This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater - We Are The Mighty
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This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater

Combat veteran and Navy SEAL Kaj Larsen was born to be in the ocean, but these days he doesn’t blow things up underwater anymore. He’s saving it all instead. 

Larsen grew up in Santa Cruz, California, where his mother taught at the university. Surrounded by “watermen,” the ocean was always home, he said. In 1995, he brought his aquatic abilities to the water polo team at the Naval Academy, committed to following a long, family tradition of military service. 

“My grandfather served in the Navy during World War II and my father was a Marine during Vietnam so I thought it was important that I serve too. Because I came from this really aquatic background, the SEAL Team was a natural fit for me,” he explained. 

Larsen transferred to the University of California in 1997 and then commissioned through Officer Candidate School (first in his class) in April of 2001. Not long after, our nation was at war. He was in the first phase of BUD/S class when America was attacked on 9/11. After graduation, he led teams into covert combat operations in the War on Terror for multiple deployments. In 2007, he transitioned from active duty after five years into the reserves.

This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater
Photo provided by Larsen.

Larsen left the Navy reserves in 2018 as a Lieutenant Commander. 

After his active-duty military service, Larsen attended graduate school at Harvard for public policy and counter-terrorism studies. He very quickly became a familiar face on CNN, ABC or MSNBC where he reported from war zones across the world. 

And, he volunteered to be water-boarded on live television.

You could also find him hosting VICE on HBO, where he produced documentaries on conflict and national security. Larsen was the only embedded journalist during the Nigerian fight against Boko Haram. The SEAL became an award-winning documentarian, journalist and producer. 

His passion for national security and the military community merged his love of the ocean when he joined Force Blue Team as a veteran ambassador.

“Force Blue takes former special operations veterans and repurposes those underwater military skills for ocean conservation,” Larsen shared. “We have this dual mission of both healing the ocean and in doing so we can help heal veterans from our time in service. I really believe in the therapeutic and healing power of the ocean.”

You’ll find combat veterans just like him on the ocean floor planting coral, rescuing turtles, completing vital fish counts and conducting oceanic surveys. “It’s like my life has come full circle. Underwater demolition used to be my job and now I’m replanting coral reefs and watching them come back to life,” Larsen said. 

In 2021, Larsen teamed up with veteran Marine Raider Don Tran for what was supposed to be a one-mile underwater ruck run when Ten Thousand challenged them to a feat of strength. The challenge was definitely accepted.

“We started training in the pool where it was definitely tough and challenging. But we accomplished it and like any two spec ops guys standing next to each other, we decided to ratchet up the intensity a little,” Larsen said with a laugh. 

That “just a little” turned into a never-been-done-before five-mile underwater ruck. Using the freediving buddy system of one up and one down, the former special warfare operatives leapfrogged across the living ocean floor for five miles, all while carrying a 45-pound rock. 

“The first 250 yards was brutal. It was not like the training in the pool. Here we had the ocean and current pushing us around. But like any marathon or mission we put one foot in front of the other and just grinded it out,” Larsen said. 

Grind it out they did. It took them six hours and 28 minutes. The entire extraordinary event will be shown to the world in a documentary coming soon.

For this veteran Navy SEAL who relied on the ocean for so much, taking care of it is a mission he’s happy to accept.  “I know the beauty and wonder of the sea. I also see with my own eyes the terrible impact happening to our ocean,” Larsen said. “I am dedicated, along with my brothers from Force Blue, to helping heal that thing which has done so much to help heal me.”

You can learn more about Kaj Larsen by clicking here and then dive (pun intended) into Force Blue’s mission over here.

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4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard

Far from just marching around and being yelled at by sadistic drill sergeants, basic training can be the source of hilarious stories.


Case in point comes from an awesome AskReddit thread. The thread, which originated with Reddit user mctugmutton, asked the military community for “the funniest thing they witnessed while in boot camp.” The answers run from LOL to LMFAO and glimpse at basic training differences between service branches.

Reddit user sneego: The time half my squad decided to clean their training gear naked.

Our last week of basic training, we basically spent days cleaning all of our TA-50 (pretty much all your issued gear- rucksacks, ponchos, etc).

The drill sergeants decided it would be more efficient for us to pile up some of the major items as a platoon and organize cleaning teams. Well, the cleaning team in charge of doing ponchos decided to use the showers to make things go faster and to free up the faucets in the laundry room for others to use. So they begin cleaning and then decide to go one step further: Why be careful about getting wet when you can just get naked and get things done even quicker?

Next thing you know, half of first squad is butt naked chatting like nothing unusual is going on when our drill sergeant walks in. The DS just looks in, makes a David Silvermanesque WTF look, says in his thick Puerto Rican accent, “Jesus LORD privates, what the F–K!” and walks out.

Reddit user allhailzorp: The time my friend got an imaginary bathroom siren.

This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater
Photo: Sgt Reece Lodder/USMC

Not me, but my best friend who recently went through USMC boot camp.

It’s about Week 2. All the recruits are still scared s–tless. Literally, some of their a–holes are clenched so tight they haven’t gone number two since they got there. And by this point, with Marine chow being what it is, there’s quite a backlog building up. My buddy desperately needs to go. He wanted to wait until his individual time that night, but it was too late, he was touching cloth.

So, braving his fear of the DIs, he speaks out. “Sir, this recruit requests a head call, SIR”. Then, he blurts out, “Sir, it’s an emergency, Sir!”

The DI, with his infinite sense of humor:

“Oh really? An emergency huh? Well, you better put on your SIREN.”

My buddy has to wave his hands above his head, and scream “Bee-Boo Bee-Boo” as he ran to the restroom. This continued for the entirety of boot camp, every time he needed the bathroom.

One Reddit user witnessed E.T. phone home during Air Force basic training.

We had a really pasty kid with huge coke bottle glasses with a really high pitched almost robotic voice in our flight that seemed to be a lightning rod for TI abuse.

One morning our TI told the kid that he was on to him and he wasn’t going to allow him to complete his mission. Suffice to say the kid was extremely confused and asked the TI what he was talking about to which he replied “You’re an alien and I know you’re here to gather intelligence about our military.”

At this point, I couldn’t hold in my laughter any longer and went to the other side of the barracks as quick as possible before I got dragged into it. Well, I just got to the other side when the kid comes barreling around the corner and stops right in front of his locker and starts screaming into it that the TI was on to him and that the mission was unsuccessful.

I guess the TI told him that he had to report to the mothership through the communicator in his locker that the mission was unsuccessful and he’d been found out.

From Dan Caddy, author of Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said: The time the DS found a Chinese boy in a wall locker. (Not in the book)

This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater
Screen capture from Amazon.com

My Basic Training Battery had twin brothers in it, Chang L , and Chang K . Chang L was in fourth platoon and his brother was in third. One evening, there were combatives happening in the fourth platoon barracks. Chang K had sneaked into our bay to be a part of this unsanctioned event, specifically so that he could wrestle his brother. Everyone was wearing PT uniforms, except for some reason our Chang, who was wearing nothing but his issued brown briefs, and had removed his glasses for the fight. Suddenly, a wild Drill Sergeant appeared! Chang L, in his underwear, was grabbed by someone and stuffed into their wall locker.

His twin brother, Chang K, ran up to the front of the bay to take his brothers place for mail call. It was a disaster waiting to happen. After mail was handed out, the Drill Sergeant decided to hang around for a bit and have a serious heart to heart talk with us about something that had happened recently (an attempted suicide). The Drill Sergeant had gathered us close and was quietly talking about loyalty and brotherhood when all of the sudden, he was interrupted by the metallic squeal of a wall locker opening.

There was a hushed silence as the skinny little Chinese man, blind without his glasses, peeked out around the door and stepped out, in plain view of the Drill Sergeant. Apparently, we had been so quiet, that he thought we had all left.

DS: “WHY IN THE F–K IS THERE A NAKED CHINESE BOY IN YOUR WALL LOCKER?!”
Pvt 1:”Drill Sergeant, I put him there, Drill Sergeant!”
DS: What the f–k?
Pvt 2: “We were wrasslin’, Drill Sergeant.” It was silent for a few seconds as the DS’s face contorted as though he were about to have an epileptic seizure. His eyes were cartoonishly huge.

The DS pointed at the practically nude Chang L and screamed at him to get his f–king ass over to the third platoon barracks. Chang L started to interject, presumably to inform the DS that he had confused him for his brother, but was unable to finish because at this point the DS was knocking things over and screaming his lungs out. Chang ran away, blind and naked, stumbling into furniture as he fled, leaving his terrified twin brother in his place. I don’t believe that we actually got our Chang back until PT the next morning, when they were able to switch back.

Get Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said via Amazon or Barnes and Noble locations nationwide.

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‘Intense’ US bombing in Mosul meant strike every 8 minutes

During the opening three days of the Mosul offensive, U.S.-led airstrikes rattled the city at a rate of one bomb every eight minutes, an official said.


The sheer volume of strikes sets the operation apart from others in the ongoing campaign against militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, according to Col. Daniel Manning, the deputy director of the Combined Air Operations Center.

Also read: Navy Super Hornets hit targets hard as Mosul offensive heats up

“It’s a pretty intense bombing campaign if you think about each of these bombs are precision-guided weapons … so it’s a really high rate to be concentrated over one city over a prolonged period of time,” Manning told Military.com in a telephone interview Friday.

Since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Oct. 16 declaration of the beginning of the assault to recapture Mosul, whose population has dwindled to about 665,000 residents, the air coalition conducted more than 191 strikes through Nov. 1, employing over 1,352 weapons for operations, according to Air Forces Central Command spokeswoman Kiley Dougherty.

This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater
Did you bring enough for the rest of the class?

From the start of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2014, Dougherty said the coalition has struck Mosul with 1,239 targets, dropping 5,941 bombs.

“You tend to employ more weapons when the weather is better, and when you’re partner forces are on the move because when they’re on the move, they’re finding the enemy, forcing the enemy to reveal themselves, and we’re there to strike them,” Manning said.

“We can certainly employ weapons in all weather — we have sensors that can look through the weather — but [a storm] usually slows down an operation of this size,” he added.

Mosul has been a months-in-the-making operation, Manning said. And planning out the airspace for Air Force and coalition aircraft has been essential to “work the stack” of aircraft operating in a vast city but tight airspace.

Aircraft from drones to fighters to bombers “are given different altitude restrictions, from low to very high where you’re assigned a certain block of altitude at the flight of two aircraft, and you maintain that block knowing that there are aircraft below and above you,” Manning said.

The same goes laterally. If there is an artillery strike from below that has the ability to fire high enough where “it can reach aircraft, you have to stay East or West of a certain line,” he said.

A coveted aircraft during the operation has been the B-52 long-range bomber. The Stratofortresses have the ability to stay airborne for a longer duration, have capable sensors to identify targets, and carry a wide-variety of bombs “attacking everything from vehicles to large-site targets.”

“Frankly, we want our partners and the enemy to see the airpower [the B-52] has overhead,” Manning said. “A B-52 encourages our partner force that we have their back. Being seen is actually a pretty good thing.”

In April, several B-52s arrived at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to join the American-led campaign in place of the B-1B Lancer. The aircraft stepped up lucrative targeting throughout May and June, more than doubling their strikes against weapons caches, then-AFCENT spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Karns told Air Force Times in June.

The tactics ISIS have been using to try and thwart the coalition in Mosul aren’t revolutionary but they’ve complicated the dynamic throughout the city, Manning said. The group has burned oil trenches to throw off intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft; set off vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices; attempted hostage takeovers; and used snipers to kill coalition forces.

That’s why ISR aircraft — most heavily used throughout the Middle East theater — are a must-have to predict ISIS’ next move while detecting the location of civilians.

In May, Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, now the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, noted the use of ISR almost always translates into a more clean-cut mission.

“I would actually like to have more ISR and really be able to use it,” he said at the time, “Because what it helps me to do is develop targets [and] … strike at the same time as we develop those targets. The more ISR I have, I can minimize the risk to civilian casualties and continue the precision air campaign that we have.”

“It’s also very likely when ISR aircraft go out over Mosul, they will employ one if not all of the weapons that they have,” Manning said.

For example, MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reaper drones account for 15.6 percent of strikes in OIR, ACC spokesman Benjamin Newell told Military.com last month. They also account for 8.6 percent of all Combined Forces Air Component weapons dropped in OIR. “They are involved in nearly every operation in OIR, in one capacity or another,” Newell said.

“This is a very, very difficult way to fight,” Manning said. “And we can’t say when it’s going to be over.”

WATCH: B-52’s are gearing up to drop bombs on ISIS

Veterans

Veterans threaten lawsuit after Memorial Day permit denied, marijuana parade allowed

Staten Island veterans are threatening legal action if New York City officials won’t allow their Memorial Day parade to occur this year. The outcry comes after marijuana advocates were permitted to march earlier this month.

James Haynes III, CEO of United Staten Island Veterans Organization Inc. (USIVO), and his attorney Brendan Lantry appeared on Fox & Friends Monday morning to discuss what they called a “sickening” double standard.

This year’s Memorial Day march is supposed to be the USIVO’s 102nd annual parade. The organization applied for a permit with the New York City Police Department and received a denial in early March, with the department citing executive orders Mayor Bill de Blasio gave last year that limited activity because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Staten Island Advance reported.

USIVO was prepared to proceed with a smaller “patriotic convoy,” as it did last year. Then the veterans saw the May 1 Cannabis Parade and Rally, during which weed-loving activists marched through Manhattan carrying a massive (fake) joint.

This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater
James Haynes III, CEO of United Staten Island Veterans Organization Inc., and his attorney Brendan Lantry appear on Fox & Friends on Monday, May 10, 2021. Screenshot.

“I opened up the paper Sunday afternoon … and I see this big joint in the paper,” Haynes said on Fox & Friends.

About 100 people participated in the Cannabis Parade on May 1, including Sen. Charles Schumer and New York Attorney General Letitia James, who both gave speeches, according to the Staten Island Advance. USIVO’s permit application listed an estimated attendance of 1,000 people.

“This is sickening, what the city is doing with our veterans here,” attorney Brendan Lantry said on Fox & Friends. “There’s a clear double standard being applied, and we’re just asking the city not to play politics with our veterans.”

With Memorial Day just around the corner, Lantry said he and his clients set a deadline of noon Monday for the city to “correct course,” or they’ll ask the courts to compel officials to grant the veterans a permit. 

“We’re just asking for the same treatment … the same process that was put in place last week for the Cannabis Parade. That same process should be put in place at least for our veterans,” Lantry said.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Veterans

Camp Southern Ground reopens to in-person camps

This Veterans Day we are celebrating the unique experiences that veterans face both during their military service and after their military service. Read more of our Veterans Day pieces here

The COVID-19 pandemic and the required restrictions led to a halt in any activity outside the home in March. On Sept. 24, Georgia’s Camp Southern Ground, a non-profit organization founded by GRAMMY Award-winning artist Zac Brown, announced it is reopening for on-site veteran programming, Warrior Week and Warrior PATHH (Progressive Alternative Training for Healing Heroes). 

This year has been especially difficult for many veterans, specifically those that are experiencing mental health issues. Camp Southern Ground was focused on re-opening so they can continue to provide the services many veterans need.

“The impact this year has had on the mental health and wellbeing of our nation’s veterans cannot be understated,” Camp Southern Ground said in a statement on its website.

Camp Southern Ground’s CEO Mike Dobbs shared in a press release that the camp “remained connected with our veterans through virtual programming, but we know the importance of building community and support face-to-face.” Camp Southern Ground’s motto is “where goodness grows” and that is their mission. The goal of their veteran programming is to provide and build supportive networks for transitioning post-9/11 veterans. 

About Camp Southern Ground

Warrior Week

Warrior Week is a 12-month workforce and wellness program that begins with six days at camp. The camp week focuses on identifying strengths through team-building exercises, training sessions with world-class instructors about Clifton Strengths (90% Fortune 500 Companies use this, read: marketable assessment) and Enneagram assessments that prepare the attendees for the transition from military life. Team efforts of shared meals, ropes exercises and other events help build the veteran community outside of their immediate units in the military. The goal of the program is to help transitioning veterans build an action plan for their life after service after determining their strengths and purpose for their life to transform what they do as a career but also personally.  

One veteran’s testimony shared “This program provided me what I needed to understand what my experiences, feelings, and reactions are. Now I am aware of my strengths and know how to capitalize on these strengths to help me focus on my career and wellbeing. I know now what I need to do moving forward. I cannot say thank you enough for helping navigate out of the fog.”

Upcoming Warrior Weeks are posted here. Post-9/11 veterans can begin their application online. Any questions about the camp can be emailed to warriorweek@campsouthernground.org.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

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How R. Lee Ermey’s Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.


Ronald Lee Ermey, like many of us, was a mischievous kid and teenager. At the age of 17, the judge gave him a choice that would forever change him: Juvenile Detention or military service. The Corps did him right and he did right by the Corps, eventually becoming a Drill Instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and deploying to Vietnam with the Marine Wing Support Group 17.

 

This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater
Actor and Retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey (center on right) with his 1966 Marine recruits at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. (U.S. Marine Corps)

 

After being medically retired for injuries incurred during service, Ermey attended the University of Manilla to study drama where he met his future wife, Nila Ermey. He also had his first taste of Hollywood with a bit role in the Sidney J. Furie film The Boys from Company C, which was a precursor to and inspiration for Full Metal Jacket where he would also be cast as a Drill Instructor.

His acumen capturing the warrior on film led him to be called directly on set for Apocalypse Now.

Frances Ford Coppola had filmed his Vietnam War-era epic not too far from Ermey’s university in The Philippines. Ermey became the technical advisor to the man who directed The Godfather; Ermey let Coppola know how things were actually done in Vietnam.

He also scored his next acting role as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him helicopter pilot during the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” scene.

 

Once you see it’s him, you’ll recognize his voice on the intercom through the scene.

He would continue to act in other films that fit his range, like a Jaws knock-off called Up from the Depths and a sappy Vietnam War romance film called Purple Hearts. Neither would go down as cinematic masterpieces — but it was his passion. He kept busy until he was offered to be the technical advisor for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.

For the non-cinema buffs who are unaware of Kubrick’s directing style, he wasn’t the easiest man to work with. The script had to be followed to a “T” and improv was strictly forbidden. The infamous scene in The Shining where Wendy frantically swings a baseball bat at Jack took 127 takes to get right — that was the level of perfection Kubrick worked with.

 

This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater
Needless to say, his sets can be intense. (Warner Bros.)

None of that threw Ermey. The story goes that while filming, Ermey had worked extensively with the original Gunny Hartman, portrayed by Tim Colceri. Ermey had written 150 pages of insults that would naturally flow out of a Drill Instructor’s mouth — and nearly none of them were used. The few that were chosen came across as weak and nonthreatening.

Ermey did what every good Devil Dog would do in a situation like this. He bulldogged Colceri (would eventually be recast as the door gunner who screams “Get some!“) off camera. He barked insults at the scared actors while channeling his real Drill Instructor past. And he did everything off the cuff.

Kubrick was so impressed he kept Ermey as Gunny Hartman, despite being contrary to every directing technique he used.

Ermey would be nominated at the 1988 Golden Globes for his role of Gunny Hartman and would become a main stay in pop culture icon and the first impression many have of military life.


Feature image: Warner Bros.

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WW2 fighter pilot and founder of Enterprise Rent-A-Car dies at 94

This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater


Jack Taylor, the founder of Enterprise Rent-a-car who served as a fighter pilot during World War II, died last week at the age of 94 according to an announcement made by the company.

Taylor served as an F6F Hellcat pilot in the Pacific Theater during World War II, flying from the U.S.S. Essex and U.S.S. Enterprise (his company’s namesake). He was attached to Carrier Air Group 15, led by the top Navy ace of all time, Commander David McCampbell. CAG 15, which sustained more than 50 percent casualties during the war, was one of the most decorated combat units in the history of U.S. Naval Aviation. Taylor, who served as McCampbell’s wingman on several combat missions, was twice decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross. He also received the Navy Air Medal.

This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater
Jack Taylor.

After the war, he worked as a sales rep for a Cadillac dealership before getting into the leasing business with a fleet of 7 cars. His breakthrough idea was renting cars at places other than airports for those who needed an extra car around the neighborhood for whatever reason. His company, Executive Leasing, eventually became Enterprise. The company is among the world’s biggest rental car brands, with annual revenues at nearly $20 billion.

Taylor also a philanthropist. Since 1982, he personally donated more than $860 million to a wide variety of organizations including Washington University and the symphony orchestra in his hometown of St. Louis.

Years later, Taylor reflected back on how well his military service had prepared him for his business success, saying, “After landing a Hellcat on the pitching deck of a carrier, or watching enemy tracer bullets stream past your canopy, somehow the risk of starting up my own company didn’t seem all that big a deal.”

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Former Supreme Allied Commander says US and Russia are on a ‘Collision Course’

Retired Adm. James Stavridis commands respect from both sides of the political aisle in the United States. The former four-star admiral with 37 years of service was considered for the office of vice president for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and to be President Donald Trump’s Secretary of State. 

On top of that, the list of Stavridis’ awards and honors, both during and after his time in the military, might be a mile long. He even jumped from one-star admiral to three-star admiral. He retired from the Navy in 2013 as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater
Admiral Stavridis (US Navy photo)

So when he says the United States and Russia are running headlong into a potential all-out war, people listen. 

Stavridis penned an opinion piece for Bloomberg in May 2021 saying the Black Sea would be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next provocation – and that the area is a potential powder keg just waiting to explode. 

That is, depending on how the United States and NATO would respond to a seaborne invasion of Ukraine, one potentially designed to link the Crimean Peninsula to greater Russia. Right now, the two are separated by Ukrainian territory. 

But an attack from the sea is the most likely next move for Russia. 

Despite the removal of 10,000 or more Russian troops from its border with Ukraine, the retired admiral says there’s no reason to believe the crisis in Crimea is over. 

With the Russian military already extending itself in so many areas, such as rebuilding Syria, aiding rebels in Ukraine, and militarizing space, that the cheapest means for Russia to flex its power would be a consolidation of naval power in the Black Sea.

The sea is surrounded by Russian allies and NATO members alike, and  is full of potential sources of energy, chiefly oil and gas deposits. 

Russia has already committed a number of provocations, including the capture of three Ukrainian military vessels and cutting off the Crimean Peninsula to foreign ships. He says any Russian military moves would include a mixture of tactics like those seen in the Russian annexation of the Crimea in 2014, cyber attacks, special operations and fast conventional attacks. 

“No doubt,” Stavridis writes, “Putin has a maritime version of this playbook.”

He says fast patrol boats, cruise missile attacks, seaborne helicopters carrying special forces units, submarines, cyberattacks, and amphibious assaults are all tactics that would be used in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine from the Black Sea. Worst of all, NATO would not be able to respond fast enough. 

This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater
BLACK SEA (February 7, 2018) A member of a Romanian Boarding Team from Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) ship ROS Regele Ferdinand climbs a ladder on SNMG2 flagship HMS Duncan for a Boarding Exercise.

Ukraine’s navy would be neutralized, Russia would control the northern part of the Black Sea, and Ukrainian land forces would be cut off from resupply. The U.S. and NATO could object to the seizure of territory, but it would do no good. Ukraine is not a member of the alliance.

Stavridis asserts that if Putin is determined to join his ill-gotten gains (Crimea) with the rest of Russia, an attack by sea is the most likely way. Since the United States and NATO have few, if any assets to assist Ukraine, the likelihood of success for Russia is high. 

The best, and maybe only means of preventing that outcome would be the willingness of Ukraine’s western allies to commit to war to keep Russia out of Ukraine. 

Featured image: Admiral Stavridis is welcomed in Russia. US NAVY PHOTO.

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The US can survive a nuclear North Korea — but a first strike could start World War III

Despite President Donald Trump’s bold proclamation that a North Korean nuclear missile capable of hitting the US “won’t happen,” Kim Jong Un appears to be on his way — faster than many had thought — to an intercontinental ballistic missile that could flatten Washington.


But a nuclear-armed North Korea wouldn’t be the end of the world, according to some senior military officials.

“We can deter them,” retired Adm. Dennis Blair, the former head of US Pacific Command, said of North Korea at a National Committee for US-China Relations event. “They may be developing 10 to 15 nuclear weapons. We have 2,000. They can do a lot of damage to the U.S., but there won’t be any North Korea left in the event of a nuclear exchange. That’s not a good regime survival strategy, and even Kim Jong Un would understand that.”

The U.S. has to live with the fact that Russia, the world’s second-greatest nuclear power, openly opposes Washington’s foreign policy in nearly every dimension, and that Pakistan, a country rife with corruption and Islamist groups gaining traction within and around its borders, has nuclear weapons.

A senior Defense Department official with expertise in nuclear strategy told Business Insider that while the US has said it cannot and will not accept a North Korea armed with a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile, that amounted more to an opening position in an ongoing negotiation than an intention to use military force to stop it.

This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater
F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornets from the USS Carl Vinson’s Carrier Air Wing fly over the carrier strike group flanked by two South Korean destroyers on May 3. US Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown.

“You never undermine your official position going in,” the official told Business Insider. “You’re never going to voluntarily back away from that. You’re going to actively work to make sure they don’t get” an ICBM.

“The North Koreans having nukes is a bad thing, and we don’t want it,” the official said. “But if we lose that one, we survive it.”

Despite bluster on both sides — whether posturing that the US may attack to cripple North Korea’s nuclear program or that North Korea would use its nuclear weapons on the US or allies — the defense official and other experts Business Insider contacted said they found both cases extremely unlikely and undesirable.

“It’s always in the US’s favor to be somewhat ambiguous about what they will or won’t do,” said Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate in the East Asia Nonproliferation Program. “That’s because there’s no good thing to do. They have to convince South Korean allies and North Korean adversaries that they’ll do anything to protect Seoul, even all-out nuclear war.

 

This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater
There’s a real risk that, even without nuclear weapons, Seoul would fall in a conflict with North Korea. Photo from Stratfor

“But those experienced military leaders know. They’ve run the models. They’ve run the numbers,” Hanham said. There’s just no way to fight North Korea “without chaos and enormous death and damage to the world.”

Because US nuclear weapons would have to fly over China or Russia and most likely would spread deadly fallout in South Korea or as far as Japan, nuclear conflict with North Korea would be likely to bring about World War III — a great power war between nuclear states that the world has developed nuclear weapons to avoid.

To an extent, the US already lives with and deters a nuclear North Korea daily. Hanham said that although it hadn’t been verified, North Korea most likely had a deliverable nuclear weapon that could hit the 10 million civilians in Seoul or the 25,000 permanent US troops stationed in South Korea.

So North Korea will continue on its path toward a nuclear weapon that could hit anywhere in the US — but like Russia, China, and Pakistan, it probably wouldn’t use it.

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The first Medal of Honor in modern Army aviation history came in Vietnam

On January 21, 1968, North Vietnam achieved an impossible feat. With its Viet Cong counterparts, it managed to launch a large-scale, coordinated assault on American and South Vietnamese military bases and cities across South Vietnam, and they caught their capitalist enemy completely by surprise. 

Nowhere was this surprise felt stronger by the Americans and South Vietnamese than in the ancient city of Hue, which was situated near the demilitarized zone between North and South. The communists caught the city completely unprepared. The U.S. response in its wake was so piecemeal because military planners couldn’t believe they could capture the city. 

When a division of North Vietnamese soldiers attacked the city in the early morning hours, the defenses were minimal. Much of the force from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was away for the Tet holiday. No matter what the remaining forces could muster, it would not be enough to repel the communists. 

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Marines patrolling the streets in Hue after Tet Offensive (U.S. Army)

The Americans, at first, didn’t fare much better. United States Marines responded with a counterattack but had no idea what they were actually walking into. In fact, in the immediate aftermath, almost no one in the U.S. Army command knew the extent of the losses or of the enemy’s real strength in the city. 

But those inside the city knew. Defenders of a small Military Assistance Command – Vietnam compound and a South Vietnamese Army Base were under heavy assault from the Viet Cong and had taken many casualties. Inside of Hue, they were fighting for their lives. The enemy quickly took control of the old citadel and were assaulting the ARVN base. 

U.S. troops in an American UH-1 Huey helicopter were shot down over the ARVN installation. Once on the ground, they were surrounded by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers. Luckily for them Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson was flying nearby in a Huey of his own. 

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U.S. Army

The Americans knew Hue was under attack. While they may not have known yet the full scope of the situation, they knew it was bad. Ferguson was advised not to try to assist the survivors of the crash but he wasn’t going to let them just die. 

He immediately disregarded his resupply mission and made his way to Hue, where he also started taking anti-aircraft fire. He took his bird on a low-level flight along the Perfume River at maximum airspeed as he flew to the city and found the isolated ARVN compound where the remains of the downed helicopter still lay. 

Under heavy small arms fire, he landed his aircraft in a space so tight it was almost impossible to operate the helicopter. The bird kicked up a storm cloud of dust as it landed and CWO Ferguson began to jettison everything aboard the airship that wasn’t necessary or nailed down. 

As they loaded the wounded and exhausted survivors of the crash, the Huey began to take an enormous amount of small arms and mortar fire, nearly crippling it where it sat. Somehow, though, Ferguson skillfully got the ship airborne in spite of the damage and flew it and the survivors to safety. He flew back at the same speed and altitude at which he came in, taking even more damage to the aircraft. 

His swift decision and cool head under fire saved the lives of five fellow soldiers, safely returning them to Phu Bai.

On Flag Day, 1969, Frederick Ferguson was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon. It was the first one presented to an Army aviator in the Vietnam War. That was far from the end for Ferguson, though. Over the course of his career he was awarded two Silver Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, and 39 Air Medals. He is even one of a handful of Americans to appear on a postage stamp while still living.  

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F-35 forward deploys to Bulgaria

Two F-35A Lightning IIs and about 20 supporting Airmen arrived at Graf Ignatievo Air Base April 28 from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England.


The F-35As are participating in the first training deployment to Europe. The aircraft and total force Airmen are from the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

“The United States and Bulgaria have a strong and enduring relationship,” said Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the Third Air Force commander, during a press event after the arrival. “We routinely train through joint and combined initiatives like Operation Atlantic Resolve and in flying exercises like Thracian Eagle, Thracian Summer and Thracian Star. Our commitment to Bulgaria is but an example of our unwavering support to all allied nations.”

Similar to the aircraft’s visit to Estonia on April 25, this training deployment has been planned for some time and was conducted in close coordination with Bulgarian allies. It gives F-35A pilots the opportunity to engage in familiarization training within the European theater while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region.

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U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw

“I have to say that for us, this makes us very proud,” said Maj. Gen. Tsanko Stoykov, the Bulgarian Air Force commander. “Our efforts have been appreciated and we are trusted as a reliable ally and it immensely contributes to the development of the bilateral relations between our two counties and our two air forces.”

This is the first overseas flying training deployment of the U.S. Air Force’s F-35As. The deployment provides support to bolster the security of NATO allies and partners in Europe while demonstrating the U.S. commitment to regional and global security.

Related: Israel’s F-35s may have already flown a combat mission against Russian air defenses in Syria

“We are grateful to our Bulgarian friends for their support in making today possible,” Clark said. “Your cooperation helps prepare the F-35 for its invaluable contribution to our alliance. We look forward to many more years of our shared commitment and partnership.”

This training deployment signifies an important milestone and natural progression of the Joint Strike Fighter Program, allowing the U.S. to further demonstrate the operational capabilities of the aircraft. It also assists in refining the beddown requirements for the F-35A at RAF Lakenheath in order to enhance Europe’s ability to host the future capabilities of the Air Force and coalition team. Also, it helps to integrate with NATO’s infrastructure and enhance fifth-generation aircraft interoperability.

The aircraft and Airmen began arriving in Europe on April 15, and are scheduled to remain in Bulgaria for a brief period of time before returning to RAF Lakenheath to continue their training deployment.

The KC-135 is from 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and is providing refueling support for the deployment to Bulgaria.

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6 of the wildest top secret spy missions of World War II

Spy novels are filled with over-the-top missions and unlikely operations, but some of the wildest spy stories are the real ones.


1. A Polish spy bluffs her way into a Gestapo prison while surrounded by her own wanted posters.

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Photo: Wikipedia.com

Christine Granville was known for a bunch of exploits in World War II, but her ballsiest was a rescue mission. She walked into a Gestapo-controlled prison in France and secured the release of three other spies scheduled for execution. At the time, her face was on wanted posters spread across the country.

She convinced the guards that she was a British spy and the niece of a British general and that Allied Forces were bearing down on the city. She suggested that they should release the prisoners in return for future payment and clemency. The Germans bought it and she walked her colleagues out.

2. Operation Mincemeat fooled the Nazis with a corpse.

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When the Allies needed to invade Sicily in 1943, they knew the Germans would be rapidly reinforcing it. So, they procured the body of a dead vagrant, dressed him up in a uniform, chained a briefcase of fake invasion plans for Greece to his wrist, and floated him on ocean currents to “neutral” Spain.

As the British expected, the documents were handed over to the Nazis and assumed to be genuine. The Germans prepared for an invasion in the wrong place, saving thousands of Allied lives during the invasion of Sicily.

READ MORE: This top-secret operation was the World War II version of ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’

3. A famed jazz singer smuggled information through sheet music and her underwear.

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Photo: Wikipedia

Josephine Baker was a famous singer and dancer born in America. She became a French citizen in 1937 and, when France fell to the Germans, she convinced the Axis she was on their side. Baker spent the next few years spying for the Allies in high-culture parties with senior Axis leaders.

To smuggle intelligence out, she would plan performances in neutral countries and hand over her sheet music, covered in invisible ink, to Allied handlers. When she needed to smuggle out photos, she’d pin them to her underwear.

4. A Navy commando ran weapons, spies, and explosives through Greece and the Balkan Peninsula.

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Lt. j.g. Jack Taylor — sometimes called America’s first SEAL because he was the first American commando to infiltrate by sea, air, and land in his career — served in the OSS in the Balkan Peninsula behind enemy lines from Sep. 1943 to March 1944.

During this time, he and his men reconnoitered enemy troop and supply positions, resupplied friendly forces, and conducted night time raids. They were nearly caught in three different incidents but escaped each time. The famed Maj. Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan recommended Taylor for a service cross for the mission.

5. Agent Fifi tested new British agents by being hot and charming.

“Agent Fifi” was Marie Chilver, an English-born woman who was raised throughout Europe. She was jailed in an internment camp in 1940 but escaped to England in 1941.

She tried to get sent back to France as a spy, but wasn’t allowed. Instead, she became the beautiful, seductive final exam for British spy trainees. British agents would be approached by Chilvers during their mission and she tried and get secrets out of them. Any who divulged information were dropped from the program.

6. Virginia Hall led a resistance group despite having only one foot.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Virginia Hall lost her foot prior to World War II, an injury that ended her hopes for a career in the foreign service. So, instead she became a spy.

Her largest contributions to the war probably came when she slipped into France via a British torpedo boat, trained three battalions of French resistance, and led sabotage and intelligence-gathering missions. Her team killed 150 Germans and captured 500 more. They also destroyed four bridges and multiple trains and rail lines.

NOW: The 4 female spies who shaped the American revolution

OR: The 6 most secret units in military history

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6 ridiculous things POGs do at the range

Yes, #notallPOGs and all that. But seriously Persons Other than Grunts, the range rules aren’t that crazy. First, learn to safely handle your weapon. Second, learn to fire your weapon. And third, get off the range without embarrassing yourself.


Unfortunately, these 6 things manage to pop up every time POGs go to the range en masse:

1. Targets that look like they were hit with birdshot

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Photo: U.S Army W.T.F! moments Facebook

“Are you changing your sight picture?”

“No, sergeant.”

“Shut up. Yes, you are.”

2. Truly baffling weapons malfunctions

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When your soldier declares a weapons malfunction but his magazine is just empty.

The Army’s acronym for fixing weapon problems, O-SPORTS, is only effective against actual weapons malfunctions. It does little for operators who load their magazines upside down or don’t realize they can run out of ammunition.

3. So. many. safety. violations.

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GIF: YouTube/Gigan2004

See how this guy lowers his weapon when some schoolchildren move in front of him? And he doesn’t have to be told to not point his weapon at something he doesn’t want to shoot? Yeah, it’s not very complicated, POGs. All weapons should be pointed up and downrange when they’re not being aimed at targets. Stop flagging each other on the range.

4. MRE Alternatives

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When infantry goes to the field, they bring MREs and possibly even sleeping systems and tents to stay out there for a few days. Some POGs will at least bring MREs while others … others make arrangements with a gut truck or ice cream van.

5. “Easter basket” helmets and other uniform violations

 

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Yeah, you better buckle that chin strap, John Wayne. Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret

Helmet chin straps dangling like the soldier is in a John Wayne movie, troops carrying helmets by the chin strap like it’s an Easter Basket, mirrored sunglasses, armor lacking rank insignia or name tapes, the potentially catastrophic uniform violations are everywhere. It’s all a sergeant major’s nightmare.

6. “Clean” weapons that will never be accepted by an armorer

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Photo: US Army Pfc. Nathaniel Smith

POGs will always declare their weapon clean after 30 minutes and then be surprised when the armorer turns them away to re-clean before they can turn in. Have you cleaned the star chamber with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until you went mildly crazy? Then it’s not clean yet.

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