In his April 2017 book “Make Your Bed,” Admiral William McRaven described what it was like for him as a leader and military officer to receive the families of fallen troops — including those who died under his command.
The former SEAL officer vividly paints a scene at Dover Air Force Base, the first stop on American soil for the remains of U.S. troops killed in combat. The waiting rooms are filled with “wives with a far-off look of disbelief, … inconsolable children, … [and] parents holding hands hoping to gain strength from one another.”
A number of Navy SEALs died in 2011 when their helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan – all 38 men aboard were killed, including 30 Americans. It was the single greatest U.S. loss in the War on Terror. Then-President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and the military’s senior leadership were all present to receive the flag-draped coffins.
The admiral and his wife were there too. He writes in his book that he began to wonder if his words were any solace to the families, if they made any difference at all, or if the shock made his words incomprehensible to the bereaved. He knew what he said was never going to be enough, but he tried to empathize with them.
That’s when he noticed a then-Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly talking to a number of the families. He could tell that what Kelly was saying was actually hitting home to those who lost their loved ones. The effect was what McRaven described as “profound.” He hugged them and they hugged him in turn.
General Kelly talked to every person in the room.
The Marine’s word hit home because they weren’t the words of comfort from a commander to his troops’ families, they were the words of a parent who lost a son in combat, just as they had.
Only General Kelly could have said anything that would mean something to those who lost their children, parents, and spouses in combat. As McRaven puts it:
“When you lose a soldier, you grieve for the families but you also fear that the same fate may one day befall you. You wonder whether you could survive the loss of a child. Or you wonder how your family would get along without you by their side. You hope and pray that God will be merciful and not have you shoulder this unthinkable burden.”
The Green Berets can bring in engineers, comms specialists, and even weapons specialists. The Navy SEALs bring their own lethal skills, as do Navy EOD personnel. The Air Force, though, has shown it can deploy surgical teams that can operate in remote conditions, combat controllers, pararescuemen, and other specialists.
Perhaps the most interesting of those other specialists are the Special Operations Weathermen. Yeah, that’s right – the Air Force has trained meteorologists who can go in with other special operations personnel. Now, you can understand a unit like a special operations surgical team, but why a weatherman? At first glance, that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Believe it or not, weather matters in military operations. Air drops in Sicily in 1943 and during the invasion of Normandy on D-Day were greatly affected by the wind. Today, even with GPS, air-dropping supplies depends on knowing what the wind will be like. While the “little groups of paratroopers” are legendary, the better outcome is to have most of the troops and supplies land together.
These “weather commandos” need to attend eight schools from across the country to earn their gray beret, and spend 61 weeks in training. This involves everything from learning how to forecast the weather and to take the observations to learning small unit tactics to handling both water survival and underwater egress training. These personnel even attend the Airborne School at Fort Benning.
Even after those 61 weeks, when they become Special Operations Weathermen, these “Weather Warriors” will spend a year in further training before they deploy.
They will head out, not only to help predict the wind and rain, but to help bring the pain on the bad guys.
It should come as no surprise that many service members and veterans have gone on to success in martial arts, particularly the UFC. For some, it’s become a career, and for others, simply an obsession. For veterans like Marine-turned-UFC fighter Liz Carmouche, training can be both of the above, as well as a useful tool for smoothing out the transition process.
Training helps with the transition
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Liz noted that hitting the gym aided her transition to civilian life. She said, “If it wouldn’t have been for that, I probably would have struggled and wouldn’t be where I am today.” Just like UFC helped her transition out, the Marine Corps helped her be the fighter she is today. When asked about Marine Corps bootcamp and what she’s used from it in her UFC career, she replied, “I knew that if they couldn’t break me, then no else could do it either.”
Like Liz, I’ve seen the positive effect of training on my transition first-hand. As a Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor, I sought out a Muay Thai kickboxing gym when I went to study abroad in Japan, and it not only helped with my transition out of the military, but it helped me transition into life in Japan. It gave me a community and purpose. Later, when I started working for the government in Washington, D.C., I became a kickboxing instructor at what is now UFC Gym. I taught for two years, made amazing friendships, and even had the chance to teach the cast of The Real World when they came by. (They didn’t air that part of the show though — I guess I was too hard on them.)
We all train for different reasons
Not all of us see training as a way of assimilating. According to Bleacher Report, UFC fighter Tim Credeur said part of the reason he joined the Navy was to get closer to UFC. Others compete while they are still active in the military. Whether they train to be part of a community or simply because they love it (the two can certainly overlap), each of the following individuals below, as noted by Fox Sports and Bleacher Report, have served their country and kicked butt in the Octagon.
10 UFC fighters with military backgrounds
Liz Carmouche: Liz served as a helicopter electrician in the Marines and did three tours in Iraq, and she fought Ronda Rousey in the first women’s bout in UFC history.
Tim Kennedy: Tim served as an Army Ranger and was awarded a Bronze Star. He spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan as a sniper, and unlike Liz, he was active while competing.
Randy Couture: Randy served six years as an air traffic controller in the Army, and is a household name for anyone with an interest in UFC. Fighting until he was 48 years old, Randy and BJ Penn are the only two fighters in UFC history to win titles in two separate weight classes.
Brian Stann: Brian served in the Marines, was awarded the Silver Star, and retired to go on to become a FOX analyst.
Colton Smith: Colton fought while active duty as an Army Ranger. He fought in the UFC Fight for the Troops and was the Ultimate Fighter 16 winner.
Brandon Vera: Brandon served in the Air Force, but was medically discharged in 1999. He fought in the UFC’s heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions, and is a Muay Thai specialist.
Jorge Rivera: Jorge served as a 19K Armored Calvary Scout in the Army, went on to be known for his heavy hands and boxing in the UFC, and retired from MMA in 2012.
Tim Credeur: Tim served as a sonar technician in the Navy immediately after high school, and (as mentioned above) joined in part because he planned on the military helping him to get closer to his MMA and UFC dreams.
Neil Magny: Neil served as a light-wheeled mechanic in the Illinois National Guard. In 2014 he tied the record for most wins in a single calendar year, with five wins.
Andrew Todhunter : Andrew served as a sniper in the Army. He’s fairly new to UFC, but has an undefeated record of 7-0 at the moment.
Joe Owen served as an enlisted Marine in a forward observer squad during World War II, but as the 90-year-old vet looks back on his life, it’s his Korean War experience that really stands out to him.
“I was overseas in WWII when I got selected for OCS,” Owen remembers. “I went to the old man and begged him to let me stay with my squad. He told me I was given an opportunity rare among all Americans to become an officer of Marines and if I were successful I would be leading the finest fighting men in the world. That was the end of it. As it turned out, I am extremely proud that I was able to fight as an officer of Marines. It was my privilege.”
Becoming an officer changed his world, to put it mildly.
Owen was a second lieutenant in command of a mortar platoon when the Korean War broke out in 1950. Later Owen was at the Chosin Reservoir, the site of one of the iconic battles of Marine Corps history. Seventeen Medals of Honor were earned in the battle that saw 10 divisions of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army against the 1st Marine Division. The Marines were forced to withdraw, but not before inflicting massive casualties on the Chinese.
“Our Marines beat the enemy, position by position, with no safety margin and under heavy fire because the enemy could see everything we did,” he said. “So we had to keep our guys moving in the heavy snow and cold. The fatigue factor is serious. The guys forced themselves to keep going because they had to keep going, first for survival and because that was their nature. That’s the fighting spirit of Marine riflemen. That’s how we beat them.”
“When were fighting in the cold, we couldn’t dig holes in the ground. It was completely frozen,” Owen remembers. “So we would take Chinese bodies, stack ’em up and that would be our position. The sons of bitches would come at us and keep coming and keep going down and they would be piled up, running over each other to get at us. The sons of bitches would never stop, so we had to keep on killing them. Can you imagine that?”
If not for the victory at the Chosin Reservoir, the entire U.S. X Corps, nearly 200,000 troops and civilians, would have been lost and maybe then the entire U.N. effort in Korea. The 1st Marine Division received the Presidential Unit Citation for their tenacity. The fighting was often close and brutal.
“We never figured out why, but when we go in close, it’d be a fight with grenades,” Owen said. “We had fragmentation grenades. They had concussion grenades. So we would toss frags at ’em and kill ’em and they’d throw theirs at us and stun us. I got hit by one of those things one time. It blew me up in the air and I came back down, I didn’t know where the hell I was. Well, that’s when they broke through. Fortunately, I had my bayonet on my carbine, and I just turned around and the leader of the Chinese ran right into my bayonet and I couldn’t get the thing out. The poor son of a bitch just struggled there. We both went down. I couldn’t get my weapon out. So I picked up his weapon and from there on in it was a fight with rifle butts. I was swinging that thing and knocking ’em out, one by one.”
In Owen’s mind, the confidence enlisted Marines have in their leaders is what sets Marines apart. Lieutenants are the first line of that confidence in combat. This is why Owen calls Korea a lieutenant’s war.
“You have to be visible. Anyone who stands up under enemy fire… that takes balls. You become a target and the sons of bitches try to kill you and you have to return fire or move forward. You gotta keep the men going, give ’em direction, let them know you’re moving with them.”
This spirit was embodied in Chew Een-Lee, the Marine Corps’ first Chinese-American officer, who served with Owen.
“A guy like that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Owen says of Lee. “If you spent time with him it was rewarding. It lasts forever. We said things to each other that can only be stories, experiences that you talk about and you think son of a bitch, I should have done that.”
Lee died on March 3, 2014 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Owen gave the eulogy at his funeral.
“He was a conceited, self-centered sonofabitch but he was my pal,” Owen said. “We had some classic arguments. What I say about him may not be entirely complimentary, but it was a great experience to know him. And when you think of it, that’s better.”
“He and I and another guy named McCluskey, we used to get together to talk about combat leadership,” Owen recalls. “Chinese officers were very emphatic, screaming and yelling at their people to keep on going. They wouldn’t hesitate to kill the foot soldier who didn’t move forward. They had no feeling for the men who got killed under their command. In contrast, every time I lost a man, I felt as though I lost a son. Even though I was only 23-24 years old. I just felt my men trusted me and were entrusted to me. I had to bring them forward with care – to be damn sure that they were in a position where they could effectively use their weapon and defend themselves.”
He never felt sympathy for the enemies at the reservoir, but he remembers the Chinese differently from the North Koreans.
“They were trying to kill me,” Owen says. “I didn’t forget that. Anyone trying to kill me, I’m gonna kill them.”
Owen was injured at the Chosin Reservoir; doctors almost amputated his arm, but his verve convinced them he would survive his injuries without losing his arm.
“When I woke up at the Naval Hospital near Tokyo, I was in an examination room, and I see several doctors looking at X-rays on a light panel,” he said. “One of them says ‘we don’t have any choice, we have to amputate.’ I figured some poor son of a bitch is gonna lose something. I look around, and mind you I just came out of the morphine, and I see I’m the only guy in there. I figure they’re gonna cut something off me. So I yelled out fuck you. In my head I had to go back up on line with my men. If I lost parts, I can’t go back up. That saved it. The spirit saved my arm.”
He did lose full use of the limb and was soon discharged from the service, but Owen’s life didn’t stop there. He credits his longevity to the same spirit that kept his men going and saved his arm.
“If I could muster Baker 1-7 today, I would tell them we’re alive because you kept fighting,” he said. “You were invincible. You maintained the fighting spirit. You went through one of the most difficult fights ever experienced by American fighting men and you damn well held the line. You became the best goddamn rifle company in the Marine Corps.”
In early April 2016, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charlie Linville departed the U.S. with The Heroes Project founder Tim Medvetz. Their destination was Nepal and their third attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the top of the world.
Linville is an Afghanistan veteran and father of two who had his right leg amputated below the knee as a result of an IED attack. Medvetz is the founder of The Heroes Project and a former member of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club. They arrived at the Everest base camp on April 17 and reached the summit of the mountain on May 19, making Linville the first combat wounded veteran to make it to the top.
Their first two attempts to summit the mountain failed. In 2014, they made it to Lobuche Peak just above Everest Base Camp when a serac, a huge ice tower, separated from the Khumbu Icefall. The resulting avalanche killed 18 sherpas. They opted not to proceed out of respect for the dead.
And in 2015, they were once again on the mountain when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, killing thousands and devastated the region. Linville and Medvetz decided to link up with Team Rubicon’s Operation Tenzig, distributing food and first aid to villages in the Nepalese countryside that the Red Cross couldn’t access.
Linville and Medvetz climbed the mountain with videographer Kazuya Hiraide and producer Ed Wardle. The team is currently descending the mountain.
How much of a threat do Russia’s emerging 5th-generation stealth fighter, nuclear arsenal, high-tech air defenses, anti-satellite weapons, conventional army and submarines pose to NATO and the U.S.?
Current tensions between Russia and NATO are leading many to carefully assess this question and examine the current state of weaponry and technological sophistication of the Russian military — with a mind to better understanding the extent of the kinds of threats they may pose.
Naturally, Russia’s military maneuvers and annexation of the Crimean peninsula have many Pentagon analysts likely wondering about and assessing the pace of Russia’s current military modernization and 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 some examinations of Russia’s current military reveals questions about its current ability to pose a real challenge to NATO in a prolonged, all-out military engagement.
Nevertheless, Russia continues to make military advances and many Pentagon experts and analysts have expressed concern about NATO’s force posture in Eastern Europe regarding whether it is significant enough to deter Russia from a possible invasion of Eastern Europe.
Also, 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 outermost borders are sizeably 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, yet 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.
A think-tank known as The National Interest has recently published a number of reports about the technological progress now being made by Russian military developers. The various write-ups include reporting on new Russian anti-satellite weapons, T-14 Armata tanks, air defenses and early plans for a hypersonic, 6th-generation fighter jet, among other things. Russia is unambiguously emphasizing military modernization and making substantial progress, the reports from The National Interest and other outlets indicate.
“This is the second test of the new weapon, which is capable of destroying satellites in space. The weapon was apparently launched from the Plesetsk test launch facility north of Moscow,” the report from The National Interest writes.
In addition, The National Interests’ Dave Majumdar reported that Russian Airborne Forces are set to form six armored companies equipped with newly modified T-72B3M tanks in the second half of 2016. Over the next two years, those six companies will be expanded to battalion strength, the report states.
Russia is also reportedly developing a so-called “Terminator 3” tank support fighting vehicle.
During the Cold War, the Russian defense budget amounted to nearly half of the country’s overall expenditures.
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.
On the overall Naval front, Globalfirepower.com assesses the Russian Navy as having 352 ships, including one aircraft carrier, 13 destroyers and 63 submarines. The Black Sea is a strategically significant area for Russia in terms of economic and geopolitical considerations as it helps ensure access to the Mediterranean.
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.
Citing Russian news reports, the National Interest reported that the Russians are now testing a new, S-500 air defense systems able to reportedly reach targets up to 125 miles.
In the air, the Russian have maintained their 1980s built Su-27 fighter jets, which have been postured throughout strategic areas 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 findings from a recent Rand study explaining that NATO would be put in a terrible predicament should Russia invade the Baltic states.
The current NATO force structure in Eastern Europe would be unable to withstand a Russian invasion into neighboring Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the Rand 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, the study maintains.
“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.
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 actual NATO troop presence in Eastern Europe is something that is still under consideration, a recent report in Military.com sites sources saying NATO is now considering adding more troops to its Eastern flank as a way to further deter Russia.
However, while the Pentagon’s ongoing 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.
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.
For example, an exercise known as Swift Response 16 began May 27 and is scheduled to run through June 26 in Poland and Germany; it include more than 5,000 soldiers and airmen from the United States, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
On September 21, 1942, 73 years ago, the maiden flight of the Boeing B-29 “Superfortress” took place.
The plane was the successor of Boeing’s ultra-tough B-17 “Flying Fortress,” and the predecessor to the B-52 “Stratofortress,” which is still in use today.
The plane would become the long range, heavy bombing workhorse of the Pacific theater of World War II, where it achieved fame and infamy for dropping Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Relive the legacy of this iconic bomber in the pictures below.
The B-29 was very advanced for its time, featuring a pressurized cabin, tricycle dual-wheeled landing gear, and remote controlled gun turrets.
Only the front and back compartments were pressurized, meaning that the crew had to crawl over the bomb bay via a narrow 35-foot tunnel.
At the time, it was the heaviest production plane in the world, weighing in at 105,000 pounds with an optional 20,000 pounds of bombs.
A B-29 from the 468th Bombardment group attacking Hatto, Formosa on 18 October 1944 with high-explosive bombs. Overshot runway due to prop failure Jun 17, 1945 at West Field, Tinian.
In addition to bombs, the B-29 was armed with 12 remotely controlled .50 caliber Browning machine guns and a 20 millimeter cannon at the tail gun.
Kenneth W. Roberts, of Weitchpee, Calif., assigned to the Japan-based 98th Bomb Wing, checks his trio of .50 caliber tail-stingers before another mission over North Korea in his U.S. Air Force B-29 “Superfortress.”
Here is rare color footage of a formation of B-29s dropping bombs.
Earlier this month, A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support planes went on a 16-day deployment to Estonia — a country that along with Latvia and Lithuania, achieved independence in 1991 as the Cold War ended.
The Baltic countries joined NATO on March 29, 2004.
The A-10s, all from the 104th Fighter Squadron of the Maryland Air National Guard, were not the only troops on the scene. Air Force Combat Controllers with the 321st Special Tactics Squadron also took part – a natural team, since there have been many times where special ops teams have been bailed out by the Hogs. So, enjoy these six photos by Air Force photographer Senior Airman Ryan Conroy.
Air Force combat controllers wave to the first A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot from Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron to land in Jägala, Estonia, Aug. 10, 2017.
An Air Force combat controller takes wind speed measurements before an A-10 Thunderbolt II lands in Jägala, Estonia. The combat controller is assigned to the 321st Special Tactics Squadron.
An Air Force combat controller looks through binoculars at an A-10 Thunderbolt II that is preparing to land in Jägala, Estonia.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron ascends towards the runway in Jägala, Estonia.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron taxis in Jägala, Estonia.
Two Air Force combat controllers observe an A-10 Thunderbolt II preparing to land in Jägala, Estonia, Aug. 10, 2017. The combat controllers are assigned to the 321st Special Tactics Squadron.
A recent overhaul of the defense commissary program aboard military installations will result in higher costs for its customers, according to a recent MilitaryTimes report.
New rules, which were put in place as part of the latest annual defense authorization act allow the defense commissaries, or DeCA, to up the prices on about 1,000 products in 10 stores. Additionally, all 238 commissaries were authorized to raise prices on national brand products.
According to MilitaryTimes, this will allow officials to explore how the overall impact of raising these prices might help them to reduce operating costs that taxpayers cover, which currently sits at about $1.3 billion annually.
Before the rollout of the overhaul, DeCA was able to sell items at the commissaries at cost plus 5 percent. Under the new system, DeCA is able to purchase items at a reduced rate, but sell them at their previous rates or higher.
For example, if DeCA purchases a product at $.10 cheaper than before, it might not sell that product for the reduced price at the commissary, MilitaryTimes explains.
That extra cash might go, instead, toward operating costs or toward lowering the price of a different product, or both.
One of the issues with this new system, according to MilitaryTimes, is that the consulting company who designed it may be benefitting financially. MilitaryTimes claims that “unofficial reports from members of industry” say that Boston Consulting Group (or BCG) stands to make between 50 and 60 percent of the amount prices are reduced.
So that dime savings per sale of a particular item might net BCG between a nickel and 6 cents per unit sold.
DeCA officials are unable to confirm those claims, saying instead that the details of extra awards, fees or incentives for BCG won’t be available until they are “determined at a later date”, MilitaryTimes says.
Chris Burns, the executive director of business transformation at DeCA, told MilitaryTimes that the money DeCA saves is going toward reducing product prices or toward operating costs, but MilitaryTimes could not determine if consulting fees were included in those operating costs.
The effects of the overhaul are being felt elsewhere, as well. Some national brands who are pressured to lower prices below cost are pulling their items from the commissary altogether, MilitaryTimes reports. They claim that “multiple sources” are saying that other programs, like scholarship donations, could be cut.
Some good news does come out of the overhaul, however. DeCA will begin rolling out store brand items later this month that should be cheaper than national name brands.
While Congress approved the Department of Defense’s DeCA program, they are keeping a close eye on it and on whether it actually saves anyone money, MilitaryTimes says.
That said, drones rely on one of two things: They need to be flown by a pilot who knows where the drone is in relation to its destination (or target), or they need to know how they will get to Point A from Point B. Usually, this is done via the Global Positioning System, or GPS. But what if GPS is not an option?
That situation may not be far-fetched. GPS jammers are available – even though they are illegal – and last year, the military tested a GPS jammer at China Lake. Without reliable GPS, not only could the drones be in trouble, but some of their weapons, like the GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, a 500-pound bomb guided by GPS, could be useless. There are also places where GPS doesn’t work, like inside buildings or underground.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, though, has been on the case. In Florida, DARPA ran a number of tests involving small quadcopter drones that don’t rely on GPS. Instead, these drones, part of the Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program, carried out a number of tests over four days.
The UAVs, going at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, ran through a number of obstacle courses set in various environments, including a warehouse and a forest. These DARPA tests were part of Phase I.
Check out the video below to see some highlights from the tests!
For five years, the young Special Forces officer spent most of his time in a cage and wasn’t allowed more than 40 yards from it. Limited to two cans of rice per day, Rowe and fellow prisoners would capture snakes and rats whenever they could. Rowe also tried to escape three times.
Angry at his deceit and the training he had provided South Vietnamese soldiers, the North Vietnamese sentenced Rowe to death. A Viet Cong patrol took Rowe into the jungle for the execution.
As they were heading to the execution point though, Rowe heard a flight of helicopters. He shoved a guard to the ground and sprinted into a nearby clearing, waving his arms to get the pilots’ attention.
They were American helicopters, but the first pilot to spot Rowe saw his black pajamas and nearly fired on him. Then he noticed Rowe’s beard that had grown out during his captivity. After realizing that Vietnamese men were incapable of growing a thick beard, the helicopter scooped Rowe up and carried him to safety.
Rowe returned to the states as a major. He left the military for a short period before returning in 1981 as a lieutenant colonel stationed at Fort Bragg. There, he developed the Army’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Course using the lessons he learned in captivity.
Rowe later deployed to the Philippines as the ground forces director for the Joint U.S. Military Advisory group for the Philippines where he provided counterinsurgency training for Philippine forces.
With tensions between Qatar and a Saudi-lead group of Arab countries (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt) increasing over allegations that Qatar funds terrorist groups, and a blockade being imposed, there is the question as to what would happen if this broke out into war.
Could Qatar hold on? Would Saudi Arabia have some new real estate?
Let’s start with a look at the Qatari military. The blockade is one likely flashpoint, and the balance of naval forces is decidedly not in Qatar’s favor. According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” the Qatari navy consists of seven patrol combatants equipped with MM.40 Exocet anti-ship missiles. This force is outclassed by the Saudi navy, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, which combine for nine frigates, plus 10 corvettes and up to 30 guided-missile patrol combatants.
In essence, Qatar isn’t about to break this blockade any time soon. Any naval battle will be very short – and will end with the Qatari navy on the bottom. The only question will be how much of an honor guard they will take with them.
It’s important to note that eight of the Saudi-led coalition frigates are equipped with surface-to-air missiles, while the corvettes at least have point-defense systems like the Mk 15 Phalanx or launchers for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile.
So, what happens if the Saudi-lead coalition decides to roll into Qatar? Again, this will likely be a short fight. The Egyptian army and the combination of the Saudi army and Saudi National Guard would be operating under friendly skies very quickly.
According to FlightGlobal.com’s World Air Forces 2017, Qatar has a single squadron of 13 Mirage 2000-5 fighters (nine Mirage 2000-5EDA, four Mirage 2000-5DDAs) on hand. Yes, they ordered 72 F-15QA Eagles, 18 Rafale Cs and six Rafale Bs, but those haven’t been delivered.
As things stand right now, Bahrain’s air force of 17 F-16Cs and 8 F-5Es could arguably take the Qatari air force on their own. That doesn’t count what the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia could throw in.
Qatar does have Patriot and THAAD batteries. These systems make for a formidable air-defense system. That said, the sheer numbers of planes from the Saudi-lead coalition (“World Air Forces 2017” notes that Saudi Arabia has 48 Eurofighters, 129 F-15C/S/SA, and 81 Tornado IDS while the UAE has 55 F-16E, 23 F-16F, and 49 Mirage 2000-5 fighters on hand) would likely overwhelm those defenses.
The ground battle would also be short. The Qatari army performed well during the Battle of Khafji in Desert Storm. But with one tank battalion, four mechanized infantry battalions, and an anti-tank battalion (according to GlobalSecurity.org), they are badly outnumbered by the eight brigades (two armored, five mechanized infantry, and one airborne) assigned to the Royal Saudi Land Forces. The Saudi Arabian National Guard brings 11 additional brigades.
Qatar has two trump cards to keep this crisis from going hot. One is the American presence at Al Udeid Air Base – in essence, the Saudi-lead coalition is not going to want to accidentally hit American personnel. The other is the fact that Turkey, under Recip Teyap Erdogan, is condemning the blockade, and Turkey has a formidable military of its own. But Turkey is a long way off, and may not be able to do much to stop a Saudi-lead invasion.