R. Lee Ermey doesn’t need to be wearing a uniform for you to know that he’s a legend. His entire demeanor shouts Badass, from his squared shoulders to his commanding voice. There’s nothing about Gunny that’s not full-on epic.
As with all GunnyTime videos, this episode is one half fun and one half history lesson. Army sniper Ed Eaton talks with Gunny about the history of snipers in the Army, how the training has changed for the military and what kinds of weaponry today’s snipers are using.
BLUF – Gunny wants to remind us that there’s nothing better than being out on the range on a gorgeous day. He’s totally right – it doesn’t get much better than that … except when you get to talk shop with one of the most decorated Army snipers of all time.
Ed Eaton brought along his M 14 rifle and the M 21. During Vietnam, Eaton used the XM 21. It’s hard to believe, but the entire Army started out with just 55 XM 21 rifles at the beginning of the Vietnam War. What made the XM 21 stand out was in the details.
Not only was the stock coated with epoxy, but the rifle weighed about two pounds more, and the rifle featured camo. Reworking the trigger helped separate this rifle from others, too. As Gunny notes, that modification helps “take the drag out and lighten it up a little bit.”
Two scopes allowed for day and night missions to be completed.
Gunny and Eaton discussed the benefits of using the XM 21 versus the other version that the Army and Marine Corps used during the conflict. The weight difference aside, Eaton said he preferred to use the XM 21 because it was more accurate.
Eaton was one of the first 55 snipers to be trained in the Army with the 9th Infantry Division. In the early days of sniper training, soldiers had to be combat infantrymen for a specific amount of time. There was no active recruiting for snipers, making it all the more elusive of a position.
Gunny reminds us that today’s snipers are using the best weapons in the world and that their training is bar none, the best in the world. Modern era warfighting snipers are using M2010s. One major change is in the round size, which is now a .300 round.
As Gunny so eloquently puts it, that round can “really reach out and touch someone.” Well said, Gunny. Well said.
Work hard; play hard, right? Military personnel like to enjoy their vacations and travel as much as civilians. Although there are typically on-base hotels in each state that provide adequate accommodations, it’s always nice to have a little extra special attention paid to you and yours while on vacation.
Morale and Welfare hotels are nothing new, but there are some out there that are simply better than the others, and could add the cherry on top to your next getaway or family vacation.
Check out these spots:
The front of The New Sanno in Tokyo, Japan.
1. The New Sanno — Tokyo, Japan
The New Sanno, a U.S. Navy Joint Services establishment, is situated in downtown Tokyo, Japan. Not only does it provide luxury in its 149 rooms, but it also boasts three restaurants, a Starbucks, bar, and an AFEES, which accepts both the U.S. dollar and the yen. It’s almost hard to believe these types of accommodations even exist within a morale and welfare hotel and, frankly, they put Air Force facilities to shame — and that’s saying a lot.
You’ll feel like you’re at home away from home when first arriving in the grand lobby. Attendants at the activity counter are eager to help you find the best deals around the city and offer information about transportation and sightseeing. Plus, it’s a short ten-minute walk away from the subway, which takes you anywhere in the city.
Reservations fill up fast at this establishment, so it’s best to plan a good sixth months in advance.
Above is the ocean front view of the Hale Koa.
2. The Hale Koa — Hawaii, USA
Hawaii is on everyone’s bucket list, but the prices scare most people away. Now, you’ve got the option of staying on an actual military base if you want to visit — Schofield Barracks is one such base — but do they offer an ocean view? The Hale Koa is a gem of a secret that may not be free, but offers an oceanfront view and a luau every week, among other amenities.
The prices climb alongside rank, so an E-6 and below can expect to pay an average of 7.00 a night. It might sound steep, but the average rate for a hotel (one not even near the beach) is almost double that price.
The quaintness of The Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmens’ Club beckons to visitors in the Big Apple.
3. The Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmen’s Club — New York, USA
Visiting the Big Apple might seem daunting, especially if you’re trying to do so on a budget. The Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmens’ Club is actually a 501c non-profit that has a history dating back to 1919. The owners wanted to provide a “Home Away From Home” for all United States Armed Forces servicemen and servicewomen of all ranks and their families; active duty, reserve, National Guard, military retirees, and honorably discharged veterans, as well as members of the armed forces of our allies.
There’s also a canteen located in the hotel, and although meals are not served by the staff, the kitchen facilities are open to any guests who want to cook their own meals. It’s centrally located and close to numerous pubs, restaurants, dry cleaners, and all of the major tourists spots New York has to offer.
Hidden away in the heart of San Francisco, The Marines’ Memorial Club offers a plethora of amenities.
4. Marines’ Memorial Club — San Francisco, USA
Lastly, we couldn’t forget about San Francisco, another go-to tourist city in this great country of ours. The Marines’ Memorial Club is located in Union Square and is also a 501c non-profit that aims to commemorate the men and women who have fallen in defending our country.
What’s special about The Marines’ Memorial Club is not only the pet-friendly environment, but also their resident pet bulldogs that reside on the grounds. More highlights include a rooftop bar with a daily happy hour and a complimentary breakfast served every morning. There’s simply everything you could ask for and more at The Marines’ Memorial Club. Rooms are a little more expensive if you’re not a member, but you can become one by filling out their online submission form.
Just as a step away from the regularly scheduled news that is probably left in better hands than the “meme guy,” did you know that former President George W. Bush had his museum debut at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington D.C. this week?
Yeah. And I mean, they’re actually pretty good. He’s got plenty of artwork that you can find around, but his most recent series has been stylized portraits of wounded Post-9/11 veterans – with the exception of the veteran’s eyes, which are drawn realistically. I’m no art critic, but I can tell that it draws you in, and you find yourself staring into the very souls of the veterans, and the rest kinda pulls you into how they feel.
I guess that goes to show you that after he got his “Presidential DD-214,” even the former commander-in-chief made a name for himself in the art world. See? Now can you all get off my back for using my GI Bill on a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree?
Anyways, here are some memes while I reevaluate my creative endeavors.
A former Army paratrooper’s final request to be buried with military honors alongside other veterans was carried out by a New York Army National Guard honor guard on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, at Calverton National Cemetery.
Needham Mayes, the New York City resident who was buried, was one of the first African-American soldiers to join the 82nd Airborne Division in 1953. But he left the Army with a dishonorable discharge in 1956 after a fight in a Non-Commissioned Officers Club.
In 2016 — after a lifetime of accomplishment and community service — he began the process of having that dishonorable discharge changed. His lawyers argued that in a Southern Army post, just a few years after the Army had integrated, black soldiers were often treated unfairly.
With an assist from New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand, Mayes appeal came through in September 2019. When he died on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2019, he was finally a veteran and eligible to be buried with other soldiers.
Sgt. Kemval Samll, and other members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard stand at attention during the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)
That duty fell to the Long Island team of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard. The Army National Guard soldiers provide funeral services for around 2,400 New York City and Long Island veterans annually at the Calverton National Cemetery.
Any soldier who served honorably is entitled to basic military funeral services at their death. Statewide, New York Army National Guard funeral honors teams conduct an average of 9,000 services.
On Dec. 2, the Long Island National Guard soldiers dispatched 11 members to honor Mayes’s last request.
The Honor Guard members treat every military funeral as a significant event, because that service is important to that family, said 1st. Lt. Lasheri Mayes, the Officer in Charge of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard.
Members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard provide military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.
But the story of Mr. Mayes “was unique,” and because his family had fought hard to get him the honors he deserved that made the ceremony particularly important, Lt. Mayes said.
Mayes’s funeral was held as a storm moved into the northeast, and while there was no snow on Long Island, the weather was cold and windy.
The Honor Guard soldiers conducted a picture-perfect ceremony despite the bad weather, Lt. Mayes said.
Sgt. Richard Blount, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the mission, assembled a great team, she added.
It was “a tremendous honor” for his soldiers to conduct the mission for the Mayes family, Blount said.
New York Army National Guard Sgt. Richard Blount, the non-commissioned officer in charge of a New York Military Forces Honor Guard team, salutes while overseeing military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes.
(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)
“I was proud to see the team that I put together all join in celebrating his life, and being a member of this memorable event for the family,” he said.
According to the New York Times, Mayes Army career went awry in 1955 when he was invited to a meal at the Fort Bragg Non-Commissioned Officers Club.
Pvt. 1st Class Mayes got in a scuffle at the Non-Commissioned Officers Club at Fort Bragg. At some point, a gun — carried by another soldier according to a story in the New York Times — fell on the floor, went off, and a man was shot.
Mayes reportedly confessed to grabbing for the gun. He was sentenced to a year at hard labor and received a dishonorable discharge.
After leaving the Army, Mayes moved to New York City and became an exemplary citizen.
Members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard provide military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)
He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree and became a social worker and a therapist. He raised three daughters and worked for groups fighting drug abuse and promoting mental health awareness and advocated for young black men.
But for Mayes, his dishonorable discharge always bothered him; his family members told the New York Times.
In 2016, as his health started to decline, according to the New York Times, he hired a lawyer to get his discharge upgraded so he could be buried as a veteran.
Initially, the request was denied, but this year New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand began advocating for Mayes.
New York Army National Guard 1st LT Mayes, Lasheri Mayes, Honor Guard officer in charge, presents the colors from the casket of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes to Maye’s grandson Earl Chadwick Jr at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)
Also, another former soldier who was involved in the fight for so many years urged that Mayes’s dishonorable discharge be changed.
“Being a person of color, I could never imagine what my predecessors went through, “Blount said. “What happened to Mr. Mayes was not right.”
“But it made me that much more proud of the accomplishments and the goals the military has made to move more in a positive direction — a place where we can be unified on all fronts,” Blount added.
“I am thankful every day for those that paved the way for myself and others to be the best soldiers and leaders that we can be,” he said.
So the Expert Soldier Badge is now a thing. And I mean, I get the concept behind it. Army infantrymen and medics go through a rigorous course to prove their merit to be bestowed a shiny badge – their own Expert Infantry/Medic Badge. And it’s not a bad thing for soldiers of every other MOS to have something to strive for. But here’s the thing. Infantrymen and medics don’t give a flying f*ck about the EIB/EMB if they have their Combat Infantry/Medic Badge.
It all goes back to how you earn them. My old infantry first sergeant once told me that “one is because you know your sh*t. The other is because you been through the sh*t.” You can only wear one of them, so everyone picks the one that shows they gave Uncle Sam what their contract says they would.
And I even get that every MOS outside the 11 and 68 series are less likely to earn their Combat Action Badge. But like. The CAB is the one thing you point to to tell everyone you’re not some POG-ass commo guy. But like… One badge says you’re not a POG, and the other says that you’ve read plenty of books on how to be less of a POG… I’m just saying…
Whatever. We all know the ESB was invented just because of some staff officers that got pissy because the Pathfinder Badge isn’t around anymore for them to look slightly more impressive than the other butter bars. Anyways, here are some memes.
Research from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America has found a number of factors that increase risk of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in military spouses.
This study used information gathered from the largest longitudinal study ever conducted to assess the impact of military service and several other data sources such as electronic personnel files.
“The goal of the present study was to identify demographic, military-specific, and service member mental health correlates of spousal depression,” according to the authors of “Depression among military spouses: Demographic, military, and service member psychological health risk factors.”
Military spouses, on average, deal with many unique situations such as geographic separation, unpredictable training cycles, frequent relocation, spouse deployments, and secondary effects of the lifestyle, such as frequent job rotations.
Though from the myriad factors related to military spouses, several were found to be strong indicators of increased risk for MDD.
According to the study, “less educational attainment, unemployment, and large family size were all independently associated with greater risk for MDD among military spouses.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bryan Nygaard)
While depression may be due to a complex set of issues and factors affecting the person, researchers were able to determine that these factors played a substantial role as independent factors.
Other family or individual elements that may increase risk are gender (female), being less than 30 years of age, combat deployments, PTSD, alcoholism, and the service member’s branch.
This research provides information with real-world application for spouses to better understand the factors that may play a role in their depression.
Additionally, it provides leaders with important data on several subgroups that may be proactively identified for resourcing.
Below are resources that may help with any one of these factors contributing to depression:
My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA): ,000 of financial assistance for spouses pursuing a license, certification or associate degree.
Pell Grant: Federal student aid that varies dependent on several factors.
G.I. Bill: This military benefit can be transferred to eligible spouses or children.
Grants and scholarships: Do some research, many states and private organizations offer grants, scholarships, or reduced tuition to military spouses.
Priority Placement Program: Spouses receive preference over other job applicants seeking federal service (USAJobs).
FMWR resources: Morale, Welfare and Recreation has services, personnel, and resources that are dedicated to helping spouses with career placement, including its Employment Readiness Program.
Job placement: Check out local staffing agencies, job posting sites, and local unemployment offices.
Military and Family Life Counseling: Counselors can help people who are having trouble coping with concerns and issues of daily life, the stress of the military lifestyle, parenting, etc.
Family Advocacy Program: Dedicated to the prevention, education, prompt reporting, investigation, intervention, and treatment of spousal and child abuse and neglect.
New Parent Support Program: Prenatal and postnatal education from baby massage groups to customized breastfeeding support and more.
Army Family Team Building: Helps you to not just cope with, but enjoy the military lifestyle. AFTB provides the knowledge and self-confidence to take responsibility for yourself and your family.
Your crusty ol’ Sergeant Major was partially right when he said that you’ll have a hard time out in the civilian world. Sure, it’s amazing to forget what 0500 is after setting your alarm clock to “8 am” and the overtime pay is nice, but everything would be a lot better if you didn’t have to deal with so many civilians.
Not all of them are bad, though. There are plenty of civilians who could have fit right into any squad if their career had taken a different turn, but there are plenty others that will always irk veterans.
If they were troops, you could yell at them until you’re blue in the face or make them do push-ups until you get tired, but, sadly, that kind of behavior only nets you weird looks. So, we think it’s best just to avoid interacting with the following low-lives.
If only civilians wet themselves at the sight of a knife-hand. Then things would get moving again.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)
The biggest hurdle you’ll face is the utter lack of f*cks given about professionalism and the need to get things done right the first time. Your “until mission complete” mentality is entirely at odds with the folks who get paid by the hour regardless.
In some civilian jobs, there isn’t any real incentive to go that extra mile. Those who slack off still get paid on time. If you try to cover for their laziness, you’ll end up doing double work for none of the extra pay. It’s a trap.
The “relax, it was just a joke” doesn’t seem to fly with civilian bosses.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
The jokers that can’t take a joke
Troops and veterans have a wicked sense of humor. In one moment, we’re prim and proper — professional enough to show off to your grandmother. In the next, we open our mouths and tell rotten jokes that’d make grandma blush.
That’s entirely how we show our love for one another — by belittling every bit of someone and expecting them to do the same in return. But civilians can’t throw shade like veterans can. You make a tiny, seemingly innocent remark, like how their hairline is so jacked up that they should just cut their loses and shave it bald and suddenly, you find yourself dealing with HR.
“Oh, you went on a camping trip and didn’t have electricity for a night? That’s cute.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Piazza)
Being in the military, you know exactly where you stack up against another person professionally. Your rank is right there on your chest, collar, or sleeve. If it’s the same, you go to time in grade or service. If those are similar, you move to your medals, awards, and so on. Respect is earned and rewarded accordingly.
Most people in the civilian world are so caught up with trying to make themselves look better that they’ll confuse what they’ve done with where they stand comparatively. The fact that some dude’s dad just bought a new yacht doesn’t mean jack sh*t if you’re both sitting in same-sized cubicles. Nothing outside of work should matter during work but, apparently, the one-upper thinks it does.
Back in the day, you’d learn real quick why that’s a dumb idea. Ask anyone who’s ever been the reason for a 4-day weekend recall formation.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)
The glory seeker
“One team, one fight” is the mantra of the military. If one person fails, everyone fails. If one person succeeds, everyone succeeds. We’re all in the same foxhole, wearing the same shade of green, fighting for the same flag. Being a team player isn’t something that comes naturally for some folks.
The drive for personal success outweighs the need to get things done for these guys. They’ll beg, borrow, steal, or lie to anyone if it means they can get that raise and they’ll never look down to see every shoulder they’re standing on. To make things worse, they’re also the same type that believes that the world revolves around them and they’re owed the right to do whatever misdeeds they commit onto others.
Just smile, nod, and mess with them.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Pfc. Heather Atherton)
The armchair political commentator
Troops come from all backgrounds and make up a fairly balanced slice of the American population. Personal identity, race, religion, sex, orientation, political affiliation, and whatever else — none of that matters while you’re on duty and trying to complete the mission. Those kind of talks are best kept for when you’re out of uniform and can realistically not have duty on your mind.
Yet, in the minds of these civilians, veterans are often seen as some sort of subject matter expert for all things military. I couldn’t tell you what the other company in my battalion was doing while I was still in the Army and yet people will press you on whether it was a just idea to implement sanctions on wherever.
These are probably the same guys to say to you because you’re a vet “I would have joined, but…”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)
The “excuses, excuses, excuses” guy
If you mess up in the military, you take it on the chin like an adult and you drive on. You’re late? Own up to your mistake or be honest about why you’re late. You may get reprimanded, but no one really cares after that. Just get back to the mission.
There is no magical excuse that will immediately absolve anyone of any of their shortcomings — but goddamn will these as*holes try to find it. Problem with me? It was the other guy. Problem with my performance? Must have been a computer problem. You get the point. These types will always let you down and never seek to improve themselves because they’ll honestly believe their own BS.
The M16A4 was the standard service rifle for the Marine Corps until October, 2015, when it was decided that the M4 Carbine would replace them in infantry battalions. For whatever reason, civilians tend to think the M16A4 is awesome when, in reality, it’s actually despised by a lot of Marines.
Now, the M16A4 is, by far, not the worst weapon, but it didn’t exactly live up to the expectations laid out for it. They’re accurate and the recoil is as soft as being hit in the shoulder with a peanut, so it certainly has its place. But when Marines spend a considerable amount of time in rainy or dusty environments, they’ll find it’s not the most reliable rifle.
Here are some of the major complaints Marines have about the weapon:
Hopefully it isn’t this bad.
They get rusty very easily
For a weapon that’s supposed to be used in “every clime and place,” these rifles seem to get rust like boots get married – way too quickly. This just means that you should carry some CLP and scrub it off regularly — another task to add to the pile.
Find time to clean it when you can.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Richard Currier)
Cleaning is a headache
Outside of problems with rust, the chamber gets caked with carbon after firing a single magazine. This is yet another thing you’ll have to spend time cleaning. And when you break the rifle down, you’re going to find carbon has found its way into every possible small space.
Again, just keep that chamber as clean as possible.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)
Jams are too common
If there’s a bit of dirt in the chamber, prepare for some double feeds or stove-pipe jams. This might just be the fact that many of these rifles have been worn down from participating in two separate combat theaters, but the fact remains: your gun will jam.
Have fun clearing buildings with these.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melanie Wolf)
They’re too long
An M16A4 is nearly 40″ long. For close quarters, these really aren’t the best weapons. You’ll have to find ways to adapt the rifle to the environment but, at the end of the day, it’s a pain in the ass to try and jump through a window with it.
Just take the covers off and put a grip on.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)
Rail covers make the hand guards slippery
You could just refrain from using covers, but without them, you run the risk of degrading your rails. With them, you won’t be able to get as steady of a group, which means your per-shot accuracy will go down slightly.
I’ve always wondered how Independence Day came to be known colloquially as “the 4th of July.” No other holiday is ever referred to by the date on which it falls. Despite the ongoing War on Christmas, you never hear anyone saying, “Happy 25th of December!”
Or “Happy Last Thursday In November!”
It’s just weird.
What’s not weird is getting sick of tea and opting to drink coffee to kickstart the whole “experiment in democracy” thing, then celebrating it every July 4th with copious amounts of beer, burgers, and explosives.
If you still have your thumbs, give two of them up to these dank memes. Happy 6th of July!
But it’s gonna be WAY harder this time around, guys.
On October 19, the Navy EOD released its Strategic Plan 2020-2030, its blueprints for the next 10 years. Its leadership is looking to mold the military’s maritime EOD force into one that best supports the U.S., its allies, and partner nations to compete and win in an era of Great Power Competition (GPC).
The Navy EOD’s mission statement is to “eliminate explosive threats so the Fleet and Nation can fight and win — whenever, wherever, and however it chooses.”
This mission statement is to be achieved through:
• Developing the force to win against near-peer competitors and empowered non-state actors. • Expanding our advantage against competitors’ undersea threats. • Capitalizing on our unique ability to counter weapons of mass destruction. • Growing expertise in the exploitation of next-generation weapons systems. • Emboldening allies and partner nation’s capabilities.
In the Strategic Plan, the community of operators internalized 80 years of knowledge and sacrifice to honor the legacy of those who have come before and develop and prepare future generations of the Navy EOD community. With Navy EOD being in its ninth decade of service, it is looking beyond the horizon to chart its future course. Its aim is to remain the world’s premier combat force for eliminating explosive threats.
This is the force’s first major mission update since 1997. The plan was developed to meet the challenges of a changing national security environment and position Navy EOD to best serve its role within the NECF said Rear Adm. Joseph DiGuardo, commander of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC).
“The Navy Expeditionary Combat Force (NECF) clears the explosive, security, and physical hazards emplaced by our adversaries; secures battlespace for the naval force; builds the critical infrastructure, domain awareness, and logistic capacity to rearm, resupply, and refuel the fleet; protects the critical assets the Navy and the nation need to achieve victory and reinforce blue-water lethality,” DiGuardo said.
NECF is comprised of Navy EOD, the Maritime Expeditionary Security Force, the Naval Construction Force, and diving and salvage units.
“As part of the NECF, our EOD forces play a pivotal role in clearing the explosive hazards in any environment to protect the fleet and Joint Force — from the simplest impediment to the most complex weapon of mass destruction—and build an understanding of our adversary capabilities by exploiting those hazards. Navy EOD is the key to our nation being undeterred by explosive threats,” DiGuardo added.
“The strategic plan ensures Navy EOD supports the NECF by eliminating explosive threats so the fleet, Navy, and nation can fight and win whenever, wherever and however it chooses,” Capt. Oscar Rojas, commodore of the Coronado-based EOD Group (EODGRU) said.
According to the plan, the force’s 1,800 members can also expect an increased emphasis on building their knowledge and capabilities in areas critical to success in a GPC environment. This will include Navy EOD enhancing its expeditionary undersea capabilities by tapping into the cyberspace. The force will pursue unmanned systems (UMS) to access adversary communication networks in order to disrupt, delay, or destroy weapons systems.
Moreover, the plan calls for Expeditionary Mine Countermeasures (ExMCM) companies to test these new systems and software. “The operators using emerging UMS technology are the closest to the challenges. Our strategic plan will empower them to provide us feedback from the tactical level during the capability development process to help accelerate solutions to the ever-evolving threats,” said Rojas.
The Navy EOD community has evolved through the years to face new and troubling threats as they have emerged: Magnetic influence mines in World War II serving as coastal defenses or strategic deterrents. Sea mines blocking the Wonsan Harbor from an amphibious landing during the Korean War. Land and sea mines dotting Vietnam, preventing full maneuverability of American forces. Iranian-emplaced limpet and sea mines targeting both naval and commercial ships in the Arabian Gulf. WMDs during the Cold War and into today.
And nowadays, with non-state actors like violent extremist organizations or lone wolves having easier access to information on how to create and employ improvised explosive devices or chemical and biological weapons Navy EOD’s job has only gotten harder.
“Our strategic plan was designed to guide us in creating a force that can deter adversaries and win in a complex security environment,” said Capt. Rick Hayes, commodore of EODGRU-2. “That is why we dedicated an objective to specifically focus on developing and caring for our Sailors. Our people are our most important asset — they are our weapons system.”
As Hayes said, all the objectives put forward in the 2030 plan are essential to delivering a lethal, resilient, and sustainable Navy EOD force that can be called upon during contingency and crisis operations.
“Realizing this vision will be impossible without the support of everyone in the Navy EOD community. By leveraging their creativity, discipline, and leadership, we will develop a force for 2030 that continues to protect the security and future of the American people,” Hayes added.
Sailors training for the Navy’s explosive ordnance disposal rating must complete the basic EOD diver course at Naval Dive and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida. The Navy EOD training pipeline can take nearly a year to complete and is unique among all other branches for teaching dive capabilities. Navy EOD technicians regularly integrate with special operations forces by regularly working alongside Navy SEALs or Army Special Forces soldiers.
In America, you can do a lot of things at a firing range — for the right price. Shoot a sten gun, a .50-cal, or an AK-47 — you can even drive a Sherman tank over a car. This is America and if there’s anything Americans seem to hate, its limits on firearms. But while America is not alone in their undying love for battlefield firearms there are some limits to what you can do without breaking the law.
That sh*t goes out the window in Cambodia, though. You know Cambodia, right?
Bring your own GoPro.
Cambodia has had gun control laws in place since the 1990s, but unlike countries where guns are tightly regulated, tightly controlled, and tightly monitored, Cambodia hasn’t had the will or political impetus to enforce many of the laws. Citizens once carried an array of assault weapons and explosives.
Cambodia’s civil war killed some 1.7 million people and displaced millions of others from the cities to the countryside. So it’s unsurprising that so many Cambodians are unwilling to part with their lethal protection. Even less surprising is that some Cambodians would choose to turn the large caches of antiquated firearms into a booming tourist attraction.
In recent years, many locals have turned in their weapons, but many others did not. It is still quite easy to get your hands on some of this hardcore hardware. As a tourist, though, you don’t need to acquire your own heat. Just like in America, one can be found for you — for the right price.
At the Cambodia Fire Range Phnom Penh, you can combine tour packages that will take you to Cambodia’s unique historic temples, like Angkor Wat, with massive firepower. They’ll transport you there for free, fill you up with all the free beer you can handle, and then take you back to the range so you can let loose with an RPG aimed at a makeshift grass hut loaded with fuel barrels.
If jungle temples and shoulder-fired rockets aren’t your jam, maybe you’ll be more apt to take in the beautiful, pristine beaches at Sihanoukville with a boat ride to some of Cambodia’s most remote, small islands. Then, once back at the range, you might prefer tossing hand grenades — or launching them with an M70.
Shrinking ice coverage in the Arctic has drawn the attention of NATO, Russia, and other countries to the high north, where the promise of more accessible waterways means potential military and commercial competition.
Since Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine, however, NATO members have been concerned about Moscow’s actions closer to home, and developments in recent weeks indicate the alliance is focusing on securing waterways around Europe, in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas and the eastern Atlantic — all areas that could be contested in a conflict with Russia.
Below, you can see what NATO is being warned about, and what the alliance is and isn’t doing to address it.
A Russian Ilyushin Il-22 Bizon and a Su-27 Flanker, flying along the Baltic coast, May 14, 2019.
(UK Ministry of Defense)
The Baltic Sea, bordered by six NATO member countries and with Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, at its eastern end, has always been a busy area.
Encounters between NATO forces and Russian forces at sea in the Baltic and in the skies over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, where NATO members carry out air patrols, have been on the rise since 2014. (The air policing mission has actually been going on since 2004.)
That encounters include an incident this summer in which a Russian Su-27 fighter escorting Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s plane turned into a NATO jet, forcing it away.
These tensions have come with military buildup as well.
Starting in 2016, NATO deployed some 4,500 troops in battle groups to the Baltics and Poland. Since the end of 2017, Sweden, which like Finland is not part of NATO, has sent new military forces to Gotland Island, which it had withdrawn from in 2005.
In Kaliningrad, an exclave that is home to Russia’s Baltic Fleet, Moscow has deployed new weaponry, including nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, and upgraded facilities, including what appear to be active nuclear-weapon storage bunkers.
Summer 2019, Russia also set up a helicopter base on Gogland, a small island between Finland and Estonia. Estonian officials played down the military significance, but the base is still seen as a Russian move to assert its power in the region and keep its neighbors guessing.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge participates in a photo exercise during exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) in the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2018.
(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold)
NATO countries along the Baltic have sought a more robust presence, and Germany has taken the lead.
Among NATO members, Germany, which has been criticized for the paucity of its defense spending and the quality of its armed forces, has taken the lead and tried to bring NATO and the EU closer together on Baltic security.
Vice Adm. Rainer Brinkmann, deputy chief of the German navy, said in September 2019 that Russia was the “one main challenge” in the Baltic and that Western partners “must take appropriate measures to cope” and “to prevent the Baltic Sea from being a ‘mare clausum,'” or “closed sea.”
Like its neighbors, Russia has legitimate reasons to be in the Baltic, but the number of actors there, each with their own national and commercial interests, make it a delicate situation, according to Christopher Skaluba, director or the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.
“I think [the Russians] know that aggressive actions in the Baltic are likely to get the attention, in a way they probably didn’t want, of the NATO nations and Sweden and Finland.”
“The Baltic is pretty small place. There’s a lot of players. That piece of it gets really ugly really quick,” Skaluba told Business Insider in October 2019. “I think for lots of reasons, there are more incentives to avoid [conflict] than there are to … catalyze it.”
An F-35B fighter jet aboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Oct. 13, 2019.
(LPhot Kyle Heller/UK Ministry of Defence)
A new battle of the Atlantic.
Russia’s navy is increasingly active in the North Atlantic, and though the level of that activity and the size of Russia’s navy don’t appear to reach that of the Cold War, it has set NATO on edge.
Growing tension between NATO members and Russia in the Atlantic has been called “the fourth battle of the Atlantic,” following World War I and II and the Cold War.
The UK in particular has struggled to keep up, calling on NATO allies to help track Russian subs thought to be lurking in and around British waters.
“In 2010, a Royal Navy ship was called on just once to respond to Russian navy ships approaching UK territorial waters. Last year we had to respond 33 times,” the UK’s then-defense minister, Gavin Williamson, said in May 2018.
The Royal Navy has built new aircraft carriers, equipping them with Britain’s first F-35s, and acquired US-made maritime patrol aircraft after scrapping its Nimrod patrol aircraft in 2010.
Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans is currently the Nations on call warship for escorting foreign warships.
The UK and its allies in Europe want to keep “a critical choke point” between them open.
While any conflict in the Atlantic today is likely to look much different than previous battles, it’s likely to involve the English Channel and waters around it, especially the North Sea — at least that’s the concern of the five European countries who effectively revived the Cold War-era “Channel Committee” November 2019.
The pact signed on Nov. 7, 2019, by senior navy leaders from Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands pledges to “harmonize” naval purchasing plans, potentially to include common procurement, according to Defense News.
But the countries also want to increase personnel exchanges and joint training and eventually recognize the professional qualifications of service members across the group.
“The Channel area is the front door to Central Europe and an important gate to the Baltic Sea,” the text of the pact says. “It is the critical choke point for the maritime traffic between the United Kingdom and continental Europe.”
The committee is also another military tether between mainland Europe and the UK, whose future relations with the rest of the continent remain in doubt amid the turmoil of Brexit.
The Mediterranean has also become a venue for what the US and others see as an emerging great-power competition.
NATO members in southern Europe have been focused on immigration from the Middle East and North Africa and the threat of terrorism emanating from those regions.
But Russian naval forces are a constant presence in the Mediterranean, traveling to and from Moscow’s bases in the Black Sea and and its base in Tartus, Syria, which is Russia’s only such facility outside the territory of the former Soviet Union.
With the ongoing civil war in Syria, the eastern Mediterranean has also become a venue for military operations, with Russian subs demonstrating their new ability to strike targets on land with missiles.
The Russian presence around the Mediterranean and Black seas, Iran’s presence in Syria, and antagonistic intra-alliance relations with Turkey all present security challenges for NATO, according to a recent Atlantic Council report.
“As the south becomes more congested and contested, and great-power competition intensifies, NATO defense, deterrence, and containment mission in the south is increasingly urgent and more complex,” the report states.
US Navy destroyer USS Carney fires it MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun at night while on patrol in the Mediterranean Sea, Sept. 11, 2016.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Weston Jones)
The lack of a strategy in the Mediterranean could have more serious consequences for the alliance as a whole, according to one deputy secretary general.
NATO has made a lot progress improving its defense and deterrence against Russia since 2014, “but it was more talk than action when it came to addressing problems in the south,” Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and coauthor of the report, said during its presentation October 2019.
“This theme figured prominently in my farewell address to the North Atlantic Council three years ago, and unfortunately the situation hasn’t changed all that much since then,” added Vershbow, who was deputy secretary general of NATO and US ambassador to Russia.
According to the report, “many of the conventional defense and deterrence challenges associated with NATO’s east are now reemerging in the south,” including enhanced Russian anti-access/area-denial capabilities, provocative actions in the Black Sea, and hybrid activity on the ground.
Though NATO has taken steps to remedy its shortcomings in the Mediterranean — such as setting up a “hub of the south” at Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy — establishing a maritime-focused enhanced southern presence there could be a way to counter Russia and sharing the burden of doing so among members, Vershbow said.
“Russia is back with a vengeance in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Black Sea,” which adds a geopolitical dimension to NATO’s need to project stability and bolster defense and deterrence, Vershbow added.
“The lack of an effective southern strategy could put alliance solidarity at risk if the publics in the southern NATO countries see the alliance as failing to address what they consider to be their priority concerns,” Vershbow said. “It could undermine their willingness to share the burdens of collective defense against Russia, and everybody loses in that scenario.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.