While the Kuznetsov and attack planes on board add little to Russia’s capabilities in the region, the US has nonetheless condemned Russia escalating a conflict where humanitarian catastrophes and possibly war crimes go on with some regularity.
“We are aware of reports that the Russian Federation is preparing to escalate their military campaign in Syria. The United States, time and again, has worked to try and de-escalate the violence in Syria and provide humanitarian aid to civilians suffering under siege,” a Pentagon statement provided to USNI News on Wednesday read.
Russia’s deployment of the troubled, Soveit-era Kuznetsov to Syria serves little military purpose, and likely deployed for propaganda purposes.
In a bid to dispel Western fears about planned war games by Russia and Belarus, the Russian military said Aug. 29 the maneuvers simulating a response to foreign-backed “extremists” won’t threaten anyone.
The maneuvers, to be held Sept. 14-20 in Belarus and western Russia, have raised NATO concerns. Some alliance members, including the Baltic states and Poland, have criticized Moscow for a lack of transparency and questioned its intentions.
Amid spiraling tensions over fighting in Ukraine, Western worries about the planned maneuvers have ranged from allegations that Russia could keep its forces in Belarus after the drills, to fears of a surprise attack on the Baltics.
Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister, Lt. Gen. Alexander Fomin, rejected what he described as Western “myths about the so-called Russian threat.”
“The most improbable scenarios have been floated,” he said at a briefing for foreign military attaches. “Some have reached as far as to claim that the Zapad 2017 exercises will serve as a ‘platform for invasion’ and ‘occupation’ of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.”
Fomin said the Russian military will invite foreign observers to the maneuvers, which will involve 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops, about 70 aircraft, up to 250 tanks, 200 artillery systems, and 10 navy ships.
Moscow’s assurances, however, have failed to assuage Russia’s neighbors, which expect the drills to be far greater in scope than officially declared.
Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik said last month that Moscow could deploy up to 100,000 troops for the maneuvers. Poland’s Deputy Defense Minister Michal Dworczyk also questioned Russia’s official claims, saying that Warsaw expects many more Russian soldiers and equipment to be deployed.
Speaking Aug. 28 on Polish state Radio 1, Dworczyk expressed hope that the exercise “will not include any aggressive scenarios” and won’t cause any incidents, adding that “operations on this scale always run this risk.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that the alliance will send two observers to the maneuvers, but noted that access offered by Belarus does not constitute real monitoring. He said NATO is seeking “a more thorough way of observing” the drills.
NATO has rotated military units in the Baltics and Poland and held regular drills in the region — activities that Moscow has criticized as a reflection of its hostile intentions.
The alliance has watched Russian military moves with utmost concern following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Russia had leased a naval base in Crimea prior to its seizure, and used troops deployed there to quickly overtake the Black Sea peninsula.
Speaking in Moscow, Fomin said next month’s exercise will simulate a military response to foreign-backed extremist groups and aren’t directed against anyone in particular.
“Despite the fact that the bulk of it will be held on the territory of Belarus, we had in mind an imaginary adversary unrelated to any specific region,” he said. “According to our estimates, the situation envisaged in the maneuvers’ scenario could develop in any part of the world.”
Dworczyk, Poland’s deputy defense minister, said Warsaw is particularly worried about the possibility that Russia could keep some of its forces in Belarus after the maneuvers.
“Obviously, this would negatively impact the region,” he said.
Belarus has maintained close political, economic, and military contacts with its giant eastern neighbor. Its authoritarian leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, has relied on cheap Russian oil and billions of dollars in loans to keep the nation’s Soviet-style economy afloat.
But relations between the two allies often have been mired in disputes, as Lukashenko has accused the Kremlin of trying to strong-arm Belarus into surrendering control over its most-prized industrial assets.
Belarus hosts a Russian military early warning radar and a navy communications facility, but Lukashenko has resisted Kremlin pressure for hosting a Russian air base. Some in Belarus voiced fears that the base could provide a foothold for Moscow if it decides to annex its neighbor, like what happened in Crimea.
The flamboyant Belarusian leader has hailed bilateral military cooperation and criticized NATO’s moves, but he has refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia. He also failed to follow suit when Moscow acknowledged Georgia’s breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states after a brief 2008 Russian-Georgian war.
Alexander Golts, a Moscow-based independent military analyst, said that while Moscow would certainly like to permanently station its forces in Belarus, Lukashenko will strongly oppose such a move because that could put his nation in cross-fire in case of a conflict between Russia and NATO.
“The possibility of a permanent Russian military deployment in Belarus appears unlikely,” Golts said.
Alexander Klaskovsky, an independent political analyst in Minsk, agreed.
“Lukashenko is involved in a delicate balancing act, trying to show his loyalty to the Kremlin without damaging ties with the West,” he said.
The chief of the Belarusian military’s General Staff, Oleg Belokonev, pledged Aug. 29 that all Russian troops involved in the maneuvers will leave Belarus by the end of September.
In May 2004, about 20 British troops were on the move 15 miles south of al-Amara, near the major city of Basra in Iraq. They were on the way to assist another unit that was under fire when their convoy was hit by a surprise of its own.
Shia militias averaged five attacks per day in Basra when the U.K. troops arrived. British soldiers tried to arrest Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for supporting the violence and the locals were not happy about it. An unpredictable level of violence broke out. British troops were frequently under assault – an estimated 300 ambushes within three months.
“We were constantly under attack,” Sgt. Brian Wood told the BBC. “If mortars weren’t coming into our base, then we were dragged out into the city to help other units under fire.”
Wood and other troops from the 1st Battallion of the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment were on their way to aid Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who were attacked by 100 militiamen from al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army when their vehicle struck an IED. The surprise attack actually hit two vehicles carrying 20 troops on a highway south of Amarah. Mortars, rockets, and machine guns peppered the unarmored vehicles.
Rather than drive through the ambush, the vehicles took so much punishment they had to stop on the road. The troops inside dismounted, established a perimeter, and had to call in some help of their own. Ammunition soon ran low.
The decision was made: the British troops fixed bayonets.
They ran across 600 feet of open ground toward the entrenched enemy. Once on top of the Mahdi fighters, the British bayoneted 20 of the militia. Fierce hand-to-hand combat followed for five hours. The Queen’s men suffered only three injuries.
“We were pumped up on adrenaline — proper angry,” Pvt. Anthony Rushforth told The Sun, a London-based newspaper. “It’s only afterwards you think, ‘Jesus, I actually did that.’ “
What started as a surprise attack on a British convoy ended with 28 dead militiamen and three wounded U.K. troops.
Jihadi propaganda at the time told young fighters that Western armies would run from ambushes and never engage in close combat. They were wrong. Irregular, unexpected combat tactics overwhelmed a numerically superior enemy who had the advantage in surprise and firepower.
Expelled from their main stronghold in northern Iraq, Islamic State militants are now trapped in a military vise that will squeeze them on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.
Mattis arrived in the Iraqi capital on an unannounced visit August 22 just hours after President Donald Trump outlined a fresh approach to the stalemated war in Afghanistan. Trump also has vowed to take a more aggressive, effective approach against IS in Iraq and Syria, but he has yet to unveil a strategy for that conflict that differs greatly from his predecessor’s.
In Baghdad, Mattis was meeting with senior Iraqi government leaders and with US commanders. He also planned to meet in Irbil with Massoud Barzani, leader of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region that has helped fight IS. Mattis told reporters before departing from neighboring Jordan that the so-called Middle Euphrates River Valley — roughly from the western Iraqi city of al-Qaim to the eastern Syrian city of Der el-Zour — will be liberated in time, as IS gets hit from both ends of the valley that bisects Iraq and Syria.
“You see, ISIS is now caught in-between converging forces,” he said, using an alternative acronym for the militant group that burst into western and northern Iraq in 2014 from Syria and held sway for more than two years. “So ISIS’s days are certainly numbered, but it’s not over yet and it’s not going to be over any time soon.”
Mattis referred to this area as “ISIS’s last stand.”
Unlike the war in Afghanistan, Iraq offers a more positive narrative for the White House, at least for now. Having enabled Iraqi government forces to reclaim the Islamic State’s prized possession of Mosul in July, the US military effort is showing tangible progress and the Pentagon can credibly assert that momentum is on Iraq’s side.
The ranking US Air Force officer in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Croft, said that over the past couple of months IS has lost much of its ability to command and control its forces.
“It’s less coordinated than it was before,” he said. “It appears more fractured — flimsy is the word I would use.”
Brett McGurk, the administration’s special envoy to the counter-IS coalition, credits the Trump administration for having accelerated gains against the militants. He said August 21 that about one-third of all territory regained in Iraq and Syria since 2014 has been retaken in the last six or seven months.
“I think that’s quite significant and partially due to the fact we’re moving faster, more effectively,” as a result of Trump’s delegation of battlefield authorities to commanders in the field, McGurk said. He said this “has really made a difference on the ground. I have seen that with my own eyes.”
It seems likely that in coming months Trump may be in position to declare a victory of sorts in Iraq as IS fighters are marginalized and they lose their claim to be running a “caliphate” inside Iraq’s borders. Syria, on the other hand, is a murkier problem, even as IS loses ground there against US-supported local fighters and Russian-backed Syrian government forces.
The US role in Iraq parallels Afghanistan in some ways, starting with the basic tenet of enabling local government forces to fight rather than having US troops do the fighting for them. That is unlikely to change in either country. Also, although the Taliban is the main opposition force in Afghanistan, an Islamic State affiliate has emerged there, too. In both countries, US airpower is playing an important role in support of local forces, and in both countries the Pentagon is trying to facilitate the development of potent local air forces.
In Iraq, the political outlook is clouded by the same sectarian and ethnic division between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish factions that have repeatedly undercut, and in some cases reversed, security gains following the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
An immediate worry is a Kurdish independence referendum to be held September 25, which, if successful, could upset a delicate political balance in Iraq and inflame tensions with Turkey, whose own Kurdish population has fought an insurgency against the central government for decades. McGurk reiterated US opposition to holding the Iraqi Kurdish referendum.
“We believe these issues should be resolved through dialogue under the constitutional framework, and that a referendum at this time would be really potentially catastrophic to the counter-ISIS campaign,” McGurk told reporters in a joint appearance with Mattis before they flew to Iraq.
With the Iraqi military’s campaign to retake the northern city of Tal Afar now under way, Mattis has refused to predict victory. He says generals and senior officials should “just go silent” when troops are entering battle.
“I’d prefer just to let the reality come home. There’s nothing to be gained by forecasting something that’s fundamentally unpredictable,” he told reporters traveling with him over the weekend.
Awkward names for things that could save lives on the battlefield as well as on the streets of America. But these and other tools can be found in the search and rescue and personnel recovery arsenal of the elite Air Commandos.
Earlier in October, Pararescuemen and Combat Control operators from the 125th Special Tactics Squadron refreshed their extrication skills, showcasing along the way the importance of a little known but important skillset.
Utilizing old vehicles, the Air Commandos simulated the extrication of troops or civilians from wrecked vehicles with a variety of methods tools. However, it’s important to remember that the Air Commandos will often have to carry the tools on them, so the equipment must be effective yet portable.
An operator from the 125th Special Tactics Squadron uses a chainsaw during extrication training at Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Ore., Oct. 8, 2020, to simulate removing trapped personnel from a vehicle or aircraft. The members may use these techniques in combat environments or humanitarian assistance and disaster response zones. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Valerie R. Seelye)
“By using non-salvageable vehicles, we are able to develop a scenario in which all procedures and tools are utilized, enhancing proficiency in this specific Tactic, Technique, and Procedure,” said the 125th Special Tactics Squadron flight commander in a press release. “The non-salvageable vehicles provide the most realistic training possible.”
The advent of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has made extrication capabilities that much more important. If a vehicle, regardless if it’s armored or not, triggers an IED, chances are that it will suffer significant, if not catastrophic, damage. But if the explosive charge in the IED isn’t sufficient to destroy the vehicle altogether, the crew might survive, probably trapped inside the wreck. That’s why the extrication capability becomes important. But the skillset is also important in domestic or humanitarian scenarios, especially considering that this particular unit is part of the National Guard and might be called on to help civilians in distress as it has been doing in the past months.
“We also use this equipment during state emergency response operations or humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations to establish landing zones,” added the officer. “Or in the case of hurricanes, we’d possibly cut holes in the tops of houses to evacuate personnel by helicopter. These procedures were also utilized by Special Tactics Pararescuemen during the earthquake response in Haiti in 2010.”
Break it down, boys (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Valerie R. Seelye).
Part of the Oregon Air National Guard, the 125th Special Tactics Squadron is based in Portland.
Pararescue is the only career field in the whole Department of Defense (DoD) that is specially trained and equipped to conduct combat search and rescue and personnel recovery.
Back in 1993 and the Battle of Mogadishu, the Air Commandos’ extrication training proved crucial. When the first MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed during the “Black Hawk Down” incident, several of the crew members were trapped inside the twisted metals of the battered machine.
The moment the two pilots are finally extricated in the very realistic movie Black Hawk Down (Sony Pictures).
Even though the two Night Stalkers pilots who had been killed, the rest of Task Force Dagger resolved to not leave them behind. But only specialized equipped and trained men could extricate them. So, the burden fell on the Pararescuemen of the elite 24th Special Tactics Squadron. In the end, and after another day and night of fighting, the rescue force managed to extricate the two pilots.
This Memorial Day weekend, the USAA Poppy Wall of Honor will return to the National Mall in Washington D.C., featuring 645,000 poppies — each one representing an American service member who has fallen since World War I.
This year, in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the USAA Poppy Wall will also include a video featuring paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division.
USAA’s poignant exhibit will feature a clear wall stretching 133 feet long and 8.5 feet tall filled with the red bloom, making a striking contrast to the National Mall. From Friday, May 24 through Sunday, May 26, visitors can see the wall on the southwest side of the Reflecting Pool — between the Lincoln Memorial and the Korean War Memorial.
China is “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world,” a new US defense intelligence assessment warns, but that’s not what has officials most concerned.
China has been investing billions of dollars, possibly as much as $200 billion in 2018, into its military, which Chinese leadership is putting through a massive overhaul in hopes of building a modern, world-class fighting force capable of waging and winning wars.
“Indeed, China is building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space, and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region,” Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley asserted in the preface to the report, noting that Beijing will likely become more insistent as its confidence grows.
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)
It is China’s growing self-confidence that has US officials most alarmed, not the development of various weapons platforms, be it unmatched anti-satellite capabilities, precision strike tools, or hypersonic weapons. There is a serious concern that China is moving closer to the point where it might be willing to use military force to achieve its ambitions.
“The biggest concern is that they are going to get to a point where the [Chinese military] leadership may actually tell [Chinese President] Xi Jinping that they are confident in their capabilities,” a senior defense intelligence official said on Jan. 15, 2019, just before the release of the DIA assessment, according to Defense News.
“As these technologies mature, as their reorganization of their military comes into effect, as they become more proficient with these capabilities, our concern is we’ll reach a point where internally, within their decision-making, they will decide that using military force for a regional conflict is something that is more imminent,” the senior official said.
That’s bad news for Taiwan, an autonomous, democratic territory that Beijing views as a rogue province.
The island is a top priority for Chinese leadership, according to the report on Chinese military power, the first-ever unclassified DIA assessment of China’s military might.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Senior Chinese military leadership made that point very clear in a recent meeting with US military leaders. “If anyone wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will safeguard the national unity at all costs so as to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Gen. Li Zuocheng argued in a recent meeting with Adm. John Richardson, the South China Morning Post reported.
Chinese President Xi Jinping recently made clear that military action remains on the table as a possible reunification tool. Other potential flash points include the East and South China Seas.
Despite fears within the military intelligence community about the use of force by the Chinese military, it seems that there is also a consensus that China may not yet be there. “I think in a lot of ways, they have a lot that they need to do,” an official said Jan. 15, 2019, according to Stars and Stripes.
“We don’t have a real strong grasp on when they will think that they are confident in that capability,” the official added, referring to an assault on Taiwan. “They could order them to go today, but I don’t think they are particularly confident in that capability.”
China called the DIA report “unprofessional,” criticizing its findings.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Every unit in the military has a nickname, but some are way cooler than others. We looked around for some of the best nicknames across the military. Here’s what we found:
1. Hell On Wheels
2nd Armored Division, US Army: The 2nd Armored Division was active from 1940 to 1995 and was once commanded by Gen. Patton. It played an important role during World War II and was deactivated shortly after the Gulf War. Gen. Patton gave the unit the nickname after witnessing its maneuvers in 1941.
2. Old Iron Sides
1st Armored Division, US Army: The “Old Ironsides” nickname was given by Maj. Gen. Bruce R. Magruder after Gen. Patton named his division “Hell on Wheels.” Feeling that his division should have an awesome nickname too, Magruder announced a contest to find a suitable name before settling on “Old Ironsides,” as an homage to the famous Navy warship.
3. Bloody Bucket
28th Infantry Division, US Army: Originally nicknamed “Keystone Division,” the unit acquired the nickname “Bloody Bucket” by German forces during World War II because the red keystone patch resembled a bucket.
4. Red Bull
34th Infantry Division, US Army: This National Guard unit participated in World War I and World War II and was deactivated in 1945. It was once again activated in 1991 and since 2001 its soldiers have served in Afghanistan, Iraq and homeland security operations.
5. Yellow Jackets
Electronic Attack Squadron 138 (VAQ-138), US Navy: This EA-18G Growler squadron based out of Whidbey Island, WA has a fitting name for what it does. It buzzes adversaries with electronic attacks rendering them useless.
Strike Fighter Squadron 105 (VFA-105), US Navy: This squadron was originally commissioned in 1952 as the “Mad Dogs” and was decommissioned in 1959. It was recommissioned as the “Gunslingers” in 1969 to participate in combat operations in the Gulf of Tonkin and has remained active ever since.
Strike Fighter Squadron 102 (VFA-102), US Navy: Based out of NAF Atsugi, Japan, the Diamondbacks are attached to Carrier Air Wing 5 and deploys aboard the USS George Washington (CVN-73).
8. Bounty Hunters
Strike Fighter Squadron 2 (VFA-2), US Navy: Based out of Naval Air Station Lemoore, CA, this F/A-18F Super Hornet Squadron is attached to Carrier Air Wing 2 and deploys aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76).
9. The Professionals
2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, U.S. Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Pendleton, CA, this infantry battalion consists of about 1000 Marines and sailors.
10. Betio Bastards
3rd Battalion 2nd Marines, US Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Lejeune, NC, this infantry battalion has about 800 Marines and sailors.
2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, US Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Lejeune, NC, this battalion’s primary weapon is the 8-wheeled LAV-25.
12. Magnificent Bastards
2nd Battalion, 4the Marines, U.S. Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Pendleton, CA, this infantry battalion has about 1,100 Marines and sailors.
13. Kickin’ Ass
148 Fighter Squadron, US Air Force: Based out of Tucson Air National Guard Base, AZ, this F-16A/B Fighting Falcon squadron’s main role is to train foreign military pilots.
80th Fighter Squadron, US Air Force: Based out of Kunsan Air Force Base, South Korea, this F-16 Fighting Falcon squadron has served in operations in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
336th Fighter Squadron, US Air Force: Based out of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, NC, the “Rocketeers played key roles during Operation Desert Storm dropping more than six million pounds of ordnance on scud missile sites, bridges and airfields.
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:
An F-15E Strike Eagle sits on the flightline at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Nov. 12, 2015. Six F-15Es from the 48th Fighter Wing deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant missions in Iraq and Syria.
Aircrew with the 20th Special Operations Squadron and combat controllers with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron execute an aerial and ground demonstration for U.S. Air Force Academy cadets Nov. 10, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. The flyover and demonstration celebrated Veterans Day with future leaders of the Air Force.
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, lands at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Nov. 12, 2015. Six F-15Es are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant missions in Iraq and Syria. As an air-to-air and air-to-ground fighter aircraft, the F-15E specializes in gaining and maintaining air superiority.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conduct operations during Decisive Action Rotation 16-02 at the National Training Center on Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 12, 2015.
A Soldier, assigned to 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment-Blackhorse, fires an M240B machine gun while acting as an opposing force during Decisive Action Rotation 16-02 at the
National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 14, 2015.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 10, 2015) – The guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) fires an SM-2 missile during a live-fire exercise. Sailors from the John C. Stennis Strike Group are participating in a sustainment training exercise (SUSTEX) to prepare for future deployments.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 16, 2015) The guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) sits anchored off the southern coast of California.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 16, 2015) Guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) transits the Atlantic Ocean. Gonzalez is deployed with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.
A Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command stages on a hasty landing zone during a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel drill at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 16, 2015.
Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit jump off the side of the USS Essex during a swim call. The Marines and sailors of the 15th MEU and Essex Amphibious Ready Group jumped 30-feet into the water and swam to their respective checkpoint.
Since 1998 U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City has stood the watch!
In 1984, HH-65A Dolphin helicopters were accepted into service. Today we use MH-65D Dolphin helicopters.
So check out what we learned about America from our time deployed overseas.
1. There’s no place like America
After the first few months, your fighting spirit usually tends to die out, then you really do begin to believe those classic words Dorothy from Kansas once spoke. This motivation is usually what gets you through the rest of the deployment.
America and its people are certainly flawed, but we love them anyway.
2. Bigger problems
Stateside you have all types of bills, some family drama and if you’re living in the barracks, room inspections.
Now that you’re deployed half way around the world, those issues still exist, but you put them on the back burner. Although combat stress can get pretty jarring, many prefer that headache over fighting heavy traffic.
3. Americans are true supporters
Mail call doesn’t come around too often, but when it does, it’s like Christmas no matter the time of year. Many don’t have families back home to support them while they’re off fighting the bad guys. So Americans from across the U.S. often come together and pack up goodies and send them off to deployed service members around the world.
4. How good American air smells
Being stationed on a small patrol base, you incinerate all the trash you accumulate in a burn pit not far away from where you eat, sleep and stand post. The smell can be pretty nasty.
Come home after a year-long deployment and smell that good old fashion America breeze.
As Americans, we buy a lot of crap we don’t need but convince ourselves we do. Live for months on an aircraft carrier or on a patrol base and you’ll have maybe 10 square feet of personal storage — you’ll still get by just fine with a whole lot less stuff.
For five years, the young Special Forces officer spent most of his time in a cage and wasn’t allowed more than 40 yards from it. Limited to two cans of rice per day, Rowe and fellow prisoners would capture snakes and rats whenever they could. Rowe also tried to escape three times.
Angry at his deceit and the training he had provided South Vietnamese soldiers, the North Vietnamese sentenced Rowe to death. A Viet Cong patrol took Rowe into the jungle for the execution.
As they were heading to the execution point though, Rowe heard a flight of helicopters. He shoved a guard to the ground and sprinted into a nearby clearing, waving his arms to get the pilots’ attention.
They were American helicopters, but the first pilot to spot Rowe saw his black pajamas and nearly fired on him. Then he noticed Rowe’s beard that had grown out during his captivity. After realizing that Vietnamese men were incapable of growing a thick beard, the helicopter scooped Rowe up and carried him to safety.
Rowe returned to the states as a major. He left the military for a short period before returning in 1981 as a lieutenant colonel stationed at Fort Bragg. There, he developed the Army’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Course using the lessons he learned in captivity.
Rowe later deployed to the Philippines as the ground forces director for the Joint U.S. Military Advisory group for the Philippines where he provided counterinsurgency training for Philippine forces.
It served with the United States military from 1964-1998, and with NASA until 1999. The SR-71 had been developed from the A-12 OXCART (no relation to the A-12 Avenger), a single-seat plane capable of making high-speed recon runs as well.
It was thought satellites and drones could replace the SR-71. The problem was that satellites are predictable, and too many drones just don’t have the performance or reliability. But Lockheed’s Skunk Works, which created the A-12/YF-12/SR-71 family, is now developing a SR-72, and they promise it will be faster than the Blackbird.
Lockheed noted that the SR-71 was designed on paper with slide rules. Even without the benefit of high-technology, the SR-71 proved to be superb at its role.
It’s no longer just the higher-ranking, saltier NCOs and senior NCOs training young troops. In the world of military photojournalism, veterans who have been separated or retired for a decade or more are returning to teach the newest generations to capture stories on the battlefields.
Some of the military’s most surprisingly underreported jobs may be in the visual journalism fields. Every branch of the armed forces of the United States features teams of correspondents, photographers, and even combat artists and graphic designers.
They go through the same rigorous news writing and storytelling training as any student in any j-school in America. They learn the potential for every medium in visual journalism at the military’s disposal.
One problem with this is that they also have to focus on the fight. They have to learn small unit combat, urban warfare, close-quarters battle, self-aid and buddy care — the list goes on and on — and drill it into their muscle memory, not to mention learning the particulars of their branch of service.
When these young combat camera troops get into active service, they are thrown into an oft-underfunded world of retirement ceremonies, passport photos, and base change of command ceremonies.
Imagine a potentially world-class photographer working a Sears Photo Studio.
When one of these soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen, or Marines gets to where the action is, they need to be able to adequately show and tell the military’s story. It’s not just for history’s sake, it can literally mean life and death for their subjects.
“I had the honor of photographing the last living pictures of soldiers on the battlefield,” says Stacy Pearsall, an Air Force combat camera veteran, referring to the Army units she covered during the Iraq War. “They are still today, my personal heroes to whom owe my life.”
Military photojournalists have since taken it upon themselves to train their youngest and greenest combat troops in the artistry of visual media. These veterans want to turn every one of the newbies into award-winning multimedia storytellers.
It’s not just higher-ranking active duty. Juan Femath is a veteran Air Force aerial videographer. In 2011, he and some fellow Air Force and Army veterans decided to help the military do a better job of telling its own story.
“The photographers in the military have a great culture of older guys coming back to teach the younger troops,” Femath says. “There are so many photography workshops where skilled military photogs come to speak and mentor.”
One such workshop is the D.C. Shoot Off Workshop, run by Navy Veteran and White House news photographer Johnny Bivera.
Bivera uses his professional connections to bring attention to the military photojournalism world, attracting brands like Nikon and Adobe to his training weekends.
“The best speakers, mentors, editors and judges throughout the country volunteer for this event,” Bivera says. “These workshops are for all levels and provide professional development, helping to fill training gaps for our military and civil service photographers.
The weekend-long workshop starts with a seminar portion, covering the most important storytelling and production fundamentals used by civilian media today. These lectures are given by some of the media’s most important producers — many of them veterans themselves — from companies like HBO, USA Today, NFL Films, NBC, Canon, and the Washington Post.
Participants then break into teams and go out to apply the skills they just learned. Each team produces a two to five minute multimedia piece based on a topic drawn from a hat and are given an expert media producer as a mentor to guide them through the process. There is a hard deadline: work submitted after the deadline will not be eligible for awards.
Final products often reflect the experiences and inherent creativity of military photojournalists from every branch of service. They are thoroughly judged and critiqued by a panel of experts who make themselves available to everyone’s questions.
Though the Shoot Off charges an entry fee, the most telling aspect of the Shoot Off is that no one gets paid for their time — not the sponsors, the creators, mentors, or speakers. The fees cover only the overhead costs of running the workshop.
The D.C. Shoot Off Video Workshop, now in its seventh year, will be held May 4-7, 2017. For more information and to register visit dcvideoshootoff.org. It is open to all military, civil service, government, and veteran media producers.
The still photography Shoot Off has multiple dates and is held in Washington, D.C. in the Spring and San Diego in the fall. For more information visit visualmediaone.com.