Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

The Russian Navy turned 320 on July 31, and The Motherland marked the occasion with massive parades and displays of firepower at the homeports of the country’s three major fleets.


A video posted by RT (@rt) on Jul 31, 2016 at 9:19am PDT

The celebrations centered on Saint Petersburg, where the Baltic Fleet is based, Sevastopol, the home of the Black Sea Fleet and Vladivistok, the main Pacific Fleet base.

During the celebration, Russian sailors marched through city streets in parades across the country. But the big shows were on the country’s waters as ships passed in procession.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
(Photo: Russian Ministry of Defence Twitter)

Marines also got into the action with displays of their capabilities and equipment, some driving amphibious vehicles off ships and right into the reviewing areas.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
(Photo: Russian Ministry of Defence Facebook)

Russia first established a formal navy under Tsar Peter the Great in 1696. In the over 300 years since then, it has undergone a number of changes from the Imperial Navy to the Soviet Navy to today’s Russian Federation Navy.

The navy is very important to Russian defense and power projection, analysts say. Russia has approximately 2.5 times as much coastline as it has land borders, according to a guide from the Russian Office of Naval Intelligence.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
The current Russian carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. (Photo: Mil.ru)

Despite the navy’s prestige in Russia, the military branch faces a lot of problems.

Its only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is outdated and in ill repair. It often needs an oceangoing tug to accompany it on long trips in case it breaks down. Its plumbing is also bad, leading to uncomfortable conditions for the crew.

Meanwhile, Russia has pitched an ambitious plan for a new carrier fleet and other navy modernization efforts, but low oil prices and a shortage of skilled shipbuilding talent and facilities are slowing the work.

Articles

ISIS is using water as a weapon

Islamic State (IS) militants have closed some dam gates on the Euphrates River near Ramadi in western Iraq, reducing the vital flow of water to government-held areas while giving the militants greater freedom to attack government forces downstream.


The move on June 3 threatens the drinking water, irrigation water, and water-treatment plants for thousands of residents and troops in areas held by the Iraqi government.

And it also poses a threat to security forces fighting to recapture Ramadi.

If water levels drop significantly, said Anbar Province councilman Taha Abdul-Ghani, the insurgents could cross the Euphrates on foot and attack troops deployed along the river and stationed at nearby Habaniya military base.

The base has been used as a staging ground for Iraqi troops and allied Shi’ite militias in the fight to retake Ramadi.

It is not the first time the IS group has used water as a weapon. Earlier this year, it reduced the flow through a lock outside the town of Fallujah, also in Anbar Province, though it soon reopened the lock after criticism from residents.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
ISIS trucks driving around Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: ISIS sources on the web)

Last summer, IS took control of the Mosul dam — the largest in Iraq — and threatened to flood Baghdad and other cities downstream. But Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by U.S. air strikes, later recaptured the facility.

Outside Ramadi, thousands of people in the government-held towns of Khalidiya and Habaniya are already suffering from shortages of drinking water because purification plants along the Euphrates have all but shut down due to low water levels caused by the summer heat.

The residents of the towns get only two hours a day of water through their pipes, Abdul-Ghani said.

“With the summer heat and lack of water, the lives of these people are in danger and some are thinking of leaving their homes,” he said.

Abu Ahmad, who owns a vegetable farm near Khalidiya, said he could lose all his crops because of lack of irrigation water. Now, the water is lower than the level of his water-pumping machines.

“I used to irrigate my crops every three days. If the situation continues like this, my vegetables will die,” said Abu Ahmad, using a nickname because of fears for his life.

The United Nations said on June 3 it was looking into reports that IS had reduced the flow of water through the Al-Warar dam.

“The use of water as a tool of war is to be condemned in no uncertain terms,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general. “These kinds of reports are disturbing, to say the least.”

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Photo Credit: Vice News/screenshot

The move is also worrying for an array of troops fighting IS.

The Euphrates has acted as a barrier between the militants, who control its northern bank, and pro-government forces who are trying to advance toward Ramadi on the other side.

A spokesman for the governor of Anbar Province said security forces would now have to redeploy along the river to prevent the insurgents from infiltrating.

“Previously they had to monitor only the bridges and certain areas, but now all of the river will be crossable,” Hikmat Suleiman said.

The government has found a temporary countermeasure. The partial closure of the Ramadi dam has forced more water into a tributary running south to Habbaniya lake, officials said.

Falih al-Issawi, a senior provincial security official, said the government had opened another dam to channel water from Habbaniya lake back into the Euphrates and prevent shortages in the southern provinces.

But he said this was only a temporary measure that would not be effective for more than three days.

“The government must act immediately otherwise dire consequences and an environmental catastrophe will be inevitable,” he said.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

Also from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

This article originally appeared at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Copyright 2015.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

Articles

This is why a South American country still uses WWII-era tanks

Not every country in the world can afford to buy and operate the latest and greatest armored war machines available on defense markets today, like the M1A2 Abrams or the Leopard 2 main battle tanks.


Some countries opt to refrain from maintaining a fleet of tanks at all, and others, like Paraguay, choose to use refurbished armored steeds from conflicts long past.

As crazy as it may sound, the backbone of the Paraguayan military’s sole armored squadron consists of a humble handful of M4 Sherman medium tanks and M3 Stuart light tanks. Both of these vehicles were last fully relevant when Allied forces marched across Europe on their path to victory against the Axis scourge.

Paraguay received its small complement of Shermans in 1980 from Argentina, while the Stuarts were donated by the Brazilian government in the 1970s. By the time the small South American nation received these second-hand vehicles, however, they were already obsolete and outclassed, unable to stand up to anti-tank weaponry or even other armored vehicles anymore.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
A British Army M3 light tank operating in North Africa during WWII (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

But in recent years, the Paraguayan army has decided to reactivate its fleet of Shermans and Stuarts, “modernizing” them by installing new engines and replacing the M4’s small battery of .30 caliber Browning M1919 medium machine guns with .50 caliber M2 ‘Ma Deuce’ heavy machine guns.

The Sherman was born of a need for a medium-sized tank that was easy to mass produce and deploy overseas in large numbers, swarming larger and more heavily-armored German tanks during WWII. Cheap to produce, and pretty reliable if treated well, the Sherman was a fairly potent killing machine in the hands of tank commanders who knew what they were doing.

The Argentinian military received 450 Shermans from Belgium in the 1940s, putting them through a series of upgrades over the next 30 years that would see these old tanks get larger guns and new diesel engines. A small selection of these Shermans were passed on to Paraguay, though it’s unclear whether or not the examples donated were modernized or left in their original configurations.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Argentinian M4 Shermans with modified turrets. Similar tanks were shipped to Paraguay in 1980 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

According to Ian Hogg in his book, “Tank Killing,” the Stuart, wasn’t exactly very effective at all in engaging German armor. Though it was one of the few light tanks capable of firing high-explosive shells, it was better utilized as a high speed reconnaissance vehicle by British forces throughout the African theater during WWII, with its turret removed to cut down on weight.

Brazil picked up its Stuarts from the United States in WWII, actually shipping them overseas for combat in Italy as part of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. Upon the end of the war, these tanks were returned to South America by ship and were upgraded in the 1970s. During that decade, Brazil donated 15 Stuarts to Paraguay.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
An M4 of the Royal Marines in Normandy after D-Day, 1944 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Paraguay can afford to use these older machines in place of newer heavy tanks mostly because the country hasn’t seen much war over the past 40-odd years. Currently, the military claims these modernized Shermans and Stuarts will only be used for training purposes, though the endgame of the training is highly suspect, considering that the vehicles in question aren’t fit for combat against a decently-armed enemy.

It is possible, however, that these old fighting machines could be eventually used in the long-standing counterinsurgency effort Paraguay has been embroiled in against guerrillas since 2005. Though their hulls would likely be easily destroyed by small anti-tank weapons like the M72 LAW, the armor would still be able to stand up to small arms like pistols and rifles.

Even if Paraguay never uses its tanks in combat, its geriatric fleet will still work in a pinch should the need arise — at least against unarmored and under-gunned enemies.

Articles

This plane left the SR-71 Blackbird in the dust

The SR-71 Blackbird was the fastest military jet that has ever taken to the skies. But there was a plane that not only went twice as fast, but it also went much higher.


That speedy plane was the North American X-15.

The X-15 was one of the first true spaceplanes, with a number of flights going beyond Earth’s atmosphere, according to a 2005 NASA release. It was capable of going over 4,500 mph, or nearly Mach 6, and it went as high as 354,200 feet – or just over 67 miles – above the Earth.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
North American X-15A. (NASA photo)

The plane didn’t actually take off from the ground. In fact, it needed the help of a B-52 bomber before it could reach those dizzying heights and super-high speeds. NASA used two of the first B-52s, an NB-52A known as the “High and Mighty One,” for some flights before a NB-52B known as “Balls 8” took over the duty.

Once released from the B-52 at an altitude of 45,000 feet and a speed of 500 miles per hour, the X-15’s Reaction Motors XLR-99 would activate providing 70,400 pounds of thrust, according to a NASA fact sheet. At most, the plane had two minutes of fuel.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
A X-15A with external fuel tanks and a new paint job is dropped from a NB-52 aircraft. (NASA photo)

Among the pilots who were at the controls of this marvel was Neil Armstrong – you’d know him as the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong didn’t get into space with this plane in any of his seven flights, but he did post the 6th-fastest speed among the X-15 sorties, according to an official NASA history.

One of those who achieved the rating of astronaut, Major Michael Adams, received the honor posthumously after he was killed in a crash of his X-15A on Nov. 15, 1967. Adams had broken the 50-mile barrier that the Air Force and NASA used to define entering space on his seventh and final flight, reaching an altitude of 266,000 feet and a top speed of 3,617 mph, according to the NASA history’s list of X-15 flights.

Below, take a look at the video from Curious Droid, which talks about the X-15 – and the awesome career it had.

Articles

17 Photos That Show Why Troops Absolutely Love The .50 Caliber Machine Gun

The M2 .50 caliber machine gun has been in production longer than any other, and it’s easy to see why troops love it.


Since the 1930s, “Ma Deuce” has been serving troops on the ground, in vehicles, and in aircraft, and with its effectiveness and reliability, it doesn’t look like this weapon is going out of style any time soon. Originally developed during World War I by John Browning, the weapon is now in the hands of U.S. troops and a number of NATO allies.

Here’s why:

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

The M2 .50 cal has served troops well in Iraq and Afghanistan as a fearsome automatic weapon usually mounted to vehicles.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

But it was just as deadly in Normandy in 1944 …

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

… As it is overlooking remote bases in Afghanistan today.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

With a belt-fed .50 BMG round, it packs serious punch that can effectively hit targets out to 1,800 meters.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

The weapon can fire a variety of ammunition types, such as standard ball, blanks, armor-piercing (AP), armor-piercing incendiary (API), armor-piercing incendiary tracer (APIT) …

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

… And the crowd favorite: Saboted Light Armor Penetrator (SLAP), which can bust through steel.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

Troops can find the .50 cal everywhere from the perimeter of the forward operating base …

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

… to the rails of U.S. Navy ships.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

Of course, two is better than one.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

Before they can fire it, soldiers usually learn how to disassemble, assemble, and adjust headspace and timing — tweaks made to the gun that allow it to fire safely. (The U.S. Army upgraded a number of their .50 cals to the M2A1, which doesn’t require headspace & timing adjustments).

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

Once it’s ready to go, soldiers place the rounds on the feed tray, make sure the cover is closed, and pull the bolt to the rear to load the weapon.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

Then it’s ready to rock and roll. The .50 can fire in single shot or fully automatic mode.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

At the rear, soldiers grab the “spade” handle and fire it using a butterfly trigger. They need to be careful however: There’s no safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge (Some variants have been fielded which feature a positive safety selector).

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

While it’s most often mounted to vehicles in a rotating turret …

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

… Ma Deuce can also be found on the side of helicopters.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

And with the use of a tripod, it can also be fired very effectively from the ground.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

Correction: This post was updated with new information to reflect the fielding of the M2A1 variant and other versions, which feature safety selectors, and don’t require the need for adjustments to headspace and timing.

Articles

This is how China plans to ‘defend the world’

Chinese President Xi Jinping on July 30 presided over a massive military parade from an open-topped jeep, declaring, “The world is not peaceful, and peace needs to be defended.”


And as China’s show of force demonstrates, Beijing may have the will and the strength to replace the US as the world’s defender of peace.

“Our heroic military has the confidence and capabilities to preserve national sovereignty, security, and interests … and to contribute more to maintaining world peace,” Xi said at the parade, one day after US President Donald Trump lashed out at Beijing for its inaction regarding North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

China’s massive military modernization and increasing assertiveness have irked many of its neighbors in the region, and even as the US attempts to reassure its allies that US power still rules the day, that military edge is eroding.

China showed off new, mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles that it says can reach the US in 30 minutes, along with its J-20 stealth interceptor jets. And Xi inspected thousands of troops drawn from the 2 million-strong People’s Liberation Army on its 90th anniversary.

The historian Alfred McCoy estimates that by 2030, China, a nation of 1.3 billion, will surpass the US in both economic and military strength, essentially ending the American empire and Pax Americana the world has known since the close of World War II.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Sailors aboard the Chinese Navy destroyer Qingdao. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist David Rush.

But China could achieve this goal patiently and without a violent struggle. China has employed a “salami-slicing” method of slowly but surely militarizing the South China Sea in incremental steps that have not prompted a strong military response from the US. However, the result is China’s de facto control over a shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in annual traffic.

“The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, may already be tattered and fading by 2025 and, except for the finger pointing, could be over by 2030,” McCoy wrote in his new book, “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power.”

China’s J-20 jet also most likely borrows from stealth secrets stolen from the US through a sophisticated hacking regime. Though China hasn’t mastered stealth technology in the way the US has, the jet still poses a real threat to US forces.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Flypast of the Chengdu J-20. Wikimedia Commons photo by Alert5.

Meanwhile, the US is stretched thin. It has had been at war in Afghanistan for 16 years and in Iraq for 14, and it has been scrambling to curtail Iranian and Russian influence in Syria while reassuring its Baltic NATO allies that it’s committed to their protection against an aggressive Russia.

Under Xi, who pushes an ambitious foreign policy, China’s eventual supremacy over the US seems inevitable.

Articles

This dying Army vet’s last wish is to hear from you

Lee Hernandez wants everyone to call him or text him. Anyone and everyone in America.


The 47-year-old has undergone three brain surgeries but still suffers from strokes that affect his vision and cognitive function.

But a few notes from his military family are just what the doctor ordered.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Lee Hernandez wants to hear from you. (photo by Arizona Veterans Forum)

As Lee lay dying in a Texas hospice, his wife Ernestine told the Arizona Republic that phone calls or texts are what brighten Lee’s day. It doesn’t matter who sends them.

He asked Ernestine to hold on to his phone one day in case someone called him. For two hours, no one called.

“I guess no one wants to talk to me,” Lee told his wife.

Lee Hernandez has trouble with speaking, so Ernestine figured that’s why people don’t take much time to attempt a conversation. So she reached out to a group called “Caregivers of Wounded Warriors” to get more texts and call pouring in.

He is a veteran of the Iraq War who served 18 and half years in the Army. He’s been fighting for his life for the last five years.

If you want to send Lee a message of support or just see how he is, be sure to reach out between 2 pm and 6pm Arizona time. Lee is now blind, but Ernestine will read your texts to him.

He can be reached at 210-632-6778.

Articles

ISIS has released a new Android app aimed at children

A news broadcaster affiliated with the terrorist group ISIS has released an Android app that teaches children the Arabic alphabet — and it’s full of references to weapons and jihad.


Al Bayan Radio, which broadcasts ISIS propaganda on radio waves in the Middle East and through its Android apps, made the app available to supporters on the encrypted messaging app Telegram and other platforms ISIS commonly uses. The app isn’t available on the Google Play store, but can be accessed through files shared online.

This app is the latest step in Al Bayan’s expansion — the radio network broadcasts on FM frequencies in the Middle East, but has also recently released other Android apps and Telegram channels that distribute its propaganda to a wider audience.

The Long War Journal explained how the kids’ app works:

The app has games for memorizing and how to write the Arabic letters in addition to including a nasheed (a cappella Islamic songs) designed to help teach the alphabet. The lyrics in the nasheed are littered with jihadist terminology, while other games within the app also include militaristic vocabulary with more common, basic words. Words like ‘tank,’ ‘gun,’ and ‘rocket’ are among the first few taught within the application.

The site took posted these screenshots from the app:

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Al Bayan

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Al Bayan

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Al Bayan

The website noted that this is ISIS’ first app, however, aimed exclusively at children.

But it’s far from the only example of ISIS (which is also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh) trying to indoctrinate children under the pretense of educating them.

The group has also released textbooks that teach various subjects using weapons and other terrorist motifs.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy

Children have also featured prominently in photos and videos that ISIS has distributed through its various propaganda networks. They are shown at training camps and in schools, leading experts to worry that children living in ISIS territory are being indoctrinated with terrorist ideology at a young age, which could be difficult to reverse whenever ISIS is defeated.

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing in Tucson fly over an eastern Arizona training range. The 162nd Wing conducts international F-16 pilot training and manages a fleet of more than 70 F-16 C/D and Mid-Life Update Fighting Falcons

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Photo: Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/USAF

Combat controllers from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron fast-rope from a CV-22 Osprey during Emerald Warrior near Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Photo: Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder/USAF

C-130J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 317th Airlift Group, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, help U.S. Army and British paratroopers perform a static line jump at Holland Drop Zone in preparation for Combined Joint Operational Access Exercise 15-01 at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Photo: Staff Sgt. Sean Martin/USAF

NAVY

Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Marcus Jones, from Anderson, S.C., directs a helicopter during flight operations aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58).

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Desmond Parks/USN

A shooter launches an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the Thunderbolts of Marine Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 251 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Josh Petrosino/USN

ARMY

A crew chief watches another CH-47F Chinook helicopter from 1st Battalion, 52d Aviation Regiment fly along the crevasses of Kahiltna Glacier April 27, 2015, on the way to the 7,000-foot high base camp on Mount McKinley.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Photo: John Pennell/US Army

Soldiers, rappel from a Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, during the air assault course at Fort Bliss, Texas, April 21, 2015. The training is one of the final tests for students enrolled in course.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Photo: Sgt. Alexander K. Neely/US Army

MARINE CORPS

Senior Airman Nicholas Oswald, a loadmaster, 374th Operations Support Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, sits with Philippine air force aircrew members during a night flight.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Photo: Staff Sgt. Nathan Allen/USMC

Marines and U.S. Navy Sailors with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and amphibious assault ship USS Wasp man the rails of the Wasp as it travels up the Mississippi River for Navy Week 2015 April 23, 2015. Marines and Sailors of the MEU, from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., participated in Navy Week New Orleans April 23-29.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Photo: Sgt. Austin Hazard/USMC

COAST GUARD

Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile, Alabama.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Photo: USCG

As many Americans prepare for bed, Coast Guard men and women stand the watch.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Photo: USCG

NOW: 13 lessons every new sailor learns the hard way

AND: 5 brilliant military hacks that are useless everywhere else

OR: Watch ‘Pearl Harbor’ in under 3 minutes:

Articles

The brazen origins of the 1st Special Service Force

In 1942, the culmination of a crazy idea from a British officer — known as Project Plough — yielded one of the most top-notch fighting forces of World War II.


The project called for a small, highly-trained group to parachute into Norway to conduct guerrilla operations against the Germans there. When the plan came across the desk of Lt. Col. Robert Frederick at the War Department in 1942, he reported to his boss, then-Maj. Gen. Eisenhower, that the plan was unworkable.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Frederick while in command of the 1st Special Service Force, 1944. (U.S. Dept. of Defense)

However, Eisenhower needed to build cohesion between the British and Americans and decided to form the unit anyway. To Eisenhower’s knowledge there was no man more well-versed in Project Plough that it’s biggest detractor, Robert Frederick.

Frederick was an interesting choice to lead this new guerrilla unit. He had graduated middle of his class from West Point and had been commissioned into the Coastal Artillery. He had never made much of an impression on anyone, though he soon would.

Frederick’s new unit, the 1st Special Service Force, was activated July 9, 1942, at Fort William Henry Harrison, Montana. The unit would be a joint venture of the Americans and Canadians.

The unit also had a different structure made up of three “regiments” of 800 men each consisting of two battalions. Frederick was in overall command while a Canadian served as his executive officer.

Every member was to be parachute qualified and trained to be adept at cold weather combat. They also trained on a variety of weapons, both American and German, and even developed their own fighting knife, the V-42.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
V-42 Stiletto (Photo courtesy of John Gibson)

In late 1942, the Norway mission that the unit had been training for was scratched. However, the men continued to train and by 1943 a suitable mission presented itself: the battle for the Aleutian Islands.

After further training, the 1st Special Service Force embarked for its first mission along with other American forces to liberate the Aleutian Islands. For the rough and ready men of the force, the campaign was a letdown. Their only action was storming ashore on the abandoned island of Kiska. They left eager for a new mission.

With the Allied invasion of mainland Italy, a new opportunity presented itself. Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, commanding U.S. forces in Italy, requested the unit to help break through the German defenses in the cold and treacherous Italian mountains.

The unit arrived in Italy on Nov. 19, 1943, and began preparations for an assault on the German position at Monte La Difensa.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
1st Special Service Force near Venafro in 1944. (Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada)

At the beginning of December, the unit began moving into place through freezing rain and bitter cold. Their plan was to climb up a sheer cliff face and to attack the German position from the most unlikely direction. Col. Frederick had personally surveyed the route and planned his units’ first combat action.

On Dec. 4, 1943, with men and equipment in place, they began to climb up the 200-foot cliff face in a freezing rain. Stealthily, they ascended the cliff and crawled into positions so close to the German lines they could hear the men talking and smell their food cooking.

The attack began not with overwhelming force but by surprising German sentries and quietly killing them with their knives. There was to be no shooting until 0600, but a slide of loose rocks alerted the Germans that something was amiss. As German flares and mortars began to rain down, the commandos sprang into action.

The fighting was close and intense but the unit had secured the hilltop. Within just two hours, Frederick’s men accomplished what numerous other units had failed to do.

Still, their work was far from done.

The top of Monte La Difensa was only weakly held by Frederick’s small force. Rather than wait for the inevitable counterattack, Frederick decided to launch an attack of his own. The Special Service Force, perpetually outnumbered by the Germans, fought on taking out position after position and helping to open the path for the Fifth Army.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Personnel of the First Special Service Force being briefed before setting out on a patrol, Anzio beachhead, Italy.(Photo: Library and Archives Canada)

In February 1944, after a brief rest, Frederick and his men were moved to the Anzio beachhead to shore up the precarious Allied lines. It was at Anzio that the unit acquired its enduring nickname — the Devil’s Brigade.

Not content to simply hold the line, the unit began launching small patrols to harass the Germans and gather intelligence. The men became quite adept at capturing prisoners and were known to bring back entire formations — platoons and companies — of Germans.

An enterprising lieutenant also declared himself the mayor of an abandoned town behind German lines, renaming it “Gusville” after himself. The unit even began circulating a newspaper (“the Gusville Herald-Tribune”) and reporters in the Anzio area would make the trek to the town — through German fire — in order to file their stories from “Gusville, Italy”.

However, despite their antics, there was also serious combat around the Anzio beachhead. Frederick, now a Brigadier General, would be wounded on numerous occasions leading his men from the front.

When the Allies broke out of the beachhead, the force was a leading element in the drive towards Rome. Who entered Rome first is often disputed but a patrol by the Devil’s Brigade was certainly one of the first to get there.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
1st Special Service Force before an evening patrol near Anzio in 1944. (Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada)

After the successful capture of Rome, the men were given a reprieve from combat. It was also announced that Frederick was leaving the force to take command of the 1st Allied Airborne Task Force that would be spearheading Operation Dragoon.

Although airborne capable, the unit would not jump with the task force and instead was assigned to assault several small islands near the landing beaches that had been fortified by the Germans. This would be the last major effort undertaken by the unit.

After light action along the French coast, the 1st Special Service Force was disbanded on Dec. 5, 1944, in France. Most of the men, American and Canadian, were sent as replacements to airborne units.

The modern day 1st Special Forces Group traces its lineage to the 1st Special Service Force.

Articles

The Air Force just escalated its war with the airlines

The Air Force has just escalated its response to efforts by the airlines to hire away military pilots. They’re throwing huge retention bonuses to the pilots and boosting flight pay to $1,000 a month.


According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, the flight pay boost will add an additional $1,800 a month to the paychecks of officers. Enlisted men will see their flight pay go from $400 to $600 a month, a 50 percent increase, and taking their pay up $2,400 a year.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Maj. Kurt Wampole, assisted by Capt. Matt Ward, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron pilots, taxis a C-130H Hercules back to its parking spot. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ben Bloker.)

“We need to retain our experienced pilots and these are some examples of how we’re working to do that,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson in an Air Force release. “We can’t afford not to compensate our talented aviators at a time when airlines are hiring unprecedented numbers.”

In addition to announcing the increased flight pay, Secretary Wilson announced the creation of an “Aircrew Crisis Task Force” under Brig. Gen. Michael G. Koscheski. This task force’s formation is a sign that the pilot shortage the Air Force is facing has not improved. The Air Force release noted that at the end of Fiscal Year 2016, the Air Force was short 1,555 pilots overall, including 1,211 fighter pilots.

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to Detachment 1, 138th Fighter Wing, dons his helmet in preparation of a barnstorming performance for reporters, Feb. 1, 2017, in Houston. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske)

The Air Force is looking to bring back 25 retired pilots to fill staff positions through the Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty program, allowing pilots who are still current to be returned to front-line duties. The staff positions are non-flying, but retired pilots could have sufficient expertise to handle them.

This past June, the Air Force increased its Aviation Bonus cap from $25,000 a year to $35,000. These bonuses are paid to pilots who commit to stay past their service commitment for up to nine years.

The Air Force was also seeking to reduce the number of non-flying assignments for pilots, including headquarters positions and developmental opportunities. The Air Force is also trying to reduce additional units and add more flexibility for Airmen with families and children.

Articles

A Navy carrier just broke the record for dropping bombs on ISIS

The USS Harry S. Truman is celebrating the work of its crew after setting the record for ordnance dropped on ISIS. The Truman launched over 1,118 ordinance pieces against terrorist targets over the past five months, surpassing the 1,085 dropped by the USS Theodore Roosevelt‘s pilots in 2015.


Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
The USS Harry S. Truman launches a jet during training operations. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class K.H. Anderson/USN

The Truman’s Carrier Air Wing 7  flew 1,407 combat sorties and dropped over 580 tons of ordnance on the Islamic State.

“Since our arrival in the Arabian Gulf, the Truman Strike Group has been conducting operations around the clock,” Capt. Ryan B. Scholl, Truman’s commanding officer, told a Navy journalist. “This deployment is busier than any other I’ve seen. Every Sailor is doing great work individually and executing as a combat team to reach this milestone. It is due to this dedication as a combined force that Truman is making a significant difference fighting for our country.”

The bombing missions by the Navy and Air Force, in addition to raids by the Army’s Delta Force and artillery strikes by the U.S. Marine Corps, have weakened ISIS and helped allied ground forces push them back. The strikes have been moving so quickly that the Pentagon has warned of shortages of bombs.

Meanwhile, the Navy has also hit ISIS targets with cruise missiles when necessary.

All these blows have left ISIS weak, but it has failed to dislodge them entirely. While the predictions continue that ISIS will soon collapse, the fact that the organization is largely self-funded by taxing economic activity and collecting money from black market trade has made it hard to starve the group out. Recent airstrikes targeting ISIS cash and financial leaders — as well as the capturing and killing of ISIS accountants — have hurt the group’s ability to pay its fighters.

And strikes alone can not wipe out the terrorist organization. A January piece from the Council on Foreign Relations pointed out that ISIS had about 30,000 fighters when airstrikes began and had lost 20,000 fighters to strikes by Jan. 2016. Still, their total number of fighters hovered somewhere around 30,000 due to the presence of new recruits.

The recent financial troubles of the so-called caliphate have finally triggered a downtick in fighter numbers, but it’s likely that Navy air wings will be busy dropping bombs on the terrorists for a long time to come.

Articles

These 5 military drills would be amazing Olympic events

The U.S. Olympic team’s stars – Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles – stole the show during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, performing record-breaking feats on the world stage.


But what if the Olympics featured elite athletes crawling under barbed wire or running with an 80-pound rucksack for 5, 10, or even 20 miles? Our men and women in uniform could be winning gold if the following military activities were official competitions:

1. Obstacle course

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
During a team-building challenge, 1st Lt. Alan Roy (right), a platoon leader from Strawberry, Minn., and Sgt. Luis Garcia, a squad leader from Bryant, Texas low-crawl through an obstacle course. The two Soldiers’ teams endured six other events after completing the obstacle course. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Travis Zielinski)

Obstacle courses are a full body workout consisting of running, climbing tall structures, jumping over walls, and (of course) crawling in the mud under barbed wire. These courses are mental as much as they are physical, testing courage and willpower. Obstacle courses would make up for some interesting drama if it was an Olympic event – add live fire for a fun twist.

2. Drill and Ceremony

Drill and Ceremony teams have to be disciplined, precise, and work as a single unit. Timing and repetition are vital for a successful routine. DC routines are sort of like synchronized swimming — without the water and shiny outfits.

3. Log drills

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
Plebes carry a modified telephone pole during the log PT station of Sea Trials, the capstone training exercise for Naval Academy freshmen. (U.S. Navy photo by Midshipman 3rd Class Dominic Montez)

Usain Bolt may be the fastest man in the world, but what if the Jamaican track and field star was carrying a large log on his shoulder instead of holding a baton?

Military members are no strangers to doing PT with a large wooden log that could weigh in excess of 150 pounds or more. From overhead presses to squats and running with the heavy log, this exercise tests the strength and cardiovascular endurance of service members. This event would sure make for an interesting 4x100m relay in Rio.

4. Ruck marching

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
U.S. soldiers assigned to the Florida Army National Guard conduct a 12-mile ruck march with 218th Regiment (Leadership). (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

The Olympic marathon is one of the original events of the modern Olympic Games that started in 1896. The 26.2-mile race is definitely a grueling event but at least the runners do not have to carry a heavy rucksack on their back, wear boots and full military uniform. U.S. service members would certainly have an advantage if rucking was an Olympic competition.

5. Javelin

Russia just threw an epic birthday party for its navy
U.S. Army soldiers with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division shoot the Javelin, an anti-tank weapon, at the Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, on July 28, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Patrick Kirby, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

The Javelin throw is a track field event where a competitor throws a long spear for distance. But why throw a spear when you can fire an FGM-148 Javelin – an anti-tank missile – for both distance and accuracy? Now that’s must-watch TV.

What military training do you think would make interesting Olympic events? Write your thoughts in the comments.

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

Do Not Sell My Personal Information