An Iranian semi-official news agency says the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard has built a third underground facility designated to produce ballistic missiles.
On May 25th, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted the chief of paramilitary’s airspace division, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, as saying the force will “continue to develop our missile capacity” and that U.S. concerns over the country’s ballistic program are of no significance to Iran.
According to the report, the site is the third underground production facility for ballistic missiles in Iran. The report did not provide more details, say where it’s located and if and how many missiles have already been produced there.
Iran has long boasted of having missiles that can travel 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), placing much of the Middle East, including Israel, within range.
“The capability they [military working dogs] bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine. By all measures of performance their yield outperforms any asset we have in our inventory.” — Army Gen. David Petraeus
Rrobiek, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois, was born to be a hero. He was bred and trained to serve and protect the people he works with. Currently, those people are members of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command in Iraq.
Rrobiek is a patrol and explosive detector dog. He and his human handler, Army Staff Sgt. Charles Ogin, 3rd Infantry Regiment, work hard to ensure the safety of everyone inside the entry-point gate at Union III in Baghdad.
Rrobiek is one of six dogs who live and work with their handlers at Union III. These dogs work with their handlers to check each vehicle that drives through the entry point.
They also do other behind the scenes work to keep Union III safe.
“While it may not quite be thinking like us, they think,” Ogin said. “This enables them to help us enhance our force protection.”
‘A Great Partner’
Ogin and Rrobiek started working together in 2014, after Rrobiek’s last deployment to Afghanistan.
“At first it was a bit of a rough relationship because it’s two different conflicting personalities,” said Ogin. “But we started meshing, and now I wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s a great partner.”
While on a temporary assignment to Kenya in 2015 the duo began to bond as they lived together for the first time, and formed the connection they needed to become the partners they are today.
Rrobiek was born on June 1, 2010, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. MWDs are either procured or bred specifically for their job. After he was born, Rrobiek lived in a foster home until he was old enough to go back to Lackland for training.
On June 8, 1862, General Stonewall Jackson scored a victory for the Confederates in the Battle of Cross Keys.
The fertile farmland of the Shenandoah Valley was vital to the food supply chain of the Confederate army. It was also a strategic launch point for invasions into the North as the valley created a path between the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny Mountains.
Fearing an invasion from the Shenandoah valley, two Union Armies descended on Jackson’s forces. Despite the overwhelming odds, Jackson led the Union army on a chase through the valley, and eventually forced the Union troops to withdraw.
Casualties were relatively light considering the size of both armies, and Jackson scored another victory the following day at the Battle of Port Republic. The back-to-back Confederate victories were decisive for Jackson’s Valley Campaign, allowing him to reinforce General Robert E. Lee in the wake of the retreating Union forces.
557 Union soldiers were killed and wounded, with another 100 captured, while the Confederates lost 300 men. The bloody war continued for two more years.
Featured Image: The Battle of Cross Keys — Sunday June 7, 1862 — Genl. Fremont and Genl. Jackson. (Library of Congress image)
CAMP PENDLETON, California — Maj. David Palka had seen combat before in Iraq and Afghanistan, but roughly 90% of the Marines under his command — tasked with setting up a remote fire base in northern Iraq in 2016 — had only heard the stories.
Their trial by fire in March 2016 came just hours after they landed on Army CH-47 helicopters under cover of darkness in Makhmur, Iraq. Getting off the helicopters at around 2 a.m., the Marines were in what was essentially open farmland with a large protective berm of dirt around their small perimeter.
“By 0900, we received the first rocket attack,” Palka told Business Insider. As a captain, Palka had led the Marines of Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment when it was attached to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) from Oct. 2015 to June 2016.
On Monday, Palka was awarded the Bronze Star medal (with combat “V”), the fourth-highest combat award, for what his battalion commander called “sustained valorous leadership.” He’ll also receive the Leftwich Award later this week, a trophy presented annually to a Marine company or battery commander who displays outstanding leadership.
Palka and his unit’s foray into Iraq to set up an artillery support base was previously shrouded in secrecy. But new details have emerged from that mission, showing that they were under constant threat and directly attacked more than a dozen times during their two-and-a-half months there, according to interviews and documents reviewed by Business Insider.
“When they got the call, they were ready,” Lt. Col. Jim Lively, the commander of Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, and Palka’s battalion commander at the time, told Business Insider.
‘It was no surprise that we were rocketed’
When Palka and others among his advance party left their helicopter on March 12, they marked the first American boots on the ground in Iraq to set up a quasi-permanent base since US forces left in 2014.
At what would be named Fire Base Bell — in honor of Staff Sgt. Vincent Bell, a Marine who died in Afghanistan in 2011 — Palka and his Marines began to establish security and build bunkers to protect from enemy fire.
The base was initially protected by 60 infantry Marines from Echo Co. 2/6 armed with rifles, machine-guns, and mortars, along with an Army unit providing radar equipment that would detect and zero in on rockets fired from ISIS positions. Marine artillerymen brought four M777A2 Howitzers to the base just days later.
The base was small and had no creature comforts, and troops dug holes where they would man their guns, fight, and sleep.
“It was austere. There was the constant threat 24/7,” Palka said. “My other deployments, you’d come back to a [forward operating base]. Or we’d remain on a FOB and shoot fire support in support of maneuver. We didn’t have an adjacent unit to our left and our right. We were the only general purpose ground force forward. There was no wire.”
Though the Pentagon tried to keep the presence of Marines being back in Iraq quiet, those efforts were thwarted just one week after Palka arrived.
On March 19, Bell was hit once again by rockets fired from ISIS positions located roughly 15 miles away.
“It was no surprise that we were rocketed,” Palka said, noting that military planners had determined that Russian-made 122mm Katyusha rockets were the weapon of choice for ISIS at the time.
“I had received indirect fire on previous deployments, but nothing that large,” he said.
Unfortunately, the first rocket impact that day was a direct hit on the 1st gun position on the line. “As soon as it impacted, it was obvious there were casualties,” he said.
27-year-old Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed, and eight other Marines on Gun One were wounded. Immediately, the other Marines began running toward the rocketed position to render medical care, despite a second rocket landing just a few hundred meters away.
“It was amazing to see them,” Palka said. “The manifestation of all of our training coming to fruition.”
Meanwhile, the Army counter-battery radar site honed in on where the rockets had come from. And Palka, according to a military document summarizing his performance, calmly assessed casualties, called for medical evacuations, and executed an artillery counter-fire mission of seven rounds back at ISIS’ firing point. The document noted that the enemy’s rocket position was “effectively” suppressed.
“Dave kept the team focused while they did the evacuation of casualties,” Lively said. “They ran the counter battery mission [as] the fire base was attacked.”
‘This was as kinetic as anything that I had experienced before’
Echo Battery’s mission in Iraq was to set up a small outpost that could provide indirect fire support to Iraqi troops on the front lines. Artillerymen kept busy doing just that. Over the course of slightly more than 60 days at the site, the unit fired more than 2,000 rounds, including high-explosive, illumination, and smoke.
Those efforts made them a big target, as ISIS shot more than 34 rounds at their positions during that time. All told, the unit was attacked on 13 different occasions, which included rockets, small arms, and suicide attacks.
“This was as kinetic as anything that I had experienced before,” Palka said.
On two occasions, the base was attacked in a coordinated fashion by about a dozen or so ISIS fighters armed with suicide vests, small arms, machine-guns, and grenades.
The first, which came just two days after Cardin’s death, began with an ISIS fighter detonating his suicide vest against an obstacle of concertina wire.
The Marines fought back over a period of three hours on the night of March 21, eventually killing all of the ISIS fighters with no American casualties. The artillerymen, just over 2,000 feet from the enemy positions, fired illumination rounds as the grunts on the perimeter engaged with their rifles and machine guns.
“I’d say that ISIS and the enemy that we encountered in Iraq this past time… they were more bold. The fact that they would infiltrate the forward line of troops and attempt to engage a Marine element with foreign fighters,” Palka said. “Their weaponry, and their tactics were more advanced. They were more well-trained than any other force that my Marines had directly engaged on previous deployments.”
While Echo Battery fired its guns almost “daily,” it expended much of its ammunition in support of Iraqi forces gearing up to assault the city of Mosul later that year. Ahead of the October offensive to take back Iraq’s second-largest city from the Islamic State, the unit fired off more than 1,300 rounds in support of Iraqi troops attempting to take back villages on the outskirts of the city.
“Our mission was to provide force protection fire support to Iraqi security forces, which we did,” Palka said.
The unit also had a number of “firsts” besides its presence back in Iraq, to include the Corps’ first combat use of precision-guided fuses — which make artillery rounds hit with pinpoint accuracy — and the successful employment of the Army’s TPQ-53 Radar system alongside Marines, which helped them quickly identify where rockets were coming from so they could be taken out.
“There’s nothing I can put into words about how I feel about the Marines in that unit,” Palka said. “Words don’t do it justice. There’s something that you feel and sense when you walk into a room with them.”
The Air Force and the Navy have their own little rivalry going.
Granted, United States Navy pilots are pretty good in many respects, and so are the planes, but the Air Force claims they’ve got air superiority. So when they need to buy a plane from the Navy, it’s… awkward — especially when it involves bombers, something that should be the purview of the Air Force.
Here are six of the most…notable acquisitions the Air Force ended up making from the Navy.
1. Douglas A-24 Banshee
While better known as the SBD Dauntless, the Army Air Force bought a number of these planes. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that some were intended to help defend the Philippines, but the outbreak of World War II saw them diverted to New Guinea. Others saw action in the Aleutians and Gilbert Islands.
2. Curtiss A-25 Shrike/Helldiver
The Army Air Force got the SB2C — the notorious “Son of a [Bleep] Second Class” — during World War II. Joe Baugher noted that the Army Air Force never even bothered using them in combat, either exporting them to the Royal Australian Air Force or handing them over to the Marine Corps for use from land bases.
3. Douglas B-66 Destroyer
When the Air Force was looking for a replacement for the A-26/B-26 Invader as a tactical bomber, they settled on a version of the Navy’s A3D Skywarrior. However, the Air Force planned to use it very differently, and so a lot of changes were made, according to Joe Baugher.
The B-66 turned out to be an ideal electronic-warfare platform. One was famous under the call-sign “Bat 21,” leading to one of the most famous — and costly — search and rescue efforts in history.
4. Lockheed RB-69A Neptune
The Air Force was looking for some planes for electronic intelligence missions around the Soviet Union and China when they settled on taking seven P-2 Neptune maritime patrol planes from the Navy, and designating them as RB-69As.
Aviation historian Joe Baugher reveals that the exact origin and ultimate fate of these planes is a mystery, probably intentionally so, given the top-secret nature of intelligence-gathering flights over China and Russia.
5. Douglas A-1 Skyraider
Joe Baugher reported that the Air Force found this classic warbird to be so suitable for the counter-insurgency mission in 1962, they took 150 A-1Es from Navy surplus. The planes were modified for dual controls.
In fact, the Air Force wanted the plane as early as 1949, but harsh inter-service rivalry (including controversy stemming from the “Revolt of the Admirals”) meant the Air Force had to wait to get this plane. It was a fixture on search-and-rescue missions during the Vietnam War.
6. Vought A-7 Corsair
This is probably one of the most successful purchases of a Navy bomber by the Air Force. As was the case with the Air Force basing the B-66 off the A3D, they made changes to the A-7.
Most notable was giving it the M61 Vulcan and a thousand rounds of ammo. Yes, the Air Force gave the A-7 the means to give bad guys the BRRRRRT! The A-7s saw action over Panama in 1989, and were even used to train F-117 pilots. The A-7D was retired in the early 1990s with the end of the Cold War.
With its fly-by-wire avionics and distinctive delta wing design, the Gripen E is similar to its predecessors. The difference is in its increased fuel capacity, 20 percent more thrust, extra pylons for carrying more weapons, and advanced electronics that feed tactical information to the pilot and co-op forces at all times. It’s also designed for quick and efficient maintenance, Saab claims the turnaround time between missions is 10 minutes and that the entire engine can be replaced in an hour.
Some other Saab Gripen E features:
The fighter’s Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) antennas—called elements—work together or independently to track different targets.
Its Infrared Search and Track (IRST) system looks for heat emissions from other aircraft, helicopters and from objects on the ground and sea surface without giving its position away.
Its Electronic Warfare system alerts the pilot when it has been detected by radar, warns for incoming missiles, and used for electronic attacks.
The pylons give it the flexibility to carry an array of weapons, making it deadlier than previous versions.
The Gripen’s multi-frequency data links provide situational awareness to other fighters.
Its Radar Warning Receiver and Missile Approach Warning systems increase the Gripen’s survivability in combat.
At $85 million apiece, the Gripen E is significantly cheaper than the F-35, making it an attractive alternative for any military.
U.S. Army Private first class Hansen Kirkpatrick was killed during an indirect fire attack in Helmand province, Afghanistan July 3, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday.
The Pentagon announcement was devoid of details on the circumstances of the 19-year-old’s death, and the incident remains under investigation. Two other U.S. soldiers were reportedly wounded in the attack but their wounds are not considered life threatening.
Helmand province is an active site of U.S. operations supporting the Afghan National Security Forces in the fight against the Taliban. The Taliban has turned the province into the frontline of its campaign against the U.S. and Afghan government, controlling vast swaths of its territory.
Kirkpatrick’s death comes amid serious discussions by U.S. officials to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan. President Donald Trump granted Secretary of Defense James Mattis authority to set Afghan troop levels in mid June.
Mattis recently secured NATO backing to increase the number of overall troops in Afghanistan by at least a few thousand, in a recent visit to Europe.
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More than 1,000 desert tortoises are taking a trip with the Marine Corps this month.
The Marines are using helicopters to relocate the tortoises to another part of the Mojave to make way for an expansion of desert training grounds.
During the two-week long process, the hubcap-sized tortoises are being loaded into plastic containers, which are then stacked and strapped to a helicopter.
Their new home will be swaths of federal land to the north and southeast of the Twentynine Palms base, Marine officials said. The areas were deemed far enough away that the tortoises wouldn’t migrate back to their original habitat.
The cost of the whole effort, including a 30-year monitoring program to ensure the health of the federally protected species, is $50 million.
The Marines at the Twentynine Palms base want to be able to practice large-scale exercises with live fire and combined-arms maneuvering.
The campaign goes back to 2008, when the Corps began studying how to do it without breaking environmental law.
The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act handed land formerly managed by the Bureau of Land Management to the Defense Department. Tortoises living on that land are now being moved.
In March 2016, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue, arguing that the federal government failed to fully examine how the move might harm the tortoises.
However, the move went ahead this month after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told the Marine Corps that its review wouldn’t be done before the spring window for the move, Marine Corps officials said.
Just over two weeks after the Commander-in-Chief Forum aired during prime time on NBC, IAVA chief Paul Rieckhoff is still recovering from the event, riding the high of having had a big hand in pulling it off but also weathering a substantial wave of social media criticism — much of it from fellow veterans — about how it fell short.
#IAVAforum if you want to truly represent service members and vet’s then why didn’t you include #GaryJohnson in the forum?
“What the critics don’t understand is events like this are a four-way negotiation,” Rieckhoff says over the phone while riding an Uber between Newark Airport and Manhattan after attending a “VetTogether” — a gathering of IAVA members — at comedienne Kathy Griffin’s home in Los Angeles. “It’s us, the network, and each of the candidates. Anybody can walk away at any time. Concessions are made on all sides to pull it off.”
Rieckhoff and his team started planning the forum about two years ago using Pastor Rick Warren’s “Conversation on Faith” as a model.
“He brought the candidates to his church one after another for a one-on-one conversation,” he says. “It was widely watched and really drove the issues front and center.”
The IAVA wishlist had a few key elements: It should take place around 9-11. It should take place in New York City “because of the media traction,” Rieckhoff says. And it should take place aboard the USS Intrepid, the retired aircraft carrier docked on the Hudson River at midtown.
They also knew it needed to happen before the final three debates.
“We’re politically savvy enough to know that’s it’s all about the art of the possible,” Rieckhoff says. “The idea that you’re going to get the candidates for three hours and get everything you want is not grounded in the reality of the landscape.
“The idea was straightforward,” he continues. “Bring together the candidates where vets could ask the questions on as big a stage as possible. Respect to the American Legion and VFW, but nobody watches their conventions but them.”
Two cable networks expressed interest in airing the event, but Rieckhoff held out for something bigger.
“It needed to be as big as possible in order to attract the candidates,” he says.
In early May NBC offered an hour in primetime. Another major network indicated interest but “dawdled,” as Rieckhoff puts it, so IAVA accepted NBC’s offer. Right before Memorial Day both candidates agreed to participate. But at that point, the work was only starting.
“It was a constant negotiation with the campaigns right up to the event itself,” Rieckhoff says. “They were always threatening to pull out if they didn’t get what they wanted.”
And among the negotiations was agreeing to who the host would be. IAVA made a few suggestions, NBC personalities with some experience in the defense and foreign policy realms. The network and campaigns came up with their own option.
“The campaigns preferred not to have hard-hitting questions, and NBC wanted somebody who’d resonate during primetime,” Rieckhoff says. “Suffice it to say Matt Lauer was not IAVA’s choice.”
But Matt Lauer got the nod, and for the first hour of the Commander-in-Chief Forum, he fumbled his way through the format, dedicating a disproportionate amount of time to issues other than those of critical importance to the military community. His poor performance in the eyes of viewers even spawned a hashtag: #LaueringTheBar.
Just caught up with @NBC‘s #CiCForum. What on earth was @MLauer thinking? All the mental acuity of a boiled potato…
“We would’ve like the opportunity to separate foreign policy from veteran’s policy,” Rieckhoff says. “Matt Lauer found that out the hard way.”
But beyond that Rieckhoff is pleased with the outcome of the forum.
“Plenty of folks may be criticizing the event or the host,” he says. “But the bottom line is every critic or whatever got an opportunity to talk about their perspective on the issues because this thing happened.”
The broadcast was viewed by 15 million people, and Rieckhoff believes that the overall impact needs to be framed in terms much bigger than that.
“The reach has to be considered beyond the ratings of the show itself,” he says. “It was the entire day prior, the day of, and at least one day afterward where every morning show, every newspaper, and every columnist was writing about vet issues.”
That sense is shared by IAVA board member Wayne Smith, an Army vet who served as a combat medic during the Vietnam War and went on to be one of the founders of the Vietnam Veterans of America. He was seated in the crowd during the forum.
“I come from a generation of war vets who had no voice for decades, who were rejected by vets from previous wars not to mention the nation at large,” Smith says. “I was blown away by the brilliance of this forum, this first time we had the undivided attention of both candidates. I hope this is the first of many.”
In the early morning hours of June 2, 2021, a fire started aboard the Iranian fleet replenishment oiler IRIS Kharg, used to resupply Iranian ships at sea. An estimated 400 sailors were aboard but Iranian state media only reported 33 injuries from the blaze.
There has been no statement or speculation about the cause of the incident, but Iranian officials have told the Associated Press that an investigation is underway.
Kharg was the largest ship in the Iranian fleet until January 2021, when the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy launched the port ship IRIS Makran. Makran is the largest military vessel in the Middle East, but the loss of the Kharg is a tough blow for the IRIN. It was one of Iran’s three replenishment vessels, which extends the potential range of its fleet of smaller blue water warships.
Though not crippling to the Iranian Navy, the loss of the ship also hampers the Iranian Navy’s firepower in the region. The vessel carried significant armaments but was also capable of conducting helicopter-based operations in and around the region.
The fire aboard the Kharg is just one more event in a series of unexplained events in and around the Persian Gulf region, with much of the bad luck happening to Iranian assets. In 2020, the IRIN Konarak was struck by a friendly missile during a training exercise, killing 19 sailors. January 2018 saw the IRIN destroyer Damavand crash into a breakwater in the Capsian Sea, killing two.
The year 2021 has been far worse for the Iranian Navy. An anchored ship in the Red Sea, believed to be a base of operations for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, was suddenly attacked by an unknown force. Although many assume the attackers were Israeli, the Israel Defence Forces never claimed responsibility.
The Iranian ship, called the MV Saviz, was thought to be a staging area for Iranian incursions on the Arabian Peninsula and elsewhere. Iran claimed its continued presence in those waters was part of an international anti-piracy effort.
Iran’s activities in and around the Middle East are often conducted from its warships. In 2019 the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump accused the Iranian Navy of trying to hamper commercial shipping using mines attached to the hulls of ships by divers.
Iran has long threatened to mine the Strait of Hormuz, a major shipping lane through which much of the world’s oil passes. The U.S. Navy caught the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps red-handed removing one of these mines, known as “limpet mines,” from a ship’s hull in the strait.
Kharg was a British-built oiler that had been purchased by the government of the Shah of Iran. It has since been heavily modified with dry storage areas and Soviet-made anti-aircraft weapons. Though the Makran has many of the same capabilities as Kharg, American analysts believe Makran can’t completely replace the loss of the large oiler. Kharg was not only able to refuel ships at sea, but also handle heavy cargo containers and other stores.
The large replenishment oiler had a storied history, serving as a minesweeper for three years in the Iran-Iraq War, assisting foreign ships against Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, and making port calls around the world – including the first-ever visit to Saudi Arabia by an Iranian ship.
America’s operators are the best in the world, but they’re focused on kicking down doors, killing terrorists, and training allies.
Special Operations Command could use more flexibility, especially when it comes to future fights. Here are 7 new special operations units America needs:
1. Chairborne Rangers
As drones become more advanced, infantry robots will eventually reach the battlefield. Chairborne Rangers are the best Call of Duty players, honed into living weapons. They controls those bots and exist off energy drinks, potato chips, and enabling parents.
2. Schmuckatelli Recovery Group
This one is pretty simple. When “Schmuckatelli,” “Joe Schmoe,” or other lackluster troops get themselves locked up in jail or a Tijuana dungeon, the SRG swoops in on black helicopters to rescue them, by force if necessary.
3. Nuptial Prevention Service
The NPS interrupts weddings between troops and anyone they’ve known for less than 72 hours. They’re focused on unions where the potential spouse is a stripper or the service member is deploying within two weeks.
4. Expeditionary PT Belt Deployment Team
When troops are under fire, conducting an assault, or just running on a dark street and find themselves without a reflective or glow belt, the Expeditionary PT Belt Deployment Team is there to lend a hand and 6 feet of reflective plastic.
5. Space Team 6
Space warfare is coming, and Space Team 6 supports NASA from staging platforms in orbit. They’d train constantly to remove space pirates from interstellar vessels, board asteroid mining rigs, and destroy alien queens.
6. 1st Special POGs Detachment
The most elite admin soldiers, waterdogs, and geospatial engineers are honed into a filing force that could clear the VA backlog in minutes or create tasty water from the Kandahar Air Field poo pond with just a mosquito net and iodine tablets.
7. Keyboard Rangers Division
Honestly, the Keyboard Rangers Division is just a way to corral all those Facebook and reddit commenters who keep talking smack about killing ISIS but can’t find a recruiter’s office to save their lives. Keyboard Rangers would be given access to computers that look completely normal, but don’t broadcast to the outside world.
On June 8, 1956, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Fitzgibbon died of gunshot wounds sustained in South Vietnam. He was the first casualty of what would be known to history as the Vietnam War.
Except it wasn’t a Viet Cong bullet that killed Fitzgibbon — it was a fellow airman.
Fitzgibbon was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group, training South Vietnamese airmen in Saigon. A crew chief, he confronted the plane’s radio operator when they came under fire mid-flight, making sure the operator did his job.
After the mission, the radio operator stewed over the altercation, heading to a bar to have a few drinks and loosen up. Except he drank heavily, and the incident only intensified his anger.
Later that day, the man approached Fitzgibbon on the porch of his barracks room as he handed out candy to Vietnamese children and shot the crew chief to death.
Fitzgibbon was a Navy veteran of World War II who later joined the Air Force. His son Richard joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam. He was killed in combat near Quang Tin in 1965.
Richard Fitzgibbon Jr., left, and Richard Fitzgibbon III. The father was killed in Vietnam in 1956, while the son died there in 1965. (Photo from Sen. Ed Markey)
Technical Sergeant Fitzgibbon’s name wasn’t added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall until 1999, after a lobbying campaign from his family, with the help of Senator Ed Markey. The Department of Defense had to first change the criteria for adding a name — specifically identifying the start of the war.
During large, multi-unit exercises, the US military’s snipers can be overshadowed by the men and machines roving the battlefield.
To correct that, Staff Sgt. Joe Bastian — a former active-duty sniper who is now a sniper observer/controller/trainer with the First Army’s 1st Battalion, 335th Infantry Regiment — designed a special 10-day training course for snipers during the 33rd Infantry Brigade’s Exportable Combat Training Capability, or XCTC, at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.
“The course is designed to get all of the snipers from the brigade together to train, broaden their horizons and share tactics, techniques and procedures,” he said in an Army news story.
Bastian called on two former instructors from the US Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, and their course filled the 10-day exercise with weeks’ worth of training for soldiers from Illinois’ 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Puerto Rico’s 1st Battalion, 296th Infantry Regiment.
The course teaches snipers how to design their own training courses, as well as how to work with ammunition, targets, and ranges, and how to use camouflage and stalking techniques during training.
Below, you can see some photos of US Army National Guard snipers getting the specialized instruction they need to seek out and pick off their targets.
XCTC is the Army National Guard’s program to provide an experience similar to an Army combat-training center at a home station or a regional training center, like Fort McCoy. Soldiers from the 502 Infantry Regiment stood in as opposition forces.
“The Army has a multitude of systems and professionals to continually train everyone, except snipers,” Peterson, one of the co-trainers, said. “When these guys go back to their units, there’s not a lot of personnel that can train them properly. This course will help them continue their education and properly train themselves.”
Spc. Johnny Newsome, a sniper with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment based in Chicago, during a stress-shoot exercise.
“It’s a force multiplier getting multiple sniper teams together to train and gain the knowledge they need for success,” Brady, the other co-trainer, said. “Over this 10-day period they’ll realize how much work it will take them to learn how to conduct their own training, and we’ll give them the knowledge they need to do so.”
The XCTC Exercise is coordinated by the Illinois National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Joint Forces Headquarters-Illinois. Here, soldiers from the Illinois National Guard prepare vehicles for gunnery training.
A soldier from the Illinois National Guard prepares a weapon for gunnery training on June 9, 2017, at Fort McCoy.