The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
WATERS NEAR GUAM (Aug. 12, 2015) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) fires a Harpoon missile during a live-fire drill.
Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Dionne/USN
PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 11, 2015) An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Raptors of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 prepares to land aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) as the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung Hoon (DDG 93) follows behind during a show of force transit.
Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andre T. Richard/USN
SAN DIEGO (Aug. 11, 2015) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 3rd Class Eric Brown moves his belongings from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 76) to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).
Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane/USN
A Marine with 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, engages his target during a deck shoot aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex. The Marines practiced shooting from behind a barricade to simulate staying behind cover during a fire fight.
Photo by: Cpl. Elize McKelvey/USMC
Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa practice clearing a house during a two-week infantry training package, August 4-15, 2015, aboard Naval Station Rota, Spain.
Photo by: Staff Sgt. Vitaliy Rusavskiy/USMC
Staff Sgt. Fred Frizzell, an 823rd Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron pavements and construction equipment operator, operates a drilling rig at a well site in Brisas del Mar, Honduras.
Photo by: Capt. David J. Murphy/USAF
Maintainers with the 801st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron were flown out to Eglin Range Complex, Fla., to perform routine repairs on a CV-22B Osprey.
Photo by: Senior Airman Christopher Callaway/USAF
Soldiers, assigned to 4th Squadron, 2D Cavalry Regiment, paddle across a lake on a water obstacle course, created by Polish soldiers from the 6th Airborne Brigade, during Operation Atlantic Resolve, at the Nowa Deba Training Area, Poland.
Photo by: Spc. Marcus Floyd/US Army
Soldiers, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, move through the smoke to clear their next objective during a live-fire exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Photo by: Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez/US Army
Thank you all for following CGC JAMES as we continue on with our inaugural adventure. These past few days have been remarkable and we look forward to continue to honor Joshua James’ memory and legacy.
Photo by: Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelley/USCG
CGC Stratton crewmembers open a semi-submersible in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
When Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released in March of 2016, the thought of two colossal superheroes clashing on the big screen brought out huge box office numbers for its opening weekend. But despite the initial hype, the pedestrian offering saw a huge drop-off in enthusiasm the following week, as poor word-of-mouth reviews plagued it: the final product, as usual, not living up to expectations
Batman versus Superman, on its face, seems such an intriguing construct though. We are unabashedly drawn to comparisons like Willie v The Mick, the US Government v John Gotti, et al, and iPhone v Android.
But what if we were to compare two REAL superhero castings? Let’s say, the US Army’s Rangers and the US Navy’s SEALS. And just for sh*ts and giggles, what if we compared their individual crucibles — their selection processes — and attempted to discern which was the harbinger for guaranteed future toughness or success? Let’s attempt to glean which selection program applied the most pain to its candidates. Is graduating from Ranger School a more daunting task than making it through the Navy’s difficult Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training? And is earning a Ranger tab easier or more difficult than being awarded a SEAL Trident?
And, which course actually results in more drop on requests–a fancy term for quitting? And how can we compare completion rates?
The comparative analysis is difficult. To my knowledge, I haven’t heard of any former Rangers or SEALS transferring service branches and then embarking on the pursuit of their new branch’s most elite distinction. Maybe there does exist the unique American stud — or committed glutton for punishment — who chose this path of dual misery, and accomplishment. But I haven’t come across any stories chronicling some. With this in mind, I am going to share my reflections on some unique experiences I was privileged to have been afforded during my thirty-three years of government service.
That professional service began when I graduated from West Point in 1987 and was branched as an officer into the Infantry. During the course of my four-year military career, I attended Army Ranger school and graduated with class 4-88. I turned 23 while incarcerated in the mountain phase, endlessly trekking up and down the formidable peaks of the Tennessee Valley Divide. While I wasn’t the class Honor Graduate, I did fairly well throughout the demanding course of instruction and was lucky enough to graduate with my tab, on time, and without being recycled to repeat a phase.
I served during the Cold War Era and the American military buildup precipitated by President Reagan’s stare-down of the Soviets. The 10th Mountain Division had just been reconstituted in 1985, following its long dormancy beginning when WWII ended. Officers and non-coms were selected for the unit’s rebirth only if they possessed the coveted tab. Division brass was intent on modeling the 10th after the Ranger battalions. My assignment to the 10th was contingent on my graduation from Ranger School. Failure to graduate meant a reassignment to the 197th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized), and the embarrassing stigmatization that would assuredly follow that failure.
From those fledgling days of (re)existence, the 10th Mountain Division has now distinguished itself as a solid and repeatedly deployed war-fighting machine in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it’s mid-1980’s formation with Ranger leadership was critical to its early success and reestablished prestige as a unit. So, in mid-March of 1988, I arrived at 2-14 Infantry battalion headquarters in my starched BDU’s with freshly attached Ranger tab.
The tab carries with it a certain distinction. And that respect for its woven black and gold threads stems from the hardship endured to earn it — the US military being one of the last bastions of meritocracy in this new 21st century era of everyone-gets-a-trophy.
Historically, the failure rate at the US Army Ranger School fluctuates between 50% – 65%. A portion of those failures, DORs, are self-inflicted. There doesn’t appear to be available statistical data that highlights just how many of those failures are related to DORs.
So, after ETSing from the Army on February 1, 1991, I packed up my quarters at Ft. Drum, NY, loaded my then-wife, newborn son, and two rescue dogs into my ’88 Chevy Blazer, and headed south to the FBI Academy at Quantico, VA, where I began the 20-week course to become an FBI Special Agent. In June of same year, I posted to the FBI’s New York City Office’s Brooklyn-Queens Metropolitan Resident Agency, and began a proud 25-year career as a Fed.
Along the way, I was selected for the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, where I served as a counter-terrorist operator on Echo Assault Team from 1997 – 2001.
And in the Fall of 1998, while serving as one of Echo Team’s divers, and recently returned from deployments to Africa (US Embassy bombings) and North Carolina’s Nantahala Forest (search for ’96 Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph), I was suddenly tapped to deploy to Coronado, California, with three of my fellow HRT diver teammates, for a once in a lifetime experience.
I was an “old man,” all of 33 years. And though I was in peak physical condition, having spent almost a year and a half lifting, and running, and training at a HIGH level … I was in for a rude awakening.
It was September of 1998, and Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I checked into the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado and were officially informed we’d be joining BUD/S class 220. We had just offloaded our rental cars and strode across the sand dunes separating the BUD/S compound from the Pacific Ocean. Worst thing we could have done was to time our arrival with the conduct of Hell Week for BUD/S class 221. Long before casual observers had been treated to Discovery Channel documentaries on the course of instruction to become a SEAL, the four of us took in the spectacle.
Exhausted youngsters — many between 18 – 20 years old — slogging along at the water’s edge, ferrying inflatable RHIBs, lifting massive logs over their heads, performing a staggering amount of “corrective actions” — flutter kicks, crunches, push-ups, and bear crawls. All accompanied by the monotonous, annoying, and ever-present Instructor “motivationals” echoed through a hand-held loud-hailer.
After we’d ingested all the observed pain and misery we could and signed in at NWSC, my HRT colleagues and I made our way over to the Second Phase HQ, a low-profile, nondescript group of single-story military buildings, and introduced ourselves to the cadre.
“All good,” the congenial class proctor stated. Get over to the BOQ on Mainside. Drop your gear off, change into UDT shorts and your yellow HRT PT shirts, and we’ll meet you at the pool for your qualifying PT test — 500 meter swim, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and mile and a half run in Bates brand combat boots. We even rolled our wool socks down over our boots exactly the way the SEALs did.
When in Rome…
And so it began. After easily completing the fit test required of all BUD/S aspirants, we joined class 220 as they began the initial stages of Phase Two. The classroom portions on Dive Physics weren’t too daunting — the four of us had the benefit of college degrees — but the daily regimen of early morning PT was an eye-opener. Yes, the four of us were quite fit. But we were also in our thirties, and didn’t take part in the same skill-specific training one receives in the BUD/S preparatory course the Navy offered its young sailors interested in becoming frogmen. And we didn’t have the benefit of true youth. If we were professional athletes, we’d be desperately trying to find an organization to sign us, so we could come off the bench, with a head coach “managing our minutes.”
We also didn’t have the benefit of having taken part in the first phase of BUD/S; that unforgiving crucible that weeds out the weak and strengthens the committed. The relationship between the USN and HRT was a long and durable one. Many of the early generation FBI-HRT operators had been SEALs (as well as former Rangers, Green Berets, and Marines). Compared to the military’s special operations units, HRT was an infant, having come on line in 1983, as a civilian counter-terrorist option for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. The ’72 debacle in Munich was a not-so-distant memory. And US law precluded the military from acting as law enforcement inside the United States.
So, here’s the thing: While I was certainly younger and my body more resilient as a 23-year-old when I completed Ranger School, ten years later, when I attended the Dive Phase of BUD/S — open circuit (SCUBA) and closed circuit (LAR-V rebreather) — with my HRT colleagues, I was certainly more experienced, savvy, and skillful at my craft. But that didn’t aid in the recovery time my body desperately needed between evolutions at BUD/S. Every night, the four of us limped back to our BOQ and attempted to “heal” before the fun began again the next morning, bright and early.
On the ground (or in the sand), we were the BUD/S students equals. We four were strong runners and could complete the grinders of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, flutter kicks, and crunches as well as any of the kids in 220. On the beach, during timed four mile runs, we were more than their equals, often having to hold back so as not to bring the SEAL Instructors’ wrath down upon our classmates, as in:
“Hey, you pathetic pieces of human filth and fecal matter, why are you letting these old-ass FBI-HRT guys beat you on a timed run? You’ll all be ‘paying the man’ if you allow this to happen again!”
Yes, the typical SEAL Instructor was wicked smart and imbued with a great sense of wit and timing.
We reined in our run times, not wanting to cause any more pain to the young men who so graciously accepted us into their fraternity — despite the fact we hadn’t shared the excruciating pain of First Phase and Hell Week with them.
One of the most special gifts I’ve ever received in the course of my life was to be afforded a Hell Week t-shirt from BUD/S class 220. This class-specific attire made us feel a part — if only for a moment — of their exclusive club. It was truly an honor and I cherish the now tattered shirt emblazoned with the class motto that borrowed from William Ernest Henley’s short and powerful Victorian poem Invictus:
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
During the course of our “internment” at BUD/S, we also participated in the required weekly SEAL Obstacle Course completion. It was an ass-kicker. And again, as I reminisced about my days at Ranger School and tangling with the infamous Darby Queen Obstacle Course, I have to give this round to the SEALs, as well. In the summer of 1998, we HRT guys were fit, relatively young, nimble, agile, and strong. We had all the necessary tools required to excel at the SEAL Obstacle Course. But it was still a daunting task to make the required times. We did so, narrowly, and aided by the Instructor allowance for us to use a rope traversing technique that wasn’t available to the BUD/S students in Second Phase. [Full disclosure: we were also permitted to discreetly utilize calculators for the long division and multiplication required in the classroom on the dive physics exams]
Well, as proficient as we HRT guys found ourselves in PT, on the sand dunes and while partaking in the dreaded “soft sand runs,” we quickly ascertained that the water, however, was a different story altogether. Here’s where those same young kids flat-out kicked our assess. On the weekly open-water two-mile swims, Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I were “competent.” We were all notably strong swimmers who had been hand selected by HRT Dive Team cadre to “represent” at BUD/S.
While we consistently barely made the required times, we were often the last, or next to last teams to come in.
But we were in no condition to compete with the damn dolphins that BUD/S students typically morphed into by Second Phase. The water became our Waterloo of sorts.
But it was pool competition, or pool comp in SEAL shorthand, that really cemented for me what the BUD/S experience was about, and just why SEALs are a cut above all others in the Special Operations community.
And, yes, we four HRT guys participated in pool comp.
And, again, it was another eye-opener.
SEAL Instructors had their own comically dreadful names for the knots they would tie in your hoses underwater. As a BUD/S student, your job was to diligently cycle through a sequence of trouble-shooting procedures to untangle the mess of knotted hoses and restore your air supply…while on a breath-hold. And you had to do so without exhibiting any signs of panic. We were treated to the Matlock and the Babilock — two impossibly difficult and deviously conceived knots named after two particular SEALs on the cadre. Failure to extricate your gear from the wicked devices of the seasoned knot-tying instructors OR failure to work through the prescribed sequence for trouble-shooting your crippled gear led to a failure. Two failures in the same event and you earned a rollback — just like the nefarious recycle at Ranger School — to the next class, if you were lucky not to be dropped from the course.
There’s a reason that, as Rob O’Neill, former SEAL Team Six counter-terror operator — the man who killed Bin Laden — stated to Howard Stern recently, on his eponymous Sirius radio program, that some 85% of BUD/S attendees don’t graduate.
BUD/S is tough — even the teensy-weensy taste of it that I experienced. It’s REALLY tough. And it sucks.
Ranger School was “uncomfortable” and difficult for all the reasons that include sleep deprivation, starvation, and relentless physical overexertion. It was a grind. And reports from recent graduates confirm it’s STILL a grind.
At BUD/S, however, they fed you lots of chow, and in Second Phase, getting eight solid hours of sleep was never an issue. But just as in Ranger School, you had to perform, to make sound decisions, to accomplish critical military tasks and objectives when your body was futilely attempting to heal, and always with the overzealous instructors omnipresent in your ear…
…but you did it at depth.
Whether at the bottom of the 15-foot pool, on the Coronado Bay side, or in the unforgiving waters of the Pacific Ocean, performing at depth takes special operations training to another level entirely. We were forced to conduct doff and don procedures, and buddy-breathing exercises — you know, like sharing the same oxygen supply at depth and while performing tasks like an equipment exchange. There were insanely long breath-holds, while enduring the Instructor-assaults associated with the dreaded pool comp. Then there was the archaic (by design) and cumbersome Jacques Cousteau era twin 80’s tanks and leaky two-hose regulators which made for a purposeful panic-induced set of pass/fail evolutions. Yes, I believe the experiences to be the closest thing to waterboarding — sanctioned “almost-drowning” — that there is. And it’s legal!
Learning to dive with the Dräger (or Draeger) closed circuit rebreather gear — the LAR-V — was the purpose behind sending HRT divers to BUD/S. So, no, in a civilian law enforcement capacity, there’s no need to learn the craft of placing limpet mines on enemy ship hulls. However, learning the advanced system of transit-diving that allows an operator to approach a target underwater, bereft of telltale bubbles is a key skillset for HRT to have at its disposal. That was the purpose behind the relationship we had with the Navy and is how we ended up enrolled in the Second Phase of BUD/S.
The advanced dive skills we learned were necessary. The voluntary participation in PT and mild hazing — being dropped for push-ups or forced to become “wet and sandy” — the “sugar cookie” punishment — was part of earning our stripes and being accepted as outsiders within the close-knit SEAL and BUD/S community.
Make no mistake about it — we weren’t to become SEALs and weren’t subjected to a fraction of what the Navy candidates endured, but we certainly gained a modicum of appreciation for the process.
And again, as difficult as Ranger School was to complete, the 8 weeks I spent at BUD/S proved that there’s a clear distinction between difficult and difficult-at-depth.
Apologies, fellow Rangers, but this round goes to the Navy’s SEALs. I’ve been up close and personal with both Selection processes. 81 torturous days at Ranger School did not compare to the tiny portion of the year of misery available to BUD/S candidates that I experienced.
Rangers, can I get a Hooah!
And SEALs, while we’re at it, how about a Hooyah!
And let’s forever remember that we’re ALL part of the same team!
God bless the United States of America and God bless and protect our brave Special Operators who continue to confidently stride into places full of wrath and tears, and do so bravely, selflessly and willingly.
The next time you venture into the dark netherworld of rants about Obama or Osama bin Laden conspiracy theories that is the internet comments section, you may be viewing the work of a professional “troll” in Moscow.
In The New York Times Magazine, journalist Adrian Chen writes a fascinating story about a pro-Kremlin company called The Internet Research Agency headquartered in St. Petersburg, Russia. It’s mission: Spread propaganda far and wide, from the discussion sections of news websites to Facebook comment threads.
Inside the nondescript building, twenty-something-aged employees work 12-hour shifts for great pay, while managers obsess over employees meeting their daily quotas of writing political and nonpolitical posts, and hundreds of comments.
Every day at the Internet Research Agency was essentially the same, Savchuk told me. The first thing employees did upon arriving at their desks was to switch on an Internet proxy service, which hid their I.P. addresses from the places they posted; those digital addresses can sometimes be used to reveal the real identity of the poster. Savchuk would be given a list of the opinions she was responsible for promulgating that day. Workers received a constant stream of “technical tasks” — point-by-point exegeses of the themes they were to address, all pegged to the latest news. Ukraine was always a major topic, because of the civil war there between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian Army; Savchuk and her co-workers would post comments that disparaged the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, and highlighted Ukrainian Army atrocities. Russian domestic affairs were also a major topic. Last year, after a financial crisis hit Russia and the ruble collapsed, the professional trolls left optimistic posts about the pace of recovery. Savchuk also says that in March, after the opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was murdered, she and her entire team were moved to the department that left comments on the websites of Russian news outlets and ordered to suggest that the opposition itself had set up the murder.
It’s a fascinating story that should make anyone weary of reading anonymous comments on the internet. Though as BoingBoing notes, these types of organizations are not just a Russian product. China — and yes, even the United States — also employ people to do essentially the same thing.
But Russia’s Internet Research Agency certainly takes it to the next level, as Chen writes that it had “industrialized the art of trolling.”
“It’s definitely made me more paranoid about, you know, what’s on Twitter, what’s on Facebook,” Chen told NPR’s Audie Cornish in an interview. “One thing that really struck me was how big of an impact, you know, a relatively small number of people who are working in a determined manner to shape the dialogue on the Internet can have.”
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, which is slated to replace the High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or Humvee), entered low-rate initial production this year. But while it faces the challenge of replacing an iconic vehicle (much as the HMMWV replaced the jeep), it is getting a little help from another icon, the AH-64 Apache.
Not that the HMMWV couldn’t carry some decent firepower. It has operated the M2 heavy machine gun, the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher, and the BGM-71 Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided missile (TOW). That said, here’s its problem: The M2 and Mk 19 are more suited to take out infantry and trucks than to take on armored vehicles. Granted, even a HMMWV could carry a lot of ammo for those weapons. Using those weapons against a BMP would be like shooting an elephant with a .22.
So, the JLTV, to paraphrase an Army NCO from the 1998 version of “Godzilla,” needed a bigger gun. But what sort of gun? The JLTV couldn’t quite manage the M242 Bushmaster used on the M2/M3 Bradley or the LAV-25 and still have enough ammo and still be able to carry up to six troops. Then, the Army looked to the Apache.
At 160 pounds, the M230 cannon on the Apache is lighter than the M242 (262 pounds), but the 30mm round it fires can easily take out most light vehicles, particularly the BRDM-2, a likely opponent. The M230 can also take out a number of armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, like the BTR-80 or BMP.
The M2 made a similar journey. While initially intended as an anti-tank weapon, Ma Deuce gained its biggest notoriety as the main armament of American fighters like the P-51, F4U, and P-38 during World War II. Even in the Korean War, it served as the primary armament for the F-86, before being displaced by 20mm cannon.
Using the M230 is also a benefit for lighter units like the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Air Assault Division. Since the AH-64s with those units use the M230 already, there is no need to add a new gun and all the spare parts and ammo into the supply chain for those divisions. That makes life a little easier for the valuable logistics personnel while the front-line grunts get a bit more firepower.
Check out five reasons why veterans deal with problems better than anybody.
5. We improvise, adapt, and overcome
No mission ever goes as expected. Although we plan for what we think might happen, there’s always a hiccup or two. We pride ourselves on our ability to think on our toes, come up with plans, and solve problems in ways civilians couldn’t fathom.
That’s our thing!
4. We negotiate well under pressure
Many people freeze up when conflict arises. The military trains us to think under pressure and continue to execute until the mission is completed. We tend to carry that impressive trait over to the civilian workforce.
3. We learned to delegate responsibility
In the military, we’re trained to look for our team members’ strengths and positively utilize those traits. Not everyone can be great at everything. Focusing on individual talents builds confidence, which yields the best results when they’re tasked with a crucial mission.
Most civilians stay away from certain responsibilities if they know it’ll lead to a rough journey down the road.
We can tell. (Image via GIPHY)
2. Our experience alone solves issues
Most military personnel travel the world and encounter the problematic events that life throws at us. These experiences give us a worldly knowledge and teach us how we can better work with others outside of our comfort zone.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Two HC-130J Combat King IIs sit on the flightline in preparation for cargo unload at Diyarbakir Air Base, Turkey, Sept. 28, 2015. The aircraft deployed to Diyarbakir AB in an effort to enhance coalition capabilities and support personnel recovery operations in Syria and Iraq.
Ellsworth Honor Guardsmen practice live-firing party movements at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Feb. 9, 2015. The firing party ceremonial tradition dates back to the Civil War, and consists of firing three rounds to symbolize the removal of fallen soldiers from the battlefield.
Soldiers, assigned to 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, conduct gunnery with an M1A2 Abrams battle tank during Exercise#CombinedResolve V at 7th Army JMTC in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Oct. 8, 2015.
A Soldier, assigned to 4th Squadron, 2D Cavalry Regiment, loads ammunition into a Stryker armored vehicle during a live-fire range at Bakony Combat Training Centre, Veszprem, Hungary, Oct. 5, 2015.
SAN DIEGO (Oct 3, 2015) U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, perform a high-speed diamond break-away maneuver at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Air Show. The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform 68 demonstrations at 35 locations across the U.S. in 2015.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 6, 2015) An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 prepares for take-off aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). The F-35C Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force is conducting follow-on sea trials.
Two FA-18 Jets are displayed in front of the Wall of Fire during the Marine Corps Community Services sponsored 2015 Air Show aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, California, Oct. 3, 2015.
Security Force Marines conduct a live-fire table five range in Southwest Asia, September, 29, 2015. The range tested the Marines ability to move, shoot and communicate ensuring the units mission readiness. The SPMAGTF-CR-CC provides the Commander, U.S. Central Command with a wide array of crisis response and contingency options across the 20 countries in the Area of Operations.
Is this an indication of a great weekend? A double rainbow was captured over the United States Coast Guard Barque EAGLE at the USCG Yard in Baltimore this morning.
Coast Guard Air Station Los Angeles crew conducts cliff rescue operation training near Point Vicente Lighthouse in Rancho Palos Verde, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. This training is conducted in an effort to keep crews proficient in cliff-side rescue operations.
One of “Murphy’s Laws of Combat” is that “The best tank killer is another tank. Therefore tanks are always fighting each other … and have no time to help the infantry.”
One of the reasons this rings true is because the rounds used by tanks to kill tanks are so darn effective.
The round that became known as the “Silver Bullet” from American tanks is the M829A1 for the M256 main gun on the M1A1/M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks used by the Army and Marine Corps (plus the Saudis, Egyptians, Moroccans, Australians, Kuwaitis, and Iraqis). This round uses a hardened dart dubbed a “sabot” to punch through an enemy tank.
And the M829A1 did a lot of that in Desert Storm.
The M829A1 is an armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot – APFSDS – round. The long-rod penetrator is usually no more than 1.25 inches wide and is held in a “shoe” that enables it to be fired in a gun whose bore is a little under five inches long. When the round is fired and exits the barrel, the shoe flies off, and the round is on its way.
The long-rod penetrator then flies downrange towards the target. Once it hits, the round just punches through the armor. The result is the enemy tank tends to blow up in what tankers call a “Jack in the box.”
How well does it work? Well, in Tom Clancy’s “Armored Cav,” the stories abound. One “silver bullet” killed two T-72s with one shot. Another, fired from an Abrams tank that was stuck in the mud, penetrated a sand berm before it blew up a T-72.
That was the M829A1. Since 1991, the United States has switched to the M829A2, which made improvements to the depleted uranium penetrator. Globalsecurity.org notes that the M829A2 round was late replaced by the M829A4, which has even further improvements to the penetrator and adds changes to the sabot.
Check out the video below to see what the sabot does so lethally well.
Name a war, revolution, or revolt during the Cold War that involved the British Commonwealth, Western European nations or their allies and you’ve also named a conflict that had combatants fighting with the Fabrique Nationale FAL.
No wonder the FAL earned the nickname “the right arm of the free world” and became a symbol of the struggle against Communism.
In many ways, it was the West’s answer to the Kalashnikov, albeit one chambered to fire the heavier 7.62 x 51 mm NATO round instead of the AK-47’s 7.62 x 39 mm intermediate round.
Created in the years immediately after World War II, FN eventually produced 2 million FALs (Fusil Automatique Léger or “Light Automatic Rifle”) that were used by the militaries of more than 90 nations.
At one time, the FAL was even the official battle rifle of most NATO-member countries. It was even considered for the role as the United States’ main battle rifle.
Frankly, the FAL was everywhere. For example, consider the Six-Day War in 1967.
A common misconception is the 9mm Uzi was the weapon of choice for the Israeli Defense Forces. Actually, Israeli soldiers carried more FALs than Uzis when facing Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian troops.
Then, there was the 1982 Falklands War. The Argentine Army carried the full-auto version of the FAL; British troops had the semi-auto L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle model of the FAL.
When captured Argentine troops piled their weapons, British infantry and Royal Marines often walked over to the stack and retrieved the full-auto FAL so they could spray more lead at the enemy.
In Argentina, thousands of FALs underwent armory rebuilds in 2010, a sure sign that nation will continue to put the weapon in the hands of its troops.
How the FAL saw the light of day is a story that combines the tactical realities that emerged out of World War II and the politics of who would lead who during the Cold War.
The success of the innovative Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle convinced ordnance officers and weapons designers that era of the bolt-action battle rifle was dead and gone. Lighter cartridges in select-fire assault rifles captured the imagination of weapons designers.
Only the United States fielded a heavy caliber semi-auto battle rifle, the well-regarded M1 Garand .30-06 weapon that Gen. George S. Patton called “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” But the future was one that fired full auto – and the Garand did not.
Caliber was also an issue. As weapons designers on both sides of the Atlantic toyed with prototype battle rifles the British tested a 7 mm (.280-caliber) round in the new FAL and liked it.
In the United States, the Army wanted to stick with the .30-caliber round, flatly stating that no other cartridge could hold its own on the battlefield.
With the formation of the new NATO alliance in 1949, generals and civilian planners both talked of the necessity to standardize equipment, weapons and supplies.
“The laudable aim was one that had been much in the minds of many forward-looking military thinkers for a long time,” writes David Westwood, author of Rifles: An Illustrated History of their Impact. “For experience had shown that the United States and Britain often fought side by side, and commonality would be to the benefit of all including soldiers in the field.”
One thing was certain: the British were impressed with the FAL and were willing to choose it over other weapons.
It was deemed the superior firearm to competitors because it was easy to maintain, field strip, and clean. It reassembled without special tools and it was a select-fire weapon – but it fired the lighter round.
The “gravel belly” U.S. generals would accept nothing but a .30-caliber weapon, insisting on the superiority of a prototype called the T25, a forerunner of the M14 that was nothing more than a glorified Garand.
Soon, there was a “Battle of the Bullets” that went as high as the White House and 10 Downing Street. Pres. Harry Truman and Prime Minister Winston Churchill even held a mini-summit, where rumor has it they struck a quid pro quo – the U.S. would adopt the FAL as its main battle rifle if Britain backed NATO adopting the 7.62 x 51 mm round.
NATO relented and adopted the round. However, the U.S. reneged, developed the M14, which fired the NATO 7.62 mm cartridge, and adopted it as the American military’s main rifle.
In the end, it didn’t matter to FN because NATO countries (including Britain) began snapping up the FAL chambered for the NATO round.
Many consider that combination of weapon and cartridge the quintessential pairing of battle-rifle and bullet during the 20th Century – the FAL went into production in 1953 and FN continued to produce the rifle until 1988. The M-14 fell by the wayside as the main U.S. battle rifle within a few years, replaced by the M-16.
“Regardless of the political activity that went on before its adoption, the 7.62 x 51 mm NATO turned out to be an excellent, powerful military cartridge,” writes Robert Cashner, author of The FN FAL Battle Rifle. “With millions of FALs manufactured and internationally distributed, the rifle played a large part in making the 7.62 x 51mm NATO the success that it was.”
Vietnam is one often overlooked place where the FAL also proved a success. The weapon arrived there in the hands of Australian troops who fought as allies of the United States under the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO).
More than 60,000 Aussies would serve in the Vietnam War from 1962 to 1972, including the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. More commonly known as 1RAR, soldiers in the regiment fought in many significant battles during the war’s escalation in the mid-1960s.
During those the engagements, they often faced well-equipped Viet Cong who carried new AK-47s supplied by the Communist Chinese and East Bloc nations.
Despite its weight and size (the FAL is one of the longest battle rifles of the 20th Century), 1RAR’s troops considered their weapon suited for jungle warfare.
The powerful NATO round would punch through thick foliage, killing their concealed VC opponents. It was also a far more reliable weapon than the early version of the M-16 issued to U.S. forces – the FAL rarely jammed or misfired, two problems that plagued the M-16 for years.
Trips to the armory are supposed to be as simple as picking up your weapon system, training with it in the field, cleaning it, and checking it back in.
However, rarely does that timeline progress as seamlessly as troops would like. For all the newbie Boots out there who’ve never stepped foot inside the secured weapons compound, know that it’s a place where you’ll encounter an interesting cast of characters, all of whom claim the occupation of armorer.
The one who can find a single speck of dirt in your rifle
Some armorers like to stick their dirty pinky fingers inside your rifle only to magically discover that your bolt assembly has a greasy smudge on it. This guy isn’t him. Instead, he sticks a clean, sterile Q-tip inside and somehow manages to find the only grain of dirt left on your rifle — and rejects you.
Son of a b*tch!
Cpl. Miguel A. Garcia works on a weapon before heading out to help teach the Ghanian Army on armory procedures and weapons maintenance.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Meghan J. Canlas)
The one who knows everything about weapons
It’s almost like they were born inside the Remington or Colt manufacturing plant because this troop is an absolute genius when it comes to firearms. Even if they’re a Boot, the senior enlisted staff respects this guy or gal.
That one sh*thead who is always cranky
We don’t know who or what puts this armorer in a lousy mood, but they seem to be in one every time you encounter them. Although you do your best to prevent angering them further, there’s no cheering them up.
It’s as if one of their general orders is to always be a d*ck to those who come within walking distance of the armory window.
They’re around… somewhere…
The one that was supposed to deploy with your unit, but now works at the armory.
Believe it or not, some troops will put in request after request to transfer to a different job to avoid deploying. Oftentimes, they get sent to work at the armory if they have a basic understanding of weaponry. One day, you’ll stroll up to the armory to check out a rifle, and there they are — it’s that guy from your unit, who’s now working window.
We all know they weaseled their way out of serving with the rest of the troops because they’re scared.
Sgt. Christopher R. Garcia explains the weapons capabilities to a group of cadets with El Camino High School’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
(Photo by Cpl. John Robbart III)
The one who gets forced to give hip-pocket classes
It’s simple: some troops have a knack for teaching, others don’t. Typically, nobody’s paying attention to these hip-pocket classes anyway. Troops just want to go to the field and blow something up.
Every unit in the military has a nickname, but some are way cooler than others. We looked around for some of the best nicknames across the military. Here’s what we found:
1. Hell On Wheels
2nd Armored Division, US Army: The 2nd Armored Division was active from 1940 to 1995 and was once commanded by Gen. Patton. It played an important role during World War II and was deactivated shortly after the Gulf War. Gen. Patton gave the unit the nickname after witnessing its maneuvers in 1941.
2. Old Iron Sides
1st Armored Division, US Army: The “Old Ironsides” nickname was given by Maj. Gen. Bruce R. Magruder after Gen. Patton named his division “Hell on Wheels.” Feeling that his division should have an awesome nickname too, Magruder announced a contest to find a suitable name before settling on “Old Ironsides,” as an homage to the famous Navy warship.
3. Bloody Bucket
28th Infantry Division, US Army: Originally nicknamed “Keystone Division,” the unit acquired the nickname “Bloody Bucket” by German forces during World War II because the red keystone patch resembled a bucket.
4. Red Bull
34th Infantry Division, US Army: This National Guard unit participated in World War I and World War II and was deactivated in 1945. It was once again activated in 1991 and since 2001 its soldiers have served in Afghanistan, Iraq and homeland security operations.
5. Yellow Jackets
Electronic Attack Squadron 138 (VAQ-138), US Navy: This EA-18G Growler squadron based out of Whidbey Island, WA has a fitting name for what it does. It buzzes adversaries with electronic attacks rendering them useless.
Strike Fighter Squadron 105 (VFA-105), US Navy: This squadron was originally commissioned in 1952 as the “Mad Dogs” and was decommissioned in 1959. It was recommissioned as the “Gunslingers” in 1969 to participate in combat operations in the Gulf of Tonkin and has remained active ever since.
Strike Fighter Squadron 102 (VFA-102), US Navy: Based out of NAF Atsugi, Japan, the Diamondbacks are attached to Carrier Air Wing 5 and deploys aboard the USS George Washington (CVN-73).
8. Bounty Hunters
Strike Fighter Squadron 2 (VFA-2), US Navy: Based out of Naval Air Station Lemoore, CA, this F/A-18F Super Hornet Squadron is attached to Carrier Air Wing 2 and deploys aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76).
9. The Professionals
2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, U.S. Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Pendleton, CA, this infantry battalion consists of about 1000 Marines and sailors.
10. Betio Bastards
3rd Battalion 2nd Marines, US Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Lejeune, NC, this infantry battalion has about 800 Marines and sailors.
2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, US Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Lejeune, NC, this battalion’s primary weapon is the 8-wheeled LAV-25.
12. Magnificent Bastards
2nd Battalion, 4the Marines, U.S. Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Pendleton, CA, this infantry battalion has about 1,100 Marines and sailors.
13. Kickin’ Ass
148 Fighter Squadron, US Air Force: Based out of Tucson Air National Guard Base, AZ, this F-16A/B Fighting Falcon squadron’s main role is to train foreign military pilots.
80th Fighter Squadron, US Air Force: Based out of Kunsan Air Force Base, South Korea, this F-16 Fighting Falcon squadron has served in operations in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
336th Fighter Squadron, US Air Force: Based out of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, NC, the “Rocketeers played key roles during Operation Desert Storm dropping more than six million pounds of ordnance on scud missile sites, bridges and airfields.
The Marine Corps’ top future warfare planners say the days of an Iwo Jima-style beach assault — with hours of shore bombardment, waves of amphibious vehicles lumbering through the surf and Leathernecks plodding to shore through hails of gunfire — are long gone.
But the mission to enter an adversary’s country through a ship-to-shore assault is not.
The problem, they say, is coming up with innovative ways to take that beach without exposing U.S. forces to a World War II-esque bloodbath.
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Regiment prepare a newly developed system, the Multi Utility Tactical Transport, for testing at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 8, 2016. The MUTT is designed as a force multiplier to enhance expeditionary power enabling Marines to cover larger areas and provide superior firepower with the lightest tactical footprint possible. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)
That’s why the Corps has teamed with the Navy’s top research and development office to come up with technologies that can help with its future warfare plan. Service officials are asking industry for solutions to spoof enemy radars and sensors, mask the U.S. forces going ashore from overhead surveillance and keep manned platforms well out of harms way until the enemy’s defenses are taken out.
Planners are increasingly looking to unmanned systems like drone subs, robots and autonomous ships to do much of the amphibious assault work for them.
“Why put men at risk when we can have autonomous systems do this for us?” said Marine Corps Combat Development Command chief Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh during an interview with defense reporters Oct. 19. “We’re looking for technologies that can help us do ship-to-shore maneuver differently.”
Walsh imagined robotic boats flowing inland with cannon or mortars on them helping suppress enemy defenses; drones and electronic jammers that tell enemy sensors Marines and Navy ships are in one location, when they’re actually in another; drone submarines that find and destroy enemy sea mines so SEALs and other manned systems don’t have to do the dangerous work of clearing beaches — all in an effort to keep the Corps’ primary mission of amphibious assault intact, but giving it a 21st Century twist.
Engineers with the Navy’s research and development office alongside MCCDC are asking civilian companies and DoD labs to provide new systems and technologies that can be tested in a wide-ranging wargame set for next year.
Officials are looking for new gear to help Marines get to shore quicker and from farther out to sea; fire support systems that will hit targets both at sea and on land; new mine and obstacle clearing systems; jam-proof communications systems; and “adaptive uses of proven electromagnetic warfare techniques and decoys that lengthen the enemy’s targeting cycle, forcing them to commit resources to the decoys and incite an enemy response.”
“This concept of prototyping and experimenting at the same time is something totally new,” said the Navy’s Assistant Sec. for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Dr. Richard Burrows. “Industry is doing a lot of good things out there and we want to take a look at them.”
It’s election season in America, and while a few of the potential 2016 nominees have military experience on their resume, we looked back on the many ex-presidents who did as well.
Then we summed it up, Twitter style, in 140 characters or less. If Twitter existed in George Washington or Thomas Jefferson’s day, their military careers would probably be portrayed something like this.
Gen. George Washington — Dude beat the French, the Indians, and the Brits with a ragtag bunch of colonists. #NBD
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower — Missed WWI, then planned executed the largest amphib. assault ever beat the Nazis in WWII #Winning. Couldn’t beat mil-industrial complex
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant — Great at two things: Winning battles and heavy drinking. Often at at the same time.
Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson — Beat the Brits at New Orleans and later defeated a bunch of Indians. Then he invaded Florida so “Old Hickory” could be Retired Hickory.
Maj. Gen. William H. Harrison — Whooped the British during the War of 1812.
Maj. Gen. Zachary Taylor — Had a long career in the Army, but best known for beating the crap out of Mexico in the 1840s.
Brevet Maj. Gen. Rutherford B. Hayes — Volunteered for the Union during the Civil War, became a war hero. Wounded five times. #HolyCrap #KeepYourHeadDown
Maj. Gen. James A. Garfield — Had no military training but joined the Army in the Civil War. One-upped another general at the Battle of Chickamauga and saved the day.
Brig. Gen. Franklin Pierce — Commanded the 9th Infantry Regiment against Mexico, but ended up fighting a knee injury and diarrhea more than the enemy.
Brig. Gen. Andrew Johnson — Annoyed Confederate rebels as the Union military governor of Tennessee.
Quartermaster Gen. Chester A. Arthur — Was a really awesome supply guy.
Brevet Brig. Gen. Benjamin Harrison — Took command of a bunch of Indiana volunteers that did recon and guarded railroads.
Col. Thomas Jefferson — Commanded a militia. Started the military academy at West Point. #GoArmyBeatNavy
Col. James Madison — Had a militia that never did anything.
Col. James Monroe — Crossed the Delaware River with George Washington #overshadowed
Col. James K. Polk — Was in a state militia, then later oversaw the opening of the Naval Academy #BeatArmy
Col. Theodore Roosevelt — Charged up San Juan Hill and received the Medal of Honor. Tried to serve in World War I but President Woodrow Wilson said no frigging way.
Col. Harry S. Truman — Started as an artilleryman in the Missouri National Guard. Dropped steel rain on the Germans in World War I.
Cmdr. Lyndon B. Johnson — Commissioned in the Naval Reserve where he got the Silver Star for heroically… sitting in an airplane that probably was never shot at.
Cmdr. Richard Nixon — Made sure everyone got to the war in the Pacific ok.
Brevet Maj. William McKinley — Served in the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War. Had good seats at Gen. Lee’s surrender to Grant.
Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Ford — Participated in numerous naval actions during World War II but almost got killed by a typhoon in 1944.
Maj. Millard Fillmore — Served in the New York Militia. That’s about it.
Capt. John Tyler — Raised a company of militiamen to defend Richmond but no one ever attacked.
Capt. Abraham Lincoln — Served in the Illinois Militia for three months. Started as a Captain, finished as a Private. #CareerProgression
Capt. Ronald Reagan — Made movies during World War II.
Lt. John F. Kennedy — Became a war hero after his patrol boat got run over by a Japanese destroyer.
Lt. Jimmy Carter — Was at the Naval Academy during World War II and missed it. Was in the Navy during Korea and missed that one too.
Lt. j.g. George H.W. Bush — Received the Distinguished Flying Cross for bombing the crap out Japanese targets in the Pacific. Almost got captured but escaped.
1st Lt. George W. Bush — Pilot in the Texas Air National Guard during Vietnam but never served in combat. No confirmed kills except for Dan Rather’s career.
Pvt. James Buchanan — The only president with military service who wasn’t an officer.
The Kurdish Peshmerga has been battling the ISIS terror group since it swept through much of Iraq and Syria in 2014, and one of its most unique aspects has been the use of female fighters on the front lines.
Unlike most other militaries, the Peshmerga not only allows women within its ranks, but they also serve shoulder-to-shoulder with men in combat. According to Zach Bazzi, Middle East project manager for Spirit of America, there are about 1,700 women serving in combat roles within the Peshmerga.
“We are not meant to sit at home, doing housework,” says Zehra, a commander who has served for 8 years. “We are on the frontlines, fighting to defeat ISIS.”
In partnership with The Kurdish Project, Spirit of America recently profiled female fighters serving on the front lines with the Peshmerga — a Kurdish word for “those who face death.” The video interviews were published on a new website called “Females on the Frontline.”
“From what I have observed, these women are patriots fighting to defend their families and their homelands from the threat of ISIS,” Bazzi told Business Insider. “But there is no doubt that they also want to send an unmistakable message, that, as women, they have a prominent and equal role to play in their society.
Bazzi told Business Insider that it depends on the policies of individual Peshmerga units for the mixing of male and female fighters. Still, he said, most women are accepted and fully integrated into the ranks.
“As a matter of fact, people in the region view it as a point of pride that these women share an equal burden in defense of the homeland,” he said.
The Females on the Frontline site features short interviews with Sozan, Nishtiman, Kurdistan, and Zehra, four Peshmerga soldiers who have served in different roles and in varying lengths of duty.
“On our team, we women are fighting along with the men shoulder to shoulder on the front lines,” says Nishtiman, a 26-year old unit commander who has served for four years in the Peshmerga. She fights alongside her alongside her husband and brother, according to the site.