller is asking aviation leaders to come up with more efficient ways to accelerate the recovery plan.

He’s also calling for better training for aviation maintenance Marines, citing recent readiness reviews that highlighted a lack of training and standardization in these fields. By improving and standardizing the training pipeline for specialized aviation maintainers, he wrote, “We can improve overall readiness and performance of Marine Aviation.”

In parallel, Neller wants commanders to develop a comprehensive plan by the end of the year to modernize the Marine Corps ground combat element, allowing infantry Marines to fight with similar technological and training advantages to their aviation counterparts.

He reiterated his desire to get quadcopter drones fielded to each Marine rifle squad “immediately,” and said he wanted to see ground Marines take advantage of the 5th-generation platforms, sensors and networks that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will bring to the force.

Neller endorsed a growing trend in the Marine Corps to tailor equipment and gear to the specific needs of the ground combat Marine.

In 2015, the Corps announced that infantry Marines would use M4s as their standard service rifle, while non-infantrymen would continue to carry the longer M16; and last fall, Marine Corps Systems Command held an event focused on equipping infantry Marines with tailor-made gear specific to their jobs, with leaders even discussing the possibility of tailoring Meals, Ready to Eat to the needs of grunts.

“While every Marine is a rifleman, not all Marines serve in or alongside ground combat units like the infantry as they actively locate, close with, and destroy enemies by fire and maneuver,” Neller wrote. “Their mission and risks are unique. From clothing and equipment to training, nutrition, and fitness, we must look at and develop the [ground combat element’s] capabilities differently than the rest of the MAGTF.”

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MATTIS: The Iraq war was a ‘strategic mistake’

President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary called the invasion of Iraq a “strategic mistake” at a conference last year, in an audio recording obtained by The Intercept.


In a wide-ranging speech at an ASIS International Conference in Anaheim, California that covered everything from Iran, ISIS, and other national security issues, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis told attendees: “We will probably look back on the invasion of Iraq as a mistake, a strategic mistake.”

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

The assertion is not particularly controversial, given the faulty intelligence that led to the invasion, the many missteps afterward, and the unraveling of a country that eventually gave birth to the terrorist group ISIS.

But it is interesting as it’s the first known instance of Mattis portraying the invasion in a negative light, especially given his leadership of 1st Marine Division in 2003, which he led across the border and, eventually, into Baghdad.

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

“I think people were pretty much aware that the US military didn’t think it was a very wise idea,” he said. “But we give a cheery ‘Aye aye, Sir.’ Because when you elect someone commander in chief — we give our advice. We generally give it in private.”

Mattis, like many other generals before the war, offered his advice to his boss Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the problems of going into Iraq. This frank advice is expected of high-ranking military officers, but ultimately it’s up to the civilian leadership to make the decision.

Still, seven retired generals eventually came out publicly against Rumsfeld in 2007 in what was dubbed “the generals’ revolt.” Mattis, still on active duty at the time, was not among them.

He was asked specifically about whether there was a scenario in which he may have retired in protest during a talk in San Francisco in April 2014. Mattis allowed some unethical orders and other scenarios that would lead him to do so, but he said, “you have to be very careful about doing that. The lance corporals can’t retire. They’re going. That’s all there is to it.”

He added: “You abandon him only under the most dire circumstances, where the message you have to send can be sent no other way. I never confronted that situation.”

Since retiring from the military in 2013, Mattis has given a number of speeches while working as a fellow at Dartmouth and Stanford. In July 2014, for example, he told students at Stanford: “There is no strategy right now for our engagement with the world. We need to know the political end state for what we want to achieve.”

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These giant African rodents are used to sniff out land mines

A Belgian NGO is doing some incredible things with rats. The non-governmental organization, Apopo is dedicated to training African Giant Pouched Rats for land mine and tuberculosis detection. The critters make for very good pets because they are easily trained. This, with their sense of smell, said to be finer than a dog’s, make them perfectly suited for the job.


One rat can evaluate 100 samples in 20 minutes, equal to what a skilled lab technician, using microscopy, can do in two days. As of 2005, the rats were able to find 5 to 10 TB patients per week that were missed by microscopes.

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Photo by Apopo

More importantly for sub-Saharan Africa, a heavily mined region, the rats are able to smell explosives just as easily. Here, they are used effectively to uncover land mines in these areas. Whenever they find a mine, they are rewarded with a treat. The rats are so good at the search, they’re able to clear more than 650 square feet of earth in twenty minutes. According to handling teams interviewed by The Guardian, the rats are very accurate.

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Photo by Apopo

In Mozambique, heavily mined during the the country’s subsequent 15-year civil war, rat teams have found and destroyed more than 13,000 mines, reclaiming more than 11 million square meters.

If you’re worried about the rats setting off the explosives, rest easy. The rats weigh less than two pounds, not enough to set off the pressure-triggered anti-personnel mines.

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Photo by Apopo

Training starts at four weeks old, when the rats become accustomed to humans and then desensitized to sights and sounds. They associate a clicker with a food reward and are then trained to indicate the holes that contain explosive substances by put their noses against the holes.  Finally, they’re trained to wear harnesses and find inactive mines under soil. After a blind test with a real handler, the animals become full-fledged minesweepers.

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Photo by Apopo

The rats, once considered a pest animal, get more than just their food reward for good work. They are fed a steady, good diet of fruits and veggies and even get sunscreen to protect their ears and tails from the harsh sun.

Read more and donate to Apopo here.

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This top-secret jet bomber spied on Americans in Normandy

Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy got a shocking view of the future of warfare in 1944 when, as they were moving supplies from ships to the shore, a jet-powered, Nazi bomber ripped past at approximately 460 mph.


The Arado Ar 234 was the first operational jet bomber and flew at up to 540 miles per hour, so quick that no Allied fighter could match it without going into a dive.

In fact, one flight of P47 Thunderbolts spotted a flight of three Ar 234s 10,000 feet below them in 1945 and attempted to use the Thunderbolt’s high dive speeds for an attack run. The Nazi pilots waited until the Americans had almost reached them and then tore away at full speed as the P-47s coughed on their smoke.

For the air crews assigned to protect the American forces landing supplies in Normandy in August 1944, attacking the Arado was essentially impossible. Loaded with reconnaissance gear, it flew over the beaches at 460 mph while taking a photo every 11 seconds.

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The only known surviving Arado Ar 234 Blitz aircraft now rests at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. (Photo: Michael Yew CC BY 2.0)

At that speed, it could fly over all five original D-Day beaches in less than eight minutes. By the time that fighter aircraft made it into the air to hunt the Arado down, it would already be long gone.

That didn’t quite make the Arado invincible, though. Like the slightly slower British de Havilland Mosquito, a prop-driven British bomber and reconnaissance aircraft that go its speed from its light weight, the Ar 234 was left vulnerable when it was forced to maneuver or slow down for bombing runs.

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The P-51 is one of the only aircraft to shoot down an Arado Ar 234 in flight. It did so thanks to a group of P-47 Thunderbolts that forced the jet-powered bomber into a speed-bleeding turn. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Philip Bryant)

One of the only Ar 234s ever shot down was caught because it was forced into a sharp turn while coming out of a bombing run.

A group of German jets were bombing Allied bridges on the Rhine when a group of American P-47s came at them. The German jets took a tight turn to avoid the P-47s, losing so much speed that they were left vulnerable. American Capt. Don Bryan was in a P-51 nearby and was able to position himself so that the turning German planes had to fly just underneath him.

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Republic P-47C-2-RE Thunderbolts of the 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

Bryan made his attack in a dive which allowed his Mustang to keep up with the German jet while his .50-cal machine guns chewed through the Arado’s right engine. The German pilot was left without momentum, without adequate engine power, and with too little altitude. He went down with his jet.

Adolf Hitler considered the Ar 234 one of his wonder weapons that would save Germany, but it suffered from a number of shortcomings. First, the fragile engines needed an overhaul after every ten hours of flight and were replaced after 25. The jet also needed long runways and large amounts of fuel, two things that were hard for a Luftwaffe on the retreat to provide with regularity.

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An Arado Ar 234B bomber sits in a captured hangar with Junkers Ju 88G. (Photo: U.S. Army)

In the end, the jets were sent on just a few operational missions. The Normandy reconnaissance was the first, and they also did duty over the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge and in the final defense of Germany, flying first against the bridges over the Rhine and later against Soviet troop concentrations.

The only surviving Ar 234 is in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

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