The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
An A-29 Super Tucano flies over Afghanistan during a training mission April 6, 2016. The A-29 is a light attack aircraft that can be armed with two 500-pound bombs, twin .50-caliber machine guns and rockets. Aircrews are trained on aerial interdiction and armed overwatch missions that enable a preplanned strike capability. The Afghan air force currently has eight A-29s but will have 20 by the end of 2018. Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air teams work daily with the Afghan air force to help build a professional, sustainable and capable air force.
Capt. Nicholas Eberling and Maj. Alex Turner, both pilots for the Thunderbirds, perform the knife-edge pass over an F-35A Lightning II static display during the Luke Air Force Base Air Show at Luke AFB, Ariz., April 3, 2016.
Paratroopers assigned to the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade, Italy’s Folgore Brigade and the British Army’s 16 Air Assault Brigade conduct airborne operations during Exercise Saber Junction 16 on the Maneuver Rights Area near Hohenfels, Germany, April 12, 2016.
Soldiers assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, cross the Imjin River during a bridge crossing exercise in South Korea, April 6, 2016.
SANTA RITA, Guam (April 13, 2016) U.S. Navy Sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5 swim with Sri Lanka navy divers during a joint diving exercise in the Apra Harbor off the coast of Guam. EODMU 5 sailors and Sri Lanka navy divers dove to the Tokai Maru, a sunken WWII Japanese freighter as part of a coordinated effort by Commander, Task Force 75 to strengthen U.S. and foreign relationships.
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a very low altitude pass by USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
Marines with the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, arrive in Darwin, Australia to begin preparation for exercise Marine Rotational Force-Darwin on April 13, 2016. MRF-D is a six-month deployment into Darwin, Australia, where Marines conduct exercises and train with the Australian Defence Forces, strengthening the U.S.-Australia alliance.
Capt. Charles H. Richardson, commanding officer, Company B, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, scans the horizon in the Combat Center training area March 21, 2016, during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation Exercise. 3rd LAR conducted a five-day MCCREE to evaluate the combat readiness of B Co.
Honoring the Fallen
Marines prepare to fire a three-volley salute at a funeral for retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Earl E. Anderson, former assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., March 31, 2016. Anderson was the first active duty Marine Naval Aviator to be promoted to a four-star rank, and he became the assistant commandant of the Marine.
Take a ride along with USCG Station Seattle as they conduct training with Air Station Port Angeles! Coast Guard crews train together so they can be ready for anything! Always ready!
“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Till your good is better and your better is best.” – St. Jerome.
The first boat crew comes home after being relieved of an all night tow by a second boat crew: Coast Guard Station Depoe Bay never lets it rest.
The Union Army under the command of general Ulysses S. Grant, which already had control of most of Tennessee, had been slogging up the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers for months in early 1862. The ultimate objective was the Mississippi and the prospect of seizing control of the river and splitting the Confederacy in two.
Grant had already scored a pair of major victories by taking Forts Henry and Donelson, and the reeling Confederate forces under general Albert Sidney Johnston were forced to gather in the city of Corinth in northern Mississippi, a vital rail center. Grant planned to rendezvous his army of 49,000 with the 20,000 under general Don Carlos Buell and seize Corinth. Johnston meanwhile had assembled an army of 45,000 men in the vicinity of Corinth and was waiting for reinforcements of his own.
Word reached Corinth that Grant was unloading his army at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee river 20 miles away, near a small church called Shiloh, Hebrew for “Place of Peace.” Johnston’s extravagantly named second in command general Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard urged an immediate surprise attack. If Grant and Buell’s armies combined before battle was joined, there would be little that could stop them in the theatre. Beauregard had a reputation as a tactical expert due to his victory in the war’s first major battle at the First Bull Run, and Johnston agreed to the proposal.
The Confederate army advanced on April 3, but was immediately slowed by pouring rain and poor coordination of units along the washed out roads. These same had the same effect on Buell’s movement to join Grant, and it became a race between the Confederates and the Union reinforcements floundering through the mud. So terrible were the rains and confusion on the march that the Confederates were forced to delay their attack until April 6.
Grant and his subordinate and best friend general William Tecumseh Sherman did not expect an attack so soon. When Sherman received reports of enemy troops approaching on the morning of April 6th, he first dismissed them as jumpy troops reporting nothing. When he incredulously rode out to see for himself, the Confederates main battle line boiled out of the trees, and the first thing Sherman witnessed was his aide getting shot in the head in front of him. The Union troops were not dug in, and many of them were raw recruits who had only just received their rifles. They were taken completely by surprise. What was worse, Grant was 9 miles downriver staying at a mansion, at least two hours away by boat while his army fought for it’s life.
The initial Confederate attack slowly drove the Union army north towards the river, and so intense was the fighting that as many as 10,000 Union troops fled and hid. Grant arrived at around 9 a.m. by steamboat and began to take charge of the defense, but the Union lines gradually collapsed. The fighting began to concentrate on the Union center in a small forest, later called “The Hornet’s Nest” for the sheer intensity of the fire directed at the position. An old wagon trail called the Sunken Road that bisected the forest gained it’s own infamy as it become completely choked with the dead and wounded of both sides.
When Johnston saw Confederate troops hesitating to join the assault in the face of such slaughter, he personally led a charge that broke a Union strongpoint at a spot later known as the Peach Orchard, with terrific slaughter. While riding back from the successful attack, Johnston was shot in the leg and had his femoral artery severed, leaving him dead in minutes. The resulting lull as Beauregard took command gave the Union army a breather, but soon another Confederate assault resulted in the surrender of an entire Union division and the defense at the Hornet’s Nest collapsed.
The surviving Union forces were arranging for a last ditch defense at Snake creek when deliverance arrived in the form of Buell, whose army started crossing the river at sundown. Even so, a final Confederate assault was in the offing when Beauregard, who was unaware of the pending enemy reinforcements, called off the attack until morning. He believed that the Union army was in shambles and only needed to be mopped up. Without the arrival of Buell’s army, he may have been right.
The next morning, the bolstered Union army launched a massive counterattack that eventually drove the exhausted and hopelessly outnumbered Confederates from the field, forcing Beauregard to order a retreat back to Corinth with what was left of his army. It was one of the great reversals of the Civil War.
Despite his “victory,” Grant faced severe criticism for the laxness of his position and for being away from the army, but despite calls for his resignation President Abraham Lincoln famously said “I can’t spare that man. He fights.” The South was stunned at the death of Johnston, who was considered the finest soldier in the South, and Confederate president Jefferson Davis was heartbroken at the death of his old West Point classmate.
The scale of the bloodshed at Shiloh left both sides horrified, with nearly 24,000 casualties from both sides. The previous major engagements had been bloody enough, but the United States had never seen a battle with that level of slaughter before. The battle of Shiloh had resulted in more battle casualties than all of America’s previous wars combined. As all the terrible battles to follow would attest, Shiloh showed that there was not going to be any cheap, easy victory for either side.
Andrew Brennan’s grandfather pulled him out of school after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, like many parents and grandparents did that day. As soon as his car left the parking lot, Brennan’s grandfather, a World War II veteran, turned to him and said words the future Army officer would never forget.
“The war that’s going to follow this is going to change your generation. You need to be on the right side of it,” he said.
When Brennan turned 17, he tried to drop out of school to join the Marine Corps. His father’s response was something akin to “the hell you are,” but the young man’s resolve was the same. He felt he should be doing something. He felt needed.
The Pennsylvania native eventually attended West Point and served in Afghanistan. But his mission didn’t stop there. He lost friends there, as many post-9/11 veterans did. Now he looks to the Vietnam generation for an example of what comes next.
Andrew Brennan, a U.S. Army veteran, in Afghanistan in 2011. (Photo from Andrew Brennan).
While recovering from a hiking injury, Brennan met some bikers who were rolling to the nation’s capital as part of Run for the Wall, a Vietnam veterans’ tradition where motorcycle enthusiasts drive cross-country to meet at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
“I bump into these guys, and I’m really taken aback by it,” Brennan says. “All these awesome traditions that started around their memorial inspired 30 years’ worth of group healing for the Vietnam generation.”
The riders continue on in the annual tradition called Rolling Thunder which advocates for full accountability of all prisoners of war and troops missing in action from U.S. wars. Brennan did the math. In the next 10 years, the Vietnam veterans may not be able to make the ride. Vets from the Global War on Terror will soon be the ones making noise for American POW/MIAs.
And Brennan wondered what memorial they’d ride to.
He wondered where 3 million veterans who lost family and friends in the Global War on Terror would grieve. There is no memorial for his war because the 1986 Commemorative Works Act requires groups like Brennan’s to wait 10 years after the conflict ends before a memorial can be considered.
It took 60 years to get a World War II memorial built on the Mall and 42 to build a Korean War Memorial. Twenty-five years after Desert Storm, there is still no memorial for that conflict.
Brennan realized he needed to change that law. His continuing mission is to erect a memorial for the post-9/11 generation of veterans. A feat easier said than done.
His memorial idea is written in a broad way so he can be as inclusive as possible. From the likes of Johnny Michael Spann, the first American killed in Afghanistan who worked for the CIA to operators from other “three-letter agencies,” Brennan believes the country’s longest and most unconventional war should recognize all who fought it — including the unconventional forces.
“I really want to make sure that we’re able to honor the folks we’ve lost and will lose in the future while paying tribute to the service we all provided,” Brennan says. “I also want to honor the veterans that aren’t wearing the uniform anymore.”
Brennan is the real deal. He’s met with senators and congressmen and enjoys broad, bipartisan support. Actually getting an amendment introduced is a different feat altogether, but he’s willing to play the long game. His initiative is a decade-long development plan, but he needs the veteran community to mobilize to get the law changed and the ball rolling.
The Christmas Day crash of a Tupelov Tu-154 off the coast of Sochi, a Black Sea resort town in Russia, killed all 92 people on board. Among the dead are 60 members of the Red Army Choir.
The Red Army Choir had a viral moment when they sang backup to a cover of “Sweet Home Alabama” done by the Leningrad Cowboys. One Youtube video is below:
The choir members killed were part of the Alexandrov Ensemble, according to a CNN report. The choir was slated to perform for Russian military personnel at the Khmeimim air base in Syria.
According to the choir’s iTunes page, the group took first place at the Paris International Exposition in 1937, and features a male chorus, with dancers and an orchestra.
The impact of this crash on Russia could be compared to the Feb. 3, 1959, plane crash that killed rock-and-roll artists Buddy Holly and Richie Valens, or the loss of band leader Glenn Miller in unexplained circumstances while en route to Europe on Dec, 15, 1944.
A 2009 photo of the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo from Wikiemdia Commons)
In a statement on Facebook, the director of the MVD’s Red Army Choir, Gen. Victor Eliseev, said, “Today we are in the shock of the catastrophe in which our colleges of the Alexandrov Choirs and Dances disappeared. Not only were they our colleagues, but a very important military art company, and I am shocked to learn of the disappearance of their leader, my fellow student and friend General Valery Khalilov, with whom we studied and professed together at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. It is a terrible loss for Russian music and art.”
“All members of the Red Army Chorus MVD of the Russian National Guard join me in expressing their friendship to the families of the members of the Alexandrov Ensemble and the families of all the victims of this tragedy and to address our feelings to them more affectionate in this dramatic moment,” Eliseev added.
The line of cocaine the Air Force and Joint Interagency Task Force-South seized last month in the Caribbean would stretch “from the Pentagon to the center of Philadelphia.”
The Air Force’s top civilian shared that detail with reporters Wednesday when describing how the service is working harder to train pilots in the Southern hemisphere while aiding the global anti-drug war.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the service is looking for ways to use more assets in the Southern Command region that would be “of training benefit to our forces, but also contributing to counter drug and counter transnational crime commission.”
“The idea of all of this was to see if we could get more of a double ‘bang for your buck,’ ” James said at a Pentagon briefing.
And during a five-day training operation, they did.
Led by Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Nowland, commander of the 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern, the service and the Key West, Florida-based task force seized 6,100 kilograms (13,448 pounds) of cocaine between Aug. 22-26, James said.
The large-scale air operation in the Caribbean included a number of U.S. aircraft, including HC-130s, DH-8s, B-1Bs, B-52s, AWACS, JSTARS, Global Hawks, KC-135s and KC-10s, James said. Space and cyber assets “were also brought into the mix,” she said, but didn’t elaborate.
The use of airpower as well as the other partners in the interagency effort led to the seizure of as much as $500 million worth of the cocaine and the arrest of 17 drug traffickers by appropriate authorities, James said.
In March, a B-1B Lancer flew a low pass over a drug smuggling boat in the Caribbean Sea, prompting those onboard to dump 500 kilos of cocaine into the deep blue.
The secretary visited command units in April to discuss the potential for more training operations in Latin America.
During the 1980s, the United States had a small squadron of vessels intended to work close to shore. These ships gave good service, and proved to be decent at not just their primary purpose. Yet when the peace dividend came, they got retired, and most were scrapped. One has been saved as a museum.
Meet the Pegasus-class missile-armed patrol hydrofoil. They were 255 tons. They could go up to 48 knots. They had a 76mm Mk 75 gun and eight RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
That was a lot of firepower on a small vessel. With a crew of four officers and 17 enlisted, these were not very manpower-intensive ships.
The Pegasus patrol boats never did have to carry out their primary mission to take out enemy ships. But GlobalSecurity.org notes that these ships did prove very valuable in other missions, including the drug interdiction role.
The “Seventh Edition of Combat Fleets of the World” notes that the ships were very steady weapons platforms for their size. Since they were based out of Key West, Florida, the patrol boats could keep an eye on Cuba.
Original plans to base them in the Med were scrapped, according to the “Thirteenth Edition of The Ships and Aircraft of the United States Navy.”
Think about what these ships could do with 255 tons. Now, let’s look at the Littoral Combat Ship.
What do we get for the 3,500 tons on a Freedom-class LCS? Well, we get roughly the same top speed (47 knots). We get a hangar with two MH-60 helicopters (primarily for anti-submarine warfare, but they have Hellfire missiles, which don’t do jack against anything larger than a Pegasus). We get a 57mm gun (the Mk 110), a Mk 31 RAM launcher … and a few .50-caliber machine guns.
TNT’s “The Last Ship” was a surprise hit last year, earning the loyalty of civilians and service members alike with a mix of great characters, intriguing plots, and technical accuracy. The last element, of course, is the one that always seems to trip up the military crowd because Hollywood is notorious for taking creative license with technical details and plot lines in the pursuit of “entertainment.” And while “The Last Ship” is no “Das Boot,” the series does pride itself on accuracy.
To whatever degree TNT’s “The Last Ship” is able to “get it right” real Navy-wise, veteran actor Eric Dane, who plays Commander Tom Chandler, the commanding officer of the USS Nathan James (DDG 151), credits the close working relationship between the show’s writers and the Navy officials in LA and at the Pentagon who are charged with making sure the sea service is well and accurately represented.
“There is no tension between the two camps,” Dane said from the podium in the Pentagon’s press briefing room. “If the Navy doesn’t like something we change it.”
That sort of cooperation is unusual if not unprecedented. Hollywood is motivated by commercial success, the thing that keeps the lights on around Century City and Burbank. The Department of Defense has other goals in mind.
“We judge the efforts we’ll support by two main criteria,” said Phil Strub, DoD’s director of entertainment media. “Whether they’ll paint the U.S. military in a fair light, and whether they’ll help recruiting.”
The tension between those two motivations historically has been an issue in that Hollywood has a tendency to find technical accuracy superfluous and boring and the Pentagon finds Hollywood’s fictions insulting. However in recent months that tension has seemed to mitigate in the face of commercial success like that of “American Sniper,” a movie that prides itself on accuracy and, more so, presenting military service in a more honest, apolitical, light.
“The goal of ‘The Last Ship’ is to show what the Navy does each and every day,” Dane said. “It’s my honor to go to the set and put on my blue digi-cams and play Commander Tom Chandler.”
Dane also allowed that – even in an era of computer-generated imagery – “The Last Ship” needs the U.S. Navy to succeed. “We need a real destroyer,” he said.
Beyond the hardware there are myriad details to nail down. “I thought the medical world had a lot of acronyms and jargon,” Dane said, referring to his popular role as Dr. Mark ‘McSteamy’ Sloan in the hit TV show ‘Grey’s Anatomy. “The military has a lot more.”
“The Last Ship” has been popular enough to earn a second season, which is scheduled to air on TNT in June.
Dane’s recent visit to the Pentagon was to thank the DoD public affairs officials for their work that has informed the show’s success. He was also there to announce that he is throwing his celebrity weight behind the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), the national organization for all of those grieving the loss of a fallen service member.
Dane knows how it feels to lose a family member to military service. When he was seven his father was killed while serving in the Navy.
“I lost my military dad at a very young age,” Dane said. “Dealing with that loss has been a very big part of my life.”
“TAPS has been blessed with an effective network over the years, including the voices of Hollywood,” director and founder Bonnie Carroll said. “We’re very happy to be connected with Eric Dane who takes his role as Commander Tom Chandler very seriously. He portrays the Navy in the absolute best light.”
“Bonnie has been there for over 13 years,” said Rene Carbone Bardorf, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Community and Public Outreach. “When the funerals for the fallen are over and life stands still for the survivors TAPS has been very effective in giving them a sense of purpose and helping them make it though. Eric’s involvement is a great example of that. We are all a part of one military family, that one percent.”
Both Carroll and Dane admitted they haven’t quite figured out what form the actor’s support of TAPS will take, but if his impact with the crowd in the Pentagon’s briefing room was any indication, it will be effective whatever it is.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A C-130 Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron conducts a night flight mission over Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2016. The C-130 provides tactical airlift worldwide. Its flexible design allows it to operate in an austere environment.
Airmen transport simulated patients to a MC-130J Commando II at Eglin Range, Fla., May 4, 2016, during exercise Emerald Warrior 16. Emerald Warrior is a U.S. Special Operations Command-sponsored mission rehearsal exercise during which joint special operations forces train to respond to real and emerging worldwide threats.
Staff Sgt. Henderson Anthony, a 51st Civil Engineer Squadron structural craftsman, stands in a cloud of decontamination powder while his mission oriented protective posture gear is decontaminated during exercise Beverly Herd 16-01 at Osan Air Base, South Korea, May 11, 2016. Dozens of civil engineer Airmen participated in the training scenario covering wartime survival skills.
A U.S. Army Reserve military police Soldier, assigned to 11th Military Police Brigade, 200th Military Police Command, fires an M249 squad automatic weapon during night fire qualification at Fort Hunter-Liggett, California, May 4, 2016.
Individual Soldier readiness is the foundation ofArmy readiness. The Army maximizes the deployability of its units by ensuring Soldiers are trained and ready to operate in a variety of environments.
Soldiers assigned to 1-2 SBCT, 7th Infantry Division, position a M777 towed 155 mm howitzer during Decisive Action Rotation 16-06 at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., May 5, 2016.
Soldiers, assigned to 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, row an inflatable boat across Mott Lake to recover and administer first aid to a simulated casualty on Fort Bragg, N.C., May 4, 2016.
Army support to civil authorities is a total force effort to save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate property damage.
GULF OF ADEN (May 11, 2016) Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Bryan Duncan salutes an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to the “Wild Cards” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23, on the flight deck of guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66). Gonzalez is currently operating with the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
SAN DIEGO (May 11, 2016) The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) passes underneath the Coronado Bridge as it departs Naval Base San Diego May 11 in support of Pacific Partnership 2016. Pacific Partnership is in its 11th iteration and is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
GULF OF ADEN (May 9, 2016) A landing craft, air cushion, assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5, transits toward the well deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
U.S. Navy Corpsmen board an MV-22B Osprey to practice treating patients while the aircraft conducts evasive maneuvers to simulate the stresses of evacuating from a hot landing zone during a casualty evacuation drill taking place as part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s MEU exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 9, 2016. MEUEX is one of the six training evolutions a MEU must go through to be ready for its final exercise, Certification Exercise, which will certify the MEU for its upcoming deployment to the Pacific and Central Commands’ areas of operation. The corpsmen are with Shock Trauma Platoon, Combat Logistic Battalion 11, 11th MEU. The Osprey and crew are with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced), 11th MEU.
Marines with Regional Command (Southwest) (RC(SW)) exit a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter aboard Kandahar Airfield (KAF), Afghanistan, Oct. 27, 2014. The Marines transitioned to KAF following the end of RC(SW) operations in Helmand province.
Marines assigned to Martial Arts Instructor Course Class 3-16, School of Infantry West (SOI-W) Detatchment Hawaii, run through the obstacle course at the Boondockers training area during the culminating event of their three week course to become Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructors aboard Marine Corps Base (MCB) Hawaii, April 21st, 2016. The mission of Marine Corps Base Hawaii is to provide facilities, programs and services in direct support of units, individuals and families in order to enhance and sustain combat readiness for all operating forces and tenant organizations aboard MCB Hawaii.
U.S. Coast Guard members practice shooting a 50 caliber machine gun at night during a deployment aboard Coast Guard Cutter Stratton. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Bryan Goff. Photo taken December 27, 2015.
U.S. Coast Guard members practice shooting the M240 machine gun during a deployment aboard Coast Guard Cutter Stratton. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Bryan Goff. Photo taken December 29, 2015.
UPDATE: On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending the entry of immigrants from seven countries he said were “of particular concern” for terrorism, including Iraq. It is unclear how the immigrant ban — which is mandated to last 90 days pending a review of the visa issuing process — will affect Iraqis who have applied or been awarded Special Immigrant Visas for their service with U.S. troops during OIF. But No One Left Behind’s CEO Matt Zeller tells WATM: “This action imposes a lifetime moral injury on our Afghan and Iraq war veterans. … President Trump’s order permanently harms our national security.”
It was April 2008 during a patrol in Waghez, Afghanistan, and Army intelligence officer Matt Zeller was in big trouble.
Pinned down in an ambush outside the small village, he found himself outflanked by a group of Taliban fighters about to overrun his position. Rushing to his side, Zeller’s Afghan ally and interpreter Janis Shinwari raised his weapon and fired.
“I wouldn’t be alive today without my Afghan translator,” Zeller said during an interview with WATM. “My life was saved by a fellow veteran.”
Five years later, Zeller decided he’d apply his warrior ethos to “leave no one behind” and established a non-profit to help relocate Afghan and Iraqi allies who worked alongside U.S. forces to the safety of America. So far Zeller and his partners have helped more than 3,200 allies obtain so-called “Special Immigrant Visas” to resettle in the United States and avoid being target by jihadists who are targeting them for helping American troops.
Since the SIV program began, more than 43,000 allies from Iraq and Afghanistan — along with their families — have been resettled in the U.S.
But advocates claim there are still about 30,000 Afghan and Iraqi citizens whose lives are at risk for helping U.S. forces, but Congress has so far refused to help in their return. Zeller and his colleagues, like Chase Millsap of the Ronin Refugee Project, are pushing lawmakers to authorize 6,000 more visas for Afghan allies left behind and to commit to keeping the visa program for them open “for as long as the United States commits military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
“We made these people a fundamental promise that we would protect them,” Zeller said. “If we don’t do this now, it will haunt us in the future.”
But renewing the program is facing strong opposition for influential lawmakers who Zeller claims are running with an anti-immigrant political tide.
Some lawmakers claim the Obama administration’s refugee policy, and the SIV program specifically, puts Americans at risk for terrorism.
In an Aug. 10 statement, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee, Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, claimed since 2001, 40 people admitted to the United States as refugees have been implicated in terrorism. Sessions claims 20 of those, including one SIV program recipient from Iraq, have been indicted or implicated for terrorist acts in the last three years.
“Instead of taking a sober assessment of the dangers that we face, and analyzing the immigration histories of recent terrorists so that we can more effectively safeguard our immigration system from being infiltrated, the Obama Administration leads the United States down a dangerous path – admitting as many refugees as possible from areas of the world where terrorists roam freely,” Sessions said. “There is no doubt that this continuous, dramatic increase in refugees from areas of the world where terrorists roam freely will endanger this nation.”
Sources say Sessions and his staff have been instrumental in hollowing out the SIV program through parliamentary procedure in the Senate, and that House lawmakers have been powerless to stop it. Opponents point to the dangers of ISIS — which has claimed responsibility for several high-profile terrorist attacks by immigrants in European countries — and the Syrian refugee crisis, which they claim allows potential jihadis into the U.S. without a thorough background check.
Zeller says the Syrian refugee policy and the SIV program are two distinct programs, arguing Afghan and Iraqi partners who qualify for an SIV go through years of investigations and vetting before they’re admitted to the U.S. And that’s on top of the vetting they were subject to simply to work with U.S. forces overseas.
“It’s not like they just walked up to the gate and got a job,” Zeller says. “This is one of the most arduous security reviews of anyone.”
And the SIV program allows allies who directly aided U.S. forces in combat to get the “veteran” status through the immigration system advocates say they deserve.
“Granting more visas during this year specifically means the Afghan allies that we know are threatened will have a chance to be saved,” The Ronin project’s Millsap says. “Unless Congress increases this quota, these trusted Afghans will at best be at the mercy of a broken international refugee system, and at worst, they will be killed.”
The future of the SIV program is unclear as the National Defense Authorization Act languishes in committee and the clock is running out on the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. If Congress doesn’t act in the next few weeks to re-instate the SIV program, thousands of Afghans — and their families — will be at risk, Zeller says.
“I’m not optimistic, but I’m going to keep fighting until my last dying breath,” Zeller says. “I believe that no one should be left behind on the battlefield.”
The L5 Ribbon Gun is a prototype firearm that you may or may not have heard of, but is the cause of a lot of excitement among firearms enthusiasts. Most firearms with a single barrel can shoot semi-automatic or three-round burst. Some can fire fully automatic.
This weapon is a caseless multi-bore rifle that uses packets of five rounds instead of single cartridges, and these packets (called charge blocks) are loaded into a magazine for use in the weapon. The packets come in blocks and those blocks act as the weapon’s chamber – or chambers.
And instead of using a percussive round to fire the projectile, it uses an electric trigger to fire a round. This has the added benefit of axing the mechanical movement of pulling the trigger. When the round fires from the rifle, it’s still spinning, which gives it the same flight stabilization of a regular rifle. The rounds are 6mm, lighter than 7.62 ammunition but heavier than NATO 5.56 and don’t affect each other in-flight – they even shoot overlapping groups.
Before we get into the issues around using an electric charge to fire rounds in a war zone, know the Ribbon Gun can fire 15,000 rounds on just one battery. It’s not going to be a drain on military resources and since it loads in stacks, it means fewer reloads in shorter time.
The best part about the L5 Ribbon Gun in potential military use is not just raiding a house and unloading five rounds into an enemy, it’s that an effective rate of fire’s biggest obstacle is heat buildup. In the L5, the heat is expended from the rifle along with the charge blocks.
An M16 firing 10 rounds per minute will heat up to around 600 degrees fahrenheit. It will reach a thousand degrees firing up to 120 rounds per minute. The L5 Ribbon Gun maxes out at around 400 degrees, giving it a more effective rate of fire.
Even more importantly for troops in combat, the L5 and its previous iterations won’t jam. The packet system that removes much of the heat from the weapon also reduces the amount of movement and machinery involved in firing rounds and ejecting magazines or blocks. The more simple firing mechanism, the fewer chances there will be for a catastrophic jam at the wrong time, right?
It’s more than that. There are no spring-loaded magazines to mess around with; the issues that getting a weapon dirty can cause are practically eliminated with the Ribbon Gun. So far, this may sound like an advertisement for the weapon, but there are downsides as well (despite how hard the inventor tried to account for every AR family shortcoming).
The charge blocks themselves will need to be dirt-proof, but do they need to be waterproof? It’s unclear what external factors could affect the weapon firing. What’s more is that it may work in the dry heat of the desert, but that doesn’t mean it would work in colder, damp climates.
It’s also a sure bet that many troops, especially special operations forces, are going to want to attach some special features to their weapons. Lights and night vision aiming are just a couple of items some American forces are going to ask for. Then there’s the Chesty Puller question: where do you put the bayonet?
The United States military has been testing ribbon guns in some form or another since 2018, and it must have seen the benefits of a lighter weight weapon and ammo designed to address the shortcomings of the current standard issue rifle.
Featured image: L5 prototype, courtesy FD Munitions.
Senior Army and Pentagon strategists and planners are considering ways to fire existing weapons platforms in new ways around the globe – including the possible placement of mobile artillery units in areas of the South China Sea to, if necessary, function as air-defense weapons to knock incoming rockets and cruise missiles out of the sky.
Alongside the South China Sea, more mobile artillery weapons used for air defense could also prove useful in areas such as the Middle East and Eastern Europe, officials said. Having mobile counter-air weapons such as the M109 Paladin, able to fire 155m precision rounds on-the-move, could prove to be an effective air-defense deterrent against Russian missiles, aircraft and rockets in Eastern Europe, a senior Army official told Scout Warrior.
Regarding the South China Sea, the U.S. has a nuanced or complicated relationship with China involving both rivalry and cooperation; the recent Chinese move to put surface-to-air missiles on claimed territory in the South China Sea has escalated tensions and led Pentagon planners to consider various options.
Officials are clear to emphasize that no decisions have been made along these lines, yet it is one of the things being considered. Pentagon officials have opposed further militarization of the area and emphasized that the territorial disputes in the South China Sea need to be resolved peacefully and diplomatically.
At the same time, Pentagon officials have publicly stated the U.S. will continue “freedom of navigation” exercises wherein Navy ships sail within 12 miles of territory claimed by the Chinese – and tensions are clearly on the rise. In addition to these activities, it is entirely possible the U.S. could also find ways to deploy more offensive and defensive weapons to the region.
Naturally, a move of this kind would need to involve close coordination with U.S. allies in the region, as the U.S. claims no territory in the South China Sea. However, this would involve the deployment of a weapons system which has historically been used for offensive attacks on land. The effort could use an M777 Howitzer or Paladin, weapons able to fire 155m rounds.
Photo: US Army Spc. Gregory Gieske
“We could use existing Howitzers and that type of munition (155m shells) to knock out incoming threats when people try to hit us from the air at long ranges using rockets and cruise missiles,” a senior Army official said.
Howitzers or Paladins could be used as a mobile, direct countermeasures to incoming rockets, he said. A key advantage to using a Paladin is that it is a mobile platform which could adjust to moving or fast-changing approaching enemy fire.
“A Howitzer can go where it has to go. It is a way of changing an offensive weapon and using it in dual capacity,” the official explained. “This opens the door to opportunities and options we have not had before with mobile defensive platforms and offensive capabilities.
Mobile air defenses such as an Army M777 or Paladin Howitzer weapon could use precision rounds and advancing fire-control technology to destroy threatening air assets such as enemy aircraft, drones or incoming artillery fire.
They would bring a mobile tactical advantage to existing Army air defenses such as the Patriot and Theater High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which primarily function as fixed-defense locations, the senior Army officials said.
The M777 artillery weapon, often used over the years in Iraq and Afghanistan, can fire the precision GPS-guided Excalibur artillery round able to destroy targets within one meter from up to 30-kilometers or more away. Naturally, given this technology, it could potentially be applied as an air-defense weapon as well.
Using a Howitzer or Paladin could also decrease expenses, officials said.
“Can a munition itself be cheaper so we are not making million dollar missiles to shoot down $100,000 dollar incoming weapons,” The Army official said.
While Pentagon officials did not formally confirm the prospect of working with allies to place weapons, such as Howitzers, in the South China Sea, they did say the U.S. was stepping up its coordination with allies in the region.
“We continue work with our partners and allies to develop their maritime security capabilities,” Cmdr. Bill Urban, Pentagon spokesman, told Scout Warrior.
Strategic Capabilities Office
The potential use of existing weapons in new ways is entirely consistent with an existing Pentagon office which was, for the first time, recently announced publically. It is called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, stood up to look at integrating innovating technologies with existing weapons platforms – or simply adapting or modifying existing weapons for a wider range of applications.
“I created the SCO in 2012 when I was deputy secretary of defense to help us to re-imagine existing DOD and intelligence community and commercial systems by giving them new roles and game-changing capabilities to confound potential enemies — the emphasis here was on rapidity of fielding, not 10 and 15-year programs. Getting stuff in the field quickly,” Carter said.
Senior Army officials say the SCO office is a key part of what provides the conceptual framework for the ongoing considerations of placing new weaponry in different locations throughout the Pacific theater. An Army consideration to place Paladin artillery weapons in the South China Sea would be one example of how to execute this strategic framework.
In fact, the Pentagon is vigorously stepping up its support to allies in the Pacific theater. A 2016 defense law, called the Southeast Asia Maritme Security Initiative, provides new funding to authorize a Department of Defense effort to train, equip, and provide other support to the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, Urban explained.
“The Secretary (Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter) has committed $425M over Fiscal Years 2016-2020 for MSI (Maritime Security Initiative), with an initial investment of $50M available in fiscal year 2016 toward this effort,” Urban said.
Army Rebalance to the Pacific
While the Army is naturally immersed in activities with NATO to deter Russian movements in Eastern Europe and maintaining missions in Iraq and Afghanistan – the service has not forsaken its commitment to pursuing a substantial Army component to the Pentagon’s Pacific rebalance.
Among other things, this involves stepped up military-to-military activities with allies in the region, coordinating with other leaders and land armies, and efforts to move or re-posture some weapons in the area.”The re-balance to the Pacific is more than military, it is an economic question. the Army has its hands full with the Middle East and with Europe and is dealing with a resurgent problem in Europe and North Africa,” an Army official said. “We have been able to cycle multiple units through different countries,” the senior official said.
Also, the pentagon has made the Commander of Army Pacific a 4-star General, a move which enables him to have direct one-to-one correspondence with his Chinese counterpart and other leaders in the region, he added.
As of several years ago, the Army had 18,500 Soldier stationed in Korea, 2,400 in Japan, 2,000 in Guam, 480 in the Philippines, 22,300 in Hawaii and 13,500 in Alaska. The service continues to support the national defense strategy by strengthening partnerships with existing allies in the region and conduction numerous joint exercises, service officials said.
“The ground element of the Pacific rebalance is important to ensure the stability in the region,” senior officials have said. Many of the world’s largest ground armies are based in the Pacific.
Also, in recent years Army documents have emphasized the need for the service to increase fire power in the Pacific to increased fielding of THAAD, Patriot and the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS in the Pacific region. ATACMS is a technology which delivers precision fires against stationary or slow-moving targets at ranges up to 300 km., Army officials have said. In 2013, the Army did deploy THAAD missile systems to Guam.
Army officials have also called for the development of a land-based anti-ship ballistic missile, directed energy capability, and additional land-based anti-ship fires capabilities such as the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System.
Army officials have also said man support a potential adaptation of the RGM-84 Harpoon and calls for the development of boost-glide entry warheads able to deploy “to hold adversary shipping at risk all without ever striking targets inland.
Boost-glide weapons use rocket-boosted payload delivery vehicles that glide at hypersonic speeds in the atmosphere. An increase in the Army’s investment in boost-glide technology now could fast track the Army’s impact in the Air-Sea Battle fight in the near term, Army papers have stated.
Most outsiders may not know about an Air Force tradition that gives the hard-charging crew chiefs of some of the most high-tech airplanes in the world a chance to show a little personality.
You might have seen some funny videos or gifs here and there featuring Air Force maintainers directing taxiing aircraft with the flair of a funny dance or outrageous outfit, and you might have wondered how they got away with it without their commander coming down on them like a ton of bricks.
What you’re seeing is “Freestyle Friday,” a military version of “casual Fridays” where Air Force crew chiefs – the tactical aircraft maintainers who coordinate the maintenance and care of the world’s most expensive airframes — are allowed to have a little fun on the job.
Crew chiefs have one of the hardest jobs in the Air Force; one that requires a lot of training, long hours, and a lot of responsibility to make sure the planes are in tip-top shape for their dangerous missions. There’s a reason the crew chief often gets his name on the nose of a plane with the pilot’s.
Some consider Air Force crew chiefs and maintainers the “grunts” of the Air Force, and no one should be surprised when they have a little fun on the flightline during Freestyle Fridays to blow off a little steam.
Crew chiefs have to deal with exhaustion from a high operational tempo, hearing loss from the jet noise on the flightline, and may sometimes feel a little underappreciated by the rest of the maintenance group.
Like most enlisted folks with this level of responsibility, they’re known for blunt talk and a no-nonsense attitude. They take care of the planes they’re charged to maintain very seriously. So it’s no surprise they’re known to be hardasses for doing things their way.