The Sherman tank was a powerful force to be reckoned with on the battlefields in WWII; it was fast and mobile and it shelled out plenty of firepower.
It provided just enough cover for American ground troops as it stomped through the German front lines. The Sherman was designed to patrol over enemy bridges and it was easily transported on railroad cars.
When the U.S. decided to invade Europe, General Patton selected the Sherman as his particular tank of choice and wanted as many to roll off the assembly lines as possible. Nearly fifty thousand were produced between 1942 and 1945.
Weighing in at 33 tons, it sustained a speed of 26 miles per hour and housed 2 inches of armor. Many saw the image of the Sherman tank to be invincible just like the American war effort, but the brave soldiers who served as tank crew members believed that it had too many engineering flaws and was far inferior compared to the German’s Tiger and Panther tanks.
The Sherman tank was equipped with a fully-transversing 75mm turret short barrelled gun that fired a high explosive shell 2,000 feet per second. Compared to the German tanks that shot accurately at 3,500 feet per second, the enemy’s armor piercing ammo was 2-3 times more effective.
It was recommended that to defeat the Germans, the tank crew had to speed up and flank around their battlefield rivalry and get within 600 yards range to be effective.
Captain Belton Y. Cooper, author of Death Traps and a member of the 3rd Armor Division maintenance unit, recounts knowing how inferior the Sherman was after seeing its physical destruction firsthand. He knew it was no match for the Nazi’s arsenal.
“We lost 648 tanks totally destroyed in combat, another 700 knocked out, repaired and put back into action,” Cooper says. “That’s 1,348 tanks knocked out in combat. I don’t think anyone took that kind of loss in the war.”
Accidents from heavy machinery, exposure to hazardous materials, and heavy mooring lines snapping are just a few of the dangers that sailors and Marines face on a daily basis while underway aboard ship.
Another threat that strikes fear in those stationed on the massive Naval warships cruising the open seas is falling overboard. Luckily, advanced training is available for the ship’s crew to coordinate a rescue if such an event were to happen.
For those Naval officers aboard the USS Gravely looking to claim the title of Officer of the Day — the point person on an at-sea rescue — they must first conduct and complete a successful rescue of a man overboard drill on a “killer tomato.”
The killer tomato being inflated then deployed. (Image via Giphy)Once someone falls overboard, the alert rings out over the 1MC, and all the ship’s staff is briefed on the crisis. It’s now up to the OOD candidate to coordinate with the crew to maneuver the ship into action.
The ship uses its high-powered gas turbine engines to accelerate the vessel into a short radius turn by shifting the stern (the back of the ship) away for the tomato, so it doesn’t get chopped up by the powerful propellers.
Once the ship pulls ahead, the ODD will command a variety of tactical turns intended to “double-back” and retrieve their shipmate.
When the drill’s over and the supervising officer is satisfied that all is complete, the killer tomato is then used for target practice and shot to hell.
Before 9/11, the last time American forces fought on horseback was on January 16, 1942 when the U.S. Army’s 26th Cavalry Regiment charged an advanced guard of the 14th Japanese Army as it advanced from Manila.
After the terror attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, the United States demanded the extradition of Osama bin Laden from the Taliban, then the recognized government of Afghanistan. When the Taliban didn’t cough him up, the U.S. military went to work.
Official combat operations started on Oct. 7, 2001 in the form of airstrikes and Tomahawk missile strikes against suspected al-Qaeda training sites near Kandahar, Kabul, and Herat. On Nov. 16, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced “we have had limited number of American forces on the ground for weeks.”
He was talking about the Horse Soldiers, U.S. Special Forces attempting to secure Northern Afghanistan with the Afghan Northern Alliance.
The elite troops were there to connect with and advise the Northern Alliance fighters who had been fighting the Taliban government since 1996. They were just in time. On Sep. 9, 2001, al-Qaeda operatives assassinated Ahmad Shah Massoud, the longtime resistance fighter who led wars against the Soviet Union and later, the Taliban (Massoud even tried to warn Western leaders about the 9/11 attacks). He rejected the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islam and was the able political and military leader of the Northern Alliance. When the Americans arrived the Alliance fighters were ready to avenge Massoud. The only way to get around the country was on horseback.
For some of the American commandos, it was their first time on a horse. “It was like riding a bobcat,” Lt. Col. Max Bowers (Ret.) told CNN.
Sergeant 1st Class Joe Jung, the team’s medic and sniper, was thrown from his horse, broke his back, and continued with the mission. “I would not allow myself to be the weak link,” Jung said. “It’s not in my nature, and it’s not in any Green Beret’s nature.”
Bowers carried a piece of the World Trade Center during the entire mission and months later, buried it with full military honors at Mazar-e-Sharif.
The commandos’ horses were trained by the Northern Alliance warriors to run toward gunfire. Charges pitting Alliance forces against the Taliban were much like those centuries ago, but the fighters used AK-47s instead of sabers.
Air Force Combat Controller Master Sgt. Bart Decker used laser-guided airstrikes to support Alliance forces. Abdul Rashid Dostum, leader of Alliance forces, referred to one of the female navigators on an AC-130 gunship providing close air support as the “Angel of Death.”
During the Battle of Mazar-e-Sharif, Jung treated Taliban fighters. The special forces let one go, allowing him to tell other Taliban fighters he was treated humanely and they would be too. This led to mass surrender after the battle. After Mazar-e Sharif, Jung heard an odd accent among the wounded at a prison camp.
That voice came from John Walker Lindh, the infamous “American Taliban.” The Taliban POWs would later rise up against their captors, capturing the arsenal at Mazar-e Sharif, killing CIA operator Mike Spann, the first casualty of American operations in Afghanistan.
It took two months for the Allied forces to defeat the Taliban government.
Kentucky sculptor Douwe Blumberg created a monument of the horse soldiers in his studio in 2011, in honor of the entire military special operations community. That statue, the American Response Monument, is now at the World Trade Center site in New York.
At the 58 BC Battle of Vosges, Julius Caesar was surrounded. He had to force the Germanic army under Ariovistus into combat because the German was content to starve the Romans out. Cut off from supplies, Caesar’s legions may not last long enough to attack later. So, outnumbered and surrounded, Caesar struck.
He marched his entire force toward the weakest part of the Germanic army: its camp. When the legions arrived, the Germanic women were in the army’s wagon train, shouting, screaming, and wailing… at the Germanic men.
The Gallic Wars were an important moment in the history of Rome. It saw Julius Caesar’s rise in power and prestige as well as an important military and territorial expansion of the Roman Republic. But to the Romans’ well-organized and disciplined fighting force, the wailing Germanic women must have been an altogether strange experience.
Germanic women were forced to defend the wagon trains after many battles against the Romans.
If a tribe was caught up in a fight while migrating or moving for any reason, women would not be left behind. Germanic women would yell at their fighting men, sometimes with their children on hand to witness the fighting. The women encouraged their children to yell and, with bare breasts, shouted reminders at the men that they must be victorious in combat or their families would be captured and enslaved… or worse, slaughtered wholesale.
Their shouts encouraged their men to fight harder, as women were considered holy spirits. Letting them fall into enemy hands was the ultimate failure.
The Roman Senator and historian Tacitus wrote in his work, Germania:
A specially powerful incitement to valor is that the squadrons and divisions are not made up at random by the mustering of chance-comers, but are each composed of men of one family or clan. Close by them, too, are their nearest and dearest, so that they can hear the shrieks of their women-folk and the wailing of their children. These are the witnesses whom each man reverences most highly, whose praise he most desires. It is to their mothers and wives that they go to have their wounds treated, and the women are not afraid to count and compare the gashes. They also carry supplies of food to the combatants and encourage them.
It stands on record that armies already wavering and on the point of collapse have been rallied by the women, pleading heroically with their men, thrusting forward their bared bosoms, and making them realize the imminent prospect of enslavement — a fate which the Germans fear more desperately for their women than for themselves. Indeed, you can secure a surer hold on these nations if you compel them to include among a consignment of hostages some girls of noble family. More than this, they believe that there resides in women an element of holiness and a gift of prophecy; and so they do not scorn to ask their advice, or lightly disregard their replies.The women were more than just morale builders, though. They provided aid and comfort to their men after the battle was over, of course. And they would bring supplies and food to their male warriors in the middle of the fight.
If the battle didn’t go well, however, Germanic women could take on an entirely new role. They might kill any male members of the tribe who attempted retreat. They could even kill their children and then commit suicide rather than submit to enslavement by another tribe or army.
Women were captured en masse at the Battle of Aquaq Sextiae.
Vosges wasn’t the first time the Roman Republic encountered this phenomenon. At the 102 BC Battle of Aquae Sextiae a Roman army that was outnumbered by Germans 3-to-1 emerged victorious, according to the Roman historian Plutarch. He notes that 300 of the women captured that day killed themselves and their children rather than be taken back to Rome.
For the Germans at the Battle of Vosges, the situation wasn’t as desperate. They were all well-rested and their march from the Rhine River didn’t take a heavy toll on their strength. But the Romans were formidable and, thanks to a sudden moment of quick thinking by one of Caesar’s cavalry officers, they were able to drive the Germans back across the Rhine. When Caesar returned from Rome after the conquest of Gaul, he came back with a million slaves.
It’s the classic battle between masters of the martial arts.
Snipers embody the best of stealth, reconnaissance and camouflage and are at the top of their game when it come to dispatching targets with precision from a great distance.
“One shot, one kill” is no joke.
And when it comes to the best way to combat an enemy sniper, there’s no better weapon than a good guy sniper.
But what happens when the bad guy turns the tables and the good guy becomes the hunted? That’s exactly what happens in the new film from Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions titled “The Wall.”
Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and WWE superstar John Cena, “The Wall” depicts a sneak attack on a U.S. sniper team in Iraq by a diabolical enemy sharpshooter called “Juba,” played by Laith Nakli. The movie explores the psychological jiujitsu from each side as they try to outmaneuver one another in a battle where moving an inch in the wrong direction could mean certain death.
The enemy sniper from “The Wall” is loosely based on the infamous insurgent sharpshooter with the Juba nom de guerre in Iraq. The real Juba was reportedly killed by ISIS in 2013.
Marines at Camp Pendleton will get to field-test more than 50 different new technologies next month ranging from palmtop mini-drones to self-driving amtracs, from wireless networks to precision-guided mortar shells. Plus there will be plenty of classified systems the Marines can’t talk about, including cyber and electronic warfare gear. Technologies that do well may graduate to a more formal Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) or to further testing in the Marines’ big Bold Alligator wargame on the East Coast this fall, Col. Dan Sullivan, chief of staff at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory here, told reporters in March.
(The name of April’s exercise, in classically military fashion, is — deep breath — the Ship To Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2017, or S2ME2 ANTX).
That’s a lightning pace for the Pentagon. It normally takes 18 to 24 months to set up a technology demonstration on this scale, and this one is happening in nine, said Aileen Sansone, an official with the Navy’s Rapid Prototyping, Experimentation, Demonstration (RPED) office. The project launched last summer, when Col. Sullivan’s boss, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh — in charge of future warfare concepts — reached out to deputy assistant secretary John Burrow — in charge of RD, testing, and evaluation.
It was only in October that the project team put out its special notice inviting industry proposals. Well over 100 operators and engineers from different Navy and Marine Corps organizations evaluated the 124 (unclassified) submissions and whittle them down to 50 that would ready for the field by April, said Navy Capt. Chris Mercer, Burrow’s director of RPED. (Another 50 technologies, not quite as ready, will be on display for visiting dignitaries but won’t be used in the exercise).
“It drives the analysts crazy. Analysts don’t like to go fast,” Sullivan chuckled to reporters. “Are you accepting risk? Yes, you are.”
Some of the 50 technologies will probably just plain not work, the team told reporters, and that’s okay. In fact, failing “early and often” is an essential part of innovation. “If we don’t fail, we didn’t do our job,” said Mercer. “This is the time to fail” — before the Marines decide on major acquisition programs, let alone take a technology into combat.
The project has high-level support to take that risk, including the enthusiastic backing of acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley, who used to head Navy Department Research, Development, Acquisition.
“This exercise provides a unique opportunity for warfighters to assess emerging technologies and innovative engineering in support of amphibious assault operations,” Stackley said in a statement to Breaking Defense. “We are grateful to the government and industry vendors who participate and bring their expertise to assist in supporting our nation’s security.”
“SecNav’s committed to really accelerating the rate of our innovations and using the new authorities that have been coming to use since about 2015 to really rapidly prototype and rapidly field,” said Mercer. But even as you go fast, he added, you have to make sure “you’ve got the rigor in the process that allows us to use the new authorities.”
So what kinds of capabilities will this project deliver to the field? Almost all of them rely on rapid advances in information technology, and many are outright robotic, like the various drones and self-driving Amphibious Assault Vehicle. There’s no single silver bullet, Sullivan and co. said, and the real tactical payoff comes from combining technologies. That’s why the Marines organized the experiment not by technical categories — e.g. one team handles all unmanned aerial vehicles, another unmanned watercraft, another networks — but by mission, which required experts in different fields from different agencies and companies to integrate disparate technologies towards a single purpose.
The team defined six mission areas and gave them nifty codenames:
Shield: “early intelligence (and) reconnaissance,” using, for example wide-ranging swarms of robotic scouts in the air, sea, and land, which would allow Marines to identify far more landing sites and potentially bypass defenders by coming ashore in unexpected places. Instead of landing en masse at an obvious 1,000-meter-wide beach, said the Warfighting Lab’s Doug King, “I want to go through a gap in the mangroves.”
Spear: “threat identification,” e.g. covert drones coming in for a closer look with high-powered sensors and sending detailed data back using hard-to-intercept transmissions.
Dagger: “(follow-on) reconnaissance threat elimination,” e.g. more drones and manned platforms marking obstacles and mines.
Cutlass: “maneuver ashore,” e.g. unmanned boats carrying Marines ashore at high speed or unmanned Amtracs swimming in on their own power, with expendable decoy drones.
Broadsword: “combat power ashore,” e.g. battlefield 3D printing of spare parts and unmanned ground vehicles providing fire support or carrying supplies.
Battleaxe: “amphibious C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance),” e.g. high bandwidth networks, resisting to jamming and hacking, that can tie the whole operation together.
Because of the laser focus on amphibious landings, the Ship to Shore Maneuver task force deliberately didn’t look at other promising technologies, such as, well, lasers. For operations at sea, the Navy already has a drone-killing laser aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf, while the Marines are developing a truck-mounted laser for air defense ashore. Likewise, Sullivan said, the “Sea Dragon” effort with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment is focused more on smaller technologies that a Marine squad can carry with it once it’s landed ashore.
What the Ship to Shore Maneuver task force has taken on is the defining task of the Marine Corps: amphibious landing in the face of armed resistance. That’s especially hard when the armed opposition now has so-called Anti-Access/Area Denial defenses: precision-guided cruise missiles with hundreds of miles of range, strike aircraft, submarines, drones, with the sensors to find targets and the networks to coordinate them.
“Our generation grew up in an environment where we were the only ones who had precision guided munitions. We were the only ones who had UAS (drones). Air supremacy was guaranteed; maritime supremacy was taken for granted,” Sullivan said. That’s changed.
“For a long time, we were talking about countering shore-based defenses by standoff, but anti-ship cruise missiles (are) just going to continue to extend the range, so we’re going to have to get and persist within that envelope — and if you look at the totality of the capabilities that we’re experimenting, it’s giving us the ability to do that,” Sullivan said.
“At some point, we’ve got to dismantle the A2/AD integrated defense system,” said Sullivan. “To be considered a great power, you have to be retain a forcible entry capability.”
Mattis stressed that his first talks with Trump centered on the US’s ability to defend against and deter nuclear-missile attacks.
Mattis also lauded the State Department’s efforts to bring a diplomatic solution to the Korean Peninsula’s conflict. He made clear that the US had “the most precise, rehearsed, and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on earth.”
The US, which protects its air and naval bases on Guam with advanced missile defenses, appeared prepared to meet the challenge of North Korea’s unreliable missiles.
“We always maintain a high state of readiness and have the capabilities to counter any threat, to include those from North Korea,” Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, told Business Insider.
“It would be a war that fundamentally we don’t want,” Mattis said at the time, but “would win at great cost.”
Read Mattis’ full statement below:
“The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from attack. Kim Jong Un should take heed of the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice, and statements from governments the world over, who agree the DPRK poses a threat to global security and stability. The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.
“President Trump was informed of the growing threat last December and on taking office his first orders to me emphasized the readiness of our ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrent forces. While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now posses the most precise, rehearsed, and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on earth. The DPRK regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.”
US defense secretary Jim Mattis said August 14 “all options — from withdrawal, to using private contractors, to adding thousands of US forces to the fight — remain on the table for Afghanistan.”
Mattis repeated the White House and Pentagon were ‘very close’ to finalizing a new strategy to present to President Trump.
Mattis, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster have worked for months to craft strategy options for President Donald Trump.
Mattis said both withdrawal and a private contracted force were still under consideration. “The strategic decisions have not been made,” Mattis said. “It’s part of the options being considered.”
Military Times previously reported on Trump supporter and former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince’s efforts to outsource the now 16-year Afghan war to private contractors, including offering a privatized air force for Afghanistan.
Military Times also reported that Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US Forces-Afghanistan, has refused to meet with Prince. It is not clear whether that refusal has frustrated Trump.
According to NBC News, Trump has asked both Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford to replace Nicholson as the top US general in Afghanistan. due to the president’s frustration with how that campaign is going.
On August 14, Mattis defended Nicholson, saying he “of course” supports him. But Mattis could not say whether the White House similarly supported him.
Gen. John Nicholson. (Dept. of Defense photo)
“Ask the president,” Mattis said. “[Nicholson] has the confidence of NATO. He has the confidence of the United States.”
The new strategy for Afghanistan was expected about a month ago. Mattis said he was still confident a decision was close.
“We are sharpening each of the options so you can see the pluses and minuses of each one so that there’s no longer any new data you are going to get, now just make the decision.”
The Air Force had a number of various uniforms even before its independent inception in 1947. The evolution was a long and sometimes painful (on the eyes) one. Wear of Air Force uniforms is pretty important to airmen, and is governed by Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2903, the only AFI most airmen know offhand. It also contains uniform requirements for the Civil Air Patrol as if the Civil Air Patrol counts as the military… I mean, its nice that perfect attendance is required for your “basic training” but call us when the UCMJ applies to you.
The Air Force officially ended wear of olive green dress uniforms in 1952, switching over to distinct blue uniforms to stand out from the other services. In the years since, those “blues” (as they came to be called) evolved as times changed and as the Air Force itself changed.
This served for most airmen, but for those who still required a utility uniform, green would be (and still is) the mainstay for those uniforms. But Air Force utility uniforms always incorporated a distinctive blue, in some way, over the years to ensure its separation from the Army and little else.
The Air Force, like the Navy, appeared to be struggling with a uniform identity crisis in recent years, but it looks like they’ve got a handle on things.
The USAF came a long way, and so it’s good to take a look back at the best and worst of what the Air Force thought was a good idea, lest history repeat itself.
1. Flight Suits – (1917- Present)
The coolest looking and most comfortable uniform, the flight suit is easily the number one in the Air Force wardrobe. Early flight suits had the same needs as today’s flight suits. Aircrews need warm clothing with pockets to keep things from falling out. Early flight suits required jackets, usually leather, to keep the pilots warm. The need for pressurized cockpits allowed the flight suit to become what it is today: flame resistant, comfortable, practical and still cool-looking.
2. Battle Dress Uniform (1981-2011)
Maybe it’s because i’m partial to the uniform I wore every day, maybe it’s because the BDU is both comfortable and utilitarian, maybe because it’s a uniform which was worn across all branches of the U.S. military. In my mind, the only bad thing about this uniform was the M-65 BDU field jacket, which worked against the cold every bit as well as any crocheted blanket, which is to say, not at all. There’s a reason it was the longest-serving uniform.
3. Blue Shade 1084 & 1549 Service Dress Uniform (1962-1969)
This is the one which became the iconic Air Force blues uniform after appearing in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove. An Air Force officer in the film, cigar-chomping Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper, acted and looked a lot like real life Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, who is famous for his hardline thinking. He was once quoted as saying:
“If I see that the Russians are amassing their planes for an attack, I’m going to knock the sh-t out of them before they take off the ground.”
Army and Air Force personnel wore this both stateside and deployed to the Southeast Asia theater. It was replaced by the Tropical Combat Uniform in Southeast Asia but outside it continued to be the work uniform of choice through the 1970s when it was replaced by the woodland BDU.
5. SR-71 Pressure Suits (1966-1999)
Its almost not even fair. They get to crew the greatest airframe ever designed AND look like an awesome alt-metal band in the process.
6. Air Force PT Uniforms (2006- Present)
Have you ever gone to the gym and wondered how much greater your workout could be if you did it while wearing swim trunks? The Air Force physical training uniform combines all the internal mesh of swim trunks to keep yourself in place with all the length of 1970s tennis player shorts to ensure you’re not only uncomfortable working out but so is everyone who has to look at you.
7. Air Force Band Drum Major
I understand military tradition requires bands, but do we still have to make them dress like they should be guarding Queen Elizabeth? I wonder what possible purpose that giant hat served, even when it was a real part of a military uniform. Did the scepter ever serve a real purpose? And that sash looks makes him look less like an Air Force Chief and more like he’s the WWE Intercontinental Champion.
8. Air Force Command Staff Ceremonial Uniforms (2012)
In 2012, Gen. Mark Welsh III rolled out a new set of ceremonial uniforms for the Air Force Command Staff. Commenters from Air Force magazine were quick to crack jokes about the special uniforms:
“General Welsh looks like a Russian crown prince at an embassy ball. What is it? Come on, General LeMay would never wear that!!”
“It appears the general is or was a member of the Air Force Band.”
“Exactly when did the AF adopt John Phillip Sousa’s uniform as its own?”
Air Force Times offered Welsh an opportunity to talk about the uniform, but he declined.
9. Air Force Summer Service Uniform (1956)
This one is so bad, it’s hard to find evidence of it. It looked like your mailman earned rank and started maintaining aircraft. Yes, in the photo above even other airmen can’t believe these guys are actually wearing Khaki shorts and a safari hat. Ladies usually love a man in uniform, but these guys will be single until they ditch those ugly things.
10. Merrill McPeak Dress Blues
The uniform was criticized for looking too much like the Navy’s uniforms, like an airline pilot’s uniform, or “a business suit with medals,” it featured a white shirt and the signature clouds and lightning bolts (aka “Farts and Darts”) on the sleeves of the jacket. McPeak’s uniform was popular with absolutely no one but McPeak. These uniforms went away as soon as he did.
US military forces seem poised to take a prominent role in the long-awaited battle to take down Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
Though the Pentagon has long downplayed the role of US ground troops in the fight against the ISIS terror group in Iraq and Syria, recent deployments of many more “boots on the ground” suggest they may be front-and-center in the coming months.
Earlier this week, a convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.
Until this most recent Ranger deployment, the Pentagon had adamantly stuck to the line that its “regional partners” — Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga for the most part — were bearing the brunt of the battle.
But on Wednesday, another curious deployment seemed to counter that narrative. According to The Washington Post, US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment had left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa.
“For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out,” the Post wrote.
The unit, part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, recently finished conducting training exercises in Oman and Djibouti. Its new outpost inside Syria has M777 Howitzers that fire 155mm projectiles, which are likely guarded by additional infantrymen at the site, according to The Post.
U.S. Marines fire artillery to break up ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Peshmerga forces. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, told the Fayetteville Observer last year that most US troops were in Iraq or Kuwait, though “some” were operating inside Syria.
Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.
Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.
Though the new directives were lauded by the Pentagon as “adding ‘precision’ to ground operations,” wrote The Institute for the Study of War, “it also underscores that US personnel are increasingly at the frontlines of the operation. Indicators from the new US Administration, including a proposed 10% budget increase for the Department of Defense, suggest that it may expand the level of US involvement in Iraq, beyond the Mosul operation.”
A spokesperson for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit did not respond to a request for comment.
Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, said the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to “Syrian partnered forces” who will eventually assault Raqqa.
The Marines and Rangers will provide the “commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS,” Dorrian told Business Insider.
He added: “The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners.”
The White House is considering whether to send another 1,000 American soldiers to Kuwait to serve as a “reserve force” for the Raqqa offensive, Reuters reported Wednesday. Officials who spoke with Reuters said there were about 6,000 US troops currently deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, up from the 5,000 that was reported in January.
The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.
A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.
Czech Foreign Legionnaire and airman Vachlav Bozdech and his French wingman, Pierre Duval, were shot down over no man’s land between France and the invading German Army in 1940. After the crash, Bozdech dragged the wounded Duval into a nearby house. Its tenants were nowhere to be found, having evacuated the house of all they could carry — which did not include their German Shepherd puppy.
Despite having just walked away from a plane crash and running from oncoming enemy troops, the Czech and French airmen stopped to feed the puppy a bit of candy from their coats and melt some snow to give it a drink. As the night wore on, the two men decided they would make a break for the French lines, but without the dog.
Almost as soon as they left, the puppy began to howl. Duval and Bozdech decided they would have to kill the dog before he gave away their positions to the Nazis. Cue Sarah McLachlan.
No, Bozdech did not kill the pup. The other method of getting the dog to be quiet was as simple as the Czech putting the puppy in his coat and bringing him along — which he did.
As the downed airmen made their way to the French lines, German flares lit up the night sky, turning their darkness cover into the light of day. The three booked it to the nearest tree line, running into some fresh troops. Luckily they were French, a search party sent to look for the downed airmen. When they all arrived back at their home airbase, Duval went to the infirmary while Bozdech took the dog back to the barracks of the exiled Czech airmen. The Czech named him Antis after their favorite Czech aircraft.
Or just “Ant” for short.
Stiff upper lip, pup.
Antis slept in the barracks with Bozdech and the Czechs as World War II got into full swing. The Nazis rolled on France at max blitzkrieg, destroying most of the planes at Saint-Dizier, their home base. But Bozdech still went up to meet the Luftwaffe in air combat, only this time, Ant went with him. He was the perfect back-seater. He didn’t even flinch as the Czech fired dual .50-caliber machine guns at the oncoming Me-100.
Eventually, the airmen were forced to flee from France and make their way through neutral Spain to Gibraltar, where they could fight the Nazis from Britain. But their evacuation ship wouldn’t allow dogs. No problem – Ant remained on shore as the Czech boarded the ship. After it departed, the dog swam 100 yards or more to the ship. The Czechs hoisted him up and made a space for him to sleep below decks.
Antis’ Dickin Medal.
The pair made it to the UK after a few close calls. Bozdech flew with the RAF’s Czech Squadron near Liverpool for much of the war – with Antis flying some 30 missions with his best friend. The loyal pup even helped look for survivors of an air raid, despite his own injuries. After the war, Vachlav Bozdech returned to his home country, but he didn’t get to stay long. In 1948, the Czech government began cracking down on anyone who fought with the Western Allies during the war. Bozdech found himself escaping across another border with Ant, this time into West Germany.
Antis was later awarded the Dickin Medal, the highest award for gallantry bestowed upon an animal in service. Vaclav and Antis eventually became British subjects and Ant lived to the ripe old age of 14.
Who are the best commandos in the Western Hemisphere? Throw Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Rangers, Marine Force Recon, the Marine Special Operations Command, or even Air Force Special Tactics airmen into a ring and find out. Sort of.
Which is kind of what happens during an annual competition called Fuerzas Commandos. It’s been held 13 times. In 2017, Honduras took the trophy from Colombia, an eight-time winner of the 11-day event.
So, what, exactly goes down at these commando Olympics?
First, there is an opening ceremony during which the trophy is returned to an officer of the host nation.
This year, 20 countries (Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, and Uruguay) competed, sending over 700 commandos.
Participants take part in both an Assault Team Competition and a Sniper Team Competition.
The Assault Team Competition features a number of challenges. One is a physical fitness test.
There is a “confidence course” and an obstacle course is run as well.
Close-quarters combat skills are tested and there is a rucksack march.
Don’t forget the aquatic events or the hostage rescue events.
The Sniper Team Competition features marksmanship.
A Mexican soldier looks over his ghillie suit before the beginning of a stalk-and-shoot event July 20, 2017 during Fuerzas Comando in Ñu Guazú, Paraguay. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tonya Deardorf)
Then there is concealment.
They also have a physical fitness test and there’s a mobility event.
This year, Honduras won the title, Colombia finished second, and the USA took third place. Next year, Panama will host Fuerzes Commandos. Will Honduras defend their title, will the Colombians make it nine out of fourteen, or will there be a surprise winner?
The Apache helicopter was a maligned weapon system in early 1991 as low readiness rates, and worse than expected performance in small conflicts made people wonder if the aircraft’s huge costs were worth it. But the system excelled in the tough environment of the Persian Gulf War, chewing up Iraqi armor, bunkers, and ground troops.
In fact, one Apache crew even accepted the surrender of an Iraqi officer and his driver after the men decided they couldn’t escape the helicopter in their vehicle.
Soldiers receive an escort from AH-64 Apache helicopters in 2004.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Kimberly Snow)
Warrant Officer John Ely was one of the pilots on the attack helicopter, and he would later describe the Iraqis’ actions as a seemingly obvious decision. Ely had been part of a team hunting targets in the desert, and they had already erased a few enemy positions.
Ely had his eye on a Toyota when the driver suddenly stopped the vehicle and hopped out. He opened the door for “a fat Iraqi officer” who exited the vehicle with his hands up and a briefcase raised.
Now, even with the man attempting to surrender, this was a tricky situation. Typically, surrenders are given to “maneuver” forces like infantry or cavalry on the ground, but engineers, artillery, and plenty of other ground troops are quite capable of accepting an enemy surrender.
But Apache crews have a severe weakness in this area. While the helicopter’s lethality is a great reason for enemy troops to throw their hands in the air, how does a four-man team in two helicopters; a common battlefield deployment for the attack helicopters, take custody of prisoners?
How do they search them for intel and weapons? How do they transport them back to a base? Apaches have good armor and redundant systems, but they’re vulnerable if they land. And they have no real passenger space even if they landed.
Look, [if you`re an Iraqi and] you see a guy in this machine hovering 200 feet in front of you, with a gun turret that moves with the nodding and turn of my head . . . I point south, they move south. They`ve just seen their buddies blown away. What would you do?
Another event took place in Iraq after Apaches took out artillery positions. The insurgents manning the weapons went to the middle of the field and held their hands up while the Apaches took out the large weapons, and then ground troops moved in to take possession of the prisoners.
But, tragically, that’s not always an option. The 227th Aviation Regiment’s 1st Battalion saw those flags of surrender from Iraqi tankers on the Highway of Death and didn’t engage them, allowing U.S. ground troops to accept the Iraqi surrender in 1991. But in 2007, two Iraqi men jumped out of their truck and attempted to surrender to a 1-227th Apache crew.
The crew held off on attacking, but wasn’t sure what to do. The Iraqis had been firing mortars from the truck, so the unit asked an undisclosed military lawyer for a legal review. His advice was that the Apache crew could not effectively receive the surrender, and so the mortar crew was still a legal target. (This advice has proved controversial since then.)
Meanwhile, the mortar crew jumped back into the truck and drove off with its mortar tube. So it was no longer clear whether they still wanted to surrender. The Apaches re-engaged, but failed to destroy the truck in the next attack. The men abandoned the truck and took shelter in a nearby shack, and the Apaches killed them there with a 30mm gun run.
So, if you ever find yourself trying to surrender to an Apache crew, maybe look around and see if you can find some ground troops to surrender to instead.