Me as 'vibe coordinator' and other stories from military transition hell - We Are The Mighty
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Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell


After a three-year absence, I returned to the big city a cliché, another down-and-out veteran with no job and nowhere to live. A local nonprofit helped me find a studio apartment, but a job proved more elusive.

I designed my résumé using whatever software was on my Mac. Thanks to the post-9/11 GI Bill, I was able to attend college after the military, so in the education section I proudly listed my bachelor’s degree and the fact that I’m currently enrolled in grad school, pursuing an MFA in creative writing. For work experience, I listed my military highlights: “Responsible for the accountability and maintenance of all assigned equipment,” Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, and Army Commendation Medal. I even mentioned that I was honorably discharged. I left off the small detail about how the Department of Veterans Affairs has clinically diagnosed me with PTSD. Who cares?

With my résumé complete, I went on Craigslist and scrolled through the admin/office jobs, applying to every single one. Moments later, my phone rang. A lady said she liked my résumé and that her tech company was looking to hire a veteran for an open position, which she described as 30 hours per week of light office duties. The job title was “culture coordinator,” and they needed to hire someone ASAP because the incumbent was taking time off to go to art school.

Related: Watch Colby Buzzell’s most intense gunfight in this short animated video

When she asked if I knew what a culture coordinator was, I told her no. She explained it was someone in charge of getting snacks for everyone, keeping the game room and lounge up to par, and scheduling company happy hours and other “super-fun team activities.”

I bullshitted her about how I had plenty of experience with all of this in the military. In the army, I said, they had us do group activities such as close-quarters hand-to-hand combat training whereby we beat the shit out of each other; road marches that felt like prep for the Bataan Death March; and six-mile unit-formation runs at six o’clock in the fucking morning that we did while singing cadences. All of this, theoretically, helped build esprit de corps. This office job would be easy.

My friend Janie has worked in tech for years. She knew exactly what a culture coordinator was and laughed when I told her I was interested. They had several such coordinators where she worked, although they called them “vibe coordinators” or the “vibe team.” Most tech companies are fighting talent wars, with many employees staying only a year, if that, before defecting to another company. So, to save money on recruiting costs — and to minimize damage to morale — these companies staff vibe coordinators to make sure employees are happy and never want to leave.

One of Janie’s good friends is a vibe coordinator. She told me all about how there’s this one vegan girl in her office who constantly sends mean emails complaining about the lunches, snacks, treats, etc. — how they’re not providing enough vegan options for after-work snack time and how there was cheese in the salad at lunch.

“I was reminded of my kids’ daycare center while walking past bean bags, ping-pong tables, a bike shop, PlayStations, and even a drum set with guitars casually placed around it.”

I got a flashback from basic training. One time, while MREs (meals ready to eat) were being handed out, a private raised his hand and said, “Excuse me, drill sergeant? I can’t eat this. I’m a vegetarian.” And before this private asked whether he could switch to a vegetarian MRE, which do exist, the drill sergeant answered, “Well, I guess you don’t eat, then.”

God, I miss the military.

Janie told me about another time when someone emailed the vibe team to complain about being sunburned through the window in their office (which I’m not sure is even possible). Another time, some remote employees in North Carolina filed a request to “set up a webcam so we can all experience the company party.”

I tried to imagine how I would handle this.

To the vegan girl, I’d say, “Fine. You don’t like it; you don’t eat it. Problem solved.” The guy getting sunburned? Fuck him. I’d throw him a bottle of sunblock. The person wanting a webcam to view the office party? Yeah, sure, log onto www.gofuckyourself.com. The password is getthefuckouttahere.

I’d be perfect for this job.

Janie invited me to her office so I could meet their vibe team and ask whatever questions I had. It was a cavernous space with a contemporary open-floor plan. I was reminded of my kids’ daycare center while walking past bean bags, ping-pong tables, a bike shop, PlayStations, and even a drum set with guitars casually placed around it. We passed by several employees, many of whom appeared to be cleaned-up versions of bike messengers, while others resembled adult incarnations of those shy geeks you went to high school with, kids who were in the band, the academic decathlon, or the model UN (which Janie had been in). When I stumbled across a room containing nothing more than a hammock, Janie said it was one of many break rooms where she sometimes slept off a hangover.

In the office’s open kitchen, I met three members of the vibe team. All were female; all wore leggings; all were cute and around my age; and all were frantically chopping fruits and vegetables, laying out a dessert tray, and arranging plates of finger foods loaded with various local cheeses, charcuterie, and gourmet crackers. This was happening in front of a fridge fully stocked with an insane assortment of craft beer, bottles of which a couple of techies were casually drinking mid-afternoon. One member of the team told me all about how she coordinated weekly yoga classes and periodically brought in cooking teachers because people there loved anything and everything “foodie.” I took notes in my journal. My idea of fine dining is a super burrito at El Farolito.

Janie advised me not to dress like a square at my own interview, because this would give the company the wrong impression. Dress “casual,” she said. I didn’t have time to drop 100 pounds or grow a beard, and I thought wearing fake glasses was pushing it, so I wore new Vans, Levis, and a long-sleeve, collared shirt from Ben Sherman.

I arrived punctually on the day of my interview. A receptionist didn’t greet me — an iPad did. It was cemented by the front door, and after a couple of minutes violently pressing the buttons, I gave up and banged on the door. Nobody answered. I made a phone call. Minutes later, a woman ushered me into a conference room and told me to wait. On the whiteboard was a bunch of stuff that looked like hieroglyphics. Through the window I could see people at their desks in the open-floor plan, one guy sporting a tank top and surf shorts. A few minutes later, the woman returned with the office’s current culture coordinator (who had stylish hair and a fun-looking dress). After telling me about the position and how everyone got along and loved to do group activities together, the woman asked if I’d be comfortable coordinating a game of hopscotch.

Let me pause for a biographical note: I was a 240 gunner in the army. I loved to go out on combat missions wearing gratuitous amounts of 7.62 ammunition. My job in Iraq, which I was trained to do, was pull the trigger when necessary. I worked with a gun team. I had an assistant gunner assigned to me who carried binoculars and whose job was to point out targets. I had an ammo bearer who carried a tripod and extra boxes of ammunition.

I couldn’t remember the last time I played hopscotch; in fact, I couldn’t remember how to play hopscotch, but of course I told her I had no problem Googling how that particular game worked. I could lead a damn good game of hopscotch if that’s what was needed to boost morale. A mantra pounded into my skull in the army was, “You don’t have to like it. You just have to do it.”

After this I was asked a series of questions about why I was perfect for the job. Again, with a smile — which physically hurt my face, because I hardly ever smile — I told them I loved people, I loved working with people, and I loved interacting with people. Making sure other people are happy makes me happy, I said. It makes life fulfilling.

I had come prepared with a list of fun group activities, such as boxing lessons at the gym I go to on Polk Street and happy-hour events at the 21 Club. I offered to bring in my old battalion commander to give motivational speeches, and I even offered to set up a company Twitter account where I’d Tweet stuff throughout the day like, “Hey guys! Come and get it! There’s some kick-ass dim sum in the break room popping off right now!” Or “Stick around after work today because we’ve got some Girl Scouts coming in with bomb-ass cookies to peddle!” A Twitter feed would show other tech companies just how much fun we were having.

I never got around to sharing these ideas, because the woman abruptly ended the interview and said their CEO was on vacation. We’ll call to schedule a follow-up, she told me.

I left the interview in defeat, sure I’d never hear from her again, but a couple of days later she called to schedule a follow-up. They said they liked me and that they liked my answers; I couldn’t believe it.

This time, I met with the CEO. He was about my age and dressed as if he was wearing laundry left on the floor the night before. He started the interview by thanking me for my service and said he was looking to give thanks by hiring a veteran. I knew this was bullshit — he was just looking for a tax break — but I nodded and smiled.

I expressed to this guy how there was nothing in life I wanted more than this job. Which was true. This job would have been one of the best things that happened to me. I remember when I told my mental health physician at the VA how I sometimes stayed in my room alone for days staring blankly at the wall, thinking, “What’s the point?” She advised me to get out and talk to other people, say hi to the cashier at the grocery store, ask how their day was going. Or, if nothing else, I should force myself to hang out in coffee shops and participate in group activities that didn’t include dive bars and alcohol. This job would be perfect for me because I’d be forced to socialize with people all fucking day. I had to have it.

A couple of days after this interview, I received an email from HR that read, “Thank you, but we’ve decided to go in a different direction with this position.” I understood, but for a while I always wondered, what if?

Now that I work a job where an app on my phone tells me to pick up people and drive them from point A to point B, I no longer think about that job. During my drives, I’ve realized a couple of things about the city. One is that we’re all vibe coordinators. You either work in tech, talk about tech, cater to tech, or, like me, you drive tech around town. It’s about keeping the vibe right. After all, if they’re happy, you’re happy.

Right?

Colby Buzzell an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and the author of the books, My War: Killing Time in Iraq, Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey, and Thank You For Being Expendable Other Experiences (forthcoming from Byliner).  Check him out at http://www.colbybuzzell.com.

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Senator says the $400 million payment to Iran ‘put a price on the heads of Americans’

Was it ransom? That is the question that is now being asked as a Wall Street Journal report of a $400 million payment to Iran emerges. The money, reportedly Swiss francs and Euros that were provided by European countries, was delivered in pallets of cold, hard cash via unmarked cargo plane as four Americans were released back in January. Three of the Americans were flown out of Iran by the Swiss, while the fourth returned to the United States on his own.


Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Geneva. (Photo: U.S. Mission/Eric Bridiers)

Supposedly, the money was delivered as part of a $1.7 billion settlement surrounding an arms deal made before the fall of the Shah of Iran. Among the big components of that deal were guided-missile destroyers and F-16 fighters. The destroyers later were taken into service with the United States Navy as the Kidd-class destroyers, all of whom were named for admirals killed in action during World War II. The timing of that settlement, though, raised questions about whether the settlement was cover for a ransom payment. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, told The Wall Street Journal, “This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures.”

Cotton’s comments were echoed by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who served for over two decades in the Naval Reserve. “Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk. While Americans were relieved by Iran’s overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House’s policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages, including Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and Reza Shahini,” he said.

The senators’ comments seem to be backed by comments on Iranian state media by a high-ranking commander of the Basij, an Iranian militia force, who was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.”

Since the first payment in January, the three Americans mentioned in Senator Kirk’s statement have reportedly been seized by the Khameni regime, leading some to speculate as to whether or not Iran is seeking leverage to force the release of other frozen assets. One portion of those assets, $2 billion frozen in 2009, was awarded to the victims of Iranian-sponsored attacks in a case that was finally resolved by the Supreme Court.

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FOX News launches 8th consecutive year of ‘Proud American’ Memorial Day programming

FOX News announced the launch of their eighth straight year of Proud American for Memorial Day weekend. Across all platforms, the special programming will be devoted to America’s Armed Forces, veterans and the fallen heroes the holiday was created for. 

In commemoration of Memorial Day, the signature series will feature uplifting and powerful stories of active members of the U.S. military as well as its veterans. Additionally, in recognition of the 2021 edition of Proud American, FOX News Media will donate $25,000 to The Navy Seal Foundation and $15,000 to the USO effort to deliver meals to service members supporting COVID-19 vaccine missions.

The special coverage will begin Friday May 28, 2021 with Janice Dean of FOX and Friends going live at the Intrepid Air, Sea & Space Museum. The following afternoon, Griff Jenkins will be co-anchoring FOX News Live from the Marine Corps Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Marine Corps Memorial. USMC photo.

Also planned for the weekend lineup is Proud America: Tunnel to Towers Special, which will be hosted by Army veteran and FOX and Friends Weekend co-host, Pete Hegseth. The event takes place at Liberty State Park with the Freedom Tower in the background. The event itself is sponsored by the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and will bring viewers through the organization’s history and the families it’s served. 

With the 20th anniversary of 9/11 just on the horizon, it promises to be a deeply moving segment with interviews featuring the surviving families of those who died in the terrorist attacks. 

Hegseth will also be hosting another edition of his veteran show, Modern Warriors, later that evening. This time though, the title includes something new: Reflections. Viewers will hear and see the stories of four American warriors and other veterans as they share their experiences at war and the losses they mourn. 

Marine Corps and combat wounded veteran Johnny Joey Jones also put his voice on a 5-part podcast series that reminds Americans what the holiday is really about. Jones will also lead a two hour radio special for the network as well. 

The programming will also feature a special edition of Jason in the House with FOX News contributor and former Utah Congressman, Jason Chaffetz. 

Coverage of events throughout the country and America’s fallen will continue through to Memorial Day on Monday May 31, 2021. Through that somber day, active duty military members and veterans will receive access to FOX Nation for an entire year, free of charge. Individuals just have to click here to register.

FOX News Media and its representatives have stated that they are proud to continue the tradition of highlighting and honoring America’s heroes through Proud American.

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This plane left the SR-71 Blackbird in the dust

The SR-71 Blackbird was the fastest military jet that has ever taken to the skies. But there was a plane that not only went twice as fast, but it also went much higher.


That speedy plane was the North American X-15.

The X-15 was one of the first true spaceplanes, with a number of flights going beyond Earth’s atmosphere, according to a 2005 NASA release. It was capable of going over 4,500 mph, or nearly Mach 6, and it went as high as 354,200 feet – or just over 67 miles – above the Earth.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
North American X-15A. (NASA photo)

The plane didn’t actually take off from the ground. In fact, it needed the help of a B-52 bomber before it could reach those dizzying heights and super-high speeds. NASA used two of the first B-52s, an NB-52A known as the “High and Mighty One,” for some flights before a NB-52B known as “Balls 8” took over the duty.

Once released from the B-52 at an altitude of 45,000 feet and a speed of 500 miles per hour, the X-15’s Reaction Motors XLR-99 would activate providing 70,400 pounds of thrust, according to a NASA fact sheet. At most, the plane had two minutes of fuel.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
A X-15A with external fuel tanks and a new paint job is dropped from a NB-52 aircraft. (NASA photo)

Among the pilots who were at the controls of this marvel was Neil Armstrong – you’d know him as the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong didn’t get into space with this plane in any of his seven flights, but he did post the 6th-fastest speed among the X-15 sorties, according to an official NASA history.

One of those who achieved the rating of astronaut, Major Michael Adams, received the honor posthumously after he was killed in a crash of his X-15A on Nov. 15, 1967. Adams had broken the 50-mile barrier that the Air Force and NASA used to define entering space on his seventh and final flight, reaching an altitude of 266,000 feet and a top speed of 3,617 mph, according to the NASA history’s list of X-15 flights.

Below, take a look at the video from Curious Droid, which talks about the X-15 – and the awesome career it had.

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Here are 6 weapons the U.S. military should bring out of retirement

A combat trooper’s most important piece of gear is his weapon. And fortunately for the U.S. military, American arms makers have been for years at the cutting edge of weaponology, merging technology with practicality, durability, and accuracy to field some of the best arms in the world.


We all know that the choice of what to ultimately put in the hands of America’s warfighters is a tradeoff between a lot of different factors — and there are strong opinions on either side of the debate. Just strike up a conversation with a bar table full of gun nuts over .45 ACP versus 9mm and let the fur fly.

But those of us “people of the gun” still harken back to some of the iconic weapons in U.S. military history and like to think about how things might be different if the U.S. were to bring some of them out of mothballs and hand them back to the troops fighting America’s wars.

So here’s our list of six weapons (largely) consigned to history that we’d consider bringing back to the armory:

1. The M1 Carbine

You might not know it, but more M1 Carbines were produced during World War II than M1 Garands — about 500,000 more — and it became the standard issue long gun for paratroopers and support troops like mortarmen and artillerymen.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
More M1 Carbines were produced during World War II and M1 Garand rifles. And the .30 caliber firearm was so successful, it found a home with U.S. troops and their allies into the Vietnam war. (photo Wikimedia Commons)

Beloved for its short, 36-inch length and 6-pound weight, the M1 fired a fairly accurate .30 caliber rimless round that zinged at about 2,000 feet per second at the muzzle — that’s getting close to the speed of a standard mil spec 5.56 round. The M1 feeds from either a 15- or 30-round magazine, making it a killer in close quarters. So why not ditch the .300 Blackout and go retro?

And FYI, one of the M1’s original builders, Inland Manufacturing, has restarted the line and is selling these things like hotcakes.

2. The Browning Automatic Rifle

Really, all you need to say about the BAR is “thirty-ought-six.”

End of discussion.

Designed by John Browning in 1917 for the trenches of Europe, the BAR sits in a nether world of not quite a machine gun, not quite a rifle. Fed from a 20-round magazine, the BAR’s .30-06 round packs nearly 3,000 feet-per-second at the muzzle and can reach out well over 1,000 yards.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
The BAR was popular during World War II and saw action for several decades after. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Sure it weighs a whopping 16 pounds, and never mind that a BAR gunner in World War II was estimated by some to have an average lifespan of about 30 minutes. But with the popularity of the Mk-17 SCAR and it’s .308 round these days — not to mention the Marine Corps outfitting some of its designated marksmen with SR-25 .308 ARs — maybe the BAR should be given another chance.

3. Stoner 63/M63

Sure, the Stoner 63 was a maintenance headache, but its ground-breaking modular technology paved the way for predecessors like the Sig Sauer MCX and the early concept of the FN SCAR family of special operations rifles.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Chambered in 5.56 and designed primarily by Eugene Stoner, the father of the M16, the M63 was manufactured in a range of variants, including a light machine gun version with a 20-inch barrel fed from an open bolt to an assault rifle variant that fired from a closed bolt. Either fed from a standard 30-round magazine or a belt-fed drum, the Stoner 63 weighed anywhere from about 8 pounds to 12 pounds.

Manufactured in limited quantities in the 1960s, the Stoner 63 became a favorite of SEAL teams operating in Vietnam, before it was removed from the inventory in the 1970s in favor of the M249 SAW.

4. M79 Grenade Launcher

The M79 grenade launcher was America’s first attempt to meld the range of a mortar with the portability of a rifle grenade. The innovative “high-low propulsion system” kept recoil low while also reducing weight.

The single-shot, break-action M79 fired a 40mm grenade with a variety of warheads, including a specially-designed one for close-in combat (the regular 40mm grenade needed at least 30 meters to arm) and was used extensively in Vietnam. It was used and modified by special operations forces — including the SEALs and Special Forces — since its development in the 1960s and was eventually replaced by the M203 and later M320.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
The M79 was beloved by troops since Vietnam and still has a following in today’s military. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

But the M79 still had fans in more recent conflicts, with some arguing it had better range (about 400 meters) than the newer, Heckler Koch-built M320. It was even featured in the arsenal of bin Laden raid SEAL Mark Owen, which he dubbed the “pirate gun.”

5. 1911 Pistol

Ahhh, the M1911.

Literally one of the most revered guns in U.S. military history, the M1911 is one of the most comfortable and powerful semi-automatic handguns ever developed. It’s a favorite among competitive shooters (particularly more modern double-stack versions) and is still fielded in limited quantities to Marine Corps special operations troops — though that could change with greater adoption of the Glock 19 throughout SOCOM.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Marine Cpl. Alex Daigle fires at his target with an M45 1911 A1 pistol during a deck shoot aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Anna Albrecht/Released)

With his powerful .45 ACP round and a magazine-fed, seven-round capacity, the M1911 served as the standard American military sidearm for about 75 years. The M1911 was ditched in the 1980s in favor of the lighter, higher-capacity 9mm Beretta M9, but with the Pentagon looking to replace that pistol, many are wondering whether the 1911 should make a comeback.

6. Thompson Submachine Gun

Originally dubbed the “Annihilator” by its inventor, the Thompson is believed to be the first firearm to be formally designated a “submachine gun.” Operating a straight- or delayed-blowback action like a pistol, the Thompson fired the .45 ACP round like the M1911 and could be loaded with a 30-round “stick” magazine or a 100-round drum. Though it was developed as a trench sweeper for World War I, the Thompson saw most of its action in World War II.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
The Thompson submachine gun is one of the most recognizable firearms in American history and played a key role in World War II. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In all, about 1.5 million Thompsons were reportedly manufactured during World War II, but the gun suffered from a hefty 11-pound weight and is notoriously difficult to control in rapid fire. The Thompson was all but scrubbed from the U.S. inventory in the 1970s in favor of newer submachine gun designs firing 9mm ammunition like the HK MP5.

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 31 edition)

Greetings from WATM HQ in Hollywood and TGIF. Here are the headlines:


Now: The most incredible sieges in military history

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The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers

ABOARD THE COAST GUARD CUTTER STRATTON, in the eastern Pacific Ocean — The drone is loaded onto a catapult on the flight deck. From a control room, a technician revs the motor until the go-ahead is given to press the red button. Then the ScanEagle lifts off with a whoosh and, true to its lofty name, soars majestically over the wide blue sea.


The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Stratton is steaming more than 500 miles south of the Guatemala-El Salvador border, along the biggest narcotics smuggling corridor in the world.

Its mission: intercept vessels hauling cocaine bound for America’s cities.

It is a monumental task that has grown even larger in the past few years because of a boom in coca production in Colombia. But the Coast Guard is bringing more intelligence and technology to bear.

Deep within the 418-foot Stratton, which is based in Alameda, California, specialists crunch data from radar, infrared video, helicopter sorties and now the Boeing-made ScanEagle, which was deployed aboard the Coast Guard cutter for the first time during this three-month mission.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
PACIFIC OCEAN — Petty Officer 3rd Class John Cartwright, a Coast Guard Cutter Stratton crewmember, releases the Unmanned Aerial Surveillance aircraft Scan Eagle during a demonstration approximately 150 miles off the Pacific Coast, Aug. 12, 2012. The Scan Eagle is being tested for capabilities that will create a reliable reconnaissance system for all 11 Coast Guard missions. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Clayton.

“In the earlier days, when you wouldn’t see or catch anything, we used to pat ourselves on our back and say we must’ve deterred them,” said Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard, with more than four decades at sea. “Now rarely 72 hours go by when you don’t have an event or we send a ship down there that doesn’t come back with multiple interdictions.”

The Associated Press spent two weeks in February and March aboard the Stratton, the most advanced ship in the Coast Guard fleet, as 100-plus crew members patrolled the eastern Pacific, through which about 70 percent of the cocaine consumed in the U.S. passes.

With three to five Coast Guard cutters covering 6 million square miles — from the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to the eastern Pacific Ocean — it’s like having a few police cars watch over the entire lower 48 states.

Just after lunch on the second day of deployment, the Stratton’s PA system starts piping out acronyms. A TOI, or target of interest, has been detected by the ScanEagle with the support of aircraft radar, and a go-fast boat slides down a rear ramp into the blue waters to begin the chase.

In just a few minutes it catches up with a fishing boat, called a panga, with two outboard motors.

Sometimes smugglers frantically dump their cargo over the side or try to make a run for it, forcing their pursuers to fire warning shots or shoot out their engines. But this time, the boat’s crewmen, some of them barefoot, offer no resistance.

The four suspected smugglers sit handcuffed as a Coast Guardsman takes out some vials to conduct a chemical test. The results come back positive for cocaine, and the two Colombians and two Ecuadoreans are put aboard the cutter.

Hidden in the bales of cocaine is a GPS tracking device in a condom, a sure sign the drug bosses behind the shipment knew right away it didn’t reach its destination.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
PACIFIC OCEAN — The Unmanned Aerial Surveillance aircraft Scan Eagle watches the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton from afar during a demonstration approximately 150 miles off the Pacific Coast, Aug. 12, 2012. The Scan Eagle is being tested for capabilities that will create a reliable reconnaissance system for all 11 Coast Guard missions. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

At sunset, the Stratton’s crew proudly poses for a picture with the haul while a black plume rises above the sea where the boat was set ablaze by the Coast Guard. A few hours later, the Stratton fires its cannon and sinks the vessel.

The next morning the ever-rising Narcometer in the on-board newsletter reflects the size of the bust: 700 kilograms (over 1,500 pounds) of pure cocaine with a wholesale value of $21 million. On the streets in the U.S., it could be worth more than five times that.

The Stratton’s biggest bust — a Coast Guard record — came in 2015, when it found more than 16,000 pounds of cocaine worth $225 million before the smuggling craft, a hard-to-detect semi-submersible vessel, sank with some of its cargo still aboard.

As good as the Coast Guard gets, its victories seem doomed to be short-lived. That’s because hundreds of miles to the south, in the jungles of Colombia, there’s a bumper harvest taking place. And Colombia is virtually the only source of cocaine smuggled by sea in small vessels.

That, along with better technology, may help explain why the Coast Guard has been coming back with ever-larger hauls. It set a record in 2016, seizing more than 240 tons of cocaine with a wholesale value of $5.9 billion and arresting 585 smugglers.

Last year, the amount of land devoted to coca cultivation in Colombia climbed 18 percent to an estimated 188,000 hectares (465,000 acres), according to a White House report. That is more coca production than at any time since the U.S. in 1999 began investing billions in an anti-narcotics strategy known as Plan Colombia.

“What we know here out at sea is that the business has been really good in the last couple of years,” said Capt. Nathan Moore, the Stratton’s skipper.

The surge is being driven in part by Colombia’s decision in 2015 to suspend aerial spraying of crop-destroying herbicides because of health concerns.

At the same time, there was a rush among peasant farmers to start growing coca so they could take advantage of generous payments to switch to legal crops being offered as part of a peace deal between the government and Colombia’s rebels.

Thus far, 55,000 families have signed pledges to rip up 48,000 hectares of coca in exchange for as much as $12,000 over two years. The government is also expanding manual eradication of coca, a slower and far more dangerous task, with the goal of destroying 50,000 hectares this year alone.

But many experts are skeptical that poor farmers will renounce coca growing, especially as criminal gangs fill the void left by the retreating rebels. Also, a successful drug run can net each smuggler a small fortune that makes it well worth the risk of a long prison sentence for many.

Such dynamics help explain why, despite the Coast Guard’s technological superiority, four drug-running boats are thought to get through for every one caught, Zukunft said.

Those taken into custody for smuggling are put in white hazmat suits, given health exams and then led into a converted helicopter hangar aboard the Stratton, where they are shackled to the floor and issued a wool blanket, toiletries and a cot or a foam mat. Eventually they are flown to the U.S. and prosecuted at American expense.

The alternative would be to seek prosecution in Central American countries such as Honduras, where the vast majority of crimes go unpunished.

More than a dozen nations in Central and South America have essentially outsourced their drug-interdiction efforts to the U.S.

“Imagine you’re out at Ocean City, Maryland, and then out of nowhere comes this foreign helicopter and it starts peppering a U.S. recreational boat with automatic machine gun fire and sniper fire. We would say it’s an act of war,” Zukunft said.

“But that’s the faith and confidence these countries have in the U.S. and our Coast Guard.”

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17 photos that show how high schoolers are turned into badass Marine infantrymen

Marine Corps infantrymen are certified badasses capable of destroying enemy positions and forces with high levels of violence.


But wait, Marines aren’t born out of forges in the ground like Uruk-hai. So how does the Marine Corps take soft, pliable high school graduates barely able to work a condom and turn them into infantrymen capable of thrusting bayonets through enemy fighters like it ain’t no thang?

Well, first:

1. All Marines go through Marine Corps recruit training, starting off at the famous yellow footprints.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
New recruits of Charlie Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, receive a Uniform Code of Military Justice brief at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Angelica Annastas)

2. During recruit training, the recruits learn to accomplish basic military tasks and to cede their personal interests to the needs of the team.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
U.S. Marine Corps recruits with Company G, 2d Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, low crawl at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., Oct. 18, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Robert G. Gavaldon)

3. The 12 weeks of recruit training are, to say the least, uncomfortable. Lots of time crawling through sand and mud, ruck marching, and building muscle through repetitive stress.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
A U.S. Marine Corps recruit with Company G, 2d Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, low crawls through an obstacle during a training course at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., Oct. 18, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Robert G. Gavaldon)

4. But the future infantrymen get their first taste of combat training here, learning to stab with their bayonets and shoot with their rifles.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
A U.S. Marine Corps recruit with Company G, 2d Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, practices close combat techniques at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., Oct. 18, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Robert G. Gavaldon)

5. And of course, they get to work with the famously kind drill instructors.

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U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Roger T. Moore, a drill instructor with Company D, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, corrects a recruit aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., June 20, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Erick J. ClarosVillalta)

6. At the end of all of this, they earn the right to call themselves Marines and march in the graduation ceremony right before…

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A U.S. Marine with Company B, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, stands in formation before a graduation ceremony aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., June 17, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Erick J. ClarosVillalta)

7. …they’re sent to the Infantry Training Battalion for 59-days of learning, patrolling, and physical hardship.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East, observe their surroundings during a reconnaissance patrol as part of a field training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano)

8. The Marines learn a large number of new basic infantry skills and a few advanced infantry skills.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
A U.S. Marine assigned to Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, moves to contact during a field training exercise aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton)

9. Some of the most important skills are the less flashy ones, like land navigation …

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A U.S. Marine with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East, finds the azimuth during a field training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano)

10. …and long hikes.

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U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Eric A. Harshman, a combat instructor assigned to Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, takes accountability of Marines and gear during a conditioning hike aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton)

11. But of course, there are plenty of awesome trips to the range.

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A U.S. Marine with Kilo Company, Marine Combat Training Battalion (MCT), School of Infantry-East, fires an M240G Medium Machine gun during a live fire exercise on Camp Lejeune, N.C, Jan. 13, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano)

12. Marines learn to fire everything from machine guns and rifles to grenades and rockets.

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A U.S. Marine with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East, ejects a shell casing after firing an M203 grenade launcher during a live-fire range at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano)

13. Even those big, beautiful mortars will make an appearance.

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A U.S. Marine assigned to Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, fires an 81mm Mortar during a live-fire exercise aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton)

14. But the mother of all machine guns is probably the most beloved weapon in the arsenal: the M-2 .50-caliber machine gun.

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Marines with Company A, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-West (SOI-West), fire the M2A1 .50 caliber heavy machine gun as part of their basic infantry training Sept. 20, 2016, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. (Offical Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado)

15. Besides navigation and weapons skills, the Marines have to learn skills like how to administer first aid in combat.

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A U.S. Marine with Company F (Fox Co.), Marine Combat Training Battalion (MCT), School of Infantry-East treats a simulated casualty while conducting Military Operations in Urban Terrain during their Basic Skills Readiness Exercise (BSRE) aboard Camp Geiger, N.C., Jan. 31, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose Villalobosrocha).

16. But the crux of a Marine infantryman’s job is combat as a member of a rifle team.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
U.S. Marines with Company F (Fox Co.), Marine Combat Training Battalion (MCT), School of Infantry-East conduct Military Operations in Urban Terrain during their Basic Skills Readiness Exercise (BSRE) aboard Camp Geiger, N.C., Jan. 31, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose Villalobosrocha)

17. The culmination of all this training is the 24-hour Basic Skills Readiness Exercise where they’re assessed on everything they learned in training, ensuring that they are ready to perform as expeditionary warfighters around the world.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
U.S. Marines with Company F (Fox Co.), Marine Combat Training Battalion (MCT), School of Infantry-East conduct Military Operations in Urban Terrain during their Basic Skills Readiness Exercise (BSRE) aboard Camp Geiger, N.C., Jan. 31, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose Villalobosrocha)

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6 things that 330 Marines can do on their own

Russia recently announced that a nuclear strike was on the table after Norway allowed 330 U.S. Marines into the country.


Not 330 Marine divisions. Not 330 tanks and their crews. But 330 Marines with their personal gear.

You know, enough Marines to firmly hold a small town, but about 380,000 fewer troops than the U.S. used to invade Iraq.

But Russia has freaked out like this is a huge military force staged on their border instead of a couple of hundred troops 600 miles away. Frants Klintsevitsj, the deputy chairman of Russia’s defense and security committee, even went on national TV and said that Norway had been added to Russia’s target list for nuclear weapons.

Listen to the author and other veterans talk about the damage 330 U.S. Marines can do on the Mandatory Fun podcast

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It turns out that most people have been underestimating Marines since 330 of them are apparently such a strategic threat that it necessitates a nuclear deterrent. In light of this new information, here are six things that 330 Marines could do on their own:

1. Conquer Russia, obviously

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Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nicholas Lienemann

Clearly. Russia has basically admitted it.

2. Kill Xerxes and use his bones to beat the rest of the Persian Army to death

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
(Photo: Flickr/Guillaume Cattiaux)

The famed 300 Spartans at Thermopylae did a good job holding back the Persian forces, but they’re not a nuclear-equivalent force like the Marines are. And, the Marines enjoy a 10 percent size advantage against the Spartans. Expect the Marines to quickly cut their way through to Xerxes’ private traveling palace, dismantle the god-king, and use his bones as cudgels against the rest of the Persian army.

3. Install Gen. James Mattis as the Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Since Idi Amin died in 2003, the Earth has gone without a Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas. While Amin was seen as a lackluster Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas, this was mainly because he was more interested in being a tyrant of humans than anything else.

But, 330 Marines could easily quash the lions or any other animal who tries to claim dominion over our planet’s living creatures. This would allow them to install their favorite candidate for anything ever, Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis.

Also read: 15 quotes from Gen. Mad Dog’ Mattis, slayer of bodies

4. Stop the invasion of Mars currently being conducted by the legions of Hell

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
(Video capture: WATM Logan Nye)

Since the traitor Olivia Pierce opened a portal to Hell and allowed legions of demonic forces with jetpacks and arm cannons to invade Mars, America has been cut off from the formerly steady argent energy produced on the red planet. But with only 330 Marines, the world could be cleared in days. It might be done within hours if the Marines can find any more of that power armor and some BFGs.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

 

5. Conquer all of Westeros and sit on the Iron Throne

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
(Photo: Flickr/Pat Loika)

Seriously, it’s been six seasons already. It’s time for the Marines to end the ongoing instability of Westeros and install a strong leader. Mattis would be a great king if he’s not interested in beasts and fishes, but there are certainly other Devil Dogs who could sit on the throne. Rob Riggle might do it.

6. Claim the Arctic circle for America, including the parts that are already property of other countries

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
(Photo: YouTube/BBC Newsbeat)

A race for resources has slowly gotten underway in the Arctic, and the 330 Marines in Norway could go ahead and take over the whole area. Since the Arctic circle is only 310 miles north of the Marines training area at Vaernes, Norway, it would actually be easier for them to head to the Arctic than for them to attempt an invasion of Russia.

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Why the F-22 Raptor is using its eyes instead of its guns in the skies over Syria

The US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighter is playing a crucial yet evolving role in air operations over Syria and Iraq.


With advanced stealth technology and powerful sensors, the aircraft is the first coalition plane back in Syrian airspace after a major incident. Such was the case after the US downings of Syrian aircraft this month, as well as the US Navy’s Tomahawk missile strike on al Shayrat air base in April.

Notably missing from the high-profile shoot-downs, the fifth-generation aircraft made by Lockheed Martin Corp. isn’t necessarily showcasing its role as an air-to-air fighter in the conflict. Instead, the twin-engine jet is doing more deconflicting of airspace than dog-fighting, officials said.

“This is a counter-ISIS fight,” said Lt. Col. “Shell,” an F-22 pilot and commander of the 27th Squadron on rotation at a base in an undisclosed location, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that he be identified by his callsign.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth.

“ISIS doesn’t have advanced surface-to-air missiles, they don’t have an air force … but we are deconflicting the air space,” Shell said. “Not everyone is on the same frequencies,” he said, referring to the US, Russian, Syrian, and coalition aircraft operating over Syria. “Deconfliction with the Russian air force — that is one of the big things that we do.”

The pilot said the F-22’s ability to identify other aircraft — down to the airframe — and detect surface-to-air missiles and relay their existence to other friendly forces while remaining a low-observable radar profile makes it critical for the fight.

The Raptor is typically flying above other aircraft, though not as high as drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper and other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, Shell said.

The F-22, along with the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, “has really high fidelity sensors that we can detect when non-coalition aircraft are getting close,” he said, “and we can move the coalition aircraft around at altitude laterally, so that, for example, if a Russian formation or Syrian formation going into the same battlespace to counter ISIS, [they are] not at conflict with our fighters.”

Weapon of Choice: Small Diameter Bomb

Even so, to defend itself in the air and strike targets on the ground, “we carry a mixed load out,” Shell said.

The F-22 wields the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, the laser-guided GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, and the GPS-guided GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition.

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An F-22A Raptor fires an AIM-9M Sidewinder missile. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Small Diameter Bomb is more likely to be used, especially in the counter-ISIS fight in urban areas where the Raptor is conducting precision strikes, Shell said.

“We carry the low collateral damage weapon, the Small Diameter Bomb GBU-39, to precisely strike enemy combatants while protecting the civilian population,” he said. “We also can carry the 1,000-pound JDAM GBU-32 used for targets where there is less-to-little collateral damage concern,” meaning a larger blast for attack.

Location Isn’t ‘Scramble-able’

The Combined Air Operations Center, or CAOC, based in another location, develop the F-22’s mission tasking typically three days out, Shell said. For logistical purposes, all aircraft in theater don’t fly unless the mission is deemed critical, he said.

“Typical maintenance practices will not have every airplane airborne at once,” he said.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph Araiza

In addition, “We’re not in a scramble-able location,” he said. “We’re not [a dozen or so] miles away from the OIR fight — we have to drive.”

Between flying in Iraq and Syria, “there are different rules based on where we’re flying,” Shell said, stopping short of detailing each country’s rules of engagement and flight restrictions. “They’re minor in the technical details.”

‘The Only Thing That Can Survive’

During the Navy’s TLAM strike, “serendipitously,” there were more F-22s in the area of responsibility because some were getting ready to fly home while others were coming in, according to Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th Expeditionary Wing, which houses the F-22 mission in an undisclosed location for Operation Inherent Resolve, the Pentagon’s name for the anti-ISIS campaign.

After incidents like that, “We kind of go to F-22s only — fifth gen only” because “it’s the only thing that can survive in there,” he said, referring to the plane’s ability to fly in contested airspace despite the presence of anti-access aerial denial weapons.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
USAF photo by Master Sgt. John Gordinier

Should Russia paint coalition aircraft with surface-to-air missile systems, “the only thing we’ll put in there is F-22s,” Corcoran said. Leaders will then decide which types of fourth-generation fighter — like an F-16 Fighting Falcon with capable radars — and/or drone can return to the fight, he said. Only later would they allow “defenseless aircraft” such as tankers to circle back through taskings, he said.

“If an F-15 or an F-18 — which is really more of a ground-attack airplane — is busy doing this, they’re not available to do the close air support stuff, so if we [have] got to keep this up, we’re probably going to need some more forces over here that can do their dedicated jobs,” Corcoran said. That includes more “defensive counter air” assets like F-22s so the tactical fighters can drop more bombs “and get after ISIS,” he said.

‘We Can Bring More’

Given the nature of how the US air operation against ISIS has evolved in recent months, Shell acknowledged the possibility that commanders may decide to deploy more F-22s to the area of responsibility.

“The airplanes that we have here, it’s not the maximum we can bring, we can bring more if directed,” he said. With more Raptors in theater, “they would obviously task us more,” he said.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Orlando Corpuz

Shell said, “People often call us the quarterback [in the air]. I don’t like that because we’re not always in charge — there is a mission hierarchy … and most of the time it is not the F-22. We enhance the mission commander’s situational awareness by feeding him information based on off our sensors for him or her to make a decision.”

When asked if that meant the stealth fighter works as a “silent partner” gathering intel, he said, “We’re not really silent. We’re pretty vocal.”

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The US military is starting to recruit women for combat jobs

Just in time for the new, all-female Ghostbusters film, the Armed Forces of the United States is starting in earnest to recruit females to fill direct combat roles. This includes finding volunteers for Army and Marine Corps special operations and Navy SEAL teams. The Navy tells CBS News they’re already receiving SEAL submission packages from female candidates.


Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
U.S. Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) navigate their way through the obstacle course aboard, Camp Geiger, N.C. Delta Company is the first company at ITB with female students as part of a measured, deliberate and responsible collection of data on the performance of female Marines when executing existing infantry tasks and training events. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

If women start basic training immediately, they could be in combat units by fall. Plans released to the Associated Press from Defense Secretary Ash Carter predict low volunteer rates and low graduation projections for the more intense training courses.

All branches of service have made changes to their facilities to accommodate women and all pledge to monitor recruits to combat sexual harassment and assaults. Military service chiefs told the SECDEF that it could take up to three years to fully integrate women into all aspects of the military.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
U.S. Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) take a break after completing their 10k hike before navigating their way through the obstacle course aboard Camp Geiger, N.C. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Related: Top brass want women to register for the draft

The Marines estimate an influx of 200 women per year will make it into the USMC infantry and other combat roles. This would account for only 2% of the total Marine force. The Corps will ensure females will be assigned together to help mitigate risks. The Army plans to integrate by first assigning female officers to leadership roles in infantry and armor units. Historically, the Air Force and Navy only restricted women in special operations roles and on ships that had no berthing for females. With the new rules in effect, neither branch will change its assignment procedures.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Pfc. Julia Carroll eats a small meal after a six-hour patrol during patrol week of Infantry Training Battalion near Camp Geiger, N.C. on Oct. 31, 2013. Carroll is one of the first three females to ever graduate from Infantry Training Battalion. Patrol week is a five-day training event that teaches infantry students basic offensive, defensive and patrolling techniques. Delta Company is the first infantry training company to fully integrate female Marines into an entire training cycle. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The services plan to evaluate new recruits using new gender-neutral testing to ensure the would-be warriors can meet the demands of their desired military specialty.

We may have to wait until September or October to see our first female Navy SEALs, but we can catch the first female Ghostbusters in July.

 

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US identifies 3 troops reportedly killed by Afghan soldier

Several American servicemen have been killed and injured June 10 after coming under fire in a ‘green-on-blue’ attack in eastern Afghanistan, the Pentagon has announced.


“Three US soldiers were killed in eastern Afghanistan today,” the Pentagon said in a statement, adding, that another serviceman was wounded and is now receiving medical treatment.

The three serviceman were identified as Sgt. Eric M. Houck, 25, of Baltimore, Maryland; Sgt. William M. Bays, 29 of Barstow, California; and Corporal Dillon C. Baldridge, 22 of Youngsville, North Carolina. The soldiers were assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Company D, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, KY.

Earlier on June 10, Attahullah Khogyani, a provincial spokesman in Nangarhar province, said that two other soldiers were also injured in the attack, which was carried out by an Afghan soldier in the Achin district, where US and Afghan forces are carrying out joint operations against Taliban and Islamic State militants.

“Today at around noon an Afghan commando opened fire on US troops in Achin district, killing two American soldiers. The soldier was also killed in the return fire,” Khogyani told AFP.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
Soldiers salute the ensign as the National Anthem is being performed by the 392nd Fort Lee Army Band at the opening of the 7th the annual Run for the Fallen May 20 at Williams Stadium. (U.S. Army photo by Lesley Atkinson)

Taliban spokesman claimed the shooter was a part of the militant group and had killed four Americans and injured several more, but this has yet to be confirmed by government sources. The Achin district in eastern Nangarhar province, where the attack took place, is also thought to be a stronghold of IS.

“The cause of the shooting is not clear. An investigation has already begun,” Khogyani said, according to Reuters.

This type of incident, known as a ‘green-on-blue’ attack, is not uncommon in Afghanistan. In March, three American soldiers were wounded by an Afghan soldier at a base in Helmand province.

Members of the Afghan security forces, including the army and police, are often undisciplined, corrupt and/or have conflicting loyalties, which leaves these institutions vulnerable to infiltration by the Taliban and other militant groups. In the past, the Afghan government has been heavily criticized for its poor vetting process to weed out unsuitable or dangerous candidates.

The attack comes soon after a case of friendly fire against Afghan forces. On June 10, Afghan officials also confirmed that three policemen had been killed and two others wounded when a US aircraft opened fire during an operation in Helmand Province.

“We would like to express our deepest condolences to the families of the ABP [ Afghan Border Police] members affected by this unfortunate incident,” read a statement from the US military, as quoted by Reuters.

Afghan and American officials are investigating the incident.

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Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

There’s a mystique to battleships. Whenever inside-the-Beltway dwellers debate how to bulk up the US Navy fleet, odds are sentimentalists will clamor to return the Iowa-class dreadnoughts to service. Nor is the idea of bringing back grizzled World War II veterans as zany as it sounds.


We aren’t talking equipping the 1914-vintage USS Texas with superweapons to blast the Soviet Navy, or resurrecting the sunken Imperial Japanese Navy super-battleship Yamato for duty in outer space, or keeping USS Missouri battleworthy in case aliens menace the Hawaiian Islands. Such proposals are not mere whimsy.

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Built to duel Japan in World War II, in fact, battleships were recommissioned for the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. The last returned to action in 1988. The Iowa class sat in mothballs for about three decades after Korea (except for USS New Jersey, which returned to duty briefly during the Vietnam War). That’s about how long the battlewagons have been in retirement since the Cold War. History thus seems to indicate they could stage yet another comeback. This far removed from their past lives, though, it’s doubtful in the extreme that the operational return on investment would repay the cost, effort, and human capital necessary to bring them back to life.

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Numbers deceive. It cost the US Navy $1.7 billion in 1988 dollars to put four battlewagons back in service during the Reagan naval buildup. That comes to about $878 million per hull in 2017 dollars. This figure implies the navy could refurbish two ships bristling with firepower for the price of one Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. One copy of the latest-model Burke will set the taxpayers back $1.9 billion according to Congressional Budget Office figures. Two for the price of one: a low, low price! Or, better yet, the Navy could get two battlewagons for the price of three littoral combat ships—the modern equivalent of gunboats. Sounds like a good deal all around.

But colossal practical difficulties would work against reactivating the dreadnoughts at low cost, despite these superficially plausible figures. First of all, the vessels no longer belong to the US Navy. They’re museums. New Jersey and Missouri were struck from the Navy list during the 1990s. Engineers preserved Iowa and Wisconsin in “reactivation” status for quite some time, meaning they hypothetically could return to duty, but they, too, were struck from the rolls, in 2006. Sure, the US government could probably get them back during a national emergency, but resolving legal complications would consume time and money in peacetime.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell
USS Iowa (BB-61) fires a full broadside of her nine 16″/50 and six 5″/38 guns during a target exercise near Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. Photo from DoD.

Second, chronological age matters. A standard talking point among battleship enthusiasts holds that the Iowas resemble a little old lady’s car, an aged auto with little mileage on the odometer. A used-car salesman would laud its longevity, assuring would-be buyers they could put lots more miles on it. This, too, makes intuitive sense. My old ship, USS Wisconsin, amassed just fourteen years of steaming time despite deploying for World War II, Korea, and Desert Storm. At a time when the US Navy hopes to wring fifty years of life out of aircraft carriers and forty out of cruisers and destroyers, refitted battleships could seemingly serve for decades to come.

And it is true: stout battleship hulls could doubtless withstand the rigors of sea service. But what about their internals? Mechanical age tells only part of the story. Had the Iowa class remained in continuous service, with regular upkeep and overhauls, they probably could have steamed around for decades. After all, the World War II flattop USS Lexington served until 1991, the same year the Iowas retired. But they didn’t get that treatment during the decades they spent slumbering. As a consequence, battleships were already hard ships to maintain a quarter-century ago. Sailors had to scavenge spares from still older battleships. Machinists, welders, and shipfitters were constantly on the go fabricating replacements for worn-out parts dating from the 1930s or 1940s.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

This problem would be still worse another quarter-century on, and a decade-plus after the navy stopped preserving the vessels and their innards. Managing that problem would be far more expensive. An old joke among yachtsmen holds that a boat is a hole in the water into which the owner dumps money. A battleship would represent a far bigger hole in the water, devouring taxpayer dollars in bulk. Even if the US Navy could reactivate the Iowas for a pittance, the cost of operating and maintaining them could prove prohibitive. That’s why they were shut down in the 1990s, and time has done nothing to ease that remorseless logic.

Third, what about the big guns the Iowa class sports—naval rifles able to fling projectiles weighing the same as a VW Bug over twenty miles? These are the battleships’ signature weapon, and there is no counterpart to them in today’s fleet. Massive firepower might seem to justify the expense of recommissioning and maintaining the ships. But gun barrels wear out after being fired enough times. No one has manufactured replacement barrels for 16-inch, 50-caliber guns in decades, and the inventory of spares has evidently been scrapped or donated to museums. That shortage would cap the battleships’ combat usefulness.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

Nor, evidently, is there any safe ammunition for battleship big guns to fire. We used 1950s-vintage 16-inch rounds and powder during the 1980s and 1990s. Any such rounds still in existence are now over sixty years old, while the US Navy is apparently looking to demilitarize and dispose of them. Gearing up to produce barrels and ammunition in small batches would represent a non-starter for defense firms. The navy recently canceled the destroyer USS Zumwalt‘s advanced gun rounds because costs spiraled above $800,000 apiece. That was a function of ordering few munitions for what is just a three-ship class. Ammunition was simply mot affordable. Modernized Iowas would find themselves in the same predicament, if not more so.

And lastly, it’s unclear where the US Navy would find the human expertise to operate 16-inch gun turrets or the M-type Babcock & Wilcox boilers that propel and power battleships. No one has trained on these systems since 1991, meaning experts in using and maintaining them have, ahem, aged and grown rusty at their profession. Heck, steam engineers are in short supply, full stop, as the Navy turns to electric drive, gas turbines, and diesel engines to propel its ships. Older amphibious helicopter docks are steam-powered, but even this contingent is getting a gradual divorce from steam as newer LHDs driven by gas turbines join the fleet while their steam-propelled forebears approach decommissioning.

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

Steam isn’t dead, then, but it is a technology of the past—just like 16-inch guns. Technicians are few and dwindling in numbers while battleship crews would demand them in large numbers. I rank among the youngest mariners to have operated battleship guns and propulsion-plant machinery in yesteryear, and trust me, folks: you don’t want the US Navy conscripting me to regain my proficiency in engineering and weapons after twenty-six years away from it, let alone training youngsters to operate elderly hardware themselves. In short, it’s as tough to regenerate human capital as it is to rejuvenate the material dimension after a long lapse. The human factor—all by itself—could constitute a showstopper for battleship reactivation.

Battleships still have much to contribute to fleet design, just not as active surface combatants. Alfred Thayer Mahan describes a capital ship—the core of any battle fleet—as a vessel able to dish out and absorb punishment against a peer navy. While surface combatants pack plenty of offensive punch nowadays, the innate capacity to take a punch is something that has been lost in today’s lightly armored warships. Naval architects could do worse than study the battleships’ history and design philosophy, rediscovering what it means to construct a true capital ship. The US Navy would be better off for their inquiry.

Let’s learn what we can from the past—but leave battleship reactivation to science fiction.

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