One Russian special operator was pinned down by jihadi fighters while conducting a reconnaissance mission that included calling in airstrikes. His position was overrun by the enemy, so he called for close air support assets to attack where he was so that classified information wouldn’t fall into ISIS hands.
“He was carrying out a combat task in Palmyra area for a week, identifying crucial IS targets and passing exact coordinates for strikes with Russian planes,” a Russian military spokesperson told the UK’s Mirror. “The officer died as a hero, he drew fire onto himself after being located and surrounded by terrorists.”
ISIS published photos from their mobile phones in mid-March, depicting five bodies they said were Russian special forces. The Russian Defense Ministry denied that report, saying the advance on Palmyra was being conducted by the Syrian Army (the one supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Asad).
While Russia has admitted to five combat deaths in the conflict so far, including a pilot of a fighter shot down by Turkish forces and a Marine who died trying to rescue that pilot. Russian special forces have been on the ground since the beginning of Russia’s intervention in the Syrian Civil War, in September of 2015.
The city has art and architecture dating from 100 AD, including Greco-Roman ruins, over 1,000 columns, an ancient Roman aqueduct and 500 tombs on site. In 2015, ISIS captured the 2,000-year-old city and dynamiting ancient monuments, temples, and shrines it deemed blasphemous and executed people on the stage of the Roman amphitheater.
Syrian government troops entered the city on March 24, 2016. In the last five days, the Russians claim they carried out 146 airstrikes supporting the operation. Syrian troops recaptured the city on Sunday.
The Air Force gets a lot of grief from the other services with jokes like “Chair Force.” Its sister branch and newest service, Space Force, might be getting even more taunts. So when you think of the Airmen and Guardians on their esports teams you might easily believe some of the stereotypes: “They’re just second-rate gamers hired for recruiting;” “They’re not doing their actual jobs;” Alternatively, “Their jobs are so easy that they have time to play games.” None of these could be further from the truth.
Despite ongoing operational requirements, a global pandemic and limited resources compared to the other services, the founders of Air Force Gaming have brought together thousands of active duty gamers from across the world in less than a few months. With competitions spanning from Rocket League to Call of Duty to League of Legends, the best gamers from the league are rising to compete in national tournaments and their winning, living up to the program’s motto; Fly, Game, Win.
The Air Force and Space Force esports teams recently competed in Rocket League against Army, Navy and Coast Guard at the Rugbytown Sevens Esports Cup in Denver. During the tournament, a team from We Are The Mighty sat down with some of the Airmen and Guardians to learn more about them and the Air Force Gaming Program. Given that some of the gamers come from operational units we’ve kept out ranks and duty station locations.
Cpt. Oliver Parsons, Air Force – Founder of Air Force Gaming League
Cpt. Oliver Parsons got into streaming which brought him to TwitchCon 2019 where he saw the US Army Esports team. Realizing the benefit that an Air Force esports team could bring to his branch, Parsons emailed the Air Force Recruiting Service Commander, Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt. “Thirteen minutes later, I got a response,” he recalled. Maj. Gen. Leavitt loved the idea and directed her staff to bring the concept of Air Force Gaming to life. Following the development of a Discord community and Facebook group, a soft launch resulted in over 2,000 Airmen and future Guardians joining in just 24 hours. Because the program could offer so much to the Air Force community, recruiting passed it onto the Air Force Services Center responsible for the service’s morale, wellness and recreation. The program found new roots under AFSVC and executed a full experimental launch in early 2020, just before COVID. “From January to April/May, we grew to about 5,000-6,000 verified users,” Parsons said. Simultaneously, his new mental health medication disqualified him from nuclear operations. This worked in Parsons’ favor and he was cross-trained to Force Support and PCS’d to Joint Base San Antonio to work directly for AFSVC. “I basically created my own job with the help of some amazing people,” Parsons said happily. “It was a right place, right time, one in a million chance that it happened and it’s truly a blessing.” He now manages the Air Force and Space Force Esports teams along with the massive Air Force Gaming community as a whole. Parsons helps to maintain a secure, positive and supportive community of Airmen and Guardians through the world of gaming.
Col. Marc Adair, Air Force
Col. Marc Adair has been in the Air Force for 24 years and serves as the Director of Operations for the Air Force Services Center. A former college football player and Air Force Rugby team member, Adair was a natural fit for the position. “[I] jumped at the opportunity to be here and to run the Air Force sports, esports, the fitness centers…just really really taking care of people; it’s been awesome,” he said. More than just recreation, Air Force Sports brings together the best Airmen and Guardians from the Air Force and Space Force to represent their respective services in competition. This includes Esports. “They go through the exact same rigor and trial camps that you’d find any of the [other] athletes do,” Adair said.
The concept of Air Force Gaming was first presented to Adair by the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force who was inspired by the Army’s professional esports team (separate from Parsons). Initially skeptical of gaming as a sport, Adair’s views were changed when he learned of Parsons’ work with Recruiting. “It was happening anyway,” he recalled, “so we could jump onboard or not.” Air Force Gaming now has over 19,800 registered users and over 31,000 social media followers. Seeing this virtual community grow and bring Airmen and Guardians together from around the world, Adair sees a very bright future for intramural and competitive Air Force Esports and its ability to aid in mental health. “Already I’ve been able to see the resiliency that it’s been able to provide to Airmen, even deployed Airmen,” he noted, highlighting words of support and encouragement offered to wingmen who are struggling overseas. “These aren’t just gaming conversations, they’re real conversations.” Adair himself has gotten into gaming with games like Fortnite, Call of Duty and Rainbow Six: Siege.
Rob P., Space Force – Coach
Rob enlisted in the Air Force in 2004 and later commissioned into the Space Force. Growing up, he played many sports including rugby, soccer and football. However, he was also an avid gamer. “Video games have been a part of my life for my entire life,” he said. “It’s a great way to decompress.” Having gone on multiple deployments and knowing firsthand the strain military duties can have on a person, Rob became involved in Air Force Gaming. Upon transitioning to the Space Force, he started scouting for gamer Guardians to build an esports team. “I looked for players who worked well together,” he recalled. “When they’re on the field, rank means nothing.”
Like their service branch, the Space Force Esports team is new — only a few months old. However, they play well as a team and Rob leans on his military leadership experience to coach them through games. Rob serves as a mission processor in missile warning — taking raw data, interpreting and analyzing it. “A lot of the things I do in the real world are what I’m doing here,” he said. As the coach, Rob oversees training, develops strategies, watches plays in matches and guides the team to perform their best. On top of the competition, Rob places emphasis on enjoying games and the positive impact they can have on mental health. “It helps pull me out of the dark space,” he said, recalling times of depression. “Everyone has their coping mechanisms; mine is playing video games.”
Andrew G., Space Force – Player Rocket League
Andrew is a cyberspace operator focusing on missions across the globe and even out of it. Growing up, he played soccer competitively and went on to play at the Air Force Academy. “I joined the military to make my parents proud,” he said. As an avid gamer and competitive soccer player, Andrew was a natural fit for Air Force Gaming. “Gaming has always been an avenue of connection to those closest to [me],” he said, noting that he would game with his friends and family. “I’ve always been a competitive individual…that’s what pulled me into esports, specifically Rocket League. The game is basically car soccer.”
Andrew enjoys applying the same dedication he had in competitive soccer to esports. “It’s a challenge to become better,” he said. “You’re always trying to improve yourself.” Using replay analysis, developing team tactics and sticking to a personal training regimen, Andrew aims to improve himself as a player and help the team improve as a whole. However, he still trains in physical sports and hopes to bridge the gap to esports and break the stereotypes people have of it. “I’m a triathlete; I’m training for Ironmans. I try to do well at work and be a strong military figure and officer,” he said. “No matter how good you are, you still get that look when you tell leadership, ‘I’m about to travel across the world to go play video games.'” Andrew hopes to open people’s minds to the benefits of esports and gaming in general. “These guys in the Space Force, I may have never met if it wasn’t for our combined interest in Rocket League.”
Austin B., Air Force – Player Rocket League
Austin is one of four airmen who competed in the Rocket League tournament. The 23 year old hails from St. Louis and was committed to playing college baseball until an injury took him out of the game. Unable to pursue a career in baseball, Austin joined the Air Force. “I looked at this as a way to kind of find a new path for myself,” he said. Now, Austin works at an AWACS training squadron, helping to manage the training of 60-70 airmen at a time and keep them on track. However, the former baseball player yearned for competition and found it in the Air Force Gaming community. “There was a big tournament to even qualify to be on the team,” Austin recalled of the 20-week selection process.
“For Rocket League, there were over 200 teams total [that] we had to compete with.” He’s played the game since 2017 and applies lessons he learned in baseball and the Air Force to his gaming. “I think Rocket League focuses more on teamwork,” Austin noted. “You can’t really have one guy not pulling their weight. Sports in general, you have to rely on your teammates.” Of course, balancing esports with a military commitment is difficult. Three of the team members are stationed together and two are flyers. With conflicting and sometimes unpredictable schedules, finding the time to practice together is a challenge. “But, when we do get the opportunity to all play, we all commit to it and sit down and get our time in,” Austin said of his teammates. Although the Air Force Gaming community is new, Austin looks forward to competing against the other services and civilian teams. “I think it’s headed in the right direction,” he said. “It’s just bringing people together.”
A veterans organization is suing the Pentagon for exposing private details about troops’ military service on “a truly massive scale” due to lax security on one of its websites.
The lawsuit filed by Vietnam Veterans of America says a Defense Department website “is currently exposing private details about the military service of millions of veterans to anybody at all, anonymously, for any purpose.”
The shoddy security measures allow virtually anyone to access sensitive data about veterans’ records by typing in a name and date of birth, which are easily available on the internet.
This gives “easy access to information about essentially all veterans or service members in the system” and thus violates the Federal Privacy Act, alleges the suit filed last week in federal court in New York.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act website, which according to the Pentagon receives more than 2.3 billion searches a year, is mean to be used by authorized institutions like banks to confirm the active duty status that entitles service members to certain protections.
Instead, the information is available to con artists and scammers who can use it to impersonate government or other officials and gain veterans’ trust by discussing details of their service that only authorized organizations would have.
Thomas Barden, a veteran of the Vietnam War who served in the US Air Force for 21 years, found that out firsthand.
The plaintiff in the suit received a call from someone supposedly affiliated with Microsoft in March 2016. Since the caller knew details about Barden’s military service, Barden thought the government backed it. The scammer sold him software to “protect” his computer and nine months later used it to lock him out and demanded ransom.
Worried about data theft, Barden broke the hard drive into pieces and was so concerned about his privacy he threw them into different trash cans over several days.
Since then, he has continued to receive harassing phone calls from the same scammers, causing him “significant anxiety and stress,” according to the lawsuit.
Impostor fraud and identity theft aside, the group says Vietnam veterans in particular want to keep details of their military record private, having “experienced the sting of rejection and public scorn on account of their service.”
Since they draw a steady, guaranteed income from the government, veterans are an attractive target for scammers. The numbers have increased in recent years, from 58,175 complaints by veterans in 2014 to 69,801 in 2016, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network.
“Veterans are disproportionately targeted by scammers and identity thieves,” Vietnam Veterans of America President John Rowan said in a statement.
The Pentagon “is fueling the problem by leaving veterans’ private information easily accessible on the internet (and) has refused to properly secure veterans’ information,” he said. “We are asking a court to order them to do so.”
The Defense Department has refused to make any changes since being alerted about the problems with the site, the suit says. It points out that the Defense Department could implement a strict user registration or online verification system, which are used by the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
The challenges of protecting the massive databases containing military records are not new. The Department of Veterans Affairs in particular has struggled with privacy issues.
In 2014, a joint Pentagon-VA benefits site had recurring issues with private information about veterans being disclosed to random visitors. The VA was also sued over a serious privacy breach in 2006, after an employee’s laptop was stolen that contained the private data of 26 million soldiers and veterans. The VA settled for $20 million for failing to protect their sensitive data.
In other cases, veterans expecting to receive their own health care records opened their mail only to receive hundreds of pages of someone else’s private data.
“I got 256 pages of another person’s extremely confidential, extremely explicit mental health records,” Anthony McCann, a veteran in Tennessee, told a VA town hall in 2014.
The VA is the health provider with the most privacy complaints in the country, racking up 220 complaints between 2011 and 2014 according to a ProPublica analysis. In one case, an employee accessed her husband’s medical records more than 260 times. Another employee shared a veteran’s private health information with his parole officer. In yet another case, a VA employee posted details of a patient’s health records on Facebook after opening them 61 times, according to documents posted by ProPublica.
Any enlisted Navy sailor can tell you that their dress uniform wouldn’t be as famous today without one of its most iconic pieces — the historic neckerchief.
Reportedly, the neckerchief made its first appearance in the 16th century and was primarily worn as a sweat rag and to protect the sailor’s neck from rubbing raw against their stiff collared shirts.
In some cases, the 36-square-inch silk fabric could also be used as a battle dressing or tourniquet in a life saving situation.
The color black was picked to hide any dirt or residue that built up during wear.
In 1817, the Navy wanted each one of its sailors to tie their neckerchief the same way, so it introduce the square knot. The square knot was hand-picked because it was commonly used on ships to secure its cargo.
The knot was later added to the dress blue uniform to represent the hardworking Navy tradition, and it remains that way today.
How to tie a square knot:
During the inspection, each sailor is carefully examined by a senior at least twice a year. While under observation, the sailor must display a properly tied square knot which needs to hang at the bottom of the jumper’s V-neck opening, and the ends of the neckerchief must appear even as shown above.
Do you remember your first uniform inspection? Comment below.
There’s increased incidence of ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — among veterans of all wars, from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
This week, Marine Corps veteran Roger Brannon reached the two-year anniversary of a life-altering amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, a milestone that many in his position will not live to see. ALS is an incurable, neurodegenerative disease that progresses rapidly.
(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)
Over 80 percent of those diagnosed die within two to five years. Military veterans are two times more likely to develop ALS than those who’ve never served. It was once thought that increased incidence of ALS was limited to veterans of Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but it’s now striking Enduring Freedom vets who served in Afghanistan at the same rates. Despite this, there’s a surprisingly low amount of awareness of the disease among the veteran community.
Roger Brannon and his wife Pam are on a mission to change this. Up to to 95 percent of veterans who develop the disease are diagnosed with sporadic ALS — which means there is no family history of the disease and doctors unable to precisely pinpoint a cause.
(Courtest of the Brannon Family)
“They can’t tell us why we have it, what we did to get it, and that’s very unnerving because you can’t tell any other veteran or friend what to do to not get ALS,” Roger says.
What Roger and Pam are doing is sharing what they know: resources, coping strategies, and VA benefits. Veterans actually have far greater available to them than the average ALS patient in America. For example, Radicava, the first drug treatment specifically for ALS approved since 1995, was made available to VA hospitals before more widespread distribution – and the Department of Veterans Affairs has automatically assumed, since 2008, that a veteran’s ALS is service-connected.
ALS is a terminal disease but early diagnosis can slow its progression and knowing about it increases the likelihood of identifying it quickly. All veterans and their families can do is arm themselves with the best information on how to deal with what lies ahead. With a pre-teen and teen at home, the hardest thing for Pam Brannon is not knowing if they will ever live out the family’s dreams.
“Will there be a next birthday? A next anniversary? Will Roger live to see a graduation?” Pam asks. “At the end of the day, there’s no book for when you’re diagnosed with a terminal disease.”
For five months in 1916, German artillery shells rained down on British trenches, contributing to the more than 1 million casualties incurred at the Somme. Futile attempts to seize ground were traded back and forth until England finally claimed one of the deadliest battles in history — a Pyrrhic victory. During the battle, a young J.R.R. Tolkien penned the foundation for Middle-earth.
“You might scribble something on the back of an envelope and shove it in your back pocket,” Tolkien wrote 50 years after the battle.
In the introduction for Unfinished Tales, his son Christopher Tolkien said one of those first scribbles was on Tolkien’s official orders while serving as a lieutenant in the 11th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. These small notes were the beginning of “The Fall of Gondolin”: Tolkien’s first story of Middle-earth.
Tolkien turned those early scribbles into a full story once he was evacuated from the front lines due to trench fever. Anything beyond scribbles was all but impossible while living in the trenches. Dispelling the common misconception that he wrote The Lord of the Rings while fighting, Tolkien once said the claims are “all spoof.” But the notes and scribbles he wrote on the backs of his orders marked the first descriptions of gnomes (later dwarves), elves, and epic battles between good and evil: essential elements to the rest of his work.
Just like the myth of his writing The Lord of the Rings while in the trenches, Tolkien fervently denied the suggestion that his time under fire inspired him to create Middle-earth as an allegory for World War II.
“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. […] An author cannot of course remain wholly unaffected by his experience, but the ways in which a story-germ uses the soil of experience are extremely complex,” Tolkien wrote in the foreword to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings.
His experiences in World War I provided the seed for most of his work. In “The Fall of Gondolin,” the heroic unit of the House of the Hammer of Wrath is completely annihilated, a fate shared by Tolkien’s own company, the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers, who were destroyed at the Somme after his evacuation to Birmingham.
While Tolkien typically shied away from pointing out direct connections between his work and the war, he admitted in a letter that “The Dead Marshes and the approaches to the Morannon owe something to northern France after the Battle of the Somme.”
The Fellowship of the Rings, the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, was published July 29, 1954. The Two Towers followed on Nov. 11, 1954, and The Return of the King on Oct. 20, 1955. Since its release, Tolkien’s definitive trilogy has sold over 150 million copies, but the sapling of his “vast tree of tales” sprouted in the trenches of World War I over 100 years ago, scribbled on the back of his orders.
Since ISIS exploded onto the scene in Iraq in June 2014, the group has managed to overrun cities garrisoned by contingents of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) that were multiple times larger than the attacking militant forces.
In May, ISIS seized control of Ramadi after months of battles against the ISF, Iraqi police, and members of Sunni tribes who opposed ISIS.
Altogether, the ISF had assembled a force of about 2,000 soldiers in Ramadi who were fighting against between 400 and 800 militants. Despite having many more troops, ISIS still managed to take control of the city due to their devastating and insane tactic of using waves of multiton suicide car bombs.
According to The Soufan Group, ISIS used upward of 30 car bombs in its Ramadi offensive. At least some of those bombs were large enough to level an entire city block. In multiple instances, the car bombs were preceded by ISIS-manned construction equipment that could barrel through concrete blast barriers to open the way for the suicide operatives.
“There is little defense against a multi-ton car bomb; there is none against multiple such car bombs. … the Islamic State is able to overwhelm once-thought formidable static defenses through a calculated and concentrated use of suicide bombers,” The Soufan Group notes. “The Islamic State has neither a shortage of such explosives nor a shortage of volunteers eager to partake in suicide attacks.”
ISIS’ penchant for massively powerful suicide bombings has been a hallmark of the group since it first seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June 2014. During that attack, ISIS detonated a water tanker filled with explosives outside of the Mosul Hotel in the center of the city where the ISF were based. The resulting explosion led to mass desertions and the withdrawal of ISF troops from the western portion of the city.
The militant organization’s frequent employment of construction equipment and other large vehicles in suicide operations has led to the US-led aerial coalition to frequently target them in air strikes. However, air strikes are not a panacea against car bombs and can do little to fully mitigate the threat of these weapons in urban environments.
The anti-ISIS coalition would be much better off if ground forces in Iraq were better equipped to deal with suicide vehicles before they are able to break static defenses. This would require, in addition to a larger troop presence, an increased number of antitank weapons in ISF hands that could be used to destroy ISIS-operated construction equipment and car bombs before they reach their targets, The Soufan Group states.
And even then, ISIS could still carry out devastating bombings for the express goal of terrorizing civilians and provoking sectarian strife without the follow-up goal of overrunning a city’s defenses. The recent twin hotel bombings in Baghdad, for instance, served to demoralize residents and members of the ISF even though the blasts were on a significantly smaller scale than those undertaken in Ramadi.
As long as ISIS has room to operate and controls territory within the Middle East, the militant group will be able to coordinate and execute suicide bombings of various sizes throughout the region. Within the past week alone, ISIS has managed to successfully carry out two suicide bombings against Shiites in Saudi Arabia.
Although attacks like that do not foreshadow a full ISIS assault on the country, it does hint at the group’s ominous use of suicide attacks to spread sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites throughout the Muslim world.
Remember those days back in the barracks playing hours of GoldenEye? Well, grab your battle buddies and license-to-kill because GoldenEye: Source, an unofficial and free remake of the N64 classic GoldenEye 007, has received its first major update in more than three years.
While there’s no single player campaign, the remake features 25 maps, 28 weapons, and 10 game modes. GoldenEye: Source has been a labor of love for the creators for the past decade, and that reverence for the original game shines through in the attention to detail evident in the trailer.
The remake runs on Valve’s Source engine — the same used for Counter Strike and Half-Life — so while the graphics aren’t quite Skyrim quality, it’s still a major facelift. The “choppers” look like actual hands instead of pork chops, and that should be enough. The option to use a keyboard and mouse or modern gamepad will also be a breath of fresh air for anyone who’s recently dusted off the old N64-console and tried to stumble through the original GoldenEye‘s outdated control scheme.
The extended promo for the new FOX series “Gotham” was recently released, and star Benjamin McKenzie hints at something to pay attention to: “That was war.”
I have long been a fan of Batman, and ever since my caped PJs as a kid, the Dark Knight still permeates my imaginatively geeky brain. But watching the trailer this week brought something to my attention that I’ve never caught before: Jim Gordon is a war veteran.
Was this just FOX’s attempt to market to the large and loyal military community? I did a little digging and it turns out that Commissioner Gordon was, in fact, U.S. Army Special Forces.
Frank Miller’s 1987 storyline Batman: Year One follows Gordon’s transfer back to Gotham after 15 years in Chicago. He’s a man of integrity – which to my knowledge is in keeping with most Gordon depictions over time – and therefore doesn’t deputize Batman’s vigilante character.
But the Dark Knight is the only ally Gordon has against mob-controlled governance and a corrupt police department. So he keeps their partnership discrete. I imagine Gordon’s Special Forces history sheds light on his tolerance and understanding of the need for the Dark Knight, in the shadows, doing what simply needs to be done. Because in all the corruption and politics, who else is going to do it?
The reality is that Gordon is a character of moral regard and much more self-sufficient than modernized retellings have credited him with. He’s capable of hand-to-hand combat, facing off against corrupt fellow officers in his department. He’s as capable of violence as he is just. And together, he and Batman clean house in Gotham PD, quickly rising from Lieutenant to the infamous Commissioner we know and love.
So here’s to FOX for catching a key character attribute: veterans as civil assets. Gordon isn’t an over-praised war hero or a helpless charity case. He’s a cop. And he’s one of the good ones. If the trailer is any indication of Benjamin McKenzie’s incarnation, we have much to look forward to.
Season 1 of “The Origin Story” premiered Monday, September 22nd at 8pm.
Held in Russia and Kazakhstan, this 2-week live-streamed event consists of 23 distinct trials ranging from air, marine, and field operations.
From sniper competitions, tank biathlons, underwater searches, and aircraft ground attacks, over 3,000 servicemembers hailing from 19 different countries will be competing this year.
According to International Business Times , Russia had reportedly invited 47 countries, including the US and other NATO member states; however, the only NATO country that seems to have accepted their offer has been Greece.
Here’s some clips of the International Army Games:
In the decades that followed World War II, the attack on Pearl Harbor had faded somewhat in the American public’s memory.
The attacks of 9/11 changed all of that. “All those bad memories surged forward again,” said James C. McNaughton, who served as command historian for U.S. Army Pacific from 2001 to 2005. Today, he is the director of Histories Division at the Army Center of Military History.
Just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, McNaughton attended a ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. At the ceremony, he found himself among a large number of World War II veterans and Pearl Harbor survivors. Both attacks, McNaughton believes, were on all of their minds.
McNaughton attributes the fading memory of the events that transpired at Pearl Harbor 75 years ago, in part, to World War II veterans’ reticence to share their own wartime memories.
McNaughton’s own father, who served as a Marine participating in the Central Pacific campaign, was reluctant to discuss his wartime experiences.
The story of the devasting Japanese air strike on U.S. naval forces that day has been well documented, McNaughton observed — less so the Army’s role in the response.
At the time of the attack, 43,000 Soldiers were on active duty in Hawaii, where they were tasked with three primary missions, the first of which was to protect the territory of Hawaii from an invasion. (Hawaii remained a territory until statehood in 1959.)
“It was not beyond the realm of possibility that the Imperial Japanese Navy could carry out an invasion,” he explained. “They didn’t do so, but the Army could not be sure, so it deployed combat troops to defend the beaches.”
The second was to defend the fleet with coast artillery and anti-aircraft artillery. Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall Jr. had made it very clear to the highest ranking Army officer, Lt. Gen. Walter Short, commander, U.S. Army Hawaiian Department, that his No. 1 mission was to protect the fleet, McNaughton said.
Before 1940, the U.S Pacific Fleet had been based in San Diego. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, for his own diplomatic reasons, had ordered the Navy to re-base itself at Pearl Harbor, according to McNaughton. The move added to the Army’s defensive responsibilities.
The third mission was training, he said.
By 1940, World War II had already engulfed much of Europe and the Pacific, and Americans were beginning to realize their involvement might be inevitable. For the Army’s part, they were organizing and training units — from squad to regiment and division. They were even conducting field exercises and basic training concurrently.
Besides ground forces, the Army at that time also included the Army Air Corps. “They were trying to train flight crews and mechanics and use the limited aircraft they had on hand,” McNaughton said. “This was a fairly green Army.”
The National Guard and Organized Reserve had been mobilized as recently as 1940 and the draft, known as the Selective Training and Service Act, wasn’t instituted until Sept. 16 that same year.
In 1940, fewer than 270,000 Soldiers were on active duty. That number would climb to about 7 million by 1943.
Set up for failure
By late 1941, the Army in Hawaii was trying to juggle all three missions. “In my judgment, they couldn’t do all three,” McNaughton said. “They spread themselves too thin. Ultimately they failed.”
Coordination between the services was also poor, he said. The Army and the Navy on Hawaii had separate chains of command, and they engaged in very little coordination, at least in practical terms.
Early Sunday morning, the day of the attack, Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor and his counterpart, Short, were preparing for their weekly golf game, McNaughton explained. Every Sunday morning, the two flag officers would play golf, enabling them to “check the box” for joint coordination.
“Well, you need more than that,” McNaughton said. “And that’s what they didn’t do.”
In 1946, according to the Army’s official history, “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts,” the Congressional Pearl Harbor Joint Committee concluded:
“There was a complete failure in Hawaii of effective Army-Navy liaison during the critical period and no integration of Army and Navy facilities and efforts for defense. Neither of the responsible commanders really knew what the other was doing with respect to essential military activities.”
Senior Navy and Army leaders relieved Kimmel and Short of their commands within days after the attack, and they were never fully exonerated.
Early warning signs
Failure of the services to coordinate had real consequences on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
In the pre-dawn hours, a submarine periscope was spotted near Pearl Harbor, where there shouldn’t have been any submarines. At 6:37 a.m., the destroyer USS Ward dropped depth charges, destroying the submarine. The incident was then reported to the Navy chain of command.
Meanwhile, at the Opana Radar Site on the north shore of Oahu, radar operators Pvt. Joseph L. Lockard and Pvt. George Elliott detected an unusually large formation of aircraft approaching the island from the north at 7:02 a.m.
At the time, radar was experimental technology, and operators manned it just 3 to 7 a.m., McNaughton said. Usually, the radar was shut off at 7 a.m. for the rest of the day. It was only because the truck that took Lockard and Elliott to breakfast was late that the radar was still on at 7:02 a.m.
The operators had never seen such a large number of blips before, according to McNaughton. They called 1st Lt. Kermit A. Tyler, an Air Corps pilot who was an observer that morning at Fort Shafter’s Radar Information Center.
“Don’t worry about it,” Tyler told them. He had heard that a flight of B-17 bombers was en route from Hamilton Field, California, that morning.
If the Army and Navy had been in communication, McNaughton believes, they might have recognized the signs of the coming attack: the sighting of a large aircraft formation coming in from the north and the sighting of a submarine at the mouth of Pearl Harbor.
“If you put those two together, you might want to put everyone on full alert. But they didn’t,” he said. “There was no integration of intelligence from the two services. So the only warning they got was when the bombs started to fall.”
The attack commences
The first of two waves of some 360 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes began the attack at 7:48 a.m., having launched from six aircraft carriers north of Oahu.
While many of the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft attacked the fleet, other planes attacked all the airfields on the island, including Wheeler Field next to Schofield Barracks.
Among the 2,403 Americans killed, 2,008 were Sailors, 218 were Soldiers, 109 were Marines and 68 were civilians, according to a National World War II Museum Pearl Harbor fact sheet.
Of the aircraft destroyed, 92 were Navy and 77 were Army Air Corps. Two battleships were destroyed and six were damaged; three cruisers were damaged; one auxiliary vessel was destroyed and three were damaged; and three destroyers were damaged, according to the fact sheet.
The carriers USS Enterprise, USS Saratoga and USS Lexington were out on maneuvers and were not spotted by the Japanese.
Within minutes of the attack, Navy anti-aircraft guns opened up. The guns were firing at planes in all directions. A number of stray Navy anti-aircraft gun rounds fell in populated areas of Honolulu, killing more than a dozen civilians.
However, the Army’s anti-aircraft gunners at first struggled to engage the enemy because their guns were not in firing positions and the guns’ ammunition was in a separate location, where it was under lock and key.
“You can imagine them looking for the ammunition sergeant who had the keys at 8 a.m. Sunday,” McNaughton said. “It took them a while, but some guns did eventually get into action.”
Why weren’t the Army guns in position?
Short complained afterward that he had received ambiguous guidance from Washington. He said he was instructed to be prepared to defend against an attack but not to alarm the civilian population, which setting the anti-aircraft guns in position might have done.
Even so, the Army, with four regiments of anti-aircraft artillery in Oahu, had rehearsed defense against air raids. “They knew it was a possibility,” McNaughton said. “But certainly they were caught by surprise.”
Nevertheless, Soldiers found some means to counter-attack. At Army installations, Army men fired back with machine guns and other weapons at attacking enemy dive bombers and fighters, according to “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts.”
One of the Soldiers who lived through that day at Schofield Barracks was Cpl. James Jones, who later depicted the chaos in a 1951 novel, “From Here to Eternity,” which was eventually made into a movie that garnered eight Academy Awards.
As for the Army Air Corps, they eventually got 12 aircraft in the air and shot down a few Japanese planes. Ultimately, though, the Army Air Corps was overwhelmed. The vast majority of Soldiers killed in action that day were in the Army Air Corps, McNaughton noted.
The Army Air Corps flight of 12 B-17 Fortress Bombers — the aircraft that Tyler thought the radar operators had spotted — arrived in the middle of the attack. They were unarmed and almost out of fuel.
The aircraft landed at various airfields, and one landed on a golf course. One of the aircraft was destroyed by the Japanese, and three were badly damaged, according to “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts.”
“Just imagine, it’s supposed to be a routine peacetime flight and you show up in the middle of the biggest air battle the U.S. had ever seen,” McNaughton said. “Not a good situation.”
No plan for invasion
In fact, the Japanese never planned to invade Hawaii, McNaughton said. Rather, they wanted to cripple the U.S. Pacific fleet so it could not interfere with their plans to seize European colonies in Southeast Asia.
At the time, Army and Navy signals intelligence personnel were working hard to break the Japanese code, he said. They were intercepting communications and decrypting what they could, but the communications they intercepted gave no clear warning of the impending attack.
What the Japanese misjudged was the tremendous anger of the American people, which gave President Roosevelt and Congress the excuse they were looking for to declare war against Japan as well as Germany, McNaughton noted.
In the aftermath of the attack, the Army immediately took over the territory of Hawaii, declaring martial law, which lasted until October 1944. In this unprecedented situation, all local police, courts and government operated under Army supervision. The Army, Navy and FBI placed the local Japanese-American population under close surveillance and placed many community leaders under arrest.
During the war, the Army Soldiers in Hawaii — as in various places along the coasts on the U.S. mainland — never had to fire artillery guns to repel an enemy fleet, McNaughton said. The Army eventually disbanded the Coast Artillery branch, and today it uses sophisticated air and missile defense, in coordination with the other services.
Among the lessons to be taken from Pearl Harbor attack, according to McNaughton, is the crucial importance of operating as part of the joint force. Another is that of striking a fine balance between training and readiness. “You just don’t know when your unit will be called to mobilize,” he said.
The forced internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast in 1942, in the aftermath of the attack, was a further tragedy.
“It was really painful to the Japanese-American community at the time,” he said. “The vast majority of Japanese Americans were loyal citizens, those who had the opportunity fought for America. And many of those died for their country.”
Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighters coordinated close air support with Navy SEALs, trained with F-15Es and A-10s, dropped laser-guided bombs and practiced key mission sets and tactics in Idaho as part of initial preparations for what will likely be its first deployment within several years, senior service officials said.
“We are practicing taking what would be a smaller contingent of jets and moving them to another location and then having them employ out of that location,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Director, F-35 Integration Office told Scout Warrior in an interview.
While the Marine Corps has publically said it plans to deploy its Short-Take-off-and-Landing F-35B aboard an amphibious assault ship by 2017, the Air Force has been reluctant thus far to specify a deployment date for its F-35A variant.
However, Harrigian did say the Air Force plane would likely deploy within several years and pointed to recent mini-deployments of 6 F-35As from Edwards AFB in Calif., to Mountain Home AFB in Idaho as key evidence of its ongoing preparations.
“They dropped 30-bombs – 20 laser-guided bombs and 10 JDAMS (Joint Direct Attack Munitions). All of them were effective. We are trying to understand not only how we understand the airplane in terms of ordnance but also those tactics, techniques and procedures we need to prepare,” Harrigian explained.
During the exercises at Mountain Home AFB, the F-35A also practiced coordinating communications such as target identification, radio and other command and control functions with 4th-generation aircraft such as the F-15E, he added.
The training exercises in Idaho were also the first “real” occasion to test the airplane’s ability to use its computer system called the Autonomic Logistic Information System, or ALIS. The Air Force brought servers up to Mountain Home AFB to practice maintaining data from the computer system.
A report in the Air Force Times indicated that lawmakers have expressed some concerns about the development of ALIS, which has been plagued with developmental problems such as maintenance issues and problems referred to as “false positives.”
“This is a new piece of the weapons system. It has been challenging and hard. You have all this data about your airplanes. We learned some things that we were able to do in a reasonable amount of time,” Harrigian said.
F-35A “Sensor Fusion”
The computer system is essential to what F-35 proponents refer to as “sensor fusion,” a next-generation technology which combines and integrates information from a variety of sensors onto a single screen. As a result, a pilot does not have to look at separate displays to calculate mapping information, targeting data, sensor input and results from a radar warning receiver.
Harrigian added that his “fusion” technology allows F-35A pilots to process information and therefore make decisions faster than a potential enemy. He explained how this bears upon the historic and often referred to OODA Loop – a term to connote the Observation Orientation, Decision, Action cycle that fighter pilots need to go through in a dogfight or combat engagement in order to successfully destroy the enemy. The OODA-Loop concept was developed by former Air Force strategist Col. John Boyd; it has been a benchmark of fighter pilot training, preparation and tactical mission execution.
“As we go in and start to target the enemy, we are maximizing the capabilities of our jets. The F-35 takes all that sensor input and gives it to you in one picture. Your ability to make decisions quicker that the enemy is exponentially better than when we were trying to put it all together in a 4th generation airplane. You are arriving already in a position of advantage,” Harrigian explained.
Also, the F-35 is able to fire weapons such as the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile “off boresight,” meaning it can destroy enemy targets at different angles of approach that are not necessarily directly in front of the aircraft.
“Before you get into an engagement you will have likely already shot a few missiles at the enemy,” Harrigian said.
The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track sensor technology for pilots – allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with laser and GPS-guided precision weapons.
The EOTs system is engineered to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a collection of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to give the pilot a 360-degree view.
The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
An F-35B dropping a GBU-12 during a developmental test flight. | U.S. Air Force photo
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on-the-move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Deployment
The Air Force plans to announce what’s called Initial Operational Capability, or IOC, of its F-35A at some point between August and December of this year; seven F-35As are preparing for this at Hill AFB, Utah.
There is an operational unit at Hill AFB which, this coming June, is slated to go to Mountain Home for its training and preparation. They are the 34th Fighter Squadron
“All of this is part of a robust schedule of activities,” Harrigian added.
Following this development, the F-35A will be ready for deployment, Harrigian explained.
Once deployed, the F-35 will operate with an advanced software drop known as “3F” which will give the aircraft an ability to destroy enemy air defenses and employ a wide range of weapons.
Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.
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, Air Force officials said.
As per where the initial squadron might deploy, Harrigian said that would be determined by Air Combat Command depending upon operational needs at that time. He did, however, mention the Pacific theater and Middle East as distinct possibilities.
“Within a couple years, I would envision they will take the squadron down range. Now, whether they go to Pacific Command or go to the Middle East – the operational environment and what happens in the world will drive this. If there is a situation where we need this capability and they are IOC – then Air Combat Command is going to take a hard look at using these aircraft,” he said.
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
Most of us can’t take a seven-month leave of absence from work, but most of us don’t have as good of an excuse as Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.
Mayor Buttigieg, better known as “Mayor Pete,” took office January 1, 2012, at the age of 29 — making him the youngest mayor in America to serve a city with more than 100,000 residents. He assumed command while still fulfilling his monthly commitments as a member of the Navy Reserve, but after about two years in office, he was called to serve abroad.
After a few months of preparation with his mayoral team, Buttigieg left South Bend in the hands of his Deputy Mayor Mark Neal and departed to perform intelligence counter-terrorism work in Afghanistan for seven months.
Buttigieg grew up in South Bend. His parents were transplants that arrived a few years before his birth to pursue work at the University of Notre Dame. Although his family found opportunity in the Indiana city, Buttigieg would come to learn while growing up that his hometown was a city in crisis: the all-too-familiar tale of a Midwestern town in an economic tailspin due to loss of industry. In South Bend’s case, it was the shuttering of the Studebaker car company, which until 1963, when its factories closed, was the largest employer in town.
After high school, Buttigieg left South Bend to pursue higher education, first at Harvard and later, at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. After spending some time in the private sector doing consulting work, he joined the Navy as a reservist in 2008, putting into practice his childhood admiration of his great uncle, a family hero who died while serving in 1941.
The Great Recession hit South Bend hard, and Mayor Pete recalls following his hometown’s news from a distance.
“I was reading headlines from home,” says Buttigieg, “I was thinking, ‘Jeez, we gotta do more, we gotta change things a little bit back home.’ And then beginning to stop asking that question ‘why don’t they…’ and start asking that question ‘why don’t we?’ or ‘why don’t I?'”
Buttigieg returned to South Bend in 2008 and made his first foray into politics: a run for Indiana State Treasurer in 2010 (an effort he lost decisively to incumbent Richard Mourdock). While contemplating his next step, it became apparent that South Bend would soon have an open-seat mayor’s race for the first time in 24 years. Encouraged by his supporters in town, Buttigieg ran and was elected mayor on November 8, 2011, with 74 percent of the vote.
Buttigieg’s administration works hard to reinvent South Bend, while still acknowledging and celebrating its past, including work to redesign the old Studebaker campus into a turbo machinery facility in partnership with Notre Dame. By taking advantage of its excellent Internet capability (thanks to fiber optic cables that run through the town via old railroad routes), the city is attracting tech start-ups. Additionally, a 311 line has been set up for city residents.
But what might be called Buttigieg’s signature program is his plan to demolish, renovate or convert 1,000 vacant homes in 1,000 days. Since 1960, South Bend has lost about 30,000 residents, and empty homes pepper the entire town — attracting crime and lowering property values. This ambitious program, dubbed the Vacant Abandoned Properties Initiative, was launched in February 2013. As of January 10, 2015, 747 properties have been addressed, putting South Bend is ahead of schedule.
Buttigieg recently announced that he is running for a second term, perhaps surprising those who assumed he was only interested in using the mayor’s office to further his career. He is also personally renovating a home in the neighborhood where he grew up, while continuing to give one weekend a month to the reserves. He sees the recent initiatives in South Bend as a way to establish the next era for the community and is excited about the way South Bend is once again investing in itself.
“I would like to believe that if the work matters to you,” says Buttigieg, “and the importance of it is what fills your sails, that people can see that.”