How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia - We Are The Mighty
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How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

Russia continues to issue threats to countries on its borders — most notably those with significant populations of ethnic Russians like Georgia and Ukraine which have already felt Moscow’s wrath in recent years.


But many European countries have reduced their spending in the decades since World War II, so preparing for a potential war with their aggressive and highly militarized neighbor is not as simple as giving their soldiers MREs, bullets, and marching orders.

And while the U.S. helps guarantee the security of NATO members, a recent analysis by the RAND Corporation indicates that many countries on the eastern front could be swallowed up long before American reinforcements could arrive. Some countries, like Estonia, could be conquered in as little as 60 hours, analysts say.

Here’s what eight countries in Eastern Europe are doing to get ready for the war they hope never comes:

1. Ukrainians are hastily emplacing fixed defenses

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
Ukrainian soldiers practice clearing trenches on Nov. 2 during an exercise in Ukraine with U.S. soldiers. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr)

Ukraine is the one state on the list who is currently engaged in a war with Russia. While their troops have fought limited groups of Russian “volunteers,” Ukraine’s top generals are worried about a full-scale air attack and ground invasion.

To prepare, they’re digging trenches and emplacing fixed defenses like tank traps and bunkers. They’ve also practiced maneuvering mobile air defenses and other units. Finally, Ukraine is planning a massive expansion of its navy to replace many some of the ships captured by Russia in the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

2. Estonia is training a guerrilla force to bleed Russian occupiers dry

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
Estonian soldiers provide cover fire for U.S. paratroopers on Nov. 3, 2016, in Hellenurme, Estonia, during a joint training exercise. (Photo: U.S. Army Pfc. James Dutkavich)

Estonia fields an army of only 6,000 soldiers and fully expects to be overrun within days if attacked by Russia, an outcome that the RAND Corporation agrees with. But Estonia plans to make the Russians regret ever acre they took.

The nation is hosting “military sport” contests and encouraging citizens to keep weapons in their homes. The sports events include 25-mile ruck marches, evasion exercises, plant identification, and others which test skills useful for an insurgent force. Over 25,000 Estonians have joined the weekly drills.

3. Latvia is training up a “home guard” and investing in special operations

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
Latvian soldiers drive their armored combat vehicles into position during a joint training exercise with U.S. troops on Oct. 31, 2016, in Adazi, Latvia. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Like Estonia, Latvia is bullish on training citizens to resist an invasion. They’re moving forward with plans to allow “home guard” member to keep their weapons and night vision devices in their homes. They’re also betting heavily on special operations forces, tripling the size of the National Armed Force Special Operations Forces.

Like most NATO members, they’re also trying to get more NATO troops on their soil to deter Russian aggression in the first place. Britain is already sending troops for exercises, and Denmark and France have promised forces as well.

4. Lithuania

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
(Photo: U.S. Army Pfc. James Dutkavich)

Lithuania has distributed a civil defense book to its citizens which details how to survive a Russian invasion that includes a phone number which residents can call to report suspected Russian spies. It is also planning to restart military conscription for men between the ages of 19 and 26.

5. Norway

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
Norwegian soldiers prepare for a stalking event during the 2016 Best Sniper Squad Competition in Germany. The team went on to win the overall competition. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)

Norway officially acknowledged that it believes Ukraine was illegally occupied by Russia during a state visit to Ukraine on Oct. 18. Russia later added Norway to its list of targets for “strategic” weapons. Russia uses the word “strategic” to differentiate between conventional and nuclear-capable forces.

Norway has invited more NATO troops, including U.S. Marines, to train there. It’s also stepped up its intercepts of Russian aircraft flying near its shores. Norway’s F-16s now maintain a 24-hour alert. The country is also re-opening Cold War-era bases in the far north.

6. Poland is buying massive amounts of equipment, including new subs

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
Polish soldiers of 17th Wielkopolska Mechanized Brigade move a simulated wounded soldier during a react to contact scenario during exercise Combined Resolve VII at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels Germany, Sept. 12, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Gage Hull)

Poland, which is considered to be one of the more hawkish NATO members, has been warning of a threat from Moscow for some time. For the past few years, it has championed regional security agreements with its neighbors and worked hard to ingrain itself with NATO.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Poland has ramped up the purchase of military hardware such as new, stealthy submarines and Polish-manufactured S-70 helicopters for its special operations soldiers.

7. and 8. Finland and Sweden are securing defense agreements with the U.K. and U.S.

Finland and Sweden are countries which famously prefer to avoid alliances, but Russian aggression has spurred an interest in limited defense agreements which will make it easier for NATO troops to deploy to those countries in the event of war.

The U.K. and U.S. signed two contracts each with Sweden and Norway, and all four agreements have different details. But, the broad strokes are that all four countries will increase their interoperability by holding joint training exercises as well as participating in research, development, and procurement projects.

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These small rockets can bring down buildings

Thermobaric rockets can be carried by a single infantry soldier in addition to their normal weapon, but the rockets are so powerful they can destroy some buildings in a single shot. America’s main thermobaric rocket is the SMAW-NE. The Shoulder-launched Multi-purpose Assault Weapon-Novel Explosive fires a rocket that disperses a mist of metal and fuel. The chemicals then react with the oxygen in the air before exploding.


The resulting blast is strong enough to take out many small buildings, even those built with stone and heavy beams. The weapon is mostly used by the Marine Corps and was deployed during the Second Battle of Fallujah.

Of course, America isn’t the only country with thermobaric rockets. Russians use the Shmel-M. In the Russian military, thermobaric weapons are called, “flamethrowers,” but the rockets work the same way. The Shmel-M is actually a descendant of the Schmel, the first deployed thermobaric weapon.

Thermobaric weapons also come in the form of a bomb or grenade.

NOW: The most ridiculous weapons ever designed

OR: The Navy’s new weapon system is a laser pointer on steroids

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20 stupid questions about the Coast Guard


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It’s common for the four major military branches — the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army — to work together, but seldom do we share missions with the Coast Guard.

But it wasn’t always this way. While the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, there have been instances when it fell under the Department of Defense. In actuality, the U.S. Coast Guard gets passed around a lot. In addition to the DoD, it has also fallen under the Department of Treasury, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of the Interior.

Related: 7 things you probably didn’t know about the US Coast Guard

So, it isn’t hard to imagine why some service members get confused when it comes to the Coast Guard. For this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, we invited fellow coastie and We Are The Mighty contributor Mary-Elizabeth Pratt to answer questions about the Coast Guard we’ve always wanted answers to but were too afraid to ask for fear of looking stupid.

Hosted by:

Guest:

  • Mary-Elizabeth Pratt: Coast Guard service member and historian

    Mary-Elizabeth Pratt is a DC-based freelance writer and non-profit employee. She combines her degrees in English and Military History with her experience as a Coast Guard Maritime Enforcement Specialist to teach others about the importance of the military’s smallest branch. Currently working with the Fisher House Foundation in operations, Mary-Elizabeth has spent time with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, and several small museums as a civilian.

    More articles about the Coast Guard by Mary-Elizabeth Pratt

Selected links and show notes from the episode:

Related: 13 thoughts I had during Coast Guard boot camp graduation

  • [05:03] What was it like to work on a major movie about the U.S. Coast Guard?
  • [06:25] Which movie do coasties embrace the most, The Finest Hours or The Guardian?
  • [08:45] Why did you want to write the hater’s guide to the Coast Guard?
  • [09:55] Why do people picture the TSA instead of the Coast Guard whenever the Department of Homeland Security is mentioned?
  • [11:00] Are coasties subject to the UCMJ or something else?

Related: The 5 military laws that nearly everyone breaks

  • [12:45] Do all the coasties go on drug busts?
  • [14:55] What’s the quickest way to get a rise out of a coastie?
  • [16:00] Why is Sinbad the dog so beloved by Coast Guard?
  • [17:38] Why should anyone hate the Coast Guard?
  • [19:50] What does maritime law enforcement consist of?
  • [20:00] What’s a B.U.I., is that like driving under the influence (D.U.I.)?
  • [20:23] What are some of the worst and best Coast Guard duty stations?
  • [23:00] What do coasties hate being called more: puddle pirates or shallow water sailors?
  • [23:55] Is it harder to get into the Coast Guard than it is to the main military service branches?
  • [24:50] Why should we love the Coast Guard?
  • [26:00] What are the differences and similarities between the Navy and the Coast Guard?
  • [28:45] What’s it like to be around members of the other service branches?
  • [32:00] What are some popular coastie hangout spots?
  • [33:05] What’s a Coast Guard deployment like?

Music licensing by Jingle Punks:

  • Goal Line
  • Heavy Drivers
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This is how the US military is training its F-35 pilots to fly through Russian air defenses

The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.


The testing is aimed at addressing the most current air defense system threats such as Russian-made systems and also focused on potential next-generation or yet-to-exist threats, Air Force officials said.

Air Force officials have explained that, looking back to 2001 when the JSF threat started, the threats were mostly European centric – Russian made SA-10s or SA-20s. Now the future threats are looking at both Russian and Chinese-made and Asian-made threats.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

Air Force senior leaders have explained that Russian and Chinese digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) can change frequencies and are very agile in how they operate.

Surface threats from air defenses is a tough problem because emerging threats right now can see aircraft hundreds of miles away, service officials explained.

Furthermore, emerging and future Integrated Air Defense Systems use faster computer processors, are better networked to one-another, and detect on a wider range of frequencies. These attributes, coupled with an ability to detect aircraft at further distances, make air defenses increasingly able to at times detect even stealth aircraft, in some instances, with surveillance radar.

Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

While the Air Force aims to prepare for the unlikely contingency of a potential engagement with near-peer rivals such as Russia or China, Air Force planners recognize that there is much more concern about having to confront an adversary which has purchased air-defense technology from the Russians or Chinese. Air Force F-35 developers emphasize that, while there is no particular conflict expected with any given specific country, the service wants to be ready for any contingency.

While training against the best emerging threats in what Air Force leaders call “open air” ranges looks to test the F-35 against the best current and future air defenses – there is still much more work to be done when it comes to anticipating high-end, high-tech, fast-developing future threats. This is where modeling and simulation play a huge part in threat preparation, developers said.

The Air Force plans to bring a representation of next-generation threats and weapons to its first weapons school class in 2018.

In a simulated environment, F-22s from Langley AFB in Virginia could train for combat scenarios with an F-35 at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

The JSF’s Active Electronically Scanned Arrays, or AESA’s, are technology an F-35 pilot could use to try to identify and evade enemy air defenses. AESA on the aircraft is able to provide a synthetic aperture rendering of air and ground pictures. The AESA also brings the F-35 electronic warfare capabilities.

Part of the idea with F-35 modernization is to engineered systems on the aircraft which can be upgraded with new software as threats change. Technologies such as the AESA radar, electronic attack and protection, and some of the computing processing power on the airplane, can be updated to keep pace with evolving threats.

In the event that an F-35 is unable to fully avoid ground-based air defenses, the fighter can use its speed, maneuverability, and air combat skill to try to defend against whatever might be sent up to challenge it.

Engineered to travel at speeds greater than 1,100 miles per hour and able to reach Mach 1.6, the JSF is said to be just as fast and maneuverable at an F-15 or F-16 and bring and a whole range of additional functions and abilities.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

Overall, the Air Force plans to buy 1,763 JSF F-35A multi-role fighters, a number which will ultimately comprise a very large percentage of the service’s fleet of roughly 2,000 fighter jets. So far, at least 83 F-35As are operational for the Air Force.

F-35 Weapons & 4th Software Drop vs Enemy Air Defenses

Many of the JSF’s combat capabilities are woven into developmental software increments or “drops,” each designed to advance the platforms technical abilities. There are more than 10 million individual lines of code in the JSF system.

While the Air Force will soon be operational with the F-35s most advanced software drop, called 3F, the service is already working on a 4th drop to be ready by 2020 or 2021. Following this initial drop, the aircraft will incorporate new software drops in two year increments in order to stay ahead of the threat.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

The first portion of Block IV software funding, roughly $12 million, arrived in the 2014 budget, Air Force officials said.

Block IV will include some unique partner weapons including British weapons, Turkish weapons, and some of the other European country weapons that they want to get on their own plane, service officials explained.

Block IV will also increase the weapons envelope for the US variant of the fighter jet. A big part of the developmental calculus for Block 4 is to work on the kinds of enemy air defense systems and weaponry the aircraft may face from the 2020’s through the 2040’s and beyond.

In terms of weapons, Block IV will eventually enable the F-35 to fire cutting edge weapons systems such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and GBU-54 – both air dropped bombs able to destroy targets on the move.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

The Small Diameter Bomb II uses a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker, drawing from infrared, millimeter wave and laser-guidance. The combination of these sensors allows the weapon to track and eliminate moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions.

These emerging 4th software drop will build upon prior iterations of the software for the aircraft.

Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities, and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B will enable the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, Joint Direct Attack Munition, or GBU-12, JSF program officials said.

Following Block 2B, Block 3i increases the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM, and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, service officials explained.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

In fact, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time recently over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.

The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.

The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

F-35 25mm Gun

The Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said. The test took place Oct. 30, 2015, in California, Pentagon officials described.

“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said at the time.

The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground.

Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.

“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F-35A airframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.

The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.

“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.

The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.

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New ‘Dunkirk’ trailer focuses on pilots, civilians who saved thousands

The main trailer for ‘Dunkirk’ is out, and it seems that Christopher Nolan will be telling the amazing story of Operation Dynamo from all angles as weekend sailors, Royal Air Force pilots, nurses, fishermen, and others appear in the footage.


Operation Dynamo, often called “The Miracle at Dunkirk,” was the evacuation of nearly 400,000 British and allied troops from the coast of France in 1940 after the German blitzkrieg cut through Allied defenses much faster than anyone anticipated.

The German invasion was expected to take months, but Nazi forces slashed a corridor through France to the English Channel in just over two weeks before they halted their advance. But the Nazis hadn’t been stopped by force of arms.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
French troops fill a ship evacuating Dunkirk. (Photo: Public Domain)

Rather, the high command decided that they didn’t want to risk panzers in pitched fighting near Dunkirk. So the German army kept the expeditionary force pinned down on the beach and sent the Luftwaffe to kill British ships in the English channel and strafe and bomb survivors on the beaches.

On May 26, the British launched Operation Dynamo, a Hail Mary attempt to rescue those dying troops through Royal Navy assets and, when those proved to be too few, hundreds of small fishing and pleasure boats piloted by civilians. Nearly 340,000 troops were evacuated from May 26 to June 4.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

Previous trailers for Nolan’s movie about the event have focused on the plight of soldiers on the beach who waited for days, sometimes in shoulder-deep water while under fire from the Luftwaffe, for rescue. The new trailer shows them, but it also spends a lot of time on a father crossing the channel with his sons, as well as the nurses and pilots who made the mission possible.

It looks like World War II buffs may get to see one of the war’s most miraculous moments played out on the screen through perspectives of everyone who made it possible. Many of the troops rescued from the beaches went on to fight in North Africa, the D-Day landings, and on to Berlin.

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9 Americans who raised their own armies to conquer other countries

Individual Americans invading other countries used to be a real problem for the fledgling United States. In fact, there were so many threats to U.S. security from its own citizens raising armies that the feds passed various Neutrality Acts to make it illegal for an American to wage war against any country at peace with the United States.


Still, it happened so often there were two words for it, “filibustering and freebooting” – but one man’s freebooter is another man’s freedom fighter, right?

Here are just a few of those American freebooters, some of whom were already judged by a jury of their peers.

1. A former Vice-President tries to conquer the entire Louisiana Purchase

Aaron Burr was the third veep, serving under President Thomas Jefferson. After his tenure as VP, however, his career took a steep dive. Not one to let massive unpopularity affect his career as a political leader, Burr conspired to create his own independent nation in the middle of what was 40,000 acres of territory belonging to Spain and the United States.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
His previous notoriety came from killing the Secretary of the Treasury.

He created a group of farmers, planters, and Army officers, including the Army’s top general James Wilkinson, and equipped them for a fight. But before he could wage his little war, Burr was arrested and shipped back to Virginia to stand trial. Wilkinson provided the most damning evidence against Burr, who was acquitted anyway.

2. John Adams’ son-in-law sought to liberate Venezuela

A prominent Revolutionary War officer, William S. Smith rose in ranks due to both his station in life and his martial ability. He began his career as an aide-de-camp but was soon on the General Staff for both Lafayette and Washington. So he knew what he was doing when he secured funds, arms, and mercenaries to free Venezuela from Spanish rule. The ships and 60 of the men he sent were immediately captured by Spanish authorities.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

Smith was put on trial for violating the Neutrality Act of 1794, like many of the people on this list. Also like many of the people on this list, he was acquitted. He claimed Thomas Jefferson told him to do it, and it led to the landmark Supreme Court ruling that the President cannot authorize a person to do what the law forbids.Smith would later be elected to Congress.

3. Vermont tries to liberate Canada

The brother of famed Patriot leader Ethan Allen was less than successful in his own efforts to unshackle the New World from the British yoke. After the Revolution, Ira Allen traveled to France to gain support for leading an insurrection in Canada, seeking to create an independent “Republic of United Columbia.” Instead, he purchased 20,000 arms and 24 cannon but was captured at sea by the Royal Navy. Britain thought he was going to arm the Irish and put him on trial for that. The escapade bankrupted Allen, who died in Philadelphia hiding from his creditors.

4. Patriots from Georgia attempt to annex Florida

In the early days of the American experiment, everyone wanted Florida. Unfortunately, it was full of the people who owned it — the Spanish. Americans were constantly gauging the Floridians to see if annexation were possible. One such endeavor was led by George Mathews, a former Continental Army officer.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
East Florida Patriots Flag

When the Spanish governor of East Florida reneged on a deal to cede it to the U.S., Matthews established an intelligence network and then a full-on insurgency in East Florida. His “Patriots of Amelia Island” were successful enough, but the U.S. had to deny the mission there because of the War of 1812. The insurgency soon collapsed and Mathews died in Georgia.

5. Trying to liberate Texas with Frenchmen

When he couldn’t fight the Spanish in Florida anymore becsause President John Quincy Adams purchased it from the Spanish, James Long set his sights on Texas. His original plan called for the use of Jean Lafitte’s pirate fleet. But Lafitte refused to help.

Instead, Long recruited dozens of former French soldiers and captured Nacogdoches, and proclaimed the first Republic of Texas, which lasted a month. Not to be outdone, he returned with 300 troops before being captured and shot by the Mexicans.

6. Doctor turned Lawyer turned journalist turned mercenary turned dictator

That’s one hell of a resumé – and yet William Walker did it all before turning 40.

In 1853, Mexico refused to give Walker permission to establish a fortified colony in Sonora, along the Mexico-U.S. border. He returned to San Francisco and built a 45-man army of slavery supporters from Kentucky and Tennessee to conquer Sonora and Baja California, forming the Republic of Lower California with his capital at Cabo San Lucas. After the Mexican government forced him out, he tried again to do the same thing, this time declaring the Republic of Sonora. When the Mexican Army intervened again and expelled Walker, he was tried for his illegal war in California but was acquitted in 8 minutes.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

Two years later, Walker turned up in Nicaragua, leading 60 “colonists” to support the government. His gang and a group of locals attacked a Conservative Party group who were in open civil war against Nicaragua’s Liberal government. He inflicted heavy casualties and later captured the Liberal capital. He ruled Nicaragua as head of the army, even being recognized by the U.S.’ Pierce Administration as the legitimate government. Fearing further conquests, nations of Central America formed an alliance to take down Walker, who surrendered to the U.S. Navy. He eventually ended up in the hands of the government of Honduras, who promptly executed him.

7. A Confederate diplomat in Mexico starts a rebellion

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
John T. Pickett

John T. Pickett was sent to Mexico as an emissary of the Confederate government. He found the Mexican government to be less than receptive to the Southern cause and more welcoming to the North. Pickett was arrested after assaulting a member of the U.S. diplomatic party by Mexican authorities. Pickett attempted to raise a rebel army against the Mexican government but failed. He tried numerous times to negotiate a treaty to annex large parts of northern Mexico. He was again arrested by the government, thrown in jail for 30 days, and expelled from the country.

8. Naval officers want to conquer South America, found Confederate colonies instead

Matthew Maury, the founder of the U.S. Naval Academy, sent two officers on a mission to map the Amazon for shipping purposes. The officers, loyal to the Confederate cause (as was Maury), instead mapped it to conquer it for the Confederacy. When the South lost the Civil War, Maury helped 20,000 rebels flee to Brazil, where they founded the Confederate colonies of New Texas and Americana.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
A tradition they still celebrate.

9. Aiding independence movements everywhere

One American thought supporting independence movements worldwide all the time should be the extent of American foreign policy and acted on it whenever possible. William A. Chanler started his career as a freedom fighter in 1902 when Dutch investors tried to overthrow Venezuela for defaulting on its loans. Chanler created an outlaw army, recruited through Butch Cassidy, that landed in Venezuela and marched inland. The President of Venezuela, finally complied with the terms of his loan and Chanler’s army withdrew. He shortly after assisted the Libyans in fighting the Italians, Somalis fighting Italians, and he helped the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in China

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Relax, the Pentagon has a plan for the zombie apocalypse

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
We can neither confirm nor deny that a resurrected George Washington is a part of the Pentagon’s plan. | Artwork by Jason Heuser (Sharpwriter) | DeviantArt


The Defense Department, known for having a plan in place for any disaster scenario, has created a detailed strategy for a possible zombie apocalypse, Gordon Lubold reports for Foreign Policy.

The strategy, known as “CONPLAN 8888,” is an unclassified document that lays out how the military would best respond to a potential zombie apocalypse. The plan’s overall purpose is for the military to undertake operations to “preserve ‘non-zombie’ humans from the threats posed by a zombie horde.”

CONPLAN 8888 follows a three-step approach to ensuring these goals by 1) maintaining a defensive perimeter to protect human life; 2) conducting operations that will eradicate zombie threats; and 3) aiding civil authorities in restoring law and order.

Of course, the Pentagon does not actually believe in the likelihood of a zombie apocalypse. Instead, the plan was developed by military trainers who realized that a zombie survival scenario could be a useful and effective training tool.

A disclaimer at the beginning of CONPLAN 8888 states that, “because the plan was so ridiculous, our students not only enjoyed the lessons; they actually were able to explore the basic concepts of plan and order development … very effectively.”

A military training plan based on a fictional scenario also does not carry the risk of political fallout. A training plan marked “Nigeria,” for instance, could cause a political firestorm if leaked, while a program for the zombie apocalypse could not be misconstrued as real.

Currently, CONPLAN 8888 includes defense against the full zombie spectrum, ranging from zombie chickens to pathogenic zombies, in a variety of populated and non-populated areas.

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Navy ship defense weapon upgraded to destroy small boats

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
YouTube


The U.S. Navy is pursuing a massive, fleet-wide upgrade of a shipboard defensive weapon designed to intercept and destroy approaching or nearby threats such as enemy small boats, cruise missiles and even low-flying drones and aircraft, service officials said.

The Phalanx Close in Weapons System, or CIWS, is an area weapon engineered to use a high rate of fire and ammunition to blanket a given area, destroying or knocking enemy fire out of the sky before it can reach a ship. The Phalanx CIWS, which can fire up to 4,500 rounds per minute, has been protecting ship platforms for decades.

The weapon is designed to counter incoming enemy attacks from missiles, small arms fire, drones, enemy aircraft and small boats, among other things. It functions as part of an integrated, layered defense system in order to intercept closest-in threats, service officials explained.

“Phalanx provides a ‘last ditch’ gun-based, close-in defense to the Navy’s concept of layered defense,” Navy spokesman Dale Eng told Scout Warrior.

The weapon is currently on Navy cruisers, destroyers, aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships, among other vessels. The upgrades are designed to substantially increase capability and ensure that the system remains viable in the face of a fast-changing and increasingly complex threat environment, Navy officials said.

The overhaul in recent years has consisted of numerous upgrades to the weapon itself, converting the existing systems into what’s called the Phalanx 1B configuration. At the same time, the CIWS overhaul also includes the development and ongoing integration of a new, next-generation radar for the system called the CIWS Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2, Navy officials explained.

The Block 1B configuration provides defense against asymmetric threats such as small, fast surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary-winged aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles through the addition of an integrated Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) sensor.

The Navy is now upgrading all fleet Phalanx Block 1B Baseline 0 and 1 Close-In Weapon Systems to the latest Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 configuration, Eng said. The plan is to have an all CIWS Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 fleet by fiscal year 2019, he added.

The Navy has also embarked on a series of planned reliability improvements (known as Reliability-Maintainability-Availability Kits) in order to keep the CIWS fleet population viable and affordable for the next several decades, Eng said.

An upgrade and conversion of an older CIWS Phalanx configuration to Phalanx Block IB averages around $4.5 million per unit and a Block IB Baseline 2 radar upgrade kit averages $931,000 per unit, Navy officials said.

The Phalanx Block IB configuration incorporates a stabilized Forward-Looking Infra-Red sensor, an automatic acquisition video tracker, optimized gun barrels (OBG) and the Enhanced Lethality Cartridges (ELC), service officials added.

Navy officials said Block IB provides ships the additional capability for defense against asymmetric threats such as small, high speed, maneuvering surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary-winged aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The FLIR also improves performance against anti-ship cruise missiles by providing more accurate angle tracking information to the fire control computer, officials added.

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Revenge and duty to country motivated this Vietnam War Marine

By the late 1960s, more than a half a million Americans were serving in Vietnam. Among them was revenge-seeking Marine, Lt. Dan Gannon.


Serving on the front lines was never the plan for this college grad, but after learning his brother had been shot in the arm during a combat operation, Gannon was ready to get in the fight.

“I got to go over and get those suckers for shooting my brother,” Dan humorously states.

Wanting to serve his country honorably, Gannon deployed with the Marines somewhere north of Danang where he would spend over 300 grueling days fighting in the humid jungle.

Related: This video shows the ingenuity behind the Viet Cong tunnel systems

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
Dan takes a brief moment for a photo op while serving in the Vietnam jungle. (Source: Iowa Public Television/YouTube/Screenshot)

In order to stay razor-sharp on the battlefield, Gannon chose to defer his RR leave to the end of his tour of duty.

“You don’t stop to think I want to be patriotic right now,” Gannon mentions during an interview. “You have a job to do and I want to do it the best way I can.”

Ganon’s Marines were commonly spread out thin and up to distances of a quarter of a mile. Throughout his dangerous deployment and multiple firefights, Gannon hardly acquired a single scrap — until one fateful day.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
Proud Marine and Vietnam Veteran, Dan Gannon. (Source: Iowa Public Television/YouTube/Screenshot)

Also Read: Beware the American booby trap rigger in Vietnam

While taking contact, Gannon felt a sting in his arm and had to be told by one of his Marines that he’d been hit. He looked and saw blood streaming down his arm. The wound had to be quickly cleaned by the squad’s Corpsman as the enemy would frequently dip their bullets in feces before they were used.

Soon after, Gannon collapsed when his wound became infected and was evacuated by helicopter for medical treatment.

“I felt bad that I had to leave my Marines. I was that committed,” Gannon says.

Gannon was recommended for the purple heart but decline the accommodation.

Check out Iowa Public Television‘s video how Dan Gannon wanted to get into the sh*t and do his part.

(Iowa Public Television, YouTube)
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Paris attack planners obliterated in drone strike

Two Islamic State leaders behind the terrorist attacks in Paris last year were killed in a U.S.-led drone strike Dec. 4 in Raqqa, Syria, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.


The two targets, Salah Gourmat and Sammy Djedou, worked with external terror operations and recruitment of foreign fighters in Europe. They were directly involved in facilitating the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people.

Gourmat and Djedou were close associates of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, ISIS’s former chief spokesman who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in August.

Walid Hamman, the third terrorist killed in the drone strike, was a suicide attack planner, Hamman was convicted in absentia by a Belgian court for a terror plot foiled in 2015.

“The three were working together to plot and facilitate attacks against Western targets at the time of the strike,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters.

All three were part of a terror network led by Boubaker Al-Hakim, who died in another U.S.-led airstrike Nov. 26.

“Since mid-November, the coalition has now successfully targeted five top ISIL external plotters, further disrupting ISIL’s ability to carry out terrorist operations beyond Syria and Iraq,” Cook said.

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What It’s Like Flying With The US Navy’s Elite Blue Angels

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
The author’s POV during the echelon pass portion of his flight with the Blue Angels. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


The Blue Angels’ high level of precision begins nearly 90 minutes before the six gleaming F/A-18 Hornets take to the skies, and when Blue Angel number one — the commanding officer — announces the start of the preflight brief, banter between the officers ceases and the team puts on the collective game face.

This week the Team is borrowing the hangar spaces of a fleet Hornet squadron that’s currently deployed, but the set-up of the ready room has been modified significantly from that normally seen in a fleet squadron. Instead of having a room full of the classic metal and faux leather chairs arranged theater-style facing a large dry-erase board at one end, the pilots are seated in high backed executive chairs around a large conference table.

The support staff – the supply officer, the maintenance officer, the flight surgeon, and the public affairs officer among others – line the walls (also seated in executive chairs) forming a ring around the core team of jet pilots – Blue Angels 1 through 6. The rest of the pilots scribe imaginary lines along a Google Earth print outs of the airfield and surrounding area while Blue Angel No. 1 – commonly called “The Boss” – goes through the sequence of events from marching to the jets through the four-plane diamond takeoff and into the first moves of the airborne routine.

Without warning the team suddenly pushes back from the conference table and lowers their chairs. Each pilot hunches over, gripping an imaginary stick with his right hand and throttle with his left. Their heads tilt in the same directions they’ll face while flying close formation during the flight. Their eyes narrow in what looks to be a Zen-like trance as the Boss goes through his radio cadence.

“Up . . . we . . . go,” the Boss chants. “A . . . little . . . more . . . pull. Easing . . . power.   Easing . . . more . . . power. A . . . little . . . pull. Rolling out.” The atmosphere is generally like that of a church congregation at prayer with the Boss playing the role of priest. Then suddenly the team comes out of the trance, pops up in their chairs, and moves back to the table.

After reviewing the next maneuvers in the show sequence, they push back once again and go back into the role playing – the Zen state – as the Boss again sings his radio commands. The brief ends with other members of the Team briefing items required by their secondary roles. The supply officer briefs the weather. The maintenance officer briefs the field conditions and which runway they’ll most likely use for takeoff. And just like a regular fleet squadron, the pilots review an “emergency procedure of the day” and any other safety of flight items that might be germane.

The main brief ends and the support staff along with the C-130 “Fat Albert” crew files out, but only after shaking each pilot’s hand. One can sense that these traditions aren’t arbitrary. They underwrite the intangibles that surround the Blue Angels’ mission, one that’s not reckless but inherently hazardous nonetheless.

After a short van ride from the hangar to the flight line, the Blue Angels march over to man up, peeling off in front of their respective jets in a 90-degree pivot at each Hornet’s nose. Each gets in without a lot of fanfare. The pilots apply electrical power to their jets, and after a quick radio check the canopies come down. They taxi to the duty runway in numerical order, waving and giving the thumbs up to the enthusiastic crowd as they pass.

Soon they’re in position for takeoff. The Boss calls over the radio: “Let’s run ’em up . . . smoke, on . . . off brakes now . . . burners ready now . . .” and 1 through 4 are on their way down the runway. They’re barely off the ground when No. 4 slides from the right wing into the slot as the four airplanes simultaneously raise their landing gear.

Then it’s “up . . . we . . . go” into the vertical for the first part of what they call the “Diamond Half Squirrel Cage” which is basically a four-plane Half Cuban Eight. The weather is beautiful so the team does the “high” version of the show, which allows them to perform all of their vertical moves in their entirety.

The Squirrel Cage is followed by a few other diamond moves: the 360, the roll, the aileron roll, and the dirty (gear down) loop. Then it’s time for some upside down action, what they call the “Double Farvel” – a level pass down the show line with Blue Angels No. 1 and 4 inverted the whole time. The Boss transmits “hit it!” and No. 4 mirrors him in putting the Hornet on its back.

From there the four-plane does some echelon moves – a parade pass followed by a roll. Then Blue Angel No. 5 joins the formation for a line-abreast loop. To this point there has been some G on the airplanes but nothing very taxing. That is about to change with what they call the “break out” maneuvers.

The Low Break Cross, the Fleur De Lis, and the Loop Break Cross all involve the diamond separating, crossing along various axes, and then quickly rendezvousing back into the diamond. The beginning and end of those moves means lots of G. Fighting off the G forces is a lot of work, like the most intense ab workout you can imagine while a giant sits on you.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
The author with iPhone at the ready in the rear cockpit of Blue Angel No. 4 during the Diamond Pass. (Photo: David F. Brown)

And G forces are something the Blue Angels train to very seriously. In the spring of 2007 Lieutenant Commander Kevin Davis, then Blue Angel No. 6, was killed after he put himself out while attempting a high G rendezvous towards the end of a show over MCAS Beaufort, SC. He was unable to recover the jet before hitting the tree line.

Now the Blue Angel pilots go through centrifuge training on an annual basis to ensure their anti-G techniques are sound and their G tolerance is the best it can be. The Loop Break Cross is followed by a couple other high G maneuvers – the Delta Break Out, and the Delta Pitch Up Break.

After that the jets land in order. The precision continues as the jets park. The Hornets shut down and open their canopies simultaneously. The crowd cheers as the Blue Angels dismount their fighters and march back to where they started about 45 minutes earlier.

They finish with handshakes all ’round. Another successful show in the books.

After some photos in front of one of the jets with fans, the Blue Angels are back in the ready room for the debrief. The flight may be over, but the Blue Angels aren’t done working.

The pilots hold a kangaroo court of sorts, calling themselves on their transgressions during the event, starting with the Boss. The tone is at once serious and lighthearted. A video review follows, starting with the pilots marching to their jets. They freeze the playback, critiquing minor synchronization flaws as the team went from parade rest to attention or saluted a plane captain as they passed each jet.

The attention to detail grows as the playback rolls to the airborne portion of the show. They run the tape back and forth like a football coach working the clicker. Most of the dings involve discrepancies that are invisible to the untrained (read “average air show attendee”) eye – a hair early on a roll or barely off on a crossing move. The focus is amazing considering these guys have been flying the exact same show for nine months, literally hundreds of times, but they still seem to share a concern that it isn’t quite right.

The conduct of the debrief is the answer – beyond what it takes to fly the jet – to why it’s so hard to be a Blue Angel. Anyone who’s spent time in the carrier aviation world probably knows someone who’s rushed the Blues – someone who seemed perfect for the Team in terms of stick and rudder skills, demeanor, and personal appearance – but who ultimately didn’t get the nod. But watching these guys interact is a study in zero ego in spite of pointed criticism, even that that could have been interpreted as a less-than-totally-positive view of piloting ability. They are earnest to a man. They all want to get better, and they see the next show as an opportunity to do just that.

And maybe that’s the lesson of the Blue Angels: It’s not enough to get it right most of the time; it needs to be all the time.

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Here’s what happened when this Marine refused to go to war

Stephen Funk grew up with a lot of speaking problems. For a long time, he was actually mute. He would be able to speak again one day, however, in a voice that would stand out because it belonged to a United States Marine.


How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
Funk in the Marines (wikimedia commons)

Funk enlisted in the Marines at age 19, right after high school and the attacks of 9-11, to go to Afghanistan. His father served, so did his grandfather. In boot camp, he qualified as an expert rifleman, but something about it bothered him. When his instructor told him he wouldn’t shoot as well in combat, Funk told the instructor he was right, because he thought killing was wrong.

“Throughout the training,  all the conditioning is trying to make you think its okay to kill and go to war,” Funk says.  “But the whole time it felt wrong to me. At the end of it, I ended up not wanting to go anywhere to fight at all. I didn’t want to be a part of it.” Funk would soon gain international notoriety for becoming the first U.S. troop to refuse to fight in the Iraq War.

“I didn’t really expect it to be a big deal,” he recalls. “I could have easily gotten out under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I am gay and they could have discharged me without the hassle. But I had this moral awakening about my service. I didn’t feel that it was right to get out under DADT, which I didn’t believe in either.”

He applied for conscientious objector status. There were many other conscientious objectors Funk knew of, but none served time in jail. Funk was sentenced to six months confinement (he served five), a demotion to E-1, forfeiture of pay, a fine, and a bad conduct discharge. The crime: Unauthorized Absence.

“Unauthorized Absence is really common,” Funk explains. “Anytime you’re not where you’re supposed to be, that’s unauthorized absence. As a reservist, if you miss a weekend, that’s unauthorized absence, but they’re not going to put you in the brig for that. They might make you come in on an off-weekend to make up for it, but they’re not gonna send you to jail.”

Funk felt the level of punishment didn’t fit the crime. He felt the Corps was making an example of him. The 27 other conscientious objectors with Funk who applied (16 were granted CO status). The Marines’ stance was the other objectors avoided prosecution because they reported for duty on time.

More than a decade later, Funk remembers being surprised about the public response to his story.

“I figured it would be a more local story in the U.S.,” Funk says. “I remember thinking how weird it felt on both sides. I was mischaracterized by both sides. I was vilified by people on one side, which I thought was unfair. By other side I was lionized, and all of a sudden I had to represent all the antiwar veterans and that didn’t seem right either. I felt it was covered a lot more fairly in international media, especially in the UK and Japan. But the coverage led to me being punished more than I might have been. If I had left under DADT there would have been no repercussions, but I felt the punishment was harsher since I had a more public stance.”

People still remember Stephen Funk. Every once in a while, someone looks him up and reaches out. After 13 years, many wonder if he would do it all over again.

“If placed in the same position, I probably wouldn’t join in the first place,” Funk says. “But I had a lot of great experiences afterward and I did get to meet a lot of veterans with all sorts of different backgrounds who I never would have had the chance to meet.”

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
Stephen Funk today

Funk just graduated from Stanford with a degree in International Relations. He spent much of his school years founding and working with Veteran Artists, helping veterans through creative arts.

“I don’t want to distance myself from everything veteran related,” he says. “because this was still a big part of my life. So I helped veterans express themselves through art, no matter what their views were.”

 

NOW: 4 Badass conscientious objectors

OR: 11 Ways people dodged the Vietnam draft

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These American units will be first on the scene if World War III erupts

It seems like every week brings another potential flashpoint for global conflict. North Korea acts like it wants to go 12 rounds over its nuclear program. China threatens war to protect its control of Taiwan and the South China Sea. Russia stages major exercises near NATO borders and is currently occupying two regions of Ukraine.


And that’s without touching the cluster that is the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

But Americans can still sleep soundly because its military keeps teams ready to deploy at a moments notice, projecting power to any part of the globe within hours.

Related video:

These are the U.S. military units who, in conjunction with NATO and other allies, would be in charge of drawing first blood in a knockdown fight. We modeled the conflict based on the war in Syria erupting into something larger, but the scenario would play out similarly in other regions of the world.

Listen to the author and other vets discuss this World War III scenario on the WATM podcast.

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1. U.S. Air Force’s first move is to achieve air superiority.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
The F-22 Raptor. Photo by: US Air Force Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase

The Air Force is likely going to find itself the first one in the ring. Strikes in Syria fall under U.S. Central Command, but command and control for a conflict that spills into Turkey would shift to U.S. European Command.

As USEUCOM began coordinating the other military branches, the Air Force in Europe would defend itself and allied air forces. The six F-16s temporarily based in Turkey would likely be the first to fire. As they begin intercepting Russian jets, the Air Force would likely send in some of the other F-16s stationed around Europe and the four F-22s deployed there in order to achieve air superiority over Turkey.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
F-16s. Photo: US Air force Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika

Within 24 hours, the Air Force would dispatch 1-2 “Rapid Raptor” teams. Each consists of four F-22s that can refuel in the air as they race to any spot on the planet in 24 hours. Their support crew and additional equipment follow them in a C-17. The rest of the planes in each squadron would come later.

And of course, the Air Force would support necessary ground operations. In Jul., A-10 pilots practiced operating from an abandoned Warsaw Pact Airfield in Poland and proved they could fly from nearly anywhere.

2. The Navy moves to protect major ships from submarine attack and push Russian assets back in the Mediterranean.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
Photo: US Navy Patty Officer 2nd Class Evan Kenny

The U.S. Navy 6th Fleet covers the Mediterranean and Black Seas and would find itself in a fierce fight if it suddenly had to secure itself from a full spectrum attack by Russia.

Putin commands an impressive fleet of extremely quiet submarines and the surface vessels of Russia’s Black Sea fleet are also impressive.

But the 6th Fleet has been preparing for these possibilities, training with allied navies with a focus on anti-submarine warfare. The destroyers of 6th Fleet have been conducting patrols through the Mediterranean and training to operate in the Black Sea.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho

Currently, the 6th Fleet has no aircraft carrier or Marine expeditionary unit, but the USS Harry S. Truman is on its way to 5th Fleet and could be sent through the Suez Canal to 6th Fleet if necessary. Until the actual carrier arrived, the planes could fly missions supporting 6th Fleet by launching from the Truman and grabbing gas from a tanker over the Middle East on their way to the Mediterranean.

Also, other ships could surge from the U.S. into the fight if required. The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) recently left the Arabian Sea and could be sent back if necessary. The USS H. W. Bush (CVN 77) is in Norfolk going through training exercises.

3. Marines quickly secure U.S. nationals and evacuate embassies while preparing for a massive fight.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
Photo: US Marine Corps Staff. Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

Marines stationed at vulnerable embassies throughout eastern Europe would quickly evacuate embassy personnel and destroy classified information. Obviously, the Moscow embassy would face the shortest timeline.

Deploying to back these Marines up, recover downed aircrews, and evacuate civilians as required is the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response–Africa. SPMAGTFCR-AF recently trained on how to work with regional allies and quickly deploy their 500 troops, six Mv-22s, and two KC-130Js.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rebekah Adler

Marines deployed to the Black Sea Rotational Force in Romania would provide expertise and assist in defending Romania’s coast from potential attacks by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Marines across the rest of the continent would prepare to repulse a land invasion from Moscow.

4. The Army looks to hold the line across over 750 miles of border.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
Photo: US Army

U.S. Army Europe has units across the continent, but most of the major unit headquarters are in Germany. USAREUR soldiers would rapidly deploy from there to plus up smaller garrisons. This deployment would include the paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, the Strykers of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, and the helicopters of the rotational aviation task force in Europe.

They would be backed up by the Global Response Force from the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

5. Supporting all of this activity would be the special operators of Special Operations Command Europe.

How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia
Photo: US Army Spc. Travis Jones

Special Operations Command Europe has operators from the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The Army fields its oldest Special Forces group, the 10th, in Europe. Navy Special Warfare Unit 2 mostly supports forward deployed SEAL platoons but could also pivot missions to leading a Naval Special Warfare Task Unit that would support U.S. European Command.

Meanwhile, the Airmen of the 352nd Special Operations Group would plan the complex air missions supporting these other operators. The Air Force special operators from the 321st Special Tactics Squadron would provide pararescue, air traffic control, and reconnaissance capabilities.

As the fight progressed past the opening salvos, the branches and their subordinate units would slip into the NATO command structure with many U.S. troops deploying as part of NATO’s Rapid Deployable Corps.