This is why camouflaged troops wearing reflective belts became a thing - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why camouflaged troops wearing reflective belts became a thing

If there’s one accessory that’s become synonymous with the post-9/11 generation of troops, it has to be the nonsensical PT belt. It’s that bright, neon green, reflective band that you see wrapped around every troop when they go out for a jog.

Honestly, it seems like some big wig at the Pentagon must have thought it was funny in an ironic sort of way to make all troops who’re wearing camouflage fatigues put on a bright, shiny, eye-catching belt. Military doctrine isn’t made on a whim and, usually, there’s a lot more at play than meets the eye, but the actual reason behind wearing the belt is a perfect example of someone listening to the “Good Idea Fairy” instead of reason.


In all fairness to the glow belt, it does help troops be seen at night. That doesn’t mean that’s the solution to vehicular manslaughter, however.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

Prior to the 90s, troops didn’t wear any sort of reflective clothing during morning PT. Instead, for safety, troops conducted PT on roads that were blocked off in the mornings to avoid any potential accidents with civilian drivers. Unfortunately, the scenario didn’t play out as installation commanders hoped and fatalities would happen occasionally.

The first step in preventing these unfortunate deaths was to create more reflective PT uniforms — without abandoning the military appearance, of course. A few designs were tested, but the luminescence would consistently lose its luster after a few runs through the laundry.

So, rather than holding the manufacturers accountable for making a sub-par product, the Army used reflective armbands, reflective vests, before, finally, adapting the the widespread PT belt. Initially, this was more of a Band-Aid solution to a large problem.

It’s funny how everyone of ranks of E-7, O-2, and below unanimously hate the belts, but as soon as you make rank, you suddenly laud their effectiveness…

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ethan Morgan)

Then came a horrible incident on Lackland Air Force Base in 1996 in which several airmen were struck by a moving vehicle during a morning run. Rather than installing a traffic light or determining what, exactly, was to blame, the Air Force pulled the trigger and made the new reflective belts mandatory.

The rest of the branches soon followed suit because it gave the commanders an out when creating Risk Management Assessments. Rather than taking an analytical look at serious and tragic incidents, the commanders could cut themselves out of the accountability equation by making everyone wear reflective bets.

(Comic by AF Blues)

In short, the solution of “add a PT belt” was a lazy answer to a complicated question that resulted in horrible accidents. Vehicles hitting pedestrians in the motor pool was another problem addressed by adding a PT belt instead of figuring out why so many accidents were happeningafter all, do the belts even have any real effect in broad daylight?

This sort of irresponsible risk management solution has since become the biggest running joke in the military.

“Going into combat? Don’t forget your PT belt!” “Picking someone up from the local bars? Don’t forget your PT belt!” “Jumping out of a C-130 without a parachute? It’s fine so long as you wear your PT belt!”

Articles

This stunning video shows how fast a railgun can shoot

The Navy has been testing a railgun that could see deployment on the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt and her sister ships. The goal is to get the railgun to not only be able to fire its projectiles to a range of 110 nautical miles, but to increase the rate of fire to as many as ten rounds a minute.


The long range is only one of the many advantages. Another is improved safety. Gunpowder can be very volatile, as a number of British battlecruisers found out at Jutland and at the Denmark Straits. The battleship USS Arizona (BB 39) also found out about how bad a gunpowder explosion in the wrong place at the wrong time can be.

The British battlecruiser HMS Hood was sunk when her magazines exploded in the Battle of the Denmark Strait. (Wikimedia Commons)

The approach also saves money, and provides for more ammo capacity. The gunpowder is expensive to safely store, has to be purchased, and it takes up spaces in the ship. All of those factors end up making the ship design more expensive.

The railgun testing is slated to take place over the summer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division in Virginia. One of the big issues will be to quantify how much electrical power will be needed to send the rounds downrange.

Forget what you saw in 2009’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” when an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer took out the Decepticon Devastator. Only the Zumwalt-class destroyers have the electrical power capacity to use a railgun.

U.S. Navy photo

Another is addressing the issue of barrel wear – largely because it is sending the mail downrange at Mach 6.

Dr. Tom Beutner of the Office of Naval Research notes that the barrel wear issue is being fixed, saying, “They’ve extended the launcher core life from tens of shots’ core life when program started to something that’s now been fired over 400 times and … we anticipate barrels will be able to do over 1,000 shots.”

Watch the video of the Navy testing the railgun’s autoloader below:

MIGHTY HISTORY

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

May Day was a big deal in East Germany. As a matter of fact, it was a big deal in all of the Communist Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War era. It was, after all, a day for celebrating workers around the world. Since Communist countries were supposed to be a worker’s paradise, it stands to reason they would take a day off from shooting dissenters and waiting in lines to watch a few parades.

And those parades were lit.

It was because everyone was preparing for May Day that Wolfgang Engels was able to escape from East Germany.


The wall began construction in 1961.

Engels was born in 1943 in Düsseldorf, Germany (what would have been West Germany just a few years later), but his Communist mother took him to East Germany after the end of World War II. As a young man, he was drafted into the Army of the new German Democratic Republic, what we know as East Germany.

The young soldier was a believer in the new ideology as a young man. He called his upbringing “thorough” and “socialist” and noted his mother even worked for the Stasi. It wasn’t until much later in his service that someone managed to convince him that things were not all they were made out to be.

But one of his first assignments as a newly-minted East German was to help build the Berlin Wall.

A Soviet-built East German BTR-152, like the one Wolfgang Engels drove through the Berlin Wall.

He soon felt terrible about what the wall became. Not just the barrier between the Iron Curtain and Freedom, but a symbol of the ideological struggle of the Cold War — and he was on the wrong side. The GDR was not the Germany he thought he knew.

After two years, the pressure was getting to him. Suddenly, well before his defection, he was accused of trying to cross the border illegally. He and two friends were looking for a concert in a cafe near the border wall. The group was found and unable to explain, to the guards’ satisfaction, what they were doing and so they were manhandled and mistreated. It drove the reality of East Germany home to him.

In reality, the thought of crossing the wall hadn’t occurred to him until his East German superiors put the idea in his head. But attempting to flee came with a stiff fine, two years’ jail time, and maybe even a bullet to the head. Still he remained determined — and even asked random passersby to come with him, but no one took him up on the offer.

His plan to escape was simple enough. He would steal an armored personnel carrier, drive to the most famous wall in the world (at the time at least), and then drive right through it. That’s exactly what he did, but it was nice of him to stop a couple of times and ask if anyone wanted to come.

The armored personnel carrier came from the preparations being made for the upcoming May Day parade. It was a BTR-152. A six wheeled, Soviet-built vehicle whose top could open upward, luckily for Wolfgang Engels. When the workmen went off to lunch, Engels started up his new vehicle, garnering little notice in a military-run city.

He had roughly 100 meters — the length of a football field — to gather enough velocity to crash through a single layer of cinder blocks less than ten feet high. Unfortunately, Engels’ APC didn’t fully penetrate the Berlin Wall and he was soon stuck in his vehicle — and stuck in the wall. East German border guards began to open fire on the BTR-152 and Wolfgang Engels. He decided it was time to book it.

He left the relative safety of the vehicle and tried to climb away. Ensnared in barbed wire, he was shot at close range while attempting to flee. Twice — once in the back and once in the hand. The second bullet tore through his body, in then out.

Luckily for him, West German police officers from a nearby watchtower fired back at the Eastern border guards, providing much-needed cover and time for Engels. But really, it was time enough for a group of revelers at a nearby bar to come out and help pull him out of the wire and into the freedom of the West. They formed a human ladder, freed him from the wire, and brought him over. They carried his unconscious body back to the bar, closing up the blinds.

“I came to on top of the counter,” he says. “When I turned my head and saw all the Western brands of liquor on the shelf, I knew that I had made it.”

He ordered a cognac.

Wolfgang Engels was sent by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he recovered from a collapsed lung for three weeks.

He wouldn’t see his mother again until 1990, after the fall of the wall. He learned the East Germans were planning to abduct him and charge him with desertion before the wall fell. As for the soldier who shot him, Engels is just grateful he didn’t turn his AK-47 on automatic.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

The latest reports on the war in Afghanistan seem to contradict the government assurances that victory is within reach, painting a picture of a bloody conflict with no end in sight.

In November 2018, 242 Afghan security force members were killed in brutal engagements with Taliban insurgents, The New York Times reported Nov. 15, 2018. Militants almost wiped out an elite company of Afghan special forces in an area considered the country’s “safest district,” and officials told Voice of America Nov. 15, 2018, that more than 40 government troops were recently killed in Taliban attacks near the border.


Over the past three years, more than 28,000 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani revealed in a rare admission.

“Since 2015, still much regrettable, but the entire loss of American forces in Afghanistan is 58 Americans. In the same period, 28,529 of our security forces have lost their lives,” the president said, according to the Times. For Afghanistan, this figure works out to roughly 25 police officers and soldiers dying each day.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“Are the losses horrific? Yes,” he added, saying that this does not mean the Taliban are winning.

But there are real questions about whether the scale of these losses is sustainable.

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis highlighted just how devastating the war has been for the Afghan security forces in an October 2018 speech. “The Afghan lads are doing the fighting, just look at the casualties,” he explained. “Over 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September.”

The Afghan government controls or influences only 55.5 percent of the country, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) introduced in its most recent quarterly report to Congress, noting that this is the lowest level of control in three years. In November 2015, the government controlled or influenced 72 percent of the country.

Hamid Karzai, former Afghan president, told the Associated Press that the blame for these losses rests on the shoulders of the US.

“The United States either changed course or simply neglected the views of the Afghan people,” Karzai told the AP. His views reflect what has been reported as a growing aversion for the NATO mission.

Signs that the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating come as the US and its coalition partners ramp up their air campaign against Taliban forces. Coalition bombing in Afghanistan is at a 5-year high, according to the latest airpower report from US Air Forces Central Command, and the year isn’t out.

US Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan who narrowly escaped an assassination that left two senior Afghan officials dead and a US general wounded, recently told NBC that the war in Afghanistan “is not going to be won militarily. He added that the “the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily,” a view that may not be shared by Taliban commanders.

Caitlin Foster contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army announced its new retention bonuses and kicker pay

Officials released new guidance May 15, 2018, on the Army’s Selective Retention Bonus Program, which includes first-ever bonuses up to $52,000 for those who reenlist for critical Security Forces Assistance Brigade positions.

SRB “kickers” that incentivize Soldiers who reenlist early will also go into effect at the end of May 2018. Details are included in Military Personnel Message 18-156.


Kickers will now only be available to those eligible to reenlist on a long-term basis between 10 and 15 months from their contractual ETS date. A $3,000 kicker will be for a five-year reenlistment, and there is a $6,000 kicker for a six-year enlistment.

Soldiers who reenlist under the NCO Career Status Program must also meet the term length requirement for the corresponding kicker amount.

Soldiers with less than 10 months from their ETS date can still take advantage of a kicker before May 31, 2018, when the new policy rolls out.

“I highly encourage Soldiers and command teams to seek out their servicing Career Counselor to understand how this bonus message change will affect their unit and their Soldiers,” said Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Thompson, the Senior Army Career Counselor.

Some Soldiers stationed at Fort Bliss will also be eligible for an SRB bonus to remain at the Texas installation. The stabilization bonus will be the Army’s first one in years for a specific location, Thompson said.

Based off critical shortages in the military occupational specialties of 11B, 13B and 88M at Fort Bliss, those Soldiers could receive a bonus.

“The Army has a cost savings for not having to move somebody if they reenlist for stabilization,” he said. “So we’re passing on that cost savings to the bonus even if it’s not the same pot of money, but that’s the mentality behind it.”

The message also includes bonuses for Soldiers who possess critical skills. For example, a 12R interior electrician who has a parachutist badge may qualify for more money to reenlist.

(Photo by Pfc. Melissa Parrish)

“If they are not Airborne qualified in an Airborne position, or reenlisting to move into an Airborne position they don’t get a bonus,” Thompson said. “If they are, they do.”

Bonuses are also on the way for Soldiers interested in joining SFAB units. These will be on top of the $5,000 assignment incentive pay already in place for those who volunteer to go into the Army’s new train, advise and assist units.

“The bonus is for those very critical MOSs that the Army needs,” the sergeant major said.

Those MOSs include 25L/S, 92Y, 35F/M/N/P as well as positions in the 11, 12 and 13 career field series.

Many of those jobs will be able to receive Tier 8 bonuses. A staff sergeant or sergeant first class eligible for a Tier 8 bonus, for instance, could earn $46,000 to reenlist for five or more years. A potential $6,000 kicker would then leave that Soldier with $52,000 in hand, on top of the $5,000 assignment incentive pay.

The money spent on bonuses helps the Army get a return on its investment for the time spent on molding well-trained Soldiers, Thompson said.

“If they are in an MOS that the Army deems as critical, we want them to stay in longer,” he said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

What exactly is Iran’s shadowy Quds Force?

For many Americans, it can be tough to understand exactly how Iran’s military apparatus stacks up against our own. Both nations manage their defense efforts in fundamentally different ways due to necessity, cultural differences, and internal politics. The U.S. Military does not operate within America’s borders except under very specific circumstances, it receives its funding through Congress, and perhaps most importantly, there’s no question as to where its loyalties lie.


The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, however, function in a very different way, with its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) overlapping many of the roles occupied by the nation’s formal Army and garnering the vast majority of the nation’s defense budget. The IRGC also operates a number of legitimate Iranian businesses, securing alternate funding sources while compounding power and influence over the nation’s economy and government. When Iranian citizens take to the streets to protest, it’s the IRGC that suppresses their efforts with brutal precision.

In April of this year, the United States chose to designate the IRGC as a terror group, but deep within the organization’s structure, a small sect of the IRGC has already carried that distinction for over a decade: the IRGC’s secretive foreign intervention arm, the Quds Force.

Quds Force operations are divided into 8 directories, shown here in different colors.

(WikiMedia Commons)

The Quds Force are tasked with clandestine operations outside of Iran

Because Iran isn’t capable of fielding a large and modern military that can stand toe to toe with giants like the U.S., the IRGC’s Quds Force has adopted a unique approach to projecting the nation’s power beyond Iran’s borders. The Quds Force operates entirely within the shadows, supporting foreign terror groups and militias, conducting attacks and assassinations, gathering intelligence, and doing anything else Iran needs to keep hidden behind a veil of plausible deniability.

Some Quds Force operatives could be compared to CIA handlers tasked with developing local intelligence assets. Others are more like American Green Berets, tasked with training and equipping foreign military forces. These troops are also known to engage in unconventional warfare operations themselves, often in the form of terror attacks, assassinations, and kidnappings.

Quds Day celebration in Iran, 2017.

(Mohammad Ranjbar via WikiMedia Commons)

They get their name from the city of Jerusalem

Iran’s long-standing beef with Israel permeates throughout the nation’s military apparatus, but none so directly as the Quds Force, also commonly referred to in Iran as Al-Quds. In Arabic, Al-Quds actually means Jerusalem, or literally translated, “The Holy One.” They didn’t adopt this name as a respectful nod to the ancient city under Israeli control, but rather as a lasting reminder of their long-standing goal to recapture Jerusalem for the Arabic People.

Iran also celebrates Quds Day, though not as a direct affirmation of support for the military unit. Quds Day, which has now spread throughout like-minded groups of the Middle East and even as far off as London, is a day dedicated to parades, fiery speeches, and other demonstrations meant to denounce Israel and Zionism. This year, Iran’s Quds Day celebrations also included burning American flags and effigies of President Donald Trump.

Iran can’t go toe to toe with the U.S. and they know it, so they found a way around it.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Cupit)

They specialize in asymmetric warfare because they know the U.S. is stronger

Asymmetric warfare is, in a nutshell, a war between opponents with vastly different levels of resources or capabilities. Iran lacks the technological, diplomatic, and financial strengths the United States leans on to both deter and win armed conflicts, and as a result, they’ve opted not to fight on those terms.

In the modern era, this asymmetric approach has earned the Quds Force close friends in the form of terror organizations with similar extremist goals. Some, like Hezbollah, were even founded through Quds Force interventions. Even the Taliban, a group the Quds Force once fought side by side with American force against, has become an ally, bolstering Iran’s defenses along Afghanistan’s Western Border.

We’re pretty sure they make their ghillie suits out of confetti though.

(Javad Hadi via WikiMedia Commons)

No one is sure exactly how many troops are in the Quds Force

America’s Special Operations Command (USASOC) maintains a total force of about 33,000 troops, but it’s nearly impossible to tell how those numbers stack up against the Quds Force. Because of the secretive way in which subset of the IRGC operates, estimates have ranged from the low thousands to as many as 50,000 total troops, but to a certain extent, either number would be misleading.

Because a primary role of the Quds Force is to establish friendly militias and fighting forces inside the borders of other nations, the Quds Force total number doesn’t actually reflect the group’s force projection capabilities. With operations ranging from Syria to Venezuela, Iran’s influence over loosely affiliated fighting organizations the world over makes the danger presented by the Quds Force more difficult to quantify than conventional, or even many unconventional, military units.

Specialized IEDs purpose built to penetrate armor began appearing in Iraq as a result of Quds Forces.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The Quds Force is already responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of American deaths

Declassified defense documents have linked the Quds Force to a rash of IED attacks in Iraq that claimed the lives of hundreds of U.S. service members during combat operations in recent years. These attacks utilized an explosively formed projectile, or EFP, designed specifically to be effective against armored vehicles like American troops utilize in combat zones. Iran’s special operations troops have also been involved in a number of insurgent attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq since 2003.

The Quds Force was implicated in the bombings of the U.S. Embassy, annex, and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and 1984, along with a long list of other terror attacks. It’s important to note, however, that the Quds Force tends to advise and support rather than directly participate in these operations, granting Iran the deniability they need to avoid open war with the United States.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the advice a Navy SEAL has for his younger self

If you can’t control it, your ego can destroy everything in your life.


That’s according to former Navy SEAL commanders Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, who teach this fundamental lesson through their leadership consulting firm Echelon Front.

Business Insider recently sat down with Willink to discuss his new book “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual.” We asked him for the advice he would give his 20-year-old self, and he said it taps into this idea about ego.

While it may seem obvious that you know more about the world at age 30 than age 20, Willink said it’s important to realize that you’re never old enough to outgrow your ego — and it can make you susceptible to reckless decisions.

Retired Navy SEAL Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink. Photo: Courtesy Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

“If I went back to my 20-year-old self what I would tell my 20-year-old self is, ‘You don’t know anything,'” Willink said. “Because everyone when they’re young, they think they know what’s going on in the world and you don’t. And when I was 25, I thought that 20-year-old didn’t know anything but I thought my 25-year-old self knew everything. He didn’t know anything either. And when I was 30, the 25-year-old didn’t know anything. And then when I was 35, the 30-year-old didn’t know anything.”

Willink reflected on this in a previous interview with Business Insider. “When I get asked, you know, what makes somebody fail as a SEAL leader, 99.9% of the time it doesn’t have anything to do with their physical skills or their mental toughness,” he said. “What it has to do with is the fact that the person’s not humble enough to accept responsibility when things go wrong, accept that there might be better ways to do things, and they just have a closed mind. They can’t change.”

Read More: This SEAL commander has 5 tips to transform your life

He noted that being ego-driven can, at times, be constructive. You want to be competitive, you want to prove yourself, Willink explained — but you need to realize that your opinions may not be the best available.

Willink said that this really crystallized for him when he began training young SEALS and saw how some were headstrong about beliefs that his experience taught him definitively were incorrect.

“And I would do my best to help them along that road and realize, ‘You’re not quite as smart as you think you are,'” Willink said.

MIGHTY MOVIES

A conversation with ‘Midway’ director

Here’s a short list of items on Roland Emmerich’s bookshelf: a bronze Chewbacca bust; props from Godzilla and Stargate; and copies of Frank Hebert’s Dune, Lewis Alsamari’s Out of Iraq, and Seth Grahame-Smith’s The Big Book of Porn.

I was invited to his sophisticated (and exceptionally nerdy) office space to talk about the director’s latest film, Midway, which chronicles the Pacific Theater during World War II beginning with the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor through the Battle of Midway — the pivotal turning point for Allied forces.

What followed was a conversation with a man who knows more about WW2 naval and aerial warfare than most and used his passion to create a film that honors the heroes in the Pacific.


www.youtube.com

Midway begins with the Japanese attacks against Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, continues to the Doolittle Raid against the Japanese mainland in April 1942, the Battle of Coral Sea the next month, and finally the decisive Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.

Emmerich became fascinated with the (insane) dive bombing tactics conducted by Allied pilots in the Pacific Theater and knew how important it was to convey the challenges the pilots faced. After studying WW2 footage, he knew he had to get those attacks right on film.

“It could not look like visual effects. That was the biggest challenge — but of course it couldn’t be practical,” Emmerich shared, the implication obvious: it isn’t exactly easy to blow up a bunch of WW2 battleships or aircraft carriers. His standards were high: any shots that didn’t work for him were cut.

A group photo of the American dive bomber pilots of VB-6 from Enterprise, three of whom fatally damaged Akagi. Best is sitting in the center of the front row. The other two who attacked Akagi with Best were Edwin J. Kroeger (standing, eighth from the left) and Frederick T. Weber (standing, sixth from the right).

In his Director’s Commentary, Emmerich points out moments where he had to walk the fine line between accuracy and entertainment. Richard “Dick” Best was the dive bomber pilot who was able to sink the Akagi aircraft carrier against terrible odds and at great danger to himself.

“We had problems depicting the dive bombing. We tried to shoot it practically but we struggled because the pilot wasn’t diving steep enough. I asked if he could go steeper and he said if he dove any steeper then he could die,” which Emmerich acknowledged was a fair point. “And then you realize…oh my god, these [World War II pilots] were daredevils! Nobody flies like those guys anymore.”

I am so honored to share with you all that Midway is now on Digital. Be sure to grab yourself a copy today!pic.twitter.com/ysCvON4ZEK

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“We didn’t want to just show the Japanese as the bad guys. The men fighting the war weren’t responsible for the decision to start the war,” Emmerich said. His uncle was a German pilot in the European Theater, so he knows all too well the wounds carried over on both sides of World War II. It was important that he depict the humanity and honor of the men who lost their lives in the conflict.

I couldn’t tear myself away from his audio commentary that comes with the Blu-Ray package: his World War II knowledge, his artistic choices, and his respect for the military community were so clear.

Though known for his doomsday themes (think 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and even Independence Day), Emmerich considers himself an optimist. His films, though huge in scope and destruction, concentrate on people — the heroes who endure, the lone voices that cry out against ignorance, the people who fight to protect each other.

4K UHD / BLU-RAY/ DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich
  • “Getting It Right: The Making ofMidway” Featurette
  • “The Men of Midway” Featurette
  • “Roland Emmerich: Manon a Mission” Featurette
  • “Turning Point: The Legacy ofMidway” Featurette
  • “Joe Rochefort: Breaking the Japanese Code” Featurette
  • “We Met at Midway: Two Survivors Remember” Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer
Midway is available now on Digital and on 4K Ultra HD , Blu-ray, and DVD from Lionsgate.
Articles

7 important rules for the troops who support special operators

While I still have a few years left, I am on the tail end of my military career. I have been fortunate enough to spend most of my time in uniform supporting Special Operations Forces. I have done a wide range of work. I’ve done everything from working out of safe houses to sitting behind a desk doing policy work to ensure the guys down range were covered. Because nothing happens without paperwork.


During my time I have learned a lot about the community and what it takes to do well in it. Over the years, I have made mistakes and I have reached milestones, and both situations taught me valuable lessons along the way. If I had to pass on knowledge to a new support personnel, these are the things I would tell my potential future replacements:

1)  Know your place, and be proud of it.

USMC photo by Sgt. Brian Kester

When you very first get to the community, don’t overestimate your worth. I have seen more than a few well-qualified support personnel get fired from SF commands because they forgot they weren’t Operators. If an SF command has taken the time to screen you, hire you, and then provide you additional training based on your MOS/Rate it’s because they needed your specific skillset, and they considered you ahead of your peers. Be proud of that, because it means the SOF community needed your skillset in order for them to accomplish the mission.

And don’t treat your conventional counterparts like sh–. You may very well need them one day. In fact, you probably will.

2)  The Q Course doesn’t produce seasoned SF Operators.

I realize that statement should be fairly obvious, but coming into the community, I didn’t quite grasp that. I assumed all Operators were seasoned Veterans and were professional at everything they did. I also assumed that all the support personnel were seasoned as well.   It took me years to fully understand that an Operator has to grow into that seasoned and professional warrior.

Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Bertha A. Flores

At some point you will inevitably hear something like, “What do you know, you’re not an Operator!” You need to remember several things when you run into this. First, check yourself, and make sure you didn’t just put your foot in your mouth. If you didn’t, and you are confident about what you are talking about, don’t back down (remember, you were hired for your specific skillset).

The next thing is you need to remember is to not take it personally. And finally, you need to consider if this is an Operator who has been around and understands the role of the support folks, or if this is a new Operator that still learning what role you play in helping accomplish their mission.

This may have been my hardest lesson at the early stages of my career.       

3)  Find someone senior and make them your mentor.

There is always that one support person. The one that has been in the command forever, and almost seems bitter about it, yet the leadership always comes to them for advice. The Operators don’t give them a hard time when they need something from them, because they’ve proven their worth time and time again.

DoD photo by Steven Stover

More than likely, they’ve been there since they were a junior NCO, and is now a senior NCO complete with the crusty attitude. Get on their good side and make them your mentor (whether they know it or not). There is a reason they has been there forever and a reason they have survived. Find out what it took, and imitate their work ethics. But maybe not the attitude, not yet anyway. Get some years in first and earn your “crustiness.”

4)  Always put the mission first.

Like any of us in uniform, we all want to advance. We want more responsibility and we want to take on leadership roles. At some point, you will face a decision where you have to make a choice between the mission and something administrative pertaining to your career, or someone else’s.

One of my favorite mentors gave me this piece of advice: “Always put the mission first and everything else will fall into place”. What he essentially meant was that if I was doing what I was supposed to do, the senior leadership would recognize it and take care of me when the time came.

5)  Bad news doesn’t get better with time.

This applies to all communities but I think this really hits home in the SOF community. If you mess up, don’t try to hide it, fix it on the sly, and hope no one notices. Own your mistake, tell the people you need to tell. It’s okay to make mistakes. Learn from it and move on with it.

US Navy Admiral William McRaven. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Williams

As Admiral McRaven moved through the SOF commands, one of the things he used to put out to the mid-level leadership was for them to allow their people to make mistakes. He said he didn’t want his people to be too afraid to take chances for fear of being punished if they failed. If you find something innovative, don’t be afraid to try new things. Just make sure you have a good plan and that you communicate with your teammates.

6)  Your rank doesn’t make your idea better.

One of my favorite things about the SOF community is that good ideas usually don’t wear rank. Listen to your people! If your junior folks have an idea, it may be worth listening to. It may not, but take the time to listen. That one time you do it and it works, you may make a huge impact on your troops’ morale.

And finally:

7)  Always be in good shape.

USAF photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

You ever see that one fat support person that all the Operators asked for advice from? No? That’s because it never happened. Your primary concern should be your job and how well you do it, and your secondary concern should be your physical shape. No Operator wants to hear from a fat, out-of-breath body.

If you can’t take care of yourself, how can they have any faith you will take care of them as they head out the door? I’m not saying you need to be a triathlete or even keep up with the Operators at the gym, but I am saying that the Operators need to feel comfortable that you can keep up if or when they take you out of the wire.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why it’s so crazy that Russia is inviting China to huge war games

Russia’s armed forces are gearing up for Vostok-18, or East-18, a massive military exercise in the country’s far east from Sept. 11-15, 2018.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in August 2018 that about 300,000 troops and 1,000 aircraft would participate, using all of the training ranges in the country’s central and eastern military districts. Russia’s Pacific and Northern fleets and its airborne forces are also expected to join.

Shoigu said 2018’s iteration of the Vostok exercise would be “unprecedented in scale, both in terms of area of operations and numbers of military command structure, troops, and forces involved.”


But the size of the forces involved is not the only feature that has turned heads.

Forces from China and Mongolia also plan to take part. Beijing has said it will send about 3,200 troops, 30 helicopters, and more than 900 other pieces of military hardware.

China’s Defense Ministry said the drills were meant to strengthen the two countries’ strategic military partnership and increase their ability to respond to threats and ensure stability in the region.

The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said China’s participation “speaks about the expansion of interaction of the two allies in all the spheres.”

Chinese forces have already joined their Russian counterparts in some military exercises.

Chinese warships have drilled with their Russian counterparts in the Pacific Ocean and the Baltic Sea. In summer 2018 Chinese warplanes were in Russia for International Army Games 2018, a multinational event.

August 2018, Chinese forces are taking part in Peace Mission 2018, an exercise organized by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional bloc led by Russia and China. (It’s the first exercise to include all eight SCO members.)

China’s Jian-10 fighter jet

But including China in the Vostok exercise hints at a significant geopolitical shift.

“China was seen as the potential threat or target in exercises like Vostok,” Alexander Gabuev, an expert on China at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told The New York Times.

“But it is now being invited to join as a friend and even a quasi-ally,” Gabuev added. “This is really unprecedented.”

The Soviet Union clashed with China along their shared border several times in the 1960s — once in a deadly Chinese raid on a Soviet border outpost that almost kicked off a full-scale war in early 1969.

The Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev normalized relations with China in 1989, and some 6 million Russians in Siberia now live alongside roughly 100 million Chinese in northern China, where trade relations have grown.

But eastern Russia’s vast expanse and sparse population make it a vulnerable area, and Russians there have expressed frustration with the growing Chinese presence and with concessions to Chinese commercial interests.

Amid heightened tensions with the West, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a concerted effort to build ties with China. Beijing, for its part, has also embraced Russia. Both have done so with an eye on the West.

United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Valdimir Putin.

The two have said they are building a “strategic partnership” and expressed shared opposition to what they describe as a “unipolar” world dominated by the US.

China’s defense minister, Gen. Wei Fenghe, went to Moscow early 2018 on his first trip abroad, saying the visit was meant to “let the Americans know about the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia.”

“I am visiting Russia as a new defense minister of China to show the world a high level of development of our bilateral relations and firm determination of our armed forces to strengthen strategic cooperation,” Wei said.

That rhetoric and statements about close ties don’t mean that Russia has dropped its guard, Gabuev said, noting that Chinese troops at Vostok-18 may be limited to training areas near the countries’ shared border with Mongolia, allowing Russian forces deployed elsewhere to carry out exercises designed with China in mind.

The Russian military “is not so naive that it is not preparing a contingency plan,” Gabuev told The Times.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

ProPublica senior reporter Sebastian Rotella, author of “Rip Crew,” lays out what popular TV shows and movies like “Narcos” and “Sicario” get right and wrong about Mexican drug cartels. Following is a transcript of the video.

Sebastian Rotella: I’m Sebastian Rotella. I’m the author of the novel Rip Crew and I’m a senior reporter at Propublica.


“Sicario” was a, was a good movie, and some of the things it portrayed were very accurate, for example that shootout at the border, if you remember in “Sicario” when they’re at the border crossing, stuck in traffic, that has happened, and something that I was very worried about when I was covering the border, because you know that is a sort of a prime vulnerability moment when you’re stuck in that traffic at the border.

There were other things in, for example, in “Sicario” that I thought pushed the envelope, the sort of gratuitous and casual torture taking place on US territory, that in my experience, you know, it happens very rarely, I’m really not aware of it. And that isn’t because there aren’t particularly Latin American law enforcement and intelligence and military units that work with the US that engage in that kind of activity, but it tends to happen precisely in those countries. You know, the idea that you would bring someone into the US to do that and expose yourself to all kinds of potential prosecution and scandal, that did not ring true, for example. So it really depends.

I think “Narcos” is quite well-researched. What happens is, and I’ve done this having written fiction, and having been involved in projects where you move this stuff to the big screen, things have to be simplified, they have to be made dramatic, they have, you lose nuance, and oftentimes, they’ll be things that happen in real life that I think would make for good, it would be good on, on a TV show or a movie, but they’re harder to portray because oftentimes they happen out of ineptitude.

Right, I mean the scary thing sometimes about this world is the combination of that, how lethal, but sometimes how inept or how unsophisticated some of these actors are, that factor that is hard to portray in the best series this question of ineptitude of the mix of sophistication and coincidence and sort of human flaws, I think when that is draw out in series, that is when they’re at their best, because I think that is very human and that is very real. There is still a sense of the drug lords in Mexico. You know people talk a lot about Chapo Guzman, who was just captured.

Chapo Guzman

The thing about Chapo Guzman is he was kind of the last of the drug lords of his style, and one of the reasons that Mexico was so violent, and the drug violence and drug corruption has gotten so bad is precisely because the generation of drug lords like Chapo Guzman has kind of died out, and the people who run most of the cartels now, the cartels are adamized and fragmented for one thing. And the other thing is what you have is a phenomenon, is as the drug lords like Chapo Guzman have faded out, the trigger men, the gun men, who pretty much resolve everything through violence have risen.

So it’s not to say that Chapo Guzman and the Arellano-Felix brothers whom I covered in Tijuana years ago and others, weren’t violent. They were bloodthirsty and sadistic, but they also had a sense of when to corrupt, rather than kill, when to do packs, when to, how to, how to, how to approach this as a, as a business, as a violent business, but a business, none the less. Whereas the drug cartels like the Zetas, and some of the remnants of other cartels that have risen, the Zetas were former commandos in Mexico actually military men who took over and created their own cartel. Pretty much they resolve everything through violence, so people think about a drug lord sort of sitting on a throne somewhere and running this vast empire and it’s much more a series of smaller, very anarchic, dangerous, chaotic empires, that are, you know, that have been splintered and fractured and that unfortunately has created more violence and not less.


This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch: Marines rain fire on ISIS in dazzling drone footage

“One of the coolest, most creative videos I’ve ever seen produced by a military journalist.”

That comment from a Vimeo user is a pretty spot-on assessment of Steel Rain — a brief but beautiful video of a Marine artillery unit mercilessly raining fire on ISIS in Syria.

In the spring of 2017, then-Sgt. Matthew Callahan deployed to an undisclosed location in Syria with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit to tell the story of artillery Marines deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The Marines conducted 24-hour all-weather fire support for the Syrian Democratic Forces as they fought the Battle of Raqqa.


drone footage captures U.S. artillery Marines conducting strikes against ISIS”

vimeo.com

After the SDF recaptured the city in the fall of 2017, Army Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell told Business Insider that US-led coalition forces were firing on ISIS in Raqqa “every minute of every hour” in order to keep pressure on the terrorist group, and the Marine fire supporting them was so intense that the barrels on two of the howitzers burned out.

Armed with a camera and drone, Callahan was there to capture all the steel-raining glory of the M777-A2 Howitzers and their crews. Now a civilian video producer for the Navy’s All Hands Magazine, Callahan was the first service member ever named Department of Defense’s military videographer of the year and military photographer of the year simultaneously.

In this roughly two-minute piece of cinematic wizardry, the award-winning filmmaker and photographer captures some of the sexiest footage you’ll ever see of the King of Battle raining righteous hellfire on America’s enemies. Watch Steel Rain above; then check out the four-minute extended cut that’s just as beautiful and more detailed here. You’ll be glad you did.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the most important rules for setting an ambush

If you’re looking to punch the enemy in the gut and demonstrate just how much better you are than them, an ambush is your tactic of choice. In fact, that punch-to-the-gut scenario can be more literal than figurative — if you have some solid intelligence on enemy patrol or supply routes and you want to strike fear in their hearts, surfacing from the shadows to deliver a swift punch from the hand of justice is a good way to do it.

But ambushes are also a delicate strategy. If you screw it up and expose your position before you’re ready, things can take a turn for the worst. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you out. These are some of the most important rules to follow when conducting an ambush — ones that will help you avoid becoming the ambushed.


It seems like the obvious choice, but it may not be the best one…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Will Lathrop)

Don’t initiate with an open-bolt weapon

This is mostly a rule for Marine Corps infantry, but the idea is that open-bolt weapons are more likely to jam and the last thing you want when initiating an ambush is for the enemy to suddenly hear the bolt clicking on a misfire. It’s better to leave the initiation to someone with a standard rifle, preferably someone who keeps their weapon clean, so you know the first thing the enemy hears is a gunshot.

Move silently and cautiously.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Justin Updegraff)

Maintain noise discipline

If the enemy hears you rustling in the bushes and you’re not a squirrel, you’re exposing yourself. An ambush is designed to allow you to capitalize on the element of surprise. You lose that when the enemy figures out where you’re hiding.

Keep quiet.

Seriously, don’t be that guy.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt Marco Mancha)

Have trigger discipline

Typically, your leader will determine who’s to shoot first (a designated Han Solo, if you will) and, if you aren’t that person, your finger better stay off the trigger until you hear that first shot go off. The gunshot is an implicit command for the rest of the unit to open fire and, once they hear that, it’s open season until your leader calls for a ceasefire.

Don’t be that guy.

Ask your subordinates questions to make sure they know.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl J. Gage Karwick)

Ensure everyone knows their role

Once you’re set into the ambush position, you have to remain silent until it’s time. So, if you’re the leader, make sure everyone knows what their role is and where they’re going to be firing. That way, when the shooting starts, you don’t have to call out many commands.

Make sure everyone knows what the plan is.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Have a solid egress plan

Ambushes have to be quick, which means you have to spring the trap and leave before anyone really knows what’s happened. You want to hit the enemy hard and fast enough to disorient them, but you want to get out of there before they can muster reinforcements. Otherwise, your short ambush just turned into a lengthy firefight that you’re likely under-equipped for.