Since the September 11 terrorist attacks and the launching of the War on Terror, the US has drastically expanded the role of special operators within the military.
Among the operators playing an oversized role, SEAL Team 6 — made particularly famous for the Osama bin Laden raid — has played critical roles in operations ranging from Afghanistan to Iraq to Somalia.
However, this outsized role within the US war machine has contributed to fatigue and serious traumatic injuries within the SEAL Team 6, an in depth report on the role of the SEAL Team 6 by The New York Times finds.
“Your body is trashed,” a recently retired SEAL Team 6 operator told the Times. “Your brain is trashed.”
On the whole, special operators have “been involved in tens of thousands of missions and operations in multiple geographic theaters [since September 11], and consistently uphold the highest standards required of the U.S. Armed Forces,” US Special Operations Command told the Times.
One former operator told the Times that SEAL Team 6 served as “utility infielders with guns.”
The focus on special operations teams and drone strikes is part and parcel of President Obama’s light footprint strategy of counter-terrorism which believes in having US allies, backed and trained by Special Operations Command, playing the key role in security operations.
“They have become sort of a 1-800 number anytime somebody wants something done,” former Senator Bob Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat and a member of the SEALs during the Vietnam War, told the Times.
Furthermore, America’s elite warriors are not ones to complain.
“SEALs are a lot like N.F.L. guys: They never want to say ‘I am taking myself out of the lineup,'” Dr. John Hart, the director of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas, which has treated SEALs, told the Times.
“If they send guys back in who already have the effects of a concussion, they are constantly adding a dose of a hit to an existing brain condition. The brain needs sufficient time to heal.”
SEAL Team 6 has suffered more causalities since September 11 than in the rest of its history, the Times notes.
After arresting two American university instructors and laying out what it says was an elaborate, CIA-backed plot to assassinate Kim Jong Un, North Korea is claiming to be the victim of state-sponsored terrorism — from the White House.
The assertion comes as the U.S. is considering putting the North back on its list of terror sponsors. But the vitriolic outrage over the alleged plan to assassinate Kim in April is also being doled out with an unusually big dollop of retaliation threats, raising a familiar question: What on Earth is going on in Pyongyang?
North Korea’s state-run media announced May 7 that an ethnic Korean man with U.S. citizenship was “intercepted” by authorities for unspecified hostile acts against the country. He was identified as Kim Hak Song, an employee of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.
That came just days after the North announced the detention of an accounting instructor at the same university, Kim Sang Dok, also a U.S. citizen, for “acts of hostility aimed to overturn” the country. PUST is North Korea’s only privately funded university and has a large number of foreign teachers, including Americans.
What, if anything, the arrests have to the alleged plot is unknown. But they bring to four the number of U.S. citizens now known to be in custody in the North.
“Obviously this is concerning,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters May 8. “We are well-aware of it, and we are going to work through the embassy of Sweden … through our State Department to seek the release of the individuals there.”
Sweden handles U.S. consular affairs in North Korea, including those of American detainees.
The others are Otto Warmbier, serving a 15-year prison term with hard labour for alleged anti-state acts — he allegedly tried to steal a propaganda banner at his tourist hotel — and Kim Dong Chul, serving a 10-year term with hard labour for alleged espionage.
The reported arrest of another “Mr. Kim” — the North Korean man allegedly at the centre of the assassination plot — is more ominous.
According to state media reports that began May 5, he is a Pyongyang resident who was “ideologically corrupted and bribed” by the CIA and South Korea’s National Intelligence Service while working in the timber industry in Siberia in 2014. The Russian far east is one of the main places where North Korean laborers are allowed to work abroad.
The reports say Kim — his full name has not been provided — was converted into a “terrorist full of repugnance and revenge against the supreme leadership” of North Korea and collaborated in an elaborate plot to assassinate Kim Jong Un at a series of events, including a major military parade, that were held last month.
They allege Kim was in frequent contact through satellite communications with the “murderous demons” of the NIS and CIA, who instructed him to use a biochemical substance that is the “know-how of the CIA” and that the hardware, supplies, and funds would be borne by the South Korean side.
Kim Jong Un attended the military parade on April 15 and made several other appearances around that time to mark the anniversary of his late grandfather’s birthday.
The initial reports of the plot concluded with a vow by the Ministry of State Security to “ferret out to the last one” the organizers, conspirators and followers of the plot, which it called “state-sponsored terrorism.”
The North Korean reports also said a “Korean-style anti-terrorist attack” would begin immediately. Follow-up stories on the plot have focused on outraged North Koreans demanding revenge.
It’s anyone’s guess what a “Korean-style” attack might entail.
“I wonder if Kim Jong Un has become paranoid about the influence Americans are having on North Koreans, and about the possibility of U.S. action against him,” said Bruce Bennett, a senior defence analyst and North Koreaexpert at the RAND Corporation. “Will Kim increase his internal purges of North Korean elites? Will he focus on North Korean defectors, people who the regime would like to silence? Or will he do both?”
Tensions between North Korea and its chief adversaries — the U.S. and South Korea — have been rising over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, as well as joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises that include training for a possible “decapitation strike” to kill the North’s senior leaders.
Bennett noted that such training has been included and expanded upon in annual wargames hosted by South Korea, which were bigger than ever this year.
The wargames, called Key Resolve/Foal Eagle, just finished, without any signs of North Korean retaliation.
But the current rhetoric from Pyongyang has a somewhat familiar ring to it. Case in point: the movie “The Interview” in 2014.
In June that year, the North denounced the Seth Rogen comedy, which portrays the assassination of Kim Jong Un for the CIA by two American journalists, as “a most wanton act of terror and act of war.” A few months later, hackers broke into Sony Pictures Entertainment computers and released thousands of emails, documents, Social Security numbers, and other personal information in an attempt to derail the movie’s release.
The U.S. government blamed North Korea for the attack. Pyongyang denies involvement, but has praised the hackers.
The North’s claims of a plot to kill Kim Jong Un with a biochemical agent also have an eerie similarity to the assassination of his estranged half brother, Kim Jong Nam, at an airport lobby in Malaysia in February.
In that attack, seen by many as orchestrated by the North, two young women who were allegedly tricked into thinking they were taking part in a television game show, rubbed the deadly VX nerve agent onto the face of the unsuspecting victim, who died soon after.
Army Special Forces veteran Tyler Grey is definitely what you would call an “operator.”
A Ranger, a sniper with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and a combat veteran, Grey has served his country well.
He knows the meaning of sacrifice, perhaps more than most. In 2005, he was blown up in a raid in Sadr City, Iraq, which nearly cost him his arm. But the experience gave Grey an evolved sense of perspective.
We Are The Mighty sat down to talk with him about how music had an impact on his career and his life, and what he had to say was pretty insightful.
“The journey isn’t that you never have a problem. The journey is overcoming problems. The music I like is about people who are honest and open enough to share a problem, to share a weakness, to share an experience that affected them, and then how they overcome it.”
We also asked Grey to make a Battle Mix — a playlist of power anthems — with songs that held significant meaning throughout his life. He didn’t disappoint.
The military is one of those work environments where it’s generally best to blend in. Sure, you want to stand out during promotion boards or advancement exams, but the rest of the time it’s best for troops to keep their heads down.
Unfortunately, some people are cursed with traits that make that impossible. Here are 7 things that are guaranteed to draw extra attention.
Too-tall or too-short, both will make someone stand out. In formation, everyone is right next to each other and outliers are super obvious. At ceremonies, many units are reorganized according to height so the unit has a more uniform appearance.
2. Being a know-it-all
This person wants to stand out, but they shouldn’t. Answering a direct question is no big deal, and offering an informed opinion every once in a while is great. But people who answer every question in a class don’t get the “team” idea behind the military. And the rest of the team hates them for it.
3. Coming from another country
The U.S. military is predictably full of Americans, but some foreign people do join.
A few English or South African troops may be able to skate by under the radar, but most foreigners get found out immediately. As if it wasn’t hard enough to adjust to military culture, this recruit has to adjust to American culture at the same time. Every time they mess something up, some squad-jokester-wannabe will make a comment about how it’s because they didn’t grow up in America.
4. Being from Texas
It’s like being foreign. Everyone has their favorite Texas jokes, Texas nicknames, and Texas memes. Once someone is outed as being a Texan, they will get saddled with all the Lone Star military stereotypes.
5. Having an accent
Yeah, soldiers who talk funny are going to get noticed. It’s funniest when they have to speak in front of the unit. They’re up there talking about how their squad helped them get promoted or earn an award and the formation just stands there smiling like they understand any of the words being said.
6. Possessing no rhythm
In the civilian world, bad rhythm just makes it harder to meet people at clubs and square dances. But rhythm is key to military life. Units march in rhythm, troops exercise in rhythm, and new tasks are taught “by the numbers” where students practice things like landing in a parachute in a set rhythm.
A service member with no rhythm sticks out and gets ridiculed. In basic training, it’s even worse since it draws the eyes of the dreaded training cadre.
7. Carrying a funny or famous last name
As a civilian, someone’s last name isn’t all that visible. It’s in email signatures, and that’s about it. But in the military, a person’s last name is their primary name. It’s on their shirts, it’s beneath any pictures of them, and it’s on most of their hats. Some people don’t know their buddy’s first name until they friend each other on Facebook.
So, when someone’s last name is “Nye,” everyone knows. And that person can’t walk into a room without someone singing the Bill Nye theme song.
President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary called the invasion of Iraq a “strategic mistake” at a conference last year, in an audio recording obtained by The Intercept.
In a wide-ranging speech at an ASIS International Conference in Anaheim, California that covered everything from Iran, ISIS, and other national security issues, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis told attendees: “We will probably look back on the invasion of Iraq as a mistake, a strategic mistake.”
The assertion is not particularly controversial, given the faulty intelligence that led to the invasion, the many missteps afterward, and the unraveling of a country that eventually gave birth to the terrorist group ISIS.
But it is interesting as it’s the first known instance of Mattis portraying the invasion in a negative light, especially given his leadership of 1st Marine Division in 2003, which he led across the border and, eventually, into Baghdad.
“I think people were pretty much aware that the US military didn’t think it was a very wise idea,” he said. “But we give a cheery ‘Aye aye, Sir.’ Because when you elect someone commander in chief — we give our advice. We generally give it in private.”
Mattis, like many other generals before the war, offered his advice to his boss Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the problems of going into Iraq. This frank advice is expected of high-ranking military officers, but ultimately it’s up to the civilian leadership to make the decision.
Still, seven retired generals eventually came out publicly against Rumsfeld in 2007 in what was dubbed “the generals’ revolt.” Mattis, still on active duty at the time, was not among them.
He was asked specifically about whether there was a scenario in which he may have retired in protest during a talk in San Francisco in April 2014. Mattis allowed some unethical orders and other scenarios that would lead him to do so, but he said, “you have to be very careful about doing that. The lance corporals can’t retire. They’re going. That’s all there is to it.”
He added: “You abandon him only under the most dire circumstances, where the message you have to send can be sent no other way. I never confronted that situation.”
Since retiring from the military in 2013, Mattis has given a number of speeches while working as a fellow at Dartmouth and Stanford. In July 2014, for example, he told students at Stanford: “There is no strategy right now for our engagement with the world. We need to know the political end state for what we want to achieve.”
Bravery is a thing you see every day in the military. In all branches, in moments great and small, it’s an expression of the fundamental courage it takes to put your life on the line for love of country and to serve those you swore to protect.
Former Navy SEAL David Meadows proved exemplary in this capacity, serving 11 years in some of the harshest theaters of war throughout the Middle East.
But unlike many of his fellow Oscar Mike alumni, Meadows chose, upon reentry, to translate his habituated bravery into a civilian arena that would, honestly, make most servicemen and women want to crawl out of their natural born skins…
Yeah, he became an actor.
And we can tell you from experience that there are few professions that require a more constant personal brokerage with public shame, mortal embarrassment, insecurity, and rejection — in short, all of the types of feelings that normal people avoid like their lives depend on it.
Being the Special Ops-trained bad ass that he is, though, Meadows surveyed this new theater of war and then dove in head first. Acting for a living takes guts.
“I think that if there is a magic left in the world…it’s really for a person to be affected, to be changed — by one human being actually affecting somebody else on a really human, natural, soulful level. Does that make sense? And performing artists have that power. And I thought…that’s absolutely amazing. And I want to be a part of that.”
To get a taste of the kind of courage an actor has to muster every day, Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis visited Meadows at his acting studio in Los Angeles and submitted himself to a battery of drills that actors employ to help them behave truthfully under imaginary circumstances.
Each exercise is designed to increase physical sensitivity, dial up emotional availability, and to inure actors to the fear of ridicule that can shut them down at crucial moments. Like all high-stakes training, it’s effective — but it ain’t pretty.
Today’s lesson is clear: in a successful civilian life, emotional bravery matters. But you don’t have to take our word for it, you can just watch as Curtis cracks under the pressure and and begs to postpone the big payoff in the video embedded at the top.
Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have joined with 1,000 of some of the world’s smartest people in warning of the potential rise of killer robots being used on the battlefield.
“If any major military power pushes ahead with [artificial intelligence] weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable,” reads an open letter from more than 1,000 AI and robotics researchers. “And the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.”
The letter, presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was signed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis and professor Stephen Hawking along with 1,000 AI and robotics researchers.
The letter states: “AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of [autonomous weapons] is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”
Artificial intelligence on the battlefield poses many difficult questions, according to the open letter. Besides the possibility of SkyNet, some of the concerns posed by the letter are:
A military arms race akin to nuclear weapons in which nations build smarter and more powerful robots
Killer robots falling into the hands of terrorists
Dictators using such robots for genocide and other violent campaigns
Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day from the former Soviet Union on August 24 with a military parade through central Kiev.
Not only was Defense Secretary James Mattis in attendance, along with eight other foreign defense ministers, but about 230 troops from the US and seven other NATO countries also marched alongside Ukrainian soldiers.
It was the first time US soldiers ever participated in Ukraine’s Independence Day parade.
“We are honored to be here marching alongside other countries showing our support in Ukraine,” 1st Sgt. Clifton Fulkerson said.
As US troops marched down the street, a wave of cheers and applause reportedly went through the crowd of Ukrainians on hand.
But not everyone was thrilled with NATO’s involvement.
“That kind of parade is not a celebration of independence, but rather a show of dependence on the US and NATO,” a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician, Vladimir Oleinik, told Russian media outlet Sputnik, which the Russian Embassy in Canada tweeted.
“In the reverse, it would be difficult to imagine Poroshenko coming to celebrate the 4th of July in Washington while Ukrainian troops marched in Washington.”
Two other Russian state owned media outlets, Russia Times and TASS, also uploaded videos headlining NATO’s involvement in the parade.
The Russian Embassy in Washington, DC did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
After the parade, Mattis met with Poroshenko to discuss the possibility of supplying Ukraine with defensive weapons, such as the Javelin.
“Have no doubt the United States also stands with Ukraine in all things,” Mattis told reporters while standing next to Poroshenko after they met. “We support you in the face of threats to sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to international law and the international order writ large.”
“We do not, and we will not, accept Russia’s seizure of the Crimea. And despite Russia’s denials, we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force, undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe.”
KyivPost photo by Mikhail Palinchak. Defense Secretary James Mattis (left) and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
While he acknowledged that the US just recently approved giving Kiev $175 million worth of military equipment, he stopped short of saying whether the US would supply Kiev with $50 million worth of anti-tank missile systems.
“I prefer not to answer that right now,” Mattis said, adding that the proposal is under review.
Supplying Ukraine with anti-tank missiles and other defensive weapons has been a controversial proposition. Former President Obama did not support such a move, arguing that it would provoke Russia. France, Germany, and some analysts have expressed the same concerns.
Many Russian politicians and officials have also spoken out against the plan.
But Mattis appeared to slightly give away his own take. “Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you’re an aggressor,” he said at the press conference, “and clearly, Ukraine is not an aggressor, since it’s their own territory where the fighting is happening.”
Sam Houston is more than just the namesake for the fourth-largest city in America — the man is literally called the “George Washington of Texas.” And in the Lone Star State, that’s as close to God as one can get.
Here are a few reasons why the Texas hero Sam Houston owns the title “Governor of Governors.”
1. He was actually governor of two states.
Houston was elected governor of Tennessee in 1827. He resigned as governor in 1829, a result of alcoholism and depression from his failed marriage. Thirty years later, he became the 7th governor of Texas.
2. He’s an American combat veteran.
Of course he is. When the War of 1812 rolled around, he fought so well, Gen. Andrew Jackson took notice. Houston became a Jackson protégé and Jacksonian Democrat in his political years.
3. Sam Houston was adopted by the Cherokee Nation.
He spent much of his youth among Indians in Tennessee. Although he would come to have close ties with President Jackson, they probably differed on the treatment of the Cherokee. Houston took a Cherokee wife and was an honorary member of the tribe. His adopted name was “Black Raven.”
We can take a pretty good guess on how Jackson felt about the Cherokee.
After Houston rigged the appointment of Nashville Postmaster away from John P. Erwin at Jackson’s request, Erwin challenged Houston to a duel. Houston refused, but when Gen. William White — veteran of the Battle of New Orleans — challenged him instead, the gunfight was on.
He practiced shooting at Jackson’s home. Old Hickory advised him to bite a bullet during the duel saying “It will make you aim better.”
Houston won the duel, shooting White in the groin.
5. He clubbed a congressman for accusing him of fraud.
Sam Houston, while a Congressman from Tennessee, felt slandered in a speech on the House floor. William Stanbery of Ohio, an anti-Jacksonian, accused Houston of fraud. Later that day, Houston saw Stanbery walking down the street and delivered a fierce beating. Stanbery even pulled a pistol on Houston, but it misfired.
6. His defense attorney was Francis Scott Key.
When Congress got wind of the epic beat-down Houston put on Stanberry, they charged him with assault and put him on trial. The eloquent Key argued the case with the Supreme Court acting as judges (no pressure) but still lost. Houston was fined $500 and left Washington in disgust, heading back home to Texas.
7. He beat the “Napoleon of the West” in eighteen minutes.
He didn’t fall into the trap of going in headfirst against Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s army after the fall of the Alamo. Instead, Houston led a very George Washington-esque series of strategic retreats, giving his army time to regroup and congeal as a unit – and for more Texians to join his army. By the time he surprised Santa Anna on the banks of the San Jacinto, Houston was no longer outnumbered.
It took 18 minutes for the Mexican Army to break and flee. But the Texians killed them for hours. Houston’s official report, numbered 630 Mexicans killed, 208 wounded, and 730 taken prisoner – including Santa Anna. The Texians lost just 11 men, with 30 (including Houston) wounded.
8. He was the first (and only) foreign head of state to be a U.S. governor.
His win at San Jacinto won Texas its independence as a republic. With Houston promptly elected as the first President of Texas with 80 percent of the vote. Once the Republic became a U.S. state, he would become one of its senators.
9. He refused to declare allegiance to the Confederacy.
Houston opposed secession and traveled around Texas explaining why. He did not think it was good for Texas economically, militarily, or ethically. He didn’t think the rebels would win. Despite his opposition, a state convention met and voted to secede by a whopping 160 votes. Houston would not swear allegiance to the Confederate States and was ousted as governor of Texas.
The Union offered him a command, but he turned it down.
As anti-ISIS forces retake Mosul and march on Raqqa, more and more of the terror group’s mystique is falling away. It’s hard to be the international bogeyman when your forces are suffering defeats across your caliphate.
But one of ISIS’s most prominent battlefield weapons is still deadly frightening, the armored vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. While VBIEDs were already common in Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS upped the ante by creating especially effective armored versions and then employing them like artillery — softening their enemy’s lines and breaking up attacks.
For the Iraqi Army, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and other anti-ISIS forces, understanding these weapons is a matter of life or death. But typically, the weapons are destroyed before they can be captured, either because the soldiers hit it with a rocket, tank, or artillery round, or because the operator triggers his explosive cargo.
This makes it relatively rare that a suicide vehicle is captured intact. But there have been a few, and Sky News got the chance to tour one of these captured vehicles during the Iraqi military’s initial punch into Mosul.
The vehicle, captured by Kurdish Peshmerga, had been heavily modified with the removal of any unnecessary weight, the addition of thick, heavy armor, and the installation of a massive amount of explosives.
See the full tour of the vehicle in the video below:
On Dec. 7, 1941, the US Naval fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii suffered a devastating attack from the air and sea.
The Japanese assault began at 7:48 a.m., resulting in the death of 2,402 Americans, numerous injuries, the sinking of four battleships and damage to many more. Surprised US service members who normally may have slept in on that Sunday morning, or enjoyed some recreation, instead found themselves fighting for their lives.
Now, 74 years later, the US Navy is remembering the “day of infamy” with a series of photographs that compare scenes from that horrifying day to the present.
Defenders on Ford Island watch for planes during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
The battleship USS California burns in the foreground as the battleship USS Arizona burns in the background after the initial attack on Pearl Harbor.
Defenders on Ford Island watch for planes during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
Sailors on Ford Island look on as the Mahan-class destroyer USS Shaw explodes in the background.
A view of the historic Ford Island control tower from 1941. The tower was once used to guide airplanes at the airfield on the island and is now used as an aviation library.
The Mahan-class destroyer USS Shaw explodes in the background after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The battleship USS Arizona burns in the background during the attack on Pearl Harbor as viewed from Ford Island.
Hangar 6 on Ford Island stands badly damaged after the attack on Pearl Harbor.