Here's the most influential US general you never heard of - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of
Depiction of the Battle of Monterrey in September 1846 during the Mexican-American War. (Image date: ca. March 2, 1847.)


Winfield Scott, the longest serving general officer in the history of the United States Army, served an astonishing 53 years in a career stretching from the War of 1812 to the Civil War. Known as “Ol’ Fuss and Feathers” for his elaborate uniforms and stern discipline, he distinguished himself as one of the most influential U.S. commanders of the 19th century.

Born in Virginia , he briefly studied at the College of William and Mary before leaving to study law, and served for a year as a corporal in the local militia. He received a commission as a captain of artillery in 1808, but his early career was less than auspicious. He vehemently criticized Senior Officer of the Army James Wilkinson for allegations concerning treason, and after a court-martial was suspended by the Army for a year.

After being reinstated, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel as the War of 1812 was getting underway. Serving in the Niagara Campaign, he was part of surrendering American forces during the disastrous crossing of the river into Ontario and exchanged in 1813.

After his successful capture of Ft. George, Ontario in 1813, he was promoted to brigadier general at the exceptionally young age of 27. He played a decisive role at the battles of Chippewa and Lundy’s Lane, earning him acclaim for personal bravery and a brevet promotion to major general, but his severe wounds during the second battle left him out of action for the rest of the war.

Following the war, Scott commanded a number of military departments between trips to Europe to study European armies, whom he greatly admired for their professionalism. His 1821 “General Regulations of the Army” was the first comprehensive manual of operations and bylaws for the U.S. Army and was the standard Army text for the next 50 years.

After serving in a series of conflicts against the Indians, including the Blackhawk, Second Seminole and Creek Wars. When President Andrew Jackson ordered the Cherokee removed from Georgia and other southern states to Oklahoma in 1838-39, Scott commanded the operation in what became known as the “Trail of Tears,” when thousands of Cherokee died under terrible conditions during the long journey.

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of
Winfield Scott

In 1841, Scott was made Commanding General of the U.S. Army, a position he would serve in for 20 years. When President James Polk ordered troops to territory disputed with Mexico along the Texas border, Scott appointed future president general Zachary Taylor to lead the expedition while he stayed in Washington. This was under pressure from Polk, who worried about Scott’s well known presidential aspirations. When the Mexican War subsequently broke out, Taylor grew bogged down in northwest Mexico after an initial series of victories, and it became clear that the northern route to Mexico City was no longer viable. Scott decided to personally lead a second front in order to break through to the Mexican capital.

Scott and his army’s landing at Vera Cruz, Mexico marks the first major amphibious landing by a U.S. army on foreign soil, and they seized the strategic port after a short siege. Roughly following conquistador Hernan Cortes’s historical route to Mexico City, U.S. forces won a series of victories against generally larger Mexican armies. Scott showed great skill in maneuver warfare, flanking enemy forces out of their fortifications where they could be defeated in the open. He successfully gambled that the army could live of the land in the face of impossibly long supply lines and after six months of marching and fighting, the U.S. seized the capital, putting the end to most resistance. The campaign had been a resounding success, with no less an authority than the Duke of Wellington, hero of Waterloo, declaring him “the greatest living general.”

Scott was an able military governor, and his fairness towards the conquered Mexicans gained him some measure of popularity in the country. But his vanity and political rivalry with Taylor, along with intercepted letters showing a scathing attitude towards Washington and Polk, lead to his recall in 1948.

Scott’s presidential aspirations were dashed when he badly lost the 1852 election to Franklin Pierce after a lackluster campaign. Continuing as commander of the Army, he was only the second man since George Washington to be promoted to Lieutenant General. By the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, however, Scott was 75 years old and so obese he couldn’t even ride a horse, and Lincoln soon had him replaced by general George B. McClellan. His strategic sense had not dulled. His “Anaconda Plan” to blockade and split the South, first derided by those seeking a quick victory, proved to be the strategy that won the war.

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Scott was a vain man, prone to squabbling with other officers he held in contempt, and his political aspirations lead to great tensions with Washington during the Mexican War. His command of the “Trail of Tears” put him at the forefront of one of the most disgraceful episodes in the U.S. treatment of Native Americans. But his determination to turn the U.S. Army into a professional force, his immense strategic and tactical skill, and a career that spanned over five decades makes him one of the most influential figures in U.S. military history.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. and Russian astronauts forced to conduct emergency landing

A space capsule carrying a two-man Russian-American crew that malfunctioned after liftoff has landed safely in the steppes of central Kazakhstan, the Russian and U.S. space agencies say.

Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague returned to Earth on Oct. 11, 2018, in their Soyuz capsule for an emergency landing following a problem with the booster rocket shortly after a launch bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

Both NASA, the U.S. space agency, and Roskosmos, the Russian equivalent, said the astronauts were in good condition after their capsule landed about 20 kilometers east of the Kazakh city of Zhezqazghan.


“The search and rescue teams have reached the Soyuz spacecraft landing site and report that the two crew members are in good condition and are out of the capsule,” NASA said.

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

(RFE/RL Graphic)

“The cosmonauts are alive. They have landed. They have been found,” according to a source at the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

The crew had to return in “ballistic descent mode,” NASA earlier had said, which it explained was “a sharper angle of landing compared to normal.”

Following their emergency landing, NASA published pictures of Hague and Ovchinin undergoing a medical checkup and relaxing on sofas in Zhezqazghan. The two were expected to be flown to Baikonur and then on to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center outside Moscow.

Roskosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said he had ordered a state commission to be set up to investigate the causes of the malfunction, while Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov announced that manned space flights would be suspended until the probe is completed.

The Soyuz capsule automatically jettisoned from the booster when it failed 123 seconds after the launch from Baikonur, Borisov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

The minister added that the problem occurred when the first and second stages of the booster rocket were in the process of separating.

Footage from inside the spacecraft showed the crew being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred.

In a statement, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said that a “thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted.”

Hague and Ovchinin were due to spend six months on the ISS, which is orbiting 400 kilometers above the Earth.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have plunged to the lowest level since the end of the Cold War over the wars in Ukraine and Syria, allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential, and other issues, but Russia and the United States have maintained cooperation in space.

The Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only vehicle for ferrying crews to the ISS following the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet in 2011.

The Oct. 11, 2018, booster failure led to what is said to be the first emergency landing for the Soyuz since 1975, when it failed to separate between stages during an ascent and triggered the abort system. The crew survived.

In 1983, a Soyuz exploded on the launchpad soon after the two cosmonauts it was carrying jettisoned. The crew also survived without injuries.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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’22 Pushup Challenge’ official calls Air Force ban ‘disgraceful’

You’d think Air Force brass, who struggle with suicides and overweight airmen, would welcome any incentive its troops could have to raise morale and get in a few extra pushups for their fellow veterans.


Not so.

The service warned airmen against joining hundreds of other service members and veterans in 22Kill’s 22 Pushup Challenge while in uniform or on duty. That didn’t sit well with Matthew Nelson, the Executive Director of 22Kill’s Boston office.

“I think it’s disgraceful,” said Nelson. “Heaven forbid you get some extra PT in raising awareness for an issue that affects the warrior class of society. The Air Force has a history of this weak-minded mentality.”

22Kill is intended to raise awareness for veteran mental health issues — including the infamous 22-per-day-suicide rate — as well as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury issues.

 

The challenge is to do 22 pushups in honor of a person or for a cause and to upload a video of you doing it to social media. Airmen from Edwards Air Force Base, California, to Patrick Air Force Base in Florida are uploading photos and videos doing their part for the cause.

Even soldiers from the UK are showing their support.

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of
Airmen from Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado participate in 22Kill’s 22 Pushup Challenge. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Air Force, however, doesn’t want troops to make it seem like the service is endorsing one private charity over another, officials say.

“Airmen may participate in non-profit organizations, including fundraising for non-profits, so long as they do so in their personal capacity, not in uniform,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Bryan Lewis told WATM.

“That is a passive cop out and they know it,” says Nelson.

The Air Force, with its high ops tempo and historically low manpower, struggles with an airman suicide rate that it can’t control.

“We just don’t have a good track record with it,” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody said at last year’s Air Force Association Air and Space Conference. “What we have is a track record of pushing people beyond what’s reasonable and sustainable. We’re going to lose our best people if we don’t get this right.”

Air Force spokesman Lewis reinforced the service’s dedication to suicide prevention, mentioning Air Force participation in the DoD’s own #BeThere campaign.

“It is commendable that Airmen desire to participate in, and support, organizations to raise awareness or funding for suicide prevention in their personal capacity,” said Lewis. “We just want to make sure airmen are aware of what they can and can’t do in uniform according to established regulations.”

Meanwhile, a recent Military Times story called the Air Force out as a “close second” to being the most overweight service in the U.S. military, with the Army taking the top slot, according to data the paper obtained during an investigation.

While the Army doesn’t allow soldiers to participate in the Pushup Challenge, it told Air Force Times it never felt the need to issue a statement on the issue. The Navy and Marines have not issued a statement either.

 

“All DoD employees must abide by the Joint Ethics Regulation, which is clear concerning such activities,” Navy spokesman Ensign Marc Rockwellpate told Air Force Times. The Navy hasn’t specifically advised sailors as the Air Force has, but Rockwellpate mentioned that sailors are required to abide by Joint Ethics Regulation 3-209, which says:

“Endorsement of a non-federal entity, event, product, service, or enterprise may be neither stated nor implied by DoD or DoD employees in their official capacities. [T]itles, positions, or organization names may not be used to suggest official endorsement or preferential treatment of any non-federal entity except those specifically listed.”

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of
Chiefs and chief selects do pushups for the 22Kill Challenge aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). 22Kill is a veterans’ advocacy group that brings awareness to the daily veterans’ suicide rate. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tristan Lotz)

Endorsement or fundraising is not the intent of the 22Kill effort, Nelson said. The original intent was a combined effort to pushup 22 million times “to raise awareness to veteran suicide prevention through education and empowerment,” according to 22Kill’s pushup page.

“While [airmen] are allowed to participate in activities to honor fallen airmen or bring awareness to issues like suicide, if these activities are associated with any type of nonprofit, non-federal entity, or fundraising or membership campaign, it cannot be done in an official capacity,” the Air Force said without mentioning the 22Kill program by name.

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of
Celebrities like John Krasinski, Candace Cameron Bure, Chris Pratt and Anna Faris, and The Rock also participated in the challenge.

“The military is synonymous with pushups and the challenge is to spread the word about our organization,” 22Kill’s Nelson says. “22Kill helps our warrior class through camaraderie, support, empowerment, and brings light to the small amount of people that defend this nation.”

The counter currently reads 227,880,412 pushups.

“Maybe whoever made that decision should spend some more time in Arlington,” Nelson says, “thinking about what’s important, what is petty, and what causes harm or discriminates against another.”

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These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

The regular NFL season is over now. Twelve teams are preparing for the postseason while twenty more are going back to the drawing board.


Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of
It’s unfair to make a Cleveland Browns joke here. Or anywhere, really.

For most of our teams, the season will not end well.  For some of us, our teams will be merely disappointing. Some will go down in flames. Others may even inexplicably snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

The NFL has a lot in common with the military. Like a battle, football requires discipline, endurance, and teamwork. Each team has its own culture, fan base, trials, and tribulations. To celebrate the crowning glory of what is the most American of sports, we decided to make sense of the 2015-2016 season’s ups and downs by comparing the teams to military film and television characters.

Arizona Cardinals – Lt. Dan Taylor, Forrest Gump

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

The Cardinals are one of the NFL’s longest continual franchises who still don’t have a Super Bowl win. It’s like Lt. Dan’s family tradition of fighting in every major war: none of his ancestors lived long enough to see the big win. Maybe this time will be different?

Atlanta Falcons – Anthony “Swoff” Swofford, Jarhead

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Everything started off so promising. A 5-0 start, the best since 2012.  But it never really went anywhere. Like Swoff going through hell to become an elite Marine: When it came down to it, it was all for naught. Swoff never got to fire his rifle. The Falcons lost 8 of their last 11 games. Just… disappointing. But like the Marines returning to Iraq in 2003, there’s always next year.

Baltimore Ravens – Sgt. Barnes, Platoon

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

This unit lost man after man until everyone watching was filled with dread and a sense of pathos soured their crab cakes. After so many player losses went down, everything else went downhill too. Unit cohesion became a disaster and no one outside of Maryland shed a tear when they died. The Ravens are also notoriously paranoid.

Buffalo Bills –  Chief Casey Ryback, Under Siege

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

If a team were represented by their fans at home games, the Bills would be Jeff Portnoy from Tropic Thunder. Luckily (and surprisingly) the Bills 8-8 season was much better than anyone expected, thanks in no small part to ex-Flacco backup Tyrod Taylor. Taylor’s performance can be likened to the ship’s cook of the USS Missouri, who was actually a Navy SEAL.

Carolina Panthers – Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley, We Were Soldiers

The Panthers had the second oldest average age of any team in the NFL, edged only by the Colts. Unlike the Colts’ geriatric gameplay, the Panthers’ translated into solid veteran status, going 15-1 and earning the #1 seed in the playoffs. No one is looking forward to running into Carolina in the postseason, nor should they be.

Chicago Bears – Pvt. Mellish, Saving Private Ryan

I’m only guessing here, but I bet this scene perfectly illustrates the experience of being a Bears fan and/or player throughout the 2015 season.

Cincinnati Bengals – Sgt. Nicholas Brody, Homeland

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Are you really good? Is everything what it appears to be? It’s been so long. Can we tell for certain? There’s only one thing Cincinnati fans know for certain: No one trusts you. Also: Ginger. Also: Nice reg haircut.

Cleveland Browns – The Cast of Tropic Thunder, Tropic Thunder

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_u-S7JUYOMo

Other teams have had worse records, other teams have their messes, but the Browns keep doing the same thing year after year: new coach, new QB, new outlook, same outcome. It’s like the Browns aren’t even an NFL team anymore. They’re more of a parody of football, skewering the entire culture of the NFL and its fandom. Unlike Tropic Thunder, there’s no happy ending.

Dallas Cowboys – PFC William Hudson, Aliens

A once-awesome team whose season started off with solid wins fell apart at the first sign of despair. And “despair” was the word of the season. Quarterback after quarterback would come to Dallas and meet their fate while the team struggled to keep it together long enough to pull in four total wins.

Denver Broncos – John Rambo, First Blood

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

The Broncos were quietly awesome in 2015. Not a lot of flair, the Broncos just went about their business trying to get to a Super Bowl. They weren’t amazing on offense for much of the season but like Rambo taking on some know-nothing cops in the woods, the defense demolished offenses one-by-one, losing only four games with three of those by one score or less.

Detroit Lions – Forrest Gump, Forrest Gump

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

No one really dislikes the Lions. We don’t really understand them either. For many of us, they’re like a family member, in that we see them once in a while and they always show up to Thanksgiving. They definitely aren’t stupid and they show us all the time the amazing things they’re capable of doing. And just like Forrest Gump, they aren’t winning a Super Bowl anytime soon.

Green Bay Packers – Capt. Jimmy Wilder, Independence Day

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Jimmy had confident leadership with an obvious record of success. Unfortunately, he just didn’t have what it takes to survive til the end. The Packers are much the same way. They have a chance to be Capt. Hiller if they can just keep their mask on, but they’re looking at a formidable wall of alien spaceship shaped like a giant Carolina Panther.

Houston Texans – Jean Rasczak, Starship Troopers

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Maybe it’s just J.J. Watt, but the Texans always seem angry to me. Like if a Texan doesn’t play hard enough, Watt will hurt them himself. This might explain all their QB injuries.

Indianapolis Colts – Pvt. James Ryan, the beginning end of Saving Private Ryan

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

As of September’s cut down day, the Indianapolis Colts were the oldest team in the NFL, meaning oldest average age of its players, (and it’s not just because of Adam Vinatieri, age 43). And they played like it at times, going 8-8. Those eight wins were against teams with a losing record and within one score against teams with a winning record. Extra points awarded for never giving up.

Jacksonville Jaguars –  Capt. James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Blame this on ownership. When owners change, the team should change a bit. Owner Shahid Khan has had years to get something going for the people of Jacksonville, who paid $63 million in upgrades for the stadium in 2013 only to receive a Jacksonville team with a record of 3-13. Everyone should be screaming about this.

Kansas City Chiefs – John Rambo, Rambo III 

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

They seemed reluctant at first but around week seven the Chiefs decided they had enough. With the gusto of Rambo going to rescue Col. Trautman, they demolished the perennial favorites Broncos and Steelers and trounced a resurgent Bills. This team who started 1-5 very nearly won the conference championship.

Miami Dolphins – Robert E. Lee, Gettysburg

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Because no one lives in the past like the Miami Dolphins.

Minnesota Vikings – Sgt. 1st Class Sanderson, Black Hawk Down

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Just as skilled and capable as Norm “Hoot” Hooten, but not nearly as interesting. The Vikings were able to beat the Chiefs once this season, but really spent Sundays taking down Chargers, Lions, and Bears most of the time. Still a winner, but not a Hoot.

New England Patriots – Chris Kyle, American Sniper

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Some people love you, some people hate you. None of that matters, because you’re among the best there is whether they like you or not.

New Orleans Saints – The entire cast of The Alamo

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

It turns out defense is pretty important. No one proves that more than the Saints.

New York Giants – Col. Kurtz, Apocalypse Now

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Watching the Giants’ 2015 season was like watching a once-formidable force just begging to be put out of its misery.

New York Jets – Capt. Virgil Hilts, The Great Escape

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Being the only team with a winning record to not make the playoffs is like escaping from a Nazi prison camp on a motorcycle, only to be captured on the Swiss border. They were so close, only to be sent back to the cooler.

Oakland Raiders – Maximus Decimus Meridius, Gladiator

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

An old man dies and now once great team is surrounded by people rejected by the everyone else and all they can think about is moving to the Coliseum.

Philadelphia Eagles – Capt. Dave “Captain America” McGraw, Generation Kill

No team’s on- and off-field behavior draws more head shaking than Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Animal Mother, Full Metal Jacket

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Full of guts, but no ideals: The Steelers snuck into the playoffs after a lucky Jets loss gave them the edge. You have to respect Animal Mother, though. He’s there because he knows how to do what he’s been trained to do and he’s good at it. Just like Pittsburgh.

St. Louis Rams – Nick, The Deer Hunter

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

St. Louis fans have seen seasons like this so often, they must be mentally broken by now. Every year, the talk of the Rams moving to LA has to wear on both the fans and the team. If they don’t move this year, spin the barrel for another 7-9 season and see what happens when you pull the trigger.

San Diego Chargers – Capt. Herbert Sobel, Band of Brothers

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

It’s not that the Chargers lack the will to succeed. It’s just that they lack the skill to succeed. So they’ll be moved somewhere which might be a better fit. Currahee!

San Francisco 49ers – Sgt. Elias, Platoon

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

The days of the 49ers being a “nice” team are over, and probably have been for a long time. Like the death of everything Sgt. Elias represented in Platoon, we can probably count on the 49ers becoming more and more desperate to do whatever it takes to win as time goes on.

Seattle Seahawks – Maverick, Top Gun

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Seattle is eminently likable despite a few personality flaws, flaws which led the them through the team’s ups and downs this season. Despite those few losses, the Seahawks are still among the best there is.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Pvt. Timothy Upham, Saving Private Ryan

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

The ultimate letdown. Sure, they have a much-talked-about leader but they also have all the skills they don’t need. When the time came to do or die, Upham didn’t even have the nerve to die. There’s always next year, but some of the guys on their roster won’t be around for it. Whose fault is that?

Tennessee Titans- PFC Blackburn, Black Hawk Down

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

You fell out of a helicopter before the fighting even started and you stayed down the whole time. You brought a lot of people down with you. A new QB made everyone feel like the Titans were a new, fresh team. There was hope. Then it all became a mess. Also, all the football references in Black Hawk Down are great reminders of the Titans’ most famous one yard line play.

Washington Redskins – The 54th Massachusetts Infantry, Glory

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

No one expected much from Washington this year. Despite every bad thing said about them, the Voldemorts of the NFL showed up to play every game of the season, finishing 9-7 and winning the NFC East. In their next battle, they’ll be mercilessly thrown at a formidable opponent and their leader will probably be taken down with them.

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5 inventions DARPA just gave Santa in the ‘HO HO HO Initiative’

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has once again given top-performing American gear to Santa to assist him with his Christmas mission, despite Saint Nicholas’s ongoing refusal to release his aviation technology to the U.S.


Santa has received DARPA research the past two Christmas seasons under the High-speed Optimized Handling of Holiday Operations initiative. The HO HO HO initiative has previously gifted Santa with the tools to protect his network from hacks, land more safely on slanted roofs, and more effectively scout homes for people who are awake before he places the presents.

This year, DARPA’s gift features five major programs.

1. New tools for seeing through snow, dust, and fog

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of
(Illustration: DARPA)

The Multifunction RF program is working on creating new sensors for aircraft that can detect obstacles, terrain, and other aircraft during flight — even in severe dust and snowstorms. The military wants the technology to prevent crashes during dangerous operations.

But Santa can use it to more safely approach houses in severe snowstorms and dust storms. This will become increasingly important as Santa fights to maintain his tight timeline with more kids to serve every year.

2. A fancy new Santa suit will help prevent strain injuries

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of
(Photo: DARPA)

The Warrior Web suit is designed to protect soldier’s joints and muscles from damage while the wearer is carrying heavy loads, sometimes topping 100 pounds. To do so, the suit uses a bare 100w of power to augment the muscle work done by the user, lessening their muscle fatigue and injury risk.

While Santa’s average load from the sleigh to the tree is unknown, his sack sometimes has to accommodate dozens of toys, books, and electronic devices. Hopefully, a new Santa suit featuring Warrior Web technology will help Santa more safely move up and down the chimneys.

3. The TRADES program will lead to new toy designs

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of
An artist created this concept art of an artist creating concept art. (Illustration: DARPA)

The Transformative Design program is trying to give engineers new tools to model the properties of possible equipment designs and to figure out manufacturing processes to create those products.

For top elves, this means that they can start fabricating new toy designs that would have been impossible just a few years ago. The new technologies will be especially useful for 3D printing.

4. New computer chips will keep the North Pole’s computers cool

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of
(Illustration: DARPA)

As Santa and his staff serve a growing population, DARPA has become worried that the computer servers processing all that information will overheat.

To help prevent this, they’ve offered the Man in Red access to their Intrachip/Interchip Enhanced Cooling research. Computer chips integrating this technology are cooled more efficiently and are less likely to fail during high-demand tasks such as when Santa makes his list and checks it twice.

5. Programs from the Cyber Grand Challenge will defend against hacks by the naughtiest of children

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of
(Photo: DARPA Camilla Sjoden)

The Cyber Grand Challenge provided millions of dollars in prizes to teams who put created automated bug hunters and defenses against hacking and then pitted those software programs and machines against each other on a Las Vegas stage.

Now, DARPA has turned some of that research over to Santa to help him keep his computer systems secure. While there’s little evidence that any hackers have made it into the system so far, the Naughty/Nice list is too obvious a target to be unprotected.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army to kill marksmanship shortcut that made soldiers less deadly

The U.S. Army’s new strategy to improve marksmanship will eliminate a shortcut that units use for individual weapon qualification — a long-standing practice that has eroded lethality over the years, infantry officials said.

Army officials at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia are awaiting final approval of the new marksmanship manual that will prepare the Army for a new, and much more challenging, qualification test.

The new course of fire — which forces soldiers to make faster decisions while firing from new positions — will drastically update the current, Cold War-era rifle qualification course. That course required soldiers to engage a series of pop-up targets at ranges out to 300 meters.


The stricter qualification standards will also do away with the practice of using the Alternate Course of Fire, or Alt. C, to satisfy the annual qualification requirement, Sgt. 1st Class John Rowland, marksmanship program director at Benning’s Infantry School, told Military.com.

Alt. C is an Army-approved 25-meter course in which soldiers shoot at targets scaled down in size to represent actual target sizes out to 300 meters. At that short range, however, the trajectory of the 5.56mm bullet is extremely flat and unaffected by wind, making it easier to score hits, experts say.

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Pvt. Bobby Daniels of D Company, 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, makes an adjustment to his M-4 rifle during combat familiarization training at Fort Benning.

“It is an approved qualification that largely has been abused, based off of lack of training management and proper planning. And it has come at the cost of lethality,” Rowland said. “That is going to be very impactful for units because they are very used to not being very proactive and not being able to fall back on, ‘well we’ll just do Alt. C.’ And that is no longer going to be the case.”

Army training officials at Benning have been spent the last two years validating the training strategy and course of fire for a new marksmanship qualification standard that is designed to better prepare soldiers for the current operational environment, according to Melody Venable, training and doctrine officer for the Infantry School.

“We have visited various units across the Army, and we have tested and validated parts of it as needed,” Venable said.

Soldiers who have shot the new course “are doing very well at it,” Venable said.

“They appreciate the training that the training strategy provides, and they enjoy the course of fire because it’s more realistic,” she said.

The new qualification course is designed to use the current marksmanship ranges across the Army.

“It’s still 40 targets; it’s still 40 bullets,” Rowland said. “It’s the same targets that people have been shooting at for years.”

But the new course adds the standing position to engage targets on two occasions during the course in addition to the kneeling and prone positions. The course requires soldiers to change magazines on their own and seek cover on their own while they engage multiple targets at the same time, Rowland said. The current course consists mainly of one-at-a-time target exposures.

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Sgt. Nicholas Irving, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, takes aim during the “Defensive Shoot” event at Wagner Range on Fort Benning.

The next milestone in the effort will come when Brig. Gen. David Hodne, commandant of the Infantry School at Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, signs the new manual that will guide the marksmanship effort so it can be published and sent out to the active force, National Guard and Reserve, Venable said.

Once that happens, leaders throughout the Army will have time to provide feedback on any challenges they might face in putting the new qualification strategy into action.

“Units have 12 months from the time of publication to provide the Infantry School and the MCOE with feedback on their issues with implementation of the training strategy or the course of fire,” Venable said, adding the many of the ranges across the Army are likely to require some updating.

“At this time, we are not there with a hardcore implementation date. … We don’t know all the second- and third-order effects that the changes are going to produce.”

But one of the clearest differences of the new qualification standards is that Alt. C is no longer a valid qualification, Rowland.

“That is going to be a huge change for the Army,” he said.

Army units can still use Alt. C to extend their annual qualification rating by six months if a deployment or high operational tempo prevents them from going to a range and qualifying with the new course of fire, Venable said.

“In areas where they don’t have range access — let’s just say they are downrange and they are 250 miles to a primary range — units can use Alt. C because they can’t get a range. However, they have to have a general officer approve the use of Alt. C,” Venable said. “They still have to come back and shoot the [new] course of fire to qualify.”

Using Alt. C extends a soldier’s current rating of marksman, sharpshooter or expert, but it cannot change it, Rowland said.

“If you are marksman and you conduct a validation event [with Alt. C] and you get a perfect score — you are still a marksman; you are not expert,” Rowland said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Why this French nobleman’s Paris gravesite is filled with dirt from Massachusetts

The United States owes its success in the Revolutionary War to help from France. The chief architect of that help was Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette. In America, we simply call him “Lafayette.”

When France needed help during World War I, a squadron of American airmen volunteered their skills to fight against Germany. They called themselves the Lafayette Escadrille. When American troops finally arrived in France years later, their leaders walked into the tomb of the nobleman and announced, “Lafayette, we are here.”

The Escadrille Lafayette in July 1917 (U.S. Air Force photo)

The relationship between the Marquis and the United States has endured for many centuries because of his admiration and service to a country that was not his own. That admiration runs so deep, that the nobleman is buried in American soil – in Paris. 

When the Marquis de Lafayette came to the United States to fight the British in the Revolution, he was so committed to the cause that he volunteered to serve without pay. Unlike other French officers volunteering, Lafayette had the military pedigree to be of use and soon came to be the right hand man to Gen. George Washington himself. 

That pedigree didn’t come with much experience. Lafayette would be learning as he served the American cause. Luckily, as a wealthy man, his personal contributions more than made up for what he lacked in military experience. But as he gained that valuable experience, he proved himself an able commander.

A dedicated Enlightenment thinker, his devotion to the cause of American ideals led him to fight in several battles, to be wounded at the battle of Brandywine, and encourage France to recognize American independence. Most crucially, it was Lafayette’s forces that harassed Cornwallis on his way to Yorktown.

John Ward Dunsmore’s 1907 depiction of Lafayette (right) and Washington at Valley Forge (Wikimedia Commons)

This forced the British to move across the James River, where they were eventually trapped by Washington, Lafayette and Comte de Rochambeau  by land and the French fleet by sea. He was forced to surrender his army after an almost three-week siege. It was the beginning of the end of the war, and the start of the American experiment.

Lafayette fought in the Continental Army all over the colonies, from New England to the Mid-Atlantic to the South, and was one of the few things that all the new states of the United States had in common. He so loved the ideals of the American Revolution that he tried to export them to France when he returned home. 

His advocacy for American liberty would serve him and his wife well in the coming years of the French Revolution. The French admiration for American values saved the lives of the noble and his wife. 

Lafayette would return to the United States many times in the years following the revolution. His visits would confirm the idea that the Founding Fathers had created a functioning democracy, based on the egalitarian values of the Enlightenment. He came to love the United States and proclaimed that he wanted to be buried in American soil.

Marquis de Lafayette
Lafayette’s grave (Wikimedia Commons)

On his final visit to the United States, Lafayette filled a trunk full of earth from the land near Boston’s Bunker Hill. When the noble died in 1834, his son interred him in the dirt from America. The American flag has flown over his grave continuously since 1850, a simple site behind an innocuous high stone wall.

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This ‘El Sal’ soldier kicked *ss with just a switchblade

In 2012, knife manufacturer Condor named a new tactical switchblade after Cpl. Samuel Toloza, one of 380 El Salvadorans who fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Corporal Toloza was part of a small force of Central Americans in Najaf, Iraq in 2004. The El Salvadoran force made their way from their main base to an outpost of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps where they suddenly found themselves surrounded by elements of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army .

 

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Toloza deployed to Iraq in 2004 (via Samuel Toloza)

 

Toloza’s unit was caught by surprise when the insurgents attacked. The “El Sals” withheld using their heavier guns for fear of inflicting civilian casualties, but sniper fire and RPGs were taking its toll on the small force.

They fought the Mahdi Army for hours but soon ran out of ammunition. With one dead and twelve wounded, the four remaining Central Americans tried desperately to hold on.

“I thought, `This is the end.’ But at the same time, I asked the Lord to protect and save me,” Toloza told reporter Denis Gray in 2004.

They moved the wounded to their truck and tried to get back to their main base. That’s when insurgents tried to kidnap one of Toloza’s wounded comrades.

Bad move.

The young corporal said a prayer and pulled a 3-inch pocket switchblade, his last weapon, on the attackers. Toloza stabbed anyone who came near his friends, no matter what weapons they carried. Horrified and completely surprised by the ferocity of an El Salvadoran on a stabbing rampage, the insurgent fighters backed off.

 

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Toloza after the fighting in 2004. (via Samuel Toloza)

“We never considered surrender. I was trained to fight until the end,” the then-25-year-old Toloza told the Washington Times.

Toloza was able to keep knifing the insurgent fighters long enough for an American relief column to arrive. When the Americans saw how Toloza managed to save his entire unit, they awarded him the Bronze Star for valor.

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Toloza’s knife in 2014.

 

Toloza had just picked up the switchblade at a quick PX stop before heading out, the BBC World Service reported. It cost him a dollar.

Salvadoran media dubbed him “El Rambo Salvadororeño.”

For the records, Condor’s 6-inch “Toloza” model is 3 inches longer than the actual switchblade Cpl. Toloza used to save his entire unit from annihilation.

Articles

Meet the world’s deadliest female sniper who terrorized Hitler’s Nazi army

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In early 1941, Lyudmila Pavlichenko was studying history at Kiev University, but within a year, she had become one of the best snipers of all time, credited with 309 confirmed kills, 36 of which were German snipers.

Pavlichenko was born in 1916 in a small town in Ukraine.

She was described as an independent, opinionated tomboy who was “unruly in the classroom,” as the Smithsonian notes.

At the age of 14, Pavlichenko’s family had relocated to Kiev, where she worked as a metal grinder in a munitions factory.

Like many young people in the Soviet Union at that time, Pavlichenko participated in OSOAVIAKhIM, a paramilitary sporting organization which taught youths weapons skills and etiquette.

“When a neighbor’s boy boasted of his exploits at a shooting range,” said Pavlichenko according to the Smithsonian.

“I set out to show that a girl could do as well. So I practiced a lot.”

On June 22, 1941, Hitler broke ties with Joseph Stalin and German troops poured into the Soviet Union. Pavlichenko rushed to join the Soviet army and defend her homeland, but she was initially denied entry into the army due to gender.

“She looked like a model, with well-manicured nails, fashionable clothes, and hairstyle. Pavlichenko told the recruiter that she wanted to carry a rifle and fight. The man just laughed and asked her if she knew anything about rifles,” Soviet-Awards.com wrote of Pavlichenko’s effort to join the military.

Even after Pavlichenko presented her  marksman certificate and a sharpshooter badge from OSOAVIAKhIM, officials still urged her to work as a nurse.

“They wouldn’t take girls in the army, so I had to resort to all kinds of tricks to get in,” explained Pavlichenko.

Eventually, the Red Army gave her an “audition” by giving her a rifle and showed her two Romanians downrange who were working with the Germans. She shot down the two soldiers with ease, and was then accepted into the Red Army’s 25th Chapayev Rifle Division.

Pavlichenko then shipped out to the battle lines in Greece and Moldova. In very little time she distinguished herself as a fearsome sniper, killing 187 Germans in her first 75 days at war.

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Snipers in these battles fought between the enemy lines, often far from their companies. It was extremely dangerous and careful work, as she had to sit perfectly still for hours on end to avoid detection from enemy snipers. After making a name for herself in Odessa and Moldova, Pavlichenko was moved to Crimea to fight in the battle of Sevastopol.

Her reputation earned her more dangerous assignments, eventually facing off one on one with enemy snipers. The Smithsonian reports that she dueled and killed 36 enemy snipers, some of whom were highly decorated themselves.

“That was one of the tensest experiences of my life,” Pavlichenko reportedly said.

Pavlichenko’s gun, the Mosin Nagant, held only five shots, was bolt-action, fired a .30 calibre round, and kicked like a mule.

She spent eight months fighting in Stevastopol, where she earned a praise from the Red Army and was promoted. On several occasions she was wounded, but she was only removed from battle after taking shrapnel to the face when her position was bombed by Germans who were desperate to stem the tide of her mounting kill count.

She had become a well known figure in the war, as a protagonist in the Red Army’s domestic propaganda, and the scourge of German soldiers all over the Eastern front. The Germans even went so far as to address her over loud speakers, offering her comfort and candy should she defect and join their ranks.

Pavlichenko became a sniper instructor and was soon invited to the White House.

She became the first Soviet soldier to visit the White House, where she met with President Franklin Roosevelt and first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.

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Photo: Library of Congress

Pavlichenko became angry at the US media for the blatantly sexist way they questioned her about the war. Her look and dress was criticized. When she was asked if she wore make up to battle she responded, “There is no rule against it, but who has time to think of her shiny nose when a battle is going on?”

“I wear my uniform with honor. It has the Order of Lenin on it. It has been covered with blood in battle. It is plain to see that with American women what is important is whether they wear silk underwear under their uniforms. What the uniform stands for, they have yet to learn,” she told Time Magazine in 1942.

Pavlichenko was one of 2,000 female snipers who fought for the Red Army in World War II, and one of the 500 who survived.

Her score of 309 kills likely places her within the top five snipers of all time, but her kills are likely much more numerous, as a confirmed kill has to be witnessed by a third party.

After the war, Pavlichenko went back to finish her Master’s Degree at Kiev University.

In April of this year, Pavlichenko’s story was immortalized in a film called “Battle for Sevastopol” in Russia and “Indestructible” in the Ukraine.

The film was shot during the 2013 EuroMaidan protests in Ukraine, and financed by both Russian and Ukrainian backers at the start of a conflict that would become bloody and divisive, however the film is a testament to the outstanding career of Pavlichenko, a common hero among both parties.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What a respectful alternative to the Veterans Day parade could look like

The once-proposed, hotly-debated November 10th parade in Washington D.C. has been put on the back-burner in the face of climbing costs. When it was first published that the price of the event was jumping from $10 million to $92 million, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, in response to the erroneously-suggested figure, “whoever told you that is probably smoking something.” Regardless of where the costs actually stand, it’s been officially postponed until 2019.

Unfortunately, by pushing the whole thing back a year, the event will lose much of its luster. This Veterans Day, which falls on November 11th, 2018, is the centennial of the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War.

So, what do we do now on such a tremendous anniversary? There have been many suggestions made by many sources, but two stand out against the noise: The American Legion’s request to focus on veteran support and attending the Centenary Armistice Forum in Paris.


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I’m fairly confident that there would be little argument for a military parade when the War on Terrorism concludes.

(Photo by David Valdez)

To be frank, America has seldom felt the need to rattle its saber and show how powerful of a force it is — it just is. This fact has been proven when it matters time and time again. But putting on a parade doesn’t have to be a show of force. In fact, countless Veterans Day parades are held across the country at which Americans can show their support of the United States Armed Forces.

American troops are, at present, in armed conflict and, typically, military parades in Washington D.C. are reserved for the ending of wars, such as the celebration of the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Any military parade this November should focus on what the day is really about: Supporting America’s returning veterans and memorializing the end of World War I.

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You know, like getting federal acknowledgement of the hazards of burn pits or the alarming number of veterans who commit suicide on a daily basis. A simple “we hear you” will get the ball rolling on helping those affected.

(U.S. Army photo by the 28th Public Affairs Detachment)

Meanwhile, it’s no secret that the Department of Veterans Affairs hasn’t been, let’s say, “well equipped” to handle the many issues within the military community. National Commander of the American Legion, Denise H. Rohan, issued the following statement through the American Legion’s website:

“The American Legion appreciates that our president wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops. However, until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home, we think the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veterans Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible.”

Securing funding for Veterans Affairs is always going to be a uphill battle, but any event held in the United States could be used to champion relevant issues and bring to light the very serious struggles that many veterans face.

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Besides, Paris will be hosting their own Armistice Day parade. If America were to join in theirs — it’d send a strong message to both our allies and our enemies. We save money and it shows the world that they’ll have to face off against more than our fantastic military alone.

(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)

On the other side of the coin, French President Emmanuel Macron will be hosting an international forum in Paris on November 11th to advance the promise of “never again” for the war that was supposed to end all wars. He has invited more than 80 countries to attend the event, including the United States.

Macron has invited world leaders to join together to work towards international cooperation. He compared present-day divisions and fears to the roots that caused World War II. On August 17th, in a tweet, President Trump said that he’ll be there.

MIGHTY FIT

From battlefield to dad bod: How to get back in your fighting shape

So you used to be a lean, mean fighting machine and now? Well, now you kind of have a dad bod. The good news is, you’re far from the only one. It’s extremely common for veterans to put on weight after leaving the military, so it’s nothing to feel embarrassed about. Here’s why it’s so common to fall out of shape after resuming civilian life, and how to use the skills you learned in service to get back on track.


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Warriors are athletes

When most people imagine a soldier, they picture broad shoulders and a near-perfect physique. That stereotypical image isn’t so far off, but it’s not just for looks. To undergo missions safely, physical fitness is a must. Strong muscles and low body fat are required to move quickly and keep yourself (and your team) safe. Whether you were in the army or the Marines, you had to be in great shape just to get in- and the training you took on in-service likely took your fitness levels to even greater heights. You became a true athlete, and staying that way was enforced on a daily basis.

In the military, you don’t choose what you eat

It seems obvious, but there is no all you can eat buffet in combat. While soldiers are supposed to get three solid meals per day, with at least one hot meal prepared consistently, there are no guarantees on the battlefield. At times, days may pass before soldiers can get their hands on a hearty meal.

Just as they don’t choose how often (or how much) they eat, a soldier doesn’t get to dictate how often or how hard they work out. Sure, plenty of soldiers opt to lift weights on their own, but in many military disciplines, more focus is placed on endurance and speed. They learn to move quickly and stay on their feet as long as necessary. It’s not easy, but a non-stop routine like that can whip almost anyone into amazing shape. Stay in the military, and it will keep you that way. Once you leave, it’s a totally different story.

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Why athletes put on weight when they retire

Take a look at the average Olympian a couple of years after they call it quits. A quick Google search will turn up plenty of examples; a pudgy gymnast is like tabloid paradise! People loooove to point and stare at once-ripped athletes who are now rocking baggy sweats and a few extra pounds, but let’s get real: ANYONE who is going from an intense training program and rigid eating regimen to an average lifestyle will lose tone and put on weight.

It’s not shameful. It’s science.

Seriously, even if you’ve put on 15 pounds (or 50), there’s nothing to feel bad about. When you get off a strict diet and exercise less, it’s NORMAL to gain weight. Athletes also are accustomed to consuming more calories at once to fuel their intense workouts. When the pace of the workouts slow down, and calorie intake doesn’t, weight gain is the result- and developing new eating habits takes time!

That said, whether you’re uncomfortable with your new shape or just want to feel like the warrior you still are inside, getting back on track is 100% doable, with a small dose of realism.

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of

Train (and Eat) for your new lifestyle

Before you revamp (or restart) a fitness and nutrition program, reassess your goals. Expecting to hit the gym multiple times per day and return to the level of fitness you hit while on active duty isn’t realistic for most people. Moreover, it’s unnecessary. Unless you need to be able to run tens of miles in a single day and do it again the next on a single hour of sleep, trying to reach your peak level of fitness is probably overkill.

Instead, consider your current lifestyle and choose goals to match. Hitting the gym or track four-six times per week and eating a diet low in refined sugar and unhealthy fats will probably be enough to get you back in your favorite jeans and feeling strong. That said, your personal path to success is unique. Start by setting reasonable goals, and build a fitness and nutrition plan to match.

Already working out with no results? Check for three common mistakes

Eating Empty Calories

When your activity levels are through the roof, worrying about counting every calorie is the last thing on your mind. When you’re adapting to a lifestyle that has room for more than fitness, pay attention to eating habits that pile on unnecessary calories. A daily soft drink, sugary coffee, or even a sports drink can add calories that aren’t doing much for you. Save those indulgences for once-in-awhile treats, not daily snacks.

Overblown Portion Size

Remember, you were a serious athlete when you were on active duty, and serious athletes need serious calories! You can still be an athlete, but if you’re not training as heavily as you were, your portions do not need to be as large. Even if you’re choosing healthy foods, make sure your portion sizes are balanced. Go easy on things like meat, cheese, nuts, avocado, and fruit. They’re super healthy for you, but they’re also high in calories. Keep eating them, by all means! Just not too much.

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Overtraining

Last but not least, don’t overtrain. Veterans are used to pushing themselves to the limits, but it’s better to think of a new training program as a marathon rather than a sprint. Pushing yourself too hard, too fast will lead to burnout, so listen to your body. It’s normal to be sore, but if you’re going down the stairs sideways for weeks, take it easy!

You are still a warrior, but now you’re a warrior who’s repertoire includes doing laundry, taking the kids camping, and being home for a family dinner. The new battlefield to conquer is balance. Find that, and you’ll be on your way to hitting fitness goals you can maintain for life.

Articles

Why NATO should use Russia’s massive wargame as an intel dump

When thousands of Russian troops wheeled and maneuvered through the steppes of southern Siberia two years ago, as part of massive military exercises known as Tsentr, Western experts spotted something unusual.


Amid Defense Ministry orders for tank brigades, paratrooper battalions, motorized rifle divisions, and railroad cars carrying howitzers, there were orders for the federal fisheries agency.

“And I wondered, ‘What the hell is the fisheries ministry doing?'” recalls Johan Norberg, senior military analyst at the Swedish Defense Research Agency. The eventual conclusion, he says, was that the Russian fisheries fleet was seen by military planners as an intelligence asset, playing a small role in national defense.

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Tsentr-2015 strategic headquarters military exercises. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

It’s an example offering a small window into not only how Russian commanders approach large-scale military games. It’s also the kind of insight that Western analysts hope to gain beginning next week when one of the largest exercises Moscow has conducted on its western borders since the Cold War get under way: a real-world, real-time glimpse at what Russia’s military is truly capable of, after years of institutional reforms.

The Zapad drills, taking place in Belarus and the regions east of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are formally kicking off on Sept. 14. They’re the first to be held in close proximity to NATO member countries since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

For that and many other reasons, they are giving heartburn to NATO allies from the Baltic to the Black Sea, with some observers predicting that the number of participating personnel could exceed 100,000, along with tanks, artillery units, aircraft, and other equipment.

Midterm Exam

Though few, if any, Western planners anticipate any outbreak of hostilities with Russia, NATO states have taken steps to reassure their populaces and to show they are taking the Russians seriously. US Air Force fighter jets are now patrolling Baltic airspace; Poland is closing its airspace near Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad; and four NATO battle groups, featuring 4,500 troops, are on alert in the Baltics and Poland.

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of
USMC Photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon.

That said, as much as anything, the Zapad exercises serve as a midterm exam for Russian armed forces and military planners, a measure of reforms made over the past decade.

“The exercise is actually a very good opportunity for us to… get a better sense of what the Russian military is actually capable of: how it can handle logistics, move different units, or, in an operation, exercise command and control over combined armed formations in the Baltic theater, which is the one we’re principally concerned with, right?” says Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA Corporation and a fellow at the Kennan Institute in Washington.

“This one is a lot more interesting to us because we don’t plan on fighting Russia in Central Asia,” Kofman says.

Preparations have been ongoing for weeks, with large numbers of railroad cars shipping heavy weaponry and vehicles into Belarus and civilians mobilized at some large state-owned enterprises in Kaliningrad and elsewhere.

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Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

“As we’ve seen before, Russians train exactly as they intend to fight,” Kristjan Prikk, undersecretary for policy at the Estonian Defense Ministry, said during a July event at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. “Thus, Zapad will give ample information on their military development and certainly on their political thinking, as it is right now.”

Structural Reforms

In 2008, when Russia invaded its former Soviet neighbor Georgia, its armed forces easily overcame Georgia’s defenses and some of its US-trained personnel, but the five-day war showcased significant weaknesses. For example, some Russian officers were reportedly unable to communicate with others over existing radio frequencies and were forced to use regular mobile phones. Russian surveillance drones performed poorly.

Other reforms already under way at the time included a shift from the Soviet military structure, organized around divisions, to a smaller brigade structure and the increased use of contract, rather than conscripted, soldiers.

Here’s the most influential US general you never heard of
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Reforms also included a substantial increase in defense budgets, something made possible by high world oil prices that stuffed Russia’s coffers. A 10-year plan to upgrade weaponry and other equipment originally called for Russia to spend $650 billion between 2011 and 2020, according to NATO figures, though Western sanctions, plummeting oil prices, and the economic downturn in 2015-16 are believed to have slowed some purchases.

“They’ve had now, say, eight or nine years with plenty of money and the willingness to train, and they have a new organization that they want to test,” Norberg says.

While the Defense Ministry conducts a cycle of exercises roughly every year, alternating among four of the country’s primary military districts, Western analysts got a surprise lesson in early 2014 when Russian special forces helped lead a stealth invasion of Crimea and paved the way for the Black Sea region’s illegal annexation by Moscow in March.

Real-World Laboratory

That, plus the outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine in the following months, offered a real-world laboratory for testing new tactics and equipment for Russian forces, including new drones, some manufactured with help from Israeli firms.

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Pro-Russian rebels shoot in the air at funeral of a fellow fighter killed in a battle for Marinka near Donetsk. Eastern Ukraine, 6 June, 2015. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

The Crimea invasion was preceded by the months of civil unrest in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, which culminated in deadly violence and the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych.

For many Kremlin and defense thinkers, that was just the latest in a series of popular uprisings, fomented by Western governments, that toppled regimes and governments stretching back to Georgia in 2003 and lasting through the Arab Spring beginning in 2010.

The scenario that Russian and Belarusian commanders have announced ahead of Zapad 2017 hints at that thinking: The theoretical adversary is one seeking to undermine the government in Minsk and set up a separatist government in western Belarus.

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Russia celebrating National Guards’ Day. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Inside Russia, the thinking that NATO and Western governments used the popular uprisings as a strategy led to the reorganization of internal security forces, such as riot police and Interior Ministry special troops into a specialized National Guard under the command of President Vladimir Putin’s former bodyguard. Some parts of that force, whose overall numbers are estimated at 180,000, are expected to participate in the Zapad exercises.

That, Kofman says, should yield insight into “how Russia will mobilize and deploy internal security forces to suppress protest and instability…basically how the regime will protect itself and defend itself against popular unrest.”

Articles

Air Force pilots drop bombs from F-35s for the first time

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An F-35B dropping a GBU-12 during a developmental test flight. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)


Air Force pilots attached to deployable squadrons have started dropping real bombs off of their F-35s during training missions, according to a report posted at CNN.com.

“This is significant because we’re building the confidence of our pilots by actually dropping something off the airplane instead of simulating weapon employment,” Lt. Col. George Watkins said in an Air Force statement.

The inert precision guided bombs were dropped from airplanes based at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

The F-35, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, could use whatever good publicity it can manage at this point. The test program has been plagued with failures at every turn, from wrestling with the millions of lines of code needed to make the cockpit suite communicate with the $500,000 helmet the pilot is supposed to wear to having to redesign the tailhook so the airplane will actually catch the wire across the flight deck and stop when trying to land on an aircraft carrier.

The program’s original “initial operational capability” or “IOC” date was in 2012, but that goal was missed due to setbacks. The overall program cost is currently at $400 billion, and that’s expected to go up to more than $1 trillion over the life of the airplane.

F-35 supporters marvel at the fighter’s “fifth generation” capability, which includes radar-evading stealth technology and data sharing between airplanes.  Critics say the Joint Strike Fighter is a procurement nightmare that can’t match the A-10 as a close air support asset or the F-16 as a dogfighter.

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