Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds - We Are The Mighty
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Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds

More than 1,000 desert tortoises are taking a trip with the Marine Corps this month.


The Marines are using helicopters to relocate the tortoises to another part of the Mojave to make way for an expansion of desert training grounds.

During the two-week long process, the hubcap-sized tortoises are being loaded into plastic containers, which are then stacked and strapped to a helicopter.

Their new home will be swaths of federal land to the north and southeast of the Twentynine Palms base, Marine officials said. The areas were deemed far enough away that the tortoises wouldn’t migrate back to their original habitat.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
U.S. Navy corpsmen from 1st Medical Battalion rush a casualty off an MV-22B Osprey after a simulated combat-related trauma at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California to a treatment facility at Camp Pendleton, July 29, 2016. The Warfighting Lab identifies possible challenges of the future, develops new warfighting concepts, and tests new ideas to help develop equipment that meets the challenges of the future operating environment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nadia J. Stark/released)

The cost of the whole effort, including a 30-year monitoring program to ensure the health of the federally protected species, is $50 million.

The Marines at the Twentynine Palms base want to be able to practice large-scale exercises with live fire and combined-arms maneuvering.

The campaign goes back to 2008, when the Corps began studying how to do it without breaking environmental law.

The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act handed land formerly managed by the Bureau of Land Management to the Defense Department. Tortoises living on that land are now being moved.

In March 2016, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue, arguing that the federal government failed to fully examine how the move might harm the tortoises.

However, the move went ahead this month after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told the Marine Corps that its review wouldn’t be done before the spring window for the move, Marine Corps officials said.

Also read: Hilarious video shows what Marines stationed in 29 Palms don’t say

It’s not the first time that the Corps has been in the tortoise-moving business.

In 2006, the Twentynine Palms base relocated 17 adult tortoises in order to build a training range. Marine officials say no tortoises died during three years of post-move monitoring.

This time, Marine Corps biologists will monitor tortoises intensely for the first five years. Then monitoring requirements will diminish over time until the 30-year obligation is met, officials said.

About 235 juveniles too small for relocation are being admitted to the base’s “head start facility,” where they will remain until they grow large enough to better survive on their own.

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


ARMY

Soldiers, assigned to 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, Idaho Army National Guard, calibrate a M109A6 Paladin howitzer during Decisive Action Rotation 15-09 at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Aug. 16, 2015.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo by: Spc. Christopher Blanton/National Guard

Engineers, assigned to the Arkansas National Guard, fire a Mine Clearing Line Charge during Decisive Action Rotation 15-09 at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. Aug. 16, 2015.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo by: Spc. Ashley Marble/US Army

MARINE CORPS

An F-35B joint strike fighter jet conducts aerial maneuvers during aerial refueling training over the Atlantic Ocean, Aug. 13, 2015. The mission of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 is to conduct effective training and operations in the F-35B in coordination with joint and coalition partners in order to successfully attain the annual pilot training requirement.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo by: Cpl. N.W. Huertas/USMC

Marines with 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force conduct external lifts during helicopter support team training in Okinawa, Japan. The training helps increase proficiency in logistics tasks and enhance the ability to execute potential contingency missions.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo by: Lance Cpl. Sean M. Evans/USMC

Marines use green smoke to provide concealment as they move through the simulated town during a Military Operation on Urban Terrain exercise aboard The Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo by: Cpl. Joshua Murray/USMC

NAVY

(Aug. 20, 2015) Navy chief petty officers and chief petty officer selects stand at parade rest during a Pearl Harbor honors and heritage “morning colors” ceremony at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument Visitor Center on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The ceremony was the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in the Pacific.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Johans Chavarro/USN

(Aug. 19, 2015) – Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Travis Weirich, from Gresham, Ore., and Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Juan Dominguez, from Santa Clara, Calif., clean an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Tophatters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14 aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andre T. Richard/USN

AIR FORCE

Crew chiefs assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron prepare to launch a B-2 Spirit at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Aug. 12, 2015. Three B-2s and about 225 Airmen from Whiteman AFB, Missouri, deployed to Guam to conduct familiarization training activities in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo by: Senior Airman Joseph A. Pagán Jr./USAF

Airmen with the 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron move a tree to avoid contact with the tail of an AC-130H Spectre on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 15, 2015. More than 40 personnel from eight base organizations were on site during the tow process. The AC-130H will be displayed at the north end of the Air Park.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo by: Senior Airman Meagan Schutter/USAF

Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, a retired American mixed martial artist, tightens a bolt on a guided bomb unit-31 on Osan Air Base, South Korea, Aug. 5, 2015. Liddell visited various units across the base during a morale trip. Liddell is a former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champion. He has an extensive striking background in Kempo, Koei-Kan karate, and kickboxing, as well as a grappling background in collegiate wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo by: Senior Airman Kristin High/USAF

COAST GUARD

A blur of seabags and lots of excitement were seen early this morning as Officer Candidates from OCS 1-16 and NOAA’s BOTC 126 leave the Chase Hall Barracks for an underway trip on USCGC EAGLE.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo by: USCG

Have a fun and safe weekend! We have the watch rain, shine or fog!

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo by: USCG

NOW: More awesome military photos

OR: The 13 funniest military memes of the week

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MARSOC chooses Glock 19s over .45s for Raiders

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
The Glock 19 pistol | Wikimedia Commons


Marine Corps Special Operations Command has decided to shelve its custom .45 pistols and outfit its elite Raiders with Glock 19s.

MARSOC has not yet responded to Military.com’s questions for the story, but a source familiar the effort said the command made the decision within the last month.

The move, first reported by Jeff Schogol of Marine Corps Times, follows a Marine Corps decision in February that a MARSOC operators to carry Glock pistols, since many of the elite outfit’s members prefer the popular Glock 19 9mm handgun over the custom .45 pistols the service bought them in 2012.

Also read: Here’s why it’s a good thing the US military is getting rid of the M14

The reliable, easy-to-maintain 9mm pistol features a polymer frame and a 15-round magazine.

The Marine Corps just completed an exhaustive search for a new MARSOC pistol in 2012. The service awarded a $22.5 million contract to Colt Defense LLC., for up to 10,000 Close Quarter Battle Pistols.

The custom, 1911 design replaced the fleet of worn-out MARSOC M45 pistols. It features a rail for mounting lights, a custom trigger, a manual safety, improved ergonomics and glowing Tritium sights for low-light conditions.

The new .45s are nice, but many MARSOC troops prefer to carry Glock 19s instead.

One reason for the change is that 9mm ammunition and Glock replacement parts are available almost anywhere in the world, the source said.

The decision is not that surprising since U.S. Army Special Operations Command has also chosen the Glock 19 for its elite units such as the 75th Ranger Regiment, the source said.

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Here’s What Life Is Like For US Army Tankers

With a 68-ton armored vehicle packing a 120mm cannon, U.S. Army tankers can take the fight to the enemy in just about any environment.


Tankers consider themselves part of a brotherhood with roots in World War I. Now driving the M1 Abrams tank, these soldiers continue that legacy today. Here is a taste of what their life is like.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Army Sgt Sarah Dietz

Also Read: These Crazy Photos Show 30+ Ton Tanks In Flight 

The Abrams can fire different rounds for different purposes, and tank crews have to train in a variety of environments. That means they get a lot of time on the range.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Army Sgt. Kim Browne

The crews are tested at twelve different levels, referred to as tables. The tables demand crews prove they can drive, fire, and coordinate together in battle in a variety of conditions.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Caldwell

The main gun is what most people think of when it comes to tanks, but crews also have to certify on the machine guns mounted outside, as well as the M9 pistols and M4 carbines they’re equipped with.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo Credit: Gertrud Zach/US Army

Crews generally have four members. There is a tank commander, a gunner, a driver, and a loader.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Army Spc. Marcus A. Floyd

 The inside of the tank can be a little cramped with equipment and crew.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Army Spc. Luke Thornberry

The driver sits in a small hole in the front of the tank. His control panel is located immediately in front of him.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tankers sometimes bring their family to see the “office.”

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ruth Pagan

Much of the maintenance for the tank is done by the crew.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Army Spc. Marcus A. Floyd

Considering everything the M1 is designed to withstand, it can be surprising that tanks sometimes break down because of soft sand or loose soil pushing a track out of place.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Army Sgt. Richard Andrade

When tanks break down and have to be towed out, it takes specialized equipment. The main recovery vehicle for an Abrams tank is the M88. Here, an M88 rolls up the tread from a damaged Abrams before towing the Abrams to a maintenance area.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: Us Army Sgt. Richard Andrade

Transporting tanks can also be problematic due to the tank’s weight. Crews will generally take their tanks to railways …

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Army Spc. Marcus A. Floyd

… or Naval ports for transport for deployments or exercises. Here, an Abrams tank is driven off of a ship.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Navy

When the mission calls for it, M1 tanks can also be flown on the Air Force’s largest planes.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Air Force Courtesy Photo

Air Force C-17s, like the one in the following photo, can carry one tank while C-5s can carry two.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Richard Wrigley

While on deployment, tankers can end up working for 20-hour days.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Army

U.S. tank crews are commonly called on to train foreign allies. Recently, the Iraqi Army got a large number of Abrams tanks and U.S. soldiers provided training.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Army Sgt. Chad Menegay

Sometimes the mission calls for tankers to operate on foot or from other vehicles. Here, tank crews conduct a patrol in Humvees.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Army Sgt. Eric Rutherford

The tanker tradition dates back to WWI when the first combat cars and tanks took to the battlefield with tank crews leading the way into mechanized warfare.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: Poster by J.P. Wharton, Public Domain

 Today, US crews continue the tradition, carrying armored combat into the future.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Photo: US Army Sgt. Aaron Braddy

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4 military disguises that were just crazy enough to actually work

1. That time French soldiers hid inside papier-mâché horse carcasses

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds


Looking back, trench warfare has to be one of the most insane methods of warfare ever carried out. Between the torrential mud, staggering levels of trench foot, and other diseases that ran rampant, it’s a wonder that everyone didn’t just give up and get the hell out of the ground.

But World War I was still, in some respects, a gentleman’s war. And gentlemen don’t let mud get them down. Gentlemen also don’t complain about their lack of protective cover — at least not if you’re France. While other platoons were bemoaning the crumbling, barren landscape that made up infamous “No Man’s Land” — a stretch of charred earth, tangled barbed wire and broken bodies between opposing trenches — a few French soldiers set up camp right in the middle of it.

They weren’t alone, though. They were using a very special kind of shelter … the hooved kind. Don’t worry, no one was actually crawling inside of dead horse bodies to hide from enemy artillery fire. Though a dead horse is what started this whole thing.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Maybe it was this one

Horses were a huge part of combat in WWI. They pulled ambulances, carried soldiers into cavalry charges, and were the primary means of transporting weapons, ammunition and food supplies for each nation involved. They were also large, bulky and loud, making them primary targets for enemy scopes.

This, as you can imagine, left a lot of dead horses everywhere. Eventually, someone searching for shelter in No Man’s Land probably cuddled up next to one in what he thought were his final moments, only to realize that this decaying Seabiscuit actually made for a pretty awesome barrier.

Enter France’s big idea: hollow, papier-mâché horses large enough for a man to crawl inside and aim his gun through.

Once night fell, the French drug away the dead horses that lay right in front of the German trenches and replaced them with the dummies. Then they ran a telephone wire from inside the horse back to the French trenches, so the sniper who would hide inside the horse would be able to report back on German movements.

This worked for a few days. Then a German soldier spotted a French sniper climbing out of one of the dead horses, and the jig was up. The method quickly became popular though, and “dummy horses” would appear on battlefields throughout Europe for the duration of the war.

2. The sailors who cross-dressed and pretended their warship was a cruise liner

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds

World War II had its share of out-of-the-box camouflage as well. While a Dutch warship was busy disguising itself as an island to hide from Japanese bombers, the British fleet was brainstorming its own method of deception.

German U-boats were becoming more and more of a problem for the Allied merchant fleet. With little means of fighting back, the small ships were sitting ducks for the German watercraft, who could pluck them off easily with their superior weapons and speed. This gave England an idea: if the King’s warships disguised themselves as merchant boats, they could lure them into an ambush, destroying the German U-boats and the submarines that surfaced alongside them during their attacks.

But England wasn’t about to do this deception halfway. If they were going to pull this off, their disguise would have to be elaborate, reflective of the other (hijinks) they had pulled off earlier in the war. So the sailors got creative, and boy did they deliver.

Not only did the British officers don civilian costumes, some dressed in drag, pretending to be ladies sunning themselves on the deck of a cruise liner. When the Germans looked through their periscopes to take in the ship, they would see men and “women” flirting aboard a civilian ocean liner, walking around the deck and taking in the views over the rail.

They would also have to act the part. When a German U-boat was spotted, some ships went as far as pretending to panic, running around the deck and tripping over themselves for the benefit of the German’s view. There are even accounts of sailors haphazardly deploying their lifeboats and “accidentally” leaving one of their own behind, then scrambling to retrieve them as the unlucky “civilian” screamed for help.

The ship, of course, was actually outfitted with plenty of hidden weapons. When the U-boats would close in, the ruse would be over, and they would destroy the enemy ships and submarines as they began to close in.

3. The German soldier who hid inside of a fake tree

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds

Man-sized horse piñatas weren’t the only thing soldiers were hiding inside of during WWI. In 1917, a platoon of German soldiers in Belgium needed to find a way to gain visibility through a small patch of dead trees that blocked their view of the Allies on the other side.

The cluster of dry wood was optimistically named the Oosttaverne Wood, one of the last clumps of nature left in the battlegrounds near Messines. It actually looked like a bunch post-apacolyptic metal posts, which gave the Germans an idea. They couldn’t send a sniper in to hide amongst the trees because there weren’t enough branches to cover him, but they could send them inside their own tree.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds

A plan was set into motion. The Germans would build a 25-foot-tall tree out of steel pipe, painting it so it looked like it had bark. Then a solider would hide inside, using a small hidden window to spy on the British forces in what was probably one of the most cramped snipers’ nests ever.

Just like the French horse-creators did, the Germans waited until nightfall to get things moving. With artillery fire ringing out to disguise the sounds of sawing and chopping wood, they cut down the real tree and set up their new steel lookout, hoping it wouldn’t draw any unwanted attention.

It didn’t. For several months the Germans were able to spy from their wartime treehouse, with the tree-spy crawling out of his post under cover of darkness each evening to report on his findings. It wasn’t until the British tunneled under the German lines and destroyed their trenches from the ground up in the Battle of Messines  that the tree was abandoned. Once they had captured the trenches, the British lived and worked alongside the fake tree for several months before discovering it was a fake. The steel tree can now be found in The Australian War Memorial.

4. Israeli special forces used fake boobs to trick the PLO

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Wonder where they got the idea from… (Photo: Variety)

Thus far, all of our disguise contenders have been relatively believable. When you have shells exploding next to your trench and artillery fire screaming in your ears, you’re probably not going to spend much time debating the validity of a slightly iron-looking tree, or a particularly limp dead horse. No one has time for that kind of daydream. And even though the cross-dressing sailors were doubly ridiculous, they had the advantage of distance from enemy scopes.

This story, however, is just plain insane. In 1973, a group of Israeli special forces commandos entered Beirut on a mission to take out three key leaders of the [Palestine Liberation Organization] who were responsible for the Munich massacre of the 1972 Olympics. The mission, dubbed “The Spring of Youth,” was incredibly risky, and the operatives knew that some deception would be in order if they were to get in and out of the area safely.

So, the Israeli commandos did the logical thing — they dressed up as women. Besides being confident in their ability to infiltrate the PLO, they were also apparently confident that their enemies had never seen a woman before. Or that they could really rock a pair of heels, who knows.

With wigs, fake boobs and matching shoes all in place, the muscled members of the Israeli special forces strolled down the street on the arms of other members of their secret group, who were normally-dressed men.

The fake couples were able to pass right by bodyguards and police without inciting any suspicions, and the hidden team was able to walk up to the apartment building of the PLO leaders and wait right outside their doors. Once safely inside, the men and “women” burst through the doors and pulled out their hidden guns and explosives, shooting and killing the stunned PLO members and avenging the deaths of their murdered countrymen.

The story gets even crazier from here. One of the femme fatales who carried out the high stakes mission was Ehud Barak, who would eventually serve as Prime Minister of Israel and currently serves as Defense Minister. Just goes to show you that dressing in drag could help you make it to the top.

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Marines collect intel, pinpoint ISIS targets as Mosul fight draws near

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
U.S. Marines with Task Force Spartan, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), on Fire Base Bell, Iraq, fire an M777A2 Howitzer at an ISIS infiltration route March 18, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis


Behind the scenes in the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq areMarine intelligence analysts who work around the clock to produce what are called, in military euphemism, “target development products” — essentially, information about enemy equipment and personnel to be destroyed.

As Iraqi security forces, supported by a U.S.-led coalition, fight ISIS militants with hopes to retake Mosul in the north by year’s end, troops with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command provide “intelligence surge support,” developing from one to six or more targets in a given week, task force commander Col. Kenneth Kassner told Military.com this week.

Speaking via phone from a location in the Middle East, Kassner said operational tempo had maintained its intensity since the unit rotated into the region in April.

Deploying in six-month rotations, the unit was created in 2014 as a contingency force for the region, based in six countries and on standby for operations in 20.

But since the 2,300-man task force stood up, operations in support of the fight against the Islamic State have dominated its responsibilities.

Four months into this rotation, Marine F/A-18D Hornets with the unit have conducted more than 1,500 sorties to take out enemy targets in Iraq and Syria.

Task force Marines also provide security at the Al Asad and Al Taqaddum air bases in Iraq, enabling training of Iraqi troops and advisory support at key locations near the fight.

And while the unit’s Marines are not in combat on the ground, they quietly perform a number of background roles in the warfighting machine against ISIS.

“We have a very robust intelligence capability here in the [Marine air-ground task force] and what that enables us to do is, my intelligence analysts are able to better assess targets in support of the Iraqis’ ground maneuver,” Kassner said. “And once we develop that target, we’re looking for different types of patterns of analysis associated with that target.”

The intel, derived through air reconnaissance and other methods Kassner declined to describe, is submitted through coalition channels and used to inform the fight.

“Whether or not it is identified for a particular strike, that doesn’t reside with this MAGTF,” he said. “What we are providing is really a supporting effort to that larger target development process.”

U.S. airstrikes have wiped out more than 26,000 individual ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria since the fight began, according to U.S. Central Command data compiled by Time Magazine. On the ground, Iraqi troops have celebrated several high-stakes victories; in June, they reclaimed Fallujah after nearly two years in the hands of enemy forces.

Kassner said the MAGTF also continues to keep its squadron of MV-22 Ospreys at the ready for tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP) missions in support of the ISIS fight.

Amid constant and complex drills and training, both at home and downrange, he said, Marines had been able to “dramatically improve” TRAP response time, shaving minutes off every step of the mission, from equipment preparation to runway taxi.

While the task force has not been called to recover downed coalition aircraft or personnel since Ospreys deployed to recover an Air Force MQ-1 Predatordrone in southern Iraq last June, Kassner said, the unit has forward-positioned aircraft at the ready in support of coalition strikes multiple times.

“Every minute is precious when conducting a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel,” he said.

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7 stunning photos of Air Force spec ops planes getting ready for action

Air Force Special Operations pilots are some of the best in the world. But what is it like to be with this awesome community as they make sure they’re ready for action?


Here are some photos that are worth more than the proverbial thousand words.

The MC-130J, like the C-130J, can be loaded with vehicles. In this case, they can carry the specialized vehicles used by other special operators like Rangers, Green Berets, and SEALs.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 17th Special Operations Squadron prepare to load a vehicle onto a MC-130J Commando II as part of a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Routine flights and airdrops are conducted to maintain proficiency and training certifications for prospective missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Of course, before take-off, there is the ritual of the pre-flight checklist. At least the tablet means there’s no chance of losing a page.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Parris, 17th Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Commando II loadmaster, reviews a preflight checklist as part of a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The MC-130J was among four others that flew in formation and completed airdrop training on Ie Shima Range, Okinawa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

The pilot, of course, will be in his office during this exercise, so the tablet is conveniently mounted.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
A U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando II pilot from the 17th Special Operations Squadron maneuvers toward a five-aircraft formation during a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017, off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. This is the third iteration of the annual training, which is referred to as ‘The Day of the Jakal.’ It entailed a series of airdrops at Ie Shima Range, Okinawa, to hone in low-altitude maneuvers and supply-delivery capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

“Tail-end Charlie” gets a good look at the other planes in the formation.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando IIs from the 17th Special Operations Squadron line up in a five-aircraft formation during a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017 off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. Airmen from the 17th SOS conduct training operations often to ensure they are always ready perform a variety of high-priority, low-visibility missions throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific-Region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Here, you can see two of the planes breaking, while others wait patiently in line. This isn’t just a training exercise for AFSOC, it’s also practice for the VA.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Four U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando IIs from the 17th Special Operations Squadron break out of a formation June 22, 2017 off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, during a mass launch training mission. Airmen from the 17th SOS conduct training operations often to ensure they are always ready perform a variety of high-priority, low-visibility missions throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific-Region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

The view from the front of the line is much better, no?

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
MC-130Js in a line behind another MC-130J during a training exercise. (USAF photo)

Preparing for the air-drop: This is what all that flying is about – delivering the supplies to the boots on the ground.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
A U.S. Air Force loadmaster from the 17th Special Operations Squadron prepares to airdrop a package onto Le Shima Range, Okinawa, Japan, during a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017. Aircrews must consider a number of variables in order to execute a precise and effective airdrop, to include wind speed, aircraft velocity, altitude, location and timing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Every day, this is the type of stuff that Air Force Special Operations Command does to support America’s top commandos.

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Iran’s home-grown surface-to-air missile shows new military aspirations

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani joins Defense Ministry officials at the unveiling of the Bavar 373 SAM system. (Photo: Tasnim)


The Islamic Republic of Iran officially unveiled the Bavar 373 system earlier this month. The system is supposedly a domestic long-range surface-to-air missile intended to provide area defense against aircraft and missiles.

According to a report by the Times of Israel, images released by Iranian state news agencies showed Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and minister of defense, Hossein Dehghan in front of the system, which bears a strong superficial resemblance to the Soviet-era SA-10 “Grumble” (also known as the S-300).

The SA-10 was the Soviet Union’s main area-defense surface to air missile since it was entered service in 1978, and has continued in Russian service since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Depending on the version, it has a maximum range of up to 121 miles. The system has been constantly upgraded, and more modern versions, like the SA-20 and SA-21 are entering service with Russia.

“We did not intend to make an Iranian version of the S-300 — we wanted to build an Iranian system, and we built it,” Minister of Defense Dehghan said. The Iranians had been trying to address delays in the acquisition of SA-10s from Russia, which only reauthorized delivery in 2015 after the Obama Administration made a highly controversial deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Iran claimed back in May to have operable SA-10 systems.

Iran has been developing some weapon systems on their own. Most notable in this regard are the Jamaran-class frigates. These ships, based on the 1970s vintage Sa’am-class frigates, are armed with a 76mm gun, four C-802 anti-ship missiles, and SM-1 surface-to-air missiles. While nowhere near a Burke-class destroyer in terms of capability (or even the Al-Riyadh and Al- Madinah classes in Saudi service), the vessels are with sanctions lifted, the Iranians could acquire other weapon systems for future vessels.

Iran has also built two fighters, the Azarakhsh and the Saeqeh. The first is a reverse-engineered version of the Northrop F-5E Tiger, a late 1960s day fighter. The second is an advanced version of the first plane and bears a slight resemblance to the F/A-18 Hornet, albeit it is much less capable, with only half the bombload of the Hornet and lacking a multi-mission radar like the APG-65. Iran has also copied the C-802 anti-ship missile and the SM-1, made improved variants of the MIM-23 HAWK, and even reverse-engineered the AIM-54 Phoenix used on the F-14 Tomcat. Perhaps most impressive is Iran’s ability to design not just upgrades to the M47 and Chieftain main battle tanks, but also develop its own main battle tank, the Zulfiqar.

In short, the Bavar 373 is just the latest in Iranian weapons innovation. Last month, high-ranking officials of that regime threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz. The development of the Bavar 373 means those threats may not be idle.

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Yes, sergeant, actually that new academy cadet does outrank you

As it turns out, West Point cadets *do* outrank Army non-commissioned officers.  Technically.


Even after more than twenty years in uniform, it still surprises me what I don’t know about my own profession, and what I still have to learn from my NCOs.  Let me explain:

It’s summertime, and for many cadets in the Army’s ROTC programs and at West Point, that means “Cadet Troop Leader Training” or CTLT.

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Public Domain photo from DoD

This is more or less the Army’s summer intern program, where young future officers get hands-on experience as a kind of “third lieutenant,” under the tutelage of a commissioned officer for three or four weeks.  This gives cadets going into their final years of pre-commissioning training the opportunity to experience life in an active duty unit.  Specifically, it allows them to try their hands at officership, and to get a feel for the kinds of officer/NCO relationships that are essential to the success of our Army.

CTLT happens in all kinds of units, both in the US and OCONUS.  As far as I know, there are no CTLT positions in combat zones.  But short of that, cadets can end up in just about anywhere.  While CTLT is a useful and important mentorship and developmental activity, many units see CTLT as a drag, and dealing with cadets as a hassle.  Sometimes cadets are relegated to less-meaningful duties, or endure some modicum of hazing as part of the experience.

I was recently in a conversation with a senior noncommissioned officer in an elite US Army unit, when the subject of CTLT came up.  I wondered how he, as a senior NCO in a highly specialized unit, felt about having cadets around.  I asked if he gave the cadets in his unit a hard time as part of their CTLT experience.

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Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman

“No, I always salute them and treat them as officers, and I make sure everyone else does too,” he replied in total sincerity.  Somewhat surprised by this, and thinking back to my own experiences in CTLT, I asked why he felt that way.

“Because according to the Army, they outrank me, sir.”

I was floored.  Everyone knows that the lowest Army private outranks the highest cadet… right?  I mean, that certainly seemed to be the case at Airborne School back in the day.

…wrong.

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Army photo by Army Staff Sgt. Scott Griffin

The Evidence

The NCO referred me to AR 600-20, Army Command Policy, which makes it pretty clear that West Point cadets do, in fact, outrank Army NCOs.  This regulation shows that cadets rank after commissioned and warrant officers, but before NCOs.  Very interesting.  I learned something that day.  You’re right, Sergeant, a West Point cadet DOES outrank you.  Technically.

OK, fine.  That’s what the reg says, but how does that work in practice?

But having learned this, it made me wonder when this would actually matter in any meaningful way.  Outside of authorized developmental training events such as CTLT, no NCO is going to allow a cadet to swoop in and take charge of his platoon, squad, or section.  So when would a cadet actually “be” in charge?

AR 600-20 again provides the answer:

AR 600-20, Section 2:

2-8. Death, disability, retirement, reassignment, or absence of the commander

a.  Commander  of  Army  element.

(1)  If a commander of an Army element, other than a commander of a headquarters and headquarters element, dies, becomes disabled, retires, is reassigned, or is temporarily absent, the senior regularly assigned Army Soldier  will assume command.

(2) If the commander of a headquarters and headquarters element dies, becomes disabled, retires, is reassigned, or is temporarily absent, the senior regularly assigned Army Soldier of the particular headquarters and headquarters element who performs duties within the element will assume command. For example, if a division headquarters and headquarters company commander is temporarily absent, the executive officer as the senior regularly assigned Army Soldier who  performs  duties  within  the  headquarters  company  would  assume  command  and  not  the  division  commander.

(3) Senior regularly assigned Army Soldier refers (in order of priority) to officers, WOs, cadets, NCOs, specialists, or privates present for duty unless they are ineligible under paragraphs 2-15 or 2-16. They assume command until relieved by proper authority except as provided in 2-8c. Assumption of command under these conditions is announced per paragraph 2-5. However, the announcement will indicate assumption as acting commander unless designated as permanent by the proper authority. It is not necessary to rescind the announcement designating an acting commander to assume duties of the commander “during the temporary absence of the regularly assigned commander” if the announcement  gives  the  time  element  involved.  A  rescinding  announcement  is  required  if  the  temporary  assumption  of command  is  for  an  indefinite  period.

 

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Photo by Michael Maddox, Cadet Command Public Affairs

The Answer:

Of course, there is another reason to treat West Point and ROTC cadets with respect: they are not going to be cadets forever.  The best way to train cadets to be officers that their soldiers will look up to and their NCOs will respect is to treat them the way you want them to act.  While it might be fun to haze the new “margarine bar” (he hasn’t even worked his way up to “butter bar” yet), is that really the impression you want him taking with you when he gets commissioned and reports to his first unit?

So yes, a West Point cadet DOES outrank a sergeant.  Or a sergeant major for that matter.  But only a complete cadidiot would get his or her cadet rank confused with an NCO’s authority and influence.

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Watch the F-22 take on 5 F-15s — and dominate

The F-22 Raptor is an expensive plane. While some critics pegged its cost at over $300 million a plane, the actual fly-away cost could go down to $116 million per Raptor, according to a 2006 Air Force release.


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An F-22 deploys flares. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-22 was slated to replace the F-15A/B/C/D Eagles as the premier air-superiority fighter. But the Raptor’s production was halted at 187 airframes. Let’s go through a tale of the tape on these planes, before we see what happens when five Eagles jump a Raptor.

According to Joe Baugher, the F-15 has a top speed of Mach 2.5, a cruising speed of 570 knots, can carry eight air-to-air missiles (usually four AIM-120/AIM-7 and four AIM-9), and has a 20mm M61 cannon with 940 rounds. It has a range of 3,450 miles.

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Baugher notes that the F-22 has a top speed of Mach 2.2 slightly slower than the F-15. But the F-22 cruises at Mach 1.6. It carries four AIM-120 and four AIM-9 missiles. It also has a 20mm M61 cannon. It has a combat radius of up to 800 nautical miles.

Here’s the video showing how the five Eagles fared against the Raptor. Warning: This was not a fair fight.

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Here are the best military photos for the week of Jan. 21

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

A B-2 Spirit from the 590th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., prepares to take off in support of operations near Sirte, Libya. In conjunction with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the U.S. military conducted precision airstrikes Jan. 18, 2017, destroying two Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant camps, 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Joel Pfiester

A 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew repairs an E-3 Sentry (AWACS) engine at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Jan. 12, 2017.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tyler Woodward

Army:

U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), conducts ceremonial training in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Jan. 17, 2017, to prepare for their role in the 58th Presidential Inauguration. The Presidential Salute Battery, founded in 1953, fires cannon salutes in honor of the President of the United States, visiting foreign dignitaries, and official guests of the United States and is the only unit of its kind in the Army, conducting more than 300 ceremonies every year.

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U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Gabriel Silva

Soldiers provide cover fire during an assault on a building during training at Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst, N.J., Jan. 9, 2017, part of a series of training events that will culminate this summer at an eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Fort Pickett, Va.

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U.S. National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht

Navy:

PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 17, 2017) Electrician’s Mate Fireman Sacy Bynoe, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), climbs a ladder. Theodore Roosevelt is conducting basic training off the coast of Southern Calif.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Rachael Treon

PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 16, 2017) Aviation Boatswains Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Dylan Mills directs the crew of a C-2A Greyhound from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). The ship is on a deployment with the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd Fleet into the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

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U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano

Marine Corps:

An MV-22 Osprey prepares to lower its ramp to debark Marines during a noncombatant evacuation training operation in Djibouti, Africa, Jan. 5, 2017. The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit provides the U.S. with a sea-based crisis response force, which is capable of planning and commencing execution of selected tactical operations within six hours of receipt of a mission. The Osprey and crew are with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced).

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado

Rct. Maria Daume, Platoon 4001, drags a simulated casualty on a combat training course during the Crucible Jan. 5, 2017, on Parris Island, South Carolina. Daume was born in a Russian prison and brought to Long Island, New York, at the age of 4 when she and her twin brother were adopted.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Greg Thomas)

Coast Guard:

The helo makes a landing approach. Landing on the flight deck of a 210 is an all hands evolution, requiring two firefighting teams, a first aid team, a fueling team, tie-down crew, landing signals officers, helicopter control officers, and a master helmsman in addition to filling all regular duty positions to ensure a safe evolution.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo

Members from CGC DAUNTLESS gather to greet students from Stephen F. Austin High School.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds
U.S. Coast Guard photo

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USS Cole steams back to site of deadly 2000 suicide attack

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) probably wouldn’t be blamed for not wanting to sail off the coast of Yemen. But in the wake of an attack on a Saudi frigate, the Cole is patrolling the waters near the war-torn country where she was attacked by a suicide boat in 2000.


That attack killed 17 sailors, wounded 39 and tore a hole in the hull that measured 40 feet by 60 feet. A 2010 Navy release noted that the Cole took 14 months to repair. That release also noted that the Cole’s return to Norfolk came through the Bab el Mandab, near the location where the Saudi frigate was attacked.

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160710-N-CS953-375
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Mahan (DDG 72) and USS Cole (DDG 67) maneuver into position behind three Japanese destroyers during a photo exercise. USS Cole is in the center of the photograph. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford/Released)

According to a report by FoxNews.com, the Cole’s mission is to maintain “freedom of navigation” in the region. In the past, things have gotten rough during the innocuous-sounding “freedom of navigation” missions.

The region has already seen some shots taken at the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) on three occasions, prompting a retaliatory Tomahawk strike from the destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94). The attacks on the Mason, the Saudi frigate, and the former US Navy vessel HSV-2 Swift were blamed on Iranian-sponsored Houthi rebels. The attacks on USS Mason used Iranian-made Noor anti-ship missiles, a copy of the Chinese C-802.

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More than 100 midshipmen man the rails for a photo on the foícísle of the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) during the 2016 Professional Training for Midshipmen (PROTRAMID) Surface week. USS Cole has deployed off the coast of Yemen, where the ship was attacked in 2000. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach)

Iran has been quite aggressive in recent months, making threats to American aircraft in the Persian Gulf. There have been a number of close encounters between American ships and Iranian speedboats as well. In one case this past August, the Cyclone-class patrol ship USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at Iranian vessels. Last month, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) also was forced to fire warning shots at Iranian speedboats.

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These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

The regular NFL season is over now. Twelve teams are preparing for the postseason while twenty more are going back to the drawing board.


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It’s unfair to make a Cleveland Browns joke here. Or anywhere, really.

For most of our teams, the season will not end well.  For some of us, our teams will be merely disappointing. Some will go down in flames. Others may even inexplicably snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Marines move 1000 tortoises to expand desert training grounds

The NFL has a lot in common with the military. Like a battle, football requires discipline, endurance, and teamwork. Each team has its own culture, fan base, trials, and tribulations. To celebrate the crowning glory of what is the most American of sports, we decided to make sense of the 2015-2016 season’s ups and downs by comparing the teams to military film and television characters.

Arizona Cardinals – Lt. Dan Taylor, Forrest Gump

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The Cardinals are one of the NFL’s longest continual franchises who still don’t have a Super Bowl win. It’s like Lt. Dan’s family tradition of fighting in every major war: none of his ancestors lived long enough to see the big win. Maybe this time will be different?

Atlanta Falcons – Anthony “Swoff” Swofford, Jarhead

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Everything started off so promising. A 5-0 start, the best since 2012.  But it never really went anywhere. Like Swoff going through hell to become an elite Marine: When it came down to it, it was all for naught. Swoff never got to fire his rifle. The Falcons lost 8 of their last 11 games. Just… disappointing. But like the Marines returning to Iraq in 2003, there’s always next year.

Baltimore Ravens – Sgt. Barnes, Platoon

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This unit lost man after man until everyone watching was filled with dread and a sense of pathos soured their crab cakes. After so many player losses went down, everything else went downhill too. Unit cohesion became a disaster and no one outside of Maryland shed a tear when they died. The Ravens are also notoriously paranoid.

Buffalo Bills –  Chief Casey Ryback, Under Siege

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If a team were represented by their fans at home games, the Bills would be Jeff Portnoy from Tropic Thunder. Luckily (and surprisingly) the Bills 8-8 season was much better than anyone expected, thanks in no small part to ex-Flacco backup Tyrod Taylor. Taylor’s performance can be likened to the ship’s cook of the USS Missouri, who was actually a Navy SEAL.

Carolina Panthers – Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley, We Were Soldiers

The Panthers had the second oldest average age of any team in the NFL, edged only by the Colts. Unlike the Colts’ geriatric gameplay, the Panthers’ translated into solid veteran status, going 15-1 and earning the #1 seed in the playoffs. No one is looking forward to running into Carolina in the postseason, nor should they be.

Chicago Bears – Pvt. Mellish, Saving Private Ryan

I’m only guessing here, but I bet this scene perfectly illustrates the experience of being a Bears fan and/or player throughout the 2015 season.

Cincinnati Bengals – Sgt. Nicholas Brody, Homeland

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Are you really good? Is everything what it appears to be? It’s been so long. Can we tell for certain? There’s only one thing Cincinnati fans know for certain: No one trusts you. Also: Ginger. Also: Nice reg haircut.

Cleveland Browns – The Cast of Tropic Thunder, Tropic Thunder

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_u-S7JUYOMo

Other teams have had worse records, other teams have their messes, but the Browns keep doing the same thing year after year: new coach, new QB, new outlook, same outcome. It’s like the Browns aren’t even an NFL team anymore. They’re more of a parody of football, skewering the entire culture of the NFL and its fandom. Unlike Tropic Thunder, there’s no happy ending.

Dallas Cowboys – PFC William Hudson, Aliens

A once-awesome team whose season started off with solid wins fell apart at the first sign of despair. And “despair” was the word of the season. Quarterback after quarterback would come to Dallas and meet their fate while the team struggled to keep it together long enough to pull in four total wins.

Denver Broncos – John Rambo, First Blood

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The Broncos were quietly awesome in 2015. Not a lot of flair, the Broncos just went about their business trying to get to a Super Bowl. They weren’t amazing on offense for much of the season but like Rambo taking on some know-nothing cops in the woods, the defense demolished offenses one-by-one, losing only four games with three of those by one score or less.

Detroit Lions – Forrest Gump, Forrest Gump

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No one really dislikes the Lions. We don’t really understand them either. For many of us, they’re like a family member, in that we see them once in a while and they always show up to Thanksgiving. They definitely aren’t stupid and they show us all the time the amazing things they’re capable of doing. And just like Forrest Gump, they aren’t winning a Super Bowl anytime soon.

Green Bay Packers – Capt. Jimmy Wilder, Independence Day

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Jimmy had confident leadership with an obvious record of success. Unfortunately, he just didn’t have what it takes to survive til the end. The Packers are much the same way. They have a chance to be Capt. Hiller if they can just keep their mask on, but they’re looking at a formidable wall of alien spaceship shaped like a giant Carolina Panther.

Houston Texans – Jean Rasczak, Starship Troopers

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Maybe it’s just J.J. Watt, but the Texans always seem angry to me. Like if a Texan doesn’t play hard enough, Watt will hurt them himself. This might explain all their QB injuries.

Indianapolis Colts – Pvt. James Ryan, the beginning end of Saving Private Ryan

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As of September’s cut down day, the Indianapolis Colts were the oldest team in the NFL, meaning oldest average age of its players, (and it’s not just because of Adam Vinatieri, age 43). And they played like it at times, going 8-8. Those eight wins were against teams with a losing record and within one score against teams with a winning record. Extra points awarded for never giving up.

Jacksonville Jaguars –  Capt. James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Blame this on ownership. When owners change, the team should change a bit. Owner Shahid Khan has had years to get something going for the people of Jacksonville, who paid $63 million in upgrades for the stadium in 2013 only to receive a Jacksonville team with a record of 3-13. Everyone should be screaming about this.

Kansas City Chiefs – John Rambo, Rambo III 

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They seemed reluctant at first but around week seven the Chiefs decided they had enough. With the gusto of Rambo going to rescue Col. Trautman, they demolished the perennial favorites Broncos and Steelers and trounced a resurgent Bills. This team who started 1-5 very nearly won the conference championship.

Miami Dolphins – Robert E. Lee, Gettysburg

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Because no one lives in the past like the Miami Dolphins.

Minnesota Vikings – Sgt. 1st Class Sanderson, Black Hawk Down

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Just as skilled and capable as Norm “Hoot” Hooten, but not nearly as interesting. The Vikings were able to beat the Chiefs once this season, but really spent Sundays taking down Chargers, Lions, and Bears most of the time. Still a winner, but not a Hoot.

New England Patriots – Chris Kyle, American Sniper

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Some people love you, some people hate you. None of that matters, because you’re among the best there is whether they like you or not.

New Orleans Saints – The entire cast of The Alamo

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It turns out defense is pretty important. No one proves that more than the Saints.

New York Giants – Col. Kurtz, Apocalypse Now

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Watching the Giants’ 2015 season was like watching a once-formidable force just begging to be put out of its misery.

New York Jets – Capt. Virgil Hilts, The Great Escape

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Being the only team with a winning record to not make the playoffs is like escaping from a Nazi prison camp on a motorcycle, only to be captured on the Swiss border. They were so close, only to be sent back to the cooler.

Oakland Raiders – Maximus Decimus Meridius, Gladiator

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An old man dies and now once great team is surrounded by people rejected by the everyone else and all they can think about is moving to the Coliseum.

Philadelphia Eagles – Capt. Dave “Captain America” McGraw, Generation Kill

No team’s on- and off-field behavior draws more head shaking than Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Animal Mother, Full Metal Jacket

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Full of guts, but no ideals: The Steelers snuck into the playoffs after a lucky Jets loss gave them the edge. You have to respect Animal Mother, though. He’s there because he knows how to do what he’s been trained to do and he’s good at it. Just like Pittsburgh.

St. Louis Rams – Nick, The Deer Hunter

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St. Louis fans have seen seasons like this so often, they must be mentally broken by now. Every year, the talk of the Rams moving to LA has to wear on both the fans and the team. If they don’t move this year, spin the barrel for another 7-9 season and see what happens when you pull the trigger.

San Diego Chargers – Capt. Herbert Sobel, Band of Brothers

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It’s not that the Chargers lack the will to succeed. It’s just that they lack the skill to succeed. So they’ll be moved somewhere which might be a better fit. Currahee!

San Francisco 49ers – Sgt. Elias, Platoon

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The days of the 49ers being a “nice” team are over, and probably have been for a long time. Like the death of everything Sgt. Elias represented in Platoon, we can probably count on the 49ers becoming more and more desperate to do whatever it takes to win as time goes on.

Seattle Seahawks – Maverick, Top Gun

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Seattle is eminently likable despite a few personality flaws, flaws which led the them through the team’s ups and downs this season. Despite those few losses, the Seahawks are still among the best there is.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Pvt. Timothy Upham, Saving Private Ryan

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The ultimate letdown. Sure, they have a much-talked-about leader but they also have all the skills they don’t need. When the time came to do or die, Upham didn’t even have the nerve to die. There’s always next year, but some of the guys on their roster won’t be around for it. Whose fault is that?

Tennessee Titans- PFC Blackburn, Black Hawk Down

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You fell out of a helicopter before the fighting even started and you stayed down the whole time. You brought a lot of people down with you. A new QB made everyone feel like the Titans were a new, fresh team. There was hope. Then it all became a mess. Also, all the football references in Black Hawk Down are great reminders of the Titans’ most famous one yard line play.

Washington Redskins – The 54th Massachusetts Infantry, Glory

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No one expected much from Washington this year. Despite every bad thing said about them, the Voldemorts of the NFL showed up to play every game of the season, finishing 9-7 and winning the NFC East. In their next battle, they’ll be mercilessly thrown at a formidable opponent and their leader will probably be taken down with them.

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