US special forces struggle to keep up this pace - We Are The Mighty
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US special forces struggle to keep up this pace

A continuous, heavy reliance on the most elite U.S. forces is threatening to erode what many officials now see as an increasingly indispensable set of military capabilities.


Already on the front lines in the battle against terror groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaida, U.S. special forces are increasingly being called upon to help combat a growing variety of threats from state and non-state actors at a pace that Pentagon officials fear may not be sustainable.

US special forces struggle to keep up this pace
A 75th Ranger Regiment task force trains. (U.S. Army photo)

“We’ve been operating at such a high op-tempo for the last decade-plus,” Theresa Whelan, acting assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. “We’ve mortgaged the future in order to facilitate current operations.

“That has impacted readiness and it’s also impacted the development of the force for the future. And as the threats grow, this is only going to get worse,” she added.

Deployed

Approximately 8,000 U.S. special operations forces are currently deployed to more than 80 countries, according to U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

That figure includes high-profile missions in Syria and Iraq, where about 600 special operations forces have been working with local partners to help defeat IS.

US special forces struggle to keep up this pace
A special forces team on patrol. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Special operations forces have also been playing a key role in Afghanistan, where just last week two Army Rangers were killed in a large raid with Afghan counterparts that is thought to have killed the leader of IS in that country.

Additionally, SOCOM has been given new responsibilities, taking the lead in coordinating military actions against terrorist organizations and also maintaining the Defense Department’s efforts to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

“Special operations forces are more relevant than ever,” SOCOM Commander General Raymond Thomas told lawmakers. “The evolution, the change in terms of the threat environment, is almost kind of at a frantic level in terms of number of threats.”

But Thomas and Whelan cautioned that the additional responsibilities combined with a larger role on the ground, in many areas, have led to increased strain, especially in a tight budget environment.

In some cases, support staff has taken a hit, Whelan said.

“In fact, we have actually downsized because of requirements for downsizing of the federal workforce, particularly major headquarters organizations,” she told lawmakers.

Funding

Officials also worry about the lack of certainty when it comes to funding.

Nearly 30 percent of SOCOM’s money comes from the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget — meant to help fund current military operations. But SOCOM said the vast majority of that money pays for long-term functions or capabilities.

US special forces struggle to keep up this pace
Members of Special Boat Team 22 participate in a Special Operations Craft Riverine demonstration at the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Richard Miller/Released)

The renewed concerns about special operations funding came the same day President Donald Trump touted a $20 billion military spending increase, included in a bill expected to be approved by the House of Representatives this week.

“We are at last reversing years of military cuts and showing our determination and resolve to the entire world,” Trump said May 2 while welcoming the U.S. Air Force Academy football team to the White House Rose Garden.

“These long-awaited increases will make America more safe and more secure and give our amazing service members the tools, equipment, training, and resources they need and they very much deserve.”

Still, the impact when it comes to stabilizing SOCOM funding is unclear, as the military spending increase includes billions of dollars for OCO.

Also read: This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

But even if funding is stabilized, there remain deep and long-standing concerns about trying to do too much with not enough, possibly pushing special operations force (SOF) troops past their breaking point.

“SOF leaders are worried about that,” a former SOCOM staff officer warned VOA last year, pointing to a continuous surge in the number of missions over the past 15 years.

“They continually say ‘yes,’ ” the officer said. “When do we say ‘no’ in contemporary times to be able to say ‘yes’ to perhaps something more critical in the future?”

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Legendary WWII Gen. Carl Spaatz offered great advice to military leaders — and it still rings true today

When one considers those pioneers whose command of air power strategy led to an independent U.S. Air Force after WWII, General Carl A. Spaatz is usually among those names. Spaatz would come to command the overall Army Air Forces in Europe, design the strategy for bringing down Hitler’s Luftwaffe, and cripple Nazi war production. Dwight Eisenhower as Supreme Allied Commander remarked Spaatz (along with Omar Bradley) was one of two men who contributed most to the victory in Europe.


US special forces struggle to keep up this pace

So when it comes to how he views the people who serve in the military, you might be apt to consider his advice.

After V-E Day, Spaatz held a victory party at a chateau near Paris. The guest list included a who’s who of who would come to found the modern Air Force such as Hoyt Vandenberg and James Doolittle. It also included one Major: triple ace Robin Olds (pre-mustache). Spaatz was a friend of the Olds family, and he invited Robin to his party after he learned Maj. Olds would stay in the Army after the war.

US special forces struggle to keep up this pace

 

Olds recounted the advice he received from Spaatz in his memoirs, Fighter Pilot, more than sixty years later:

” … In the military, they mostly divide themselves into four major categories. There are the ‘Me-Firsters,’ the ‘Me-Tooers,’ the ‘Deadwood,’ and the ‘Dedicated.’ You are among the minority, the Dedicated. Stick with them, search them out, and work hard to be worthy of their company. You won’t be popular with a lot of your bosses who act dedicated but really aren’t and that can make life difficult at times. Beware of the Deadwood. Most of them mean well and, in their own way, try hard, are loyal, and are even useful. But too often they’ll botch things up and get you and your outfit in trouble.”

“Watch out for the Me-Tooers. These guys will tell you whatever they think you want to hear. They borrow thoughts and ideas from others and present them to you as though they were their own. They are the opportunists who look for every avenue to advance themselves without sticking their own necks out. They ride someone’s coattails and try to make themselves indispensable to the boss. Believe me, they are not to be trusted. You don’t want yes-men around you, but you can’t always avoid them.”

US special forces struggle to keep up this pace

Spaatz went on to warn:  “The worst and most dangerous are the Me-Firsters. Most of them are intelligent and totally ruthless. They use the service for their own gain and will not hesitate to stick a knife in your back at the slightest indication you might stand in their way. They seem arrogant, but don’t be fooled. They are really completely lacking in true self-confidence.”

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What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is rightly viewed as a legend. Best known as a recon plane that nobody could hit, it even was considered as the basis for a fighter and was the second-fastest manned plane in history.


It served with the United States military from 1964-1998, and with NASA until 1999. The SR-71 had been developed from the A-12 OXCART (no relation to the A-12 Avenger), a single-seat plane capable of making high-speed recon runs as well.

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Blackbird pilots in front of an SR-71.

It was thought satellites and drones could replace the SR-71. The problem was that satellites are predictable, and too many drones just don’t have the performance or reliability. But Lockheed’s Skunk Works, which created the A-12/YF-12/SR-71 family, is now developing a SR-72, and they promise it will be faster than the Blackbird.

Lockheed noted that the SR-71 was designed on paper with slide rules. Even without the benefit of high-technology, the SR-71 proved to be superb at its role.

The new SR-72, though, is going to leverage technology from the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 to help it fly at speeds exceeding Mach 6. The HTV-2 hit Mach 20 during its flights.

US special forces struggle to keep up this pace
The factory floor of Skunk Works, where the SR-71 was manufactured. (CIA photo)

According to a report by Popular Mechanics, the SR-72 will also have a strike mission. While the exact weapons are unknown at this time, Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that plans call for a “Flight Research Vehicle” to be constructed in the early 2020s, with a full-scale version to be in service sometime in the 2030s.

As for the lucky pilots who get to fly this plane, they will not need the very bulky suits that Blackbird pilots wear. That’s because the initial plans call for the SR-72 to be a drone.

Well, no successor to the Blackbird can be perfect.

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America’s Mosul strategy might just lead to ‘ISIS 3.0’

The U.S.-backed coalition effort to retake the city of Mosul officially began Monday, but experts say the end of the battle against ISIS is far from over.


US special forces struggle to keep up this pace

Pentagon officials warned reporters before the operation began that ISIS was likely to convert to insurgency after losing the city of Mosul. “If anything, it’s gonna be more difficult,” is how Canadian Army Brig. Gen. Dave Anderson described the coming fight against ISIS as an insurgent force.

The retaking of Mosul highlights the Obama administration’s central belief that retaking territory from ISIS constitutes victory against the group. “It’s as if we’ve decided by taking territory back, they won’t be terrorists anymore,” Dr. Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

As ISIS reverts to a guerrilla insurgency, Iraq must begin to grapple with the underlying sectarian tensions that threaten to engulf it after the defeat of ISIS. The operation to retake Mosul is composed of the U.S., Iraqi Security Forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, Iranian-backed Shiite militias, and Turkish troops. Each group has its own vested interest in the future of Mosul and greater Iraq.

“What has emerged from the conflict is a complex patchwork of ethnic, tribal and religious militias that claim fief over particular territories,” Ramzy Mardini of the Atlantic Council leveled a stark warning on the administration’s pursuit of defeating ISIS in a recent op-ed for The New York Times.

Shiite militias participating alongside Iraqi Security Forces in anti-ISIS operations have well known ties to humanitarian atrocities against Sunni civilians. The United Nations estimates nearly 1.5 million civilians remain in Mosul, and if Sunni citizens are harassed or outright killed by militias it could lend sympathy to defeated ISIS terrorists. ISIS’s history lies in a guerrilla insurgent force that capitalized on sectarian tensions to seize territory.

Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus parroted Mardini’s thinking in August, saying failure to stabilize post-ISIS Iraq could lead to the rise of another version of ISIS.  “The challenge of Mosul and Nineveh is the considerable number of ethnic groups, religious sects, tribes and other elements that make up the province.”

Ultimately, Petraeus warns the biggest challenge in Iraq is not the defeat of ISIS, but is “to ensure post-conflict security, reconstruction and, above all, governance that is representative of and responsive to the people.” He warns, “Failure to do so could lead to ISIS 3.0.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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This friendly fire incident hamstrung the P-38

The P-38 Lighting was a superb long-range fighter in all theaters of the war. The plane is best known for the “Zero Dark Thirty” operation of the Pacific Theater – the shoot-down of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto by Capt. Tom Lanphier.


But the P-38 didn’t get there right away.

In fact, given its ground-breaking design, it was going through a lot of teething problems.

According to AcePilots.com, one of the biggest problems was compressibility. The P-38 was one of the first planes to deal with it due to its high speed (up to 420 miles per hour), especially when they dove.

US special forces struggle to keep up this pace
This P-38 compressibility chart is taken from a USAAF P-38 pilot training manual. Pilots of early P-38s (ones without the 1943 dive flap retrofit) were advised against steep dives as compressibility would force the plane to dive more steeply as well as immobilize the controls, a situation that could prove fatal if initiated below 25,000 feet. (U.S. Air Force graphic)

What would happen is a shock wave of compressed air would form, keeping the plane’s elevators from working. The P-38s would be caught in a dive, and unable to pull out until they got to lower altitudes.

As a result, German fighters knew that diving was a way to escape. One pilot who had a close call was Air Force legend Robin Olds, who described his incident in an episode of “Dogfights.”

After a lot of work, Lockheed designed some flaps that would help address the issue by changing the airflow enough so the elevators would be able to function.

A number of kits were put together to be installed on P-38s in the field, but those destined to go to England never got there, hamstringing the P-38s there.

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Douglas C-54 Skymaster. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The reason?

A Royal Air Force pilot mistook the United States Army Air Force Douglas C-54 Skymaster cargo plane carrying the kits for a Luftwaffe Fw 200 Condor maritime patrol plane. Given the Condor’s reputation, they were prime targets. The C-54 was shot down, and the kits were lost.

As a result, the P-38s went into combat unable to pursue a German fighter diving to escape the “Fork Tailed Devil” and fight another day.

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Exclusive excerpt from quadruple amputee Travis Mills’ new book ‘As Tough As They Come’

US special forces struggle to keep up this pace


The following is a WATM exclusive excerpt from Staff Sergeant Travis Mills’ forthcoming book, As Tough as They Come, which will hit shelves on October 27:

We hiked only about 400 yards to the village. In addition to my weapons’ team, there were other squads along on the patrol, a total of twenty-eight soldiers. My lieutenant, Zachary Lewis, went to the left with the first and second squads, heading to meet with the village elders, while the rest of our men went with me around the village on the outside to offer support in case of an attack. Along with my gun team, I had my platoon sergeant and a medic, Sergeant Daniel Bateson. All looked calm. It seemed like just another day in Afghanistan. Another normal patrol.

We approached an abandoned ANA security post (two portable buildings), and stopped near the buildings to establish a security perimeter. I called for Fessey to bring the minesweeper. It’s a wand that goes up and around his arm, and it looks like a metal detector a guy would use at the beach. If the minesweeper makes a noise, that means something’s in the soil. Typically, we’re always listening to hear a beep. If we hear one, then we mark the spot, go around it, and have the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) guys dig out and dispose of whatever’s under there. Whenever we found an IED, we’d never mess with it ourselves. Mines can be unpredictable, and you want the experts to handle them. Some IEDs aren’t even made of metal, just plastic and glass, which can sometimes fool a minesweeper. But even then, the minesweeper is designed to have ground-penetrating capability. It can usually detect if something’s in the ground and it’s not soil.

“Check this area,” was the only order I gave.

Fessey walked up a path used by villagers and scanned all around the area. He went up and back, and all was clear. No beeps. There was no reason to question anything. Fessey finished his minesweeping duties and went to set up on the far flank.

I called Riot up to me and asked him where he thought we should put up the gun. I knew where it should go, but I wanted to let him decide, making sure he knew his stuff. He motioned to exactly where I thought we should put it, a good spot, and I said, “All right. Go get Neff and bring him up here.” That was it. Riot left to go get Neff, and as he did, I set my backpack down. The backpack touching the dirt was all it took.

Such a simple act of war. My world erupted.

I saw a flash of flame and heard a huge ka-boom. Hot jagged pieces of explosives ripped through me. I cartwheeled backward end over end, hit the ground, and slammed my face hard against the compacted earth. Instantly I felt my left eye starting to swell shut. I smelled burning flesh—my own. I tasted dirt, and I was wet with sweat and moisture like I’d just walked out of a hot shower.

Dirt fell everywhere through the air. It rained down and clung to my eyes, nose, and mouth. I don’t remember rolling over but I must have because I glanced to the side and saw that my right arm was completely gone. I caught a glimpse of my left arm, covered in blood and tattered. The arm trembled as if it had a will of its own. I looked down and saw that my right leg was also gone. The stump looked like a piece of raw meat. The bottom of my left leg was still attached but held on by only a few strands of skin. I saw all this in a flash, an instant.

I felt confusion but no panic. My first thought was of my guys. I flopped my remaining arm toward the microphone clipped to my plate carrier and somehow managed to push the button. “I hit a bomb,” I said. “I need help.”

Excerpted from TOUGH AS THEY COME by SSG Travis Mills with Marcus Brotherton; foreword by Gary Sinise. Copyright © 2015 by Travis Mills. Excerpted by permission of Convergent Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Editor’s note: Travis Mills will be speaking at the Veterans Institute Heroes Work Here Conference in Chicago on November 3.

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The Navy wants you to stop bringing drones from home

The Navy has released a message to its entire force telling them to please get their unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, certified before taking them to the skies in any capacity.


US special forces struggle to keep up this pace
Sorry, drone with its own GoPro. You’ll have to get certified before you can go on missions. (Photo: Don McCullough, CC BY 2.0)

The all Navy administrative message released by the SecNav Ray Mabus reminds all Navy commanders that any aircraft owned, leased, or procured in any way by the Department of the Navy must gain an “airworthiness approval” before it can be flown in any capacity.

So, leave your commercial, off-the-shelf drones at home until you get them certified sailor (or Marine)!

The Naval Air Systems Command told WATM, “The airworthiness assessments of small [commercial off-the-shelf] UAS  focus on the safety of flight, which assesses risks to personnel and property on the ground and in the air, and that the system can be operated safely and safety risks are understood and accepted by the appropriate authority.”

US special forces struggle to keep up this pace
This is not a chief throwing an unauthorized drone into the sea. This is just a sailor launching a drone that does have an airworthiness approval. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bill Dodge)

For everyone hoping that this announcement came because Lance Cpl. Schmuckatelli flew his drone into a Harrier engine while the big bird was attempting a vertical landing, no dice.

In their message to WATM, NAVAIR said that the ALNAV was released to alert UAS operators to existing policies because cheap, commercial drones had allowed Navy organizations who wouldn’t typically buy aircraft to do so.

The Navy is trying to bring these non-traditional aviators up to speed, not responding to Seaman Skippy’s assertion that no one had specifically said he couldn’t fly a drone over the carrier during flight ops.

Commanders with a full inventory of drones without airworthiness approvals don’t have to panic, though. NAVAIR said that it has streamlined the approval process for small, commercial drones and it can take as little as a few days.

Some factors could cause it to take much longer, such as if the drone will be used for an especially challenging purpose or in a dangerous operating environment.

Those who are curious can read the full ALNAV here.

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Watch these chefs try to turn Army food into gourmet cuisine

The standard U.S. Armed Forces field ration is, above all other considerations, designed to make you emotional.


Sure, an MRE needs to be nutritious. Obviously, it also needs to be lightweight, packable, durable, quick, and easy to prepare. It’s got to have a long shelf life because who knows when it’ll be called up for active duty. And at the end of the day — and not just because it’s the end of the day — the damn thing ought to taste good.

After years of research and development, laboratory refinement, and testing in the field, the military has the MRE dialed to within an inch of its life. Private, does your dinner have “Vegetable Rotini” stamped on its olive drab shrink wrap? Yes? Then, by God, you can trust that when you just add water, the thing you find rehydrated on the end of your spork will resemble a rotini (Vegetable Class) to the highest degree achievable by military science.

US special forces struggle to keep up this pace
Our host finds his feelings at the bottom of the feed bag. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl trusted in the prowess of the military’s culinary industrial complex. After all, he named his show after its signature offering.

When he visited the labs and testing facilities of the United States Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA, he was excited to spend some quality time covering familiar territory. What he didn’t count on was the depth of the emotional response that many of his interview subjects had to meals they’d eaten as soldiers in the field. And it turns out, that response is no accident.

We want it to be a quality meal that we provide to them. We don’t know if that’s going to be their last meal.

 –Stephen Moody, Director, Combat Feeding Directive

Watch host August Dannehl and fellow veteran Mike Williams, currently the Executive Chef of West Hollywood restaurant Norah, transform the military’s utilitarian ration MRE into a mouthwatering “Jambalaya Risotto with Duo of Duck.” 

Meals Ready to Eat can be seen on KCET in Southern California, on Link TV Nationwide (DirecTV 375 and DISH Network 9410), and online at KCET.org.

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How deployed soldiers celebrate Christmas

Every year, thousands of Americans in the military spend their holidays serving their country abroad. This year is no exception. In 2020, there are service members on every continent, in over 170 countries. 14,000 are deployed in Afghanistan, 13,000 in Kuwait, and thousands more in Iraq, Bahrain, Saudia Arabia, and countless other countries. Being away from home on Christmas can be lonely and painful, but it has a certain beauty of its own. 

Tradition is a big part of the military community, and celebrating the holidays is no exception. While stationed abroad, service members do whatever they can to make the season bright. It’s never the same as being home for the holidays, but the special moments spent on base make future Christmases at home all the brighter. 

Each base celebrates differently, but holiday celebrations are pretty universal. 

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Just after Thanksgiving, the preparations begin. Decorations vary, but soldiers do their best to deck the halls with makeshift trees, wreaths, and even lights. Some recreation programs host decorating contests with prizes to get everyone in the Christmas spirit. 

When the big day arrives, it’s often kicked off with a Christmas 5 or 10K. As the day goes on, you can expect to see service members going the extra mile to spread some smiles. Some might dress up as elves, Santa, or the Grinch, while others stroll about the base singing carols. It’s not all silliness, though. For those who want to, Christmas church services are usually offered all day long at the base chapel. 

Christmas is one of the few days that just about everyone is invited to relax and enjoy themselves. Soldiers spend time calling family, playing games, or spending time outside if the weather allows. On some bases, it’s even warm enough to go for a celebratory snorkel! 

Christmas dinner is typically a much-anticipated event. The meal is always next-level, with turkey or ham, all the fixings, and enough dessert to go around. In a touching twist, commanding officers often volunteer to serve their subordinates at dinner as a sign of appreciation and gratitude for their service. Often, the meal is accompanied by concerts or other live entertainment to raise morale. After dinner, soldiers gather for game nights or to watch classic Christmas films to bring the festivities to bring the evening to a peaceful close. 

Every base is a little different, but at the end of the day, their individual traditions are part of what makes a Christmas deployment a special experience. 

The people you share the season with might surprise you. 

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Many Americans are stationed in countries that don’t typically celebrate Christmas. One would expect to celebrate alone, but that’s not always the case. In some areas, like Bahrain, soldiers have been pleasantly surprised when the locals wished them a Happy Christmas. The culture on base often lightens up, too. Some soldiers have been surprised with pajama days, cocoa, and other luxuries that would normally be off-limits. 

The holiday reminds you of your priorities. 

US special forces struggle to keep up this pace

More than anything, Christmas reminds soldiers of why they enlisted in the first place. When you sit down to Christmas dinner on deployment, you’re breaking bread with those who have vowed to protect their country, their families, and each other. You’re sacrificing your holiday to help protect your traditions back home. It’s not easy, but a Christmas spent serving your country is one you’ll never forget. 

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Here’s what it’s like to fly a close air support mission against Islamic State militants

While the Pentagon has been very adamant with claims that none of the 4,000+ American troops in Iraq are involved in “combat,” American jets have been flying attack sorties against Islamic State (IS) militants. But what exactly goes into getting bombs on the bad guys? Here’s what a day in the life of an aircraft carrier-based crew is like:


The mission cycle begins with CENTCOM’s Joint Task Force sending the tasking order to the intelligence center on the aircraft carrier. From there, the air wing operations cell assigns sorties to the appropriate squadrons, and those squadrons in turn assign aircrews to fly the sorties. At that point aircrews get to work with intel officers and start planning every detail of the sortie.

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Mission planning in CVIC aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Once the long hours of mission planning are done, crews attempt a few hours of sleep. (The regs call for 8 hours of sleep before a hop, but that seldom happens.)

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(Photo: Flikr)

After quick showers and putting on “zoom bags” (flight suits), aviators hit the chow line before the mission brief.

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(Photo: Walter Koening)

All the crews involved with the mission gather for the “mass gaggle” brief, usually two and a half hours before launch time. After that elements break off for more detailed mission discussions.

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(Photo: U.S. Navy)

Meanwhile, on the flight deck maintainers fix gripes and make sure jets are FMC — “fully mission capable.”

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(Photo: U.S. Navy)

At the same time ordnance crews strap bombs onto jets according to the load plan published by Strike Operations.

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Ordies (in red jerseys) load 500-pounders onto Super Hornets aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Forty-five minutes before launch, crews head to the paraloft and put on their flight gear — G-suits, survival vests, and helmets. They also strap on a 9mm pistol in case they go down in enemy territory.

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(Photo: U.S. Navy)

Aviators walk to the flight deck and conduct a thorough preflight of their jets, including verifying that their loadouts are correct.

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Super Hornet pilot checks a GBU-12 – a laser-guided 500-pounder. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Once satisfied that the jet is ready, crews climb in and wait for the Air Boss in the tower to give them the signal to start ’em up.

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Super Hornet weapons system operator climbs into the rear cockpit of an F/A-18F Super Hornet. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

While lining up with the catapult for launch, pilots verify that the weight board is accurate.

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Green shirt holds up weight board showing a Super Hornet pilot that the catapult will be set for a 43,000 pound launch. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

With the throttles pushed to full power and the controls cycled to make sure they’re moving properly, the pilot salutes the cat officer. The cat officer touches the deck, signaling the operator in the catwalk to fire the catapult.

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Zero to 160 MPH in 2.2 seconds. Airborne! (Airplanes launching on Cats 1 and 2 turn right; those on Cats 3 and 4 turn left.)

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(Photo: U.S. Navy)

Overhead the carrier, Super Hornets top off their gas from another Super Hornet configured as a tanker.

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F/A-18F passes gas to an F/A-18E. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Wingmen join flight leads and the strike elements ingress “feet dry” over hostile territory.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The flight hits the tanker again, this time an Air Force KC-135.

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Super Hornet tanking from KC-135 (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

At that point the mission lead checks in with “Big Eye” — the AWACS — to get an updated threat status and any other late-breaking info that might be relevant.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

E/F-18 Growlers — electronic warfare versions of the Super Hornet — are part of the strike package in the event of any pop-up surface-to-air missile threats.

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Growler firing flares. (Photo: Boeing)

The AWACS hands the flight off to the forward air controller in company with Iraqi forces. The FAC gives the aviators a “nine-line brief” that lays out the details of the target and any threats surrounding it and the proximity of friendlies.

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USMC Forward Air Control team in Iraq. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The enemy has no idea what’s about to happen . . .

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ISIS trucks driving around Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: ISIS sources on the web)

Op away!

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F/A-18C releasing a laser-guided bomb. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Target in the cross-hairs of the Super Hornet’s forward looking infrared pod.

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(FLIR screen capture: U.S. Navy)

*Boom!*

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(FLIR screen capture: U.S. Navy)

 

Ground view . . .

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(Photo: U.S. Army)

Mission complete, the jets head back “feet wet,” stopping at the tanker once again along the way.

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Two Super Hornets tanking from a KC-10. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Jets hold over the carrier until it’s time to come into the break and enter the landing pattern. The aircraft from the event attempt to hit the arresting wires every 45 seconds or so.

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F/A-18F about to touch down. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Once the planes are shut down on the flight deck, aircrews head straight to CVIC with their FLIR tapes for battle damage assessment or “BDA.”

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(Photo: U.S. Navy)

At that point everybody waits for the word to start the process all over again . . .

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5 reasons why your contract marriage wasn’t the worst thing ever

“I, Private Schmuckatelli, take you, whatever your name is, to be my lawfully wedded wife.”


Many service members (not mentioning any names) spoke these words right before a deployment to move out of the small studio-sized barracks most likely for the extra money every month.

This money comes from the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). Implemented in January 1998 BAH pays housing expenses for service members to move off-base if the barracks are overcrowded or if a change in the member’s lifestyle warrants it (i.e., having a baby or getting married. After a certain pay grade, everyone receives BAH, but it is restricted in the lower ranks. That’s why some take the risk of a contract marriage.

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Who here married a stripper to move out of the barracks? (images via Giphy)

Although contract marriages are frowned upon by the chain of command, it’s a well-known practice utilized by all ranks today. Capitalizing on this financial loophole could benefit your future (depending on the person with whom you join in court-approved matrimony).

Here are a few added bonuses to your contract marriage that you may have never noticed before.

1. Renter’s History  

Signing a lease with a rental company starts your “Renter’s History.” As long as you pay your rent on time, this keeps you in good standing with the rental bureaus. Young service members may not have the best credit, but having good rental history is a step in the right direction.

Your contract marriage could help prevent you from being homeless in the future.

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“I am serious and don’t call me, Shirley.”  (Paramount Pictures)

2. Learn to Budget

Although the medical benefits are valuable, they could throw a curveball and require more money every month than you planned. Checking to see how much a service member earns is simple: you can Google it. Waiting to get paid on the 1st and 15th of every month could feel like a freaking eternity without a budget.

A contract marriage probably didn’t make you a millionaire even if it made you feel that way after that first check. So learn to…

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(Paramount/Dream Works,)

3. It Follows

Unfortunately, one crappy aspect of being in the military is how your command intervenes in your personal life. They like to know about everything and if you don’t tell them upfront, somehow they manage to find out.

If you plan on making the military a career, I advise against a contract marriage, especially when word gets out about your legally-binding “spouse” while you’re out hitting on every single person at the bar. Remember: it’s technically fraud, so good luck getting promoted.

People can often suck.

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4. Emotional Maturity

The average marrying age range in the civilian world is 25 to 27. However, in the military, the median falls at 22 – above legal drinking age, but not yet a mature adult. No one is condoning getting married for the benefits, but if you do and it doesn’t work out, you shouldn’t be surprised.

You were young, dumb and full of one bad idea after another. Your temporary spouse may not have been the perfect soulmate, but at least you narrowed it down.

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5. The Silver Lining

Looking back on it, would you do it again? Overall experiences will vary depending on if everything went to plan. The memories you have are what separates you as an individual and makes you unique. If it made you into a grumpy old man, then that sucks.

Take it for what it is. It’s always better to look toward the future than dwell in the past.

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“Beautifully put.” (New Line)                                                                                            

Articles

7 times when heroic veterans saved the day

Between random shootings and the ever growing threat of terrorism, people are getting scared. Fortunately, an unexpected trend is showing up to counter the endless stream of bad news. Over the last year, numerous acts of violence, robberies, general mayhem, and even a few acts of terrorism have been completely shut down by an unexpected source: The presence of a U.S. military veteran or active duty servicemember.


Here are 7 times heroic vets and servicemembers saved the day in a big way:

1. Chris Mintz

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Image courtesy of Gofundme.com Chris Mintz – UCC Shooting Survivor.

Chris Mintz is the current military man of the hour. Mintz is a 10-year veteran of the United States Army, but became national news when he protected classmates in a shooting rampage at the local community college he was attending. According to eyewitnesses, Mintz ran at the attacker and blocked a door to a classroom in the attempt to protect fellow classmates.

According to a student witness Chris “ran to the library and pulled all the alarms. He was telling people to run. … He actually ran back towards the building where the shooting was. And he ran back into the building.”

While attempting to stop the shooter, Mintz was shot an incredible seven times. He was rushed to surgery, but will require a great deal of recuperative care. To repay his heroism, a Gofundme was set up for $10,000 to go toward his medical expenses… because, you know, this wasn’t exactly something covered by the VA. That didn’t stop an army of supporters. That fund is currently just over $800,000 (and still active… right here… just sayin’.)

2. Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone

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Image courtesy of mmc-news.com.

The three-man team which included two U.S. military members who stopped a European terrorist attack in the middle of their vacation deserve a head-nod. National Guard Spc. Alek Skarlatos, a recent Afghanistan veteran, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, along with a civilian friend Anthony Sadler, earned international praise for stopping nothing less than a full-on terrorist gunman.

“My friend Alek (Skarlatos) yells, ‘Get him,’ so my friend Spencer (Stone) immediately gets up to charge the guy, followed by Alek, then myself,” Anthony Sadler said in an interview with CNN.

Stone received injuries during the fight between the Moroccan-born gunman, armed with an AK-47 rifle, a pistol, several clips of ammunition and… a box cutter. The Americans wrestled him to the ground after he opened fire and pulled, of all things, the box cutter.

“He clearly had no firearms training whatsoever,” said Skarlatos.

In spite of his ineptitude, no one is faulting these military men for their assailant’s incompetence. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter praised the two for their heroism in a statement, “Airman Stone and Specialist Alex Skarlatos are two reasons why—on duty and off—ours is the finest fighting force the world has ever known.” The men received a phone call of appreciation from President Obama, which was one-upped by French President Francois Hollande, who presented them with the country’s highest award for gallantry, the Legion d’Honneur medal.

3. Kendrick Taylor

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Image courtesy of wordondastreet.com.

In October 2014, 23-year-old John Zachary DesJardin was apparently expecting an easy payday. In the parking lot of a Winn Dixie, DesJardin attempted to rob a 76-year-old woman, according to police. I say attempted because of the beat down he suffered from Navy veteran Kendrick Taylor. Taylor was on his way to gym when he saw DesJardin assaulting the elderly woman. In spite of numerous bystanders doing nothing, Taylor charged across the lot to fight the man off.

“What if that was my grandmother? She was screaming for help. That’s when I ran over to help her,” Taylor said in an interview with WESH-TV in Orlando. “When I looked down I didn’t know if he had a knife or a gun. When I saw the lady was so old when he threw her down, she was so fragile…I knew she needed help.”

DesJardin took off, but Taylor ran after him, tackling him to the ground and holding him down until police arrived. Once Taylor handed off the hoodlum to police he went to the gym, since, you know, Superhero antics are the sort of thing that just happens to some people every day, but not unless you get your flex on. Later, he was able to meet with the elderly woman to see that she was shaken, but said she was blessed to have Taylor’s intervention. Taylor’s act got him so much recognition he even made the big show, with an appearance on Ellen.

4. Andrew Myers

Andrew Myers Screenshot via Youtube: Mr. Wrong House – “Burglar meets Paratrooper”

It was just an unassuming night in November 2014 when Andrew Myers noticed a man trying to enter a basement in his neighborhood. Sensing mischievousness was afoot, Myers asked the man, “Hey, what’s up?”

“I live here,” said the hooded man.

“You definitely do not live here,” Myers replied. Then the robber asked who Myers was, to which he responded,

“I do live here, buddy.”

A better question the attempted burglar might have asked was, “Hey, you wouldn’t happen to be a former US Army Paratrooper would you?” That would have been smart, since Myers was prepared for this encounter.

It was actually the second time the burglar had made such an attempt, evidenced by a break-in Myers and his girlfriend experienced earlier in the week when no one was home. This unwanted entrance prompted the couple to install an outside security camera and other defensive measures to the house. When the robber returned, Myers made sure that the incident was filmed. And film it he did. Myers captured not only the attempted entry, but also the culprit’s beat down and even his arrest, all of which Myers then uploaded to Youtube to the backdrop of delightful reggae tunes.  

In all honesty, the incompetent criminal got off easy. Myers and his girlfriend had joked about setting up “Home Alone” style traps all over the basement. Since most infantry types I know consider the claymore mine to be an essential element to any boobie trap setup, I’d say that just getting your face punched in by an Army paratrooper and humiliated on the internet a much more preferable alternative.

5. Eddy Peoples

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Screenshot via ABC news.

Florida Army Staff Sgt. Eddy Peoples wasn’t expecting much when he and his two sons entered a local bank while on leave in June of 2011. He certainly wasn’t expecting 34-year-old Matthew Rogers to walk into the bank with a gun and a plan to rob the place.

During the robbery, video footage shows Peoples shielding his two boys. He tells the two to get under chairs before he moved in front of the children. He wanted to provide a covering shield through both himself and the furniture in case Rogers decided to open fire. Seeing the two boys, Rogers allegedly threatened everyone in the bank that, “If anyone tries anything, the kiddy gets it.”

I’m guessing that was the wrong thing to do to the child of an 11 year soldier and veteran of the Iraq War.

“To me, it was just I need to get this guy and he needs to go to jail. That’s all it was for me. You know, you don’t point weapons at children.”

Once Peoples saw Rodgers leave the bank, and knowing that his kids were safe, the staff sergeant followed the robber. Peoples got into his car and chased him down, disarmed the assailant before putting him to the ground.

When he returned the bank, his son asked him this, “Daddy, did you get that bad man?” to which Peoples replied “Yeah, I got that bad man.”

6. Devin McClean

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Screenshot from Youtube via CBS News.

Not every story ends the way you’d like it to. In York County, Va. an Autozone was robbed for the second time in 30 days… by the same guy. Known as the “Fake Beard Bandit,” this one person was believed to be responsible for sticking up more than 30 different establishments in the city. The second time he made his way into the Autozone, he pulled his gun and demanded cash from the store’s employees.

One of those employees was Air Force veteran Devin McClean. When the bandit started to rob the store, McClean went to his vehicle, where he stored his own weapon. He went back into the store and sent the robber running. A grateful store manager thanked McClean for saving his life. In a perfect world, the story should end there… but it didn’t.

The day is saved. The bad guy chased away. The store is safe. How does Autozone say thank you to McClean? The next day, he was fired. According to McClean, upon his arrival the following morning, he was sent packing. Apparently he violated the chain’s, “Zero Gun Policy” when he brought the weapon into the establishment… you know… to save everyone… from the other guy with the gun… which he did.

Local Sheriff J.D. Diggs made the comment,

“I mean, two people with guns, no shots fired and a robbery averted is a good ending… I thought what a shame this guy has really gone above and beyond. I mean what else could you ask an employee to do for you?”

Sheriff Diggs was joined by hundreds of citizens in voicing their support for McClean, insisting that Autozone review their policy, or at the very least, make an exception for the Air Force vet. They didn’t. He’s still fired. I’m just going to be honest, my Spidey sense tells me there is more to this story, but in the meantime, to all my friends at Autozone Corporate Headquarters, this Oo-rah’s goin’ to O’Reilly’s.

7. Earl Jones

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Earl Jones recounts shooting a would be robber. Screenshot from Military.com.

Earl Jones is not your average 92-year-old. He is a veteran of the Second World War and doesn’t like being woken up. He especially doesn’t like being woken by the sound of intruders entering his basement at 0200. Hearing the sound of footsteps, Jones grabbed his .22 caliber rifle and, by my understanding, set up an ambush on the door to the basement.

When 24-year-old Lloyd Maxwell and two other burglars allegedly kicked in the door from the basement into the house, one was greeted with a well-aimed shot to the chest by a guy who has been hard-core since most of our Dads were in diapers. Maxwell was later found dead by police with the other two assailants, who had grabbed his body and fled the scene.

“Was I scared? Was I mad? Hell, no,” Jones told CBS News.

When asked why he didn’t dial 911, Jones replied:

“What? I’m a military man now. I ain’t gonna dial somebody and have to wait for an hour or somethin’. The damn guys would a shoot me in the face and gone. If I hadn’t a shot him, he’d a been in here attacking more or whatever, you know. That’s seconds. That ain’t no damned hours.”

Old man, you’ve made me personally reevaluate every one of my manly achievements. I’m just going to say this… WWII veterans make all the rest of us look like pansies.

Besides being an awesome and terrifying old man, Earl Jones sums up what heroism is about. It’s seconds. It isn’t hours or even minutes. I personally support our police and am thankful for everything they do to keep us safe on a daily basis. At their best, though, it may take several minutes to respond to the scene of crime. A generation of veterans are showing that security can’t always be waited on, but sometimes revolves around individual initiative, courage, and capabilities of those who are willing to exercise extreme prejudice towards the kind of noncompliance to the public welfare that bad guys often exude.

When news of terrorist attacks, school shootings, and the old-fashioned muggings, burglary, and vandalism is the new norm, it becomes more and more apparent that people who are willing and able to act in the moment are what is needed to ensure a level of safety.

Heroism isn’t about people who go out looking for trouble, or those who plan out vigilante assaults. Heroes are those who, in the time of challenging, accept a certain degree of risk to protect others and serve the general public. Sometimes, when these acts are caused by other people, heroism comes in the form of those people at the wrong place and time, but willing to put forth just enough violence to make life livable for the rest of us.

There is a moral to this post. Men like these show how all veterans and active duty military personnel remain valuable to society even when not on duty, as well as long after they hang their discharge papers on the wall. The core values of military service, along with the skills many pick up along the way, are assets we take with us far beyond the battlefield, or at the times when our service is least expected.

Despite these truths, veterans still struggle to find a place for themselves in the nation they gave up so much for. They’ve been unconsciously branded as likely psyche cases and negatively stereotyped as a risk to perhaps, oddly enough, bringing violence into the workplace. These seven stories of the unexpected heroism by military men, along with dozens of others just like them, demonstrate how we still have incredible significance to our nation as more than just old warriors, but as valued citizens and lifelong servants, as well.

Jon Davis is a Marine veteran writer and blogger focusing on military, international defense, and veterans’ welfare and empowerment. If you would like to support his writing, please visit his patreon support page to find out more.

Articles

6 Other Times There Was Gunfire And Brian Williams Was Nowhere To Be Found

It was revealed today that NBC anchor Brian Williams has been telling a story about the Iraq invasion that turned out to be well, untrue. As Travis Tritten reported in Stars and Stripes on Wednesday, the anchor’s long-told story of being on a helicopter in 2003 in Iraq that was hit by RPG fire was a false claim repeated by him and the network for years.


Here at WATM, we strive to go above and beyond. We researched other times there was gunfire or battles occurring, and we found that in all these other instances, Brian Williams was again, nowhere to be found.

The Capture of Saddam Hussein

If Brian Williams was on site, we probably could have seen awesome footage of Delta Force operators kicking down doors, clearing rooms, and ultimately, capturing one of the world’s most-wanted men. But sadly, Brian Williams wasn’t there.

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The Battle of Tora Bora

Though it would’ve been pretty sweet if he was around to watch U.S. Special Forces search for Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda fighters, we checked and it turns out that Brian Williams wasn’t there.

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Photo: Wikimedia

All those times the U.S. hit militants in Yemen with drone strikes

We meticulously researched through Air Force and CIA records and it turns out that Brian Williams was not on a drone when it struck militants in Yemen. Even more shocking though, he wasn’t there in Pakistan, Afghanistan or any drone strikes.

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The Osama bin Laden raid

Oh man. It would’ve been awesome if he was there to report on Bin Laden taking a couple bullets to the grape, but Brian Williams was in fact, not there.

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Battle of Alasay, codename Operation Dinner Out

French allies confirmed that Brian Williams may have taken the operation name literally and actually went out for dinner.

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Photo: Wikimedia

On the rooftop with Blackwater fighters shooting militants in the Battle of Najaf

It was a pretty controversial time when military contractors were found to be helping — and sometimes directing — soldiers in the defense of their compound. Brian Williams could have been there to report on what was happening at the time, but, as the video shows, he wasn’t even there.

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WATM Executive Editor Paul Szoldra helped with this masterpiece.

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