The 10 worst armies in the world - We Are The Mighty
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The 10 worst armies in the world

America has, by far, the largest, most powerful, well-equipped, and best trained military force to ever exist on Earth. This is probably why Americans can’t have any discussion about military spending without talking about which countries in the world can field an Army which even come close to the United States’.


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The 10 worst armies in the world

On the list of the top military spenders in the world, it’s a fairly well-known fact the U.S. spends as much on its military as the next five countries on said list, combined. Which is fine by the military, because golf courses, and flat screen TVs (and if you’re in the Marines, a barracks next to a river of sh-t) don’t come cheap.

What’s more valuable than talking about the best armies in the world is talking about the worst armies in the world. What good is all the training, equipment, and resources if a country still fields an army who can’t win? These ten armies make the Salvation Army look like a credible fighting force.

10. Costa Rica

The Costa Ricans have to be at the bottom of the list, as they have no armed forces to speak of. What they do have is an Army of wealthy Westerners who come to teach Yoga to other Westerners visiting Costa Rica. But no one will ever want to invade Costa Rica because these people will have to come with it. Other countries without a military force include Iceland, Mauritius, Monaco, Panama, and Vanuatu, all without the significant number of would-be yogis. Can you imagine a world without military service?

The 10 worst armies in the world
*shudder*

9. Iraq

What may have been the 4th largest army in the world under Saddam Hussein is now a shadow of its former self. Despite years of training from U.S. and British forces, as well as $26 billion in investments and military aid, the Iraqi Army has only 26 units considered “loyal.” On top of that, Iraqi lawmakers discovered 50,000 “ghost soldiers” in its ranks — troops who received a paycheck, but never showed up for work. In 2014, ISIS was able to overrun much of Western Iraq as Iraqi troops fled before the Islamist onslaught.

The 10 worst armies in the world

8. North Korea

On the outside, the North Korean Army looks like it’s the priority for the Kim regime. In many ways, it is. The border towns of Panmunjom and Kaesong, as well as Nampo (where a series of critical infrastructure dams make a concerted military effort necessary) and DPRK newsreel footage boast tall, strong-looking North Korean troops with new equipment, weapons, jeeps, and full meals. Deeper inside the Hermit Kingdom, however, the Army starts to look a bit thin. Literally. On a 2012 trip to North Korea, the author found most Korean People’s Army (KPA) troops to be weak and used mainly for conscripted labor. It would have been a real surprise if they all had shoes or could walk in a real formation. Most units appeared lightly armed, if armed at all.

The 10 worst armies in the world

7. Eritrea

A country is obviously great when it’s known as “Africa’s North Korea” in international relations circles. Eritrea’s armed forces has one of the highest concentrations of conscripted men of any army in the world, which it uses more for forced labor than to secure its borders or fight al-Shabab terrorists. This is the country so great that 2,000 people a month seek asylum in Sudan. Sudan is supposed to be an improvement. SUDAN.

The 10 worst armies in the world

6. Nigeria

Nigeria is struggling with an ISIS-affiliated insurgency from Boko Haram (of “Bring Back Our Girls” fame). Despite Nigeria’s oil wealth (the Nigerian oil industry is the largest on the continent), its military is ill-equipped to combat this Islamist uprising. One soldier described it to BBC as:

“Imagine me and you are fighting, we both have guns but while you are wearing a bullet proof vest, I’m carrying an umbrella.”

Soldiers in the country’s Northeastern Borno State are so underequipped, their armored vehicles don’t actually move. Some soldiers are known to flee with civilians as they tear off their uniforms.

The 10 worst armies in the world
Nigerian troops during Operation Flintlock 2007 (U.S. Navy Photo)

5. The Philippines

The President of the Philippines vowed to upgrade the country’s aging Navy and Air Force to the tune of $1.7 billion, the Philippine Congress passed a bill appropriating $2 billion for the effort and … that’s it. Despite the Chinese military buildup in the region, with aggressive moves by the Chinese to claim areas and build islands close to the Philippines, the Philippines’ Naval and Air Forces are still nearly 60 years old and its ships are old U.S. Coast Guard cutters.

The 10 worst armies in the world
(U.S. Navy Photo)

4. Tajikistan

The Tajik Army is a mess. Unlike other Soviet states after the fall of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan had no native units to absorb into its new independent government. The Tajik military was not built around old Soviet units. The Tajiks were left defenseless with only a Russian peacekeeping force. In 1994, they formed their own Army, which immediately resulted in a Civil War. Just what one might expect from a country whose capital is named “Monday.” Tajiks prefer the Russian Army because the pay is better. Those who are drafted are often kidnapped and then sometimes hazed to death.

The 10 worst armies in the world

3. Mongolia

Oh how the mighty have fallen. As a landlocked country, the Mongols have no Navy or need of one. Unfortunately they’re also locked between Russia and China and could not possibly defend themselves from either. In fact, if a Russian-Chinese war ever broke out, part of it would likely be fought in Mongolia. The Mongols have sent forces to assist the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, but their expertise is in teaching U.S. troops how to recognize and use (if necessary) old Soviet-built arms and equipment.

The 10 worst armies in the world
(DoD Photo)

2. Saudi Arabia

The Saudis are currently engaged in a coalition military operation in Yemen with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in an effort to expel Houthi tribesmen from Sana’a and re-establish the Sunni rulers. And they can’t. The Saudis and Emiratis have naval and air superiority, superior training, material, and numbers on the ground, and the backing of U.S. intelligence assets. They’ve been there since March 2015 and the Houthis are still in the capital.

The 10 worst armies in the world

1. Afghanistan

Afghanistan makes the list despite the decade-plus of training from ISAF advisors. The sad truth is that all that nifty training doesn’t make up for the fact that the ANA will likely collapse like a card table when the U.S. leaves Afghanistan — if the U.S. ever leaves Afghanistan. Not that they can’t fight, but they can’t do much else. One advisor told al-Jazeera:

“In fact, talk to any coalition troops on the ground and they will tell you the Afghans can fight, but only after they have been fed, clothed, armed and delivered to the battlefield by NATO.”
The 10 worst armies in the world
Afghan National Army members receive training on the proper way to clear a room at Morehead Commando Training Camp in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 4, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Cherie Thurlby)

Articles

Here’s who would win if China tried to take back Taiwan

As you have probably heard by now, President-elect Donald Trump took a congratulatory phone call from the Taiwanese president.


The foreign-policy establishment has had a collective case of the vapors over the call – and the President-elect’s tweets, worrying about a war over them.

But could America and Taiwan defeat a Chinese attempt to invade Taiwan?

To pull off an amphibious invasion, you need amphibious sealift to carry a lot of troops. To give you an example of what it might take just to get a foothold, the Allies needed to place five divisions of troops on Normandy. That’s about 85,000 troops.

Today, the United States has the largest amphibious sealift force in the world, and combined with maritime pre-positioning ships, it could probably carry almost two Marine Expeditionary Forces. That’s two divisions and two air wings — about 100,000 troops.

The 10 worst armies in the world
An unconfirmed conceptual rendering of a possible design for China’s Type 081 amphibious-assault craft. | Global Times Forum

China’s current amphibious sealift, according to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, consists of four Yuzhao-class landing platform docks, a total of 27 landing ship tanks, and 11 medium landing ships. That’s a total of 42 major ships carrying 15,600 troops.

Or, roughly one Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

It’s not enough for China to take Taiwan even if Beijing were to sail unopposed – and the PLA would be opposed.

And the Taiwan Straits are a little too wide to try a Million Man Swim. Not to mention the fact that to use merchant ships or ferries, you need to grab a port.

So, an amphibious attack is not likely to work. But what China does have is submarines.

Combat Fleets of the World reports China has about 70 subs on active service, ranging from antique Romeo-class vessels to modern Shang-class attack submarines. There are also a number of older subs — mostly Romeos and Ming-class vessels — in reserve.

As an island nation, Taiwan will be heavily dependent on maritime trade. The United Kingdom is in a similar situation, and the “U-boat peril” was the only thing to ever really frighten Winston Churchill.

The 10 worst armies in the world
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

That said, in such a situation, Taiwan and the United States would be working to break such a submarine blockade quickly – and they would have help. Japan and South Korea might not idly sit by as the Chinese start a fight that could disrupt trade in the Taiwan Straits (which, as it turns out, is a major sea lane both countries need).

American, South Korean, and Japanese ships would be very good at anti-submarine warfare, but the Chinese have a lot of subs. The fight could be a close thing, and we would see the 2016 version of the Battle of the Atlantic rage in the Western Pacific.

Articles

This new camouflage could make troops totally invisible

For centuries, militaries have been trying to devise ways to disguise their troops and gear.


Sure, there was a time there where cladding your soldiers in the gaudiest of uniforms was considered more sporting than slapping on the face paint, but we all know how those Redcoats were sent packing by a guerrillas who slipped through the trees wearing green.

The 10 worst armies in the world
Can you see me now? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Today’s militaries spend billions on camo patterns in hopes they’ll give their troops the edge. But a company that’s been on the forefront of concealment technology is about to one-up the industry and make all those fancy patterns out there obsolete.

Canada-based Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp. has developed a material that its inventor claims can bend light around a subject, literally making it invisible.

Dubbed “Quantum Stealth,” the material has reportedly evolved from its introduction in 2012 to be flexible enough for uniforms and clothing. And it requires no power to operate.

It reportedly works by bending the visible light around the material, a feat even some of the world’s best material scientists and physicists can’t seem to get right.

But Hyperstealth’s Guy Cramer claims he’s nailed it.

Can you see the Predator? (Photo from theiaplois.com) Can you see the Predator? (Photo from theiaplois.com)

“We’re bending the entire spectrum of light—infrared, ultraviolet, thermal,” Cramer told The Atlantic. “People are disappearing. It doesn’t use cameras or mirrors or require power.”

Cramer did not respond to a WATM request for comment on this story.

The 10 worst armies in the world
What am I really seeing here?

For years Cramer had been flirting with the U.S. military and special operations community to adopt the technology for real-world applications. But according to a statement on his website from May, diplomatic hurdles got in the way of a technology transfer and the Army cancelled its search for “adaptive” camouflage.

But that hasn’t stopped Cramer from continuing his pitch for Quantum Stealth. And while he’s been cagey about how it works, people who’ve seen it are convinced it’s legit.

“As I viewed several other videos, it was interesting to see that environmental conditions appear to effect how well Quantum Stealth works,” wrote Special Forces veteran Jack Murphy for Business Insider. “With different background colors and poor lighting, you could sometimes make something out moving around behind the material.  However, even under these adverse conditions, Cramer’s invention appeared to deliver the goods: rendering the person or object 95-98 percent invisible with just a few flashes of color moving from behind the blind.”

The 10 worst armies in the world
Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corporation president Guy Cramer. (Photo from Hyperstealth Facebook)

Cramer claims he was given permission by the U.S. and Canadian governments to develop a commercial version of Quantum Stealth for hunters and outdoorsmen.

Dubbed “INVISIB,” the material will have versions designed for law enforcement agencies, another for sportsmen and a more advanced version for military units.

“This material cannot be seen visually (nor the target it is hiding) and current optical technology is not going to help you find them either in the day or night,” Cramer said in a statement.

Articles

5 animals that became paratroopers

What, you think only humans can become paratroopers? Okay, so humans do lead most airborne operations but the military often brings along animals — everything from bats to bears — they think might be helpful in a target area.


Check out this list of animals who have conducted jump operations:

1. Dogs

The 10 worst armies in the world
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Vince Vander Maarel)

Being “man’s best friend” is a double-edged sword. While domestication has allowed dogs to spread across the entire planet and cohabitate with humans while other species were pushed out of our sprawling cities, it has also resulted in dogs having to help defend those habitations.

And since nearly the invention of airborne operations, dogs have defended those habitations via paratrooper insertions. The British brought parachuting dogs with them on D-Day and Navy SEALs and other special operators bring dogs with them on missions today.

2. Bears

The 10 worst armies in the world
GIF: US Air Force Archives

Yeah, airborne bears. Bet no one knew that was something they had to worry about. Luckily, bear paratroopers are pretty rare. Engineers working on the ejection capsules for B-58 Hustlers needed something to simulate a living human for tests after a bunch of bleeding hearts protested their use of poor people.

They settled on bears since their weight and dimensions were close enough to humans for the capsules to work similarly. At least six bears and one chimpanzee took the flight.

3. Beta fish

The 10 worst armies in the world
(Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Matthew Tattersall)

The “beta fish” title is singular for a reason. The military never sanctioned a beta fish airborne operation but Army Spc. Matthew Tattersall took “Willie Makeit” with him on a jump anyway, took a selfie in the air with the fish, and then landed. Willie was granted a meritorious name change to “Willie Did Makeit.”

Tattersall got extra duty. Sheesh, you would figure the man who single-handedly stood up the Airborne Beta Fish program would get more respect than that.

4. Bats

The 10 worst armies in the world
(Photo: National Park Service Nick Hristov)

Bats are probably the only animal on this list capable of conducting an entire airborne operation on their own (except for piloting the aircraft). The Army, then Navy, then Marine Corps experimented with dropping bats in specialized bomb casings that carried up to 1,040 bats a piece.

These bomb casings, and the bats inside, would parachute down to 1,000 feet before the bats disperse across the target area and begin actions on the objective. Their “actions on the objective” were to find a nice place to sleep and then go up in flames thanks to the incendiary devices on their legs.

5. Beavers

 

Beaver airborne operations were not military affairs, unlike these other entries. The idea to teach beavers to parachute started with a few researchers at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game which needed to establish new beaver colonies for fur production and watershed conservation in remote areas.

After horse and mule trains proved to be an expensive way to transport the beavers, the department decided to experiment with parachute operations. Seventy-five beavers ended up taking single-flights, but one beaver had to act as his species’ version of the test platoon. “Geronimo” conducted many experimental jumps before making his final, operational jump with three females to establish a colony.

So, yeah, there’s a decent chance that a polygamist beaver in Idaho had more jumps than you do.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 best bunkers for riding out the apocalypse

Every troop, at one point or another, thinks about how they’d prepare for a multitude of disaster scenarios. Many of these daydreams include building a bunker or an egress to a far-off island. With a military mindset, anything is possible — you can build a personal bunker in your backyard or, if you amass enough wealth, you can buy a luxury palace that’s nestled safely underground.

The following are types of bunkers that troops would love to live, from the strictly utilitarian to the abundantly extravagant. They’re each rated based on their affordability, sustainability, security, and amenities offered.

So, prepare for the end, my friends — preferably in one of these:


Take A Look At The Bunker Lowes Sells

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Loew’s Concrete Storm Shelter

Affordability: 5/5

With a price tag of around ,500 (with installation), this is something that one can afford with an enlistment/re-enlistment bonus, a dip into savings, or with some post-deployment earnings. This is a realistic option for those of us without a massive disaster budget.

Sustainability: 1/5

Depending on how many people are in your household, these bunkers are perfect for weathering a storm or a tornado until you get the all-clear. It’s a little cramped, but it gets the job done.

It’s too small to hold the resources you’d need to sustain for a long period of time, there’s no way to dispose of waste, and oxygen can only be brought in through the built-in vents. There’s no method to cultivate renewable energy and privacy is nonexistent.

Security: 2/5

You might want to keep your lips tight about owning one of these — you never know how other people will react when their lack of preparation suddenly makes them desperate.

Amenities: 1/5

You won’t have much to do other than eat, sleep, and wait. Personal entertainment devices and conversation with your family are going to be your only distractions from whatever’s going on outside.

Doomsday Preppers Go Upscale With Luxury Bunkers

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Atlas survival shelter

Affordability: 3/5

The small shelters run around k and the larger ones go for about k-k. They’re not too expensive relative to other, larger shelters. They’re customizable and made to order. You’ll have to take permit and installation costs into consideration, but these are achievable with proper financial discipline.

Sustainability: 3/5

These things have solar power, generators, and waste disposal mixed in with the comforts of home. Typically, you can last around 90 days without resupply. You can design it for a longer stay if necessary.

Security: 3/5

You still might want to keep this one a secret due to the limited living space. You won’t be able to house the whole neighborhood.

Amenities: 4/5

Home is where you make it. All around, this is a solid bunker that can be your home away from home — if necessary.

So you wanna live in a missile silo?

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Renovate an old silo yourself

Affordability: 1/5

This is a labor of love that will take a lifetime to complete — and it has a price tag of 1 million to match. Oof.

Sustainability: 3/5

We ranked this one right in the middle because it’ll be exactly what you make of it. You’ll have to gut it out and replace all the life-sustaining technology in order to bring this ol’ gal back to life. Rest assured, you take care of her and she’ll take care of you — but it’s up to you to think ahead.

Security: 5/5

Heavy doors, enough space to save a small town, and capable of withstanding a nuclear attack? Check, check, and check.

Amenities: 4/5

Having a re-purposed military installation is a surefire guarantee you’ll thrive in the apocalypse. A silo is a blank canvas for you to shape however you’d like. Above ground, you’ll have a luxury home and, if sh*t hits the, fan all you have to do is go downstairs.

What’s really hiding under Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado?

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An actual base, like Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station

Affordability: 0/5

If you’re lucky enough to be stationed here or in a similar facility, Uncle Sam will provide the funds necessary to continue the fight against the enemies of freedom. If not, well, it’s not for sale — sorry, take your millions elsewhere.

Sustainability: 5/5

This bunker has generators, reservoirs, and even a store. This bunker has everything you need for any scenario.

Security: 5/5

Armed guards, heavy doors, information-gathering capabilities, and plethora of state-of-the-art technology is at your fingertips. No worries here.

Amenities: 3/5

This one’s on par with the government’s prioritization of operation over recreation, but at least it has a gym. What it lacks in recreational facilities, it more than makes up for in terms of survivability.

Luxury Bunkers

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Survival condo

Affordability: 2/5

It’s out of the price range for most of us, but if you’re lucky enough to have million laying around, this luxury survival condo (or one like this) will definitively put your worries to rest.

Security: 5/5

It can survive a direct hit from a nuclear attack, has an armory, and has you surrounded by survival-minded neighbors. This one has it all.

Sustainability: 5/5

It has multiple life-support technologies, a mini hospital, hydroponic gardens, and it’s stocked full of supplies. This bunker will ensure you have everything you need to live a long and happy life.

Amenities: 5/5

It has a movie theater, rock climbing wall, indoor pool, grocery store, spa, gym, and a dog park — that’s right, you can save your pets! That’s an automatic max score, because who doesn’t want to save their beloved companions, too?

MIGHTY HISTORY

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Every sports team needs their very own cartoony mascot to get the fans going. Sure, it’s a goofy tradition, but it gets the people cheering and those cheers spur the players on to victory, so no one ever questions it. Military academies are no different.

The Air Force Academy sports the high-flying falcon because it’s the apex predator across much of America’s sky. West Point is represented by the mule because it’s a hardy beast of burden that has carried the Army’s gear into many wars. The Naval Academy, in what seems like a lapse of logic, decided long ago that the best representation of the Navy and Marine Corps’ spirit is a goat.

The use of a goat as their mascot began in 1893 with El Cid the Goat, named after the famed Castilian general. Eventually, they settled on the name “Bill” because, you know, billy goats… And it just gets weirder from there.


The 10 worst armies in the world

From 1847 to 1851, the Naval Academy used a cat as their mascot, which we can presume would’ve hated being paraded in front of large crowds.

(National Archives)

In the Navy’s defense, goats actually served a purpose on Navy vessels back in the days of fully rigged ships. Unlike most livestock that required specialized food, a goat can eat just about any kind of scraps, which is handy on a long voyage. And, once it fulfilled its purpose as a walking garbage disposal, as grim as it sounds, it provided the cooks with a fresh source of meat.

Yet, when the U.S. Naval Academy was founded in 1845, then-Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft chose his favorite animal to be the official mascot of his newly established military academy: the monkey. This didn’t last long because the logo was actually of a gorilla and, as most people know, gorilla’s aren’t monkeys. The next idea was a cat (which actually have a place in Naval history), then a bulldog (before the times of Chesty Puller), and then a carrier pigeon.

The 10 worst armies in the world

Ever since, sailors have enjoyed a long tradition of giving their goats the clever name of ‘Bill.’

​(U.S. Navy Historical Center)

There are two different versions of the story of how the Navy finally got the goat.

The first of those version is simple: The previously mentioned El Cid the Goat appeared at the 1893 Army-Navy football game and its presence, supposedly, helped carry the team to victory. The Navy continued to bounce back and forth between mascots until officially sticking with the goat in 1904. Said goat was re-branded as “Bill,” named after the Commandant of Midshipmen, Commander Colby M. Chester’s pet goat, and the rest is history.

The 10 worst armies in the world

The biggest takeaway from the legend is the difference between becoming a legend and getting a Captain’s Mast is whether or not you can attribute a Navy victory over West Point on your actions.

(U.S. Navy photo by Joaquin Murietta)

The other version is steeped in legend — and is entirely bizarre. As the story goes, a ship’s beloved pet goat had met its untimely end. Two ensigns were tasked with heading ashore to bring the goat to a taxidermist so that its legacy could live on. The ensigns got lost on their way to the taxidermist, as most butter bars do, and wound up at the Army-Navy game.

The legend never specifies who, exactly, came up with this brilliant idea, but one of them apparently thought, “you know what? f*ck it” and wore the goat’s skin like a cape. During halftime, one ensign ran across the sidelines (because sporting arena security wasn’t a thing then) donning the goat skin and was met with thunderous applause.

Instead of reprimanding the two idiots for clearly doing the exact opposite of what their captain had asked of them, the Naval Academy rolled with it and attributed their victory over the Army to the goat.

This version is kind of suspect because El Cid the Goat was at the fourth game so the goat-skin midshipman would have had to been at one of the three games prior. The first and third games were held at West Point (which is clearly far away from any wandering ensigns) and second Army/Navy game was a victory for Army. But hey! It’s all in good fun.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

As Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley made her way through mountainous terrain in the midst of a scorching Georgia summer in 2018, she admittedly struggled, carrying more than 50 pounds of gear during a patrol exercise.

Tired and physically drained, her body had withstood nearly a month of training in the Army’s most challenging training school. She had already suffered a fracture in her back in an earlier phase and suffered other physical ailments.

But then she looked to her left and right and saw her fellow Ranger School teammates, many of whom she outranked.

“I know that I have to keep going,” said Kelley, the first enlisted female graduate of the Army Ranger School at Fort Benning. “Because if I quit, or if I show any signs of weakness, they’re going to quit.”


In the middle of 21 grueling training days in northeast Georgia, Kelley knew if she could weather the mountain phase of the Army’s Ranger School, she and her teammates would reach a new pinnacle, a critical rite of passage for Ranger students. The electronic warfare specialist spent 21 days in the mountains which includes four days of mountaineering, five days of survival techniques training and a nine-day field training exercise. She had already been recycled in the school’s first phase and didn’t want to relive that experience.

The 10 worst armies in the world

Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley marches in formation during her Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 31, 2018.

(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)

“It’s not about you at that moment,” Kelley said. “It’s about the people around you. You don’t realize in that moment how many people look up to you until you complete it. Everybody has those trying periods because those mountains are really rough.”

Her graduation from Ranger School paved the way for her current assignment as an electronic warfare specialist with the Third Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Since 2016, more than 1,200 female soldiers have entered combat career fields, including field artillery, armor and infantry.

Kelley said the Ranger training pushed her to meet the same standards as her male counterparts. She finished the 16-mile ruck march in under three hours.

“You literally go through the same thing,” Kelley said. “It’s not any different … You do the same thing that they do. That’s the greatest thing about Ranger School: there’s one set standard, across the board.”

Taking the easy road has never been how Kelley has lived her life. As a teenager she competed as a centerfielder on boy’s baseball teams. She also was on her high school’s track team. Growing up in the small rural community of Easley, South Carolina, she had few mentors as a teen.

“I just wanted to be somebody,” Kelley said. “And I also want to be someone that others can look up to. I didn’t have that growing up. We don’t all come from a silver spoon background; some of us have to fight for things.”

She joined the Army on a whim in 2011, considering joining the service only six months prior to enlisting. She admired the Army’s rigid discipline and high standards.

“Better opportunities,” was one reason Kelley said she joined the Army. “I wanted to get out of where I was.”

Kelley wanted to reach even higher. The 30-year-old wanted to one day become sergeant major of the Army and let her supervisors know that it wasn’t some pipe dream. After an Iraq deployment with the 1st Armored Division, Kelley’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mike Vandy, told her that attending Ranger School would help chart her path to success.

The 10 worst armies in the world

A family member places the Army Ranger tab on Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley’s uniform.

(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)

“When I went to Ranger School, I didn’t go so I could be the first (enlisted female),” Kelley said. “I went so that I could be sergeant major of the Army. And I want to be competitive with my peers.”

After Kelley decided to apply for Ranger School, she spent five months physically preparing herself and studying while deployed. Her roommate in Iraq, former Staff Sgt. Mychal Loria, said Kelley would work 12-hour shifts, workout twice a day and still found time for study. At the same time, she helped mentor other soldiers.

“She just exemplified the perfect NCO; always there for her soldiers,” Loria said.

Kelley praised former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey for helping create more opportunities for women in combat career fields. Since the first two female graduates — Capt. Kristen Griest and then-1st Lt. Shaye Haver — completed Ranger training in 2015, more than 30 female soldiers have earned their Ranger tab. Sgt. 1st Class Janina Simmons became the first African American woman to graduate from the course earlier this year.

Kelley said has begun preparation for a six-month deployment to an undisclosed location. The South Carolina native said she looks forward to using many of the skills she learned during her time training to be an Army Ranger.

The eight-year Army vet said the Third Special Forces group has fostered a welcome environment for unit members, offering a wealth of training opportunities to help advance her career, including electronics and intelligence courses.

Kelley offered some advice for soldiers who may be considering Ranger School or other certifications to advance their careers.

“Soldiers need to understand that sometimes things you had planned change,” she said. “So just be open-minded to new things and don’t be scared to go after things that seem impossible. Because nothing’s impossible if somebody’s done it before you.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

When Johnson Beharry was awarded the Victoria Cross, it was the first time a living soldier received the award in over 30 years. It’s not an easy award to pick up, and perhaps Lance Sgt. Beharry should have died in Iraq – but he didn’t. And because he survived, so did many, many men from his unit.


In May 2004, Beharry was driving an armored vehicle to help rescue a foot patrol that was caught in an ambush. The Warrior, an armored infantry fighting vehicle used by the UK military, had taken so many RPG hits that most of his crew were injured and he was unable to see using his periscope.

So, he popped open the hatch.

The 10 worst armies in the world

A British Army MCV-80 Warrior Infantry Tracked Fighting Vehicle.

He drove the rest of the way with his head outside of the protection of the vehicle. In doing so, he exposed his head to the same nonstop barrage of bullets and RPG fire that wounded most of his fellow soldiers. He drove the Warrior right through the ambush until he got to the threatened foot patrol.

He drove through multiple ambushes, small arms fire, heavy machine gun fire, several RPGs, and even improvised explosive devices. His commander and gunner, along with others in the crew, were wounded and incapacitated. Beharry didn’t know their status because the Warrior’s communications system was damaged in the initial ambush. With smoke pouring into his vehicle, he drove through the Iraqi night.

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Beharry’s Warrior fighting vehicle after arriving at Cimic House outpost.

At one point, he could see an RPG flying at him, directly toward his face. He quickly pulled down the lid of the hatch with one hand, while driving the vehicle with the other. The blast pulled the hatch out of his hand but allowed the force and flame to pass over him.

Next, a 7.62 round hit Beharry in the head, lodging into his helmet, but miraculously not wounding him. Beharry pressed the vehicle on, away from the ambush area. He saw another Warrior from his unit and followed it through the dark streets of al-Amarah until they reached their destination: a British Army outpost. Still under intense fire, Beharry lifted his platoon commander and then his gunner out of the vehicle’s turret and into the safety of the other Warrior. He then went back into his Warrior and drove it to the outpost.

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Lance Sgt. Johnson Beharry poses with one of two captured Chinese cannons used to create Victoria Cross medals.

Once inside a defended perimeter, Beharry secured the Warrior, pulled the fire extinguisher, and moved to the other, seemingly undamaged Warrior, where he passed out from sheer exhaustion. But his story doesn’t end there – Victoria Crosses, the UK’s equivalent to the Medal of Honor, are exceedingly difficult medals to earn. A month later, Johnson Beharry was back in action in Iraq.

The coalition base in al-Amarah was under attack from a mortar team in June, 2004. Beharry was part of a quick reaction force sent to neutralize the threat to the base. Driving again through the city at night, Beharry’s armored vehicle was ambushed on its way to the attackers. The initial volley of that ambush saw an RPG explode just six inches from the young soldier’s head, causing serious injury.

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Beharry is presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II.

Other RPGs rocked the vehicle, and the turret, again incapacitating and wounding the vehicle commander and the others in the crew. With blood pouring into his face, Beharry stayed in control of the vehicle. He drove the vehicle out of the ambush area – in reverse – until it became lodged in the side of a building. Only then did he lose consciousness from loss of blood. But in moving out of the ambush zone, other Warriors were able to come to their aid. All of them survived both of the deadly attacks.

The attack put him in a coma, and his wounds ultimately required him to leave the service. Before that, he was presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II on Apr. 27, 2005. Since then, he has made a number of public appearances and implored veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to seek mental health assistance for post-traumatic stress. These days, he runs a youth foundation to keep kids away from gangs and rehabilitate former gang members.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force Special Operations is preparing for a major power war

Attacking enemy fighters in close-air-support aircraft, using ground-based laser designators to “paint” targets for aircraft, and training friendly forces for the rigors of high-casualty close-in combat are all US Air Force Special Operations Force skills tested and refined during the last decade and a half of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Drawing upon these Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs), Air Force Special Operations Command is accelerating a strategic shift from its recent counterinsurgency focus to preparing for “high-end” combat or major force-on-force warfare against a technologically advanced enemy.

“I would tell you there is definitely strategic value for Special Operations in the high-end fight. With our mentality, we think outside of the box and about how to present dilemmas for the enemy,” Lt. Gen Marshall Webb, said Sept. 17, 2018, at the Air Force Association Convention.


Webb emphasized that the Command’s counterterrorism focus will not diminish in coming years but likely increase as existing threats persist and new ones emerge. At the same time, he made it clear that AFSOC is “laser focused on the high-end” and currently adapting its well-established TTPs to support major power warfare.

“We have to extend the TTPs for high-end conflict as well, including multi-domain command and control,” Webb said.

Interestingly, migrating combat-tested TTPs to a high-end fight does not seem to be an insurmountable stretch but, rather, an extension of refined combat practices. Significantly, many TTPs fundamental to counterinsurgency are also of great tactical and strategic relevance to major-power warfare. For example, during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Air Force Special Operations, the Special Tactics Squadron, used advanced targeting techniques to guide aircraft attacking the Taliban. This included using Forward Air Controllers to radio strike coordinates to circling attack aircraft and using laser designators to paint ground targets.

AFSOC contributions to the war in Afghanistan are highlighted in a 2017 Special Operations Annex portion of Air Force Doctrine published by the Lemay Center for Doctrine, Maxwell AFB.

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An AC-130U gunship.

“AFSOC CCTs were instrumental in the first major gain of the conflict, leveraging airpower that led to the capture of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Nov. 9, 2001 — a major breakthrough in the struggle to oust the Taliban and al-Qaeda,” the doctrine writes.

This kind of integrated air-ground operation, used to great effect in Afghanistan, is also something of potentially great value in a high-end conflict as well. The prospect of needing close air support to fortify advancing units on the ground or attacking low-flying enemy air assets presents the kinds of scenarios anticipated in major war.

The Air Force Special Operations AC-130 gunship, for instance, often circled Kandahar in Afghanistan, to fire its 105mm side-firing cannons to attack Taliban fighters. While there are of course major differences when between attacking insurgents and engaging in major air combat with a near-peer enemy, some of the tactics, approaches and technologies do seem to cross over and offer value to both kinds of conflict.

Webb further elaborated upon AFSOCs role in close air support missions will be enhanced by the service’s emerging Light Attack Aircraft. The aircraft is designed for rugged counterinsurgency missions in combat environments where the Air Force has established air superiority. At the same time, the need for these kinds of attack missions are at very least conceivable, if not likely, in large-scale warfare also.

“The need for the Light Attack Aircraft is an excellent requirement for AFSOC,” Webb said.

Special Operations Forces (SOF) are also known for a substantial intelligence expertise, used to both train and equip friendly forces and offer crucial combat-relevant detail to the larger force. Advising allied fighters is yet another instance of skills likely to be of great value in major war. Part of this intel mission includes air and ground reconnaissance using sensors, scouting forces and unique positioning in combat terrain in support of the larger fight.

Operating in small units, often somewhat autonomously, SOF are experienced fighters in austere, or otherwise hard to reach, combat areas. This skill also, quite naturally, would add value in major force-on-force warfare, as well.

SOF is “out there in the hinterlands and don’t have the luxury of an F-16,” Webb explained.

The Air Force’s Curtis Lemay Center for Doctrine, Development and Education also cites the full range of Special Operations mission sets, many of which are specifically designed for large scale war. Combat areas listed in the Doctrine text include a range of missions relevant to both COIN and major war such as “information operations, precision strike, ISR, command and control and specialized air mobility.”

The overall strategic roadmap, such as that articulated by Webb, mirrors multi-domain concepts written into special ops doctrine materials. The Lemay Center’s 2017 Doctrine Special Ops Annex text identifies a “combat continuum” for Special Ops missions, to include low-intensity conflict such as security cooperation and deterrence, limited contingencies and major operations.”

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These historical sidearms of the US military perfectly show its evolution

A good sidearm is the ultimate plan B. You don’t want to have to use it, but if you do have to — it better work. They’re kind of the last line of defense for American freedom and they’ve come a long way in 240-plus years.

The sidearm has gone from a smoothbore, muzzle-loaded, single shot to SIG Sauer’s new, modular, 59-round monster which is also customizable for every user. No matter what your opinion of them might be, if they’ve ever kept you in the fight for even a minute longer, then they did their job.

These are most important sidearms the U.S. military has adopted over the last couple hundred years.


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1. Harper’s Ferry Model 1805

This was the first pistol ever made by a U.S. national armory. It was a flintlock pistol that lasted well into the Mexican War – but not for any particular reason besides apathy. They were heavy and tended to misfire. The Military Police Corps insignia still bears crossed 1805s to this day.

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I think we missed our chance for the Chuck Norris-Clint Eastwood movie about the 1847 Walker…

2. Colt M1847 Walker

Welcome to the dawn of a new era. This was the first mass-produced revolver and, at an astonishing 15 inches long, it was able to make its way down south in time to win the Mexican War. The “Walker” in its name comes from the Texas Ranger who helped design the .44-caliber weapon (no, it was not Chuck Norris).

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“Colt: Now explosion free.”

3. Colt M1848 Dragoon

The 1847 held a lot of black powder, so when they exploded (as they sometimes did), it turned people off to the idea of buying another Colt firearm, which was bad for business. The 1848 revolver didn’t require so much powder — for a .44-caliber pistol, anyway. This weapon lived on all the way through the Civil War.

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4. Colt M1860 Army

This is a more powerful, updated version of a similar model Colt made for the U.S. Navy. It was widespread in the American Civil War by anyone who carried a sidearm (and by many who weren’t supposed to).

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5. Remington New Model

Colt’s weapons production factory burned down in 1864 and the Army was still in the middle of fighting the Civil War, so they had to turn somewhere. Meanwhile, Remington’s sidearms had became more accurate without sacrificing the stopping power needed to tame the American frontier.

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6. Colt M1873 Single Action Army

Remington had a good run, but when it comes time to win the west, you need an American classic. And what could be more classic than a name that’s still known over 100 years later? We’re talking, of course, about the Colt .45. It was the standard-issue sidearm until 1892 and “The Peacemaker” also became synonymous with cowboys. This sidearm was commonly seen well into the 20th Century.

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7. Colt M1892 Double Action Army-Navy

This was Colt’s first double-action sidearm with a swing-out cylinder made for the U.S. military. The caliber was reduced to a .38, which was fine in most cases, but it famously was unable to stop charging Filipino freedom fighters, even with multiple shots, even at close range.

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8. Colt M1911

The legend. This weapon is more than 100 years old and is still used by Army and Navy special operators. They sure don’t make ’em like they used to. Easily one of the most common firearms in the world to this day, this bad boy fought in almost every conflict from World War I to today.

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9. Beretta M9

The Beretta had a troubled history. From the ammunition pressure to slide failure injuries to a lack of confidence in the weapon’s performance and stopping power, the M9 was generally not accepted as one of the premiere firearms in American history. It had the lowest approval rating of any weapon used by troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The M1911 is a tough act to follow.

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 20 edition)

Here are the 5 news items you need to know about as you get your week started:


Now: Russia’s huge military upgrade hit another snag — and Putin is not happy

MIGHTY CULTURE

New bill would cover cost of service dogs for veterans with PTSD

Lawmakers and veterans advocacy groups are ready for change after waiting nearly a decade for the Department of Veterans Affairs to change its policy on not reimbursing service dogs for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers, or PAWS, Act would require the VA to offer $25,000 vouchers to veterans suffering with PTSD for use at qualifying nonprofits. Currently, the VA only supports service dogs for use in mobility issues, not in cases that only involve mental health conditions.


In 2010, Congress mandated the VA study the use of service dogs for PTSD and other mental health problems. But the pilot was suspended twice when two service dogs bit children and some dogs experienced health issues. The department has since started the study back up, but the results won’t be published until next year.

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K9s for Warriors is the nation’s largest nonprofit connecting veterans to service dogs. Its program trains rescue dogs to be service dogs for post-9/11 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma.

(K9s for Warriors)

Now with an estimated 20 veterans committing suicide a day, bill authors Rep. John Rutherford, R-Florida, and Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, are hoping service dogs help reduce the tragic numbers.

“Veterans with PTSD may have left the battlefield, but they are still in a tough fight,” Fischer said in a news release. “Service dogs can provide support, peace, and joy to these Americans as they confront the invisible scars of war.”

These grants would help expand the reach of nonprofits currently training and connecting service dogs to veterans with a mental illness, often for free.

The act so far has a bipartisan group of 37 cosponsors. But a similar bill introduced three years ago didn’t get out of committee.

For Rory Diamond, CEO of one of the K9 for Warriors, one of the largest nonprofits that would be affected by this legislation, it’s taken the VA too long to change its policy that “there is not enough research to know if dogs help treat PTSD and its symptoms.”

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K9s for Warriors is the nation’s largest nonprofit connecting veterans to service dogs. Its program trains rescue dogs to be service dogs for post-9/11 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma.

(K9s for Warriors)

“People are always asking me what is it the dogs actually do,” Diamond said. “The genius of the dog, or the magic, is it gets the warrior out the front door. You have a reason to get up in the morning because the dog needs to be fed and walked.”

The service dog can also help a veteran feel secure in a crowd, he added, and help them get a better night’s sleep by waking them up at the first sign of a nightmare.

Dogs alone do not necessarily cure veterans, but recent studies from the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine and the National Institutes of Health showed service dogs have had a positive effect.

“Now we have a growing body of research that says the VA needs to do this. That the dogs are working,” said Diamond, whose organization helped with one of the studies. “We did rigorous studies on our warriors, and it was published in a prestigious journal, peer reviewed. It’s not made-up monkey science. It’s just real science.”

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K9s for Warriors is the nation’s largest nonprofit connecting veterans to service dogs. Its program trains rescue dogs to be service dogs for post-9/11 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma.

(K9s for Warriors)

A VA spokesman said via email the department does not take positions on research done by groups outside of their purview.

“We strive to complete research at VA according to the highest ethical and scientific standards with a focus on the safety of Veterans and their families,” the official said.

The VA’s first report will be released early summer 2020 and will address whether service dogs or emotional support dogs helped veterans with PTSD. The second part, to be released about six months later, will report whether the kind of dog factored into “health economics savings,” which would be factors like reduced hospital stays and reduced reliance on medication.

The VA has not yet taken a position on the PAWS Act.

“The need is so high,” Diamond said, “and these dogs are saving lives in the face of a veteran suicide crisis.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Army Stryker gets lethality upgrade

The US Army will soon receive its first prototypes of a newly-engineered up-gunned Stryker infantry vehicle armed with a more lethal, longer-range 30mm cannon as compared with the currently installed .50-cal machine guns.


Called the Stryker Enhanced Lethality Program, the effort was implemented as a rapid-development acquisition program to better equip 9-man infantry units with combat arms to support their missions, maneuvers and ground-attacks.

“It is really about mobile protected fire power for the Infantry Brigade Combat Team. In the Combat Vehicle Modernization Plan it talks about every vehicle having an organic blend of those capabilities… mobility, protection and firepower,” Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

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US Army photo

General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), which builds and engineers the new enhanced lethality Stryker vehicles, will deliver the first eight prototype vehicle in December of this year, Wendy Staiger, Stryker Program Director, GDLS, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Compared to an existing M2 .50-cal machine gun mounted from Strykers, the new 30mm weapon is designed to improve both range and lethality for the vehicle. The new gun can fire at least twice as far as a .50-Cal, Tim Reese, Director of Strategic Planning, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“It shoots at a rapid rate of one, three or five-round bursts when you pull the trigger,” Resse explained.

The 30mm cannon can use a proximity fuse and fire high-explosive rounds, armor piercing rounds and air burst rounds, Reese added. During live-fire testing at Fort Benning, Ga., the 30mm cannon was able to demonstrate firing ability out to ranges of 3,000 meters; this is about twice the range of existing .50-cal guns. Also, while the .50-Cal is often used as a suppressive fire “area” weapon designed to restrict enemy freedom of movement and  allow troops to maneuver, the 30mm gun brings a level of precision fire to the Stryker Infantry Carrier that does not currently exist.

Dismounted infantry units are often among the first-entering “tip-of-the-spear” combat forces which at times travel to areas less-reachable by heavy armored platforms such as an Abrams tank or Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Certain terrain, bridges or enemy force postures can also make it difficult for heavier armored vehicles to maneuver on attack.

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US Army photo

As a result, having an up-gunned, highly-mobile wheeled Stryker vehicle can massively supplement Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs) on the move in hostile warfare circumstances, Basset explained. Also, a gun with greater range and fire-power could better allow forward-positioned infantry units to attack enemies and conduct operations with massively enhanced fire support.

“IBCTs are great in terms of getting Soldiers to the fight but they do not have that staying power unless there are combat platforms that will let them do that. They can hit targets that otherwise they would be engaging with Javelins,” Bassett said.

The new gun, to be fully operational by 2018, incorporates a number of additional innovations for Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles and Reconnaissance Vehicles.

“The medium cannon has a feed system with links pulling into the breach. This is a link-less feed system. The ammo is in canisters attached to the breach of the gun and rounds are pulled into the breach one at a time. It is much less prone to jamming,” Reese said.  “It Uses the same firing control handle as the current machine gun and same physical display channels.

Deterring Russia

The new, more-powerful Orbital ATK XM 81330mm 30mm cannon, which can be fired from within the Stryker vehicle using a Remote Weapons Station, will first deploy with the European-based 2nd Cavalry Unit.

While US Army leaders did not, quite naturally, specify that the weapon is intended to counter Russian forces on the European continent, they do often speak candidly about Russian aggression in Ukraine and other areas. In fact, a RAND study months ago determined that the Russian military could invade and overrun the Baltic states in merely 60-hours given the small amount of NATO forces in the area. It is not surprising, given this scenario, that the Pentagon and NATO are amidst various efforts to strengthen their force posture in Europe.

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US Army photo

It appears to be no accident that this initiative to better arm Stryker infantry carriers comes at a time when the US Army and US European Command are deliberately revving up arms, multi-national training exercises with NATO allies and armored mobility for its forces in Europe – as a direct counterbalance or deterrent to Russia’s aggressive posture in the region.

For instance, last year’s US European Command’s Dragoon Ride convoy across Europe was, among other things, designed to demonstrate the mobility, deployability and responsiveness of NATO armored forces across the European continent. There have been several additional exercises, involving US Army collaboration with Eastern European NATO allies since this convoy and many more on the immediate future.