Military planners spend years putting training exercises together and the political ramifications can be steep, such as with the annual Foal Eagle exercise on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has a history of shelling South Korean islands and firing missiles into the Sea of Japan whenever the U.S. and South Korea come together to train. Calling them “maneuvers” or “war games” is an oversimplification. The long-term consequences could be life or death.
There are times the U.S. will even conduct joint training operations with rivals and allies, such as the annual Cobra Gold exercise in Thailand, where Chinese forces were allowed to join in the humanitarian part.
2o16 marked the tenth year of Iron Fist, an exercise where soldiers of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force trained with U.S. Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to refine their amphibious landing abilities. The 11th MEU trained with the Japanese for five weeks at Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms, California. Their focus was on small unit combat and amphibious landings.
The above video of the Marine-Japanese training exercise was produced by Gunnery Sgt. Robert Brown of the 11th MEU. It’s a compilation of the kinds of maneuvers our Marines and allied troops make during war games.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis warned on Sept. 3 of a “massive,” and “overwhelming” military response to North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs after a small group meeting with President Donald Trump in response to Pyongyang testing its sixth and largest-ever nuclear device.
Mattis was most likely referring to the US military’s roughly 28,000 troops located in South Korea and its massive presence in Japan and in the Pacific. At the time of Mattis’ speaking, the US does not have an increased naval or military presence in the region, though the US and South Korea did just complete a joint war-gaming exercise.
Earlier on Sept. 3, Trump floated the idea of cutting off trade with China, North Korea’s treaty ally and main trading partner, in response to North Korea’s greatly increased provocations. “The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea,” Trump wrote in a tweet.
The Trump administration has repeatedly said that “all options” are on the table in dealing with North Korea, and stressed military might represents a part of that package.
Historically, China has agreed to UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea following nuclear tests, but despite sanctions, loopholes remain that allow Pyongyang to finance its weapons programs.
The nuclear device tested by North Korea on Sept. 3 had a yield of hundreds of kilotons, meaning it was most likely a hydrogen or thermonuclear bomb, according to expert estimates and North Korea’s own statements.
The completion of an intercontinental ballistic missile and a thermonuclear warhead represent North Korea achieving its ultimate goal of building a credible deterrent against invasion and regime change. Experts assess that North Korea’s main goal in developing nuclear weapons is to secure its regime, and that it will not use the weapons offensively, unless provoked.
NATO and Russian aircraft and ships have drawn ever closer in the skies and seas around Eastern Europe in recent years, engaging in a kind of cat-and-mouse game that has led to many near misses.
A significant number of these encounters have taken place above the Baltics, where NATO members border a Russia they see as growing increasingly aggressive in its near abroad.
June alone saw several such incidents, including a Russian jet intercepting a US B-52 over the Baltic Sea early in the month, another Russian jet flying within a few feet of a US Air Force reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea in mid-June, and a NATO F-16 buzzing the Russian defense minister’s jet later in the month.
Western officials and the research and advocacy group Global Zero — which analyzed 97 midair confrontations between Russian and Western aircraft over the Baltic between March 2014 and April 2017 — have said that Russian pilots are more often responsible for unsafe interceptions; some of which arise from negligence or are accidents, while some are deliberate shows of force.
“What we see in the Baltic Sea is increased military activity — we see it on land, at sea and in the air, and that just underlines the importance of transparency and predictability to prevent incidents and accidents,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The Wall Street Journal. “And if they happen, it is important to make sure they don’t spiral out of control and create dangerous situations.”
Western officials and analysts believe Moscow is using such incidents as geopolitical tactics, responding to events in Europe and elsewhere, such as in Syria. Russia has denied this and said that recent reports about its abilities and activity in the region are “total Russophobia.”
Both sides are working toward “risk reduction” policies for the Baltics. But the uptick in aerial encounters comes amid increased military activity by both sides on the ground in Eastern Europe.
Some 25,000 troops from the US and 23 other countries are taking part in the Saber Guardian military exercise in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania this month — the drills are designed as a deterrent and are “larger in both scale and scope” than previous exercises, US European Command said in June. US bombers also traveled to the UK in June in preparation for two separate multilateral exercises in the Baltics and elsewhere in Europe that month.
Those military exercises come ahead of war games planned for September by Russia and Belarus. Those exercises could involve up to 100,000 troops and include nuclear-weapons training.
Neighboring countries have expressed concern that those war games could leave a permanent Russian presence in Belarus — the US plans to station paratroopers in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during them and will adjust its fighter-jet rotation to put more experienced pilots in the area to better manage any encounters with Russian forces.
Lithuanian soldiers and US Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force engaged opposition forces in a partnered attack during Exercise Saber Strike at the Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, June 15, 2015. USMC photo by Sgt. Paul Peterson.
The US and NATO have increased troop deployments to Eastern Europe. UK and Canadian forces are headed to Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, and NATO personnel are already in Lithuania. The latter country has called for a permanent US military presence there as “a game changer” to counter Moscow.
In the wake of this month’s G20 summit in Germany, several countries in Eastern Europe are moving to boost their air-defense capabilities, with the US aiding the effort.
In early July, Poland and the US signed a memoranda of understanding for an $8 billion sale of US-made Patriot missiles.
This week, the State Department gave tentative approval to a $3.9 billion sale of Patriot missiles and related equipment, like radars, to Romania.
Patriot missiles have also been stationed in Lithuania for the first time, albeit temporarily, as part of military exercises focused on air defense and involving five NATO countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said several times that the deployment of defensive missile systems by NATO allies would be a “great danger,” and he has threatened to respond by boosting Russia’s own missile systems.
“The way I view the Patriots deployment is that it also forms part of a broader U.S. response in the region to the upcoming Russian exercise nearby,” Magnus Nordenman, a Nordic security expert at the Atlantic Council, told AFP.
“Air defense has not been a priority for the last 15 years when NATO was busy in Afghanistan, dealing with piracy and peacekeeping,” he said. “There was not much of an air threat but now that Russia is building up air forces, it is different.”
On a November 9, 2016, two US Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets collided during a routine training flight off the coast of California.
As reported August 10 on Military.com, one of the aircraft erupted in flames — the pilot safely ejected — and the other was damaged but still able to fly home to Naval Station North Island, San Diego.
An investigation into the incident concluded the pilots failed to see that they were on a collision course, a failure attributed in part to inexperience and not getting enough flying time.
Despite all that, the pilot who landed this aircraft got high praise from Col. William Swan, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 11, who reviewed the report.”[The pilot] displayed exceptional airmanship when he successfully landed [the aircraft] after significant portions of its flight control surfaces were destroyed,” Swan wrote.
The pilot himself, whose name was redacted on the investigation, was understated about his own accomplishments.
“I … realized we were on a collision course and I immediately pushed the stick full forward in a last-ditch effort to miss his aircraft. Our left wings struck each other in a low-to-high merge,” he wrote of the mishap.
He saw an explosion from the other aircraft, he said, and pieces falling off — it wasn’t clear from which of the two fighter jets. He assessed the damage to his own plane and saw that the “entire outboard section” of the left wing was gone. All the while, he kept a lookout for the other Hornet to see what happened to the pilot.
The pilot called in to base and had his commander read the procedures for controllability checks, allowing him to ensure the aircraft was still good to fly. Then, on advisement from the skipper, he made contact with another aircraft, which flew in to inspect and confirm that the other pilot, who had ejected from his Hornet, had successfully deployed his parachute:
“After inspection, I selected flaps half and could feel the jet change configuration but had no indication of flap position on my display. Next selected the gear down. With 3 down and locked indication, I continued to slow the jet in 10-knot increments and determined the jet was stabled at 180 knots at 15,000 feet. However, due to some light turbulence down low and the feel of the jet I made my approach at 200 knots. [The other aircraft called in] coordinated an arrested landing for me on Runway 36 at [Naval Air Station North Island, Halsey Field]. We discussed our hook-skip game plan and commenced approach. I utilized a 3-degree descent on approach for about 13 [nautical miles] straight in. At approximately 12:40 [Lima] I made a successful arrested landing which concluded the event.”
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the Chinese Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighters came within 200 yards of the P-3, with at least one of the planes making slow turns in front of the American maritime patrol aircraft. The action was considered “unsafe” by the crew.
“You don’t know what the other person is doing,” a defense official told FoxNews.com under the condition of anonymity while explaining the characterization of the incident.
Last week, Chinese J-11s pulled a “Top Gun”-style intercept on an Air Force WC-135W Constant Phoenix radiation surveillance plane — an encounter deemed “unprofessional” by American officials. Encounters like this have been frequent in recent months, and in 2001, a Navy EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane collided with a Chinese J-8 “Finback” interceptor. The Chinese pilot was killed.
Military-Today.com reports that the J-10 is a single-engine fighter that was developed during the late 1980s and early 1990s to counter Russian fighters like the Su-27 Flanker and the MiG-29 Fulcrum. According to some reports, the design was based on the Israeli Aircraft Industries prototype multi-role fighter known as the Lavi, an effort by the Israelis to develop an aircraft comparable to the F-16.
The J-10 has a top speed of Mach 2.2, and can carry PL-12 and PL-8 air-to-air missiles, while also having the ability to drop bombs and fire unguided rockets. GlobalSecurity.org reports that the Chinese have at least 240 on inventory with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. Pakistan also signed a deal to buy 36 of the J-10B multi-role fighter in 2009, according to FlightGlobal.com.
“We will not be conducting offensive ground combat operations,” Col. Curtis Buzzard said in a phone interview Friday. “Anything we do will still be in an advise and assist role (with the Iraqi military). We’re helping them plan and execute these operations.”
Buzzard will lead the paratroopers from the 82nd’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team. They will deploy in the next few weeks for a nine-month deployment. Their mission is to train and advise the Iraqi military as it prepares for a summer offensive to retake Mosul.
President Barack Obama said U.S. combat troops would not be used in Iraq in the past, but told Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of Central Command overseeing the fight in Iraq and Syria, told The Wall Street Journal Thursday no decision have been made on sending U.S. advisers forward with Iraqi divisions.
“I am going to do what it takes to be successful, and it may very well turn out…that we may need to ask to have our advisers accompany the troops that are moving on Mosul,” he said in a Wall Street Journal interview.
U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal Thursday two Iraqi divisions would be part of the offensive to retake the northern Iraqi city in the spring after completing four to six weeks of training. Buzzard’s men will be part of the training program. As he prepares to leave Fort Bragg, NC, his biggest concern is protecting his trainers, who will be based at Iraqi bases.
“Over nine months, you have to make sure you don’t get complacent,” Buzzard said. “We’ve seen incidents in Afghanistan over the last couple of years from an insider threat standpoint.”
There have been no inside attacks to date. The training program is off to a rocky start, according to recent news reports. There is a shortage of ammunition, forcing Iraqi soldier to yell “bang bang” to simulate firing and classes on “the will to fight’ are being taught after Iraqi fighters deserted their positions, according to a Washington Post report.
Buzzard said his men are focused on training the Iraqi leadership. He is bringing his most senior leaders, who will work closely with their counterparts as the offensive is planned.
“We’re looking forward to building relationships with our partners,” Buzzard said. “The feedback I’m getting so far is that it is very well received and it is having a significant impact at least on the planning stage of the counter offensive right now.”
On Thursday, Kurdish forces cut a key supply line to Mosul and pushed Islamic State fighters out of parts of northern Iraq, according to media reports. But US officials told The Wall Street Journal Thursday that this summer’s fight for Mosul will be difficult with booby-trapped houses and roadside bombs expected. Buzzard said he has been focused on the deployment and not on the current intelligence reports, but he said air power and ground forces have degraded the Islamic state.
“We’re still in the condition setting stage for the counter-offensive,” Buzzard said. “The Iraqi army still has to build up some combat power and decide which forces they are going to use and ensure they are properly trained and equipped, but I think they will be fully capable of executing the mission.”
The world knew Rob Guzzo as an elite SEAL; a wonderful father; a talented actor; an ambitious student; and a skilled athlete.
But to me, he was all these things and so much more.
Unfortunately the world lost Rob Nov. 12, 2012 — a man who succumbedto the wounds that many do not see but are often more painful than those that bleed and scar.
Even in the midst of his pain, Rob made others happy. It was hard to know Rob’s struggle because you likely wouldn’t see it unless you knew him well or caught him in a moment he was talking about it.
But this is how I remember Rob Guzzo, and the man I had the honor to get to know and have in my life.
Rob made everyone smile.
Rob was the guy who was always smiling. Whether he was dressing up as a Teletubby, Irishman, or making a singing lessons video, Rob did anything to get a smile out of those around him. You simply couldn’t be around Rob and not smile. He would do goofy things to make people laugh and have a little fun.
Rob was a go-getter and driven.
This is a given, since we all know being a SEAL is no easy feat. Not only was Rob a SEAL, but he was in school to get his masters in addition to pursuing an acting career. He took his craft of acting seriously, and it was obvious he had the talent to soar. Rob was an inspiration to those around him, setting the example to go after your dreams.
Rob was an animal lover.
He loved his dog Sammi. He treated this dog like a princess. The depth of his love could be seen in the way he cared for Sammi and how he treated her.
He was protective of those he loved.
Rob would make sure I was OK if anyone bothered me, even if it was something that wasn’t a big deal. He did the same for others around him. He would make sure those he cared about were ok, even when he wasn’t.
He was loving and sensitive more than he let on.
Rob had a wonderful, giving heart. Sometimes he put up emotional barriers, so the full extend of his loving and sensitive side wasn’t always seen. But it’s who he was. When he did open up, he was one of the most loving and emotionally aware people I knew. It was an honor to get to know the deeper side of Rob, and I will always cherish that I got to see how deep he truly was.
Rob loved his family.
Rob spoke about his mom often, and when his daughter, Jena Mae, was born, it was obvious he loved this beautiful little girl that was his twin. He also loved his military family, and you could tell in the way he talked about Marc Lee that he would have given anything for his family.
He made the world brighter.
Whether Rob was out partying, on set, with people he didn’t know or his best friends and family, he was a ray of light. No matter what Rob did, he was a ray of sunshine. His smile and personality lit up any room or environment.
The world might have lost Rob Guzzo, but it didn’t lose his memory.
These are just a few things I remember and cherish about Rob. He forever impacted my life, and he is impacting many others through his story. He is still giving back even after he has left this Earth.
Let Rob’s passing remind us that even when our brothers and sisters bring us so much sunshine, they may be fighting battles we do not see. Check on each other — even in the times that seem great.
You might not know when your buddy is drowning, and one small act of friendship and brotherhood can be the thing that saves them.
Rob’s story will be featured on “The Warfighters,” a marathon event airing Veterans Day on the History Channel. Tune in to honor this amazing man and learn more about who he was.
Rob was beyond a SEAL, and his impact will go well beyond the time we got to have him here with us.
On Tuesday, a Veteran’s group called Veterans for a Strong America (VSA) endorsed billionaire Donald Trump’s Presidential candidacy during a rally on board the decommissioned U.S.S. Iowa in San Pedro, California.
In a press release, Trump said, “I am honored to receive the endorsement of this fantastic group… If I win I am going to get our vets the care they need, treatment they deserve, and make America and our military great again!”
Except details about this veterans group are not entirely clear. Founded in 2010, VSA is run by South Dakota lawyer Joel Arends, who says the organization doesn’t usually endorse a candidate until the general election but recognizes Trump as an “inherent leader capable of achieving mission success.”
What Trump can or can’t do is for American voters to decide, but the back story behind Veterans for a Strong America is a bit hazy.
The fundraiser on the battleship Iowa this week was ostensibly meant to be a fundraiser for the 501(c)4 VSA, which will “go towards helping Veterans for a Strong America supporting our warriors on and off the battlefield and not to any candidate or candidate’s committee.”
Except the nonprofit status of VSA has since been revoked for failure to file the IRS form 990 for three consecutive years. So, the money from the event will likely go to the VSA Super PAC, and thus, to Joel Arends, who as of last night, may have been the sole member of VSA.Arends deployed to Iraq in 2004 and later served with the rank of Major in the Army Reserve. While in Iraq, he was awarded the Bronze Star for operations in and around Baghdad. So his veteran status is beyond reproach.
Though he did paint a rather rosy picture of the war in Iraq in 2006, telling a reporter from Sioux City, Iowa at the time that “Iraq is a place of great progress” and that “American troops in Baghdad won the locals’ hearts and minds,” with 14 of the 18 provinces “considered relatively peaceful.”
VSA is not a non-partisan group
The group dates back to at least 2012, when the left-leaning Mother Jones website ran an article about their attempt to “swift boat” Obama during the 2012 election.
“Swift Boating” is now a political term meant to surprise a candidate’s military record, either truthfully or not, by “Veterans” who may or may not be associated with the candidate. The term refers to the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” ad ran against John Kerry during the 2004 Presidential election. In the 2012 Mother Jones article, Arends made no bones about his group’s activities.
“Yes, it’s the swift boating of the president, in the sense of using what’s perceived to be his greatest strength and making it his greatest weakness,” which Arends meant as the Bin Laden raid.
Arends contends his group is nonpartisan, though he has a history of working for Republican candidates and causes, including as a field director for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 1999, as the Veteran’s Director in Iowa in 2007 for John McCain for President, and working to promote events for Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, according to his Facebook page. The group’s registration also lists it as a conservative action group, which means…
VSA is a Super PAC
Super PACs are the anonymous dark money receptacles that are a result of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, allowing anyone to to donate unlimited sums to be distributed by these groups, as long as the candidate does not help coordinate how that money is spent.
In the 2012 election cycle, VSA spent all of the more than $170,000 it raised on Republican candidates during that time and some of it was spent against another Republican candidate. It also appears most of that money was donated to itself (VSA has a 501(c)4 “social welfare” nonprofit with the same name).
The VSA Super PAC spent more than it brought in, ending the election $14,000 in the red. Where that money came from is not known, but what is known is before last night’s endorsement/Trump fundraiser, VSA had $30 in cash and $318 in debts.
When looking up the domain owner for VSA’s website, www.veteransforastrongamerica.org, we found it was registered to DomainsByProxy.com, a GoDaddy site which gained notoriety in the 2012 elections for allowing political entities to pay to hide the owners of certain websites.
Interestingly enough, VSA claims membership numbers that include its over 57,000 Facebook fans and “500k grassroots.” It’s a bit of a stretch to claim a Facebook fan as a “member,” since it could be practically anyone who just wants to learn more about VSA and clicks “like.” The grassroots membership claim comes from a Sep. 1 press release that claims “500,000 supporters nationwide.”
We have reached out to VSA and will update if we hear back.
Instructors at the U.S. Army‘s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course said they would serve under the first 13 female lieutenants who graduated the course “in a heartbeat.”
“They blew us away during our field training exercises,” said Staff Sgt. William Hare, an instructor at the course. “Their ability to plan, adapt on the fly and execute that plan in a clear and concise manner and communicate plan changes on the go — it was amazing.”
Hare was among a handful of instructors and leaders who spoke to reporters about the first gender-integrated class of ABOLC that graduated 53 male and 13 female officers at Fort Benning, Georgia, on Thursday.
Two women and six men did not meet the standards and will recycle, Benning officials said. Two males were medically dropped from the course.
This is the latest step in the Army’s effort to integrate women into combat arms jobs such as armor and infantry.
Thursday’s graduation of the 13 female officers from ABOLC is “consistent with what you have seen over the last 18 months,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Benning.
“We always knew that when we entered this effort that we wanted the process to be standards-based,” Wesley said. “In the case of Ranger School, we wanted to make sure there were clear objective standards to determine qualification to become a Ranger. In terms of IBOLC the same thing — it was all standards-based. And now, in the armor community, we have done the same thing.”
The 13 female graduates performed as well as their male counterparts on the High Physical Demands Test, a series of tasks designed to validate that any soldier serving in an MOS has “the right physical attributes to perform in that particular military occupational specialty,” said Brig. Gen. John Kolasheski, commandant of the Armor School at Benning.
“It’s gender-neutral, and they performed at the same rate as their male peers in all of those tasks.”
The new graduates now will go to the Army Reconnaissance Course at Benning. After that, some will go to Airborne School and Ranger School before being assigned to operational units, Benning officials said.
Staff Sgt. George Baker, another instructor at ABOLC, said he had his doubts initially about women in the armor community.
“There was some skepticism at first, just to see can they do it … but as soon as they started performing to those same standards — because we didn’t change anything and they performed to those same standards, and they met and exceeded those same standards — it solidified that they have a place here,” Baker said.
The United States Navy’s newest destroyer, USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), is the most advanced ship in the ocean today. So what actually goes into making this ship the hottest of maritime hotrods?
According to All Hands magazine, the 15,656-ton vessel is equipped with many new advances. The most visible is the 155mm Advanced Gun System. Now, the Long-Range Land-Attack Projectile program was cancelled, but this gun has other ammo options. The Zumwalt also features 20 Mk 57 vertical-launch systems, each with four cells, capable of launching a variety of weapons, including the BGM-109 Tomahawk and the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.
But the Zumwalt has more than just new firepower. The wave-piercing tumblehome design and the composite superstructure help reduce the ship’s radar cross-section, and the ship is also one of the quietest vessels in the world.
The ship also has the new Integrated Power System, a highly-survivable system that allows the power output from the ship’s LM2500 gas turbines to be used for anything from propulsion – taking the ship to a top speed of over 30 knots — to charging a crewman’s Kindle to powering the AN/SPY-3 radar.
The ship can also carry two MH-60R multi-role helicopters and has a crew of 158.
Below, take a look at a pair of videos of this American maritime hotrod.
On the morning of Oct. 6, 2010, three villages in the Arghandab River Valley of Afghanistan were filled with insurgents and dozens of IEDs.
A few hours later the villages were gone as if they’d never existed at all, destroyed by over 25 tons of U.S. Air Force bombs.
Artillerymen with the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment had taken numerous casualties in the months they spent trying to clear the surrounding fields on foot. Special Forces soldiers turned back after they ran out of explosives attempting to blow the IEDs in place. Mine-clearing line charges were fired, opening up lanes into the town but leaving soldiers without “freedom of maneuver” in a heavily-contested area.
The ground commander, Lt. Col. David Flynn, took another look at the problem. He talked to the local elders and told them that his plan to clear the villages could cause extreme damage to the buildings. The elders said that was bad but acceptable as long as the nearby pomegranate trees survived.
Flynn then turned to the U.S. Air Force and requested that Lower Babur, Tarok Kolache, and Khosrow Sofla be destroyed. Surveillance was conducted to be sure that there were no civilians in the area, only insurgents. The mission was approved, and the bombing campaign began.
The Air Force dropped 49,000 pounds of bombs on Tarok Kolache alone, leveling it. The other two villages were completely destroyed as well.
No civilian casualties were reported, though the pomegranate fields were severely damaged and had to be replanted. (USAID planted 4,000 trees, but they take five years to bear fruit.)
Many of the bombs in the area were destroyed by the operation, and soldiers with the 1-320th were able to set up 17 small bases and outposts in the valley, gaining security around the 38 remaining villages. Mine clearance operations had to continue though as not all the explosives were destroyed in the bombing.
Two years later, the Army erected new buildings, but they were weak concrete structures that the villagers refused to live in. Even worse in a war designed to win hearts and minds, local Afghan police chiefs reported that the bombings switched the loyalties of the villages who went on to become supporters of the Taliban.