This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops - We Are The Mighty
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This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Creating a fool-proof selection program as well as finding the right entry requirements to test candidates is something the military, police, special ops, and fire fighter worlds constantly seek to perfect. I recently was asked the following question by a few friends who are either active duty or former Tactical Professionals (aka military, special ops, police, swat, and fire fighters):


Do you think there will ever be a measurable test or metric to predict the success of a candidate in Special Ops programs?

My unqualified short answer is… maybe? I think there are far too many variables to test to create a measurable metric to predict success in selection programs or advanced special operations training. Now, this does not mean we should stop looking and creating statistical analyses of those who succeed and fail, or testing out new ideas to improve student success. There is no doubt that finding better prepared students will save money, time, and effort, and it’s worth remembering that much of the entry standards are based on those studies. The ability to measure someone’s mental toughness (aka heart or passion) may be impossible, but there are groups making great strides with quantifying such intangibles.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops
U.S. Navy SEALs exit a C-130 Hercules aircraft during a training exercise near Fort Pickett, Va.

Recently, Naval Special Warfare Center (BUD/S) did a three-year study on their SEAL candidates attending Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL Training. If you are looking for the physical predictors to success, this is about as thorough of a study as I have ever seen to date.

The CSORT — Computerized Special Operations Resiliency Test is another method of pre-testing candidates prior to SEAL Training — while still in the recruiting phase. The CSORT is part of the entry process and has become a decent predictor of success and failure with a candidate’s future training. Together with the combined run and swim times of the BUD/S PST (500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, and 1.5 mile run), a candidate is compared to previous statistics of candidates who successfully graduated.

Can You Even Measure Mental Toughness?

This is a debate that those in the business of creating Special Operators still have. In my opinion, the “test” is BUD/S, SFAS, Selection, SWAT Training, or whatever training that makes a student endure daily challenges for a long period of time. The body’s stamina and endurance is equally tested for several days and weeks, as is one’s mental stamina and endurance (toughness) in these schools. The school IS the test. Finding the best student — now that is the challenge.

Related Articles/ Studies:

Here is a study on general “Hardness” with respect to Army SF graduates.

Some other intangible qualities of successful special operators.

Some Science of Mental Toughness.

Building Blocks of Mental Toughness.

Training to Think While Stressed. Thinking under pressure is a common trait of successful operators.

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on Military.com’s Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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Into the eye of the storm with the Hurricane Hunters

Hurricane season has officially begun, and if 2020 was any indication of what is to come, the members of the Air Force’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — known as the Hurricane Hunters — will be busy.

Based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, the squadron collects data about potentially dangerous weather systems from the Atlantic to the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean by flying into the literal eye of the storm. 

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops
Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter Pilot 1st Lt. Ryan Smithies finalizes mission planning before departing July 24, 2020, into Hurricane Douglas to collect weather data to assist the Central Pacific Hurricane Center with their forecasts. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, assigned to the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, departed July 22 to conduct operations out of Barbers Point Kapolie Airport, Hawaii. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

Critical mission

“There’s no substitute for going directly into the storm system,” Capt. Ryan Smithies, a pilot with the 53rd, said. When NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami needs more information about a tropical storm or hurricane, it calls the squadron. They stand by ready to take the call.

While the weather industry includes numerous methods of collecting data, Smithies said many critical measurements are only attainable by taking one of the squadron’s WC-130J Super Hercules planes directly into the weather system.

Once the squadron relays the data, NOAA then issues forecasts and any necessary warnings. 

Weather and families

Smithies says there’s an immediacy to the tasks and end result of the Hurricane Hunters’ daily efforts. “When we land, we can see the work that we’ve done being played out in real time” in forecasts and potentially life-saving decisions, he says.

“Our mission is something that can hit home, so that’s always one of the concerns,” Lt. Col. Mark Withee, a navigator in the 53rd and Chief of Plans for the 403rd Wing, said. 

If severe weather threatens the Biloxi area and aircraft evacuations are necessary — all while the squadron continues to fly into the very weather that looms — Withee said the 53rd does all it can to have one plane ready to fly the crews back to take care of their families.  

“No matter where a storm goes, it seems like there’s usually someone that has some family member that is impacted like that. It’s really something where we can see the impact both for the country as a whole but then in many cases, we have specific close family ties.”

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops
An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircrew flies into Hurricane Douglas July 24, 2020, to collect weather data to assist the Central Pacific Hurricane Center with their forecasts. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, assigned to the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, departed July 22 to conduct operations out of Barbers Point Kapolie Airport, Hawaii. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

According to Smithies, 2020 was the third busiest season in terms of flight hours flown on mission-related flights into tropical systems. 

“We evacuated the airplanes four times from Keesler, and I don’t think anybody’s been able to find a year where we did that or more,” he said.

Dr. David Nolan, chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami, says there has indeed been an uptick in the type of weather events the 53rd encounters, which helps to explain its recent demanding schedule.

“It’s pretty clear that the number of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic has increased in the last 30 years,” he said, adding the National Hurricane Center just updated the official yearly average (which is tallied every several decades) from 11 to 12.

It’s not that simple

Although there’s an upward trend, Nolan said the increase likely isn’t related to global warming but instead to other factors in the Atlantic. 

“There’s an idea that in the future, there will be more hurricanes because of global warming and that is just not correct,” he explains. “It’s not that simple.”

What is evident, he said, is that as the planet grows warmer, hurricanes are stronger and wetter and potentially more dangerous.

“As for the strength of the hurricanes, it is consistent with the science of global warming and what’s been going on this idea that hurricanes will get stronger,” said Nolan. “When the atmosphere is warmer, it holds more water, so the storm systems carry more water, and they can produce more rain.”

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops
Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters use dropsondes to collect weather data such as wind speed, wind direction, pressure and temperature. Several of these were dropped into Hurricane Douglas July 24, 2020, The data the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters collect is send to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center to assist with their forecasts. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, assigned to the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, departed July 22 and started conducting operations out of Barbers Point Kapolie Airport, Hawaii, July 24, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

Going forward

So, what does it mean for the Hurricane Hunters if the pace and intensity of storms continue to ramp up? 

There’s no doubt that the 53rd can field any challenges that come its way, said Smithies. 

“We’re going to fly what we’re tasked to fly with the resources we have available regardless of whether that means a single flight in a slow season or multiple storm systems operating at the same time.”

After all, as the pilot says, “that’s why we’re here.”


-Feature image: USAF photo by Lt. Col. Brad Boudreaux

MIGHTY TRENDING

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

The longest round of peace talks between the United States and the Taliban has ended with “real strides” being made but without an agreement on troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said on March 12, 2019.

“The conditions for peace have improved. It’s clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides,” Khalilzad said on Twitter, adding that another round is possible later this month after the 16 days of negotiations in Qatar’s capital, Doha.


But Khalilzad said “there is no final agreement until everything is agreed.”

U.S. and Taliban negotiators have been attempting to hammer out the details of the framework agreement reached in January 2019.

The main disagreements are over four interconnected issues, including the Taliban breaking off ties with groups designated as terrorists by Washington; the timetable of a U.S. military withdrawal; a cease-fire in Afghanistan; and an intra-Afghan dialogue that would include the Taliban and government representatives.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said negotiators made “meaningful progress” during the talks.

The spokesman said the Taliban agreed that peace will require agreement on counterterrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, and a cease-fire.

“Progress was achieved regarding both these issues,” said a Taliban spokesman, referring to the U.S. troop withdrawal and assurances that foreign militants would not use Afghanistan’s territory to stage future terrorist attacks.

Neither side mentioned any progress made on reversing the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with the government in Kabul. The militant group says the Western-backed government is a U.S. “puppet” that must be toppled.

Afghan Chief Executive: Foreign Troops Still Needed ‘Until War Over’

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The Afghan government has been angered and frustrated at being sidelined at the peace talks.

Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told RFE/RL that he was skeptical of the Taliban’s motives and urged Washington to keep troops in the country until a formal settlement that includes the Kabul has been signed with the militants.

Abdullah also said Afghans were “concerned” that the Kabul government has been sidelined from the talks in Qatar but insisted it had not caused a rift with Washington.

“Unless the Afghan government has direct negotiations with the Taliban, Afghan people have the right to be concerned,” Abdullah, who is the de facto prime minister in the national unity government, said in an interview in Kabul on March 12, 2019.

“The Taliban wants to use these peace talks for political and propaganda purposes instead of using this as a step towards peace,” he added.

U.S. President Donald Trump wants to pull out the roughly 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan and has tasked U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad with reaching a settlement with the militants.

During a round of talks in Doha in January 2019, U.S. and Taliban negotiators reached the basic framework of a potential peace deal in which the militants would prevent international terrorist groups from basing themselves in Afghanistan in exchange of a withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.

But Abdullah urged Washington to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan until a comprehensive peace settlement is reached between the United States, the Taliban, and Kabul.

“The Taliban wants foreign troops to leave Afghanistan,” he said. “It’s also the demand of the Afghan people. But our opinion, and that of the Afghan people, is that until the war is over and peace is restored, there is a need for the presence of these troops.”

U.S. and other foreign troops have been in Afghanistan since an October 2001 invasion that brought down the Taliban government after it refused to hand over Al-Qaeda terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, who launched the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The President may look at pulling US troops out of Germany

The US Defense Department is reportedly analyzing whether or not it is feasible to conduct a large-scale withdrawal or transfer of US troops in Germany, according to a Washington Post report published on June 29, 2018.

President Donald Trump reportedly mulled the option after meeting with military aides in early 2017, US officials said in the report. Trump, who has had a tenuous relationship with the German chancellor Angela Merkel, was said to have been surprised by the number of US troops stationed in the region.

Some US officials were said to have tried to dissuade Trump from taking action.


Around 35,000 active-duty troops were stationed in Germany in 2017. US troop levels peaked at 274,119 in 1962, 17 years after World War II.

In addition to the US presence in Germany, Trump was reportedly vexed by his belief that other NATO countries were not contributing enough to the organization. Trump has frequently vented his frustration and criticized NATO members for failing to abide by the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level that members agreed to during the alliance’s inception.

European officials were reportedly alarmed at the possibility of US troop movements — some of whom wondered whether Trump might use it as a negotiation tactic.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops
Members of Bull Troop, 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry, prepare to engage a multinational force while taking part in a quick-deployment exercise during Allied Spirit VI at Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, March 25, 2017.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Frye)

The National Security Council downplayed the significance and said it had not asked for a formal analysis on repositioning troops: “The Pentagon continuously evaluates US troop deployments,” a statement from the NSC said, according to The Post. The statement added that the “analysis exercises” were “not out of the norm.”

“The Pentagon regularly reviews force posture and performs cost-benefit analyses,” Eric Pahon, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said in a statement to The Post. “This is nothing new. Germany is host to the largest US force presence in Europe — we remain deeply rooted in the common values and strong relationships between our countries. We remain fully committed to our NATO ally and the NATO alliance.”

But despite repeated denials of a rift between US and NATO countries, Trump has suggested withdrawing from the 29-member alliance on multiple occasions.

“My statement on NATO being obsolete and disproportionately too expensive (and unfair) for the U.S. are now, finally, receiving plaudits,” Trumps said during his 2016 presidential campaign on Twitter.

Trump has similarly suggested pulling US troops out of South Korea. Citing several people familiar with the discussions, The New York Times reported in May that he had ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for a drawdown.

“We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military,” Trump said in a speech March 2018. “We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea,” Trump added. “Let’s see what happens.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s one of the hardest Army courses you’ve never heard of

In the thick heat of a Missouri summer, the number of Army Engineer Dive School dropouts rises faster than the steamy temperature.

“Does anyone want to DOR (drop out on request)?” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Holdner, as soldiers in soaked combat uniforms push through the pool’s waters in the early hours of a muggy July morning.

Holdner, a diving cadre instructor, looks over at the soldiers struggling in the pool. Two raise their hands. Four leave the class before noon.


Army has divers?

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Related video:

By the time the physical training session finished in the late afternoon, another five followed.

One day into the first week of Engineer Diver Phase I course, a class of 12 has dwindled to two: the first, a soldier who had already passed the course two years ago. He left the Army and worked his way back. The other: a soldier who struggled swimming the endurance laps necessary to be a deep-sea diver but passed other aspects of the course, including the classroom lessons and physical training exercises.

The cuts come swiftly. Some quit out of their own accord. Others simply did not meet the rigid standards of the course. The Army designed it this way; to weed out the weak-minded, weak-willed and those unable to remain calm during extended hours underwater. In maritime conditions, Army divers must be prepared to act in seconds; they must react to sudden changes in currents, waves and the elements.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Staff Sgt. Andrew Holdner pours water on students as they attempt to complete flutter kicks. The water simulates the sensations of drowning. The exercise tests students’ ability to perform under extreme duress.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

More than 90 percent of students won’t advance past the school’s first phase at Fort Leonard Wood. Among those who didn’t make the first week: recruits who had years of competitive swimming experience and former high school athletes.

The instructors know oceans, rivers and lakes can be a brutally cold, unforgiving places.

They attempt to make the course as unforgiving. At Davidson Fitness Center’s 25-meter pool, divers face two crucial initiation tests. Holdner said the majority of students don’t make it past these two exercises.

The first, students must swim the width of the pool in a single breath — underwater. Then the new recruits jump off a high dive board, surface, and swim to the far side of the pool and back and tread water for 40 minutes.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Pfc. Nolan Hurrish, right, emerges from the pool with other students during an Army engineer diving training exercise at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

During the first half, students keep their heads out of water while using their hands and feet. During the second 20 minutes, they perform the “dead man’s float” — a survival technique where soldiers bend at the waist facing the water with arms out while holding their breath, simulating a floating corpse. When they need to breathe, they collapse arms and legs at the same time to raise their head above the water before dipping their faces back in the water.

In the second test, soldiers must swim 500 yards in 12 minutes and 30 seconds using breast stroke or side stroke, then do 50 pushups, 50 curl ups and six pullups. Finally, they must run a mile and a half in 12:30 or less.

As students attempt each exercise, they face the possibility of being dropped from the course and being reclassified into another career field.

“Every single time I’ve got to drop somebody,” said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Bailey, the lead instructor. “I feel bad because I know that they got into something that they knew nothing about. Because we’re a small field, very few people know that we exist.”

Students spend up to three and a half hours per day in the water, but also spend time in the classroom, learning about diving physics and how to maintain their equipment.

Dive instructors put students through a series of rites of passage, and ultimately test whether students can remain calm in situations that often cause heightened panic. The first such test came on the third day of training.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

In addition to remaining calm underwater and developing breathing skills, diving school students must maintain rigid physical fitness standards.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

Test of Wills

A soldier’s exasperating screams echoed in the swimming complex as he struggled to retrieve his equipment at the bottom of the pool. Instructors removed the diver’s mask, fins and air regulator and tossed them into the deep end of the pool. When the course began earlier that week, he lagged behind classmates during endurance laps.

Now at 1:30 p.m., the weather conditions in central Missouri hovered at around 95 degrees.

Inside the swimming complex the heat and humidity make the poolside area feel like a pressure cooker, not making the training any easier. During the test, instructors rip off pieces of the students’ scuba gear. soldiers must descend 14 feet and retrieve the gear in a single breath.

Holdner and Bailey bobbed at the surface, shouting instructions. They slapped water into the faces of the two remaining students in an attempt to simulate the unpredictable sway of an ocean current.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Pfc. Stephen Olinger dons swimming fins before a training exercise at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in July 2018.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

Here both instructors attempted to escalate the stress level to a fever pitch. Their screams, combined with the splashing water, simulate what instructors call a “rough sea state.” On missions, a diver’s rig might fail and they would no longer be able to breathe. Or divers may get bumped by an obstruction, falling debris, marine life or land they didn’t see. The current can also knock their air regulator off their suit.

When faced with the possibility of drowning, the diving instructors said water fills a swimmer’s nostrils, invoking feelings of nausea and sometimes vomiting. It can cause extreme panic, breaking down even the best of athletes and the most confident swimmers.

“We say water is the great equalizer,” Bailey said. “We have plenty of people that come here that are great physical specimens … They can do everything on land … But then, you put them in the water and guess what? They fall apart. They become two different people.”

Water can create extreme panic causing soldiers to lose their bearing, forcibly shoving fellow swimmers out of the way in order to reach for the shore. The violence of the water currents can push some soldiers to the edge.

“If you’re not comfortable,” Bailey said. “Water will bring out the worst in people.”

Bailey, a soldier with a neatly-combed crew cut and a stocky, fit build, teaches the class with a cool demeanor. He barks instruction with stern authority, but minutes later will crack a joke to put the students at ease.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Army divers must be able to communicate with the crew above before going on a deep-sea dive. Though they must operate underwater with little instruction, a deep-sea diver will have the only view of the operation.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

An experienced veteran diver of 13 years, he tested his mettle at sea on a diverse array of maritime missions across the globe. He faced one of his most difficult challenges during a deployment to Iraq along a river. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device had damaged a bridge and infantry units needed engineer divers to perform reconnaissance underwater.

At the river’s center in the shadow of the bridge, Bailey, then a young soldier, entered the water. He and another diver descended nearly 40 feet into the river’s depths. Almost immediately after he entered the river’s pitch black waters, disaster struck.

“As soon as I hit that water, I lost my grip,” Bailey said. “The current took me and immediately just threw me back.”

As he felt the pull to the bottom, the river broke his helmet’s seal. Cold water rushed into his head gear. His suit remained attached to an umbilical air supply cord, restricting his movement. He waited for a teammate to pull him back to shore while calming his nerves in the face of extreme conditions.

“I couldn’t swim to the shore,” he said. “I wasn’t moving. The only way I was getting out of there is if I was getting pulled out. And now my helmet was flooded. So what would have happened if I had panicked or I was not able to remain calm?”

Soldiers must face the fear of drowning and their own mortality on each mission. And each time, Divers must tame their emotions or lives will be at stake. In the worst conditions, soldiers will operate with limited visibility while carrying up to 80 pounds of underwater gear.

“I’ve been in situations where I’m using my hands as my eyes,” Holdner said. “One little mistake can be an injury for you. It’s not an environment that’s going to go easy on you.”

Holdner, a youthful-looking staff sergeant with slicked back dark hair who sports a cascade of tattoos on his right arm, graduated from the course in 2010. He entered with a larger class — 96. Only six made the cut and advanced to Phase II. Holdner said the mental hurdles the course poses can be the most difficult to overcome.

Even the second-time student looked visibly rattled as the two jockeyed for position before descending below. Athletically built with a wide upper body, the student easily passed the physical fitness tests and he seemed likely to survive to the next phase in Panama City, Florida.

Then the unexpected happened.

Inexplicably, he swam to the poolside and signaled to the instructors he wanted to drop out. He decided he had enough.

One student remained.

The private’s panicked expression reflected his extreme duress. Of the 12 students who attempted the course, he was the only remaining soldier. The shortest student in the class, this soldier struggled to finish the swimming endurance drills earlier in the week. But he persevered to make it to the third day.

But his chances have dimmed.

As the private spent more time bobbing his head above the surface, he lost valuable time that could have been spent underwater searching for equipment.

An instructor then blew his whistle. The soldier didn’t make the cut.

Slowly, the soldier swam toward the pool’s edge. Still breathing heavily, he gingerly exited the pool and walked toward his gear. He must now wait for the Army to reclassify him into a new career field.

About 12 to 20 students begin each class. Only 1 to 3 normally graduate. Sometimes, as with the July 2018 students, none make it.

Although instructors must cut the majority of the students, they don’t take each decision lightly. Often before they pull recruits from the course, they have counseling sessions. They sit down with each student and explain why they cannot advance to the next phase.

Often, emotions spill.

“They’re in tears,” Bailey said. “This is something that they’ve wanted to do for a long time or this is something that they’ve told their family about and everyone is rooting for them and they don’t want to disappoint their family.”

Bailey said recruiters and drill sergeants often don’t have accurate accounts of engineer diver training. Soldiers then arrive at Fort Leonard Wood with misconceptions about the realities of training.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Navy instructors check Soldiers’ scuba equipment. Equipment management and maintenance is critical for diver safety, instructors said.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

Promising Pair

Two Phase I diving school graduates joined the class of students who trained here in the July heat. Instead of sporting the black Army shirts with gold letters, they donned white shirts and brown swimming trunks to distinguish themselves from the current class. They continued to train with incoming classes to keep their skills fresh as they waited for Phase II in Panama City.

Pvts. 1st Class Stephen Olinger and Nolan Hurrish are only months into their Army careers.

Olinger, a bright-eyed recruit who was raised partially overseas, carries a swagger and self-confidence as he approaches each exercise. He graduated in March. Hurrish, a soft-spoken but diligent recruit from Wisconsin, has quietly passed each test. They don’t know if they will survive the next six months at Panama City. But they remain optimistic that in less than 16 weeks they will join the fewer than 150 Army divers worldwide.

“I have an attitude like ‘this is it,” Olinger said. “This is what I came here to do. If I fail out, I fail out. But I’m going to give it everything.”

The world’s five oceans, where many of the 12 dozen or so Army divers throughout the world must perform, can be ruthless.

The sea is an unpredictable, faceless adversary unlike any other soldiers face in the battlefield, and no less deadly.

Students will get their first taste of that adversary off the shores of the Florida Panhandle in Phase II of the diving school.

(Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series on the Army’s engineer diver training. For part two, click here.)

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7 ways Topper Harley taught us to be better Americans

Considered one of the best comedies of all time, Jim Abraham’s films “Hot Shots!” had audiences laughing hysterically as he poked fun at one of Hollywood’s most iconic films “Top Gun.”


The film’s lead character is Topper Harley who it turns out has some extreme “daddy issues” and is asked to go off to war for America’s greater good.

Within this story, there are a few hidden messages on American exceptionalism.

Related: This is what happened to the soldiers from ‘Platoon’

So check out our list of how Topper Harley taught us to be better Americans.

1. He answers America’s call to serve once again

After being booted from the Navy, Topper finds himself living a peaceful life among Native Americans. But soon his country calls for his help on a crucial mission called “Sleepy Weasel.”

After smoking a peace pipe full of helium, Topper decides it’s his duty to answer America’s call by accepting the mission and to find closure for his “daddy issues.”

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

2. He stands up for his fellow man.

Soon after reporting for duty, Topper tells a senior officer to “lighten up” after witnessing him yelling at a fellow pilot with shitty vision. Then, Topper receives an ear full — which he has no problem taking.

Topper is all about leading his men from the front like a true American.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

3. He attends therapy.

Most tough guys wouldn’t be caught dead discussing their feelings in any setting. But Topper does it, and so should the many Americans who look to him for leadership.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

4. He taught us how to cook an American breakfast using a hot girl’s stomach.

Sounds impossible? Well, Topper did it, and he added an egg, hash browns, and bacon. There’s nothing more American than that.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

5. Harley reminds us that giving money isn’t the best way to say “I’m sorry.”

Americans often look for a simple way to apologize by giving a gift. When Topper hands over his apology gift, he’s told the cold hard cash will likely be blown on a new collection of hats.

Americans also misuse their money, but that’s an entirely different subject.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

6. Topper doesn’t f’ing quit and neither should America … ever.

Topper’s father was known as sort of a wild pilot. He died during a mission and Topper has had issues ever since. This issue temporarily grounded the Navy pilot who is known to freeze up when people mention his father’s death.

Once Topper learns the heroic truth about his father, he snaps out of his funk and takes down the all bad guys — then celebrates.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Also Read: 7 life lessons we learned from Gunny Highway in ‘Heartbreak Ridge’

7. We’re all on the same team.

For the whole film, Topper has been duking it out with a fellow pilot for respect with his team and for the affections of a girl. But after dueling it out with the bad guys, the men put their differences aside and become best buds.

This is just a reminder of how in the end, we’re all Americans.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

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How an airman shot down a Japanese fighter from the cockpit over the Himalayas

One of the most dangerous missions for an Army Air Forces pilot during World War II was a trip flying over “The Hump” – a flight between India and China over the Himalayas. This was true for any aircraft of the era, whether it was a fighter, bomber or transport plane. 

More than a thousand airmen aboard more than 600 planes went down in the Himalayas during World War II, but that’s just an estimate. So many were lost flying over the top of the world, the Army Air Forces couldn’t count them all. 

If a plane did go down in the Himalayas, rescue was uncertain at best. Search and rescue missions were described at worst as “spasmodic,” and at best, “negative.” The presence of Japanese fighters only made it more dangerous

One transport-pilot was so determined not to get shot down in the Himalayas that he shoved a machine gun out his cockpit window and shot an enemy fighter down.

Gen. George C. Marshall hated the The Hump, claiming it bled the Army of its necessary transport planes and may have prolonged the war in the Pacific by nearly a year. He had every right to be skeptical. 

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops
High Command, Left to right: Gen. George C. Marshall, Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, Lt. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Echols. USAF photo.

The primary dangers associated with “Flying the Hump” didn’t even register a loss to the enemy. The air up there was just so bad and the flights so long that any pilot – even an experienced one – risked their lives just to fly it. So when an actual enemy fighter did show up, it was bad news for the Air Transport Command. 

That’s what happened to Capt. Wally A. Gayda during one flight over the Himalayas. Gayda was a C-46 Commando transport plane pilot in the USAAF Air Transport Command flying from India to China. He was on his way to Chunking to drop off supplies for Chinese Nationalists fighting the Japanese.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops
Curtiss C-46, just out of overhaul and painting in August 1948. One of 157 delivered by air to Nationalist China. Creative Commons license.

His trip was already hazardous for the reasons mentioned above but the weather soon turned harsh, the winds picked up and his crew had trouble operating the aircraft. The Curtiss C-46 was already a whale of a plane. At the time, it was the largest transport aircraft in the world and many pilots wanted nothing to do with it. 

Curtiss’ behemoth transport plane also had a snag for wartime pilots: it was unarmed. So when Capt. Gayda saw a Japanese Nakajima Ki.43 Oscar fighter out the side of his cockpit window, he needed to do something about it in a hurry. Luckily, he had a Browning Automatic Rifle handy.

The BAR in the cockpit of his C-46 was the same kind used by the Army infantry in small formations. The Browning Automatic Rifle was a compact light machine gun that could be used by just one soldier, as it was designed to be fired from the hip, while walking. That was all the pilot needed. Gayda stuck the BAR out of his cockpit window and shot the enemy pilot, downing the plane immediately. 

It was the first air-to-air kill by the C-46 in World War II. The C-46 would go on to have a long and mixed career in the U.S. Air Force and elsewhere, no matter what pilots thought about it. 

Featured image: A C-46 tackles its most famous challenge, the “Hump” route through the Himalayan between India and China. (National Archives)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How one Russian truck can shoot down an entire squadron in a full-scale war

While the United States has let its short-range air defense systems decline since the end of the Cold War, Russia’s been very active in bolstering theirs. Of course, this can be explained in part by the different situations the two countries face.


This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops
An A-10C Thunderbolt II assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron performs a low-angle strafe using its 30mm GAU-8 rotary cannon. Planes like the A-10 have usually operated unimpeded over battlefields, to the benefit of American troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

Generally, the United States controls the skies over the battlefield, often to the detriment of gear that the Russians have sold to countries like Iraq, Libya, and Yugoslavia. This makes other countries that either bought or licensed Russian designs nervous. So, Russia’s been working hard to come up with more effective defenses, especially for battlefield forces, like tank and infantry divisions.

The latest in this series is a system called Pantsir. It is an advanced, self-propelled combined gun/missile system that is used on 8×8 trucks. On these trucks are 12 SA-22 “Greyhound” surface-to-air missiles and a pair of 30mm cannon. This is a higher capacity than the previous state-of-the-art Russian tactical defense system, the 2S6 Tunguska, which had eight SA-19 “Grison” missiles and two 30mm cannon on a tracked vehicle. To put it bluntly, one of these truck-mounted systems has enough missiles to kill an entire Navy or Marine squadron of F/A-18 Hornets.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops
The heart of Pantsir: 12 SA-22 Greyhound missiles and two 30mm cannon. (Photo form Wikimedia Commons)

The SA-22 Greyhound missiles have a maximum range of just over 11 miles, according to GlobalSecurity.org, but Deagel.com reports that an advanced version of this missile could have a range of nearly 25 miles – well in excess of many precision-guided bombs in the American inventory.

The scary thing is that Russia is already exporting this advanced air-defense system. So far, buyers have included the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and, ominously, Syria. In short, American combat planes could very well be facing a Russian truck that could blow them out of the sky

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The Navy is closing in on a next-generation Tomahawk missile

The Navy is accelerating deployment of an upgraded Maritime Strike Tomahawk missile designed to better enable the weapon to destroy moving targets at sea, service officials said.


The missile, which has been in development by Raytheon for several years, draws upon new software, computer processing and active-seeker technology, which sends an electromagnetic ping forward from the weapon itself as a method of tracking and attacking moving targets. The electronic signals bounce off a target, and then the return signal is analyzed to determine the shape, size, speed, and contours of the enemy target. This technology allows for additional high-speed guidance and targeting.

Also read: New silent killer welcomed into Navy fleet

The Navy’s acquisition executive recently signed rapid deployment paperwork for the weapon, clearing the way for prompt production and delivery, an industry source said.

“The seeker suite will enable the weapon to be able to engage moving targets in a heavily defended area,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Kara Yingling told Scout Warrior.  “The Maritime Strike Tomahawk enables the surface fleet to seek out and destroy moving enemy platforms at sea or on land beyond their ability to strike us while retaining the capability to conduct long-range strikes,” she said.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops
A Tomahawk missile launches from the stern vertical launch system of the USS Shiloh. | US Navy photo

The active seeker technology is designed to complement the Tomahawk’s synthetic guidance mode, which uses a high-throughput radio signal to update the missile in flight, giving it new target information as a maritime or land target moves, Raytheon’s Tomahawk Program Manager Chris Sprinkle said in an interview with Scout Warrior.

The idea is to engineer several modes wherein the Tomahawk can be retargeted in flight to destroy moving targets in the event of unforeseen contingencies. This might include a scenario where satellite signals or GPS technology is compromised by an enemy attack. In such a case, the missile will still need to have the targeting and navigational technology to reach a moving target, Sprinkle added.

An active seeker will function alongside existing Tomahawk targeting and navigation technologies such as infrared guidance, radio frequency targeting, and GPS systems.

“There is tremendous value to operational commanders to add layered offensive capability to the surface force.  Whether acting independently, as part of a surface action group, or integrated into a carrier strike group or expeditionary strike group, our surface combatants will markedly upgrade our Navy’s offensive punching power,” Yingling said.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops
A Tactical Tomahawk Cruise Missile launches from the forward missile deck aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut during a training exercise. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Leah Stiles

Rapid deployment of the maritime Tomahawk is part of an ongoing Navy initiative to increase capability and capacity in surface combatants by loading every vertical launch system cell with multimission-capable weapons, Yingling explained.

Tomahawks have been upgraded several times over their years of service. The Block IV Tomahawk, in service since 2004, includes a two-way data link for in-flight retargeting, terrain navigation, digital scene-matching cameras, and a high-grade inertial navigation system, Raytheon officials said.

The current Tomahawk is built with a “loiter” ability allowing it to hover near a target until there is an optimal time to strike. As part of this technology, the missile uses a two-way data link and camera to send back images of a target to a command center before it strikes.The weapon is also capable of performing battle damage assessment missions by relaying images through a data link as well, Raytheon said.

The weapon is also capable of performing battle damage assessment missions by relaying images through a data link as well, Raytheon said.

The Navy is currently wrapping up the procurement cycle for the Block IV Tactical Tomahawk missile.  In 2019, the service will conduct a recertification and modernization program for the missiles reaching the end of their initial 15-year service period, which will upgrade or replace those internal components required to return them to the fleet for the second 15 years of their 30-year planned service life, Yingling said.

“Every time we go against anyone that has a significant threat, the first weapon is always Tomahawk,” Sprinkle said. ” It is designed specifically to beat modern and emerging integrated air defenses.”

Articles

This SEAL was shot 27 times before walking himself to the medevac

Deploying to a war zone is a risky proposition, even for the most highly trained commandos like SEALs. While on deployment in Iraq in 2007, retired Senior Chief Mike Day and his team set out on the crucial mission to locate a high-level al Qaeda terrorist cell in Anbar province.


Related: This retired Navy SEAL shares 100 deadly skills

While running point on the raid, Day was the first to enter a small room defended by three terrorists who opened fire.

Related video:

He managed to take one of them down as he started taking rounds himself. He kept firing, and dropped another terrorist who detonated a grenade as he went down.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Dazed and confused, the skilled operator switched to his sidearm and started re-engaging the insurgents, killing the rest. Day had been shot a total 27 times, 16 found his legs, arms, and abdomen. The last 11 lodged into his body armor.

Nevertheless, Day remained in the fight and cleared the rest of the house before walking himself to the medevac helicopter located close by.

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops
“I was shot both legs, both arms, my abdomen. I mean you throw a finger on me, anything but my head I got shot there” — Day stated. (Source: CBN News/ Screenshot)

Day lost 55 pounds during his two weeks in the hospital, and it eventually took him about two years to recover from his wounds.

After serving in the Navy for over 20 years, Day now serves as a wounded warrior advocate for the special operations community.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy’s oldest nuclear-powered attack sub arrives in port one last time

The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN 717) arrived at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton to commence the inactivation and decommissioning process on Oct. 29, 2019.

Under the command of Cmdr. Benjamin Selph, the submarine departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a final homeport change.

“We are happy to bring Olympia back to Washington, so that we can continue to build and foster the relationships that have been around since her commissioning,” said Selph. “The city loves the ship and the ship loves the city, I am glad we have such amazing support as we bid this incredible submarine farewell.”

Olympia completed a seven-month around-the-world deployment, in support of operations vital to national security on Sept. 8, 2019.


This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Olympia returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, after completing its latest deployment, Nov. 9, 2017.

(US Navy Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Shaun Griffin)

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Sailors assigned to Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Olympia load a Mark 48 torpedo from the pier in Souda Bay, Greece, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee)

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Machinist’s Mate (Weapons) 3rd Class Raul E. Bonilla, assigned to fast-attack sub USS Olympia, prepares to load a Mark 48 torpedo for a sinking exercise during the Rim of the Pacific exercise, July 12, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lee)

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia transits the Puget Sound, arriving to Bremerton, Washington, where it’s scheduled to begin the inactivation and decommissioning process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, October 29, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley)

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia transits the Puget Sound, arriving to Bremerton, Washington, where it’s scheduled to begin the inactivation and decommissioning process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, October 29, 2019.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley)

The boat’s mission is to seek out and destroy enemy ships and submarines and to protect US national interests. At 360 feet long and 6,900 tons, it can be armed with sophisticated MK48 advanced capability torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

You have to see this Israeli-made tactical vehicle to believe it

An Israel-based company will unveil its new line of highly mobile Mantis armored vehicles at Eurosatory 2018 in Paris.

The Mantis family of tactical armored vehicles will feature four variants that can be customized to seat three, five or eight passengers, according to a recent press release from Carmor Integrated Vehicle Solutions, which has been equipping the Israel Defense Force, NATO and United Nations forces with vehicles since 1947.


The Mantis vehicle concept differs from any other known vehicle on the market, according to the release. The driver of the vehicle is seated in a cockpit-like position, allowing for an enhanced field of vision and optimal control of the various digitally displayed systems in the cabin.

“The development of the Mantis Family answers the global demand for lightweight vehicles with improved capabilities in the field,” Eitan Zait, Carmor’s CEO, said in the release. “These new vehicles provide a range of solutions and capabilities together with a unique ergonomic design that do not exist in any other lightweight armored vehicle.”

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops
(Carmor Integrated Vehicle Solutions)

Carmor will show off the new Mantis line of vehicles at Eurosatory June 11-15, 2018.

The Mantis vehicles will be equipped with “multi-layered protection” against kinetic, blast, and nuclear, biological and chemical threats, the release states. They also will include dynamic thermal and visible camouflage options.

Carmor’s vehicles undergo “rigorous ballistic testing against mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and meet international standards,” the release states.

The new family of vehicles can be upgraded with night vision and surveillance systems and provide options for mounting foldable weapon station systems, missile launchers, mortar and turrets, the release states.

“Due to their lightweight design and superb ergonomics, the vehicles deliver a combination of survivability, agility and lethality, presenting optimum automotive performance and multi-mission readiness for any field requirements,” according to the release.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

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The US Air Force’s Biggest Research Program Is Also One Of Its Most Mysterious

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops
Photo Credit: Youtube/screenshot


The most expensive weapons system under the Air Force’s $17.9 billion research, development, test, and evaluation funding request for 2016 is also without a doubt the most mysterious.

Under the proposed 2016 budget, the Air Force has requested an allocation of $1.2 billion for its Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) program, according to Defense News. The program, which is expected to reach initial operating capability by the mid-2020s, envisions the construction of 80 to 100 planes with an estimated unit cost of $550 million each (though the actual cost will most likely be much higher).

The LRS-B is being billed as the successor to the US Air Force’s B-2 Stealth Bomber. Last summer, the Air Force opened a competition for the development and construction of the plane. Northrop Grumman, the developer of the B-2, and a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin are vying for the chance to build the LRS-B.

Alongside the F-35 and the KC-46 aerial refueling plane, the LRS-B is one of the Air Force’s top three priorities for future research and acquisition.

“I think the long-range strike bomber is absolutely essential to keep our deterrent edge as we go into the next 25 years,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a town-hall meeting at Whiteman Air Force Base.

The focus on the development of the LRS-B, alongside the F-35 and the KC-46, is aimed toward the Air Force’s having a “family of systems” approach in which each airframe seamlessly complements the others during operations.

“Everyone focuses on ‘the fighter,'” Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, told National Defense Magazine. “But the answer to next generation air dominance is likely to be a family, like the long-range bomber.”

Although details of the LRS-B program are classified, the plane is expected to be stealth and nuclear capable — and perhaps even able to carry out missions without a manned crew.

Also from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2014. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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