Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict - We Are The Mighty
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Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict

The Syrian government has asked Iran to take over the supervision and payroll of thousands of Shi’ite militiamen fighting alongside Russian and Syrian troops in support of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a government source and a news report.


The pro-opposition Syrian news website Zaman Al Wasel reported that it obtained a Syrian defense ministry document saying the Assad regime has approved a plan to give Iran responsibility for paying foreign fighters – mostly Shi’ites of varying nationalities. Shi’ite fighters mostly are paid in cash from Iran, the Syrian government and coffers of the Lebanese-based, pro-Iranian Hezbollah, according to analysts.

Iran would foot the bill alone in the future, a Syrian official told VOA on the condition of anonymity, confirming the Al Wasel report.

“The number of Shia militia has increased dramatically during the last two months,” the official said. “While a big part of these militia were recruited by Iran, a relatively big part was recruited by the Syrian government directly. We are speaking about more than 50,000 militants from different nationalities. The Syrian government requested that Iran provide for all of the mentioned militias.”

The document from Al Wasel put the number of fighters to be paid at 88,733 — a figure analysts say is exaggerated. They estimate that about 10,000 Iranian combat troops are in Syria fighting alongside thousands of fighters from Lebanon’s Tehran-affiliated Shiite militia Hezbollah and assorted Shiite militia made up of renegade Pakistanis, central Asians and other nationalities. Since January 2013, more than 1,000 members of Iran’s elite Quds Force or other elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) units have been killed fighting in Syria.

Related: Russia denies funding the Taliban

Tehran says its forces are in Syria to protect the Zeinab Shrine in Damascus, a Shi’ite holy site. But since 2011, Iran has been a major backer of the Syrian regime in its war with rebel groups across the country, at first sending advisers, then forces from the IRGC and expanding far beyond the shrine area.

Iran has long expressed a desire to command a unified army in the region, particularly in Syria, and its growing power in Syria and Iraq is causing unease in Western capitals. In an interview with the Mashregh news agency last August, Mohammad Ali Falaki, an IRGC leader, announced formation of a unified army in Syria which appears to have come to loose fruition.

“It would hardly be abnormal for Iran’s IRGC to be controlling yet more Shia jihadists,” said Talha Abdulrazaq, a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute.

In the long run, the formation of a unified army in Syria under Tehran supervision appears very practical, analysts say.

“It seems plausible that the Syrian government shift the responsibility for management and organization of the militias, especially where financial burden is concerned,” said Rasool Nafisi, a Middle East affairs expert in Washington.

Asserting its military prowess would help Iran push its political agenda in the region, some analysts believe.

“The bigger and more advanced army you control, the stronger voice you have,” said Daryoush Babak, a Washington-based retired Iranian military adviser.

But unifying Assad supporters under Tehran’s umbrella could worsen sectarian conflict in the region between Shi’ites and Sunni, analysts say.

Iran is looking for any chance to increase its influence and gain an upper hand against Saudi Arabia, its strongest rival in the war of minds and hearts, analysts say. Saudi Arabia and Iran support rival groups in Syria’s civil war. And In a speech in Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump accused Tehran of contributing to instability in the region.

“Tehran and Riyadh … keep contradicting each other to prove whose ideology leads the region,” said Nafisi.

While Syria has relied on Iran militarily in the fight against rebels and Islamic State, it’s unlikely to grant Tehran a controlling foothold in the country, analysts say.

“In Syria, it is not likely to happen as long as the Assad regime harbors ambitions of regaining sovereignty rather than being reduced to an Iranian protectorate,” said Alfoneh.

VOA’s Noor Zahid contributed to this report.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Philippines want Russian subs because U.S. ones ‘implode’

The leader of a close US ally is turning to rival Russia for submarines, arguing that if his country were to buy American submarines, they would probably “implode.”

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte lashed out Aug. 17, 2018, after the US warned the Philippines against purchasing Russian Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines. He accused the US of selling its ally only hand-me-down weapons that endanger the lives of Filipino troops, according to local outlet Rappler.


“Why did you not stop the other countries in Asia? Why are you stopping us? Who are you to warn us?” Duterte asked Aug. 17, 2018, at an event in his hometown of Davao.”You give us submarines, it will implode.” He asserted that the US sent his country “used” and “rusted” North Atlantic Treaty Organization helicopters, claiming the poor condition of the platforms led to the deaths of local forces.

“Is that the way you treat an ally and you want us to stay with you for all time?” he asked. “You want us to remain backwards. Vietnam has 7 submarines, Malaysia has 2, Indonesia has 8. We alone don’t have one. You haven’t given us any.”

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict

Russian Black Sea Fleet’s B-265 Krasnodar.

Duterte’s latest outburst was triggered by a warning issued Aug. 16, 2018, by Randall Schriver, the US Department of Defense Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs.

“I think they should think very carefully about that,” he said, referring to the Philippine government’s interest in acquiring Russian submarines. “If they were to proceed with purchasing major Russian equipment, I don’t think that’s a helpful thing to do [in our] alliance, and I think ultimately we can be a better partner than the Russians can be.”

“We have to understand the nature of this regime in Russia. I don’t need to go through the full laundry list: Crimea, Ukraine, the chemical attack in the UK,” he added, “So, you’re investing not only in the platforms, but you’re making a statement about a relationship.”

An interest in Russian weapons systems has strained relations between the US and a number of allies and international partners in recent months. As Duterte pursues an independent foreign policy often out of alignment with US interests, the Philippines has increasingly looked to develop defense ties with Russia. The country is looking to Russia for submarines as it looks to modernize its military.

“For a nation with maritime territory specially island nation, its national defense is incomplete without (a) submarine,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in early 2018, according to the Philippine Star.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ships with guns that weighed more than entire battleships

Prior to WW2, knowing that they couldn’t compete with the numbers of the US navy, the Imperial Japanese Navy quietly authorized the construction of the two largest battleships by weight ever seen in warfare — the Musashi and her sister ship, the Yamato.

The origins of these two behemoths can be traced back to Japan’s 1934 withdrawal from the League of Nations. Amongst other things, doing this allowed Japan to ignore rules set by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 and the London Naval Treaty of 1930, both of which aimed to limit the size of battleships as well as the right of participating nations to construct them.


Almost immediately following Japan’s withdrawal, a team working for the Japanese Navy Technical Department helmed by an engineer called Keiji Fukuda began submitting designs for a class of battleships superior in size and firepower to anything ever seen before.

While initially planning to build five of these battleships, ultimately only two were completed, with a third being converted to an aircraft carrier mid-way through construction.

The two completed ships, the Musashi and the Yamato, were quite literally in a class of their own, designed to displace some 73,000 long tons when fully equipped. For reference here, the United States’ Iowa class battleships created around the same time, while of similar length, weighed about 40% less.

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict


Japanese battleship Yamato under construction at the Kure Naval Base, Japan, Sept. 20, 1941.

As one Japanese officer, Naoyoshi Ishida, described, “How huge it is! When you walk inside, there are arrows telling you which direction is the front and which is the back—otherwise you can’t tell. For a couple of days I didn’t even know how to get back to my own quarters. Everyone was like that…. I knew it was a very capable battleship. The guns were enormous.”

On that note, not just big, these ships also featured nine of the largest guns ever put on a battleship, featuring 460 mm barrels and weighing an astounding 3,000 tons each, with all nine combined weighing approximately as much as the United States’ Wyoming, New York, and Nevada class battleships.

These weapons were capable of firing shells that weighed up to 3200 pounds (1450 kg)- or, in other words, in the ballpark of what a typical full sized sedan car weighs. While you might think the range when shooting such an object must have been poor, in fact, these guns could hit a target over 25 miles (40 kilometers) away. They could also be fired at a rate of about once every 40 seconds.

The shockwave produced by one of these guns firing was noted as being powerful enough to tear the skin off of a human if an unlucky individual stood within 15 metres of it without proper shielding. This shockwave also resulted in nearby anti-aircraft guns having to be specially armored to protect them from this.

Speaking of anti-aircraft guns, ultimately these ships were equipped with approximately 150 25 mm guns. In between these and the massive 460 mm cannons previously described, the ships also featured six 155 mm and 24 127 mm guns.

Further, if not needing the 460 mm cannons for hitting ships far away, these battleships were equipped with so-called “beehive rounds” to fire from those cannons. In a nutshell, these rounds were filled with nearly a thousand incendiary tubes and hundreds of shards of steel. The round also included a fuse and explosive that would cause the shell to explode out, with the incendiary tubes igniting shortly thereafter, producing a wall of flame and molten steel meant to absolutely obliterate enemy aircraft. Essentially, the idea here was to convert these guns into comically large shotguns, able to pick any enemy birds out of the air.

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict

Japanese Battleship Musashi taken from the bow.

Armor-wise, each ship possessed on its outer shell a protective layer some 16 inches thick.

While you might think this all combined must have made these ships slow as molasses, it turns out, they had a top speed of about 27 knots (31 mph). While not the fastest battleship in the world, this compared favorably to, for instance, the aforementioned Iowa class battleships that weighed about 40% less, but could only go about 6 knots faster.

Despite their awe-inspiring power and the full confidence of Japanese military brass that each ship was “unmatchable and unsinkable”, neither saw much combat. In fact, the Yamato spent so much time protecting Japanese ports that it was nicknamed the “Hotel Yamato”.

The reluctance of the Japanese navy to commit either ship to combat was motivated by both the scarcity of fuel in Japan during the war, with these battleships taking copious amounts of such to go anywhere, and the fact that military brass believed losing either ship would be a massive blow to the morale of the rest of the Japanese military.

Of course, in the closing months of WW2 with their forces almost completely obliterated, Japan reluctantly began committing both battleships to naval engagements. Unfortunately at this point these super battleships were so absurdly outnumbered in the limited engagements they’d ultimately take part in that they mostly just functioned as sitting ducks.

Most notably, they proved especially vulnerable to aircraft attacks. Even the aforementioned beehive rounds, which the Japanese believed would decimate aircraft, proved to be little more than a visual deterrent, with some American pilots simply flying straight through the flaming shrapnel they produced.

And while the near couple hundred anti-aircraft guns made it so it took a brave pilot to dive bomb the ships, the sheer number of aircraft that the Americans could throw at these battleships at the same time and how chaotic the battles got, ultimately saw these guns prove just as worthless in practice.

It didn’t help that at this point in the war Japan’s own aircraft were ridiculously outnumbered and outclassed, providing little to no air cover to try to protect the massive battleships. (See our article, How Were Kamikaze Pilots Chosen?)

Ultimately the Musashi was lost during the battle of Leyte Gulf in October of 1944, taking 19 torpedo and 17 bomb strikes to sink it.

As for the Yamato, it took part in her final engagement in April of 1945 in operation Ten-Go, which was an intentional suicide mission.

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict

Japanese battleship Yamato is hit by a bomb near her forward 460mm gun turret.


The Yamato was to be the tip of the spear of this final, last-ditch effort to repel the American advance. Its crew was ordered to beach the ship near Okinawa and use its main battery to destroy as much of the invading force as possible. Essentially, the ship would function as a base on the island, and members of the near 3,000 strong crew not needed to operate weaponry aboard the ship were to wage a land battle with any enemy forces encountered.

The mission plan was flawed from the outset, however, and performed under protest of some of the Japanese Navy brass involved, who noted there would be no chance of even reaching the target island in the first place given the stated plan, including no air support whatsoever, and time of day they were to execute the plan (broad daylight).

This turned out to be correct- en route on April 7, 1945, the Yamato and handful of accompanying ships were completely, and quickly, overwhelmed by a combined assault from 6 cruisers, 21 destroyers, 7 battleships, and a few hundred aircraft.

One surviving member of the Yamato crew, junior officer Yoshida Mitsuru, had this to say of the battle that they all had known was a suicide mission from the start,

How many times, in target practice, have we conducted such tracking? I am possessed by the illusion that we have already experienced searches under the same conditions, with the same battle positions, even with the same mood.
What is going on before my very eyes, indisputably, is actual combat — but how can I possibly convince myself of that fact?
The blips are not an imagined enemy but an enemy poised for the kill. The location: not our training waters, but hostile waters.
More than one hundred enemy planes attacking!” Is it the navigation officer who calls this out?
… The battle begins….
As my whole body tingles with excitement, I observe my own exhilaration; as I grit my teeth, I break into a grin. A sailor near me is felled by shrapnel. In the midst of the overwhelming noise, I distinguish the sound of his skull striking the bulkhead; amid the smell of gunpowder all around, I smell blood….
The tracks of the torpedoes are a beautiful white against the water, as if someone were drawing a needle through the water; they come pressing in, aimed at Yamato from a dozen different directions and intersecting silently. Estimating by sight their distance and angle on the plotting board, we shift course to run parallel to the torpedoes and barely succeed in dodging them.
We deal first with the closest, most urgent one; when we get to a point far enough away from it that we can be sure we have dodged it, we turn to the next. Dealing with them calls for vigilance, calculation, and decision…. That these pilots repeated their attacks with accuracy and coolness was a sheer display of the unfathomable undreamed-of strength of our foes.

In the end, it took only 2 hours for American forces to destroy the single most powerful ship constructed during WW2, along with most of the tiny fleet it set out with. When the smoke cleared, around 4,000 were dead on the Japanese side vs. just around a dozen dead on the American side and a few more wounded.

Bonus Fact:

  • Early in WW2 the Imperial Japanese Navy had plans to construct even bigger ships than the Yamato and Musashi as part of an even more powerful class of ships they called the Super Yamatos. These ships, if constructed, would have possessed 510 mm guns, displaced upwards of 82,000 tons and could have moved at speeds approaching 30 knots. Lack of resources stopped Japan from ever building the ships however.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Russians just buzzed the US Navy – again

A United States Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was buzzed by a Russian Air Force Su-30 Flanker over the Black Sea earlier today. This is the latest in a series of incidents this year in the Black Sea.


Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
A Su-30 makes a low-level pass at Zhangjiajie Hehua Airport. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to a report by FoxNews.com, the two-seat multi-role fighter harassed the Navy plane for 24 minutes, including a pass at full afterburner that was roughly 50 feet away. The P-8 was in international airspace at the time of the incident.

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
A P-8A Poseidon assigned to commander, Task Force 67 participates in a photo exercise during Exercise Dynamic Manta 2017. The annual multilateral Allied Maritime Command exercise meant to develop interoperability and proficiency in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

The last time such a close encounter took place was this past June. In that incident, an Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane was buzzed by a Su-27 Flanker over the Baltic Sea. The Flanker came within five feet of the American plane, the closest of about three dozen close encounters that took place that month.

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
A U.S. RC-135U flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker June 19, 2017. Due to the high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept, this interaction was determined to be unsafe. (Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

Russian planes also buzzed the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) in the Black Sea earlier this year. The United States Navy released video of the incident, showing Su-24 Flankers making close passes over the vessel. In all of these close encounters, the American ships and planes were in international waters or airspace.

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
A Su-24 Fencer buzzes USS Porter (DDG 78) in the Black Sea on Feb. 10, 2017. (YouTube Screenshot)

The incident came over three weeks after U.S. Navy fighters intercepted a pair of Russian Tu-95 Bears 80 miles from the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) as it operated in the Sea of Japan. The Bears were well within range of being able to fire powerful anti-ship weapons like the AS-4 Kitchen.

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
A Russian Air Force Tu-95 launching from an airport in 2006 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Russia hasn’t been the only country involved in buzzing American forces. Iranian and Chinese forces have also operated near American forces, in some cases unsafely. In the Persian Gulf, an Iranian drone flew into an aircraft carrier’s landing pattern, nearly causing a mid-air collision with a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet. Chinese J-10 Flounder fighters buzzed a Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft operating in international airspace off Hong Kong earlier this year.

Articles

America and Japan could use giant robots in their next war

Anyone who has watched a lot of Japanese anime knows that giant robots are a major theme. Heck, the first four “Transformers” films have netted almost $3.8 billion at the box office since making their debut in 2007. In August, American and Japanese robots will go head-to-head in real life – and we could be seeing some of the classic military sci-fi coming to life.


Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
We’ve seen Optimus Prime engage in some giant-robot fighting on the big screen, but in real life, Megabot Mk III and KURATAS will go head-to-head this summer. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to a report by FoxNews.com, the American company Megabots issued the challenge to the Japanese robotics firm Suidobashi in 2015 after Megabots had completed the 15-foot tall, six-ton Megabot Mark II. The Japanese company accepted the challenge, but insisted that hand-to-hand combat be allowed before agreeing to commit their battle bot, KURATAS.

Megabots then spent two years re-designing its robot warrior to address the changed dynamics of the duel. They also needed to be able to transport the robot inside a standard shipping container. That meant the company had to be able to quickly deploy the Megabot Mark III — a 16-foot tall, 12-ton behemoth — from an air transportable configuration. That’s not an easy task when you consider there are 3,000 wires, 26 hydraulic pumps, and 300 hydraulic hoses to bolt into place.

Plus, the robot’s 430-horsepower engine was originally designed to move a car, not power a piloted robot in a duel to the death – of the robot, that is.

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
KURATAS, Suidobashi’s giant fighting robot. (Youtube screenshot)

“When we show our robot to people who haven’t heard of us, the reaction is always ‘Oh! I saw that in…’ and then they list any of 60 or 70 different video games, movies, [or] animated shows that feature giant robots fighting. We’re trying to bring the fantasies of sci-fi fans around the world to life,” Megabots co-founder and CEO Gui Cavalcanti said.

Which robot will emerge victorious, and which one will turn into scrap? We’ll find out this summer. Will we eventually see these robots in the military? Don’t bet against it. Meanwhile, watch the challenge Megabots issued to Suidobashi.

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of Aug. 25th

Admit it. Which one of you knuckle-dragging, crayon-eating, ASVAB waivers looked at the sun on Monday? Good luck trying to get the VA to cover that…


Hopefully these memes are a reward for everyone else with common f*cking sense.

#13: “But, Sarge. I look at the moon all the time and never go blind!”

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

#12: This explains why they’re either Salty but wise, Salty but command respect, or just plain Salty.

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

#11: It’s the same story every time and the punchline is almost always that you got smoked.

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

#10: When your car has no airbags but you’ve got a POV inspection

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

#9: Who let the LT survey the TOC build area?

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

#8: You want 5.56? She doesn’t want 5.56… 7.62 AND 5.56? No..

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
(Meme via Terminal Lance)

#7: I’d still take this over an “egg and cheese omelette” any day.

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

#6: No one will take care of you like your buddies!

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

#5: “Yeah, sure dude. I got you” only goes so far when you’ve given them six already.

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
(Meme via Army as F*ck)

#4: Retention would probably sky rocket if they told people their alcohol tolerance will drop significantly when they ETS.

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
(Meme via Army as F*ck)

#3: No need to rush for a promotion. Enjoy your time in the E-4 Mafia.

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

#2: “But Sarge, I need to be ready. The eclipse could come out at any moment!”

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

#1: “Existence is pain to a lower enlisted!”

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
(Made by yours truly)

Articles

The Olympics for special operators just got underway

The Summer Olympics Games may be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil but all eyes are on Peru this week as security forces from 20 nations compete at Fuerzas Comando, a friendly military skills competition where the top special operations forces and police forces from the Western Hemisphere compete for the coveted Fuerzas Comando Cup.


Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
Special Operations Forces from 20 nations take part in opening ceremonies for Fuerzas Comando 2016 outside of Lima, Peru. (U.S. Army photo)

Along with the U.S. and Colombian delegations, teams from the nations of Argentina, Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay will compete in this year’s event. The U.S. team is represented by elite Green Berets from the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group.

The U.S. is looking to finally bring home the gold after coming in second place each of the previous two years, losing to the Colombian special operations team. Colombia has won the last three Fuerzas Comando competitions and has won seven times overall since the games were established in 2011.

Sponsored by U.S. Southern Command and executed by U.S. Special Operations Command South, the annual event aims to improve cooperation, knowledge, and interoperability between participating countries. It’s broken down into two parts: an assault team competition and a sniper team competition.  Each event is scored and evaluated by judges from each of the 20 participating nations to provide a fair and balanced evaluation of all the participating nations.

The team who wins each event wins 200 points. The team with the most points by the end of the week-long event wins the title of Fuerzas Comando champion. These are the events in which the teams will be judged:

Physical Fitness

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Christine Lorenz)

This event consists of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and a 2-mile run.

2016 Competition Update: The Guatemala Team place 1st in this event and were awarded 200 points. They were followed by Mexico and Honduras. The U.S. team placed 14th in this event.  

Marksmanship

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier fires at a 100-meter range July 16, 2015, during Fuerzas Comando competition held in Poptun, Guatemala. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Christine Lorenz)

A series of tests assessing the marksmanship abilities of the assault team members using both rifle and pistol from various distances. Each of the events is timed.

Stress test

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
A member of the U.S. team pulls an evacuation sled loaded with a 250-pound mannequin to a range during the Fuerzas Comando Stress Test event. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Wilma Orozco Fanfan)

Competitors must run long distances with heavy objects and drag large mannequins across various stations on a firing range and then engage stationary targets. The team with the most successful hits wins 200 points.

Aquatics

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
Peruvian team members swim down a creek while pulling their gear during last year’s Fuerzas Comando. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Andrew Kuhn)

This event consists of getting across a large body of water in a raft, run 3 miles with their rucks, swim with full military gear and weapons, and then sprint to a pistol marksmanship range and engage targets.

Obstacle Course

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
Haitian competitors navigate an obstacle during Fuerzas Comando 15. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Menegay)

The obstacle course consists of a series of stations such as a rope climb, horizontal ladders, wall climbs, and rappelling tall towers to test each individual’s strength, endurance, and balance.

Ruck March

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
Chilean competitors race to complete a 20-kilometer road march during last year’s Fuerzas Comando competition held in Poptun, Guatemala. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite)

Competitors compete in a 12-mile ruck march with full military equipment. Team with the fastest time wins the event.

Combat Assault (Shoot House)

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
Members of the Uruguayan assault team breach a doorway during a live-fire shoot house. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden)

Each nation’s assault team moves through a shoot house to clear several targets. Teams must eliminate all threats located inside and rescue a hostage dummy. Each team must carry their hostage back to the finish line to successfully complete the event.

Sniper concealment and Mobility

Move within a range observe and engage a target while remaining undetected. They must return to the starting point without being seen by the judges. The teams have 90 mins to complete this event.

Sniper Unknown Distance Shoot

 

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict
The Panamanian sniper team scans for targets during a live-fire exercise as part of last year’s Fuerzas Comando. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden)

Competitors engage targets from various distances, 300 to 800 meters. The team who hits the most targets wins the event.

The exercise ends with a multinational friendship airborne jump. To stay updated on the day-to-day results and scores on the competition, follow https://www.facebook.com/USSOCSOUTH/

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

USAA announces historic $30 million donation to military families

Since its founding nearly 100 years ago, USAA has spearheaded countless initiatives for the military community. Today, the veteran-forward company announced their intent to give $30 million in support of military families through their Military Family Relief Initiative, the largest one-time philanthropic contribution in their storied history.

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the world, the military community is not immune to the pandemic’s effects. USAA recognized the unique challenges faced by military families and made the decision to provide this money in hopes of supporting those who sacrifice so much for this country.


“Having served for nearly 32 years, I’ve seen the good and the bad,” Navy Vice Admiral James Syring (ret.), President of USAA Property and Casualty Group told WATM. “In tough times, it is really important for not only the military to step forward but other organizations. You know USAA’s mission and who we serve and what we do. This is to the heart of who we are. During these times of need is when we need to show up,” he said.

The 2019 Blue Star Families Survey revealed that financial issues remained the top stressor for military service members, spouses and veteran families. This stressor was high before the pandemic extended deployments, caused lost employment and increased isolation within the military community. As USAA watched the spread of COVID-19 and the increasingly negative impact it was having on military families, the company knew it had to act.

“This isn’t just for our members, it’s for the community. We are doing it because it’s our mission. It’s who we serve,” Syring explained.

From the Military Relief Initiative, million will be given directly to military relief societies. This includes Army Emergency Relief, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Air Force Aid Society, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, We Care for America Foundation and the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces.

The million going directly to the relief societies will create both grants and zero interest loans for eligible service members and their families. It will target financial emergencies and costs associated with virtual schooling, among other things. The remaining million has been promised to nonprofit organizations serving veteran and military spouse employment needs, junior enlisted childcare fees, emotional support for children of service members and virtual schooling costs. To access the support, those eligible can go directly to their relief societies to begin the process.

“USAA has been a dedicated supporter of AER’s mission for many years and we are grateful to receive this latest grant, Army Lieutenant General Raymond Mason (ret.), Director of Army Emergency Relief, said. “This newly announced 2020 gift from the USAA team is another powerful demonstration of their commitment to America’s military members and their families. USAA is an incredibly generous partner and on behalf of Army families everywhere, we thank them for their support.”

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict

USAA also wants to make it clear that they want the focus to be on the importance of supporting the military, especially during these challenging times. “We are doing this to help military families in need — that’s it. This isn’t about business or selling, it’s about doing our part to help the community that we serve,” Syring said.

The organization has also set up a donation fund for members that want to give to COVID-19 relief for military families. With every donation, USAA covers all administrative and merchant fees so that the entire donation goes to the nonprofits supporting military families.

Syring shared that USAA is creating an online platform for military families to share their stories and experiences through COVID-19. It is their hope that as those receiving help share their stories, it will open the door for more families to take that step to get help themselves. “It’s not in our nature in the military to raise a hand and say, ‘I need help.’ It’s always mission first, it’s ingrained in you.” Syring continued, “We want people to raise their hands.”

To apply for support, click here to access the web page USAA created linking those in need with their branch specific relief organizations.

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 epic photos of Marines drinking snake blood and eating scorpions

On Feb. 12, 2019, the US and Thailand launched Cobra Gold, one of the largest multi-national exercises in the world.

The annual exercise brings together 29 nations as participants or observers; nine participating countries include the US and Thailand as well as Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, China, India, Indonesia, and South Korea, according to a US Army release.

The exercise, which will end on Feb. 22, 2019, includes a field training exercise, humanitarian and disaster relief components.

One of the most anticipated aspects of the exercise is jungle survival training, when Royal Thai Marines teach their US counterparts how to identify edible foods, including plants and animals.

During the training, US troops have the opportunity to eat scorpions and geckos, and drink snake blood — all skills necessary to survive if one becomes isolated from their unit.


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U.S. Marines drink the blood of a king cobra during jungle survival training as part of Cobra Gold 19 at Ban Chan Krem, Kingdom of Thailand.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)

1. These Marines aren’t drinking snake blood just for show.

Jungle training teaches essential skills for survival in a wild, tropical environment.

Marines learn skills from identifying poisonous plants, differentiating between venomous and non-venomous snakes, and finding water sources if they get lost.

One of the instructors interviewed by Marine Staff Sgt. Matthew Bragg said that drinking animal blood is one way to stay hydrated in the absence of another water source.

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US Marines cheer on comrades during the highly anticipated jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

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A Royal Thai Marine instructor shows US Marines different types of snakes during jungle survival training.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

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U.S. Marines watch as Royal Thai Marine instructor shows off a snake during Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

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Royal Thai Marine Corps instructor passes around freshly cooked meat during Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

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A US Marine eats a scorpion in jungle survivor training during Cobra Gold 19.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

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U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Austin Gassaway eats a plant during jungle survival training as part of Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)

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Royal Thai Marine shows US Marines what to eat in the jungle during the exercise.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

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Royal Thai and U.S. Marines learn how to make fire in the jungle during Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

9. Marines also learn skills like building fires and alternate ways to stay hydrated.

“I didn’t know that ants are a trace of water. Wherever they’re filing to, they know where the location of water is,” said US Army Spc. Louis Smith.

Smith said that new knowledge is something he’d take back home with him.

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

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This Iraq War vet’s debut novel is provocative and right

While deployed to Iraq in 2007, the U.S. Army’s then-Captain Matt Gallagher started a blog called Kaboom that quickly became very popular … and controversial — so controversial, in fact, that the Army shut it down.


After he separated from the military, Gallagher compiled the best of the blog into his 2010 memoir, “Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War.”  He has since written for the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and Boston Review, among others. Now, with an Master’s degree from Columbia, he’s writing fiction. This week saw the debut of his first work of fiction, “Youngblood: A Novel.”

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The U.S. military is preparing to withdraw from Iraq, and newly-minted lieutenant Jack Porter struggles to accept how it’s happening—through alliances with warlords who have Arab and American blood on their hands. Day after day, Jack tries to assert his leadership in the sweltering, dreary atmosphere of Ashuriyah. But his world is disrupted by the arrival of veteran Sgt. Daniel Chambers, whose aggressive style threatens to undermine the fragile peace that the troops have worked hard to establish.

Irreverent but dedicated like a modern day Candide, Jack struggles with his place in Iraq War history. He soon discovers a connection between Sgt. Chambers and and a recently killed soldier. The more the lieutenant digs into the matter, the more questions arise. The soldier and Rana, a local sheikh’s daughter, appeared to have been in love and what Jack finds implicates the increasingly popular Chambers.What follows finds Jack defying his command as Iraq falls further into chaos.

Gallagher’s storytelling is compelling and his characters are vibrant. “Youngblood” immediately immerses the reader into the Iraq War, defying genre and perspective. We equally see the war from the soldiers who fought there and the Iraqis who lived it, while Gallagher weaves a narrative that is engaging, thoughtful, and thought provoking.

Youngblood: A Novel” is on sale now.

Editor’s note: Catch Matt Gallagher’s Reddit AMA or read his recent opinion piece in the New York Times welcoming us to the “Age of Commando,” where he describes the public fascination with special operations forces in the military today.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War vet was the real hero of the O.K. Corral shootout

It was the moment in history that every Western film has tried to emulate. The Earp brothers, Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan, and their friend, Doctor John Henry Holliday, made their stand in October, 1881, against the outlaw Cochise County Cowboys who had been terrorizing the streets of Tombstone, Arizona.

As the clock struck 3:00, Marshal Virgil Earp issued a warning to the outlaws, telling them to “throw up [their] hands.” Moments later, shots rang out and black smoke filled the narrow streets. A half-minute later, three of the five outlaws had been gunned down and the other two ran like hell. The heroic lawmen stood tall.

Moviemakers and novelists have flocked to this moment and heaped praise onto Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday — and that’s not without good reason. I mean, their lives and friendship make for a goldmine for potential stories and, if you want some protagonists who’ve earned an abundance of cool points, they’re your huckleberries. What’s not to love about a couple of gunslinging bros laying down the law in the Wild West?

Yet, noticeably absent from the spotlight is the man who actually confronted the outlaws. The actual lawman of the group (not just appointed as one) who actually knew the ins and outs of gunfighting: Marshall Virgil Earp, Wyatt’s older brother.


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The 83rd Infantry were renown for their sharpshooting skills. Something that would prove useful in the Wild West.

(National Park Services photo)

Virgil’s story begins a week after his 18th birthday on July 26, 1861, when he joins the Union Army. He’d fallen in love and fathered a child with Ellen Rysdam in secret. Her parents strongly disagreed with her choice in him but they married anyway. They’d spent time together raising their daughter, Nellie Jane, before he was mustered into the Illinois Volunteer Infantry for three years.

When the Civil War broke out, he was reassigned into the 83rd Illinois Infantry and sent down to Tennessee. Detailed records are gone with time, but he did something to earn a court-martial and was docked two weeks of pay. By that point, his loving wife was informed that he’d fallen in combat by her father before being unceremoniously shuffled toward a guy he did approve.

After Virgil returned from the war, his wife and daughter vanished with the new man. He did what any recently-returned veteran would do at the time and ventured west to ease his heartache. This is when he reunited with his brothers, Wyatt and Morgan, and met an unusually badass dentist by the name of Doc Holliday in Dodge City, Kansas. In Dodge City, Virgil used his military experience to become a deputy town marshal.

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For historical perspective, this was Tombstone and the one street was where the showdown happened.

He’d soon get the heck outta Dodge when he was informed that the Cochise County Cowboys down in Prescott, Arizona Territory, were causing mayhem. On one of his first patrols, he first encountered the outlaw gang robbing a stagecoach at the edge of town. He picked up his Henry rifle and plucked them off from a great distance.

He was promptly given the role of Prescott’s night watchman and was later elected as constable for his hard-line stance against the outlaws. Virgil wrote to his brothers, who were in need of work. that a new silver-mining town, Tombstone, was perfect for them, and so they headed south. The U.S. Marshall over Arizona appointed Virgil as the Marshal of the Tombstone District of Pima County. His main goal was to stop all of the coach robberies that occurred between Prescott and Tombstone.

In order to keep the rates of violence and crime down, Virgil enacted an ordinance that prohibited deadly weapons in Tombstone. All weapons must be turned into a stable or saloon upon entering town. This ordinance, as you might imagine, didn’t stop the Cowboy gang from harassing innocent bystanders and making constant threats against the lives of the Earp brothers.

Everything came to a head on October 26, 1881, after the outlaws refused to drop their weapons at Virgil’s command.

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And the scene of that infamous gunfight is now the biggest tourist trap in the area, bringing money into the middle-of-nowhere town.

(Photo by Ken Lund)

Once upon a time, Wyatt Earp was a lawman. But his days of being officially on the blue side ended in Dodge City and Witchita. In Tombstone, Virgil had appointed Wyatt as his temporary assistant, along with Morgan and Doc as temporary “special policemen.”

It should be noted that prior to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Morgan and Doc had never been in any documented firefights, and Wyatt Earp had only one officially under his belt — but all three had remarkable track records in fist fights. Virgil. however, was well-versed in firefights. It should also be noted that while everyone else was using their iconic (but tiny) western revolvers, Virgil was unloading his big-ass coach gun into the outlaws, despite being shot through the femur.

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Sam Elliot played Virgil in 1993’s ‘Tombstone,’ which we think is a pretty well-deserved tribute.

(Buena Vista Pictures)

The gunfight came to an end and the lawmen rose victorious — but the fighting would continue. For their actions that day, they were all reprimanded. Virgil continued as marshal over Tombstone after being cleared of all wrongdoing.

The Cowboys would unrelentingly go after the Earps. Virgil would later be severely wounded by three shotgun-wielding assassins who simultaneously fired on him. This attack ended his career in law enforcement and he ceded marshal duties to his brother, Wyatt. Assassins killed Morgan Earp a few months later.

Wyatt and Doc would eventually bring those responsible to justice and their names would be remembered throughout history for being the toughest lawmen in the West. Virgil needed many years to recuperate, but never fully recovered.

He would eventually cross paths with his former-wife, Ellen, and his daughter when he was an old man. There wasn’t any bad blood, and he was happy to meet three grand-kids he never knew existed.

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These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

It was a warm Sunday afternoon on May 20, 1917, as nurses and doctors of Chicago’s Base Hospital Unit No. 12 gathered on deck of the U.S.S. Mongolia to watch Navy gunners conduct target practice.


Laura Huckleberry, one of the nurses standing on deck, had grown up on a farm near North Vernon, Indiana, and graduated from the Illinois Training School for Nurses in 1913. With Huckleberry were her roommates, Emma Matzen and Edith Ayres, also graduates of the Illinois Training School Class of 1913 and Red Cross Reserve Nurses selected for coveted spots in the hospital unit.

Also enjoying the Atlantic breezes while lounging in deck chairs or standing at the ship’s railing, the group included Scottish-born Helen Burnett Wood, a nursing supervisor at Evanston Hospital. Wood’s mother had protested her daughter’s decision to join the unit, but the 28-year-old Wood had written just before the ship sailed to tell them not to worry.

But Wood’s mother’s worst fears soon materialized.

“We watched them load and fire and then Emma said, ‘Somebody’s shot,'” Huckleberry later wrote of the event in her diary. “I turned and saw two girls on the deck and blood all around.”

Related: These 6 women earned the Silver Star for valor in war

Pieces of flying shrapnel struck Ayres in the left temple and her side, while Wood’s heart was pierced. Both were killed instantly. Matzen suffered shrapnel wounds to her leg and arm. As doctors and nurses attended to their fallen comrades, the ship turned around and returned to New York. The wounded Emma Matzen was taken to the Brooklyn Naval Yard Hospital, then transferred to New York Presbyterian Hospital and later to convalesce at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.

These three women became the first American military casualties of World War I. But it was unclear whether they were entitled to military benefits. Before their bodies were shipped home, Ayers and Wood were honored by the American Red Cross in a memorial service at St. Stephen’s Church. Their coffins, placed side by side, were draped with the Allied flags as New Yorkers paid their respects.

Although technically not buried with full military honors, the two nurses were honored in their local communities in elaborate public services described as “similar to those accorded the sons of Uncle Sam who fall on the field of battle.”

In honor of their martyred patriot, 32 autos in a “slow and solemn march” accompanied the hearse carrying Edith Ayers’ casket from the rail junction to Attica, Ohio. Area schools were closed for two days and most of the community paid their respects as her body lay in state in the Methodist Church. The burial concluded with a 21-gun salute from the 8th Ohio National Guard as a delegation of Red Cross nurses and representatives of the governor and the state of Ohio stood in silence.

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A gun on the U.S.S. Mongolia. | Public Domain photo

Wealthy financier and former Evanston mayor James Patten, whose wife was a friend of Helen Wood, telegraphed his New York representative to have the body shipped to Chicago at his cost. Evanston Hospital, Northwestern University and First Presbyterian Church officials took part in planning the memorial services after obtaining the consent of relatives.

More than 5,000 people lined the streets of Evanston to view her funeral escort, which included a marching band, 50 cadets from Great Lakes Naval Station, Red Cross nurses, hospital and university officials and other dignitaries. Following church services, a contingent of Red Cross nurses accompanied grieving family and friends to the gravesite.

Part of the ambiguity about the military status of these nurses came from the fact that they were enrolled by the American Red Cross before being inducted into the U.S. Army. They also served without rank or commission. Although the Army and Navy had formed nursing corps before the war, this was the first time they had inducted women in large numbers.

The Senate Naval Affairs Committee investigated the incident, determining that it resulted from the malfunctioning of the brass cap on the powder cartridge case and ordering changes to naval guns to prevent recurrence of such mishaps. But as U.S. war casualties mounted, these women were soon forgotten.

Emma Matzen recovered from her injuries and rejoined her unit in France later that year. In 1919, she returned home to Nebraska, where she and a sister, also a nurse, ran a small hospital. Each adopted infant girls who had been abandoned at the hospital; both girls later became nurses as well. Matzen moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in 1949 where she did private duty nursing until she was 87. She was the only female among the 49 residents in her local VA Hospital; she died in 1979 at the age of 100.

Until the mid-1940s, the Edith Work Ayers American Legion Post in Cleveland was an all-women’s group comprised of former WWI Red Cross nurses and volunteers. The Attica Ohio Historical Society has honored her during annual Memorial Day ceremonies. Ayers’ graveside, although also without mention of any military service, has an American Legion marker. An Attica high school student, with the endorsement of the American Legion, has applied to the Ohio History Commission for a plaque to be placed in Attica in honor of its native daughter.

In Northesk Church near Musselburgh, Scotland, Helen Wood’s name is the first listed on a Roll of Honor of the congregation’s WWI deceased. In 2014, the flag which draped her coffin and her Red Cross pin were displayed in a WWI exhibition at the local museum. But Helen Wood is buried thousands of miles away in Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery. Among the grand tombstones of famous Chicagoans and war veterans, Wood’s simple headstone makes no mention of her military death. Her wartime sacrifice is recognized only by a marker provided long ago by the Gold Star Father’s Association.

On the centennial of the accident aboard the Mongolia, a public wreath laying ceremony will be held at Helen Burnett Wood’s grave site in Rosehill Cemetery May 20. Part of “Northwestern Remembers the First World War”, a series of exhibits, lectures, and commemorations from Northwestern University Libraries will also be part of the remembering of America’s first casualties of WWI.  Support of the event is provided by the Pritzker Military Museum Library.

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This crucial 1942 naval battle was captured on film by a Hollywood director

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On June 4, 1942, the Battle of Midway kicked off between the U.S. and Japan. When it was all over on June 7, it was hailed as a decisive American victory — and much of it was captured on film.

That’s all because the Navy sent director John Ford to Midway atoll just days before it was attacked by the Japanese. Ford, already famous in Hollywood for such films as “Stage Coach” and “The Grapes of Wrath,” was commissioned a Navy commander with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and thought he was just going to document a quaint island in the South Pacific.

“The next morning – that night we got back and evidently something was about to pop, great preparations were made,” Ford told Navy historians after the battle. “I was called into Captain Semard’s office, they were making up plans, and he said ‘Well, now Ford, you are pretty senior here, and how about you getting up top of the power house, the power station, where the phones are?’ He said, ‘Do you mind?” I said ‘No, it’s a good place to take pictures.’

He said, ‘Well, forget the pictures as much as you can, but I want a good accurate account of the bombing,” he said, “We expect to be attacked tomorrow.'”

From History.com:

A thousand miles northwest of Honolulu, the strategic island of Midway became the focus of his scheme to smash U.S. resistance to Japan’s imperial designs. Yamamoto’s plan consisted of a feint toward Alaska followed by an invasion of Midway by a Japanese strike force. When the U.S. Pacific Fleet arrived at Midway to respond to the invasion, it would be destroyed by the superior Japanese fleet waiting unseen to the west. If successful, the plan would eliminate the U.S. Pacific Fleet and provide a forward outpost from which the Japanese could eliminate any future American threat in the Central Pacific. U.S. intelligence broke the Japanese naval code, however, and the Americans anticipated the surprise attack.

The three-day battle resulted in the loss of two U.S. ships and more than 300 men. The Japanese fared much worse, losing four carriers, three destroyers, 275 planes, and nearly 5,000 men.

Ford was wounded in the initial attack, but he continued to document the battle using his handheld 16mm camera. Here’s how he described it:

“By this time the attack had started in earnest. There was some dive bombing at objectives like water towers, [they] got the hangar right away. I was close to the hangar and I was lined up on it with my camera, figuring it would be one of the first things they got. It wasn’t any of the dive bombers [that got it]. A Zero flew about 50 feet over it and dropped a bomb and hit it, the whole thing went up. I was knocked unconscious. Just knocked me goofy for a bit, and I pulled myself out of it. I did manage to get the picture. You may have seen it in [the movie] “The Battle of Midway.” It’s where the plane flies over the hangar and everything goes up in smoke and debris, you can see one big chunk coming for the camera.

Everybody, of course, nearly everybody except the gun crews were under ground. The Marines did a great job. There was not much shooting but when they did it was evidently the first time these boys had been under fire but they were really well trained. Our bluejackets and our Marine gun crews seemed to me to be excellent. There was no spasmodic firing, there was no firing at nothing. They just waited until they got a shot and it usually counted.”

Now see his 1942 film “The Battle of Midway,” which won the Academy Award for best documentary:

SEE ALSO: Everyone should see these powerful images of wounded vets

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