These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the 'Apocalaughs' tour - We Are The Mighty
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These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

Matt Baetz is a comedian, actor, writer, and host and a veteran of six Armed Forces Entertainment and USO tours across the world. He’s performed his standup routine for the troops in Afghanistan, Africa, Bahrain, Cuba, Greenland, Kosovo, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He’s also done numerous television and radio appearances on shows like “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and Playboy Radio. He was awarded Best of the Fest Performer from the NY Fringe Festival for his role in the 2014 play, “Kemble’s Riot.”


Joining Matt on the most recent “Apocalaughs” tour were fellow comedians Steven Briggs, Liz Miele, and Leo Flowers.

“Not just anyone can hack these tours,” Baetz said. “The schedule is demanding and the living conditions are sometimes not the best. But I explain to the talent right up front that, wherever we go, I don’t want them coming right out of the gate and asking whether there’s wifi or complaining about the coffee. We’re there for the people serving away from home.”

Here’s a look at four of the stops on the recent tour:

1. Cuba

2. Egypt

3. Turkey

4. Italy

Hello 

Today, Armed Forces Entertainment is the single point of contact for the Department of Defense for providing entertainment to troops overseas. More than 60 tours are sent out providing over 600 performances per year to 400,000 soldiers.

Here’s a brief history of the organization:

  • World War II-1951: The United Service Organizations (USO) Camp Shows program recruited and fielded live entertainment for military personnel. Camp Shows usually consisted of well-known celebrities who were recruited to entertain military personnel serving overseas.  For many entertainers, this was their first time performing and traveling abroad. However, the Camp Shows scheduling, which was coordinated by each Service, was considered inconsistent.
  • 1951-1970: Before the establishment of the Department of Defense (DoD) in 1951, the Military Services agreed to provide a single point of contact for the USO. The Secretary of the Army was designated as the administrative agent for the DoD’s relationship with the USO. Operational responsibility rested with the Adjutant General, then transferred to the Commander, U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center. In 1951, Service representatives were assigned to the new Armed Forces Professional Entertainment Office (AFPEO) to administer the fielding of USO Shows, provide shows where the USO Camp Shows were unable, and establish a regularly scheduled program. 

Units consisted of celebrities, professional artists, college groups sponsored by the American Theater Association (ATA) and the All American Collegiate Talent Showcase (ACTS).  The USO and DoD sent thousands of entertainers, celebrity and non-celebrity, to entertain U.S. military personnel, DoD and Department of State civilians, and their family members worldwide.  By the end of the Vietnam era, virtually all of the programmed shows were non-celebrity with DoD fielding over half of the units.
  • 1982: USO canceled the non-celebrity program to concentrate on the recruitment and fielding of well-known celebrity entertainment. The DoD directed the Secretary of the Army to assume responsibility for the non-celebrity program. In June, all non-celebrity entertainment units sent abroad were participating in the Armed Forces Professional Entertainment Program overseas, nicknamed “DoD Overseas Shows”.  In addition to the non-celebrity program, the AFPEO continued to uphold DoD’s portion of the celebrity show responsibilities with the USO.  These shows were renamed “USO/DoD Celebrity Shows.”
  • 1989: The Assistant Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) assumed operational control of the AFPEO with the Secretary of the Army remaining the Executive Agent.  This assumption was designed to elevate the AFPEO’s authority, facilitate coordination, and increase program visibility.
  • 1997: The U.S. Air Force was assigned the Executive Agent for providing celebrity and non-celebrity programs to troops serving overseas, creating the jointly-manned office, Armed Forces Entertainment.
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The 32 best military movie quotes of all-time

Hollywood is known for riddling military movies with technical errors, but from “Full Metal Jacket” to “Stripes,” the movie industry gets it right with plenty of quotable military movies.


Here are WATM’s picks for 32 of the best ever:

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

1. “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like … victory. Someday this war’s gonna end.” — Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore, “Apocalypse Now” (1979)

2. “When I go home people will ask me, ‘Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, you some kinda war junkie?’ You know what I’ll say? I won’t say a goddamn word. Why? They won’t understand. They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand that it’s about the men next to you, and that’s it. That’s all it is.” — Norman “Hoot” Hooten, “Black Hawk Down” (2001)

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

3. “You have to think about one shot. One shot is what it’s all about.” — Michael, “The Deer Hunter” (1978)

4. “Keep the sand out of your weapons, keep those actions clear. I’ll see you on the beach.” — Capt. John Miller, “Saving Private Ryan” (1998)

5. “Are you smoking this sh-t so’s to escape from reality? Me, I don’t need this sh-t, I am reality. There’s the way it ought to be, and there’s the way it is.” — Staff Sgt. Barnes, “Platoon” (1986)

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

6. “Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” — Gen. George Patton, “Patton” (1970)

7. “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” — Maximus, “Gladiator” (2000)

8. “The Almighty tells me he can get me out of this mess, but he’s pretty sure you’re f–ked.” — Stephen, “Braveheart” (1997)

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

9. “Aim small, miss small.” — Capt. Benjamin Martin, “The Patriot” (2000)

10. “Out here, due process is a bullet!” — Col. Mike Kirby, “The Green Berets” (1968)

11. “Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war? … He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.” — Gen. Jack D. Ripper, “Dr. Strangelove” (1964)

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

12. “I feel the need . . . the need for speed.” — Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, “Top Gun” (1986)

13. “Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps… And I want my scalps!” — Lt. Aldo Raine, “Inglourious Basterds” (2009)

14. “Are you quitting on me? Well, are you? Then quit, you slimy f–king walrus-looking piece of sh-t! Get the f–k off of my obstacle! Get the f–k down off of my obstacle! NOW! MOVE IT! Or I’m going to rip your balls off, so you cannot contaminate the rest of the world! I will motivate you, Private Pyle, IF IT SHORT-D–KS EVERY CANNIBAL ON THE CONGO!” — Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, “Full Metal Jacket” (1987)

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

15. “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.” —Wardaddy, “Fury” (2014)

16. “I ain’t got time to bleed.” — Blain, “Predator” (1987)

17. “I could have killed ’em all, I could kill you. In town you’re the law, out here it’s me. Don’t push it. Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe. Let it go. Let it go.” —Rambo, “First Blood” (1982)

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

18. “Spartans! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty… For tonight, we dine in hell!” — King Leonidas, “300” (2006)

19. “All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed? Another glorious day in the Corps! A day in the Marine Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal’s a banquet! Every paycheck a fortune! Every formation a parade! I LOVE the Corps!” — Sgt. Apone, “Aliens” (1986)

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

20. “You still think it’s beautiful to die for your country. The first bombardment taught us better. When it comes to dying for country, it’s better not to die at all.” — Paul Baumer, “All Quite on the Western Front” (1930)

21. “Sir, Custer was a p-ssy. You ain’t.” — Sgt. Maj. Plumley, “We Were Soldiers” (2002)

22. “Sir, I got lost on the way to college, sir.” — Anthony Swofford, “Jarhead” (2005)

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

23. “Remember Sully when I promised to kill you last? I lied.” — John Matrix, “Commando” (1985)

25. “Only two kinds of people are gonna stay on this beach: those that are already dead and those that are gonna die. Now get off your butts. You guys are the Fighting 29th.” — Brig. Gen. Norman Cota, “The Longest Day” (1962)

26. “F–kin’ badass, I was there. F–kin’ took him out at 400 yards, head popped up three feet in the air. Crazy shot, man.”

27. “Yes they had weapons! You think there’s a script for fighting a war without pissing somebody off? Follow the rules and nobody gets hurt? Yes, innocent people probably died. Innocent people always die but I did not exceed my orders.” — Col. Terry Childers, “Rules of Engagement” (2000)

28. “We’re Airborne. We don’t start fights, we *finish* ’em!” —Galvan, “Hamburger Hill” (1987)

29. “Lighten up, Francis.” — Sgt. Hulka, “Stripes” (1981)

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

30. “My name is Gunnery Sergeant Highway. I’ve drunk more beer, banged more quiff, pissed more blood, and stomped more ass than all of you numb-nuts put together.” — Gunny Highway, “Heartbreak Ridge” (1986)

31. “All I ever wanted was an honest week’s pay for an honest day’s work.” — Master Sgt. Ernie Bilko, “Sgt. Bilko”

32. “You see Danny, I can deal with the bullets, and the bombs, and the blood. I don’t want money, and I don’t want medals. What I do want is for you to stand there in that f–goty white uniform and with your Harvard mouth extend me some f–king courtesy. You gotta ask me nicely.” — Col. Nathan Jessep, “A Few Good Men” (1992)

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This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages

Operation Credible Sport was hatched in the wake of the disastrous Operation Eagle Claw, the attempt to rescue hostages held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran that resulted in a collision at a refueling point in the desert that destroyed two aircraft and killed 8 service members. The mishap caused commanders to call off the mission.


But the hostages were still in Iranian hands and a new attempt at rescue had to be made. The Air Force decided to attempt the mission using a C-130 modified with rockets to takeoff and land in short distances. The modified aircraft would land in a soccer stadium near the U.S. embassy, allow the assault team out to rescue the hostages, then pick everyone up and fly them out.

 

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
The burned out C-130 from the failed Operation Eagle Claw sits in the Iranian Desert. At far right is the destroyed helicopter. (Photo: US Special Operations Command)

Rocket-assisted takeoffs, or RATOs, is a technique where rocket engines provide the lift necessary to let heavy aircraft takeoff on a short runway. The tactic had been in use since World War II and C-130s had already successfully employed the technique. The more well-known JATO, jet-assisted takeoffs, worked in a similar manner with jet engines doing the heavy lifting.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
A C-130 conducting a Rocket-Assisted Takeoff. GIF: Youtube/Crediblesport’s channel

But Operation Credible Sport called for rockets to also assist in the landing, which required three sets of rockets to fire at precise times in the process. First, a set of forward-facing rockets would act as an air brake. Then downward-facing jets would slow the aircraft’s descent and after touchdown a third set of rockets would stop the C-130 on the short runway.

Unfortunately the C-130 test flight was less than successful. When the pilots attempted to land the plane, the first set of rockets blinded the pilots. Then the flight engineer was dazzled by the first rockets and thought the plane had already reached the ground. Thinking he just needed to stop the aircraft, he fired the final braking rockets and halted the plane’s forward momentum.

This stopped the wings from creating lift. The second set of rockets, designed to slow the plane’s descent and soften the landing, had not been fired. So the plane fell the final twenty feet to the runway almost straight down.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
GIF: Youtube/Crediblesport’s channel

The shock of the landing broke part of the right wing off. The rockets then lit the jet fuel on fire, and the entire airplane was destroyed.

Luckily, the crew made it out of the wreckage alive. The Air Force buried the plane at the test site and ordered the rockets placed on a backup C-130 so testing could continue.

But negotiators were able to reach a settlement that freed the hostages and made the modifications unnecessary. The plans for a rocket-landed airplane were then scrapped.

Watch the modified aircraft fly below, (and check out 1:40 to see the crash):

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The fear is yuuuge: Russians hold nationwide civil defense drill

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
(Photo: RT.com)


The Russian government is holding a nationwide emergency drill that mobilizes civil defense forces on a massive scale, a move prompted by rising tensions between Russia and the United States regarding Syria – tensions some in the Kremlin believe could start a nuclear war.

The exercise, which started Tuesday and involves more than 200,000 emergency services workers, comes on the heels of news that Russia began last week deploying a battery of Russian S-300 air defense missile launchers in Syria. The NATO code name for the system is SA-10 Grumble. Capable of striking both manned aircraft and cruise missiles, it is the first time the Russians have ever deployed the advanced weapons system outside of their borders.

The pro-Kremlin Interfax news service says EMERCOM, the Russian emergency services ministry, is performing the drill through October 7.  Quoting civil defense chief Oleg Manuilov, the article says the drill will affect up to 40 million Russians – about a quarter of the nation’s population – as well as use 50,000 pieces of unspecified emergency equipment.

“In practice, the (emergency) notification will be issued and we will gather the governing federal departments and agencies, Russian Federation authorities, and local governments,” said Manuilov.

Among other things, the drill will practice issuing protective gear, distributing sanitary supplies, and establishing casualty collection points, he said. Civil defense officials will also inspect local hospitals and clinics to determine their readiness and “quality of care” offered during an emergency.

The article called the drill and the training it offers a “reality check.”

Recent pro-Kremlin media reports have claimed in shrill tones that the United States wants to use its nuclear arsenal to punish Russia for its hand in the Syrian conflict.

For example, Channel Zvezda has repeatedly broadcast shows claiming events in the Middle East will prompt a “big war” between the U.S. and Russia. The Russian Ministry of Defense operates the nationwide television channel and frequently uses it as a medium to disseminate propaganda and programming-friendly to the Russian military.

Talks between the U.S. and Russia in an effort to broker a Syrian cease-fire ended Monday. The U.S. ended negotiations after accusing the Kremlin of joining with the Syrian Air Force in carrying out a brutal bombing campaign against the besieged city of Aleppo.

Meanwhile, Russian officials confirmed the placement of the S-300 battery at a Syrian naval base soon after FOX News broke the story, according to RT News.

“This system is designed to ensure the safety of the naval base in Tartus and ships located in the coastal area,” said Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman. “The S-300 is a purely defensive system and poses no threat.”

However, anti-Syrian rebels battling Russian forces such as the Al-Nusra Front possess no air power, raising the question of whether the air defense missiles are there to threaten U.S. aircraft patrolling the area or knock out a potential U.S. cruise missile strike.

The S-300 system is considered one of the most capable air defense systems in the world. First deployed in 1979, it has gone through recent upgrades and modifications which allow it to target multiple threats quickly and accurately.

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Turkey has seen several military coups over the last 50 years, but this one is different

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Turkish tanks move into position as Turkish people attempt to stop them in Ankara. Burhan Ozbilici / AP


The Turkish military apparently staged a coup on Friday night,deploying military into the streets of Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey’s largest city and capital, respectively.

“Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law, and the general security that was damaged,” a statement, published by a group calling itself the “Peace at Home Council” on TRT, Turkey’s state-run broadcaster, read.

But Turkish citizens began flooding the streets in support of President Tayyip Recep Erdogan after he called for citizens to gather and repel the coup.

The military in Turkey has forced out four civilian governments since 1960.

Here’s a brief outline, with information collected from Wikipedia, Al Jazeera, Foreign Affairs, and The Wall Street Journal:

1960: The military took over the government on May 27 during a time of heightened tensions between the government and the opposition, following some loosened rules on religion, but more restrictions on press. Prime Minister Adnan Mederes was executed.

1971: The military stepped in amid economic and socio-political troubles. The chief of the general staff gave a memorandum to the prime minister, who resigned shortly thereafter. The military then had a “caretaker” government installed.

1980: The chief of the general staff announced the coup on the national channel during a time of economic stress. The years following this coup “did bring some stability,”according to Al Jazeera, but the “military also detained hundreds of thousands of people; dozens were executed, while many others were tortured or simply disappeared.” Notably, while this was “the bloodiest military takeover in Turkey’s history,” it was also “highly supported by the public, which viewed military intervention as necessary to restore stability,” according to Dr. Gonul Tol, writing in Foreign Affairs.

1997: The military issued “recommendations” during the National Security Council meeting. Al Jazeera writes that the prime minister agreed to some measures, such as compulsory eight-year education. He resigned soon after. This is often referred to as the “post-modern” coup.

“E-coupe” in 2007: The military posed an ultimatum on its website to warn the Justice and Development Party (AKP) against backing Abdullah Gul for president. He belonged to an Islamist government. “The public and the AKP were outraged, and Gul was elected,” noted Tol in Foreign Affairs. “The military’s attempt to intervene against a popular party dealt a serious blow to its standing in society, and in an early vote held right after the e-coup, the AKP increased its vote share by 13%.”

As for 2016 …

Even though Turkey has seen a few military coups in recent decades, there are some notable differences between the ones in the past and the current one.

Business Insider reached out to Tol, director of the Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies, who explained some of the differences:

“[T]he situation is still very fluid but this is a very atypical coup. In the past, the military acted on calls from the people and staged a coup against an unpopular government. That is not [the] case today. The AKP and Erdogan might be very polarizing and might have alienated an important segment of society, but they still have the backing of almost 50% of the population. And we also have not seen large-scale calls for a military intervention, security collapse, chaos, the factors that played an important role in past coups. Also missing in this coup is the chain of command. In the past, the top brass went on TV right after the coups and explained [to] the public the reasons for the intervention. That has not happened yet. So this coup might not have the backing of the top brass.”

As an endnote, Tol added that “if Erdogan survives this, his hand will be even more strengthened and he will be able to convince people more easily that a presidential system is necessary.”

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This ceremony honored the special bond shared by K-9s and their handlers

Laura Miller apologized more than once for getting emotional as she spoke at the Airborne Special Operations Museum on Monday.


But after seeing battle-hardened Special Forces soldiers dissolve into tears at the loss of their dogs, she said the love these men felt for their dogs — and of the dogs for them — can lead to tears at times.

Miller, a retired veterinarian technician who served 26 years, including 10 with caring for Special Operations Forces dogs, spoke to a crowd of several hundred about the sacrifices of military dogs — and the number of military lives they have saved.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
DoD Photo by Pfc. Brian Domzalski

“To see these big, strong soldiers break into tears over the loss of their dog, you realize this is a special bond,” Miller said. “There is a love that runs deeper.”

“The love for their dog and of the dog for their handler…” she paused as the emotion of the moment again caught her. “Just appreciate everything. Life is too short. The evidence of that is right here.”

She waved over to the nearby ASOM Field of honor, where more than 600 flags caught a light breeze.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
DoD Photo by Airman Shawna Keyes

In addition to the ceremony, the ASOM offered a series of concerts, exhibits, and first-person displays. Military experts offered visitors hands-on experience with military equipment from World War I through the Vietnam era.

Ron Wolfe, a retired Army sergeant, let youngsters try on his flak jacket and helmet from Vietnam, laughing when they complained about their weight and heat.

“Yeah, they can get a bit heavy,” Wolfe said. “Just wait until you had to wear them all day in the summertime.”

The ASOM K-9 Memorial honors more than 60 trained dogs who have died in service to Special Forces as well as partner groups in Great Britain and Australia. It was dedicated in 2013.

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Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

The teams that have completed some of America’s most stunning special operations included a few airmen who are often overlooked when it comes time to glorify the heroes: Combat Controller Teams.


Combat Controllers are Air Force special operators trained to support all other special operators and to conduct their missions behind enemy lines. Here’s what makes them so effective under such challenging conditions.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Air Force special operators aren’t well known, but they have a reputation as both intellectuals and brawlers. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

First, Combat Controllers are certified as air traffic controllers and are also often certified as joint terminal attack controllers. These dual-certifications mean that they can direct friendly air traffic and request attacks against ground targets from the aircraft overhead.

Obviously, the guy who tells the A-10s where to shoot, the AC-130s where to fly, and the attack helicopters where they should enter and leave the battlespace is packing some serious firepower.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
The Air Force’s AC-130s are literally airborne artillery. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

To do this mission, Combat Controller Teams move forward with Navy SEALs, Green Berets, or other Tier 1 operators and use a radio to keep in touch with air assets assigned to the mission. In fact, CCTs were originally formed to pair with Delta Force squadrons on their super-secret missions.

When they near an objective or get close to enemy forces, the CCTs call up their big brothers in the sky.

The controller tells the pilot what target needs to be taken out, where it’s at, and sometimes even what weapons and flight path the pilot should take.

As the combat controller is doing all that, he’s still in ground combat. While he’ll usually prefer to use his radio rather than his rifle — 30mm cannon fire from the sky is more lethal than 5.56mm rounds from the ground — he’s perfectly capable of going toe-to-toe with enemy soldiers when necessary.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Photographed: guys who are not afraid to fight you. (Photo: U.S Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

This connection with air assets also gives the CCTs a coveted battlefield asset: real-time surveillance. Pilots can describe what they see on the ground to the controller who keeps mission commanders in the loop. In some cases, pilots and drones can even send data streams to devices carried by the controller so the airman can watch the enemy in real time.

All these capabilities are valuable for joint operations, but they also allow combat controllers to conduct their own missions — which they do.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
(Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

One such mission is covert airfield seizure. The Army will send Rangers or paratroopers to seize airfields from enemy forces, but dropping a few hundred infantrymen can draw a lot of attention.

So, sometimes the Air Force sends small teams of combat controllers and other Air Force special operators on their own if the base isn’t too heavily guarded.

The controllers will seize the airfield and then certify it for operations. Once they give their blessing to an airfield, reinforcements can land on the runway and support aircraft can come in for refueling and rearmament.

Controllers can also go into combat on their own to help allied forces or to direct airstrikes that will delay an enemy or break up an attack.

To get to the battlefield, the controllers can swim in with SCUBA and diving gear, parachute, ruck, drive, or even ride motorcycles.

Air Force special tactics officer Maj. Charlie Hodges described “bike chasers,” controllers who throw a motorcycle out of a plane, parachute after it, and then ride the bike to their objective when they reach the ground.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Wasn’t kidding about those bikes. (Photo: U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Gabe Johnson)

“All of our guys are trained to ride motorcycles,” Hodges told CNN. Getting to the fight sometimes “involves jumping out of an airplane, or sliding out a helicopter down a fast rope, or riding some sort of all-terrain vehicle, or going on a mountain path on foot.”

While Combat Controllers don’t always get the headlines and movies like SEAL Team Six, Delta Force, and others, they’ve proven themselves to be professional, courageous, and deadly in combat.

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11 Photos That Show That The ‘Little Bird’ Has A Big Mission

Although the H-6 was initially fielded by the U.S. Army in the early ’60s, it wasn’t until the failed “Eagle Claw” mission in 1980 that the service started getting serious about supporting special operations with helicopters.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
An MH-6 on short final with Rangers on the skids ready for action. (Photo: U.S. Army)


Since that time “Little Birds” have been used in crucial special operations missions across the globe from Panama to Somolia to Iraq and Afghanistan.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Little Birds are operated by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the “Night Stalkers”

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Rangers prepare to dismount from a Little Bird during a training exercise. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Night Stalkers operate a variety of helicopter models including the Chinook and Blackhawk, all modified for special operations missions.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
MH-6 lands near a parked MH-47 Chinook. (Note Chinook’s refueling probe for long-range missions.) (Photo: U.S. Army)

Little Birds come in two basic variants — troop transport and attack. The attack version — the AH-6 — is armed with two M134 miniguns, two M260 7-shot Hydra 70 rocket pods. Alternately, the AH-6 can be armed with Hellfire anti-tank missiles, air-to-air Stingers, Mk-19 40 mm automatic grenade launchers, or .50 caliber machine guns.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Little Bird static display showing rocket pods and other weapons hard points. (Photo: U.S. Army)

In September 1987, Night Stalkers participated in Operation Prime Chance, engaging and neutralizing an Iranian ship that was being used for mine laying. Little Birds attacked the threat while using aviator night vision goggles and forward-looking infrared devices over water, the first successful night combat engagement under these conditions.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Pilot using NVGs. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Little Bird can carry up to six troops, three on each side, but usually they limit the number to two per side.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Little Bird flares during an insertion demo conducted at a NASCAR event in Kansas. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Little Bird pilots get specialized training in close quarters flying and night ops and those skills are heavily leveraged once they get to the Night Stalkers.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Trainer version of the Little Bird. (Photo: U.S. Army)

When not at war Little Bird pilots train as intensely as the special operators they carry.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
House takedown exercise with a section of Little Birds. (Photo: U.S. Army)

After all, they set themselves to a very high standard: According to it’s mission statement the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) is constantly ready to arrive time-on-target plus or minus 30 seconds.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

And here’s the last thing an insurgent might see . . .

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Little Bird on final approach with Rangers at the ready. (Photo: U.S. Army)

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Marines may expand PSYOPS with new job specialty

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Marine Corps Information Operations Center (MCIOC), conducts training for Military Information Support Operations (MISO), at MOUT site, Quantico, Va. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexander Norred


As the Marine Corps looks to prepare for future conflicts and expand key highly skilled communities, the service will consider adding a new primary military occupational specialty: 0521, Military Information Support Operations.

A briefing document obtained by Military.com proposes expanding what is now a free, or additional MOS, into a primary MOS and increasing the total number of MISO Marines from 87 to a steady state of 322. The enlisted-only MOS would be composed chiefs of sergeants and staff sergeants, with a tapering senior enlisted leadership structure.

MISO, which has also been called psychological operations, or PSYOP, aims to influence emotions and behavior by targeted messaging and information distribution. It requires an understanding of the people and cultures with whom Marines will interact and how they are affected by various communication strategies. Humvees equipped with loudspeakers that blast messages to communities, leaflet information campaigns, and one-on-one meetings with local leaders all fall under the umbrella of MISO.

Currently, the Marine Corps deploys its small community of MISO Marines in teams of two to four aboard Marine expeditionary units and its special purpose Marine air-ground task forces for Africa and the Middle East. They also support elite operations at Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command and assist in major exercises and sometimes with larger Marine force operations.

The MISO MOS brief, prepared in October 2015 by Col. Drew Cukor, commanding officer of Marine Corps Information Operations Center in Quantico, Virginia, which contains the MISO program, notes that U.S. adversaries have seen success in exploiting the “information environment” to their own advantage.

“[Marines] may win physical battles but still lose because of failure to fight effectively in the cognitive dimension,” Cukor notes.

Creating a MISO primary MOS would allow the Corps to get more value from the investment it makes training its Marines, the brief notes. Currently, about 30 Marines a year complete a 17-week training course at Fort Bragg, N.C. at a cost of $12,000 per student, plus another $5,000 per Marine to obtain a required Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance. Total training costs add up to more than $600,000, according to the brief.

However, few MISO Marines remain in the community, with 80 percent choosing to end active service following their three-year tour in the free MOS.

In an award-winning Dec. 2015 essay published by the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine, Marine Sgt. Dion Edon, a MISO Marine, said that those in his community tended to seek out other opportunities after their three-year tours because there was little incentive to stay.

“The Marine Corps loses an Army Special Operations Forces–trained Marine to the civilian contracting world, Army SOF, or the fleet, where their MISO-specific knowledge is unavailable,” he wrote. “The MISO MOS should become a primary MOS with warrant and limited-duty officer opportunities so that the Marine Corps can retain its investment in behavioral experts who can support senior-level staff with technical expertise and advice.”

Edon, who recently returned from a deployment supporting the 15th MEU as a MISO noncommissioned officer, also proposed giving MISO Marines more regionally focused and language specific training, and incorporating them further into Marine Corps planning and wargaming operations.

He quoted 15th MEU commanding officer Col. Vance Cryer, who said the addition of the MISO capability aboard the MEU had resulted in a “much more refined” approach to the integration of intelligence with operations.

“The MISO mission and support provides me [with] critical context, insight, and validation of various levels of information for use in the planning and execution phases,” Edon quotes Cryer as saying in the essay. “As a key part of a networked organization, it provides timely, value-added tools that enable asymmetric advantages to the MEU or MAGTF level of operations.”

Expanding the community would also better allow MISO Marines to meet high operational demand and increase the number of MISO personnel available to serve within each Marine expeditionary force and at MARSOC, Cukor’s brief shows.

Officials with Marine Corps Information Operations Center declined requests for an interview because the plans were pre-decisional.

But the deputy commandant of Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis, told Military.com that preliminary decisions could be made as soon as this fall regarding how to develop the MISO community.

“In MISO, within those specialties and capabilities, I think those are some of the things that we’re going to be wrestling with to determine whether or not the Marine Corps needs more structure, whether it becomes a primary MOS, whether it becomes an expanded MOS, or whether it becomes a series of MOSs, depending upon the specific specialties,” he said. “So if individuals are interested in MISO and expanded realm of information operations, etcetera, then they should stand by, because I think more will come out of this.”

He noted that Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has directed Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, to conduct a study that defines where the Marine Corps needs to be in 2025 and whether the force is properly organized to address future challenges.

“One of the larger discussion areas is in cyber, information, deception, psychological operations, where is the Marine Corps with those capabilities, that structure, that capability inside the force,” he said. “So there will be a fairly robust discussion about where we sit today, and where we may want to go tomorrow.”

Brilakis declined to speculate whether the Corps could add even more MOSs, but said many decisions had yet to be made.

This push for a MISO primary MOS comes as Neller pushes to expand certain Marine Corps communities, including information and cyber warfare. He told an Atlantic Council audience in February that the Corps had two options in light of this objective: to ask for an end strength increase, or to restructure, perhaps shrinking other communities such as infantry, to realize growth in others.

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Why deadly wounds aren’t treated first in combat

Being in combat is one of the craziest experiences a person can have. Bullets are zipping by your melon and impacting the wall behind you, eyes wide and on the alert as the incoming rounds blanket your position. Sounds crazy. Because it is.


War is hell.

Well-trained military minds know, winning the battle is the most important aspect of winning the war. In combat, the rules are different than in any other situation you’ll probably find yourself. All available fingers need to be pulling triggers.

So if allied forces take a mass casualty, the guy who is hurt the worst isn’t necessarily the one who gets treated first.

Related: 6 things corpsmen should know before going to the ‘Greenside’

 

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US Marine in Afghanistan returning fire (Source: Youtube/Screenshot)

In the civilian world, there are typically more assets and resources to treat just about everyone and every ailment or injury in the book.

By contrast, fighting an enemy in a third world country, Navy Corpsmen and medics only carry a small inventory of medical gear strapped onto their persons.

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HM2 Lamonte Hammond and HM3 Simon Trujillo treat a Marine who was wounded during a firefight in the Nawa district of Helmand province, Afghanistan. (Photo by Cpl. Artur Shvartsberg)

Also Read: These simple sponges seal battle wounds in no time

During combat, the rules on who receives care first changes in a matter of moments. If a squad is under heavy attack and a few trigger pullers get hurt, then the unit is down a few bodies.

After the field medic takes care of their wounds, let’s say subject “A” sustained a “GSW” or gunshot wound to the chest, they are now out of the fight. If subject “B” took a bullet to their leg, they’re still considered in the fight because it’s not life-threatening.

So during wartime rules, subject “B” is supposed to be treated first to allow them the chance to get back on their weapon system and return to the fight. Hopefully subject “A” will be okay and pull through.

For more military triage information check here.

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US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital

The Syrian Democratic Forces coalition (SDF) launched a new campaign to advance toward the ISIS capital at Raqqa, the SDF commander announced on Twitter today:


 

The SDF is comprised of mostly Kurdish fighters and Syrian militia groups and is the primary partner for the U.S. effort against ISIS. This new offensive has taken them within 40 miles of the ISIS stronghold. U.S. and coalition aircraft are supporting the effort with airstrikes in and around Raqqa.

SDF’s strongest component, the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units), will not advance on the capital city itself. The Kurdish leadership believes Raqqa should be captured by Arab militias. Thirty thousand SDF troops moved to retake vast areas northwest of the city, but the assault on Raqqa will have to wait until the Arab militias have the strength.

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BBC Middle East Correspondent Quentin Sommerville reports ISIS fighters are literally digging in for Raqqa’s defense. Earthworks and defensive structures are going up around the area. There are even rumors of an extensive network of tunnels.

Fox News reported a state of emergency was declared by ISIS in Raqqa. The city’s defenders number anywhere from three to five thousand fighters. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russian forces are ready to coordinate with the SDF and the U.S. coalition to provide any support necessary to capture the ISIS capital.

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Kurdish fighters of the YPG, flash victory signs as they sit on their pickup on their way to battle against the Islamic State, near Kezwan mountain, northeast Syria. Drawing on thousands of fighters from Syria’s mix of religious and ethnic groups, a U.S.-backed alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces is the most effective fighting force against the Islamic State group in Syria. (Kurdish YPG photo)

SDF forces celebrated a string of victories against ISIS in recent months, including liberating a number of villages and 4,000 square miles of territory under ISIS control, capturing militants, and cutting off ISIS supply lines into neighboring Iraq. Raqqa fell to ISIS in 2013, the first Syrian provincial capital to fall to forces in open rebellion against the Asad regime in Damascus.

 

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UN uncovers increased reports of torture in Afghanistan

A UN report says cases of torture and mistreatment of detainees in Afghanistan have increased despite promises from President Ashraf Ghani and new laws enacted to curb the widespread practice.


At least 39 percent of the conflict-related detainees interviewed by UN investigators “gave credible and reliable accounts” of being tortured or experiencing other mistreatment at the hands of Afghan police, intelligence, or military personnel while in custody, the report says.

That compares with 35 percent of interviewees who reported such ill-treatment in the last UN report, released in 2015.

The Afghan government has acknowledged that problems could be caused by individuals but not as a national policy.

“The government of Afghanistan is committed to eliminating torture and ill-treatment,” the government said in a statement.

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Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Saadabad Palace. (Photo via Tasnim News Agency)

The report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) is based on interviews with 469 conflict-related detainees conducted over the past two years in 62 detention facilities administered by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghan National Police, and other Afghan national-defense and security forces across the country.

“Torture does not enhance security,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a statement. “Confessions produced as a result of torture are totally unreliable. People will say anything to stop the pain.”

The UN report comes as senior Afghan officials prepare to appear before the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva late April during a review of Afghanistan’s record of implementing anti-torture laws.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague is conducting a separate review of torture in Afghanistan.

“Notwithstanding the government’s efforts to implement its national plan…the present report documents continued and consistent reports of torture and ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees, mainly during interrogation, and highlights a lack of accountability for such acts,” UN officials concluded.

The document notes a 14 percent increase in reports of torture by Afghan National Police, at 45 percent of those interviewed.

Also read: General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis got Trump to rethink his position on torture in under an hour

The report says that more than a quarter of the 77 detainees who reported being tortured by the police were boys under the age of 18.

A force known as the Afghan Local Police severely beat almost 60 percent of their detainees, according to the interviews carried out by UN investigators.

Nearly 30 percent of interviewees held by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the NDS, said they had faced torture or mistreatment.

Afghan National Army soldiers were also accused of mistreating some detainees.

Most detainees who reported being tortured said it was to elicit a confession, and the ill-treatment stopped once they signed a written confession. In many cases, they could not read the confession, the report says.

Torture methods included severe beatings to the body and soles of the feet with sticks, plastic pipes, or cables; electric shocks, including to the genitals; prolonged suspension by the arms; and suffocation.

With reporting by Reuters.

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This is what Game of Thrones can teach you about situational awareness

I think this should go without saying, but, here’s your obligatory Spoiler Warning.


If you saw Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 6 (or you don’t really care about spoilers) then read on. If you haven’t watched the episode but you’re reading articles about the show…here’s an article we did about cats.

Still around? Cool. Let’s get into it.

For last week’s episode, check out – This is what Game of Thrones can teach you about squad composition

Situational awareness isn’t a skill a warfighter picks up overnight. It’s the concept of living your life with your head on a swivel. It’s why so many veterans and active duty troops keep their back to a wall and an eye on the door like they’re Jason Bourne.

This is what Jeff Cooper described in his book “Principles of Personal Defense” as “living in Condition: Yellow.”

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(Scale by Jeff Cooper via Principles of Personal Defense)

White is being blissfully ignorant and Orange being hyper-vigilant to the point of paranoia. Yellow is the perfect middle ground of quietly observing. It’s also referred to as “relaxed alert.”

Red, Gray, and Black are the states of action with varying degrees of how one reacts in confrontation to a threat. Red or “primed for action” is the desired state when sh*t hits the fan. Grey is a state of chaos and Black is total panic, both causing the war fighter to ignore or forget their surroundings.

We can break down the reactions of how the team of Westeros’ greatest fighters devised a strategy to capture and extract a wight (the reanimated skeletons that fight for the Night King.)

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Deep in conversation, they’re still watch their surroundings (Photo via Army.mil Screen grab via HBO Go)

As the team of badasses move through the frozen north, they generally maintain Condition: Yellow. Tormund may be joking about his three best ways to keep warm, but he’s still eyeing his surroundings.

It’s only Gendry, the fighter with the least experience, who is in Orange. He’s uneasy about his “squad mates.” He’s never been beyond the wall, or even acclimated to the snow. He’s nervous and it shows.

When the group comes to the open field shrouded in snowfall, the group loses their control of situational awareness. And this is common in every battle.

The Prussian military analyst Carl von Clausewitz said of this: “War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.”

This has since been called the “fog of war.” Same concept as in video games, but our heroes also have to contend with a literal fog that hide their enemies as well as allies. With the probable threat nearby, they form up and prepare to engage.

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Note the 360° Perimeter (Photo via Wikimedia Screen grab via HBO Go)

The squad isn’t able to spot the zombie bear in time and after it caught on fire, Sandor Clegane is terrified. He is a prime example of how even the greatest of war fighters can still lose their composure. He’s in Condition: Gray.

They find their stray wight with a white walker and his soldiers. The rest of the steps in maintaining situational awareness are further explained in fighter pilot and military strategist John Boyd’s OODA Loop, which is the constant cycle of Observing, Orienting, Deciding, and Acting.

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(Chart via Wikicommons)

Through the OODA Loop, they observe the valley and have a count how many enemies there are. They orient themselves to position themselves to push through with the exit to their front. They decide who is attacking whom, with John (the only one with a Valerian Steel sword) attacking the leader.

And in action, it works flawlessly. They capture and bind the enemy. But not before it calls for reinforcements.

They send Gendry as a runner to get the message back to Daenerys. Keeping higher command aware of what’s going on in the field is paramount for operation success. But Gendry has another critical mission: to call in air support.

As the undead horde swarms the squad, they come across a lake with thin ice and an island with a high observation point. They use this perfectly to their advantage. The ice shatters, creating a moat-like barrier around their island. They can hold the island long enough for extraction.

If it looks stupid but works — it ain’t stupid.

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A good fighting position makes all the world. (Photo via Army.mil Screen grab via HBO Go)

Operationally, everything has been relatively smooth. Only one character with a name has died so far. It’s cold, but they have eyes on every target, including the enemy leaders — who’s elimination would end their magically undead army. You can point out everything thus far as prime examples of things you should do before and after first contact.

Now comes the example of what happens when you march into battle with no situational awareness, no understanding of your enemy, very little experience, and way too much confidence.

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If everyone is waiting on you…move. (Photo via Defense.mil Screen grab via HBO Go)

Air Extraction has touched down on the landing zone and air support is (literally) lighting up the enemy. Daenerys and her dragons have arrived. Minutes before, she didn’t believe the enemy existed and now she’s fighting the massive army of the dead.

Her dragons have been injured before; Drogon has taken spears from Sons of the Harpy and the Lannister’s Scorpion and he survived. And in battle, we all think we are invincible…until we’re not.

Viserion, the golden dragon of Daenerys, is slain after the Night King impales him with an ice spear.

It was the lack of situational awareness that kept the group from identifying not one but two ice spears. Jon Snow, with all of his experience in combat, really is a slow-learner as far as battle tactics go. He spots the second spear in time to send off a warning, but is left stranded on the battlefield with plan.

Sure, he’s alright and thanks to plot armor he makes it out of there alive, but really Jon, it’s time to start studying combat strategy. It’s almost as if he forgot everything he had learned about situational awareness up until this point…

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