This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor - We Are The Mighty
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This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor

In 1939, the U.S. Coast Guard had been turning away recruits for years during the Great Depression. But, the Seattle office found itself with seven openings in September of that year and admitted seven new men to the force. One of them was future Signalman First Class Douglas Munro who would go on to earn a Medal of Honor at the Battle of Guadalcanal. He is the only Coast Guardsman to earn the award to date.


This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Photo: US Coast Guard

Douglas Munro was born to American parents in Vancouver, Canada in 1919, but grew up in Washington State. After one year of college, he enlisted in the Coast Guard. He volunteered for service aboard a Coast Guard cutter and was promoted. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Coast Guard to man certain positions on Navy ships, Munro volunteered for service on the USS Hunter Liggett.

Munro saw service on different Navy ships, gaining rank and changing commands until becoming a signalman first class aboard the USS McCawley. Meanwhile, U.S. military planners had their eyes set on Guadalcanal, a strategic island chain in the Pacific that was part of the Solomon Islands. Guadalcanal was especially important because Japanese forces were building an airstrip on the island.

The Marines began their campaign on August 7, 1942. The airstrip was quickly captured but Japanese defenders maintained control of the westernmost portion of the island. A river separated most of the U.S. and Japanese territory. Repeated attempts by the Marines to cross the river were rebuffed by Japanese forces.

The Marines adopted a new plan, commanded by none other than then-Lt. Col. Chesty Puller, for three companies of Puller’s Marines to land at Port Cruz, a position north of the Japanese forces, and push their way south.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Photo: US Coast Guard

Munro commanded the ships for the assault, and things initially went smoothly. The Marines landed with no resistance and quickly pushed 500 yards inland without major incident. After dropping off the Marines, all but one ship returned to the American base.

But the Marines had walked past hidden Japanese positions, and their counterattack was brutal. A friend of Munro was in the landing craft that remained at the beach. Then-Signalman Raymond Evans described what happened next in a Coast Guard video.

“In the meantime, all our boats had gone back to the base except the major had requested we leave one boat behind, for immediate casualties.  And so I stayed, I elected to stay behind and I had a coxswain named Sam Roberts from Portland, and the two of us were laying to in this LCP.  Unfortunately, we laid too close to the beach and the Japanese fired an automatic weapon at us and hit Roberts, hit all the controls, the vacuum controls on the boat. I slammed it into “full-ahead” and we tore out of there and I tore back to the, to the base, four miles, and when I got to the base, I pulled it out of gear, but it wouldn’t come out of gear, so we ran up on the beach, which is a long sloping sand beach.  Ran up on the beach the full length of the boat before it stopped.”

Roberts died during a medical evacuation. Soon after Evans returned to the American base, word came down that the Marines at Port Cruz were to be evacuated. Puller headed out to sea to personally supervise the Naval artillery fire covering the evacuation while the Coast Guard hopped into their boats to go and pick up the Marines. Evans moved into Munro’s boat for the return mission.

When the Coast Guard arrived at the beach, it was clear that the Marines were in a desperate position. They had 25 wounded and were under heavy fire. The beach was only five to six feet wide from the water to the jungle, and the Japanese were using the jungle for cover and concealment while firing on the Marines.

All of the Coast Guard boats were made of plywood and were susceptible to enemy fire. To allow the other ships time to load Marines and move out, Munro and Evans began laying cover fire with the .30-cal. machine guns, the heaviest weapons the small landing force had. Under the cover of the Naval bombardment and the Coast Guard machine guns, the Marines were able to scramble onto the small craft.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
US Coast Guard

The small flotilla began making it’s way back out to sea, and Munro ordered his boat in-between the beaches and the retreating craft while continuing to provide cover fire.

When the other ships were clear, Munro and Evans began their own slog back to the American parts of the island. On their way, they saw one of the landing craft stuck on a sand bar. Munro again ordered the ship stopped to assist the beached craft even though the nearby shoreline was controlled by Japanese forces.

Munro, Evans, and an engineer managed to pull the ship back into the water so it could make good its escape. Once Munro’s craft was finally headed out, Evans spotted Japanese forces placing a machine gun. He yelled a warning to Munro, but the engines drowned out his yell. Munro was struck in the base of the skull by a single bullet and died before reaching the operating base.

Munro was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, becoming the only Coast Guardsman to receive the award. Evans received the Navy Cross and stayed in the Coast Guard, eventually retiring as a commander. After Munro’s death, his mother joined the Coast Guard as an officer.

The Coast Guard has a collection of photos from Munro’s life, including him as a baby and him boxing in the Navy.

NOW: Two heroic soldiers are finally getting the Medal of Honor they were cheated out of 97 years ago

OR: 10 incredible Post-9/11 combat medics who risked their lives to save others

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Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

There’s a mystique to battleships. Whenever inside-the-Beltway dwellers debate how to bulk up the US Navy fleet, odds are sentimentalists will clamor to return the Iowa-class dreadnoughts to service. Nor is the idea of bringing back grizzled World War II veterans as zany as it sounds.


We aren’t talking equipping the 1914-vintage USS Texas with superweapons to blast the Soviet Navy, or resurrecting the sunken Imperial Japanese Navy super-battleship Yamato for duty in outer space, or keeping USS Missouri battleworthy in case aliens menace the Hawaiian Islands. Such proposals are not mere whimsy.

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Built to duel Japan in World War II, in fact, battleships were recommissioned for the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. The last returned to action in 1988. The Iowa class sat in mothballs for about three decades after Korea (except for USS New Jersey, which returned to duty briefly during the Vietnam War). That’s about how long the battlewagons have been in retirement since the Cold War. History thus seems to indicate they could stage yet another comeback. This far removed from their past lives, though, it’s doubtful in the extreme that the operational return on investment would repay the cost, effort, and human capital necessary to bring them back to life.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor

Numbers deceive. It cost the US Navy $1.7 billion in 1988 dollars to put four battlewagons back in service during the Reagan naval buildup. That comes to about $878 million per hull in 2017 dollars. This figure implies the navy could refurbish two ships bristling with firepower for the price of one Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. One copy of the latest-model Burke will set the taxpayers back $1.9 billion according to Congressional Budget Office figures. Two for the price of one: a low, low price! Or, better yet, the Navy could get two battlewagons for the price of three littoral combat ships—the modern equivalent of gunboats. Sounds like a good deal all around.

But colossal practical difficulties would work against reactivating the dreadnoughts at low cost, despite these superficially plausible figures. First of all, the vessels no longer belong to the US Navy. They’re museums. New Jersey and Missouri were struck from the Navy list during the 1990s. Engineers preserved Iowa and Wisconsin in “reactivation” status for quite some time, meaning they hypothetically could return to duty, but they, too, were struck from the rolls, in 2006. Sure, the US government could probably get them back during a national emergency, but resolving legal complications would consume time and money in peacetime.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
USS Iowa (BB-61) fires a full broadside of her nine 16″/50 and six 5″/38 guns during a target exercise near Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. Photo from DoD.

Second, chronological age matters. A standard talking point among battleship enthusiasts holds that the Iowas resemble a little old lady’s car, an aged auto with little mileage on the odometer. A used-car salesman would laud its longevity, assuring would-be buyers they could put lots more miles on it. This, too, makes intuitive sense. My old ship, USS Wisconsin, amassed just fourteen years of steaming time despite deploying for World War II, Korea, and Desert Storm. At a time when the US Navy hopes to wring fifty years of life out of aircraft carriers and forty out of cruisers and destroyers, refitted battleships could seemingly serve for decades to come.

And it is true: stout battleship hulls could doubtless withstand the rigors of sea service. But what about their internals? Mechanical age tells only part of the story. Had the Iowa class remained in continuous service, with regular upkeep and overhauls, they probably could have steamed around for decades. After all, the World War II flattop USS Lexington served until 1991, the same year the Iowas retired. But they didn’t get that treatment during the decades they spent slumbering. As a consequence, battleships were already hard ships to maintain a quarter-century ago. Sailors had to scavenge spares from still older battleships. Machinists, welders, and shipfitters were constantly on the go fabricating replacements for worn-out parts dating from the 1930s or 1940s.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor

This problem would be still worse another quarter-century on, and a decade-plus after the navy stopped preserving the vessels and their innards. Managing that problem would be far more expensive. An old joke among yachtsmen holds that a boat is a hole in the water into which the owner dumps money. A battleship would represent a far bigger hole in the water, devouring taxpayer dollars in bulk. Even if the US Navy could reactivate the Iowas for a pittance, the cost of operating and maintaining them could prove prohibitive. That’s why they were shut down in the 1990s, and time has done nothing to ease that remorseless logic.

Third, what about the big guns the Iowa class sports—naval rifles able to fling projectiles weighing the same as a VW Bug over twenty miles? These are the battleships’ signature weapon, and there is no counterpart to them in today’s fleet. Massive firepower might seem to justify the expense of recommissioning and maintaining the ships. But gun barrels wear out after being fired enough times. No one has manufactured replacement barrels for 16-inch, 50-caliber guns in decades, and the inventory of spares has evidently been scrapped or donated to museums. That shortage would cap the battleships’ combat usefulness.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor

Nor, evidently, is there any safe ammunition for battleship big guns to fire. We used 1950s-vintage 16-inch rounds and powder during the 1980s and 1990s. Any such rounds still in existence are now over sixty years old, while the US Navy is apparently looking to demilitarize and dispose of them. Gearing up to produce barrels and ammunition in small batches would represent a non-starter for defense firms. The navy recently canceled the destroyer USS Zumwalt‘s advanced gun rounds because costs spiraled above $800,000 apiece. That was a function of ordering few munitions for what is just a three-ship class. Ammunition was simply mot affordable. Modernized Iowas would find themselves in the same predicament, if not more so.

And lastly, it’s unclear where the US Navy would find the human expertise to operate 16-inch gun turrets or the M-type Babcock & Wilcox boilers that propel and power battleships. No one has trained on these systems since 1991, meaning experts in using and maintaining them have, ahem, aged and grown rusty at their profession. Heck, steam engineers are in short supply, full stop, as the Navy turns to electric drive, gas turbines, and diesel engines to propel its ships. Older amphibious helicopter docks are steam-powered, but even this contingent is getting a gradual divorce from steam as newer LHDs driven by gas turbines join the fleet while their steam-propelled forebears approach decommissioning.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor

Steam isn’t dead, then, but it is a technology of the past—just like 16-inch guns. Technicians are few and dwindling in numbers while battleship crews would demand them in large numbers. I rank among the youngest mariners to have operated battleship guns and propulsion-plant machinery in yesteryear, and trust me, folks: you don’t want the US Navy conscripting me to regain my proficiency in engineering and weapons after twenty-six years away from it, let alone training youngsters to operate elderly hardware themselves. In short, it’s as tough to regenerate human capital as it is to rejuvenate the material dimension after a long lapse. The human factor—all by itself—could constitute a showstopper for battleship reactivation.

Battleships still have much to contribute to fleet design, just not as active surface combatants. Alfred Thayer Mahan describes a capital ship—the core of any battle fleet—as a vessel able to dish out and absorb punishment against a peer navy. While surface combatants pack plenty of offensive punch nowadays, the innate capacity to take a punch is something that has been lost in today’s lightly armored warships. Naval architects could do worse than study the battleships’ history and design philosophy, rediscovering what it means to construct a true capital ship. The US Navy would be better off for their inquiry.

Let’s learn what we can from the past—but leave battleship reactivation to science fiction.

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This 85-year-old Special Forces legend has one of the most badass military resumes we’ve ever seen

While other senior citizens were enjoying a quiet life in retirement, 71-year-old Billy Waugh was hunting for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and blowing Taliban fighters to smithereens.


As a member of a CIA team sent in shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Waugh battled militants at Tora Bora and helped bring about the collapse of the Taliban. It seemed a pretty good ending to a career that featured combat in Korea and Vietnam, surveilling Libya’s military, tracking international terrorists, and God-only-knows-what-else for the CIA.

Waugh was born in 1929 in Texas and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1948. After completing airborne school he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. But he was eager to get into combat, and he reenlisted in 1951 so he could get to the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team in Korea. Then the Korean war ended, and his career veered off into “black ops” territory once he joined the Special Forces in 1954.

His life after that reads like the most badass resume we’ve ever seen: Five tours with Special Forces “A” teams in Vietnam and Laos where he was wounded multiple times, working for the CIA’s Special Activities Division in Libya, preventing the Russians from stealing classified missile secrets on the Kwajalein Atoll, and helping to hunt down the infamous terrorist Carlos “The Jackal,” which he later detailed in a book.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Just the beginning.

In that same book, “Hunting The Jackal,” Waugh also writes of the time he survived a major North Vietnamese Army attack in Vietnam, where he was shot in the head.

“I took another bullet, this time across the right side of my forehead. I don’t know for sure, but I believe the bullet ricocheted off the bamboo before striking me. It sliced in and out of a two-inch section of my forehead, and it immediately started to bleed like an open faucet,” Waugh wrote. “It sounds like the punch line to a bad joke, but you know it’s a bad day when the best thing about it is getting shot in the head.”

The bullet had knocked him unconscious, and the NVA soldiers who later inspected his body thought he was dead. Though the enemy soldiers had taken his gear, clothing, and Rolex watch, he was left alone where he was hit, and his comrades later landed on a helicopter and saved his life.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Waugh in Vietnam.

“If you were going up there, you were either going to die or get shot all to hell,” Waugh told The Miami New-Times of his team’s work in Vietnam. “Everyone in the outfit was wounded once, twice, three times.”

He officially retired from the Army at the rank of Sergeant Major in 1972, though he had been working for the CIA since 1961 and would continue to work for the agency over the years as an operative or contractor. His military awards include the Silver Star, four Bronze Stars, four Army Commendation medals, and eight Purple Hearts for wounds in combat.

Waugh has often lived in the shadows at the forefront of America’s wars. Long before Osama bin Laden would be known as U.S. public enemy number one, he was tracking the terror mastermind’s every move in Sudan and put forth several plans to take him out.

“I was within 30 meters of him,” Waugh told Air Force journalist Nick Stubbs in 2011. “I could have killed him with a rock.”

In between his time in uniform and paramilitary garb, Waugh earned a Bachelor’s and Masters Degree, and he still lectures young soldiers on the art of surveillance, according to Dangerous Magazine. But it’s apparently not all PowerPoint and boredom for the now-85-year-old.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Photo: Nick Stubbs/US Air Force

Waugh, who now lives in northwest Florida, still lists himself as a “contractor for my present outfit” on his website. So the next time something bad happens to America’s enemies, he may be part of the reason why.

“If the mind is good and the body is able, you keep on going if you enjoy it,” Waugh told Stubbs. “Once you get used to that [life of adventure], you’re not about to quit. How could you want to do anything else?”

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7 military fitness tricks for working out without a lot of fancy gear

When service members go to basic, all the people who weren’t fitness addicts or athletes are excited about how fit they can get in just a couple of months of training. But, it’s not like the training cadre had magic wands. They made the recruits work for those muscles.


Some veterans forget these lessons and a lot of civilians buy into the fitness industry’s hype about gym memberships, diet shakes, and magic pills. But vets, think back to basic and to active duty. Did you platoon sergeant bring you smoothies in the morning? No, they just instilled these 7 lessons in you:

1. Set goals and increase them as you get stronger

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Octavia Davis

The military loves the cliche of “crawl, walk, run.” While literally crawling may be a bit of a slow start to a workout program, it is good to start low and build up. Veterans who have let their standards slide shouldn’t jump straight into the hard stuff.

Try making two lists. The first is aspirational, everything you want to be able to do or do again one day. Run five miles without walking, do 100 pushups in two minutes, whatever. Then list everything you’re pretty sure you could do right now. Jog 0.5 miles, 5 pushups, whatever. Finally, start setting weekly goals to get from the second list to the first list. You can adjust these later if need be.

The second list, what you can do right now, is “crawling,” the in-between goals are “walking,” and “running” is when you tear up the aspirational list and make a whole new set of milestones to go after.

2. Anything is a weight

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
MRE boxes and water jugs will provide resistance. Promise. Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jonathan Wright

Soldiers and Marines conduct ruck marches with packs weighed down by actual gear. They practice buddy carries by carrying their actual buddy. And, they often use sand bags or water jugs for resistance during squats and lunges.

Similarly, you shouldn’t feel limited at home by a lack of special equipment or gym membership. Load a backpack with dense objects for a more strenuous run. Do curls with a toolkit or light luggage. Complete squats or lunges with a gallon of water or another object in each hand.

3. Make a course

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tony D. Curtis

During PT runs, the instructor may designate specific points the formation has to sprint to or a distance they have to lunge across instead of run. While it’s easiest to do this at an athletic field where yard markers or bases can be used as reference points, it’s easily done anywhere.

Try sprinting past a set number of telephone poles before jogging past twice as many, then repeat the process 9 more times. Or alternate between lunging and jogging, changing exercises every time you pass a mailbox.

4. Change up your movements

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Photo: US Army Capt. Lisa Browne Banic

The Army has about 9 different versions of crawling (low crawl, high crawl, bear crawl, gator crawl, etc.), a dozen variations on walking (range walk, crab walk, ruck marching, etc.) and a few unique ways to run. Each of these changes works different muscles in different ways and the novelty helps break up the monotony.

Try the same thing with your workouts. Don’t just go for a jog every day. Do a five-mile run one day, sprints another, and alternate between lunges and jogging on another. Change gator crawls in for pushups some days or try calisthenics on your normal core workout day.

5. Workout with a buddy

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Workout with a buddy, but don’t actually carry them unless you are taking turns. Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michelle Kapica

Troops may go on a run or hit the gym every once in a while on their own, but they’re usually there with others dudes from the squad or platoon. And every morning they work out as a unit, running in formation or doing muscle failure exercises and calisthenics as a group.

So pick a buddy with similar goals and get to work with them. It’ll help you stay accountable (more on that later) and will make it something to look forward to, not just a dreaded task.

6. Do actual, physical work (or fake it, if there’s no work to do)

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

Service members spend at least 30 percent of their time just packing and unpacking connexes or inventorying gear. While many soldiers think this is a horrible waste of time, it’s actually a secret program to make troops super strong.

Moving furniture yourself, working in the yard, or even taking the stairs can help you incorporate exercise during the day. If you don’t have any work to do or stairs to climb, you can incorporate a little “fake” work. Dig holes and fill them back in, chop wood, or just re-organize your room or bookshelves.

7. Use accountability and consequences, not just discipline

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
They don’t have to attack you or yell like a drill sergeant, but finding someone who will help make sure you work out is a good thing. Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Terrance Rhodes

Look, no one who isn’t a fitness addict wants to spend all their time in the gym and be super diligent about dieting. Even in the military, a lot of people would love pizza, beer, and sleeping-in as opposed to hard work and dieting. But the military has NCOs who will destroy people who skip formation because even disciplined people can give in when other priorities create conflicts.

So, figure out a way to hold yourself accountable. The workout buddy discussed above is a good start, and there are apps where you can earn money for going to the gym but lose money for missing it. Adding calendar notifications to your phone or having a friend who will shame you a little can also work.

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How Afghanistan’s version of Delta Force goes after the worst of the worst

“No One Kills Terrorists as Fast as We Do”

Sheik Abdul Hasib is a stout Pakistani who chose to fight under the flag of ISIS in eastern Afghanistan. The area he chose as his redoubt is the border with Pakistan, not too far from where Osama bin Laden and the Arab-speaking jihadis chose to build caves and fight the Soviets in the ’80s. Now seeking to tax poppy growers in the Nangahar province and establish ISIS Khurahsan, the long-haired Pakistani Orakzai tribal fighters have been streaming over four mountain passes from the Khyber and Orakzai regions in Parchinar since 2015. Since then, they’ve terrorized the locals, beheading children and elders alike, and launched a number of violent attacks in Afghanistan.


This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
The Afghan anti-terrorist force began in Kabul and expanded to other major urban areas. Unlike the military, they’re trained by the world’s most elite counter-terrorism units to work in intense scenarios in which hundreds of civilians may be at risk. Photo from Recoilweb.com

GROWING THREAT

ISIS established a foothold in the Pakistan tribal areas in mid-2014 with the fracturing of the “little T” Taliban that was made up of former Pakistan-based Taliban fighters. Leaderless, they flowed northward into Afghanistan in 2015 when around 70 ISIS trainers travelled from Syria to school them in tactics, public relations, and ambushes. Led by Abdul Rauf Khadem, a former bin Laden confidant, ISIS began paying three times the Afghan government salary, and twice that of the Taliban. They launched their new sub brand, ISIS-Khurasan, with brutal videos of hapless villagers being blown up and other filmed executions. Islamic religion tradition insists that horse-mounted jihadis carrying the Black Flags of Khurasan will signal the retaking of the Holy Land and the end of Christianity. Not surprisingly, ISIS PR cameramen filmed chubby Pakistanis jogging and jerking along on Afghan nags carrying black flags in their videos.

The cash and the PR campaign worked. In September 2015, the UN estimated ISIS penetrated 25 out of the 34 provinces.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
The Crisis Response Unit is legendary in Afghanistan. They’re never seen in public and stay on their base until a crisis occurs, and then they deploy in minutes directly into a hostage situation. Photo from Recoilweb.com

MOAB

When I met with Resolute Support commander General “Mick” Nicholson in December, he made it clear that although the NATO side of the war was treading water, the counter-terrorism fight wasn’t hindered by a lack of funding or increasing intensity. While the USA waited patiently for the election to end, General Nicholson made his move.

On April 13, 2017, the sky lit up above Achin and the ground shook through eastern Afghanistan as US special operations forces dropped a 12,000-pound MOAB munition that detonated above the exact area ISIS selected as their headquarters.

Nicholson’s air strike had maximum effect. The USA turned the ISIS fighter’s concealment and isolation into their damnation. About 90 fighters were killed instantly by the pressure wave and collapsing buildings.

Although the rank and file of ISIS K were decimated, the work of actually finishing the job was left to US ground operators and Afghans. Ten days later, at 10:30 p.m., 50 US Army Rangers and 40 Afghan commandos went in on the location of Sheik Hasib, gunning him down about a mile away from where the bomb went off in Mohmand Valley. As in all special operation ground missions, drones, AC 130s, F16s, and Apaches provided constant top cover and ISR support. Down below, air controllers coordinated the troops moving forward, calling out targets and hostiles for Afghan commandos. ISIS in the east was snuffed out like a candle.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)

The top leadership and 35 members of ISIS were finally removed because they had crossed the line. They had carried out a devastating March 2017 attack on a 400-bed military hospital in Kabul in which ISIS personnel disguised as medical staff killed scores of people. Enough was enough.

Although MOAB was a global headline grabber and there’s every indication that America is getting back into the fight, much of the dirty work of killing terrorists face to face has been left to the Afghans. It’s for this reason that I visited a little-known counter-terrorism unit high above the hills of Kabul.

CRU 222

It’s Friday, the day off in Afghanistan, but Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Raqib Mubariz, the head of Afghanistan’s elite’s counter-terrorism team, has invited me over. He’s clean-shaven, tall, and eager to meet me. He runs the Afghan Crisis Response Unit 222, or CRU 222 for short. He’s unapologetic about his team. His and his men’s job is to kill terrorists in Kabul. Fast.

It’s a brutally simple idea taught to them originally by the SAS and carried forward in their training by American, and now Norwegian, commandos. When suicide bombers try to take hostages en masse, the unit’s mission is to get in and kill them without restraint. In their brutal experience, the faster they kill terrorists the lower the casualties.

Their spotless base sits on the old site of Camp Gibson, overlooking the outskirts of Kabul.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Kabul is the fifth fastest growing city in the world. Under the Taliban in 2001 the population was barely 1.5 million; today almost 4 million people call Kabul home. Photo from Recoilweb.com

Mubariz walks me around the camp and explains the unit has three groups, one active, one in training, and one in reserve. On operations they have a 60-man protection unit and three operations groups. They work 15 days on and 15 days off, and they’re set up to respond to a crisis quickly; their goal is to be out the door within five minutes of a call.

He expresses pride that his men can “assess a situation, form a plan, and have all the belligerents dead within minutes. Instead of the hours it used to take, now we can be ready in three minutes.”

To underline the seriousness and intensity of their task, he estimates that last year 97 of his 7,000-person, nationwide staff were killed. The high-casualty rate doesn’t faze his enthusiasm for the task.

The training for the anti-terrorist squad lasts four months with a dropout rate of 10 to 15 percent of the class. “We get better training than the commandos, but we work together,” Raqib tells me, talking about another Afghan special mission unit that operates in the rural areas of the country. “We recruit from all over the country.”

I want to understand how this unit ended the March 2017 hospital attack, the most brutal terrorist act after the recent bomb attack at Camp Shahin. He offers to have his men perform a demonstration.

The men roll up to a practice building in armored Humvees, dismount, and take a knee; they lay out a protective circle and deploy snipers. They set up a command and control center, gather intel, and agree on an entry plan. Then, the teams deploy and breach, clearing each room until they reach the top.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)

The men are fast, aggressive, and their actions appear well rehearsed. But this is an empty building with a journalist sticking a camera in their faces, not a burning building with martyrs killing their way to a 72-virgin afterlife.

The 222 benefits from the knowledge passed on by foreign military advisors. Norwegians from the Marinejegerkommandoen were also on hand supervising and offering training guidance. The Norwegians declined to be officially interviewed, but 222’s opinion of them is effusive. “We love it when they taught us how to shoot off the back of motorcycles in the dark,” one commando laughs.

To understand 222’s tactical response to the Kabul hospital attack, I met with the officer (unnamed at his request) that led the hospital attack.

THE RESPONSE

The soft-spoken colonel describes the siege. “It was Wednesday, March 8, 8:45 in the morning. The first car bomb went off at 9 a.m. at the rear of the hospital. By 9:45 a.m. we were stuck in all kinds of traffic. We travel in armored Humvees, five men to a vehicle. We had to hit cars to get out them out the way. We were waved around to a different entrance from the normal entrance when the second car bomb went off.”

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
The remnants of a vehicle bomb during the March 8, 2017, ISIS attack on the Sardar Daud Khan Military Hospital in Kabul. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)

The eight-story pink Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital is in the Wazir Akbar Khan District of Kabul and is the largest military hospital in Afghanistan. Named after the last prime minister before the Soviets landed, the staff provides medical care to members of the Afghan military and their families. There are also two floors filled with wounded Taliban fighters along with a VIP wing; in addition, there are soldiers housed here who are wounded so seriously they can’t be sent home.

“It was complicated when we arrived on scene because we had more than 1,000 doctors, patients, and visitors.” The colonel says there were 400 beds in an eight-floor building and an unknown number of terrorists wearing suicide vests with grenades, knives, and rifles inside. “I was just thinking how we can protect civilians before we can kill the terrorists.”

The men ISIS sent to cause mayhem weren’t just suicide bombers, but fourth-generation suicide fighters called inghimasis, or “those who plunge” into battle. The four attackers were let into the hospital by an employee, the colonel tells us. They put on white lab coats and began to shoot indiscriminately, using knives to kill bedridden victims to conserve ammunition.

“Once the Afghan Army commandos arrived, I stopped everyone and explained how we can work together. We have British SAS tactics; the Afghan Special Forces uses American [tactics]. We have different training and tactics, and we could kill each other.”

The units deconflicted by leap-frogging each other as they cleared the buildings seven floors, floor by floor.

“We are clearing each room, but ultimately we run to the shooting,” says the colonel. “The problem was most of the victims were being stabbed with knives and [the attackers] were dressed in lab coats like many of the hostages. On the second floor we killed the third man; we shot him, and he blew up. Again we ran to the shooting. In various rooms, there were people hiding. The gunman had killed one or two people in each room.”

The responders killed another shooter on the fourth floor as he was hiding behind a bed. “We found another terrorist on the fifth floor. We shot him, and he blew up.”

Like many Afghans, and out of respect for the dead, he won’t describe the specifics of the dozens of victims. Most of the people had been killed with knives. Later I find out from one of the men who was there that a pregnant women, the wife of a military officer, screamed, “You can’t kill me!” He looks down and describes the brutality, “They cut out her child and then killed her.”

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)

Finally, there were 65 hostages on the top floor being held by the last gunman.

“I had heard shooting from the rooftop, and I requested an air drop,” says the Colonel. “The Mi-17 will carry 15 troops and can land on the roof where people were fleeing. Some were on the window ledges outside. [Our] snipers were using the windows, but there weren’t clear shots in the confusion. There is a green house on the top floor, and we went up and found the hostages.”

“We were using CS grenades and wearing gas masks,” he says. “It’s hard to see through the mask when you’re running and the smoke. So I aimed for his center of his vest and he exploded, killing some of the hostages.” When I ask him why he didn’t take a head a shot he looks up and just gives me a pained look.

“I think we were done by 14:00. We then had to coordinate the removal of the dead and wounded, and order ambulances since all the staff had fled.”

At the end, over 60 people were dead and roughly as many were wounded.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
The attackers were trained in Pakistan and were reportedly told to kill as many people as possible before detonating their suicide vests. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)

UNDERSTANDING THE ENEMY

Colonel Mir Ebaidullah Mirzada from Kapisa province explains how ISIS recruits and trains for these attacks. “I was in military school in high school, then I joined CID police. I spent 31 years in the intelligence service,” he says. His job now is to make sense of these attacks and understand the enemy. That enemy, he says, is increasingly more foreign.

The history of the CRU also coincides with violent attacks launched from Pakistan.

“There was a series of attacks in Kabul in 2005. At that time there was no special unit. They sent police, members of the Afghan National Directorate of Security and the Army, and there were a lot of civilian casualties. It was then they decided to create the CRU. National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar established a division of special police when he was interior minister.”

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The work of CRU 222 is not without sacrifice. In 2016, 97 members of the Afghan national anti-terrorism group were killed. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)

The first unit was 222. They started with 100 members; now they have around 7,000. Ebedullah was one of the originals. “We started with Hungarian and Bulgarian AKs, Russian PiKas (PKM), and Iranian RPGs. We swapped to Russian AKs [after] seven years with a gift of 20,000 AKs, and now, thanks to the US Embassy, we’re using M4s.

The men of the 222 still have to tape their flashlights to the barrel and make do with Chinese knockoff gear. They favor the bright green laundry bag camo pattern sprayed on their gear. It used to take three hours for the unit to jock up, and now it takes them less than five minutes to get out of their compound. Still, a Colonel gets by on $600 a month, and some of the men aren’t fully kitted. But they don’t complain. He pulls out the dossier on the attack on the hospital attack.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
More than 70 percent of Kabul’s population lives in illegal settlements like these hillside homes built without permits or proper sanitation. These migrants include thousands of former jihadis returning from Pakistan. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)

“The attackers were from Pakistan, two from Tajikistan, and two were Afghan. The people know that Pakistan is behind this.” He takes pains to read the next sentence carefully.

“They trained for four months by Major Ahmad from ISI Punjab, in Mansehra near the military base at Rawalpindi. This information comes from the ‘other side,'” he noted with a smile. Manserhra is only 13 miles north of where bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad.

Recruiting is done from the madrasas, free religious schools sponsored by Sunni donors from the Gulf area.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)

Mirzada lays out the training process. “They pass three steps to come. The first step is for ISI people who operated under the guise of being scholars who train young people. They identify those who respond to extreme ideology.”

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Despite the steady stream of violent attacks, the people of Kabul go on with their daily lives. In 16 years the country has experienced dramatic growth and education. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)

“In the madrasa they’re separated, and when they say, ‘I want to be a martyr,’ they’re ready. Then the preparation work stops. They blindfold them and take them to a military base. There they’re trained about three months on weapons, explosives, and what destiny awaits them in paradise. Before the plan [takes] place they set up companies to provide fake IDs, transportation, and lodging. They transport them to Kabul without weapons.”

Typically, he says, they’re between 14 and 25 years old, mostly from poor families. Their family gets paid 400,000 Pakistani rupees, just under $4,000 US, after they’ve reached the end of their path to martyrdom.

“The handlers train them again to get used to the area where they speak Pashto,” Mirzada says. “There are also people who know Farsi. Once they learn the area, then they ship in the weapons. There are also people who are responsible to make the film. Even when they rush and fight, they’re always filming. Before they attack they film a speech and they get injections to make them brave.”

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
The elite reputation of CRU 222 attracts hundreds of young Afghan recruits; 15 percent will drop out during training. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)

One witness in the media insists he heard one of the men talking to “Mullah Sahib,” which sounds like Mullah Hasib, the head of the ISIS cell in Nangahar. The man gunned down after the MOAB was dropped by US forces. Mirzada closes the file.

When and if another hostage situation occurs, CRU 222 sits waiting for the call, stopwatch at the ready.

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Here’s who’d win in a dogfight between Russia’s and the US’s top fighter jets

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We Are The Mighty | Lockheed Martin | Creative Commons


Russia’s air force recently grabbed the international spotlight with its bombing campaign in support of Syria’s Bashar Assad. But how does it stack up against the world’s greatest air force?

During Russia’s stint in Syria, four of their latest and greatest Su-35 Flanker jets flew sorties just miles from the only operational fifth-generation fighter jet in the world, the US’s F-22 Raptor.

Given the fundamental differences between these two top-tier fighter jets, we take a look at the technical specifications and find out which fighter would win in a head-to-head matchup.

F-22 specs

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John Dibbs | Lockheed Martin

Max Speed: 1,726 mph

Max Range: 1,840 miles

Dimensions: Wingspan: 44.5 ft; Length: 62 ft; Height: 16.7 ft

Max Takeoff Weight: 83,500 lb

Engines: Two F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with two-dimensional thrust-vectoring nozzles

Armament: One M61A2 20-mm cannon with 480 rounds, internal side weapon bay carriage of two AIM-9 infrared (heat seeking) air-to-air missiles, and internal main weapon bay carriage of six AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-air load out) or two 1,000-pound GBU-32 JDAMs and two AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-ground loadout).

Source: Af.mil

Su-35 specs

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Dmitriy Pichugin | Creative Commons

Max Speed: 1,490 mph

Max Range: 1,940 miles

Dimensions: Wingspan: 50.2 ft; Length 72.9 ft; Height 19.4 ft

Max takeoff weight: 76,060 lb

Engines: Two Saturn 117S with TVC nozzle turbofan, 31,900 lbf/14,500 kgf each

Armament: One 30mm GSh-30 internal cannon with 150 rounds, 12 wing and fuselage stations for up to 8,000 kg (17,630 lb) of ordnance, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, rockets, and bombs.

Source: CombatAircraft.com

Maneuverability

Montage showing the different phases of an acrobatic maneuver performed by a Sukhoi Su-35 piloted by Sergey Bogdan at the 2013 Paris Air Show.

Russia based the Su-35 on the rock-solid Su-27 platform, so its status as a “supermaneuverable” fighter is a matter of fact.

Russian pilots familiar with previous generations of the Sukhoi jet family’s thrust-vectoring capabilities have carried out spectacular feats of acrobatic flight, like the “Pugachev’s Cobra.”

On the other hand, the F-22 has a great thrust-to-weight ratio and dynamic nozzles on the turbofan engines. These mobile nozzles provide the F-22 with thrust-vectoring of its own, but they had to maintain a low profile when designing them to retain the F-22’s stealth edge.

Most likely, the Su-35 could out-maneuver the F-22 in a classic dogfight.

Electronic warfare

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F-22 deploys flares | U.S. Air Force

Both Russia and the US classify their most up-to-date electronic-warfare capabilities, but it should be assumed that they are both state of the art and nearly equal in efficacy.

Firepower

A fully loaded Su-35.

Both planes are equipped with state-of-the-art missiles capable of shooting each other out of the sky. The Su-35’s need to carry ordinance outside the fuselage is a slight disadvantage, but in general, the first plane to score a clean hit will win.

The Su-35 can carry 12 missiles, while the F-22 carries just eight, but as Justin Bronk from the Royal United Services Institute notes in an interview with Hushkit.net, the Su-35 usually fires salvos of six missiles with mixed seekers, meaning the 12 missiles only really provide two credible shots.

The F-22 could engage the Su-35 from farther away as it is harder to detect due to its stealth advantage, so it could potentially make more economical use of its missiles.

Stealth

A US Air Force F-22 Raptor flies over the Arabian Sea in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, January 27, 2016.

This is where things get interesting: In the arena of stealth, the F-22 is head and shoulders above any other operational jet in the world right now.

For perspective, the Su-35’s radar cross-section (area visible to radar) is between 1 and 3 square meters, or about the size of a large dinner table. The F-22’s radar cross section is about the size of a marble.

As Justin Bronk notes:

Whilst the Su-35 does have the hypothetical capability to detect the F-22 at close ranges using its IRST (Infa-Red Search and Tracking) and potentially the Irbis-E radar, both sensors would have to be cued to focus on exactly the right part of sky to have a chance of generating a target track. By contrast, the F-22 will know exactly where the Su-35 is at extremely long range and can position for complete control of the engagement from the outset with superior kinematics.

Conclusion: USA.

An F-22 Raptor pilot from the 95th Fighter Squadron based at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, gets situated in his aircraft.

So the F-22 and the Su-35 prove to be two planes of significantly different talents. The Su-35 carries more missiles, can fly farther, and is significantly cheaper. The Su-35 is a reworking of earlier Sukhoi models that are proven to be effective in traditional dogfighting.

But the F-22 wants no part in traditional dogfighting. Battles that occur when the two planes are within visual range of each other seem to favor the Russian jet, but importantly, battles begin beyond visible range.

A single Su-35 simply stands little chance against a similar number of F-22s because the US jets employ far superior stealth technology.

F-22 pilots need not worry about out-turning or out-foxing the agile Su-35, as they could find and target the aircraft from much farther away and end the dogfight before it really starts.

Additionally, the US Air Force trains F-22 pilots to some of the highest standards in the world.

Historically, US-made planes have battered Russian-made ones, and the newest generation of US warplanes reimagines aerial combat in a way that future pilots won’t even have to get their hands dirty to deter or defeat the enemy.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

An F-16 Fighting Falcon releases a flare over Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., March 4, 2016. Multiple aircraft within Air Combat Command conducted joint aerial training that showcased tactical air and ground maneuvers as well as weapons capabilities.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia

A CV-22 Osprey deploys a tactical air control party onto the ground of Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Mar. 4, 2016. Multiple aircraft within Air Combat Command conducted joint combat rescue and aerial training that showcased tactical air and ground maneuvers as well as weapons capabilities.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia

ARMY:

Soldiers assigned to 3rd BCT, 101st ABN DIV (AASLT), conduct air assault operations during a field training exercise at U.S. Army Fort Campbell, Ky., March 14, 2016. The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Soldiers partnered with UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopter crews from 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division to prepare for their upcoming rotation to JRTC and Fort Polk, La.

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U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Salgado

A soldier, assigned to 25th Infantry Division, fires a M2 machine gun during an exercise at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, March 13, 2016.

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US Army photo

Soldiers assigned to the Louisiana National Guard, use a bridge erection boat to assist residents impacted by recent flooding near Ponchatoula, La., March 13, 2016

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U.S. Army photo courtesy of The National Guard

NAVY:

EAST SEA (March 16, 2016) Forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) conducts fueling operations with guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67). Bonhomme Richard is the flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group and is participating in Exercise Ssang Yong 2016. SY16 is a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by forward-deployed forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army Forces in order to strengthen interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations from disaster relief to complex expeditionary operations.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeanette Mullinax

PACIFIC OCEAN (March 10, 2016) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) patrols the eastern Pacific Ocean. Lassen is currently underway in support of Operation Martillo, a joint operation with the U.S. Coast Guard and partner nations within the 4th Fleet area of responsibility.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 13, 2016) The guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) fires its MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun during a weapons training exercise. San Jacinto is currently underway preparing for a future deployment.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik

MARINE CORPS:

U.S. Marines with Golf Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Republic of Korea Marines assigned to Bravo Battery, 11th Battalion, 1st ROK Division, conduct artillery fire missions at Sanseori, South Korea, as part of Exercise Ssang Yong 16, March 15, 2016. Ssang Yong is a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by U.S. forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army forces in order to strengthen interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Pena

A U.S. Navy Corpsman assigned to Field Medical Training Battalion East (FMTB-E), checks on members of his squad during a final exercise (FINEX) at Camp Johnson, N.C., March 1, 2016. FINEX is a culminating event at FMTB-E which transitions Sailors into the Fleet Marine Force.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Oliver Blair, a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 3d Marines – “The Lava Dogs” reads during exercise Ssang Yong 16 in South Korea, March 7, 2016. Ssang Yong is a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by forward deployed U.S. forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army Forces in order to strengthen our interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations – from disaster relief to complex expeditionary operations.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
U.S. Marine Corps photos by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. Sean M. Evans

COAST GUARD:

Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopters stand ready at Air Station Elizabeth City Wednesday, March 10, 2016. Air Station Elizabeth City helicopter crews were at Kill Devil Hills to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Coast Guard’s aviation program with formation flights and a classic painting scheme.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist David Lau

Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews fly flight formations at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Wednesday, March 10, 2016. Air Station Elizabeth City helicopter crews were at Kill Devil Hills to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Coast Guard’s aviation program with formation flights and a classic painting scheme.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
U.S. Coast Guard illustration by Auxiliarist David Lau)

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How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’

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The Mud March, an offensive launched into Virginia by the Union army on Jan. 20, 1863, was the perfect storm of bad luck, poor logistical planning and atrocious weather.

It was a huge operation aimed at striking a mortal blow to the Confederacy that ended up collapsing under its own sodden weight in the mud, with practically no combat to speak of.

Following the disastrous Union defeat at Fredericksburg, Virginia on Dec. 13, 1862, morale among Union soldiers and the public was hitting a new low.

The Union Army of the Potomac, under the command of the newly appointed Gen. Ambrose Burnside, had hoped to quickly cross the Rappahannock river at Fredericksburg and race to Richmond, the Confederate capital. The Army of Northern Virginia under Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was waiting for them.

The Union suffered nearly 13,000 casualties, mostly in doomed frontal assaults against dug-in rebel troops on Marye’s Heights, who had ideal shelter behind an existing stone wall. The Confederacy had taken less than half as many losses, and the Union army was sent reeling back.

Burnside was desperate to retrieve his reputation, which the slaughter at Fredericksburg had left in tatters. He proposed a bold new offensive against Lee’s left flank, drawing the enemy into the open from their defences where they could be destroyed. January had been mild and dry so far, and the need for a quick victory to make up for Fredericksburg was paramount.

But when the army departed on Jan. 20, a drizzling rain gradually became a total downpour that lasted for days. Pontoon bridges to be laid over the Rappahannock river were delayed by logistical problems and huge traffic jams developed. Two entire corps were misdirected through the same crossroads becoming completely ensnarled.

Artillery and wagons became hopelessly mired in the muddy roads. Hundreds of draft animals dropped dead of exhaustion trying to pull their loads. Some units could move less than two miles a day.

Faced with miserable soldiers shivering in the mud, Burnside decided to lift their spirits by ordering a ration of whiskey issued to the army. But the liquor was distributed a little too freely,and many units started to descend into drunken squalor. A brawl broke out between two regiments with a history of rivalry, leading a third regiment to intervene in an effort to break it up.

The resulting chaos may have been one of the largest fistfights in American history.

All surprise had been lost. Lee and his army were dug in on the other side of the Rappahannock. Confederate scouts and pickets observing the Union army jeered and shouted insults, waving signs emblazoned with “Burnside’s Army Stuck in the Mud” and “This Way to Richmond” with arrows pointing in the opposite direction.

The ill-fated offensive was called off. It was such a fiasco that Burnside was relieved as commander of the army on Jan. 25 and replaced the next day by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker.

Burnside had never wanted the job of replacing general George B. McClellan, his predecessor, believing himself unfit for an army level command. He took it only after being informed that the command would go to Hooker, whom he greatly disliked and distrusted.

Following the disasters of Fredericksburg and the Mud March, Hooker ended up with the command anyway. Hooker went on to face calamity at the battle of Chancellorsville, where his army was routed by Lee despite outnumbering him by over 2-to-1.

The Union Army had faced a string of defeats in the Eastern Theatre, from the first Bull Run to the abattoir at Fredericksburg. But the Mud March shows how bad weather and bad planning can stop even a powerful army in its tracks as effectively as rifles and artillery.

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Inspector General claims US Army can’t account for trillions of dollars

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In a report released earlier this summer, the Department of Defense Inspector General has determined that the Army’s finances are a world-class mess. Reportedly, the service made $2.8 trillion in adjustments to make their books balance just in one quarter of 2015 in spite of the fact that the entire defense budget for that fiscal year was $585 billion.

According to Reuters, the Army’s books are so jumbled that they may be impossible to audit – and the Army is facing a September 30, 2017 deadline to be ready for one. The harsh IG report concluded the Army “materially misstated” its financial statements for 2015.

Making the task of squaring the Army’s books harder is the fact that over 16,000 documents have vanished from the Army’s computer system. The Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS), the Pentagon’s primary agency responsible for accounting services, routinely changed numbers without justification at the end of the year, something employees of that agency referred to as the “grand plug.”

“Where is the money going? Nobody knows,” DOD critic and retired analyst Franklin Spinney told Reuters.

The Army has taken issue with the IG report, claiming that the total discrepancies total just under $62.5 billion. An Army spokesman said, “Though there is a high number of adjustments, we believe the financial statement information is more accurate than implied in this report,” that and that the Army “remains committed to asserting audit readiness” and that steps are being taken to root out the problems.

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The Civil War’s Union Army is the reason beat cops wear blue

By the end of the Civil War, Los Angeles was still a relatively new U.S. city. It was ceded to the United States with the rest of California in 1848 at the end of the Mexican-American War. In 1869, the population was up to 5,000, with more coming in all the time.


They had one City Marshal and a Sheriff to police them. Soon, the murder rate and public drunkenness demanded more police officers. Six men wore the badges and Winchester lever-action rifles of the new LAPD.

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LA in 1869. Somewhere a drunk cowboy is complaining about Mercury in retrograde while his buddy asks for gluten-free hummus.

Early LAPD Sheriffs had a short lifespan. The second-ever City Marshal was murdered in 1853. Sheriff James Barton was assassinated in 1857. The murder rate was as high as one every day, with many coming from LA’s 400 gambling halls and 110 saloons. Until these six men were deputized in 1869, mob rule and vigilantism were the usual method of justice.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
These days, flash mobs rule LA. (LA Film School photo)

This was when the American police department received its iconic dark blue uniforms. The Los Angeles Police Department’s first official uniforms were Army surplus — the dark blue of the Union Army of the American Civil War. And they looked exactly like Union soldiers too.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
All they need is a bayonet. Nothing inspires law and order like a bayonet.

Still, that didn’t ease much for the City Marshal, who was also the dog catcher and tax collector. Marshal William C. Warren didn’t even get along with his deputies, one of whom shot and killed him six years later.

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Go ahead. Try to take an Angeleno’s dog away from them. That’s probably what Marshal Warren did.

LA had 16 police chiefs between 1879 and the turn of the 20th century, averaging almost a new guy in the position every year. By 1893, the cowboy hat in the Union Army uniform was replaced with a stovepipe hat — the helmet in the style of British “Bobbies” — for the beat cops and flat tops for the sergeants and officers of the force.

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There should be more than six guys twenty years later, right?

Many cities like Los Angeles adopted the same practice of using Union Army surplus uniforms in the days following the Civil War. Similar photos of NYPD officers wearing the old uniforms and “Bobbie”-style helmets can be seen as early as 1893.

Leave it to Los Angeles to set the first vintage clothing trend.

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‘Man’s best friend’ saves another veteran

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor


Candace Colburn faced some challenges in her career. As an African-American female, the 28 year old Airman is a minority among minorities. These are not her challenges, though, they’re just her demographics. Staff Sergeant Colburn, stationed at the 802d Security Forces Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, is the model of today’s USAF Security Forces troops.

“My personal experience has been awesome,” Colburn says. “I know people always have their points of view – some people might say because I’m a minority people may treat me differently. Or because I’m a female, I might get lighter treatment. But I’ve been afforded my opportunities because of my abilities.”

She owns her challenges as much as she owns the rest of her career. After I interviewed her, Candace sent me a fact sheet about herself. The struggles she faced are listed before her successes.

“I’m a cop – a K9 handler, but I want to go to OSI (Office of Special Investigations) to be an investigator,” she says. “I got picked up to be on the base Tactical Response Team. I went SWAT School, Basic Combat Medic School, I trained Emirati forces in UAE… I’ve had so many opportunities because of the military. No one ever treated me different because I was a girl – in fact, my kennel master took it upon himself to research if women were allowed in air assault school because he thinks I should go.”

Colburn and the 802d recently sat with former Air Force combat photographer Stacy Pearsall as a part of Pearsall’s Veterans Portrait Project (VPP). The VPP honors veterans from every conflict, hearing their stories, thanking them for their service and preserving their image for generations to come. In 2008, the first year of the VPP, she photographed over 100 veterans. Since then, she’s made portraits of nearly 4000 more. See more of the VPP here.

Growing up in Newark, Delaware, Colburn always wanted to be a Marine, but her father wasn’t having it. Her Dad told her if she were to enlist, he wanted her in the Air Force. If that was the way, so be it, but she wanted to be a dog handler – which requires three years time in service. At age 22, she joined the as Security Forces and was soon deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, where her challenges really started.

“We were mortared everyday,” Colburn recalls. “But I’m an adrenaline junkie. I loved my time there. I even volunteered for the Balad Expeditionary Strike Force, a tactical response team, so I was both in and outside the wire all the time. I always challenge myself. My Iraq deployment was my favorite, because UAE and Qatar were too easy… it was too easy to become complacent.”

Her experience would leave a lasting impression. Like many returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the signs and symptoms were most visible when she returned to her home duty station.

“I don’t know how I fell into alcoholism,” she says. “My life started changing after Iraq and I started drinking. Mental Health told me I had signs of post-traumatic stress but I soon PCSed and fell out of following up on treatment. When I admitted I had a problem, I was scared I would lose my Security Forces job.”

Rather than lose her job for her issues, the Air Force worked with her, sending her to rehab and then through the Air Force Drug Demand Reduction Program (ADAPT) program. Colburn won’t take all the credit, though.

“It was my dogs who helped me recover,” Colburn says. “I don’t know why I love dogs, they comfort me… they got me through a lot in life. I graduated ADAPT early because I made so much progress because of my dogs.”

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor

After three and a half years as a dog handler, three deployments, and three special assignments with the Secret Service supporting the President and Vice-President, Staff Sergeant Candace Colburn lives on a farm with her own dogs, Sonny and Gunner, near San Antonio. She commutes to her unit at Lackland, Texas to work with Kormi, her partner.

“In my experience,” Colburn says, “alcoholism is not something to handle on your own. I’m a very strong person but it took an outsider to see that I wasn’t okay. You have to be strong enough to say ‘I need help’.”

For more information about the Veterans Portrait Project or to donate to keep preserving the images of American veterans visit: http://bit.ly/1unnLV4

NOW: A dog’s love can cure anything – including PTSD

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NATO debts anger Trump

US President Donald Trump has launched an extraordinary broadside at allies for failing to pay their fair share of the defense bill.


The billionaire leader used the highest possible profile platform of his first summit in Brussels to accuse members of the alliance of owing “massive amounts of money”.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Unveiling a memorial to the 9/11 attacks at NATO’s new headquarters, Trump also urged the alliance to get tougher on tackling terrorism and immigration in the wake of the Manchester attack.

Allies who had hoped to hear Trump publicly declare his commitment to NATO’s Article 5 collective defense guarantee were left disappointed as he made no mention of it and instead castigated them on their home turf.

“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense,” the president said as fellow leaders looked on grim faced.

Trump said that even if they met the commitment they made in 2014 to allocate two percent of GDP to defense, it would still not be enough to meet the challenges NATO faces.

“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. Many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years,” Trump added.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg (DoD Photo by Tech. Sgt. Brigitte Brantley)

The diatribe stirred memories of his campaign trail comments branding NATO “obsolete” and threatening that states that did not pay their way would not necessarily be defended, which deeply alarmed allies.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg was repeatedly asked at a closing news conference about Trump’s comments but insisted that while the president might have been “blunt” his message was unchanged — the allies had to do more.

In dedicating the 9/11 Article 5 memorial, the president was “sending a strong signal” of his commitment to NATO, Stoltenberg said.

“And it is not possible to be committed to NATO without being committed to Article 5.”

Trump said the bombing of a pop concert in the British city of Manchester on May 22nd, claimed by the Islamic State group, showed that “terrorism must be stopped in its tracks”.

“The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration as well as threats from Russia and NATO’s eastern and southern borders,” the president said.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
NATO Headquarters in Brussels (DoD Photo by Sgt. James McCann)

The surprising focus on immigration echoed another key feature of Trump’s campaign, which included a vow to build a border wall with Mexico, a measure derided in Europe.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel struck an entirely different note as she unveiled a memorial made up of a section of the Berlin Wall to mark the end of the Cold War.

“Germany will not forget the contribution NATO made in order to reunify our country. This is why we will indeed make our contribution to security and solidarity in the common alliance,” she said.

Trump’s rebuke came despite NATO saying it would formally join the US-led coalition against IS at the summit, despite reservations in France and Germany about getting involved in another conflict.

Article 5 has been invoked only once in NATO’s six-decade history — after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

Analyst Thomas Wright of the Washington-based Brookings Institution said Trump’s failure to publicly declare this was “shocking and damaging”.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Trump has stated that many UN member nations aren’t paying their share for defense. (Photo by MadGeographer.)

Brussels presented Trump with the first problems of a landmark foreign trip, including tense moments with the head of the European Union and with key ally Britain.

Trump announced a review of “deeply troubling” US intelligence leaks over the Manchester bombing, in which 22 people died, and warned that those responsible could face prosecution, the White House said.

Related: Mattis tells NATO to pay its fair share

He later discussed the row with Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, who had condemned the leaks that left British authorities infuriated with their US counterparts.

A meeting with European Council chief Donald Tusk and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker did not go smoothly either, despite hopes it could clear the bad blood caused by Trump backing Britain’s Brexit vote.

During his meeting with the two top EU officials, Trump launched a salvo against Germany and its car sales in the United States, Der Spiegel reported.

“The Germans are bad, very bad,” he said, according to the German weekly’s online edition.

“See the millions of cars they are selling in the US. Terrible. We will stop this,” he reportedly said.

Tusk had earlier said there were differences on climate change and trade but above all Russia.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor

“I’m not 100 percent sure that we can say today — ‘we’ means Mr. President and myself — that we have a common position, common opinion about Russia,” said Tusk, a former Polish premier who grew up protesting against Soviet domination of his country.

Trump on the campaign trail made restoring relations with Russia a key promise but he has faced bitter opposition in Washington and has since become embroiled in a scandal over alleged links to Moscow.

Trump also held talks with new French President Emmanuel Macron, with the pair appearing to engage in a brief yet bizarre battle to see who could shake hands the hardest.

Trump came to Brussels direct from a “fantastic” meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, after visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories.

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That time someone sued Pepsi because they didn’t give him a Harrier jet

A late-1990s television spot jokingly priced a U.S. Marine Corps Harrier jet as a possible “Pepsi Points” prize — at the mere cost of 7,000,000 Pepsi Points – that’s 16.8 million cans of Pepsi.


“Tens of millions of Americans, and people around the world saw the spot, got the joke, and laughed,”  John Harris of Pepsi-Cola told CBS News in 2015 flashback story.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor

Most of the TV-watching public may all have laughed (or at least smiled) at the idea of a high school student doing the Harrier’s trademark vertical landing at this high school, but John Leonard wasn’t playing around.

No, Leonard didn’t buy 16.8 million cans of Pepsi, but the 21-year-old did send in 15 Pepsi Points and a check for $700,008.50, which – according to the rules of the contest – Leonard could do. Pepsi refused to give the guy his jet.

“Mr. Leonard saw the spot, hired business advisers and lawyers, and decided to take legal action,” said the Pepsi spokesman.

 

Leonard vs. PepsiCo, Inc. was the case of 1996. The young business student accused Pepsi of fraud and breach of contract, while Pepsi argued the commercial’s use of the jet was “just a joke.”

“People point out that this Pepsi generation they’re trying to sell to is me,” Leonard countered, but his lawsuit was thrown out in a summary judgment, saying “if it is clear that an offer was not serious [to an objective, reasonable person], then no offer has been made.” The specific language of the court’s ruling is as follows:

Plaintiff’s understanding of the commercial as an offer must also be rejected because the Court finds that no objective person could reasonably have concluded that the commercial actually offered consumers a Harrier Jet.

Even if the plaintiff won the Harrier, it would have been a mere shadow of the Calvin and Hobbes-like boyhood dream John Leonard probably imagined. In a 1996 article from CNN, the Pentagon said it would have to completely demilitarize the jet before giving it to a civilian, which means its guns and air-to-air and air-to-ground missile capability would be out, as well as its vertical takeoff, which is pretty much is the whole reason behind going through so much trouble for a Harrier.

The cost of using and maintaining a Harrier would be very expensive for the young man. The real price of a Harrier in 1996 was $33.8 million and used 11.4 gallons of fuel per minute. Leonard included $10 for shipping and handling, as per the contest rules.

PepsiCo. returned Leonard’s certified check.