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The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Is Russia really flying combat missions from the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov? That is a question percolating as recent satellite photos caught some of the planes that are known to operate from the carrier at a land base, as opposed to operating directly from the carrier.


According to a report by IHS Jane’s, a satellite photo from Airbus Defence and Space shows eight Su-33 “Flanker D” fighters on the ramp of Humaymim Air Base.

That airbase, located near the coastal city of Latakia, has become Russia’s main center of operations during its intervention in Syria. Russia also has a naval facility in Tartus, roughly 45 miles to the south of Latakia, that has been used since 1971 under an agreement by the Soviet Union with the regime of Hafez al-Assad.

While it is not uncommon for carrier-based planes to operate from land bases (the n Cactus Air Force at Guadalcanal, which featured planes from the air groups of damaged carriers, is perhaps the most famous instance), this is a sign that Russia’s carrier is less than it seems. In essence, while the Russians are claiming that the Kuznetsov is carrying out a combat deployment and launching sorties, this ship really was more of a glorified aircraft ferry. This is the purported flagship of the Russian Navy.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo

The Kuznetsov displaces 61,000 tons, and usually carries 15 Su-33 Flankers, but is also capable of carrying up to 20 MiG-29s. One of the MiG-29s crashed earlier this month due to issues with the carrier’s arresting gear combined with an engine failure on the modern multi-role fighter.

The pilot ejected and was recovered, a very unexpected hiccup in Russia’s efforts to showcase the carrier, which has had a reputation for breaking down while on deployment. Since the crash, the MiG-29s have apparently been grounded.

Russia has used the conflict in Syria to test out new weapon systems like the Su-35 “Flanker E” and the SS-N-27 Sizzler. Russia also has deployed the S-400 surface-to-air missile system to defend its bases in Syria.

Articles

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

Fifty-one years after saving a squad of U.S. Marines from walking into an ambush by Viet Cong, Don Medley walked into a surprise gathering organized to honor him.


Members of the squadron Medley saved May 12, 1966, gathered Friday at Stone Hearth restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for a surprise dinner. Medley, a former U.S. Army Warrant Officer, had believed he and his wife, Dianne, were meeting one of the Marine veterans, Earl Davis, and his wife, Claudia, for dinner.

In reality, three other men Medley saved, along with their wives, were waiting to meet him. Those honoring him traveled from South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee.

“I told my wife that one day I’d like to meet some of the guys on the ground that I helped,” Medley said. “This is the day.”

Medley, of Hodgenville, appeared stunned and overwhelmed by the handshakes, hugs and greetings he received as he stood near the doorway of the room reserved for the occasion.

“Thank you, for my wife and kids,” one man said.

The words “thank you” repeatedly resounded in the room that held a dining table adorned with a centerpiece of white flowers highlighted with small U.S. flags. Placemats also were emblazoned with U.S. flags.

“This is such an honor for me,” Medley said, his voice wavering as he received gifts of gratitude. “It’s unbelievable.”

Like other members of Bravo Company of 1st Marine Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Earl Davis had wondered over the years who the Cessna pilot who saved them was. After an article was published in Vietnam magazine last year, Medley’s identity became known.

Davis received contact information for Medley on Dec. 26. He decided to coordinate the surprise gathering.

During the gathering, Medley recounted the day he was flying his Cessna over a rice paddy and noticed Marines advancing toward a trench line holding enemy forces. He dropped a smoke grenade on which he had scrawled a brief message warning the Marines, but they continued to advance.

He soon noticed there were more enemies in a tree line, making the number much larger. He dropped a second smoke grenade warning them and included the words, “I’m calling Arty,” referring to notifying artillery. His message saved them, the men said.

“We’ve been looking for this guy for over 50 years,” Ray Maurer said. “I just broke up when I saw him.”

Maurer and his wife, Bernadette, made the trip from Georgia.

Carl Whipple of Tennessee attended the gathering with wife, Myrtle Ruth.

“We all wanted the opportunity to meet him,” he said.

Whipple described the experience as heartfelt and said it was “a God thing” that sent Medley to fly over the squad 51 years ago.

“We’re indebted,” he said.

Dan Ferrell of Missouri said the gathering was a much-needed opportunity to express his thanks to Medley.

“I’ve never been able to put this behind me,” said Ferrell, who has post-traumatic stress disorder.

Medley was presented with a watch that was set at 10:30, the approximate time he dropped the first smoke grenade. He also was given mementos including a framed collection of items, among which was a signed letter of thanks.

Choking up in the process, Davis read the letter during the presentation. Later, he said the emotion he felt at that time summed up what he was feeling and how special the occasion was.

“It means a whole hell of a lot,” he said.

Similarly, Medley visibly was moved during the gathering and said the items he received will be displayed with honor in his den.

“It’s overwhelming,” Medley said. “This vindicates my whole year in Vietnam.”

Articles

A previously ‘unknown’ sailor killed at Pearl Harbor is returned home 75 years later

Seaman 2nd Class Lewis Wagoner was the first of the Wagoner boys to join the Navy. He loved school, and cared deeply for others.


The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
Lewis Wagoner after joining the Navy. (AARP)

Read Now: See the intense Navy deck logs from the Pearl Harbor attack

Lewis was killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He died on the USS Oklahoma with 427 of his shipmates.

“It made life hard,” said his brother, Carl Wagoner. “To think about it.”

Seaman Wagoner’s remains could not be identified and were placed in mass graves with 393 other sailors. Generations of the Wagoner family have made the trip to Hawaii to see the memorial to those unidentified sailors and the names included on it.

“I was glad to see there was something,” said Lee Longaker, Lewis Wagoner’s niece. “But it was still empty as far as who’s really there.”

After decades, the POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed the sailors from the Oklahoma and used new techniques to identify their remains. Luckily, Carl Wagoner was still alive to see his brother’s remains repatriated to their home in Haysville, Kansas in October 2016.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
An Honor Guard at Lewis Wagoner’s funeral, 75 years after his death. (AARP)

AARP studios brings the story of Lewis Wagoner’s remains and his family’s efforts to bring him home in the video below.

“To have him come home actually, to be close to all of us, means a whole lot to them and to me,” says Mark Wagoner, Lewis Wagoner’s nephew. “Now I can show my children and tell my children what and who he was.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coalition bombings spike in Afghanistan, but stalemate drags on

The US and its coalition partners have dropped more bombs on Afghanistan in the first ten months of 2018 than any year in the past five years, the US military revealed Nov. 29, 2018.

Between January and October of 2018, the US-led coalition dropped 5,982 bombs in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel and Operation Resolute Support, significantly more than the previous years.

Coalition strike aircraft flew 6,584 sorties during that time, 783 of which involved the release of a weapon, the US Air Forces Central Command’s Combined Air Operations Center disclosed in its monthly Airpower Statistics report.


The Trump administration made airpower a priority for the war in Afghanistan. With the relocation of Air National Guard KC-135 refueling tankers from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar to Kandahar last fall, the US-led coalition has been able to increase the number of airstrikes against the Taliban and other enemy combatants.

In addition to the refueling tankers, a number of A-10C Thunderbolt attack aircraft, HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, and MQ-9 Reaper drones were also shifted to Kandahar, Military.com reported Nov. 28, 2018.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

A U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.

The US and its coalition partners have made progress in the fight against ISIS, but while the number of bombs falling on Afghanistan is on the rise, the coalition continues to struggle to secure victory against a surging and brutal Taliban foe.

The Afghan government’s control of the country has been slipping over the past few years, falling from 72 percent in 2015 to just over half in the third quarter of 2018. In that period, Afghanistan lost 28,529 security force personnel, the Afghan president said in November 2018.

The US continues to suffer losses as well.

Five US troops were killed in November 2018, one to an insider attack, one to accidental friendly fire, and three to an improvised explosive device. Thirteen US service members have died fighting in Afghanistan in 2018, as US forces have largely shifted to advise, assist and training missions.

The Taliban “are not losing right now, I think that is fair to say,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “We used the term stalemate a year ago and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much.”

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

“We do believe the Taliban know that at some point they do have to reconcile,” Dunford added, stressing that the key is to pressure the Taliban, which has also suffered heavy losses, to eventually negotiate.

Reporters from the Washington Post recently questioned President Donald Trump on America’s presence in Afghanistan. “We’re there because virtually every expert that I have and speak to say if we don’t go there, they’re going to be fighting over here. And I’ve heard it over and over again,” he replied.

He further remarked that there is talk of peace, but added that he was unsure if that is a real possibility.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon Nov. 28, 2018, Mattis said the peace process is “picking up momentum,” but did not go into additional detail.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why this Army officer runs with a binder full of names

Surrounded by thousands of racers, Lt. Col. Frederick Moss stood out at the Army Ten Miler.

“I always get the question, ‘Why is this dummy running with this binder? He must be some staff guy that is all about his work.’ You know?” Moss joked, while discussing the annual race.

Indeed, Moss is a staff officer. He works for senior leaders at the U.S. Army Reserve Command headquarters on Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Yet, the binder is not his work.

It’s his duty.


Inside, the pages hold the names of 58,000 American military members who died serving in Vietnam.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, stares into the camera for a portrait at the North Carolina Veterans Park in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Sept. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

He carries the white binder on all the military-oriented races. The Marine Corps Marathon. The Army Marathon. The Navy Nautical. Some of these races won’t allow backpacks for security purposes, such as the Army Ten Miler, so he hand-carried the book 10 miles through the streets of Washington, D.C.

“It’s an act of remembrance. It’s an act of appreciation for them and what they’ve done,” Moss said.

He recalled printing the names at home years ago. He walked away from his computer thinking the job would be finished when he returned. Instead, the printer was still spitting out papers.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, runs nearby the North Carolina Veterans Park in Fayetteville during a film production Sept. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Javier Orona)

“Wow, wait a minute. Now this can’t be right. It’s still going,” he said. “It went from 100 to 1,000 to 2,000. And that’s just the letter ‘A’ … 2,000 husbands, wives, uncles, brothers, cousins. They paid the ultimate sacrifice. And that’s really when this thing kind of hit me. This is really big. That’s a lot of people here.”

He originally printed the book to remember his father, Terry Leon Williams, after he died in 2012. Williams had survived Vietnam, but he rarely talked about the war.

“He was a Marine’s Marine. He’s a man’s man. I learned a lot from him, and I owe a lot to him,” said Moss.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, looks through the names of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with his son, Brandon, while visiting Washington, D.C., Oct. 12, 2019.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)

Williams deployed twice, but in spite of his love for the uniform, the Marine didn’t wear it as he returned home from an unpopular war. He faced a country that offered protest, not praise.

“There’s still Vietnam veterans out there who feel some type of way about how they were received when they came back into this country,” Moss said.

That’s a vast difference from how the nation welcomed Moss in 2006. He had deployed to Iraq as a military police officer. When his airplane full of soldiers landed in Atlanta, firetrucks greeted them on the runway by spraying the plane with water.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with his son, Brandon, and wife, Cherie, in Washington, D.C., Oct. 12, 2019.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)

“We got off the plane … and everybody was hugging and kissing us. It was crazy. Holy smoke! It was hundreds, thousands of soldiers walking through the airport … I thought to myself: my dad and his comrades didn’t get that. It wasn’t America’s finest hour. So, that’s why I chose in my small way to show appreciation, for him and them, for their service to this nation,” Moss said.

The binder is for his father, but also for his uncle, Henry, who returned from Vietnam, yet wasn’t really home.

“He didn’t make it. He came back, but he wasn’t the same. You know, the hidden scars of combat. He ended up committing suicide,” said Moss.

Moss’ father was soft-spoken. He spared few words and rarely squandered those words on comforting his children. During his teenage years, their relationship was horrible, Moss said. A strict father and a rebellious son often at odds, he described.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with his family in Washington, D.C., Oct. 12, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Javier Orona)

“If you fell, he wasn’t going to hug you. He was going to tell you, ‘Get up. Dust yourself off. Fight on,'” he said.

He was more interested in teaching his son to defend himself than to show him affection.

“Sometimes, I feel like I’m running from him still,” Moss said, laughing.

His running days began in high school when he joined cross country track. Running calls him out of bed in the morning. He wakes up in the darkest hours and slips out of the house unnoticed. His wife, Cherie, jokingly calls it his “mistress” because she wakes up to an empty bed.

But Moss communes with God during those runs. He prays and listens to gospel music. Time and worry vanish. He might look at his watch at any moment and realize 20 miles have gone by. Just don’t let him sit through a meeting afterward, because he might fall asleep, he jokes.

He has run so many military races that he keeps his medallions in a bag. There’s no room to display them in the house.

Yet, after high school, his running stopped for a while. His first military experience took him off the track and tossed him toward the water.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, pages through a binder he printed holding the names from the Vietnam Memorial Wall during a film production day at his home in Spring Lake, North Carolina, Sept. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

“I joined the Navy, and I gained, like, 260 pounds,” he said, exaggerating the weight, with a laugh. He reached 260 pounds, but that’s not how much he had gained.

As he spoke, he pulls out a framed photo of himself in a white Navy uniform. A rounder version of himself looks into the camera, with a mustache hovering above his lips.

“This was pre-Army. I was like the ice cream man, right here. So I lost my love for running at the time because in the Navy, it’s all about systems and ships. Not a lot of room to maneuver to run on the ship,” he said.

He deployed twice with the Navy, to Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Later, Moss joined the Army as a staff sergeant. It was a rude awakening because, suddenly, he was in charge of soldiers without any prior experience in managing people.

“The Navy’s a little bit different. It’s not about people … it was about systems. I was an engineer in the Navy. A boiler technician. You need steam to make the ship go. To turn the turbines. To get power. To drink water. But you flip it, and you go to the Army, and the Army is all about people,” he said.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, takes a selfie with Lt. Gen. Charles Luckey, commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve, while showing him a binder representing the fallen veterans of the Vietnam War during the Army Ten Miler in Washington, D.C., Oct. 13, 2019.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)

Those times in the military made him appreciate his father in ways he never could as a son.

When Moss commissioned as a lieutenant in the Army, his family surrounded him in celebration. He remembers sitting at a large round table with his father and relatives.

“I’ve got something to say,” Williams spoke, stopping the conversation around them.

Moss’ father pointed around the table to those who had served in the military. Four branches were represented there: Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.

“My son was enlisted Navy,” Williams said. “But my son did something different. I never thought my son would be a commissioned officer.”

A pause. A quiet befell the table as the family waited to see what might happen next. Williams stood and saluted his son. Moss stood and returned the salute. He could sense people holding their breath. The two men dropped their salutes and sat back down.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, runs from his home in Spring Lake during a film production day, Sept. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Then, just before the conversation could resume, or an applause might follow, Williams spoke again.

“Now, you’re a lieutenant. You’re officially a punk. Nobody likes lieutenants!”

The table broke in laugher, cheering, and the family returned to their celebration. But a moment had caught during the exchange. A shifting in balance – a new respect – occurred as the older saluted the younger. His father had changed.

Serving in the Army had helped Moss see that change, because service was about sacrifice and legacy. Not individual fame, but a legacy carried by the collective. He saw the military as a family who passed traditions from generation to generation.

“That legacy just keeps going on and on. A legacy of war fighters. People who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and you don’t ever want that legacy to be lost. So, one of the things I do, is I carry this book. That book, to me, signifies that you never, ever forget what other people have done for this nation to make sure that we continue to be free,” said Moss.

The Army Ten Miler reminds Moss of that legacy and of his love for people. He calls it a family reunion, where year after year he hugs brothers and sisters in arms who return to D.C. for the run. It’s a small nuisance that backpacks aren’t allowed, but it’s also an honor for Moss to carry his father’s generation of veterans in his hands.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with his son, Brandon, in Washington, D.C., Oct. 12, 2019.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)

“Sometimes the book is a little cumbersome, but it doesn’t bother me. Because it’s 58,000-plus fallen comrades in that book. What I’m doing for this short period of time is nowhere near the price they had to pay for us,” he said.

He reflects on those names through Washington, D.C., as he runs. He envisions their stories. He mourns with their families. He considers the children who never saw their fathers or mothers come home. Yet, he is grateful for one name who is not in his book. Not on the wall. Not on any official memorial except for the etching of his memories.

His father.

Terry Leon Williams.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

10 leadership lessons to live by, straight from the Army’s top enlisted leader

Prior Sergeant Major of the Army Dailey offered some powerful guidance for the “backbone of the Army,” the non-commissioned officers’ corps. In case you missed it the first time we posted it, here it is:


No. 1. Yelling doesn’t make you skinny. PT does.

If you’re not out there saluting the flag every morning at 6:30, you can automatically assume your soldiers are not. Soldiers don’t care if you’re in first place. They just want to see you out there. This is a team sport. PT might not be the most important thing you do that day, but it is the most important thing you do every day in the United States Army. The bottom line is, wars are won between 6:30 and 9.

No. 2. Think about what you’re going to say before you say it.

I’ve never regretted taking the distinct opportunity to keep my mouth shut. You’re the sergeant major. People are going to listen to you. By all means, if you have something important or something informative to add to the discussion, then say it. But don’t just talk so people can hear you. For goodness sake, you’re embarrassing the rest of us. Sit down and listen. Sometimes you might just learn something.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
DoD Photo by Cpl. Christopher Mendoza

No. 3. If you find yourself having to remind everyone all of the time that you’re the sergeant major and you’re in charge, you’re probably not.

That one’s pretty self-explanatory.

No. 4. You have to work very hard at being more informed and less emotional.

Sergeants major, I’ll put it in simple terms: Nobody likes a dumb loudmouth. They don’t. Take the time to do the research. Learn how to be brief. Listen to people, and give everyone the time of day. Everyone makes mistakes, even sergeants major, and you will make less of them if you have time to be more informed.

No. 5. If you can’t have fun every day, then you need to go home.

You are the morale officer. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend, but you do have to be positive all the time. The sergeant major is the one everyone looks to when it’s cold, when it’s hot, when it’s raining, or things are just going south. Your job is to keep the unit together. That’s why you’re there. The first place they will look when things go bad is you, and they will watch your reaction.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
DoD Photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph Abrego

No. 6. Don’t be the feared leader. It doesn’t work.

If soldiers run the other way when you show up, that’s absolutely not cool. Most leaders who yell all the time, they’re in fact hiding behind their inability to effectively lead. Soldiers and leaders should be seeking you, looking for your guidance, asking you to be their mentors on their Army career track, not posting jokes about you on the ‘Dufflebag blog’. That’s not cool. Funny, but it’s not cool.

No. 7. Don’t do anything — and I mean anything — negative over email.

You have to call them. Go see them in person. Email’s just a tool. It’s not a substitute for leadership. It’s also permanent. You’ve all heard it. Once you hit ‘send,’ it’s official, and you can never bring it back. Automatically assume that whatever you write on email will be on the cover of the Army Times and all over Facebook by the end of the week. Trust me, I know this personally.

No. 8. It’s OK to be nervous. All of us are.

This happens to be my favorite. It came from my mother. My mom always used to tell me that if you’re not nervous on the first day of school, then you’re either not telling the truth, you either don’t care, or you’re just plain stupid. [Being nervous] makes you try harder. That’s what makes you care more.  Once that feeling is gone, once you feel like you have everything figured out, it’s time to go home, because the care stops.  Don’t do this alone. You need a battle buddy. You need someone you can call, a mentor you can confide in. Don’t make the same mistakes someone else has made. Those are the dumb mistakes. Don’t do this alone.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
Sergeant Major Dailey. DoD Photo by Timothy Hale

No. 9. If your own justification for being an expert in everything you do is your 28 years of military experience, then it’s time to fill out your 4187 [form requesting personnel action] and end your military experience.

Not everything gets better with age, sergeants major. You have to work at it every day. Remember, you are the walking textbook. You are the information portal. Take the time to keep yourself relevant.

No. 10. Never forget that you’re just a soldier.

That’s all you are. No better than any other, but just one of them. You may get paid a little more, but when the time comes, your job is to treat them all fair, take care of them as if they were your own children, and expect no more from them of that of which you expect from yourself.

Articles

DARPA tested an awesome plan to find dirty bombs

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency held a massive scavenger hunt in the nation’s capitol to collect data on how to find dirty nuclear bombs planted by terrorists.


The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
Photo: YouTube/DARPA

Participants in the scavenger hunt, mostly ROTC cadets and midshipmen from the nearby Naval Academy, were playing a game to find a geneticist who was “mysteriously abducted.” But they carried cell-phone sized sensors that sniffed out radioactive material as they moved around the city for hours, allowing DARPA to test the ability of the sensors to search for a covert nuke.

The sensors, part of DARPA’s SIGMA program, are low-cost gamma and neutron radiation sniffers that are networked with smartphones so they can relay information to a central point.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
Photo: YouTube/DARPA

Before this scavenger hunt, DARPA had only tested up to 100 sensors at a time. But the network of sensors is supposed to provide coverage of entire cities or regions, allowing law enforcement to search for and find stolen or smuggled nuclear material before it can be used in a weapon.

In a real attack, police would need to scan vast areas using hundreds or more sensors. So, the Nov. 10 test featured 1,000 sensors feeding their information into the program’s software.

The scavenger hunt scenario was developed to keep the cadets and midshipmen engaged as they carried the devices around Washington, D.C., for hours. Even larger tests are planned for 2017 and DARPA partners hope to push the final version of SIGMA to local, state, and federal police in 2018.

Dirty bombs are conventional explosives with nuclear material mixed in or layered on top of the main charge. The nuclear material does not significantly add to the total blast force of the weapon, but it is spread over a large area to frighten residents and to force a costly and time-consuming cleanup process.

Dirty bombs are easier to make than standard nuclear devices, and the government has worked to prevent a dirty bomb terrorist attack for years.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 sensor successfully tracks ballistic missile in Hawaii test

The F-35’s Distributed Aperture Sensor (DAS) has performed airborne identification and target tracking of a ballistic missile in a test off the coast of Hawaii as part of ongoing development of the 5th-generation aircraft’s ability to conduct airborne ballistic missile defense missions.


Northrop Grumman and the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency conducted a demonstration, using a ground-based DAS and a DAS-configured gateway aerial node to locate a ballistic missile launch and flight path. Target tracking information was sent using advanced data links to relay information between the aerial gateway and ground-based command and control locations.

According to Northrop engineers and weapons developers involved with the test, a sensor on the ground transmitted its tracking information to the DAS-equipped Airborne Gateway, which formed a three-dimensional space track which could be transmitted to San Diego.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sean Sweeney

“DAS can perform its mission whether airborne in an F-35 or other aircraft, as well as on the ground or in a ship. In this case, the two DAS sensors in the air and on the ground, respectively, were able to individually recognize the ballistic missile event and generate a two-dimensional track,” Northrop experts told Warrior.

Described as multi-function array technology, the DAS system uses automated computer algorithms to organize and integrate target-relevant data from missile warning systems, radar, night vision and other long-range sensors; the array is able to track a BMD target from the air at distances up to 800 nautical miles. Such a technology, quite naturally, enables a wider sensor field with which to identify and track attacking missiles.

“DAS communicated precise BMD data from Pacific Missile Range in Hawaii to a test-bed location in San Diego. Seconds after launch, the DAS sensor categorized the rocket and located a ballistic missile launch,” said John “Bama” Montgomery, 5th Generation Derivatives and Improvements, Northrop Grumman. “This re-organizes, re-imagines and re-shapes the battlespace.”

Although the test was in 2014, it has only now been determined that the F-35 can perform BMD – due to years of analysis and test data examination, Northrop developers said. Such a defensive technical ability is of great relevance currently, as many express concern about North Korea short and medium range ballistic missile threats.

Also Read: Hawaii just released a guide on how to survive a nuclear attack from North Korea

An airborne DAS, networked with ground-based Patriot and THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) weapons, could offer a distinct tactical advantage when it comes to quickly locating incoming missile threats. Air sensors in particular, could be of great value given that, in some envisioned threat scenarios, it is unclear whether there would be enough interceptors to counter a massive North Korean ballistic missile barrage into South Korea. Accordingly, air based detection and target tracking, it seems, could go a long way toward better fortifying defenses – as they might increase the time envelope during which command and control could cue interceptors to locate and destroy attacking enemy missiles.

Using early applications of artificial intelligence, computers and aircraft relied upon advanced algorithms to organize sensor information – which was then transmitted to a pilot.

As a key element of the F-35s much-discussed “sensor fusion technology,” the DAS draws upon a 360-degree sensor field of view generated by six cameras strategically placed around the aircraft. The sensor autonomously fuses data from all of the sensors into a single field of view for the pilot.

“With an automated picture, we can get the pilot everything he needs without him needing to go through every step,” Bama said.

Using F-35 DAS sensor technology, emerging technology can perform BMD sensing functions without needing to rely purely upon space-based infrared systems. Using LINK 16 and other data-link technologies, an F-35 can relay targeting data to other 5th and 4th-Generation aircraft as well as ground stations. Montgomery explained that MDA laboratory-generated detection, tracking and discrimination algorithms were able to provide 3-D tracking information.

An MDA statement said program officials have been evaluating system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
The first of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors is launched during a successful intercept test.

As part of this emerging technical configuration, it has been determined that the F-35s DAS can perform a wide range of non-traditional ISR functions to include not only BMD but other kinds of air or ground-fired enemy weapons. This includes an ability to detect artillery fire, enemy fighter aircraft, incoming air-launched missiles and, of course, ground launched rockets and missiles.

“DAS provides imagery. Instead of looking through a tube, this is a broader perspective of the combat environment, allowing a pilot to act more decisively. It provides a protective bubble to ensure that no aircraft can approach an F-35 without the F-35 knowing it is there,” Montgomery added.

Weapons developers describe this technical advance in terms of something entirely compatible with ship-based Aegis radar, which is also configured to perform BMD functions. Aegis radar was used to track the ballistic missile target as well.

In fact, F-35 BMD sensor technology aligns closely with the Navy’s now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air (NIFC-CA), an integrated system which uses ship-based Aegis radar, an airborne platform relay sensor and an SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching enemy cruise missiles at distances beyond the horizon.

The concept is to give commanders a better window for decision-making and countermeasure applications when faced with approaching enemy fire. The Navy’s layered ship defense system, involving SM-3s, ESSMs, SeaRAM, Rolling Airframe Missiles and closer-in systems such as Close-in-Weapons System using a phalanx area weapon, can best track and destroy targets when a flight path of an attacking ballistic missile can be identified earlier than would otherwise be the case.

The Navy and Lockheed have specifically demonstrated this system using an F-35 as an airborne sensor relay platform. NIFC-CA can be used both offensively and defensively, as it draws upon the SM-6s active seeker which can discern and attack fast-maneuvering targets.

The Navy is already building, deploying and testing a fleet of upgraded DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with NIFC-CA – as a way to bring an ability to detect and destroy incoming enemy anti-ship cruise missiles at farther ranges from beyond the horizon.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
Demonstration shows capability to extend the battlefront using Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA). (Image via Lockheed Martin)

The technology enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.

NIFC-CA has previously operated using an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane as an aerial sensor node; it has also been successfully tested from a land-based “desert ship” at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. from an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Should the Navy’s future plans materialize, the system would expand further to include the F/A-18 and F-35C.

NIFC-CA gives Navy ships the ability to extend the range of an interceptor missile and extend the reach sensors by netting different sensors of different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system, Navy developers told Warrior.

NIFC-CA was previously deployed on a Navy cruiser serving as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf.

Operating NIFC-CA from an F-35B improves the sensor technology, reach, processing speed and air maneuverability of the system; previous tests have also assessed the ability of the system to identify and destroy air-to-air and air-to-surface targets. A report from earlier this year from the U.S. Naval Institute news quoted Lockheed officials saying an “at-sea” assessment of this NIFCA-CA/F-35 pairing is planned for 2018.

NIFC-CA has previously operated using an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane as an aerial sensor node; the use of an F-35B improves the sensor technology, reach, processing speed and air maneuverability of the system; the test also assessed the ability of the system to identify and destroy air-to-air and air-to-surface targets. A multi-target ability requires some adjustments to fire-control technology, sensors and dual-missile firings; the SM-6 is somewhat unique in its ability to fire multiple weapons in rapid succession. An SM-6 is engineered with an “active seeker,” meaning it can send an electromagnetic targeting “ping” forward from the missile itself – decreasing reliance on a ship-based illuminator and improving the ability to fire multiple interceptor missiles simultaneously.

Unlike an SM-3 which can be used for “terminal phase” ballistic missile defense at much farther ranges, the SM-6 can launch nearer-in offensive and defensive attacks against closer threats such as approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles. With an aerial sensor networked into the radar and fire control technology such as an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane or F-35, the system can track approaching enemy cruise missile attacks much farther away. This provide a unique, surface-warfare closer-in defensive and offensive weapons technology to complement longer range ship-based ballistic missile defense technologies.

Once operational, this expanded intercept ability will better defend surface ships operating in the proximity or range of enemy missiles by giving integrating an ability to destroy multiple-approaching attacks at one time.

NIFC-CA is part of an overall integrated air and missile defense high-tech upgrade now being installed and tested on existing and new DDG 51 ships called Aegis Baseline 9.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
The guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke DDG 51, left, approaches the guided missile destroyer USS James E Williams DDG 95. (Image U.S. Navy)

The system hinges upon an upgraded ship-based radar and computer system referred to as Aegis Radar –- designed to provide defense against long-range incoming ballistic missiles from space as well as nearer-in threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles, he explained.

Developers said integrated air and missile defense provides an ability to defend against ballistic missiles in space while at the same time countering air threats to naval and joint forces close to the sea.

The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said. Having this capability could impact discussion about a Pentagon term referred to as Anti-Access/Area-Denial, wherein potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline.

Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles.

Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could. The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons.

The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years.

During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques.

Also Read: The Aegis Combat System is successfully plucking enemy missiles out of the sky

More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.

The current upgrades to the Arleigh Burke-class of destroyers can be seen as a part of this broader strategic equation.

The first new DDG 51 to receive Baseline 9 technology was the USS John Finn or DDG 113. The ship previously went through what’s called “light off” combat testing in preparation for operational use and deployment.

The very first Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Arleigh Burke or DDG 51, is now being retrofitted with these technological upgrades as well.

NIFC-CA technology is also being back-fitted onto earlier ships that were built with the core Aegis capability. This involves an extensive upgrade to combat systems with new equipment being delivered. This involves the integration of new cabling, computers, consoles and data distribution systems.

Existing destroyers and all follow-on destroyers will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade, which includes NIFC-CA and other enabling technologies. For example, Baseline 9 contains an upgraded computer system with common software components and processors, service officials said.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
A DDG 51 destroyer, which was bought instead of the CG(X). | U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Patrick Reilly

 

In addition, some future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers such as DDG 116 and follow-on ships will receive new electronic warfare technologies and a data multiplexing system which, among other things, controls a ship’s engines and air compressors, developers said.

The Navy’s current plan is to build 11 Flight IIA destroyers and then shift toward building new, Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a new, massively more powerful radar system.

The new radar, called the SPY-6, is said by Navy officials to be 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar.

Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are slated to be operational by 2023.

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.)

Articles

5 things Marine Corps recruits complain about at boot camp

Marine Corps boot camp is a slice of hell that turns civilians into modern-day Marines.


With constant physical training, screaming drill instructors, and so much close-order drill recruits eventually have dreams about it, spending 12 weeks at boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina or San Diego, California can be difficult for most young people.

Having stepped off a bus and onto the yellow footprints at Parris Island on Sep. 3, 2002, one of those young people was me. While in hindsight, boot camp really wasn’t that bad, I thought then that it was the worst thing ever. While writing this post, I thought I would speak in general terms, but since my mother kept all my correspondence home, I figured I would go straight to the source: my original — and now-hilarious-to-read — letters back home.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Drill instructors are the worst.

Having a crazy person with veins popping out of their neck scream in your face and run around a barracks throwing stuff can be quite a shock to someone who was a civilian a week prior. Although I later learned to greatly respect my DI’s, I didn’t really like them at the beginning, as my first letter home showed.

“Our DI’s are complete motherf—king a–holes. There’s no other way to describe them,” I wrote, before including a great example: “Today they sprayed shaving cream and toothpaste ALL OVER the head and we had to clean it up. Yesterday, threw out all of our gear, had to change the racks, and sh– was flying.”

Sounds about right.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
Photo: Cpl. Octavia Davis

My recruiter totally lied to me.

It’s a running joke in the Marine Corps (and the greater military, really) that your recruiter probably lied to you. Maybe they didn’t lie to you per se, but they were selective with what they told you. One of my favorites was that “if I didn’t like my job as infantry, I could change it in two years.” That’s one of those not-totally-a-lie-but-far-fetched-truths.

In my initial letter, I took issue with my recruiters for telling me that drill instructors don’t ever get physical. Most of the time they won’t touch you, but that’s not exactly all the time.

“Oh, by the way, recruiters are lying bastards. They [the drill instructors] scream, swear a lot, and choke/push on a daily basis,” I wrote. (It was day three and I was of course exaggerating).

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Mail takes forever to get there.

Getting mail at boot camp is a wonderful respite from the daily grind at boot camp, but letters are notoriously slow to arrive. In my letters home, I complained about mail being slow often, since I’d ask questions in my letters then get a response of answers and more questions from home, well after I was through that specific event in the training cycle.

“Sometimes I write more letters than everyone back home and I have way less time to do it,” I wrote in one letter.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

The other recruits were terrible.

I’m sure they said the same thing about me. Put 60-80 people from completely different backgrounds and various regions of the United States and you’re probably going to have tension. Add drill instructors into the mix constantly stressing you out and it’s guaranteed.

Then of course, there’s the issue of the “recruit crud,” the nickname for the sickness that inevitably comes from being in such close proximity with all these different people.

Throughout my letters home, I complain of other recruits not yelling loud enough or running fast enough. “They don’t sound off and we are getting in trouble all the time,” I wrote. No doubt I was just echoing what the drill instructor has given us as a reason for why he was bringing us to the dreaded “pit.”

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Getting “pitted” is the worst five minutes of your life.

Marine boot camp has two unique features constantly looming in the back of a recruit’s mind: the “pit” and the quarterdeck. The quarterdeck for recruits is the place at the front of the squad bay where they are taken and given “incentive training,” or I.T. — a nice term for pushups, jumping jacks, running-in-place, etc — for a few minutes if they do something wrong.

But for those times when it’s not just an individual problem — and more of a full platoon one — drill instructors take them to sand pits usually located near the barracks for platoon IT. Think of them as the giant sandboxes you played in as a kid, except this one isn’t fun. For extra fun, DI’s may play a game of “around the world,” where the platoon is run from one pit to another.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The Chinese military’s exploitation of the coronavirus pandemic

In Davos in 2017, Xi Jinping painted a vision of a China-led globalist world. The Chinese Communist Party’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic gives us a taste of Chinese global leadership: it includes a breathtaking degree to which other nations, desperate for transparency and reciprocity in the form of detailed information and medical supplies, have been left in a lurch, and therefore vulnerable to Chinese coercion. This is not an opportunity for cooperation with China. This is not a moment for a reprieve in America’s competition against the communist regime; it is a harrowing foreshadowing of what is at stake if we lose.

Competition with China spans the spheres of economics and diplomacy, but undergirding the entire effort is American hard power. It is our military, both our military capabilities as well as our willingness to employ them, that keeps Chinese territorial expansion at bay. And even during a global pandemic of Beijing’s making, Beijing’s military has been very busy. It is why the United States must follow through with the Pentagon’s plans to recapitalize our strategic deterrent and other military plans meant to deter Chinese aggression.


The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the United States and its partners to pause wargaming exercises that are meant to reassure allies and bolster readiness to protect the health of its military members. In contrast, China has not slowed down provocative, offensive military maneuvers. Beijing just days ago conducted naval drills near Taiwan’s shores, has continued to buzz Taiwan’s airspace, it sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel in international waters, and according to State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, the Chinese government has continued to make developments on military bases China built on reefs and islands on which it erroneously claims sovereignty.

Defense officials have repeatedly warned that the first island chain is vulnerable to Chinese aggression. Nested in that first island chain are Taiwan and Japan, valuable allies, and who will be critical allies in the U.S. effort to weaken China’s leverage and expose its malign behavior. They are among others in the larger Indo-Pacific region to include India and Australia that will anchor our cooperative efforts to defend national sovereignty against CCP authoritarianism.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said the Pentagon is committed to mission readiness during the pandemic. He also told Congress in February that the “highest priority remains China, as its government continues to use — and misuse — its diplomatic, economic and military strength to attempt to alter the landscape of power and reshape the world in its favor, often at the expense of others.”

While deterring China and assuring allies entails much more than our strategic deterrent, the cornerstone for deterring military aggression of the worst kind is our nuclear arsenal. The nuclear modernization strategy laid out in the Trump Nuclear Posture Review must continue to move forward on time, and the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be a pretext for delays.

The cost of the entire nuclear enterprise is roughly 5 percent of all national security spending devoted to the recapitalization, sustainment, and operations. The Obama administration began the modernization effort, and the Trump administration has determined to carry it through while adapting it based on the actions of China as well as Russia.

Defense officials have warned that in addition to Russia, China presents formidable nuclear challenges, and the trends are not headed in the right direction. Although China refuses to be transparent about its nuclear program, the United States knows China has significant capabilities that leverage cutting edge technology and assesses China is likely to at least double the size of its nuclear arsenal by the end of the decade. Additionally, China’s nuclear weapons are central to China’s military plans and intentions.

Despite the significant continuity between administrations about nuclear modernization, there will be efforts to cancel or delay some components of the force, and dealing with pandemics will be used as a pretext. For years, ideologically motivated groups have focused on the intercontinental ballistic missiles, or “land-based leg” of the triad, specifically, as an opportunity to find financial savings. Some have argued against eliminating the leg altogether while some argue it makes more sense to continue to extend the life of the current fleet, the old Minuteman IIIs with Cold War era technologies, rather than pursue its replacement called the Ground-based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). But military leaders have repeatedly warned that the decades’ old Minuteman IIIs would have trouble penetrating future air defenses, and the cost to pursue GBSD will not be more expensive than another life extension program that would leave the United States underprepared. Now is not the time to delay the next generation of our nuclear weapons.

Conventional weapons are also necessary to deter Chinese aggression. Remember, the aim is to deter the aggression in the first place, rather than respond once China decides to act on its malign intention to attack U.S. bases or territory of a sovereign nation. The United States can do this if it convinces Beijing it has the will and capability to retaliate defensively in response to an offensive act of aggression such that Beijing will regret the decision.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

So, in addition to the nuclear program, there are meaningful changes underway. For example, the U.S. Marine Corps is focused on deploying a force in the Indo Pacific theater in cooperation with our allies, which is inside the range of China’s massive missile force. This force would be so formidable and with so many targets distributed throughout the region that it allows the U.S. military a high degree of resiliency. The USMC also wants offensive long-range missiles, drones, and rocket artillery, and lots of them. Notable, now that President Trump withdrew from the dated INF Treaty due to Russian cheating, the USMC can have the range of missiles it needs. The United States will also need a mix of defensive systems with the ability to intercept the first rounds of missile attacks to preserve the U.S. ability to respond and with more options at its disposal. This offense-defense mix that includes passive and active defenses will complicate Beijing’s calculations and will dissuade an initial move and preserve peace.

The current COVID-19 pandemic will impact all areas of the U.S. government and reshuffle initiatives and divide attention. But it’s vital to appreciate the severity of China’s actions, that China is the cause of this historic crisis, and that its military is exploiting it to gain an advantage over the United States in the near and long term. The United States must work to ensure they fail.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 reasons ‘The Guardian’ should be in your top ten military films of all time

Apocalypse Now. Full Metal Jacket. Platoon. Top Gun. Black Hawk Down. A Few Good Men. Saving Private Ryan. Kelly’s Heroes. Crimson Tide.

If you ask your circle of friends and family what some of their favorite military films are, you could get literally a hundred different answers. You’d probably have to ask a few more friends and listen to another hundred more before you get someone to organically name 2006’s The Guardian as a movie they’ve even heard of.

Just to get a few FAQ out of the way early on: yes, Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher did a film together. Yes, it is based on the military. Yes, it is about the US Coast Guard. Yes, the USCG is an arm of the US Armed Forces.


As you can imagine, there aren’t very many people who would dare call this a good film, but I ask that you pump the brakes a bit and read why The Guardian should be on your list of favorite military films.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

The original DHS

(Image from MilitaryHumor.com)

A movie about the Coast Guard?

As stated above, yes, the Coast Guard is a branch of the military… kind of.

They aren’t, technically, a part of the Department of Defense so there is that odd “one of these things is not like the others” vibe going on, but they are our brothers and sisters, regardless. At one point they were Department of Transportation during peacetime and switched over to Department of Defense, falling under the umbrella of the Navy, during wartime.

They currently fall under the Department of Homeland Security, another departmental move that makes many of us lower-level peons scratch our heads.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Yes, the USCG got some badasses, too!

(Image from Outsideonline.com)

It features some unheralded badasses

Rescue swimmer seems like the most fitting name for this group of hardened heroes, but they have a much more official title: Aviation Survival Technician. Regardless of all of that, the AST of the US Coast Guard is a certified badass.

It is one of the US military’s most elite careers with about an 80% washout rate. For comparison sake, that’s about the same attrition rate as the Green Beret and Navy SEAL, and higher than the Army Ranger!

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

A bit of split in opinion between the critics and the audience

(Image from Rotten Tomatoes.com)

It’s better than you think

Sure it made less than m in profit (horrible for a major theatrical release). Yes, it is lambasted on movie critiquing platform, Rotten Tomatoes. However, have you seen it?

Give The Guardian a good, genuine, non-biased once over, and you’ll likely find yourself among the 80% of the audience who think this film is rated “fresh.” The film doesn’t tell any groundbreaking story. It is a completely fictionalized account but there are enough moments to draw you in, and that ending is truly special, if not a bit predictable.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Uh, yea

(Image from 20th Century Fox’s Dude, Where’s My Car?)

It’s one of the few watchable Ashton Kutcher films

Look, Ashton Kutcher is a great man. He is involved in some of the most selfless causes in modern society. He has been instrumental in raising awareness, if nothing else, to the mainstream.

He also has a pretty decent track record when it comes to television. He was key in That 70’s Show, created and hosted Punk’d, replaced Charlie freakin’ Sheen on Two and a Half Men, and is currently putting out the Netflix Show, The Ranch. His television reputation is intact. Filmwise..not so much.

A bit of a holdover of a foregone era in a way, Kutcher doesn’t seem to have the same magic when selected for movie projects as he does with TV. Of the 20+ movies Kutcher has starred in The Guardian is one of about four films that is actually enjoyable without intoxicants.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Yea… he did this doozy too

(Image from Universal Pictures’ Waterworld)

It’s got Costner being Costner

Similar to his co-star, Kevin Costner has a bit of a checkered history when it comes to choosing movie roles. On the one hand you have films like Dances with Wolves and Hatfields McCoys, two productions that yielded major awards and nominations for Costner.

Then you have Waterworld.

Just take this victory and go.

Articles

Midshipmen playing the Army-Navy game with the fleet painted on their helmets

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
(Photo: Navy Sports/Under Armour)


Navy Sports and Under Armour just revealed the innovative (and professionally developmental) football uniforms that the Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy will wear for the Army-Navy game on Dec. 12.

According to a press release:

The uniform is inspired by and pays homage to seven of the historic ships that make up the U.S. Naval Fleet. Each ship is detailed on one of seven hand-painted helmets that each player will wear, assigned by position. Additionally, the rally cry “damn the torpedoes!” is featured on the uniform as a nod to Admiral Farragut’s historic Naval victory at the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864.

Design Details:

• Uniform font replicates the design and font used on Navy ships.

• Battleship gray color featured on the cleats, baselayer sleeves and jersey shoulders.

• Eagle, Globe and Anchor Marine Corps logo highlighted on the uniform pant.

• Baselayer features the overhead sketch of the seven Naval ships featured on the helmets.

• “Damn the Torpedoes!” scripted on the uniform pant and jersey hem as a reminder of the historic battle cry that rallies the U.S. Naval Fleet.

Helmet Details and Position Assignment:

• Linebacker: Cruiser – Provides anti-air defense and packs the biggest punch of Naval surface ships representative of the linebackers on the Navy football team.

• Defensive Back: Destroyer – Known for significant fire power, speed, and anti-missile defense as are Navy’s defensive backs.

• Wide Receiver: Submarine – Predominantly utilized as blockers, wide receivers play a key role in driving the Navy rush attack, taking on a stealth-like persona as they blend into the rhythm of the offense but bring significant fire power when called upon, just like a Naval submarine.

• Lineman: Amphibious Assault Ships – Just as a lineman’s job is the create a hole for a running back or linebacker, these ships are utilized to establish the “beach head” that enables the invading force to gain access and ultimately accomplish their objective.

• Quarterback: Aircraft Carrier – The QB of the Naval Fleet, the aircraft carrier is the ultimate decision maker; the “quick strike” weapon of the Naval fleet.

• Running Back: Littoral Combat Ship – Like running backs, these fast and nimble ships can navigate through both crowded shallow and deep waters.

• Kicker/Special Teams: Minesweeper – Much like the specific task of the Navy special teams, this small ship has a unique mission of identifying and eliminating mines.

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov
(Photo: Navy Sports/Under Armour)

What will the Black Knights of Army West Point come up with?

See the entire helmet photo gallery here.