Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities - We Are The Mighty
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Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
An assault amphibious vehicle (AAV) with the AAV platoon, Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Wenger


The Marine Corps is revving up its fleet of 1970s-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles to integrate the latest technology and make them better able to stop roadside-bombs and other kinds of enemy attacks, service officials said.

The existing fleet, which is designed to execute a wide range of amphibious attack missions from ship-to-shore, is now receiving new side armor (called spall liner), suspension, power trains, engine upgrades, water jets, underbelly ballistic protections and blast-mitigating seats to slow down or thwart the damage from IEDs and roadside bombs, Maj. Paul Rivera, AAV SU Project Team Lead, told Scout Warrior

“The purpose of this variant is to bring back survivability and force protection back to the AAV P-variant (existing vehicle),” he said.

The classic AAV, armed with a .50-cal machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher, is being given new technology so that it can serve in the Corps fleet for several more decades.

“The AAV was originally expected to serve for only 20-years when it fielded in 1972. Here we are in 2016. In effect we want to keep these around until 2035,” John Garner, Program Manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault,” said in an interview with Scout Warrior.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Marines with Alpha Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, begin to exit their vehicles as they index their company-level beach operations on Camp Lejeune, N.C. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton Precht

The new AAV, called AAV “SU” for survivability upgrade, will be more than 10,000 pounds heavier than its predecessor and include a new suspension able to lift the hull of the vehicle higher off the ground to better safeguard Marines inside from being hit by blast debris. With greater ground clearance, debris from an explosion has to farther travel, therefore lessening the impact upon those hit by the attack.

The AAV SU will be about 70,000 pounds when fully combat loaded, compared to the 58,000-pound weight of the current AAV.

“By increasing the weight you have a secondary and tertiary effects which better protect Marines.  We are also bringing in a new power train, new suspension and new water jets for water mobility,” Rivera said.

A new, stronger transmission for the AAV SU will integrate with a more powerful 625 HP Cummins engine, he added.

The original AAV is engineered to travel five-to-six knots in the water, reach distances up to 12 nautical miles and hit speeds of 45mph on land – a speed designed to allow the vehicle to keep up with an Abrams tank, Corps officials said.

In addition, the new AAV SU will reach an acquisition benchmark called “Milestone C” in the Spring of next year. This will begin paving the way toward full-rate production by 2023, Rivera explained.

The new waterjet will bring more speed to the platform, Rivera added.

“The old legacy water jet comes from a sewage pump. That sewage pump was designed to do sewage and not necessarily project a vehicle through the water. The new waterjet uses an axial flow,” Rivera said.

The new, more flexible blast-mitigating seats are deigned to prevent Marines’ feet from resting directly on the floor in order to prevent them from being injured from an underbelly IED blast.

“It is not just surviving the blast and making sure Marines aren’t killed, we are really focusing on those lower extremities and making sure they are walking away from the actual event,” Rivera said.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) with the AAV platoon, Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), leave the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Comstock. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Wenger

The seat is engineered with a measure of elasticity such that it can respond differently, depending on the severity of a blast.

“If it’s a high-intensity blast, the seat will activate in accordance with the blast. Each blast is different. As the blast gets bigger the blast is able to adjust,” Rivera said.

In total, the Marines plan to upgrade the majority of their fleet of 392 AAV SU vehicles.

The idea with Amphibious Assault Vehicles, known for famous historical attacks such as Iwo Jima in WWII (using earlier versions), is to project power from the sea by moving deadly combat forces through the water and up onto land where they can launch attacks, secure a beachhead or reinforce existing land forces.

Often deploying from an Amphibious Assault Ship, AAVs swim alongside Landing Craft Air Cushions which can transport larger numbers of Marines and land war equipment — such as artillery and battle tanks.

AAVs can also be used for humanitarian missions in places where, for example, ports might be damaged an unable to accommodate larger ships.

Alongside this ongoing effort to modernize the existing fleet of AAVs, the Corps is also constructing a new, wheeled Amphibious Combat Vehicles, or ACVs. These new platforms will include a wide range of next-generation technologies, travel much faster, deploy from much farther distances and perform at a much higher level across the board compared with the existing fleet.

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7 of the greatest guerrilla fighters in American history

America often fights wars as the big, bad empire with all the fancy toys and weapons. But U.S. troops haven’t always enjoyed the technological advantage. So, sometimes military leaders have turned to guerrilla tactics to keep the enemy off balance until a more conventional force can pin them down and defeat them.


Here are seven of the American guerrilla leaders who took the fight to the enemy:

1. Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities

Francis Marion learned guerrilla warfare as a militia lieutenant in a war against the Cherokee Indians in 1761. When the Revolutionary War began, Marion was named a captain and given command of an infantry unit. He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and fought hard, but he was there when the battle of Camden ended organized resistance in South Carolina.

Rather than sit out the rest of the war, he enlisted a force of a few dozen men known as Marion’s Partisans and led them in harassing operations against the British. The Partisans scattered British and Loyalist forces on multiple occasions and once rescued 150 Patriot prisoners. Multiple British task forces to capture or kill Marion and the Partisans failed.

2. John Mosby

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities

John Mosby started his military career as a young cavalryman and scout but he was quickly identified by J.E.B. Stuart and commissioned as an officer. He rose to the rank of major before taking command of “Mosby’s Rangers,” the force that would later make him famous.

The Rangers used guerrilla tactics to devastate Union lines. He and his men once captured a sleeping Union general during a raid. The Rangers fought on after the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, but eventually broke apart. Mosby was wanted until Gen. Ulysses S. Grant intervened on his behalf.

3. Carl Eifler

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities

Carl Eifler was eventually dubbed “The Deadliest Colonel” in World War II for his work with the OSS. He led a group of American trainers into Japanese-occupied Burma and raised a force of the local Kachin people. Eifler and his men led raids against the Japanese that eventually claimed over 5,000 lives.

They also rescued over 500 stranded airmen and provided intelligence for Allied forces in the area. The Kachins would feed important target information to the Army Air Forces, allowing the bombing campaigns in the area to be much more successful.

4. Peter J. Ortiz

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities

Marine Corps Maj. Peter J. Ortiz parachuted into Nazi-occupied with a team of five Marines, but one was killed and another seriously injured during the jump. Ortiz and the other three survivors linked up with the Maquis resistance and helped lead them in operations against the Germans.

Related video:

The Marine-backed resistance forces set ambushes and stole key equipment. German losses were so heavy that they thought an entire Allied battalion had jumped into Normandy. The Americans were eventually captured, but put up such a fight that the German commander accepted the surrender and expected a company of fighters to emerge. When only four men came out, he initially accused Ortiz of lying about his numbers.

5. James H. Lane

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities

James H. Lane was one of the more controversial guerrilla fighters in the Civil War, especially on the Union side. He fought in Kansas before the Civil War in support of “Free Staters” who wanted to keep slavery out of the territory.

During the Civil War, he led fighters in Kansas and raised a group of volunteers to guard the White House before the Union Army raised troops for the same purpose. After returning to Kansas, he raised 2,000 fighters that guarded Kansas against Confederate action. His controversy comes from an 1861 assault into Missouri where he led his men in the assault, looting, and burning of Osceola, Missouri.

6. John McNeill

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities

John McNeill led approximately 200 men in a guerrilla campaign against Union troops in western Virginia in the Civil War. He and his men were probably most famous for shutting down a portion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad by burning machine shops and destroying a bridge.

The Union later diverted over 20,000 troops to protect the supply lines. McNeill died in a raid in 1864 but his men continued to fight.

7. Jack Hinson

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities

Jack Hinson started the Civil War as an informant for both sides, seemingly fine with whomever came out on top. But then a group of Union soldiers executed and beheaded his two sons under suspicions of Confederate activity. Jack Hinson then had a custom sniper rifle made and became one of the most effective single-man guerrillas in history.

Armed with his 17-pound, .50-cal. sniper rifle, the 57-year-old man killed the men involved in his sons’ executions. Then he sought out to break the Union Army, firing on Union soldiers on the Tennessee River and killing about 100 troops. In one case, a Union gunboat attempted to surrender after suffering several losses because they were convinced they were under attack by a superior Confederate force.

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Russia Wants Everyone To Think It’s Building This Absurd, Massive Superplane

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Screenshot/vimeo.com


Russia’s proposed new military transport will be a behemoth of an aircraft — assuming such a plane can even fly and Russia is even vaguely serious about actually building it.

According to the Kremlin propaganda outfit RT, citing design specifications from Russia’s Military-Industrial Commission, the new PAK TA transport will have the improbable ability to achieve supersonic flight while carrying massive payloads. The Kremlin plans to acquire 80 PAK TAs by 2024.

The introduction of the PAK TA is in keeping with Moscow’s stated goals of modernizing its air fleet within the next decade. Russia has dedicated $130 billion through 2020 for the modernization of its aging air force, which is largely made up of Soviet-era aircraft.

But until prototypes of the plane are built and begin flying, there is no telling how well the plane will actually perform or if it is even practical. Russia’s fifth-generation fighter, the T-50, has run into design problems. According to the Indian Air Force, the joint Indian-Russian variant of the T-50 still has numerous stealth and engine problems even at a late stage in its development.

And the PAK TA presents an even greater challenge. A supersonic plane of its size and cargo capacity — an anticipated 200 tons — could land only on a very long, reinforced runway that may need to be designed specifically for the plane. It would necessitate an astonishingly large fuel load, which would further limit the number of airports from which the aircraft could take off and land. It would also have an enormous wingspan that would make the plane an easy target for enemy forces.

On a more basic level, who would entrust 200 tons of cargo aboard such an outlandish, experimental aircraft?

It would be an astonishing accomplishment if a prototype ever takes the skies — never mind 80 finished planes.

For now, the aircraft is at most an aspiration for Russia. It may also just be a propaganda ploy meant to highlight the Kremlin’s modernization drive and create the impression that Russia’s military-industrial complex possesses technological capabilities beyond its actual capacity.

Even if the PAK TA may be crude Kremlin psy-ops, the concept art for the new aircraft is still pretty spectacular. Here’s what Moscow is claiming about its fanciful superplane of the distant and probably nonexistent future.

The PAK TA is being developed by the Russian aviation company Ilyushin.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Screenshot/vimeo.com

The next-generation carrier is touted as being able to travel at supersonic speeds, carry up to 200 tons of cargo, and have a range of 4,350 miles.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Screenshot/vimeo.com

The PAK TA’s payload capacity is envisioned as being 80 tons more than that of the US’ largest cargo plane, the C-5 Galaxy.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Screenshot/vimeo.com

RT estimates that a fleet of PAK TA’s could carry 400 T-14 Armata heavy tanks. Left unaddressed is why anyone would risk loading 400 tanks into a fleet this ridiculous.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities

The plane is thought to feature an upper gas turbine as well as twin electrically powered fans. The back of the plane’s wings will generate vectored thrust — assuming a single one is ever built.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Screenshot/vimeo.com

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Israel’s F-35s may have already flown a combat mission against Russian air defenses in Syria

Israel received three F-35s from the US on Tuesday, bringing its total inventory of the revolutionary fighter up to five, but according to a French journalist citing French intelligence reports, Israeli F-35s have already carried out combat missions in Syria.


In the Air Forces Monthly, Thomas Newdick summarized a report from Georges Malbrunot at France’s Le Figaro newspaper saying Israel took its F-35s out on a combat mission just one month after receiving them from the US.

Malbrunot reported that on January 12 Israeli F-35s took out a Russian-made S-300 air defense system around Syrian President Bashar Assad’s palace in Damascus and another Russian-made Pantsir-S1 mobile surface-to-air missile system set for delivery to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Related: F-35s will take part in NATO drills

Israel has repeatedly and firmly asserted its goal to make sure weapons cannot reach Hezbollah, a terror group sworn to seek the destruction of Israel.

In March, Israel admitted to an airstrike in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “when we know about an attempt to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah, we do whatever we can to prevent this from happening, provided we have sufficient information and capabilities to react,” according to Russian state-run media.

However, the other details of the story seem unlikely. The only known S-300 system in Syria is operated by the Russians near their naval base, so hitting that would mean killing Russian servicemen, which has not been reported at all.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Land-based S-300 surface-to-air missile launchers | Creative Commons photo

Also, as Tyler Rogoway of The Drive points out, the Pantsir-S1 air defenses would certainly bolster Hezbollah in Lebanon, but Israel wouldn’t be under immediate pressure to destroy this system. Their jets have advanced air defense suppression and electronic warfare capabilities that limit the threat posed by the Pantsir-S1, and make it unlikely that they would risk F-35s to attack them.

Also read: 3 reasons why Airwolf is more badass than the F-35

But parts of the French report hold up. There was an airstrike on January 12 at Mezzeh air base, where the French report said it took place. The BBC reports that the Syrian government accused Israel of a strike at that time and place.

Jeff Halper, author of War Against the People, a book that looks at the military ties between Israel and the US, told Al Jazeera that Israeli pilots may be the first to see combat action in the F-35.

“Israel serves as the test-bed for the development of these kinds of new weapons,” said Halper. “The F-35 will be tested in the field, in real time by Israel. The likelihood is that the first time the plane is used in combat will be with Israeli pilots flying it.”

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Israeli Air Force

Indeed the F-35’s stealth abilities remain untested, and only in a heavily contested environment could the F-35 really meet its match. In the past, F-35 pilots have complained that surface-to-air threats are not advanced enough to provide realistic training, and the Air Force has run short on adversary services to provide enough competition to really prove the F-35’s capabilities.

In the case of the S-300, experts have told Business Insider that it would take a stealth jet like the F-35 to safely take them out.

While the details remain sketchy and wholly unverifiable, Halper’s “test-bed” assertion has certainly been true of US-Israeli defense projects, like missile defenses, in the past. Rogoway also noted Israel’s history of rushing new platforms to the front lines as possible supporting evidence.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Could Israel have flown combat missions in the F-35 one month after receiving it? | U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw

On Wednesday night, Syria’s government again accused Israel of an airstrike near Damascus International airport.

Short of taking responsibility for the attack, Israeli officials said it was a strike on Hezbollah targets, which they support.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told Israeli Army Radio: “I can confirm that the incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel’s policy to act to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah in Iran. Naturally, I don’t want to elaborate on this,” according to the BBC.

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The Air Force made a $25 billion ‘oopsie’

In a report to Congress last year, the Air Force estimated the cost of the new Long Range Strike Bomber (LRSB) to be $33.1 billion for the next ten years. This year, that price ballooned to $58.2 billion.


Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities

The amount of the gap is so large, it caught the attention of Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who immediately demanded answers from Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh. How does the Air Force explain the $25 billion error? It says the cost should have actually been $41.7 billion, but human error was the explanation for the discrepancy.

Welsh insists he was caught off guard as well. It was just a multi-billion dollar oopsie, people.

“We were surprised by the number when we saw it as well once it had been pointed out to us that it looked like the number had grown because we’ve been using the same number,” Welsh said.

The Air Force has a history of bait-and-switch budgeting when it comes to developing new aircraft. The Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is famously over budget (it’s the most expensive weapons program ever) and underperforming. The Air Force’s most recent fighter program, the dogfighting-optimized F-22 Raptor, produced 187 units between 1996 and 2011 at the cost of $157 million each. The Raptor wasn’t used in combat until 2014.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities

The LSRB is estimated to cost $500 million per plane, with a total cost of $55 billion to replace the USAF’s 77 aging B-52 (first developed in 1955) and 21 B-2 (1989) bombers.

NOW: How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

OR: The F-35B Can Take Off Like An Olympic Ski Jumper Now 

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The Navy recently proved it can launch planes from a carrier by using magnets

Six days after being commissioned, the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s newest and most sophisticated aircraft carrier, received and launched its first fixed-wing aircraft.


An F/A-18 Super Hornet landed on the ship at 3:10 p.m. July 28, catching the No. 2 arresting wire of the Ford’s Advanced Arresting Gear system, and took off at 4:37 p.m., launched from catapult one of the Ford’s Electromagnetic Launch System.

“Today, USS Gerald R. Ford made history with the successful landing and launching of aircraft from VX-23 using the AAG and EMALS,” said Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of US Fleet Forces, referring to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23. “Great work by the Ford team and all the engineers who have worked hard to get the ship ready for this milestone.”

 

The July 28 tests appear to show the AAG and EMALS have overcome issues that cropped up during their development — issues with the EMALS prompted President Donald Trump earlier this year to admonish the Navy to return to steam-powered catapults.

The tests were the Ford’s first shipboard recovery and launch of fixed-wing aircraft, said Capt. Rick McCormack, the Ford’s commanding officer. By the end of the day, the Ford had completed four arrested landings and catapult launches.

The Navy says the AAG, a software-controlled system, will offer greater reliability and more safety and interoperability with more aircraft. It also has built-in testing and diagnostic features, meant to reduce maintenance and lower manpower needs.

 

Navy officials have said the EMALS is designed to provide more energy, reliability, and efficiency while moving away from the traditional steam-powered launching system. In addition to more accurate speed control and better acceleration, the EMALS is designed to work with all current and future carrier aircraft.

Those systems are two of 23 new or modified technologies installed on the Ford, which is the first Ford-class carrier. Two more in-class carriers are planned: the USS John F. Kennedy and the USS Enterprise.

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5 ways Russia’s military is literally falling apart

Russia has been saber-rattling so hard that cracks are forming in the blade and the hilt seems to be falling off. The military has been embarrassed by a number of of high profile failures and missteps in the past few years.


To be clear, the Russians aren’t helpless and certain units are deadly. They have a large nuclear arsenal, some of the world’s quietest submarines, and an impressive new tank. But here are six reasons Russian military planners can’t be sleeping easy.

1. Their planes keep falling out of the air.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
The MiG-29 in flight. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin L. Bishop

An Su-24M tactical bomber and a Tu-95 strategic bomber crashed in separate incidents in July, two MiG-29 fighters crashed in June as did an Su-34 strike fighter. In total, these crashes cost the lives of four Russian service members and resulted in the groundings of the Tu-95 and MiG-29 fleets.

Meanwhile, the replacements for the aging fighters keep getting cut back due to funding problems, a theme which will recur in this list. Also, Russia claims that it is building new Tu-160 bombers and developing a brand new bomber, but industry experts think it is frankly not feasible for the Russians to find the required high-skill workers or money to do everything at once.

2. Their only aircraft carrier needs a tug boat escort and can’t launch fully-armed planes.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Photo: Mil.ru

The Russians have one carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. The ship was launched in 1985 and began active duty in the fleet in 1991. In 24 years, it has served only four frontline deployments. It requires tugs to accompany it in deepwater in case it breaks down at sea and needs to be refueled every 45 days. The crew has trouble completing the refueling missions however, sometimes spilling the fuel across the ocean instead.

Meanwhile, even when everything is working to plan, the Kuznetsov has troubles. It isn’t a proper carrier and launches aircraft from a bow ramp rather than catapults, limiting her jets to low takeoff weights with limited fuel and ammunition. Plumbing problems in the ship limit the number of functioning latrines to 25 for her full crew of nearly 2,000. In 2011, U.S. Navy ships trailed the Kuznetsov to her home port to rescue the Russians if the ship sank.

Russia is planning a larger, more robust new carrier but it would still rely on ramps for two of its four launching positions, would require refueling every 120 days, wouldn’t have many ports it could be parked in, and may be too expensive and complex for Russia to actually complete.

3. They rely on conscripts and soldiers forced into contracts.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Photo: US Air Force

Russian Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, then-head of the National Center for Defense, bragged in 2014 that “two army brigades, 12 special forces units and five battalions of airborne troops and marines were manned entirely with contract servicemen,” according to RT, a Russian media outlet. But, that’s the first time the Russian military has had more contract soldiers than volunteers in its history. And, first-term contract soldiers aren’t “volunteers” the way they are in America.

In America, all service members are volunteers who don’t have to serve in the military unless a draft is ordered. In Russia, males between the age of 18-27 must serve in the military, either one year as a conscript or two as a “volunteer.”

4. Even their domestic displays of power keep going wrong.

In July, a Russian Navy Day celebration saw a missile frigate fire at a target only for the missile to fail, spinning through the air and breaking apart meters from the ship, a display of an anti-aircraft missile failed in April when the missile fell back to the ground, and one of Russia’s premier new tanks broke down during a rehearsal for the country’s Victory Day Parade.

Tragically, a helicopter also crashed during an air show Aug. 3, killing one of the pilots.

5. Their funding situation is bad and getting worse.

While Russia continues to spend heavily on defense, the upgrades will eventually be limited by what the rest of the economy can bear.

Russia, crippled by sanctions, falling oil prices, and a weakening currency, has been forced to cut their purchase plans for fighters and new tanks. Some Russian contractors have attempted to sell the nation new helicopter carriers after a deal with France fell through, but there are reports that Russia can’t afford new ships anyway. Meanwhile, Russia’s largest economic ally, China, has questionable loyalty to Moscow.

NOW: See how Russia’s all-female paratrooper battalion trains for war

OR: This video shows the awesome capabilities of Russia’s elite Spetsnaz troops

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The Air Force spends a lot of time and effort destroying rape-preventing lip balm

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
(Photo: Air Force Times)


On the evening of Dec. 16, 2015, members of the Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson community received an odd email. As part of their outreach efforts, the Alaskan base’s Sexual Assault and Prevention office – commonly referred to by the acronym SAPR – had given away tubes of lip balm.

They had to be destroyed.

“It has come to our attention that approximately 400 ‘SAPR lip balm’ promotional items … contain trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” the public address read, referring to the active ingredient in the drug marijuana. “The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator office has ceased the distribution of the lip balm … and requests that you dispose this product, if you received one of these items.”

Both the Pentagon and the Air Force – the lead service at the base – ban personnel from ingesting any substances that contain hemp seed or oil from those seeds. The flying branch specifically worries the small amounts of THC could trigger a positive result during random drug screening.

On Dec. 14, personnel from the 673rd Air Base Wing had sent the vendor a “heads up” email explaining the situation for future reference, according to records We Are the Mighty obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. Earlier, the Wing had reached out to the Office of Special Investigations for advice on how to proceed.

The next day, Global Promotional Sales responded by pointing out that the lip balm did not contain any THC, along with at least two follow-up messages asking to chat with base staff. They ultimately sent along a 2001 scientific study from Leson Environmental Consulting that concluded hemp oil would never have enough THC to register in a drug test. At the same time, Wing staff and the SAPR office were debating what to do with the tubes of fruit-flavored moisturizer.

Citing personal privacy exemptions, censors redacted the names of all Air Force personnel in the records. However, they did not remove the name of the Global Promotional Sales representative.

“I’ve been told that lip balm made from Hemp [sic] will not result in a positive for THC,” an unnamed colonel in the 673d’s commander’s office wrote in one Email. “How many have you handed out?”

While the colonel’s position is widely accepted, rules are rules. “Because of the regulations banning any use of hemp products we understand that the product must be disposed of,” the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator shot back.

After untold hours working on the issue, the base leadership decided to send out the public address and ask personnel to voluntarily trash the items. In total, the SAPR office had purchased 1,600 “Fruity Lip Moisturizers” at a cost of over $1,580, according to an invoice.

The Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson public affairs office told We Are the Mighty in an email that they were unsure what had happened to the more than 1,000 tubes of lip balm that the SAPR office had not handed out. They didn’t know whether the vendor reimbursed the cost or offered credit on a future order.

What we do know is that for at least three days, both the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and the 673d’s staff were actively involved dealing with a problem that took away from their core mission in more ways than one. Emblazoned with the SAPR logo and the text “Consent, Ask, Communicate,” the lip balm itself seems to have served an unclear purpose.

“I mean, just the weight of those emails … the weight of coordination spent on pursuing swag and trinkets,” Tony Carr, a retired Air Force officer and outspoken critic of many of the flying branch’s policies, told We Are the Mighty in an Email after reviewing the documents. “This is what SARCs are doing while the issue of sexual assault continues to hover somewhere between confused and irresolute.”

Legislators, celebrities, and others have repeatedly criticized the Pentagon failing to improve the situation. While the services have focused on education, accountability seems to be the real factor holding back progress on the issue.

The Pentagon was forced to admit that “sexual assaults continue to be under-reported” when they released their latest sexual assault prevention strategy on May 1, 2014. The new policy cited a need to pursue offenders regardless of rank and make sure that accusers did not suffer retaliation from their superiors, who were often the attackers.

Retired Air Force Col. Christensen, who worked in the military legal system for more than two decades, said the incident highlighted the Pentagon’s “very simplistic” responses to very difficult problems, like rape. Christensen is now President of Protect Our Defenders, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit advocacy group that focuses on sexual violence in the U.S. military.

“They think they can powerpoint their way out of it,” Christensen lamented, describing seemingly endless briefings and courses on the ills of sexual assault. He specifically singled out the bystander training as “pretty much ridiculous,” adding that he was not aware of anyone being punished for not speaking up on behalf of a victim.

Of course, both Carr and Christensen were quick to note that these sorts of responses were not necessarily limited to one particular crisis. “It reinforces the ‘leadership by harassment’ approach of inventing and then enforcing rules with no valid military necessity,” Carr said. “I’m amazed at the extent to which this continues happening.”

Christensen compared the idea of handing out lip balm, mints, and other novelties as a solution to sexual assault to the much maligned fluorescent yellow belts troops have wear in many situations. Instead of really delving into how to prevent people getting killed while running or doing other activities at night, the Pentagon simply decreed that everyone had to wear the reflective wraps nearly everywhere, nearly all the time, he said.

But this sort of response is especially galling when it comes to sexual violence. Gimmicks like the lip balm “trivializes the impact of sexual assault” and contribute to troops generally “tuning out” the messages, Christensen added.

To really start fixing the problem, Christensen says the Pentagon and its critics both need to recognize that it will be impossible eradicate sexual assault from the military entirely. Instead, the focus needs to be on treating servicemen and women like adults who know it’s a crime, empowering investigators and prosecutors to go after attackers and instill an overall sense of accountability up and down the ranks.

Until then, SAPR offices will easily find themselves spending precious time dealing with promotional missteps than actually advocating for a healthier climate within the services.

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

We stole these memes from sergeant major’s secret stash. Keep them hidden.


1. Dreams do come true (via Air Force Nation).

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Of course, that feeling wears off. Unlike your contract.

2. Secret Squirrel finally gets his origin movie:

(via Devil Dog Nation)

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Spoiler: He’s joining for a girl but loses her to Jody.

SEE ALSO: This is what happens when a hero Army veteran tries to save a CVS

3. Yeah, you’re going to have to clean that a few more times (via The Salty Soldier).

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Also, the armorer is about to leave for the next 8 hours for mandatory training.

4. Different motivations result in different standards:

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
We’re sure it all tastes the same.

5. Those poor kids (via Team Non-Rec).

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
The Air Force didn’t even bring them a heavy caliber.

6. Getting the coolest jump wings sometimes means going to extremes …

(via Do You Even Jump?)

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
… like, you know, treason

7. Spiderman can complain all he wants (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
His web-slinging antics are the subject of this briefing is about that lawdy, dawdy everybody has to attend.

8. Chief just has a little different tone depending on the audience (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Also, the knife is different. And the blood.

9. We still need your Brrrrrt, you beautiful beast.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
We will call. Trust us, we will call.

10. “Shouldn’t have met 1SG’s eyes, dude.”

(via Pop Smoke)

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities

11. “Oh, you’ve done hours of digital training?”

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities

12. The Air Force PT program leaves something to be desired:

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
But hey, they’re limber.

13. Seriously, start a write-in campaign:

(via Decelerate Your Life)

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
One hero we can all get behind — with fixed bayonets.

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Here’s what happened 6 other times US embassies were attacked

The 2012 attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya wasn’t the first time such an outpost was stormed by locals. It wasn’t even the first time one was attacked in Benghazi. The Foreign Service of the United States isn’t all handshakes, ribbon cuttings, and talk. The people dedicated to improving relations with other countries while advancing U.S. foreign policy inherently put themselves at risk.


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Photo: 13 Hours/Paramount Pictures

U.S. Diplomatic posts had been attacked with varying tactics and varying success before the infamous assault in Benghazi. Here’s how six others went down:

1. 1900 – Peking (Beijing), China

Anti-foreign, anti-Christian sentiment combined with severe drought in China led to armed violence against foreigners in the country as well as a general uprising against all external forces. The militias were called “Boxers” in English.  The Qing Empress Dowager Cixi supported the uprising as the Boxers converged on Beijing in full force, declaring war on all foreign powers. Five hundred diplomats, foreign civilians, and Christians barricaded themselves inside the two-square-mile Foreign Legation Quarter in the Chinese capital. The Boxers laid siege to the diplomatic area as German and U.S. Marine defenders kept them at bay, even under intense artillery fire.

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Eight-Nation Alliance Soldiers (U.S. Army Center of Military History)

A 20,000-man relief army from eight nations invaded China. Japan, Russia, the British Empire, France, the U.S., Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary. The army marched 100 miles fro Tianjin to the capital in just over two weeks. British, Russian, Japanese, and French troops fought the Chinese Boxers at the city walls, trying to breach the gate. The Americans attempted to scale the walls instead of assaulting a fortified gate. Indian and Sikh troops from the British contingent were the first to break the siege of the Foreign Legation. Fifty-five of the almost 500 besieged were killed.

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The U.S. Army in Beijing — then called Peking (U.S. Army Center of Military History)

2. 1927 – Nanking, China

Nationalist revolutionaries captured Nanking from a Chinese warlord in 1927, over a decade after the fall of Imperial China. These revolutionaries consisted of Chinese citizens and some Chinese Communists, but was mostly made op of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA), who would later be a U.S. ally against the Japanese in World War II. When the NRA captured Nanking, enraged Chinese fighters and citizens rioted and looted foreigners homes and attacked the American, British, and Japanese consulates.

The British sent eight warships led by the aptly-named HMS Vindictive while the U.S. Navy sent five destroyers of its own up the Yangtze River to relieve the foreign citizens and evacuate them. Every time the ships steamed into the city, they came under attack.The American and British sailors returned fire with overwhelming force, silencing the Chinese guns each time. Only one British and one American sailor were killed.

3. 1967 -Benghazi, Libya

Two years before Qaddafi’s coup toppled the regime of the Elderly King Idris I, the people of Libya were still fiercely proud of their Arab nationalism. At the onset of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Egyptian propaganda convinced the locals of Benghazi U.S. Navy planes were assisting Israel in their pre-emptive strikes against Egyptian airfields and other military targets. Outraged, thousands of Egyptian migrant workers and local mobs attacked the U.S.Embassy in Benghazi, overwhelming a Libyan military detachment the government dispatched to quell the uprising. The Embassy staff held the mob back with ax handles, rifle butts, and tear gas, even after the building was set on fire.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Benghazi in 1967 (Library of Congress)

The British tried numerous times to break through the mob to rescue the battered Americans, who stayed on the roof, trying to destroy classified material throughout the day. Eventually a British armored column managed to break through and extract the Americans. They also helped hundreds of Americans trapped in the area of the city by protecting them inside the British camp. The British moved the Americans to an airfield where they were extracted by the U.S. Air Force cargo planes.

4. 1968 – Saigon, South Vietnam

In 1967, during the Vietnam War, the United States turned over the defense of Saigon to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). By 1968, the U.S. Embassy in the capital at Saigon was defended by four Vietnamese police posts, with two U.S. Army military policemen at the entrance gate, two U.S. Marines in a guard post, with a third Marine on the roof of the embassy. On the night of January 31, 1968, 19 Viet Cong sappers open fire on the MPs at the gate, SP4 Charles L. Daniel and Pvt. 1st Class William E.  Sebast, who returned fire and secured the gate. The VC then blew a hole in the perimeter wall. The first two VC fighters through the wall were killed by the Army guards, but Sebast and Daniel were killed by their attackers. The Vietnamese policemen abandoned their posts when the first shots were fired.

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The hole the VC blew in the Saigon Embassy wall (U.S. Army photo)

Inside, the Marines locked down the Embassy and started shooting into the breached wall. Inside the Embassy, the three Marines, two Vietnamese, and six American civilians jocked up and prepared for the VC assault. Meanwhile, Marines in their barracks five blocks away proceeded to the Embassy asa quick reaction force, but met with heavy resistance from the VC inside. As dawn broke, Military Policemen shot the locks off the gates and drove through it in a jeeps as MPs and Marines stormed the grounds. The 101st Airborne landed by helicopter on the roof and cleared the building.

5. 1979 – Islamabad, Pakistan

The Masjid al-Haram, or Great Mosque of Mecca, the holiest site in the Islamic religion, was itself taken over by Islamic fundamentalists. These terrorists believed their leader was the Mahdi, the redeemer of the Islamic faith, and called on the overthrow of the Saudi regime. Naturally, this caused ripples of outrage throughout the Islamic world. Radio reports varied, but some in Pakistan erroneously suggested the United States was responsible, began climbing the walls and trying to pull them down.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
The U.S. embassy in Islamabad burning (Library of Congress)

The staff retreated to the secure communication vault as the embassy was burned down around them. They locked themselves in the building until nightfall, when a Marine snuck out the back door. The Marine found the entire Embassy empty and so the 140 people quietly escaped the grounds. A similar event happened at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya at the same time, for the same reason.

6. 1979 – Tehran, Iran

When the Shah of Iran abdicated the throne in 1979, he jetted around the world from place to place, searching for a country who would grant him asylum. Unbeknownst to much of the world, the Shah was also suffering from terminal cancer. In an act of compassion, U.S. President Jimmy Carter allowed the Shah to enter the U.S. for treatment. The people of Iran saw this act as complicity with a brutal regime and worried the U.S. was setting the stage to reinstall the Shah’s dictatorial regime once more, as they had done in 1953.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
The American Embassy in Iran being overrun in 1979 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Tehran Embassy had been taken over on February 4th and held for three hours before the Foreign Ministry of the new government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini convinced the attacker to give it back within three hours. On November 4th, students at the University of Tehran  planned and stormed the embassy again and would hold hostages for 444 days. The Iranian government used the hostages to secure passage of its Constitution and other Khomeini-era reforms, and hold parliamentary elections. A U.S. military attempt to rescue the hostages the next year failed miserably in the deserts of Iran.

See Also: This deadly failure in the Iranian desert lives in hostage rescue mission infamy

After the 1979 Embassy takeover, U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide were subjected to mortars, RPGs, and vehicle-borne improvised explosives. but a U.S. ambassador hadn’t been killed by in the course of duty since armed Islamic extremists in Kabul, Afghanistan killed Ambassador Adolph Dubs in 1979. That all changed in September 2012 when an armed militia stormed a diplomatic compound in Benghazi and killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

(The story  of the six government security contractors (also U.S. military veterans) who came to the rescue of the compound where Stevens was killed can be seen in Paramount Pictures’ adaptation of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, in theaters Friday, January 15th.)

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You had to bet your life to graduate from the Vietnam-era Recondo school

When Maj. Gen. William Westmoreland took command of the 101st Airborne in 1958, he noticed a severe lack of proficiency in small-unit tactics and patrolling.


So he immediately created a school to fix the problem.

When he took command of all American forces in the Vietnam War, he once again created a school to teach long-range patrolling and small unit tactics with a Ranger-qualified cadre of instructors from the 5th Special Forces Group. To graduate from this school, you had to bet your life on it.

Dubbed “Recondo” school, Westmoreland claimed it was an amalgamation of Reconnaissance, Commando, and Doughboy. Recondo training emphasized both reconnaissance and standard infantry skills at the small unit level.

In 1960, Army Magazine described the Recondo tactics as “dedicated to the domination of certain areas of the battlefield by small aggressive roving patrols of opportunity which have not been assigned a definite reconnaissance or combat mission.” From these graduates, the 101st developed the Recondo Patrol.

This patrol type was meant to allow a Recondo to create as much havoc as possible in their area of operations. The patrol could be used against a disorganized enemy, as a screen for retrograde operations, to develop a situation or conduct a feint ahead of an advancing force, or to eliminate guerrilla activity.

It was the last ability that Recondos would put to great use in Vietnam.

The Recondo school was set up at Nha Trang and was inspired but the highly successful Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol training conducted by detachment B-52 from 5th Special Forces. This program, known as Project Delta, was originally intended to train Special Forces and their Vietnamese counterparts in guerrilla-like ambushes.

The course became so popular that within two years over half of the students were from regular Army units. Westmoreland expanded the school to teach Recondo tactics to as many LRRPs as possible.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Two 1st Cav LRRP teams in July 1968. All team leaders were Recondo grads.

In order to qualify for the MACV Recondo school, participants had to be in-country at least one month and have at least six months remaining on their tour upon completion. Students also had to have a combat arms MOS and an actual or pending assignment to an LRRP unit. Finally, they had to be in excellent physical shape and be proficient in general military knowledge.

The school was open to soldiers and marines of the Free World Military Assistance Forces, including the South Vietnamese, Koreans, Australians, and Filipinos. Many U.S. Marines also attended the training.

The curriculum of the school included improving students’ skills in the areas of map reading, intelligence gathering, weapons training, and communications. Weapons training included a variety of American weapons as well as weapons used by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army. Particular attention was also given to mines and booby-traps. Communications covered the use of several different radios, field expedient antennas, and proper message writing techniques.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Recondo School trainees in the harsh rigors of long-range patrolling.

The school also gave advanced training in medical treatment, including the use of Ringer’s lactate solution and intravenous and intramuscular injections. Schooling also focused on air operations – especially the use of the UH-1 Huey helicopter for insertions and extractions. Forward Air Controller techniques were taught with students calling in live ordnance on a target.

Most importantly, the school taught patrolling.

Students learned different patrolling techniques, preparation, and organization. Proper patrol security was taught along with intelligence-gathering techniques. The students trained heavily in immediate action drills to react to or initiate enemy contact.

After over 300 hours of training, averaging over 12 hours per day, it was time for the students to take the final exam: an actual combat patrol.

In the early days of the program, the area the prospective graduates patrolled was relatively secure and quiet. As the war progressed, however, contact with the enemy became a given. This led to students saying “you bet your life” to graduate from Recondo School.

At least two students died in Recondo training with many others wounded. An unknown number of Viet Cong were also killed in the skirmishes during the “you bet your life” patrol. This led to the school itself receiving a nickname of its own: “the deadliest school on earth”.

In just over four years of operation, over 5,600 students attended Recondo school. Just 3,515 men graduated, not quite two-thirds of all who tried. Each student who graduated was awarded a Recondo patch, worn on the right breast pocket, and an individual Recondo number that was recorded in their 201 personnel file. The Honor Graduate from each class was also given a specially engraved Recondo knife.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
A Recondo graduate is presented with medals ca 1968.

Despite the school and its graduates’ success, Westmoreland’s successor, Gen. Creighton Abrams, officially closed the school on December 19, 1970. The Recondo name and training lived on, as some divisions continued to host their own Recondo schools until they were eventually closed too.

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How the “Little Groups of Paratroopers” became airborne legends

When paratroopers assaulted Sicily during the night of Jul. 9-10, 1943, they suffered some of the worst weather that could affect that kind of a mission.


The men were supposed to conduct two airborne assaults and form a buffer zone ahead of the 7th Army’s amphibious assault on the island, but winds of up to 40 knots blew them far off course.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Paratroopers board a Douglas C-47 Skytrain for Operation Husky. Photo: US Army

The 3,400 paratrooper assault took heavy losses before a single pair of boots even touched the ground. But what happened next would become airborne legend, the story of the “Little Groups Of Paratroopers” or “LGOPs.”

The LGOPs didn’t find cover or spend hours trying to regroup. They just rucked up wherever they were at and immediately began attacking everything nearby that happened to look like it belonged to the German or Italian militaries.

They tore down communications lines, demolished enemy infrastructure, set up both random and planned roadblocks, ambushed Axis forces, and killed everything in their path. A group of 16 German pillboxes that controlled key roads was even taken out despite the fact that the attacking force had a fraction of their planned strength.

This mischief had a profound effect on the defenders. The Axis assumed that the paratroopers were attacking in strength at each spot where a paratrooper assault was reported. So, while many LGOPs had only a few men, German estimates reported much stronger formations. The worst reports stated that there were 10 times as many attackers as were actually present.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
Troops and equipment come ashore on the first day of the invasion of Sicily. Photo: Royal Navy C. H. Parnall

German commanders were hard-pressed to rally against what seemed to be an overwhelming attack. Some conducted limited counterattacks at what turned out to be ghosts while others remained in defensive positions or, thinking they were overrun, surrendered to American forces a that were a fraction of their size.

The Axis soldiers’ problems were made worse by a lack of supplies and experience. Fierce resistance came from only a handful of units, most notably the Hermann Goering Division which conducted counter-attacks with motorized infantry, armored artillery, and Tiger I heavy tanks.

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
World War II paratroopers jump into combat. Photo: US Army

The Allied soldiers used naval gunfire to break up these counter-attacking columns whenever possible and fought tooth and nail with mortars and artillery to delay the tanks when naval gunfire was unavailable.

The American campaign was not without tragedy though. On Jul. 11, paratroopers from the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment were sent in to reinforce the American center which had struggled to gain much ground. Some naval and shore anti-aircraft batteries, weary from constant German bombing missions, had not been told that American planes would be coming in that night.

The gunners downed 23 of the transport planes packed with paratroopers and damaged 37 more. Of the 2,200 paratroopers scheduled to drop onto Sicily that night, 318 were killed or wounded by friendly fire.

Still, the operation was a success, thanks in large part to the actions of little groups of paratroopers wreaking havoc across the island until they could find a unit to form up with. Italian forces began withdrawing from the island on July 25 and Lt. Gen. George S. Patton took Mesina, the last major city on Sicily, on Aug. 17 only to find that the rest of the Axis forces there had withdrawn as well.

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The ‘combat diaper’ is getting a sleek upgrade

The Army’s new body armor designs — slated for fielding in 2019 — include a new protector for soldiers’ most sensitive parts. The harness system protects the femoral arteries, pelvis, and lower abdomen.


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A soldier wears the Blast Pelvic Protector, a replacement for the Protective Under Garment and Protective Outer Garment. (Photo: David Kamm)

The Blast Pelvic Protector will replace the Protective Outer Garment and Protective Under Garment, a two-piece system known as the “combat diaper” that was infamous for the chafing it caused in sensitive areas.

The POG and PUG have other issues besides causing chafing.

“The protection that existed before was letting debris in because it wasn’t fitted close enough to the body,” Cara Tuttle, an Army clothing designer and design lead for the harness said in a press release. “Soldiers weren’t wearing it often enough, and it didn’t come down inside of the leg to protect the femoral artery.”

Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities
The Blast Pelvic Protector is an outer garment that provides increased protection from IED blasts and is more comfortable than current protection. (Photo: David Kamm)

Surgeons then had to attempt to remove as many small particles from wounded soldiers as they could, increasing the chances of an infection or other complications from surgery.

The new Blast Pelvic Protector covers troops from the waist, down the inner thighs, and around the back to the buttocks. This allows it to guard most of the vulnerable soft tissue in the thighs and provides much more protection for the arteries. Overlapping layers make the fabric protection very effective.

“A layer overlaps in one direction, then the next layer overlaps in the opposite direction, and it keeps alternating,” Tuttle said. “This creates a better barrier for small [debris fragments], which would have to zig-zag through all these layers to get through.”

And the BPP was designed for combat operations.

A series of buckles along the outside of the thighs and a waist strap hold the device in place while providing freedom of movement. Hopefully, the system will also do away with the discomfort of the combat diaper.