The term “Navy SEALs” is a household phrase in America today — one that brings forth images of America’s finest breaching Osama bin Laden’s compound in Zero Dark Thirty, or training in iconic green face paint. Because of the anti-terror unit’s lethal combat skills incredible military record, many people forget that the SEALs actually came from very humble beginnings. The PBS documentary “Navy Seals: The Untold Story,” details the history of this iconic military force that many civilians — and even military veterans — know little about, despite their popularity in film, literature and pop culture today.
Only about 2,000 men serve today on active-duty as Navy SEALs. All are volunteers.
Recruits go through vigorous Navy SEAL training Photo: YouTube
But long before they earn the title, they need to make it through Hell Week, “a non-stop, grueling set of obstacles that pushes the human body — and spirit — to the breaking point.”
Retired UDT/SEAL Vice Admiral Joe Maguire says of Hell Week: “We do hell week, first and foremost, so you can have confidence in yourself. You stay up for 120 hours during the week , and you get about three or four hours of sleep. The reason you get three or four hours of sleep is because we’ve done studies and we’ve found that if you don’t get that amount of sleep, you’ll die if you’re up for 120 hours.”
Their elite status among special ops is very elite: Less than 10,000 men in history have ever been Navy SEALs.
And especially in a post-9/11 world, small groups of SEALs have taken on terrorist enemies like the Taliban, Iraqi insurgents, Al Quada, and Osama bin Laden.
But how’d they start? Their forefathers were naval special warfare swimmers, better known as frogmen.
The nickname apparently comes from their British colleagues, and how they “looked in their newly fashioned green wet suits.”
SEAL is an acronym, meaning SEA, AIR, and LAND, which “is how and where they operate,” the narrator says.
He continues: “The SEALs were born in World War II, of two oceans, for two kinds of demolition work. In the Pacific, their predecessors swam in in advance of US Marines and Army troops, removing underwater obstacles to make amphibious landings possible. In the Atlantic teams were needed on the beaches of France to blow open the gateway to Europe for D-Day.”
After the NCDU’s success at D-Day, the Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) was created in the Pacific. These men would work entirely underwater, and were dubbed the “Naked Warriors.”
UDT men would swim to the beach wearing only swim trunks, a K-bar knife, a slate, and a pencil to take reconnaissance and depth soundings of the beach. They would then swim back to their watercraft and relay the information they obtained. These men made a huge impact on the success of missions such as Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
News of the heroic and daring “Frog Men” soon reached civilian ears, and Hollywood was quick to create lighthearted propaganda films such as “The Frogmen”, shown above, which in turn encouraged hundreds of young men to pursue a life of service with this elite new American squadron.
To learn more about the formation of this legendary military force, watch the full documentary below:
American tankers were slightly late to the armored game, historically. Britain first rolled out the tank in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, before America even joined the war. In fact, America wasn’t even able to get its first tank, the M1917, to production in time to fight in World War I.
But America came roaring back in World War II with pioneers of armored doctrine, including the first American tank officer, George S. Patton. Since then, tanks have had a respected place in the pantheon of American combat arms. Today, tankers drive the M1 Abrams tanks into battle. Here’s what makes them so lethal.
Abrams tanks are highly mobile, capable of propelling themselves at speeds of over 40 mph despite their approximately 68 short tons of weight. That weight goes even higher if the tank is equipped with protection kits like the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK).
Once it gets within range of its target, the Abrams crew can fire their 120mm smoothbore cannon, the M256A1. The cannon can use a variety of ammunition including high-explosive, anti-tank (HEAT) ammo; canister rounds that are basically tank-sized shotgun shells; and sabot rounds, depleted uranium darts that shoot through armor and turn into a fast-moving cloud of razor-sharp, white-hot bits of metal inside the enemy tank.
Marines with 1st Tank Battalion fire the M1A1 Abrams tank during the 11th Annual Tank Gunnery Competition at Range 500, Feb. 20, 2016. The competition was divided into six segments to test the skills of the tank crewmen. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ali Azimi)
These tank rounds make short work of most enemy tanks, but they’re also heavy. Loaders have to move them from storage racks to the gun by hand, and each round weighs between 40 and 51 pounds.
A pallet full of 120mm rounds sit waiting to be loaded and fired from the M1A2 tanks during gunnery. Considering that just one 120mm round weighs roughly 50 pounds, an entire 14-tank company is a force to be reckoned with. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Leah Kilpatrick)
While Abrams can survive open warfare, crews prefer to hide and maneuver their tanks into better position as often as possible to protect the tank from enemy infantry, armor, and air assets. Covering the tank in local camouflage is a good first step, and using the terrain to mask movement is important as well.
Concealment is tricky in a tank, but it increases survivability and allows the tanks to conduct ambushes.
Army and Marine Corps logistics officers have to work hard to ensure the heavy tanks can always be deployed where they are needed. While Abrams can be airlifted, its much cheaper to ship them by boat.
When it would be dangerous or too expensive to drive the tanks to their objective, they can be loaded onto trains or special trucks for delivery.
But the most impressive way to deliver an Abrams is still definitely driving it off a plane.
The tanks can operate in most environments, everything from snow-covered plains…
An M1A2 Abrams Tanks belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division fires off a round Jan. 26, 2017 in Trzebien, Poland. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Corinna Baltos)
…to scrub-covered plains…
Marines with Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, fire a M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank during their annual training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 19, 2016. Marines fired the tanks to adjust their battle sight zero before the main event of their annual training. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabrielle Quire)
…to sandy deserts.
An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires suppressive rounds at targets during Hammer Strike, a brigade level live-fire exercise conducted by the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at the Udairi Range Complex near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Johnston)
To make sure they can always get to the target, tank units sometimes bring specially equipped engineers with them. The Assault Breacher Vehicle is built on the M1 chassis but features a number of tools for breaking through enemy obstacles rather than a large number of offensive weapons.
The front of the breacher is a plow that can cut through enemy berms, creating a path for tanks.
An Assault Breacher Vehicle drives through a lane in a berm during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd Tank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)
The main purpose of the plow is to scoop up and either detonate or remove enemy mines. Mines that don’t go off are channeles to the sides of the path, creating a clear lane for following tanks.
An Assault Breacher Vehicle uses its mine plow in order to scan the surrounding area for potential threats during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd ank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)
The breacher vehicles can quickly create a lane through IEDs by firing one of their Mine-Clearing Line Charges, a rocket-towed rope of explosive cord that explodes approximately 7,000 pounds of C4, triggering IEDs and mines.
The M1 Abrams is still a titan of the battlefield, allowing tankers to be some of the most lethal soldiers and Marines in any conflict.
Marines from Company C, 1st Tank Battalion, prepare their tank for the day’s attack on Range 210 Dec. 11, 2012, during Steel Knight 13. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. D. J. Wu)
The Taliban captured a key district center in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province on Thursday while in the country’s north, an officer turned his rifle on sleeping colleagues, killing nine policemen, officials said.
The fall of Sangin district, once considered the deadliest battlefield for British and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, comes amid the insurgents’ year-long push to expand their footprint in the Taliban heartland of Helmand.
The British who took over southern Helmand in 2006 were headquartered at Camp Sebastian, which at its peak was the center for 137 bases in Helmand. Most of Britain’s more than 400 military deaths occurred in Helmand province — in Sangin alone, Britain lost 104 soldiers.
Since the withdrawal of foreign NATO combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014, and with only a smaller, U.S.-led advise and training mission left behind, Sangin has been seen as a major tests of whether Afghan security forces can hold off advancing Taliban fighters.
The district’s police chief, Mohammad Rasoul, said the Taliban overran Sangin center early on Thursday morning.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, also issued a statement claiming the Taliban capture of Sangin.
Speaking to The Associated Press over the phone from several kilometers (miles) away from the district center, Rasoul said the district headquarters had been poorly protected and that at the time of the Taliban siege, only eight policemen and 30 Afghan soldiers were on duty.
Afghan security forces were now amassing nearby for a full-scale counter-attack in a bid to retake Sangin, Rasoul added, though he did not say when the assault would occur and how many forces would be involved.
“We are preparing our reinforcements to recapture the district,” Rasoul said.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Afghan military would seek the help of international coalition forces in the area.
NATO spokesman William Salvin said in a statement that Afghan troops remained in Sangin district but had relocated several kilometers (miles) outside the district center. He said the relocation was necessitated because of the extensive damage to the district center by the Taliban.
In Kabul, a lawmaker from Sangin, Mohammad Hashim Alokzai, urged the military to move quickly to retake the district, saying its fall could have devastating consequences for Helmand, where the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah has in the past months also come under constant and heavy attack by the Taliban.
“The seizure of Sangin is a major tactical triumph for the Taliban,” Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at the U.S.-based Wilson Center, said Thursday. The insurgent group “has taken over a major urban space in one of its major stronghold provinces, amplifying the major threat that the group poses to Afghanistan nearly 16 years after it was removed from power.”
Sangin is also one of the biggest opium markets in Afghanistan, which saw over 4,800 metric tons produced countrywide in 2016 — more than all other opium-producing countries combined, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes. Efforts at poppy eradication in Afghanistan have been severely restricted because of the insecurity in the southern and eastern regions of the country, where the bulk of the crop is grown.
Opium, which is used to make heroin, is a major source of income for the insurgents and the Taliban levy taxes on opium that moves through its territory.
“It’s hard to overestimate the significance of Helmand — it’s strategically located near Pakistan, it’s a bastion of the opium trade,” said Kugelman. “Perhaps the biggest reason why the British focused so much on Sangin is that they had invested so much over the years in trying to stabilize the place — and had suffered many combat deaths in the process.”
In northern Kunduz province, police spokesman Mafuz Akbari said the insider attack on Thursday that claimed the lives on nine policemen took place at a security post and that the assailant escaped under the cover of darkness.
Afghanistan has seen a spike in so-called insider attacks. In such incidents, attackers who turn their rifles and kill colleagues usually end up stealing their weapons and fleeing the scene to join insurgents.
Akbari said the assailant had gone over to the Taliban. He also claimed that the attacker and the Taliban gathered the bodies of the dead policemen and set them on fire.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahed claimed responsibility for the attack, but denied that a policeman had been involved or that the Taliban had burned the bodies of the policemen.
The conflicting accounts could not be immediately reconciled. The region is remote and not accessible to reporters.
Afghan forces have come under intensified pressure by insurgents in both Helmand and Kunduz.
From a 440-pound bear to pigeon-guided missiles, here are nine notable examples of wartime animals.
Elephants, with their massive stature and fearsome tusks have been employed in warfare since ancient times. Elephantry units were first incorporated in militaries in India, but throughout time, famous generals including Pyrrhus of Epirus, Hannibal, and Alexander the Great all used elephants to literally crush their opponents.
War elephants were usually deployed in the center of the line, where the imposing beasts would charge at up to 20 mph towards the enemy. They were also used to carry heavy materials across difficult terrain before tanks and helicopters were an option.
Unlike horse-mounted cavalry, elephants didn’t fear infantry lines bearing spears, their muscular and articulate trunks could navigate a wall of spears much better than a charging horse.
The mere sight of elephants charging was enough to break lines and cause many armies to flee in terror. Only cannon fire made the war elephants impractical. The giant animals were resilient against musket fire, but provided a huge target for cannons.
Off the battlefield, militaries still found ways to make use of elephants. As recently as 1987 Iraqi troops allegedly used elephants to transport heavy weaponry for use in Kirkuk.
In 1960, the US Navy first began its studies on dolphins. At first, the studies were limited to testing how dolphins were so hydrodynamic, with efforts on applying the findings towards improving torpedo performance.
However, by 1967 the US Navy Marine Mammal Program evolved into a major project. The program, which is still ongoing, began training dolphins for mine hunting and force protection missions. In the case of mine hunting, dolphins were trained to locate underwater mines and release buoys over their location, allowing the Navy to safely clear the weapons.
During the Iraq War in 2003, such dolphin-led operations led to the clearance of over 100 mines in the port of Umm Qasr. Additionally, dolphins have been trained to guard harbors against enemy divers. When a diver approached, the dolphin was trained to bump a buoy device onto the person’s back which drags them to the surface.
“These animals are released almost daily untethered into the open ocean, and since the program began, only a few animals have not returned,” according to the Navy.
The Nazi betrayal of the Soviets during World War II caught the Russians completely off guard. In a desperate attempt at staving off the Nazi advance into their territory, the Soviets originally attempted to train dogs to place bombs in front of tanks before running back to safety.
When this proved too difficult a feat for training, the Soviets instead began strapping bombs to dogs that were activated by a small lever rising from an attached pouch on the dog’s side. When the dog would dive under a tank, the lever would strike the tank’s chassis and detonate.
Soviet propaganda claims that around 300 German tanks were destroyed in this manner. However, the majority of the program proved to be a failure. The dogs were trained on Soviet diesel tanks, instead of German gasoline tanks, so during deployment the dogs had a habit of running towards Soviet vehicles based on scent.
Pigs have been recorded in multiple ancient texts as one of the most effective counter-weapons to war elephants. War elephants were reportedly terrified of the squealing and charging of pigs, so both the Romans and Alexander the Great made use of them in campaigns against enemies that fielded elephants.
In one particularly brutal scenario, the use of incendiary pigs was also recorded.
Eglan notes in Beasts of War that “Antigonus II Gonata’s siege of Megara in 266 BC was broken when the Megarians doused some pigs with combustible pitch, crude oil or resin, set them alight, and drove them towards the enemy’s massed war elephants.
The elephants bolted in terror from the flaming, squealing pigs, often killing great numbers of their own soldiers by trampling them to death.”
Developed by the US for use against Japan during World War II, the bat bomb was literally that. Each bomb would contain 26 trays that each held 40 hibernating bats. Each bat was meant to be outfitted with an individual incendiary device that was set to detonate after a specified amount of time.
The bombs could deploy their own parachutes, giving the bats time to fly out and look for places to roost. The US was planning on dropping hundreds of the bombs over Japan’s industrial cities in Osaka Bay.
As Japanese cities at the times were largely constructed of wood and paper at the time, the bombs would have caused thousands of fires and burned large sections of Japanese cities to the ground. The project was ultimately superseded by the atomic bomb.
Trained in the same facilities, and even sometimes working on the same missions together, the sea lions helped to protect US harbor installations and ships against enemy divers as well as retrieving text equipment that is fired from ships or dropped from planes.
The sea lions are naturally excellent divers, out performing even experienced human divers at a fraction of the price.
The Navy first used sea lions to recover a test anti-submarine rocket from a depth of 180 feet in November 1970.
Pigeon-guided missiles were developed by noted behaviorist B.F. Skinner during Project Pigeon. Although the project was ultimately canceled because of the impracticality of the weapons, the idea of pigeon-guided missiles showed promise.
The missile had an array of lenses at the front that projected an image of the target to an interior screen. The pigeons were conditioned to peck at the target on the screen. The pigeon’s pecks corrected the missile’s flight path.
Although the project was canceled in 1944, it was revived in 1948 by the US Navy. However, after missile guidance systems were proven effective in 1953, the idea of pigeon-guided missiles was finally laid to rest.
Wojtek was born in in 1942, but by the end of World War II he was a corporal in the Polish Army.
After being released from a Siberian labor camp during the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1942, the 22nd Polish Supply Brigade began a long trek south toward Persia. It was then that they encountered Wojtek.
The bear became a mascot for the troops in its youth. The bear would frequently drink alcohol and smoke, even eat, cigarettes with the men.
After a long journey, Wojtek’s company finally reached Egypt where they prepared to reenter the war zone through Italy. The army had strict rules denying pets passage to war zones, so the company did the only thing they could — they made Wojtek an official soldier.
Wojtek, at a massively strong 440 pounds, carried weapons and munitions much faster than the men in his company. Eventually, Wojtek became so symbolic of the company that they immortalized them on their emblem.
The acoustic kitty was a CIA project in the 1960s that set out to use cats to spy on the Kremlin and other Soviet embassies.
Cats used in the project had microphones implanted in their ear canals, and radio transmitters in the base of their skulls. In theory, the cats would become mobile, albeit unpredictable little spies reporting immediately back to the CIA.
In the first deployment of an Acoustic Kitty, the cat was unleashed around a Soviet compound in Washington, D.C. The cat was released nearby, but a taxi struck and killed the cat almost immediately.
Predictably, the CIA abandoned the project due to the difficulty of getting a cat to do pretty much anything on command. The project reportedly cost $20 million.
In a script flipped from previous elections, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton styled herself as the candidate defending American exceptionalism, international alliances and the military in a speech to thousands of veterans Wednesday.
Speaking here at the American Legion National Convention, Clinton highlighted her personal and professional military bona fides, describing her upbringing as the daughter of a Navy chief petty officer and invoking her role as an adviser in the May 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden.
“I was deeply honored to be part of that small group advising the president,” she said. “I brought to those discussions my experience as a senator from New York on 9/11 and my commitment to do whatever I could in whatever role I had to bring bin Laden to justice.”
She recalled watching the SEALs adapt and carry on with the mission as one of the Black Hawk helicopters clipped the wall of bin Laden’s compound and was disabled.
“I was holding my breath for the entire operation,” she said.
Although the SEALs were racing against the clock to destroy the damaged chopper and depart after taking out bin Laden, Clinton said, they took time to move women and children — bin Laden’s family members — to safety.
“That is what honor looks like,” she said. “Maybe the soldiers of other nations wouldn’t have bothered. Or maybe the’d have taken revenge on those family members of terrorists. But that is not who we are. And anyone who doesn’t understand that, doesn’t understand what makes our nation great.”
The statement was one of many pointed rebukes to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who is set to address the convention on Thursday.
Last December, Trump said on a Fox News talk show that U.S. leaders had to “take out [the] families” of terrorists to be effective against them. He later would walk the remark back.
Clinton also took Trump to task for comments disparaging Gold Star father Khizr Khan, who spoke in Clinton’s support at the Democratic National Convention in July, and former prisoner of war Sen. John McCain, whose heroism Trump has questioned, saying in 2015: “I like people who weren’t captured.”
“I will never disrespect Gold Star families or prisoners of war,” Clinton said. “To insult them is just so wrong, and it says a lot about the person doing the insulting.”
Clinton struck a centrist note, acknowledging she spoke to an audience that tended to lean conservative. And she emphasized her commitment to the ideas of American exceptionalism and military strength.
She called her father, Navy veteran Hugh Rodham, a “rock-ribbed” Republican with whom she had never agreed on politics but had learned to converse with civilly.
“I believe we are still Lincoln’s last best hope of Earth … Still Reagan’s shining city on a hill,” she said. “Part of what makes America an exceptional nation is that we are also an indispensable nation. In fact, we are the indispensable nation. My friends, we are so lucky to be American when so many people want to be Americans too.”
She promised to send troops into harm’s way only as a last resort — a statement that drew applause from the convention — and promised to support and develop U.S. alliances, saying they were unmatched by those of competing global powers Russia and China.
“You don’t build a coalition by insulting our friends and acting like a loose cannon,” she said, subtly rebuking Trump, who has been critical of U.S. allies and NATO for not paying their share of defense costs. “You do it by putting in the slow, hard work of building relationships.”
On veterans’ issues, Clinton emphasized her support for reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs, rather than privatizing the system, and pledged to fight to end the national “epidemic” of veterans’ suicide.
Clinton said she would support expanded tax credits for businesses that hire veterans and would promote policies that allow veterans to get credit for military job skills as they transition into the civilian workforce.
She also promised a crackdown on for-profit schools and organizations that prey on veterans and military families. “They should be ashamed of themselves, and we’re going to hold them accountable,” she said.
Clinton touted the endorsements she has received from retired military leaders and Republican national security experts, and promised to cross the aisle to work out a sustainable defense budget plan, denouncing the sequestration cuts, enacted through the bipartisan Budget Control Act, that placed arbitrary caps on defense spending.
“The last thing we need is a president who brings more name-calling and temper tantrums to Washington,” she said.
The US Army is testing new warheads on some rockets to move away from of cluster bombs, War is Boring reports.
The Department of Defense defines cluster munitions as “munitions composed of a non reusable canister or delivery body containing multiple, conventional explosive submunitions.”
In other words, they are bombs that disperse smaller bomblets over a wide area.
Groups like the Cluster Munitions Coalition strongly oppose cluster munitions because they kill indiscriminately, are difficult to control, and can leave undetonated bomblets lingering in battlefields long after conflicts pass, which could later kill civilians.
The DoD contests that cluster munitions “are legitimate weapons with clear military utility. They are effective weapons, provide distinct advantages against a range of targets and can result in less collateral damage than unitary weapons.”
But the Army will nonetheless phase out these controversial weapons by the end of 2019.
The Army currently relies on cluster munitions in their 227-millimeter M-30 rockets to neutralize targets and ensure the safety of their troops. But they need a round that won’t leave behind dud bomblets that could harm civilians in already war-torn areas.
The Solution is the GMLRS Alternative Warhead, which was presented at the National Defense Industry Association’s 2015 Precision Strike Annual Review.
The GLMRS explosive trades submunitions for shrapnel. The GLMRS is designed to erupt into a hail of shrapnel that shreds targets with the same destructive force as a cluster munition, but without leaving behind dud bomblets for unwitting civilians to discover underfoot.
War is Boring notes that “these shrapnel warheads fit onto existing rocket motors and work with the GPS guidance kits the Army already uses.” The Army hopes to start producing GLMRS by the end of next year.
The video below shows in striking detail just how these new and improved rounds work:
ISIS is facing severe cash shortfalls as NATO airstrikes take out their supply lines and cash reserves, forcing the so-called caliphate to slash salaries for all workers and fighters as well as cut back services.
The U.S. began targeting warehouses of ISIS cash in Jan. and NATO has been striking oil infrastructure and equipment for months.
Other strikes against weapons and fighters have driven up the cost of waging violent jihad, and plummeting oil prices have further damaged ISIS’s bottom line. Now, the Iraqi government has decided to stop paying the salaries of government workers in ISIS-controlled areas, salaries ISIS had heavily taxed.
Civil servant salaries have now had their salaries slashed as well, and ISIS is cutting many perks. Fighters no longer get free energy drinks or candy bars (yeah, they were apparently getting those) or bonuses for getting married or having babies.
After the fallout from the January 6, 2021, riot that saw much of the Capitol Building wrecked and forced lawmakers to flee the chamber, Congress has been looking for a means to prevent the possibility of such a riot happening again.
The legislative body would also like to have a force it can call on to ensure that such a riot, once out of hand, would never again be able to breach the building and destroy so much of the building’s offices and files.
It’s an issue so important to Congress that the Senate was holding hearings to discuss passing a reconciled version of the one passed by the House of Representatives in May 2021. A sum of $200 million would be set aside for a standing force inside of D.C. that can be called on by the District of Columbia National Guard.
In June 2021, the commander of the National Guard, Gen. Daniel Hokanson told a panel of senators that a quick reaction force (QRF) wasn’t really in the scope of the National Guard mission.
“Many of these [duties] are actually a law enforcement mission set,” Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard, told reporters at the Pentagon. “We’re not a SWAT team. We’re not law enforcement. We’re soldiers and airmen trained and equipped to fight our nation’s wars.”
The Guard was deployed to the Capitol Hill area for four months after rioters broke into Congress in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election. The initial response was handled by local law enforcement and the Capitol Police – but the external response was so bungled that some began to suspect collusion between the rioters and the police officers.
Gen. Hokanson wanted lawmakers to know that the National Guard, even in the District of Columbia, can’t be the QRF they want, needed or not. He argued that the Guard doesn’t really have the resources, and he was on Capitol Hill to get lawmakers to pay for the four-month deployment of Guard troops to the Capitol.
It cost the Guard more than $520 million to deploy during that time. To redeploy would require the Guard to get 24 hours notice before being ready to act. Whereas law enforcement is on the job when it’s time to go, members of the National Guard have to leave their civilian jobs, grab their gear and then meet at the armory to prepare.
Only when a matter exceeds law enforcement capabilities is the National Guard called in to support the effort. Some senators instead support creating that QRF unit inside an existing federal agency, which they believe would be much more cost-effective.
As for the National Guard, funding is a big deal. The Guard used its maintenance and operational funds to pay for its four-month deployment to Washington, and so the lack of additional funds from Congress is beginning to affect its capabilities.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, Army Chief of Staff were also concerned with the Guard’s lack of funding. The three defense officials told lawmakers that the readiness of the National Guard would be affected if it can’t get reimbursed for its deployment.
Love him or hate him, Matt Bissonnette (aka Mark Owen) is a certified badass.
As part of the legendary SEAL Team 6, Owen (we’ll use his pen name) was a top-tier special operator who knew how to kick in doors, snatch HVTs and dispatch tangos with precision marksmanship.
Mark Owen throws some .308 downrange for a personal pew-pew party in the desert. (Photo screenshot from YouTube)
In fact, he was part of the daring raid that snuck into Pakistan and landed on terror mastermind Osama bin Laden’s lair to bring Public Enemy #1 to justice.
His story is chronicled in two awesome books, including “No Easy Day,” which delivers a blow-by-blow of the mission to kill bin Laden, dubbed “Operation Neptune Spear,” and “No Hero,” which chronicles his extensive career as a senior NCO in the SEAL teams.
In the years since the May 2010 raid, Own has remained in the shadows, posting some cool pics to Instagram and doing some trigger pulling on the side for a couple companies in the shooting sports industry. He’s still all secret squirrel about his true identity, so it’s rare to see him out in the wild.
But this video shows the ST6 frogman’s still got it, slinging lead with several ARs and dinking close-range steel with a dialed out Glock.
He’s even throwing some hate in the dark, decked out with NODs and loaded up with tracers that just make you want to shout “‘Merica!”
An estimated 300,000 “war brides,” as they were known, left home to make the intrepid voyage to the United States after falling in love with American soldiers who were stationed abroad during World War II. There were so many that the United States passed a series of War Brides Acts in 1945 and 1946. This legislation provided them with an immigration pathway that didn’t previously exist under the Immigration Act of 1924, which imposed quotas on immigrants based on their nation of origin and strategically excluded or limited immigration from certain parts of the world, particularly Asia.
Equipped with little but a feeling and a sense of promise, war brides left everything that was familiar behind to forge a new identity in the United States. Many spoke little to no English upon their arrival in the country, and they were introduced to post-war American culture through specially designed curricula and communities. To this day, organizations for war brides in the United States provide networks for military spouses and their children, helping them keep their heritage alive and share their experiences of their adopted home.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on September 2, 2020, We Are The Mighty is proud to collaborate with Babbel, the new way to learn a foreign language. Babbel conducted interviews with surviving war brides as much of the world endured lockdown. Many of these women are now in their 80s and 90s, and their oral histories celebrate the challenges and successes of adapting to a new culture and language, as well as reflect on the leap of faith they all took to travel across the world to an unknown country. Spoiler alert: there are few regrets.
War Brides is a 5 part series.
I came to America in 1960. Washington is such a beautiful state, with its mountains, oceans and rivers. In many ways it reminds me of Japan, and that’s why I settled here. There’s also a strong Japanese community in Seattle, where my husband and I have settled.
I was born in the countryside of Japan, so I would run around a lot and study little. I remember playing all the time with no restrictions. When the war started, I was about 10 years old. We were in the countryside, and we had a ranch, so we didn’t have a problem feeding ourselves. Maybe a bit with meat and fish, but we produced our own rice and vegetables, so we were never hungry. I don’t remember seeing any soldiers, and we didn’t get bombed. Maybe 20 miles from my house was a city, Fukuoka, and one time I remember seeing the bombs from afar. To me it looked like fireworks. That’s what I remember.
I met my husband, Michael Forrester, through a mutual friend. He was in the U.S. Air Force. One night, he was visiting his friend, and by chance, I was visiting his friend’s wife, so that’s how we met. At first, I thought he was a snob like all the other American soldiers who came to Japan. You know how soldiers come in and take over our country and we couldn’t say anything. He thought he was a big shot, so I thought I would show him my Japanese spirit! That changed when he showed how persistent he was. He kept coming back, and the Japanese guys, they never did that. And he had plans for his life. I liked that about him. The way he looked to the future of his life — that’s what I fell in love with. He wanted to become a pilot, and I wanted to help.
When my father died, my brother quit school to become the head of the family. At that time in Japan, women weren’t supposed to be more educated than the head of the family, so my mother wouldn’t let me go to college. My teacher even tried to talk to my mother to convince her, but she still said no. So with Mike, and his plans, I said, “This is someone I can help go to college.” And now we’ve been married 62 years.
Initially, my family were not happy about me wanting to marry an American. Some of my family had died in the war, so my uncle was strictly against Americans and those who associated with them. He disowned me. But my other family members, they knew how stubborn I was, and they knew that once I had made up my mind, that was it. Their only worry was how would they help me if I was so far away.
We married in 1958. There were a couple of things in our way. When we filed for permission with the U.S. Air Force to marry, they sent Mike back to the United States! So it took time — close to two years. When he managed to come back to Japan, he was stationed. We actually had three weddings. The first was in a Shinto temple, which the Japanese recognized as an official marriage, but the Americans did not. It made it easier for me to move with Mike to his new station on Okinoerabujima. Then our second wedding was December 23, 1958, and our chaplain one was on February 17, 1959.
Our first wedding was a Japanese wedding, which meant you have to take your shoes off, and that’s when I saw that Mike had holes in his socks! I remember looking at his feet and saying, “What is this?”. The U.S. Air Force found out about our Shinto wedding, and they didn’t like it. They almost court-martialed Mike for it. But his mother wrote to President Eisenhower, who stopped it.
We moved ahead with our plans to move to the United States. I had gotten my visa and passport, and Mike was due to finish his service in the air force. One night, the MP and Japanese police knocked on my door, and I thought, “What now? Is Mike going to jail again?” But this time, it was the sad news that Mike’s father had died. So Mike had to leave straight away. It actually turned out that even though Mike left before me, I arrived in America two days before him. The American Red Cross helped me with getting the right tickets and everything. When I arrived in New York, I slept in the same bed as his mother, because there was no space for me.
Because it all happened so fast, I didn’t have a chance to feel sad about leaving Japan. It was more about how I could get there safely. And I was young, so my mind was made up. I’d heard great things about America. It was the land of opportunity. I know a lot of Japanese people who miss Japanese food, but I don’t miss much about Japan. I liked hamburgers, and steak, and Mike’s mom’s specialty was spaghetti. That was good!
I learned how to read and write English a little in Japan, but the pronunciation was difficult for me. Some words were easy to confuse, like “yard” and “garden.” When I arrived in America, I had three younger brothers-in-law. I had to learn how to speak English for my own survival. I was always listening in the beginning, and I found that was the best teacher.
We moved around America a lot. When I first came, I felt so free and energetic. I love it here. Nowadays, I think people forget to show kindness and manners, however, which saddens me.
I have been back to Japan many times since. It has changed a lot. Especially my village. We used to run through all the houses playing hide and seek without permission. But now all the houses have fences, and gates, so it must be different being a child there. And there are lots of multistory buildings. Everything is being built up.
I think it’s not enough for a young person to marry someone from another culture or another country simply for the sake of living in another country. There needs to be some sort of goal they share. They should think twice, because love will get you into trouble. On some level, I just don’t resonate with that sort of easy thinking of an easy marriage.
A military airborne operation is inherently risky. Parachutes can fail, troops can be scattered by the wind and Murphy can generally rear his ugly head and make anything and everything happen. In order to mitigate risk, airborne operations are meticulously planned and prepared for. Parachutes are packed by highly skilled riggers, pathfinders are sent ahead to mark drop zones, and weather forecasts are checked minute by minute before a jump. In the unlikely event that a trooper’s main chute does fail, a reserve chute is carried as a backup. After all, two is one and one is none. But what happens in case of a water landing?
Paratroopers can easily be loaded down with over 100 pounds of gear on a combat jump. If a trooper lands in deep water like a lake, the likelihood of drowning is extremely high with all that weight. Enter the parachutist flotation system.
Going as far back as 1951 with the B-7 Parachutist Life Preserver, a flotation device is a vital piece of life-saving equipment in airborne operations. As with everything in the military, there’s guidance dictating its use. Generally, flotation devices are a regulatory requirement for jumps where the surveyed drop zone is within 1000 meters of a water obstacle. Moreover, that water obstacle must be more than 2 meters deep.
Inflated with CO2 cartridges, the B-7 was also issued with sea dye markers to help spot waterborne paratroopers. Although it could save their lives, troops didn’t care much for the B-7. “[They were] extraordinarily uncomfortable to wear since they go on under the parachute harness and all the other equipment, to include the LBE/LBV,” one Sgt. Maj. recalled.
The B-7 was later joined by more advanced flotation devices like the Life Preserver LPU-10/P and Tactical Flotation Support System. The former is basically a slightly updated version of the B-7 that could be inflated orally if the CO2 cartridges failed. Conversely, the TFSS is a much more advanced flotation system. It comes in different forms like a cummerbund worn on the sides of a plate carrier or ballistic vest, or as two separate cells worn on either side of a belt. Luckily for military parachutists, the TFSS is much more comfortable to jump with that the old B-7.
In 2018, the Army began searching for a new flotation system to replace its inventory of flotation devices. The announcement by the Army’s Natick Soldier System Center stated that the legacy systems, “do not meet all of the Army’s requirements for intentional, and/or unintentional parachutist water entry.”
In 2021, the Army began testing the new Parachutist Flotation Device. Evaluated by paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division and 3rd Special Forces Group, the PFD is an even more modern iteration of the flotation device concept than the TFSS.
“The PFD is much easier to rig for static line operations,” said platoon sergeant and jumpmaster Sgt. 1st Class Steven Branch. “We barely noticed having it on, and it can easily suspend a Soldier with combat equipment for a long time if needed. Overall I was very impressed with every aspect of the PFD.”
Upon completion of its evaluation, the PFD will make its way across the Army’s airborne units and replace legacy flotation systems. Although their use is even rarer than reserve chutes, flotation devices are just as vital a piece of life-saving equipment that every paratrooper would rather have and not need than need and not have.
The House Armed Services Committee will reexamine the Selective Service System’s viability and explore possible alternatives in this year’s review of the National Defense Authorization Bill, the legislation that sets the spending guidelines and policy directives for the coming fiscal year.
Congressional staffers told the Military Times that the move comes after all the hand wringing over the idea of women registering for the draft now that they can be assigned to combat jobs in the military. Some of the representatives who sit on the House committee were part of a group who entered legislation to abolish the Selective Service System entirely, which they deem to be obsolete and outdated.
U.S. law says all male citizens of the United States and male immigrants (and bizarrely, illegal immigrants, too) have to register for the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. After the Vietnam War, President Gerald Ford abolished the draft, but President Jimmy Carter reestablished it as a response to the potential threat posed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The SSS costs roughly $23 million per year to operate, but nobody’s actually been drafted since 1973. Even at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the option of instituting a draft was deemed unnecessary.
The draft isn’t dead yet, however. Before any changes are made to the current system, the Senate would also have to approve the legislation, and then it would move over to the President’s desk for his signature (or his veto).
Boston Dynamics has come out with a new version of its Atlas robot that is more mobile, more agile, lighter, quieter, and doesn’t require a power tether.
The new robot was introduced in a YouTube video this morning where it was shown escaping a building and marching through the snow:
Then it stacked boxes like some sort of Robo-POG:
Like other POGs, the Atlas was bullied pretty harshly on the job:
The new generation Atlas weighs only 180 pounds, approximately half the weight of its 330-pound predecessor. It is powered by onboard batteries and can navigate obstacles that tripped up earlier Atlas robots at the DARPA Robotics Challenge.
Boston Dynamics has withdrawn from the DARPA challenge to focus on building commercially-viable robots, meaning they might try to sell the robot to the military or other buyers within the next few years.
Still, the Atlas is far from reaching the battlefield. The new improvements could get it ready to serve behind the lines, but it’s about as noisy as the BigDog robot which was shelved by the Marine Corps for being too loud. And there are no signs that it’s ready to carry its own weapon.
For now, developers will probably continue to target disaster response and similar missions.