Although thousands upon thousands of well-meaning Americans on Facebook and Twitter are asking people to pray for the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, the grunts aren’t suffering any casualties in Afghanistan. They’re home at Camp Pendleton, preparing to deploy to sea.
The latest hoax seems to have broken out on Facebook in late February before dying down in mid-March. It has come roaring back in recent days, however, triggering a flood of social-media support for the “Darkhorse” battalion that once suffered heavy losses in Afghanistan but isn’t actually in combat now.
“We are asking everyone to say a prayer for ‘Darkhorse’ 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines and their families. They are fighting it out in Afghanistan and have lost nine Marines in four days. Please repost this,” reads the typical message being circulated on social media.
As the rumors circulated in March and April, the battalion was training for a future deployment with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Between March 24 and April 4, for example, 3/5 Marines underwent a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation at Camp Pendleton.
This week, elements of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit have been participating in a Composite Unit Training Exercise — “COMPTUEX” — off the coast of Southern California aboard the Navy’s amphibious assault ship America.
The urban legend about 3/5 Marines currently suffering major combat losses in Afghanistan has roots in truth.
Deployed to Afghanistan’s restive Helmand Province in 2010-11, 3/5 Marines and the 1st Combat Engineers suffered 25 deaths and nearly 200 wounded. Some of the most brutal fighting was concentrated near the district of Sangin, triggering widespread support on the social media from well-wishers at the time.
After the Darkhorse Marines rotated home, calls for prayers for their safety continued to flare up in late 2012, both the summer and late winter of 2013, the summers of 2014 and 2015, late December of 2015 and then again two months ago, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune analysis of Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Twitter and Facebook followers often have demanded to know why the “mainstream media” or “MSM” refused to cover the old story, failing to realize that the Union-Tribune and other news outlets reported extensively about the Darkhorse battalion’s real deployment of 2010-11 in Afghanistan.
Internet rumor-slayer Snopes.com updated a special page on the Darkhorse dilemma on May 1, pointing to articles about the earlier deployment in the Union-Tribune and its sister paper the Los Angeles Times. Snopes rated the latest eruption of 3/5 prayer requests “outdated.”
According to retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a potential vice-president pick for Donald Trump, the hard drives of ISIS fighters are largely filled with porn.
“We looked a ruthless enemy in the eye – women and children, girls and boys, raped and exploited, the beheadings stored on a laptop next to pornography,” he said in his new book. “At one point we actually had determined that the material on the laptops was up to 80 percent pornography.”
This isn’t the first time a western leader has leveled charges of a pornography epidemic at ISIS forces. Former London mayor British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson accused them of favoring adult material as well.
“If you look at all the psychological profiling about bombers, they typically will look at porn,” he said in 2015. “They are literally wankers. Severe onanists.”
When Poto Liefi awoke on September 11, 2001 he wasn’t thinking about being a soldier or going to war. He was a 38-year-old commercial artist working in Los Angeles, and he had just helped launch a new Sketchers shoe campaign for Target.
Poto was good at what he did and enjoyed the work.
After Poto pivoted from fine arts to commercial arts – a few years out of art school – he went from working on clothing and backpack lines to designing shoes.
“I learned how to create a product line,” he said. “And I also learned where my work fit relative to the entire product line.”
He followed his work for Sketchers with a line of hiking boots that, in turn, turned into Taos footwear, a women’s shoe company.
Then the World Trade Center towers fell, and the Pentagon was hit.
He decided to join the Army. Most of his colleagues in the designer world thought he was crazy. Even his recruiter – after visiting his expansive glass office – asked why he was leaving a comfortable world behind.
“I wasn’t satisfied with work anymore,” Poto said. “I had the news going all the time, and I felt a sense of responsibility to do something.”
The maximum age for recruits had just been upped from 34 to 42 when Poto showed up to Fort Jackson for basic training as a 38 year-old recruit. “I lucked out big time,” he said.
After boot camp he was given a 25M Multimedia Illustrator designation. “At first I thought it was stupid to get paid peanuts for the same job I was doing on the outside,” he said. “But after I did the research I saw there was a lot more to it.”
Poto was assigned to 304th Psychological Operations Company, and in 2008 he deployed to Fallujah, Iraq. He immediately put his skills to work on posters, billboards, and web content.
“I was surprised at what we were able to do with the proper messaging,” he said. “We actually had campaigns, branding the Iraqi Security Forces. We were getting a good, consistent message on the streets, and getting locals to rally around an ideology.”
He returned to the U.S. at the end of 2008. Less than a year and a half later he was deployed again, this time to Afghanistan with the 344th Psychological Operations Company.
“Just as I’d sold Iraq to the Iraqis I had to sell Afghanistan to Afghans.”
Part of the time Poto worked with the Australian Army based in Uruzgan, and there he realized they needed to deviate from the standard Army playbook to be effective.
“We had to take our military goggles off,” he said. “We weren’t the only media outlet the locals were exposed to.”
But in spite of the challenges Poto believes they accomplished their mission. He sums up his experience at war with a simple thought: “Pride shows.”
He returned home in March of 2011, a 43-year-old corporal ready to transition back to the civilian workforce. But it was anything but a smooth process. Reintegration was tough in spite of his pre-military work experience, a circumstance he blames on his age and the stigma of post traumatic stress. It took him three years to find a full-time job.
He finally landed a job as a supply chain manager at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Corona, California.
Poto’s transition advice to veterans following him back to the civilian side is straightforward: “Never feel entitled,” he said. “Be thankful, be respectful, and be real still.”
At the same time he held fast to his creative side. One day he took the image of a soldier who’d fallen in Iraq – PFC Corrina Lau – and superimposed it into a classic war poster. The result was powerful and immediate.
“I got very emotional reactions from the first people I showed the artwork to,” Poto said. “They said things like, ‘This is alive.'”
Poto did similar artwork for the families of other fallen warriors, and the response compelled him to brand the effort “Freedom’s On Me.”
“Freedom’s On Me is a way to keep the legacies of these service members alive,” Poto explains. “These are people that were in the military, not a bunch of robots.”
Military investigators are trying to piece together the cause of a crash that killed 15 Marines and a sailor in Mississippi in July, but it could be a year or more until any information becomes public.
In the meantime, the Marine Corps’ fleet of KC130T transport planes remains grounded. That plane is similar to the one that crashed near Itta Bena on July 10.
April Phillips, a spokeswoman for the Naval Safety Center, said August 21 that final reports often don’t become public for 12 to 18 months following a crash. Even then, much of the information in the reports is often withheld from public view.
“Ours are done solely to ensure what happened doesn’t happen again,” Phillips said, saying that various military commanders must endorse the report before it’s finished.
Marines and other investigators finished collecting debris August 3, recovering all of the plane’s major components, said Marine Forces Reserve spokeswoman Lt. Stephanie L. Leguizamon. She said last week that there’s still work going on to clean up the crash area.
Naval Safety Center investigators are both reconstructing the wreckage and interviewing witnesses. Their report will ultimately include recommendations to enhance safety.
Victims included nine Marines based at Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh, New York, who flew and crewed the plane, plus six Marines and a Navy Corpsman from an elite Marine Raider battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The passengers were headed for pre-deployment training in Yuma, Arizona. Cargo included at least some ammunition.
Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James has told reporters that whatever went wrong began when the plane was at cruising altitude. Most of the plane pancaked upside down into a field, but part of it, including the cockpit, broke off and landed far from the fuselage and wings. Debris was scattered for miles over fields, woods, and ponds.
Witnesses said they saw the plane descend from high altitude with an engine smoking, with some describing what pilots call a “flat spin,” where a plane twirls around like a boomerang.
Phillips said the plane didn’t have an in-flight data recorder. That, plus the lack of survivors, could make the debris crucial to determining what happened.
“A lot it, in this case, is likely to come from forensic evidence,” she said.
Phillips said the C-130 and its variants have historically been one of the safest planes operated by the Marine Corps. The Navy classifies its most serious incidents as Class A mishaps, involving death, permanent disability, or more than $2 million in damage. Only two in-flight Class A mishaps were recorded before the Mississippi crash, both in 2002. A KC-130R experienced a flash fire and crashed into a mountain in Pakistan while nearing an airfield, killing seven people. A KC130F crash landed shortly after taking off inCalifornia, causing injuries but no deaths.
The New York squadron is the last Marine unit flying the KC-130T version and is scheduled to upgrade to a newer version in 2019. Only the remaining 12 KC-130Ts are affected by the grounding.
The U.S. Army has dropped Smith Wesson from its Modular Handgun System competition, according to a Sept. 23 report Smith Wesson Holding Corporation made to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Smith Wesson, which was partnered with General Dynamics, was one of five gun makers competing to replace the Army’s M9 9mm pistol.
“We and our partner in the pursuit of the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, or MHS, solicitation to replace the M9 standard Army sidearm have been notified by the Department of the Army that our proposal was not selected to advance to the next phase of the competition,” according to the SEC report.
TheFirearmBlog.com was the first to report the news about Smith Wesson.
As far as we know, the Army is still evaluating striker-fired pistols from Glock, Sig Sauer, Beretta and FN Herstal, according to a source familiar with the competition.
It will be interesting to find out why Smith Wesson didn’t make it to the next round of MHS.
“We are assessing our options in response to the notification and remain focused on achieving our long-term strategy of organically and inorganically expanding our product offerings in the consumer market for shooting, hunting, and rugged outdoor enthusiasts,” Smith Wesson officials said in the SEC report.
The Navy is working hard to advance an emerging “ghost fleet” concept wherein multiple surface, air and undersea drones operate in a synchronized fashion to conduct a wide-range of combat missions without placing sailors and marines at risk.
“We want to have multiple systems teaming and working together, surface, air and undersea,” Capt. Jon Rucker, program manager, Unmanned Maritime Systems, PEO LCS, said at the recent Surface Navy Association.
Rucker explained that the Pentagon and Navy are advancing this drone-fleet concept help to search and destroy mines, swarm and attack enemies, deliver supplies and conduct intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions, among other things.
Swarms of small aerial drones, engineered with advanced computer algorithms, could coordinate with surface and undersea vehicles as part of an integrated mission, he explained.
As communications and networking technologies continue to evolve rapidly, drones will increasingly be able to function in a cross-domain capacity, meaning across air, sea, land and undersea operations.
Aerial swarms, for instance, could detect an enemy surface vessel and relay information to unmanned surface vessels or undersea drones to investigate or even attack. All of this could operate in a combat circumstance while needing little or no human intervention.
Rucker explained that the Navy, and its Office of Naval Research (ONR), has been working closely with the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, in an effort to fast-track this kind of technology into operational service.
The Strategic Capabilities Office is a special DoD-level effort to harness, leverage and integrate near-term emerging technology for faster delivery to combatant commanders at war.
Much of this involves merging new platforms, weapons and technologies with existing systems in a manner that both improves capability while circumventing a lengthy and often bureaucratic formal acquisition process, Dr. William Roper, SCO Director, told a small group of reporters last year.
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has demonstrated technological advances in autonomy with groups of swarming Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV) designed to detect enemy ships, perform surveillance missions or even launch attacks, service officials said.
Algorithms governing autonomous maritime navigation have progressed to the point where USVs can more effectively “perceive” and respond to their surrounding environment while in transit, Robert Brizzolara, program manager, Sea Platforms and Weapons, ONR, recently told reporters.
During a recent “swarm” boat demonstration in the lower Chesapeake Bay, ONR-developed boats achieved a key milestone in the area of autonomous control.
“Unlike purely remote controlled boats, these boats are able to perceive their environment and plan their routes without human intervention. The role of the human is supervisory control,” Brizzolara said.
A human at a control station, using a low bandwidth connection, can perform command and control functions without needing to actually drive the vessels.
The demonstration used four USVs, working in tandem to perform a range of potential maritime combat operations. All four of the boats were able to see and sense a common picture for route planning, hazard avoidance and collision prevention, developers said.
“We are using a first-of-its-kind sophisticated perception engine which senses the presence of other vessels using a combination of sensors, radar, cameras and processing algorithms,” Brizzolara explained.
The ONR demonstration used 7-to-11 meter boats already in the Navy inventory as manned boats, and configured them with an autonomy “kit” enabling a range of unmanned mission possibilities.
The kits, called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or CARACaS, are engineered to provide USVs with an ability to handle dynamic operational situations; this can include the execution of search patterns, harbor defenses, surveillance or even swarm boat attacks. Other possibilities among a wide range of uses include using autonomous USVs for supply and weapons transport, countermine operations, electronic warfare and amphibious operations.
The USVs are programmed with sensors linked to an established database of known threats such as enemy boats; they are also linked to one another with an ability to detect, track and trail “unknown” boats, Brizzolara said.
ONR is working closely with the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, in an effort to fast-track this technology into operational service.
The Strategic Capabilities Office is a special DoD-level effort to harness, leverage and integrate near-term emerging technology for faster delivery to combatant commanders at war. Much of this involves merging new platforms, weapons and technologies with existing systems in a manner that both improves capability while circumventing a lengthy and often bureaucratic formal acquisition process, Dr. William Roper, SCO Director, told a small group of reporters.
A key advantage of using remotely-controlled drone ships is that, quite naturally, they can save sailors and marines from being exposed to enemy fire during an attack operation. In fact, Roper maintained that USV autonomy brings the potential of substantially advancing amphibious warfare tactics.
“This can greatly help expeditionary logistics for a ship that is standing off from the shore. Instead of having to use an amphib manned by a lot of people – you have an unmanned supply boat,” Roper explained.
Fast-moving USVs could indeed lower risk and increase efficiency for a large number of missions, to include Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), countermine operations, search and rescue, electronic warfare, supply and weapons transport and amphibious assaults.
Higher tech enemy sensors and longer range surface and land-fired weapons have drastically increased the vulnerability of approaching amphibious assault operations, making them more susceptible to enemy fire; as a result, the Navy and Marines have been evolving amphibious tactics to include more dis-aggregated approaches designed to spread out an approaching force – making it more difficult for enemy weapons to attack an advancing assault.
For example, the Iwo Jima attack in the Pacific during WWII, an historic amphibious assault, involved a group of Marines approaching enemy shores in close proximity to one another; weapons, Marines, equipment and attacking infantry all came ashore in rapid succession.
Modern threats, are changing amphibious tactics to succeed against higher tech more lethal enemy weapons.
“Instead of having to land as a single unit, they can now break out. There is safety in numbers and they can redistribute,” Roper explained.
When it comes to offensive surface operations, unmanned boats could form a swarming of small attack craft designed to overwhelm and destroy enemy ships with gunfire, explosives or even small missiles.
Roper explained that this strategic and tactical trajectory is greatly enhanced by the possible use of USVs. The Navy’s current inventory includes ship-to-shore amphibious craft called Landing Craft Air Cushions, LCACs, and Landing Craft Utility Vehicles, LCUs; these platforms, now being upgraded by newer transport boats able to move faster and carry more payload (such as Abrams tanks), are manned and therefore involve the use of a crew.
LCACs require a crew of 13, and LCACs use a crew of 5. New high tech LCAC replacements, called Ship-to-Shore Connectors, are already being developed and delivered to the Navy by Textron.
The Navy and ONR are already immersed in the development of a variety of USVs, including a mine-detecting Unmanned Influence Sweep System, or UISS, for the Littoral Combat Ship. The UISS is carried by a Textron-developed Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle, or CUSV.
The CUSV, in development since before 2009, can travel for more than 20-hours carrying up to 4,000-pounds at speeds of up to 20-knots, Textron information states. Also, it is engineered to withstand waves up to 20-feet.
The UISS is engineered to find and detonate undersea mines in order to save sailors and manned vessels from a potentially deadly explosion.
The Navy’s UiSS will be towed behind the unmanned vehicle and will emit sounds and magnetic signatures that mimic a ship – setting off nearby mines that listen for passing ships, according to a report from the US Naval Institute.
Sub-Hunting Drone Ship
The Navy is also advancing its recently christened Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, inspired submarine-hunting unmanned ship called Sea Hunter; the ship is built to travel up to 10,000 miles while using sonar and other sensors to locate enemy submarines. A high-frequency sonar will send acoustic “pings” into the ocean before analyzing the return signal to determine the shape, size, speed and characteristics of any undersea enemy activity.
The 135-ton ship is engineered to withstand rough seas up to Sea State 5 – or waves up to 6.5 feet.
The effort began in 2010 as an anti-submarine ship called “ASW Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel,” or ACTUV. The Sea Hunter can be controlled by a human “tele-operator” able to maneuver the ship with a joystick. Also, it is possible the Sea Hunter could be armed with lethal weapons in the future, a scenario which current Pentagon doctrine says much hinge upon a human decision-maker in the role of command and control.
The Sea Hunter can be controlled by a human “tele-operator” able to maneuver the ship with a joystick. However, the progress of the platform’s technology, and the rapid advancements of algorithms enabling greater levels of autonomy, have inspired the Navy to begin thinking about additional missions for a drone that was initially conceived as a sub-hunting vessel.
“Right now, the sky is the limit, but, before we even get to that, we need to be able to have a more autonomous system that can steer and reposition itself,” Rucker said.
The ship is built to travel up to 10,000 miles while using sonar and other sensors to locate mines and even the quietest enemy submarines.
The Sea Hunter’s high-frequency sonar can send acoustic “pings” into the ocean before analyzing the return signal to determine the shape, size, speed and characteristics of any undersea enemy activity.
The 135-ton ship is engineered to withstand rough seas up to Sea State 5 – or waves up to 13 feet.
The 132-foot drone uses advanced hydro-acoustics, pattern recognition and algorithms for unmanned navigation to locate and shadow diesel-electric enemy submarines.
The idea is to track them, if necessary, over a period of months so they are compelled to stay away from strategically vital areas.
As technology evolves, the Navy plan is to rapidly migrate the system from something that is tele-operated to something that can increasingly perform a wider range of functions without needing human intervention.
“We are not yet at the point where we don’t have an operator supervising it,” Rucker explained.
Progress with the Sea Hunter will also involve replacing a turret on top of the drone with a range of sensors for ISR, surface-oriented technologies, weapons and electronic warfare systems, Rucker said.
“It will have an ability to work with the surface force, do command and control and go investigate,” Rucker added.
If the Sea Hunter is both more autonomous and armed with lethal weapons in the future, it will be engineered to align with current Pentagon doctrine which says any use of lethal force must hinge upon a human decision-maker in the role of command and control.
The Pentagon’s research arm is also extending testing of its sub-hunting drone able to travel autonomously for up to 90 days using sensors and sonar technology to search for enemy submarines and other airborne and undersea threats such as mines.
Navy Unmanned Surface Vehicle Master Plan
Meanwhile, the Navy is also developing refueling Unmanned Surface Vehicles that are launched and recovered from a host ship. A refueling and data transfer system that is remote from the host ship and proximate to the USV operating area will allow a substantially greater fraction of a Navy USVs’ endurance to be spent on performing the mission rather than on non-mission activities associated with refueling, including transiting to and from the host ship and being deployed and recovered on the host ship.
This effort, asking industry to design, build, test and demonstrate a prototype USV to be called Offboard Refueling and Data Transfer System, or ORADTS. It will be designed to be more rugged and survivable than existing USVs and travel at longer ranges to extend mission possibilities.
“The ORADTS design must improve on previous designs by providing a more robust system that enhances system usability in higher sea states, reliability, and maintainability for implementation in Navy operations,” a Navy Broad Area Announcement states.
This initiative represents a portion of the execution or operational manifestation of a 2007 service roadmap called “The Navy Unmanned Surface Vehicle Master Plan,” which calls for the eventual combat deployment of a broad range of USVs to include ships for countermine missions, surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, Special Operations support and electronic warfare, among other things.
Plans for USVs include a small “X-class” of boats, a 7-meter “Harbor Class,” a “Snorkeler-Class” and an 11-meter “Fleet-Class” boat, the master plan states.
The currently-sought after ORADTS refueling USV is slated to be a larger “Fleet-Class” USV.
“It is approximately 38.5 ft in length, 10.5 ft beam and full load displacement 21,400 lbs. It can carry between 400 and 650 gallons of diesel fuel marine (DFM) and uses fuel at a rate between 25 and 40 gallons/hr.,” Navy documents describe.
The refueling port of the USV is located on the starboard side of the craft, above the waterline, about midship. There will be up to 2 terabytes of data to be offloaded from the USV, per refueling iteration, the documents add.
The Indian Air Force’s Pathankot Station in Northern Punjab, very near the border with Pakistan, was attacked in the early hours of January 3, 2016.
Six terrorists from a Kashmir-based separatist group, heavily armed and dressed in Indian Army uniforms, breached the base walls and moved 400 meters into the base before being stopped by Garud Commandos. A raucous small arms battle ensued as the attackers opened up on the Indians with AK-47s and grenade launchers. The battle lasted until 4:15 pm on January 5th, ending with the death of all six attackers, six Defence Security Corps troops and one Indian Air Force Garud commando.
Garuds are the Special Forces of India’s Air Forces. Tasked with airfield seizure, reconnaissance, air assault, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, combat search and rescue, as well as air base defense, they are akin to the U.S. Army’s Delta Force operators or the British Special Air Service.
Corporal Shailabh Gaur was part of a three-man team deployed outside the high value asset area of the air base. One of his teammates immediately took three bullets, so Shailabh took over his position. Fighting for nearly half an hour, Shailabh took 6 bullets in his abdomen but kept returning fire. Reinforcements would not arrive until a full hour after the initial contact between the terrorists and commandos.
The three man team prevented the attackers from entering the part of the base housing the aircraft and kept them from surprising other IAF personnel who might not have been as capable in their response. Shailabh was medevaced to a nearby hospital where he under went surgery for bullet wounds and ruptured intestines.
History is full of urban legends… The fog of war doesn’t fade when history’s most notorious monster and a gallant British soldier are on both ends of the story.
When British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain visited Adolf Hitler at Munich in 1938, he found the German dictator owned a reproduction of a painting by Italian artist Fortunino Matania. The painting depicts a British soldier at the Battle of Menin Crossroads in WWI carrying another to safety.
Chamberlain asked Hitler – a clearly firm German nationalist – why he would choose to have a painting depicting Germany’s WWI enemies in the Berghof, his mountain retreat. Hitler replied that the painting featured a soldier who spared his life in combat.
“That man came so near to killing me that I thought I should never see Germany again,” Hitler is alleged to have said. “Providence saved me from such devilish accurate fire as those English boys were aiming at us.”
That British soldier is believed to be Henry Tandey, a Victoria Cross recipient who remembers sparing a German soldier’s life at Marcoing. At just 27 years old, Tandey led a bayonet charge at Marcoing. He and his nine fellow Tommies took out a German machine gun nest and took 37 prisoners before sending the rest of the Germans in retreat.
Tandey fought in the First Battle Ypres in 1914 and the Somme in 1916, where he was wounded. He was out of the hospital in time for the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917, and in 1918, was at the capture of Marcoing, where he recalls sparing a German soldier’s life.
“I took aim but couldn’t shoot a wounded man,” Tandey remembered, “so I let him go.” Tandey said the German soldier nodded in thanks, and disappeared.
The accuracy of the story is disputed by historians. Though Hitler’s special interest in the painting is odd, he is known to have owned it as early as 1937, acquired from Tandey’s old regiment.
Historians argue that the faces of both men would likely have been unrecognizable, covered in mud and blood (and who-knows-what-else). They also argue that Hitler, even though he was a message runner, would have been up to 50 miles north of where Tandey was that day. Either that, or the future dictator was on leave.
Later, during WWII, a Coventry-based journalist approached the British WWI vet and asked him about the alleged encounter. As Tandey stood in front of his home, which had just been bombed by the Luftwaffe, Tandey said:
“If only I had known what he would turn out to be… When I saw all the people and women and children he had killed and wounded I was sorry to God I let him go.”
DoD’s embed program and other mechanisms have given journalists and filmmakers substantial access to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so it’s no surprise that those conflicts have been some of the best documented in history. Here is WATM’s list of 11 post 9-11 documentaries that did the best at capturing what really happened:
The Hornet’s Nest
A father-son journalism team embedded on what was supposed to be a three-day raid but ended up being nine days of intense fighting by the 101st Airborne.
A group of paratroopers is deployed to the Korengal Valley, one of the most dangerous spots in Afghanistan, for 15 months. During that time, they fight smugglers and insurgents, attempt to win over the locals, and try to save themselves. A camera crew followa them for much of the deployment, documenting their interactions with Afghans and the deep love the men have for each other.
A group of Danish cavalry soldiers deploy on a six-month tour of Helmand and a Danish filmmaker goes with them. The film includes a lot of the tedium of a soldier’s life as well as a raid where the soldiers find themselves within a few meters of a Taliban machine gun team.
Hell and Back Again
Nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Academy Award, this film tells the story of a Marine injured in Afghanistan who, after returning to the states, struggles with his post traumatic stress disorder and a badly broken leg. “Hell and Back Again” gives a visceral look at how hard it can be for wounded troops to return to civilian life.
This is a very critical look at the American drone program. Drone explains the factors that make drones so popular with troops while also looking at the moral burdens on drone operators and emotional pain of those who’ve lost family members to drone strikes.
The War Tapes
Directed by Deborah Scranton and shot by National Guard soldiers over the course of their training and deployment to Iraq, the documentary focuses on three men with very different views on the war and their commander in chief. This film is arguably the best in terms of capturing the burdens on the modern-day citizen soldier.
Taxi to the Dark Side
An in-depth look at torture during the opening years of the War on Terror, including the decisions made by the Bush administration. It covers Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and the leadership (or absence of it) that governed actions in two prisons. Made by the son of a former Navy interrogator, the film went on to win an Academy Award.
No End In Sight
Although “No End In Sight” was released in 2007, the film concentrates on Iraq in the first year after the invasion. It features interviews with White House and State Department officials who were frustrated with missteps that fueled the growing insurgency and caused extra misery for both Iraqi citizens and the U.S. troops assigned to police them.
The Ground Truth
“The Ground Truth” follows a group of Marines and soldiers from the point they’re recruited and then on to their experiences in war. Troops tell their stories in their own words from their initial training through deployments and struggles once they get home.
Nearly 20 years after America was born, an Irish architect named James Hoban began laying down the first piece of stone for what would become The White House during an elaborate Freemason ceremony.
Less than 24 hours later, the first piece of stone that was laid down vanished and no one appeared to know its whereabouts. Since then, the search for the stone continues as various participants have attempted to locate the historic piece of foundation.
Although the formation of the Freemason’s fraternity is a fiercely guarded secret, their history dates back to 1390 when they were first referenced in a Regius Poem.
A commonly accepted theory is the group emerged from the stonemasons guild amid the middle ages.
In the late 1940s during President Harry Truman’s administration, the White House underwent major renovations as crew members brought in metal detectors in hopes to locate the stone by picking up its metallic minerals and many believed they may have discovered its location.
President Harry Truman — Freemason
When Truman got wind of the search, he ordered them to halt the exploration immediately, which caught everyone off guard. In response, Truman then sent pieces of the White House to several various Freemason locations throughout the country.
Watch the History Channel‘s video to see how many have tried to unlock the mystery.
Hours after former U.S. drone operator Brandon Bryant testified in front of the German parliament, two USAF officer arrived at his mother’s house in Missoula, Montana to warn her she was on ISIS’ “hit list.”
Is this a coincidence? Does the terror group have a hit list targeting mothers of service members in Missoula, Montana? Why would the Air Force frighten a civilian like this for no reason?
Bryant was testifying on the how the U.S. Air Force’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany contributes to the unmanned aerial vehicle program. He served six years in the Air Force, racking up a staggering kill count of more than 1,600 people — a number that he said sickens him. He rejected a reenlistment bonus of more than $100,000.
Bryant with a UAV during his time in the Air Force
Ramstein Air Base is one of the main hubs of the U.S. drone program. A high-tech satellite relay station there allows drone operators to run their aircraft in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa, or the Middle East from Nevada (or elsewhere) via the Germany-based installation. A major problem with this revelation is Europeans in general abhor the American military’s use of drones and the program itself may be a violation German law, which makes the use of drones via Ramstein a violation of the agreement that allows the U.S. to use the base. As a result American personnel at Ramstein could be subject to prosecution under German law.
“The U.S. government has confirmed that such armed and remote aircraft are not flown or controlled from U.S. bases in Germany,” said spokesperson Steffen Seibert, a delicate statement that employs semantics to present non-damning facts without contradicting Bryant’s testimony.
The Air Force officers who visited Bryant’s mother informed her that her personal information might have been acquired by ISIS in the days after the recent Office of Personnel Management hack. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations vehemently denied any accusation of whistleblower intimidation. They told Bryant’s lawyer, Jesselyn Radack (who also represents whistleblower Edward Snowden), it was their “duty to inform” Bryant’s mother.
Bryant has been slamming the Air Force since he separated, and the Air Force has been denying his claims just as long. Bryant sent Air Force Times a certificate from the Air Force confirming his kill count. Radack believes the Air Force is attempting to silence Bryant by “delivering death threats from ISIS.”
Bryant told The Intercept that without Ramstein the U.S. would either have to find another relay base in the area or operate the drones in country, which would require deploying more operators and create greater risk to personnel than is currently faced with U.S.-based operations.
Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II is commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Our nation expects a great deal from its military, but it comes at a cost. Air Mobility Command — the organization responsible for airlift, aerial refueling, aeromedical evacuation, and enroute support — is constantly faced with challenges testing the resilience of our airmen.
Whether airdropping combat supplies, fueling fighters and bombers on the way to destroy terrorist camps, or aiding natural disaster victims around the world, Mobility airmen perform the mission with professionalism and at great personal risk and sacrifice.
I’m painfully aware our airmen have been subject to high operations demand for quite some time. Most are tired, as are their families. They do what we ask them to do, and they are always there, conducting the mission professionally, selflessly and with great effect.
However, a concern is how much longer they can sustain the pace and whether they will leave our Air Force.
The manning shortage extends beyond fighter pilots. What happens when we face a potential exodus of mobility skill and talent? Consider approximately 1,600 mobility pilots are eligible to leave the military in the next four-plus years. We are already more than 300 total force mobility pilots short of what we need today.
Commercial airlines are projected to be short 16,000 pilots by 2020. The math demonstrates the challenge is not looming, it is here. The time to find solutions is now.
A Pilot Shortage
This is a national problem with real security implications. As a result of new safety regulations, increased experience requirements, and attrition through commercial airline pilot retirement, experienced aviators are in high demand.
Mobility pilots are some of the best in the world and represent a lucrative talent pool for the civilian industry. As a natural feeder system for the airlines, we lose talent as civilian airlines’ needs increase.
This comes at a time when our airmen are feeling the strain. Consider aerial refueling tanker pilots as an example. These professionals flew nearly 31,000 tanker missions in support of operations in Iraq and Syria alone. We ask them to do this with a 60-year-old KC-135 Stratotanker or vintage KC-10 Extender aircraft, relying on the strong backs and tremendous pride and skill of our maintainers.
Many yearn for newer equipment; consistent work schedules; family, personal time; and a homestead. Many believe that commercial pilot life offers the potential to achieve balance.
The need for skilled military and civilian pilots will put us in an unfortunate and natural competition with our industry partners — not a good position for either party.
Pilots departing is a problem, but if they don’t consider serving in the Reserves and Guard, that problem becomes a crisis. If our airmen don’t continue to serve with our total force partners, the active force will face additional strain.
Productive dialogue can help us find great opportunities amidst the challenges, but it requires industry, academia, and airman ingenuity.
Recently, I sat down with some of our airline partners to begin this discussion, and I am confident that this is a start toward better understanding and a collaborative approach to improving circumstances.
We are focused not only on the pilot shortage challenges, but also addressing aircraft maintainer shortages.
Air Mobility Command never fails to deliver rapid global mobility anywhere, anytime. The mobility mission is similar to an offensive line in football. When the capability isn’t there, everyone notices, and scoring — or, in our case, striking a target, delivering relief or helping to save a life — wouldn’t occur.
The value of mobility airmen to national defense is critical.
This issue calls for a national dialogue and understanding before strain becomes breakage, and national objectives and security are at risk.