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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This veteran’s PTSD recovery story is the most uplifting video we’ve seen all day

PTSD is the slow, silent killer crippling many of our returning veterans.


It is a serious public health challenge affecting 8 million people — 2.5 percent of the total population — every year, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Related: Every warrior should have access to this PTS healing experience

Individuals suffering from PTSD may lose their families, careers, or even commit suicide. These were the challenges JJ Selvig was facing as it crept into his life seven years into his service.

And the death of his friend put Selvig over the edge.

“An unauthorized absence and an other than honorable discharge, I went home,” Selvig said in the video below. “I blamed the Marines, my family, myself, my destroyed relationships; then Sam committed suicide, and my narrative changed.”

Building on his military service as a foundation, he deployed to Hurricane Sandy with Team Rubicon to honor his friend’s death.

“The cuts and scrapes from broken wood and shingles covered me while uncovering me at the same time, a light began to flicker inside,” he said.

With each Team Rubicon deployment, the feelings of sadness and anger faded as he as he became a leader again. He was creating positive change in people’s lives, and it was helping him become a better person inside and out.

“I’m still human; I’m never going to not have rough edges,” he said. “But Team Rubicon helped sand them down as much as possible.”

Watch Selvig tell his uplifting story in this short three-minute video:

Team Rubicon, YouTube
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Here’s the most expensive weapons system ever and all of its ammunition in one photo

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
F-35A (one of the three F-35 variant aircrafts) and its weapons suite. Photo: Lockheed Martin


Earlier this month the US Air Force told Reuters that America’s most expensive weapons system ever built is on track for “initial combat use” by September 2016.

Designed and manufactured at Lockheed Martin’s massive production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, the F-35 Lightning II can carry an impressive 18,000 pounds of lethal ammunition.

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program includes three variant aircrafts (the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35C), each designed to meet the specific needs of America’s sister service branches and a number of foreign military buyers like the United Kingdom, Australia, Netherlands, Norway, Japan, South Korea, and Israel.

Lockheed Martin says that each F-35A jet, also referred to as the Conventional Takeoff and Landing (CTOL), costs $108 million (including engine) and is the most requested of the three aircrafts. Thus far, approximately 65 of the anticipated 1,763 F-35A jets have been delivered to the Department of Defense.

The F-35’s carry a similar arsenal except that the F-35A is the only variant to feature an internal cannon, which is located on the left side of the jet between the cockpit and wing.

Here’s an infographic of the weapons the jets are designed to carry:

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
photo: Lockheed Martin/US Air Force

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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This battle decided which cuss words you use

William the Conqueror defeated King Harold in the Battle of Hastings in 1066, changing the way Englishmen would speak — and cuss — for all of time.


This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Actors participate in a reproduction of the Battle of Hastings. Photo: Antonio Borrillo CC BY-SA 3.0

Before the war William was the Duke of Normandy, the area of western France that the Allies would invade almost 900 years later to defeat the Nazis. William had ambitions beyond the continent though, and sought out an audience with King Edward the Confessor of England. Edward had no children and no obvious heir.

William claimed that Edward promised him the throne during this conversation in 1060, but on his deathbed Edward named an English noble as his successor. Harold Godwine ascended to the throne in 1066 but William immediately called bull-scheisse and contested Harold’s claim.

For obvious reasons, Harold wasn’t eager to give up his throne. So William crossed the English channel with 7,000 soldiers. Harold had just finished fighting off a Norwegian invasion and was forced to face this new threat with a diminished number of troops.

About two weeks later, Harold and William met with their armies near Hastings. The battle raged all day Oct. 13, 1066, and Harold was killed at the end of the fighting.

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

The Normans marched to London and William was crowned king. Once he ascended, William declared French, his native language, the official language of the court. This left the Germanic language spoken by the Anglo-Saxons, Old English, as a “lower” language.

According to the Oxford Dictionary blog, this created a two-tiered language that evolved into modern English. Words for things connected to the ruling class, like large homes and prepared meat, drew from French. So noblemen lived in mansions and ate buef (beef) and porc (pork), while an Anglo-Saxon lived in hus (houses) and raised cus (cows) and picg (pigs).

When it came to the lowest and most vulgar of words, like those for poop, butts, and sex, the Old English words with German roots, scheissearsch, and ficken, became terms of profanity. It shouldn’t be too hard to guess which words those evolved into.

(h/t Alex Schmidt of Cracked)

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This is who wins in a dogfight between the French Rafale and the Eurofighter

While the F-35 has been in the headlines and the F-22 is perhaps the most dominant jet in the sky, there are some other advanced jets in the air that are not from the U.S., Russia or China. Two of them are the French-designed Dassault Rafale and the multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon.


This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
A Royal Air Force Typhoon in 2012. Peter Gronemann/Flickr photo

The Rafale is a purely French design. The French did face the challenge of coming up with a fighter meant to not only replace older Mirage fighters for the French air force, it also had to operate from the French navy’s aircraft carrier, the Charles De Gaulle, replacing aging F-8 Crusaders and the venerable Super Etendard.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Rafale has a top speed of 1,190 miles per hour, a range of 1,150 miles, can carry almost 21,000 pounds of ordnance, and is equipped with a 30mm cannon. Among the ordnance it can carry are Mica air-to-air missiles, the ASMP nuclear cruise missile, the Exocet anti-ship missile, laser-guided bombs, rocket pods, and various dumb bombs.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
A French Dassault Rafale performs a touch-and-go landing. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Denny Cantrell)

The Eurofighter Typhoon, on the other hand, is a joint design primarily from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy. Those same countries teamed up to create the Panavia Tornado, an aircraft that had air-defense, strike, and “Wild Weasel” versions. The Eurofighter team was a bit larger as this time, Spain joined in.

MilitaryFactory.com notes that the Typhoon has a range of 1,802 miles and a top speed of 1,550 miles per hour. It can carry 16,500 pounds of ordnance, and has a 27mm cannon. It carries a very wide array of weapons, including the AIM-120 AMRAAM, the AIM-132 ASRAAM, the IRIS-T air-to-air missile, the MDBA Meteor air-to-air missile, the S-225 air-to-air missile, the Brimstone anti-tank missile, the AGM-88 HARM, the ALARM, laser-guided bombs, dumb bombs, and even land-attack missiles like the Storm Shadow and KEPD 350.

Perhaps the only thing the Eurofighter can’t carry is the kitchen sink.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
A bomb-laden Royal Air Force Typhoon F.2 fighter takes off for an evening mission here June 3 during Green Flag 08-07. During Green Flag, the RAF proved the Typhoons’ air-to-ground capabilities and combat readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery)

Which plane is more likely to win in a head-to-head fight? Given the wider variety of ordnance, including long-range air-to-air missiles like the S-225 and Meteor, the Eurofighter has an edge – at least when it comes to land bases. The Rafale, though, can operate from an aircraft carrier, and that gives France a very potent naval aviation arm.

Check out the video below to see how these planes stack up.

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2 lessons this elite fighter pilot says will guide you through a successful life

When Dave Berke was a kid, he imagined himself flying an F-18 off an aircraft carrier.


By the time he retired as a US Marine officer in 2016, he had not only done that, but he’d also flown an F-16, F-22, and F-35, taught at the elite Top Gun fighter pilot school, and served a year on the ground alongside Navy SEALs in the 2006 Battle of Ramadi as a forward air controller.

Today, he’s a member of Echelon Front, a leadership consulting firm started by two of those SEALs, Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink and one of his platoon commanders, Leif Babin.

Berke has spent the past year sharing lessons from his 23-year military career, and we asked him what insights were at the heart of his leadership philosophy. He shared with us two lessons he learned as a teenager, long before he ever saw combat.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Polvorosa

They’re lessons he said became not only the foundation of his service, but his entire life, and they’re ones he’s had reinforced repeatedly.

Set specific goals and develop detailed paths to them.

Berke’s mom Arlene had become used to hearing her young son talk about how he wished he could fly fighter jets one day.

She told him that he needed understand that the role of a fighter pilot was a real job, one that existed outside of his daydreams. Berke said her message boiled down to: “You could sit there and think about wanting to be a pilot. By the time you’re 25 somebody will be doing that job. Spend less time fantasizing about it, spend less time dreaming about it, and spend more time coming up with a plan.”

Berke took it to heart, and in retrospect, probably took his mom’s advice even more intensely than she had intended. By 15 he knew that his goal was to fly F-18s off aircraft carriers and be stationed in Southern California. He wouldn’t go the more traditional Navy route, either, but would join the Marines and become an officer.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Polvorosa

The Marines have fewer pilots, but even their pilots go through the same training as all other Marines. He wanted the best of both worlds, and to have his goal be as challenging as possible.

He accepted that he might not make this a reality, but decided he would act as though there were no alternative.

At 17, he met with a recruiting officer to nail down everything he needed to do to make his vision a reality, giving him a year to think about the resulting timeline before signing up for the Marine Corps.

“It keeps you disciplined because the risk of not doing all the things you need to do is failure,” he said about this timeline approach. “It’s a failure that you have nobody else to blame but yourself.”

 

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Patrick J. McMahon

Mental toughness is more important than abilities.

Berke said that he’s never been the biggest or strongest guy among his friends in the military, and as an 18-year-old, he was thin and average height.

He arrived at the Marine Corps Base Quantico for officer candidate school scared and intimidated. “I looked around and everybody else around me looked bigger, tougher, stronger, faster, and seemed to be more qualified than me to do that job,” he said.

But as the days went by, he would be surprised to see some of his fellow candidates break under pressure. A guy next to him that he knew was naturally a better athlete than he was wouldn’t be able to keep up in fitness trials, but it was because he didn’t share the drive that Berke had developed for years.

“As they started to fail, I started to realize that the difference between success and failure was mental toughness,” he said.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Berke, middle, with the Echelon Front team and Jocko Podcast producer Echo Charles, second from right. Berke joked this photo proves his point about not having to be the biggest or strongest to succeed. Photo from Echelon Front

He became an officer. Next was the Basic School, where he would be given his role in the Marine Corps. He was one of 250 new officers, and there were only two pilot spots for his class.

“There’s no way I’m going to let somebody else work harder, be more committed, be more disciplined, and outperform me in that environment to accomplish what they want at my expense,” he thought. “It’s not going to happen.”

The same mindset is what got him through the chaos of Iraq 15 years later, when a plane didn’t separate him from the fighting on the ground.

“There’s no Plan B to losing in combat,” he said.

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Here’s how Patton earned the nickname ‘Old Blood and Guts’

Legend has it that Gen. George S. Patton earned his “Old Blood and Guts” nickname for having a lust for battle without regard for the lives of his troops.


Related: 11 quotes that show the awesomeness of Gen. George Patton

But the reality of Patton’s genius is quite the opposite; he produced more results in less time with fewer casualties than any other general in any army during World War II, according to Patton biographer Alan Axelrod in the American Heroes Channel video below.

“He wanted his officers who he trained to know what they were going to expect in battle,” said Axelrod. “He [Patton] said to them, ‘you’re going to be up to your neck in blood and guts.’ This made quite an impression, and it stuck and from that point on, he was known as ‘Old Blood and Guts.'”

Still, high operational tempo and strict adherence to the rules pushed his men to the breaking point and hurt morale in the ranks. A common GI saying about Patton was, “our blood, his guts.”

The general’s low point came in August 1943 when he slapped two shell-shocked soldiers under his command for crying. For this, Gen. Eisenhower deemed him too undisciplined to lead the Normandy invasion, so he placed Patton in charge of a “ghost army” at Pas de Calais, France.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
George C. Scott as General Patton reenacting the infamous slapping of a shell-shocked soldier in Patton, 1970.

He was a decoy, and the Nazis took the bait; after all, they considered Patton the Allies’ best commander. Even weeks after D-Day, the Germans continued to wait for Patton’s crossing at Pas de Calais amassing troops for the fight.

This American Heroes Channel video demystifies Patton’s “Old Blood and Guts” nickname and shows the genius behind his relentless war tactics.

Watch:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube
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These war games nearly triggered a nuclear holocaust

The great fear of nuclear weapons bombarding schools, churches, and homes in the 1980s was not one-sided. While American schoolchildren were scurrying under desks in “duck-and-cover” drills, Soviet citizens were bombarded by government reminders on the radio and television that an American attack could come at any time.


This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
GIF: Youtube/Nuclear Vault

During this period of mutual terror, NATO held regular war games. One annual event was Able Archer, a command post exercise in Western Europe that tested the ability of NATO to respond to a nuclear attack. In 1983, a particularly realistic iteration of the event nearly triggered an actual nuclear war.

In Able Archer 83 and related exercises held in the same time period, NATO had upped the ante by including more units and by airlifting 19,000 troops to Europe to participate. They ordered that planes “readied” for a strike in the exercise be actually taxied out of the hangars with dummy warheads attached.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
U.S. armored vehicles move through Western Germany during exercises in 1983.

And, most alarming for the Russians, the exercise called for a simulated release of nuclear weapons. The Warsaw Pact had long predicted that the Americans would make the first move in a nuclear exchange and that they would do so by camouflaging the action as a war game.

To them, Able Archer 83 seemed like the perfect cover for an actual attack, and they readied their forces to respond or possibly attack preemptively.

They increased their reconnaissance flights, targeting areas that would show troop buildups or nuclear preparations. Nuclear warheads were placed on bombers, ballistic missile crews were placed on high-alert, and Soviet submarines were sent into the Arctic to ensure the Soviets could retaliate or, if they saw any signs of a strike, they could fire first.

Modern intelligence reviews of the exercise, the Soviet response, and information gleaned from spies indicates that the Soviets truly thought that Able Archer 83 was an attack.

A British spy in the KGB, Col. Oleg Gordievsky, said that about a week into the exercise, the KGB sent out a cable alerting KGB officers that the American military had just elevated their alert level and that the countdown to war may have already started.

Gordievsky alerted London to the risk the West was running in the exercise and London lobbied America to take steps to prevent a disaster.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Photo: White House photographer Mary Anne Fackelman

Luckily, nothing in Able Archer 83 pushed Soviet fears over the edge and Russia never launched a preemptive strike. Reagan, who later met Gordievsky in the Oval Office after the spy defected to England, wrote that he thought someone should tell the Soviets directly that America had no intention of launching a first strike.

Otherwise, he feared the Soviets were so “defense-minded, so paranoid about being attacked” that they might launch a nuclear strike just to avoid suffering one.

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This is the brand new badge for MARSOC operators

The Marine Corps has unveiled a new badge for its elite Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command operators, an eagle with outstretched wings clutching a Raider stiletto with a constellation that represents the Marines who served in the Pacific in World War II.


This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
(Graphic: U.S. Marine Corps)

“The individual MARSOC operator must be trained and educated to think critically and function in an increasingly complex operating environment — to understand and interact in dynamic, dangerous and politically-sensitive battlefields,” Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, said in a press release. “Our rigorous training pipeline ensures that a newly minted critical skills operator has developed the skills required for full spectrum special operations. This badge serves as a visual certification that they have trained and prepared to accept their new responsibilities.”

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
MARSOC Raiders conduct swim training. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Donovan Lee)

The same press release details the badge’s symbols:

The center of the 2-inch x 2.75-inch insignia consists of the bald eagle, representing the United States, with outstretched wings to symbolize the global reach of the U.S. Marine Corps. A dagger clutched by the eagle reflects the emblem of Marine Raider Battalions and the Marine Special Operations School. The Southern Cross constellation superimposed on the dagger represents the historic achievements of the Marines serving during the Pacific campaign of WWII, specifically those actions on Guadalcanal. The Southern Cross remains a part of the legacy of modern-day Marine Corps Raider units.

MARSOC is the newest of the major special operations commands and was officially formed in 2006 so the Marine Corps would have a headquarters which could work directly with U.S. Special Operations Command.

The unit’s lineage is traced back to Marine Raiders of World War II who conducted vital operations against Japanese defenders in the Pacific Theater of that war.

Three Raider battalions make up the primary fighting force of MARSOC. The first Raiders of this modern unit were recruited out of top-tier units like Marine Reconnaissance and Force Reconnaissance battalions.

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Top 9 jokes from Vice President Biden’s Naval Academy commencement speech

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
(Photo: Defense.gov)


Vice President Joe Biden is widely regarded as a good guy who’s quick with a joke (and capable of committing the occasional gaffe, much to the media’s delight). And he was true to form as he addressed the United States Naval Academy Class of 2015 at their commissioning ceremony in Annapolis on May 22. Along with hitting the high points of what the nation expects of them going forward (no sexual harassment!) he kept them (and their families and friends surrounding them in the stands of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium) in stitches with a string of rapid-fire one liners. Here are the top 9 among them (in the order that they were delivered):

1. “[Virginia] Governor [Terry] McCaullife, congratulations to your son Jack – top 10 percent, honor committee, captain of the rugby team. Terry, are you sure he’s your son? I don’t know.  He’s a talented young man.”

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
(Photo: C-SPAN)

2. “[Chief of Naval Operations] Admiral Greenert is always nice to me in spite of the fact I live in his house. The Vice President’s home is known as “NavOps.” It’s 79 beautiful acres sitting on the highest point in Washington. It used to be the CNO’s home. The Navy runs it, and I live there, and he still speaks to me. And I appreciate it.”

3.”On the one hand you’ve been subjected to unflattering haircuts. On the other hand you get to wear dress whites.”

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
(Photo: Military Times)

4. “You spent your summers abroad on real ships rather than internships.”

5. Referring to the fact that all USNA grads automatically have jobs (in the Navy or Marine Corps) upon graduating: “The specter of living in your parents’ basement come graduation day is not likely to be your greatest concern . . . and that’s true across the board, even for you history and English majors.”

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
(Photo: Annapolis Today)

6. Referring to the fact that Navy has beat Army in football 13 years in a row: “When we go to the Army-Navy game it’s a devastating thing to sit next to my son [an Army officer].”

7. “Back in 1845, the Secretary of the Navy’s name was Bancroft, and he chose [Annapolis] for its seclusion – seclusion from temptation and the distractions of the big city. I wonder what he would have done had he known about McGreevey’s (editor’s note: the actual bar’s name is McGarvey’s), O’Briens, and Armadillos. I doubt he would have picked this place.”

8. “For all those on restriction, don’t worry. John McCain and I can tell you it’s never gotten in the way of real talent.”

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

9. Referring to the fact that midshipmen get a tuition-free education: “Usually when I address graduating classes I tell the parents “congratulations, you’re about to get a pay raise,” but you said that four years ago.”

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
(Photo: Baltimore Sun)

WATM congratulates USNA’s Class of 2015 (along with the graduates of all service academies and ROTC units nationwide). Welcome to the fleet, shipmates.

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New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

A report released Aug. 19 from a Washington, D.C.-based think tank tracked how North Korea reacts to annual military exercises conducted by the U.S. and South Korea.


The result? Kim Jong Un is using the drills as an excuse to act out.

The study conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies doesn’t say exactly that, but what it found was a pattern of behavior during the rule of Kim Jong-Il, and another quite different reaction after the younger Kim Jong Un took the reins of power.

“The study shows that annual joint exercises do not provoke North Korea despite such claims in the media and from North Korea,” Victor Cha, CSIS Korea Chair and former director for Asian affairs at the White House’s National Security Council, told the Wall Street Journal.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
U.S. Soldiers set up a support by fire line alongside their Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Soldier counterparts when reacting to enemy contact during a platoon live fire training blank iteration on Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, near the DMZ, Republic of Korea, March 21, 2015, during joint training exercise Foal Eagle 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock)

But the younger Kim says the annual war games are a provocation, and the cantankerous dictator routinely flies off the handle and issues wild  threats and warnings in the days leading up to the exercises.

His father, on the other hand, did not respond to the drills the same way. Tensions surrounding joint exercises like Foal Eagle, Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, and Key Resolve are significantly more potent since the elder Kim suffered a stroke in 2008.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
U.S. Soldiers move a casualty toward a designated casualty collection point (CCP) with their Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Soldier counterparts near the DMZ, Republic of Korea, March 21, 2015. The training was conducted during joint training exercise Foal Eagle 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock)

On top of determining a pattern of behavior around U.S. military exercises, the study also uncovered other key findings.

The first is that the exercises have no lasting impact on relations between North Korea and the United States. When the six-party de-denuclearization talks were still held regularly, the games didn’t change the timing or agenda of the talks.

The report also says that the North “compartmentalizes” its response to the annual war games versus other ongoing issues with the U.S. or South Korea.

Cha also told the Wall Street Journal Kim Jong Un uses the games as a way to spin a yarn to his people that the U.S. military is the destabilizing force on the peninsula and the Korean regime under his leadership is the only bulwark against American aggression.

The report should be welcome news for the U.S. military, who maintain an extensive presence on the Korean Peninsula and have since the end of the Korean War.

“It’s not the exercises,” Cha said, “but the state of diplomacy in the weeks prior that will tell them whether North Korea will do something big in retaliation.”

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Why NATO should use Russia’s massive wargame as an intel dump

When thousands of Russian troops wheeled and maneuvered through the steppes of southern Siberia two years ago, as part of massive military exercises known as Tsentr, Western experts spotted something unusual.


Amid Defense Ministry orders for tank brigades, paratrooper battalions, motorized rifle divisions, and railroad cars carrying howitzers, there were orders for the federal fisheries agency.

“And I wondered, ‘What the hell is the fisheries ministry doing?'” recalls Johan Norberg, senior military analyst at the Swedish Defense Research Agency. The eventual conclusion, he says, was that the Russian fisheries fleet was seen by military planners as an intelligence asset, playing a small role in national defense.

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Tsentr-2015 strategic headquarters military exercises. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

It’s an example offering a small window into not only how Russian commanders approach large-scale military games. It’s also the kind of insight that Western analysts hope to gain beginning next week when one of the largest exercises Moscow has conducted on its western borders since the Cold War get under way: a real-world, real-time glimpse at what Russia’s military is truly capable of, after years of institutional reforms.

The Zapad drills, taking place in Belarus and the regions east of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are formally kicking off on Sept. 14. They’re the first to be held in close proximity to NATO member countries since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

For that and many other reasons, they are giving heartburn to NATO allies from the Baltic to the Black Sea, with some observers predicting that the number of participating personnel could exceed 100,000, along with tanks, artillery units, aircraft, and other equipment.

Midterm Exam

Though few, if any, Western planners anticipate any outbreak of hostilities with Russia, NATO states have taken steps to reassure their populaces and to show they are taking the Russians seriously. US Air Force fighter jets are now patrolling Baltic airspace; Poland is closing its airspace near Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad; and four NATO battle groups, featuring 4,500 troops, are on alert in the Baltics and Poland.

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USMC Photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon.

That said, as much as anything, the Zapad exercises serve as a midterm exam for Russian armed forces and military planners, a measure of reforms made over the past decade.

“The exercise is actually a very good opportunity for us to… get a better sense of what the Russian military is actually capable of: how it can handle logistics, move different units, or, in an operation, exercise command and control over combined armed formations in the Baltic theater, which is the one we’re principally concerned with, right?” says Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA Corporation and a fellow at the Kennan Institute in Washington.

“This one is a lot more interesting to us because we don’t plan on fighting Russia in Central Asia,” Kofman says.

Preparations have been ongoing for weeks, with large numbers of railroad cars shipping heavy weaponry and vehicles into Belarus and civilians mobilized at some large state-owned enterprises in Kaliningrad and elsewhere.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

“As we’ve seen before, Russians train exactly as they intend to fight,” Kristjan Prikk, undersecretary for policy at the Estonian Defense Ministry, said during a July event at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. “Thus, Zapad will give ample information on their military development and certainly on their political thinking, as it is right now.”

Structural Reforms

In 2008, when Russia invaded its former Soviet neighbor Georgia, its armed forces easily overcame Georgia’s defenses and some of its US-trained personnel, but the five-day war showcased significant weaknesses. For example, some Russian officers were reportedly unable to communicate with others over existing radio frequencies and were forced to use regular mobile phones. Russian surveillance drones performed poorly.

Other reforms already under way at the time included a shift from the Soviet military structure, organized around divisions, to a smaller brigade structure and the increased use of contract, rather than conscripted, soldiers.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Reforms also included a substantial increase in defense budgets, something made possible by high world oil prices that stuffed Russia’s coffers. A 10-year plan to upgrade weaponry and other equipment originally called for Russia to spend $650 billion between 2011 and 2020, according to NATO figures, though Western sanctions, plummeting oil prices, and the economic downturn in 2015-16 are believed to have slowed some purchases.

“They’ve had now, say, eight or nine years with plenty of money and the willingness to train, and they have a new organization that they want to test,” Norberg says.

While the Defense Ministry conducts a cycle of exercises roughly every year, alternating among four of the country’s primary military districts, Western analysts got a surprise lesson in early 2014 when Russian special forces helped lead a stealth invasion of Crimea and paved the way for the Black Sea region’s illegal annexation by Moscow in March.

Real-World Laboratory

That, plus the outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine in the following months, offered a real-world laboratory for testing new tactics and equipment for Russian forces, including new drones, some manufactured with help from Israeli firms.

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Pro-Russian rebels shoot in the air at funeral of a fellow fighter killed in a battle for Marinka near Donetsk. Eastern Ukraine, 6 June, 2015. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

The Crimea invasion was preceded by the months of civil unrest in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, which culminated in deadly violence and the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych.

For many Kremlin and defense thinkers, that was just the latest in a series of popular uprisings, fomented by Western governments, that toppled regimes and governments stretching back to Georgia in 2003 and lasting through the Arab Spring beginning in 2010.

The scenario that Russian and Belarusian commanders have announced ahead of Zapad 2017 hints at that thinking: The theoretical adversary is one seeking to undermine the government in Minsk and set up a separatist government in western Belarus.

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Russia celebrating National Guards’ Day. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Inside Russia, the thinking that NATO and Western governments used the popular uprisings as a strategy led to the reorganization of internal security forces, such as riot police and Interior Ministry special troops into a specialized National Guard under the command of President Vladimir Putin’s former bodyguard. Some parts of that force, whose overall numbers are estimated at 180,000, are expected to participate in the Zapad exercises.

That, Kofman says, should yield insight into “how Russia will mobilize and deploy internal security forces to suppress protest and instability…basically how the regime will protect itself and defend itself against popular unrest.”

Articles

These high-speed German cops still wear armor from the Middle Ages

It’s been years since knights were last sent into battle wearing insanely heavy and uncomfortable metal suits for protection against swords and arrows.


Centuries, actually.

But as it turns out, while knights are now a thing of the past, their armor is still in use today with at least one special operations police unit in Germany. That’s right… Germany’s elite “SEK” Spezialeinsatzkommandos (Special Deployment Commandos in English) are sometimes sent into sticky situations wearing chain mail suits of armor.

Though they’ve traded in long swords and sabers years ago for Heckler Koch submachine guns and Sig pistols, these German cops still utilize chain mail armor to protect themselves in close quarters missions against terrorists, hostage takers, or even just your run-of-the-mill deranged knife-wielder.

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An SEK operative fast-ropes from a police helicopter during a demonstration (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

While chain mail armor isn’t enough to stop bullets or anything that can penetrate at high velocities, it’s still pretty effective against close-in attacks using blades or sharp objects. Mail consists of small metal ringlets woven together to form a mesh-like sheet. These sheets are then fashioned into wearable coats and pants which still allow the wearer a fair degree of movement.

Last year, SEK operatives were spotted wearing chain mail while responding to a mentally-disturbed 21 year-old threatening to kill randomly with a pruning saw. Later on, images began surfacing of commandos donning mail shirts and hoods in urban settings, wearing a weird blend of modern tactical gear and the ancient mesh armor.

This man is the only US Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor
An SEK wearing chain mail under his assault vest while responding to a threat (Photo from Snopes.com)

These German commandos have been known to wear their mail suits above or beneath their gear, depending on the scenario they face and their role in resolving it. Hostage or suicide negotiations would generally prompt the wearing of the armor above a Kevlar bulletproof vest and radio, for example.

According to Stefan Schubert in his book, “Inside Police: The Unknown Side of Everyday Police,” the SEK are easily some of the most high-speed special operations police units in the world, having been formed in the 1970s in West Germany to tackle hostage situations, provide protection for dignitaries, and rapid armed response to terrorist threats.

Around the same time, a similar East German police force known as Service Unit 9 was also established. Both were merged under the SEK name and mission after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany at the end of the Cold War.

SEK teams are more like highly-developed SWAT teams in the US, attached to German state police agencies across the country. Their federal counterpart is the legendary GSG 9 of the Bundespolizei, home to some of the best counterterrorist operatives today.

An SEK commando covering an assault during a demonstration in Dortmund, circa 2013 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The recruitment process to join an SEK team is extremely strenuous, and the ensuing selection phase has a high attrition rate. Candidates typically face between 6 to 8 months of physical, tactical and environment-specific training before being declared operational. Additional training includes skiing, snowmobiling and scuba diving.

When placed on active status, an SEK commando can choose virtually any tactical loadout that fits their preferences and mission. Operatives are also given a lot of leeway in uniforms, often choosing to be in plainclothes in order to blend into crowds and work unnoticed.

However, when on mission, you can generally tell an SEK commando apart from a regular police officer by the fact that they always cover their faces with balaclavas to protect their identities — standard procedure for all SEK teams throughout Germany.

But if ever the balaclava isn’t enough to give away their presence, just look for the guy toting a tricked-out carbine wearing Medieval armor and tennis shoes.

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