This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

A few airmen walk into a room, positioning themselves between you and the exit. As the “new guy” in the squadron, you likely know exactly what’s about to happen. You have to outsmart or elude them to avoid getting bound up and immobilized by rolls of duct tape.

Welcome to the tradition of “rolling-up,” or “roll-ups,” a practice that is often viewed as a game or initiation ritual in the U.S. Air Force.

But there are always those who take it too far.


Col. Benjamin Bishop, the 354th Fighter Wing commander, relieved Lt. Col. Robb Fiechtner, 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and Lt. Col. Joshua Cates, 5th Air Support Operations Squadron, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, from their posts after a command-directed investigation revealed that both squadrons were engaging in the hazing practice of “roll-ups,” said Capt. Kay Magdalena Nissen, spokeswoman for the 354th Fighter Wing.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

U.S. Air Force airmen from the 354th Fighter Wing, change the name on the flagship jet during the 354th Fighter Wing change of command ceremony July 6, 2018, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Isaac Johnson)

While there were no complaints or reports made by victims of the hazing, the investigation showed that “roll-ups” — or binding airmen’s hands and feet, and sometimes their entire bodies, with tape — was prevalent in those units, Nissen said in an email.

It “appear[s] to be a known hazing ritual within the Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) community,” she said.

A TACP airman familiar with the tradition who spoke with Military.com said it’s not all bad, though.

“It has not been the means of humiliating or harming someone; it’s [supposed to be] the opposite,” the airman said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press in an official capacity, he said he’s been in the community for eight years, but could not explain where the tradition came from or how long it has been in practice.

The TACP said he has been rolled up a few times, most often on his birthday by someone calling him into an office for what he thought was a formal meeting or ambushing him in a hallway. He said the point was to try to outwit his fellow airmen, much like a game. The consequence of losing: having his body bound with tape and immobilized, then carried off by airmen to be placed at locations around base for goofy photo ops before being set free.

“When I came into the community, it was just there,” he said, adding, “I’ve been in more than one unit and have had more than one birthday.”

Hazing crackdown

In 2018, the Pentagon released a new policy — DoD Instruction 1020.03 Harassment Prevention And Response in the Armed Forces — aimed to deter misconduct and harassment among service members.

The policy reaffirmed that the Defense Department does not tolerate any kind of harassment by any service member, either in person or online.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

Airmen from the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron jump out of a C-17 Globemaster III Oct. 21, 2014, during a training exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keoni Chavarria)

In line with the Defense Department, the Air Force has a zero-tolerance hazing policy.

“The Air Force does not condone hazing in any form,” spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said April 3, 2019. “We expect our airmen to adhere to our core values at all times and treat their fellow service members with the highest degree of dignity and respect.”

The TACP said he agrees with the Defense Department’s policy.

“Hazing is as much about what the particulars of the event were and the creation of a feeling of being hazed,” the TACP said.

It’s why “rolling-up” shouldn’t be standard across the Air Force, even if its original intention was meant to be playful, he said.

“It’s not something we need to continue because it’s not a professionalized practice,” he said. “We should go do … things that are productive and constructive that doesn’t potentially create the hazing issues.”

The TACP explained the concept behind the tradition.

When done right, the goal is never to pose a risk to a fellow airman who will work — and potentially fight — alongside you, he said.

“The intention of this is not to inflict pain,” he said. “Think of it like ‘capture the flag,’ or ‘Can you subdue a combative person without causing them harm?'”

In a sport like rugby, for example, “one minute [there’s contact] but, by the end of the game, you’re hanging out and you’re friends,” he said. “If you’re not laughing while you’re being rolled up, you’re doing it wrong.”

It has also been a way to vent pent-up energy for troops in a high-stress career field, the TACP said.

“When you take a whole group of very aggressive, Type-A people whose purpose is to go do violence unto others, the way you show affection, it gets shifted by the culture — we don’t necessarily go around and give each other hugs, although we do that too,” he said.

He added, “It’s both an outlet [to let] out steam … and for people to bond together” in what has become a “normalized way.”

“Rolling-up” hasn’t only been spotted in the Air Force. Videos and photos on social media that have quickly become memes have shown soldiers duct-taped to their cots, or bound with tape and left outside.

Last Day Hazing

www.youtube.com

Some of those videos have shown the practice going too far, though, and not only within the special operations community. One source familiar with the tradition told Military.com it has been observed in other Air Force career fields, including nuclear operations and aircraft maintenance.

For example, airmen were shown in a 2005 YouTube video smearing chocolate syrup on a bound airman, then dusting him with powdered sugar before dousing him with a garbage pail of dirty water. The incident apparently happened at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

The airman who spoke with Military.com said roll-up events sometimes happen out of sheer boredom while troops are killing time. And it’s easy to cross a line and have things get out of control.

“It’s counterproductive to everything we do: It doesn’t make an airman want to stay in the Air Force, it doesn’t make airmen want to go do their job. It’s beyond the right and wrong of morality, and it’s just bad for the mission,” the TACP said.

He continued, “That’s the problem with the normalization of it. It becomes that [time] could be spent in a much more productive way.”

He suggested developing a new tradition that fosters bonding and supports readiness, rather than one with the earmarks of hazing.

“There needs to be a competitive spirit” for stress to be relieved, the TACP said. “So replace it with [something] that’s tied to a real-world mission.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 memes that wrap up 2020 perfectly

We have nothing good to say about you, 2020. So instead, let’s review with this completely spot on list of memes. Take a look below at what the best of the internet has to offer about how this year has gone so far. (And fingers crossed that it doesn’t get worse in the next month). 

Jumping straight into the deep stuff. 

  1. This reminder in case you forgot:
This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

No really … where’s the punchline?? We’re owed one after this year, right??

  1. When you can’t even enjoy coffee.
This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

2020 PLEASE stop ruining good things. I mean, pleaseeee! 

  1. Then there’s this totally accurate meme. 
This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

A breather would be nice. 

  1. When you hate to spread the bad news:
This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

We just can’t deal with this right now. 

  1. Because this has been the longest year of all time. 
memes

Sums it up.

  1. No good options ahead:
This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

Where’s the option for “None of the above?”

  1. But seriously, this is not your typical year.
memes

Can we just be the House on Fire Girl meme?

  1. The difference is slightly noticeable. 
memes

Is this our past vs. our future? 

  1. Even celebs are feeling this heat.
memes

Can we get everyone to re-do this with the full calendar year? 

  1. Finally, waiting for this line to end:

Enough with the hidden scenes, 2020!

MIGHTY HISTORY

Budweiser will brew George Washington’s 1757 beer recipe

We need a batch of good news. A little hops in our step. Something to sip on that takes us to a different time. 1757 to be exact.

Budweiser has done it again. Making history. And this is just straight up awesome. Using the original recipe from George Washington’s handwritten notes found in a notebook from 1757 during the French and Indian War, Budweiser has crafted the next edition in their Reserve collection. Here is the page from the notebook:


This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

So cool! And it just gets better.

This limited edition Freedom Reserve Red Lager is brewed exclusively by veteran brewers who brew for Budweiser.

“We are incredibly proud of our Freedom Reserve Red Lager because it was passionately brewed by our veteran brewers who have bravely served our country,” Budweiser Vice President Ricardo Marques

Proceeds from the beer go to support Folds of Honor, whose mission is to provide scholarships to spouses and children of fallen and disabled service members.

America, ladies and gentlemen.

The 5.4 ABV lager is described as “a rich caramel malt taste and a smooth finish with a hint of molasses.”

Ok, fine, you’ve convinced me. OMW to get some right now. Hopefully you live close enough to snag up some of this speciality brew, too. Enter your zip code here to find out where you can buy it.

This 2018 Memorial Day, toast to the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy our lives safely in our back yards with the peace of mind to sit and have a beer this weekend.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

These British troops launched a ‘proper angry’ bayonet charge during the Iraq War

In May 2004, about 20 British troops were on the move 15 miles south of al-Amara, near the major city of Basra in Iraq. They were on the way to assist another unit that was under fire when their convoy was hit by a surprise of its own.


Shia militias averaged five attacks per day in Basra when the U.K. troops arrived. British soldiers tried to arrest Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for supporting the violence and the locals were not happy about it. An unpredictable level of violence broke out. British troops were frequently under assault – an estimated 300 ambushes within three months.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired
UK troops in Southern Iraq (U.S. Army photo)

“We were constantly under attack,” Sgt. Brian Wood told the BBC. “If mortars weren’t coming into our base, then we were dragged out into the city to help other units under fire.”

Wood and other troops from the 1st Battallion of the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment were on their way to aid Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who were attacked by 100 militiamen from al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army when their vehicle struck an IED. The surprise attack actually hit two vehicles carrying 20 troops on a highway south of Amarah. Mortars, rockets, and machine guns peppered the unarmored vehicles.

Rather than drive through the ambush, the vehicles took so much punishment they had to stop on the road. The troops inside dismounted, established a perimeter, and had to call in some help of their own. Ammunition soon ran low.

The decision was made: the British troops fixed bayonets.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired
A UK troop with fixed bayonet. (MoD photo)

They ran across 600 feet of open ground toward the entrenched enemy. Once on top of the Mahdi fighters, the British bayoneted 20 of the militia. Fierce hand-to-hand combat followed for five hours. The Queen’s men suffered only three injuries.

“We were pumped up on adrenaline — proper angry,” Pvt. Anthony Rushforth told The Sun, a London-based newspaper. “It’’s only afterwards you think, ‘Jesus, I actually did that’.’ ””

What started as a surprise attack on a British convoy ended with 28 dead militiamen and three wounded U.K. troops.

Jihadi propaganda at the time told young fighters that Western armies would run from ambushes and never engage in close combat. They were wrong. Irregular, unexpected combat tactics overwhelmed a numerically superior enemy who had the advantage in surprise and firepower.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The guerrillas and gangs that fought on behalf of the Confederacy

In the U.S. Civil War, people on both sides of the conflict decided that their best contribution would come in the form of “irregular resistance,” rather than uniformed fighting, but Southerners joined the bands in larger numbers and provided a more material contribution to the war effort.

Here’s a quick primer on who these men were and how they fought.


This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

Confederate cavalrymen raid union livestock in the west in 1864. Guerrilla forces could often conduct missions like this, but had to be sure and melt away before Union forces caught them.

(A.R. Waud, Harper’s Weekly)

First, we have to define exactly who we’re talking about: the guerrillas and gangs who took up arms to uphold the Confederacy and its values, not the criminal gangs and bands of deserters who used weapons to fight off the law. While these groups overlapped at times, we’re going to ignore (for now) those who did not provide material support to the secession.

But that still leaves a large number of people and groups, some with famous names, like Mosby’s Rangers, McNeill’s Rangers, and William C. Quantrill.

Guerrilla operations varied state to state and battle to battle, but usually combined elements of screening, spying, and sabotage.

Remember, these were typically disorganized bands of men, often with even less formality than a state or local militia. They knew they had little chance in a knockdown fight with trained Union companies, so they didn’t fight that way. Instead, they would attack targets of opportunity and melt away.

This was useful for Confederate leaders at times. For instance, John McNeill and his rangers would sometimes screen Confederate troop movements. Basically, McNeill would position his force at the edge of where Confederate troops were marching or conducting river crossings, interrupting Union columns drawing close to the southerners and giving them a chance to form proper defensive lines.

But, they wouldn’t stay for the full fight. They’d melt away into the trees after a few shots, forcing the Union troops to either break up and give chase or re-form to face regular Confederate troops.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

John S. Mosby and his men were a terror for Union forces, but they generally fought well within the rules.

(Library of Congress)

But, even better, the guerrillas could move in areas where the Union held control and either nip at the federal underbelly or spy on them and report back. This was the mission where John Mosby and his men made their mark. They were known for hit-and-run fighting, inflicting casualties on Union forces and then riding away before the enemy could form up.

At times, they would steal supplies or even capture buildings and infrastructure for a short time, often disabling bridges and railways that were crucial to federal supply.

Mosby even once captured the general sent to hunt him down, reportedly waking the general in his bed with a slap on the back.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

In August, 1863, at Lawrence, Kansas, Quantrill’s Raiders attacked and destroyed the city because of its support of abolition policies and pro-Union sentiments.

(Harper’s Weekly)

So, why did the Confederacy see so many more guerrillas join their ranks than the Union? Well, the biggest reason was likely that most irregular forces fought locally, where their networks of friends and supporters could hide and supply them.

Union gangs fighting locally would’ve only happened when Confederate troops crossed the border north, something that was fairly rare during the war.

Also, the Union had a much larger training apparatus and the ability to equip more men, making it less necessary for their supporters to find unconventional ways of fighting. And the North didn’t have such a strong tradition of frontiersmanship, meaning that much of the population was less suited for roughing it deep in the woods and swamps.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

Guerrilla leader Capt. William C. Quantrill was reportedly a brutal murderer who sometimes targeted Confederate sympathizers.

(PBS)

Of course, there were exceptions to this. Some Northerners, especially those living in the west, were quite handy with horses and would’ve been fine as guerrilla fighters. Some even did fight as pro-Union guerrillas, mostly in border states, often clashing with Confederate guerrillas.

So, how did this all pan out for the South? Well, of course, they lost the war. And there’s an argument to be made that they lost partially because of the support of guerrilla forces rather than despite it.

While forces like Mosby’s and McNeill’s made measurable, concrete contributions to the war, most were little more than violent gangs. William C. Quantrill was reportedly an animal abuser in his youth, and was a bloody murderer as a guerrilla for the South.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

“A Rebel Guerrilla Raid In A Western Town” (1862)

(Thomas Nast)

He and his men committed massacres of Union troops but also of men and boys that they suspected of being Union sympathizers. They and other groups stole supplies from farms, tore down fences, and burned homesteads whenever they felt like doing so.

And they allegedly felt that way often. Combine the actions of these guerrillas and those of deserter bands and gangs of pro-Union southerners, and state governments often found that they needed armies at home just to instill law and order, limiting the forces they could send to the front. In some cases, formerly pro-secession Confederate citizens welcomed their nation’s surrender simply because they wanted a return to normalcy.

So, while the efforts of men like Jesse James and Jack Hinson stirred Confederate spirits, the actions of their contemporaries undermined the national effort and galvanized Union support for the war, arguably contributing to the South’s destruction.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The ‘Jack Ryan’ season 2 teaser promises a LOT of action

The Emmy nominated Amazon series ‘Jack Ryan’ returns August 31 with season two and the official teaser trailer is here to get you amped.

“After tracking a potentially suspicious shipment of illegal arms in the Venezuelan jungle, CIA Officer Jack Ryan heads down to South America to investigate. As Jack’s investigation threatens to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy, the President of Venezuela launches a counter-attack that hits home for Jack, leading him and his fellow operatives on a global mission spanning the United States, UK, Russia, and Venezuela to unravel the President’s nefarious plot and bring stability to a country on the brink of chaos.”

The stakes and stunts look much higher for Ryan, with roof jumps, IEDs, hand-to-hand combat, and of course, an enemy to outsmart.


Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 2 – Official Teaser | Prime Video

www.youtube.com

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B0WIIVxAHwN/ expand=1]Jack Ryan on Instagram: “Go inside the anatomy of a #JackRyan fight scene with @amazonprimevideo X-Ray.”

www.instagram.com

Creators Carlton Cuse (Lost, Bates Motel) and Graham Roland (also a writer and Marine) came up with their own story for this version of the ‘Jack Ryan’ story, keeping it modern just as Tom Clancy, the author of the books upon which the show is created, is celebrated for.

“They were geopolitical thrillers of the moment,” Cuse told IndieWire. “When we started writing [our own story], we felt like telling a terrorist story was the right thing to do. There was probably no great existential crisis that the world was facing out there than terrorism, at that moment in time.”

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bxz85ZlHEeT/ expand=1]John Krasinski on Instagram: “TheMurphChallenge.com Memorial Day is coming up. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, please take a moment out of your day Monday…”

www.instagram.com

John Krasinski, who plays the titular lead, is by now no stranger to military and law enforcement roles. His portrayal of ‘Jack Silva’ in 13 Hours elevated him out of The Office and into a uniform. His respect for the military has extended beyond the roles he plays.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Never miss the drop zone when the Unit Cartoonist is watching

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

(Feature cartoon: Delta’s Marinus Pope is grilled for missing his intended touch down point by a significantly wide margin East by Northeast [E/NE]. His reconnaissance brothers approached me about roasting him for all eternity in the Unit Cartoon Book; an ask I joyfully accepted.)

My Special Mission Unit did a lot of parachute training, almost exclusively jumping from very high altitudes pulling out our parachutes at low altitudes, a technique called High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) drops. The technique leverages the high altitude to help cover the presence of the delivery airframe, and the low opening to keep the view of parachutes in the sky at a minimum.


To this day, I have a clinical fear of heights. That kept me away from trying out for elite units for the longest time, but after two years in a regular infantry unit, I was heading to airborne with or even without a parachute.

A modification of the HALO drop is the High Altitude High Opening (HAHO). In this scenario, paratroops exit at ~18,000 feet and pull immediately. Now the troops are under a parachute at nearly 17,000 feet!

At that altitude, a parachutist can travel a staggering lateral distance, even as far as from one end of a state to the other. (A point of humor: in addition to the HALO and HAHO capability we invented a faux elitist group of jumpers called OSNO men; Outer Space No Opening)

Under such conditions a man will descend under (parachute) canopy for an extended period of time — upwards of nearly an hour — and as you might already imagine, the higher the altitude, the greater the propensity for navigational errors.

Once I had a canopy malfunction at 17,000 feet, causing me to lose position in the group formation and drift so far away from my Drop Zone (DZ), that one of our ground support crew had to jump in a truck and race to where I hit the ground to pick me up. My impact was many (MANY) miles off target. I recall free-falling over a near-solid cloud cover and watching my shadow race across the top of the cloud bank toward me at great speed until it met me just as I penetrated the cloud top. Just me and my shadow I say, though I did not know it at the time; I had never heard of or experienced the phenomenon, and rather thought it was another jumper on a collision course toward me. I braced the bejesus out of myself for impact.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

Anyhoo… I came down in a cornfield, which was odd, in that there were no cornfields in the state that my jump aircraft took off from. A fine American patriot came screaming up in a really large, really old all-metal Impala:

“I seen ya coming’ down in that-there parachute. Me, I ain’t nevah see anything like it ’round this cornah of Nebraska!”

“Nebraska?!?” Yeah, that was not a good day; that wasn’t where I started from in Colorado.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

Did I mention the time I collided with a fellow jumper at night at 24,000 feet? Yeah — pretty much hated it! It was already stressful enough, as we were all breathing pure oxygen through a pilot’s face mask since there was not sufficient breathable oxygen at that extreme altitude. In the collision, my oxygen supply valve had been shocked shut, leaving me with only the rarified atmospheric gas I could suck through the seal of my mask.

Drastic circumstances call for drastic measures, and I did what any other warrior would do — I passed out. Since I was not conscious, I don’t know exactly what happened in the next 16,000 feet or so, but I estimate that I fell flat and stable. When I was low enough for breath-worthy air, I came to, only to find a brother was falling right with me some three feet away staring me in the face intently, ready to pull my reserve for me if I failed to snap back to reality. A glance at my altimeter strenuously urged me to pull my ripcord immediately.

Another thing that happened during the time I was “away” from my fall, was that it had begun to lighten up on the horizon as the sun crept in. The aurora made it able for me to see the details of the men around me and the ground below. It all looked so so so much like a cartoon… but I had my sense about me and saved my own life; oh, but that doesn’t count for a medal.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Navy SEAL who shot bin Laden just did stand-up

In case you haven’t heard, David Spade has a new show called Light’s Out with David Spade. And one of the bits on that show is “Secret Stand-up” where he feeds jokes to another person who performs on stage. And he got Robert O’Neill, the Navy SEAL who claims the bin Laden kill, onto the stage at the world-famous Comedy Store.


The Navy SEAL Who Killed bin Laden Makes His Stand-Up Debut – Lights Out with David Spade

youtu.be

The video is available above, and Spade and Whitney Cummings give him some seriously edgy jokes to say, going from his sex life to the raid on Abbottabad to 9/11 with barely a beat. (And children probably shouldn’t watch the clip, but we don’t actually have the power to stop you. If you do watch it and don’t understand a joke, avoid image search when looking for the explanation.)

And you can tell that O’Neill really enjoys some of the jokes, because he hears them through an earpiece right before he has to deliver the line. He sometimes has to fight through his own laughter to deliver the punch line that he’s just heard from the real comedians.

O’Neill has 11 awards for valor and served on SEAL Teams Two and Four before being selected for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (commonly known as SEAL Team Six). He left the Navy in 2012 after 16 years of service and having shot bin Laden. Everyone wants to end their career on that kind of high note.

Now, O’Neill is a media personality and public speaker, usually appearing on Fox News where he provides military expertise.

David Spade is returning to TV. For anyone young enough to not remember him, you probably shouldn’t watch the clip. It includes a lot of adult language. But Spade is probably best known for his roles in Joe Dirt, Tommy Boy, and Saturday Night Live. He’s performed in dozens of other movies and shows including The Hotel Transylvania and Grown Ups series.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Could the US win World War III without using nuclear weapons?

As the US, Russia and China test each other’s patience and strategic focus, speculation about the chances of a world war has hit a new high. But many of the people seriously engaged in this weighty discussion often get it wrong.

When it comes to estimating military capability, the Western media is principally concerned with the weapons capabilities of weaker states – and it rarely pays much attention to the colossal capability of the US, which still accounts for most of the world’s defense spending.

Any sensible discussion of what a hypothetical World War III might look like needs to begin with the sheer size and force of America’s military assets. For all that China and Russia are arming up on various measures, US commanders have the power to dominate escalating crises and counter opposing forces before they can be used.


Take missile warfare alone. The US Navy already has 4,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the Navy and Air Force are currently taking delivery of 5,000 JASSM conventional cruise missiles with ranges from 200-600 miles. Barely visible to radar, these are designed to destroy “hardened” targets such as nuclear missile silos. Russia and China, by contrast, have nothing of equivalent quantity or quality with which to threaten the US mainland.

The same holds true when it comes to maritime forces. While much is made of Russia’s two frigates and smaller vessels stationed off the Syrian coast, France alone has 20 warships and an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean – and US standing forces in the area include six destroyers equipped with scores of cruise missiles and anti-missile systems. At the other end of Europe, the Russian military is threatening the small Baltic states, but it is rarely noted that the Russian Baltic fleet is the same size as Denmark’s and half the size of Germany’s.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

A U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber.

(DARPA photo)

Meanwhile, China’s aggressively expansionist behaviour in the South China Sea is reported alongside stories of its first aircraft carrier and long-range ballistic missiles. But for all that the Chinese navy is large and growing, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, it’s still only numerically equivalent to the combined fleets of Japan and Taiwan, while the US boasts 19 aircraft carriers worldwide if its marine assault ships are included.

But overhanging all this, of course, is the nuclear factor.

Out of the sky

The US, Russia and China are all nuclear-armed; Vladimir Putin recently unveiled a new fleet of nuclear-capable missiles which he described as “invincible in the face of all existing and future systems”, and some have suggested that China may be moving away from its no-first-use policy. This is all undeniably disturbing. While it has long been assumed that the threat of nuclear weapons acts as a deterrent to any war between the major powers, it’s also possible that the world may simply have been riding its luck. But once again, the US’s non-nuclear capabilities are all too often overlooked.

US leaders may in fact believe they can remove Russia’s nuclear deterrent with an overwhelming conventional attack backed up by missile defences. This ability was cultivated under the Prompt Global Strike programme, which was initiated before 9/11 and continued during the Obama years. Organised through the US Air Force’s Global Strike Command, it is to use conventional weapons to attack anywhere on Earth in under 60 minutes.

This is not to say the task would be small. In order to destroy Russia’s nuclear missiles before they can be launched, the US military would need to first blind Russian radar and command and communications to incoming attack, probably using both physical and cyber attacks. It would then have to destroy some 200 fixed and 200 mobile missiles on land, a dozen Russian missile submarines, and Russian bombers. It would then need to shoot down any missiles that could still be fired.

Russia is not well positioned to survive such an attack. Its early warning radars, both satellite and land-based, are decaying and will be hard to replace. At the same time, the US has and is developing a range of technologies to carry out anti-satellite and radar missions, and it has been using them for years. (All the way back in 1985, it shot down a satellite with an F15 jet fighter.) That said, the West is very dependent on satellites too, and Russia and China continue to develop their own anti-satellite systems.

The air war

Russia’s bomber aircraft date back to the Soviet era, so despite the alarm they provoke when they nudge at Western countries’ airspace, they pose no major threat in themselves. Were the Russian and US planes to face each other, the Russians would find themselves under attack from planes they couldn’t see and that are any way out of their range.

US and British submarine crews claim a perfect record in constantly shadowing Soviet submarines as they left their bases throughout the Cold War. Since then, Russian forces have declined and US anti-submarine warfare has been revived, raising the prospect that Russian submarines could be taken out before they could even launch their missiles.

The core of the Russia’s nuclear forces consists of land-based missiles, some fixed in silos, others mobile on rail and road. The silo-based missiles can now be targeted by several types of missiles, carried by US planes almost invisible to radar; all are designed to destroy targets protected by deep concrete and steel bunkers. But a problem for US war planners is that it might take hours too long for their missile-carrying planes to reach these targets – hence the need to act in minutes.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

One apparently simple solution to attacking targets very quickly is to fit quick nuclear ballistic missiles with non-nuclear warheads. In 2010, Robert Gates, then serving as secretary of defence under Barack Obama, said that the US had this capability. Intercontinental ballistic missiles take just 30 minutes to fly between the continental US’s Midwest and Siberia; if launched from well-positioned submarines, the Navy’s Tridents can be even quicker, with a launch-to-target time of under ten minutes.

From 2001, the US Navy prepared to fit its Trident missiles with either inert solid warheads – accurate to within ten metres – or vast splinter/shrapnel weapons. Critics have argued that this would leave a potential enemy unable to tell whether they were under nuclear or conventional attack, meaning they would have to assume the worst. According to US Congressional researchers, the development work came close to completion, but apparently ceased in 2013.

Nonetheless, the US has continued to develop other technologies across its armed services to attack targets around the world in under an hour – foremost among them hypersonic missiles, which could return to Earth at up to ten times the speed of sound, with China and Russia trying to keep up.

Missile envy

The remainder of Russia’s nuclear force consists of missiles transported by rail. An article on Kremlin-sponsored news outlet Sputnik described how these missile rail cars would be so hard to find that Prompt Global Strike might not be as effective as the US would like – but taken at face value, the article implies that the rest of the Russian nuclear arsenal is in fact relatively vulnerable.

Starting with the “Scud hunt” of the First Gulf War, the US military has spent years improving its proficiency at targeting mobile ground-based missiles. Those skills now use remote sensors to attack small ground targets at short notice in the myriad counter-insurgency operations it’s pursued since 2001.

If the “sword” of Prompt Global Strike doesn’t stop the launch of all Russian missiles, then the US could use the “shield” of its own missile defences. These it deployed after it walked out of a treaty with Russiabanning such weapons in 2002.

While some of these post-2002 missile defence systems have been called ineffective, the US Navy has a more effective system called Aegis, which one former head of the Pentagon’s missile defence programs claims can shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles. Some 300 Aegis anti-ballistic missiles now equip 40 US warships; in 2008, one destroyed a satellite as it fell out of orbit.

War mentality

In advance of the Iraq war, various governments and onlookers cautioned the US and UK about the potential for unforeseen consequences, but the two governments were driven by a mindset impervious to criticism and misgivings. And despite all the lessons that can be learned from the Iraq disaster, there’s an ample risk today that a similarly gung-ho attitude could take hold.

Foreign casualties generally have little impact on domestic US politics. The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who died under first sanctions and then war did not negatively impact presidents Clinton or George W. Bush. Neither might the prospect of similar casualties in Iran or North Korea or other states, especially if “humanitarian” precision weapons are used.

But more than that, an opinion poll run by Stanford University’s Scott Sagan found that the US public would not oppose the preemptive use of even nuclear weapons provided that the US itself was not affected. And nuclear Trident offers that temptation.

The control of major conventional weapons as well as WMD needs urgent attention from international civil society, media and political parties. There is still time to galvanise behind the Nobel-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the nuclear ban treaty, and to revive and globalise the decaying arms control agenda of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which played a vital part in bringing the Cold War to a largely peaceful end.

Like the Kaiser in 1914, perhaps Trump or one of his successors will express dismay when faced with the reality a major US offensive unleashes. But unlike the Kaiser, who saw his empire first defeated and then dismembered, perhaps a 21st-century US president might get away with it.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s biggest military weakness is the US’ biggest strength

Before World War II, the U.S. military wasn’t much to look at. Even as the Roosevelt Administration began to prepare for the war, switching on the “arsenal of democracy” and instituting a peacetime draft, it wasn’t enough to deter the Japanese from hitting the United States at Pearl Harbor. When the Americans were battle-tested at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia in 1943, they failed miserably.

China is facing a similar situation, with a large military slowly advancing in technology but lacking any real combat experience. But where will China face its Kasserine Pass?


Despite superior numbers and newer equipment, the Nazis handed the U.S. their butts, and combat experience made the difference. The Nazis had been fighting in North Africa for almost three years by then and the Americans hadn’t seen combat at all. The Americans were rigid and inflexible, while the Nazis already had time to work out all the kinks in their command and control.

At the time, it looked pretty bleak for us… but we all know Tunisia was just a warmup for what would come later.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

Your destruction has a last name, it’s P-A-T-T-O-N.

(U.S. Army)

The difference between Patton and the man he replaced was the same issue that troubled the Army as a whole. Where Patton’s predecessor made rank as a teacher and trainer and had no real combat experience, Patton had been leading troops in combat since 1916. For the Chinese, it’s been some 40 years since the Peoples Liberation Army fought a major combat operation – and that did not go well.

In 1979, China invaded neighboring Vietnam, a country that had just finished fighting its own civil war four years prior. So when the Vietnamese had to respond to Chinese aggression, they had almost 40 years of fighting under their collective belt by that time. Vietnam completely wiped the floor with the Chinese. China left Vietnam after just three weeks of fighting and has been largely inexperienced ever since.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

A Chinese tank destroyed in Cao Bang, Vietnam in1979.

(Vietnam News Agency)

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army of today is very different from the one who invaded Vietnam. China now has its own homegrown fighter planes, ships, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, among other weapons systems, but while the tech has been tested, the Army itself has largely not been. Meanwhile, the United States has experienced nearly uninterrupted combat opportunities in some form since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and at least 18 years of constant warfare in Afghanistan. But that doesn’t mean training doesn’t have benefits.

Units who train in conditions as close to actual combat as possible fare better when it comes to real-world operations, but any training will help a unit gain experience in its battlefield roles. Once the United States maintained a regular standing army in the postwar world, it was better able to sustain battlefield losses and withdraw from a loss while inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. Research shows that a well-trained unit under experienced commander suffer far fewer casualties when the bullets start flying.

So while China would like the world to tremble at the idea of an advanced, well-trained army and navy exerting its influence and power at will, until the Chinese actually demonstrate the capability to use that training in a real-world combat situation, they’ll always just be trying to push around their smaller neighbors while trying to ignore their real geopolitical rival – the one who’s operating with airbases and seasoned combat troops on their doorstep.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Strait of Hormuz is so important, in just 10 minutes

There’s a single waterway in the world that pops up in the news every year or so and, right now, is popping up every week or more: The Strait of Hormuz. When I was deployed with Army Central, we received a brief from senior leaders that was all about the importance of this single strip of water. If you’re still a little fuzzy on how Iran can pressure the rest of the world through such a small bit of water, here’s a great primer.


Why the US and Iran are fighting over this tiny waterway

www.youtube.com

The video above is from Vox. We’re going to highlight some details below, but you can understand the broad strokes just by watching that for 9.5 minutes.

The most important thing to understand is that one of the things that makes the strait so important is how small it is. There simply isn’t another economical way to ship most of the oil out of the gulf region, and the strait is so small that even a small navy like Iran’s can inflict serious pain.

It’s sort of like the “Hot Gates” from the story of the Spartans at Thermopylae. But America is Xerxes and Iran gets to play King Leonidas.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

A map shows the network of oil pipelines that carries gas and oil from Russia to the rest of Europe.

(Samuel Bailey, CC BY 3.0)

And oil is, even more than most other commodities, a resource that is extremely price sensitive and the markets are so fluid (no pun intended) that reducing supply anywhere increases price everywhere. Oil coming through the strait is destined for markets around the world, especially the Pacific and Europe.

So, take Europe for a moment. Now, it can get oil from a lot of places. Rigs in the North Sea provide plenty of energy, and pipelines from Russia pump fuel as far west as Germany, Italy, and even England. But all of those markets count on the Russian oil, the North Sea oil, and oil from the Strait of Hormuz. If the oil from the gulf is threatened in the strait, then buyers start competing harder for Russian and North Sea oil and that drives up prices quickly.

And that drives up the price of everything. Petroleum drives cars, heating oil warms homes, lubricants are needed for everything from vehicles to ice cream makers to door hinges. An interruption of oil in the strait threatens 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, making everything more expensive and risking thousands of homes going cold.

But why is Iran willing to do this? After all, they are risking a new war by attacking tankers flagged by gulf and European countries.

Well, Iran needs sanctions relief, and right now that’s primarily a problem between them and the U.S. Sure, Europe has a longer trading relationship with Iran, and it has protested losing access to Iranian markets and oil during periods of American-led sanctions. But Europe has proven time and again that in a power struggle between the U.S. and Iran, Europe is willing to step aside.

Targeting oil in the strait allows Iran to spread the pain to other countries. Europe is forced off the sidelines as its access to energy markets is thrown into disarray. China, India, Japan, and South Korea are all top-five oil importers, and America—at number two—is the final member of the big 5. All of them feel the crunch when oil prices climb.

But there’s, obviously, a big risk for Iran. While China and Russia might side with Iran if only to counter American power, the rest of the world could easily decide that it’s easier to back the U.S. in a power play against Iran than to endure Iranian agitation.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of April 19th

It looks like the Department of Defense is finally retiring the Cyber Awareness Challenge training. Sure, it’s outdated, uses graphics from the early 2000s, and barely scratches the surface of cybersecurity in a world where new threats emerge every other minute. But the campiness is what made it so ridiculous that it was enjoyable.

I just want to throw out there that everyone freaking hated that training when it came out. Eventually, everyone started to like it in spite of it being silly – kind of like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. Then as soon as too many people started to actually enjoy the ridiculousness of it… They pull the plug on it.

Coincidence? I think not.


Pour one out for the dude who always believed in your cyber security abilities when you doubted yourself. Jeff, you’re never going to be forgotten. These memes are for you.

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired
This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

(Meme via Not CID)

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

(Meme by Yusha Thomas)

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

(Meme via SFC Majestic)

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

(Meme by Ranger Up)

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

BONUS: You guys have a good, safe, and UCMJ-free four-day weekend! Happy Easter. 

In the famous words of my old First Sergeant… “Don’t do dumb shit.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

For decades, America was convinced that the Soviet Union was going to nuke the country and possibly the world. Even though the US and Russia were allies during WWII, once the war stopped, that partnership ended. Postwar Soviet expansion and takeovers of many Eastern European countries fueled plenty of fears of communism. Americans had long been wary and concerned about Joseph Stalin’s treatment of his own country. For their part, the Russians weren’t fans of Americans either, especially since the US government was unwilling to accept the Soviet Union as a legitimate part of the international community. After the war ended, any relations Americans had with the Russians froze … but you can still visit Cold War sites in America.

American leadership decided the best way to deal with the Soviets would be a strategy called containment, which meant that America’s only solution was a long term vigilance of Russian tendencies to invade countries and take over. The containment approach also provided the government with the rationale for an unprecedented arms buildup, beginning in 1950. Both Americans and the USSR had access to atomic weaponry. The ever-present threat of nuclear war had a huge impact on American domestic life. People started to build bomb shelters, drills were practiced in schools and public places, and movies showcased depictions of nuclear devastation. The government did its part too and built bunkers, reactors, and missile silos in preparation for a possible Russian invasion. 

Though the Cold War might have ended, the traces of our fear, paranoia, and preparation still exist today. Check out this list of top Cold War tourism sites to visit in America.

Greenbrier Bunker, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia 

This fallout shelter is located at Greenbrier Resort. What’s strange about it is that no one in the hotel knew it was designated as a bunker or that the government planned to house all of Congress in the event of a nuclear attack. Apparently, the government somehow convinced resort staff that it was building a conference center and that the 7,000-foot landing strip outside the building was completely necessary. The bunker was never used, and now you can take tours of it and check out the less-than-glamorous digs reserved for Congress. 

Hanford Site, Richland, Washington 

This 586 square mile site has been producing plutonium since 1943 when the War Department took it over to conduct parts of the Manhattan Project. The last reactor was shut down in 1987, and formal cleanup began two years later. 

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Philip, South Dakota

No surprise that this place used to house missiles, but what might be surprising is how many. At its peak, the South Dakota silo field houses 150 missiles. Now it’s down to just one, the Launch Facility Delta-09. Now it’s run by the National Park Service, and there are tours available of the underground control centers. 

The Culpeper Switch, Culpeper, Virginia

In 1969, construction on a bunker that had lead-lined shutters and steel-reinforced concrete. The reason? To keep cash flowing in case a Soviet attack wiped out America’s banks. For many years, the Federal Reserve kept $4 billion in cash inside the bunker. The government moved the cash out in 1988 and gifted the site to the Library of Congress in 1992.  

Titan Missile Museum, Sahuarita, Arizona

For 24 years, the US had 54 Titan II missile sites on high alert. President Reagan ordered all Title II missiles deactivated in 1981, and most of them were completely destroyed in the process. All except for one, which is now on display at the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona. The missile was never fueled and never carried a warhead, so it’s completely safe for the public. 

X-10 Graphite Reactor, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

For two decades, the X-10, an artificial nuclear reactor, existed on a diet of uranium. It’s dormant now and has been since 1963. Located inside the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the reactor is now open to the public. 

This is just a small sampling of the Cold War sites in America, even though the Cold War has officially been over for decades.

READ MORE: GREAT FALLS NIKE FIRE CONTROL SITE W-83 PLAYED A CRITICAL ROLE IN THE CREATION OF GPS.

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