The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis' confirmation hearing - We Are The Mighty
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The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing Thursday on whether to confirm Gen. James Mattis as the next defense secretary, and plenty of interesting bits came out of the roughly three-hour session.


The retired four-star general gave frank and concise answers on everything from cybersecurity policy to what he expects will be the biggest threats to the United States.

Also read: 6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

Shortly afterward, he was approved for a waiver for the requirement of having a seven-year gap between being active-duty in the military and serving in the civilian role at the Pentagon.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, commander, U.S. Central Command visits with Marines stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait on Feb. 26, 2011. | DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeleyMattis thinks the US needs to be more aggressive going after ISIS

When asked whether the US can confront the terror group in its capital of Raqqa, Mattis said he believed the US could, but he added that the anti-ISIS strategy needed to be reviewed and “energized on a more aggressive timeline.”

He told members that “we have to deliver a very hard blow against ISIS in the Middle East so there is no sense of invulnerability or invincibility there.” For the US, according to Mattis, that means attacking ISIS’ main areas of strength so they cannot pop up elsewhere.

He mentioned Russia as the biggest threat

Despite President-elect Trump’s restraint on calling out Russian aggression and cyberwarfare, Mattis didn’t pull punches in his assessment of Moscow.

“Since Yalta, we have a long list of times that we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia,” Mattis said. “We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard.” He praised NATO and its effectiveness, and added that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “trying to break” that alliance.

In some areas Russia and the US can work together, but in many others, Mattis said, Putin remained a strategic competitor or an outright adversary.

“I have very modest expectations about areas of cooperation with Mr. Putin,” he said.

Mattis says he wouldn’t roll back the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or the change on women in combat roles

In the past, Mattis has not really been a fan of women being integrated into combat roles, such as infantry. He was asked about this repeatedly — at times having his speeches quoted to him — and asked whether he would reverse the 2013 policy change.

“I’ve never come into any job with an agenda, a pre-formed agenda of changing anything,” he said. “I assume the people before me deserve respect for the decisions they’ve made.”

That answer did not satisfy Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), however, and she continued to press him. In the end, Mattis told her: “I have no plan to oppose women in any aspect of our military. In 2003, I had hundreds of Marines who happened to be women serving in my 23,000 person division … I put them right on the front lines with everyone else.”

He was also asked about protections for LGBTQ service members, and he had a very blunt answer to that. “Frankly, senator, I’ve never cared about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with.”

He says the Iran deal isn’t perfect, but it should remain intact

Mattis called the Iran deal an “imperfect” one, but still supported the US keeping its end of the bargain. The answer was a break from the President-elect, who has promised to “rip up” the deal with Tehran.

“I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement — it’s not a friendship treaty,” Mattis said. “But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”

Later, he said, “It’s not a deal I would have signed.”

Mattis says cyberwar is a big problem that still has no clear doctrine in place

Mattis was asked interesting questions on cyberwarfare, which were especially pertinent in the wake of Russian hacks of Democratic party officials and their affect on the presidential election. Unfortunately, he said he did not believe the US has anything resembling a sophisticated cyber doctrine.

In other words, there is no strategy in place for the US to respond to cyber attacks, like there is for other physical examples, such as a nuclear strike or an attack on a NATO ally.

Mattis said there needs to be a comprehensive plan developed to address this shortfall, because “cyber cuts across everything we do today.”

He added: “Because of the cyber domain, it’s not something the military can do in isolation.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the reason Iran is limiting its ballistic missile range

Iran’s supreme leader has restricted the range of ballistic missiles manufactured in the country to 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), the head of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said Oct. 31, which limits their reach to only regional Mideast targets.


The comments by Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari to reporters mark the first acknowledgement that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has imposed limits on the country’s ballistic missile program.

It also appears to be an effort by Iranian authorities to contrast its program, which they often describe as for defensive purposes, against those of countries like North Korea, which now uses its arsenal to threaten the United States.

“It is a political decision,” said Michael Elleman, the senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Washington. “I think with the supreme leader saying it, it takes on a little more significance.”

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. Wikimedia Commons photo by Khamenei.ir.

The range of 2,000 kilometers encompasses much of the Middle East, including Israel and American military bases in the region. That’s caused concern for the US and its allies, even as Iran’s ballistic missile program was not included as part of the 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran struck with world powers.

Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Tehran, Jafari told journalists that the capability of Iran’s ballistic missiles is “enough for now.” The Guard runs Iran’s missile program, answering only to Khamenei.

Related: Iran just tested another ballistic missile. Here’s where it can strike

“Today, the range of our missiles, as the policies of the Iran’s supreme leader dictate, are limited to 2,000 kilometers, even though we are capable of increasing this range,” he said. “Americans, their forces, and their interests are situated within a 2,000-kilometer radius around us and we are able to respond to any possible desperate attack by them.”

However, Jafari said he didn’t believe there would be any war between Iran and the US.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei Gives the Order of conquest to Brigadier General Ali Fadavi and four other commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Khamenei.ir.

“They know that if they begin a war between Iran and the United States, they will definitely be the main losers and their victory will by no means be guaranteed,” he said. “Therefore, they won’t start a war.”

While keeping with the anti-American tone common in his speeches, Jafari’s comments seemed to be timed to calm tension over Iran’s missile program.

By limiting their range, Iran can contrast itself against threatening countries like North Korea, as Pyongyang has tested developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles that could potentially reach the US mainland and conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date. Pyongyang also flew two powerful new midrange missiles over Japan, between threats to fire the same weapons toward Guam, a US Pacific territory and military hub.

The Trump administration already sanctioned Iran for test-firing a ballistic missile in February, with then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn warning Tehran that Iran was “on notice.” President Donald Trump’s recent refusal to re-certify the nuclear accord has sent the matter to the US Congress. On Oct. 26, the US House of Representatives voted to put new sanctions on Iran for its pursuit of long-range ballistic missiles, without derailing the deal.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
Photo from US Coast Guard.

Iran long has insisted its ballistic missiles are for defensive purposes. It suffered a barrage of Scud missiles fired by Iraq after dictator Saddam Hussein launched an eight-year war with his neighbor in the 1980s that killed 1 million people. To build its own program, Tehran purchased North Korean missiles and technology, providing much-needed cash to heavily sanctioned Pyongyang.

Iran today likely has the capability to go beyond 2,000 kilometers with its Khorramshahr ballistic missile, though it chose to limit its range by putting a heavier warhead on it in testing, Elleman said.

Also Read: This is why Iran is smuggling boatloads of weapons into Yemen

“It will be interesting to see how Iran reconciles this Khorramshahr missile with the supreme leader’s dictate,” he said. “Iran may say, ‘Well, we’re fitting it with this big warhead so we’re not exceeding this limitation,’ but the modification is very simple.”

The Gulf Arab nations surrounding Iran, while hosting American military bases, also fly sophisticated US fighter jets that Iranian forces can’t match. The ballistic missiles provide leverage against them, as well as the US-made anti-missile batteries their neighbors have bought, according to Tytti Erasto, a researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

“Iran’s pattern of missile testing — which has sought to address the long-standing problem of poor accuracy — is consistent with the program’s stated purpose as a regional deterrent,” Erasto wrote Oct. 30. “It also reinforces the argument that Iran’s missiles are designed to be conventional, not nuclear.”

Still, Iran could use the missiles as “a tool of coercion and intimidation,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, the senior Iran analyst at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which takes a hard line on Tehran and is skeptical of the nuclear deal.

“A secure Islamic Republic that does not fear kinetic reprisal is more likely to engage in low-level proxy wars and foreign adventurism, much like we see today,” he said.

Meanwhile on Oct. 31, Iran broke ground at its Bushehr nuclear power plant for two more atomic reactors to generate electricity. State television quoted Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying the first new reactor would go online in seven years, while a third would be active in nine years.

Russia will provide assistance in building the new reactors as Moscow helped bring Bushehr online in 2011. It marks the first expansion of Iran’s nuclear power industry since the atomic accord.

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Debate rages over what the US military should look like in the next 10 years

Five of the top national security think tanks exchanged widely varying proposals on the force structure and funding the U.S. armed services would need to confront the global security environment 10 years from now.


The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
An F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant (CV) piloted by U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Robert “Champ” Guyette II, a test pilot from the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship transits the Chesapeake Bay on Oct. 17, 2016. USS Zumwalt, the Navy’s newest and most technologically advanced surface ship, joined the fleet Oct. 15. The F-35C Lightning II — a next generation single-seat, single-engine strike fighter that incorporates stealth technologies, defensive avionics, internal and external weapons, and a revolutionary sensor fusion capability — is designed as the U.S. Navy’s first-day-of-war, survivable strike fighter. The U.S. Navy anticipates declaring the F-35C combat-ready in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe/Released)

The proposals ranged from the minimalist, mind-your-own-business plan from the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, which would cut defense funding $1.1 trillion below the Obama administration’s long-term budget projects over 10 years, to the aggressive, act-like-a-global-power concept from the conservative American Enterprise Institute, which would add $1.3 trillion — with any force reductions or increases tracking to the funding levels.

The other think tanks — the Center for a New American Security, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies — fell in between those two extremes on both funding and force levels.

In the conference held in the Newseum’s Knight Studio Oct. 18, AEI’s Tom Donnelly said “we bought almost everything” the president has asked for, but still don’t have the military America needs.

“That tells you how much cutting has been done over the last generation,” he said.

Donnelly based his big increases in spending and force structure on a view that “the world is going to hell in a hand basket,” that from a global view of security “the trend lines are all negative,” and “the old post-Cold War world doesn’t exist any more. We need to build something new.”

Cato’s Benjamin Friedman, however, said his budget and force structure plans were based on “a strategy of restraint,” which “differs from the current prevailing view in Washington.”

“Given our geography, wealth and strategic prowess, we would be secure in the US regardless of how much we buy. This is about how much insurance we need,” Friedman said.

The three others, Paul Scharre of CNAS, Mark Gunzinger of CSBA, and Todd Harrison of CSIS, all agreed that the growing threats required additional spending, but generally favored selective modernization rather than the major force structure growth that Donnelly proposed.

The Navy would fare reasonably well in nearly all the projections, even getting smaller reductions within Cato’s heavy cuts. The submarine force was generally favored by all, with two proposing a new class of guided missile subs to replace the four converted ballistic missile SSGN boats. Cato and CSIS would cut four of the 11 aircraft carriers but CSBA and CNAS called for more carriers.

The Navy would get the biggest boost from CNAS, which called for an increase from the current battle force fleet of 272 to 345. The Navy’s goal is to reach 308 ships by 2020.

CSBA noted that the carriers’ ability to project power is threatened by the proliferation of long-range precision defense weapons and suggested off-setting that by fielding an unmanned carrier-based strike aircraft. The Navy currently plans to follow up its experimental X-47B carrier-capable UAV with the pilotless MQ-25, primarily used as an air refueling aircraft with some ISR capabilities.

The Marine Corps got widely varying support from the five organizations, with Cato proposing to cut it by one-third, CNAS eliminating four infantry battalions and CSIS cutting 6,000 Marines and one air group. Analysts at CSBA proposed an increase to 187,000 Marines from the current plan for 182,000. The Corps probably would gain under AEI’s funding boost.

The Army generally would be increased in size or strengthened by all of the think tanks, except of course Cato, with Donnelly advocating a major boost in armored brigades, which would be used to bolster NATO against Russia.

The Air Force also generally would be strengthened although not substantially increased by the other think tanks, while Cato called for cutting it by one-third. CSIS, CSBA and CNAS all proposed giving the Air Force a low-cost, light-attack aircraft in addition to the F-35A.

Other than Cato, which wants to cancel the entire program, the F-35 was favored along with other stealthy aircraft, including the Air Force’s existing F-22 Raptors and its still-on-paper B-21 long-range strategic strike bomber, now under development. Donnelly urged the Navy to buy the F-35B jump jet version the Marines are getting so it could put them on its aircraft carriers but off-load them in the forward theater to bolster ground forces.

While Cato would chop the nuclear deterrent triad to just the Navy’s ballistic missile submarines, the others all appeared to favor current plans to modernize the Air Force’s nuclear capable bombers and Minuteman III missiles, as well as buying the replacement subs for the Ohio-class SSBNs.

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Police officer calls BS on the ‘crazy veteran’ stereotype

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement photo.


In 2006 I was attending a Field Training Officer Class. Field Training Officers, or FTOs, train new police officers after they leave the academy on how to do field police work. As I perused the class syllabus I saw a topic which surprised me. A one hour block on dealing with military veterans who are training to be police officers.

In law enforcement its generally accepted that veterans make good cops. They are recruited heavily and are often given preference during hiring. They adapt well to the job and are well respected.

Related: How to make yourself hard to kill, according to a special operator

So I was surprised to see it as an instructional topic. When we got to that point in the class the instructor, not a veteran, began discussing the difficulties FTOs would have with teaching vets. This included:

-How vets would handle dealing with people of Middle Eastern Decent

-How vets would react to loud noises like explosions

-What to do if a vet has a “flashback”

Adding fuel to the fire was a student in the class who regaled the rest of us with stories of dead bodies he had seen in Iraq and how it haunts him to this day. I later met a guy who served with him and he said the necromancer never left the wire. Must of have been scores of bodies seen during marathon Call Of Duty sessions.

Needless to say I was appalled. I voiced my concerns, called bullshit to the “out of control veteran” theory. I added that vets are used to things like gunfire, stress, death, etc. and they should probably be more concerned with the 22 year olds who still live at home with little or no life experience that we often have to train. I see young cops all the time who have never even been in a fist fight! That’s generally not the case with veterans.

The crazy veteran theme pops up time and time again and is used as by criminals, the media and others to explain or rationalize bad behavior. I sat in court one time during the trial for a man accused of robbing a drug store of OxyContin. His lawyer argued that his exposure to dead bodies (the corpse argument again!) during a tour in Bosnia 10 years prior caused PTSD, leading to his addiction and subsequent crimes.

In 2005 a “Marine” got into a shootout with the Ceres Police Department in California. He killed one officer and wounded another. He was also a Norteno gang member but the media chose not to focus on that. Later reports showed he never saw any significant combat. The news painted him to be John J Rambo, the mentally unstable veteran, rather than the gangster criminal piece of shit that he really was.

Now it has been brought up again in the Ft Lauderdale shootings. A mentally ill person with possible ISIS leanings is being touted as yet another example of a crazy veteran gone bad, driven insane by his war experiences. The reality is his military experience has nothing to do with it. It just makes good press. There has been no evidence reported that he was involved in any actual combat. Just stories from family members that he came back from the war changed and that he saw, “bodies”(again with the bodies…).

He was kicked out of the Alaska National Guard which, I’m sure, will undoubtedly be blamed on his wartime experiences…

Preliminary reports show that he had reported to the FBI that an “intelligence agency” had forced him to watch ISIS videos. He is also a convicted wife batterer and had previously brought a loaded gun to an FBI Office. NEWSFLASH: He is mentally ill, not suffering from some war induced PTSD.

I’m not trying to downplay the effects of PTSD. It is a very real ailment that effects many. But, as we have seen time and time again, vets who are afflicted with it turn their suffering inward. This manifests itself in drug and alcohol abuse and, in the worst cases, suicide.

As a cop I routinely see crooks blaming outside influences for their behavior. From, “I didn’t get enough love as a child” to, “I got too much love as a child”. They blame their race, my race, their gender, my gender, their religion, my religion, and so on.

And, on occasion, when they are veterans (or claim to be veterans), they sometimes claim wartime experiences as the cause for their abhorrent behavior. Or their friends, family or the media provide that excuse for them.

Service to one’s country is one of the finest things a person can do. It shouldn’t be tainted by the criminal behavior of those who use their service as an excuse to harm others.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Remembering Elvis Presley’s service on his 85th birthday

As young America faces a draft panic, let us consider the example of Elvis Presley. At the height of his run as the King of Rock and Roll, the world’s biggest pop star received his induction notice from Uncle Sam and did a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, beginning in 1958.

Not only did he leave millions of dollars on the table during his two-year stint, he turned down sweet offers from both the Army and the Navy that would’ve allowed him to serve as an entertainer instead of a grunt.


If Elvis hadn’t embraced a fried-food-and-pharmaceuticals diet in the ’70s, he might have lived long enough to celebrate his 85th birthday on Jan. 8, 2020. Instead, he died on the toilet on Aug. 16, 1977, at the age of 42. It’s true, Elvis fans: The King has now been gone longer than he was with us here on Earth.

King Creole – Trailer

www.youtube.com

Elvis asked for (and got) an extension so he could make “King Creole” before induction. Since this is arguably Presley’s best movie, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Memphis Draft Board for allowing him to finish it before reporting to boot camp at Fort Hood, Texas.

Presley was assigned to the 3rd Armored Division at Freidberg, Germany. Over the next 16 months, he was allowed to live off base with his recently widowed father but otherwise enjoyed a standard-issue service. He was promoted to sergeant in January 1960.

While in Germany, Elvis picked up three habits that would define the rest of his life and career: pills, Priscilla and karate. Pvt. Presley first took amphetamines while on maneuvers and was a fervent evangelist on the subject for the rest of his life. Fourteen-year-old milkid Priscilla Beaulieu turned out to be the love of his life. He later moved her family to Memphis and eventually married the girl he called “Satnin” when she turned 21. While the King never mastered the martial art, he continued to study it, and his future live shows were peppered with random karate kicks onstage.

Presley was discharged in March 1960 and returned to show biz with the movie “G.I. Blues.” Fans were excited to see Elvis in uniform on-screen but, unfortunately, the movie set the tone for the turkeys that were to dominate the rest of his movie career.

G.I. Blues – Trailer

www.youtube.com

Elvis did occasionally manage to get his mojo back after military service. Check out the ’68 Comeback TV special or the records he made in Memphis in 1969 with producer Chips Moman.

Most of today’s biggest pop stars already have too much ink to be eligible to serve, but the ghost of Elvis will be eager to see which teen idols step up to serve if things escalate this week in the Middle East.

Happy birthday to the King.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things NOT to do when you arrive at your first infantry unit

There comes a time in every Marine’s life when they must join the varsity team known as The Fleet. The first few weeks are an exciting time of formations, picking up cigarette buds, and hazing training. The fleet is a Machiavellian jungle of NJPs, promotions, and broken promises that will make you want to deploy at a moment’s notice.

A healthy dose of pessimism is key to survival in your first unit because you’re not in a movie; this is a war machine, and you’re an essential cog. You’re where the metal meets the meat. Keep that motivation, though, you’re going to need it.

Here’s what you should not do when you arrive at your first infantry unit.


The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

Guess who has duty on New Years?

(Terminal Lance)

Boot camp stories are a no-go

The easiest way to annoy everyone around you is to make jokes using a drill instructor’s voice. Do not assume that it will inspire some sense of brotherhood because all Marines go to boot camp. Wrong. Everyone has their own stories, and they will let you know how much easier you had it. The more experienced Marines have been in some serious combat, and, by comparison, you’re just a baby.

No one likes a B.O.O.T. (barely out of training) Marine, and you’re just going to have to accept that. It’s part of the culture; it’s part of maturing into a warfighter, it’s what you signed up for. When you’re alone with your peers, it’s fine to talk about what you went through, but knowing your audience will save you an untold amount of stress in an already stressful work environment.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

Don’t say I didn’t warn you, brother.

(Terminal Lance)

Don’t dress like a boot

Marines are proud — it’s on the recruitment poster — that doesn’t mean you should exclusively buy Eagle, Globe, and Anchor t-shirts. Diversify your wardrobe because it’s one of the few things that will allow you to hold onto what some psychologists describe as a “personality.”

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

You did what!?

(Terminal Lance)

Fix the problem yourself, don’t tattle 

Everyone around you can potentiality be in combat with you, and it’s a lot easier to risk life and limb for someone you like. If the man to your left or your right is doing something wrong, fix them, but do not ever snitch. You will be ostracized, given the worst assignments, and when they’re done with your disloyal carcass, you’ll be pushing papers at headquarters. HQ will also know that you’re a stool pigeon and will continue to treat you accordingly. The stigma has been known to last for years, Marine. One of the Infantry’s cardinal rules is to re-calibrate a misguided Marine’s moral compass through intense physical training but do not ruin their career.

It’s called taking care of your own.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

It’s free real estate

Do not get in trouble before your first deployment

Keep your nose just as clean as your inspection uniforms. Every three years, an enlisted Marine will receive a Good Conduct Medal to add to their stack. While it is not necessarily easy to obtain due to barracks parties or dares gone wrong, it is not so taxing that it’s insurmountable. Getting in trouble will hold you back from promotions in a highly competitive MOS. If you don’t want to call that window-licking-moron that came with you from the school of infantry corporal, do not get drunk and embarrass yourself.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

And he did all of his MCIs!

(Terminal Lance)

Do not put off doing your MCIs

The Marine Corps Institute is a self-learning platform that adds points to the Marine promotion system known as a cutting score. It offers courses that teach about combat procedures and tactical knowledge of weapon systems. Some are easier than others, and there’s no reason for a fresh Marine to not do them. It will set you apart from your peers in the eyes of the leadership, and it makes the platoon look better on paper.

Every quarter, battalion HQ evaluates the progress each line company is making towards promoting their Marines. A Marine working on his or her MCIs will be spared working parties by their seniors because it is in their best interest as well. Although junior Marines will not witness Staff NCOs and officers brag or trash talk about each other’s platoons, this is another point they can bring up in Command and Staff meetings stating that their platoon should have the honor of leading the assault in training and in combat.

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WATM teams with Grunt Style to bring morale-boosting apparel to the people

We Are The Mighty has teamed up with Grunt Style to launch a new online merch store. Grunt Style is a veteran-owned and operated clothing brand founded by Army veteran and drill sergeant Dan Alarik.


Started as a small custom t-shirt operation at Fort Benning, Grunt Style has evolved into a multi-million dollar business that employs nearly 70 veterans and embraces military themes and values in its company culture.

Here’s what happened when Grunt Style visited the WATM offices:

[shopify embed_type=”product” shop=”shop-wearethemighty.myshopify.com” product_handle=”watm-we-are-the-mighty” show=”all”]
MIGHTY TRENDING

B-1 Bombers train to launch long-range anti-ship missile over Black Sea

It wasn’t a typical flight.

Two B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, marked their first-ever flight with Ukrainian Su-27 Flankers and MiG-29 Fulcrums last week over the Black Sea. At the same time, the long-range bombers also trained in launching the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, known as LRASM, U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa officials said Monday.


“The rise of near-peer competitors and increased tensions between NATO and our adversaries has brought anti-ship capability back to the forefront of the anti-surface warfare mission for bomber crews,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Albrecht of USAFE’s 603rd Air Operations Center.

“LRASM plays a critical role in ensuring U.S. naval access to operate in both open-ocean and littoral environments due to its enhanced ability to discriminate between targets from long range,” Albrecht, also the Bomber Task Force mission planner, said in a release. “With the increase of maritime threats and their improvement of anti-access/area denial environmental weapons, this stealthy anti-ship cruise missile provides reduced risk to strike assets by penetrating and defeating sophisticated enemy air-defense systems.”

Officials recently told Military.com that practicing deploying LRASM is part of a broader Air Force Global Strike vision: As part of its mission “reset” for the B-1 fleet, the service is not only making its supersonic, heavy bombers more visible with multiple flights around the world, it’s also getting back into the habit of having them practice stand-off precision strikes — especially in the Pacific — signaling a dramatic pivot following years of flying close-air support missions in the Middle East.

During a simulated strike, crews “will pick a notional target, and then they will do some mission planning and flying through an area that they are able to hold that target at risk, at range,” Maj. Gen. Jim Dawkins Jr., commander of the Eighth Air Force and the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, said in an interview earlier this month.

The flight over the Black Sea with Ukrainian counterparts incorporated Turkish KC-135s, in addition to aircraft from Poland, Romania, Greece and North Macedonia for a “long-range, long-duration strategic #BomberTaskForce mission throughout Europe and the Black Sea region,” USAFE tweeted.

The latest integration exercises over Eastern Europe have not gone unnoticed.

On Monday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense noted an uptick in NATO and U.S. activity in the region, to include the B-1 transiting through the Sea of Okhotsk on May 22, and near the Kamchatka Peninsula last month.

Col.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, chief of the main operational directorate for the Russian General Staff, said U.S. bomber flights alongside NATO partners have “increased sharply” over the last several weeks.

“Strategic bombers flew in April #B1B along Kamchatka, and in May, five such flights were recorded,” the MoD said on Twitter. Rudskoy also noted the first-ever B-1 flight over Ukraine, which prompted a Russian Air Force Su-27 and Su-30SM to scramble and intercept the bombers.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

Still considered a “strategic” bomber, the Lancer was originally designed as a nuclear bomber with a mission to fly at low altitude, sneaking into enemy territory in order to avoid Soviet early warning radars. However, in compliance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the once-nuclear bomber has been disarmed of nukes.

Dawkins said countries should expect more Bomber Task Force missions.

The shorter flights — with two to three bombers — are not the same as a deployment, and are also part of the Pentagon’s larger “dynamic force employment” strategy for military units to test how nimbly they can move from place to place, he said.

“There is just so much of a bigger signal sent with a bomber than with a couple of [F-16 Fighting Falcons],” Dawkins said. “It just is what it is.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia explode on the battlefield and around the world

For decades, Azerbaijan and Armenia have feuded over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, the region is mostly governed by the Republic of Artsakh, a de facto independent state with an ethnic Armenian majority population. Despite the formal cessation of hostilities in 1994 after a two-year war over the region, clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces continue to erupt along the border.


Following a week-long series of military exercises in the disputed region at the end of May, skirmishes broke out on July 12 which left four Azerbaijani soldiers dead and several wounded on both sides. The South Caucasus neighbors blamed each other for the outbreak of violence. While Azerbaijani and Armenian government representatives threatened deadly consequences should the conflict escalate, the international community weighed in.

Turkey, a historic enemy of Armenia, expressed strong support for Azerbaijan in the conflict. Moscow, an ally to both Azerbaijan and Armenia, expressed concern over the fighting and warned that further escalation could undermine the security of the region. The United States condemned the violence and urged for the de-escalation of hostilities via direct communication links.

Hopes of a return to the ceasefire were dashed as both sides continued to exchange rocket and artillery fire along the border on July 13. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense posted a video showing Azerbaijani artillery destroying an Armenian military base. Later in the day, both sides reported damage to civilian houses.

Hostilities escalated further on July 14 as both sides employed UAVs for aerial strikes. Armenian-made UAVs were used in combat for the first time. “[They] showed brilliant results,” said former Spokesperson for the Armenian Ministry of Defense Artsrun Hovhannisyan. “It seems high-ranking officers became victims of their strike.” Later in the day, Azerbaijan confirmed the deaths of Major General Popad Hashimov and Colonel Ilgar Mirzoev as well as five other servicemen.


Shushan

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Translation: Nightly punitive actions.

On July 15, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense shared four videos of Armenian bases and vehicles being destroyed by Azerbaijani artillery fire. In response, Hovhannisyan shared a video of shelled Armenian houses and blamed Azerbaijan for attacking civilian villages. As of the writing of this article, exchanges of fire along the border between the two countries continues.

To date, Armenia has confirmed five of their soldiers killed, one as recently as July 23, and a further 36 wounded. Azerbaijan has confirmed 11 of their soldiers killed, including the aforementioned Major General and Colonel.

The outbreak of violence between the two countries has prompted protests by ethnic Azeris and Armenians around the world. On July 17, a protest outside the Armenian embassy in London turned violent. Carrying their national flags and chanting slogans, Azeris and Armenians exchanged insults before the demonstrations devolved into physical altercations, forcing the intervention of law enforcement.

On July 19, about 500 Armenians from around France congregated in Paris to protest in front of the Azerbaijani embassy. To prevent a repeat of the violence in London, the organizers did not publicize the event in advance and communicated via telephone. Without approval for the demonstration, the protesters were dispersed by police before long.

Protests have been taking place around the world and the United States is no exception. In Los Angeles, which has the highest population of Armenians outside of Armenia, a protest on July 21 near the Azerbaijan Consulate General in Brentwood turned violent. Fistfights broke out leaving demonstrators on both sides and one LAPD officer injured.

July 23 saw an escalation of violence in Europe. In Germany, an official government vehicle was set on fire outside of the Armenian Embassy in Berlin. In Ukraine, an Armenian owned coffee shop was burned down. A video of the fire surfaced online along with a narration that translates to, “This is an Armenian coffee shop in Kiev. This is a gift to Armenians from the Azerbaijanis. Accept it.” In Russia, violence has come in the form of street attacks. At least two Armenian men have been beaten by Azeris. The Russian Special Purpose Police Unit known as OMON has taken an undisclosed number of Azeris into custody for the attacks.

As the fighting in the Caucasus region spills over across the globe, the United States response remains hopeful of de-escalation and a return to a ceasefire. However, with violence surging, more experienced military veterans may need to dust off their old maps and MDMP slides from the GAAT scenario.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

An overview GAAT map (US Army Combined Arms Center)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the Marine Corps’ first female F-35B fighter pilot

Twenty-four years after the Marine Corps got its first female aviator, another woman pilot is making history.

Capt. Anneliese Satz is the Marine Corps’ first-ever female F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter jet pilot. The 29-year-old from Boise, Idaho, has spent the past four years training as a naval aviator.

Now, she’s cleared to operate the cutting-edge fifth-generation stealth, supersonic fighter aircraft in combat. She’s the first woman to complete the F-35B Basic Course, designed specifically for the Marine Corps variant of the fighter jet. The F-35B can take off and land vertically from amphibious assault ship flight decks and austere locations with little runway space.


Satz is joining the “Green Knights” with the Japan-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121. VMFA-121 was the first F-35B squadron to complete an operational deployment with a Marine expeditionary unit aboard a Navy ship.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

Capt. Anneliese Satz conducts pre-flight checks prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)

Satz recalled the first time she took off in the Joint Strike Fighter in a Marine Corps news release announcing her career milestone.

“The first flight in an F-35 is by yourself,” she said. “… It’s an exhilarating experience.”

Satz was licensed to fly the single-engine Robinson R44 light helicopter before joining the Marine Corps. Since switching to fixed wing, she’s flown the T-6 Texan II tandem-seat, turboprop trainer and the T-45C Goshawk carrier capable jet trainer, which prepares naval aviators for tactical missions.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

Capt. Anneliese Satz puts on her flight helmet prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)

She then joined Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, where she trained to fly the military’s newest fighter jet. Showing up and working hard are what allowed her to succeed, she said in the release.

Satz also credited the instructors, maintainers and other members of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 for helping her complete the F-35B Basic Course.

“This is a phenomenal program made possible by all of their hard work,” she said in a Marine Corps news release. “I am thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from all of them. I am incredibly excited to get to VMFA-121 and look forward to the opportunity to serve in the Fleet Marine Forces.”

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

Capt. Anneliese Satz conducts pre-flight checks prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)

Earlier this week, another female Marine aviator made history when she became the first woman selected to fly the Corps’ other Joint Strike Fighter variant — the F-35C.

First Lt. Catherine Stark will join the Navy’s fleet replacement squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron 125, where she’ll fly the F-35 variant designed for carrier operations.

Female Marines have been able to fly only since 1993 when the service opened pilot positions to women. Then-2nd Lt. Sarah Deal, a CH-53E heavy-lift helicopter pilot, became the Marine Corps’ first female aviator in 1995. And Capt. Vernice Armour, an AH-1W Cobra pilot, became the service’s first black female pilot in 2001.

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

Articles

China’s second aircraft carrier may be custom made to counter the US in the South China Sea

China has made excellent progress developing its second aircraft carrier, and Chinese state-run media says it could start patrolling the South China Sea by 2019.


The South China Morning Post, based on a scan of Chinese state media reports, states that the carrier was “taking shape.”

“It will be used to tackle the complicated situations in the South China Sea,” said Chinese media.

The “complicated situation” the media report referred to stems from Beijing’s claims to about 85% of the South China Sea, which sees $5 trillion in trade annually. China has developed a network of artificially built, militarized islands in the region, and at times has unilaterally declared “no fly” or “no sail” zones.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
China’s second aircraft carrier is making steady progress. | Chinese state media

In 2016, the International Court of Arbitration ruled these claims illegal, and the Trump administration has promised to put a stop to China’s aggressive, unlawful behavior.

But that’s easier said than done, and a designated aircraft carrier in the region could help cement China’s claims.

China’s second carrier, likely to be named the “Shangdong” after a Chinese port city, will resemble the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, which itself is a refurbished Soviet model.

China’s carriers, like Russia’s sole carrier the Admiral Kuznetzov, feature a ski-slope design. US models, on the other hand, use catapults, or devices that forcefully launch the planes off the ship. Ski-slope style carriers can’t launch the heavy bomb-and-fuel-laden planes that US carriers can, so their efficacy and range are severely limited.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. | PLA

But Taylor Mavin, a UC San Diego graduate student in international affairs, notes for Smoke and Stir that these smaller, Soviet-designed carriers were built with the idea of coastal defense, not seaborne power projection, being the main goal:

“Since a major confrontation between NATO and Warsaw Pact would most likely take place in Europe, during the later Cold War Soviet planners focused on protecting the heavily defended ‘bastions’ shielding their ballistic missile submarines and not seaborne power projection.

China’s navy has undergone rapid modernization in the last few years with particular emphasis on fielding submarines. So while a Chinese carrier couldn’t travel to say, Libya, and project power like a US carrier could, it might just be custom made for the South China Sea.

But don’t expect the world’s most populous nation to stop at two carriers. A recent report from Defense News states that satellite imagery from China shows the nation developing catapults to possibly field on a US-style carrier.

Taken in concert with China’s other efforts to create anti-access/area-denial technology like extremely long-range missiles, the US will have to have its work cut out for it in trying to offer any meaningful counter to China’s expansionism in the Pacific.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 life lessons today’s troops could learn from Vietnam vets

It’s easy to look at different eras of veterans and write them off as coming a different time, a different place, a different war. The truth is, the old Vietnam vet you met at the Legion while trying to get cheap drinks isn’t all that different from our men and women fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Toss a drink or two his way and share some stories. Life sucks in the sandbox, but things in the jungle weren’t any better.


Whether you’re out to avoid the same pitfalls of their generation, find out that your struggles aren’t unique, or even joke about the military across eras — pick their brain. We could all learn a thing or two from them. Here’s what you might learn:

5. Things could always get worse.

Back in Afghanistan, I thought the worst conditions imaginable were summer heat, sandstorm season, and the wash out from the week of rain. Boy, just doing a Google search of weather conditions in Vietnam put my heart at ease.

Comparing one person’s hell to another isn’t always appropriate or beneficial, but I’ll admit full-heartedly that damn-near everything from the country to living conditions to the enemy to contacting folks back home was much, much worse for our older brothers.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
Hell, even being a commo guy sucked back then. (Image via Stars and Stripes)

4. Cleanliness regardless.

If there’s one clear trait shared among nearly all Vietnam vets, it’s cleanliness. This isn’t just a “different military back then” kind of a thing. Nearly everything from the clothes they wear to the house they live in and the weapons they take to the range: Spotless.

In war, constantly changing socks and uniforms kept them healthy, living areas needed to be spotless to keep vermin out, and their trusty rifle needed to be cleaned constantly to stay trustworthy.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
If you can’t clean your damn weapon, you probably don’t deserve one. (Image via Wikicommons)

3. Winning hearts and minds is tricky.

In both wars, troops are out in the middle of some foreign country, fighting an enemy they can’t easily identify. Our wars weren’t as simple as looking at an enemy dressed in a clearly distinguishable uniform fighting under a clearly identifiable flag. Winning hearts and minds isn’t so easy when you’re focusing on who’s the good guy and who’s not.

The famous counter-insurgency tactic of winning over the hearts and minds of the locals wasn’t the brainchild of modern Generals trying to get a warm and fuzzy about the war. In fact, President John. F. Kennedy started it and President Lyndon B. Johnson repeated exact phrase on record 28 times during the Vietnam War.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
You know what the definition of insanity is? (Image via NATO Canada)

2. The fight against burn pits will be a rough one.

Getting recognition for health concerns over the dispersal of deadly chemicals in the air because of the negligent decisions of corner-cutting big wigs is the heart of the fight against burn pits. There’s a reason saying there is nothing wrong with burning literal trenches filled with garbage and human sh*t just feet away from the tents troops live in for twelve months is called the “Agent Orange of our generation.”

With the actual Agent Orange, it wasn’t until 1984, eleven years after the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War, that a class action lawsuit against the government for using the substance first came out. To this day, Vietnam vets are still fighting for recognition of health concerns related to Agent Orange exposure.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
If we want burn pits to be taken seriously, we need to handle the napalm and Agent Orange situation first. (Image via Wikicommons)

1. Not everyone will thank you for your service.

Not to call anyone out or pass judgement, not having year-round veteran discounts isn’t the most disrespectful thing ever done to a returning veteran, so maybe don’t raise hell at some minimum-wage retail worker about it.

Our older brothers came home to a country that shifted cultures drastically after they were, in some cases, drafted into the fight. Until you’ve had a former childhood friend abandon you for serving, paying full price for a damn coffee shouldn’t even be on your radar.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
Not to be THAT guy, but a flower isn’t going to stop the bullet from coming out of the barrel. Just saying. (Image via Washington Star)

Articles

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
Marvin Rector visiting the Battle of Britain museum shortly before his death. (Photo: Susan Jowers)


Ninety-four-year-old Melvin Rector had one last item on his bucket list: He wanted to return to England where he’d served as a B-17 crewman. So earlier this month he hopped on an airliner and flew across the Atlantic to a place where he’d come of age 71 years earlier.

As reported by Florida Today, Rector was scheduled to visit his former base RAF Snetterton Heath in Norfolk but started the tour at the Battle of Britain Bunker in the Uxbridge area of London that first day.

“He walked out of that bunker like his tour was done,” said Susan Jowers, 60, who first met Rector when she served as his guardian during a 2011 Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C.

As he walked out, Rector told Jowers that he felt dizzy, according to Florida Today. Jowers took hold of one of Rector’s arms while a stranger grasped the other.

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing
Rector at his radio operator console aboard at B-17 during a bombing raid. (Photo: Rector family archives)

Rector died quietly there just outside the bunker. When the locals found out about it, they made sure his memory was honored appropriately.

“They just wanted something simple, and when I found out a little background about Melvin, there is just no way that we were just going to give him a simple service,” funeral director Neil Sherry told British ITV Network. “We wanted it to be as special as possible.”

Though no one knew him, the Royal Air Force, U.S. Air Force and historians in London attended and participated in the funeral with military honors.

“He certainly got a beautiful send-off,” Jowers said. “People everywhere, from Cambridge to London heard his story.”

U.S. Army Maj. Leif Purcell told ITV he thought he and a few other U.S. military personnel would be the only ones to attend the funeral, but was surprised.

“The representation from the Royal Air Force and the British Army that I saw here was phenomenal,” he said.

A funeral service for Rector, a father of six, is set for 11 a.m. June 9 at First Baptist Church of Barefoot Bay, Florida. Jowers told Florida Today that his remains were being repatriated on May 31.

Jowers, who said Rector became like a father to her after their first meeting in 2011, summed up his passing with this thought: “He completed his final mission.”

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