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 Russian sub fleet is growing and growing more active, and the US and its NATO partners are more concerned about what those boats and rest of the Russian navy are up to around Europe.
For the US Navy, that means more focus on the Atlantic, especially the North Atlantic, closer to the home base of Russia’s Northern Fleet on the Barents Sea.
At the end of September 2019, the Navy reestablished Submarine Group 2 in Norfolk, Virginia, five years after the unit was deactivated. The reactivation comes just over a year after the Navy reestablished its Second Fleet, which oversees the western half of the Atlantic up into the high north.
Sonar Technician (Submarines) 3rd Class Christopher T. Woods stands lookout on the Navy sub Colorado in the Atlantic Ocean prior to its commissioning, January 11, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)
The reestablishment of Submarine Group 2 is likewise “aimed at enhancing the Navy’s capacity to command and control its undersea warfare forces seamlessly across the entire Atlantic area, from the eastern seaboard of the United States to the Barents Sea, and even into the Southern Atlantic, if the need arises,” the Navy said in a release.
Echoing the comments of the Navy’s top officer upon the reestablishment of Second Fleet, Vice Adm. Charles Richard, commander of US submarine forces in the Atlantic, cited the “more challenging and complex” security situation as the reason for the return of Group 2.
“To maintain America’s undersea superiority, we must increase naval power and our readiness for high-end blue water warfare. How we’re organized to command that employment will be a driving factor in our success — that’s why we’re re-establishing Sub Group 2 today,” Richard said in the release.
A submarine group, composed of squadrons, handles the organization, training, and equipping of those boats while they’re state-side. Individual subs are attached to that squadron and group until they’re assigned to a combatant command, six of which are responsible for operations in specific areas of the globe.
A US Navy chief petty officer of the boat aboard pre-commissioned unit (PCU) South Dakota, directs his team while underway in the Atlantic Ocean, Nov. 27, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jared Bunn)
“Until [a submarine] makes that transition, it’s part of Group 2,” which owns it and operates it and tells it what to do, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Reestablishing Submarine Group 2 doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more subs prowling the Atlantic, but its return is important because the “group is in charge of the movement and the command and control of the ship” before it transitions over to combatant command, Clark said.
Without Group 2, the attention of command elements in the Atlantic was spread thin over a larger number of subs. Bringing back Group 2, Clark said, “allows you to put more attention on the North Atlantic submarines.”
“Along with the second fleet … it’s a way of putting more command and control and leadership attention on that part of the ocean,” Clark added.
Russian Black Sea Fleet’s B-265 Krasnodar Improved Kilo-class submarine.
Reestablishing Second Fleet and Submarine Group 2 are “visible representations of the US commitment to the security in the Atlantic in an era of great power competition,” Lt. Marycate Walsh, a spokesperson for Second Fleet, said in an email.
“Increased challenges and threats required a commensurate increase in capacity to address possible contingencies,” Walsh said, adding that Group 2’s operations in the region will add to and integrate with those of Second Fleet.
Submarine Group 2 also oversees anti-submarine warfare for US Fleet Forces Command and, when assigned, for Fourth Fleet. Fleet Forces Command organizes, trains, and equips naval forces for assignment to combatant commands, and Fourth Fleet is responsible for ships, subs, and aircraft operating around Central and South America.
In that role, Submarine Group 2 will “employ combat-ready forces in [anti-submarine warfare] and undersea warfare operations across mission-essential sea-service functions,” Cmdr. Jodie Cornell, a spokesperson for Submarine Forces Atlantic, said in an email.
The USS Rhode Island returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia after three months at sea.
(US Navy photo)
Group 2 will also “ensure assigned staffs and submarines achieve and maintain a level of training, personnel and material readiness necessary to carry out their assigned missions” and “advocate for resources and requirements that enable advancements in [anti-submarine warfare] and undersea warfare operations,” Cornell said.
The Navy generally does not comment on operations, and neither Cornell or Walsh would comment on potential future operations for subs assigned to Submarine Group 2.
But Richard’s mention of the Barents Sea, adjacent to the home of Russia’s Northern Fleet and its strategic nuclear forces on the Kola Peninsula, hints an increasing concern among US and NATO forces about Russian subs being able to reach into Europe with their relatively new sub-launched missile capability.
“The Kalibr-class cruise missile, for example, has been launched from coastal-defense systems, long-range aircraft, and submarines off the coast of Syria,” Adm. James Foggo, head of US Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, said in late 2018. “They’ve shown the capability to be able to reach pretty much all the capitals in Europe from any of the bodies of water that surround Europe.”
Ranges of Russia’s Kalibr missiles when fired from seas around Europe. Light red circles are the land-attack version. Dark red circles indicate the anti-ship version.
The threat of sub-launched cruise missiles is “certainly … part of what this is intended to address,” Clark said of Submarine Group 2. “This gives better coordination and better command and control of those submarines.”
More frequent deployments of more sophisticated Russian subs are driving more US naval activity in the Atlantic, which includes more deployments US Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft to Iceland, where they have a higher operational tempo.
Those aircraft are in part managed by Group 2, Clark said. It helps “having people at Group 2 being able to focus on that problem.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As the United States was preparing to carry out the invasion of Panama, dubbed “Operation Just Cause,” there was a very real problem that had to be dealt with before any meaningful operation against Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega could take place.
The regime had an American hostage in its prison, and the guards where this hostage was being held had orders to kill him if America attacked.
According to an account posted on SpecialOperations.com, Kurt Muse had been making pirate radio broadcasts until he was arrested in early 1989. He’d received some technical assistance from the CIA to make those broadcasts, which had the goal of taking Noriega down a peg or two.
Muse would daily hear – or see – Noriega’s thugs torture inmates at the prison.
As tensions increased, Muse was visited by a military officer, later identified as Air Force Col. James A. Ruffer, who would pass reports to Delta Force. The special operators constructed a full-scale mock-up of the prison where Muse was held captive, and the Delta commandos carried out numerous rehearsals.
On December 19, 1989, Muse would receive his last visit. In the presence of reporters, prison guards, and others, the colonel asked Muse if he was aware that orders had been issued by Noriega to kill him if the United States carried out any military action against Panama.
Muse said he understood.
The colonel then made a statement that if Muse were to be harmed, nobody in the prison would emerge alive.
Muse knew that something was up.
At 12:45 AM on the morning of Dec. 20, 15 minutes before the official H-Hour, two AH-6 Little Bird helicopters carried out an attack on a nearby military compound using M134 Miniguns and Hydra rockets. One of the helicopters would be damaged and forced to crash-land, with the crew making an escape.
Two AC-130H Spectres then carried out their own attack on that compound, using a tactic called “Top Hat.” The massive volume of fire from the gunships had the effect of drawing the attention of Noriega’s goons.
As that went on, MH-6 Little Birds landed on the roof of the prison and deposited Delta commandos. The operators went through the prison, killing anyone who resisted the rescue. They reached Muse’s cell, forced it open, bundled Muse into body armor and a helmet, then began their exfil.
The MH-6 Muse was loaded on took some hits. In a display of superb airmanship, the pilot would fly the helo down a side street until it was hit again and crashed. Ironically, Muse would help defend the perimeter until they were retrieved by U.S. Army armored personnel carriers.
Operation “Acid Gambit” ended with the mission accomplished.
NATO defense ministers agreed to continue projecting stability beyond its borders and will continue to build capabilities within the alliance, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said in Brussels Feb. 15, 2018.
“In a world awash in change, NATO stands firm as an island of stability in a turbulent sea,” Mattis said during a news conference at the conclusion of the meeting.
Projecting stability requires the alliance’s political stance to be backed by military forces that are fit to fight, the secretary said. This will reduce the chance of miscalculation by any adversary.
During the ministerial, the defense leaders discussed the recently published U.S. Nuclear Posture Review. Mattis said that many allies had been consulted on the study.
“The review was very well received across the alliance.” the secretary said. “The U.S. approach to nuclear deterrence embraces two co-equal principles: First, ensuring a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent, and second, working wherever possible for nuclear non-proliferation and arms control.”
Mattis was pleased on discussions about burden-sharing in the alliance. He noted that alliance nations have increased defense spending and are working on improving “the culture of readiness.” This will provide ready forces that will be responsive to NATO’s political direction.
The alliance must make political decisions faster, adapt the command structure, and accelerate military mobility in conjunction with the European Union, the secretary said.
NATO spending increases
A total of eight NATO nations will meet the target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense and 15 nations will hit that mark by 2024. Mattis noted that France is forecasting hitting that level in 2025.
“Year-on-year across the alliance, 2017 saw the largest growth … as a percentage of GDP, and the largest real growth in a quarter century,” he said. This has added $46 billion to defense across the alliance.
NATO is a member of the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and defense ministers agreed to remain committed to the immediate and longer-term missions in Iraq.
“NATO will sustain its investment in Iraq to project stability into the geopolitical heart of the Middle East,” Mattis said. “America supports NATO’s initiative for a NATO training mission in Iraq.”
NATO is also a stalwart part of the mission to Afghanistan and the ministers committed to filling critical shortfalls in the staffs.
“It is the collective dedication of the 29 nations, and working together creates the collective strength as we fight the threats from the east and the south to defend our values,” he said. “There is much that needs to be done, but NATO is on the right trajectory.”
Retired Marine infantry officer Joe L’Etoile remembers when training money for his unit was so short “every man got four blanks; then we made butta-butta-bang noises” and “threw dirt clods for grenades.”
Now, L’Etoile is director of the Defense Department’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force and leading an effort to manage $2.5 billion worth of DoD investments into weapons, unmanned systems, body armor, training, and promising new technology for a group that has typically ranked the lowest on the U.S. military’s priority list: the grunts.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Orrin G. Farmer)
But the task force’s mission isn’t just about funding high-tech new equipment for Army, Marine, and special operations close-combat forces. It is also digging into deeply entrenched policies and making changes to improve unit cohesion, leadership, and even the methods used for selecting individuals who serve in close-combat formations.
Launched in February, the new joint task force is a top priority of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired Marine Corps infantry officer himself. With this level of potent support, L’Etoile is able to navigate through the bureaucratic strongholds of the Pentagon that traditionally favor large weapons programs, such as Air Force fighters and Navy ships.
“This is a mechanism that resides at the OSD level, so it’s fairly quick; we are fairly nimble,” L’Etoile told Military.com on July 25. “And because this is the secretary’s priority … the bureaucracies respond well because the message is the secretary’s.”
Before he’s done, L’Etoile said, the task force will “reinvent the way the squad is perceived within the department.”
“I would like to see the squad viewed as a weapons platform and treated as such that its constituent parts matter,” he said. “We would never put an aircraft onto the flight line that didn’t have all of its parts, but a [Marine] squad that only has 10 out of 13? Yeah. Deploy it. Put it into combat. We need to take a look at what that costs us. And fundamentally, I believe down at my molecular level, we can do better.”
United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jess Lewis)
Improving the Squad
Mattis’ Feb. 8 memo to the service secretaries, Joint Chiefs of Staff and all combatant commands announcing the task force sent a shockwave through the force, stating “personnel policies, advances in training methods, and equipment have not kept pace with changes in available technology, human factors, science, and talent management best practices.”
To L’Etoile, the task force is not out to fix what he describes as the U.S. military’s “phenomenal” infantry and direct-action forces.
“Our charter is really just to take it to the next level,” he said. “In terms of priorities, the material solution is not my number-one concern.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)
For starters, the task force is looking at ways to identify Marines and soldiers who possess the characteristics and qualities that will make an infantry squad more efficient in the deadly art of close combat.
The concept is murky, but “we are investing in some leading-edge science to get at the question of what are the attributes to be successful in close combat and how do you screen for those attributes?” L’Etoile said. “How do you incentivize individuals with those attributes to come on board to the close-combat team, to stick their hand in the air for an infantry MOS?”
Col. Joey Polanco, the Army service lead at the task force, said it is evaluating several screening programs, some that rely on “big data and analytics to see if this individual would be a better fit for, say, infantry or close-combat formations.”
Polanco, an infantry officer who has served in the 82nd Airborne and 10th Mountain divisions, said the task force is also looking at ways to incentivize these individuals to “want to continue to stay infantry.”
L’Etoile said the task force is committed to changing policy to help fix a “wicked problem” in the Marine Corps of relying too heavily on corporals instead of sergeants to lead infantry squads.
“In the Marine Corps, there are plenty of squads that are being led by corporals instead of sergeants, and there are plenty of squads being led by lance corporals instead of corporals,” he said. “I led infantry units in combat. There is a difference when a squad is led by a lance corporal — no matter how stout his heart and back — and a sergeant leading them.”
Every Marine must be ready to take on leadership roles, but filling key leader jobs with junior enlisted personnel instead of sergeants degrades unit cohesion, L’Etoile said.
“When four guys are best buddies and they went to boot camp together and they go drinking beer together on the weekends … and then one day the squad leader rotates and it’s ‘Hey Johnson, you are now the squad leader,’ the human dynamics of that person becoming an effective leader with folks that were his peers is difficult to overcome,” he said.
It’s equally important to stabilize the squad’s leadership so that “the squad leader doesn’t show up three months before a deployment but is there in enough time to get that cohesion with his unit, his fire team leaders and his squad members,” L’Etoile said. “Having the appropriate grade, age-experience level and training is really, really important.”
The Army is compiling data to see if that issue is a persistent problem in its squads.
“When we get the data back, we will have a better idea of how do we increase the cohesion of an Army squad, and I think what you are going to find is, it needs its own solution, if there in fact is a problem,” L’Etoile said.
(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan)
No Budget, But Deep Pockets
Just weeks after the first U.S. combat forces went into Afghanistan in late 2001, the Army, Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command began modernizing and upgrading individual and squad weapons and gear.
Since then, equipment officials have labored to field lighter body armor, more efficient load-bearing gear and new weapons to make infantry and special operations forces more lethal.
But the reality is, there is only so much money budgeted toward individual kit and weapons when other service priorities, such as armored vehicles and rotary-wing aircraft, need modernizing as well.
The task force has the freedom to look at where the DoD is “investing its research dollars and render an opinion on whether those dollars are being well spent,” L’Etoile said. “I have no money; I don’t want money. I don’t want to spend the next two years managing a budget. That takes a lot of time and energy.”
“But I am very interested in where money goes. So, for instance, if there is a particular close-combat capability that I believe represents a substantive increase in survivability, lethality — you name it — for a close-combat formation, and I see that is not being funded at a meaningful level, step one is to ask why,” he continued. “Let’s get informed on the issue … and then if it makes sense, go advocate for additional funding for that capability.”
The task force currently has reprogramming or new funding requests worth up to .5 billion for high-tech equipment and training efforts that L’Etoile would not describe in detail.
“I have a number of things that are teed up … it’s premature for me to say,” he said. “In broad categories, we have active requests for additional funding in sensing; think robots and [unmanned aerial systems]. We have requests for additional funding of munitions for training and additional tactical capabilities [and] additional funding for training adversaries, so you get a sparring partner as well as a heavy bag.”
The task force is requesting additional money for advanced night-vision equipment and synthetic-training technologies. L’Etoile also confirmed that it helped fund the Army’s 0 million effort to train and equip the majority of its active brigade combat teams to fight in large, subterranean complexeslike those that exist in North Korea.
“We can go to the department and say, ‘This is of such importance that I think the department should shine a light on it and invest in it,’ ” he said.
Endorsing Futuristic Kit
One example of this is the task force’s interest in an Army program to equip its infantry units with a heads-up display designed to provide soldiers with a digital weapon-sight reticle, as well as tactical data about the immediate battlefield environment.
“The big thing is the Heads-Up Display 3.0. I would tell you that is one of the biggest things we are pushing,” Polanco said. “It’s focused primarily on helping us improve lethality, situational awareness, as well as our mobility.”
The Army is currently working on HUD 1.0, which involves a thermal weapon sight mounted on the soldier’s weapon that can wirelessly transmit the sight reticle into the new dual-tubed Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III B.
The system can also display waypoints and share information with other soldiers in the field, Army officials said.
The HUD 3.0 will draw on the synthetic training environment — one of the Army’s key priorities for modernizing training — and allow soldiers to train and rehearse in a virtual training environment, as well as take into combat.
The service has already had soldiers test the HUD 1.0 version and provide feedback.
“If you look at the increased lethality just by taking that thermal reticle off of the weapon and putting it up into their eye, the testing has been off the chart,” Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team, said at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium earlier this year.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. John Tran)
The Army tried for years in the 1990s to accomplish this with its Land Warrior program, but it could be done only by running bulky cables from the weapon sight to the helmet-mounted display eyepiece. Soldiers found it too awkward and a snag hazard, so the effort was eventually shelved.
“Whatever we want to project up into that reticle — that tube — it’s pretty easy,” Donahue said. “It’s just a matter of how you get it and how much data. We don’t want too much information in there either … we’ve got to figure that out.”
The initial prototypes of the HUD 3.0 are scheduled to be ready in 18 months, he added.
“It is really a state-of-the art capability that allows you to train as you fight from a synthetic training environment standpoint to a live environment,” Polanco said, adding that the task force has submitted a request to the DoD to find funding for the HUD 3.0.
“One of the things we have been able to do as a task force is we have endorsed and advocated strongly for this capability. … It’s going forward as a separate item that we are looking for funding on,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest challenge before the task force is how to ensure all these efforts to make the squad more lethal will not be undone when Mattis is no longer in office.
“We ask ourselves every time we step up to the plate to take on one of these challenges, how do we make it enduring?” L’Etoile said.
“How do we ensure that the progress we make is not unwound when the priorities shift? So it’s important when you take these things on that you are mindful that there ought to be an accompanying policy because … they can’t just get unwound overnight,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
When Johnny Cash took the stage at California’s San Quentin State Prison on Feb. 24, 1969, one of the songs he would record there was destined to become one of Cash’s most iconic songs, as well as one of his biggest hits: “A Boy Named Sue.” It held the top spot on the country charts for five straight weeks and it was his biggest hit, climbing to the second slot on the Billboard 100 chart.
“The Man in Black” was a veteran of the United States Air Force, a morse code operator who spent much of his career spying on the Soviet Union. In fact, Cash was the first person in the West to learn that Stalin died in 1953. As a matter of fact, his distinctive facial scar was the result of good ol’ military medicine.
“A Boy Named Sue” is the story of a boy who was abandoned by his dad at a young age — after giving the boy a female name. Sue finds his dad at a bar years later and gets into a pretty nasty brawl with the old man. That’s when his dad reveals he named the boy Sue so as to make Sue tough even when his dad wasn’t around to raise him.
The song about a boy trying to kill his father probably resonated with Cash’s audience that day.
The author of the song was also a veteran. Shel Silverstein, beloved around the world for his poetry, humor, and illustrations, was drafted by the U.S. Army to fight in Korea — but by the time he arrived the war was over. He was assigned to Stars and Stripes in the Pacific, part of the new peacetime Army. And thus a legendary military writer was born to the veteran community.
It was Silverstein who penned Cash’s now-famous song about the boy with a girl’s name, although Cash put his own twist on it. During the original San Quentin recording, Cash added the line, “I’m the son of a bitch that named you Sue!” In Silverstein’s original writing, there were no curse words used. Even so, the “son of a bitch” line was censored out of the album.
The Pentagon is throwing $700 million at a rapidly progressing program to combat the threat of commercial drone use by the Islamic State, The New York Times reports.
The program has commissioned U.S. defense contractors to begin attempting to find solutions to the drone threat, including using lasers to shoot them out of the sky. The technology is in its infancy and has yet to yield any significant results. ISIS has pioneered the use of relatively cheap commercial drones as airborne improvised explosive devices, for surveillance, and propaganda purposes.
The Pentagon program comes as it increases the number of U.S. troops in Syria to assist training for the Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against ISIS. The Pentagon reportedly worries that its bases could be vulnerable to ISIS drone attacks, and it sees the broader trend in warfare.
The terrorist group used some commercial drones to drop cheap IED’s on the Iraq Security Forces during the Battle for Mosul. ISIS announced the formation of a new drone warfare unit in January, whose sole purpose is to inflict “a new source of horror for the apostates.” The terrorist group said the new unit killed nearly 40 Iraqi soldiers in just one week.
The threat may not just be limited to the battlefield. Georgetown terrorism expert Dr. Bruce Hoffman recently warned that drone “swarms” could become a facet of western terrorist attacks. Hoffman outlined one such scenario, telling readers, “picture Paris on November 13, 2015 [the night when people were slaughtered at a rock concert and in sidewalk cafés] with drone attacks superimposed on top of it. Authorities would have been completely overwhelmed. This elevates our greatest fear, which is simultaneous urban attacks—now with swarming on top of them.”
In November 2015, Electronic Arts Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment (aka EA DICE) released their first Star Wars Battlefront game since Disney purchased the franchise. In less than a month, the action shooter picked up an impressive set of gameplay statistics that were released in an infographic, describing the characters, kill counts, and tactics players use in the game.
The stats give good insights around how to win. The first and most obvious one: Don’t try to replicate tactics seen in the film. You are not a Jedi; the Force is not strong with you.
And it seems getting in a vehicle isn’t a good way to last longer. Or maybe it is. It’s definitely more fun.
“The Main Enemy.” That’s how the Russian political, military, and intelligence apparatuses see the United States. Although the end of the Cold War brought with it hopes of democratization in Russia, 30 years later, with President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, at the helm, Russia seems buried in the past, stoking a fire against the West mainly through covert means and information operations.
Earlier in the year, the U.S. Intelligence Community released its annual threat assessment. When it came to Russia, American intelligence assessed that it poses one of the most serious intelligence threats to the U.S., sowing discord and division within the U.S. while trying to divide Western alliances, such as NATO and the European Union, alongside preserving and increasing Russia’s global standing.
Heading this campaign of subversion are Russia’s potent intelligence agencies: The SVR (foreign intelligence), FSB (domestic intelligence and counterintelligence), GRU (military intelligence), and FSO (a mix of domestic law enforcement, border patrol, presidential guard, and signals intelligence).
A History of Subversion
From the reign of the Tsars, Russian history is deeply steeped in espionage. The Russian monarchs operated intelligence services to prevent the all-dreaded assassination attempts from domestic and foreign rivals. When the Bolsheviks ousted the Tsars after the Russian Revolution in 1917, they kept the same focus on intelligence, but now the target deck of potential threats swelled. Russian anti-communists (also known as the “Whites”), foreign nations, and even other Bolsheviks were all considered threats to the nascent revolution.
The Soviets began spying against other countries immediately, and the U.S. in particular was a big target. From the 1930s to the 1950s, Russian intelligence officers recruited hundreds of Americans to spy for the Soviet Union, an espionage onslaught that resulted in the compromise of the Manhattan Project and the leaking of nuclear secrets to the Soviets, with which they managed to build their own atomic weapons.
Other Western countries were also affected. Great Britain’s infamous Cambridge Five (Donald Mclean, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, and John Cairncross), a group of the British elite who infiltrated its institutions, including MI6, Foreign Office, and BBC, wreaked havoc with their perfidy.
West Germany suffered too. A cadre of “Romeos,” attractive young Soviet and East German intelligence officers, used their sex appeal and charm to target lonely, single West German secretaries and recruit them, infiltrating the highest echelons of the West German government.
In an interview in 1998, KGB general Oleg Kalugin, head of KGB’s political operations in the U.S. who later defected and became an American citizen, offered some great insight on how Russian intelligence services tackled the “American target.”
“The heart and soul of the Soviet intelligence—was subversion. Not intelligence collection, but subversion: active measures to weaken the West, to drive wedges in the Western community alliances of all sorts, particularly NATO, to sow discord among allies, to weaken the United States in the eyes of the people of Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and thus to prepare the ground in case the war really occurs. To make America more vulnerable to the anger and distrust of other peoples,” he had said.
An Unofficial Rulebook
By interfering with the U.S. political process in 2016, Russian intelligence services, directed by the Kremlin, crossed an unspoken line that had existed since and survived throughout the Cold War. In his excellent book, Spymaster’s Prism: The Fight Against Russian Aggression, Jack Divine, a retired CIA officer who served as acting director and associate director of operations, describes this unofficial rulebook as the “Moscow Rules.”
This set of unofficial norms ensured that the respective intelligence activities didn’t go beyond a red line that would provoke either side into using its military—and as a result, its nuclear arsenal. Assassinations, terrorism, and excessive violence against the other country’s intelligence officers were a no-go, as was direct interference in the other country’s political processes.
For example, KGB officers wouldn’t beat a CIA officer caught meeting with a Soviet asset in Moscow to death (they could—and did—try and execute their countryman, though). Similarly, the CIA wouldn’t promote independence movements in other nations inside the Soviet Union or try to influence the leadership deliberations inside the Communist Party in an effort to destabilize Kremlin’s power.
These unofficial “rules of engagement” kept in check the respective intelligence services, ensuring that their actions in the cloak and dagger realm didn’t inadvertently cause World War Three. But in 2016, Putin Russia threw the Moscow Rules out of the window.
Back to the Future
In 2016, using its cyber capabilities, the Kremlin aimed to delegitimize America’s democratic process, sow distrust in Western media, and widen preexisting socioeconomic and racial fissures in the U.S. The main actor in this was the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a seemingly independent organization that works closely with the Russian intelligence apparatus, particularly the SVR and GRU.
In 2016, the IRA created thousands of Twitter accounts (3,814), YouTube videos (more than 1,000), and hundreds of Facebook pages and events, masking them as American political groups and initiatives, that posted divisive and inflammatory material. Using thousands of bots on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other major social media platforms, they promoted and spread these posts to reach at least 29 million Americans, and potentially reaching 126 million, and influenced the political process in a way that’s hard to quantify.
Several of these pages and posts were directly opposed to each other (for example, “Blacktivist” and “Stop All Immigrants”) despite being run by the same Russian source. It is worth highlighting that Russian intelligence services directed their malicious efforts against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and, to a lesser extent, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. It wasn’t until the closing months of the election season, when Trump seemed to have a feasible chance to win, that the Russians started favoring him. (It’s important to highlight that Russian meddling in the election process was primarily intended to make Americans question the electoral process and democratic institutions.)
The election interference, one of many in which Russian intelligence meddled in the last few years (other examples are the Brexit vote, Scottish independence referendum, and Catalonia independence referendum), is part of what the Russians refer to as “Active Measures.”
Active Measures (Aktivnye Meropriyatiya), is the Russian version of Covert Action and can include election interference, information operations, influence operations, assassinations of dissidents, and cyberwarfare.
Through its active measures tactics, Russia attempts to undermine U.S. influence in the world and sow division between Western countries and NATO in order to weaken the West, thereby increasing Moscow’s importance to the world as a major international player.
According to the U.S. Intelligence Community, Russian officials believe that the U.S. and its allies have been conducting influence operations to undermine Russia and Putin in addition to pursuing regime-changing in the countries of the former Soviet Union, such as Ukraine and Georgia. Interestingly, U.S. officials assess that Russia seeks an accommodation with the U.S. on mutual non-interference in domestic matters and also for the West to recognize Russia’s long-gone sphere of influence in states the former Soviet Union. If that assessment is correct, it could explain the interference in the 2016 election as a show of force from the Kremlin and a tangible way to visualize the dangers of domestic interference.
Although subversion is the primary goal of Russian intelligence operations, it doesn’t mean that traditional collection is absent, with the Kremlin targeting mostly the U.S. defense and artificial technology industries, usually recruiting employees within those companies in order to achieve their goals.
A formidable foe, the Russian intelligence services pose a grave threat to the U.S. and the West.
In his final year in Congress, 87-year-old Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, a legendary Air Force fighter pilot in Korea and Vietnam and a former prisoner of war, is backing a bill to give enlisted Medal of Honor recipients and POWs the same honors as officers in burials at Arlington National Cemetery.
“My fellow POWs who served honorably demonstrated the utmost patriotism, but not all of them were eligible for full military honors at their burial, simply due to their rank. I believe this is wrong,” Johnson said in a statement.
Current rules restrict full honors at in-ground burials at Arlington, including a military escort and a horse-drawn caisson, to officers, warrant officers, senior non-commissioned officers, and service members killed in action.
Eligibility rules for in-ground burial at Arlington, which is running out of space, are the strictest of all the national cemeteries. They may in future be limited to those killed in action and recipients of the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart, according to a current proposal under consideration.
Prisoners of war who were discharged honorably and died after Nov. 30, 1993, are also eligible, according to the Code of Federal Regulations. There were no immediate figures available on how many enlisted MoH recipients or POWs may have been denied full honors at Arlington due to current rules.
Most honorably discharged veterans can request Arlington as their final resting place, but the eligibility rules are lengthy. (The list of rules can be found here.)
Arlington National Cemetary.
Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Michigan, is the main sponsor of the Full Military Honors Act, which was introduced in the House in early September 2018. He said he came to the issue at the behest of the family of a deceased constituent, Army Pfc. Robert Fletcher, a Korean War POW who was buried without full honors at Arlington in June 2018.
“America’s POWs and Medal of Honor recipients have sacrificed immeasurably in service to the United States, regardless of their rank,” Bishop said in a statement. “So I was shocked to find out that earlier this year a former POW from Michigan was denied a full honors burial at Arlington National Cemetery based solely on his enlisted rank. This has been an issue for too long, and my legislation will ensure those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty are provided the full military honors they have earned for their end-of-life ceremonies.”
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, the highest-ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, co-sponsored the bill. “I’m proud to join in introducing the Full Military Honors Act,” said Walz, who retired from the Army National Guard as a command sergeant major after 24 years. “To help ensure we honor the sacrifices these heroes and their families have made for our country, we must pass it without delay.”
The bill has been endorsed by the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Military Officers Association of America, the National League of POW/MIA Families, the Special Operations Association, the Special Forces Association, and the American Fallen Warriors Memorial Foundation.
At a hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel in March 2018, officials warned that space for in-ground burials at Arlington would eventually run out because surrounding communities restrict its expansion.
“We are filling up every single day” at the 154-year-old historic site across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., where an average of 150 burials take place each week, said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries.
Estimates on when Arlington will run out of space vary, but some put the date for closing the cemetery to new burials in the 2030s or 2040s.
Members of the Navy Ceremonial Guard transfer Medal of Honor Recipient Navy Capt. Thomas Hudner to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetary, April 4, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
As of August 2017, there were 5,071 living former POWs in the U.S., according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are currently 72 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, 45 of whom were in the enlisted ranks when they received the award, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
The full honors issue has resonated over the years with Johnson, a retired Air Force colonel and recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts.
During the Korean War, he flew 62 combat missions in a F-86 Sabre and was credited with shooting down one MiG-15. In Vietnam, he flew the F-4 Phantom II. On his 25th combat mission in Vietnam on April 16, 1966, Johnson’s aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam. He was a POW for nearly seven years, including 42 months in solitary confinement.
A battered tin cup he used to tap on the walls to communicate in code with other prisoners is now in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. In the prison camps, Johnson was part of a group dubbed the “Alcatraz 11” for their resistance to the guards.
“Any veteran who served honorably as a prisoner of war or whose actions earned them the Medal of Honor has already demonstrated extraordinary dedication to defending freedom,” Johnson said in his statement. “In return, they deserve to have the country they fought for bestow full military honors if they are eligible to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.”
Since the death of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, in August 2018, Johnson is the only former POW serving in Congress. Early 2018, he announced that he would retire at the end of the term after serving in the House since 1991.
In his statement upon McCain’s death, Johnson, who was often at odds with the late senator on issues, paid tribute to the former Navy pilot who was with him in the prison camps.
“We have lost a genuine American hero today. John and I were fellow POWs at the ‘Hanoi Hilton,’ and I can testify to the fact that he did everything he could to defend freedom and honor our great nation — not just in that hell on Earth, but beyond those bleak years,” Johnson said. “John’s strength of spirit, commitment to democracy, and love of God and country all shape the inspiring legacy of service he leaves behind. God bless you, partner, and I salute you.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In the early evening of April 24, 1943, Coast Guardsmen braved leaping flames and saved New York City from what could have been the largest man-made explosion in history to that point, a blast that would’ve wiped out sections of the harbor and, potentially, large swaths of the larger city and parts of New Jersey. Instead, just one ship was lost and zero lives.
Painting of the El Estero fire by Austin Dwyer.
(Austin Dwyer via U.S. Coast Guard)
While all the other branches rib the Coast Guard for being a band of puddle pirates, it’s important when really looking at its history to remember that, first, they actually have conducted a ton of deepwater missions. And, more importantly for this discussion, the shallow waters of the world are home to vital and dangerous missions that the Coast Guard does well.
The Coast Guard often takes on a large role during conflicts to help to ensure that war materiel is safely moved from industrial powerhouses in the U.S. to theaters of war overseas. During World War II, this included loading many of the Liberty Ships and other vessels that plied the Atlantic and Pacific.
But logistic expediencies created real hazards. It made sense in terms of speed and efficiency to move all the munitions, vehicles, and other vital supplies to a handful of ports and load it on ships from there. But doing so meant that strings of railroad cars and ships filled with explosive materials would be stored right next to each other.
Investigations would later reveal that the boiler had likely been leaking fuel oil into bilge water in the compartment below it, and a boiler flashback ignited the pooled fuel and started a fire. But once the fire was going, it would be able to boil oil to give itself more fuel and heat up the ammo until it started to explode.
The engine room crew immediately started fighting the flames with handheld extinguishers, but it wasn’t enough, so officers went to the Coast Guard barracks for volunteers. Could someone, anyone, please climb onto the burning ship, descend into its belly, and fight flames in the hopes of it not blowing up?
A graphic tried to tackle the level of damage if the ship had exploded. This high traffic area would have made an explosion of the El Estero especially catastrophic.
(New York Daily News illustration via U.S. Coast Guard)
But the Coast Guardsmen knew what was at stake. The loading docks were always filled with ammo and fuel and, on April 24, there were two other nearly full ships nearby, there were railroad cars loaded with ammunition waiting to unload, and there was a fuel farm that served the departing ships. A detonation on the El Estero would likely trigger a chain reaction.
Another World War I explosion, this one on a ship with 5,000 tons of TNT in Halifax Harbor in Canada, had killed 1,500 people leveling a large section of Halifax, Canada, in 1917. The combined loads of the El Estero and nearby ships and trains, somewhere around 5,000 total tons of explosives, dwarfed the size of the Halifax explosion. And an El Estero explosion would’ve been on the doorstep of New York City and could’ve flattened everything for five miles around.
Coast Guardsmen on a fireboat. Small vessels like these assisted in controlling the El Estero fire.
(U.S. Coast Guard)
And so 60 Coast Guardsmen, most of them in dress uniforms while awaiting their Easter Day liberty passes, rushed to the ship. New York firefighters arrived soon after with a firefighting ship, and they began passing hoses into the holds of the El Estero, but it was Coast Guardsmen who descended into the smoke and fire.
Survivors would describe a heat that overwhelmed them. The hot deck plates warmed and then burned their feet, paint peeled off the walls, and the heat continued to build. The Coast Guard officer in charge was Lt.j.g. Francis McCausland. It was his first day of work at the station.
But he was able to get tugboats to move the other ammo ships away and ordered Army soldiers to shift as many of the train cars out of range as they could move. By the time that additional fire trucks and Coast Guard fireboats arrived at 5:35, the fiercely burning El Estero was largely isolated, but still surrounded by the city, fuel stores, and warehouses of ammo.
The Coast Guard seemed to get the upper hand on the ship for a few minutes as the oily black smoke gave way to yellow and white streaks of flames, a signal that streams of water were hitting the major source of the fire. But the oily smoke returned, and the heat continued to rise.
About 40 volunteers were ordered off the ship, and a crew of 20 stayed onboard to try and keep the fire contained as long as possible while the ship was towed to a safe detonation point. Those 20 passed their personal effects to the men ordered off, some of whom wanted to stay and keep working. These included an engaged man who had to personally be ordered off the decks.
The further the ship was out of the harbor, the more lives would be saved in New York City and in the surrounding harbor from the pending explosion. Coast Guardsmen shoved anti-aircraft shells from the decks into the water and kept directing the water from the tugs onto the hot ammo as they traveled.
(The ship was designed so that it could only be scuttled from one spot that was directly underneath the burning boilers, so the Coast Guardsmen could only sink it by flooding it.)
Once the hull of the ship was under the waves, the threat of a full ammo explosion was largely dissipated. Firefighters kept water pouring onto the still burning superstructure for hours until, finally, the threat was gone. No one had died in a crisis that was later found to have threatened as many as one million residents with death, injury, or extreme property damage.
All the Coast Guardsmen involved were given special medals for their efforts, and the U.S. government overhauled ammo-handling procedures to move dangerous operations away from population centers. This would save lives in June 1944, when an ammo ship with 4,600 tons of ammunition exploded northeast of San Francisco, killing 300 sailors on the ship and nearby, but leaving the city untouched.
The missile lifted off at 12:03 a.m. April 26 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
An Air Force statement said the mission was part of a program to test the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapon system.
Another unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test Dec. 17, 2013 and again on Sep. 5, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales)
The 30th Space Wing commander, Col. John Moss, said Minuteman launches are essential to verify the status of the U.S. nuclear force and to demonstrate the national nuclear capabilities.
In a Minuteman test, a so-called re-entry vehicle travels more than 4,000 miles downrange to a target at Kwajalein Atoll near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
“Team V is once again ready to work with Air Force Global Strike Command to successfully launch another Minuteman III missile,” Moss said. “These Minuteman launches are essential to verify the status of our national nuclear force and to demonstrate our national nuclear capabilities. We are proud of our long history in partnering with the men and women of the 576th Flight Test Squadron to execute these missions for the nation.”
The 576th Flight Test Squadron will be responsible for installed tracking, telemetry, and command destruct systems on the missile.
U.S. Navy SEALs — the elite Special Operations group with a name that has earned its reputation around the world. If people know the name of one elite unit, it’s probably the Navy SEALs.
U.S. Army Rangers — as old as American history itself, they have presented themselves as masters of both conventional and unconventional warfare time and time again. During the Global War on Terror (GWOT), they have evolved into a precision special operations force (SOF) and gained extensive combat experience, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Both are intensely involved in the GWOT, and both have had resounding successes and serious losses. As modern warfare continues to evolve, which one of these SOF units has delivered more impact in the War on Terror?
Navy SEALs train at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
(Photo by John Scorza, courtesy of U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)
When discussing the U.S. Navy SEALs, it’s important to distinguish between the SEAL Teams and SEAL Team Six. SEAL Team Six (sometimes referred to as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU) belongs to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and is tasked with executing a broad scope of special missions that often have a direct impact on the United States’ foreign policy and national security strategy. Most notably, they were responsible for killing Usama Bin Laden in 2011.
The other SEAL teams are under the purview of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) and conduct special operations, often against terrorists and insurgents. This can be confusing since the vast majority of U.S. troops in foreign engagements from Afghanistan to Syria are fighting “terrorists,” but SEAL Team Six specializes in it.
Navy SEALs conduct operations in Afghanistan alongside Afghan partners.
(U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)
In short, SEAL Team Six is conducting complex missions like hostage rescue; high-level, low-visibility reconnaissance; and direct-action raids against high-value targets (more in the vein of Delta Force, their Army counterpart). The other SEAL Teams have a different overall mission, though overlap does exist. The clear-stated mission on paper is to conduct maritime-based missions, but that is certainly not the end of it. Special operations units are versatile, and today’s SEALs are often training friendly foreign forces, conducting direct-action raids in and outside of large American engagements, or performing their legacy mission of carrying out maritime missions.
SEALs are currently conducting operations in war zones around the world; not all of the teams are relegated to Afghanistan and Syria. They have recently worked in the Philippines, Djibouti, Central America, and South America, to name a few places. They are not necessarily running direct-action raids in all these places. For example, conducting FID (Foreign Internal Defense) with a host nation could mean accompanying local groups on missions, or it could simply mean training them on basic infantry tactics and calling it a day.
A Navy SEAL conducts training with a SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV).
(U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)
Rangers, on the other hand, are more specific when it comes to geography. You’re not going to run into a Ranger platoon in the middle of Ethiopia, and Rangers aren’t going to be the ones tasked with hostage rescue missions off the Ivory Coast. For the most part, they go to places where there is a large American presence (or where the military wants there to be one), where the fighting is heavy and the missions are frequent, and they can roll up their sleeves and get busy. They are a precision strike force, but they are precise amid large military efforts.
While Rangers also conduct FID missions, especially in Afghanistan, their purpose revolves around kill/capture missions on a day-to-day basis.
Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment prepare to conduct an airfield seizure.
(75th Ranger Regiment)
Seizing an airfield is to Rangers as a maritime raid is to the SEALs. The 75th Ranger Regiment is known for its ability to take an airfield from enemy control, though this hasn’t actually been conducted for years. Most of the time, Rangers are conducting kill or capture raids in Afghanistan. In fact, they were credited with killing or capturing over 1,900 terrorists during a recent deployment to Afghanistan. They have had a presence in Syria as well.
As terrorism and insurgent-type tactics have been more common among the enemies of the United States (in contrast to conventional military tactics), the need for special operations units has skyrocketed. Rangers, SEALs, and other elite groups have found themselves bearing that weight, evolving rapidly, and fulfilling the needs of a constantly changing battlefield.
A Ranger from the 75th Ranger Regiment conducts close quarters combat training.
(75th Ranger Regiment)
These units are required to have a breadth of skillsets, intensive training, and a specific state of body and mind — however, that doesn’t mean that every deployment is rife with firefights and explosions. Many Ranger deployments to Afghanistan have ended with no shots fired; many SEALs will deploy to countries around the world without conducting any raids.
So, who has the greatest impact on the GWOT?
Rangers often use helicopters to get to their objective.
(75th Ranger Regiment)
Many of these conversations — Rangers versus SEALs versus MARSOC versus PJs versus Green Berets — devolve into a “which one is better” conversation. However, each has their task and function, and asking whether one is better than the other is like asking if a cardiac surgeon is “better” than a neurosurgeon — it depends on if you need heart surgery or brain surgery. The better informed find themselves asking: “Who is better at a maritime interdiction?” “Who can take this airport?” “Who has a presence in this area?” These are the practical questions that warrant practical answers, and those are the ones that matter on the practical battlefield.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.