Russia's creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange - We Are The Mighty
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Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in dry dock in July 2015. | Christopher Michel/Flickr photo


The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is the biggest ship in the Russian navy and the most visible symbol of the Kremlin’s military power. This October, she will travel to the Mediterranean and carry out air strikes in Syria, according to a report from the Moscow-based Tass news agency.

There is a general rule for news about Russian warships. Like most things in life — don’t believe it until you see it. The first problem is that the Tass report, which reverberated throughout the Russian and Western press, relied on a single anonymous “military-diplomatic source.”

Nor is this the first time rumors have spread about the Admiral Kuznetsovgoing to war in Syria. The Russian navy denied a 2015 report which claimed as much.

But this is not to say you should totally disbelieve it, either. Recent activity surrounding the Admiral Kuznetsov may indicate an upcoming combat deployment.

First, here are several reasons to doubt it.

Admiral Kuznetsov has never seen combat, nor would she be of much practical military use. The 55,000-ton carrier has a bow ramp, not steam catapults, requiring her aircraft to shed weight before taking off. This means her planes will go into combat with less fuel or bombs than the ground-based fighters Russia has already deployed to Syria.

This is on purpose. The Soviet Union designed Admiral Kuznetsov as a “heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser” to support a surface battle fleet, foreign policy writer Taylor Marvin pointed out.

This makes her less flexible than U.S. supercarriers, and it’s the reason she packs anti-ship missiles for sinking other vessels, but cannot launch fully gassed-up strike planes with heavy bomb loads suitable for attacking targets on land.

Worse, the conventionally-powered Admiral Kuznetsov has problems. Poor maintenance, defective steam turbines and shoddy boilers means she’s unreliable — which is why Russia sends an ocean-going tug with her, wherever she goes.

A video of one of these tugs hauling the carrier in bad weather during a 2012 voyage appeared last year. It has an utterly awesome and appropriately Russian soundtrack.

“Carrier operations, particularly high-tempo strike missions, are an extremely complex logistical and operational dance, with lethal consequences for mistakes,” Marvin wrote. “Since the USSR and Russia has had little opportunity to build these skills, and none to test them in combat, any strike missions from the Kuznetsov would be limited and mostly for show.”

Russia would take a big risk … for not much gain. This doesn’t mean the Kremlin wouldn’t take the risk. There is circumstantial evidence to suggest — although in a speculative fashion — that the Russians may be preparing to do just that.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
British destroyer HMS ‘York’ shadows ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in 2011. | U.K. Ministry of Defense photo

For one, Admiral Kuznetsov is planning a voyage to the Mediterranean this fall. “It is true. There is such a plan,” Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov, chairman of the State Duma defense committee, told Tass on June 28.

Su-33 and Su-25 jets recently landed on the flattop, last spotted sailing in the Barents Sea. MiG-29Ks — a carrier-launched version of the muscular, multi-role Fulcrum — will arrive “in the coming days,” according to a July 4 reportby Interfax.

The news agency reported that the arrivals are in preparation for a “long hike” planned “roughly in the middle of October.”

The MiG-29K and its two-seater KUB variant are Soviet-era designs revived for the Indian Navy after it purchased the Kiev-class flattop Admiral Gorshkov — renamed INS Vikramaditya — in 2004. However, the planes themselves are brand new, pack advanced avionics and can drop precision-guided bombs.

The Su-33 is an air-superiority fighter, and the Su-25 is a close air support plane. Tass’ source said the carrier will go to Syria with “about 15 fighters Su-33 and MiG-29K/KUB and more than 10 helicopters Ka-52K, Ka-27 and Ka-31.”

But it gets weirder.

Russia went to war in Syria in September 2015. That month, Admiral Kuznetsov was completing a three-month maintenance stint near Murmansk.

Then in October, she appeared in the Barents Sea … for combat training.

That’s unusual, because the Russian aircraft carrier is a snowbird; she heads south late in the year. More specifically, she sails into the Mediterranean, which she did during her four previous deployments — all during winter.

October is not winter. But the Barents Sea and the carrier’s home port at Severomorsk are beyond the Arctic Circle, where flight operations are particularly dangerous beginning in mid-October due to the polar night, when there is little light.

Sergei Ishchenko, a military commentator and former navy captain, found that perplexing. “Only extraordinary circumstances could have forced training flights from the carrier during the least suitable time of the year,” he wrote for the website Svobodnaya Pressa.

“It’s obvious that the war in Syria is that circumstance.”

 Russia might not have a chance to deploy its carrier in combat again for awhile. In early 2017, Admiral Kuznetsov will head into dry dock for a two-year overhaul shortly after she returns from the Mediterranean. The war may be over by the time her repairs are done, giving the Kremlin a tiny window to signal military prowess with its flattop.

More curious is what’s happening with the MiG-29Ks.

These warplanes train at a runway with a ski-ramp in Yeysk, Russia, along the Sea of Azov. The Kremlin built this facility in 2012 as an alternative to a similar ramp runway in Nitka, Crimea — then part of Ukraine — which Russia leased. Russia captured Nitka during its February 2014 invasion, but the facility is apparently not suitable for MiG-29Ks.

And according to Ishchenko, the MiG-29K unit — the 100th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment — was not fully trained as of January 2016.Admiral Kuznetsov is useless without those multi-role fighters and their pilots. “Victory in that war demands actual, not potential, power,” Ischenko wrote. “And the Admiral Kuznetsov still lacks its full combat power.”

Hence the reason why the carrier is back in the Barents Sea for the second time since last October, now with MiG-29Ks on the way … on a crash course for an upcoming combat mission.

At least, that’s the theory. We’ll find out in a few months.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

These days, Jeff Henson is doing what he believes has been his calling in life. He’s showing people who have attempted or have had thoughts of suicide that there is another way.

The Air Force Veteran (pictured above) is a volunteer at Save A Warrior. The nonprofit provides counseling in mental health, wellness and suicide prevention to Veterans, active-duty military and first responders. More than 1,100 men and women have gone through the program since it began eight years ago.


Many of these people, Henson explains, are missing “their family, their tribe” with whom they once built a friendship and camaraderie in the military or elsewhere. A lot of them not only have PTSD, he says, but PTSD and moral injury, which is essentially a conflict with one’s personal code of morality.

A Veteran may feel guilt, shame or self-condemnation for violating his or her moral beliefs in combat by killing someone, witnessing death or failing to prevent the immoral acts of others.

The will to live

Henson believes moral injury is a form of “complex PTSD” that can also stem from negative circumstances in one’s childhood.

“We introduce a Veteran to a tribe of 12 other Veterans who came to Save A Warrior at the same time as total strangers. They can leave as ‘brothers’ with an understanding that it’s not always what happened down-range that has them stuck in life. We provide hope and magic that is the will to live.”

Henson has been there himself. Diagnosed with PTSD and void of hope, he went through the Save A Warrior program in 2016 while in Veterans’ treatment court in Orange County, California.

Flashbacks from the Gulf War

His court time stemmed from a domestic violence incident in 2013. At the time, he was experiencing many of the classic PTSD symptoms: nightmares, mood swings, anxiety, depression, isolation and flashbacks. When the incident happened, he had flashed back to a moment when he unintentionally witnessed a decapitation in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, during the Gulf War in 1990, and he lost control.

Study links PTSD with criminal justice involvement

Earlier this year, a VA study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that Veterans with PTSD — compared to those without — are six times more likely to experience run-ins with the law.

The researchers say it is unclear what is driving the ties between PTSD and criminal justice involvement. They say the general strain theory may partially explain the results. That theory asserts that the risk of criminal behavior is higher among people who have experienced traumatic events and report negative effects, such as high levels of anger or irritability,

It gave me hope

Meanwhile, as part of getting his life back together, the 59-year-old Henson is pursuing a doctorate in psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

He’s also trying to give back to the organization that gave him so much.

“Save A Warrior did not save my life, but it gave me hope,” he says. “It’s the difference between `being alive’ and `living.’ It’s also about being of service. I’m one of the shepherds who helps people through the process that I went through.

“When we’re kids, we’re told by our parents not to use four-letter words,” he adds. “I dispute that because hope is a four-letter word. And hope is powerful.”

Click here to read more of Henson’s story.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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How Jane Fonda Became The Most-Hated Woman Among Vietnam Veterans

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
Jane Fonda sitting on an anti-aircraft gun during her visit to Hanoi in April 1972. (File photo)


By her own account, Jane Fonda’s first impression of America’s involvement in Vietnam was that it was a just cause. After all, she’d been raised by actor Henry Fonda who’d served in the Navy in World War II and forged his name in Hollywood by playing the good guys in movies.  She was brought up to believe that America was good, as she said, “I grew up with a deep belief that wherever our troops fought, they were on the side of the angels.”  So when she first heard about President Kennedy sending advisors to Vietnam she figured it was a necessary action.

For the first eight years of the Vietnam War Fonda was living in Paris with her first husband Roger Vadim, a film director.  The two of them were surrounded by the French cultural intelligencia.  (“Communists with a little ‘c,'” as she labeled them.)

Fonda described the period on her blog:

The French had been defeated in their own war against Vietnam a decade before our country went to war there, so when I heard, over and over, French people criticizing our country for our Vietnam War I hated it. I viewed it as sour grapes. I refused to believe we could be doing anything wrong there.

It wasn’t until I began to meet American servicemen who had been in Vietnam and had come to Paris as resisters that I realized I needed to learn more. I took every chance I could to meet with U.S. soldiers. I talked with them and read the books they gave me about the war. I decided I needed to return to my country and join with them—active duty soldiers and Vietnam Veterans in particular—to try and end the war.

Fonda received some notoriety for her activism once she returned to the States, and in the late ’60s she threw her celebrity heft behind causes and groups as far reaching as the Black Panthers, Native Americans, and feminists.

But the anti-Vietnam movement is where she really found her voice.  She started an “anti USO” troupe with Donald Sutherland and others called “FTA,” for “Free the Army” – a play on the expression “Fuck the Army,” which had come into favor at the time.  FTA toured military towns on the west coast doing skits and singing protest songs and getting veterans to tell their stories of an unjust war.

About the same time she began to support Vietnam Veterans Against the War, speaking at rallies and raising money.  In recognition of her efforts VVAW made Fonda their Honorary National Coordinator.

In her own blunt-force, actress-as-center-of-attention way, Fonda tried to segment the war from the warrior, something the nation at large failed to do during the Vietnam era (and for years afterwards).

It was all heady stuff for a well-bred celebrity who wanted to be known for something more than her looks.  It could be said that Fonda was educated to a fault – poised and articulate – and the actions of the Nixon Administration and their South Vietnamese cronies gave her just enough talking points and associated faux logic to be dangerous on an international foreign policy stage.

And Fonda got the perfect chance to be dangerous in May of 1972 when the North Vietnamese delegation at the Paris Peace Talks invited her for a two-week visit to Hanoi.

She accepted the invitation with the intention of treating the trip like a fact-finding “humanitarian” mission.  She wanted to take photos that would expose that the Nixon Administration was bombing the dikes to flood civilian areas.  Ultimately the trip had a different effect.

On the last day in Hanoi Fonda allowed herself to be part of a photo op.  She explains on her blog:

I was exhausted and an emotional wreck after the 2-week visit. It was not unusual for Americans who visited North Vietnam to be taken to see Vietnamese military installations and when they did, they were always required to wear a helmet like the kind I was told to wear during the numerous air raids I had experienced. When we arrived at the site of the anti-aircraft installation (somewhere on the outskirts of Hanoi), there was a group of about a dozen young soldiers in uniform who greeted me. There were also many photographers (and perhaps journalists) gathered about, many more than I had seen all in one place in Hanoi. This should have been a red flag.

The translator told me that the soldiers wanted to sing me a song. He translated as they sung. It was a song about the day ‘Uncle Ho’ declared their country’s independence in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square. I heard these words: “All men are created equal; they are given certain rights; among these are life, Liberty and Happiness.” These are the words Ho pronounced at the historic ceremony. I began to cry and clap. These young men should not be our enemy. They celebrate the same words Americans do.

The soldiers asked me to sing for them in return. As it turned out I was prepared for just such a moment: before leaving the United States, I memorized a song called Day Ma Di, written by anti-war South Vietnamese students. I knew I was slaughtering it, but everyone seemed delighted that I was making the attempt. I finished. Everyone was laughing and clapping, including me, overcome on this, my last day, with all that I had experienced during my 2 week visit. What happened next was something I have turned over and over in my mind countless times. Here is my best, honest recollection of what happened: someone (I don’t remember who) led me towards the gun, and I sat down, still laughing, still applauding. It all had nothing to do with where I was sitting. I hardly even thought about where I was sitting. The cameras flashed. I got up, and as I started to walk back to the car with the translator, the implication of what had just happened hit me. “Oh my God. It’s going to look like I was trying to shoot down U.S. planes.” I pleaded with him, “You have to be sure those photographs are not published. Please, you can’t let them be published.” I was assured it would be taken care of. I didn’t know what else to do. (I didn’t know yet that among the photographers there were some Japanese.)

But the photos were published, and they suggest that she was, in fact, aware that she was sitting on an anti-aircraft gun.  (One shot shows her peering through the gun’s sight and smiling.)

And other facts about Fonda’s trip emerged:  Like an updated version of Tokyo Rose, she’d gone on Hanoi radio and petitioned American fighting men stationed to the south to lay down their arms because they were fighting an unjust war against the peace-loving North Vietnamese.  She also met with a select group of American POWs – “cooperative” prisoners who’d never shown their captors any resistance – and while those seven have unequivocally stated that they were not coerced to meet with her and tell her all about their fair and humane treatment, other hard-case POWs have said they were tortured before and after her visit.

And, of course, in spite of the self-justifying logic and parsing of details in her blog entry above, there’s an easy way to avoid the disdain and outright hatred of your fellow citizens:  Regardless of how you feel about the war don’t visit another country as a guest of the leaders your country is at war with.

But were her actions treasonous?  The Nixon Administration came after her in a big way but failed to get any charges to stick.  It seems the war was just too unpopular for lawmakers or the general public to see the effort through.

But it wasn’t unpopular enough to keep Fonda from being shackled with the label “Hanoi Jane, Traitor B–ch” in veteran circles and among conservatives in general.

The arguments about Jane Fonda’s legacy rage to this day.  And in an era where celebrities go out of their way to “support the troops” it seems improbable that one of them would show up in a video chumming around with the ISIS boys or high fiving a Taliban leader after he launches a Stinger missile at a coalition helicopter.  But these are different times.  Now we don’t have Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, or the draft – elements that tended to give the average American strong opinions about the war in progress.

But whatever animosities linger, ultimately America has to accept that America created Jane Fonda.  And Jane Fonda’s story – before, during, and after the Vietnam War – is uniquely American.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of October 11th

Just as a step away from the regularly scheduled news that is probably left in better hands than the “meme guy,” did you know that former President George W. Bush had his museum debut at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington D.C. this week?

Yeah. And I mean, they’re actually pretty good. He’s got plenty of artwork that you can find around, but his most recent series has been stylized portraits of wounded Post-9/11 veterans – with the exception of the veteran’s eyes, which are drawn realistically. I’m no art critic, but I can tell that it draws you in, and you find yourself staring into the very souls of the veterans, and the rest kinda pulls you into how they feel.

I guess that goes to show you that after he got his “Presidential DD-214,” even the former commander-in-chief made a name for himself in the art world. See? Now can you all get off my back for using my GI Bill on a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree?


Anyways, here are some memes while I reevaluate my creative endeavors.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

(Meme via Army Veteran Style)

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

(Meme via Call for Fire)

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

(Photo via US Army WTF Moments)

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

(Meme via Grunt Works)

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

(Meme via Disgruntled Decks)

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

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Marines close in on new service rifle

The Marine Corps is eyeing a purchase of 11,000 new infantry automatic rifles and their accessories as it moves closer to making the IAR the new service rifle for grunts.


The service published a detailed request for information earlier this week asking companies to signal their interest in producing a future IAR. The current IAR is the M27, based on the Heckler Koch HK416.

Military.com broke the news in November that the Marine Corps’ experimental battalion, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, was testing out broader use of the M27 throughout the battalion as Marine leadership considered using it to replace the current infantry service rifle, the M4 carbine.

Related: Marines elevate marksmanship standards

The service has been considering fielding the IAR more broadly within the infantry since it introduced the M27 to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon in 2010, Col. Michael Manning, program manager for Infantry Weapons Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command, told Military.com.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
Sgt. Jeremy T. Wellenreiter, a primary marksmanship instructor with Weapons Training Battalion, fires an M-4 Carbine at Robotic Moving Targets at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel

Still under consideration is how the weapon might be fielded. At roughly $3,000 apiece, the M27 is a pricier investment than the M4, which costs less than $1,000. Manning said officials are working to determine which jobs within the unit truly needed the enhanced firepower.

“Not every 03XX would get an M27,” he said, using the generic Marine Corps military occupational specialty code for infantry. “There are select billets that would not get it because we don’t believe, based on our requirements, that they need it. But that is something we’ll continue to work with the [infantry] advocate and Marine Corps leadership on what the final mix will be like in an infantry unit. Everything is on the table.”

The 11,000 figure, he said, represents an estimate of how many rifles the Corps needs to purchase to equip the infantry.

Even though the M27 is the current IAR, the request for information is competitive, due to contracting rules and practices. If the Marine Corps gets interest from other manufacturers who can meet existing IAR criteria and produce a rifle that works compatibly with the existing platform, Manning said Systems Command would complete testing and a downselect process to determine a winner.

Among the criteria: The system should accept all Defense Department 5.56mm ammunition, weigh less than 12.5 pounds, and be capable of a rate of fire of 36 rounds per minute.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
A Marine fires his M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle while conducting squad attack exercise in Bahrain on Dec. 1, 2016. The Marine Corps is eyeing a purchase of 11,000 new infantry automatic rifles and their accessories as it moves closer to making the IAR the new service rifle for grunts. | US Marine Corps photo by Manuel Benavides

Unlike the standard M4, the M27 has a fully automatic firing option. It also features a slightly longer effective range and a free-floating barrel design that contributes to accuracy.

“It is the best infantry rifle in the world, hands down,” Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the gunner, or infantry weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division said of the IAR in November. “Better than anything Russia has, it’s better than anything we have, it’s better than anything China has. It’s world-class.”

Manning said the timeline for contracting for and fielding the new infantry service rifles is difficult to estimate because of the variables involved and the possibility of competition.

“We’ll do some sort of testing and a downselect, and then as we finalize, we will actually put a request for proposal out on the street, letting industry know that we are actually going to buy these, we have the money and the finalized requirements for them to come back with an offer to to the Marine Corps,” he said.

Responses to the Corps’ request for information are due March 17.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine mortarmen hammer ISIS fighters in new photos

“We’ve defeated ISIS,” President Donald Trump told Reuters on Aug. 20, 2018. “ISIS is essentially defeated.”

Despite Trump’s triumphant statement, ISIS still has as many as 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria, according to the Pentagon.

As such, US Marines are still in Syria advising and providing fire support to SDF fighters, and sometimes reportedly at times even getting into direct fire fights (they’re also in country to deter Russian and Iranian influence, which the US largely denies or neglects to mention).

The US Air Force released some pretty incredible photos of US Marines training for those missions.

Check them out below:


Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

“We can confirm this picture is of U.S. Marines conducting training on a 120mm mortar system in Syria on or about July 23, 2018,” Operation Inherent Resolve told Business Insider in an email.

The 120mm mortar has a range of up to five miles and a blast radius of 250 feet when it lands on a target. The Marines are using these indirect fire weapons to strike at ISIS positions and vehicles.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

Although OIR wouldn’t reveal where these pictures of US Marine mortarmen were taken, this picture was also taken by the same Air Force photog a few days earlier near Dawr az Zawr.

Dawr az Zawr is in eastern Syria, east of the Euphrates River, which has largely been a deconfliction line between US and Russian troops, and where US forces also killed about 200 Russian mercenaries in February 2018 that encroached into their area attempting to seize an oil field.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.

US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.

While ISIS still has a presence in Syria, the civil war in Syria appears to be in its last throes, as Syrian President Bashar Assad has retaken much ground and even recently began issuing death certificates for missing political prisoners taken before and during the civil war.

Source: Washington Post

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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This ‘RoboCop’ handgun is a suppressor and pistol all in one

When it debuted as a prototype a couple years ago, what was billed as the world’s first integrally-suppressed handgun available to the everyday Joe seemed a bit far fetched.


It was a Rube Goldberg contraption — with a Smith Wesson MP 9mm frame and this weird chunk of metal bolted onto the front, a crazy action and mismatched parts. But the thing was quiet and functional and promised to change the way shooters thought about the art of the possible.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

Fast forward two years, and suppressor giant SilencerCo is poised to release its new Maxim 9 handgun to the commercial market. And by the looks of it, Omni Consumer Products would be proud. And heck, maybe the Detroit PD would be interested in picking a few up even if RoboCop is still a thing of science fiction.

“This gun is disruptive by design; it is the future of firearms,” says SilencerCo CEO Joshua Waldron. “Additionally, the Maxim 9 is just the beginning, as we intend to make more integrally suppressed platforms so all types of firearms can be quiet out of the box.”

Now more than a combination of prototype parts, the Maxim 9 is a handgun built from the ground up by SilencerCo, which holds about 75 percent of the U.S. market in suppressors but has strayed into the high-tech shooting accessory market and now the pistol-making world. With a 4.38-inch barrel and an overall length of just over 9.5-inches in its shortened configuration, the Maxim 9 is just 2-inches longer than a Glock 17 — but shoots with a bark under 140 dB (an unsuppressed 9mm comes in at around 160 dB).

Think about that. Most suppressors add on another 4-to-6 inches to the length of a handgun, so a Glock 19, for example, would stretch out to a whopping 12 inches or more. Not something you could carry every day and draw at a moment’s notice.

But SilencerCo hopes to make the Maxim 9 an everyday carry gun for law enforcement, teaming with holster makers to build off-the-shelf options for the men and women in blue.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
The Maxim 9 comes standard at a full length of 10.75 inches but can be shortened to just over 9.5 inches. (Photo from SilencerCo)

“The Maxim 9 solves a dilemma that customers have had for decades: do they choose a short, loud pistol or a quiet, yet longer pistol with a sound suppressor attached to the muzzle,” SilencerCo says. “Now, consumers can have the best of all worlds in this short-but-quiet firearm that retails for less than a quality pistol and quality silencer combined.”

And now the Maxim 9 has all the bells and whistles of today’s state-of-the-art handguns, including an under-barrel KeyMod accessory rail, a slide cut for a pistol optic and aggressive stippling.

Sure, its suggested retail price is around $1,400, but SilencerCo has a point. A handgun and silencer all in one and not having to deal with pistons, threaded barrels and all that? And come on, who wouldn’t want to look like RoboCop at the range or on the job?

MIGHTY TRENDING

US diplomats in China suffer strange sudden brain injuries

No one knows exactly what caused 24 US diplomats and their families in Cuba to fall ill and in many cases show signs of brain injuries after they reported hearing strange noises.

But whatever is causing these mysterious illnesses, it seems to now be happening in China too.

On May 23, 2018, the US State Department announced that one embassy worker in Guangzhou experienced “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure” before being diagnosed with symptoms similar to those found in the diplomatic personnel that were in Cuba, including mild traumatic brain injury.


The New York Times reported June 6, 2018, that at least two more Americans in Guangzhou have experienced similar phenomena and also fallen ill. One of those embassy workers told the Times that he and his wife had heard mysterious sounds and experienced strange headaches and sleeplessness while in their apartment.

After the evacuation of the first diplomatic employee from Guangzhou was announced, the State Department issued a health alert via the US Consulate in Guangzhou telling people that “if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source. Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present.”

On June 5, 2018, the office of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the establishment of a task force meant to respond to these mysterious incidents, which some have called “sonic attacks.”

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
Mike Pompeo
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“U.S. government personnel and family members at affected locations have been directed to alert their mission’s medical unit if they note new onset of symptoms that may have begun in association with experiencing unidentified auditory sensations,” the State Department announcement said. “Reported symptoms have included dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, ear complaints and hearing loss, and difficulty sleeping.”

A mysterious problem that began in Cuba

The saga began in late 2016, when American diplomatic staff (and some Canadians) that had been in Cuba began to report odd physical and mental symptoms. Some individuals could no longer remember words, while others had hearing loss, speech problems, balance issues, nervous-system damage, headaches, ringing in the ears, and nausea.

Some even showed signs of brain swelling or concussions — mild traumatic brain injuries.

A study of those victims suggested a disconcerting possibility: some unknown force projected in the direction of the patients could have somehow injured their brains.

“The unique circumstances of these patients and the consistency of the clinical manifestations raised concern for a novel mechanism of a possible acquired brain injury,” the study’s authors wrote.

Many of the victims remembered strange occurrences before the symptoms appeared, though others didn’t hear or feel anything. One diplomat reported hearing a “blaring, grinding noise” that woke him from his bed in a Havana hotel, according to the Associated Press. The AP also reported that some heard a “loud ringing or a high-pitch chirping similar to crickets or cicadas” in short bursts at night, while others said they could walk “in” and “out” of blaring noises that were audible only in certain spots.

The US State Department eventually determined that the incidents were “specific attacks” and moved to cut its Cuban embassy staff by 60%.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
The U.S. embassy in Cuba.

The recent State Department announcement said there have been at least 24 victims of these attacks. Of those, 21 were studied by a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair. More than 80% reported hearing a sound that had a “directional” source — it seemed to come from somewhere.

After three months, 81% still had cognitive issues, 71% had balance problems, 86% had vision issues, and about 70% still reported hearing problems and headaches.

The fact that a number of these symptoms could be subjective has raised questions about the possibility that this group of people is suffering from some sort of collective delusion, according to the study authors. But they say that mass delusion is unlikely, since affected individuals were all highly motivated and of a broad age distribution, factors that don’t normally correspond with mass psychogenic illness. Plus, objective tests of ears and eye motion all revealed real clinical abnormalities.

The symptoms seem consistent with some form of mild brain trauma, according to the researchers. But these symptoms persisted far longer than most concussion symptoms do, and were not associated with blunt head trauma.

“These individuals appeared to have sustained injury to widespread brain networks without an associated history of head trauma,” the study authors wrote.

An unknown cause

Despite having identified common symptoms and clinical evidence of some sort of injury, researchers are still at a loss about what happened to these diplomats.

If there is some kind of weapon involved, no one knows what kind it was or who would have used it. The Cuban government denied any connection and investigators hadn’t found a link to Russia, which intelligence analysts have speculated might have the means and motivation to carry out such an attack.

Now that there are cases in China, the mystery is even deeper.

The reported presence of strange audio and of the feeling of changes in air pressure have led to speculation about some kind of sonic or audio-based weapon. But although sonic weapons exist, they’re very visible and easy to avoid, according to Seth Horowitz, a neuroscientist who wrote the book “The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind. Plus, the specific symptoms make a sonic weapon unlikely.

“There isn’t an acoustic phenomenon in the world that would cause those type of symptoms,” Horowitz said.

He speculated that perhaps some sort of mysterious pathogen or other phenomenon could have caused the symptoms, but the authors of the study on the victims from Cuba reported found no signs of infection (like fever). They determined that it was unlikely a chemical agent caused these effects, since it would have damaged other organs, too.

In an editorial published alongside that study, two doctors wrote that without more information and more data on the patients before they reported feeling ill, they couldn’t definitively figure out what went wrong.

“At this point, a unifying explanation for the symptoms experienced by the US government officials described in this case series remains elusive and the effect of possible exposure to audible phenomena is unclear,” the editorial’s authors wrote. “Going forward, it would be helpful for government employees traveling to Cuba to undergo baseline testing prior to deployment to allow for a more informed interpretation of abnormalities that might later be detected after a potential exposure.”

Now, employees headed to China may have to consider similar testing.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon releases an artificial intelligence strategy and it’s straight up Skynet

The Defense Department launched its artificial intelligence strategy Feb. 12, 2019, in concert with Feb. 11, 2019’s White House executive order that created the American Artificial Intelligence Strategy.

“The [executive order] is paramount for our country to remain a leader in AI, and it will not only increase the prosperity of our nation, but also enhance our national security,” Dana Deasy, DOD’s chief information officer, said in a media roundtable.

The CIO and Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, first director of DOD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, discussed the strategy’s launch with reporters.


The National Defense Strategy recognizes that the U.S. global landscape has evolved rapidly, with Russia and China making significant investments to modernize their forces, Deasy said. “That includes substantial funding for AI capabilities,” he added. “The DOD AI strategy directly supports every aspect of the NDS.”

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

Defense Department Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy and Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. Shanahan, the director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, hold a roundtable meeting on DOD’s artificial intelligence strategy at the Pentagon, Feb. 12, 2019.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

As stated in the AI strategy, he said, the United States — together with its allied partners — must adopt AI to maintain its strategic position to prevail on future battlefields and safeguard a free and open international order.

Speed and agility are key

Increasing speed and agility is a central focus on the AI strategy, the CIO said, adding that those factors will be delivered to all DOD AI capabilities across every DOD mission.

“The success of our AI initiatives will rely upon robust relationships with internal and external partners. Interagency, industry, our allies and the academic community will all play a vital role in executing our AI strategy,” Deasy said.

“I cannot stress enough the importance that the academic community will have for the JAIC,” he noted. “Young, bright minds continue to bring fresh ideas to the table, looking at the problem set through different lenses. Our future success not only as a department, but as a country, depends on tapping into these young minds and capturing their imagination and interest in pursuing the job within the department.”

Reforming DOD business

The last part of the NDS focuses on reform, the CIO said, and the JAIC will spark many new opportunities to reform the department’s business processes. “Smart automation is just one such area that promises to improve both effectiveness and efficiency,” he added.

Pentagon outlines its artificial intelligence strategy

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AI will use an enterprise cloud foundation, which will also increase efficiencies across DOD, Deasy said. He noted that DOD will emphasize responsibility and use of AI through its guidance and vision principles for using AI in a safe, lawful and ethical way.

JAIC: focal point of AI

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of operationalizing AI across the department, and to do so with the appropriate sense of urgency and alacrity,” JAIC director Shanahan told reporters.

The DOD AI strategy applies to the entire department, he said, adding the JAIC is a focal point of the strategy. The JAIC was established in response to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, and stood up in June 2018 “to provide a common vision, mission and focus to drive department-wide AI capability delivery.”

Mission themes

The JAIC has several critical mission themes, Shanahan said.

  • First is the effort to accelerate delivery and adoption of AI capabilities across DOD, he noted. “This underscores the importance of transitioning from research and development to operational-fielded capabilities,” he said. “The JAIC will operate across the full AI application lifecycle, with emphasis on near-term execution and AI adoption.”
  • Second is to establish a common foundation for scaling AI’s impact, Shanahan said. “One of the JAIC’s most-important contributions over the long term will be establishing a common foundation enabled by enterprise cloud with particular focus on shared data repositories for useable tools, frameworks and standards and cloud … services,” he explained.
  • Third, to synchronize DOD AI activities, related AI and machine-learning projects are ongoing across the department, and it’s important to ensure alignment with the National Defense Strategy, the director said.
  • Last is the effort to attract and cultivate a world-class AI team, Shanahan said.

Two pilot programs that are national mission initiatives – a broad, joint cross-cutting AI challenge – comprise preventive maintenance and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the director said, adding that “initial capabilities [will be] delivered over the next six months.”

And while in its early stages, the JAIC is beginning to work with the U.S. Cyber Command on a space-related national mission initiative, he said.

“Everything we do in the JAIC will center on enhancing relationships with industry, academia, and with our allies and international partners,” Shanahan said. “Within DOD, we will work closely with the services, Joint Staff, combatant commands, agencies and components.”

The JAIC’s mission, the director said, “nests nicely under the executive order that the president signed yesterday afternoon. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but there’s no time to waste.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Volunteers at the Vietnam Memorial read every name on ‘The Wall’

From Nov.7 to Nov. 10, over the span of 65 total hours, 58,318 names were read aloud and given life once again. More than 2,000 volunteers traveled from as far away as Alaska to participate in the “Reading of the Names” at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.


A stage with two spotlights was placed right in front of the wall. A podium stood at center stage. Every two minutes, a volunteer walked up to the podium and read a list of names.

Despite downpours and cold weather each night, people continued to read the names. Many volunteers showed up without having a reserved place in the order and helped fill in the gaps to ensure the reading never paused.

I was fortunate enough to participate in the event on [the night of Nov. 9]. The air was misty and chilly, and there were only 30 or so people around at any given time. A few people sat in chairs in front of the stage to listen. Several people pass by to look at the memorial. There’s a handful standing in line waiting for their turn to read. Everyone is there to pay their respects to the fallen.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
Thousands volunteer to read all 58,318 names at Vietnam Veterans Memorial

As I stood in line waiting for my turn, I listened to the others. The more I listened, the harder it was to keep my eyes dry. One woman preceded a name with “my father” and choked up as she read his name. A gentleman that followed her struggled to get through some of the names of his comrades. Every name means something to somebody somewhere. Each name represents service and sacrifice.

The first “Reading of the Names” occurred at the National Cathedral when the memorial was dedicated in November 1982. This year marked the 35th anniversary of the memorial and a reading of the names has been held every five years.

Thank you to everyone that participated in this important event. Stay up to date with news and events happening at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by following the Vietnam Veterans Memorial fund at http://www.vvmf.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon worries that China may have guts to use new weapons

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.

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(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.

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

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.

Articles

This is how Team Red, White & Blue supports more than those who served

When Alonso Flores started a serious cycling routine about two years ago, he was totally on his own. Rousting himself out of bed at 0-dark-thirty to get into his gear and hit the road was a chore. And try telling your young family that you’re dragging at the end of the day because you got up to ride a bike at 4 in the morning.


It wasn’t easy.

But during a family cycling event sponsored by his home town of Yuma, Arizona, Flores met some riders that would change his life — and give him a sense a purpose he hadn’t had riding on his own.

“Now I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself,” Flores said.

It was during that get together that Flores bumped into two other riders who were part of the veteran outreach group Team Red, White Blue, a national non-profit whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

 

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange
Support Team Red White, Blue by donating today!

Team RWB is focused on bridging the civilian-military divide through a shared interest in physical activity like running, hiking, CrossFit workouts, and yoga classes, along with participating in social and service-oriented events. And that’s how Flores, a 41-year-old heavy machine repair technician and civilian, got involved.

Spread across 199 chapters all over the world, the 110,000-member veteran’s group established in 2010 is geared toward creating a place for former servicemembers to meet and do a little PT — and invite their friends and family along to join them.

So Flores teamed up with his newly-minted cycling friends at Team RWB and started biking with them three times per week — waking at 4 AM, meeting at a coffee shop, riding 20 or so miles and chilling over a hot cup of mocha when the ride is done.

“Team RWB brings great teamwork. Before I met them I was riding by myself 20 miles a day,” Flores said. “Now I’m doing the same thing, but I  feel like I have a purpose.”

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Flores and his team biked over 100 miles across the Arizona desert in support of Team RWB’s Old Glory Relay. (Photo from Team RWB)

For the third year in a row, Team RWB has sponsored its so-called “Old Glory Relay” — a cross country run-and-bike relay carrying an American flag from Seattle, Washington, to Tampa, Florida. Organizers say it’s intended to connect the Team RWB chapters and its veterans and friends with the communities they live in.

So when Team RWB was coming through Yuma for this year’s Old Glory Relay, Flores jumped at the chance to help. He and a couple other teammates helped carry the flag on the non-running parts of the trip between Yuma and Gilabend, Arizona — over 100 miles — in one day.

And while Flores didn’t carry the flag the entire 116 miles of his relay leg, the 47 miles he rode with the Stars and Stripes on his bike gave him a lasting impression of the country he’s come to love and those who’ve served to keep him free.

“I came here from Mexico when I was 11 years,” Flores said. “People always ask me if I miss Mexico and I tell them that I don’t know any other country than this one. And carrying the flag in the Old Glory Relay put an exclamation point on that.”

In fact, Team RWB has become a big part of Flores family’s life as well. He’s started bringing his 10-year-old daughter and wife along on Wednesday evening fun runs where other kids and parents do a little PT and come together later for dinner and companionship. And even though Flores didn’t have any military experience, that hasn’t stopped his new vet friends from counting him as one of their own.

“It’s just a great organization. I see that Team RWB shirt and I know what it’s all about,” Flores said. “Even if I don’t know the person, I know what Team RWB means and that I’m part of something bigger.”

There are many ways to get involved with Team Red, White Blue and the Old Glory Relay, so check out their website to get more information – or text ‘OGR’ to 41444 to learn more and donate! You can track the flag on its journey across America at the OGR Live tracking page.

Articles

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

In the brief period of time since their inception the American paratrooper has seen combat and spearheaded assaults all over the world.


Despite their usefulness, however, there have still been numerous times when paratroopers were not used in which they could have had a significant impact on the battle. These are four of those battles:

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U.S. paratroopers awaiting orders to jump. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1942)

1. The Battle of Bastogne

In December 1944 the Germans launched a massive offensive into the Ardennes forest that would come to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.

As the situation deteriorated, Gen. Eisenhower decided to commit his strategic reserves, primarily the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, in an attempt to blunt the German attack. In the ensuing melee, the 82nd helped hold back the Germans at Elsenborn Ridge while the 101st became encircled holding Bastogne.

The effort to relieve the 101st fell to Patton’s Third Army to drive through the Germans and reach Bastogne.

However, Eisenhower had one remaining airborne division in reserve in England.

On Dec. 23, the same day Pathfinders landed in Bastogne to guide in supply drops, the 17th Airborne Division flew to France in order to join Third Army in its counter-offensive.

A more decisive move would have been to have the paratroopers of the 17th jump into the perimeter of Bastogne in order to shore up the lines and bring much needed relief to the beleaguered paratroopers of the 101st. This tactic had been used to great effect during Operation Avalanche in Sicily in which 82nd paratroopers reinforced the Allied beachhead at Salerno.

This would have then allowed the defenders to affect a breakout towards friendly lines or to go on an offensive of their own to drive the Germans back and break the siege.

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Waves of paratroopers fill the skies during a combat exercise. (U.S. Army)

2. The Landing at Inchon

On Sept. 15, 1950, Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s forces as part of Operation Chromite assaulted the beaches and harbor of Inchon — then well behind enemy lines.

In a coordinated effort with the forces encircled at Pusan, the United Nations forces delivered a striking blow against the North Koreans driving them back towards the 38th Parallel and recapturing Seoul.

The attack was a textbook amphibious assault comparable to those undertaken in Europe during World War II in which paratroopers spearheaded an assault followed by seaborne infantry. However, MacArthur had been in command in the Pacific and thus had utilized airborne forces much differently. His assault plan did not include the use of paratroopers.

Though only the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team was available, they could have been put to good use.

Their first order of business could have been the seizure of Kimpo Airfield, a task not completed until Sept. 18 by a battalion of Marines. The early capture of the airfield would have allowed American fighters a forward base sooner and would have allowed follow-on forces to be flown in.

Other elements of the 187th could have also been used to cut off the forces retreating from Pusan. Though the UN was able to eliminate nearly half of the 70,000 North Koreans in the South, the other half was able to regroup in North Korea.

Had paratroopers been employed they could have potentially stopped more — if not all — from reaching North Korea, leaving the communists with virtually no military.

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(U.S. Army paratroopers conduct an airborne operation on Oct. 20, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez)

3. The Siege of Khe Sanh

Just before the launch of the Tet Offensive in January 1968, the North Vietnamese attacked and laid siege to the Khe Sanh Combat Base.

Though they held their positions in the hills around the base and the base itself, they were soon cut off from ground support and resupply when Route 9 was closed. The Marines in and around the combat base — mostly the 26th Marine Regiment as well as 1st Battalion, 9th Marines — held out against the North Vietnamese for 11 weeks before finally being relieved by elements of the 1st Cavalry Division as part of Operation Pegasus.

However, the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade was alerted and deployed to Vietnam in early February 1968 in order to shore up defenses against the Tet Offensive.

The brigade could have instead been dropped into the Khe Sanh Combat Base in order to strengthen the defenses there and improve the offensive capabilities of the defenders. The paratroopers could have been used to seek out the NVA artillery that continually pounded the base and silenced it. This would also have freed up other units that were instead used to break the siege.

Furthermore, the paratroopers would have brought with them valuable assets such as artillery, engineers, and intelligence that would have improved the fighting ability of the defenders.  

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A Paratrooper from the 173rd Airborne Brigade prepares to land. In the background, a C-130 Hercules. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

4. Operation Iraqi Freedom

Although there was one large and several smaller airborne operations during the invasion of Iraq the role of paratroopers in the initial assault should have been much greater. Another operation, a likely jump by the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne and the 3rd Ranger Battalion onto Saddam International Airport, was scrapped after an overzealous journalist revealed the plan on public television.

However, there were many other targets of opportunity and uses for the available paratroopers. Much like the Rangers’ seizure of H-1 Airbase in Western Iraq, the paratroopers of the 2nd Brigade could have opened an airhead just north of Baghdad with an airborne assault of Balad Air Base.

Reminiscent of WWII operations in Europe, they could have cleared the way for the 3rd Infantry Division and 1st Marine Division as they made their way toward Baghdad. The seizure of key infrastructure was vital to keep Saddam from repeating his scorched earth retreat from 1991.

This could have been more quickly facilitated if paratroopers had been employed. With air superiority from the beginning, the possibilities for airborne assaults were great though unfortunately under-utilized.

When the paratroopers did enter the fight they proved their mettle when they earned a Presidential Unit Citation for their actions at As Samawah.

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