How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare - We Are The Mighty
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How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

As laser-guided bombs incinerated Iraqi tanks from the sky, surveillance aircraft monitored enemy troop movements and stealth bombers eluded radar tracking from air defenses in the opening days of Operation Desert Strom decades ago – very few of those involved were likely considering how their attacks signified a new era in modern warfare.


Earlier this year, when veterans, historians, and analysts commemorated the 25th anniversary of the first Gulf War in the early 90s, many regard the military effort as a substantial turning point in the trajectory or evolution of modern warfare.

Operation Desert Storm involved the combat debut of stealth technology, GPS for navigation, missile warning systems, more advanced surveillance plane radar, and large amounts of precision-focused laser-guided bombs, Maj. Gen. Paul Johnson, Director of Requirements for the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, told Scout Warrior in a special interview earlier this year.

“We saw the first glimpses in Desert Storm of what would become the transformation of air power,” he said.

The five-to-six-week air war, designed to clear the way for what ultimately became a 100-hour ground invasion, began with cruise missiles and Air Force and Army helicopters launching a high-risk mission behind enemy lines to knock out Iraqi early warning radar sites. Two Air Force MH-53 Pave Low helicopters led AH-64 Apache Attack helicopters into Iraqi territory, Johnson explained.

The idea of the mission was to completely destroy the early warning radar in order to open up an air corridor for planes to fly through safely and attack Iraqi targets. The mission was successful.

“This was the dawn of GPS – the ability to precisely navigate anywhere anytime without any other navigation systems. The Pave Lows had it and the Apaches did not – so the Pave Low was there to navigate the Apache’s deep into Iraq to find the early warning radar sites,” he recalled. “Now, everybody has it on their iPhone but at that day and time it was truly revolutionary.”

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare
An AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter flies over the desert terrain between Tall’Afar and Mosul, Iraq. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson

Johnson explained the priority targets during the air war consisted of Iraqi artillery designed to knock out any potential ability for Iraq to launch chemical weapons. Other priority targets of course included Iraqi air defenses, troop formations, armored vehicles and command and control locations.

The air attack involved F-117 Night Hawk stealth bombers, B-52s, F-15 Eagles and low-flying A-10 Warthog aircraft, among other assets.

Desert Storm Heroism

At one point during the Air War, Johnson’s A-10 Warthog plane was hit by an Iraqi shoulder-fired missile while attempting to attack enemy surface-to-air missile sites over Iraqi territory.

“I found myself below the weather trying to pull off an attack that failed. I got hit in the right wing. I yelled out and finally keyed the mic and decided to tell everyone else that I was hit. I safely got the airplane back. They fixed the airplane in about 30-days. The enemy fire hit the right wing of the airplane and the wing was pretty messed up, but I had sufficient control authority to keep the wings level,” Johnson said.

On the way back from the mission, while flying a severely damaged airplane, Johnson received in-flight refueling from a KC-10 aircraft at about 25,000 feet. Johnson received the Air Force Cross for his heroism on another ocassion during the war, where he helped rescue a downed F-14 fighter jet.

The Combat Debut of New Technology

While there was not much air-to-air combat during Desert Storm, the Iraqis did try to field a few Mig-29 fighter jets. However, upon being noticed by U.S. Air Force F-15E radar – they took off, Johnson said.

The advent of much great air-fired precision weaponry, aided by overhead surveillance and GPS for navigation is largely referred to as the 2nd Offset – a moment in the evolution of warfare marked by significant technological leaps forward. Johnson explained that the 2nd Offset fully came to fruition in the late 90s during Operation Allied Force in Kosovo.

GPS guided bombs, called Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, did not yet exist at the time of the first Gulf War – but GPS technology for navigation greatly improve the ability of pilots and ground forces to know exactly where they were in relation to surrounding territory and enemy force movements.

This was particularly valuable in Iraq due to the terrain, Johnson explained. There was no terrain or mountainous areas as landmarks from which to navigate. The landscape was entirely desert with no roads, no terrain and no rivers.

In addition, massive use of laser guided weaponry allowed air assets to pinpoint Iraqi targets from a laser-spot – thereby increasing accuracy and mission efficiency while reducing collateral damage.

“Laser weapons had been around since Vietnam but we expended laser guided bombs in numbers that we had never done before,” he explained.

Some of the weapons dropped included Maverick missiles, the 2,000-pound Mk 84 penetrator and a 500-pound Mk 82 along with cluster weaponry. The Maverick missile is an anti-armor precision weapon which uses electro-optical precision weaponry to destroy targets.

“The Maverick has a camera in the front of the missile that would lock on and guide itself to the target. It is old technology but very precise,” Johnson added.

Also, airborne surveillance, in the form of the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or JSTARS, provided attacking forces with an unprecedented view from the sky, Johnson said.

The aircraft used Ground Moving Target Indicator and Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, to deliver a “rendering” or painted picture of ground activity below.

“This allowed us to monitor the battlefield day or night regardless of the weather and detect movement of enemy ground formations. The Iraqi forces tried to make a movement on the village of Khafji. It was a large-scale movement by the Iraqi Army in the middle of the night because they thought we could not see them. We saw them,” Johnson explained.

Due to this surveillance technology, the commander of the air war moved an entire theater’s worth of air power to attack the Iraqi formation.

“In Desert Storm you had the ability to dynamically see what was going on in the battlespace and perform command and control in real time and divert assets in real time. You had the ability to navigate incredibly precisely and then the ability to apply precision weapons – one weapon kills one target at a time,” he added.

Desert Storm also involved the combat debut of beyond line-of-sight satellite communications which, among other things, provide missile warning systems, Johnson said.

“We did not shoot at every Scud that came in because we know where it was going to go,” Johnson recalled.

Johnson explained that the Gulf War changed the paradigm for the strategic use of air power by allowing one plane to precisely hit multiple targets instead of using un-guided bombs to blanket an area.

“We began a change in calculus. Since the dawn of air power, the calculus has always been – ‘How many airplanes does it take to destroy a target?’ A-10s can put a string of bombs through the target area and hopefully one of the bombs hits the target. By the end of the 90s, the calculus was – ‘How many targets can a single airplane destroy?’ Johnson said.

Desert Storm Ground War

The 100-hour ground war was both effective and successful due to the air war and the use of tactical deception. U.S. amphibious forces had been practicing maneuvers demonstrating shore attacks along the Kuwaiti coastline as a way to give the Iraqis the impression that that is how they would attack.

“The Iraqis saw these amphibious maneuvers because that is what we wanted them to see,” Johnson explained.

However, using a famous “left hook” maneuver, U.S. coalition forces actually attacked much further inland and were able to quickly advance with few casualties through thinner Iraqi defenses.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare
An Iraqi T-55 main battle tank burns after an attack by the 1st United Kingdom Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm. | Creative Commons photo

There were, however, some famous tank battles in the open desert during the ground attack. U.S. Army tanks destroyed large numbers or Iraqi tanks and fighting positions – in part because advanced thermal infrared imagers inside U.S. Army M1 Abrams battle tanks enable crews to detect the signature of Iraqi tanks without needing ambient light.

Although this gave U.S. forces and an advantage – and the U.S. Army was overwhelmingly victorious in Desert Storm tank battles – there were some tough engagement such as the Battle of Medina Ridge between the Army’s 1st Armored Division and Iraqi Republican Guard forces.

Effects Based Warfare – Changing Air Attacks

The use of such precision from the air marked the debut of what is commonly referred to as “effects based warfare,” a strategic air attack technique aimed at attacking specific targets from the air without needing to destroy the infrastructure of the attack area.

As a result, targets included command and control centers, moving ground troops or armored forces, supply lines and other strategic and tactical targets. Effects-Based warfare experts describe this as a “strategic rings” approach with command and control at the center of the inner circle and other enemy assets in the so-called outer rings.

One idea, among others, was to use precision weaponry from the air to cut off communication and supply lines between the command and control centers and outer forces on the move — in order to paralyze and destroy mobile enemy forces.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare
USAF aircraft of the 4th Fighter Wing (F-16, F-15C and F-15E) fly over Kuwaiti oil fires, set by the retreating Iraqi army during Operation Desert Storm. | U.S. Air Force photo

This approach was successfully used in Desert Storm, marking a historic shift in the strategic use of air power. In fact, a similar conceptual framework was used more than 10 years later in the opening attacks of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“There once was a time when we thought we had to go into the layers sequentially where we had to start at the out layers and peel it back to get into the inner layers. Desert Storm indicated that this is not the case. The first ordnance to hit the ground was at the inner layer,” Johnson explained.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time U.S. F-15s stumbled into an Iraqi trap and won

It became clear just hours into Operation Desert Storm that the U.S. was leaps and bounds ahead of the Iraqi Air Force — the first aerial clashes resulted in the U.S. downing three enemy aircraft while suffering no losses. But U.S. pilots knew that Iraq had significant air defenses and fighter aircraft that had to be taken seriously.

And that’s what made it so scary for the Air Force and Marine Corps F-15 pilots who realized that they’d stumbled into a sophisticated trap on the second day of the assault.


How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

The F-15 is a stunning fighter that claims over 100 aerial kills with zero losses to enemy fire.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Hughel)

Marine Corps Capt. Charles Magill was leading a flight of eight F-15s protecting a larger strike package headed into the contested airspace to destroy threats on the ground. The eight F-15s in the lead got a call from the E-3 Sentry aircraft on the mission.

Two MiG-29 Fulcrums were near the target area.

Magill decided to take three other F-15s with him to destroy the threat, leaving four behind to protect the main strike package.

www.youtube.com

Four-against-two odds, especially when the team of four has F-15s versus enemy MiGs, is a good setup — but the F-15s had been tricked. As they pursued the MiGs, the ground suddenly erupted with surface-to-air missiles, all locked on U.S. jets and racing to their targets.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

MiG-29 were useful and capable fighters, even if they lacked all the capability of American F-15s.

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Ammons)

The American pilots were forced to jettison their external fuel tanks and take evasive actions. They deployed flares, put the planes through gut-wrenching turns, and, ultimately, avoided every missile fired against them. This left them in suddenly-safe skies once again — except for the two MiGs that had lured them. The Americans still smelled blood and decided to continue the pursuit.

As they drew close, the MiGs took a sudden turn towards the Air Force and Marine pilots, making the Americans think that the MiGs were prepared for a knockdown fight.

But, it turned out, the Iraqis had spotted a lone Navy F-14 Tomcat and were maneuvering to attack it, allowing the F-15 pilots to pursue the MiGs in turn. Magill took his shot immediately after Air Force Capt. Rhory Draeger. Magill, worried that his first missile had malfunctioned, took a third shot.

Draeger’s first missile flew true and shredded the Iraqi jet, while both of Magill’s missiles also made contact. The first missile tore the right wing from the Iraqi jet and the second missile flew into the resulting fireball and exploded. The strike package was safe once again to attack Iraqi ground targets and Operation Desert Storm continued unabated.

Articles

This is why Mattis isn’t losing sleep over threats from North Korea

US military strategists at the Pentagon have a military solution in place to address the growing threat emanating from North Korea, but they are holding their fire in favor of ongoing diplomatic efforts by Washington and its allies, Defense Secretary James Mattis said August 10.


The Pentagon chief remained largely mum on the details of that military solution, which theoretically would curb Pyongyang’s efforts to develop a nuclear-capable, ballistic missile arsenal, except to say any military option would be a multilateral one involving a number of regional powers in the Pacific.

“Do I have military options? Of course, I do. That’s my responsibility, to have those. And we work very closely with allies to ensure that this is not unilateral either … and of course there’s a military solution,” Mr. Mattis told reporters en route to meet with senior leaders in the technology sector in Seattle and California.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare
Defense Secretary James Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

The former four-star general declined to provide any additional insight to a statement released August 9, warning that the North’s continued provocations — including alleged plans for an attack against US forces in Guam by Pyongyang — “would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

Instead, Mr. Mattis reiterated that the administration’s diplomatic efforts to quell tensions on the peninsula remained the top priority for the White House.

“We want to use diplomacy. That’s where we’ve been, that’s where we are right now. and that’s where we hope to remain. But at the same time, our defenses are robust” and ready to take on any threat posed by the North Korean regime, Mr. Mattis said.

US defense and national security officials have repeatedly touted the capabilities of the US missile defense shield over the last several weeks, in the wake of a pair of successful test launches by North Korea of its latest intercontinental ballistic missile in July. President Trump has made revamping US missile defense systems a top objective for the Pentagon since taking office.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare
Photo from North Korean State Media.

That impetus has only grown among administration officials amid reports this week that Pyongyang had built a nuclear warhead small enough to fit atop one of the country’s long-range missiles.

On August 9, Mr. Trump threatened to rain down “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea did not curb its nuclear programs. In response, North Korea announced it was developing plans for a missile strike against Guam.

On August 10, Mr. Mattis declined to comment whether he was taken aback by Mr. Trump’s harsh rhetoric.

“I was not elected, the American people elected the president,” he said. “I think what he’s pointing out is simply these provocations … [and] his diplomatic effort to try and stop it,” Mr. Mattis said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Spec Ops leaders tell Congress they’re in the ‘risk business’

Calling the breadth and capability of the U.S. Special Operations Forces “astonishing,” the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict discussed the global posture of the nation’s special operations enterprise during a hearing Feb. 14, 2019, on Capitol Hill.

Owen O. West appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee with Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

West said that while special operations forces make up just 3 percent of the joint force, they have absorbed more than 40 percent of the casualties since 2001. “This sacrifice serves as a powerful reminder that special operators are in the risk business,” he said.


The assistant secretary said the National Defense Strategy has challenged all of DOD to increase focus on long-term strategic competition with Russia and China, and the SOF enterprise is in the midst of transformation; “something special operators have always done very well.”

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

Assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict Owen West.

Any transformation starts with people, West said, noting, “In November, Gen. Thomas and I issued the first-ever joint vision for the [special operations forces] enterprise, challenging professionals to relentlessly pursue the decisive competitive advantage.”

Not stretched thin

West told the committee he is “proud to report to you that our SOF is neither overstretched nor breaking, but very healthy and eager to defend the nation against increasingly adaptive foes.”

As an integral part of the joint force, special operations troops are integrated into every facet of the NDS, Thomas told the committee.

“For the last 18 years, our No. 1 priority has been the effort against violent extremist organizations,” the general said. “As part of the joint force, we continue to be the … major supporting effort in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Lake Chad Basin; everywhere [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-] affiliated organizations are. We are relentlessly pursuing them to ensure this country never, ever endures another 9/11.”

A more lethal force

Thomas noted that Socom remains focused on finishing the effort by, with and through the United States’ many coalition partners.

“At the same time, again, as part of the joint force, we’re endeavoring to provide a more lethal and capable special operations force to confront peer competitors,” the commander said.

To build a more lethal force, strengthen alliances and partnerships and reform for greater performance and efficiency, Socom is reshaping and focusing its forces on capabilities, while also developing new technological and tactical approaches to accomplish the diverse mission that Socom will face in the future, Thomas said.

“The emergency security challenges will require Socom to be an organization of empowered SOF professionals — globally networked, partnered and integrated in relentlessly seeking advantage — in every domain for the joint force in the nation,” the general said.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

A CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft takes off with a team of special tactics airmen assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron during exercise Emerald Warrior 19.1 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 22, 2019.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rose Gudex)

In addition to its responsibility to man, train and equip the world’s most capable special operations forces, over the past few years, Socom has experienced considerable development in another legislative role as a combatant command, he said.

Global mission sets

“We are currently assigned the role as the coordinating authority for three major global mission sets: counterterrorism, countering weapons of mass destruction and recently, messaging and countermessaging,” Thomas said.

“These roles require us to lead planning efforts, continually address joint force progress toward campaign objectives, and recommend improvements for modifications to our campaign approach to the secretary of defense,” he explained.

In parallel, Socom is pursuing an aggressive partnership with the other combatant commands with global portfolios: U.S. Cyber Command, U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Space Command, Thomas said, which is designed to leverage Socom’s respective capabilities to provide more agile solutions to DOD.

Emerging technologies

“We are increasing our investments in a wide spectrum of emerging technologies to include artificial intelligence/machine learning, automated systems, advanced robotics, augmented reality, biomedical monitoring, and advanced armor and munitions development, to name a few,” the general said.

“Leveraging our proven ability to rapidly develop and field cutting-edge technology flowing from our focus on the tactical edge of combat,” Thomas said, ” joint experimentation initiative will bring together innovative efforts from across our special operations force tactical formations to ensure that commanders’ combat requirements are addressed with the most advanced concepts available.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

For the last five years, Air Force Special Operations Command has been working toward incorporating a high-energy laser weapon on its newest AC-130J gunship. It now plans to test-fire a 60-kilowatt laser in 2022, according to a program officer affiliated with the program.

“If it is successful — and we are planning for success — then it will feed into our new requirements and potentially a new program down the road,” said Air Force Col. Melissa Johnson, program executive officer for fixed-wing programs at Special Operations Command. She spoke during last week’s Virtual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association.


“If this goes forward past the demo … we’ll have an additional [research, development, test and evaluation] program going forward,” Johnson said, as reported by NDIA‘s National Defense Magazine.

Johnson explained that previous tests have largely been ground-based and done in conjunction with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia. The next, scheduled for fiscal 2022, will be onboard the AC-130 aircraft, she said.

The J-model aircraft achieved initial operational capability in September 2017.

The fourth-generation AC-130 is slated to replace the AC-130H/U/W models, with delivery of the final J-variant sometime in 2021, according to the Air Force.

The 4th Special Operations Squadron, part of the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida, received its first J-model with the Block 30 software upgrade in March 2019.

Along with the 105mm cannon sported by its cousin, the AC-130U model, the AC-130J is equipped with a 30mm cannon “almost like a sniper rifle. … It’s that precise; it can pretty much hit first shot, first kill,” Col. Tom Palenske, then-commander of 1st SOW, told Military.com during a trip to Hurlburt in 2018.

Palenske said that a laser would be the ultimate ace in the hole, making disabling other weapons systems easier.

“If you’re flying along and your mission is to disable an airplane or a car, like when we took down Noriega back in the day, now, as opposed to sending a Navy SEAL team to go disable [aircraft] on the ground, you make a pass over that thing with an airborne laser and burn a hole through its engine,” he said.

Palenske was referring to 1989’s Operation Nifty Package mission to capture and remove Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega from power, during which a SEAL team “disable[d] his aircraft so he couldn’t escape.”

With a laser, “it’s just like that. And you just keep going on, and there’s no noise, no fuss, nobody knows it happened. They don’t know the thing’s broken until they go and try to fire it up,” he said at the time.

AFSOC had hoped to incorporate the laser onto the aircraft this year. Johnson said gaps in funding, not technological maturity, were behind the delay.

“After several years of seeking stable funding, we are there,” she said.

Then-AFSOC commander Gen. Brad Webb made a similar remark in 2018.

“The challenge on having the laser is funding,” Webb said during the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium that year. “And then, of course, you have the end-all, be-all laser questions: ‘Are you going to be able to focus a beam, with the appropriate amount of energy for the appropriate amount of time for an effect?’

“We can hypothesize about that all we want. My petition is, ‘Let’s get it on the plane. Let’s do it. Let’s say we can — or we can’t,” Webb said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The best and worst cities to be a football fan may not surprise you

Another football season is nearing its end and the excitement surrounding this season, the surprise Clemson win, the NFC Championship controversy, and the upcoming Super Bowl inspired the people over at WalletHub to do yet another study on the habits and happiness of your average Americans – this time, with a focus on the gridiron.


Keep in mind, this isn’t just about NFL football, but you will find familiar NFL franchise cities on the top of the list. It also includes NCAA football. Some 244 American cities were graded on 21 different metrics using a 100-point scale, with 100 being a perfectly favorable score. WalletHub included one professional team or one college team, and assigned weights to each category based on its popularity with fans. The weighted averages comprise the list and are grouped by city size.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

“Terrible.”

The top ten will likely not be a surprise to anyone. Pittsburgh, home of die-hard Steelers fans and the Panthers of the NCAA’s Atlantic Coast Conference, tops the list. That’s followed by the homes of the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Giants, Dolphins, Saints, and so on. The first time the home of a nationally-ranked college football team comes is at the end of the 30 cities where NFL franchises are housed.

At the top of the college football list of best cities for football fans sits another unsurprising winner.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

Roll Tide.

Clemson, S.C., may have defeated the Crimson Tide for the BCS National Championship, but they’re in second place when it comes to fandom. As you scroll the list you’ll find the homes of the Florida State Seminoles, the LSU Tigers, and the Penn State Nittany Lions. What might surprise you is the high ranking for the North Dakota State Bison, Appalachian State Mountaineers, and the U.S. Military Academy’s Black Knights.

In case you were wondering, West Point, N.Y. sits at number 39 while Annapolis, Md. is all the way at number 123, sandwiched between the home of the Cal Poly Mustangs and the Eastern Michigan University Eagles. Colorado Springs, the home of the U.S. Air Force Academy, is number 115.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

There’s always next year, Navy.

As for the bottom of the list, the lowest ranked NFL city is Cleveland, which is unsurprising considering they once dubbed the Browns’ FirstEnergy Stadium the “Factory of Sadness.” In terms of the NCAA, the biggest surprise at the bottom of the college football list is the low, low ranking for the homes of the Oregon State Beavers and the Purdue Boilermakers, who scrape the bottom of a list of 244.

Check out the full list in the WalletHub Infographic.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare
Articles

Paul Revere’s midnight ride wasn’t as amazing as these other 5

Paul Revere is the most famous of the riders who conducted midnight rides but while he deserves praise for his patriotism throughout the struggle for independence, his 16-mile midnight ride was actually pretty tame compared to what other riders in the war experienced.


A 16-year-old girl rode 40 miles and rallied 400-men. Another rider rescued Thomas Jefferson, other signers of the Declaration of Independence, and many members of the Virginia legislature.

So, here are 6 of the most famous and badass people who conducted rides during the Revolution:

1. Paul Revere, the most famous of the riders

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare
See other important tweets from military history.

See other important tweets from military history.

Paul Revere got most of his fame from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Poem, Paul Revere’s Ride. While the poem makes it sound like Revere conducted an epic, all-night ride, he actually only made it 16 miles before he was caught by Redcoats and had his horse confiscated. He did manage to warn most of the people between Boston and Lexington though.

2. Jack Jouett rescued so many leaders, including Thomas Jefferson

In Jun. 1781, Jack Jouett was eavesdropping on some British soldiers when they mentioned a plan to capture Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson and most the Virginia General Assembly. Jouett flagged this as a major party foul and rode 40 miles through the dark to warn the Revolutionary leaders, allowing them to escape capture.

3. Sybil Luddington raised 400 militiamen and earned Washington’s praise

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare
Photo: Public Domain/Anthony22

Sybil Ludington was the 16-year-old daughter of a militia colonel when the British attacked nearby Danbury. Sybil rode out into the countryside to rally her father’s troops and got 400 militiamen ready to fend off the British Army, saving the town. She continued to conduct rides for much of the war. Gen. George Washington praised her for her contributions to the Colonial effort.

4. Samuel Prescott got word through to Concord when Paul Revere was captured

Local doctor Samuel Prescott was headed home from visiting his fiancee when he ran into Revere and William Dawes who were headed from Lexington to Concord. Prescott volunteered to ride with them and was the only one who managed to escape the British patrol and make it to Concord. The militiamen clashed with the British there later that day, holding the Redcoats at a bridge and killing 14.

5. William Dawes, the other rider with Paul Revere

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare
Photo: Public Domain

William Dawes and Revere left at about the same time from Boston but took a different route. Dawes barely made it out of the city before it was locked down. He later rejoined Revere at Lexington but managed to escape the British when Revere did not.

6. Israel Bissell (may have) ridden 345 miles in 5 days to warn people across 5 states

The legend of Israel Bissell states that he was recruited by a militia colonel on Apr. 19, 1775 to take word of the Battles of Lexington and Concord to Hartford, Connecticut. The brave rider then supposedly rode another four days through another three states for a total of 345 miles.

Recent historical inquiries have found evidence that Israel Bissell may have actually been Isaac Bissell who rode from Boston to Hartford. While this still would be an impressive 100-mile ride, it’s not exactly a five-day marathon. Other cities on the route may have gotten word from the normal postal system which would’ve carried the message forward as important news.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This captured GoPro video shows what it’s like to fight the Kurds with ISIS

ISIS talks a big game in posting propaganda videos on the internet, especially at the height of its power in 2014 – 2015. But one GoPro slamcam video, captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and posted to YouTube shows, ISIS fighters aren’t always the hardcore soldiers ISIS says they are.

A warning: although most of the video just shows ISIS fighters under intense SDF fire, some of the images can get graphic.


The video is part of the “War Diary” project, an educational documentary project to archive real events in combat by the people who fought there. It features a squad of ISIS fighters directly engaged in combat with the Kurdish SDF. The GoPro camera appears to be attached either to a helmet of a squad commander or strapped to his chest. The commander, Abu Ayman al-Iraqi, is accompanied by a fighter named Abu Aisha Iraqi, who keeps telling the man in charge that they should retreat.

Abu Aisha, you can probably guess, was right about getting out of there. The Kurds were coming at the ISIS fighters with fire so intense, the jihadis couldn’t even look at where they were shooting back. The ISIS commander has to order his men repeatedly to shoot back instead of fleeing. When he orders a grenade or RPG, his troops stay motionless with fear.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

If you don’t understand Arabic, that’s okay. The Kurds translated the video for you.

The confrontation took place in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor Province in December 2018. It was part of a greater campaign by the SDF to push ISIS forces back across the Euphrates River, eliminate its fighters from the Iraqi border, and capture all remaining ISIS strongholds. It happened at the same time as the SDF push to capture the ISIS capital at Raqqa and the Syrian government’s push against the jihadist group in Western Syria. The result of the combined campaigns was the final defeat of ISIS as a formal army, occupying any territory.

In the video, you can see hear the frustration of the commander as his troops fail to shoot back, forget their weapons, and abandon an armored vehicle to escape the oncoming enemy. Even the ISIS commander begins to fumble with his AR-15 as the Kurds get closer. Abu Ayman Iraqi gets shot around 9:00. his men desert him in the armored vehicle as he shouts at them to come back.

He does not die in the video.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are rules for Tyndall personnel checking out their housing

Phase 2 is to get you back into your homes and dorms to inspect and collect your belongings, and it has begun.

We are opening the gates for limited access for five days from Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, through Sunday Oct. 21, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Military members, military dependents, civilians, civilian dependents, and nonappropriated fund employees may voluntarily go to Tyndall Air Force Base and the surrounding area to evaluate their personal property. No reimbursement is authorized for voluntary travel performed. This evaluation may only be accomplished between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Central Standard Time on the previously mentioned days.


We must emphasize the importance of following the established guidelines set in-place for this limited access. There are restrictions in-place for a multitude of reasons, safety being a top concern. Force Protection measures will be in place to ensure everyone travels directly to their home and exits the gate in an orderly fashion.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

Hurricane Michael made landfall as a catastrophic Category 4 close to Tyndall Air Force Base in the afternoon of Oct. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy)

All residents entering Tyndall AFB will abide by the following rules:

  • Personnel will proceed through a check point for all housing and dorm areas. Emergency contact information will be provided since the local 911 emergency system is inoperative.
  • Dorm residents will enter through the Louisiana Gate entrance, the eastern most gate on 98.
  • Housing residents south of 98 will enter through the Sabre Gate, the gate across from the Visitor’s Center.
  • Shoal Point and Bayview residents will check in at the Visitors Center across from the Sabre Gate.
  • Access is restricted to housing areas and dorms.
  • You must be self-sufficient. Ensure you have enough water and food. Personal protective equipment is highly recommended and should include at a minimum safety glasses, gloves and a hard hat. Gas is in limited supply in the local area; fill vehicles outside approximately 70 miles from the Tyndall AFB local area. A tire plug kit is recommended due to the potential for debris.
  • No pets will be allowed on base.
  • I strongly recommend you refrain from bringing children, as their safety cannot be guaranteed.
  • This temporary suspension of the evacuation applies to both off-base and on-base housing.
  • You will NOT be able to stay. All must depart the base, and surrounding area to include Shoal Point and Bayview, not later than 3 p.m. Central Standard Time to ensure you comply with mandated curfew requirements.
  • All Tyndall AFB personnel remain under the previously mandated evacuation order.
  • You are welcome to collect your belongings during the aforementioned days.
  • You will be permitted to bring moving vehicles to transport your belongings and store them outside the evacuation area at your own expense.
  • You will be permitted to remove vehicles left on base, as long as moving them is safe and the vehicles are drivable.
  • Staying overnight anywhere in the evacuation area will void your evacuation benefits.
Mental health representatives, chaplains and additional points of contact will be available to provide the best support possible during this difficult time.
How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

Hurricane Michael created significant structural damage to the majority of the Tyndall Air Force Base and surrounding areas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy)

Please understand that our base and local area remain dangerous. We are still cleaning roads, power lines and debris. This has been a major undertaking but we are getting better each day.

We continue working a long term plan of action but we simply aren’t there yet, as we are concentrating on the short term day-to-day recovery actions.

Q: What if I cannot return to Tyndall AFB within the five-day period? Will I have another opportunity to gather my belongings?
A: A long term plan of action is being formed. More information will be available in the coming days.

Q: Am I able to bring a non-military member with me since my spouse is deployed?
A: Yes, you are.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Surrounded by a small group of soldiers all dressed in physical training gear, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey kicked off the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition with a Battle Challenge event.

“Our soldiers need to be ready,” Dailey said. “Ready to do the basic skills necessary to fight and win on the battlefield. Soldiers need to have the physical … and technical skills to do their job, fight and win.”


Soldiers who participated in this year’s Best Warrior competition were among the first to run the Battle Challenge at AUSA. The winners of the Best Warrior competition will be announced at the Sergeant Major of the Army’s awards luncheon.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

Surrounded by a small group of soldiers all dressed in physical training gear, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey kicked off the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition with a Battle Challenge event in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Devon L. Suits)

“PT is the most important thing you do every day. PT is a primary and fundamental thing soldiers do to fight. That is our job — fight and win our nation’s wars,” Dailey said. “AUSA put this together for us, and we couldn’t be happier.”

During the Battle Challenge, soldiers raced against the clock to be the fastest to complete a series of nine different soldier tasks. There is no prize for the winner — just bragging rights knowing that they bested some of the Army’s fiercest competitors.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

Soldiers participate in a Battle Challenge event at the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. P.J. Siquig)

“The Battle Challenge was fun,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Machado, a platoon sergeant with the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and one of the Best Warrior competitors.

“During Best Warrior, we were working with some amazing competitors and the battle challenge capped off the event,” he added. “(AUSA) is a lot of fun and great opportunity to see all the things going on (in the Army), and in industry.”

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

Soldiers participate in a Battle Challenge event at the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. P.J. Siquig)

AUSA’s annual meeting is the largest land power exposition and professional development forum in North America, according to event officials. With the theme, “Ready today — more lethal tomorrow,” AUSA is driven to deliver the Army’s message through informative presentations from Army senior leaders about the state of the force.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

Soldiers participate in a Battle Challenge event at the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. P.J. Siquig)

The event also hosts more than 700 exhibitors, giving the estimated 300,000-plus attendees a hands-on opportunity to interact with some of the latest technologies from the Army and industry partners. Further, AUSA provides attendees with a variety of networking opportunities and panel discussions that define the Army’s role in supporting military and national security initiatives.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the pilots who fly SEALs and Delta Force to their most dangerous operations

The Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Airborne, (SOAR-A), has earned the nickname “The Night Stalkers.”

Operating under the cover of night or the shadows of dawn, these elite pilots are responsible for getting special operators into and out of some of their most secret and dangerous operations.

Night Stalker pilots go through rigorous training to become mission-ready to fly in the most challenging conditions, including bad weather and enemy fire, all while relying on infrared and night-vision equipment to navigate through the darkness.

While many of the 160th SOAR’s operations are secret, it’s widely understood that they were involved in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Read on to learn more about the elite aviators that “would rather die than quit.”


How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

A US Army MH-60M Blackhawk from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), June 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

The Night Stalkers fly a few different helicopters, including the MH-60 Black Hawk.

The 160th has over 3,200 personnel and 192 aircraft.

The Night Stalkers operate different versions of the Black Hawk, outfitted for dangerous and covert operations. In fact, all the aircraft the 160th uses are “highly modified and designed to meet the unit’s unique mission requirements,” according to the Army.

All the MH-60s the Night Stalkers use have in-air refueling capability, extending the aircraft’s ability to operate over long distances.

The Night Stalkers’s MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator (DAP) is a Black Hawk specially outfitted with an M230 30 mm automatic cannon. When the aircraft is modified to the DAP, it can move only small numbers of troops, according to US Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

All of the Black Hawks the 160th flies have a cruising speed of 140 mph and a top speed of 200 mph, The Washington Post reported in 2014, when the aircraft were used in a failed attempt to rescue American civilians in Syria.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

A Navy aviation boatswain’s mate guides an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during deck landing qualifications aboard amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu, April 28, 2014.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight)

The Night Stalkers also fly the MH-47 Chinook.

The 160th operates two variants of the MH-47 Chinook, a special-operations variant of the Army’s CH-47 Chinook.

The MH-47E is a heavy assault helicopter with aerial refueling capability, as well as advanced integrated avionics, an external rescue hoist, and two L714 turbine engines with Full Authority Digital Electronic Control that enables the MH-47E to operate in high-altitude or very hot environments, according to SOCOM.

The Night Stalkers fly the MH-47G Chinook as well, which has a multi-mode radar to help pilots navigate challenging conditions, as well as two M-134 “minigun” machine guns and one M-60D machine gun for defensive fire.

The MH-47 is used for a variety of operations, including infiltration and exfiltration of troops, assault operations, resupply, parachuting, and combat search and rescue.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dave Currier, left, an MH-60M Black Hawk pilot, and Spc. Joseph Turnage, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief, with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) in Yuma, Arizona, Sept. 23, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brennon A. Taylor)

The 160th was born out of tragedy.

The Night Stalkers were formed after the botched attempt to rescue hostages from the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, known as Operation Eagle Claw.

During that operation, eight US service members were killed, and the need for a specialized group of aviators became apparent.

The 160th was formed in 1981, composed of soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and was officially designated the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group (Airborne) in 1986.

What we know as the modern 160th was officially activated in 1990.

The Night Stalkers have been active in every military operation since Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983. The unit lost pilot Michael Durant during the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

Two MH-47G Chinooks from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment prepare for aerial refueling over California, Jan. 19, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Snider)

The tempo of operations increased significantly after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

“At the height of Iraq, those guys were doing two to three missions a night,” a 10-year veteran of the unit with multiple tours to Afghanistan and Iraq told Insider.

“Once the mission has been accomplished, the only reward is another mission,” he said.

Once Night Stalkers are finished with a mission, “they’re not going to Disney World. They’re going back to wherever they came from. They’re going to train again.”

Night Stalker training simulates the challenging environments they’re going into, as well.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

US soldiers, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), practice loading and unloading on a 160th SOAR MH-47 Chinook during sniper training at Ft. Carson, Colorado, June 22, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

Women in the 160th see combat too.

“It’s just not all guys. At least the 160th has female pilots. They’re rowing the boat. They’re in the battle,” the Night Stalker veteran told Insider.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

A 10th Special Forces Group soldier and his military working dog jump off a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th SOAR during water training over the Gulf of Mexico, March 1, 2011.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

The 160th’s motto — “Night Stalker’s Don’t Quit!” is attributed to Capt. Keith Lucas, the first Night Stalker killed in action.

“The purpose of that organization is to serve the most elite special forces in the United States,” a veteran of the unit told Insider.

“That unit’s gonna be on time, and it’s gonna fly like hell to serve the ground forces,” he said.

The Night Stalkers have a reputation of being on time within 30 seconds of every operation and say they’d rather die than quit.

The Night Stalkers’ motto — often shortened to “NSDQ!” — is vitally important to the team.

“It binds people that have been serving in that organization till now,” the veteran said. Lucas was killed in 1983, during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

The MH-6 Little Bird is a helicopter unique to special operations that was developed in close collaboration with special operators and combat developers.

MH-6 and AH-6 Little Birds are also part of the 160th’s fleet.

These aircraft are small and maneuverable — perfect for use in urban combat zones where pilots must fly low to the ground among buildings and city streets.

The MH-6M and AH-6M are both variants of the McDonnell Douglas 530 commercial helicopter.

The MH-6M is the utility version that can also be used for reconnaissance missions. The AH-6M is the attack version and is equipped with Foward Looking Infrared, or FLIR, which shows crewmembers an infrared video of the terrain and airspace.

Here’s an AH-6M training for a combat mission

Go160thSOAR USASOAC Night Stalkers AH-6

www.youtube.com

And an MH-6M extracting a soldier from the water.

Go160thSOAR USASOAC Night Stalkers MH-6 Series

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Military Life

‘Operation Cure Boredom’ is a funny, unrepentant look back at life in the 1990s Air Force

The following is an excerpt from the first book by Air Force veteran and Hollywood writer Dan Martin. Titled Operation Cure Boredom, it’s a hilarious collection of short stories chronicling the adventures of Martin’s 1990-1994 enlistment in the world’s best Air Force.

This chapter, called “Guest on the Range,” is about the extraordinary lengths Martin went to in order to qualify on the firing range as a junior enlisted Crew Chief:


One of the things I learned while holding a loaded semiautomatic rifle was that I shouldn’t “goof around.” Apparently it’s distracting and unnerving to the other participants at the firing range. The angry sergeant on duty pointed this out, adding that it was irresponsible and unsafe. But everyone was so serious, so uptight, so concentrated.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare

Colton continued making the rest of us laugh, lightening the mood. We only managed to annihilate the dirt mounds behind the paper people. At the end of the session, when I learned that I had failed the firing range test and had one more chance to pass it or be discharged from service, I stopped goofing around.

In order to maintain a good standing with the U.S. Air Force, one must complete the annual firing range test. If you fail the retest, pack your bags because you’re heading home on an early discharge. Not wanting to go back to Long Island so soon, I concentrated and passed the retest, barely. For the following annual firing range test, I made arrangements to get help, mostly by ensuring that I was out of the country on assignment, whereupon the test was lost to bureaucracy and ultimately waived. But the year I got married and stopped going on so many TDYs was the year the test came back to haunt me.

I had taken a second job at this point, working in a liquor store not far from the Louisiana Downs racetrack, not because I was saving to buy a house and raise a family, but rather to help pay off all the loans. We had financially backed ourselves into a corner between the cars, furniture, and vacations we simply charged on credit cards. We had to have them because we were a responsible adult married couple. In my third year of military service, now that I was no longer on TDYs, I was unable to escape the firing range.

At the time I had enlisted in the Air Force, it is key to note that nobody, with the exception of the security police, the special ops guys, and maybe a few fighter pilots, had a useful knowledge of weapons, let alone were able to locate the safety. For the rest of us, the firing range seemed to only serve the purpose of reminding us what weapons looked like. I hit my targets by mistake, and self-defense skills were measured by how fast I could run a mile. Although the chow hall on the base displayed a sign upon entering that read “Those Carrying Automatic Weapons May Go to the Head of the Line,” I can guarantee that had my base ever been attacked, it would have been captured within minutes. A massive army of children riding atop Saint Bernards and wielding broomsticks could have charged the main gate and I’d have to think twice about holding my ground. Broomsticks hurt.

Now faced wit having to take the firing range test, I came to the conclusion I needed someone to help teach me how to pass it. Unfortunately, asking for help within the military community was not exactly the option I wanted to exercise. I was all too aware that I had joined the one branch of the military that didn’t require you to use handheld weapons. But asking for help was like a plumber you hired asking you to show him what a pipe fitting looked like.

We were supposed to at least pretend we knew what we were doing. There were a few guys in my squadron who grew up hunting the small animalsI always associated with my local park or the garbage cans on a trash night. But even one of them managed to book himself a trip to the emergency room. Firing a hand cannon with one hand and a large ego, he managed to adorn his forehead with a welt the size of a grapefruit, the recoil smacking him with the pistol hard enough to make him forget the date. Knowing that I was proficient in neither accuracy or emergency room small talk, I decided to search for a teacher who was not in the military.

I knew I could find someone, I had done it before.

My brother piqued my interest in firearms when he shot our father with a flare gun. To be fair, it was a misunderstanding. My father had explained to Peter that he was grounded for some infraction of the rules. Peter said no, then shot him. From the moment my father stepped into his room to confront him, he should have take notes of Peter’s nautical emergency rescue kit, now open on his desk. Normally tucked away on his lobster boat, the flare gun was now strangely instead in Peter’s hand. Moments later, the flare bounced off my dad’s chest and zipped around the carpet, finally coming to a halt near the hamster cage, melting a small hole in the synthetic rug the size of a potato.

The room immediately turned a blindingly bright white color only the Coast Guard could love, and by the time my father regained his vision and looked through the smoke, presumably to grab Peter’s neck and snap it, my brother had used the diversion to jump out the window, eluding punishment for yet another night. Peter was not the best communicator, nor was he ever considered a good candidate for “negotiator,” but I quickly learned by observing his actions that perhaps I didn’t need to learn to communicate with words. Being a shy teenager who was also lacking command of a large vocabulary, talking problems out and reasoning with each other just seemed time-consuming. That night, I came to understand the power of a gun and realized aloud, “Guns are awesome.”

I wanted to test it out for myself. So I found an instructor who chose as my first target the happy, winged creature symbolizing love that perched outside my bedroom window each morning. It was just sitting there on the branch, singing, ruffling its feathers like most swallows do. I was seventeen. My instructor was twelve. The BB gun was pumped with enough pressure to launch a kitten into space. Then I aimed and pulled the trigger, sending the bird reeling over backward in a cloud of feathers and guilt. When it was all over, Jason explained it was normal to feel nauseated:

“It’s okay. You’ll be fine. But I gotta go. My mom’s taking me to see The Little Mermaid.

That would be the last time I let a twelve-year-old whisper “kill it now” in my ear. While I learned that it was an amazing feeling to hold an object that has the ability to sway opinions, after the incident with the swallow, I decided guns weren’t really for me. Though committing arson on my father’s vegetable garden was acceptable, a gun was just taking things too far.

Now face with the firing range test, my search for a weapons instructor finally came to an end the day I met Barry, the assistant manager fo the liquor store where I worked nights. The day I walked in and inquired about a job, he was sitting behind the manager’s desk. I explained that I was looking for employment. He regarded me for a moment, then asked if I’d mind working with a fat pig name Clarence, pointing to the skinny guy behind the register. I said I thought this would be fine. He then led me on a tour through the massive walk-in refrigerator to show me where all the different beers were stacked. He asked me if I had any back problems preventing me from lifting boxes. I said no, then noticed his back brace and realized this was the best possible answer I could have given. Barry nodded his head up and down, seemingly trying to decide if I was going to work out, then wrenched open a bottle of Boone’s wine and washed down a handful of unknown pills. Needless to say, I was intrigued. Then he pulled a .22-caliber, long-barreled pistol out of his pants. It was fitted with some sort of custom-made silencer and he asked me if I’d ever seen such a thing of beauty. I said I hadn’t. Then he aimed it at a can of Milwaukee’s Best and fired, leaving a fountain of amusement in his wake.

I accepted the job on the spot.

It wasn’t until a week into the job that I learned that Barry hadn’t been the assistant manager at all. He was just an unstable employee whom the actual manager was afraid to fire. He called himself the assistant manager, and nobody argued with him. Although, looking back, it should have occurred to me, since Barry had given me a bonus one day for a job well done with a case of Miller Lite. But this guy could handle a weapon, even while hallucinating and mumbling, so who was I to question it?

Initially, I was a little nervous about taking a second job because the supervisors in my squadron tended to frown upon moonlighting, even though many of the enlisted guys I knew did it anyway. I had reached out to may coworker Tony Coloccini, who had confided in me that he also had a second job at a liquor store chain and would put in a good word. A week later, I was standing in this rundown liquor store. Needing money, and not wanting to be seen, this was the perfect job. Barry, the firearms expert, was the gift I was looking for.

Barry would walk up and down the aisles with an aimless purpose to do nothing but strut. Occasionally, he’d say he was going to take inventory or stock the shelves. But there was always some condition that prevented him from doing any actual work. He could never bend over to reach the bottom two shelves because of a bad back, nor could he stand on small ladder, claiming he once fell off one and preferred to avoid them. He couldn’t ever read inventory lists or do the ordering because he always forgot his glasses and, I suspect, couldn’t write.

This always left me wondering what Barry’s function in the store actually was until one night some suspicious-looking guys walked in and were greeted by Barry stroking a .44 magnum long barrel. This is a gun more commonly used to take down a helicopter or a Tyrannosaurus Rex, I imagine. They immediately turned and walked out. In short, the story had never been robbed since Barry started working there two years prior. And in a neighborhood where crime seemed to be the gross domestic product, Barry’s value went a long way.

As a result, the place became kind of a safe hangout for Barry’s friends who all lost their money at the track and would come in and shoot the shit with him for a while. This eventually led to the question of could have a bottle of Thunderbird or Mad Dog 20/20 and pay him back tomorrow. Barry always said yes, and, of course, would always forget that he did. In fact, unsurprisingly, Barry forgot a lot of things. He forgot to shower and shave. He forgot that you couldn’t scratch off twenty-five instant-win lotto tickets and not pay for them. And once he even forgot his gun was loaded and shot out his own windshield, or so Clarence, who had witnessed the incident, told me.

The store closed each night at midnight and by the end of the first month, Barry, Clarence, and I found ourselves on the same schedule. We got to know each other pretty well and enjoyed each other’s company and displayed our newfound friendship by developing a routine after locking up every night that involved petty theft, drinking, and soon enough, firearms practice.

Anyone else, I think, would have been alarmed by the double holster he wore to work every day, accompanied by a different set of pistols. Or, perhaps, the cocktail of pharmaceuticals, vodka, belligerence, and the dash of hallucinations that housed this human being. But one night, as we were leaving, he quick-drawed his pistols and unleashed a few rounds on the speed sign on the side of the road, hitting it perfectly without aiming and I knew I found my instructor.

The first problem with asking Barry about being my sharpshooting mentor was just trying to catch him in a moment when he was actually visiting Earth. I timed my approach carefully, since Barry was known to spend the first part of each night shift with his head down on the manager’s desk, occasionally snapping awake with a look of fear behind his milky eyes. Some nights, because the desk was located behind a small wall, his abrupt and frightening rise from the ninth circle of hell would cause a customer to drop a bottle of alcohol.

“Barry, I was wondering if you could teach me to shoot a gun and possibly–”

“Absolutely. Grab a case of beer and meet me at the trunk of my car.”

I can only assume that in the event that the local police force, the National Guard, and the entire US Army found themselves overmatched, Barry was their red phone emergency call. to find that Barry possessed a lot of weapons was not a surprise. To find that each of his weapons came with its own quick-release latch, strapped into the truck of his car, was. Barry, who stood at about five feet, two inches, drove a 1973 four-door Lincoln Continental. I t had a trunk big enough to carry a pond stocked with trout.

What should have worried me most was that somewhere over the course of his life, he came to the conclusion that it was a good idea to haul around enough ammunition to take out Shreveport, just in case he had to. Also worrisome was the stun gun he had as a “back up” in case all else failed. But honestly, what concerned me most was not passing the firing range test.

“What is that?” I asked, pointing at a weapon only Arnold Schwarzenegger could handle.

“Needed something for a crowd. Made it myself. Fully automatic.”

“Oh.”

We stared by setting up in front of what appeared to be a fenced-off electrical power station. It was located a short distance behind the liquor store and far away from the road. I inquired it if seemed troubling that, essentially, we were shooting at a potential eleven o’clock news story, but Barry explained that it was metal and would not explode, so no need to worry.

“No one’s gonna lose power,” he added.

“I meant the ricocheting bullets.”

“What about them?”

“Won’t they ricochet into us?”

“Unlikely. Now, do you want my help or not?”

Before we began, I tried to explain that there were no moving targets on the firing range, to which Barry explained that I was a woman. I said it wasn’t necessary, but that maybe we should start with something easy like a Coke can. But Barry insisted these were the basics and handed me a contraption that resembled a howitzer. Then he switched it to automatic and yelled, “Pull!”

Clarence lobbed a bottle of Bartles & Jaymes strawberry wine cooler into the sky. The weapon was so heavy that aiming it wasn’t really an option. I just sort of heaved it up, like throwing a heavy rock, and squeezed the trigger as best I could. The recoil forced me to the ground like a cannon blast. All the while, as I kept my finger on the trigger, I could have sworn I heard the faint but distinct sound of my mother crying.

It’s safe to assume that the Air Force was the right branch for me. Placing a wrench or a screwdriver in my hands at least ensures that any pain inflicted will be minimal and blunt and kept within the radius of me. Putting a loaded weapon in my hand is like strapping sharp knives to a small boy and sending him off to play tackle football with the other kids.

As expected, I missed everything, except for the power grid, a line of cypress trees, a storage shed, and the planet below our feet, which really took a kick in the balls that night. Also in the line of fire was human safety.

“F*ck this,” Clarence said, “I’m out of here.”

“Calm down,” Barry yelled. “Just stand behind him.”

“But that’s where the shed was!”

This is how it happens, I thought. This is how morons die. You always read in the paper, or hear on the news, about a couple of friends from a basement in Colorado Springs, just hanging out with a bottle of Jameson when one best friend shoots the other. There’s never any great detail about the incident. One buddy “accidentally” shoots the other. But the news anchor always includes that one fatal clue: “He thought the safety was on,” “He didn’t know it was loaded,” “He didn’t think that doing shots from the barrel was that big of a deal.” As a viewer, you sit eating your bowl of cornflakes at one o’clock in the morning, thinking to yourself, f*cking morons, and then turn the channel back to TMZ to find out what the latest Disney starlet thinks of terrorists.

But there we were, throwing a few back, shooting wildly at fast-moving wine coolers with automatic weapons and talking about how awesome it would be if Lynyrd Skynyrd could come back from the dead and play one more time. We deserved nothing more than a really stupendous obituary in which the editor would mercifully, thinking about our families, substitute the word “manslaughter” for “accidental.” The caption under the picture in the newspaper would read: “One man arrested after shooting his two best friends.” Then I realized the scariest part was that Barry and Clarence would be forever connected to me as “best friends.”

“You know what. I’ve got to get going,” I announced suddenly.

“What? But you haven’t even tried the sniper rifle yet.”

As I drove away from the scene of tomorrow’s headline, I watched Clarence crack open a bottle of something, then rummage through Barry’s trunk, reappear with the stun gun and chase him around the car, laughing.

The following week, I took the firing range test. I was really sweating hard, as this retest was a make-or-break moment – a few misplaced shot was all the difference between being able to stay in the Air Force and pay my bills and a less-than-honorable discharge, leading to financial ruin and divorce. I hit a few dirt mounds but managed to place a few on the paper target. Upon finishing, I approached the sergeant in charge of the scoring. I handed him the paper enemy that had clearly gotten away with only a few scratches.

“Huh,” he said, looking at the target. “Not great,” he observed.

“Yeah.”

I began to panic a little there. I saw my life as it truly was: a meager existence in a sham marriage, depressed and held down at twenty-one years of age by my own rash stupidity. I would have to call my parents and see if they were cool with the Stranger and I living in my old bedroom. I would have to get a minimum-wage job to pay off a mountain of debt. I began hyperventilating, seeing this whole terrible near-future play out when I suddenly heard the sergeant ask me:

“What’s your job again?”

“Crew chief.”

He rolled his eyes, and in a gesture of exasperation, made a check mark next to my name.

“F*ck it. You passed. See you next year.”

––––––––––

“Told in a collection of vignettes, Operation Cure Boredom is a coming of age story in camouflage. From dodging alligators, to surfing the inside of a plane at 30,000 feet, to being taken hostage by a Frenchwoman, and sex education in church, this absurdist portrait of life in the military is both an iconic look at listlessness in wartime, and the whirlwind journey of a young man getting the adventure he didn’t know he needed.” – Amazon

Articles

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.

How Desert Storm changed modern aerial warfare
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.”