Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training - We Are The Mighty
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Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Learning to snowshoe, ski and stay warm in the cold might sound like a fun hobby.


But for Soldiers at the Cold Weather Leaders Course at the Northern Warfare Training Center here, learning these things can mean the difference between a failed or successful mission and it could also be the difference between life and death.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Students pull the ahkio during a night movement during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Tanner, an instructor at the NWTC, was deployed twice to Afghanistan, once from 2007 to 2009 and another time from 2014 to 2015.

During one of those tours, he said, he recalls being over 9,000 feet in the mountainous terrain of the eastern part of the country during a heavy snowfall, with snow drifts up to 12 feet tall.

“The snow stopped us dead in our tracks,” he said. “We were trying to remove snow from equipment with our e-tools.”

During a Black Hawk resupply mission, the helicopter had no place to land so it hovered above the snow while the crew chief jumped out, post-holing himself in the snow shoulder high. Post-holing is a term for sinking into the snow waist or chest high when not wearing skis or snowshoes. The crew chief had to grab the struts of the helicopter to be pulled out, Tanner recalled.

No one had skis or snowshoes and “we couldn’t do our jobs.”

Tanner and the other instructors at NWTC say they are professionally and personally invested in ensuring those kinds of situations never happen to Soldiers again.

Sgt. Sarah Valentine, a medic and an instructor, said most Soldiers that come to the school don’t know how to snowshoe, ski or survive in the cold. Instruction begins with baby steps.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Students cross-country ski during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

First, they learn how to wear their cold weather clothing, she said. Then they learn to walk with snowshoes. A little later they learn to walk on snowshoes carrying a rucksack, and finally, they learn to tow an ahkio, or sled, carrying 200 pounds of tents, heaters, fuel, food and other items.

Next, they advance to skis, learning how to walk uphill, how to turn and stop going downhill, and then how to carry a rifle and rucksack going cross-country.

Staff Sgt. Jason Huffman, a student, said that besides enduring the cold, pulling the ahkio was the most challenging aspect of the school.

For that portion of the training, four of about 10 Soldiers are harnessed to the sled like sled dogs. Huffman said going on level terrain is easy, but most of the terrain near the school isn’t level and it is challenging to pull the ahkio uphill, especially from a dead stop.

Going downhill, the challenge is holding the ahkio back so it doesn’t get away, he said. When the students get tired, they are replaced by other students in the squad, who in turn rotate back out once they’re tired.

Spc. Tamyva Graffree, a student from Newton, Mississippi, said pulling the ahkio uphill was the most challenging part of the course. Of going downhill, she said it would have been nice to pile on and ride it down.

Staff Sgt. Manuel Beza, an instructor and medic here, said the students are not allowed to ride the ahkio downhill. “It will definitely go fast. But if they did that, it would be a bad day. The ahkio has no brakes and no way to steer.”

Beza said he sympathizes with the students’ pain. While the ahkio can be handled almost effortlessly over level terrain, going even 500 feet uphill can tire Soldiers out.

But when roads are nonexistent and vehicles break down from the cold, ahkios give the Soldiers the option to move out with their gear, he said.

Once students demonstrate competence on snowshoes, they are given a set of “White Rocket” skis, which can be used in both downhill as well as cross-country skiing.

The difference between a dedicated downhill or Nordic ski and the White Rocket ski is that the heel in the White Rocket isn’t locked into the ski binding so the foot can move similar to walking, said Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor.

A Soldier can learn to use snowshoes in two hours, but about 40 hours is allotted for ski training at the school.

Because training time is limited, Soldiers learn just the basics, Bruner said. For instance, they learn to stop and turn going downhill using a wedge movement instead of a more advanced technique like turning or stopping with skis parallel.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Students cross-country ski during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

A wedge consists of bringing the toes of the skis together and the heels of the skis out and carving into the snow on the inner edges of the skis by rotating the ankles inboard.

Skipping the fancy art of parallel skiing cuts down on injuries as well, he said, because there’s less chance of them crossing.

Going uphill involves side-stepping or walking up in herringbone fashion, which is the opposite of the wedge, with toes of the skis outboard, heels in.

To assist with uphill climbing, Soldiers apply special wax to the bottom of their skis.

Sgt. Dustin Danielson, a student, explained that the wax goes on just the middle third of the ski where the person’s weight is. He made hatch marks with the wax on his skis and then took a piece of cork to spread it evenly all around.

After skiing just a few kilometers, the wax tends to come off and more has to be applied, he said.

Sgt. Jessica Bartolotta, a student, said they were not given wax on the first day. On the second day of training, students were allowed to wax their skis. The point, she said, was to illustrate just how important the wax is in providing friction to grip the snow going uphill. She said the wax had no noticeable effect on slowing the skis going downhill.

Another thing the instructor did early on during the first day of ski training was to observe how well the Soldiers were skiing and to break them up into three groups of skill levels so the slow learners wouldn’t hold back the more natural skiers, she said.

Bartolotta said skiing was her favorite part of the course and she plans to take it up as a hobby.

Sgt. Chris Miller, a student from Little Rock, Arkansas, said this was his first time skiing and he fell a lot. “I’m a big guy and it’s hard to keep my balance.”

Miller measured his progress by the number of falls. The first day he said he fell 12 times and just once after three days. He said he’s still trying to perfect the art of stopping using the wedge.

Sgt. Shamere Randolph, another student, said he fell a bunch of times as well, but prefers skis to snowshoes because it’s much faster to get from point A to point B.

Sgt. Bruno Freitas, a student, said that his skis were difficult to use on the last day of training when the temperature rose and the snow turned to slush. In below freezing conditions, the skis work much better than they do in slush, he said.

About four years ago, the Army decided to do away with ski training at the NWTC, said Steven Decker, a training specialist. He said he’s not sure why the decision was made, but said he’s glad that skiing was reintroduced this year.

Canadians and Japanese go everywhere on skis, he said. They find it very relevant to mobility. In fact, “when the Japanese attend the course here, they can ski circles around us.”

The downside to skiing, he said, is that it takes a while to learn. For an entire platoon or company to move out on skis, it might take an entire winter and a lot of training time dedicated to making that happen.

But he and the other instructors all agreed that learning to ski is worth the time and effort.

Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor, said snowshoes are “loud, slow and clunky” to use compared to skis and that skis provide better floatation over the snow. “Skis are a million times better once you get the technique down.”

Staff Sgt. Jack Stacy, an instructor, said when he first arrived at NWTC, he went out into the terrain in a vehicle that broke down. He didn’t have skis or snowshoes with him and ended up having to walk back to headquarters, “post-holing” it back all the way.

“It was the most miserable time I’ve ever had here,” Stacy said. “I’ve always made sure my skis or snowshoes are handy ever since.”

Articles

Winston Churchill (initially) hated the tank named after him

Having a military ship or tank named after you is usually a pretty big honor. But what happens if the vehicle turns out to be dud (at least, at first)? Such was the case for British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
A British Mark I tank in 1916 (Imperial War Museum)

In the First World War, Britain pioneered armored warfare with their landship heavy tanks. Rhomboidal in shape and long in length, the British tanks crawled across trenches on their rotating treads and brought about a new age in warfare.

After WWI though, British tank design stagnated. The prevailing thought was that any future wars would simply be repeats of the trench warfare stalemates. As such, British designers focused on long heavy tanks that could cross wide trenches at a walking pace.

However, in Germany, tank design went in a different direction. While armor and armament were certainly design factors, mobility was also heavily considered. German doctrine was built around the concept of mechanized infantry supported by airplanes and armored fighting vehicles. Rather than build their army for the previous war, Germany came up with a new kind of war: blitzkrieg.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
A Mk I Churchill (A20) with the pounder gun and hull-mounted howitzer (Imperial War Museum)

The Churchill’s design was specified just before the outbreak of WWII. Designated A20 by the General Staff, it was meant to supplement the smaller Matilda and Valentine infantry tanks. All three tanks were designed with WWI trench warfare in mind and were slow but heavily armored. Still, the Churchill wasn’t equipped to fight toe-to-toe with fast German armor. The A20 sported a hull-mounted 3-inch howitzer for attacking fortified positions and a QF 2-pounder gun in its turret which was limited in its tank-killing ability.

Following the fall of France and the elimination of any ideas of trench warfare in 1940, work began on the Churchill A22 variant. Upgrades to the design were based on combat lessons learned by the Polish and French. However, with fears of an invasion of Britain, priority was placed on production rather than upgrades. In fact, the user handbook from manufacturer Vauxhall included a leaflet which stated, “Fighting vehicles are urgently required, and instructions have been received to proceed with the vehicle as it is rather than hold up production. All those things which we know are not as they should be will be put right.” That must have been comforting to British tankers.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
The aftermath of the failed Dieppe Raid (Library and Archives of Canada)

In 1941, production of a new turret began. It was designed to house the larger QF 6-pounder gun, a more capable anti-tank weapon. The next year, the Churchill tank saw its first combat during the Dieppe Raid on August 19, 1942. Codenamed Operation Jubilee, the raid was an amphibious operation at the port of Dieppe in northern France. The raiding force consisted primarily of Canadian soldiers supported by a regiment of tanks and RAF fighters. A successful raid would boost morale like the Doolittle Raid against Japan did. Moreover, the seizure of the port would validate the feasibility of future amphibious raids and even the D-Day invasion.

The Churchill tanks used at Dieppe were a mixed bunch. Some had 2-pounder turret guns and hull-mounted howitzers while others were armed with the newer 6-pounder turrets. Three were even equipped with flame throwers. However, they became bogged down on the beach and were unable to clear the German shore obstacles. Coupled with withering fire from defensive positions, the tanks and infantry failed to achieve their objectives. Less than six hours after the landing began, the raiders were forced to retreat. The raid lasted just ten hours. Of the 6,086 men who landed, 3,623 were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. Churchill famously said of the tank bearing his name, “That is the tank they named after me when they found out it was no damn good!”

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
A Mk IV Churchill (A22) with the 6-pounder gun (Imperial War Museum)

Still, none of the Churchills at Dieppe were penetrated by German fire while they were manned. Moreover, they covered the retreat of the infantry and most were only captured after they had expended all of their ammunition. The month after the failed Dieppe Raid, Churchills saw action in North Africa at the Second Battle of El Alamein. There, one Churchill reported being hit up to 80 times. Of the eight Churchills, only one was knocked out.

Also in Africa, in 1943, Churchill tanks made one of the greatest contributions to the Allied war effort. On April 21, the Battle of Longstop Hill was fought. During the German armored counter-attack, Churchill 6-pounder guns managed to disable a Tiger tank. One shot disabled the Tiger’s turret taverse, radio and wounded some of its crew. Another shot disabled the gun’s elevation device. Finally, a third shot hit the loader’s hatch and wounded more of the Tiger’s crew. The Germans abandoned their tank which the British later recovered. It would be studied by the Allies who evaluated it for weaknesses that could be exploited by troops who came up against Tigers on the battlefield.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Mk III Churchills (A22) during the Second Battle of El Alamein (Imperial War Museum)

Despite its initial underperformance, the Churchill rebuilt its reputation as a fighting tank. It was vital to the allied success on the western front. During the D-Day landings, Churchill variants like the flame-throwing Crocodile, bunker-busting AVRE, and bridge-laying Armored Ramp Carrier helped the Allies seize the beaches and establish footholds. During the sweep across France, Churchill tanks and their heavy armor supported infantry in clearing towns of German forces. In Germany, the long Churchill tanks were able to traverse the muddy terrain of the Reichswald Forest better than any other Allied tank.

Although it was designed for the previous war and initially hated by its users and namesake, the Churchill tank proved to be a capable and necessary WWII weapon. In fact, Churchill Crocodiles were even used to great effect during the Korean War. The tank remained in British service until 1952.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 powerful upgrades Bradley Fighting Vehicles could get in 2018

The Army is working on a future Bradley Fighting Vehicle variant possibly armed with lasers, counter-drone missiles, active protection systems, vastly improved targeting sights, and increased on-board power to accommodate next-generation weapons and technologies.


Also designed to be lighter weight, more mobile, and much better protected, the emerging Bradley A5 lethality upgrade is already underway — as the Army works vigorously to ensure it is fully prepared if it is called upon to engage in major mechanized, force-on-force land war against a technically advanced near-peer rival.

As the Army pursues a more advanced A5, engineered to succeed the current upgraded A4, it is integrating 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared sensors for Commanders and Gunners sights, spot trackers for dismounted soldiers to identify targets and an upgraded chassis with increased underbelly protections, and a new ammunition storage configuration, Col. James, Schirmer Project Manager Armored Fighting Vehicles, said earlier this Fall at AUSA.

Read More: The Army’s ‘Hard Kill’ tank defenses are a high-tech upgrade

BAE Systems, maker of the Bradley, told Warrior the platform’s modernization effort is designed in three specific stages. The first stage in the modernization process was the Bradley Track Suspension to address suspension upgrades, BAE statements said. The subsequent Bradley A4 Engineering Change Proposal, soon to enter production, improves mobility and increases electrical power generation. More on-board power can bring the technical means to greatly support advanced electronics, command and control systems, computing power, sensors, networks, and even electronic warfare technologies.

Maj. Gen. David Bassett, former Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems, described the upgrades in terms of A3 and A4 focusing upon the Bradley from the turret ring down — leading the A5 effort to more heavily modernize Bradley systems from the turret up. This includes weapons sights, guns, optics, next-generation signals intelligence, and even early iterations of artificial intelligence, and increased computer automation.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Bradley Fighting Vehicles from Company A, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, get loaded on 805th Transportation Detachment, Logistics Support Vessel 8, U.S. Army Vessel, Maj Gen. Robert Smalls at Kuwait Naval Base, Kuwait, March 25, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William E. Henry, 38th Sustainment Brigade)

During several previous interviews with Warrior, Bassett has explained that computer-enabled autonomous drones will likely be operated by nearby armored combat vehicles, using fast emerging iterations of artificial intelligence. These unmanned systems, operated by human crews performing command and control from nearby vehicles, could carry ammunition, conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy defenses or even fire weapons – all while allowing manned crews to remain at a safer stand-off distance. At one point, Bassett told Warrior that, in the future, virtually all armored vehicles will have an ability to be tele-operated, if necessary.

Also, while Army Bradley developers did not specifically say they planned to arm Bradleys with laser weapons, such innovation is well within the realm of the possible. Working with industry, the Army has already shot down drone targets with Stryker-fired laser weapons, and the service currently has several laser weapons programs at various stages of development. This includes ground-fired Forward Operating Base protection laser weapons as well as vehicle-mounted lasers. A key focus for this effort, which involves a move to engineer a much stronger 100-kilowatt vehicle-fired laser, is heavily reliant upon an ability to integrate substantial amounts of mobile electrical power into armored vehicles.

Articles

This is why the 1961 Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba failed

In terms of global influence and prestige, The Bay of Pigs is one of the most unanticipated events to befall America since the British attacked the White House in 1812. From its inception, the strategy implemented by John F. Kennedy and his Administration was possibly the major contributing factor to this catastrophe. Fidel Castro, the rebel against whom the U.S. waged war, also made a significant play of his success. It all began when Castro, a young Cuban nationalist, drove his army to overthrow General Fulgencio Batista, the nation’s president. Although pro-American and ruling with an iron fist, Batista was friendly to American companies that owned almost 50% of Cuba’s sugar plantations, ranches, utilities and mines in his tenure. Batista supported a stable business environment as he was also reliably communist.

In contrast, Castro disapproved of America’s decision to undertake their business interests in Cuba. Instead, he believed that Cubans needed to assume more control of their nation. As soon as he ascended to power, Castro took immediate steps to minimize American influence in Cuba by nationalizing sugar and mining industries.

Real Threat

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Che Guevara (left) and Castro, photographed by Alberto Korda in 1961. (Museo Che Guevara/ Wikimedia Commons)

Castro posed such a significant threat to the United States that even secret agents plotted to eliminate him. In early 1961, the U.S. government severed diplomatic relationships with Cuba and set up plans to invade Cuba. Although some organizations and the President’s advisor maintained that Castro posed no real threat to the U.S. John F. Kennedy believed that eliminating him would send a message that he is willing to do what it takes to win the Cold War.

The plan anticipated by John F Kennedy was to overthrow Fidel Castro and establish a government friendly to the United States. In March 1960, the CIA set up training camps in Guatemala, and by November, the operation had set up a dedicated army for guerilla warfare. Despite the U.S. government’s efforts to keep the invasion plan secret, it soon became exposed among Cuban exiles in Miami. Castro’s knowledge of the plans coupled with widespread press releases on events complicated its execution later.

The Invasion

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Douglas A-4 Skyhawks from the USS Essex flying sorties over combat areas during the invasion (U.S. Department of State)

The success of the invasion plans heavily relied on the Cuban population to join the overthrow. Initially, the plan was a two air-strike assault on Cuban air, followed by a 1,400 troop invasion that would launch a surprise attack in darkness. The landing port at The Bay of Pigs was part of the plan to cut off supplies to Cuban rebel forces.

Kennedy had some doubts about the plan. The last thing he wanted was direct involvement by the American military in Cuba. In April 1961, a group of Cuban exiles took off with American B-26 bombers to strike the Cuban air bases. However, Castro knew about the raid and had relocated his planes to safety. Fearing that he had started and lost the war, Kennedy suspected that the plan would largely be “clandestine.” Still, it was too late to halt the attack.

Exponential Failure

On April 17, the Cuban exile brigade began another invasion at an isolated southern part of the shore known as The Bay of Pigs. Although the CIA wanted to keep the secret as long as possible, a radio station at the beach broadcast every detail to listeners in Cuba. Projecting coral reefs sank some of the exile’s vessels, this loss was further propagated by backup troops landing in the wrong location.

Shortly after landing, Castro’s army had pinned the troops and launched a counter-assault. The failed mission resulted in 114 deaths and 1,100 prisoners. Although the CIA and Cuban exile brigade claim that President Kennedy would not abandon Cuba to the communists, he maintained that he would not start a war that would possibly trigger World War III.

Articles

Allahu Quackbar: The internet is trolling ISIS by photoshopping them as rubber ducks

4Chan is very loosely defined as an image-pasteboard website, full of content of every imaginable category. Depending on whom you ask, 4Chan is either “the heart and soul of the Internet” or “where integrity goes to die” — a place for celebrity nude photo leaks, gamergate, and endless trolling.


No matter what anyone’s personal feelings about what goes on the site’s many boards, there’s no doubt about its contributions to internet culture. 4Chan brought us lolcats, Chocolate Rain, and RickRolling.

Now the site’s humor has a purpose, making fun of the Islamic State (a.k.a.: “Daesh”). This could be bad for an organization whose international recruitment strategy depends so much on the tone of its social media strategy (ISIS, not 4Chan, that is).

See the original 4Chan thread here.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

Afghanistan has long been one of the world’s biggest producers of opium, which is used to make heroin, and the Taliban has made a lucrative business from taxing and providing security to producers and smugglers in the region.


But the militant group has expanded its role in that drug trade considerably, boosting its profits at a time when it is making decisive gains against the Afghan government and its US backers.

Read More: Afghanistan is producing record numbers of opium

According to a New York Times report, the Taliban has gotten involved in every stage of the drug business. Afghan police and their US advisers find heroin-refining labs with increasingly frequency, but the labs are easy to replace.

The country has produced the majority of the world’s opium for some time, despite billions of dollars spent by the US to fight it during the 16-year-long war there. Afghan and Western officials now say that rather than getting smuggled out of Afghanistan in the form of opium syrup, at least half of the crop is getting processed domestically, before leaving the country as morphine or heroin.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Afghan contractors unload bags of fertilizer at the Nawa district government building compound in the Helmand province of Afghanistan Oct. 13, 2009. The Afghan government is distributing the fertilizer to residents to support alternatives to poppy. (DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy Harris, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

Those forms are easier to smuggle, and they are much more valuable for the Taliban, which reportedly draws at least 60% of its income from the drug trade. With its increasing focus on trafficking drugs, the Taliban has taken on more of the functions a drug cartel.

“They receive more revenues if they process it before it has left the country,” William Brownfield, former US Assistant Secretary for Drugs and Law Enforcement, told reporters in the Afghan capital Kabul earlier this year. “Obviously we are dealing with very loose figures, but drug trafficking amounts to billions of dollars every year from which the Taliban is taking a substantial percentage.”

An Afghan farmer can be paid about $163 for a kilo of raw opium, which is like a black sap. Once it is refined into heroin, it can be sold for $2,300 to $3,500 a kilo at regional markets. In Europe it has a wholesale value of about $45,000.

Opium-poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has been consistently high since the US invasion in 2001. In 2016, there was a 10% jump in the area under cultivation, making it one of the three highest years on record. Initial data indicated 2017 was another record year, according to The Times, with government eradication efforts continue to be stymied throughout the country.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
U.S. Marines assigned to the female engagement team (FET) of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) conduct a patrol alongside a poppy field while visiting Afghan settlements in Boldak, Afghanistan, April 5, 2010. (DoD photo by Cpl. Lindsay L. Sayres, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

Seizures of chemical precursors, which are needed to process opium, have spiked, and the amount of processed morphine and heroin seized has risen considerably, now outstripping that of opium.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that without drugs, the war in Afghanistan “would have been long over,” and a senior Afghan official told The Times that, “If an illiterate local Taliban commander in Helmand makes a million dollars a month now, what does he gain in time of peace?”

Read More: This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty

The Trump administration has said its new strategy in Afghanistan is aimed at convincing the group there is no way to win on the battlefield, but its growing role in the drug trade is likely to make some elements of the Taliban less disposed to negotiations with the Kabul.

“This trend has real consequences for peace and security in Afghanistan, as it encourages those within the Taliban movement who have the greatest economic incentives to oppose any meaningful process of reconciliation with the new government,” the UN has said.

The Taliban’s move into heroin processing comes as it gains ground against the government, particularly in areas where the drug is produced.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan by province. 2016 (image UNODOC screen grab)

At the end of 2016, the Taliban was thought to control more territory than at any time since 2001, and the Afghan government has reportedly lost control of 5% of its territory this year.

A unit of several hundred Afghan commandos, working with US special-forces advisers, is tasked with interdicting the flow of drugs. But their work is often undermined by Afghan officials (including ones from their own unit) complicit in the drug trade or hindered by insecurity that persists in much of the country.

“In Helmand, we were targeting to do more than 2,000 to 3,000 hectares of eradication,” Javid Qaem, Afghanistan’s deputy minister of narcotics, told The Times. “We couldn’t do anything there, none at all, because Helmand was almost an active battlefield, the entire province.”

Helmand, home to an estimated 80% of Afghanistan’s opium poppies, is a “big drug factory,” a Western official told AFP earlier this year. “Helmand is all about drugs, poppy and Taliban,” he said.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Source: UNODC, main trafficking flows of heroin

While the US Drug Enforcement Administration has said that a minuscule portion of the heroin seized in the US is from Southwest Asia, heroin sourced to Afghanistan makes up a significant amount of what is found on the street in Europe.

The State Department has said 90% of the heroin found in Canada and 85% of that found in the UK can be tracked back to Afghanistan.

Read More: 6 employees fired from US embassy in Afghanistan for drug violations

According to the 2017 European Drug Report, “most heroin found in Europe is thought to be manufactured [in Afghanistan] or in neighbouring Iran or Pakistan.” (Drug addiction has exploded in Iran, with opium making up two-thirds of consumption.)

Heroin is Europe’s most common opioid, with an estimated retail value between 6 billion and 7.8 billion euros, according to the report, produced by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force may train enlisted pilots for the first time in 75 years

Eugene Taylor remembers how eager enlisted airmen like him were to fly.

Taylor, who enlisted in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam, first worked as an avionics technician. Nearly a decade later, Taylor, a tech sergeant, became a T-37 and T-38 flight simulator instructor with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He became so adept that he was occasionally given the chance to fly the T-38, with permission from the pilot, during stateside flights.


It has been decades since enlisted airmen had the chance to sit in the cockpit. But as the Air Force faces the greatest pilot shortages since its inception, service leaders are contemplating a return to a model that includes enlisted pilots. A Rand Corp. study, set to be completed this month, is exploring the feasibility of bringing back a warrant officer corps for that purpose. And another, separate Air Force study is examining, in part, whether enlisted pilots could benefit from new high-tech training that leverages artificial intelligence and simulation.

With these moves, the Air Force is inching just a few steps closer to someday getting enlisted airmen back in the cockpit, on a formal basis, for the first time since World War II.

“We have enlisted airmen in our Guard and reserve component who have private pilot’s licenses and fly for the airlines. So it’s not a matter of can they do it, or hav[ing] the smarts or the capability, it’s just a matter of us, as an Air Force, deciding that that’s a route that we want to take,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Military.com sat down with the service’s top enlisted leader in February 2018, to talk about enlisted aviators and reinstituting the warrant officer program.

“It’s something we walked away from years ago, and I won’t say that we haven’t been willing to relook at [it],” Wright said, of having enlisted pilots. “It’s nothing that we can’t overcome.”

Creating a Cadre

Wright noted there may be a few bumps in the road before an enlisted cadre could be instituted.

The main challenge would be to structure an appropriate career development path for the airmen, answering questions regarding when and how they would promote and when they would rotate to a new squadron. Wright said thus far officers “naturally float” to a flight commander or squadron commander from base to base, according to a system that has been in place for decades, but questioned whether the same system would work for enlisted pilots.

Additionally, the service would have to study whether enlisted airmen should be granted the right to employ weapons from an aircraft.

“Whether it’s manned or unmanned, if there’s an enlisted airman that’s going to be flying and employing weapons, it requires certain authorities we would have to get by,” Wright said.

For example, enlisted airmen are currently only authorized to be remotely piloted aircraft pilots on the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, a surveillance-only platform.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
One of Eugene Taylor’s trainees at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, straps into a flight simulator, circa 1978-79.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

“That’s just part of our age-old doctrine, that the employment of weapons, that the authority and responsibility lies with officers,” he said.

Reinstituting the warrant officer program could also help leaders decide on acceptable policies that would “determine if it makes us a more lethal and ready fighting force,” Wright said.

“What this is about is not just aviation or flying — it’s about maintaining the technical expertise,” Wright said. “In some cases, having warrant officers will allow us retain that talent and keep those folks doing what they love.”

The Air Force in the past has commissioned studies to look into bringing back warrant officers, with another study from RAND, a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, on the way.

“The Air Force is partnering with RAND for a study on the feasibility of warrant officers and we are projecting a completion by the end of March 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com.

February 2018, the Air Force began a separate study on whether it could benefit from someday allowing enlisted pilots.

Air Education and Training Command said the study, called the pilot training next initiative, explores how pilots can learn and train faster “by using existing and emerging technologies that can decrease the time and cost of training,” but with the same depth of understanding to produce quality pilots.

That includes using virtual reality simulation and A.I. to get airmen in an aircraft faster, with the potential of expanding the streamlined training.

The study is expected to conclude in August, in hopes of advancing all 20 students in the program: 15 officers and five enlisted airmen.

Foundation of Skills

Taylor, the Vietnam-era airman, served in the 341X1 career field for T-37 and T-38 trainers, which would quickly disappear once the Air Force reasoned enlisted personnel were needed elsewhere.

Once airmen were taught scenarios in a classroom, they would go to him to practice the maneuvers in the simulator.

“I was one of those people as an enlisted instructor, and it was the best job I ever had,” Taylor said in a recent interview with Military.com.

Through months of simulation tech school paired with his past experience working on planes, Taylor had gained the skills he needed to know the aircraft. Taylor’s instructor career field, however, dissolved only a year later, and he moved back into avionics at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. But he remembers his “flight time” and experience with the T-37 and T-38 fondly.

“As a master avionics superintendent, I did get to fly in the back seat of the [T-38] aircraft six times to perform aircraft maintenance at off-station sites,” he said. “I told the pilot that I was a flight simulator instructor pilot at Vance. And when I flew, the pilot would say, ‘You know how to fly this, you do it.’ So, I would,” Taylor said.

Taylor recalled flying the aircraft from Columbus to MacDill Air Force Base,Florida.

“I [then] repaired another T-38 from our base and flew the aircraft back to Columbus. The pilot made the takeoff and landing on both legs of the flight, but I did all radio calls, and navigation,” he said.

Taylor would fly similar routes twice more with the same pilot.

“So yes, enlisted people can definitely perform the job,” he said.

According to a 1992 paper for the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, the 341X1 and 341X2 career fields, born out of very early service ideals that enlisted members should work side-by-side with officer pilots, were Analog and Digital Trainer Specialists. The fields were part of the larger Aircrew Training Devices 34XXX specialty.

“The contributions of the enlisted men and women in the training devices career field were great,” noted the paper, written by Air Force student Senior Master Sgt. G. A. Werhs of the Senior Noncomissioned Officer Academy. “From its very beginning in 1939 until its end in the late 80s, [the 34XXX] was [an] entirely enlisted career field. All maintenance and operations were performed by highly skilled personnel. Every aircraft in the Air Force inventory had a simulator associated with it and enlisted members were there to operate and maintain it.

“[H]ow many people realize that for nearly 50 years those pilots received much of the initial training on the ground from enlisted soldiers and airmen[?]” Werhs asked.

Taylor suggested the career field closed because the service didn’t want enlisted troops to get to that next level: flying among officers. The service, he said, also had an abundance of pilots at the time.

“The Vietnam War had wound down, so they had more pilots than the Air Force needed,” Taylor said. “By taking away the enlisted instructors, it let them use the pilots that were qualified to fly the T-38 instead of kicking them out of the service.”

But there are many who believe that enlisted airmen, in some capacity, deserve the chance to once again get up in the air.

Rooted in History

Before the Air Force became a breakout service independent of the Army, enlisted pilots were known as “flying sergeants,” receiving a promotion to staff sergeant once they completed pilot training.

Enlisted pilots, in one form or another, date back to 1912. But it wasn’t until 1941, when Congress passed the the Air Corps Act of 1926 and Public Law 99, that enlisted troops were able to receive qualified training.

“We never thought about whether we wanted to be an enlisted pilot or an officer pilot,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Wenglar, a former enlisted pilot. “We just wanted to be pilots, and we would gladly have stayed privates forever just to have the chance to fly,” Wenglar said in a 2003 service release.

Wenglar, who served overseas during World War II, holds the distinction of “achieving the highest rank of any former enlisted pilot,” according to the Air Force. He died in 2011.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Will Stafford stands third from left in this 1977 photo.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

During World War II, whoever was in the cockpit got grandfathered in and could remain flying. But in 1942, the passage of the Flight Officer Act meant new enlisted recruits no longer got the chance to fly.

The act, Public Law 658, replaced the program’s sergeant pilot rank with the warrant officer rank.

When the Air Force was created in 1947 out of the Army Air Forces, it would bring more than 1,000 legacy warrant officers in. The service stopped the program in 1959, the same year it created the senior and chief master sergeant ranks. The last warrant officer would retire from active duty in 1980.

With more than 3,000 enlisted sergeant pilots throughout the service’s history, 11 of them would become generals and 17 would become flying aces, according to information from the Air Force. More than 150 enlisted pilots would be killed in action.

“Our careers as enlisted pilots made us better men and gave us opportunities later in the civilian world that we never would have been offered,” Wenglar said in 2003.

New Focus on Warrant Officers

“If the Air Force is so very concerned about the pilot shortage, they should consider warrant officers in … the transport pilot, flight engineer, boom operator and drone pilot fields,” said Will Stafford, a former staff sergeant with similar maintenance, tech and simulator experiences as Taylor.

While in the Air Force in the 1970s and 80s, Stafford, outside of his military duties, would fly smaller aircraft such as Cessna 310s, Beechcraft Model 18s and some Douglas DC-3s. On his own, he would eventually become qualified “on 25 different makes and models of fixed-wing aircraft,” he told Military.com.

“If the [Air Force] wants their veteran airmen and airwomen to return, then they had better look at how it has squandered the talent, training and dedication that many of us had, and make some serious changes, beginning with the restart of the warrant officer corps,” Stafford said, referencing the Air Force’s initiative to bring back retirees into staff-rated positions to balance out the ongoing pilot shortage.

“This is cost-effective, and many professional fully-rated civilian pilots who have military experience would have no problem,” he said.

Stafford has tried, unsuccessfully, to start a White House petition on Whitehouse.org to get the administration’s attention about reinstituting the warrant officer corps. He has even tried to petition the Air Force directly by writing to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who Stafford got the chance to meet and work with when Schwartz was just a captain.

Schwartz told Stafford it just wasn’t in the Air Force’s plans.

Key Decisions Ahead

Wright says the new RAND study may give him and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein fresh perspectives.

“We have to be smart about this, right?” Wright said. “This can’t just be, ‘Oh, this is nice to have.’ We have to know exactly what we’re buying [into] and we have a plan to implement it.”

Wright said cost-benefit analysis would play into the decision.

“I’m looking to learn, and the boss [Goldfein] is looking to learn, again, that simple question: Will this make us a more lethal force? Will it make us more efficient?” Wright said.

“There is a chance through the RAND study and through some of our internal studies that the evidence reveals and the analysis reveals that warrant officers won’t move the needle that much,” he said.

While Wright said it’s hard to say when enlisted pilots or a warrant officer program may come back into the Air Force’s ranks, he believes the feat can be achieved in roughly five to 10 years.

“I think it would help would shortages in career fields, I think it would help with retention, I think it would help with career development.

“Now there’s nothing that says that, within our current system we can’t do that same thing. But if you’re asking me what the obvious benefits are,” he said, ” … I think it’s a good thing.”

Articles

Drone swarms may help Marines storm beaches

The Marine Corps wants to deploy swarms of drones ahead of troops during amphibious operations in coming years.


The concept, incorporating Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology, or LOCUST, developed by the Office of Naval Research, would bring a flotilla of weapons, including underwater drones, unmanned surface vessels and underwater mine countermeasures.

Also read: The Marines want robotic boats with mortars for beach assaults

Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the service’s commanding general for combat development, on Tuesday detailed the plan, with hopes it would not only slow down the enemy but save Marines’ lives.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan | We Are The Mighty

“Today, we see this manned-unmanned airlift, what we see what the other services are doing, along with our partners in the United States Navy. Whether it’s on the surface, under the surface or in the air, we’re looking for the opportunity for, ‘How will Marines move ashore differently in the future?’ ” Walsh told a crowd at the Unmanned Systems Defense Conference outside Washington, D.C., hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

“Instead of Marines being the first wave in, it’ll be unmanned robotics … sensing, locating and maybe killing out front of those Marines,” he said. “We see that ‘swarm-type’ technology as exactly the type of thing — it will lower cost, dominate the battlespace, leverage capabilities … and be able to complicate the problems for the enemy.”

Walsh said incorporating unmanned systems within the multi-domain battlespace — in the air, on land, at sea, in space and cyberspace — would be “completely different, certainly than what we’ve done in the last 15 years in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The Pentagon has recently been touting more technologies for multi-domain battle.

Walsh, like many officials across the Defense Department, emphasized that multi-domain battle is how future wars will evolve — through electronic warfare, cyber attacks and drones. And he said adapting to these concepts is a must in order to match near-peer adversaries.

Marines, for example, are likely to first see the use of drones within the infantry corps.

Commandant Gen. Robert Neller last month said he wants every Marine grunt squad downrange tocarry an unmanned aerial vehicle for reconnaissance and surveillance by the end of 2017.

“At the end of next year, my goal is that every deployed Marine infantry squad had got their own quadcopter,” Neller said. “They’re like 1,000 bucks,” he said last month during the Modern Day Marine Expo in Quantico, Virginia.

Walsh on Tuesday accelerated that premise. During a talk with reporters, he said he had been ordered to equip four battalions with small UAS as an experimental measure before the end of the year, but did not specify the system.

From previous experimentation, Walsh said, “Having a small UAS — quadcopter-like UAS — that was an easy one. We’re going to do that. We probably want those across the entire force, but what we want to do, as we see this technology change so rapidly, we’re going to first buy four battalions’ worth, and see how that operates.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Here are the 2 veteran-supporting bills President Trump just signed into law

President Donald Trump signed legislation Saturday that will broaden options for troubled veterans in the legal system and expand a home renovations grant program for disabled and blind veterans.

The new Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act directs the Justice Department to support the development and establishment of veterans treatment courts at the state, local and tribal levels.


At more than 400 veterans treatment courts across the U.S., vets with substance abuse issues or mental health conditions who commit nonviolent crimes may enter court-supervised medical treatment and get access to veteran-centric services and benefits in lieu of going to jail.

The law will encourage the development of a grant program to expand these courts across all 50 states.

“We’ve wanted this for a long time. They’ve been trying to get it for a long time, and now we have it,” Trump said after signing the bill, proposed in the House by Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., and in the Senate by Martha McSally, R-Ariz.

“With this new law, thousands more veterans across the country facing the criminal justice system will have an alternative to jail time, ensuring they get the treatment they need,” Crist said in a statement following the signing ceremony.

“These courts have turned veterans’ lives around in Arizona, and now they will be able to do the same for veterans across our nation,” McSally said, also in a prepared statement.

The first veterans treatment court was established in early 2008 in Buffalo, New York. After noticing an increase in the number of veterans appearing in the city’s drug and mental health treatment legal programs, Judge Robert Russell brought in veterans and Department of Veterans Affairs advisers to help create the specialty court.

Since 2011, the Justice Department has supported the development of veterans treatment courts, providing more than million to states and localities.

Trump on Saturday also signed a law that will give more veterans access to VA grants to renovate their homes to accommodate their disabilities.

The Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Act of 2019 expands the program to include blind veterans and raise the maximum funding veterans can receive from ,000 to ,000. The bill also will let eligible veterans access the funds six times, instead of three, and gives them access to the full amount every 10 years — a provision that will let them change residences as their needs change.

At the start of the president’s press conference Saturday, Trump sowed some confusion about which bills he had just signed, referencing two he often mentions in stump speeches: the VA Mission Act, which he consistently refers to as “VA Choice,” and the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which became law in 2018 and 2017, respectively.

“Before we begin, I’ve just signed two bills that are great for our vets. Our vets are special. We passed Choice, as you know — Veterans Choice — and Veterans Accountability,” Trump said before extolling the benefits of those laws.

“We passed Choice … they’ve been trying to get that passed for decades and decades and decades, and no president has ever been able to do it. And we got it done so veterans have Choice,” he said. “And now you have accountability — that if you don’t love your vets, if you’re in the VA and you don’t love the vets or take care of the vets, you can actually get fired if you don’t do your job.”

The president then went on to talk about the treatment courts and adaptive housing laws before moving on to other subjects.

Trump consistently refers to the VA Mission Act as VA Choice — the program established in 2014 by President Barack Obama to widen veterans’ access to health care treatment from non-VA providers.

The legislation, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act, was created in response to a nationwide scandal over delays veterans encountered when making medical appointments — for months and sometimes years — and secret waiting lists kept by some VA facilities to hide the scope of the problem.

The VA Mission Act, signed by Trump in 2018, replaced the Veterans Choice Program and gave more veterans access to private health care paid for by the VA.

The legislation also broadened the VA’s caregiver program to include disabled veterans who served before Sept. 11, 2001 — an expansion that will begin in October — and ordered the department to inventory its 1,100 facilities with an eye to closing or selling outdated or excess buildings.

At the end of Saturday’s press conference, a reporter asked why Trump “keeps saying [he] passed ‘Veterans Choice,'” when it was “passed in 2014.”

Trump told the reporter she was “finished,” and he abruptly ended the press conference.

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

Articles

The new Titanfall trailer delivers a human look at robot combat

The video game “Titanfall” had a simple appeal. It was frontline combat in the future where humans, robots, and giant “titans” battled in a two-sided war.


Sure, there was a cool storyline and some bells and whistles, but the appeal was fighting battles in three-story metal juggernauts armed with rockets and cannons.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
(GIF: YouTube/Titanfall Official)

Now, a “Titanfall 2” trailer is drawing players to the sequel with a more human appeal. A rifleman in the game, J. Cooper, describes what it’s like to fight side-by-side with the player-controlled pilots.

The story highlights some of the game’s new gadgets for pilots, including grappling hooks and the ability to create holograms.

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(GIF: YouTube/Titanfall Official)

But it’s the narrative and great voice acting that really sells the experience. Check out the trailer below and prepare for titanfall.

(Video: YouTube/Titanfall Official)

Articles

11 scary ghost stories, legends, and haunted military bases

The military profession can be downright scary at times, and that element has given rise to some of the best ghost stories and urban legends out there. Here are few of the most enduring classics from around the services:


1. F.E. Warren’s native tribes

Cheyenne, Wyoming is the home of F.E. Warren AFB, part of the USAF’s Global Strike Command and command of all U.S. ICBMs. But before Wyoming had the power to eradicate mankind, it had the power to eradicate Crow Creek Indians.

Fort D.A. Russell was built to help protect railroad workers from the local native tribes. They were undeniably good at it, massacring many of the Crow Creek, and for the last 100 years, people reported seeing uniformed cavalry troops patrolling the base at night to keep the natives at bay.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

The fun doesn’t end there. Warren is supposedly one of the most haunted places in Wyoming – maybe even America. The ghost of “Gus Quarters” is doomed to live on Warren AFB. Legend has it a man named Gus was caught in bed with an officer’s wife. To escape the angry husband, “Gus” jumped out of a second-story window, accidentally hanging himself on a clothesline – and becoming Jody for all eternity.

Troops on the base report unexplained doors and cupboards opening and closing on their own, believing it was Gus Quarters, looking for his pants after all these years.

2. Kadena Air Base’s haunted house

Building 2283 on Kadena is a single family home for field-grade officers that currently sits vacant, not because there aren’t enough O-5s at Kadena, but – legend has it – because the spectral samurai warrior that occasionally rides through the house.

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Other sightings at 2283 have included a woman washing her hair in the sink, a curtain opening in front of a tour group, a phone ringing despite there not being a phone line connected to the house, and lights and faucets turning on by themselves (which would surely drive the samurai ghost father of the house insane thinking about the water bill).

Residents of the house have reported bloodstains on the carpet and curtains, as well as an unearthly chill in one of the rooms, the room where a real teenage girl was stabbed to death by her stepfather. Another account alleges a Marine Corps officer bludgeoned his wife in the house.

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Conveniently, there’s a day care center next door, and both are across the street from an Okinawan Samurai Warrior’s tomb.

3. Fort Leavenworth’s dozens of haunted houses

Widely considered the most paranormally active site in the U.S. Army, Leavenworth has upward of 36 haunted buildings. One guardhouse, Tower 8 of the Old Disciplinary Barracks that was torn down in 2004, still stands. A soldier who committed suicide with his service shotgun inside Tower 8 will sometimes call the guard control room. Maybe for an aspirin.

After a prisoner uprising during WWII, guards executed one of 14 prisoners every hour but ran out of room on the gallows. So they used the elevator shaft in the administration building as an extension. Now soldiers report hearing screams from the elevator when no one else is around.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

As novel as the idea of a centuries-old, haunted, and abandoned prison might be for ghosts, the most haunted area is called the Rookery. The building was once the base commander’s quarters but was turned into family housing – and people still live there.

The rookery is said to house a number of ghosts. “The Lady in White” was supposedly tortured and killed by local tribes while the soldiers were off-post. She screams and chases people she sees in the night. You don’t have to chase us, lady. The screaming was enough.

Also in the Rookery are Maj. Edmund Ogden, who is presumably in command of all the ghosts in the building (and died in 1855), a young girl named Rose, her nanny, and a young man called Robert. Rose whistles around the house while Ogden seems to just walk around all day in spurred boots. It said that Maj. Ogden once asked a team of ghost hunters to leave his house.

4. March Air Reserve Base’s hospital-turned-dental clinic

What is today a dental clinic once housed a children’s tuberculosis clinic – and in the basement below was a morgue. Some of the staff reported seeing apparitions of small children playing in the building at night or hiding objects.

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One ghost is less than playful: A teenage girl has been reportedly seen walking around the hospital, her face sliced open, talking to herself and searching for the person who cut her.

5. The Kadena Chicken

The 18th Wing at Kadena sports a yellow patch with a chicken prominently featured with its wings in the air, seemingly surrendering. This urban legend has it that during the Korean War, the 18th Wing’s pilots abandoned their crew chiefs as the base was being overrun. The maintainers were then hung with safety wire by the enemy. The safety wire is still supposedly hanging in Osan.

This is a very old Air Force urban legend. Why would the Air Force keep the wire hanging? Aside from questionable decorations, a better reason not to believe this myth is that the patch has been around since 1931, when the 18th Wing was the 18th Pursuit Squadron.

6. Edgar Allen Poe on Fort Monroe

The famous poet died in Baltimore of a mysterious illness whose symptoms match those of rabies. While he was alive, however, he was stationed at Monroe as an artilleryman. Other ghosts said to reside at Fort Monroe include Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, and Chief Black Hawk.

Abraham Lincoln gets around in his afterlife. It’s good to stay active when when you’re 208 years old.

7. Bitburg Middle School’s ghost Nazis

The Bitburg School is run by DoD Dependents Schools-Europe. Bitburg Middle School was constructed in Bitburg Air Base’s housing in 1956, supposedly on the site of a Nazi airbase. It’s also consistently rated as one of the most haunted places in Germany, sharing that list with a pagan ritual altar and the Dachau concentration camp.

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As if it weren’t enough to be full of ghosts, they’re also Nazi ghosts, which is way more frightening. Lights constantly flash on and off throughout the night, windows move on their own, and oh yeah: people are heard screaming at the top of their lungs throughout the building. Only at night.

8. The USS Hornet’s 50-member ghost crew

The Hornet is the most haunted ship in the Navy. In 27 years, the ship lost 300 of her men to accidents and suicides. Tourists and sailors alike report strange voices and apparitions of sailors in (outdated) uniforms, roaming the halls of the ship. Radios and other equipment on the vessel are said to turn on and off on their own.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

If any reader is interested in seeing the ghost crew of the Hornet, you can now pay to sleep aboard the WWII-era ship was decommissioned in 1970. Now moored in San Francisco, people can tour its most paranormally active areas.

9. Kadena’s (yes, again) Ghostly Gate Guards

The old Gate 3 at Kadena was said to be frequented by a WWII-era soldier covered in blood, asking for a light for his cigarette. That gate was eventually closed and a new one is being built in its place. Which is crazy, because he could easily solve a manpower issue. Would you approach a gate manned by ghosts? Me neither.

He might be looking for any number of Japanese soldiers who were once said to approach the gate in the 1990s. They approached so many times, it was recorded in the 2000 book “Ghosts of Okinawa.” The gate was closed because I can only assume it’s terrifying.

10. Guantanamo Bay’s eternal officer’s club

The Bayview complex at Gitmo was originally built in 1943 as the base officer’s club. Now there are four spirits who are there for eternity to occupy the upstairs Terrace Room.

A “woman in white” is an old woman with long hair and a long white dress. She sits in a chair and looks out into the parking lot. She also switches lights on and off when no one is in the club. It is said the woman lived in an apartment in the club until she was found dead in a bathtub there.

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She has a decent view, though.

The wives of base commanders have also reported a man in khakis walking from the living room of the CO’s residence to the bathroom. In 2007, Paula Leary, who was in the house at the time said she believed the ghost just wanted to know there was someone else in the house. The area where the house stands was the site of Marine camps from 1901 until 1920, so it may not just be any khaki chief walking around, but a salty old Marine.

11. Helmand Province’s cursed Russian graveyard

The 2/8 Marines in Helmand reported figures speaking Russian at Observation Point Rock. They found graves at the site, a place in Helmand considered cursed by the locals because of the unending amount of bones that are constantly dug up there.

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The Marines’ story is now an episode of SyFy’s “Paranormal Witness.”

“The Rock,” as it came to be known, was the reported site of Afghan mujahideen executing Russian soldiers during the Russian occupation. Because of the bones and the strange sightings, it soon became known as the “Haunted OP.” But it wasn’t just the Marines seeing or hearing things. The UK’s Welsh Guards who came to the OP before the Marines reported strange noises and unexplainable lights in their night vision.

A Rundown of Rumors:

  • The ghost of an airman suicide from the 1970s haunts the RAPCON. Occasionally crying is heard by airmen, and never civilians.
  • A USAF Security Forces airman at Ramstein AB locked himself in his closet and committed suicide. Now, his ghost locks unsuspecting airmen in their closets.
  • Warren AFB’s ICBM Museum also houses a ghost named Jefferey.
  • U.S. military bases have golf courses so they can be used as mass graves in the event of high casualties.
  • The clinic at Spangdahlem Air Base houses a ghost named Erich.

Listen to our veteran hosts discuss haunted bases and urban legends in the U.S. military.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

This new helicopter design looks like an ‘Avatar’ prop

The Army’s working hard to fulfill six big modernization efforts including a new utility helicopter to replace the UH-60. But now the Army has signaled it may need a new scout helicopter first, and a small design firm has a bold pitch for the program that looks like it’s been lifted out of a James Cameron movie but could be the future of Army aviation.


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The design firm AVX has pitched to the military before, but you’re probably not familiar with their work. That’s because they don’t have a full aircraft to their credit or any big programs that everyone would recognize. But they’ve been quietly working to make military aviation better, winning maintenance contracts and bids to increase fuel efficiency.

And their work in the fuel efficiency space led them to propose a fairly radical redesign of the helicopter. Right now, the “traditional” helicopter design calls for one main rotor that generates lift and a tail, “anti-torque” rotor that keeps the bird pointed in the right direction. It’s the design at work on the Apache, the MH-6 Little Bird, the Lakota, and lots more.

But AVX wants to see more use of “coaxial” designs where the main rotor has two discs instead of one. They spin in opposite directions, stabilizing the helicopter without the need for a tail rotor. These coaxial designs are typically more efficient, and AVX wants to combine that with two ducted fans for propulsion, allowing for a helicopter that’s safer, faster, and more efficient.

AVX tried to get the Army to adopt these changes when it was looking to upgrade the OH-58 scout helicopter. The Army was looking to overhaul the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, and AVX felt certain that giving it a coaxial rotor and two ducted fans would give the helicopter increased endurance, lift capability, cruise speed, time on station and range.

The Army ended up retiring the OH-58 instead of going through an overhaul, but that left it with no dedicated scout helicopter. Right now, the AH-64 Apache is switch hitting, serving as a scout helicopter and an attack helicopter. But Apaches are more expensive per flight hour, heavier, and require highly specialized pilots that the Army is already short on.

Getting a new scout helicopter would alleviate a few of these problems. But AVX isn’t as large or as experienced an aviation company as Bell, Boeing, Lockheed, or other companies that have produced rotary platforms for the Army. So AVX has partnered with L3 Technologies, another company experienced in supporting Army aviation.

And the aircraft these companies are pitching to the Army for the new scout helicopter? You guessed it: Coaxial rotor blade for lift and two ducted fans for propulsion. As an added bonus for efficiency, there are two stubby wings that will generate significant lift at high speeds.

It won’t have the ducted main rotors of the Aerospatiale SA-2 Samson from Avatar, but it’s easy to see how you get from AVX’s proposal for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft to something like the SA-2.

Now, it’s far from certain that AVX will get selected by the Army. The Army wants to be buying and fielding the birds by 2024, an aggressive timetable that a small company will struggle to meet. And it wants to buy the aircraft for million apiece flyaway cost, meaning there won’t be a lot of room in the budget for inefficiencies and screwups. So, the Army may prefer a more experienced manufacturer.

But there are early elements of the design that signal a possible AVX advantage. First, despite all the tech required to make those coaxial blades and ducted fans work, the technologies are fairly proven and don’t add a whole lot to cost. Also, the program has ambitious requirements for speed, size of the aircraft, and agility, and the AVX design fits the bill if it makes it through selection and manufacturing process without any big compromises.

So the next helicopter looking over your shoulder in battle might just look like a science fiction aircraft, but don’t expect Michelle Rodriquez to be flying it. She’ll most likely be busy with Fast and the Furious 14.

Articles

Legendary WWII Gen. Carl Spaatz offered great advice to military leaders — and it still rings true today

When one considers those pioneers whose command of air power strategy led to an independent U.S. Air Force after WWII, General Carl A. Spaatz is usually among those names. Spaatz would come to command the overall Army Air Forces in Europe, design the strategy for bringing down Hitler’s Luftwaffe, and cripple Nazi war production. Dwight Eisenhower as Supreme Allied Commander remarked Spaatz (along with Omar Bradley) was one of two men who contributed most to the victory in Europe.


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So when it comes to how he views the people who serve in the military, you might be apt to consider his advice.

After V-E Day, Spaatz held a victory party at a chateau near Paris. The guest list included a who’s who of who would come to found the modern Air Force such as Hoyt Vandenberg and James Doolittle. It also included one Major: triple ace Robin Olds (pre-mustache). Spaatz was a friend of the Olds family, and he invited Robin to his party after he learned Maj. Olds would stay in the Army after the war.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

 

Olds recounted the advice he received from Spaatz in his memoirs, Fighter Pilot, more than sixty years later:

” … In the military, they mostly divide themselves into four major categories. There are the ‘Me-Firsters,’ the ‘Me-Tooers,’ the ‘Deadwood,’ and the ‘Dedicated.’ You are among the minority, the Dedicated. Stick with them, search them out, and work hard to be worthy of their company. You won’t be popular with a lot of your bosses who act dedicated but really aren’t and that can make life difficult at times. Beware of the Deadwood. Most of them mean well and, in their own way, try hard, are loyal, and are even useful. But too often they’ll botch things up and get you and your outfit in trouble.”

“Watch out for the Me-Tooers. These guys will tell you whatever they think you want to hear. They borrow thoughts and ideas from others and present them to you as though they were their own. They are the opportunists who look for every avenue to advance themselves without sticking their own necks out. They ride someone’s coattails and try to make themselves indispensable to the boss. Believe me, they are not to be trusted. You don’t want yes-men around you, but you can’t always avoid them.”

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Spaatz went on to warn:  “The worst and most dangerous are the Me-Firsters. Most of them are intelligent and totally ruthless. They use the service for their own gain and will not hesitate to stick a knife in your back at the slightest indication you might stand in their way. They seem arrogant, but don’t be fooled. They are really completely lacking in true self-confidence.”

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