What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals - We Are The Mighty
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What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals


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Green on blue attacks — used to describe attacks by Afghan soldiers on Coalition forces — are one of the many dangers our troops in the Middle East face every day.

These deadly morale-sapping attacks are difficult to predict and leave lasting negative trust issues between the locals — and American forces. As many as 91 incidents resulted in 148 Coalition troops killed and as many 186 wounded between 2008 and 2015.

Related: How Navy corpsmen and Army medics work together on deployments

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Marine infantry officer turned Army Green Beret Chase Millsap, and our Navy corpsman smartass Tim Kirkpatrick share their experiences working with the locals. Millsap with the Iraqi Police and Kirkpatrick with the Afghan National Army. As you’ll listen, their experiences differ.

Hosted by:

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

  • Twitter: @tkirk35

Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

  • Twitter/Instagram: @orvelinvalle

Guests:

Chase Millsap: Army and Marine Corps infantry veteran turned Director of Impact Strategy at We Are The Mighty

  • Twitter/Instagram: @cmillsap05

August Dannehl: Navy veteran, Chef, and show producer

  • Twitter: @ChefAugust37

Music licensing by Jingle Punks:

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  • Heavy Drivers
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China is trying to expand its military reach with the biggest plane in the world

A recent deal between Beijing and Ukraine’s Antonov Company to restart production of the largest-ever cargo plane could potentially remedy the logistical woes of China’s People’s Liberation Army.


China’s military, still largely dependent on railroads for moving troops and heavy freight, could gain a lot from having the gigantic aircraft.

The plane, the AN-225 Mriya, holds 240 world records for its size and strength. It has six massive engines creating over 300,000 pounds of thrust, and the plane can reportedly carry a 200-ton load nearly 2,500 miles.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
An-225 Mriya | Creative Commons photo by Dmitry A. Mottl

Such capability would be game-changing for the People’s Republic of China.

“It would provide China with the large and global lift that not even the US has possessed, except by rental,” wrote Peter Singer, an avid China watcher on Popular Science. “It’s large enough to carry helicopters, tanks, artillery, even other aircraft.”

For the most part, as Singer mentioned, China will rent the massive planes, but the agreement does allow for China to domestically build An-225s.

Additionally, the Center for Strategic and International Studies uncovered the fact that China has been developing large, military-grade runways, as well as military hardened hangars on it’s reclaimed islands in the South China Sea. Having massively improved freight dynamics in the region could greatly benefit China.

But the herculean plane lends itself to civil applications too. China could easily use it to move construction supplies, to offload its glut of steel, or to bring supplies to its several building projects as part of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

As Marcus Weisgerber at DefenseOne points out, the adoption of old, soviet-era technology from Ukraine is an instance of history repeating itself, as China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is also a refurbished Ukrainian hull.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 American traitors more destructive than Benedict Arnold

What causes someone to betray their country, everyone and everything they’ve ever known, and risk their freedom – and maybe even their life – for some kind of short term gain? For some it’s power or prestige. For others, it’s just cold, hard cash. Some are willing to betray their countrymen for a little taste of countrywomen.

No matter what their motivation, traitors have the ability to cause the most grievous harm to the security of the United States and compromise its military and foreign policy objectives. These are the people we trusted the most – and had the most to gain through their subterfuge.

1. John Anthony Walker 

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
John Anthony Walker. (Wikimedia Commons)

John Walker worked within the U.S. Navy’s secretive submarine force and came to manage the submarine force’s entire communications network. With a long career of seemingly excellent service, he was promoted quickly and given a top secret clearance, along with access to the Navy’s most sensitive information. 

Walker’s attempt at living a playboy lifestyle caught up to him eventually. In the face of mounting debt, he walked into the Soviet Embassy and offered his services to the USSR. Over the course of more than 20 years, he gave away more than a million decrypted secret messages, the code keys to deciphering more messages, the locations of American nuclear submarines, and the entire planning and operational guides to the ongoing war in Vietnam. 

The KGB spy also recruited friends and family members into his growing spy ring, all for his own monetary gain. In the end, his wife and daughter, who he failed to recruit, gave him up to the FBI. In a quick investigation, Walker was finally apprehended aboard the USS Nimitz, caught red handed with a trove of classified information. He had to be escorted under guard to keep him safe from sailors and Marines who wanted to dole out their own punishment. 

Walker was convicted and handed a life sentence, which ended when he died in federal custody in 2014. 

2. Aldrich Ames

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
Aldrich Ames. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ames was almost a lifelong CIA employee, first coming to the agency doing clerical work in high school. After a brief stint in Turkey and elsewhere as an operative, he returned to CIA headquarters stateside and began working the Soviet – East European Division. Along the way, he developed a noticeable drinking problem and picked up an expensive mistress. His debts began adding up as he was placed on the Soviet counterintelligence mission.

After releasing what he believed to be harmless information to the USSR, he received a quick payday, and was soon hooked into giving the Soviets more and more information for more and more money. He began giving out the names of counterintelligence assets and operations that the KGB rolled up in a hurry. The quick end of these operations led the CIA to believe a mole was in counterintelligence. Meanwhile Ames was making a fortune to the sum of $4.6 million. Between 1985 and 1994, Ames fed information to the KGB about every western mole in Soviet intelligence, compromising the lives of countless informants.

3. Aaron Burr

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec, December 31, 1775

Thomas Jefferson’s vice president had a number of plans to betray the United States. He offered to take Louisiana out of the Union for the British in exchange for $500,000 and a few ships of the line. He made this offer to a British agent on no fewer than three separate occasions, even while still sitting as vice-president. 

Burr’s grand scheme was creating a group of wealthy planters and Army officers to capture a large swath of North America, specifically, the American Southwest, maybe even conquer Mexico, and form a separate government. He was ultimately betrayed by James Wilkinson in New Orleans and was put on trial. Without credible testimony, he was acquitted. 

4. James Wilkinson

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
James Wilkinson. (Wikimedia Commons)

Wilkinson was one of the most trusted soldiers in U.S. Army history, serving in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. He took on the role of governor of the newly-acquired Louisiana Territory and became one of the Army’s most senior officers. There were many problems with Wilkinson’s service but the foremost among them was that he had been spying for the Spanish most of the time. 

When his role in Aaron Burr’s own treason was nearly discovered, he placed New Orleans under martial law and imprisoned anyone who might be able to prove Wilkinson was complicit in the plot. Wilkinson was never caught during his life, but his papers were discovered in 1854, leading Theodore Roosevelt to say, “In all our history, there is no more despicable character.”

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This video shows the 200-year-old Gurkha selection process

The Gurkha rifles in the British, Indian, and Nepali armies are accomplished and elite units made up almost entirely of men from a small area in Nepal.


For candidates hopeful to get a slot in one of these outfits, there is a grueling selection process that dates back two centuries.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
Defense Imagery photo by Cpl. Michael Strachan

The Ghurkas are named after the 8th-century Hindu warrior named Guru Gorakhnath, and the Ghurka people built a small empire in the Himalayan mountains in the 1700s. When the British tried to break into the Ghurka nation from 1814 to 1816, the Ghurkas eventually lost but resisted so fiercely that the Dutch East Indian Company asked if the Himalayan soldiers would like to become paid warriors for the larger, richer British Empire.

Enough Ghurkas accepted the offer and the British set up the Gurkha Brigade. Over 200 years later, Gurkhas continue to serve in the Brigade of Ghurkas, and British officers are still sent to Nepal each year to grade potential recruits and decide which young Himalayan men will be allowed to join the brigade.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
A Nepalese soldier from the Royal Gurkha Rifles regiment of the British army, Brigade of Gurkhas stands Sanger duty at Patrolling Base Chili, Lashkar Gah district, Helmand province, Sept. 23. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan David Chandler)

The selection process includes interviews and exams, but it focuses on endurance, drive, and physical health. According to the documentary below, thousands of men will come out to compete for positions in the Gurkha units — most of them aiming for the about 230 slots open in the British Army each year.

To get a slot, they have to pass physical tests, math and English exams, and outcompete their peers in races — sometimes with heavy loads on long paths up the Himalayan mountains.

This award-winning documentary from Kesang Tseten follows a group of potential Gurkha warriors through the selection process, showing how they deal with the stress as well as what they must do to even enter training. Check it out below:

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That time American and Russian tanks faced off in a divided Berlin

After years of tension, conflict and even some election-hacking, some have said U.S.-Russian relations are more tense than they were even at the height of the Cold War. 


Apparently, those people have forgotten that U.S. and Russian troops killed each other a few times, conducted a standoff with tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba, and stared each other down in armed tanks in divided Berlin.

 

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
This is one of the most boss photos on this site. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

The incident started on Oct. 22, 1961, when America’s senior diplomat in West Berlin, E. Allan Lightner, Jr., attempted to cross the newly-erected Berlin Wall at a major checkpoint, Checkpoint Charlie. He was stopped by East German authorities who wanted to see his papers, but Lightner insisted that only the Soviets had the authority to check his papers.

He eventually turned back from the border, but Gen. Lucius Clay ordered that the next U.S. diplomat who needed to cross the border would be accompanied by military police in armed Jeeps. The next diplomat did cross the border with the Jeeps.

But Clay still wasn’t satisfied. He sent M48 tanks to the checkpoint and had them rev their engines. The Soviet commander requested permission to call an equal number of tanks out in response and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev approved it.

 

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
American tanks at Checkpoint Charlie in October 1961. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

So T-55 tanks pulled up to the opposite end of the street and, approximately 82 yards away from each other, the two sides threatened each other for 16 hours from Oct. 27-28, 1961.

News crews rushed to the scene and the world watched with bated breath to see if this would be the flame that set off the powder keg and descended the world into nuclear war.

But neither country wanted to fight World War III over paperwork in Berlin. President John F. Kennedy ordered back channels to be opened to reach a negotiation. Khrushchev agreed to a deal where the countries would take turns withdrawing a single tank at a time.

 

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
Soviet tanks withdraw from Checkpoint Charlie at the end of the crisis. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

The Soviets withdrew a T-55 and, a few minutes later, America pulled back an M48. The process continued until Checkpoint Charlie and its Soviet counterpoint had returned to their normal garrisons of a few soldiers on either side.

Today, the intersection has a replica checkpoint and a number of historical exhibits. Aside from the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year, Checkpoint Charlie may be the closest America and Soviet Russia came to blows in open warfare.

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Army Soldier reflects on Black History Month: ‘Black history is American history’

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo — On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Cassian Nuñez delivered a speech to a small room of Soldiers at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, in honor of the U.S. civil rights leader. The attending group held ranks ranging from junior enlisted all the way colonel.

During his speech, Nuñez told the story of a lesser-known man named Walter Reuther. Reuther was white, and a powerful civil rights ally who, among many other feats, helped organize the March on Washington and stood by King as he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

He wanted the Soldiers listening to remember that progress for African American rights was and is still accomplished by working together.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals

Long before Nuñez found himself deployed to support a NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo and giving this speech, he was spending time at the beach or the mall in southern California, where he grew up. He was raised in Rancho Cucamonga, a foothill suburb of Los Angeles, and attended Los Osos High School. It was here that Nuñez became involved in several extracurriculars, including student government, Model United Nations and Future Business Leaders of America.

The FBLA helped spark his passion for financial literacy and later motivated him to become a budget program analyst with the 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) based out of Atlanta, Georgia.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals

“A majority of my friends were in the FBLA,” said Nuñez. “We talked about the stock market all the time. From 13 years old to now, I was surrounded by people who non-stop talked about finance.”

Racial issues and economic hardship often compound each other and overlap. When Nuñez moved to Savannah, Georgia, to attend college, he observed this firsthand. Compared to his hometown, which he described as racially diverse and generally inclusive, Savannah’s racial atmosphere was totally different.

“In California, you have disparities based on income,” said Nuñez. “Rich people, regardless of their race, live in one area and poor people live in another area. But in Savannah, I saw poor white people live over here and poor Black people live over there. That was very different to see people who don’t have anything couldn’t even live together.”

At a young age, it was shocking for him to see this segregation, and at times, he was the target of racist behavior. But as he got older, Nuñez came to accept that people are shaped by their environments.

His younger sisters’ school textbooks in Georgia, for example, look completely different than the textbooks he used in California. He believes many racial and financial issues that persist in the U.S. can be tied to differences in K-12 education curriculum across the country.

“It’s just a totally different education campaign,” said Nuñez. “So instead of victimizing myself, I took it as an opportunity to educate people. In the K-12 system, we’re not taught what money is or how to use it properly. You have very smart people who can perform brain surgery but can’t balance their checkbook. Why is that?”

One way Nuñez helps educate others is by passing on his knowledge of financial responsibility to friends, family and his fellow Soldiers. His biggest inspiration is Robert Kiyasaki, an American businessman and author.

On a previous 2018 deployment to Kuwait, Nuñez would often swap investing and real estate advice with his boss and read Kiyosaki’s financial philosophies. That consistent exchange of ideas and strong mentorship, followed by his ability to use that information after deployment, has helped Nuñez build a profitable real estate business.

“I was able to do a lot more because of the decisions I made in those nine months,” said Nuñez. “That’s one of the things I’m most proud of. Not just the ability to take in information, but to act on it and enjoy the fruits of that labor.”

The mentorship Nuñez has received from his senior leaders is something he encourages all Soldiers to seek out during their military careers. As we celebrate Black History Month, coming together to talk about life experiences is one way the Army can continue working toward a diverse, inclusive environment that’s representative of the Soldiers who serve in it.

“While people can’t do a potluck or a play to celebrate because of COVID-19,” said Nuñez, “they can reflect on the fact that Black history is really American history.”

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Russia just scrambled fighters to intercept an American bomber

Russia has recently been in the news for its aggressive bomber patrols. Well, the United States has apparently flipped the script with the Russians and done a little bomber patrolling of its own.


According to a report by Reuters, at least one Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker was scrambled to intercept a Air Force B-52H Stratofortress that was flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea along Russia’s border.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
An underside view of a Soviet Su-27 Flanker aircraft carrying air-to-air missiles. (DOD photo)

Russia Today reported that the B-52 intercept was followed by Moscow scrambling a MiG-31 Foxhound to intercept a Norwegian P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft. The Norwegian plane was operating in international airspace over the Barents Sea, a location where Russia deploys its force of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. The Russian media outlet also noted that NATO is conducting exercises in Romania.

Russia has carried out a number of similar operations against the United States, Japan, and Europe, prompting their own fighter alerts and intercepts. Russia has usually used the Tu-95 “Bear” bomber capable of firing cruise missiles, like the AS-15, in these missions.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Brittany Y. Bateman

Russia has also intercepted a U.S. Navy aircraft in recent weeks, with the Russian fighter coming to within 20 feet of the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. That encounter was reportedly considered “safe” and “professional” by the Navy. Other incidents, including the buzzing of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78), have drawn protests from the Navy.

The B-52H has been part of America’s arsenal since 1961. According to an Air Force fact sheet, 58 B-52s are in the active inventory, with another 18 in reserve. The B-52 has a top speed of 650 miles per hour, an unrefueled range of 8,800 miles, and can carry up to 70,000 pounds of nuclear or conventional ordnance, including long-range cruise missiles like the AGM-86. It is expected to remain in service until 2040.

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Iraqi troops reveal more gruesome ISIS handiwork in Mosul

Iraqi security forces liberating Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have made a gruesome discovery that clearly show what the coalition is fighting against.


That discovery: Two mass graves, with a total of at least 250 bodies.

According to a report by CNN.com, the graves were created by ISIS thugs near the town of Hammam al-Alil — close to where another grave was found on Nov. 7 — with roughly 100 victims of ISIS atrocities.

One of the mass graves was in a well, and contained over 200 bodies.

“Some of the victims were thrown alive by ISIS into this well and some others were left there to die from their injuries,” Ninevah Province Council member Abdulrahamn al Wagga told CNN.

Coalition spokesman Air Force Col. John Dorrian noted that ISIS was putting up fierce resistance in and around Mosul.

“This is neighborhood-to-neighborhood fighting, particularly in the east, and the Iraqi security forces have moved deliberately and exercised a laudable level of restraint … to protect civilian life,” a DoD News article quoted him as saying.

The terrorist group has been known to carry out shocking killings of hostages and prisoners, including the use of beheading in the case of at least two Americans, and burning a captured Jordanian pilot alive.

Civilians caught under ISIS occupation have also been facing horrific treatment. Yazidi women and girls have been forced into sexual slavery, while members homosexuals have been thrown off rooftops.

In other news, the headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve reported that a strike in Raqqa, Syria killed a senior leader of the terrorist group. Col. Dorrian made specific mention of this during a press briefing, saying, “His death degrades and delays ISIL’s current plots against regional targets and deprives them of a capable senior manager who provided oversight over many external attacks.”

The Combined Joint Task Force also reported carrying out 60 airstrikes over the last three days, of which 17 were around Mosul. The Mosul-area strikes destroyed or damaged a number of targets, including 11 mortar systems, nine tunnels, four watercraft, six vehicles, while also “suppressing” four tactical units, a tank, and a rocket-propelled grenade system.

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Air Force advances new A-10 requirements

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
An A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft sits on the flight line at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey | U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cory W. Bush


The Air Force is beginning to work on how fast, lethal, durable and capable a new “A-10”-like aircraft would need to be in order to provide U.S. military ground troops with effective close-air support for decades to come.

Senior service officials are now exploring “draft requirements” concepts – and evaluating the kind of avionics, engineering, weapons, armor and technical redundancy the aircraft would need, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.

Many of the core technical attributes and combat advantages of the A-10 will be preserved and expanded upon with the new effort, officials said.

The performance of the A-10 Warthog in the ongoing bombing campaign against ISIS, coupled with the Air Forces’ subsequent decision to delay the aircraft’s planned retirement – has led the service to begin the process of developing a new, longer-term A-10 type platform.

Following an announcement earlier this year from Pentagon leaders that the A-10 will not begin retiring but rather will serve until at least 2022, Air Force and DoD officials are now hoping to keep a close-air-support aircraft for many years beyond the previously projected timeframe.

Given the emerging global threat environment, it would make sense that the Air Force would seek to preserve an aircraft such as the A-10. While the aircraft has been extremely successful attacking ISIS targets such as fuel convoys and other assets, the A-10 is also the kind of plane that can carry and deliver a wide-ranging arsenal of bombs to include larger laser-guided and precision weapons.

This kind of firepower, coupled with its 30mm cannon, titantium armor plates and built-in redundancy for close-air-support, makes the A-10 a valuable platform for potential larger-scale mechanized, force-on-force type warfare as well. The A-10 has a unique and valuable niche role to perform in the widest possible range of combat scenarios to include counterinsurgency, supporting troops on the ground in close proximity and bringing firepower, protection and infantry support to a large-scale war.

Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior that the current approach involves a three-pronged effort; the Air Force may consider simply upgrading the existing fleet of A-10s in a substantial way in order to extend its service life, acquire an off-the-shelf existing aircraft or develop a new close air support platform through a developmental effort.

“We are developing that draft requirements document.  We are staffing it around the Air Force now.  When it’s ready, then we will compare that to what we have available, compare it to keeping the A-10, compare it to what it would take to replace it with another airplane, and we will work through that process,” Lt. Gen. James Holmes, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, recently told reporters.

Holmes went on to explain that the service was, broadly speaking, exploring ways to achieve, preserve and sustain “air superiority” in potential long-term, high-end combat engagements. He added that considerations about a close-air-support replacement aircraft figured prominently in the strategic calculus surrounding these issues.

As a result, the Air Force will be looking for the “optimal” type of close-air-support platform by weighing various considerations such as what the differences might be between existing aircraft and future developmental platforms.

Cost and affordability will also be a very large part of the equation when it comes to making determinations about an A-10 replacement, Holmes explained.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
A-10C aircraft from the Maryland Air National Guard stationed at Warfield Air National Guard base in Baltimore, Maryland flying in formation during a training exercise. | U.S. Air Force photo

“The question is exactly where is the sweet spot as we talked about between what’s available now and what the optimum CAS replacement would be.  We are working along that continuum to see exactly what the requirement is that we can afford and the numbers that we need to be able to do the mission,” Holmes added.

Several industry platforms, such as Raytheon’s T-X plane and the A-29 Embraer EMB Super Tucano aircraft, are among options being looked at as things which could potentially be configured for a close-air-support plane.

Holmes added that Congress expects the Air Force to operate about 1,900 A-10s or A-10-like close-air-support aircraft.

Having the requisite funds to support this would be of great value to the Air Force; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh recently told lawmakers that, despite the prior plan, the service did not want to retire the A-10.

Prior plans to retire the fleet of A-10s were purely budget driven, senior Air Force leaders have consistently said.

“I don’t want to retire it,” Welsh told a Congressional Committee in early March.

Air Force leaders had previously said that the emerging multi-role F-35 would be able to pick up the close-air-support mission. With its sensor technology, 25mm gun and maneuverability, there is little question about whether the F-35 could succeed with these kinds of missions. At the same time, there is also consensus that the A-10 provides an extremely unique set of battlefield attributes which need to be preserved for decades.

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This is why Mattis isn’t losing sleep over threats from North Korea

US military strategists at the Pentagon have a military solution in place to address the growing threat emanating from North Korea, but they are holding their fire in favor of ongoing diplomatic efforts by Washington and its allies, Defense Secretary James Mattis said August 10.


The Pentagon chief remained largely mum on the details of that military solution, which theoretically would curb Pyongyang’s efforts to develop a nuclear-capable, ballistic missile arsenal, except to say any military option would be a multilateral one involving a number of regional powers in the Pacific.

“Do I have military options? Of course, I do. That’s my responsibility, to have those. And we work very closely with allies to ensure that this is not unilateral either … and of course there’s a military solution,” Mr. Mattis told reporters en route to meet with senior leaders in the technology sector in Seattle and California.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
Defense Secretary James Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

The former four-star general declined to provide any additional insight to a statement released August 9, warning that the North’s continued provocations — including alleged plans for an attack against US forces in Guam by Pyongyang — “would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

Instead, Mr. Mattis reiterated that the administration’s diplomatic efforts to quell tensions on the peninsula remained the top priority for the White House.

“We want to use diplomacy. That’s where we’ve been, that’s where we are right now. and that’s where we hope to remain. But at the same time, our defenses are robust” and ready to take on any threat posed by the North Korean regime, Mr. Mattis said.

US defense and national security officials have repeatedly touted the capabilities of the US missile defense shield over the last several weeks, in the wake of a pair of successful test launches by North Korea of its latest intercontinental ballistic missile in July. President Trump has made revamping US missile defense systems a top objective for the Pentagon since taking office.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
Photo from North Korean State Media.

That impetus has only grown among administration officials amid reports this week that Pyongyang had built a nuclear warhead small enough to fit atop one of the country’s long-range missiles.

On August 9, Mr. Trump threatened to rain down “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea did not curb its nuclear programs. In response, North Korea announced it was developing plans for a missile strike against Guam.

On August 10, Mr. Mattis declined to comment whether he was taken aback by Mr. Trump’s harsh rhetoric.

“I was not elected, the American people elected the president,” he said. “I think what he’s pointing out is simply these provocations … [and] his diplomatic effort to try and stop it,” Mr. Mattis said.

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The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment

Since relocating from Yuma, Arizona, to Iwakuni, Japan, in January, the Marine Corps’ first squadron of F-35B Joint Strike Fighters has been hard at work ironing out the basics of operations in the Pacific, from streamlining supply chains to practicing “hot reloads” and rapid ground refueling from a KC-130.


In fall 2017, the unit — Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 — will deploy aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

And the squadron is well aware that a sea deployment in the tense Pacific could well entail responding to a regional crisis or a combat contingency, Lt. Col. Richard Rusnok, the squadron’s commanding officer, told Military.com in an interview this month.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
DOD Photo by Levingston M Lewis

“When I was a young guy in [AV-8B] Harrier land in 2003, several MEUs … were in a normal deployment and something happened, and they ended up in a bigger picture,” Rusnok said, referring to MEU-based combat units dispatched to Iraq to assist with ground operations during the invasion. “That’s something that could really happen. Given the small numbers of F-35s that are out there, I think [combatant commanders] are going to look at that and say, ‘I’ve got six airplanes out on the MEU. I could do something with them.’ ”

VFMA-121 has hit milestones not just for the Marine Corps, but for the entire Defense Department since late 2012, when it became the first squadron to activate with the 5th-generation fighter.

The unit’s reception in the Iwakuni community has been warm, Rusnok said. Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda attended the March change-of-command ceremony for the unit, and an aviation day at the air station drew a crowd of 210,000, with locals surrounding a displayed F-35B “six or seven deep,” he said.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
Photo by USMC

While the squadron has not begun shipboard training, set to happen later this summer, it’s already preparing for the upcoming MEU deployment in practical ways, standing up and proving out logistics capabilities and supply chains for the F-35 in the Pacific.

Working Out Supply Chains

Rusnok noted that, in the space of months, the Joint Strike Fighter program went from being based almost solely in the continental United States to having aircraft in Israel, Italy, and Japan, among other locations.

“That’s such an incredibly complicated, such an exponential growth in geography that it’s almost hard to fathom, if you rewind back several years, to see we’re this far along,” he said. “What we’ve done, I think, at Iwakuni is to break down some of these barriers and find out how that airplane is supportable in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The squadron has worked with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office and aircraft maker Lockheed Martin to find faster ways to ship gear and replacement parts, and to send broken parts back to the United States to repair. With a global supply chain and a relatively small number of active aircraft, sometimes a plane in need of a part at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona must get it shipped from Iwakuni, and vice versa.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
DOD Photo by Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Necoechea

“Iwakuni is distinctly different from CONUS-based units, not only because of the tyranny of distance in the Pacific region, but we also have a wide variety of places we could potentially go,” Rusnok said. “Expeditionary maintenance logistics are incredibly important to what we do.”

Fighting Skills

The squadron got to hone its fighting skills earlier this month at Northern Edge, a 12-day training exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

The exercise included the Air Force’s 5th-generation F-22 Raptor, as well as numerous fourth-generation fighters, including the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

In the exercise, the largest VFMA-121 has participated in since moving forward to Iwakuni, the F-35s were able to drill on joint operations in the Western Pacific, focusing on aerial interdiction, strike warfare, air-to-air, and offensive counter-air missions.

Rusnok said the F-35’s kill ratio from the exercise was not immediately available, though one of the missions he flew racked up eight kills and zero losses, he said, a fairly indicative statistic.

But he doesn’t particularly like to talk about those stats.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
DOD Photo by Ryan Kierkegaard

“Everyone likes to focus on that air-to-air piece. It robs that statistic out of a bigger scenario,” he said. “You never hear about the surface-to-air kills we got, the enemy systems degraded. There’s a bigger picture.”

The exercise, Rusnok said, also tested the F-35’s ability to create a “God’s-eye view” of the battlespace, with its ability to network and transmit information. Northern Edge showed, he said, that the capability remained strong, even in a dense radio frequency environment that hindered transmissions.

“Where other air systems have problems, we’re able to cut through that so easily,” he said. “Our ability to resist that kind of attack on the electromagnetic spectrum is huge.”

Testing Maintenance Software

The squadron also brought with it a deployable version of its Autonomic Logistics Information System, a software designed to revolutionize F-35 maintenance that has been hampered by production and upgrade delays. A 2016 Government Accountability Office report questioned whether ALIS was truly able to deploy in practice, citing a lack of redundancy in the system.

“Every time we deploy this airplane, we make a decision whether to deploy ALIS or leave it home,” Rusnok said.

In this case, he said, the squadron worked with the Air Force to make necessary modifications to host the ALIS deployable operating unit, hardware that travels with the squadron when connectivity is an issue. Overall, Rusnok said, the system worked well during the exercise, and preparing to use it offered insights on its future use.

“Let’s say we’re going to an Air Force base in Country X — we know those facilities are now compatible with ALIS,” he said. “Maybe we can take advantage of this and put it in our playbook as something we can do, optimize to really cut down on that logistics footprint.”

Now back in Japan, the squadron has already begun early preparations for its upcoming deployment, conducting rapid ground refueling tests using the KC-130 Hercules and practicing “hot reloads” in which the aircraft receives new ordnance while the pilot remains in the cockpit.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
KC-130 Hercules. DOD Photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward.

The unit’s pre-deployment preparations will likely provide insights for units that come after. The next F-35B deployment, aboard the amphibious assault ship Essex, will come months after VFMA-121 deploys to the Pacific and is expected to take the Corps’ second F-35 squadron, VFMA-211, to the Middle East.

“Come the fall, we’re going to have all the pieces in place so we can effectively deploy the squadron,” Rusnok said.

Articles

Yemen reportedly bans US special-operation ground missions after botched raid

After the US-led raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and several civilians, Yemen is reportedly barring the US from further special-operation ground missions against terrorists in the region.


The New York Times on Tuesday night cited US officials who said the reaction among Yemenis was strong after the operation left some women and children dead.

Also read: Air Force keeping the beloved A-10 around for at least a few more years

The officials said the suspension would not apply to drone attacks or the US military advisers who are already providing intelligence support to the Yemenis.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
Navy SEALs retreat after a training exercise. | US Navy photo

The January raid against Al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate, known as AQAP — which was approved by President Donald Trump after a postponement from the Obama administration, which was waiting for a moonless night — unfolded with a 50-minute firefight in which a team of SEALs was met with fierce resistance.

Chief Petty Officer William Owens was killed in the battle.

Though the White House has received some criticism over the raid, the Trump administration has called it a success, saying US forces gathered valuable intelligence.

Articles

Gear Porn: Aimpoint 3X-C Magnifier finally hit the shelves

Don’t want to put a variable optic up top? Try an Aimpoint magnifier instead.


A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo of BreachBangClear.com.

Remember — this is just a public service “be advised message,” and we’re saying this without the slightest trace of tergiversation. All we’re doing is letting you know these things exist and might be of interest to you. This isn’t a critique or a review any more than it is rectopexy.

Grunts: tergiversation.

It’s been a long time coming (we first saw it debuted back at SHOT 2016), but the new Aimpoint 3X-C Magnifier is now available.

Use it as a a budget friendly, responsibly-armed-citizen-version of its almost bombproof military cousin, or throw it up to your peeper as a monocular and perv on the cougar who lives across the street.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
Aimpoint 3X-C — ain’t she somethin’?

The 3X-C is designed to be used in conjunction with all Aimpoint sights for better reaching-out-and-touching someone, or for observation if your fetish job is an ISR role. You can use the variable dioptric (-2 to +2) setting to fine tune it to your specific eyeball as required.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
Cougar huntin’.

Remember that the 3X-C utilizes the Aimpoint red dots as the aiming reticle. You won’t need to worry about re-zeroing when you shift between magnified (i.e. with the 3-XC) or non-magnified (after you’ve snapped it back to the side) aiming.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
Aimpoint 3X-C is fancy af.

The 3X-C is encased in a rubber cover that makes it easy and comfortable to grip (that’s what she said), but more importantly, it absorbs shock and impact. Internal optical adjustments make aligning the magnifier a task even grunts can do easily.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
Nothin’ quite like a girl with a gun.

Note that the 3X-C is only compatible with 30mm ring mounts. It doesn’t have the same 4-hole mounting plate the “pro” models do. It is NOD (NVD) compatible.

The 3X-C has a 6° field of view, exit pupil of 6.5mm, and eye relief of 56mm. It will function in a wide enough variety of climes that if it doesn’t work where your’e living, you probably need to just pack up your shit and move.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
Grunt-friendly and pretty to boot!

Don’t forget you’ll need a mount (believe it or not some folks do). Figure out ahead of time what sort of co-witness you’re going to prefer (absolute or lower 1/3) and make sure you’re not using some peculiar size/shape BUIS, then get your mount.

There are many options out there, and of course Aimpoint offers one as well. Their AR Ready Mount is a lever release Picatinny (LRP) mount with a 39mm spacer. Like all their magnifiers, the Aimpoint 3X-C works with their own proprietary TwistMount. You can also buy it with the FlipMount. If you already own the former, buy the upper portion of the latter (it will work with the old base) and you’re good to go.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals

Or, you can just wait for that 6x (C) magnifier that oughta be out really soon…

Learn more about it here on the Aimpoint website, or find a place to buy one right here.

You know. Whatever your “shooting” preferences are.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals
Sexy carwash.

About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.

What we learned from working with Iraq and Afghan locals

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