It’s hard enough to get motivated to do PT a few times a week. Try doing it when you’re missing a limb . . . or three.
That’s how former NFL player David Vobora found the inspiration to shift away from his lucrative training business and lend a helping hand — and add a little bit of inspiration — to vets and others who face the challenges of life-changing injuries.
Marine veteran Brian Aft, left, assists fellow double-amputee Lawrence Green during a workout. (photo by Brandon Thibodeaux)
Vobora left the NFL after five seasons when a severe injury scuttled his short career. He then started a personal training business helping serious athletes in Dallas, Texas, dubbed The Performance Vault.
But his life changed when he met former Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, who was injured by an IED blast in Afghanistan. Mills is one of only five living quadruple amputee vets in the U.S.
“I looked at him and I said, ‘When is the last time you worked out?’ ” Vobora recalled. “He looked down at his prosthetics and said, ‘I don’t want to make you feel like an idiot, but I don’t have any arms and legs.’ ”
That got Vobora thinking.
Not long after his encounter with Mills, Vobora started the Adaptive Training Foundation, which aims to create custom workout programs for amputees that lies somewhere between basic rehabilitation and Paralympic training.
“I realized if Travis is in this position and can’t go to a typical gym … all of these veterans and civilians with physical disabilities — they’ve sort of been sidelined,” Vobora said. “Where do they go … that has this community to push each other?”
The Adaptive Training Foundation is a non-profit organization that’s featured in Starbucks Coffee’s “Upstanders” campaign, which aims to highlight inspiring stories of individuals who go above and beyond to inspire positive change in their communities. Produced by Howard Schultz and author Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the Upstart initiative uses video shorts, podcasts, and stories in hopes of raising awareness for causes like Vobora’s.
President-elect Donald Trump selected retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, the former commander of United States Southern Command, to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security.
The president-elect is slated to make a formal announcement next week, and is also expected to name his pick for Secretary of State as well.
According to a 2014 report by the Washington Free Beacon, Kelly made waves during his tenure at SOUTHCOM by declaring that he had only 5 percent of the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance elements needed to halt drug smuggling.
That year, he also revealed that nearly three-fourths of drug smugglers got through due to a lack of assets.
Kelly also has warned of Iranian influence in South America.
“Over the last 15 years Iran has periodically sought closer ties with regional governments, albeit with mixed results,” Kelly testified during a Congressional hearing March 2015, according to the Free Beacon. “Iranian legislators visited Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua to advocate for increased economic and diplomatic cooperation. Iran’s outreach is predicated on circumventing sanctions and countering U.S. influence.”
Kelly, a Gold Star father, is the third general to be appointed to a high-level national security post by President-elect Trump. Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a former commander of United States Central Command, was selected to serve as Secretary of Defense while former Defense Intelligence Agency head Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was chosen to be Trump’s national security advisor.
Kelly served in the Marine Corps for 46 years, counting four in the inactive reserve. He served in Operation Desert Storm and the Global War on Terror.
His decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Combat Distinguishing Device and a gold star in lieu of a second award, and the Meritorious Service Medal with a gold star in lieu of a second award.
Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness praised the selection, saying, “I agree with a Marine veteran friend who said of the appointment of General Kelly, ‘The Marines have landed . . . and the situation soon will be well in hand!’ After years of HHS Director Jeh Johnson’s failure to protect and defend the integrity of America’s borders, this is an inspired and reassuring choice. President-elect Donald Trump is deploying in defense of our nation a man of character who commands respect.”
By May 8, 1945, V-E Day, the 9th Armored Division gained a wealth of combat experience in a relatively short amount of time. Though untested, the division would distinguish itself during the Battle of the Bulge, buying precious time for Allied units to regroup and disrupting the precise German timetable. Due to their ability to seemingly show up all along the line of advance and thwart German efforts, the 9th was bestowed the nickname the “Phantom Division.” The 9th then participated in the drive to push the Germans back and through determination and a little bit of luck, managed to open up the first bridgehead across the Rhine. The sheer tenacity of the 9th Armored Division shortened the Allies’ war in the European Theatre.
The Battle of the Bulge
The 9th Armored entered the line shortly before the Battle of the Bulge and conducted patrols in what was deemed a quiet sector. On 16 December 1944, it became one of the units that bore the brunt of the German onslaught. The 9th received their baptism by fire fighting the Nazis smashing through the Ardennes Forest. The division’s three combat commands – similar in structure to modern brigades – were spread across the front lines and found themselves defending some of the most important sectors.
There are widely considered to be two crucial fights during the battle that proved to be turning points: the siege of Bastogne in the south and the Battle of Elsenborn Ridge. The 9th Armored’s Combat Command B (CCB) was deployed to St. Vith, Belgium in the vicinity of Elsenborn Ridge, Combat Command Reserve (CCR) was around Bastogne when the Germans attacked while Combat Command A (CCA) was in Luxembourg.
Combat Command A faced off against the Wehrmacht Seventh Army in the vicinity of Echternach, Luxembourg. It was the task of the Seventh Army to secure the southern flank of the entire German operation. However, CCA held their sector of the front against relentless attacks denying the Germans of their goals. During the fighting CCA’s 60th Armored Infantry Battalion had been surrounded, Stars and Stripes reported:
Nobody told the doughs of the 60th Armd. Inf. Bn. to pull out, so they stayed and fought until word finally got through to them. A few days later they showed up in German helmets and with blankets draped over their shoulders, their rifles slung with bayonets fixed. They walked through German lines that way… They kept right on going until they reached the U.S. lines. After that, they fought some more.
After being relieved by elements of the 6th Armored Division, Combat Command A was immediately pressed into the drive to relieve the beleaguered defenders of Bastogne.
Combat Command B was deployed further north near St. Vith, Belgium having planned to support the 2nd Infantry Division in an upcoming offensive action. When the Germans attacked the 2nd Infantry Division alongside the rookie 99th Infantry Division blunted the advance at Elsenborn Ridge while CCB drove south to help secure the vital crossroads at St. Vith with the remnants of the 7th Armored Division, 28th Infantry Division, and the 106th Infantry Division which had lost two-thirds of its fighting strength. With things going poorly to the north further German units poured south to St. Vith but the units of CCB put up a stubborn resistance. Finally, on 23 December, after delaying the Germans for 6 days CCB withdrew from St. Vith. However, during the fighting the BBC had reported that “the brightest spot along the western front is at St. Vith.” To which an American soldier replied “if this is a bright spot what the hell is going everywhere else?” But the actions of the 9th had severely disrupted the German plans.
While the 9th Armored’s other two commands were fighting elsewhere Combat Command Reserve was fighting a delaying action at Bastogne. CCR was tasked with blocking German forces advancing on Bastogne at all costs and did so for nearly 48 hours before falling back onto Bastogne itself. The Reserve Command’s delaying action gave the 101st Airborne Division time to reach Bastogne and establish a defense. Once Bastogne was surrounded the survivors of CCR fell under the command of Combat Command B, 10th Armored Division where they were formed into a provisional “fire brigade” known as Task Force SNAFU. This mobile reserve acted as a rapid response force to threatened areas of the line. As history has shown the battle at Bastogne proved to be pivotal and if it weren’t for 9th Armored’s Reserve Command the battle might not have even taken place. For their actions during the battle, Combat Command Reserve was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
Had the Germans been successful in any of the areas in which the 9th Armored Division was operating, the Allies could have incurred significantly more casualties or even prolonged the war. As the units of the 9th were relieved they were pulled off the line and sent to the rear to recuperate and rearm for the upcoming counter-offensive. The American forces pushed the Germans back and drove toward the Rhine and an entrance into the German heartland while the Phantom Division waited for its opportunity to rejoin the fight. That opportunity came on 28 February 1945.
Seizing the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen
On that day, the 9th Armored Division began its own attack toward the Rhine making good progress against the German opposition. In the days follow American units reached bridge after bridge on the Rhine just in time to see the Germans blow the bridge they were hoping to capture. As luck would have it, one American unit – the 9th – arrived to find one still intact, the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen. The lead elements of CCB reached Remagen to find the Germans retreating. Tanks and infantry were ordered to move quickly but quietly through the town. However, multiple sources reported the bridge was scheduled for demolition at 1600, and when word reached the Commanding Officer of CCB it was already 1515 – they had 45 minutes to take the bridge. He immediately informed the commander of the assault forces and told them to get to the bridge as quickly as possible to which the commander replied: “Sir, I’m already there.”
Though they were at the bridge, it was still in the hands of the Germans who were determined not to let the Americans take it intact. Upon seeing the Americans, German engineers set off an explosion in the roadway hoping to slow the American advance. They also opened up with everything they had from the opposite bank. By the time the Americans were ready it was 1550, they had 10 minutes to save the bridge. The lead elements of the 27th Armored Infantry Battalion began the assault and charge onto the bridge. Just as they did the Germans set of an explosion at the far side of the bridge; a final failed attempt at demolishing the bridge. The blast momentarily stunned the infantrymen but they quickly regained their senses and again set up across the bridge followed closely by combat engineers who climbed under the bridge set about cutting the wires to the explosives. The soldiers pressed on not knowing if the bridge would be blown up underneath them at any moment. They captured the German machine gun positions in the towers overlooking the bridge, then Sgt. Alexander Drabik led his squad in a mad dash for the far side of the bridge, dodging German fire and returning some of their own as they went. Sgt. Drabik and his squad arrived unscathed and were the first Americans across the Rhine – the 9th had grasped the slightest of holds.
As more men arrived they began clearing the Germans defending the far side of the bridge. They stormed the towers and captured the machine gun crew before throwing their guns in the river. They climbed up the cliffs to take out snipers and they endured mortar and artillery barrages but they were holding on. At night fall only a reinforced company, about 120 men, held the far side of the bridge but by midnight the engineers had cleared the armor to begin crossing.
Initially, before reports of the bridges capture had reached higher headquarters, CCB, 9th Armored Division had been order to continue south to link up with other forces. Brigadier General Hoge, CO CCB made the fateful decision to disobey those orders and reinforce his small contingent that had already crossed the bridge. Finally, as word began to spread Gen. Omar Bradley ordered other units diverted to Remagen to cross the bridge and get into Germany. Though the 9th Armored had captured the bridge at Remagen that was not part of the initial plan and in fact there were other plans underway in other areas designed to cross the Rhine. When Eisenhower’s dinner was interrupted by the news he told his guests “that was Brad. He’s got a bridge across the Rhine. And he apologized for it, said it was badly located at Remagen.”
Meanwhile, the American build up continued as units from all around, particularly anti-aircraft battalions, moved to the area to defend the bridgehead. No sooner was this done than the Germans began throwing everything they had at destroying the bridge. Counterattacks were made, air raids were launched, and sappers even attempted an infiltration downstream to blow the bridge but the Americans held and the bridge stood. The men of the 9th even erected a sign saying “Cross the Rhine with dry feet courtesy of the 9th Armored Division.” Finally, on March 17th after continual pounding the bridge collapsed but not before it had allowed 5 divisions to cross the Rhine and gave time for two pontoon bridges to be built nearby.
The actions of the men of the 9th Armored at Remagen contributed immeasurably to shortening the war in Europe. It took the Allies four months to cross the Roer River and the Germans were expecting to be able to rest and refit before putting up a staunch defense of the Rhine. The 9th’s breakthrough caused a lot of confusion and meant the Germans could no longer conduct a prolonged defense. It also allowed Eisenhower to alter his plans for ending the war. He praised the troops for seizing the opportunity, while others, such as General Patton, took the opportunity to gloat that they had beaten Montgomery across the Rhine. If not for the 9th Armored Division’s decisive actions and tenacity during the Battle of the Bulge and in capturing the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, it is likely the war in Europe would have continued past May 1945 and cost many more Allied soldiers their lives.
In 2015, the standard issue service rifle for the Canadian Rangers got a much-needed upgrade. They were finally able to put away their well-worn Lee-Enfield No. 4 rifles, which were first issued in 1941.
A Canadian Ranger protecting mining facilities. (Department of National Defence photo)
Canada’s Rangers are a reserve unit that operates in the Canadian Arctic. It’s made up of 5,000 of Canada’s finest outdoorsmen and features a roster of heavily Inuit and other First Nations peoples. They conduct sovereignty patrols and maintain early warning system sites, giving Canada a military presence in the increasingly militarized (but still desolate) Arctic areas.
First formed in 1947, the Canadian Rangers’ intimate knowledge of their home turf allows them to act as guides and trainers for special forces units. During World War II, the Lee-Enfield was the standard issue rifle for British and Commonwealth troops. After the war, the abundance of the rifles made it easy to equip new units with the rifle.
Vandenberg Air Force Base said the operational test occurred at 2:10 a.m. PDT.
“The seamless partnership of Team V and our Air Force Global Strike Command mission partners has resulted in another safe Minuteman III operational test launch,” U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Hough, the commander of the 30th Space Wing who made the decision to launch, said in a statement. “This combined team of the 90th Missile Wing, 576th Flight Test Squadron and 30th Space Wing is simply outstanding. Their efforts over the past few months show why they are among the most skilled operators in the Air Force.”
The Air Force released a video of the test launch.
The US launch comes after North Korea launched an improved ballistic missile with intercontinental range late last week — Pyongyang’s second missile launch in less than a month.
Last month, North Korea threatened a nuclear strike against the United States.
“Should the U.S. dare to show even the slightest sign of attempt to remove our supreme leadership, we will strike a merciless blow at the heart of the U.S. with our powerful nuclear hammer, honed and hardened over time,” North Korea’s foreign ministry said. “The likes of [CIA Director Mike] Pompeo will bitterly experience the catastrophic and miserable consequences caused by having dared to shake their little fists at the supreme leadership.”
President Trump knows how to travel in style when he flies around the world. A home theater system, 24 karat gold plated bathroom fixtures, VIP lounge — just to name a few customize fittings that make up “Trump Force One” built in the 1990s.
Powered by two Rolls-Royce RB211 jet engines, Trump’s Boeing 757 is considered the “mini-me” version of his newly earned class of jetliner — Air Force One.
Air Force One — the Air Force callsign created in 1953 to designate the President’s plane — is a Boeing 747 that measures 231 feet long, seats 100 passengers, and races in at a max speed of 700 miles per hour. It comes fully equipped with enough fuel to fly 7,800 miles.
It also houses an onboard aerial refueling tube. Perfect for those extended trips to Russia.
AF-1 comes standard with amenities like a full medical clinic, a full gym and over 80 lines of communication, so he’ll always acquire that perfect internet signal wherever he is.
That’s compared to his Boeing 757 at 155 feet long, seating 43 passengers and with a top speed of 660 miles per hour which he purchased back in 2010 for close 100 hundred million smackeroos. Considerably smaller— Trump’s 757 does come in as the fancier choice but doesn’t come close to having the defensive capabilities like a full circuit of radar jamming software like AF-1 does.
Unlike any previous president, Trump independently owns his own aerial fleet, including the Boeing 757-200 airliner, a Cessna Citation X and two Sikorsky S-76Bs. Now that Donald Trump is President, he’ll have to keep his amazing fleet in the hanger, and we think that’s just awful.
South Korea’s sports minister, Do Jong-hwan, suggested that North Korea host some events at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic games in an attempt to engage Kim Jong Un and promote peace, the Guardian reports.
The idea reflects a larger effort by South Korea’s newly elected President Moon Jae-in, who seeks to revive the old “sunshine policy” whereby South Korea makes overtures of friendship and unity to the North to ease military tensions.
Moon has also pushed for both Koreas to host the 2030 World Cup, saying “if the neighboring countries in north-east Asia, including North and South Korea, can host the World Cup together, it would help to create peace.”
North Korean athletes have made limited appearances at global sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympics, with two gold medals in Rio’s 2016 games. In soccer, the North Koreans haven’t fared as well.
Do said the Winter Games could go down as the “peace Olympics,” and help to “thaw lingering tensions” between the North and South, according to the Korea Herald.
But building stadiums and holding games in North Korea would raise two major questions: How sound is investment in a nation that continues to threaten its neighbors and enemies with an ever-evolving nuclear missile program, and would international travelers feel at ease visiting the country that just released a US detainee in a coma?
The US Navy has awarded Lockheed Martin a more than $14-million contract to integrate and test an advanced version of the Aegis Weapon System, the Department of Defense said in a press release.
“Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems Moorestown, New Jersey is being awarded a $14,083,369 contract for ship integration and test of the Aegis Weapon System for AWS baselines through advanced capability build 16,” the release stated on July 14.
Most of the work on the project will be performed in Moorestown in the US state of New Jersey over the next year and is expected to be completed by August 2018, the Defense Department said.
The AWS can simultaneously attack land targets, submarines, and surface vessels while automatically protecting the fleet against aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles, according to Lockheed Martin.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis officially started the U.S. Department of Defense’s review of the country’s nuclear arsenal Tuesday, according to the Pentagon.
President Donald Trump directed Mattis to conduct a review after taking office in January. The full-scope review comes as concerns over the aging nuclear arsenal are growing in both the White House and Congress.
“In National Security Presidential Memorandum 1, dated Jan. 27, the president directed the secretary of defense to conduct a Nuclear Posture Review to ensure the U.S. nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, effective, reliable and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies,” said Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White in a statement.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will lead the review in cooperation with “interagency partners,” according to White. A final report will be issued at the end of the year.
The review comes at a time when the U.S. is facing increased nuclear threats. North Korea continues to advance its nuclear program and has increased missile testing in the last two years. Russia is believed to have violated a decades-old nuclear agreement banning the deployment of intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles. The Russian military is engaged in a military modernization program that includes both its strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.
A significant portion of the current U.S. nuclear arsenal is based on designs from the 1960s and 1970s. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Military Strength rated the U.S. nuclear arsenal “strong,” just one step down from “very strong,” but leaders within the military, the White House and Congress are concerned over the aging arsenal.
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” said Trump tweeted in December.
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After serving in Iraq, Army veteran Casey Tylek created a Tumblr blog that helps veterans during the transition to civilian life.
Tylek said he was inspired to begin the page, called justWarthings, after feeling disconnected from his peers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst because of his military experience.
“At the beginning of every semester it was always the same thing,” Tylek told We Are The Mighty. “Kids would ask if I was in ROTC or was a veteran, and [about] what I did and where I was. Without fail, a student who [had] just met me would ask with wide eyes and a big smile if I killed anyone. I didn’t know how to respond.”
In his view, most students — having seen popular movies and video games like “Black Hawk Down” and “Call of Duty” — expected to hear a yes from Tylek, who served in Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division in 2009.
“They view our soldiers [as] robotic killing machines who are untouchable in combat,” Tylek said. “And they want that to be you so they can ask all the gory details and raise you to hero status in their minds.”
justWarthings is modeled after the viral internet page justgirlythings, another Tumblr blog that uses stock photos and overlayed text to communicate themes that are supposedly universal to teenage girls. After his own experience in combat, Tylek realized how unrealistic civilian views of warfare can be, and he decided his blog could provide a wake-up call.
“I hope people see what war really is — a massive waste of life and resources — a messy, scary, horrific thing,” Tylek said. “And yet, I hope they see a little about why we do it, the bond that we have with our fellow soldiers is a lot of times closer than the bond that we have with our own families.”
Tylek also told WATM that he created the blog in memory of his best friend, Spc. Joe Kenny, who died while serving in Mosul.
Check out more of the powerful collection of images from justWarthings:
Tensions over a potential war between North Korea and the United States are mounting every day.
The “hermit kingdom” is boasting through its state propaganda that it could destroy America. Any claim by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to “create a balance of power with the U.S.” is considered laughable.
But in an astounding claim, Pyongyang’s version of Pravda (fun fact: pravda means “truth” in Russian) says it can destroy the US in many different ways, but most notably with an electromagnetic pulse weapon.
Whether or not this claim is true, here’s a breakdown of what their military actually looks like. They have around a million active duty personnel using cheaper versions of an AK-47 (Type 88), 67 year old fighter aircraft, and dwindling allies.
An impressive claim, by 2017 military standards, is its two satellites in orbit. It’s debatable if they actually have an EMP device on them, but it is known that nuclear weapons also give off an an EMP blast on detonation.
The concerns of their nuclear capabilities, non-state allies, artillery and rocket launchers are real. Even if their nuclear warheads could theoretically reach the US, the devastation it would cause to our allies is the only reason they haven’t been obliterated and South Korea hasn’t become a island yet.
Former Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) said during hearings before the 2008 Congressional EMP Commision that he believes that a electromagnetic pulse weapon detonated in Nebraska could kill 9 out of 10 people in the aftermath and ensuing chaos.
This lead former CIA director R. James Woolsey to say in an op-ed piece for The Hill that one of two North Korean satellites could deliver such a blast.
Problem with this is that Bartlett was directly quoting an early release of William R. Forstchen’s “One Second After” — a science fiction novel about the collapse of society. But as we all know, emotions beat facts in fear mongering.
The alleged mastermind of Friday night’s terrorist attacks in Paris gave an interview to ISIS’ English-language magazine earlier this year in which he bragged about how he had evaded authorities after his photo was circulated in connection to a plot in Belgium.
Authorities on Monday identified the ringleader of the attacks that killed 129 people and injured hundreds more as “Belgium’s most notorious jihadi,” Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
Abaaoud has reportedly escaped to Syria and is believed to be behind several planned attacks in Europe, according to Reuters.
In his interview with Dabiq magazine, a slick ISIS propaganda publication, Abaaoud talked about how he went to Belgium to mount attacks against Westerners.
“We spent months trying to find a way into Europe, and by Allah’s strength, we succeeded in finally making our way to Belgium,” he said. “We were then able to obtain weapons and set up a safe house while we planned to carry out operations against the crusaders.”
Their plot was thwarted — the police raided a Belgian terrorist cell in January and killed two of Abaaoud’s suspected accomplices, according to The Associated Press. The group had reportedly planned to kill police officers in Belgium.
Abaaoud said the police released his photo after the raid, and he was nearly recognized by an officer who had reportedly stopped him.
“I was even stopped by an officer who contemplated me so as to compare me to the picture, but he let me go, as he did not see the resemblance!” Abaaoud said. “This was nothing but a gift from Allah.”
He then boasted about how he had been known to Western intelligence agents, who he said arrested people all over Europe in an effort to get to him.
“The intelligence knew me from before as I had been previously imprisoned by them,” he said.
“So they gathered intelligence agents from all over the world — from Europe and America — in order to detain me,” he added. “They arrested Muslims in Greece, Spain, France, and Belgium in order to apprehend me. Subhānallāh, all those arrested were not even connected to our plans!”
This appears to have some basis in truth. The BBC reported in January that authorities seeking Abaaoud had detained people in Greece.
Abaaoud also taunted intelligence agencies who failed to capture him.
He said he escaped to Syria “despite being chased after by so many intelligence agencies.”
“All this proves that a Muslim should not fear the bloated image of the crusader intelligence,” he added. “My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary.”
The current NATO force structure in Eastern Europe would be unable to withstand a Russian invasion into neighboring Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, a new think tank study has concluded.
After conducting an exhaustive series of wargames wherein “red” (Russian) and “blue” (NATO) forces engaged in a wide range of war scenarios over the Baltic states, a Rand Corporation study called “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank” determined that a successful NATO defense of the region would require a much larger air-ground force than what is currently deployed.
In particular, the study calls for a NATO strategy similar to the Cold War era’s “AirLand Battle” doctrine from the 1980s. During this time, the U.S. Army stationed at least several hundred thousand troops in Europe as a strategy to deter a potential Russian invasion. Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that there are currenty 30,000 U.S. Army soldiers in Europe.
The Rand study maintains that, without a deterrent the size of at least seven brigades, fires and air support protecting Eastern Europe, that Russia cold overrun the Baltic states as quickly as in 60 hours.
“As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options,” the study writes.
“AirLand” Battle was a strategic warfighting concept followed by U.S. and allied forces during the Cold War which, among other things, relied upon precise coordination between a large maneuvering mechanized ground force and attack aircraft overhead. As part of the approach, air attacks would seek to weaken enemy assets supporting front line enemy troops by bombing supply elements in the rear. As part of the air-ground integration, large conventional ground forces could then more easily advance through defended enemy front line areas.
A rapid assault on the Baltic region would leave NATO with few attractive options, including a massive risky counterattack, threatening a nuclear weapons option or simply allowing the Russian to annex the countries.
One of the limited options cited in the study could include taking huge amounts of time to mobilize and deploy a massive counterattack force which would likely result in a drawn-out, deadly battle. Another possibility would be to threaten a nuclear option, a scenario which seems unlikely if not completely unrealistic in light of the U.S. strategy to decrease nuclear arsenals and discourage the prospect of using nuclear weapons, the study finds.
A third and final option, the report mentions, would simply be to concede the Baltic states and immerse the alliance into a much more intense Cold War posture. Such an option would naturally not be welcomed by many of the residents of these states and would, without question, leave the NATO alliance weakened if not partially fractured.
The study spells out exactly what its wargames determined would be necessary as a credible, effective deterrent.
“Gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades—adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities—could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states,” the study writes.
During the various scenarios explored for the wargame, its participants concluded that NATO resistance would be overrun quickly in the absence of a larger mechanized defensive force posture.
“The absence of short-range air defenses in the U.S. units, and the minimal defenses in the other NATO units, meant that many of these attacks encountered resistance only from NATO combat air patrols, which were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The result was heavy losses to several Blue (NATO) battalions and the disruption of the counterattack,” the study states.
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia could be likely Russian targets because all three countries are in close proximity to Russia and spent many years as part of the former Soviet Union
“Also like Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia are home to sizable ethnic Russian populations that have been at best unevenly integrated into the two countries’ post-independence political and social mainstreams and that give Russia a self-justification for meddling in Estonian and Latvian affairs,” the study explains.
While the Pentagon’s European Reassurance Initiative calls for additional funds, forces and force rotations through Europe in coming years, it is unclear whether their ultimate troop increases will come anywhere near what Rand recommends. Pentagon officials would not, at the moment, speculate as to whether thoughts and considerations were being given to raising forces levels beyond what is called for in the initiative.
At the same time, the Pentagon’s $3.4 Billion ERI request does call for an increased force presence in Europe as well as “fires,” “pre-positioned stocks” and “headquarters” support for NATO forces.
Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that more solidarity exercises with NATO allies in Europe are also on the horizon, and that more manpower could also be on the way.
“We are currently planning the future rotations of units through Europe. The heel-to-toe concept will increase how often they’re here for the Armored BCT mission, but it won’t increase how many are here at once — that will remain just one at a time. We currently have some aviation assets on a rotation here but plans aren’t yet firm on what that looks like going forward. We’ve requested additional funding for National Guard and Reserve manpower which may come in the form of full or partial units or even individuals,” Cathy Brown Vandermaarel, spokeswoman for U.S. Army Europe told Scout Warrior in a statement.
Increased solidarity exercises would be designed to further deter Russia by showing allies cooperation along with an ability to quickly deploy and move mechanized forces across the European continent, Vandermaarel added.
The Rand study maintains that, while expensive, adding brigades would be a worthy effort for NATO.
Buying three brand-new ABCTs and adding them to the U.S. Army would not be inexpensive—the up-front costs for all the equipment for the brigades and associated artillery, air defense, and other enabling units runs on the order of $13 billion. However, much of that gear—especially the expensive Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles—already exists,” the study says.
The Russian Military
Russia’s military maneuvers and annexation of the Crimean peninsula have many Pentagon analysts likely wondering about and assessing the relative condition of the former Cold War military giant’s forces, platforms and weaponry.
Russia has clearly postured itself in response to NATO as though it can counter-balance or deter the alliance, however expert examination of Russia’s current military reveals it is not likely to pose a real challenge to NATO in a prolonged, all-out military engagement.
Russia’s economic pressures have not slowed the countries’ commitment to rapid military modernization and the increase of defense budgets, despite the fact that the country’s military is a fraction of what it was during the height of the Cold War in the 1980s.
While the former Cold War giant’s territories and outer most borders are sizably less than they were in the 1980s, Russia’s conventional land, air and sea forces are trying to expand quickly, transition into the higher-tech information age and steadily pursue next generation platforms.
Russia’s conventional and nuclear arsenal is a small piece of what it was during the Cold War, however the country is pursuing a new class of air-independent submarines, a T-50 stealth fighter jet, next-generation missiles and high-tech gear for individual ground soldiers.
During the Cold War, the Russian defense budget amounted to nearly half of the country’s overall expenditures, analysts have said.
Now, the countries’ military spending draws upon a smaller percentage of its national expenditure. However, despite these huge percentage differences compared to the 1980s, the Russian defense budget is climbing again. From 2006 to 2009, the Russian defense budget jumped from $25 billion up to $50 billion according to Business Insider – and the 2013 defense budget is listed elsewhere at $90 billion.
Overall, the Russian conventional military during the Cold War – in terms of sheer size – was likely five times what it is today.
Overall, the Russian military had roughly 766,000 active front line personnel in 2013 and as many as 2.4 million reserve forces, according to globalfirepower.com. During the Cold War, the Russian Army had as many as three to four million members.
By the same 2013 assessment, the Russian military is listed as having more than 3,000 aircraft and 973 helicopters. On the ground, Globalfirepower.com says Russia has 15-thousand tanks, 27,000 armored fighting vehicles and nearly 6,000 self-propelled guns for artillery. While the Russian military may not have a conventional force the sheer size of its Cold War force, they have made efforts to both modernized and maintain portions of their mechanized weaponry and platforms. The Russian T-72 tank, for example, has been upgraded numerous times since its initial construction in the 1970s.
Analysts have also said that the Russian military made huge amounts of conventional and nuclear weapons in the 80s, ranging from rockets and cruise missiles to very effective air defenses.
In fact, the Russian built S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft air defenses, if maintained and modernized, are said to be particularly effective, experts have said.
In the air, the Russian have maintained their 1980s built Su-27 fighter jets, which have been postured throughout the region by the Russian military.
Often compared to the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 Eagle fighter, the Su-27 is a maneuverable twin engine fighter built in the 1980s and primarily configured for air superiority missions.
While many experts maintain that NATO’s size, fire-power, air supremacy and technology would ultimately prevail in a substantial engagement with Russia, that does not necessarily negate the Rand study’s findings that NATO would be put in a terrible predicament should Russia invade the Baltic states.