SERE school is about more than just being tortured - We Are The Mighty
Articles

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

For my crime of earning a Naval Flight Officer’s Wings of Gold and being selected for training as an F-14 Tomcat radar intercept officer (like “Goose” in the movie “Top Gun”) I was sent to the Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape – SERE – School in Brunswick, Maine during the winter of 1984.


My fellow trainees and I stepped off the C-9 from Norfolk and were hit by a biting wind, the kind that’s normal for Maine in January. I immediately wondered why I hadn’t tried to push off SERE School until June or July.

The first couple of training days were conducted in a classroom. The lead instructor had been in the backseat of an F-4 Phantom that was shot down over Hanoi and had spent nearly three years as a POW. He explained that since we were all aviators there was a likelihood that we could fall into the hands of the enemy as well, therefore we needed to pay attention and take SERE training to heart. “This is the most important school the Navy will ever send you to,” he said.

The crux of the classroom training was an in-depth review of the Code of Conduct, a list of six “articles” created after American POWs suffered at the hands of their captors during the Korean War. They were all tortured in one form or another. Many were brainwashed; some even refused to return to the United States after the war.

Here are the six articles of the Code of Conduct:

  1. I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
  2. I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
  3. If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
  4. If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
  5. When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
  6. I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

The night before we were bussed across Maine and dropped in the mountains that border Canada, we decided to stuff ourselves with KFC, hoping that would give us the energy we needed to get through the field portion of SERE. Early the next morning we were issued cold weather clothing and reminded that it was more than we’d have if we’d had our jets shot from under us. And the fact we were also given snowshoes should have been a warning sign that the weather where we were going was more brutal than the already miserable weather at Naval Air Station Brunswick on the Atlantic Ocean side of the state.

After a four-hour drive westward into higher elevations we wandered off the bus and were greeted by a group of “partisans,” friendly locals who welcomed us to the Peoples Republic of North America – PRONA. The partisans explained that PRONA was a Soviet satellite (remember, this was 1984 and the Cold War was still in full swing) and that they were a small band of rebels fighting for freedom. (We found out later that the partisans, like everyone else in the land of PRONA, were actually a combination of local outdoorsmen on retainer and DoD personnel on loan to SERE School.) The partisans spoke English with thick eastern European accents. (They were acting, of course, but it was believable.)

The partisans broke us into groups of 10 and led us into the forest where they gave us instruction in some of the basics of survival, including how to use the snowshoes to navigate the massive snowdrifts we encountered. That night we were allowed to make a campfire and eat meat of unknown origin and huddle as a group to stay warm.

The next day our partisan told us that the army of PRONA was looming and we needed to break up the group and attempt to evade individually. I spent the balance of the daylight hours crunching through the forest trying to be sneaky in spite of the fact there was no way to be while wearing snowshoes. Right before it got dark I fashioned a quick snow fort as our partisan had instructed and climbed into my sleeping bag for a few hours of trying to keep the exposed part of my face from freezing.

At daybreak one of the partisans came and got me –obviously my hiding place sucked – and said that the enemy threat was gone for the time being and we were going to form up the entire group and march to a safe place. It was actually a trap (and a lesson in who not to trust during wartime).

The formation was interrupted by gunshots. The partisans disappeared into the forest and suddenly we were surrounded by military trucks and dudes in uniform yelling at us in a foreign tongue. Whatever training scenario context remained in our minds evaporated as our new captors slapped us – like hard – and threw us to the ground.

We were forcibly loaded into the back of the troop transports and driven along a long road down the mountain, repeatedly told during the trip not to look out the back of the trucks or we’d be shot. When the trucks stopped and we were yanked to the ground again I got a quick glance at my surroundings – a prison camp – before I was blindfolded and led to a cell.

The guard removed my blindfold and forced me to sit on a box that was barely a foot tall and place my arms along my legs with my palms facing upward – what he called “the po-seesh.” “Get in po-seesh!” he yelled, Prona-ese for “position,” I assumed.

The guard told me I was “War Criminal Number One Five” and that I should refer to myself as such. Then he pointed to a tin can lined with a plastic bag in the corner and explained that it was my “sanitary facility” in the event I had to use the bathroom, but I was not to use it without permission.

He slammed the door to my cell shut and then peered through the small hatch in the door and, seeing I was not in the po-seesh, promptly re-entered the cell and roughed me up for a bit. I spent the next hours doing the calculus of holding the uncomfortable po-seesh and relaxing with the understanding that if the guard caught me I’d weather another beating.

As I sat there wondering what was going to happen next a wide variety of psyops stuff blared through the speaker mounted high in one corner of the small cell. A mind-numbing cacophony of an out-of-control saxophone was followed by Rudyard Kipling reciting his poem “Boots” over and over in a very haunting voice. (No one who ever attended Navy SERE will forget “Boots.”)

Give it a listen (and try not to go insane in the process):

Occasionally instructions from the guards were piped over the speaker, for instance, the rules for heeding calls of nature: “War criminals wishing to use the sanity facilities must ask permission by saying, ‘War criminal numbering whatever wishes to urinate or defecate.’ Do not do so until you are told to do so!”

At some point a guard entered my cell, blindfolded me, and led me to an interview with the camp commander. His friendly demeanor led me to believe this was the “soft sell” portion of my interrogation. He asked me how I was feeling. I joked I was hungry. He looked concerned and said he’d get me some hot food right after I got back to my cell. I also joked that the music was terrible and I’d prefer the Beatles, and he said he’d make that happen right away too.

Then he asked me where I was stationed. I said I couldn’t answer that. He asked me what kind of airplanes I flew. I said I couldn’t answer that either. After a second round of refusals his friendly mood shifted into anger, and he ordered the guard to take me back to my cell, saying I was “insincere” and needed to see the provost marshal for further “re-edu-ma-cation.”

After another extended period in solitary confinement in my cell accompanied by “Boots” on repeat, I was blindfolded again and taken to another part of the camp. As I was led through the snow I heard loud banging and people screaming. Once inside the building my blindfold was removed and one of the guards told me to climb into a small box, barely big enough for me to fit.

Once I’d wedged myself in, the guard slammed the lid. He instructed me that when he banged on the box once I was to yell my war criminal number, and when he banged twice I was to yell my social security number. This went on for a while, and fortunately I don’t get claustrophobic, cause if I did the confined space would have freaked me out.

The box treatment was followed by some “up and jumps,” known to the rest of us as jumping jacks, and other calisthenics punctuated by guards slapping me and throwing me to the floor. When I was good and winded a guard led me to a room where a big burly man with a red beard was waiting.

Red Beard asked me a few questions about my military profile, and each time I didn’t answer he slapped me. He produced an American flag and threw it on the ground and told me to dance on it. I tried to avoid it but he pushed me and I wound up stepping on the flag and as I did a photographer appeared and snapped a shot.

After another round of questions I didn’t answer, Red Beard decided it was time for stronger measures. He pushed me to the floor and made me sit on my hands. He straddled my legs as he fired up some pipe tobacco and started blowing smoke into my face using a large rubber tube.

I couldn’t breathe. The room started spinning. My head hit the floor. I puked.

And to my horror – even though I’d hadn’t quite finished puking – Red Beard blew more smoke in my face.

This felt like real torture, and I was convinced he was going to kill me. As I fought to get a clean breath of air, I managed to beg him to stop and offered to tell him something, hoping to employ the technique where you try to bend but not break by throwing out some meaningless bullshit.

I told him I was stationed in Florida even though I was really stationed in Virginia and that I flew helicopters even though I flew jets. Red Beard laughed and called the guard back in, telling him to give me as much food and water as I wanted because I’d been very helpful.

As I was led back to my cell blindfolded I felt like a total pussy who’d caved too easily.

After another period in solitary with my morale at an all-time low, a guard came and got me and led me back to the camp commander’s office. The camp commander told me about a junior enlisted man who’d gone through the same torture but instead of talking he’d come off the floor screaming “Article Five!” – a reference to the Code of Conduct where it states a POW should only give name, rank, and date of birth. “You are supposed to be an officer, but an enlisted man is stronger than you,” he said. “And you are insincere. You told us wrong information. I am sending you back to the provost.”

Sure enough, after more time in my cell to contemplate my shortcomings as an officer, I was back in front of Red Beard.

I hated Red Beard. I hated PRONA. And I felt another emotion that was like an epiphany: I wasn’t about to let America down again. The nation was depending on me to be strong. That’s why they’d given me my Annapolis education and put me through flight school. (Seriously, all of these things ran through my brain in that torture chamber.) If I had to die, so be it. Let the smoke blow . . .

After some more passing out and puking followed by more passing out and puking, Red Beard let me go.

The next day we were let out of solitary confinement and forced to do hard labor around the camp where our tasks included carving a “heli-mo-copter pad” in the ice-covered ground – an impossible task for which we were beaten for our lack of progress. One guy was stripped to his underwear and forced to stand at attention as his clothes were burned in front of him.

The camp commander gathered us together and, holding a Bible aloft, told us our beliefs were bullshit and that the only religious figure Americans truly worshiped was St. Walt Disney. He threw the Bible down and stomped it, which caused some of the prisoners to react enough that the guards felt obliged to slap them and throw them on the ground.

This cycle of hard labor in the freezing cold followed by “re-edu-ma-cation” sessions from PRONA’s propaganda machine went on for hours and hours, until the sun was about to set on our miserable existence once again. Morale was low. We were sure we were never getting out of there and our lives as we knew them were over.

Suddenly there was another burst of gunfire and a group of guys in cammies rappelled over the walls of the compound at various spots. They took the camp personnel into custody and announced that they were Navy SEALs. The flag of PRONA hung against the main guard tower was replaced by the Stars and Stripes as the National Anthem played over the camp PA.

There wasn’t a dry eye among us as we sang along. We were Americans, and we were free again.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent report on the CIA’s enhanced torture techniques during the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has restarted discussions about DoD’s methods and where they’re taught and learned. The SERE School curriculum has been lumped into those discussions.

But for me SERE wasn’t about the torture. It was about the realization that the pomp and ceremony, the pageantry and adulation that surrounded wearing a Navy officer’s uniform was meaningless without the courage and commitment that underpins them.

SERE taught me a big lesson in sacking up, and I can say without any hesitation that it was, in fact, the most important school the Navy ever sent me to.

(Editor’s note: This story deals with a specific SERE curriculum that no longer exists.)

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things about the M16A4 that you complained about

The M16A4 was the standard service rifle for the Marine Corps until October, 2015, when it was decided that the M4 Carbine would replace them in infantry battalions. For whatever reason, civilians tend to think the M16A4 is awesome when, in reality, it’s actually despised by a lot of Marines.

Now, the M16A4 is, by far, not the worst weapon, but it didn’t exactly live up to the expectations laid out for it. They’re accurate and the recoil is as soft as being hit in the shoulder with a peanut, so it certainly has its place. But when Marines spend a considerable amount of time in rainy or dusty environments, they’ll find it’s not the most reliable rifle.

Here are some of the major complaints Marines have about the weapon:


SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Hopefully it isn’t this bad.

(MemphisLifeSociety)

They get rusty very easily

For a weapon that’s supposed to be used in “every clime and place,” these rifles seem to get rust like boots get married – way too quickly. This just means that you should carry some CLP and scrub it off regularly — another task to add to the pile.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Find time to clean it when you can.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Richard Currier)

Cleaning is a headache

Outside of problems with rust, the chamber gets caked with carbon after firing a single magazine. This is yet another thing you’ll have to spend time cleaning. And when you break the rifle down, you’re going to find carbon has found its way into every possible small space.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Again, just keep that chamber as clean as possible.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

Jams are too common

If there’s a bit of dirt in the chamber, prepare for some double feeds or stove-pipe jams. This might just be the fact that many of these rifles have been worn down from participating in two separate combat theaters, but the fact remains: your gun will jam.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Have fun clearing buildings with these.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melanie Wolf)

They’re too long

An M16A4 is nearly 40″ long. For close quarters, these really aren’t the best weapons. You’ll have to find ways to adapt the rifle to the environment but, at the end of the day, it’s a pain in the ass to try and jump through a window with it.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Just take the covers off and put a grip on.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)

Rail covers make the hand guards slippery

You could just refrain from using covers, but without them, you run the risk of degrading your rails. With them, you won’t be able to get as steady of a group, which means your per-shot accuracy will go down slightly.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 ways the US could strike targets in Syria

President Donald Trump warned Russia on April 11, 2018, that US missiles are coming for Syria, whether or not Russia will try to defend against them.

Such a strike would call on the US’s most high-end platforms and present one of the most difficult military challenges on Earth.


Russia has deployed advanced air-defenses to Syria, and they’re pretty much the top of the line. A Russian diplomat and several Russian lawmakers also threatened to shoot down US missiles, the platforms that fired them, and to otherwise impose “grave repercussions.”

But the US has stealth jets and Navy destroyers that can send missiles over 1,000 miles. If the US does intend to strike targets under Russia’s air defenses, it will carry out perhaps the most complicated, technologically advanced military skirmish of all time.

1. The US’s best stealth jets vs. Russia’s best air defenses

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
F-22 deploys flares.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Igor Sutyagin of the Royal United Services Institute, an expert on Russian missile defense systems and strategic armaments, previously told Business Insider that US planes can beat Russian air defenses, but not without a fight.

“Yeah they can do it. In theory, they can do it because they will be launching stand off weapons,” Sutyagin said, referring to long-range missiles as “standoff weapons.”

“The tactics of these low-visibility planes, as they were designed originally, was to use the fact that detection range was decreased so you create some gaps in radar range and then you approach through the gap and launch standoff weapons,” he said.

“If American pilots will be not experienced in their fifth-gens, they will be shot down. If they are brilliant, operationally, tactically brilliant, they will defeat them,” Sutyagin concluded.

Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col David Berke, a former F-35 squadron leader and an F-22 pilot, also told Business Insider that US stealth jets were built to take on Russia’s air defenses specifically.

2. The Navy option

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
UGM-109 Tomahawk missile detonates above a test target, 1986.
(U.S. Navy photo)

But the US already struck Syria’s government successfully in 2017, using cruise missiles launched from US Navy guided-missile destroyers.

“One air defense battalion with an S-300 [advanced Russian air defense system] has 32 missiles. They will fire these against 16 targets (maybe against cruise missiles they would fire a one-to-one ratio) but to prevent the target from evading, you always launch two … but what if there are 50 targets?” Sutyagin said.

“The Russian military in Syria has air defense systems theoretically capable of shooting down US Tomahawk missiles but these can be saturated and, in the case of the S-400 [another Russian air defense system] in particular, are largely unproven in actual combat use,” Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at RUSI, told Business Insider.

But the cruise missile strike of April, 2017, did little to actually stop chemical weapons attacks or violence against civilians from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Within 24 hours, warplanes took off from the damaged airfield again.

Russia has heavy naval power in the region, but Bronk predicted that Moscow won’t have the stomach for a full-on fight against the US Navy, as it could easily escalate into all-out war between the world’s greatest military and nuclear powers.

3. Trump’s next strike may make the last one look tiny

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
Battle damage assessment image of Shayrat Airfield, Syria, is seen in this DigitalGlobe satellite image, released by the Pentagon following U.S. Tomahawk Land Attack Missile strikes from Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS Ross and USS Porter on April 7, 2017.
(U.S. Department of Defense photo)

President Donald Trump is now weighing a much larger strike to send a clear message, the New York Times reports.

To do this, the US will have to carefully weigh how much it wants to risk against Russia, a competent foe.

The scale of the US’s strike “depends on the risk appetite,” Bronk said, as the US will be “risking escalation directly with the Russians.”

“If the US decides on an option that involves more than cruise missiles and potentially a few stealth aircraft, it will have to suppress the Syrian air defense network and threaten or potentially even kill Russians,” Bronk said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President sees promising signs for accord with Taliban by month’s end

U.S. President Donald Trump says there are promising signs that the United States would reach a peace deal with the Taliban by the end of this month.


Chances are “good” for the agreement to be sealed, Trump said on a February 13 podcast broadcast on iHeart Radio.

When asked if a tentative deal had been reached, Trump said: “I think we’re very close…. I think there’s a good chance that we’ll have a deal…. We’re going to know over the next two weeks.”

The president’s comments are the latest indication of progress being made in talks between the United States and the Taliban that have been taking place since December in Qatar, where the militants have a political office.

Earlier in the day, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told journalists in Brussels that both sides had negotiated a “proposal” for a week-long scaling-down in violence.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

President Donald Trump speaks to Fort Drum Soldiers and personnel during a signing ceremony for the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, Aug. 13, 2018.

He said a drawdown of troops and further negotiations with the militants would be “conditions-based” and begin after a decline in violence.

“We’ve said all along that the best…solution in Afghanistan is a political agreement,” he added. “It will be a continual evaluative process as we go forward — if we go forward.”

Progress toward reducing violence could usher in direct peace talks between the militants and the Afghan government to end the nearly two-decade war.

AP reported that if violence subsided, it would lead to an agreement being signed between the United States and the Taliban, followed by, within 10 days, all-Afghan negotiations to establish a road map for the political future of a postwar Afghanistan.

There has been a “pretty important breakthrough” over the past few days, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on February 13 about peace negotiations. He did not elaborate.

President Donald Trump would still have to formally approve the agreement and finalization of details is expected at this week’s Munich Security Conference, where Esper and Pompeo will meet with Afghan President Ashaf Ghani.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg the day before reiterated that the alliance “fully supports the U.S.-led peace efforts, which can pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.”

Speaking at the same NATO summit in Brussels attended by Esper, the secretary-general said the militants “need to demonstrate that they are both willing and capable to deliver a reduction of violence and contribute to peace in good faith.”

He said the militant fighters have to “understand that they will never win on the battlefield. They have to make real compromises around the negotiating table.”

The prospective deal would see the U.S. pull thousands of troops from Afghanistan, while the Taliban would provide security guarantees and launch eventual talks with the Western-backed government in Kabul.

There are some 12,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as well as thousands of European forces participating in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

These Air Force Academy uniforms bring the ‘BRRRRRT’ to college football

It’s Shark Week at the U.S. Air Force Academy.


The Falcons paid tribute to Air Force history by donning uniforms featuring the distinctive nose art of the WWII-era Curtiss P-40 Warkhawk and its grandson, the tank-busting, close air support maestro A-10 Thunderbolt II – aka the “Warthog.”

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
P-40 Warhawk Ace Col. Bob Scott of 23d Fighter Group during WWII. (U.S. Army photo)

The Twitter account Air Force FB Equip tweeted a photo of the “threads” just before the start of the Air Force versus Georgia State game on September 10th.

The distinctive design harkens back to American pilots during the early years of World War II, before the United States joined the war. The 23d Fighter Group, dubbed the “Flying Tigers” for the 1st American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force, flew combat sorties against Japan. Comprised of pilots from the Army Air Forces, the Navy, and Marine Corps, their distinctive Shark nose art remains an icon of military history.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

The Flying Tigers’ first combat mission came just 12 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, racking up 256 kills at the cost of just 14 airmen until they were disbanded in July 1942. It was a big deal during the early days of the war, when Americans were taking huge losses left and right. For almost eight months, the Flying tigers ruled the skies over Burma.

The modern-day 23d Fighter Group doesn’t fly P-40s, it flies the A-10 – beloved by the troops of the ground for its superb close air support mission capabilities and feared by anyone on the receiving end of the GAU-8 Avenger 30mm cannon around which the airframe was built. This thing is a flying gun with tank armor and wings. Some A-10s feature the legacy shark nose art, which is a rare sight on today’s military aircraft.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
A front view of a 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft parked on the flight line during Exercise SOLID SHIELD ’87. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The home game at the Air Force Academy featured a flyover by four A-10 aircraft 30 seconds before kickoff. It’s almost not even fair – how are the Georgia State Panthers supposed to compete with that? They couldn’t. The Panthers fell to the Falcons like the Japanese fell during WWII – hard.

The final score was 48-14.

And in case you’re not familiar with the BRRRRRT:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_izdXSIWEg
MIGHTY MOVIES

Get ready to see some familiar GOT faces in ‘Lord of the Rings’ series

Amazon has announced the cast details for its upcoming “Lord of the Rings” series, which includes two “Game of Thrones” alumni.

Robert Aramayo joins the cast in the role previously vacated by “Midsommar” actor Will Poulter, who dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. This is said to be the protagonist role.


In HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Aramayo played a young Ned Stark, which offers up another “Lord of the Rings” connection as Sean Bean played the older Ned in “Game of Thrones” and Boromir in Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Sean Bean played Ned Stark and Boromir.

(HBO/Warner Bros./New Line Cinema)

Joseph Mawle is the other “Game of Thrones” actor who will now feature in Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” series, although it is unknown what role Mawle will have in the show.

Mawle played Benjen Stark in “Thrones,” brother of Ned — so it seems the Starks are heading to Middle Earth.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Joseph Mawle played Benjen Stark in “Thrones.”

(HBO)

The series will be set during the 3,441-year period, known as the Age of Númenor, or the Second Age.

The cast also includes Tom Budge, Markella Kavenagh, Sophia Nomvete, and Nazanin Boniadi, who stars in ‘Bombshell’ this year. As reported by Variety, the only cast member with a named character attached to them at this time is Morfydd Clark, who will be playing a young Galadriel.

Filming for the series is set to take place this year ahead of a 2021 release.

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

Read more:

Articles

This was Germany’s only military operation in North America during World War II

Germany didn’t have a lot of luck in the United States during the second world war. Its spy ring was wrapped up and captured before the U.S. entered the war. When the German navy tried to land saboteurs on the U.S. coast, they were caught by the Coast Guard, hunted down by the FBI and eventually executed. 

Where the Abwehr failed, however, the navy and army succeeded, but it wasn’t in the United States. The Germans managed to establish a weather station in the very far north of Canada, establishing Weather Station Kurt in northern Newfoundland. 

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
Wikimedia Commons

It was incredibly difficult for the Germans to establish reliable weather stations during the war. The Allies were able to build a network of weather forecasting stations all across the northern Atlantic because they effectively controlled most of the coastline between the Western and Eastern hemispheres north of the equator. 

Germany, on the other hand, had to build their stations in secret, especially in places like Iceland and Greenland. These remote locations were often found and captured by Allied patrols. They also tried to use aircraft and specially fitted weather ships. The problem with the aircraft is that the data gathered was often incomplete or unreliable. Ships at sea reporting weather patterns were tracked down and captured by Allied ships. 

As a result, these stations were the only reliable means of getting accurate, real-time weather reports from the Atlantic Ocean. To facilitate its network, Nazi Germany created automated weather stations that would mitigate the risk of putting men in harm’s way to be captured by Allied patrols. One station in particular would get a special kind of camouflage: garbage. 

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
U-537 anchored at Martin Bay in Labrador (Bundesarchiv)

The German submarine U-357 was dispatched to establish one of these automated stations in September 1943. The vessel made its way from the German homeland on the Baltic Sea coast.

By October, it had arrived in northern Labrador and found a spot that would be far from any accidental discovery.

To protect the site, the Germans not only used a remote location but also used empty packs of American cigarettes to litter the ground around it to deter any potential suspicions that it was a German weather station if anyone should happen upon it. Then, it was completely forgotten. 

It took the crew of U-357 just 28 hours to build the weather station and repair their boat (it had been damaged by Allied aircraft on its way to Newfoundland). Once everything was in operational order, the crew and the boat departed. 

After a combat patrol off the coast of Canada, where it engaged more aircraft than ships, it returned to France and then made its way to the Caribbean. It was sunny there by the USS Flounder, with all hands lost. 

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
Weather Station Kurt at the Canadian War Museum (Wikimedia Commons)

The station itself stopped sending weather reports just one month after it was set up, most likely due to its radio being jammed. There it stood for the next 30-plus years until a Canadian scientist stumbled upon it in 1977.  After doing a little research, he learned its true origin and purpose. Once he did, the station was taken to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, where it sits today. 

It was Nazi Germany’s only successful military or intelligence operation in North America, and it came at a hefty price. Two submarines with the same mission to establish the weather stations we dispatched. One was sunk right away, and the other, though successful, was short-lived.

Articles

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban

A key district in Afghanistan’s Helmand province that was taken by insurgents last year is now back under Afghan army control, US Marines deployed to Helmand announced July 17.


Nawa district, just west of Helmand’s capital city and regional police headquarters, Lashkar Gah, was overrun by the Taliban in August 2016, according to multiple media reports. The loss dealt a blow to hard-pressed Afghan National Army forces and raised questions about whether they would be able to maintain control of any part of Helmand.

With Nawa in enemy hands, civilian aircraft were unable to land at Bost, the airfield outside of Lashkar Gah, and the security of the city, a civilian population center, was in greater jeopardy.

But during a two-day operation that included airstrikes from US F-16 Fighting Falcons and AH-64 Apache helicopters, Afghan troops successfully wrested control of the district from the occupiers, reclaiming the district center earlier July 17, according to the release.

“The goal of this operation was to clear the Nawa district from the enemies, from the Taliban,” Col. Zahirgul Moqbal, commanding officer of the Afghan Border Police, said in a statement. “[Overall, our goal was] to retake the district from the Taliban.”

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
USAF photo by Senior Master Sgt. Gary J. Rihn

The Afghan army’s assault on Nawa, called Operation Maiwand Four, also involved surveillance from ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles owned by the ANA and other coalition unmanned systems, according to the release.

The F-16s and Apaches “set conditions, conducted air strikes, and covered the flanks of the maneuver elements to decrease the amount of friction felt by the ground forces and allowed freedom of maneuver,” the release stated.

The offensive involved multiple air strikes and bravery from the troops on the ground, who disabled more than 100 improvised explosive devices and maneuvered under fire to retake the Nawa district center, officials said.

In April, about 300 Marines from 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina deployed to Helmand province as an advisory element known as Task Force Southwest to assist local Afghan National Army units in their fight to hold the region.

Col. Matthew Reid, deputy commander of the task force, said in a statement that Operation Maiwand Four highlighted leadership and determination from Afghan troops.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

“So far during this operation we have seen some significant gains in leadership and maneuver from the Ministry of Interior forces, particularly the Afghan Border and National Police,” Reid said. “The vast majority of the ABP officers are from Helmand, many from Nawa, and they are aggressively fighting to clear insurgents from Nawa district.”

But the greatest difficulties may still be ahead for the Afghan forces.

In a New York Times report published July 14, Afghan Army Corps Operations Chief Lt. Col. Abdul Latif raised concerns about whether Afghan National Security Forces would be able to keep control of Nawa if they retook it.

“It is easy for us to take Nawa, but difficult to hold,” Latif said in the story.

The biggest challenge, he noted, was the scarcity of manpower. He estimated district security would require 300 police, but said that kind of manpower was not available. The report also noted that most forces in Helmand are not local to the area, but come in from the north and east.

According to the news release, Afghan National Security Forces plan to maintain control by setting up security checkpoints throughout Nawa’s district center and on the road to Lashkar Gah.

“It was a very successful operation in Helmand,” Moqbal said of Maiwand Four in a statement. “Defeating the enemy in Nawa means defeating the enemy in Helmand.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

These armored M1s were nothing like the Abrams

The M1 Abrams tank is arguably the best in the world — there are many reasons why it dominates the battlefield. But it’s not the only vehicle to have been called the “M1.” Prior to World War II, there were two other M1s in service, and neither were anything like the Abrams. In fact, these vehicles were downright puny. That being said, these little vehicles were important in their own way.


It might not seem like the greatest lot in life, but some people leave a legacy of being an example of what not to do. That also apply to tanks and other armored vehicles — see the Soviet-era T-72 for a prime example of this, both in terms of design and operational experience. This was also the case with America’s earliest M1s.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

The M1 armored car was so bad, America only bought a dozen.

(US Army)

The first of these vehicles was the M1 armored car. Looking at it, this vehicle lacked intimidation factor. It was best described as a funky-looking 1930s car with a turret that housed an M2 .50 caliber machine gun with two additional .30 caliber machine guns. Only about a dozen of these were built.

The vehicle only powered the rear four wheels. Even though it packed two spares, the biggest problem with this armored car was its off-road performance. As it turns out, all-wheel drive is necessary when not exclusively travelling on paved roads.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Civil War veterans inspect a M1 “combat car” at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.

(DOD)

The other M1 was the M1 “combat car.” This ‘car’ was, in reality, much closer to a light tank, but there was a specific reason for the semantics. In the years between World Wars, cavalry was prohibited from operating tanks. So, instead, they created an “armored car” with a tank’s armaments: one M2 .50-caliber machine gun and one .30-caliber machine gun. A grand total of 113 M1s were purchased, and it hung around until 1943.

Neither of these M1s saw any combat — which was a good thing for their four-man crews. Still, these vehicles, made major contributions to the war effort by teaching America what was needed to create a truly modern armored force.

Learn more about these vehicles — and see how far armored vehicles have come in terms of design — in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3snjE5Ss1e0

www.youtube.com

Articles

The Pentagon wants an ‘aerial dragnet’ to find enemy drones on the battlefield and in US cities

SERE school is about more than just being tortured
DARPA


The Pentagon’s research and development outfit wants to stop “UAS-enabled terrorist threats” with a new system it’s calling Aerial Dragnet that would track slow, low-flying drones — or what the military calls unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

“As off-the-shelf UAS become less expensive, easier to fly, and more adaptable for terrorist or military purposes, U.S. forces will increasingly be challenged by the need to quickly detect and identify such craft,” the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said in a news release. “Especially in urban areas, where sight lines are limited and many objects may be moving at similar speeds.”

DARPA is soliciting proposals for the program, which seeks to provide “persistent, wide-area surveillance” of multiple drones on a city-wide scale.

Drones have become a mainstay on the battlefield — especially where the US is involved — but many other countries have, or are producing, drones for use in combat. Then there are the smaller, off-the-shelf types, which have even been used for surveillance purposes and to deliver explosive devices by terrorist groups like ISIS, for example.

The proliferation of drones is going to continue, so it looks like DARPA wants a sort-of “super drone” that will tell US forces where all the other little ones are on the battlefield. That is a ways off, since the the Aerial Dragnet research program will take more than three years, after which it’s up to the Pentagon on whether any of the research is implemented in the field.

“Commercial websites currently exist that display in real time the tracks of relatively high and fast aircraft — from small general aviation planes to large airliners — all overlaid on geographical maps as they fly around the country and the world,” Jeff Krolik, DARPA program manager, said in a statement. “We want a similar capability for identifying and tracking slower, low-flying unmanned aerial systems, particularly in urban environments.”

Krolik also works on another DARPA program called “upward falling payloads” — a way of parking drones in sealed cases on ocean floors around the world, where they can be remotely activated to “fall” up and take a look around should trouble occur.

DARPA said the program is mainly designed to protect deployed troops, but the system “could ultimately find civilian application to help protect US metropolitan areas.”

The agency is hosting a proposers day on September 26, and full proposals for those interested in getting the contract are required by November 12.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s new nuclear bomber isn’t actually about nukes

China’s much-hyped but never-before-seen H-20 nuclear bomber has reportedly made “great progress” in its development recently and may even fly publicly in a 2019 military parade.

But while China bills the mysterious jet as a modern answer to the US’ airborne leg of its nuclear triad, a close read of Beijing’s military and nuclear posture reveals another mission much more likely to actually draw blood.

Though the jet remains an absolute unknown with only concept-art depictions in existence, let’s start with what we know. China describes the H-20 as a “new long-distance strategic bomber,” which recent imagery suggests will take a stealthy delta-wing design.


An Asia Times profile of the H-20 cited Chinese media as saying “the ultimate goal for the H-20” is an “operational range to 12,000 kilometers with 20 tons of payload.”

“A large flying wing design … is one of the only aerodynamic ways of achieving the broadband all-aspect stealth required for such a design,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.

Only one nation on earth operates a large stealth bomber, and that’s the US. But the B-2 has never launched a nuclear bomb, instead it’s been used as a stealthy bomb truck that can devastate hardened enemy targets with massive payloads on a nearly invisible platform.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

A possible prototype image of China’s mysterious H-20 bomber.

According to Lawrence Trevethan, a researcher at the China Aerospace Studies Institute, which works with the US Air Force, that’s what China’s H-20 will likely do as well.

“I see the H-20 as a nearly exact replacement for the H-6 (China’s current theoretically nuclear-capable bomber),” Trevethan told Business Insider.

Ignore the nuclear mission

Trevethan, an expert on China’s nuclear posture, pointed out that the H-6 never trains with nuclear bombs. China’s nuclear-missile capable submarines have never had a verified nuclear deterrence patrol. China’s nuclear weapons are not kept mated atop missiles, unlike Russia and the US.

And there’s a simple reason why, according to Trevethan: Nuclear weapons are expensive and mutual nuclear war has never happened.

Instead, conventional war happens — and happens all the time.

Trevethan called the H-20 a bomber “that might actually contribute to a military victory in a war fought as its [nuclear] doctrine imagines. “

Bronk agreed, saying the “biggest impact of a B-2 style capability for the PLAAF [China’s air force] would be much greater vulnerability of bases such as Guam and Kadana to conventional precision strikes.”

Currently, the US has Aegis and THAAD missile defenses in Guam and its Japanese bases, which pose a threat to China’s fleet of missiles. But the US has no established defense against a stealth bomber, which China will likely seek to exploit with the H-20.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

Throughout the 1960s, US B-52 nuclear-capable bombers stayed airborne and ready to launch nearly around the clock.

(US Air Force photo)

Not built for cold wars

Instead of a simple air-based nuclear deterrent, like the US and Russia maintain, spend tons of money on, and hope to never use, China’s H-20 looks more like a bomber that actually plans to fight wars. (The US’ bomber fleet, both nuclear and non-nuclear, fights in wars, but never in a nuclear capacity.)

China’s defensive nuclear posture also allows it more leeway in a shooting war. If the US and Russia got into a battle, and either side saw ballistic missiles heading for the other, it would have to assume they were nuclear missiles and retaliate before it faced utter destruction.

But with no missiles ready to go and a much smaller stockpile, China can fire missiles at US bases and ships without giving the impression of a full-on nuclear doomsday.

By fitting the H-20’s concept into China’s nuclear posture, it comes across as more of a credible conventional strike platform meant to beat the US back in the Pacific rather than a flying nuclear threat.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of December 6th

Did you guys hear the story of the staff sergeant in Afghanistan who raised $8k to bring a stray cat he took care of back to America? Literally everything about that story is great. He rescued an innocent kitten, took it to an animal rescue shelter on base, gave it all the shots and whatnot, and even had more money left over to help out other animals at the shelter.

I don’t care who you are. That’s a heart-warming story. Good sh*t, Staff Sgt. Brissey. If you ever decide to start taking a million photos and upload them to Instagram in an attempt to turn your new kitten into a meme… I’ll be behind you 110% of the way on that one.


Anyways, here are some memes.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

(Meme via Call for Fire)

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Once you’ve done sh*t, everything else is a cake walk. There’s nothing that can be so bad that you can’t look back on and say “well, it was much sh*ttier then and I didn’t give up. Why stop now?” 

Then again… Pot is really good for PTSD and that might also have something to do with it.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

(Meme via Not CID)

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military families call for the right to withhold rent in privatized housing disputes

Army Col. Scott Gerber said he had to pay out-of-pocket for an independent inspector to verify mold infestation and water damage in his home in an effort to get the attention of the private company running base housing at Fort Meade, Maryland.


Military spouse Linda Gherdovich said she had similar problems with mold at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.

“The only reason we knew [it was there] was because our kids were getting sick,” she said.

Gherdovich said she had to pay ,700 to an outside inspector to verify her claims, and she’s still fighting to get reimbursement.

In testimony Tuesday before a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Gerber and Gherdovich echoed the demands of other military families for an expansion of the recently approved Tenant Bill of Rights to let them withhold rent in disputes over repairs and maintenance of privatized military housing.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

And in a following panel the same day, representatives from four military housing companies said that they supported giving that right to military families.

They also expressed varying levels of regret for the military housing problems that have been detailed in numerous reports and hearings, including mold and pest infestation, poor performance on fulfilling work orders, and negligence in responding to tenants’ complaints.

In his prepared statement, Richard Taylor, president of Balfour Beatty Communities, said, “I would like to begin by saying that we sincerely apologize for having fallen short of the high standards our nation’s military families deserve.

“We fully accept that we must make improvements, and we are determined to regain the trust and confidence of our residents and our military partners,” he added.

On Feb. 25, the Pentagon announced that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the secretaries of the service branches had signed the Military Housing Privatization Initiative Tenant Bill of Rights, which was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

There were 15 provisions in the bill, including “the right to a written lease with clearly defined rental terms” and “the right to reside in a housing unit and a community that meets applicable health and environmental standards.”

The Pentagon’s announcement acknowledged that three rights were missing from the list — access for tenants to a maintenance history of their units, a detailed process for dispute resolution, and the withholding of rent until disputes are resolved.

The military will work with the private companies and Congress to get those three provisions added to the list, the Pentagon said at the time.

At the hearing, Gerber said the right to withhold rent is vital to leveling the playing field with the private companies.

He said he and his wife, Sandy, “lived through two mold-infested homes,” adding “our situation wasn’t unique.”

Military families need “the ability to hold that contractor accountable. We need an easy mechanism to stop that [Basic Allowance for Housing]” from going to the private companies during disputes, Gerber said.

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

In a separate panel at the hearing, representatives of four companies managing private housing on military bases said they are in favor of adding the ability to withhold rent and the other two missing provisions to the Tenant Bill of Rights.

Denis Hickey, chief executive officer of Lendlease Americas, said under questioning, “We realize we can and must do more” to improve conditions.

“Obviously, some of our families feel our company has come up short,” said Jeff Guild, vice president of Lincoln Military Housing. The company is resolved to “repairing a culture of trust with our residents,” he added.

Heath Burleson, a senior vice president at Corvias Group, said the company had gotten away in the past from the “basic blocking and tackling” needed to keep homes in good repair. “I believe we’re on the right path, but we’re not done,” he said.

After listening to the company representatives, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, the subcommittee’s chair, said, “all of your testimony is very nice now, [but] the system was set up as a gravy train for your companies.” There’s no accountability to military families, she added.

“It is outrageous,” she said.

The military contributed to the failures of the system through inattention and poor oversight of the performance of the private companies involved in military housing, said Pete Potochney, the acting assistant secretary of defense for sustainment.

“The fact that we’re having this hearing and others like it is saddening,” Potchney said. “We simply took our eye off the ball” over the years in oversight of military housing.

“We sure as hell didn’t do a great job,” he added.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information