Since ISIS exploded onto the scene in Iraq in June 2014, the group has managed to overrun cities garrisoned by contingents of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) that were multiple times larger than the attacking militant forces.
In May, ISIS seized control of Ramadi after months of battles against the ISF, Iraqi police, and members of Sunni tribes who opposed ISIS.
Altogether, the ISF had assembled a force of about 2,000 soldiers in Ramadi who were fighting against between 400 and 800 militants. Despite having many more troops, ISIS still managed to take control of the city due to their devastating and insane tactic of using waves of multiton suicide car bombs.
According to The Soufan Group, ISIS used upward of 30 car bombs in its Ramadi offensive. At least some of those bombs were large enough to level an entire city block. In multiple instances, the car bombs were preceded by ISIS-manned construction equipment that could barrel through concrete blast barriers to open the way for the suicide operatives.
“There is little defense against a multi-ton car bomb; there is none against multiple such car bombs. … the Islamic State is able to overwhelm once-thought formidable static defenses through a calculated and concentrated use of suicide bombers,” The Soufan Group notes. “The Islamic State has neither a shortage of such explosives nor a shortage of volunteers eager to partake in suicide attacks.”
ISIS’ penchant for massively powerful suicide bombings has been a hallmark of the group since it first seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June 2014. During that attack, ISIS detonated a water tanker filled with explosives outside of the Mosul Hotel in the center of the city where the ISF were based. The resulting explosion led to mass desertions and the withdrawal of ISF troops from the western portion of the city.
The militant organization’s frequent employment of construction equipment and other large vehicles in suicide operations has led to the US-led aerial coalition to frequently target them in air strikes. However, air strikes are not a panacea against car bombs and can do little to fully mitigate the threat of these weapons in urban environments.
The anti-ISIS coalition would be much better off if ground forces in Iraq were better equipped to deal with suicide vehicles before they are able to break static defenses. This would require, in addition to a larger troop presence, an increased number of antitank weapons in ISF hands that could be used to destroy ISIS-operated construction equipment and car bombs before they reach their targets, The Soufan Group states.
And even then, ISIS could still carry out devastating bombings for the express goal of terrorizing civilians and provoking sectarian strife without the follow-up goal of overrunning a city’s defenses. The recent twin hotel bombings in Baghdad, for instance, served to demoralize residents and members of the ISF even though the blasts were on a significantly smaller scale than those undertaken in Ramadi.
As long as ISIS has room to operate and controls territory within the Middle East, the militant group will be able to coordinate and execute suicide bombings of various sizes throughout the region. Within the past week alone, ISIS has managed to successfully carry out two suicide bombings against Shiites in Saudi Arabia.
Although attacks like that do not foreshadow a full ISIS assault on the country, it does hint at the group’s ominous use of suicide attacks to spread sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites throughout the Muslim world.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of aspects of daily life. Social distancing, restricted occupancy and wearing masks became commonplace. As these restrictions begin to lift in the summer of 2021, one COVID-driven change looks to be sticking around.
Implemented as a way to minimize interaction and reduce the spread of COVID-19, curbside pickup has become a convenient way for consumers to shop. Whether its your weekly groceries or a new TV, ordering online and having your purchases brought out to your car from the store is extremely convenient. For some people, it saves time in their hectic schedule. For others, it’s a workaround to prevent social anxiety. Whatever the reason for using it, curbside pickup is now offered at many grocery, retail and dining locations across the country.
For service members at stateside installations, curbside pickup at the commissary will be here by the end of the year. Called Click2Go, the online ordering/curbside pickup program has seen great success and has customers calling for further expansion. Over the last two years, Click2Go has been rolled out at 11 bases: Fort Belvoir, Fort Eustis, Fort Lee, Oceana Naval Air Station and Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey; Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota; and Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Florida.
In 2020, Defense Commissary Agency officials said they expected the number of Click2Go sites to grow to 60 in the next two years. After Bill Moore took over as DeCA Director and CEO, the projection changed. “I want to dramatically increase the number of stores with the service,” Moore said last fall. “I am driven on getting e-commerce to more locations, and I’m hoping we can get a lot more in a very near-term approach.” A fast-tracked rollout aims to introduce Click2Go to all 236 stateside commissaries by the end of the year. Overseas commissaries are expected to receive the program shortly thereafter.
Moreover, Click2Go itself has seen a number of improvements. To better serve customers, the commissary has added online payment options, more product information, improved user interface, featured sales and promotions, and mobile-friendly options like viewing order history. “Perhaps the most significant enhancement is online payment,” Moore said of the updates. “You place your order and pay online, and then it’s simply a matter of driving up to the curbside delivery area of your commissary to have your groceries loaded into your vehicle—that’s a streamlined process our customers expect in this information age.”
The Click2Go rollout schedule will be available on the Defense Commissary Agency website. Although the necessity of stateside commissaries has come under Congressional scrutiny in recent years, modernization efforts like Click2Go aim to keep the benefit on bases for the foreseeable future.
Featured photo: CLICK2GO call box stands in the parking lot of the Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, Commissary April 2, 2019. The program started in 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by D. P. Heard)
China wants to become east Asia’s dominant power. And in order to do that, the country needs a navy that can balance out American and US-allied assets in the region.
China wants a force that is capable of operating for extended periods in the open ocean, away from the coasts or support bases. A “blue-water navy” would allow China to protect vital trade routes while also enabling Beijing to project force in areas far from China’s coastline.
Beijing’s naval development could be one of the biggest strategic challenges the US faces in coming decades. And the Chinese navy is already pretty formidable. The following graphic from the US Office of Naval Intelligence shows every surface ship in the Chinese Navy as of February 2015 (you can view a much larger version of the graphic here):
The largest ship in China’s navy is currently the Liaoning aircraft carrier, a refurbished Soviet-built craft that’s had an array of problems. The vessel is several decades old and of questionable quality — it suffered an unexpected power outage during sea trials in October of 2014.
But the Liaoning may just be a practice carrier for the Chinese Navy. China is using the low-cost vessel to master the operation of carrier battle groups before purchasing and developing more expensive and capable vessels.
There are reports that China is planning on developing three carrier battle groups, in a massive ramping-up of naval force projection.
The Luyang II 052C class guided missile destroyer is also noteworthy. These ships are designed to operate in open ocean away from China’s coasts, allowing Beijing to press its territorial ambitions throughout the Pacific and the South China Sea.
Additionally, a ship model called the Jinan will feature a number of new-generation weapons, and is specially designed to protect any future Chinese aircraft carriers.
“The guided missile destroyer Ji’nan (hull number 152), is equipped with multiple sets of home-made new-type weapons,” China Military Online reports.
“It is able to attack surface warships and submarines independently or in coordination with other strength of the PLAN. The ship also possesses strong capabilities of conducting long-distance early-warning and detecting as well as regional air-defense operation.”
He has also witnessed first-hand how much the blockbuster director respects the military — Pietruszewski was one of the vets sought out by Bay to work on the “Transformers” films. Bay goes out of his way to hire and cast veterans on his sets, in front of and behind the camera.
There’s a big difference between the military and the depiction of the military onscreen, but with Hollywood’s tendency to perpetuate military myths, it’s nice to know that big directors like Bay are leading the way in including the military in their films.
World Championship Wrestling star Diamond Dallas Page was badly injured at the height of his career. To get back to the top of his game he created a unique mix of yoga and rehabilitative motion — what he calls DDP Yoga.
“I’m the guy who wouldn’t be caught dead doing yoga the first 42 years of my life,” says Page, now 59. “Especially when I started wrestling at 35, and my career literally took off at 40.”
Page was on top of the world in 1998, when he was one of the top four wrestlers in the world. Soon after, however, he blew out his back, rupturing his L4-L5 spinal segment.
“Three specialists I went to and they all said the same thing,” he continues “‘You’re done. You had a great run, but you’re done.’ On that Sunday, I just signed a multimillion dollar three-year deal.”
They guy who wouldn’t be caught dead doing yoga was suddenly willing to try anything.
“All the reasons I didn’t ever do yoga, the whole spiritual mumbo jumbo, it wasn’t my thing,” he says. “But I started doing yoga and learning the moves on VHS tapes. I would mix those moves with rehabilitation techniques because I had to rehab both shoulder surgeries, both knee surgeries, and my back.”
This combination of forces worked like a charm. He was back in the ring in three months. At age 43, he was the oldest champion ever to wear a belt. His wrestling career continued well into 2005 and he still makes sporadic appearances to this day.
“At 42, they tell me my wrestling career is over, and at 43 I’m the world champ. Yeah, I’m going to keep doing that,” he says.
While DDP Yoga is for anyone who wants to be stronger, recover from an injury, or just generally look and feel better, Page created it for workers and athletes who, by the nature of what they do, end their careers having put a great deal of physical stress on their bodies.
“I developed DDP Yoga for cops, firefighters, the military, the worker, the roofer on his knees, tile layers, the athlete that’s beat up,” he says. “If you played high school football or soccer, there’s a good chance that by the time you got to your forties, you’re pretty beat up.”
One day, a disabled Gulf War veteran named Arthur Boorman bought the DDP Yoga program. Page sent Boorman a questionnaire and was moved by the vet’s responses.
“He wrote, ‘I’m a disabled vet that’s morbidly obese and so beat up I’ve relegated to thinking of myself as a piece of furniture,'” Page says. “I told him to send me some pictures so I can see what I’m looking at. I saw knee braces that took him twenty minutes every morning to put on. They attached into his back braces. His wife had to do that for him every morning. Then he grabbed these canes, he called them wrap around cups. I saw those cups and was like, how am I going to help that guy?”
Page and a dietician developed a meal plan for Boorman while Boorman started DDP Yoga. In ten months, Boorman lost 140 lbs, as well as his knee and back braces, his canes, and was not only able to walk, he started running.
“If he would’ve wrote back to me, ‘I think I can do this’ or ‘I’ll give it a try,’ I would’ve typed back, awesome, keep me posted,” Page says. “But he didn’t do that. He wrote, ‘I can do this.'”
These days, Boorman appears in DDP Yoga workouts.
“When you see him on the energy workout which is twenty-five minutes, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, that’s that guy! Wait a minute, that’s ten years later!'” Page says with a smile. “Then when you get to the hour-long workouts, there’s Arthur again. Doing the most extreme levels.”
As he developed DDP Yoga, he found two of his fellow wrestlers in despair. Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Scott Hall (aka Razor Ramon) suffered from drug and alcohol abuse. In 2012, Roberts was obese, addicted, and contemplating suicide. Hall faced much the same situation. World Wrestling Entertainment wouldn’t even let the legendary wrestlers into the Wrestling Hall of Fame. They both turned to DDP Yoga and made remarkable changes. Roberts’ turnaround is the subject of Page’s new film, The Resurrection of Jake the Snake.
“All I did was guide my two buddies who guided me in other times in my wrestling career,” Page says. “It was great to help my buddies get their lives back in order.”
DDP Yoga has expanded exponentially. Page has a live-streaming studio in Atlanta, as well as DDP Yoga apps for Android and iPhone formats, which include cooking and nutrition. His Twitter account is full of people like Arthur who thank him for developing the program. The company tries to respond to every tweet.
“I’m not a doctor,” Page says. “And I have enough lawyers to know that I don’t claim to do anything. What I am is a guide. I don’t put the work in for you and I won’t. I will help guide you from what I’ve learned.”
The Second World War saw extensive international cooperation amongst the allied militaries. US and UK aircraft and aircraft carriers conducted joint operations in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. In fact, the British even loaned an aircraft carrier to the U.S. Navy during WWII. Renamed USS Robin, HMS Victorious launched American aircraft into combat alongside her compliment of British aircraft. Despite continued partnerships in fights against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the 21st century, American warplanes have not flown combat missions from a foreign aircraft carrier again until now.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest vessel that the Royal Navy has ever put to sea. The 65,000-ton warship is the pride of the British fleet. Still, she is smaller than the Nimitz-class carriers sailed by the U.S. Navy. As such, her flight deck still requires a ramp to launch aircraft. This, however, is exactly the kind of operating environment that the F-35 Lightning II was designed for.
Capable of short-takeoffs and vertical-landings, the F-35B is flown by the Royal Air Force and Navy as well as the U.S. Marine Corps. Marine F-35Bs trained aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2018 to validate interoperability. However, the assignment of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) to the Queen Elizabeth marks the first combat deployment and sortie of American warplanes from a foreign carrier since WWII.
The 10 F-35Bs from VMFA-211 are joined by 8 F-35Bs of the RAF’s 617 Squadron, the famous “Dambusters.” It is the largest deployment of the F-35 to date.
On June 22, 2021, the Ministry of Defence announced that an undisclosed number of US and UK F-35Bs flew combat missions against ISIS from HMS Queen Elizabeth. The missions were flown in support of Operations Shader and Inherent Resolve. The MoD did not specify the locations of the missions or the targets that were struck. Also on June 22, the Marines announced that the blended air wing began combat operations on June 18.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the lead ship of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group 21. British Secretary of State for Defence described the carrier strike group as, “the largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation.” The seven-month, 30,000-mile mission will take it to 40 countries through the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. The carrier strike group includes a U.S. destroyer and a Dutch frigate and is expected to transit the South China Sea as a show of force.
Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Zachary Bodner
The US Army is finally set to phase out one of the most consistent images of modern American military power: the Humvee.
Earlier this year, the US Army announced the three finalists for the massive contract to replace the iconic Humvee, which has been in service for almost three decades.
Oshkosh Corporation, defense contractor Lockheed Martin, and Humvee-maker AM General each delivered 22 prototypes of their Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLVT) to military evaluators, who are running elaborate tests on the vehicles to determine the best fit.
Since the 1990s, AM General’s Humvee has been the US military’s workhorse, first seeing action in the Gulf War.
Despite its ubiquity, the Humvee has caused some serious headaches for American forces. As Wired notes, the Humvee was designed in the 1980s as an off-road carrier to transport troops and equipment quickly across Eastern Europe in a theoretical ground war against the then Soviet Union.
But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Humvee’s mission changed. It was deployed to the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan, where US commanders quickly discovered that it was dangerously under equipped to protect troops against close-combat urban fire and improvised explosive devices.
With this problem in mind, the vehicles in this summer’s competition are all far more resistant to explosive blasts. The new vehicles are smaller, so they can be more easily airlifted and transported. They’re also light and better equipped to deal with the urban and off-road patrol duties that the Humvee took on in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The winning payout for the contract will be huge. As the Dallas Morning News reports, the US Army plans to spend billions on at least 20,000 vehicles, and the Marine Corps will likely buy around 5,000. If the vehicle is more successful, it could be an even greater windfall — since the ’80s, the AM General has produced 250,000 Humvees for the US military.
Here are the three vehicles that could replace the Humvee:
Oshkosh’s entry into the competition is the Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle.
The company has one advantage. After the Army realized in the early 2000s that the Humvee left troops vulnerable to blasts, the Pentagon ordered thousands of Oshkosh’s Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles for deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the name suggests, Oshkosh’s MRAP was much better suited to transport troops through these environments. Wired notes that the MRAP was so successful at sustaining blasts that some troops reportedly didn’t realize when they ran over bombs.
Oshkosh’s entry in the JLTV contest attempts to expand upon the MRAP’s success. The L-ATV is a lighter, smaller vehicle than the MRAP and can be more quickly and easily airlifted. This makes the vehicle preferable to the MRAP, which is large and can’t be deployed to areas where it needs to maneuver in crowded spaces.
Oshkosh believes that since the company demonstrated its proficiency with the MRAP, the JLTV is a natural transition.
“The Oshkosh M-ATV is the only vehicle performing the JLTV mission profile in operations today,” Oshkosh Vice President of Business Development Jennifer Christiansen told Business Insider in an email.
“This is where Oshkosh is truly unique because no other company has successfully transitioned more new military vehicle programs into production for the US Department of Defense,” Christiansen said.
The vehicle also has some unique features. If the military wishes to make their vehicles a little greener, Oshkosh threw an optional hybrid-diesel engine into the mix to help increase fuel efficiency.
Lockheed Martin’s JLTV
Designed with anti-guerilla combat in mind, Lockheed is playing on somewhat unfamiliar ground in the ground fight. Oshkosh and AM General both have troop carriers in use by the US military, while Lockheed is still more widely known for its high-tech aircraft and missile systems.
Like the other competitors, Lockheed aimed to make its slightly boxier vehicle lighter and tested it for blast-resistance.
“It can take a soldier everywhere, but can survive everything that they could survive in an MRAP,” Trevor McWilliams, a former soldier whose truck was hit with an IED, said in a Lockheed promotional video.
Lockheed is also hoping that the vehicle’s price tag will persuade the military to adopt its proposal. The defense contractor’s website touts the vehicle’s gas mileage, low production cost, and easy adaptability in case mechanics want to add on or upgrade the car in the shop.
“We are providing the most capable vehicle to our soldiers and our Marines, and we’re going to do it a very affordable cost,” Lockheed Martin program director Katheryn Hasse told Army Recognition in 2014.
AM General’s BRV-O
Though the Humvee itself may be on the way out, the lessons it learned have been passed on to AM General’s 21st century version.
This time around, AM General has built the Humvee’s largest weakness into the vehicle’s name: the Blast-Resistant Vehicle Off-Road. The company is highlighting the renewed safety of their BRV-O, touting its blast-resistant frame and space for amour add-ons.
“The Humvee was not designed for underbody protection, so the BRV-O has a higher ground clearance and is able to apply a protection kit to the bottom of the vehicle,” AM General Vice President of Business Development Chris Vanslanger told CNN in 2012.
According to AM General, the BRV-O is also the only vehicle equipped with a system that allows all passengers to connect to the military’s C4ISR network, which helps troops, aircraft, and commanders link up and coordinate movements on the battlefield.
Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is a legend of Marine Corps history. One of the most lethal snipers in history, he even repeatedly succeeded in killing snipers sent to hunt him. In one of his last missions on a tour in Vietnam, he crawled nearly two miles to kill a Vietnamese general and escape.
Check out WATM’s podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss the legend of Gunny Carlos Hathcock:
When the mission came down, he didn’t have all the details but he knew tough missions at the end of a tour were a recipe for disaster. Rather than send one of his men, he volunteered for the mission himself.
“Normally, when you take on a mission like that, when you’re that short, you forget everything,” Hathcock said in an interview. “Ya know, tactics, the whole ball of wax, and you end up dead. And, I did not want none of my people dead, and so I took the mission on myself.”
Hathcock was flown towards the objective, but was dropped well short of the target so he wouldn’t be given away. He made his way to a tree line, but still had 1,500 yards to move from the tree line to his final firing position. So, he started crawling.
“I went to my side. I didn’t go flat on my belly, because I made a bigger slug trail when I was on my belly. I moved on my side, pretty minutely, very minutely. I knew I had a long ways to go, didn’t want to tire myself out too much.”
As he crawled, he was nearly discovered multiple times by enemy soldiers.
“Patrols were within arm’s reach of me. I could’ve tripped the majority, some of them. They didn’t even know I was there.”
The complacency of the patrol allowed Hathcock to get 700 yards from his target.
“They didn’t expect a one-man attack. They didn’t expect that. And I knew, from the first time when they came lolly-gagging past me, that I had it made.”
The talented sniper made his way up to his firing position, avoiding patrols the whole way and slipping between machine gun nests without being detected.
He arrived at his firing position and set up for his shot.
“Seen all the guys running around that morning, and I dumped the bad guy.”
Hathcock took his shot and punched right through the chest of the general he was targeting. At that moment, he proved the brilliance of firing from grass instead of from the trees.
“When I made the shot, everybody run the opposite direction because that’s where the trees were,” he said. “That’s where the trees were. It flashed in my mind, ‘Hey, you might have something here.”
Per his escape plan, Hathcock crawled to a nearby ditch and crawled his way back out of the field. For the first time in four days, he was able to walk.
“So, I went to that ditch, little gully, and made it to the tree line, and about passed out when I stood up to get a little bit better speed.”
With small arms gunfire, mortar rounds and Rocket Propelled Grenades from hundreds of Taliban firing into a small U.S. Army outpost in Northeastern Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha asked his fellow soldiers if there were any volunteers to help him lead a counterattack to take back the front gate.
He was surprised by the response — a powerful moment of truth which he would later call the proudest moment of his Army career.
Their outpost had been overrun, Army soldiers had been killed, remaining fighters had been unable to get to ammunition supplies and Taliban fighters had breached the front gate, Romesha explained.
“I said I need a group of volunteers. Five guys who did not even know what the plan was and did not know what I was about to ask stood up with pure grit and determination and said they would follow me anywhere. I told them the counterattack plan,” Romesha told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Romesha helped lay down suppressive fire so that fallen soldiers could be recovered during the attack, destroyed numerous Taliban fighters coming through the gate, directed air support from Apache helicopters once they arrived and led an impactful counterattack which turned the tide of the deadly battle on that morning of October 3, 2009.
Romesha and his fellow soldiers, who spent months on a small, 52 soldier-strong fighting position in the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan called Combat Outpost Keating, were used to daily attacks from Taliban fighters.
“All of a sudden we were overwhelmed with machine guns, mortars and RPGs. We’d been there three months and had gotten attacked pretty much on a daily basis, so it would not have been unusual to wake up to something like that. When these rounds came in, we knew it was something totally different,” He explained.
Romesha explained that every defensive position went into a cyclic rate of fire to try to defend as fast as they could shoot back — but the enemies overwhelming fire was too much for them.
“Soldiers started running out of ammunition at the battle positions and we could not get resupplies to them because the outpost sat at the bottom of a valley. Anytime you step outside into the open, you were a target. No matter where we stood, bullets were just raining down on us,” he explained.
Romesha’s counterattack plan was both risky and ambitious because he wanted to lead a small team of soldiers to take back ammunition points, close off the front gate to Taliban fighters pouring in, get to a mortar position, and perform a crucially important casualty recovery of the fallen soldiers.
“The Lieutenant gave me a go ahead on the plan. The Taliban fighters that had breached the wire had started torching all the hard structures in the buildings and burning them. The whole outpost was on fire,” Romesha recalled.
Due to resilience and combat determination from Romesha and other soldiers, they were able to fight their way back toward ammunition supply points on the outpost and take back the front gate. This counterattack push resulted in close-quarter battle wherein Taliban fighters were often less than 20-meters away, Romesha explained.
“We started pushing ammo back and started reinforcing positions which allowed us a little more freedom of maneuver,” he said.
As this was happening, air support from Apache attack helicopters arrived along with some eventual reinforcements from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division.
While he may not choose to explain things this way, it seems clear from the events that day that the whole outpost would not likely have survived – and casualties would have been far greater – had Romesha not shown such courage, spirit and leadership in battle. His counterattack saved the Outpost from complete destruction.
While confronting a deadly blaze of gunfire and repeatedly risking his life to save, defend and recover his fellow soldiers, Romesha was not thinking of recognition on the day of the battle. In fact, upon learning years later that he would receive the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the battle, Romesha was surprised.
“It was definitely a team effort that day. If it was not for those 52 guys I would not be here. I’d rather die today than take one shred of credit for doing nothing more than doing my job like everyone else was doing,” he said.
Romesha went on to emphasize that, in his mind, the real heroes are the eight soldiers who died in battle that day.
“They are only gone unless we do not remember them. In my humble opinion, true heroes are those that don’t come home. Those are the only ones that deserve that title of hero. They gave up everything and more than could ever be asked of them,” he explained.
While he is still reluctant to acknowledge his own heroism on that day in 2009, called the Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan, Romesha received the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama in February, 2013.
On the day of the battle, Romesha was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavarly Regment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. He fought alongside fellow soldiers and insists on remembering his fellow American soldiers who died that day.
In order to recognize and pay tribute to Romesha’s emphasis – the names of the eight soldiers who died during the attack are: Vernon Martin, Justin Gallegos, Joshua Kirk, Josh Hardt, Michael Scusa, Stephen Mace, Christopher Griffin and Kevin Thompson.
The intensity of devotion to his fellow soldiers, motivated by loyalty, love and protective instinct, provided the inspiration for Romesha’s actions in combat
“It wasn’t a day of hatred toward the enemy. It did not matter about the politics. It mattered about those brothers to your left and your right – we did not fight because we hated the guys who were attacking us, we did it more because we loved the guys that were on our left and right. Love will win out over hate and anger any day of the week,” Romesha said.
Romesha is the son of a Vietnam veteran and a grandson of a World War II veteran. He lives in North Dakota.
Almost 30 years after being convicted for espionage, Jonathan Jay Pollard will be eligible for parole in November 2015 — and the U.S. may release him. In 1987, Pollard became the first American ever convicted for passing intelligence to a U.S. ally. In espionage acts the U.S. says were unnecessary, Pollard was personally adamant Israel was not getting the full intelligence picture due to a U.S. ally and so took it on himself — as a civilian member of U.S. Navy intelligence — to provide that information.
Pollard didn’t go to trial because he pled out to get leniency for himself and his wife. He was handed a life sentence, with eligibility for parole after 30 years.
He has become a cause célèbre in some Jewish and Israeli circles. Yet both sides of the American political aisles argue against his release: the conservative publication National Review and the liberal Slate both published pieces against it, and many former Department of Defense officials are against his release. Some prominent Jewish-American figures are against it. Even once-ardent supporters of Pollard disagree with the timing. Ron Olive, the NCIS investigator who caught Pollard after he handed more than a million documents to Israeli agents over 18 months, believes the spy should stay in jail. So does Vice-President Joe Biden. Then-CIA director George Tenet threatened his resignation if President Clinton released Pollard in the late 1990s.
Pollard’s disclosures to Israel have never been fully revealed to the public. A 46-page memo viewable by Pollard and his defense attorneys was provided to the court at his sentence hearing by then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who said Pollard gave information that caused grave damage to the national security of the United States.
This included the 10-volume Radio and Signal Intelligence [RASIN] manual, aka “the Bible,” detailing the entire U.S. global listening profile, “frequency by frequency, source by source, geographic slice by geographic slice. RASIN was in effect, a complete roadmap to American signal intelligence.” The manual revealed which communications channels of which powers, in which regions, the NSA was intercepting and in what order of priority, providing insight on where and what actions the U.S. military might take next. It was this specific disclosure which led the sentencing judge to send Pollard away for life.
The full disclosure of secrets Pollard passed to Israel are so damaging the memo detailing the gravest of them is itself Top Secret; he essentially revealed the “sources and methods” of all American intelligence gathering. Secretary Weinberger asserted Pollard had a photographic memory and the ability to go on disclosing secrets into the foreseeable future (a summary is available here).
“It is difficult for me, even in the so-called ‘year of the spy,'” wrote Weinberger, “to conceive of a greater harm to national security than that caused by the defendant in view of the breadth, the critical importance to the U.S., and the high sensitivity of the information he sold to Israel. That information was intentionally reserved by the United States for its own use, because to disclose it, to anyone or any nation, would cause the greatest harm to our national security.”
In his defense trial, Pollard claimed he was motivated by altruism for Israel’s security and not greed, but was still paid $11,000 (almost $24,000 adjusted for inflation) and a diamond and sapphire ring he used to propose to his girlfriend. He would eventually receive $2,500 (more than $5,700 in 2015) each month for his work for Israel, as well as cash for hotels, meals, and other luxuries. Pollard admitted to taking the money. The government alleged he was a habitual drug user who burned through cash as fast as he could get it. In the above video, Marion Bowman called him a very “venal person.”
The government’s case against Pollard included unsuccessful attempts to broker arms deals with South Africa, Argentina, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Iran. When the Israelis were asked to return the material, they returned only low-level classified documents, but the U.S. was aware of more than 10,000 documents Pollard passed, at times by loads in suitcases, copied by Israeli agents with two high-speed copiers in a DC apartment. Ron Olive, the NCIS investigator handling the Pollard case, later detailed more than a million documents.
“By his own admission, he gave enough information to fill a space six feet by six feet by ten feet.”
A Texas native, Pollard attended Stanford University and graduated in 1976. After a few failed attempts at graduate school, he also failed to get a job at the CIA, being unable to pass the polygraph test necessary for the CIA’s Top Secret clearance. He was able to get a job at the Naval Intelligence Support Center, Surface Ships Division. While there, his boss tried to fire him, but he was instead reassigned to a Naval Intelligence Task Force.
Along the way he had a meeting with Adm. Sumner Shapiro, the Commander of Naval Intelligence Command, which led to the admiral ordering his security clearances revoked. Shapiro, who insists Pollard was too low ranking to know what the U.S. was sharing with Israel, described Pollard as a “kook,” saying “I wish the hell I’d fired him.” His clearance somehow wasn’t revoked but was downgraded, only to be returned after Pollard filed a lawsuit to get it back.
In college, Pollard made a lot of outrageous claims; he was an agent of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service (who have an active policy of not spying on the U.S.), he claimed to have killed an Arab while guarding a kibbutz in Israel, and that he was a Colonel in the Israeli Defense Forces. None of this was true, but in June 1984, while working at Task Force 168, he met an actual Colonel in the Israeli Air Force, Aviem Sella. Pollard volunteered to spy for Israel, telling Sella his belief there were secrets the U.S. was not sharing with Israel that were vital to Israeli interests.
In an exhaustive 1987 report, NCIS investigator Ron Olive alleged Pollard passed material on to South Africa and tried to pass it on to Pakistan. He took intelligence documents about China which his wife used to advance her business interests. He passed No Foreign Access (NOFORN) information on to an Australian Navy officer.
He was caught when a coworker noticed he was removing classified material from the work center, but didn’t seem to be taking it anywhere relevant. He was put under surveillance and the FBI caught him moving classified documents. He told the FBI he was taking them to another agency for a consultation, but that turned out to be false. During the voluntary interview, Pollard asked to call his wife, using a code word (“cactus”) which meant the game was up and that she should destroy all the classified material in their home.
Pollard agreed to a search of his house, which turned up documents his wife missed. Since there was no proof of passing the documents on, the case was given to his supervisors. When they asked him to submit to a polygraph, he admitted to passing the documents on but didn’t mention Israel. Meanwhile, Pollard’s neighbor — himself a naval officer — began to cooperate with the FBI, handing over a 70-pound suitcase full of classified material Mrs. Pollard gave him for safekeeping. Pollard and his wife were again put under surveillance by the FBI.
This time, Pollard and his wife tried to seek asylum at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. but were turned away. They tried invoking the Israeli Law of Return, but were still rebuffed. As soon as he left the embassy, he was taken down by FBI agents. His wife evaded capture for a few more days, alerting Sella and allowing all the Israelis involved to escape via New York.
When U.S. investigators traveled to Israel, the Israelis were uncooperative, forcing every question and answer to go through Hebrew-English translation (everyone spoke English), purposely creating a schedule designed to tire the investigators, denying them sleep, stealing items from their luggage and withholding Sella’s identity. Most of the documents taken by Israel were not returned.
Pollard pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government. The terms of agreement included the caveat that neither Pollard nor his wife could speak publicly about his crimes or the kind of information that was passed on. Pollard and his wife immediately broke that plea in an interview with the Jerusalem Post and then 60 Minutes where he told them the kind of information he passed.
Among the information Pollard admits giving to Israel:
Detailed information about a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) HQ in Tunisia
Iraqi and Syrian chemical warfare factory locations and production capabilities
Regular PLO operations plans
Soviet arms shipments to Arab states unfriendly to Israel
Soviet fighter jet information
Information about Pakistani nuclear weapons programs
The Israelis first insisted Pollard was part of a rogue operation but later admitted their complicity in 1998. Pollard’s supporters argue his intelligence leaks weren’t pertaining to the United States but they fail to mention the problems surrounding Israeli use of the information, such as the possible outing of CIA sources abroad. The same supporters also argue against the severity of his life sentence, saying prosecutors didn’t seek it, but the judge gave it to him anyway after receiving the full details of the damage Pollard caused via the Weinberger memo, and that may other spies were given far more lenient treatment.
Pollard’s detractors counter this with the accusation that Israel may have turned over the same information to the Soviet Union in order to get the Soviets to allow more Jewish emigres to leave the Soviet Union for Israel — including the ways the U.S. Navy tracked Soviet submarines worldwide. Israel is also believed to have traded Pollard’s intelligence to other nations.
He gave Israel information about VQ-2 electronic surveillance plans, which allowed the U.S. to monitor the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982-83 evacuation of Beirut, and American bombing of Libya in April 1986. This revealed American “time and place acquisition methods,” allowing Israel to track America’s own intelligence capability in the Mediterranean and even over Israel itself.
In a 1998 Washington Post Op-Ed, three former Navy Intelligence Chiefs argue that Pollard has a nest egg hidden away in foreign banks, and that with the “sheer volume of sensitive information betrayed, Pollard rivals any of the traitors who have plagued this nation in recent times.” They added that the movement to release Pollard is a “clever public relations campaign.”
The stark vision of the Four Chaplains with linked arms praying while their ship sank 78 years ago lives on. Today, we honor their courage, devotion and ultimate sacrifice.
It was two years after the United States entered into World War II. The Four Chaplains – who would leave an extraordinary legacy – boarded the SS Dorchester, all coming from completely different backgrounds but completely united in a commitment to bring spiritual comfort to their men.
Chaplain George Fox was a veteran of World War I, having served as a medic. He was highly decorated, having received the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service. Fox had lied about his age and was just 17 years old when he left for war. When he returned, he finished high school and went to college. He was eventually ordained a Methodist minister in 1934. When war came calling, he volunteered to become an Army Chaplain. On the day he commissioned, his son enlisted in the Marine Corps.
Chaplain and Rabbi Alexander Goode earned his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1940, while finishing his studies to become a Rabbi – like his father before him. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he applied to the Army to become a Chaplain. In 1942, he was selected for Chaplains School at Harvard.
Chaplain Clark Poling was the son of a minister and was ordained as one for the Reformed Church in the late 1930s. After war broke out, he was called to serve. His own father had served as a Chaplain during World War I. He headed to Army Chaplains School at Harvard.
Chaplain John Washington was ordained as a Catholic Priest in 1935, having served the church all his life in some form or another. When the war began, he received his appointment as an Army Chaplain.
All four men from different corners of the country and varied faiths, met at Harvard in 1942 and became friends. A year later they’d be on a ship together, all ready to serve.
On February 3, 1943, the civilian liner SS Dorchester, which had been converted for military service, was en route to Greenland with 902 military members, merchant marines and civilian workers. It was being escorted by Coast Guard Cutters Tampa, Escanaba and Comanche. It was a chilly morning as the new day began and the water temperature was hovering around 34 degrees with an air temperature of 36 degrees.
The Coast Guard alerted the captain of the Dorchester that U-Boats had been sighted and he ordered the crew to sleep in their clothes and life jackets. Most of them ignored it though, because it was either so hot down below or they couldn’t sleep well with the life jackets on.
At 12:55am, a German torpedo struck their ship.
A large number of men were killed instantly from the blast and many more critically injured. It knocked their power and communications out, leaving them unable to radio the other ships for support. By some miracle, the CGC Comanche saw the flash of light from the explosion and headed their way to help. They had radioed the Escanaba for added support, while the Tampa continued its escort of the fleet.
According to records, panic and chaos had quickly set in. Men began throwing rafts over and overcrowding soon set in, causing capsizing into the frigid waters. But four Chaplains became a light in the dark for the terrified men. They spread out throughout the ship comforting the soldiers and civilians, bringing order to the frenzy. As the life jackets were being passed out, they ran out.
The Four Chaplains took theirs off, giving them to the men.
Engineer Grady Clark witnessed the whole thing. Each Chaplain was of a different faith, but worked in unison to serve and save the men.
Despite their orderly work, the ship continued to sink. They helped as many men as they could. When it was obvious the ship was going down, the Chaplains linked arms and began praying together. It was said that the crew in the waters below could hear hymns being sung. Survivors would later report hearing a mix of Hebrew and Latin prayers, melding together in a beautiful harmony as they went under, giving their lives to save the rest.
Of the 902 men, only 230 survived.
Before boarding the ship and leaving to serve, Chaplain Poling asked his father to pray for him. The words were poignant and a deep insight to the character of the man he was and those he died alongside. He asked his father to pray “Not for my safe return, that wouldn’t be fair. Just pray that I shall do my duty…never be a coward…and have the strength, courage and understanding of men. Just pray that I shall be adequate.”
Although many fought for these brave men to receive the Medal of Honor for their bravery and heroism, the stringent requirements prevented it from happening. They all received the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross. In 1961, Congress created the Special Medal for Heroism, The Four Chaplains Medal. It was given to them and them only, never to be awarded again.
It’s possible the next big innovation in Marine Corps classroom or tactical training could come from an airman or a soldier.
Marine Corps Training and Education Command is in the final days of soliciting ideas for an innovation challenge focused on how to improve small-unit training, from policy to curriculum and classroom instruction to the use of tools like simulation and gaming. Any federal employee is eligible to submit ideas, including uniformed members of all service branches, including the Marine Corps, to defense department civilians.
“Sometimes it’s hard for this organization to look inside itself for new ideas,” Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, commanding general of TECOM, told Military.com in an interview. “So one of those ways that you get good ideas is, you go outside the organization.”
To date, TECOM spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena said, about 150 submissions have been collected; those eligible to submit ideas have until March 31 to send them in via a dedicated site accessed through DoD credentials. Submissions for the innovation challenge will be reviewed in April, and winners will be notified in May, officials said.
Last year, the Marine Corps has conducted a Corps-wide innovation challenge on autonomous systems and robotics, and another challenge specific to the logistics community.
“The specific focus was on how to create better decision makers,” Lukeman said. “The idea is that the ability to make good decisions quickly with limited information is critical for success on the battlefield, so how do we change our training and education that creates better decision makers for the Marine Corps.”
The Marine Corps is not promising a financial reward for winners of the challenge, or even a guarantee that their ideas will be implemented. But the authors of the best ideas will get a free trip to TECOM at Quantico, Virginia, where their proposals will be workshopped with subject matter experts.
“We just had a discussion the other day about the commandant’s reading list, on books that are out there for Marines to read, and they’ve been out there for a while,” said Sgt. Maj. Justin LeHew, the senior enlisted adviser for TECOM. “Somebody said, ‘well, they have audiobooks that are out there to do that. I could learn by using an audiobook.’ There are different things that are just provoking thought.”
Even as ideas still roll in, changes are taking place at Quantico that affect Marine Corps training. In a January message to the force, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller called for the Marine Corps to develop a new plan for Marine Corps-wide use of simulation and virtual training environments no later than this June. He also ordered that a plan be developed to build a world-class simulation and gaming center at Quantico to enhance realistic training and better prepare Marines to fight.
With retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, who once told fellow officers that “Powerpoint makes us stupid,” now at the helm of the defense department, Lukeman said TECOM was also working to minimize slide-lecture briefings and presentations.
“This is what we’re trying to get away from, is sit in a classroom and get taught,” he said. “The other thing that we’ve shifted to is, where possible, we want for Marines to get taught by other Marines … We’re going with the method of having a unit leader discussion over having a class.”
There’s no reason to ignore what you learned in the military when you transition to the civilian world.
We all reference the easy-to-explain skills we’ve learned in job interviews, such as discipline and dependability, but you can look more specifically at aspects such as the Marine Corps Principles and Traits.
This is what Marine Corps veteran Nick Baucom did when he left the Corps to start a business. He started a moving business called Two Marines Moving and built it up around these principles and traits.
Anyone can do this — not just Marines, and not even just veterans. Military principles can apply to all aspects of the civilian workforce.
For example, take the principle, “Be technically and tactically proficient.” Consider what sector you want to enter, whether it’s for a job or to start a business, and ensure you know the skills. If you want to work as an economist with the federal government, you better start on some statistics and econometrics classes. Want to be an electrician? Get working on those certifications!
You can apply the principle, “Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished,” whether you’re a business owner, a manager or at the lowest levels of a company. If you’re at the supervisor level or higher, your job is to ensure that, when you give a task to someone, they know exactly what you mean. Otherwise, you’re bound to be let down and think less of your employee — while it might actually be (at least partially) your fault. As the employee, you have to think of this from the other side and make sure you ask questions. You might need to take notes and rephrase the task so it is clear on both sides.
If you’re looking to follow Baucom’s lead and apply the Corps Principles and Traits to your job or business venture, here’s a quick refresher:
Be technically and tactically proficient.
Maintain a high level of competence in your military occupational specialty. Your proficiency will earn the respect of your Marines.
Know your Marines and look out for their welfare.
You should know your Marines and how they react to different situations. This knowledge can save lives. Knowledge of your Marines’ personalities will enable you, as the leader, to decide how best to employ each Marine.
Set the example.
Set the standards for your Marines by personal example. The Marines in your unit all watch your appearance, attitude, physical fitness and personal example. If your personal standards are high, then you can rightfully demand the same of your Marines.
Keep your Marines informed.
Informed Marines perform better and, if knowledgeable of the situation, can carry on without your personal supervision. Providing information can inspire initiative.
Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished.
Before you can expect your Marines to perform, they need to know what is expected from them. Communicate your instructions in a clear, concise manner, and allow your Marines a chance to ask questions. Check progress periodically to confirm the assigned task is properly accomplished.
Make sound and timely decisions.
Rapidly estimate a situation and make a sound decision based on that estimation. There’s no room for reluctance to make a decision, revise it. Marines respect the leader who corrects mistakes immediately.
Train your Marines as a team.
Train your Marines with a purpose and emphasize the essential elements of teamwork and realism. Teach your unit to train, play and operate as a team. Be sure that all Marines know their positions and responsibilities within the team framework.
Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates.
Show your Marines you are interested in their welfare by giving them the opportunity for professional development. Assigning tasks and delegating authority promotes mutual confidence and respect between the leader and the team.
Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions.
Actively seek out challenging assignments for your professional development. Seeking responsibilities also means that you take the responsibility for your actions. You are responsible for all your unit does or fails to do. Stick by your convictions and be willing to accept justified and constructive criticism.
Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities.
Successful completion of a task depends upon how well you know your unit’s capabilities. Seek out challenging tasks for your unit, but be sure your unit is prepared for and has the ability to successfully complete the mission.