Every year, Jordan’s King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center hosts the Warrior Competition. Operators from a number of nations battle to be named the top warriors in the world. This year, the competition began on April 19 between 43 teams representing 19 countries. The competition continues until April 25.
Competition events change from year to year. For 2015, the KASOTC is planning 10 events, with competitors only learning what an event is when they receive orders 24 hours prior to the event start. In previous years, teams have navigated obstacle courses with 180-pound dummies, forced entry onto buses and into buildings, and conducted hostage rescue among other trials.
Top units from around the world compete. The U.S. has historically refused to send special operations personnel to the competition, citing operational requirements and operational security. This year though, the 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion is sending a team. Until now, America has primarily been represented by police units and teams made up of standard Army and Marine infantry.
China, which sends its top police units, has done very well in recent years. Its Snow Leopard Commando Unit won in 2013 and 2014, but will be absent this year. Instead, China will be represented by two other elite police units. Other countries sending teams include Russia, Canada, and Greece, as well as many Middle Eastern countries.
While training at the facility can cost $250,000, the competition is free for participants. Sponsors in the defense industry pay in and the KASOTC covers the rest of the bill. Both the sponsors and the center pitch products and services to the teams between events. Sponsors generally provide free trials of weapons and gear, allowing participants to try out explosive charges, automatic weapons, armor, and medical equipment.
KASOTC hopes competitors will return home and convince their commands to return to the center for training. Videos advertising the center’s capabilities are impressive. In addition to standard ranges, training areas, and amenities, KASOTC features a mock city, a large ship, and even a plane that units can train on, all of which could appear in the competition.
KASOTC is sharing updates from the competition on their Facebook page.
On 1 May 2011, the President of the United States announced the death of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. On 20 May 2015, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced the release of a partial list of documents, software, books and other material recovered from the residence where Osama Bin Laden (UBL) was killed. There was the expected collection of Jihadist letters and propaganda which one would typically find in the hands of guys like UBL. However, there were some unexpected things on that list. I typically advise against judging people solely off their book collections – I know I have some really off the beaten titles in my collection – but UBL had some real oddities in his library. Below are the five oddest things in his collection with some brief comments.
1) ‘Bloodlines of the Illuminati’ by Fritz Springmeier: This is definitely my favorite book of UBL’s collection. The author dropped out of West Point in his second year (Senator Bob Dole gave him his appointment), went to a Bible College in Ohio, and has been peddling conspiracy theories ever since. This book, in its third edition due to its popularity in Japan of all places, accuses the Illuminati of pretty much everything. The Catholic Church, the Jews, Salvation Army, Robert E Lee and Walt Disney are all part of the Illuminati conspiracy – best part is the chapter on how Prince Charles is a vampire! I have this mental image of UBL in his underwear smoking some really powerful mutant kush from Waziristan while eating this book up.
2) ‘Grapplers Guide to Sports Nutrition‘ by Dr. John Berardi: It is a damn shame that UBL never realized his dream of becoming a world champion Cage Fighter. I would have paid a year’s wage to see Rhonda Rousey and UBL in the Octagon. It would have been poetic.
3) ‘Delta Force Xtreme 2 Game Guide’ by Novalogic: It is clear from the 2/5 score on metacritic that UBL’s taste in video games sucked. Plus, come on dude, only sixty year old losers and twelve year boys buy the strategy guides for games. It would be major cool points if had been playing Sony’s SOCOM: US NAVY SEALS video game series. You couldn’t buy that kind of irony.
4) “Website Claims Steve Jackson Games Foretold 9/11”: Okay, this one is actually kind of scary. Steve Jackson games, one of the more popular table top game companies, game out with…wait for it…the Illuminati Card Game! One of the playing cards in the 1995 edition bears a really eerie resemblance to a certain event which happened six years later. Coincidence?
5) U.S. State Department Form, Application for Passport: We could have made it really easy guys…just saying.
Bonus: ‘Lots of Porn’ (Not in the ODNI list, but come on, you know it was there):Anybody that ever interacted with the Iraqi or Afghan security forces or checked out stuff found on terrorists and insurgents we captured knows that Middle-Eastern men are world class porn-hounds. I am not even joking; every single guy I talked to over there would eventually feel compelled to shove a cell phone in my face with some utterly raw video where you just feel really bad for the people involved. The not so weird thing was the more religiously devout the guy was, the more deviant the material. I imagine that UBL’s collection wasn’t good clean wholesome American stuff. Instead, it was probably the nasty Eastern European industrial porn – the kind where you have the sit in the shower with your clothes on for four hours, sobbing bitterly under the water while listening to Natalie Merchant albums till you feel better.
The Army fired an interceptor missile designed to protect forward-deployed forces on the ground by destroying incoming enemy fire from artillery, rockets, mortars, cruise missiles and even drones and aircraft, service officials explained.
The successful live-fire test, which took place at White Sands Missile Range N.M., demonstrated the ability of a new Army Multi-Mission Launcher to fire a weapon called the Miniature Hit-to-Kill missile. It is called “hit-to-kill” because it is what’s called a kinetic energy weapon with no explosive. Rather, the interceptor uses speed and the impact of a collision to destroy approaching targets, Army officials explained.
The idea is to give Soldiers deployed on a Forward Operating Base the opportunity to defend themselves from attacking enemy fire. The MML is configured to fire many different kinds of weapons; they launcher recently conducted live-fire exercises with an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile and an AGM-114 Hellfire missile. This MML is engineered to fire these missiles which, typically, are fired from the air. The AIM-9X is primarily and air-to-air weapon and the Hellfire is known for its air-to-ground attack ability.
The Multi-Mission Launcher, or MML, is a truck-mounted weapon used as part of a Soldier protection system called Integrated Fire Protection Capability – Inc. 2. The system, which uses a Sentinel radar and fire control technology to identify and destroy approaching enemy fire and protect forward-deployed forces. The technology uses a command and control system called Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS.
The MML launcher can rotate 360 degrees and elevate from 0-90 degrees in order to identify and knock out approaching fire from any direction or angle.
“The MML consists of fifteen tubes, each of which can hold either a single large interceptor or multiple smaller interceptors. Developed using an open systems architecture, the launcher will interface to the IBCS Engagement Operations Center to support and coordinate target engagements,” an Army statement said.
With ISIS rocket fire killing a U.S. Marine at a firebase in Iraq recently, this emerging ground-based troop protection is the kind of system which could quickly make an operational difference for forces in combat situations.
Recent test-firings involved an adaptation of the Hellfire missile, a 100-pound tank-killing weapon typically fired from aircraft such as Gray Eagle, Predator and Reaper drones and Apache attack helicopters, among others.
The Hellfire was also fired as part of a development force protection technology called “Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2-Intercept (IFPC Inc. 2-I).”
The Hellfire fire exercise demonstrated the ability to fire a second interceptor type because the Multi-Mission launcher has also fired a ground-launched Stinger anti-aircraft missile and a AIM-9X missile, an air-to-air attack weapon adapted for ground-fire troop protection.
“We are fully integrated with AIM-9X and Longbow (Hellfire). This is a monumental effort by our PEO family,” Col. Terrence Howard, Project Manager, Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office, PEO Missiles and Space told Scout Warrior.
The Multi-Mission launcher works in tandem with radar and fire-control software to identify, track, pinpoint and destroy approaching enemy air threats with an interceptor missile.
IFPC Inc 2-I is a joint collaborative effort between the Army’s Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space’s Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office and the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, an Army statement said.
“This is a capability that, when fully matured and fielded, will match and counter a very wide variety of sophisticated airborne threats. MML will greatly help protect our ground troops from harm’s way under the most stressing battlespace operating conditions,” James Lackey, Director of AMRDEC, told Scout Warrior in a statement.”MML (Multi-Mission Launcher) gives me confidence we can do more of these types of efforts when it comes to future prototyping.”
The live-fire demonstration involved Army subject matter experts, industry participants and international partners interested in the systems’ development.
“This is a marked achievement that proves the open systems architecture of the IFPC capability works as designed. We have demonstrated the ability to offer a multiple interceptor solution to defeat multiple threats. True multi-mission capability” Lt. Col. Michael Fitzgerald, IFPC Product Manager, said.
Weapons development experts have been using telemetry and data collection systems to assess the results of the live fire with a mind to quickly preparing the system for combat use. The weapon should be ready for combat within three to five years.
The current NATO force structure in Eastern Europe would be unable to withstand a Russian invasion into neighboring Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, a new think tank study has concluded.
After conducting an exhaustive series of wargames wherein “red” (Russian) and “blue” (NATO) forces engaged in a wide range of war scenarios over the Baltic states, a Rand Corporation study called “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank” determined that a successful NATO defense of the region would require a much larger air-ground force than what is currently deployed.
In particular, the study calls for a NATO strategy similar to the Cold War era’s “AirLand Battle” doctrine from the 1980s. During this time, the U.S. Army stationed at least several hundred thousand troops in Europe as a strategy to deter a potential Russian invasion. Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that there are currenty 30,000 U.S. Army soldiers in Europe.
The Rand study maintains that, without a deterrent the size of at least seven brigades, fires and air support protecting Eastern Europe, that Russia cold overrun the Baltic states as quickly as in 60 hours.
“As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options,” the study writes.
“AirLand” Battle was a strategic warfighting concept followed by U.S. and allied forces during the Cold War which, among other things, relied upon precise coordination between a large maneuvering mechanized ground force and attack aircraft overhead. As part of the approach, air attacks would seek to weaken enemy assets supporting front line enemy troops by bombing supply elements in the rear. As part of the air-ground integration, large conventional ground forces could then more easily advance through defended enemy front line areas.
A rapid assault on the Baltic region would leave NATO with few attractive options, including a massive risky counterattack, threatening a nuclear weapons option or simply allowing the Russian to annex the countries.
One of the limited options cited in the study could include taking huge amounts of time to mobilize and deploy a massive counterattack force which would likely result in a drawn-out, deadly battle. Another possibility would be to threaten a nuclear option, a scenario which seems unlikely if not completely unrealistic in light of the U.S. strategy to decrease nuclear arsenals and discourage the prospect of using nuclear weapons, the study finds.
A third and final option, the report mentions, would simply be to concede the Baltic states and immerse the alliance into a much more intense Cold War posture. Such an option would naturally not be welcomed by many of the residents of these states and would, without question, leave the NATO alliance weakened if not partially fractured.
The study spells out exactly what its wargames determined would be necessary as a credible, effective deterrent.
“Gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades—adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities—could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states,” the study writes.
During the various scenarios explored for the wargame, its participants concluded that NATO resistance would be overrun quickly in the absence of a larger mechanized defensive force posture.
“The absence of short-range air defenses in the U.S. units, and the minimal defenses in the other NATO units, meant that many of these attacks encountered resistance only from NATO combat air patrols, which were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The result was heavy losses to several Blue (NATO) battalions and the disruption of the counterattack,” the study states.
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia could be likely Russian targets because all three countries are in close proximity to Russia and spent many years as part of the former Soviet Union
“Also like Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia are home to sizable ethnic Russian populations that have been at best unevenly integrated into the two countries’ post-independence political and social mainstreams and that give Russia a self-justification for meddling in Estonian and Latvian affairs,” the study explains.
While the Pentagon’s European Reassurance Initiative calls for additional funds, forces and force rotations through Europe in coming years, it is unclear whether their ultimate troop increases will come anywhere near what Rand recommends. Pentagon officials would not, at the moment, speculate as to whether thoughts and considerations were being given to raising forces levels beyond what is called for in the initiative.
At the same time, the Pentagon’s $3.4 Billion ERI request does call for an increased force presence in Europe as well as “fires,” “pre-positioned stocks” and “headquarters” support for NATO forces.
Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that more solidarity exercises with NATO allies in Europe are also on the horizon, and that more manpower could also be on the way.
“We are currently planning the future rotations of units through Europe. The heel-to-toe concept will increase how often they’re here for the Armored BCT mission, but it won’t increase how many are here at once — that will remain just one at a time. We currently have some aviation assets on a rotation here but plans aren’t yet firm on what that looks like going forward. We’ve requested additional funding for National Guard and Reserve manpower which may come in the form of full or partial units or even individuals,” Cathy Brown Vandermaarel, spokeswoman for U.S. Army Europe told Scout Warrior in a statement.
Increased solidarity exercises would be designed to further deter Russia by showing allies cooperation along with an ability to quickly deploy and move mechanized forces across the European continent, Vandermaarel added.
The Rand study maintains that, while expensive, adding brigades would be a worthy effort for NATO.
Buying three brand-new ABCTs and adding them to the U.S. Army would not be inexpensive—the up-front costs for all the equipment for the brigades and associated artillery, air defense, and other enabling units runs on the order of $13 billion. However, much of that gear—especially the expensive Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles—already exists,” the study says.
The Russian Military
Russia’s military maneuvers and annexation of the Crimean peninsula have many Pentagon analysts likely wondering about and assessing the relative condition of the former Cold War military giant’s forces, platforms and weaponry.
Russia has clearly postured itself in response to NATO as though it can counter-balance or deter the alliance, however expert examination of Russia’s current military reveals it is not likely to pose a real challenge to NATO in a prolonged, all-out military engagement.
Russia’s economic pressures have not slowed the countries’ commitment to rapid military modernization and the increase of defense budgets, despite the fact that the country’s military is a fraction of what it was during the height of the Cold War in the 1980s.
While the former Cold War giant’s territories and outer most borders are sizably less than they were in the 1980s, Russia’s conventional land, air and sea forces are trying to expand quickly, transition into the higher-tech information age and steadily pursue next generation platforms.
Russia’s conventional and nuclear arsenal is a small piece of what it was during the Cold War, however the country is pursuing a new class of air-independent submarines, a T-50 stealth fighter jet, next-generation missiles and high-tech gear for individual ground soldiers.
During the Cold War, the Russian defense budget amounted to nearly half of the country’s overall expenditures, analysts have said.
Now, the countries’ military spending draws upon a smaller percentage of its national expenditure. However, despite these huge percentage differences compared to the 1980s, the Russian defense budget is climbing again. From 2006 to 2009, the Russian defense budget jumped from $25 billion up to $50 billion according to Business Insider – and the 2013 defense budget is listed elsewhere at $90 billion.
Overall, the Russian conventional military during the Cold War – in terms of sheer size – was likely five times what it is today.
Overall, the Russian military had roughly 766,000 active front line personnel in 2013 and as many as 2.4 million reserve forces, according to globalfirepower.com. During the Cold War, the Russian Army had as many as three to four million members.
By the same 2013 assessment, the Russian military is listed as having more than 3,000 aircraft and 973 helicopters. On the ground, Globalfirepower.com says Russia has 15-thousand tanks, 27,000 armored fighting vehicles and nearly 6,000 self-propelled guns for artillery. While the Russian military may not have a conventional force the sheer size of its Cold War force, they have made efforts to both modernized and maintain portions of their mechanized weaponry and platforms. The Russian T-72 tank, for example, has been upgraded numerous times since its initial construction in the 1970s.
Analysts have also said that the Russian military made huge amounts of conventional and nuclear weapons in the 80s, ranging from rockets and cruise missiles to very effective air defenses.
In fact, the Russian built S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft air defenses, if maintained and modernized, are said to be particularly effective, experts have said.
In the air, the Russian have maintained their 1980s built Su-27 fighter jets, which have been postured throughout the region by the Russian military.
Often compared to the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 Eagle fighter, the Su-27 is a maneuverable twin engine fighter built in the 1980s and primarily configured for air superiority missions.
While many experts maintain that NATO’s size, fire-power, air supremacy and technology would ultimately prevail in a substantial engagement with Russia, that does not necessarily negate the Rand study’s findings that NATO would be put in a terrible predicament should Russia invade the Baltic states.
Creative endeavors can be quite helpful for wounded warriors, and Marine veteran Shane Kohfield is a prime example.
Kohfield, a former Marine infantry machine-gunner, deployed twice to Iraq and now suffers from post-traumatic stress and a traumatic brain injury. But his wounds didn’t hold him back. One day, he thought: “I am going to become a painter.”
And paint, he did. Though he has only painted for about 8 months, Kohfield has already sold a few of his works, for anywhere from $500 to $2500. “I started doing this for something to do and then I felt the raw emotion,” he told KGW-Portland.
Kohfield uses an interesting method to create his abstract paintings, first spray painting across his canvas and then using a spatula to blend the colors. His technique developed out of necessity, since his trembling hand prevented him from using a normal paint brush, according to KGW-Portland.
WATM asked Kohfield some questions about his artwork and how it has helped him cope with his injuries. Here is what he said (lightly edited for clarity):
We Are The Mighty: How did you get into art? What inspired you to start painting?
Shane Kohfield: I had just gone through a horrible divorce and at the same time I had my second TBI (back in the states, while on duty). I got into woodworking because my dad had sent me some tools for Christmas one year. My start with painting honestly came from a completely impulsive move on my part because I was driving home from school one day and this thought literally went through my head, as I say again, literally as follows “I am going to become a painter.”
I went to the arts and crafts store and bought all the supplies that I thought I needed and I went home and painted my first painting and less than a week later I sold it for nearly $2,000. Less than three weeks after starting painting, my paintings were being sold in an art gallery. I have only been painting for 8 months but what I have done since then is much cooler than that.
I am actually actively helping people with my art as well as actively helping veterans. Painting has changed my life and even though I could sell my paintings easily for thousands, I never sell a painting at a price people can’t honestly afford. Even if it means I only sell it to them at the cost of painting it.
WATM: How has art helped you cope with your injuries?
SK: Art gives me a way to express myself in ways I haven’t been able to before. I have written poetry once or twice and people have told me my poems have brought them to tears. I certainly never expected to hear that about my paintings but I have now it’s truly an amazing feeling.
I know my story is an impossible one but I have gotten enough news coverage for you to believe it’s true, and I believe all people — especially veterans — have their own version of painting. They all have this hidden talent they never knew existed but they refuse to take the chance to try something new, to expect to suck at something but give it 100 percent like you are going to be God’s gift to whatever you are about to attempt.
There are people who always have that attitude at things in life but they refuse to see what they can’t do because they fool themselves. If you can be honest and see what you can’t do, it allows you to move onto something you can do. I tried many different types of art before I found one that I was truly good at.
WATM: Would you recommend art therapy to other wounded warriors?
SK: I would not recommend art to veterans. It’s a thing with therapists: They recommend this, and they recommend that, and all of us have gone to them and they really haven’t helped us much.
What I truly recommend is to ignore what others think, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, emotionally, mentally, physically or financially — including yourself — and do what makes you happy. Find something that makes you complete, and at the end of the day, something that leaves you thinking about what you just did and not what you did in the past or what you saw in the past.
It doesn’t matter if its theater or squatting 400lbs, if its something you can take pride in again, something that gives you purpose again, and it doesn’t hurt you or anyone else then isn’t it worth pursuing regardless of what other people would think?
You don’t need art to cope. You need pride in what you currently do. You need a purpose and you need a work ethic to make it happen.
But it wasn’t always this way. During the Cold War, Airborne forces relied on the M551 Sheridan, an Airborne-capable light tank first fielded in 1969.
The Sheridan was a replacement for the World War II-era Mk. VII Tetrarch tank and the M22 Locust Airborne tank. The Tetrarch was a British glider-capable light tank and the M22 was an American tank custom-built for glider insertion.
The M551, unlike its predecessors, was airdrop-capable, meaning it could be inserted using parachutes instead of gliders. The tank was also used with the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System, an airdrop system that allowed the U.S. to drop the tanks from a few feet to a few dozen feet off the ground.
The tank used an experimental 152mm gun that could fire missiles or tank rounds. Even its tank rounds were experimental, though — they used a combustible casing instead of the standard brass casings.
The Sheridan served well in Vietnam and Panama. During Operation Just Cause, it was even airdropped into combat, allowing paratroopers to bring their own fire support to the battlefield.
The tank’s main gun could inflict serious damage at distances of up to 2,000 feet, allowing it to punch out enemy bunkers from outside the range of many enemy guns.
Unfortunately, the light armor of the Sheridan posed serious issues. Some Sheridans were pierced by enemy infantry’s heavy machine guns, meaning crews had to be careful even when there was no enemy armor or anti-armor on the field. Worse, the main gun started to develop a reputation as being unreliable.
Firing the main gun knocked out the electronics for the longer-range missile, meaning that a tank firing on bunkers or enemy armor at close range would usually lose their ability to punch targets at long range. And there was no way to avoid this issue as the Shillelagh missile couldn’t hit targets at less than 2,400 feet.
The only way for an M551 to punch at close range was to give up its capability at long ranges.
By 1980, most cavalry units were moving to the M60 Patton Main Battle Tank, which was actually introduced before the Sheridan. The Patton featured heavier armor, more power, and a more reliable gun. It had also just been upgraded with new “Reliability Improved Selected Equipment,” or “RISE.”
The airborne forces would keep the Sheridan through 1996, partially because they had no other options. A number of potential replacements were canceled and modern airborne forces just make do without true armored support.
On June 14, 1775, the United States Army was born when the Continental Congress assumed control of the New England army. Formed in 1775 by an act of the Continental Congress, the Army has grown from a ragtag group of state militias to one of the strongest combat forces in history.
Technically, the U.S. Army is older than the country it serves. Americans celebrate the birth of their nation on July 4, 1776, but the Army is actually the country’s “big brother.” Which makes sense, considering the Continental Army of 1775 — led by future President George Washington — needed to start beating the British in the colonies so Thomas Jefferson could finally get some time to write.
Before the Army was established, colonists were organized into rag-tag militias with no real structure or unified chain-of-command. But in the spring of 1775, most wanted to attack the British near Boston but knew they needed more structure to confront the professional soldiers on the other side. That’s where the official birth of the Army came in, on June 14, 1775, through a resolution from the Continental Congress.
The next day, George Washington was appointed as commander-in-chief of the new Army, and took command of his troops in Boston on July 3, 1775, according to the Army History Division.
After small battles between continental militias and British troops through early 1775, Patriot leaders sought a way to bring the different colonial militias under a combined command. And so, on June 14, 1775, the Continental Congress approved a request to take over the militia then occupying ground near Boston and to form other militias into a national force.
Since that time, U.S. soldiers have defended America and its interests through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, two world wars, Korea and Vietnam, and most recently through the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria.
Royal Danish Army Premierløjtnant Mads, a coalition member attached to the Building Partner Capacity team, Task Force Al Asad, practices combat movement up a flight of stairs alongside Iraqi security-force personnel during an urban combat and tactics course at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, May 9, 2015. | CJTF – Operation Inherent Resolve
Behind the successes in Ramadi and elsewhere lay the efforts of the US-led coalition to train and equip credible regional forces that can reclaim their country from the scourge of ISIS.
In addition to an impressive air campaign, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Hungary, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portrugal, Spain, and the UK have all contributed to the US-led effort to train and empower regional forces to defeat ISIS.
In the slides below, find out what the brave recruits go through when training with the US-led coalition to counter ISIS.
Here is a quick overview of Operation Inherent Resolve’s members and initiatives.
CJTF – Operation Inherent Resolve
Before the training started, the coalition had to move in with supplies. The coalition arms and equips Iraqi national forces and other regional groups like the Kurds.
Airmen from the 386th Expeditionary Operations Group and the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Squadron load two Mine Resistant Armored Personnel carriers (MRAPs) on a C-17 Globemaster III bound for Erbil, Iraq, December 30, 2014. | CJTF – Operation Inherent Resolve
A large part of the coalition’s efforts in training local forces is to build their confidence and capacity with thorough hands-on training.
Sgt. Jeremiah Walden, assigned to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, checks to ensure an Iraqi trainee is observing his assigned sector of fire during infantry-squad tactical training, January 7 at Camp Taji, Iraq. | Master Sgt. Mike Lavigne, 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs | U.S. Army
Virtually every phase of the training touches on marksmanship and weapons discipline. Here, a US soldier instructs an Iraqi army recruit.
CJTF – Operation Inherent Resolve
Iraqi recruits are put in high-pressure simulations of real combat. Trainers light fires to simulate the chaos of combat.
An Iraqi Army soldier with the 72nd Brigade, 15th Iraqi Army Division, simulates shooting at the enemy during a combined training exercise at Camp Taji, Iraq, Sunday, March 22, 2015. | Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs | U.S. Army
The training is not limited to infantry operations. Coalition forces also train the troops on proper tactics and deployment of tanks and armored vehicles.
An Iraqi Army tank clears an obstacle while an Iraqi Army Soldier the 72nd Brigade, 15th Iraqi Army Division, looks on at Camp Taji, Iraq, Sunday, March 22, 2015. | Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs | U.S. Army
As with any military training, there is a grueling physical-training component.
Iraqi soldiers from the Noncommissioned Officer Academy perform push-ups as part of their physical-training test at the Iraqi Military Complex, Iraq. | CJTR – Operation Inherent Resolve
But not all of the training focuses on fighting. Here Iraqi army medics are being trained to save lives on and off the battlefield.
Iraqi army medics treat a simulated casualty during an exercise with Australian army nurses and medics at the Taji Military Complex, Iraq. | CJTR – Operation Inherent Resolve
As IEDs are a preferred method of attack for ISIS and other insurgent groups, the Iraqis are trained in the removal of improvised bombs.
A US soldier leads a counter-IED demonstration for Iraqi troops. | CJTR – Operation Inherent Resolve
The fight against ISIS happens in a number of locations, so coalition forces train the troops for urban combat and clearing houses.
Royal Danish Army Premierløjtnant Mads, a coalition member attached to the Building Partner Capacity team, Task Force Al Asad, practices combat movement up a flight of stairs alongside Iraqi security-force personnel during an urban combat and tactics course at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, May 9, 2015. | CJTR – Operation Inherent Resolve
As chemical warfare is a reality in Iraq and Syria, the soldiers practice operations while wearing gas masks.
Iraqi soldiers assigned to the 71st Iraqi Army Brigade prepare to breach a door during protective-mask training at Camp Taji, Iraq, October 15, 2015. | Spc. William Marlow | U.S. Army
Should the fight get up close and personal, Iraqi troops are trained to use bayonets.
An Australian soldier, assigned as a Task Group Taji Trainer, demonstrates the en garde position during the instructional portion of bayonet training at Camp Taji, Iraq, January 3, 2016. | Sgt. Kalie Jones | U.S. Army
By February 13, 2015, 1,400 Iraqis had graduated from the intensive six-week basic-training course. Thousands more would follow in their footsteps during the coming months.
From left: US Army Lt. Col. Scott Allen, with 1st ABCT, 1st Inf. Division, presents a ceremonial knife to Staff Brig. Gen. Sa’ad during a graduation ceremony for Sa’ad’s brigade, February 13 at Camp Taji, Iraq. | Staff Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire, 1st. ABCT, 1st Inf. Div. | U.S. Army
Once forces like the Iraqi army reclaim a piece of territory, military police are needed to make sure the area stays safe. The Italian Carabinieri (military police) train Iraqi military police on marksmanship and search and policing procedures.
An Italian Carabinieri officer coaches an Iraqi policeman as he fires an M16 rifle during advanced marksmanship training at Camp Dublin, Iraq, January 23, 2016. | Staff Sgt. William Reinier| U.S. Army
In addition to the Iraqi national army and police forces, coalition troops are on the ground training the Kurdish Peshmerga, a group that has had particular success in booting ISIS out of the north of Syria and Iraq.
Peshmerga soldiers participate in a live-fire-assault drill under the supervision of Italian trainers near Erbil, Iraq, January 6, 2016. Coalition trainers in Northern Iraq have trained more than 6,000 Peshmerga soldiers in basic and advanced infantry skills. | Cpl. Jacob Hamby/Released | U.S. Army
Ultimately, the goal of Operation Inherent Resolve is to train credible ground forces in Iraq and Syria that can defeat ISIS and reclaim their countries on their own terms, with training, assistance, and air support from partner nations all over the world.
The United Kingdom’s current drone fleet is made up primarily of aircraft purchased from the U.S.
But the country is now working on its own unmanned aerial vehicle dubbed “The Protector” which will feature specialized sensors and will be armed with Britain’s Brimstone missile, a low-collateral-damage version of America’s Hellfire missile.
The Protector drone is based on the Predator-B and is being created by the Predator’s manufacturer, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.
Britain owns 10 Reaper drones but was never able to fly them in European airspace. That’s because current drones don’t support certain devices required to fly in American and European civil airspace such as a detect-and-avoid system and an airborne “due regard” radar.
General Atomics is working on the required radar upgrades as part of the contract with the U.K., but the technology will also support U.S. projects like the MQ-4C, a surveillance UAS for the U.S. Navy.
The Protector will also fly on longer wings that will increase its lift capacity as well as its maximum fuel and weapons payload. The design is a compromise which will lower the Protector’s maximum altitude — 45,000 feet versus 50,000 feet in the Predator B — and top speed — 200 knots versus 240 knots.
The other significant upgrade that the Protector will boast is the ability to carry Britain’s Brimstone missile.
It carries a 14-pound warhead that creates less collateral damage than the Hellfire’s 20-pound warhead, but that also limits its effectiveness against the main battle tanks the Hellfire was designed to kill.
Between random shootings and the ever growing threat of terrorism, people are getting scared. Fortunately, an unexpected trend is showing up to counter the endless stream of bad news. Over the last year, numerous acts of violence, robberies, general mayhem, and even a few acts of terrorism have been completely shut down by an unexpected source: The presence of a U.S. military veteran or active duty servicemember.
Here are 7 times heroic vets and servicemembers saved the day in a big way:
1. Chris Mintz
Chris Mintz is the current military man of the hour. Mintz is a 10-year veteran of the United States Army, but became national news when he protected classmates in a shooting rampage at the local community college he was attending. According to eyewitnesses, Mintz ran at the attacker and blocked a door to a classroom in the attempt to protect fellow classmates.
According to a student witness Chris “ran to the library and pulled all the alarms. He was telling people to run. … He actually ran back towards the building where the shooting was. And he ran back into the building.”
While attempting to stop the shooter, Mintz was shot an incredible seven times. He was rushed to surgery, but will require a great deal of recuperative care. To repay his heroism, a Gofundme was set up for $10,000 to go toward his medical expenses… because, you know, this wasn’t exactly something covered by the VA. That didn’t stop an army of supporters. That fund is currently just over $800,000 (and still active… right here… just sayin’.)
2. Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone
Image courtesy of mmc-news.com.
The three-man team which included two U.S. military members who stopped a European terrorist attack in the middle of their vacation deserve a head-nod. National Guard Spc. Alek Skarlatos, a recent Afghanistan veteran, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, along with a civilian friend Anthony Sadler, earned international praise for stopping nothing less than a full-on terrorist gunman.
“My friend Alek (Skarlatos) yells, ‘Get him,’ so my friend Spencer (Stone) immediately gets up to charge the guy, followed by Alek, then myself,” Anthony Sadler said in an interview with CNN.
Stone received injuries during the fight between the Moroccan-born gunman, armed with an AK-47 rifle, a pistol, several clips of ammunition and… a box cutter. The Americans wrestled him to the ground after he opened fire and pulled, of all things, the box cutter.
“He clearly had no firearms training whatsoever,” said Skarlatos.
In spite of his ineptitude, no one is faulting these military men for their assailant’s incompetence. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter praised the two for their heroism in a statement, “Airman Stone and Specialist Alex Skarlatos are two reasons why—on duty and off—ours is the finest fighting force the world has ever known.” The men received a phone call of appreciation from President Obama, which was one-upped by French President Francois Hollande, who presented them with the country’s highest award for gallantry, the Legion d’Honneur medal.
3. Kendrick Taylor
Image courtesy of wordondastreet.com.
In October 2014, 23-year-old John Zachary DesJardin was apparently expecting an easy payday. In the parking lot of a Winn Dixie, DesJardin attempted to rob a 76-year-old woman, according to police. I say attempted because of the beat down he suffered from Navy veteran Kendrick Taylor. Taylor was on his way to gym when he saw DesJardin assaulting the elderly woman. In spite of numerous bystanders doing nothing, Taylor charged across the lot to fight the man off.
“What if that was my grandmother? She was screaming for help. That’s when I ran over to help her,” Taylor said in an interview with WESH-TV in Orlando. “When I looked down I didn’t know if he had a knife or a gun. When I saw the lady was so old when he threw her down, she was so fragile…I knew she needed help.”
DesJardin took off, but Taylor ran after him, tackling him to the ground and holding him down until police arrived. Once Taylor handed off the hoodlum to police he went to the gym, since, you know, Superhero antics are the sort of thing that just happens to some people every day, but not unless you get your flex on. Later, he was able to meet with the elderly woman to see that she was shaken, but said she was blessed to have Taylor’s intervention. Taylor’s act got him so much recognition he even made the big show, with an appearance on Ellen.
4. Andrew Myers
Screenshot via Youtube: Mr. Wrong House – “Burglar meets Paratrooper”
It was just an unassuming night in November 2014 when Andrew Myers noticed a man trying to enter a basement in his neighborhood. Sensing mischievousness was afoot, Myers asked the man, “Hey, what’s up?”
“I live here,” said the hooded man.
“You definitely do not live here,” Myers replied. Then the robber asked who Myers was, to which he responded,
“I do live here, buddy.”
A better question the attempted burglar might have asked was, “Hey, you wouldn’t happen to be a former US Army Paratrooper would you?” That would have been smart, since Myers was prepared for this encounter.
It was actually the second time the burglar had made such an attempt, evidenced by a break-in Myers and his girlfriend experienced earlier in the week when no one was home. This unwanted entrance prompted the couple to install an outside security camera and other defensive measures to the house. When the robber returned, Myers made sure that the incident was filmed. And film it he did. Myers captured not only the attempted entry, but also the culprit’s beat down and even his arrest, all of which Myers then uploaded to Youtube to the backdrop of delightful reggae tunes.
In all honesty, the incompetent criminal got off easy. Myers and his girlfriend had joked about setting up “Home Alone” style traps all over the basement. Since most infantry types I know consider the claymore mine to be an essential element to any boobie trap setup, I’d say that just getting your face punched in by an Army paratrooper and humiliated on the internet a much more preferable alternative.
5. Eddy Peoples
Screenshot via ABC news.
Florida Army Staff Sgt. Eddy Peoples wasn’t expecting much when he and his two sons entered a local bank while on leave in June of 2011. He certainly wasn’t expecting 34-year-old Matthew Rogers to walk into the bank with a gun and a plan to rob the place.
During the robbery, video footage shows Peoples shielding his two boys. He tells the two to get under chairs before he moved in front of the children. He wanted to provide a covering shield through both himself and the furniture in case Rogers decided to open fire. Seeing the two boys, Rogers allegedly threatened everyone in the bank that, “If anyone tries anything, the kiddy gets it.”
I’m guessing that was the wrong thing to do to the child of an 11 year soldier and veteran of the Iraq War.
“To me, it was just I need to get this guy and he needs to go to jail. That’s all it was for me. You know, you don’t point weapons at children.”
Once Peoples saw Rodgers leave the bank, and knowing that his kids were safe, the staff sergeant followed the robber. Peoples got into his car and chased him down, disarmed the assailant before putting him to the ground.
When he returned the bank, his son asked him this, “Daddy, did you get that bad man?” to which Peoples replied “Yeah, I got that bad man.”
6. Devin McClean
Screenshot from Youtube via CBS News.
Not every story ends the way you’d like it to. In York County, Va. an Autozone was robbed for the second time in 30 days… by the same guy. Known as the “Fake Beard Bandit,” this one person was believed to be responsible for sticking up more than 30 different establishments in the city. The second time he made his way into the Autozone, he pulled his gun and demanded cash from the store’s employees.
One of those employees was Air Force veteran Devin McClean. When the bandit started to rob the store, McClean went to his vehicle, where he stored his own weapon. He went back into the store and sent the robber running. A grateful store manager thanked McClean for saving his life. In a perfect world, the story should end there… but it didn’t.
The day is saved. The bad guy chased away. The store is safe. How does Autozone say thank you to McClean? The next day, he was fired. According to McClean, upon his arrival the following morning, he was sent packing. Apparently he violated the chain’s, “Zero Gun Policy” when he brought the weapon into the establishment… you know… to save everyone… from the other guy with the gun… which he did.
Local Sheriff J.D. Diggs made the comment,
“I mean, two people with guns, no shots fired and a robbery averted is a good ending… I thought what a shame this guy has really gone above and beyond. I mean what else could you ask an employee to do for you?”
Sheriff Diggs was joined by hundreds of citizens in voicing their support for McClean, insisting that Autozone review their policy, or at the very least, make an exception for the Air Force vet. They didn’t. He’s still fired. I’m just going to be honest, my Spidey sense tells me there is more to this story, but in the meantime, to all my friends at Autozone Corporate Headquarters, this Oo-rah’s goin’ to O’Reilly’s.
7. Earl Jones
Earl Jones is not your average 92-year-old. He is a veteran of the Second World War and doesn’t like being woken up. He especially doesn’t like being woken by the sound of intruders entering his basement at 0200. Hearing the sound of footsteps, Jones grabbed his .22 caliber rifle and, by my understanding, set up an ambush on the door to the basement.
When 24-year-old Lloyd Maxwell and two other burglars allegedly kicked in the door from the basement into the house, one was greeted with a well-aimed shot to the chest by a guy who has been hard-core since most of our Dads were in diapers. Maxwell was later found dead by police with the other two assailants, who had grabbed his body and fled the scene.
“Was I scared? Was I mad? Hell, no,” Jones told CBS News.
When asked why he didn’t dial 911, Jones replied:
“What? I’m a military man now. I ain’t gonna dial somebody and have to wait for an hour or somethin’. The damn guys would a shoot me in the face and gone. If I hadn’t a shot him, he’d a been in here attacking more or whatever, you know. That’s seconds. That ain’t no damned hours.”
Old man, you’ve made me personally reevaluate every one of my manly achievements. I’m just going to say this… WWII veterans make all the rest of us look like pansies.
Besides being an awesome and terrifying old man, Earl Jones sums up what heroism is about. It’s seconds. It isn’t hours or even minutes. I personally support our police and am thankful for everything they do to keep us safe on a daily basis. At their best, though, it may take several minutes to respond to the scene of crime. A generation of veterans are showing that security can’t always be waited on, but sometimes revolves around individual initiative, courage, and capabilities of those who are willing to exercise extreme prejudice towards the kind of noncompliance to the public welfare that bad guys often exude.
When news of terrorist attacks, school shootings, and the old-fashioned muggings, burglary, and vandalism is the new norm, it becomes more and more apparent that people who are willing and able to act in the moment are what is needed to ensure a level of safety.
Heroism isn’t about people who go out looking for trouble, or those who plan out vigilante assaults. Heroes are those who, in the time of challenging, accept a certain degree of risk to protect others and serve the general public. Sometimes, when these acts are caused by other people, heroism comes in the form of those people at the wrong place and time, but willing to put forth just enough violence to make life livable for the rest of us.
There is a moral to this post. Men like these show how all veterans and active duty military personnel remain valuable to society even when not on duty, as well as long after they hang their discharge papers on the wall. The core values of military service, along with the skills many pick up along the way, are assets we take with us far beyond the battlefield, or at the times when our service is least expected.
Despite these truths, veterans still struggle to find a place for themselves in the nation they gave up so much for. They’ve been unconsciously branded as likely psyche cases and negatively stereotyped as a risk to perhaps, oddly enough, bringing violence into the workplace. These seven stories of the unexpected heroism by military men, along with dozens of others just like them, demonstrate how we still have incredible significance to our nation as more than just old warriors, but as valued citizens and lifelong servants, as well.
Jon Davis is a Marine veteran writer and blogger focusing on military, international defense, and veterans’ welfare and empowerment. If you would like to support his writing, please visit his patreon support page to find out more.
When things get squirrely, military vets have several advantages over career civilians. Vets, of course, have the benefit of combat and tactical training, but they’ve also learned to develop a formidable mental game.
Former Green Beret Mike Glover used this notion as inspiration and a jumping off point when he founded Fieldcraft Survival, his school for disaster preparedness.
With 18 years of deep operational experience, certifications out the wazoo (just check his founder’s bio), and a doomsday sense of humor that would make Mad Max proud, Glover is uniquely qualified to teach civilians to keep their heads and preserve their lives as the worst case scenario unfolds.
“At Fieldcraft, our whole basic motto is we’re teaching mindset over hard skills.”
Things, of course, got extra squirrely when Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis dropped in for a visit.
Glover hustled Curtis right into training, first in the classroom to reinforce the importance of developing a strong mental game and then in the field, where the two ran through the O.P.S. Course, which stands for Observe, Prepare, Survive.
And just as the word “challenge” was leaving Curtis’ mouth a distant cry of distress told our heroes it was time to oil up for action.
What happened next pretty much sums up the whole series.
Watch as Glover teaches this wannabe Martin Riggs the real meaning of the word “squirrely”, in the video embedded at the top.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Two Israeli F-35 “Adirs” fly in formation and display the U.S. and Israeli flags after receiving fuel from a Tennessee Air National Guard KC-135, Dec, 6, 2016. The U.S. and Israel have a military relationship built on trust developed through decades of cooperation.
Airmen, assigned to the 366th Fighter Wing, perform diagnostic checks on an F-15E Strike Eagle at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Dec. 3, 2016. Their particular F-15E was gearing up to deploy to the annual Checkered Flag exercise hosted by Tyndall AFB. Checkered Flag is a large-force exercise that gives a large number of legacy and fifth-generation aircraft the chance to practice combat training together in a simulated deployed environment.
U.S. Soldiers assigned to Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division fire a M777 A2 Howitzer in support of Iraqi security forces at Platoon Assembly Area 14, Iraq, Dec. 7, 2016. Charlie Battery conducted the fire mission in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, the global Coalition to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
Ukrainian Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 80th Airmobile Brigade fire a ZU-23-2 towed antiaircraft weapon before conducting an air assault mission in conjunction with a situational training exercise led by Soldiers from 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Nov. 28, 2016 at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center. This training is part of their 55-day rotation with the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine. JMTG-U is focused on helping to develop an enduring and sustainable training capacity within Ukraine.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Dec. 11, 2016) Petty Officer 3rd Class Alexis Rey, from Stratford, Conn., conducts pre-flight checks on an EA-18G Growler assigned to the Zappers of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 130 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower, currently deployed as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Dec. 10, 2016) Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy Parrish, from Apopka, Fla., signals to the pilot of an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Sidewinders of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 86 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Eisenhower, currently deployed as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
A Marine participates in a field training exercise during Exercise Iron Sword 16 in Rukla Training Area, Lithuania, Nov. 29, 2016. Iron Sword is an annual, multinational defense exercise involving 11 NATO allies training to increase combined infantry capabilities and forge relationships.
Combat cargo Marines grab a short nap in the well deck of USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) December 1, 2016 before the ship prepares to receive amphibious craft during Amphibious Ready Group, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise off the coast of Onslow Beach, North Carolina. The Marines worked nearly 20 hours the previous day on-loading and securing equipment and vehicles to Carter Hall. These Marines were assigned the combat cargo billet as a part of ship taxes and come from a myriad of military occupational specialties native to the Marine units aboard the ship.
An aircrew aboard a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., prepares to take the load of a 14,000 pound buoy that washed ashore just south of the entrance to Tillamook Bay, in Garibaldi, Ore., Dec. 12, 2016. The Army aircrew assisted the Coast Guard in recovering the beached buoy that normally marks the navigable channel into Tillamook Bay.
Coast Guard Cutter Munro crewmembers render honors to the national ensign during colors at an acceptance ceremony for the Munro on December 16, 2016 on the ship’s flight deck at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Across southern Ukraine, US special operations forces trained with Ukrainian special operators and conventional US and Ukrainian naval forces during Sea Breeze 2017, July 10-21.
An annual fixture in the Black Sea region since 1997, Sea Breeze is a US and Ukrainian co-hosted multinational maritime exercise.
This year, Ukraine invited US special operations forces to participate, and US Special Operations Command Europe’s Naval Special Warfare Command operators were eager to sign up for the mission.
This is the first time that special operations forces have operated at Sea Breeze, said US Navy Capt. Michael Villegas, the exercise’s director. “[Their] capabilities are extremely valued by the Ukrainians and extremely valuable to the US.”
Naval Special Warfare Command operators were completely integrated into the various air, land, and sea missions that required their unique warfighting skill set. Exercise Sea Breeze is a perfect fit for special operations forces to train and exercise their capabilities, the exercise’s lead special operations forces planner said. “With the support of the [Air Force’s] 352nd Special Operations Wing, we saw a prime opportunity to support [special operations] mission-essential training with our Ukrainian allies,” he said.
He added that naval special warfare units bring a host of unique capabilities into the exercise scenario, such as rigid-hull inflatable boats; visit, board, search, and seizure expertise; and the strongest direct action capabilities available. However, Villegas noted, capability is only one piece of the puzzle when training alongside a partner nation with shared objectives to assure, deter, and defend in an increasingly complex environment.
“In the spirit of Sea Breeze, we come not to impose what we know or how we operate,” he said. “Here, we come to exchange ideas, train towards interoperability and learn to operate side by side should a conflict arise that would require that.”
Achieving interoperability with partner nations and interservice partners is a common objective at exercises like Sea Breeze. But here, the US special operations forces capitalized on it. “Interoperability is our ability to conduct combined planning, problem solving, and mission execution efficiently to achieve a mutually-defined end state,” Villegas said.
Achieving this end state, he added, hinged on US-Ukrainian integration at the tactical level within the special operations platoons, and at the special operations maritime task group level.
“We have combined with our Ukrainian colleagues to integrate their experience and capabilities within our key positions,” he said. “Starting in the command team and further within our operations, communications, logistics, and intelligence departments, we were fully partnered.”
Down at the platoon level, operators fast-roped from hovering US Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft assigned to US Special Operations Command Europe, conducted personnel recovery training and boarded vessels at sea.
“Whether it was on the range, in the field, or on the water, these men were a pleasure to work with,” said a US special operations forces platoon commander. “The Ukrainians’ attitudes made this exercise a great opportunity to exchange training and create a strong relationship.”
As with any exercise of this size and scope, there were challenges to overcome to make the exercise a success while identifying tactical and technical gaps in partner capabilities. “The first major obstacle we had, but were prepared for, was the language barrier,” the platoon commander said. “Another was that our mission sets differed slightly from our counterparts’.” To remedy this, he said, he found ways to incorporate the skill sets of each unit in ways to accomplish the mission while building relationships to forge a stronger partnership. As the operators returned from a long day, mutual trust emerged through combined hard work, long hours, and mutual respect for each unit’s professionalism.
“You always want to work with a partner force who is motivated, wants to train, and wants to get better, and the Ukrainian [special operations forces] are all of these,” the platoon commander said.
On the pier here, overlooking the Black Sea, Villegas expressed the Navy’s gratitude to Ukraine for inviting US special operations forces to participate in this year’s exercise.
“[Special operations] participation at Sea Breeze is so important for Ukraine and the US Navy and all the other units participating,” he said. “Our hosts have been incredibly friendly, committed, and dedicated. Their hard work has ensured Sea Breeze 17 was a success, and we are truly very thankful for that.”