6 pieces of gear you won't believe the military used - We Are The Mighty
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6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

Military budgets can contain some surprising items. These six pieces of gear probably raised some eyebrows when they were purchased.


1. Skateboards

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christopher L. Vallee

Skateboards were tested during Urban Warrior ’99 for potential use in detecting booby traps and avoiding sniper fire. Documents from the exercise don’t discuss how the “urban combat skateboard” was to be employed, but the boards never made it to full fielding.

2. Go-karts

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Jason Hull

The ultra-lightweight combat vehicle is currently in testing with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, but earlier versions have already seen combat with special operations troops in Afghanistan. The vehicles are easily delivered by air and can be used by paratroopers to quickly move around a drop zone, allowing them to mass forces for an assault, quickly move crew-served weapons around the battlefield, and evacuate wounded troops to a casualty collection point.

3. Video game controllers

Since more than half of adults play video games and the average gamer plays 6.3 hours per week, it’s no surprise that many service members are handy with video game controllers. The military is capitalizing on that by using video game controllers to replace unintuitive controls for certain weapons systems and drones.

4. Radioactive identification markers

Small, radioactive markers were worn by some World War II squad leaders so their troops could follow them easily at night. The “luminous discs” were painted with radium. After being exposed to light for a short period, they’d emit a glow for hours. Experiments with the technology dated back to 1912 when the Army was testing them for cavalry units.

5. Skis

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Michael Selvage

Quite a few modern militaries use ski troops, including three branches of the U.S. Armed Forces: The Navy, Marine Corps, and Army. The training and equipment allows the service members to move quickly in winter, mountain, and arctic environments.

6. Children’s toys

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Gloumouth1

When Allied paratroopers jumped into Normandy on D-Day, they needed a way to identify each other in the dark behind German lines. Military planners came up with brass versions of a common children’s toy, the cricket noise maker. Troops would click the noisemaker while near an unknown person in the dark. If the other person responded with a click or code word, the soldiers knew each other as friendly.

NOW: 8 genius military uses for civilian products

OR: DARPA’s new android app can call in air strikes

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This Air Force special operator will receive a Silver Star for valor in Afghanistan

An Air Force combat controller who risked his life during a battle to retake the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz in 2015 will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony on Fort Bragg early April.


Tech. Sgt. Brian C. Claughsey, part of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, will be honored with the medal, the third-highest award for valor offered by the U.S. military, in a ceremony slated for April 7.

According to officials, he provided important support during operations to liberate Kunduz from Taliban control, protecting U.S. and Afghan forces while directing 17 close air support strikes from AC-130U and F-16 aircraft.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
The F-16 continues to grow as a close air support airframe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook/Released)

The Silver Star will be the latest in a lengthy history of valor from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The unit, based at Fort Bragg’s Pope Field, is the most decorated in modern Air Force history, with four of the nine Air Force Crosses awarded since 2001 and 11 Silver Stars earned by the squadron’s airmen.

The medals have come not because the unit seeks them, but because its members often serve their country in the most dangerous of positions, officials said.

“Airmen like Brian honor the Air Force’s incredible legacy of valor,” said Lt. Col. Stewart Parker, commander of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron. “Like those who’ve gone before him, he serves our nation with no expectation of recognition.”

According to the squadron’s higher command, the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Claughsey recently completed Special Tactics Officer assessment and has been selected to become an officer. He will soon attend Officer Training School before commissioning as a second lieutenant.

Col. Michael E. Martin, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing, praised the airman after officials confirmed the coming award on Friday.

“Brian is an exemplary airman and leader — he is a prime example of the professionalism, courage, and tactical know-how of the Special Tactics operator force,” he said. “In a violent, complex operating environment, Brian decisively integrated airpower with ground operations to eliminate the enemy, and save lives.”

An official description of Claughsey’s actions said he was part of a force that deployed to Kunduz on Sept. 28, 2015, after the city had fallen to an estimated 500 Taliban insurgents.

He volunteered to ride in the lead convoy vehicle to assume close air support duties during the movement into Kunduz and immediately took control of a AC-130U when the troops were ambushed upon entering the city.

Claughsey directed precision fires on an enemy strongpoint to protect the convoy. During a second ambush, he coordinated friendly force locations with an overhead AC-130U while directing “danger close” strikes.

When a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device forced the convoy to stop in the middle of a four-way intersection, Claughsey suppressed the machine gun fire of six insurgents with his own rifle while still coordinating with the AC-130U.

He directed the crew on the plane to destroy the enemy fighters and helped shield the convoy from follow-on attacks as it made its way to the compound of the Kunduz provincial chief of police.

There, the American special operators and Afghan forces came under attack by Taliban mortar fire. According to the narrative of the battle, Claughsey maneuvered as close to the mortars’ origin as possible to pinpoint the location to an overhead F-16.

He then controlled numerous strafing runs on the mortar position to eliminate the threat.

After helping to destroy the enemy mortar position, Claughsey moved to suppress enemy fire to allow another airman to direct another F-16 strike on the other side of the compound. He then stood exposed to enemy fire to hold a laser marker in position on an enemy building, directing two “danger close” strikes on the building from the F-16.

Those strikes killed an unspecified number of enemy attackers, effectively ending the attack on the Kunduz police compound.

Claughsey, from Connecticut, enlisted in May 2008 and became a combat controller in February 2014, after two years of rigorous training, according to officials.

He has deployed twice, once to Afghanistan and once to Kuwait as part of a global access special tactics team to survey and establish airfield operations.

He has previously been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, and Air Force Combat Action Medal.

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The ’76 most American things that have ever happened

The “Meanwhile, in America” meme takes the cliché phrasing from film, television, and literature “meanwhile, in…” and applies it to the United States, often pointing out examples of American excess, ignorance, or laziness. It’s been turned into some of the most popular pictures and gifs all over the web, including sites like Reddit and Tumblr.


The phrase “meanwhile, in…” is a popularly used storytelling device that takes the audience away from the center of action in the story at that moment, to somewhere else completely. This phrase has been popularized on the Web with an image macro that takes a photo that captures a common stereotype of any country in the world, and makes fun of them.

These are used often for comedic purposes and occasionally to interrupt someone who has, according to “knowyourmeme,” gone on a huge tangent in an online conversation. The use of the meme implies a sense of boredom among all the other readers. People who post one of these memes are then celebrated as bringing the conversation back to where it should be, or for just finding a hilarious way to use the meme.

You really just take any picture that exemplifies that country, in this case America, and put the “Meanwhile, in America” words on it.

But it takes a little more than just finding a photo of fat people in this; the entire photo really has to “work” for the “Meanwhile, in America” meme. You have to find one that if sent independently of any words or captions, would make whoever you were sending it to lose all faith in not only their peers and their country, but humanity in general.

What are the funniest America memes? These are the best “Meanwhile, in America” memes and jokes. From the morbidly obese exercising laziness, to negligent parents, to enormous guns and overall American ridiculousness, here are the greatest examples of how to use, and the best ways to use, the phrase “Meanwhile, in America” online. By the end, we bet you’lll be chanting “USA! USA!” (Or not.)

The ’76 Most American Things That Have Ever Happened

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This is how the Iraqi army beat ISIS in less than a week

Iraqi armed forces have pushed out Daesh from Tal Afar city while some parts of the district bearing the same name remain under the terrorist group’s control, a senior army official said Aug. 27.


“Joint forces of the army and the Hashd al-Shaabi — a pro-government Shia militia — have liberated two neighborhoods of Al-Askari and the Al-Senaa Al-Shamaliya, as well as the Al-Maaredh area, Tal Afar Gate, and the Al-Rahma village in the eastern part of the city,” Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah, Mosul operation commander, said in a televised statement.

While all parts of the city have been recaptured, fighting for control of some parts of Tal Afar district continues.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Troops on the streets of Tal Afar, Iraq. Photo courtesy of DoD.

Yarallah said only the Al-Ayadieh area and its surrounding villages in the district now remain in Daesh’s grip, adding the armed forces were advancing “towards the last targets in order to liberate them”.

On Aug. 27, the Iraqi government launched a major offensive to retake Tal Afar, involving army troops, federal police units, counter-terrorism forces and armed members of Hashd al-Shaabi — a largely Shia force that was incorporated into the Iraqi army last year.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
A member of the Iraqi Security Forces establishes a security perimeter around an HH-60M Black Hawk helicopter. Photo by Capt. Stephen James.

Ministry of Displacement and Migration official Zuhair Talal al-Salem told Anadolu Agency 1,500 people fled the district’s surrounding villages and areas.

“The displaced people were transferred from security checkpoints to Nimrod camp, where they are receiving relief assistance,” Al-Salem said.

 

 

Nimrud camp in the southeast of Mosul is said to have a capacity to house 3,000 families.

The ministry transferred some 500 displaced families to the camp after checking their names August 26 in the district of Hamam al-Alil, south of Mosul.

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This Iron Man-like exoskeleton is designed to keep operators alive

U.S. Special Operations Command is making progress researching, developing and testing a next-generation Iron Man-like suit designed to increase strength and protection and help keep valuable operators alive when they kick down doors and engage in combat, officials said.


The project, formally called Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is aimed at providing special operators, such as Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, a Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, statement said.

“The ultimate purpose of the TALOS project is to produce a prototype in 2018. That prototype will then be evaluated for operational impact,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Allen, SOCOM spokesman, told Scout Warrior.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
An early TALOS prototype

Industry teams have been making steady progress on the technologies since the effort was expanded in 2013 by Adm. William McCraven, former head of SOCOM.

“I’m very committed to this because I would like that last operator we lost to be the last operator we ever lose,” McCraven said in 2013.

Defense industry, academic and entrepreneurial participants are currently progressing with the multi-faceted effort.

The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”

It “transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army website said.

TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement also said.

“The idea is to help maintain the survivability of operators as they enter that first breach through the door,” Allen added.

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The best A-10 memes on the Internet

A while back, Team Mighty posted a story about song lyrics airmen shouldn’t text to each other to avoid punishment from the Air Force. For that list, we created this meme:


6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

Airmen did not love seeing Miley riding their beloved A-10 Thunderbolt II. To repay our debt for defiling the most beloved of Close Air Support airframes, we collected the best memes and internet humor with the A-10 and/or the GAU-8 Avenger. Netizens love the A-10 as much as ground combat troops, so A-10 humor isn’t hard to find.

There are motivational posters.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

There are newer jokes.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

 

And old favorites.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

And even Star Wars A-10 Jokes.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

There are digs at ISIS.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

And digs at the Air Force for trying to get rid of the A-10.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

We love the GAU-8 Avenger, the massive 30mm hydraulic-driven gun, around which the plane is built.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

Most importantly, we love the BRRRRRRRRRRRT

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

And the A-10 is a great way to show your appreciation on Facebook.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

 

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Homes for our Troops builds homes while rebuilding lives

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Sgt. Mendes in his new Homes for our Troops home.


On a chilly May morning, the city of Murrieta, CA dispatched a firetruck to a new home. Dozens of men, women and children congregated the driveway. The sounds of  Rolling Thunder could be heard in the distance. As if on cue, the wind picked up and the huge American flag streaming from the ladder of the firetruck began to wave. American Legion Riders escorted wounded Army veteran Sgt. Nicholas Mendes to his new specially adapted home, and the community was there to welcome him.

This is the work of Homes for our Troops.

HFOT builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes across the United States for those who have been severely injured in theater of combat since September 11, 2001. The non-profit’s purpose is to assist wounded warriors with the complex process of integrating back into society.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Army Sergeant Nicholas Mendes, who was a gunner with the 10th Mountain, 3rd Brigade, is one of 214 veterans to thus far be living in one of these homes. On April 30, 2011, an IED detonated beneath his vehicle in Sangsar, Afghanistan. The explosion, set off by a 1200-pound command wire device, caused multiple fractures to his vertebrae and rendered him paralyzed from the neck down. Mendes had previously served in Iraq in 2008.

After being presented with the key to his new home, Mendes’ wife held the microphone up to his mouth so he could address the audience of well-wishers.

“Bear with me, I didn’t write anything down – because my arms don’t work.” Mendes joked. “It’s just crazy looking back on everything, this all started with a Google search, and then putting in an application to a foundation that I didn’t know if they’d ever write me back…”

Not only did they write him back and build him a home, Homes for our Troops is working with Mendes to allow him to reclaim his independence. The adapted features in his home remove much of the burden from his wife and family and allow him to focus on recovery and his plans to  pursue a career in real estate.

“These men and women are not looking for pity. They’re looking to rebuild their lives.” said Bill Ivy, Executive Director of HFOT.  “We have an extremely talented group of men and women who are either in homes or that we are building homes for. The whole idea is to get them back going to school, back into the work force, raising families. Since 2010 we’ve had over 100 children born to families living in our homes. So it is about the next generation and moving forward. We have a tremendous amount of successes out there.”

Homes for Our Troops lays a foundation for these men and woman to continue on after their injuries. Although their way of life has undergone major changes, their spirit and desire to serve remains. Many of these home recipients are able to rehabilitate to the point where they enter the workforce and give back to their community as teachers and counselors.

Two HFOT recipients started a non-profit together called Amputee Outdoors.  Another recipient, Joshua Sweeny is an American gold medal sledge hockey player and Purple Heart recipient who competed in 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. Four recipients participated in the recent Invictus games, and one even spent a month in a tent to raise awareness for veteran homelessness.

“There’s duty, there’s honor and self sacrifice. Death nor injury does not diminish those qualities in our soldiers. It is a testament to the love of this country” said David Powers of Prospect Mortgage – one of the key ceremony speakers. “Duty is the mission, the lesson is the sacrifice for our country, and for our freedom.”

For more information visit the Homes for Our Troops website.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
HOFT Executive Director, Bill Ivy raising a flag outside Sgt. Mendes’ new home.

 

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This defense contractor wants to ‘grow’ drones in high-tech liquid ooze

A new initiative from BAE Defense Systems wants to create a system for “growing” drones in vats in a next-generation version of 3-D printing.


The process would be very quick, allowing military planners to manufacture new drones only weeks after a design is approved. That would allow custom aircraft to be grown for many major operations.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
GIF: YouTube/BAE Systems

If the Air Force needed to get bombers past next-generation Russian air defenses, they could print drones specifically designed to trick or destroy the new sensors. If a group of troops was cut off in World War III’s version of the Battle of the Bulge, the Army could resupply them with custom-designed drones carrying fuel, batteries, ammo, and more. Different designs could even be grown for each payload.

The drones would grow their own electronics and airframes, though key parts may need to be manufactured the old fashioned way and plugged into new drone designs. BAE’s video shows a freshly grown aircraft receiving a final part, possibly a power source or sensor payload, on an assembly line after the craft leaves its vat and dries.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
GIF: YouTube/BAE Systems

The 3-D printer that would be used, dubbed the “Chemputer” and trademarked by BAE, could potentially even recycle some of its waste and use environmentally friendly materials.

Since each aircraft is being custom built for specific missions or niche mission types, they can be highly specialized. One vat could print an aircraft optimized for speed that needs to outrun enemy missiles while the one next to it needs to act as a radio relay and has been optimized for loiter time.

The project is headed by University of Glasgow Regius Professor Lee Cronin. Cronin acknowledges that roadblocks exist to getting the Chemputer up and running, but thinks his team is ready to overcome them.

“This is a very exciting time in the development of chemistry,” Cronin said. “We have been developing routes to digitize synthetic and materials chemistry and at some point in the future hope to assemble complex objects in a machine from the bottom up, or with minimal human assistance. Creating small aircraft would be very challenging but I’m confident that creative thinking and convergent digital technologies will eventually lead to the digital programming of complex chemical and material systems.”

For more information, check out BAE’s video above or read their article on the program here.

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This author writes military fiction that isn’t too far from the truth

He’s a war strategist and a business owner, a bestselling author and an expert on mercenaries and robots. And for much of the past week, he was a major defense-conference headliner invited to share ideas with the region’s top brass as well as grunts on the ground.


New America Foundation senior fellow Peter “PW” Singer is probably best known as the co-author of “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War,” a 2015 thriller that mixes fact and future to describe how the United States, Russia, and China might battle on the ground, at sea, in the air, and throughout cyberspace.

But he’s also an international thought leader sought out for his views on espionage, technology, and politics.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Singer during his speech at the 2016 World Travel Tourism Council Global Summit 2016. (Photo via WTTC)

In his keynote speech at the AFCEA C4ISR Symposium in San Diego, Singer shared his thoughts on “Visualizing the Future of War Through Fiction.”

But it was his time away from the conference that telegraphed his importance to the military — five briefings at local Marine and Navy facilities, including a pow wow with Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and hours observing war games off of Camp Pendleton’s Red Beach.

Based in Washington, D.C., Singer, 42, was hosted throughout the week by consulting giant Deloitte.

“It’s been exciting to see the impact the book has had,” Singer said during an interview. “It’s doubly amazing to me because I’ve written nonfiction books that have had a pretty good range of readership in the military, but nothing that compares to this. And I think it shows the evidence of what storytelling can do by dropping people into a world, into future scenarios, where they see themselves.”

It’s not the first piece of fiction to find relevance in the military.

The Martians in H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” unleashed the Heat-Ray on humanity, what today would resemble the lasers or directed energy weapons joining America’s military tool kit. Wells also predicted atom bombs and nuclear proliferation, the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, and a form of communication akin to email.

Also read: Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now

In 1992, Air Force officer Charles Dunlap Jr.’s provocative essay “The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012,” told in the form of a letter from Prisoner 222305759, triggered debate throughout the services about the importance of preserving traditional military-civilian relations and protecting the Constitution.

The commandant’s reading list for enlisted and officer Marines includes a dozen works of fiction, including Jim Webb’s Vietnam War classic “Fields of Fire” and Phil Klay’s”Redeployment,” poignant writing about Iraq. A pair of Singer’s books share space on the commandant’s shelf: “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution” and “Ghost Fleet,” which was co-authored by August Cole.

“Ghost Fleet” doesn’t mirror other novels on the list.

Its mix of cutting-edge technology and fast-paced plot was inspired by Tom Clancy’s “Red Storm Rising.” Clancy’s novel so excited strategists and policymakers in 1986 that many feared he had divulged too many secrets about America’s revolutionary weapon systems and how they might be employed in battle.

Clancy’s fiction franchise inspired video games. Singer also has worked as a consultant on the popular “Call of Duty” series.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Call of Duty: WWII. (Promotional image by Activision)

“Tom Clancy was a big influence on us, but the obvious difference is that in the Clancy books the technology always works perfectly,” Singer said.

“In the real world, it doesn’t. And in a lot of the science fiction I love as well, like (William) Gibson’s ‘Blade Runner,’ it doesn’t either. And that’s both because technology never works perfectly in the real world and also because there’s this thing called ‘people.’ People are working against the technology.”

“I think what we’ve done in large part expresses what people in the Navy are actually saying. And that comes from the fact that the interviews for the book were with Navy ship captains, you know? Enlisted sailors. A Marine fighter pilot. Special operations. Whatever. So when someone in the book says, ‘The Littoral Combat Ship? More like ‘Little Crappy Ship,’ that’s not us making it up. That’s someone in the Navy, in the real world, who said that.”

Phil Carter, an Army combat veteran of Iraq who now directs the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C., said Singer is an essential thinker because of his unique ability to comprehend the spirit of a new age of war, where battles take place on the Internet and in dusty villages. He described the novel as catnip to commanders.

Also read: A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

“Science fiction really has a hold on military officers in particular,” Carter said. “And Peter Singer taps into that. His nonfiction and his fiction are like a smarter, hipper version of Tom Clancy, and that really appeals to guys like me who grew up reading Tom Clancy and are now in the military living it.”

Critics grouse that “Ghost Fleet” suffers from some of the same literary problems that plagued Clancy — thin characters, wooden dialogue, and a story that turns on an unlikely event, with the authors too often sacrificing cogent analysis for a quick turn of the page.

“Peter does a great job bringing attention to very complicated issues such as the future of war, but ‘Ghost Fleet’ should be used as a point of departure on the subjects and not the last word. It helps to stimulate a more robust debate inside the services and among policymakers,” said Erin Simpson, a top national security consultant who co-hosts “Bombshell,” a hit podcast that also has excited the Beltway’s defense community.

And then there’s China. A recent review in the People’s Liberation Army’s Daily newspaper complained that Singer and Cole were trying to paint Beijing as an enemy.

“But our agenda isn’t to say that there will be such a war,” Singer said. “If there’s a political lesson from it, for geopolitics, it’s the idea that the kind of conflict (of) states fighting states was thinkable for much of the 20th century. The two world wars that happened versus the third World War, the fear of it throughout the Cold War.

“But then for the last generation, it’s been unthinkable. And now it’s thinkable once more.”
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US could be working alongside a terrorist group in Lebanon’s assault on ISIS

Lebanon’s US-backed military is gearing up for a long-awaited assault to dislodge hundreds of Islamic State militants from a remote corner near Syrian border, seeking to end a years-long threat posed to neighboring towns and villages by the extremists.


The campaign will involve cooperation with the militant group Hezbollah and the Syrian army on the other side of the border — although Lebanese authorities insist they are not coordinating with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

But the assault could prove costly for the under-equipped military and risk activating IS sleeper cells in the country.

The tiny Mediterranean nation has been spared the wars and chaos that engulfed several countries in the region since the so-called Arab Spring uprisings erupted in 2011. But it has not been able to evade threats to its security, including sectarian infighting and random car bombings, particularly in 2014, when militants linked to al-Qaeda and IS overran the border region, kidnapping Lebanese soldiers.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
An ‘informal tented settlement’ in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley. Lebanon is housing an estimated 1.2 million Syrian refugees. Photo from Department for International Development.

The years-long presence of extremists in the border area has brought suffering to neighboring towns and villages, from shelling, to kidnappings of villagers for ransom. Car bombs made in the area and sent to other parts of the country, including the Lebanese capital, Beirut, have killed scores of citizens.

Aided directly by the United States and Britain, the army has accumulated steady successes against the militants in the past year, slowly clawing back territory, including strategic hills retaken in the past week. Authorities say it’s time for an all-out assault.

The planned operation follows a six-day military offensive by the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah that forced al-Qaeda-linked fighters to flee the area on the outskirts of the town of Arsal, along with thousands of civilians.

In a clear distribution of roles, the army is now expected to launch the attack on IS. In the past few days, the army’s artillery shells and multiple rocket launchers have been pounding the mountainous areas on the Lebanon-Syria border where IS held positions, in preparation for the offensive. Drones could be heard around the clock and residents of the eastern Bekaa Valley reported seeing army reinforcements arriving daily in the northeastern district of Hermel to join the battle.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Members of the Lebanese Armed Forces operate a Talon explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) robot with Sailors assigned to Commander, Task Group (CTG) 56.1 during Resolute Response 16 in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Scott

The offensive from the Lebanese side of the border will be carried out by the Lebanese army, while Syrian troops and Hezbollah fighters will be working to clear the Syrian side of IS militants. Hezbollah has been fighting alongside Assad’s forces since 2013.

On August 8, the army’s top brass conferred with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and interior and defense ministers at the Presidential Palace to plan operations in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

The committee took the “necessary counsel and decisions to succeed in the military operations to eliminate the terrorists,” Maj. Gen. Saadallah Hamad said after the meeting.

Experts say more than 3,000 troops, including elite special forces, are in the northeastern corner of Lebanon to take part in the offensive. The army will likely use weapons it received from the United States, including Cessna aircraft that discharge Hellfire missiles.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Two AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles. Photo by 玄史生 via Wikimedia Commons.

Keen to support the army rather than the better equipped Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the US and Britain have supplied the military with helicopters, anti-tank missiles, artillery, and radars, as well as training. The American Embassy says the US has provided Lebanon with over $1.4 billion in security assistance since 2005.

But the fight is not expected to be quick or easy.

According to Lebanon’s Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, there are about 400 IS fighters in the Lebanese area, and hundreds more on the Syrian side of the border.

“It is not going to be a picnic,” said Hisham Jaber, a retired army general who heads the Middle East Center for Studies and Political Research in Beirut. “The Lebanese army will try to carry out the mission with the least possible losses.”

Jaber said the battle may last several weeks. “It is a rugged area and the organization (IS) is well armed and experienced.”

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Marines with Charlie Company and Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Soldiers of the Lebanese Army conduct a live-fire, combined arms range, May 12, 2012. Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Chad Kiehl

There are also concerns the offensive may subject Lebanon to retaliatory attacks by militants, just as the country has started to enjoy a rebound in tourism.

A Lebanese security official said authorities are taking strict security measures to prevent any attack deep inside Lebanon by sleeper cells. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said authorities have detained several IS militants over the past weeks.

Lebanese politicians say IS controls an area of about 296 square kilometers (114 square miles) between the two countries, of which 141 square kilometers (54.5 square miles) are in Lebanon.

The area stretches from the badlands of the Lebanese town of Arsal and Christian villages of Ras Baalbek and Qaa, to the outskirts of Syria’s Qalamoun region and parts of the western Syrian town of Qusair that Hezbollah captured in 2013.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

In a televised speech last August 4, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said that once the Lebanese army launches its offensive from the Lebanese side, Hezbollah and the Syrian army will begin their attack from the Syrian side. He added that there has to be coordination between the Syrian and Lebanese armies in the battle.

“Opening two fronts at the same time will speed up victory and reduce losses,” Nasrallah said, adding that his fighters on the Lebanese side of the border are at the disposal of Lebanese troops if needed.

“I tell Daesh that the Lebanese and Syrians will attack you from all sides and you will not be able to resist and will be defeated,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the extremist group.

“If you decide to fight, you will end up either a prisoner or dead,” Nasrallah added.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Syrian brothers who are now refugees living in an informal tented settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Photo from DFID Flickr.

Some Lebanese politicians have been opposed to security coordination with the Syrian army. The Lebanese are sharply divided over Syria’s civil war that has spilled to the tiny country of 4.5 million people. Lebanon is hosting some 1.2 million Syrian refugees.

Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, is opposed to Assad while his national unity Cabinet includes Hezbollah as well as other groups allied with the Syrian president.

Last week, Hariri told reporters that Lebanese authorities are ready to negotiate to discover the fate of nine Lebanese soldiers who were captured during the raid on Arsal by IS and al-Qaeda fighters in August 2014. Unlike their rivals in al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group is not known to negotiate prisoner exchanges.

“The presence of Daesh will end in Lebanon,” Hariri said, using the same Arabic acronym to refer to IS.

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13 photos showing the incredible determination of wounded warriors

The Department of Defense Warrior Games began in 2010 as a way to celebrate the the talents of injured or ill warrior-athletes. The 2015 games showcased some of the finest talent of the American and British wounded warrior communities. Showcased below are 13 of the most inspiring photos from the games.


While the games are about celebrating recovery and the warrior spirit, there are winners and medals. The Warrior Games closed on Sunday with the Army winning the overall competition. Check out the the final medal counts and more photos at Defense.gov.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Mark Watola

1. U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Marcus Chischilly takes off during the swimming finals at the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center in Manassas, Va., June 27, 2015. Chischilly is a member of the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games All-Marine Team. The 2015 DoD Warrior Games, held at Marine Corps Base Quantico June 19-28, is an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill, and injured Service members and veterans from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, and the British Armed Forces.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Jared Lingafelt

2. Lance Cpl. Charles Sketch is presented with a gold medal during a standing ovation from spectators from around the world at the 2015 Marine Corps Trials. Competition provides opportunities for the Marines to train as athletes, while increasing their strength so they can continue their military service or develop healthy habits for life outside the service. The Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment enables wounded, ill, or injured Marines to focus on their abilities and to find new avenues to thrive.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: US Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt Ezekiel R. Kitandwe

3. A member of Team Air Force throws the shot put during field competition for the 2015 DOD Warrior Games, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. Fareeza Ali

4. Retired Marine Cpl. Ray Hennagir, an Orlando, Florida native, keeps his eyes on the ball during sitting volleyball practice at the 2015 Marine Corps Trials.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Terry W. Miller Jr.

5. U.S. and British athletes compete in the 100-meter sprint at the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Owen Kimbrel

6. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Ray Hennagir prepares to shoot the ball during the wheelchair basketball championship game at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: DoD News EJ Hersom

7. Army visually impaired cycling teams finish together to take gold, silver and bronze during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 21, 2015.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Owen Kimbrel

8. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Peter Cook practices swim form during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 21, 2015.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Owen Kimbrel

9. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jenae Piper prepares to serve during the bronze medal volleyball game during the 2015 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico, Va, June 26, 2015.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: DoD News EJ Hersom

10. Army Staff Sgt. Monica Martinez, left, And Army Staff Sgt. Vestor ‘Max’ Hasson compete, but in separate 1,500 meter wheelchair race categories during the Army Trials at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas April 1, 2015.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Ashley Cano

11. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Clayton McDaniels’ son receives a gold medal on behalf of his father whose team won the wheelchair basketball championship game at the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: US Army Spc. Garry Abidin

12. U.S. Army Sgt. Blake Johnson, Bethesda, Md., attempts to block the shot of his Air Force opponent while playing a wheelchair basketball game during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games at Barber Fitness Center, on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 20, 2015.

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Photo: US Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt Ezekiel R. Kitandwe

13. A member of Special Operations Command throws the shot put during field competition for the 2015 DOD Warrior Games, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.

NOW: Ronnie Simpson created a non-profit that teaches wounded veterans to sail

OR: The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

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These 7 photos reveal how secret warriors invaded West Virginia

After Russia’s incursion into Georgia several years ago and the covert operation to take over the Crimea in Ukraine in 2014, the former Soviet Republics along the Baltic coast view the Russian bear as an increasing threat.


More fearful than ever that a replay of Sevastopol could happen in Vilnius or Tallinn, troops from the Baltic states have been working ever closer with the American military to hone their skills, forge stronger bonds and develop tactics and protocols to defend themselves if the Spetsnaz drops in on their doorstep.

While American troops have been deploying recently for joint exercises with NATO’s northern allies in Europe, some of the Baltic countries’ most specialized troops have been coming to the U.S. for real-world training.

In February a joint team of U.S. special operators from the 10th Special Forces Group, National Guard soldiers and commandos from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia infiltrated a 500,000 acre range in the mountains of West Virginia to practice covert ops, kick in some doors and do some snake-eater sh*t.

Dubbed Range Runner 2017, the exercise includes all the facets of special operations warfare, including counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, stability operations, foreign internal defense and unconventional warfare and allows for dynamic infiltration routes, including water, air and land with support from fixed wing, rotary wing and water rescue groups, the military says.

So how awesome was this joint commando exercise? Take a look.

1. Special operators get some assaulter practice

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Estonian Special Operations Force soldiers, along with U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldiers with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and soldiers of the West Virginia National Guard, quickly move to assault a building containing high-value adversary targets during an air-assault training exercise as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 23, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Smith)

2. The joint commando teams work on infiltration via horseback

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
A U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldier assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducts an infiltration movement on horseback during Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 12, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

3. The special operators work together on sensitive sight exploitation methods

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldiers assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), search through a cabin room as they conduct sensitive sight exploitation training during Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 18, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

4. They even go through the bad guy’s trash…

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
U.S. Special Operations Forces search for evidence during a sensitive sight exploitation training event as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 18, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Christopher Stevenson)

5. The special operations troops are hounded by local forces who track their movement

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
A canine unit with the West Virginia State Police assists U.S. Special Operations Forces and interagency joint partners with the West Virginia and Pennsylvania National Guard in partnering with special operations forces soldiers from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in an escape and evasion training exercise event as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 23, 2017 in West Virginia.

6. The Special Forces soldiers use old-school methods to pass messages without radios

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
U.S. Special Operations Forces with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct a message pickup with the aid of a DHC-6 Twin Otter airplane as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 6, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Christopher Stevenson)

7. Once they’ve gotten what they wanted, the commandos exfil via helicopter

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
Estonian Special Operations Force soldiers, along with U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldiers with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and soldiers of the West Virginia National Guard, quickly move toward an aircraft for exfiltration during an air-assault training exercise as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 23, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Smith)

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China’s airpower may overtake the US Air Force by 2030

6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used
China’s J-20 stealth fighter | YouTube


In a stark assessment, the US Air Force chief-of-staff warned that China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) will be poised to overtake the US Air Force by 2030.

On March 2, General Mark Welsh told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee that currently it is estimated that the US has a “couple thousand more aircraft” than China, The National Interest reports.

The PLAAF is larger than the US Air Force in terms of personnel, and that size will be represented by the number of aircraft China has in the coming years.

“At the rate they’re building, the models they’re fielding, by 2030 they will have fielded—they will have made up that 2,000 aircraft gap and they will be at least as big—if not bigger—than our air forces,” Welsh told the subcommittee.

More importantly than just the number of aircraft and personnel in the PLAAF, though, is Beijing’s trend of acquiring and successfully fielding more and more advanced weapons systems. This drive by the PLAAF will also shrink the commanding technological advantage that the US currently holds over China.

“We are not keeping up with that kind of technology development,” Welsh said. “We are still in a position of—we will have the best technology in the battlespace especially if we can continue with our current big three modernization programs.”

Welsh also went on to warn that China “will have a lot of technology that’s better than the stuff we’ve had before.”

China is currently constructing prototypes for two different fifth-generation fighters that are specifically tailored to different mission sets. It’s J-20 is thought to be making quick development progress, while it’s J-31 is believed to be the equal of the F-35 due to espionage and Chinese theft of trade secrets.

Additionally, China is also developing a stealth drone as well as seeking to buy Russia’s highly capable Su-35S fighter aircraft.

All these measures taken together will cumulatively make China a significantly more capable military force that could project its will against US protest across East Asia.