Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region - We Are The Mighty
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Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region

The Islamic extremists that ambushed and killed US Army commandos in Niger last week hadn’t operated in that area before, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Oct. 11, referring to what officials believe was a relatively new offshoot of the Islamic State group there.


Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Tampa, Mattis said he rejected suggestions that rescue forces were slow to respond to the assault, noting that French aircraft were overhead within 30 minutes. But he said the US military is reviewing whether changes should be made to these types of training missions in Africa.

“We will look at this and say was there something we have to adapt to now, should we have been in a better stance,” said Mattis. “We need to always look at this. We’re not complacent, we’re going to be better.”

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

US Africa Command has launched an investigation into the attack that will review what went wrong and whether additional security or overhead armed support may be needed for some of these missions.

American officials have said they believe the militants belonged to a tribal group that previously may have been tied to al-Qaeda or other extremists, but more recently re-branded themselves as IS. The officials said they do not believe the militants were fighters who came to Niger from outside the region. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Three Army commandoes and a soldier were killed a week ago when dozens of militants ambushed them during a joint patrol with Niger troops. The US and Niger troops were in unarmored trucks.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
A US Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes a Niger Army soldier during marksmanship training as part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, Feb. 28, 2017. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Klutts.

Mattis and other officials haven’t said how long it took to evacuate the troops, including several US and Niger forces who were wounded. One US Army soldier was missing for nearly two days before he was finally found by Niger troops around the area where the attack happened.

According to US officials, details about the exact timeline for the rescue effort are still unfolding. The troops were evacuated by French aircraft.

Army special forces have been working with Niger troops for some time, and that training effort has been increasing in recent years.

They are often working in remote locations well beyond what the US military likes to call the “golden hour.” That one-hour standard for medical evacuation was set during the peak war years in Iraq and Afghanistan and was aimed at getting wounded troops out within an hour of their injury, making it more likely they will get the treatment needed to survive.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
French Air Force at Niamey Air Base in Niger. Photo from Twitter user @Tom_Antonov.

Mattis praised the quick response of the French and Niger support forces.

“The French pilots were overhead with fast movers with bombs on them ready to help, and helicopters were coming in behind,” he said adding that Niger forces with French advisers also responded to the attack, which took place attack about 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Niger’s capital, Niamey.

The US and Niger forces were leaving a meeting with tribal leaders when they were ambushed. There were about a dozen US troops and a company of Niger forces, for a total of about 40 service members in the joint mission.

US officials have described a chaotic assault in a densely wooded area, as 40-50 extremists in vehicles and on motorcycles fired rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns at the patrol, setting off explosions and shattering windows. The soldiers got out of their trucks, returning fire and calling in support from the French aircraft.

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Amphibious Assault in the Pacific

By 1943, the war in the Pacific burned in its full fury. On November 20th, the Allies launched the first amphibious assault against heavily defended beaches in US history. The 2nd division of the US Marine Corps, used amphibious tractors and assault boats to reach the beaches of the Tarawa atoll, an enemy stronghold protected by 5,000 hardened Imperial Japanese marines. Ed Moore and Tommy Reed were decorated veterans of the 2nd Marine Division during the island campaigns in the Pacific War.

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This video nails how battle buddies distort what happens when they’re on leave

Leave is something every service member looks forward to, a break from early morning PTs, training and military life in general. Plus, you get to skip shaving for a few days.


And once leave ends it’s time to gather up and share tales of romance and mayhem and world domination — because that’s what happens on leave, no shit.

This Terminal Boots video is spot on in showing how the truth takes a hit with each subsequent telling of the classic “there I was on leave” story.

Watch: 

 

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Pacific War Diary

During World War II, the United States Marines played a central role in the battle for the islands of the Pacific. Marine Corps veteran Bill Swanson was often in the first wave to hit the beach in many of these brutal campaigns. In this episode, he paints a vivid picture of what it was like to fight in the “living hell” of these steaming jungles and swamps.  He shares his experiences on Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima, battling a hidden and determined enemy.

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8 reasons why the Army should update its combatives manual

In January 2002, the Army revised their Combatives Field Manual (FM 3-25.150), which has been a fantastic training aid when it comes to teaching the Modern Army Combatives Program. It lays down the groundwork literally, but without an instructor, there’ll be many gaps in instruction to fill.


Unlike many of the other documented skills in the Army, combatives is not something you can just read in a book — the actual FM isn’t any help either.

The Stretches

Combatives is a very aerobic activity that requires nearly every muscle in the body. Stretching is important before and after any exercise, yet the manual only covers five stretches and only one is not buddy-assisted.

1. The backroll stretch:

The point of stretching is to loosen up your muscles, not immediately throw out your back. Any sudden movements out of this one and you’re done.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

2. The buddy-assisted hamstring stretch

A flaw in the “buddy-assisted” stretches is that the person assisting has no knowledge of what is helpful and what is hurting. They could push the stretcher to the point of injury or they could just do nothing at all. Not only is the risk of injury higher, it takes time away from what could be used stretching both combatants.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

3. The buddy-assisted groin stretch

The same goes for the buddy-assisted groin stretch… except there are countless other methods to stretch your own groin that don’t involve outside help.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

Basic ground-fighting techniques

Combatives lessons are broken down into three levels: one, two, and three (and technically four, but that’s a Master trainer course). Combatives level-1 is meant to get a soldier’s toes wet, but troops often come out thinking that their shrimp drills and mounting drills make them the toughest SoB in the bar.

4. The front mount and the guard

Much of the training revolves around learning these two positions. To the untrained eye, the person on top is always the one in control. While this is true for the front mount, the soldier on their back in the guard position actually has control of the fight. It all comes down to who has positive control of the other person’s hips and their center of balance.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

5. Arm push and roll to the rear mount

The bread-and-butter of combatives level-1 is learning to switch between the various ground stances. However, much of this relies on your opponent giving you stiff arms (where the elbow is locked straight). In a controlled environment, it’s not a problem. In reality, fists fly too fast for you to grab them.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

Advanced ground-fighting techniques

Stepping into level-2 doesn’t make you any more of a badass. You’ll still cover the same techniques, with maybe three or four new moves spliced in.

6. North-South Position

In this position, the person on the ground is in complete control. The problem with the North-South Position is that this an extremely ineffective hold. Placing your hands in the person’s armpits restricts their arms, but it still gives them the freedom to knee your head and punch your sides.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

7. Captain Kirk

The objective of the Captain Kirk is to flip the opponent over you by hoping they bend down, give you stiff arms, and have moved their center of balance far enough forward for you to roll backwards.

The only applicable time for this is when a troop has watched too much WWE and is going for the Batista Bomb.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

Takedowns and throws

These are your finishing moves. During combatives level-1, almost no focus is put onto these… despite being the actual goal of the program.

8. Attack from the rear

One crucial step is missing from the illustration: Applying the force needed to the enemy’s fourth point of contact and lifting from their ankles. The illustration goes from “Get ready, get set…” directly to “finished.”

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

Asperiores odit

The dictator of Zimbabwe was ousted in a coup overnight and no one really knows what’s next

After nearly 40 years as Zimbabwe’s leader, President Robert Mugabe appears to have lost his grip on power.


Early Nov. 15, the country’s military drove tanks into the capital, Harare, and seized control of the state broadcaster, ZBC. A senior officer of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces denied that a coup was in progress and said Mugabe, 93, was “safe and sound.”

Later Nov. 15, South African President Jacob Zuma said in a statement that he had spoken to Mugabe and that Mugabe was unharmed and under house arrest. The Guardian’s Jason Burke reported that Mugabe would step down on Nov. 17.

Zimbabwe’s first lady, Grace Mugabe, who was contending for leadership of the ruling ZANU-PF party, has fled to Namibia, The Guardian reported, citing opposition sources. The first lady has long been seen as Robert Mugabe’s chosen successor.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
Robert and Grace Mugabe, 2013, in Harare, Zimbabwe (Photo from Wikimedia Commons user DandjkRoberts)

Mugabe’s reported removal from power is surely welcome news to his critics in a country that saw its economy collapse into a hyperinflationary spell in 2008 as Mugabe implemented price controls and printed large amounts of money, leading to a multibillion-percent inflation rate.

The human-rights group Amnesty International has also accused Mugabe and his government of repressing political expression, arbitrarily arresting activists and others, carrying out “torture and extrajudicial executions,” and fomenting mass political violence.

So what’s next?

The military’s denying a coup implies Zimbabwe’s next leader won’t be a general.

Related: Turkish President Erdogan holds on to power as military coup fails

South Africa’s Independent Online reports that Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom Mugabe dismissed as vice president last week, is en route to Harare to take control of the country’s government.

Mnangagwa has the support of both the military and the wider population, according to BMI Research.

The firm says there are three possible outcomes that could play out over the coming months:

  1. “Mugabe resigns and is replaced by Mnangagwa before year-end.”
  2. “Mnangagwa selected to run as ZANU-PF party leader in 2018 election.”
  3. “Mnangagwa established as constitutional successor in the event of Mugabe’s death.”

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
Robert Mugabe and Grace Mugabe at a Politburo meeting. Grace was previously thought to be the successor to the Presidency. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Brainy263)

The economic impact

It is likely to take years to reverse the damage caused by Mugabe’s economic policies.

“It was the 10th-largest economy in the region in the late 1990s,” said William Jackson, the senior emerging-markets economist at Capital Economics. “But its performance has been significantly worse than many of its peers. For example, in 1998, Zimbabwe’s economy was roughly the same size as that of Angola, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. Now, those economies are three to seven times larger than Zimbabwe.”

Additionally, Mugabe’s policies have caused public external debt — most of which is already in arrears — to balloon to more than 40% of gross domestic product, the International Monetary Fund says.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
Zimbabwean inflation ran rampant during the presidency of Robert Mugabe, leading to the printing of a one-hundred trillion ZWD note. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

It’s unclear what would happen if Zimbabweans fled to other parts of the region.

“There is already a large Zimbabwean diaspora in South Africa — the UN estimates there are around 500,000 Zimbabweans living there, although unofficial estimates suggest that it could be closer to 3 million,” Jackson wrote. “If refugee inflows did pick up again, there would be a fiscal cost to the South African government, and it could lead to social strains in an economy already struggling with very high unemployment.”

Members of the ZANU-PF party and the opposition weren’t immediately available for comment.

Asperiores odit

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels

Since June, Coast Guard vessels patrolling the US’s southern approaches have stopped seven low-profile smuggling vessels — stealthy ships that ride low in the water to spirit illicit cargos from South America to Mexico and the US.


Akin to self-propelled semi-submersibles used by smugglers for the same purpose, low-profile vessels are boats designed to run near or at surface level to present the smallest possible radar signature.

Low-profile vessels usually have a sharp bow to cut through the water and an elongated body to transport cargo — typically high-value drugs like cocaine. Some only have masts or conning towers that stick out above water, and they are often outfitted with multiple outboard engines and painted to blend in with the water.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
A Coast Guard Cutter Stratton boarding team seizes cocaine bales from a self-propelled semi-submersible. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone.

The Coast Guard said the last time a low-profile vessel was stopped prior to the current fiscal year was in late May 2016. Six narco subs were caught during that fiscal year (and one was intercepted in September, the first month of fiscal year 2017).

The seven interdictions since June occurred in drug-transit areas in the eastern Pacific, off the coasts of South and Central America.

In mid-August, Coast Guard cutter Steadfast intercepted a suspected low-profile vessel several hundred miles off the coast of Central America, seizing more than 6,000 pounds of cocaine and arresting four suspected traffickers.

Another low-profile vessel — six feet wide and 54 feet long — was stopped by Coast Guard cutter Waesche off the Central American coast in early June, after the cutter tracked the vessel for almost 100 miles. The Waesche’s crew arrested four suspected smugglers and seized 2.79 tons of cocaine.

 

 

The US and partner forces have stepped up their activity in the eastern Pacific, and cocaine production has risen considerably in Colombia, the world’s biggest producer of the drug.

The result has been “a significant increase in narcotics removal” in drug-transit areas off South and Central America, the Coast Guard said.

During fiscal year 2016, the Coast Guard set a record by seizing more than 443,000 pounds of cocaine bound for the US. The service says it is on pace for another record-setting amount of seizures this fiscal year, though officials have warned that it doesn’t have the resources to fully address the trafficking activity it detects.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
Photo courtesy of US Coast Guard.

The ocean area from Colombia to the Galapagos and up to the Mexican and US coasts is about the size of the continental US, Vice Adm. Charles Ray, the Coast Guard’s deputy commandant for operations, said at a hearing earlier this month.

“On any given day, we’ll have between six to 10 Coast Guard cutters down here,” Ray added. “If you imagine placing that on [an area the size of] the United States … it’s a capacity challenge.”

US officials believe about 90% of the cocaine shipped to the US traverses the sea at some point, typically arriving somewhere in Central America or Mexico and being smuggled over the US-Mexico land border.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says about 93% of the cocaine sent to the US comes through the Mexico/Central America corridor.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
Suspected trafficking routes detected during 2016. US Southern Command photo via Adam Isacson.

US anti-narcotics officials also think they intercept about one of every four tons of cocaine headed for the US, with about 69% of it stopped in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Narco subs — a category that includes fully submersible vessels, semi-submersible vessels, or towed containers — appeared in the 1990s, as Colombian smugglers sought to stay ahead of law-enforcement’s detection abilities.

Fully submersible and semi-submersible vessels are hard to detect and expensive to build (though their cargos are valuable enough that a single trip can cover the price), so interceptions of them are not that common.

Low-profile vessels, which are not technically semi-submersible, are the majority of seized drug-smuggling vessels, according to a 2014 report.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
Coast Guard photo courtesy of Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone.

Low-profile vessels can come in various forms, often balancing speed and stealth in different ways. A more recent variation appears to be what naval expert HI Sutton called “very slender vessels” — elongated vessels that go through waves rather than over them. In April, Guatemalan forces found an abandoned vessel that appeared to be a VSV, as did the crew of the Waesche in June.

VSVs sacrifice cargo size for stealthiness and speed, and their appearance suggests a maturation in the designs of Colombian traffickers — in particular Los Urabeños, the country’s most powerful criminal group — Sutton notes.

Narco subs are typically constructed near Colombia’s Pacific coast, assembled under cover of jungle canopy.

Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region
US Coast Guard photo.

They’re moved through rivers and mangroves to the coast once completed, and their smuggling routes typically take them out into the Pacific — sometimes around the Galapagos Islands — before turning north.

“In recent years, ‘narco-sub’ vessels (mostly LPVs) have been built with upper lead shielding which helps to minimize their heat signature and hence they can evade infrared sensors,” according to a 2014 paper in Small Wars Journal. “Some of the newer models have piping along the bottom to allow the water to cool the exhaust as the ship moves, making it even less susceptible to infrared detection.”

In addition to the Coast Guard air and sea assets deployed to stop traffickers, US Customs and Border Patrol have eight P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft converted into Long Range Trackers. The former Navy aircraft have been upgraded with radars originally designed for the F-16 fighter jet, as well as optical sensors.

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