Firing from a hillside position using an Unertl 8X scope on a .50-caliber machine gun stabilized by a sandbag-supported M3 tripod, Hathcock engaged a Vietcong pushing a weapon-laden bicycle at 2,500 yards. Hathcock’s first round disabled the bicycle, the second struck the enemy soldier in the chest.
At the time this was the longest sniper kill in history, and it was made with a machine gun in single shot mode. The record stood until March 2002 when Canadian sniper Master Cpl. Arron Perry beat it. Since then, at least three other snipers have beaten Hathcock’s distance.
Hathcock wasn’t the only sniper to use the M2 instead of a traditional sniper rifle. The weapons had been used as sniper weapons in Korea and Vietnam before, but no one else made a shot at nearly the distance of Hathcock’s.
In fact, Hathcock’s shot beat a record that had stood for nearly 100 years. On June 27, 1874, Buffalo Hunter Billy Dixon killed a Comanche leader during the Second Battle of Adobe Walls from 1,538 yards. But while Dixon was firing at a group of warriors silhouetted against the sky, Hathcock fired against a single target.
Check out WATM’s podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss the Vietnam War adventures of Carlos Hathcock.
A U.S. Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft joined the search Thursday over the Mediterranean for EgyptAir Flight 804 which went missing on a Paris to Cairo flight, the Pentagon said.
The P-3, flying out of Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy, was the only U.S. military asset involved in the search thus far, said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook. The U.S. did not have any ships in the area and there were no immediate plans to send any, Cook said.
“At this point, it’s just the aircraft that’s involved,” he said at a Pentagon briefing.
The four-engine turboprop planes made by Lockheed Martin Corp. have been maritime surveillance and submarine hunting workhorses for the Navy for decades. The aircraft features a distinctive tail antenna, or “MAD Boom,” for the underwater magnetic detection of submarines and other objects below the surface.
EgyptAir Vice Chairman Ahmed Adel told CNN that what was believed to be the plane’s wreckage had been found in the Mediterranean about 160 miles north of the Egyptian coast. He said the search and rescue operation was on the verge of “turning into a “search and recovery” mission.
The signal from the EgyptAir Airbus A320 carrying 66 passengers and crew was lost at about 2:30 a.m. early Thursday local time as it began its approach to Cairo. None of the passengers were listed on terror watch lists and three security officials were on board the aircraft, according to CNN.
Cook declined to speculate on whether terrorism may have been involved but said U.S. law enforcement agencies were in contact with the Egyptians.
Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi said technical failures and terror are both possible explanations for the disappearance of the aircraft.
“But if you analyze this situation properly, the possibility of having a different action aboard, of having a terror attack, is higher than having a technical problem,” Fathi said.
Have you ever been asked whether you have ever killed someone?
If you are a military veteran, chances are you probably have — and it’s always been awkward. Because honestly, what are you really supposed to say? It’s not a question that most troops want to answer: If it’s a yes, it was likely in combat and just part of your job. If it’s a no, should you feel bad that you weren’t one of the cool kids on your block with a confirmed kill?
From a civilian perspective, most simply don’t know it’s an inappropriate question. In their eyes, troops are taking out bad guys all day long, and they are genuinely curious about how that goes. And for veterans who end up on the receiving end of this question, it’s important to remember this ignorance — and that you were once this clueless too.
So how do vets respond? There are a few ways, ranging from the super-serious to the sarcastic as hell.
1. The super-serious: “That’s not an appropriate question to ask.”
If you want to shut it down right here, you can answer back with this. Because really, it’s hardly ever appropriate to ask that question. No one runs up to World War II vets and asks whether they killed anyone. They are just thanked for their service and left alone, not burdened with potentially rough memories.
2. The serious: “Yes/No, but that’s not something I want to talk about.”
You’ve given the answer to that morbid question, but made it clear that’s all they are going to get. If pressed, you can always revert to explaining that it’s inappropriate.
3. The uncomfortably silent: “Yes/No [pause for dramatic effect]”
If you want to flip the uncomfortableness around on the person asking the question, respond with a simple yes or no and then just look straight back at them, with unblinking eye contact. Talk about awkward.
4. Answering the awkward question with a awkward question: “Have you ever slept with your sister?”
With this one, you can effectively turn the tables and demonstrate just how awkward the question made you. The questioner will likely recoil when asked — similarly to your reaction — and you can then add, “No, huh? Ok let’s talk about something else then.”
5. The True Lies answer: “Yeah, but they were all bad.”
Take a page out of Arnold’s playbook from the film “True Lies.” If you haven’t seen it (what?!), Schwarzenegger plays an international spy but his wife has no clue. When she finds out and starts asking him questions, she gets to the killing question. He tries to soften the blow of this shocking news. I think it went ok.
6. The funny: “You mean today, or in total?”
You could always give an unexpected answer dripping with sarcasm. Go with this one, dramatically saying “not yet,” or give a ridiculous number: Like 67.
“Well my official number if 67, but that’s only confirmed. Pretty sure I’ve gotten a lot more than that.”
So how do you respond? Let us know in the comments.
Corpsmen and medics carry a mobile emergency room strapped to their backs along with their weapon systems — and it gets heavy. After going through months of intense medical training they can probably apply a wet tourniquet in the pitch black with one hand while under enemy fire.
Truth is, they can’t be everywhere at every moment. Make no mistake, if the medical staff could take care of everybody and send them home in one piece, they would.
During a mass casualty, “Doc” is outnumbered by the number of people he or she needs to care for. Being able to render care swiftly and take them to medical in a blink of an eye would save time and resources.
While the high-tech weapon systems of today are cool, there is always a sense of nostalgia for older weapons. So, what if you could get the best of both? Say, give a classic weapons system a boost from modern technology – or use a blast from the past to make a modern system much better?
Here are a few options:
The M50 Ontos was a marginal tank killer but was devastating against infantry. Imagine what a .50, digital targeting and a remote operation system could do? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Old System: M50 Ontos
New Systems: Thermal imaging sights, digital fire control and laser range finder from the M1 Abrams; Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station with M2 .50-caliber machine gun
The M50 Ontos is an obscure vehicle that never really had a chance to fulfill its role as an anti-tank weapon, but it proved to be a potent weapon against infantry. Six 106mm recoilless rifles tend to make a point very well.
But the Ontos had to get close to guarantee hits. It also lacked secondary armament beyond a M1919 .30-caliber machine gun. But what if the Ontos had the fire-control system and thermal sights of the M1A2 Abrams? Now the 106mm rifles can gain more accuracy from further out.
The M551 Sheridan once provided a lot of firepower for the 82nd Airborne Division. The air-drop capability meant that the paratroopers were far less likely to be mere speed bumps. And the 152mm cannon could do a number on buildings and bunkers.
But let’s be honest, the gun could be less than reliable, especially when using the MGM-51 Shillelagh missile. So, why not go with the same gun used on the M1A2 Abrams tank? Not only does this gun have the ability to beat just about any tank in the world today, logistics are simpler.
That counts as a win-win.
Old System: M40 106mm Recoilless Rifle
New System: Joint Light Tactical Vehicle
While systems like the BGM-71 TOW and FGM-148 Javelin provide a punch, those missiles can be expensive. But the need for fire support remains.
So, why not look for something cheaper? The M40 recoilless rifle could fit that bill. The shells are cheap, pack a decent punch, but they also can limit collateral damage in ways that a missile can’t (there’s no need to worry about burning fuel).
Think that is a stretch? In his book, “Parliament of Whores,” P.J. O’Rourke recounted how an Army unit pulled recoilless rifles out of storage for Operation Just Cause.
The A1 Skyraider was one of the most badass CAS planes in Vietnam. What about making it into an A-10 equivalent? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Old System: A-1 Skyraider
New Systems: AGM-114 Hellfire, Joint Direct Attack Munition, Paveway Laser-Guided Bombs, M230 chain gun, Sniper ER Targeting pod — aka a crap ton of modern aerial firepower.
The Spad did much of what the A-10 does now: it loitered, carried a big bomb load, and was generally loved by ground troops.
So, what would be a more interesting fusion than to do to the Spad what was done for the A-10 – to wit, give it the ability to use precision-guided weapons?
The Spad could carry up to 8,000 pounds of bombs. Imagine how many targets one equipped with JDAM or Hellfire could take out in a single sortie!
Ready the guns! Full broadside!…(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Old System: Sail Frigate USS Constitution (IX 21)
(Relatively) New System: M116 75mm Pack Howitzer
USS Constitution (IX 21) kicked a lot of butt during her service career. But imagine what this lightweight (1,439 pounds) howitzer would do.
It’s hard to imagine which would be the bigger game-changer in a fight: The higher rate of fire that the M116 would provide, or the high-explosive shells it could shoot up to five and half miles away.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Old System: 8-inch/55 Mk 71 Gun
New System: Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer
Let’s face it. The later versions of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers could use a little more anti-surface punch. The answer may lie in bringing back the Mk 71, an eight-inch gun capable of firing up to 12 rounds a minute. This could also help alleviate the shortfalls in fire support with the retirement of the Iowa-class battleships and the truncation of Zumwalt production from 32 vessels to three. Eight-inch rounds abound, and the precision guidance used on Excalibur, Copperhead, and Vulcano could be adapted to this gun as well.
Old System: W48 155mm nuclear projectile
New System: Excalibur, Copperhead and Vulcano precision guidance systems
With a yield of .072 kilotons (that is 72 tons of TNT), the W48 was intended for use against tactical targets from a 155mm howitzer. But artillery rounds can miss (no, it’s not about hitting the ground). But suppose you merged the W48 with the Excalibur, creating a W48 Mod 2? Now, that 128-pound package puts that .072-kiloton warhead within ten feet of the aiming point. Excalibur is not the only option: The laser-guided Copperhead and OTO Melara’s Vulcano packages would make the W48 a very potent weapon.
Aerial refueling has always been risky business. Tankers fly through the sky, loaded to the gills with flammable fuels while dragging long hoses or booms behind them as jets chase after them like hungry mosquitos.
But if that’s risky, the first aerial refueling was straight-up crazy. Wesley Mays, a famous daredevil of the late-1910s and early-1920s, climbed from one biplane onto another with a 5-gallon jug of fuel strapped to his back.
From there, he waited for Daugherty to bring his wingtip in range and grabbed it. Mays lifted himself onto the wing and worked his way between the planes’ wings and into the cockpit. He poured the gas into the engine and strapped himself into his waiting seat, sealing his place in history.
The Army Air Corps got in on the aerial refueling action 2 years later in Jul. 1923, but they needed a way to transfer much more than 5-gallons at a time. So they opted to use a tanker aircraft, a hose, and a receiving aircraft. First Lt. Virgil Hines flew a DH-4B outfitted as the tanker ahead of 1st Lt. Frank W. Seifert’s DH-4B receiver. Hines dangled the hose behind and beneath his aircraft where Seifert could reach it.
The fuel was transported without incident, but engine trouble in Seifert’s plane prevented the duo from achieving a planned endurance record. Still, they developed techniques that allowed another Air Corps team to set the record with a 37-hour, 25-minute flight in Aug. 1923.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis goes by many badass nicknames, including “Mad Dog,” “Warrior Monk,” and “Chaos.”
So it’s only fitting that the aircraft he usually flies on while functioning his official capacity is known by an equally badass name — “Nightwatch.” Its name hints at its original mission — a doomsday plane, equipped to provide the president and high-ranking members of the military with the ability to retain control of America’s offensive forces in the event of an all-out nuclear war or cataclysmic event.
Nightwatch now serves as an airborne command post for the SECDEF, allowing him to remain in touch with the U.S. military he oversees while traveling anywhere in the world, especially useful should the unthinkable occur.
The Air Force possesses four Nightwatch aircraft — converted Boeing 747-200 jumbo jet airliners. Like their civilian counterparts, these airplanes come with a considerable operating range and internal carriage capacity. However, that, and a passing external resemblance, is where all similarities end. Underneath the hood, these are completely different aircraft with unique systems and sensors that allow it to do what no other aircraft in the Air Force can.
Unlike a commercial Boeing 747, these aircraft, officially designated E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Posts, lack the rows of plush seats, fold-out meal trays and entertainment screens. Instead, each E-4B is divided up into compartments for its Battle Staff, a joint services team of controllers and coordinators ready to interface with various military units should they be called into action.
Nightwatch crew quite literally have the ability to call virtually connect to any phone number in the world, thanks to a complex satellite communications suite aboard the aircraft. It’s this suite that allows them to also relay commands and orders to America’s nuclear arsenal, forward-deployed submarines and Navy battle groups operating around the globe, or even to speak directly with the President at secured locations.
Because Nightwatch was designed during the Cold War, where nuclear war was still a distinct possibility, it was built to fly with incredible endurance. Defense analysts estimate that each E-4B could spend up to seven days flying continuously with the help of aerial refueling, though the Air Force has only actually flown its E-4Bs up to 35 hours in testing thus far.
The cockpit of the aircraft looks just as it would in the 1980s, with a few modifications. Instead of LCD screens and touch-pads, the Air Force has kept the original analog gauge-type flight instruments, as they’re less susceptible to failing after experiencing an electromagnetic pulse blast from a nuclear explosion.
That’s right… the E-4B is built to be able to fly through the immediate aftermath of a nuclear detonation without sustaining any damage to its systems. The entire aircraft is sealed off and pressurized with special “scrubbers” in its air conditioning system constantly filtering out harmful particles that may find their way inside the cabin. Should an E-4B actually fly through nuclear radiation, its crew inside will be completely safe and sound. The aircraft also carries a considerable amount of rations and potable water for its crew, as well as sleeping berths and its own troubleshooting staff, ready to assist with technical malfunctions and glitches as needed.
However, flying theses monsters isn’t very cheap at all – each Nightwatch costs an average of around $159,529 per hour to fly. Sourcing parts for the fleet isn’t easy either, especially considering that Boeing ceased production of the 747-200 platform decades ago.
It’s estimated that by 2039, all four E-4Bs will have served out their entire useful lifespans, and will have to be replaced, this time with an even more capable long-range aircraft that will assume the mantle of being America’s doomsday plane. Until that day comes, Nightwatch still serves at the Secretary of Defense’s pleasure, ferrying him around on official trips and visits as a visible sign of American military power.
We all know the services love to hate oneachother. But believe it or not, the pilots within the services tend to hate on any plane they don’t fly.
Don’t believe me? Have you heard that band Dos Gringos? They rock, but those two Viper drivers also touch upon the intra-service hating in “I Wish I had a Gun Just Like the A-10.” You can listen to it as we hate on their mount – the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Don’t take all the hating as license to go after them. They may enjoy razzing each other — saying mean things about the other mounts. But they will all come after you if you try to pick on one of them.
Why making fun of the F-16 is easy
Where do we start? It’s a single-engine plane. Not much range. Offensive payload? Probably the lowest among air force combat jets. In fact, really, if you ask any A-10, F-15, F-15E, F-22, or F-35 jock, the fact older F-16s are becoming target drones is appropriate somehow.
The A-10, of course, laughs at the notion the F-16 can do close-air support. With that 20mm popgun, how do they expect to blow up a tank?
Why you should actually hate it
Because it got to play parts in “Iron Eagle” and three sequels. Because that Doug Masters kid made flying it look easy – and even rigged a sound system.
Because being single-engine means that if something goes bad, the pilot goes sky-diving. Like that poor Jordanian guy who got captured by ISIS. Oh, and that short range, means it has some kind of drinking problem. It’s always hogging the tankers.
Not to mention, they’re everywhere. It seems like every country gets its hands on these planes.
Why you ought to love the F-16
This is one versatile fighter. You need to scramble up to say hello to a prowling Russian? F-16s can do that. Want to blast the hell out of enemy forces in close contact with friendlies? The “Viper” variant can do that. Dogfight with MiGs? The F-16 can do that, too. Hit an enemy installation? Can do.
There’s a lot of them. Many NATO allies have them. So do American allies in the Far East and Middle East. It’s even had growth potential. Japan’s F-2, the Israeli F-16I, and the F-16E/F for the UAE all have proven themselves. When China wanted a new multi-role fighter for the PLAAF, they had to knock off the Israeli knock-off of the F-16.
It’s also around a lot. You see, the U.S. didn’t buy that many F-22s. The F-35 is just coming on line. The A-10 needs new wings, or a lot will retire. They just chopped up a bunch of perfectly good B-52s. But the F-16s are around and there are a lot of them – over 1,000 of them on inventory. And that doesn’t count what is in the boneyard.
And with what we saw with the F-4 Phantom, the F-16 will be around for a long time. In fact, the last Viper driver has probably not even been born yet.
The 1980s were a great time for movies. Hollywood could make any movie about anyone anywhere and it could feature this one built-in, believable villain: Communists.
No matter what the story was about, Commies could be counted on to try and stop American heroes from saving the day. They were the greatest gift to villainy since the handlebar mustache.
Which lets you know who the most evil men are.
Not only did we get an all-purpose, worldwide villain, we got a bad guy every red-blooded American could cheer on to take down. A Communist movie villain was the perfect foil for any hero.
Unless that hero spent most of the series fighting Nazis.
Sure, they weren’t all bad. Most Communist citizens probably just wanted to get on with their lives. But when their governments were bad, they were spectacular. There are many reasons for this.
1. Any wacky plan the Reds came up with was believable.
Whether they were doing something practical like creating a super quiet submarine or something stupid like trying to embarrass the United States by making Rocky Balboa fight Ivan Drago, we believed they would. Because they’re evil, right? Whatever it takes.
In a way, we legitimately believed they would make that plan, because why not? We’re the center of the Universe and they’re trying to be number one, so they had to constantly one-up America in every way. The Russians are the people who built an actual doomsday device, after all.
2. There was nothing you could do about them.
Because what are you really going to do about it, start a nuclear war? Shut up.
We can’t have an all-out war, that would end civilization as we know it. So America just had to foil all of their insane little plots one by one, or hatch some harebrained scheme of our own, and you knew it would never go too far.
The CIA and KGB would just pretend it never happened.
If you’re not familiar with the movie “Firefox,” it was about a jet built by the Russians that could fly six times the speed of sound and had weapons that could be controlled WITH YOUR MIND. Spoiler Alert: Clint Eastwood straight up STOLE IT from a Russian air base, shot down the second prototype, killing the pilot and the Russians didn’t do sh*t.
Only in the Cold War.
3. It made for interesting alliances.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend right? The U.S. intelligence community didn’t realize what they were building or how far Osama bin Laden would go with his new network. The entertainment community had no idea either, so we got to see Britain’s most popular spy working with the Afghan Mujahideen.
Also, Rambo: America’s greatest movie fighting force dedicated the third act of his saga to the Mujahideen. Ouch. Talk about regretting the morning after…
4. It was cathartic.
After spending more than a decade with the struggle and subsequent stigma of the Vietnam War — coupled with the Détante-era perception that the U.S. was somehow losing the arms race, along with every other problem that plagued America – something had to give.
A win against some commie scum was a welcome respite from the drudgery of real-world geopolitics, especially if you could do it with your high school classmates — which was apparently the mid-80s Gen-X American Dream.
5. The stakes were really high.
The contest is so much more satisfying to win when there’s something on the line. We’re only talking about world domination here.
6. No one could accuse you of being racist.
Being PC is difficult. Let’s face it, we all want to be respectful. There’s just a lot to keep straight.
Being part of a worldwide ideology, bent on taking over the Free World, Communists weren’t limited to Russia. They could be Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese, Korean, African, or Latin American.
Anyone could be a Commie, it didn’t matter what color their skin was, every Communist was red.
This also worked for Nazis, Fascists, and pretty much anyone James Bond ever faced — who were all thoroughly evil. Hollywood needs a bad guy, and the Communists were the perfect fit. In America’s current politically correct culture, you can’t use an entire race or religion as the villain, even if Aaron Sorkin says it’s their turn.
The US Air Force’s latest recruiting tool is probably the closest you can get to jumping out of a military plane without having to leave your living room.
Called “Air Force Special Ops: Nightfall,” and jointly developed by the service and GSDM, its longstanding creative partner, this video game aims to demonstrate a key component of a number of special operations jobs to the general public — namely, jumping out of perfectly good aircraft at altitudes so high, you’d suffocate without specialized gear.
Using Sony PlayStation’s virtual reality headset, players find themselves immersed in a graphics-rich environment where they jump from planes and make their way to drop zone markers using their parachutes.
In the game, you enter the shadowy world of Air Force Special Operations Command as a recruit undergoing training. Players can choose to enlist as special operations weathermen (yes, that’s a real thing), pararescue jumpers, or joint terminal attack controllers.
In real life, each and every one of these specialties within AFSOC is trained to serve on the ground alongside infantrymen of the Army, Marines and special operations troops, gathering environmental data, directing airstrikes, and rescuing downed aviators.
While everything in the game is geared towards realism, you’ll probably be very thankful that you don’t have to go through any of the grueling training PJs or combat controllers undertake in their pursuit of joining AFSOC’s elite units. First-person shooter fans might be slightly disappointed – there won’t be any shooting involved.
But for what the game lacks in machine guns and grenades, it makes up for with the experience of a combat jump. Players get a taste of high altitude low opening jumps from an MC-130 Commando II, the Air Force’s special operations version of the C-130 Hercules.
Daytime operations are easy enough in themselves, but night ops… that’s where you earn your keep.
In fact, the game is so realistic that your night vision goggles will likely wash out and possibly blind you for a few seconds when they’re turned on for the first time — just like a real airman.
All jokes aside, however, the game has already been well-received from airmen who’ve given it a whirl.
“It is so realistic I could almost smell the airplane and feel the wind,” says active duty combat controller Master Sgt. Brian Hannigan. That’s high praise, considering Hannigan’s line of work and real-world experiences as a member of AFSOC.
And echoing real-life HALO training, the instructors can be very critical, especially if you fail a jump by opening your parachute too early, too late, land outside the drop zone or steer off course.
This isn’t the first time the US military has attempted to use video game as a recruiting tool. “America’s Army,” a first-person game that puts you in the boots of a soldier from basic training to deployment, was actually hailed a success when launched in 2002.
With the advent of virtual reality systems, the Army actually turned its game into a training tool, which is still used today.
It remains to be seen whether or not the Air Force’s venture into video games will turn out to be a hit or a miss, but if you’d like to judge that for yourself, you can download a copy for free via PlayStation’s store.
Ukraine has released footage of two North Korean spies exuberantly photographing fake missile designs in 2011, as part of a sting operation that eventually landed the pair in jail, as CNN reports.
Ukraine, once home to thousands of Soviet nuclear ICBMs, continues to produce missiles today as it faces a Russian-backed insurgency in the country’s east. Another Cold War remnant in Ukraine appears to be spycraft, which allowed the country to trick and capture two North Korean spies.
Authorities in Ukraine told CNN that the North Koreans sought “ballistic missiles, missile systems, missile construction, spacecraft engines, solar batteries, fast-emptying fuel tanks, mobile launch containers, powder accumulators, and military government standards,” to bring home to Pyongyang, according to CNN.
The specific plans the spies thought they were capturing showed schematics for the SS-24 Scalpel intercontinental ballistic missile, a Soviet-designed missile that can carry 10 independently targetable warheads across vast distances. Such a weapon would be a massive improvement over North Korea’s current fledgling ICBM fleet.
But the designs photographed by the North Koreans were fake, and moments after the cameras flashed, authorities broke into the room and detained them. The spies are now serving eight years in prison.
Chinese military personnel departed a naval base in Zhanjiang on July 18, destined for Beijing’s new base in the East African country of Djibouti.
China started construction on the base, which it officially calls a “logistics facility,” in February 2016, and it has not said when the base might formally start operations.
The Chinese navy has been assisting anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden and peacekeeping missions in Africa for some time, but the base in Djibouti will be Beijing’s first such facility overseas.
“The base will ensure China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peacekeeping, and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia,” state news agency Xinhua said. “The base will also be conducive to overseas tasks including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese, and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways.”
Djibouti, home to about 800,000 people, also has French and Japanese troops, is strategically located in the Horn of Africa, sitting on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a gateway to Egypt’s Suez Canal and one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors.
And the new Chinese base is just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, a major US special-operations outpost.
“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” US Africom Command chief Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said in March.
Camp Lemonnier, a US military base in Djibouti, is strategically located between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. (Google Maps)
“Yes, there are some very significant operational security concerns, and I think that our base there is significant to US because it’s not only AFRICOM that utilizes” it, Waldhauser said at the time. US Central Command, which operates in the Middle East, Joint Special Operations Command, and European Command are active there as well.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said July 12 that the Djibouti base was “primarily used for the better fulfillment of international obligations,” and that, “China’s defense policy is defensive in nature. This has not changed.”
State-run media outlet the Global Times was less reserved, saying in an editorial on July 12, “It is certainly the PLA’s first foreign naval base … It is not a supply point for commercial use.”
The base in Djibouti is just one project China has undertaken in the East African country.
Chinese banks have funded at least 14 infrastructure projects in the country, including a railway connecting Djibouti and Ethiopia, valued at $14.4 billion. Beijing has made similar investments throughout the continent.
US officials, as well as countries in the region, have expressed concern about the capabilities the new base gives Beijing and what it may augur about Chinese ambitions abroad.
The US Defense Department said in a June report that the Djibouti base, “along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.”
“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the report said.
Other countries in South Asia — India in particular — are concerned about Chinese activity in the region and see the Djibouti base as another part of Beijing’s “string of pearls,” which refers to Chinese facilities and alliances among Indian Ocean countries, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
China is already heavily involved in the Pakistan port of Gwadar and is building a network of roads and power plants under a project known as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Civilian ports that Beijing has helped build in places like Pakistan and Sri Lanka can also receive naval vessels, fueling suspicions that China aims to deepen its strategic capacities in the region.
India sees the Djibouti base as a potential hub for Chinese surveillance operations and has objected to China’s planned shipping network with Pakistan, saying it cuts through disputed parts of Kashmir.
Analysts have also said New Delhi is worried by Chinese submarines, warships, and tankers present in the Indian Ocean. India has tracked Chinese submarines entering the Indian Ocean since 2013, and a 2015 US Defense Department report also confirmed that Chinese attack and missile submarines were operating in the Indian Ocean.
“The pretext is anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden,” a Indian defense source told The Times of India in May. “But what role can submarines play against pirates and their dhows?”
“If I were Indian I would be very worried about what China is up to in Djibouti,” a Western diplomat briefed on Chinese plans said in March 2016.
Other countries in the region have looked for ways to balance against what is seen as China’s growing influence. Australia and India, along with countries like Vietnam and Japan, have considered informal alliances to bolster regional security in light of growing Chinese influence and doubts about US commitment under President Donald Trump.
This week, the Indian, Japanese, and US navies started the Malabar 2017 exercise in the Bay of Bengal. The exercise, which this year features three aircraft carriers, is seen by some as a effort to check Chinese activity in the region.
China has criticized such military balancing and has dismissed suggestions that it plans to expand its footprint abroad. After the US Defense Department report issued in June, Beijing said it did “not seek a sphere of influence.”
The first of the Marine Corps’ three tenets is “we make Marines,” and in accomplishing that, young men and women from across the varied fabric of American society come together to undergo 13 weeks of intense mental and physical training to become basically-trained Marines.
Recruit backgrounds and experiences will vary, but the training is designed to ensure they come together as a single unit.
Daume was born in a Russian prison where her mother was incarcerated. She and her twin brother Nikolai lived in the prison for two years until their mother’s death, upon which they were transferred to an orphanage in Moscow for two additional years. The 4-year-old Daume twins were eventually adopted by an American family and grew up in Long Island, New York.
Daume is among the first female recruits to be sent to recruit training with contracts to become infantry Marines.
“I was driving when (my recruiter) called me,” Daume said. “He said, ‘Are you sure you want this?’ I said confidently, ‘yes.’ He then congratulated me and told me I got (the infantry contract.) I was so excited I had to stop the car and call my best friend and tell her.”
Daume said the experiences she’s had in life helped shape her desire to become a U.S. Marine. She said her early life in America made her hopeful for the future, but she said the shine quickly faded as it became clear she wasn’t always as welcome as she’d have liked.
“Other kids would bully me consistently from when I was four to my senior year of high school,” Daume said. “It would be for being Russian or being adopted. They would say things about my mom and why she was in prison even if no one knew why. Bullying was a big thing.”
As this adversity continued, she said she grew the mental toughness needed to avoid letting those actions get under her skin. Daume said she views those negative life factors as elements that will contribute to her future accomplishments in the Marines and School of Infantry.
Mental strength helps recruits through the physical rigors of recruit training and life in the Marine Corps overall. Walking miles with load-bearing gear and completing obstacle courses are frequent activities in the Marine Corps, and Daume said she sees her experiences as preparation for what lies ahead.
“I played a lot of sports in my life, like basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey,” said Daume. “I also did (mixed martial arts) and Jiu-Jitsu. With MMA it is all about staying calm and not getting angry. If you get angry you can make stupid mistakes. I know how to get hit and keep cool. With the team sports, you have to work together. When you’re a team, you’re a family.”
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter opened all military occupational specialties to service members of either gender, and when infantry became an option, the two women, at this point Marine Corps poolees, jumped at the chance to apply. While they had already been in the Marine Corps DEP for some time, it was a fresh take on what they were preparing to attempt.
“At the end of the day, I just want to be like, ‘watch, I am going to prove it,'” said Daume. “I think my background has given me an edge to take criticism and keep going.”
Knowing what their choices meant and that all eyes were going to be on them, training was the priority, sometimes taking creative turns while waiting to ship to basic training.
“I would take my brother’s books and load them in inside of my bag and just start hiking with them,” Daume said. “I would walk everywhere around town.”
And what of the possibility for failure? The question couldn’t even be fully asked before it was answered.
“No,” Daume said. “It is not an option and will never be an option. And I don’t want it any easier just because I’m a female. I know my mental worth, and I know I can make it through this, but it’s not just about me. I hope the females that are there right next to me will take a picture together, saying ‘we did it.’ I don’t want to be like I’m the only female doing this and take all that pride. No, I want as many females to come and we will all get together with the guys and say we are all one team.”