The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
This F-16A Fighting Falcon, tail No. 80-0504, was last assigned to the 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, N.Y., as a ground maintenance trainer before it was retired from service and disassembled Nov. 5, 2015. The aircraft is set to be reassembled and placed at the main entrance of the New York National Guard headquarters in Latham.
Airmen from the 305th, 514th and 60th Air Mobility Wings demonstrated the United States’ air refueling capabilities by simultaneously launching eight KC-10 Extender aircraft to air refuel seven C-17 Globemasters.
Capt. (Ret.) Florent Groberg receives the Medal Of Honor from President Obama at The White House, Nov. 12, 2015, for his heroic actions during Operation Enduring Freedom.
“And at that moment, Flo did something extraordinary — he grabbed the bomber by his vest and kept pushing him away. And all those years of training on the track, in the classroom, out in the field — all of it came together. In those few seconds, he had the instincts and the courage to do what was needed,” said President Barack Obama, speaking about Groberg’s selfless act in Afghanistan.
A US Army Soldier For Life salutes during a Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home Ceremony hosted by 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley’s Marshall Army Airfield, Kan., Nov. 6, 2015. The ceremony, held in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, honored the sacrifice of the veterans and formally welcomed them home.
NEW YORK (Nov. 11, 2015) Sailors hold the national ensign as they march during the NYC Veterans Day Parade.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 7, 2015) A family enjoys Gator Beach as an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer is underway off the coast of Southern California.
The Cake was a Lie: Marines march in a formation through the rain during the Marine Corps birthday run at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., Nov. 9, 2015. More than 1,500 Marines and Sailors with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and MCAS Cherry Point participated in the motivational run to commemorate the Marine Corps’ 240th birthday. The run is held annually to celebrate the traditions of the Marine Corps and the camaraderie of the service members.
WASHINGTON – Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller cuts the cake Nov. 9 at the Pentagon during the cake cutting ceremony for the Marine Corps’ 240th birthday. Marines worldwide cut a cake in celebration of the birth of the Marine Corps every year.
Happy Veterans Day to all who have served, and are currently serving, in all branches of our armed forces.
Goodnight from USCG Station Philadelphia … we have the watch.
Let’s face it. The world likes — and America loves — zombie movies.
The idea of having to fight across the countryside and through clustered cities, cutting down hordes of the undead with a shotgun is enticing.
That’s why zombie movies and video games do so well. The “Resident Evil” franchise released its sixth film 20 years after its first video game hit the market. That’s a two-decade run for, “Zombies, but like, monsters, too.”
But, sorry, Milla Jovovich fans. There is no way that a zombie outbreak is taking over the U.S. or any allied country while the American military is around. Here’s how the U.S. would respond to a zombie outbreak, shutting it down quickly.
First, let’s assume that an entire country was ravaged before America geared up, just for funsies. (But, really, military human intelligence collectors and signal intelligence should have given us the heads up before a single town was wiped out). And let’s assume it’s a country that emphatically said the U.S. military wasn’t welcome, and that’s why the outbreak went on as long as it did.
And, Russia has good topography for containing zombies. Because of the mountain ranges (in black, below) and the Arctic Circle (in red), there are only a few places where zombies could conceivably break out of Russia to threaten the rest of the world in large numbers.
So, small contingents of the Navy can patrol the Arctic and a few dozen companies of POGs can guard the mountain ranges, picking off the few zombies lucky enough to make it through the mountain passes.
But the western and southern breakout zones could be huge problems for American allies and the world as a whole.
The southern breakout zones would give the zombies access to Kazahkstan and maybe Mongolia. The western gives a large front that hits Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Finland. It also hits Belarus, but they hate America nearly as much as Russia does, so screw ’em.
So what could 632,000 ground combatants supported by the largest navy and the most advanced air force in the world possibly do against 130 million zombies?
Lol. They would kill an average of 205.7 zombies each, and it would be awesome.
The Navy would park multiple carriers in the Baltics and Barents seas. From there, they could fly strike aircraft and sensor platforms to find and target large clusters of zombies.
The Air Force would bring its own strike and ground attack planes as far east in Europe as they could hold the line. From there, A-10s and AC-130s would rain hot lead in support of ground pounders while B and F-series planes blanket the countryside with bombs.
Finally. Guilt-free carpet bombing is back.
And sure, none of these are the headshots needed to permanently put down a zombie. But a few hundred pounds of explosives will mess up a zombie’s legs pretty badly, as will 30 mike-mike through the chest. Pretty sure that will make the infantry and other ground maneuver forces’ jobs a little easier.
Speaking of which, the Marine Corps and Army are going to love the most entertaining range they’ve ever held. Think about it. What sucks most about range days? First, being put on target detail. And, second, having to shut down the range every time a turtle wanders by.
Guess what? No one is going to order a range halt because of a turtle when a bio menace is marching towards Paris. And there’s no need for a target detail when the targets can be lured with the sound of gunfire.
So, the Marines and soldiers basically get to call shots to each other as they gun down crippled zombies over a couple of thousand miles of the Russian border. If the engineers can wait to shoot zombies long enough to dig a couple of trenches and raise concertina obstacles, it’ll delay the already wounded zombies even further.
And don’t think the artillery and mortarmen are going to let a chance to practice against undead targets pass them by.
The biggest challenge is going to be making sure that all those cavalry, infantry, etc. have enough ammo. But remember, American logistics troops train to maintain operations in a contested environment. This time, they would have completely safe roads, railways, and rivers to use without fear of significant enemy resistance.
Hell, the operation could probably be catered.
So soldiers and Marines could simply mow down the oncoming hordes, talking the machine guns and interchanging barrels to prevent a meltdown. No Milla Jovovich needed (though she would probably be welcome on a USO tour or something).
Of course, the Navy SEALs can be used to clean out river deltas where zombies were washed downstream attempting a crossing, and the Green Berets can jump into zombie-held territory to try and train up survivors for resistance operations if they like.
But zombie operations are basically just the world’s easiest siege. None of the enemies can tunnel, or use weapons, or conduct coordinated military operations. Easy, peasy.
Russia is apparently ready to build two terrifying weapons of war: A 100-ton ballistic missile that can destroy countries and a train that can carry and fire six nuclear missiles, according to Pravda, the Communist Party’s outlet in Russia.
The missile and train are “on the level of absolute readiness of the industry for their implementation, should the relevant decision be made to include the projects in the state armament program,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told Pravda.
The 100-ton RS-28 Sarmat nuclear missile, or “Satan 2” as NATO calls it, reportedly holds 10 warheads and is capable of destroying a country the size of France, Newsweek reported. The Satan 2 is an upgraded version of the RS-36M, which NATO called “Satan” in the 70s.
But its production has been put off since 2014. The Russian Defense Ministry also said last week that it wouldn’t test it until late 2017.
The Barguzin trains, on the other hand, will look like passenger trains, be able to travel 1,500 miles a day, and hold up to six 55-ton RS-24 Yars thermonuclear ICBMs. The Barguzin train is also an upgrade of a Soviet design that only carried three nuclear ICBMs.
The US considered putting nukes on trains in the 1980s, but later scrapped the idea. Nuclear trains are beneficial in that they’re mobile and difficult to locate.
However, a 2014 RAND study said that there are shortcomings to nuclear trains. Railways can be blocked by snow, and the enemy simply has to surveil the railways to find the trains. Also, once found, they’re easier to take out.
“Mobile systems that depend on roads or rail lines visible via overhead imagery effectively shrink the target area and could significantly lower the number of missiles required to barrage mobile systems,” RAND said.
Russia currently has about 7,000 nuclear weapons, while the US has about 6,800.
In the later years of the Cold War, Lockheed proposed arming their high-flying U-2 spy plane with experimental long-range anti-ship missiles that would have made it a terror over the high seas. Had the concept been coupled with American efforts to field the U-2 aboard aircraft carriers, it could have offered the U.S. Navy a ship killer with a long scope and even longer range.
When the U-2 first entered service in 1955, it brought with it an incredible jump in America’s reconnaissance capabilities. Designed and built by Kelly Johnson’s legendary team at Lockheed’s Skunk Works in less than a year, the U-2 was capable of flying at altitudes higher than 70,000 feet, well beyond the reach of even the most advanced and capable Soviet missiles or fighters of the day.
But it wasn’t just incredible altitudes that made the U-2 special. In an era when aerial refueling had only recently become commonplace for fighter operations, the original U-2 design could cover 3,000 miles without the need for tankers, giving it incredible range and endurance for covert operations over enemy territory. The original camera mounted in the payload bay of the U-2 could capture images with a resolution of just 2.5 feet from an altitude of 60,000, but the U-2 has since seen a slew of updated equipment housed within its fuselage, from the most powerful optical sensors in the U.S. arsenal to some of the first line-of-sight data link systems.
But with all the high-tech gear to grace the U-2 spy plane’s interior, one thing the aircraft has never carried is missiles… but Lockheed had plans to change that.
An element of that story that got left on the cutting room floor during its initial edit was Lockheed’s drive to find a good reason to ramp up U-2 production and sell Uncle Sam as many high-flying Dragon Ladies as the taxpayer would allow. In all, Lockheed built and sold some 104 U-2 spy planes between 1955 and the end of the latest production run in 1989, but the firm knew they could dramatically increase that tally if only they could find another good use for the unusual platform.
By the late 1970s, Lockheed wasn’t considered one of the world’s best defense contractors as it had been in the past and would be again in the future. A series of financial scandals, poor business decisions, and terrible press had put the company’s future in jeopardy. In 1971, Lockheed was forced to accept a $200 million loss (about $1.3 billion in 2021 dollars) over cost overruns and contract disputes with the Pentagon.
That same year, one of Lockheed’s primary commercial engine suppliers, Rolls Royce Ltd, filed for bankruptcy, and the firm was once again forced to approach the U.S. government for a $250 million loan to keep it in operation. By the end of the decade, Lockheed’s value had slipped all the way down to 6th place in the list of American defense contractors, lagging behind competitors like General Dynamics, coming off its success with the F-16, and McDonnell Douglas, who was riding high on their own fighter program, the F-15 Eagle.
Lockheed needed a win, and although they had a number of programs under development, the U-2 was already a proven performer with an existing production line. And despite being incredibly difficult to fly, there was good reason to look for ways to expand its operational uses. Some may have thought Gary Powers’ U-2 being shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960 would have spelled the end for the aircraft; after all, it was designed to fly high specifically to operate beyond the reach of Soviet air defenses, but the U-2’s broad capabilities as an extended-range, long duration, reconnaissance platform were too potent to ignore, even as the faster and higher-flying SR-71 came into service and satellites were coming of age.
If they could convince the U.S. Navy to buy into the U-2 program, it could have meant a fairly quick influx of revenue the company sorely needed.
Arming the U-2 with missiles to go ship hunting
Although Lockheed failed to convince the Navy to operate a sensor-packed version of the U-2 from aircraft carriers for maritime surveillance, they still had one more trick up their sleeve.
When U-2 designer Kelly Johnson first approached the U.S. Air Force with his CL-282 design that would culminate in the U-2, he was dismissed outright by legendary commander of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), Curtis LeMay. According to reports, LeMay told Lockheed that he had no interest in an airplane “without wheels or guns.”
Lockheed seemed to take that criticism to heart, and while they didn’t change out the landing gear or add any guns to the U-2, they did take a crack at missiles.
Dubbed the 315B design, this new iteration of the U-2 would come with a second crew station, not unlike the two-seat U-2 training aircraft Lockheed already had in production. That second crew member would serve as a sort of Radar Intercept Officer, not unlike the backseater in operational Navy fighters of the day like the F-14 Tomcat.
The 315B U-2 would be armed with new and experimental (at the time) AGM-53 Condor long-range air-to-surface missiles to engage enemy warships at distances of up to 60 miles. The Condor missile utilized an electro-optical (television) guidance system with a data link back to the aircraft that would allow the secondary crew member to literally guide the weapon into its target via remote control. The missiles could also be “locked” onto a target using this system, freeing up the crew aboard the U-2 to start scouring for other enemy ships.
Eventually, the Condor missiles were intended to carry both conventional warheads and nuclear ones, which would have made the U-2 a potential nuclear attack aircraft had the 315B design and Condor missiles ever come to fruition. Unfortunately for Lockheed and for the Condor’s designer, Rockwell, neither effort would make it into production.
The missiles meant for the U-2 turned out to be duds
The AGM-53 Condor missile was riddled with issues and setbacks throughout its development in the latter half of the 1960s, from an unreliable propulsion system to the skyrocketing costs of fielding a capable data link for the weapon. Worse still, the missile’s relatively small warhead made its exorbitant price tag (largely due to the expensive data link technology) seem downright unreasonable. Despite originally placing an order for 250 missiles to be delivered in 1976, the program was canceled that year before any could be.
Like the missiles that would arm it, the 315B U-2 Lockheed proposed would never make it into service with the U.S. Navy either. Lockheed would find itself once again leading the way in military aviation just a few short years later, however, when the world’s first operational stealth aircraft, the F-117 Nighthawk, would begin test flights.
The U-2 spy plane would continue to find valuable uses for the U.S. Air Force extending all the way into the 21st century. Today, there are more than 30 U-2s in operational service filling a wider variety of roles than ever. Some have even been used as nodes in secure data links between the most advanced fighters the U.S. has to offer, the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter–both of which come from the same Lockheed Skunk Works stable as the U-2 did itself decades ago.
On June 9, 1959, America launched the first ballistic missile submarine, forever changing nuclear deterrence.
Following the Korean War, the Cold War increased in intensity as America and the Soviet Union looked for ways to project their power in the event of a nuclear war.
America leapt ahead of its rival with the creation of the Polaris missile, a solid fueled nuclear-armed missile that could be launched from a submarine. The U.S. Navy altered two submarines already under construction to carry 13 Polaris missiles each. The Navy also authorized the construction of three more custom-built subs.
The USS George Washington (SSBN-598) was the first one to be completed. SSBN-598 was the third United States Navy ship to be named in honor of President George Washington — and the first of that name to be purpose-built as a warship. It was launched on June 9, 1959, before taking its first patrol, carrying 13 Polaris missiles with one-megaton warheads that could fly 1,400 miles, on November 15, 1960.
On April 9, 1981, USS George Washington was broadsided by the Japanese commercial cargo ship Nissho Maru in the East China Sea. The USS George Washington immediately surfaced to search for the other vessel, but due to heavy fog conditions, failed to identify the damage on the Nissho Maru as it headed away in the fog. George Washington headed to port for repairs but sadly the Nissho Maru sank within the half hour.
It was decommissioned in 1985, having never used its lethal payload.
Featured Image: The U.S. Navy ballistic missile submarine USS George Washington (SSBN-598) underway, circa in the 1970s. (U.S. Navy image)
A US Blue Angels jet has crashed in Smyrna, Tennessee.
According to local ABC affiliate WKRN, citing the fire chief of the neighboring town of La Vergne, the crash took place around 3pm local time. The Blue Angels were scheduled to perform in Tennessee this weekend.
The Blue Angels are the US Navy’s flight demonstration team. Aviators in the Blue Angels come from both the Navy and the Marines and fly F/A-18 Hornets.
The crash of a Blue Angel comes on the same day that a US Air Force Thunderbird also crashed after completing a flyover at the US Air Force Academy commencement.
The Russian defense ministry claims to have killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a May 28 airstrike in Raqqa, Syria.
Russian forces in Syria launched the airstrike after receiving intelligence that ISIS leaders were planning a meeting in the outskirts of Raqqa.
“According to the information that is being verified through various channels, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also attended the meeting and was killed in the airstrike,” the ministry said in a statement Friday, according to the Associated Press.
In addition to several senior ISIS leaders, Russia estimates around 30 field commanders and 300 personal guards were killed in the strike.
The ministry claims it informed the U.S. of the airstrike in advance. Air Force Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman of the U.S.-led coalition, said he could not confirm the Russian report of Baghdadi’s death.
Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, questions the report as intelligence indicates Baghdadi was in a different part of Syria at the time of the strike.
“The information is that as of the end of last month Baghdadi was in Deir al-Zor, in the area between Deir al-Zor and Iraq, in Syrian territory,” Abdulrahman told Reuters.
Other high-ranking ISIS leaders killed in the airstrike include Abu al-Khadji al-Mysri, Ibrahim al-Naef al-Khadj and Suleiman al-Shauah, according to Russia.
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When it comes to self-defense, what do SEALs recommend? Well, Jocko Willink – a former Navy SEAL who served alongside Chris Kyle and Michael Monsoor in Task Unit Bruiser, earning the Silver Star and Bronze Star for heroism – has some answers. And they are surprising.
When it comes to self-defense, Willink’s top recommendation isn’t a martial art in the strictest sense. It’s a gun and concealed carry.
“If you are in a situation where you need to protect yourself, that is how you protect yourself,” he said, noting that potential adversaries will have weapons, they will be on drugs or suffer from some psychotic condition. “If you want to protect yourself, that is how you do it.”
Okay, great. That works in the states that have “constitutional carry” or “shall issue” carry laws. But suppose you are in California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, or Delaware which the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action notes are “Rights Restricted – Very Limited Issue” states where obtaining a concealed carry permit is very difficult?
Willink then recommends Brazilian jujitsu, followed by Western boxing, Muay Thai, and wrestling (the type you see in the Olympics, not the WWE – no disrespect to the WWE). Willinck is a proponent of jujitsu in particular – recounting how he used it to beat a fellow SEAL in a sparring match who had 20 years of experience in a different martial art.
He noted that people should not buy into the notion of a “magical instructor” who can help them defeat multiple attackers. He said martial arts like Krav Maga can augment jujitsu and other arts.
He also noted that you have more time than you think. The attack isn’t likely to happen next week – it could be a lot longer, and one can learn a lot by training in a martial art two or three times a week for six months.
Willick notes, though, that martial arts have a purpose beyond self-defense. They can teach discipline and humility. He notes that few who start jujitsu get a black belt – because it takes discipline to go out there on the mat constantly, especially when you are a beginner.
From World War II to today, Boeing products have been the backbone of America’s strategic bomber force. That long tradition got started, though, with the B-17 Flying Fortress, which was best known for flying the daylight bombing missions against Nazi Germany in World War II.
The ultimate form of the B-17 was the B-17G version, which had 13 .50-caliber machine guns, including a twin Bendex turret under the nose, twin turrets on the top, belly, and tail of the bomber, as well as five single machine guns, including two in the wait, two in the cheeks of the plane, and one for the radio operator.
With all that firepower and ammo, there was still enough room to carry a large bombload (up to 9,600 pounds). The B-17 also had a lot of reach, with a maximum range of 3,750 miles. With four 1,200-horsepower Wright Cyclone R-1820-97 engines, it could hit 287 miles per hour when running flat-out.
The Flying Fortress saw action from the start of the war — B-17s flying in to Hickam Field on Dec, 7, 1941 came under attack from the Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor. After that day, B-17 production was ramped up until 12,726 of all types were produced until May, 1945.
Today, only 12 of the thousands of B-17s that were built are still airworthy – with another 27 either in museums or being restored. Among those being restored is the only surviving B-17D, “The Swoose,” as well as the famous “Memphis Belle.”
Finances are stressful in emergency situations, and it doesn’t matter what rank you are. From an unexpected death in the family to a broken car courtesy of the deployment curse, financial emergencies happen no matter how well you plan for them.
Fortunately for service members, their spouses, and veterans, there’s a little safety net in place for each of the services to help when these things happen, dubbed the “Emergency Relief Fund.”
The Army has the Army Emergency Relief, a non-profit that helps soldiers, retirees and families with resources in a pinch. Additionally, AER provides access to interest free loans, grants, and scholarships.
The AER is endorsed and run by the Army.
The National Guard has the National Guard Soldier and Airman Emergency Relief Fund, which provides up to $500 to eligible households. For more information, check out the National Guard’s publication on its emergency relief fund.
The Air Force has the Air Force Aid Society, and it provides emergency assistance, education support, and community programs. While the AFAS is a private non-profit, it is “the official charity of the United States Air Force.”
The Navy and Marine Corps share a relief fund called the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. The NMCRS is a non-profit that, though unaffiliated with the Department of Defense, can be found on nearly all Navy or Marine Corps bases.
The NMCRS is completely funded by donations and on-base thrift stores, and it provides financial assistance and counseling, quick assist loans, education assistance, health education and post-combat support, budget for baby classes, emergency travel, disaster relief, and the on base thrift stores.
American Red Cross:
For service members, family members, and eligible veterans who are not near an installation, there is The American Red Cross. The Red Cross works alongside the above mentioned aid societies to provide assistance.
With most troops learning hand-to-hand combat in the military, it’s not surprising that some would end up getting really good at it.
UFC legend Randy Couture is a former 101st Airborne Division soldier, while Brian Stann was a decorated Marine Corps platoon commander before entering the Octagon. As it turns out, veterans have a history of fighting in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Former Marine Sgt. Liz Carmouche has a 10-5-0 record in mixed martial arts and famously fought Ronda Rousey for the Women’s Bantamweight title in 2013. Rousey admitted before the fight that fighting Carmouche would be different.
“She’s a Marine, I’m not going to be able to intimidate this girl,” Rousey said in an MMAFighting.com interview. “The prefight intimidation stuff won’t work.”
The Ranger and Sapper-qualified infantryman currently serves as a combatives instructor in Fort Hood, Texas, but has said he’s interested in a special operations assignment soon.
4. Tim Kennedy
Like Colton Smith, Tim Kennedy began his UFC career while on active duty. The Ranger-tabbed Green Beret was a sniper before he transitioned from active duty to the Texas National Guard to focus on his MMA career. He currently serves as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant, and holds an 18-5-0 record in mixed martial arts.
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a front-runner for defense secretary in a Trump administration, could face stormy Senate confirmation hearings over his views on women in combat, post-traumatic stress, Iran, and other issues.
Mattis also would bring with him a bottom-up leadership style honed in command positions from the rifle platoon level to U.S. Central Command that seemingly would be at odds with President-elect Donald Trump’s top-down management philosophy and the by-the-book bureaucracy of the Pentagon.
In his writings, speeches and think-tank comments since retiring in 2013 as a revered figure in the Marine Corps, Mattis has been characteristically blunt on a range of issues from the role of women in the military and post-traumatic stress to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran.
Mattis also has praised the Mideast diplomacy efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry, who was often mocked by Trump during the campaign, but Trump has kept Mattis at the top of his short list for the Pentagon post.
The general has apparently cleared his calendar in anticipation of a Trump decision.
Mattis canceled a Dec. 14 speaking engagement at a Jamestown Foundation conference on terrorism, according to The Hill newspaper’s Kristina Wong. He has discussed the possibility of his selection as defense secretary with the leadership of the Center for a New American Security, where he is a board member, the Hill said.
Others believed to be under consideration for the defense post are Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and former Army captain; Stephen Hadley, the National Security Adviser in the administration of President George W. Bush; and former Sen. Jim Talent, a Missouri Republican.
Trump met with Mattis before Thanksgiving and later called him the “real deal” and a “generals’ general” who rated ample consideration for the defense nomination. Trump also said he was “surprised” when Mattis told him he could get more out of a terrorism suspect’s interrogation with a few beers and a pack of cigarettes than he could with waterboarding and torture.
Trump later spoke at length with The New York Times about the potential choice of Mattis and other matters, but did not touch on the roles of women in the military or Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s historic decision last March to open up all military occupational specialties to women who qualify.
Women in Combat
Mattis, now a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution in California, has questioned whether women are suited for what he called the “intimate killing” of close combat, and whether male commanders would balk at sending women into such situations.
Mattis also said he was concerned about “Eros” in the trenches when young men and women live in close quarters in the “atavistic” atmosphere of combat. “I don’t care if you go anywhere in history where you would find that this has worked,” he said of putting “healthy young men and women together and we expect them to act like little saints.”
In periodic speeches to the Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco, Mattis said that the U.S. military is a “national treasure,” and it is inevitable that women would want to serve in every MOS.
“The problem is that in the atavistic primate world” of close-quarters combat, “the idea of putting women in there is not setting them up for success,” Mattis said. He stressed that he was not talking about whether women could perform the required amounts of pushups, pullups and other physical requirements — “that’s not the point.”
Commanders must consider “what makes us most combat effective when you jump into that room and you’re doing what we call intimate killing,” he said. “It would only be someone who never crossed the line of departure into close encounters fighting that would ever even promote such an idea” as putting women into close combat.
If nominated, Mattis would almost certainly be challenged on women in combat in confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has six women on the panel.
One of them is Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican who retired as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years in the Army Reserves and Iowa National Guard. Ernst, who served a deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is the first female veteran in the Senate, has applauded the opportunity for women who meet the standards to serve in the combat arms.
Opponents of women in combat have said that the next defense secretary could easily reverse the current rules opening up all billets to women.
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, told Military Times, “Those policies have to be rolled back. Right now, the policy is that women can and will be assigned to ground combat units. That pronouncement can indeed be changed by a future secretary of defense.”
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield,” said the argument is misguided since women have already proven their worth in combat.
The rules could be changed by the next administration, but “the record of service speaks for itself,” Lemmon said. Even when regulations banned women from combat, “They were there. They were there because special ops needed them there,” she said.
“I have never thought this was about political correctness or a feminist agenda,” Lemmon said of the issue of women in combat, “but rather about military readiness and having the right people in the right jobs. In some ways, it is remarkable to me that we have Americans who want to say that even if you meet the standard, you cannot be there.”
Mattis has also differed with current thinking on post-traumatic stress and its treatment in the military and in the Department of Veterans Affairs, where the leadership has labored to remove the “stigma” against seeking help.
“We have such a fixation on disease and disorder that troops coming home have to be told, actually have to be told, ‘You don’t have to be messed up,’ ” Mattis said. “What’s the message we’re sending them?”
“My concern is we’ve got so many people who think they’re messed up now, or think they should be, that the ones who really need help are being submerged in the broader population and so the ones who need the help the most aren’t getting the attention they need to be getting,” he said.
“There’s no room for woe-is-me, for self-pity, or for cynicism” in the military, Mattis said. “Further, there is no room for military people, including our veterans, to see themselves as victims even if so many of our countrymen are prone to relish that role. In the military, we make choices. We’re not victims.”
The misperception about war and its aftermath is that “somehow we’re damaged by this. I’m on record that it didn’t traumatize me to do away with some people slapping women around,” Mattis said, but there was a growing acceptance that “we’re all post-traumatic stressed out” and that veterans were “somehow damaged goods. I don’t buy it.”
Mattis stepped down as commander of U.S. Central Command in 2013, reportedly after clashing with the White House on Iran. Now, his views on the threat posed by Iran appear to line up with those of Trump.
“Among the many challenges the Mideast faces, I think Iran is foremost,” Mattis said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies last April.
“The Iranian regime, in my mind, is the single most enduring threat to peace and stability in the Mideast,” and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action worked out by Secretary Kerry and others to rein in Iran’s nuclear programs has not altered the threat, he said.
During the campaign, Trump called the Iran pact a “terrible deal” and suggested he would renegotiate it or possibly scrap it, but Mattis is against that course of action.
“It was not a mistake to engage on the nuclear issue” with Iran, he said, adding that the deal “was not without some merit” and “there’s no going back, absent a clear violation” of the agreement.
Kerry has been pilloried by Trump on his overall performance as secretary of state, but Mattis lauded his efforts in the Mideast, particularly on his thus-far fruitless attempts to bring about a two-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians. However, the two sides must want peace “as bad as the secretary of state. I admire and salute Secretary Kerry’s efforts,” he said.
Should Mattis get the nomination, he would take to the Pentagon a unique leadership style that relies on feedback from the ranks. “Generals get a lot of credit but very little of it is earned by their own blood, sweat and tears,” he has said, adding that the credit should go to the front-line troops.
“There are two kinds of generals — one gets briefed, the other briefs his staff,” and Mattis made clear that he was the second type of general. “I found it faster if I would go out and spend most of my time with the lead elements” in an effort “to get a sense if the lads thought we were winning. We didn’t use command and control, we used command and feedback.”
“Wandering around like that really unleashed a lot of combat power,” said Mattis, whose nickname was “Mad Dog” and who had the radio call sign “Chaos.”
When asked about the most important trait for a leader, he said, “It comes down to building trust.”
Leaders must be able to make those in their command “feel your passion for excellence. If they believe you care about them, you can speak to them bluntly and they’re ready to go back into the brawl,” he said.
If he were to be confirmed by the Senate, Mattis would be the first recently retired general to hold the defense secretary’s post since Gen. George C. Marshall, the Army chief of staff during World War II. Marshall was named secretary of defense by President Harry Truman in 1950.
The choice of Mattis would for the first time put two Marines in the top uniformed and civilian posts at the Pentagon. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford served under Mattis as a colonel in command of the 5th Marine Regiment during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Senate confirmation would be the second hurdle for Mattis. He first would need a waiver from Congress to get around the rule barring military officers from accepting posts requiring Senate confirmation for seven years after retirement. Mattis left the military in 2013.