USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel - We Are The Mighty
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USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) had what one report described as a “close encounter” with an Iranian vessel on April 24.


According to a report by Fox News, the Iranian vessel was a “fast attack craft” used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy. USS Mahan was forced to change course, the crew manned weapons, fired flares, and sounded a danger signal. The Iranian vessel stayed over 1,000 yards from the Mahan, but its weapons were manned.

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel
USS Mahan (DDG 72). (U.S. Navy photo)

According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, Iran has over 100 “fast attack craft” of varying types. The most notorious of these are roughly 30 Boghammers, which can reach speeds of up to 45 knots, and are armed with .50-caliber machine guns or twin 23mm anti-aircraft guns and either a 12-round 107mm rocket launcher, a 106mm recoilless rifle, or a RPG-7. American forces destroyed at least five of these vessels during naval clashes with Iran in 1987 and 1988.

This is not the first time USS Mahan has had a close call with Iranian vessels. In January, 2017, the Mahan had to fire warning shots at similar craft that came within 900 yards. The Iranian vessels backed off.

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel

In March, 2017, the missile-range instrumentation vessel USNS Invincible (T AGM 24) was harassed by Iranian forces twice. In one incident, an Iranian frigate came within 150 yards of the Military Sealift Command vessel.  The second incident saw IRGC speedboats approach within 600 yards of the Invincible.

That same month, the commander of United States Central Command, Army Gen. James Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iran was the primary concern in the region.

“We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” said Votel, citing Iran’s support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Bashir Assad’s regime in Syria. “It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world.”

 

Articles

This airman is a survivor — and a leader

Air Force Staff Sgt. Srun Sookmeewiriya — or “Sook,” as many people know him — may seem like a happy and carefree airman at first glance.


The 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron’s noncommissioned officer in charge of reports regularly puts forth an earnest effort here to keep his unit alive and running, so his dark past and his struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts come as a surprise to many.

“He’s like the morale person — that’s what everybody else refers him to,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Melissa Vela, the 313th EOSS NCO in charge of console operations. “He’s so full of energy. He’s so infectious, he makes everybody laugh.”

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel
Air Force Staff Sgt. Srun Sookmeewiriya, 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of reports, holds a picture of himself with his younger brother, Thana, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Feb. 16, 2017. Sookmeewiriya, who attempted to commit suicide twice, said he draws inspiration from his brother to remain resilient and encourages airmen to open up about their struggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua)

Unknown to many of his wingmen, Sook’s current persona is possible only because he recovered from serious trauma he experienced as a young man. When Sook still lived in his native Thailand, both of his parents committed suicide. He witnessed his mother’s suicide, and he found his father’s body after his father had taken his own life and attempted to kill Sook’s younger brother, Thana.

“I saw him lying there in bed,” he recalled. “I wasn’t sure what happened. I tried to wake him up to see if he was still alive. I thought I was alone, and I didn’t know who I would go to now. My head was just spinning at that point. It was a shock.” Thana survived the gunshot wound, but was never the same, physically or mentally, Sook said.

Suicide Attempts

With his mother and father gone, Thana was the only family Sook had left. He went to a boarding school, where he said depression haunted him and other children bullied him for not having parents. This led to a suicide attempt by ingesting a large amount of over-the-counter medication. He was in a coma for two days.

Sook finished boarding school and eventually immigrated to the United States, where Thana would join him soon afterward. Sook spent his early time in the U.S. with relatives from his father’s first marriage. He would bounce from family to family because of his troubled personality, he said, and he also felt as if he was just an outsider because of his status as a “half-relative.”

“I felt like I didn’t belong, because I wasn’t a part of their family,” Sook said. “I didn’t feel any emotion when I hugged them.”

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel
Trauma can take many forms; in recent years the military is striving to raise awareness of its symptoms and provide treatment.

The feeling of being an outsider overwhelmed Sook, and he tried to kill himself again.

“I didn’t want to deal with the state I was in: not feeling welcome and not feeling like I was part of the family,” he said. “At that time as a kid, I thought that the best way was to just end it all and leave.”

Sook said he tried to hide his attempted suicide, but his relatives eventually found out and sent him to a doctor to get help. His half-sister, Kim, was especially appalled, and confronted him about what he done. She asked, “What about your brother?”

Also read: 5 things military spouses need to know about PTSD

“When she mentioned my brother, I totally thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m leaving him behind,'” Sook said. That’s when he decided to turn around and confront his issues instead of running from them. Sook described his brother as his inspiration in his fight against depression.

“He was the only family I had up to that point. It was me and him. He has been through a lot tougher things than I had. Because of the gunshot wound, he was scarred for life. He didn’t grow up normally, but he never gave up. That’s one reason why I should not and will not give up on him, because he didn’t either.”

Strength in Recovery

As part of his recovery process, Sook found strength in his faith and from Kim, who helped him get back on his feet.

“It took me a while — basically, a couple years,” he said. “I think I’m still bouncing back to this day. I think of this tragedy as a lesson, and that lesson is to not repeat the same thing that [my parents] did.”

Sook joined the Air Force as a civil engineer airman, and cross-trained to be an air mobility controller. He adopted Thana as his dependent, and eventually married and started a family. He noted that although his life still has its ups and downs, he copes by confiding in his wife. He also expressed gratitude for the support his coworkers give him continuously.

“Having a good work center in the Air Force actually helped me out a lot,” he said. “When I have other issues, they continue to help me out.”

Vela described how surprised she was when Sook opened up to her about his past, saying that she would have never guessed that an airman like Sook would have experienced so much trauma.

“I was speechless the whole time he told his story,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, are you OK?’ To me, I can see the strength in his words and his actions. Seeing the strength that he had to come forth and tell his story is amazing.”

Encouragement for Others

Sook shares his story occasionally with the public, hoping to encourage people suffering from depression to seek help and not to try to survive on their own. He said he emphasizes how important it is to open up to people who care, and that many people are standing by at agencies on the base ready to assist in their battle against depression.

“Don’t bottle up those issues,” he added. “If you stress out, talk it out. Find somebody who is willing to listen.”

Sook said he encourages airmen to look for a cause and to do what it takes to survive so they can continue to fight for it.

“Don’t give up. Look for what you’re fighting for,” he said. “I fight for my brother, my wife, and my kids. It’s their future and my future.”

Articles

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

Air Mobility Command has grounded the C-5 Galaxy cargo planes operating at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware after a nose landing-gear unit malfunctioned for the second time in 60 days.


The stand-down order, issued July 17, affects all 18 C-5s stationed at Dover — 12 of them are primary and six are backup aircraft, according to a release.

The Air Force has 56 C-5s in service.

“Aircrew safety is always my top priority and is taken very seriously,” Air Mobility Command’s chief, Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, said in a release. “We are taking the appropriate measures to properly diagnose the issue and implement a solution.”

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker

An Air Mobility Command spokesman told Military.com that both malfunctions involved C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft. On May 22 and again July 15, the planes’ “nose landing gear could not extend all the way,” the spokesman said. The C-5M was introduced in 2009 and is the latest model of the C-5.

Air Force personnel will perform inspections “to ensure proper extension and retraction of the C-5 nose landing gear,” Air Mobility Command said. The halt applies only to C-5s at Dover, and Air Mobility Command said it would work to minimize the effect on worldwide operations.

Also read: Behold, the largest plane in the US Air Force

The C-5 is the Air Force’s largest airlifter. It has a 65-foot-tall tail and is 247 feet long with a 223-foot wingspan. The first version, the C-5A, entered service in 1970, and several models have joined the fleet since then.

The C-5M was given more powerful engines, allowing it to carry more cargo and take off over a shorter distance. It can haul 120,000 pounds of cargo more than 5,500 miles — the distance from Dover to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey — without refueling. Without cargo, its range is more than 8,000 miles.

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel
USAF Airmen load an M1A1 Abrams Tank into an Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy cargo aircraft. (USAF photo by Roland Balik)

In recent years, budgets cuts and sequestration compelled Air Force leadership to begin taking C-5Ms out of service.

Everhart, the Air Mobility Command chief, said in March that total C-5 inventory had fallen to 56 from 112 a few years ago.

But the Air Force has made moves to reverse that deactivation, saying it plans to move at least eight mothballed C-5Ms back into service, using newly allocated funds, over the next four years.

That return to service would partially overlap with an upgrade project for the active fleet of airlifters that is slated to wrap up in 2018.

“I need them back because there’s real-world things that we’ve got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability,” Everhart told lawmakers at the end of March.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is now controlling citizens by targeting their dogs

Keep your dog on a leash. Make sure your pet doesn’t bark. Clean up after them.

These are the rules that have been enforced in 2018 in Jinan, eastern China, which launched its “Civilized Dog-Raising Credit Score System” system to enforce responsible dog ownership, according to Sixth Tone.

Over the last few years, China has introduced several social ranking systems, including an app in Shanghai that rates people’s honesty, and a bikeshare platform which rewards citizens for good behavior.


Most notably, China is setting up a mandatory country-wide ranking system system that will monitor the behavior of its enormous population, and rank them all based on their “social credit.” The vast program is due to be fully operational by 2020, but pilot programs have already taken off across several cities.

How it works

Jinan’s dog credit system is similar to the other ranking systems that are proliferating across the country, and aims to improve people’s behavior.

The program, launched January 2017, is compulsory and gives registered dog owners a license that begins with 12 points, according to Sixth Tone.

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel

(Flickr photo by Lindsey B)

Points are deducted for things like walking the dog without a leash or collar, not cleaning up after them, and neighborhood disturbances. Good deeds, like volunteering at a local shelter, can increase owners’ points.

The sticks and carrots

The points system appears to have worked.

In August 2018, authorities said 80% of dog owners now use leashes, according to Sixth Tone, and complaints about dogs biting or barking were down by 65%, the state-run China Daily reported in August 2018.

Since the enforcement of the system, more than 1,400 dog owners have also been fined or lost points on their license.

Those who lost all their points had their dogs confiscated and were required to pass a test on regulations required for pet ownership.

A local dog owner told Sixth Tone that when registering her dog, the pet was vaccinated, implanted with a microchip and had its picture taken. The owner then received a tag with a QR code that police can use to look up the dog breed, age, immunization status, plus the owner’s personal information and number of license points.

The tag also allows for geolocation, and costs around plus annual tag inspections for an additional cost.

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel

(Photo by Alan Levine)

The new system also allows police to confiscate dogs that are unregistered by the state. China’s state-owned Legal Daily newspaper praised the credit system and called for it to be implemented across the country.

Several cities have also adopted stricter pet ownership laws. In Qingdao, located along the coast in Shandong, citizens are only allowed to have one dog per person and ban certain dog breeds.

The Chinese government has also introduced widespread measures to monitor its citizens and encourage good behavior.

The country is working to combine its 170+ million security cameras with artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology to create a vast surveillance state and keep tabs on its 1.4 billion inhabitants.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The earliest-born American to be photographed is also a veteran

Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with George Washington. He was also the earliest-born person, one of only a handful of Revolutionary War veterans, to be photographed. But there is one important historical inaccuracy in the legend of Conrad Heyer that may not add up.


Heyer was born an American in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (now the State of Maine) around 1749. He sat for this photo in 1852, at age 103. In that time, he saw the young republic finish the British off during the American Revolution and fight them, again, to a draw in the War of 1812. He saw President Jefferson purchase Louisiana and watched President Polk and the U.S. Army defeat Santa Anna in the Mexican-American War of 1847.

In his 107 years of life, he saw 15 Presidents of the United States, 31 colonies and territories become U.S. states, and barely missed the start of the Civil War.

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel
TV wasn’t around back then. He had to watch something.

Although this is not the earliest photo of an American, Heyer was the earliest-born American to be photographed (and this is actually a daguerrotype — an early kind of photography).

In the telling of Conrad Heyer’s Revolutionary War tale, however, people have been adding one detail for decades that just might not be true: that Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with General Washington in 1776.

Washington’s daring plan to attack Hessian mercenaries in Trenton on Christmas, 1776, was audacious and dangerous. Any troop who fell into the icy river would likely die — and two of the three flat boats set to make the crossing didn’t even make it. Somehow, Heyer was counted among those in Washington’s boat, according to the Maine Historical Society.

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel
Look out for icebergs, Conrad.

The Journal of the American Revolution did some digging into Heyer’s story. They went back to the sworn testimony Heyer gave years after the Revolution when applying for a veteran’s pension.

In 1818, Congress allotted funds to give pensions to veterans of the Continental Army who were struggling financially. Applicants had to prove their service either by enlistment documents or sworn testimony of those they served with. Don N. Hagist went back to the National Archives for the Journal of the American Revolution and found Heyer’s original sworn testimony, along with the support of his officers.

Heyer did serve in the Continental Army, but his testimony states he served for a year, starting in the middle of December, 1775. But Heyer says he was discharged in December 1777. This could allow for Heyer to have served at the Battle of Trenton. The records of Heyer’s unit, the 25th Continental Regiment, indicate that the unit served in Canada and was disbanded in New Jersey in 1776.

It looks like the year 1777 was a mistake made by the person who wrote Heyer’s pension deposition, as mentions of Heyer and his unit disappear into history a year earlier.

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel
But not the hearts of Revolutionary War re-enactors.

If he was discharged in Fishkill, New York, as records show, then there is little chance he could have been at the Delaware River crossing in time to join Washington by Christmas, even if he did re-enlist.

But by the time he died, his obituary claimed he’d served three years in the Revolution. Heyer, in reaffirming his pension claim in 1855, swore that he served those three years and was also at the Battle of Saratoga, being present to see General John Burgoyne surrender to Horatio Gates and was later part of Washington’s “bodyguard.”

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel
His second exploit worthy of a painting.

This is where Heyer could be correct — there is no complete list of members of General Washington’s guard corps. The guard was hand-picked from members of Washington’s field army.

But never once did Heyer ever swear that he was with Washington at the Delaware Crossing.

See Conrad Heyer’s pension statements at the Journal of the American Revolution.

Articles

There was lots of buzz at Sundance for this dramatic slave story

Nate Parker’s film The Birth of a Nation won Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury and Audience prizes for a drama, just days after the production company signed a record $17.5 million distribution deal with Fox Searchlight. The film is about what happens to a former slave after he leads a liberation movement to free other slaves.


USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel

The movie is based on actual events, and the uprising did not end well for the slaves or Nat Turner, the man who led it.

Turner was a slave from Southampton County, Virginia. He could read and write, which was unusual for slaves.  He was also deeply religious, devoted to fasting and prayer.

Turner would have visions that guided him through his life. He conducted Baptist church services and was dubbed “The Prophet” by his fellow slaves. While working in his owner’s fields one day, Turner heard “a loud noise in the heavens, and the Spirit instantly appeared to me and said the Serpent was loosened, and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and that I should take it on and fight against the Serpent, for the time was fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first.”

In 1830, a man named Joseph Travis purchased Turner. It was while under Travis’ ownership Turner would make his move. The next year, an atmospheric disturbance made the sun appear bluish-green in Virginia. Turner took this as a sign, and prepared to start his rebellion.

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel

On August 22, 1831, thirty years before the Civil War, Turner and an inner circle of trusted slaves gathered. They killed the Travis family as they slept, then went house-to-house freeing slaves and killing white people. His number soon grew to over 40 slaves, most on horseback.

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel

Sixty whites were killed before Turner’s rebellion was put down. Even then, it took twice the number of men in the responding Federal and Virginia militias, along with three artillery companies to defeat the uprising. His rebellion crushed, Turner hid around the Travis farm until his capture on October 30. He was quickly tried, convicted, hanged, and skinned.

Retaliatory attacks from white mobs killed 200 more slave and free black men, women, and children. The state legislature of Virginia considered abolishing slavery, but decided instead to keep it and its repressive policy against all black people in the state, especially enforced illiteracy among slaves.

The Turner Rebellion is one of the defining events in the lead up to the American Civil War, on par with John Brown’s raid on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry.

MIGHTY TRENDING

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will pay his respects at a war memorial in Darwin, the Australian city devastated by Japanese bombing in 1942, in the first formal visit from a Japanese leader to Darwin since during World War II.

Abe is expected to visit the Darwin Cenotaph, a monument to the country’s servicemen, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a historic and symbolic meeting.

It will be the leaders’ first meeting since the Australian PM unexpectedly took office in August 2018.


Abe also plans to take a look at Japan’s biggest ever foreign investment, the gigantic $U40 billion Ichthys gas project, which began shipping LNG in October 2018.

Abe is expected to cement ties with Australia by promoting Tokyo’s “free and open Indo-Pacific” policy, touted to “promote stability and prosperity in areas between Asia and Africa rooted in rule-based order and freedom of navigation,” as well as reconfirm cooperation in maritime security, Japanese government sources told The Japan Times.

During his visit Abe will visit a memorial erected in 2017 to commemorate 80 seamen killed about a month before the infamous bombing of Darwin in February 1942.

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel

The explosion of a ship, filled with TNT and ammunition, hit during the first Japanese air raid on Australia’s mainland, at Darwin on Feb. 19, 1942.

Allied forces sank one of four Japanese submarines that tried to attack the northern town, according to The Australian newspaper

The I-124 submarine now lies on the seabed off Darwin. It is ­thought to be intact and undisturbed.

Abe goes to Canberra

Abe’s visit to Australia, and his hectic Asian Pacific schedule is widely viewed by analysts as a counter to Beijing’s growing influence across the Indo-Pacific.

The show of postwar reconciliation and the tightening of strategic bonds will strengthen Canberra and Tokyo’s economic and defense ties at a time when China is asserting its role in the region and US engagement in Asia under the Trump administration is less certain, the Times noted.

Japan and Australia normalized ties in 1957, with the signing of the “Agreement on Commerce”, just 12 years after the end of World War II.

The deal was controversial at the time as many Australians said Canberra had moved too quickly to sign a formal agreement with its regional adversary and the only nation to attempt to invade modern Australia, Japan.

Today that agreement is widely seen as a critical turning point in Australia’s engagement with its own backyard and Asia as a whole.

Abe’s visit comes almost two years after the Japanese prime minister made a similar significant visit to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in December 2016.

Pearl Harbour was the site of the 1941 attack by Japan that brought the US roaring into the second world war, and prompted then President Franklin Roosevelt to name Dec. 7, 1941, as “a date which will live in infamy.”

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivers his “Day of Infamy” speech to Congress on December 8, 1941.

On that day, Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2,300.

Yet the bombing attack on Darwin was even more brutal than Pearl Harbor.

More bombs were dropped on Darwin, more civilians killed, and more ships sunk.

Japan’s sudden and ferocious campaign finally brought a distant war home for Australians and Darwin became the frontline.

It was the largest and most destructive single attack mounted by a foreign power on Australia and led to the worst death toll from any event in the nation’s history.

More than 240 people were killed by the air raid in the former stronghold of Allied forces. Darwin later endured dozens more Japanese air attacks.

The visits reflect Abe’s intention for a postwar Japan to shore up regional ties with allies like the US and Australia.

Japan faces both military and economic challenges as a growing China flexes its regional muscle and poses more of a strategic question for Japan’s key ally, the US.

While Japan expressed biter disappointment that France beat it to lucrative contracts for Australia’s multi-billion dollar revamp of its ailing submarine fleets the two nations have moved closer to signing off on the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) — which would effectively allow Australian and Japanese forces to move freely in and out of either territory.

Japan is also likely to be pleased with prime minister Morrison’s “Pacific pivot” speech on Nov. 9, 2018, committing some billion to support infrastructure projects around the region — largely in line with Japanese intentions to diversify sources of investment in the region away from China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Abe’s visit will be bookended by Association of Southeast Asian Nations-related meetings in Singapore and a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Papua New Guinea.

All after meeting with the US vice president Mike Pence who arrived in Japan Monday evening Tokyo time, as the two held brief talks Tuesday before traveling onto Singapore and then to Australia.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Vet congresswoman wants Air Force to put down tubas and pick up guns

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel
We’re headed for the rifle range right after we finish this whacky jam session, we promise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker)


Representative Martha McSally, R-Az., an Air Force veteran, launched into the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing in the Capitol after they testified that manning levels were too low and budget cuts were too high. According to a story posted at Air Force Times, McSally called their logic the “newest excuse” for prematurely retiring the venerable A-10 “Warthog” attack aircraft, and she questioned if it wouldn’t be wiser to cut non-essential personnel like “the hundreds of people playing tuba and clarinet.”

“If we really had a manning crisis, from my perspective, we would really tell people to put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or a gun,” McSally said during the hearing. “But we’re not at that place, and I’m just concerned over these conflicting statements.”

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel
Then Lt.Col. McSally about to get her BRRRRTTT! on. (USAF photo)

“We’ve mothballed the equivalent of four A-10 squadrons since 2012, we have only nine remaining, and there are actually less airplanes in them than we used to have,” McSally said.

“It’s not just a platform issue, it’s a training issue,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, CJCS, replied. “As the advocate for close-air support and joint capabilities, I absolutely believe we need a transition plan, and there needs to be a replacement for the A-10 before it goes away.”

“We need a fifth-generation fighter, but when it comes to close-air support, the F-35 having shortfalls in loiter time, lethality, weapons load, the ability to take a direct hit, to fly close combat … and … needs evaluation,” she said.

McSally knows a thing or two about the topic of military aviation. She graduated from the Air Force Academy and then spent 22 years serving as an attack pilot, including commanding an A-10 squadron. In 2001 she famously sued DoD over the policy of making female service members wear veils while stationed in Saudi Arabia. She retired at the rank of lieutenant colonel and spent a year as a college professor in Germany before running for Congress. She lost a close race for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District in 2012, and then won a close race two years later.

And, for the record, the Air Force says it currently has about 540 enlisted airmen and 20 officers assigned to band billets.

Articles

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

The M1 Abrams was the best tank in the world for a long time – and its Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom combat record backed it up. But lately, Army officers are warning that other tanks are catching up, including Russia’s T-14 and T-90, the British Challenger 2, and the Israeli Merkava IV.


Yeah, the Israelis have designed their own tank. According to waronline.org, the Merkava came about after the Israelis were unable to buy the British Chieftain main battle tank due to concerns from diplomats. Lessons learned from the 1973 Yom Kippur War were also applied to the tank’s development. What emerged was something that protected its crew, had good firepower, and a lot of ammo storage. In fact, the crew protection aspect was heightened by a decision to put the engine at the front of the tank.

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel
A tank crew in an M1A2 Abrams belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division completes tank gunnery qualification at Presidential Range in Swietoszow, Poland, January 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke, 4th ID MCE Public Affairs/Released)

The latest version of the Merkava is the Merkava 4, with a 120m main gun and capacity for up to 48 rounds, according to Army-Technology.com. It also has a 60mm mortar – a unique weapon among tanks – as well as three 7.62mm machine guns. The tank, though, is slow, with a top speed of 29 miles per hour according to militaryfactory.com.

We’re familiar with the M1 Abrams. It has a 120mm main gun with 40 rounds, a .50-caliber machine gun, and two 7.62mm machine guns. It is very tough (recall that in Desert Storm, this tank deflected T-72 main guns rounds fired from 400 meters away), but it is also fast – with a top speed of 42 miles per hour.

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel

Crew training in both of these tanks is really a wash. The American Abrams crews are probably among the best in the world. So are the Israelis (in fact, during the Yom Kippur War, vastly outnumbered Israeli tanks held the line against a much larger Syrian force in the Battle of the Valley of Tears).

So, which tank wins? Much will depend on which tank’s “game” is being played. If the Merkava is defending, it has the edge. This will be particularly true if the terrain forces a unit with Abrams tanks to come right at the Merkavas.

But if the fight is a mobile fight, then the Abrams’ speed will give it the edge.

Articles

2 more female soldiers have completed Army Ranger School

Two female Infantry officers have completed U.S. Army Ranger School and are scheduled to be awarded the coveted tabs during their graduation ceremony on March 31 at Victory Pond, a Fort Benning spokesman confirmed.


The Army did not release the names of the women, who will be among 119 soldiers to receive their tabs in March. The Army did confirm that they were both graduates of the Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course.

“The Maneuver Center of Excellence focuses on training leaders every day through an array of professional military education and first-class functional training that results in increased readiness in the operation of the Army,” said Ben Garrett, Fort Benning spokesman. “We provide our soldiers with the necessary tools, doctrine, and skill set so they are successful once they arrive at their units. This success is built on the quality of our instructions, professionalism of our instructors, and the maintaining of standards in everything we do. The Ranger Course is an example of that commitment to excellence.”

They are the first women to complete the Army’s most demanding combat training school in almost 17 months.

USS Mahan has close encounter with Iranian vessel
Soldiers participate in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Cultural Support Assessment and Selection program. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika)

Capt. Kristen Griest and then 1st Lt. Shaye Haver earned their tabs on Aug. 21, 2015, becoming the first women to graduate from school, which is conducted in four phases, the first two at Fort Benning, then in the north Georgia mountains and the Florida panhandle swamps. Army Reserve Maj. Lisa Jaster graduated in October 2015.

Griest, Haver, and Jaster were among 19 women who started the course in April 2015 at Camp Rogers on Fort Benning. Previously, Ranger School had been open only to men. After Haver and Griest graduated, the school was opened to all soldiers — male or female — who qualified to attend.

It is important moment and will lead to a time when there are now men and women, but just Ranger School students, said Jaster.

“Capable women are raising their hands to attend Ranger School,” she said. “Once they make it through RAP (Ranger Assessment Phase) week, I do not see why the graduation percentages would be any lower than males who attend the same preparatory events.”

The opening of Ranger School to all soldiers came about the same time then Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter officially opened all military jobs, including combat positions, to qualified men and women. Much of the training for those jobs in the Army is done at Fort Benning.

In October 2016, 10 women graduated from the Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course at Fort Benning. They graduated with 156 men. The expectation for those who graduate from IBOLC is to attend Ranger School, which can be completed in about 60 days if a soldier goes straight through without having to repeat a phase.

“The April 2015 Integrated Ranger School class might have been the only time women would be allowed into that course — no one knew for sure,” Jaster said. “Therefore, every female soldier who wanted to try, thought she could, and met the basic criteria for attendance…threw their hat in the ring. Therefore, there was a mass push in April 2015. People who are attending Ranger School now knew the opportunity was open and could attend when it was right for them.”

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Cpt. Kristen Griest and U.S. Army Ranger School Class 08-15 render a salute during their graduation at Fort Benning, GA, Aug. 21, 2015. Griest and class member 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first female graduates of the school. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

That changes the game, Jaster said.

“For the newest graduates, they were still in training,” Jaster said. “With time, this will just be part of Ranger School. As women branch combat arms or are assigned to combat units, they will train for, attend, and then graduate from Ranger School.”

That will make the Army better, Jaster said.

“I cannot speak for Kris and Shaye, but I know that Ranger School prepares leaders for combat roles,” she said. “It’s a test of capacity and capability. Each female graduation is currently a singular and significant event. But, each female graduate went through the same grueling school as each male graduate. Integration success is when we stop counting the women and focus on the quality of military leader the school produces.”

Griest and Haver, now a captain, both have transferred branches since Ranger School graduation and are assigned as Infantry officers with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, N.C.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The new Army Football uniforms will be in honor of the Big Red One

Every second Saturday of December, the soldiers of West Point settle their differences with the sailors and Marines of Annapolis in a good, old-fashioned football game. It’s a fiercely heated contest — and not just for the players on the field, but between entire branches.

Remember, when it comes to the troops, any little thing that can be used as bragging rights will be — even the uniforms are a type of competition. Traditionally, each team dons a new military history-inspired uniform for the Army-Navy game. Bringing the best threads to the gridiron isn’t officially a contest, but if it were, hot damn the Army would be winning.


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It’s unclear at this time if all Cadets on the field will be wearing the Black Lion or just the ones wearing the 28th Infantry Regiment on their lapel.

(West Point Athletics)

This year, the soldiers are honoring the First Infantry Division by sporting a uniform inspired by the Big Red One. It was chosen because 2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. While there were many American units that fought, several of whom are still around, the 1st ID is often heralded for their decisive victory at the Battle of Cantigny.

The iconic Black Lions of Cantigny have been incorporated into the shoulders of the uniforms. The rest of the uniform is a flat black with red trimmings. It features, of course, the Nike logo (the team’s sponsor) and the unit insignia. On the collars are insignias that represent the various regiments of the 1st Infantry Division that fought in World War I.

On the back of the helmet, if you look closely, you’ll spot a subtle American flag. Sharp football fans will notice that the flag only has 48 stars on it. Keeping with WWI legacy, this was the flag that the soldiers of WWI fought under, long before Alaska and Hawaii became part of the Union in 1959.

Check out the announcement video below that was posted to the official Army West Point Athletics Facebook page.

Go Army! Beat Navy!

MIGHTY TRENDING

One surviving veteran of the ‘Mighty 8th’ remembers WWII

Sitting in his favorite chair at home in Edgewater, Maryland, only a shadow box of medals and patches on the wall offer a glimpse into Staff Sgt. Louis R. Perrone’s eventful past.


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A shadow box belonging to Luis Perrone, a B-17 ball turret gunner with the 533rd Bomb Squadron during World War II, at his home in Edgewater, Maryland. He completed 32 bombing missions over western Europe, represented by the five bronze oak leaf clusters on the blue and orange Air Medal for meritorious achievement in aerial flight. (Photo courtesy of Bennie J. Davis III) 

At 19, he went to war, and now at 94, he’s the only living member of his 10-man bomber crew who flew missions over Germany during World War II as part of the Eighth Air Force.

Also read: These are Britain’s most controversial World War II vets

He wanted to sit in the cockpit as a pilot, but a failed depth perception test found him sitting underneath the plane as a ball turret gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress.

But while his view of the ground may have changed, his view of the bomber never waivered.

“The B-17 was the best airplane ever built, ’cause it brought you home,'” he said. “We’ve come home on a wing and a prayer, sometimes you come in on two engines, sometimes two engines and a half of a wing, but you got home.”

Many never did, however, as between 1942 and 1945 flying bombing missions for the “Mighty 8th” proved to be the most dangerous occupation in the U.S. Army Air Forces. Airmen were asked to complete a 25-mission quota at a time when the life expectancy of a crew didn’t surpass six missions. Casualty rates for heavy bomber crews also reached as high as 89 percent.

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A B-17 Flying Fortress of the Army Air Forces during a bombing mission over western Europe.

During his time at RAF Ridgewell, England from 1943 – 1945 Perrone flew 32 missions with the 533rd Bomb Squadron at the height of the aerial campaigns against the Third Reich. He is credited with 3.5 kills from the ball turret.

“You’re by yourself and it’s an odd feeling (shooting someone down). It’s been so long ago, I can’t think of all the ins and outs. I prayed a lot, I can tell you that,” said Perrone. “War, it’s a young man’s game.”

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Airmen of the 381st Bomber Group at Royal Air Force Ridgewell in Essex, England, during World War II.

“War, it’s a young man’s game.”

According to Perrone, the amount of bombers in the air during missions was mind-boggling. Most missions involved hundreds of B-17 and B-24 Liberator bombers targeting ball-bearing plants, rail yards, oil production facilities and aircraft manufacturing factories.

Nighttime area bombing attacks by the RAF complimented the daytime precision bombing raids by the U.S. Army Air Force. The bombers wreaked havoc on the German war machine, but allied casualties began to mount due to German 88mm anti-aircraft gun shells, commonly described as “flak,” and the vulnerability of the bombers to be attacked head-on by the Luftwaffe or German air force.

Bomber losses rapidly increased to a rate the Eighth could not withstand.

On Sept. 6, 1943, Perrone’s crew joined a raid on a German ball bearing production plant. Of the 400 Flying Fortresses launched for the mission, 60 were shot down and 600 Airmen were lost.

“The flak was so thick you could walk on it,” said Perrone. “During the ins and outs of the cities, through flak, was the only time I was scared. I always wanted to see those puffs of flak clouds below me, way below me.”

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B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 381st Bomb Group make their way through exploding 88mm anti-aircraft gun shells, commonly called flak, during a bombing mission over western Europe during World War II. (Courtesy photo)

“When the Germans look up to see all our bombers, better them than us, believe me when I tell you, it had to be tough on them, and as the war went along, we became stronger and stronger and stronger,” said Perrone. “There were some towns and cities in Germany we leveled. We broke the Germans’ backs. The British softened them and then we really gave it to them.”

The strength was provided by the long-range escort of P-38 Lightning and P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft outfitted with extra fuel drop tanks. Eventually, the employment of the P-51 Mustang allowed fighter escorts to reach Berlin.

The bombers and fighters together destroyed the Luftwaffe and air supremacy was gained over western Germany.

Also Read: This is what you need to know about the B-17 Flying Fortress

“My favorite memory; my last mission. I knew I was done and everything was okay,” said Perrone. “I was more scared on my last mission than my first.”

Perrone considers himself lucky, only one in five aircrew members of the 8th AF made the quota to end their tour of duty.

At the end of the war in Europe USAAF shifted focus to Japan with the deployment of the most technologically advanced aircraft, and the last bomber of World War II, the B-29 Superfortress.

The B-29 was designed as a high-altitude strategic bomber, but it was primarily used as a low-altitude night bomber in the Pacific theater. It was equipped with a pressurized cabin and had a central fire system of remotely controlled gun turrets each armed with .50 caliber machine guns.

The Superfortress also became the first nuclear capable aircraft.

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Boeing B-29 “Enola Gay” on Tinian in the Marianas Islands. (U.S. Air Force photo)

On Aug. 6, 1945, a B-29 named the “Enola Gay” deployed the world’s first atomic weapon on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later a second B-29, “Bockscar,” dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

Six days later Japan surrendered, the war was over and the era of nuclear deterrence began.

With the advent of the nuclear weapon, bombers became the first vehicle to deliver apocalyptic devastation. Today’s strategic bombers provide one of the three delivery components of the nuclear triad along with land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which make up our nation’s nuclear deterrence strategy.

“The capabilities of our nuclear deterrence are the bedrock of everything we do as a military,” said Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. “It’s the thing that keeps our adversaries from taking a step too far. Nuclear deterrence keeps the great power conflicts down and the horrible death and destruction, like what was seen during World War II, away from the world.”

In its infancy, the Air Force, then dubbed the Army Air Corps, lacked strategic bombing support while under Army control. The Army wasn’t convinced airplanes should be used for strategic bombing, but advocates like Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell argued bombers could replace traditional land and naval tactics as a dominant form by striking an enemy nation’s industrial complex and crippling its economic ability to fight. The Army’s prevailing view of the airplane, however, was as a reconnaissance and tactical bombing vehicle supporting ground troops on the front lines.

Despite the debate, the American bomber was born in 1934 and shepherded in a new era of aerial combat.

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1st Lt. Andy Alexander, weapons systems officer on the B-52H Stratofortress with the 2d Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, is a second-generation Òbomber crew dogÓ of the Eighth Air Force. His grandfather, Bill Alexander, was a co-pilot on a B-24 for the 489th Bombardment group out of Royal Air Force Halesworth, England.

 “World War II set the groundwork on how we employ, taking in collateral damage and validating how air power in so influential,” said 1st Lt. Andy Alexander, B-52H Stratofortress weapons systems officer at the 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. “Strategic bombing doctrine of World War II continues today in terms showing how decisive air power is to the campaign picture. The wars we fight today cannot be fought without bomber airpower.”

Alexander is a second-generation “bomber crew dog” of the Eighth Air Force. His grandfather, Bill Alexander was a co-pilot on a B-24 for the 489th Bombardment Group out of RAF Halesworth, England.

“I can’t imagine what he and his crew went through,” said Alexander of his grandfather. “You are basically in a flying unpressurized beer can with a couple engines strapped onto it, a few guns and about 8,000 pounds of bombs. There’s no GPS, no inertial navigation system, it’s charts and a protractor getting you across the English Channel through clouds of German flak. It’s noisy and freezing 20 degrees below zero. Oh, and there’s like a 0.06 percent chance of survival over the course of 25 missions.”

“They were truly our greatest generation”

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The crew of Jack Goldstein’s B-17 Flying Fortress, the “Miasses Dragon.” From the back row, (L-R): Nelson Campagnano, radio operator; Robert McCluskey, top turret gunner; Troy Swope, ball turret gunner; Harry Sibila, tail gunner; Jack Goldstein, waist gunner. Front (L-R): Paul Stratton, co-pilot; Gordon Stickles, bombardier; Larry Smith, pilot; and Clifford Winslette, navigator.

“They were truly our greatest generation,” he added.

Alexander said the basics of bombing doctrine were established in World War II, but with a myriad of sensors helping deploy munitions with absolute precision, landing within inches from the target, the B-52, B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit have certainly come a long way.

Alexander explained what happened in the skies of Europe was absolutely instrumental. The losses were catastrophic, but at the time the USAAF had to launch 70 aircraft to take out a facility in the hopes one got lucky to peer through the clouds and strike a target. Nowadays one B-52 can take out that same facility, but from 1,000 miles away.

“They laid down the absolute fundamentals of what air power brings to the picture in terms of complete destruction of enemy objectives,” said Alexander. “We provide the same thing today in a much more non-contested environment.”

Alexander said the 8th AF is in demand by combatant commanders around the world. The strategic importance of bombers is even more important today than ever in terms of our posturing, projecting power, nuclear deterrence and assuring our allies.

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GRAPHIC BY CHRIS DESROCHER // ANIMATION BY MAUREEN STEWART

“Strategic bombers are also incredibly important to the nuclear triad. You have your intercontinental ballistic missiles and they stay in the ground all day. You have submarines, but it’s their job for you to not see them. The difference with the nuclear bomber is the visibility,” said Alexander. “If there’s a nuclear bomber in your yard, you know it’s there. It’s the most visible part of the triad.”

Alexander stated another importance of the bombers is their recall ability. The president has the ability to recall the aircraft before weapons are launched. It’s the flexibility the bomber brings to the triad.

“Strategic posturing sometimes is a greater deterrence,” said Alexander of what the nuclear bombers bring to the fight. “You can have the B-1s in Guam, but when the B-52 shows up it’s a different message … it’s the big stick. When that happens the tone does change. No one wants to go to war. Deterrence, that’s what we will be focusing on.”

Also Read: The B-17 Flying Fortress debuted exactly 80 years ago — here’s its legacy

Alexander said when he walks the halls of the Mighty 8th AF and sees the black and white photos of the bomber crews of World War II, he sees the pride and spirit of our crews today, a bond and dependence of each other knowing the guy or gal on the left or right of you would die for you to protect our freedoms.

“There is a great sense of camaraderie with bomber crews, because we have to work more as a team,” said Alexander. “Thanks to the Army Air Corps we have the most powerful and devastating Air Force the world has ever seen.”

Perrone isn’t too sure about all that. All he does know is he made his mission quota and did what he was asked to do.

Now he meets every Wednesday for lunch with a fellow World War II and Mighty 8th veteran Jack Goldstein. The two were stationed on the same base in England, but never met.

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Jack Goldstein, 93, a World War II veteran, at his home in Annapolis, Maryland. Goldstein was a waist gunner for the 535th Bomb Squadron on a B-17 Flying Fortress with the Army Air Forces from 1943 to 1945. He completed 25 bombing missions over western Europe. (Photo courtesy of Bennie J. Davis III) 

 Goldstein also completed his 25 missions as waist gunner on the B-17. He too is the last of his crew from the 535th Bomb Squadron.

“I was only there for the last six months of the war, but I completed my missions and we all went home together in 1945,” said Goldstein.

It took 40 years for Goldstein to open up and talk about the war. He now shares these stories with fellow veterans, but his family is unaware.

The pictures and documents stuffed away for decades in the back of his closet are now proudly displayed in his home.

“I now feel proud now when people come and thank us for our service,” said Goldstein. “There’s not too many of us kids left.”

Each of them outlived their crews, and most World War II veterans are the last remaining of a dying breed … a breed that helped shape the importance of aerial warfare and set the stage for the bomber crews of today.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Marauding’ Marine makes mark with Viking manuscript

Former jack-of-all trades Marine Reservist Lance Cpl. David Roach spent six years learning infantry tactics, machine gunnery, bulk fuels, and heavy equipment while serving in the Marine Corps from 2002-2008.

Throughout his security career, he’s gone from a mall cop and security guard to being in charge of security personnel for hospitals, airports, and companies. Currently, he’s a global security manager focused on crisis management, disaster monitoring and open source intelligence.

He also worked with the Coast Guard, doing search and rescue missions and anti-drug interdiction out of Monterrey Bay, California. He used all of his experience for material for his books.


“In security, I’ve been shot at. I’ve had people try to stab me. I’ve gotten into lots of fights and take downs,” Roach said. “I hate going into crowded places. I’m definitely a person who enjoys being out in the wilderness.”

He also used the military family experience of his wife, Amanda, to add to the realism behind the fantasy of his characters in his five-novel Vikings series called Marauder.

“I come from a Marine family,” Amanda said. They’ve been married 11 years. “My grandmother and grandfather actually met in the Marines. She was Marine in the 1950’s. She was tough as nails. My brother and cousins are also Marines.”

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Former Marine Lance Cpl. David Roach, writer of the Marauder series, uses his real-world Marine Corps and security training for his characters, as well as the experiences of his friends and family who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(Photo by Shannon Collins)

Roach said he researched the history of Vikings, Scandinavian culture and the realities of their lives during that time period.

“I try to keep it as realistic as possible and then throw in the monsters and the Gods. That’s when it gets fun and exciting,” he said smiling. “But everything else, I try to keep as realistic and close to real life as possible so that the readers can relate.”

He said his books reflect his military experience because he doesn’t shy away from dark humor, cursing or the brutality of war. “These are not kids’ tales. They’re brutal. I’m always trying to find the historical curse words, the slang they would’ve used at the time. This is what it was like during that time. That was what real life was like,” he said.
“I started going to re-enactment battles as well,” Roach said. “I got to get into a shield wall. I saw how easy it is for a shield to splinter or for weapons to bend or how quickly things could go wrong if you get flanked or if someone is careless.”

For Roach’s Civil War book, When the Drums Stop, he wrote in the footsteps of his ancestor, a low-ranking Union soldier. He drove cross-country and visited the National Civil War Museum and stopped at battlefields for inspiration.

Roach said that anyone in the military who even has an inkling of becoming a writer, whether it be for a novel or for a website should just start doing it.

“Don’t wait for somebody’s permission. Don’t wait for a publication or publisher to tell you you’re good enough because most of them will say, ‘No’ because they want to make sure you’re a sure thing before they even spend a dollar on you,” he said. “Just do it. As I take up more virtual book space, more people are finding me. More people are starting to pay attention.”

Roach started with self-publishing his first few novels but a positive review from a professor of Norse archaeology, he picked up a publisher.

“Just like with the military, if you work hard at it and have that perseverance, eventually it’s going to pan out for you,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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