The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq - We Are The Mighty
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The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

From 2001 to 2003, the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq was in a state of conflict between autonomous Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the terror group, Ansar al-Islam. The group was made primarily of Al-Qaeda veterans of the Afghanistan War and was carving out an enclave in the major city of Halabja. Locals from the Islamic Group of Kurdistan rose up to support Ansar al-Islam. The CIA also suspected the terror group of manufacturing poison and chemical weapons in the region. To address this threat in northern Iraq and put more pressure on Baghdad, the U.S. planned to open a second front during the 2003 invasion of Iraq from the north through Turkey.

However, Turkey refused to allow U.S. forces to cross their border into Iraq for the purpose of invasion. Although this development halted the mechanized 4th Infantry Division, thousands of paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2-14 Infantry Regiment were inserted from the air to form an ad hoc northern coalition. Their push south was paralleled by paramilitary operators of the CIA’s Special Activities Division and Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group. The roughly 40 CIA officers and Green Berets supported the 7,000-strong Kurdish Peshmerga fighters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdish Democratic Party who wanted to defeat Ansar and Islamic Kurdish fighters and push south to join the fight against Saddam.

On the morning of March 21, 2003, Operation Viking Hammer kicked off in northern Iraq. Directed by the U.S. advisors, a total of 64 Tomahawk cruise missiles struck Ansar and Islamic Kurdistan forces. However, the ground assault was postponed until the conventional U.S. forces were in place for their parallel push south. The attack was scheduled for March 28.

On the eve of the attack, the Islamic Group of Kurdistan surrendered. They had already lost 100 fighters during airstrikes on March 21 and were heavily demoralized. The attack the next morning was met with heavy resistance from the Ansar fighters. However, the U.S. advisors called in airstrikes on the Ansar positions and the Peshmerga were able to push through. They reached their first checkpoint, the town of Gulp, hours ahead of schedule.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
The mountainous terrain was difficult to navigate and fight through (U.S. Army)

The bulk of the surviving Ansar forces fell back to the town of Sargat where they consolidated for a final stand. As the Peshmerga fighters and their U.S. advisors approached Sargat, they were pinned down by heavy mortar and machine gun fire. The town’s location deep in the valley blocked radio signals and prevented the Americans from calling in airstrikes or friendly reinforcements. Instead, Green Berets used a Barrett M82 .50-caliber rifle to take out Ansar machine gun crews while Peshmerga forces brought up artillery to destroy the Ansar mortar positions. It took three hours, but the Ansar forces were eventually driven from Sargat.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Green Berets during Operation Viking Hammer (U.S. Army)

As they routed the Ansar fighters into the hills, the Peshmerga were again pinned down by machine gun fire. However, the elevated battleground allowed U.S. advisors to call in airstrikes into the night. Once darkness fell, four AC-130 gunships battered the retreating Ansar forces as they retreated toward the Iranian border. Some fighters were reportedly arrested by Iranian forces while others were sent back across the border and captured by Kurdish forces. However, the Kurds allege that many Ansar fighters were given refuge in Iran.

Operation Viking Hammer resulted in the destruction of Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq and allowed Kurdish fighters to continue south to attack Saddam’s forces from the north. Traces of poisonous Ricin and potassium chloride were discovered in Sargat, as well as chemical suits, nerve gas antidotes and manuals on manufacturing chemical weapons. Peshmerga casualties were light with three fighters killed and 23 wounded.

In addition to the 100 Islamic Kurds who were killed in the initial airstrikes, an estimated 150-200 Ansar fighters were killed during Viking Hammer. There were no American casualties. Seven Green Berets were awarded the Silver Star for their actions around Sargat and several CIA officers were awarded the rare Intelligence Star for extraordinary heroism in combat. The operation has been lauded as one of the greatest Special Forces engagements in modern history.

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Veteran Democrats use Day 3 of DNC to put verbal crosshairs on Trump

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Congressman Seth Moulton, a Marine Corps vet., addressing the Veterans and Military Family caucus at the DNC in Philadelphia. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Last week the Republicans used Day One of their convention in Cleveland to tee up national security issues, rolling out military veterans like “Lone Survivor” SEAL Marcus Luttrell and former head of DIA Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to attack Hillary Clinton for her inaction around the force protection disaster in Benghazi, Libya and her reckless handling of classified emails while serving as Secretary of State.

Several veterans advocates who’d also attended the RNC in Cleveland had wondered aloud, after a couple of days of next to nothing on the topic of issues facing the military, whether the DNC was going to mount any counter to Republican accusations and what they’d presented on behalf of the military and veterans community the week prior. Yesterday they got their answer as the Democrats brought out the party’s own platoon of military veterans to put the verbal crosshairs squarely on Donald J. Trump’s center of mass.

Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton, a Marine veteran who served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, set the tone in the afternoon when he kicked off the Veterans and Military Family Counsel session with some very specific criticisms about Trump.

“The Republican nominee for president goes around praising Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein,” Moulton said. “Specifically, about Saddam Hussein, he praised him for killing terrorists. Let’s just remember who Saddam Hussein termed ‘terrorists.’ There are American troops like me. He killed hundreds of Americans. And there were tens of thousands of innocent Shite civilians in his own country whom he massacred in the streets. It’s pretty unfathomable that we have a major party nominee who says things like that on the campaign trail.”

Moulton, who just returned from a Congressional junket to Iraq and Afghanistan, went on to accuse Trump of having a bad effect on the morale of troops on the front lines.

“I would never purport to speak for all the troops, but there was remarkable consensus around those dinner table discussions that Donald Trump is a threat to our country,” Moulton said. “And when you’re hearing that from the guys who are literally putting their lives on the line as we sit here today, it makes you stop and think.

“If there’s one group of people who Americans will listen to it’s all of you who have put your lives on the line for our country. It’s all of us who have the credibility to say, ‘I know a little bit about our national security because I was part of it.'”

Moulton’s remarks were followed by an equally pointed attack against Trump from Illinois Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, an Army veteran who lost both legs after her helicopter was hit by enemy fire in Iraq.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Tammy Duckworth speaking to a vet gathering at the DNC. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

“We’re talking about a man on the other side who this morning said he wanted to renegotiate the Geneva Convention,” Duckworth said. “Well, let me tell you what: When you’ve sat in a downed aircraft outside the wire after you’ve just been shot down and you’re bleeding to death, you got a whole different perspective about the Geneva Convention.”

“[Donald Trump] categorically wants to send more young women and men into combat,” said Will Fischer, veterans representative for the AFL-CIO, who followed Duckworth on the stage. “His kids, like Donnie Jr., ain’t putting on a flak jacket anytime soon.”

After the Veterans and Military Families Counsel session concluded, We Are The Mighty had an exclusive audience with more than a dozen flag and general officers who were present this week to show their support for Hillary Clinton.

“One of the most important things is understanding the value of partnerships, coalitions, and alliances for the U.S. to be able to carry out its missions,” retired Navy Rear Admiral Kevin Green said. “Candidates for commander-in-chief need to understand that’s how we avoid unnecessary wars, that’s how we leverage our allies and our friends to do the kinds of things we need to do keep the United States safe and secure.”

Green framed Trump’s business approach to foreign policy as a liability, saying, “If you consider the relationships with other nations as transactional – what do I get if I give you this? – it undermines our national security.”

“Reality TV has nothing to do with [national defense] reality,” added Rear Admiral Harold Robinson, a retired Navy chaplain. “He can say three lies during the day and then deny them. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines need to be looked at in the eye and told God’s own truth when we ask them to go out there and kill or be killed.”

“The commander in chief doesn’t have any checks and balances,” said retired Air Force Major General Maggie Woodward. “He makes a decision on the spot and we execute it. That’s why it’s so terrifying to have a guy that we all believe is not qualified or temperamentally fit for that position.”

“One of the things I discovered, not only leading troops in combat but also while in charge of recruiting for the Marine Corps, is what we had to tell America in order to have their sons and daughters be part of the military,” said retired Lieutenant General Walter Gaskin. “They expected us to be professional, to lead, and to be knowledgeable of the world where we were sending their kids. We have to do that again so that the average person understands what’s about to happen if the person putting them there is alienating our allies and the Muslim locals in the areas we’re going to be fighting in.”

But the final thought for the day on matters of military readiness and national security was reserved for Leon Panetta, former head of the CIA and Department of Defense.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks to the DNC. (DNC TV screengrab)

“Donald Trump says he gets his foreign policy experience from watching TV and running the Miss Universe pageant,” Panetta said from the main stage at the Wells Fargo Center during his primetime appearance just before President Obama’s speech that closed out the program. “If only it were funny, but it is deadly serious.”

The response from the Trump campaign to the daylong fusillade was muted by Trump standards. The usually prolific candidate was idle on Twitter until late in the day when he tweeted something about how shooting deaths of police officers were up by 78 percent and that the country doesn’t feel great already, a counter to a statement made by Obama during his remarks.

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GoldenEye 007’s legendary multiplayer mode gets an unofficial remake, and you can play it for free

Remember those days back in the barracks playing hours of GoldenEye? Well, grab your battle buddies and license-to-kill because GoldenEye: Source, an unofficial and free remake of the N64 classic GoldenEye 007, has received its first major update in more than three years.


While there’s no single player campaign, the remake features 25 maps, 28 weapons, and 10 game modes. GoldenEye: Source has been a labor of love for the creators for the past decade, and that reverence for the original game shines through in the attention to detail evident in the trailer.

The remake runs on Valve’s Source engine — the same used for Counter Strike and Half-Life — so while the graphics aren’t quite Skyrim quality, it’s still a major facelift. The “choppers” look like actual hands instead of pork chops, and that should be enough. The option to use a keyboard and mouse or modern gamepad will also be a breath of fresh air for anyone who’s recently dusted off the old N64-console and tried to stumble through the original GoldenEye‘s outdated control scheme.

Watch the trailer below:

(h/t to The Verge)
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The craziest small-arms maneuvers by South Korean SWAT

With a multitude of potential threats radiating over the border from North Korea, South Korea cannot be lax when it comes to security.


As such, Seoul places a premium on the training and capabilities of its military and police forces. This is clearly illustrated through the paramilitary capabilities of the South Korean National Police (KNP) SWAT teams.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Members of South Korean SWAT team approach mock terrorists during an anti-terrorism exercise at a venue for the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea.

A 2014 video from LiveLeak shows the incredible training in small-arms maneuvers that these SWAT members go through.

The KNP is responsible for most security operations within the country, including counterterrorism measures, riot control, and hostage negotiations. The KNP also, on occasion, carries out joint exercises with the Korean Coast Guard and Army.

The highlights of the KNP training video are in the following GIFs:

A trainee practices strafing while alternating fire between a pistol and a submachine gun.

Trainees practice disarming, and counter-disarming, techniques.

Two prospective SWAT members work in a pair, coordinating movement and cover fire.

A trainee practices a faux surrender.

SWAT team members must be ready to respond to all manner of threats, including the sudden appearance of a combatant from behind.

Here, a trainee practices handling the recoil from a shotgun, before transitioning to his pistol

In possible crowd situations, accuracy is of critical importance, and marksmanship is given plenty of practice.

While in the field, SWAT members must be ready to continue an operation even after a potential injury. Here, a trainee is practicing shooting and reloading with one hand.

Of course, being able to function while distracted and under stress is one of the most important factors for success in the KNP. Here, instructors attempt to distract a trainee during an accuracy drill

All GIFs via GIPHY
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VA awards $300 million in grants to help end veteran homelessness

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Creative commons


WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today awarded approximately $300 million more in grants under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program to help thousands of very low-income Veteran families around the nation who are permanently housed or transitioning to permanent housing. The SSVF grant program provides access to crucial services to prevent homelessness for Veterans and their families.

SSVF funding, which supports outreach, case management and other flexible assistance to prevent Veteran homelessness or rapidly re-house Veterans who become homeless, has been awarded to 275 non-profit organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  These grants, key elements of VA’s implementation of the Housing First Strategy, enable vulnerable Veterans to secure or remain in permanent housing.  A list of SSVF grantees is located at www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp.

“Since 2010, the Housing First Strategy has helped cut Veteran Homelessness nearly in half,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald.  “Housing First is why 360,000 Veterans and family members have been housed, rehoused or prevented from falling into homelessness over the last five years. SSVF helps homeless Veterans quickly find stable housing and access the supportive services they – and their families – need.”

Grantees will continue to provide eligible Veteran families with outreach, case management, and assistance obtaining VA and other benefits, which may include health care, income support services, financial planning, child care, legal services, transportation, housing counseling, among other services.

Grantees are expected to leverage supportive services grant funds to enhance the housing stability of very low-income Veteran families who are occupying permanent housing.  In doing so, grantees are required to establish relationships with local community resources.

In fiscal year (FY) 2015, SSVF served more than 157,000 participants and is on track to exceed that number in FY 2016.  As a result of these and other efforts, Veteran homelessness is down 47 percent since the launch of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness in 2010.  Also since 2010, more than 360,000 Veterans and their family members have been permanently housed, rapidly re-housed, or prevented from falling into homelessness by VA’s homelessness programs and targeted housing vouchers provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Today’s grant recipients successfully competed for grants under a January 15, 2016, Notice of Fund Availability.  Applications were due February 5, 2016.  The funding will support SSVF services in FY 2017, which starts October 1, 2016, and ends September 30, 2017.

For more information about the SSVF program, visit www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp.

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Here are the best military photos for the week of Apr. 7

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

Tech. Sgt. Michael Christiansen, a 100th Security Forces Squadron assistant flight chief, draws back a bow and arrow March 28, 2017, at RAF Mildenhall, England. Christiansen was selected to represent U.S. Air Forces in Europe at the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Chicago where he will compete in the rifle, pistol, recurve archery and sitting volleyball events.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony

Retired Air Force Col. and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, flies with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, April 2, 2017, at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz

Army:

A U.S. soldier surveys a training ground near Kandahar, Afghanistan, March 14, 2017. The Soldier was part of a security detachment supporting Afghan Tactical Air Coordinators and advisers with Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air. As part of Resolute Support Mission, TAAC-Air works in tandem with Afghan counterparts to foster working relationships and fortify confidence in the mission.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – U.S. Army Soldiers and European military candidates observe the chemical decontamination portion of the U.S. Army Europe Expert Field Medical Badge evaluation in Grafenwoehr, Germany on March 20, 2017. Approximately 215 military members from the U.S. Army and eleven European partner nations attended this biannual evaluation in hopes of achieving the coveted U.S. Army EFMB.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Brian Kimball

Navy:

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (April 7, 2017) The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 4, 2017) Sailors clean and maintain an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the “Fighting Swordsmen” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). The ship and its carrier strike group are underway conducting a sustainment exercise in support of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Neo Greene III

Marine Corps:

CAMP BEUHRING, Kuwait – Lance Cpl. Alexander Seick, a communications specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 11, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), closes the feed tray of an M240B medium machine gun after conducting a functions check during a sustainment training exercise near Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, March 5. Marines can use the M240B’s high rate of fire to provide suppressive fires, subduing enemy threats while moving toward an objective. The 11th MEU is currently supporting U.S. 5th Fleet’s mission to promote and maintain stability and security in the region.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Xzavior T. McNeal

YUMA, Arizona – U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, take cover from shrapnel behind a blast blanket while conducting urban demolition breach training for Talon Exercise 2-17, Yuma, Arizona, March 30, 2017. The purpose of TalonEx was for ground combat units to conduct integrated training in support of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-17 hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Santino Martinez

Coast Guard:

A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium from Coast Guard Station Seattle and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles conduct night time hoisting training on April 4, 2016. Crews conduct weekly training to remain proficient at hoisting, even in adverse weather conditions.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Logan Kellogg

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Warner, a rescue swimmer at Air Station Kodiak, performs an ice rescue during training at Upper 6 Mile Lake on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, March 17, 2016. During the training, members from Air Station Kodiak, Sector Anchorage and the National Ice Rescue School in Essexville, Mich., worked together to perform ice rescues from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Meredith Manning

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Memes, safety briefs, and release formation. It’s Friday!


1. Got stuck on staff duty this weekend?

(via Ranger Up)

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Print out this meme and tape it over the sergeant major’s photo.

2. Air Force sick call:

(via Military Memes)

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

SEE ALSO: 5 real-world covert operations in FX’s ‘Archer’

3. Sorry about getting this song stuck in your head (via MARS Special Operations Group).

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

4. Someone doesn’t know the power of the knifehand (via Sh-t my LPO says).

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Pretty sure he could part the waves if he would line up his thumb properly.

5. It’s not the size of the closet, it’s the work clothes inside.

(via Military Memes)

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Keep your Rolexes and Armani. It’s time for IR chemlights and Skilcraft.

6. The Army finally named combat gear in honor of noncombat soldiers.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Probably not the POGs’ first choice of honors, but they’ll get over it.

7. “Sweet, I only have to hold it for five more miles.”

(via Marine Corps Memes)

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

8. Apparently, the uniform is a fashion statement.

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
A really, really dumb fashion statement.

9. Not the most covert operation, but then you only have to trick the Coast Guard (via Coast Guard Memes).

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

10. The Air Force is where “glamping” started (via Marine Corps Memes).

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Day one of every operation is making sure the couches don’t clash with the drapes.

11. Not the most convincing acting, but maybe chief won’t look closely (via Air Force Nation).

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
He’ll probably just be mad you’re on his grass.

12. Good luck, buddy (via Air Force Memes Humor).

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
This will be especially fun when dress uniforms are involved.

13. This is why people join the Air Force:

(via Air Force Nation)

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Sure, you get made fun of, but you also get to be happy sometimes.

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Here’s a look at the likely finalists for the new XM17 modular handgun

For over a year, the U.S. military has been looking at options for replacing the decades-old Beretta M9 handgun. As with most DoD programs, the so-called “Modular Handgun System” program is a sprawling, multi-million dollar plan to find a new pistol that takes advantage of innovations in the current firearms market and delivers a sidearm that works well for a variety of missions and troops.


Listen to the WATM podcast to hear the author and our veteran hosts discuss what the XM17 modular handgun program means to the military:

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The M9 is a solid performer and is still popular among many in the U.S. military. But over the last 20 years, handgun technology — especially the use of polymers in handgun construction — has advanced well beyond the all-metal, one-size-fits-all frame of the flagship Beretta sidearm.

Both the Army and Air Force are running the search for an M9 replacement, dubbed the XM17, and have called for a do-all pistol that will fit in the hands of a wide range of troops, be more accurate and reliable than the Beretta and, most importantly, be configurable for different missions.

An ambitious goal to be sure, and some high-ranking officials in the Pentagon have argued it’s one that’ll wind up being too expensive and take too long to field, with the Army estimating it’ll take $17 million and 2 years to test the final version of the XM17.

“We’re not exactly redesigning how to go to the moon. This is a pistol,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said in March. “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.”

Despite Milley’s frustration, the program is set for a so-called “downselect” next month to three competitor designs to move into field testing. The safe money is that the Army will settle on options from Sig Sauer, Glock and a team composed of General Dynamics and Smith Wesson.

So what do each of these companies bring to the table for a modular handgun?

Glock

By far the most popular handgun among law enforcement, military special operations and a huge swath of civilian shooters, the Glock series of polymer-framed pistols has been considered the gold standard of modern handguns since its introduction in the 1980s.

In fact, the Glock 19 is the standard-issue handgun for Army special operations troops, Air Force special operations Airmen and has recently been chosen to replace Naval Special Warfare Sig Sauer P226 pistols. Sources say the company submitted versions of its G17 (a 5-inch barreled, 9mm handgun) and the G22 (a 4.5-inch barreled, .40 caliber handgun) to the MHS program.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
A Special Forces soldier fires a Glock 19 pistol at a range during joint training with Hungarian special operations forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tyler Placie)

While Glock doesn’t have a so-called “modular” gun, the pistol uses so few parts that swapping a barrel or switching the backstrap of the grip for smaller-handed shooters takes no time. Glock offers several handguns that look and operate the same as the G17 and G22 — namely the G19, G43 and G21 — that are more compact or are optimized for different shooting situations.

Smith Wesson

Long a close second to the Glock family of polymer pistols, Smith Wesson’s MP series of handguns have made serious inroads in the law enforcement and civilian markets.

Check out the utility belt of a local cop or stroll down the shooting bays of your local range, and you’re bound to see a bunch of MP 9s in holsters or on the bench. Similar to the Glock, the MP pistol is simple to operate, has few parts and fits a wide range of shooters with replaceable backstraps on its grip.

Smith  Wesson has teamed with General Dynamics to compete for the Army XM17 Modular Handgun System program. Smith Wesson MP 9. (Photo from Smith Wesson)

And, like Glock, Smith Wesson doesn’t have a truly modular handgun system. But the company makes a longer barrel MP in a variety of calibers and the wildly popular MP Shield for concealed carry. All are based on the same design as the MP 9 and have the same ergonomics — so troops shifting from the 5-inch MP 5-inch CORE on one mission to the MP Shield on another won’t have to deal with a learning curve.

Sig Sauer

Sig Sauer has been most widely known for its double action handguns (ones that have hammers instead of strikers), and the P226 is perhaps the most famous gun the company makes since it’s been the go-to pistol for Naval Special Warfare’s sailors for years.

That changed this year when the SEAL community let slip that it would be replacing its inventory of P226s with Glock 19s — in line with other special operations units in the U.S. military. In 2014, Sig announced its newest handgun, dubbed the “P320,” which uses a similar polymer frame and striker fire system as the Glock and MP.

But what makes the P320 unique among its closest competitors is that it is truly modular. Buy a stock P320 and a shooter can purchase new frames and barrels in different sizes and calibers; you can literally change the P320 from a 4.7-inch combat handgun into a 3.6-inch subcompact concealed carry gun in about a minute with a new frame, slide and barrel.

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Photo from Sig Sauer

You can even switch out a 9mm to a .40 with ease. The only common part of the Sig P320 is the “fire control group” which includes the trigger and internal safety module.

And it’s this off-the-shelf modularity that leads many to believe the P320 is the odds-on favorite to win the XM17 handgun program.

Will it happen?

The problem is the Army (and other services) don’t have a great track record of making solid decisions on new weapons that take advantage of modern technology.

For several years in the early 2000s, the Army spent a lot of time and money looking into a replacement for the M4 carbine — a rifle that derives from a pre-Vietnam design. Despite test reports that showed other options performed better than the M4, the Army decided it wasn’t enough of an improvement over the existing rifle, and the service shelved the program.

Likewise, the Mk-16 and Mk-17 SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle — or SCAR — program was originally billed as a modular rifle program, one that would eventually see a combat rifle capable of switching from, say, a short-barreled entry gun into a longer-barreled one for more distant engagements. That program was also shelved, with special ops forces mostly using the .308 caliber Mk-17 on some missions as a battle rifle.

It’s still unclear whether the XM17 program will suffer a similar fate. But it’s there’s no argument that the Beretta M9 is facing an age problem and is increasingly causing armorers headaches.

So whether it’s a Glock 19 from Cabela’s or a futuristic, modular pistol, U.S. troops should see some kind of new handgun in their armory within a few years.

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Turkish President Erdogan holds on to power as military coup fails

The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: sputniknews.com)


Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan has apparently survived a bloody coup attempt that has left over 160 people dead, over a thousand injured, and over 2800 military personnel detained. Massive protests by Erdogan supporters, who were rallied by an address by the Turkish President on FaceTime, helped thwart the coup. The coup was condemned by many elements in Turkey, as well as President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Among events Friday night and Saturday were the shutdown of power for Incirlik Air Base, where the 39th Air Base Wing is deployed. British, Saudi, and German forces are operating from the air base, which is less than 70 miles from the Syrian border. That is a convenient locale for operations against the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attack in Nice Saturday that left 84 people dead.

Air operations from Incirlik ordered to stop, although aircraft currently flying missions were allowed to land. American troops have not been threatened, although the apparent blockade of Incirlik, which has gone to THREATCON DELTA in the wake of the coup, is not a good sign. Nor is the FAA shutting down flights to and from Turkey. The Federation of American Scientists estimated in 2015 that the United States reportedly has many as 50 “special stores” located at Incirlik, adding to the stakes at Incirlik.

Erdogan in the past has not exactly been a friend to the United States. One of the more notorious incidents came early in his rule as prime minister, in 2003, when he suddenly denied permission for the 4th Infantry Division to land in Turkey and attack into northern Iraq during the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lately, during his rule, he has shown a decided pattern of suppressing dissent, including seizing control of newspapers, throwing people in prison for “insulting” him, and drawing charges of both acting like a dictator and turning a blind eye to foreign fighters transiting Turkey to join ISIS.

Erdogan has accused Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who is residing in the United States after falling out with the Turkish President in 2013 over a corruption scandal and the closure of schools run by his group, Hizmet. According to reports, Gulen is a true moderate Moslem and a supporter of democracy, interfaith dialogue, and education.

With the failure of this coup, Erdogan will move to ensure that there will not be a chance to launch a more successful one. The Turkish president has declared the attempted coup a “gift from god” and has vowed to use it as a pretext to “cleanse our army” and said the elements who took part in the coup are guilty of “treason” and vowed they will “pay a heavy price” for trying to topple his regime.

The effects of this coup will reverberate through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Middle East. Turkey will likely slide further into an Islamist regime, one that becomes increasingly repressive as Erdogan asserts his rule in Turkey.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Senior Airman Daniel Lasal, a 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, performs a post-flight inspection on an F-16 Fighting Falcon Nov. 15, 2016, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Aircraft maintainers perform six hours or more of post-flight inspections after each sortie.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa

Tech. Sgt. Alan Greene, a 70th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, lowers the boom to an F-16 Fighting Falcon during an aerial refueling mission out of Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Nov. 16, 2016. F-16 pilots train on refueling operations to be prepared for longer mission requirements.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Hensley

ARMY:

U.S. Army paratroopers paratroopers leave Malemute drop zone after conducting an airborne insertion and M119 howitzer live fire at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Nov. 22, 2016.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena

173rd Airborne Brigade paratroopers clear the floor of a building at an urban operations training facility in Wedrzyn, Poland, during bi-lateral training with the Polish Army’s 6th Airborne Battalion, 16th Airborne Brigade, Nov. 21, 2016.

The training closes out the unit’s rotation in Poland and their continued support of Operation Atlantic Resolve and our NATO Allies.

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U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William A. Tanner

NAVY:

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 26, 2016) Sailors fire the first of three volleys to honor the deceased during a burial at sea ceremony aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan. The ship is in the U.S. 6th fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

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U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Tim Comerford

Petty Officer 2nd Class Mickey Waldron, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), stands near the safe shot line as an F/A-18C Hornet, from the Death Rattlers of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, launches from the ship’s flight deck. Nimitz is currently underway conducting Tailored Ship’s Training Availability and Final Evaluation Problem (TSTA/FEP), which evaluates the crew on their performance during training drills and real-world scenarios. Once Nimitz completes TSTA/FEP they will begin Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) and Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) in preparation for an upcoming 2017 deployment.

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U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Siobhana R. McEwen

MARINE CORPS:

Marines suppress simulated objectives at Range 410A Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twenty-nine Palms, California, Oct. 21, 2016. The exercise is part of a qualification for deployment in which Marines with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment are slated to integrate as a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force.

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U.S Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Juan A. Soto-Delgado

Marines with Maritime Raid Force, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fire their M4A1 rifles at targets during a live-fire deck shoot aboard the USS Makin Island (LHD 8) while afloat in the Pacific Ocean, November 2, 2016. During the range, the MRF Marines conducted shooting drills, such as maneuvering while firing, and engaging multiple targets. The 11th MEU, part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility in support security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Devan K. Gowans

COAST GUARD:

Members of Coast Guard Sector and Base Los Angeles-Long Beach joined together for the observance of Colors in honor of Senior Chief Terrell E. Horne III Friday, December 2, 2016. Horne was killed in the line of duty while intercepting smugglers on December 2, 2012.

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U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrea Anderson

A Coast Guard crew members aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Clearwater, Florida, arrive at the air station with three people rescued from a sunken fishing vessel approximately 35 miles southwest of Cape San Blas, Florida, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. The fishermen were flown to Air Station Clearwater and met with EMS; no injuries to report.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse.

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These 9 military actions changed America . . . and the world

Had the Confederates won the Battle of Gettysburg, it’s possible that there would have been another Union victory down the road and the war would’ve ended the same way . . . but who knows? The fact is, Gettysburg turned the tide of the Civil War, gave Lincoln an opportunity to end slavery, and kept the country together. It’s safe to say the world would have turned into a vastly different place had there been two separate Americas.


Several times in history, the American military has taken action had huge ripple effects across the planet, sometimes immediately, sometimes decades later. Here are 9 examples:

1. Valley Forge

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Historians point to Saratoga as the big turning point in the Revolution because it not only wiped out Burgoyne’s Army in the north but convinced the French that maybe those American peasants had a chance after all. Still stinging from their defeat in the French and Indian War ten years earlier, France’s King Louis XVI threw was all too eager to crash the North American party and make the American Revolution a global fight so the American Army entered its winter camp outside Philadelphia on a winner’s high.

But that soon changed. Undersupplied, tired, frozen, and starving, the Continental Army was on the verge of breaking every day for several long months in the winter of 1777-1778. It was the first time American perseverance to be free was put to the test and had the Colonials broken and run, there might not be an America at all. At Valley Forge, the bonds with the French were greatly strengthened, Von Stueben’s drill was perfected (making the Continental’s a real Army), and Washington, whom some wanted to replace with Horatio Gates, survived to go on to be the father of the greatest country ever.

2. The Battle of New Orleans

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Andrew Jackson’s beat-down of the British in 1815 wasn’t the biggest battle of that war, but it kicked the last European invaders out of North America for good and propelled Jackson to the White House to be President for eight years. Jackson expanded the powers of the Presidency, made trade agreements with several European countries, opened trade agreements with Asia, and founded the modern Democratic Party. But his actions also led directly to the forced removal and relocation of nearly 50,000 Native Americans from the South to the Midwest on the Trail of Tears. None of that would have happened without his success at the Battle of New Orleans.

3. Winfield Scott’s March to Mexico City

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It wasn’t much of a military action, but General Winfield Scott marched into Mexico City in 1848 to end the Mexican War and effectively made Texas and California US territories. Imagine what the USA would look like today if those two giant states were still part of Mexico. But those acquisitions also had a dark side. President James K. Polk was obsessed with westward expansion and once he had California, he needed routes for settlers to get there, which fueled the flames of slavery and (arguably) set the stage for the Civil War and Indian Wars.

4. The Second Battle of the Marne

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WWI was a pivotal moment for the United States because it was the first time the nation deployed soldiers overseas to fight in another country’s war. Although America had been involved in power projection during the Spanish-American War, WWI was a whole new ballgame and established the U.S.A. as an international force to be reckoned with. In particular, the Second Battle of the Marne River in France was crucial to the Allied victory. That defeat was the beginning of the end for Germany just 100 days later.

5. The Battle of Midway

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In June 1942, the war in the Pacific was supposed to be a “holding effort” while the war in Europe was America’s primary focus and demanded most of the nation’s resources. But the Japanese had different plans and attacked the U.S. Garrison at Midway Atoll, which ended up being a big mistake. When it was over, four Japanese aircraft carriers had been sunk and a crippling number of aircrews were lost. Japan was unable to mount effective offensive operations after Midway and its domination of the Pacific was on a downward spiral from that point on.

6. Normandy (Operation Overlord)

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Landscape

Invading Europe in 1944 was by far the greatest invasion ever attempted. Failure would have resulted in a Nazi Europe, probably to this day.  You could argue the Battle of the Bulge was just as important, but no military endeavor in the history of the U.S. was so ambitious and critical as the invasion and liberation of Europe. The entire continent (and arguably the world) would not look anything like it does today if the Allies had failed at Normandy.

7. Hiroshima

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America is the only country to ever use a nuclear weapon against another nation. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima from the Enola Gay vaulted the world into the nuclear age and started the Cold War.

8. The Pusan Perimeter

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(AP Photo, File)

In August 1950, the combined U.S. and U.N. Forces in Korea were backed into a corner by the invading North Korean Army between the cities of Pusan and Taegu. Despite constant attacks, the Pusan Perimeter never collapsed and by September, the Allies were on the offensive while MacArthur was invading at Inchon. If the perimeter had collapsed, it’s possible that we still would have prevailed, but who’s to say? All that is certain is that the perimeter didn’t break and South Korea is today a strong democracy with the ninth largest economy in the world. Imagine Kim Jong Un with twice as much land and resources as he has now.

9. The Invasion of Iraq

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It’s only been thirteen years since the U.S. invaded Iraq and only time will tell the total effect of that action, but it’s safe to say that if Saddam Hussein were still around (even allowing that he wasn’t a very nice guy), the American military would be in better shape, AQI and ISIS would never have formed, Iran’s influence across the region would be less of a threat, and the domestic political landscape wouldn’t be so chaotic.

Kelly Crigger is a retired lieutenant colonel and the author of “Curmudgeonism; A Surly Man’s Guide to Midlife.”

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QUIZ: Who said it, Joseph Stalin or Bob Dylan?

Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan and Soviet political leader Joseph Stalin are famous for different reasons.


Dylan has been influential in popular music and culture for over five decades. Stalin, on the other hand, governed the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953.

Despite, their differences, when it comes to influencing people, they are both masters of poetry. We gathered some of their most famous quotes to make this quiz. Did the dictator or the folk singer say these things?

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North Korea blasts US arsenal in fresh propaganda video

A new video that called US forces “perverted animals,” and portrayed them under attack was uploaded on a YouTube account run by North Korean propagandists.


In the video published on Saturday, still photos of an aircraft carrier, reportedly the USS Carl Vinson, and a B-1B bomber can be seen in simulated flames, a patriotic speech was recorded over the footage, under North Korea’s characteristically stern tone.

Also read: The US is considering ‘all options’ to stop North Korea

Additionally, photos of US and South Korean forces were displayed, presumably in their annual joint military exercises that take place this time of year.

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uriminzokkiri/YouTube

The narrator in the video declared that “a knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier,” and that “the bomber will fall from the sky after getting hit by a hail of fire,” Japan Times reported.

The still photos used in the video resemble photo packages produced by professional news organizations, such as Reuters. Further, there also seems to be an image that bears some semblance to real-time strategy video games.

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Screenshot via uriminzokkiri/YouTube

The same propaganda network was scrutinized in 2013 for a video that placed virtual crosshairs over the US Capitol building and portrayed simulated attacks on New York and Washington.

The video was uploaded shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to South Korea for the first time as the US’s top diplomat, and saying that “the threat of North Korea is imminent.” Much to North Korea’s chagrin, annual military exercises involving 17,000 US troops and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system are also being conducted in South Korea.

Though the video’s rhetoric may sound inciteful, North Korea has a storied history of using inflammatory verbiage in their broadcasts, often targeting their southern counterpart and the US.

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