Women & standards in special operations and special mission units - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

SOFREP recently published an exclusive piece covering the journey of the first female candidate set to graduate the Special Forces Qualification Course and earn her coveted green beret — an amazing achievement. Similarly, recent years have seen the services open their previously male-exclusive roles, including the opportunity to attend Ranger School and others, to women as well.

Women absolutely belong in Special Operations, and it would be narrow-minded to limit their opportunities to serve in special operations roles due to gender stereotypes: In SOF, this primarily refers to the different physical capacities between men and women, and the rigorous physical standards that must be met to serve in a special operations role.


It is the author’s opinion that there is a significant net benefit gained by reasonably adjusting female physical standards in a manner that accounts for the natural biological differences between men and women. What women physically lack in relative strength, vis à vis their male counterparts, they far compensate for in other unique qualities that SOF desperately requires.

For historical reference of the unique value proposition women offer, one only need to study the various exploits conducted by women such as Virginia Hall, a World War II-era Special Operations Executive (SOE) and Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operative, who conducted clandestine special operations for the Allies in Nazi-occupied France. Often disguised as a peasant woman, Ms. Hall skillfully employed her feminine prowess against the Nazis, resulting in unfettered freedom of movement throughout the French countryside.

Other special operations units have long relied on the value of women to conduct operations, noting that the coupling of male and female operatives during missions greatly reduced scrutiny from security services during the conduct of sensitive activities abroad.

SOF assessment and selection processes must evolve to reflect this. While traditional physical standards certainly have their place in special operations, the opportunity cost of not adjusting physical standards is too significant for the SOF community to bear. Does this mean standards are removed, curtailed, or made “easy?” Certainly not. It simply implies a measured and scientifically relevant culture shift that better enables women to succeed in special operations, beginning with physical standards.

It is important in this discussion to also frame the understanding of the largest limiting factor in SOF “production” — time. The oft-quoted SOF truths identify that SOF cannot be mass-produced and that humans are more important than hardware. The reason SOF cannot be mass-produced is due to the specific, rigorous, and just plainly lengthy screening and RAST (recruitment, assessment, selection, and training) processes required to produce a special operations professional.

That said, the notion of gender should have little to no discriminatory role in special operations manning. There simply is not the manpower to exclude a large population that offers unique value to special operations missions. Countless units experience significant manpower shortages and are being asked to “do more with less” because their RAST process cannot keep up with demand and attrition. This leads to burnout, which perpetuates the increased demands and greater stress on an already taxed force. This ultimately leads to greater attrition.

In the author’s experience, it took a grand total of about three years to transition from conventional operations to special operations, not counting the years of personal preparation beforehand. That process included an extensive remote screening; chain of command vetting and recommendations; an invitation to attend a lengthy assessment and selection course; an extensive security screening; completion of inter-service manning adjudication at the service component level; assignment to the unit; completion of an almost year-long training course; and additional follow-on qualification training to reach “fully mission capable” (aka mission-ready/deployable) status.

If that sounds like a lot, that is because it certainly was. And it is critical that women have equal opportunity to attempt such journeys alongside their male counterparts. The crossroads at which equal opportunity and SOF production meet are the reasonable adjustments of physical standards for women.

Much of traditional SOF processes focused on largely physical and mental capacities. Long rucks, hours wearing kit, and the ability to manipulate one’s body over, through, and around tricky terrain were paramount. The Army appears to have a penchant for long, solo rucks through tough terrain; the Air Force limits your ability to breathe through liberal use of “water confidence training” (aka supervised drowning); and the Marines like to ingest large quantities of drawing implements (particularly crayons).

Joking aside, however, it is the author’s opinion that these physical standards do not need to be exactly the same for men and women. Indeed, while recognizing the intrinsic differences between men and women, standards should rather reflect the reasonable demands of the special operations role future SOF professionals are expected to fill. Furthermore, a greater emphasis on personality traits and attributes is required. We are reminded of the wisdom, “the final weapon is the brain, all else is supplemental.”

As was recently identified (comically so) in the differences between Rangers and Green Berets, there are different folks needed for different strokes in special operations. If there ever was a “traditional” GWOT-era SOF image, it would probably include a tattoo-sleeved, Taliban-style beard-wearing Freedom Fighter wearing Oakleys, early-gen multi-cams, and riding a horse. Yet, that image is outdated and demonstrates but a snapshot in time. The error we now risk making is to project this archetype onto current and future conflicts.

The GWOT, while still ongoing in the form of counter-VEO missions across the globe, must also make room for Great Power competition. In this space, SOF are not calling for fire against insurgent positions in the mountains of Afghanistan. Rather, they are conducting sensitive, “low-visibility” operations across multiple domains and in low-intensity conflict regions that manifest themselves through multiple mechanisms of state power projection.

What does this mean?

Operating environments are evolving, and SOF must evolve along with these changes. This should include the evolution of certain norms and standards of what traditionally comprises a SOF professional. The target dictates the weapon, and the weapon dictates the tactics. Start with your desired end state and work from there.

In the realm of Great Power competition, it is less critical that an individual can carry a 65-pound rucksack through the West Virginia mountains at night using a map and compass: Rather, it is more critical that they be able to rapidly process vast quantities of complex datasets while performing real-time analysis of the ground truth before them.

Do those traditional methods have their place? Most certainly. The author would not significantly change them given the value of such experience. But do those methods need to be reasonably adjusted in order to increase opportunities for women to fill SOF positions and thereby add unique value to the SOF enterprise? Yes: We cannot afford inaction.

Thanks for listening.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

After 2.5 year pause, carrier-launched Navy fighters go ‘kinetic’ on ISIS

For the first time in two and a half years, US Navy carrier-launched warplanes conducted an airstrike against ISIS.

On Wednesday, Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fighters belonging to Carrier Air Wing 17 launched from the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf and conducted “kinetic” operations in support of the international coalition to defeat ISIS, Operation Inherent Resolve.


“Daesh operatives will continue to try and take advantage of safe havens; but there is no safe place for terrorists to hide,” US Army Col. Wayne Marotto, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, wrote in a Thursday tweet, referring to ISIS by the pejorative Arabic nickname, “Daesh.”

Twitter

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The Iraqi military reportedly requested the US airstrike, which targeted ISIS “bed down” sites near the northern Iraqi city of Baiji, Iraqi officials said. According to Marotto, the US airstrike destroyed a cave and three shelters used by ISIS near Wadi al-Shai in Kirkuk Province. Operation Inherent Resolve officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding ISIS casualties due to Wednesday’s airstrike.

The presence of a US aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf significantly ramps up the airpower potential of US military forces continuing to support the counterterrorism campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. And Wednesday’s airstrike underscores that ISIS remains an undefeated threat — despite US plans to draw down forces in Iraq.

In a speech in Iraq on Sept. 9, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, announced the US would reduce its troop presence in Iraq from about 5,200 to 3,000 troops during the month of September.

“This reduced footprint allows us to continue advising and assisting our Iraqi partners in rooting out the final remnants of ISIS in Iraq and ensuring its enduring defeat,” McKenzie said. “This decision is due to our confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces’ increased ability to operate independently.”

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

An F/A-18F Super Hornet, from the “Fighting Redcocks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22, prepares for launch aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Arabian Sea, Sept. 3, 2020. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cheyenne Geletka, courtesy of DVIDS.

Weeks earlier, while speaking online to a United States Institute of Peace forum from his office in Tampa, McKenzie warned that the conditions were ripe for the resurgence of ISIS forces in pockets of Syrian territory controlled by the regime of Bashar Assad.

“The underlying conditions that allowed for the rise of ISIS remain,” McKenzie, who is the top US commander for the Middle East, said during the Aug. 12 virtual event. “They continue to aspire to regain control of physical terrain.”

While ISIS has lost its territorial caliphate, which once stretched across northern Iraq and Syria, the terrorist army still operates from the shadows in urban areas and mountain redoubts and maintains a steady flow of income through illicit enterprises.

ISIS still counts some 10,000 militants within its ranks, according to a recent United Nations report. The US Treasury Department estimates that ISIS possesses monetary reserves of some 0 million, while the UN estimates that number is about 0 million.

“There’s going to be a requirement for us, us and our NATO and our coalition partners, to have a long-term presence in Iraq,” McKenzie said Aug. 12.

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

A sailor cleans the cockpit of an F/A-18F Super Hornet, from the “Fighting Redcocks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22, on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Arabian Sea, Aug. 27, 2020. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dalton Reidhead, courtesy of DVIDS.

American military personnel remain on the ground in both Iraq and Syria to assist local partners in combating ISIS. Earlier this month, the US announced it was sending M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles to northeast Syria to support American and partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS.

“The mechanized infantry assets will help ensure the force protection of coalition forces in an increasingly complex operating environment in northeast Syria,” Marotto said in a Sept. 18 press release regarding the Bradley deployment.

Russia has deployed its military in Syria to bolster the regime of embattled dictator Bashar Assad, who has presided over a deadly civil war since 2011.

On Sept. 15, US Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller announced the US would provide 0 million in military aid to Kurdish peshmerga forces in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region.

“As we saw at the height of the campaign against ISIS, you brave Peshmerga fighters are indispensable to Iraq’s security,” Tueller said during a Sept. 15 event in the Kurdistan Regional Government’s capital city of Erbil. “We are all grateful for the sacrifices you have made, and the region as a whole is more secure because of your courage and commitment.”

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


Articles

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

Memorial Day is a time to remember the lives lost to preserve American freedom. It’s a solemn holiday most often spent by sharing a day off with loved ones, usually around a grill with a cold one in your hand. But as you enjoy a burger and a beer and share laughs with friends and family, take a minute to remember everyone who can’t be with their loved ones.


It’s really astonishing just how many people celebrate Memorial Day in America by having a cookout, watching a parade, and enjoying a frosty beverage. In fact, a staggering sixty percent of American households will spend one day during the Memorial-Day weekend at a barbecue — second only to Independence Day. Memorial Day is the second biggest period for beer sales in America and $1.5 billion will be spent on meat and seafood.

Even more astonishing is the number of volunteers that go out to cemeteries to plant the Stars and Stripes on the graves of fallen troops and veterans. While 1.5 million people watch more than a thousand active duty service members in the National Memorial Day Parade and 900,000 people gather for the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day motorcycle rally in our nation’s capital, over 260,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery will be adorned with flags by volunteers.

More than 45 million men and women have served the United States in a time of war (you know, doing that thing we all got our National Defense Service Medal for) and more than 1.35 million American men and women have died fighting in armed conflicts around the globe. So, with all these numbers in your head, remember that the most important of all is “three.” At 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day, Americans everywhere will put down the burger, turn off the TV, and take a moment in silence.

The National Moment of Remembrance is where we forget our personal and political differences for and come together as a nation to remember those who lost their lives fighting for our rights, freedoms, and privileges as Americans — so we can enjoy that burger, watch that TV, and ride our motorcycles.

So, take a moment. 3pm, Memorial Day. Be there.

Here are a few more interesting numbers surrounding Memorial Day.

Articles

The RAF’s ‘Mach Loop’ turns intense fighter training into a spectator sport

If you’ve ever wanted to get an up close and personal view of fighter planes in training, but just never had the math scores to get into the cockpit, don’t lose hope. There is a magical place in Wales where the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots conduct low-level flight training – and you can grab your camera and watch them fly on by.


Women & standards in special operations and special mission units
A C-130 in the Mach Loop (photo by Peng Chen)

The Machynlleth Loop, more popularly known as the Mach Loop, is a series of valleys in Wales between the towns of Dolgellau to the north and Machynlleth to the south. The area is well known among plane spotters and aviation enthusiasts as the place to so closely watch the RAF and its allies conduct maneuvers.

The Mach Loop is part of the British Ministry of Defence’s Tactical Training Low Flying Area and the pilots know there are troves of photographers watching the loop at all hours of the day… and they know exactly what the cameras want to see.

The RAF will fly Panavia Tornado fighters, as well as Eurofighter Typhoons and BAE’s Hawk Trainers through the Mach Loop, while the U.S. Air Force will fly F-15E Strike Eagles, F-22 Raptors, and even C-130J Super Hercules turboprop cargo planes.

The HD video shot from inside the cockpit of a Typhoon is also an incredible sight, especially for those of us who may never get to ride in a fighter, especially during a low-level flight exercise.
The ability to fly so close to the ground is an asset to a pilot’s skill set for many reasons. Non-stealth aircraft can fly low to the ground to penetrate enemy airspace, hit a target, and return to base. Flying so close to ground level can also allow pilots to escape from dangerous situations and surprise enemy aircraft. This is especially important, given how fighters perform against helicopters in combat.

Related: Air Force fighters got wasted by Army attack helos in this combat experiment

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units
An F-15 Strike Eagle in the Mach Loop in Wales (photo by Peng Chen)

Smaller fighters can fly as low as 100 feet off the ground, while larger planes, like cargo aircraft, can bottom out at 150 feet. If there’s an aspiring photographer out there who wants to fill their portfolio with amazing military aviation photos, it’s time to hop a plane to Wales.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

Although its opening has been delayed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the National Museum of the United States Army in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, houses historic Army artifacts like an M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle from the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, General Grant’s Forage Cap from the Civil War and an M4 Sherman tank from WWII. However, this Sherman is a rather special one. Its name is Cobra King and it holds the distinct honor of being the first tank to break through to the beleaguered 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

Cobra King served with the 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division during WWII and fought through France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, and into Czechoslovakia. Unlike regular Sherman tanks, Cobra King is an M4A3E2 “Jumbo” experimental variant. Classified as Assault Tanks, Jumbos were equipped with thicker armor than standard Shermans and were often re-armed with high-velocity 76mm M1 main guns (although Cobra King retained its factory short-barrel 75mm M3 gun during the Battle of the Bulge). The extra armor slowed the tanks down by 3-4 mph. Jumbos also featured duckbill-style extended end connectors fitted to the outside edges of their tracks for added weight-bearing and stability.


Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

An M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo on display in Belgium bearing 37th Tank Battalion markings (Photo Credit: Public Domain)

Cobra King’s name follows the tank corps tradition of naming vehicles by the company’s designation; Cobra King belonged to the 37th Tank Battalion’s C Company. According to Army historian Patrick Jennings, Cobra King had been knocked out of action in France in November 1944. The tank was repaired and returned to action in Luxembourg. There, tank commander Charles Trover was killed by a sniper on December 23 as he stood in Cobra King’s turret. Trover was replaced by Lt. Charles Boggess who commanded Cobra King during the Battle of the Bulge.

Along with Boggess, Cobra King was crewed by driver Pvt. Hubert Smith, assistant driver/bow gunner Pvt. Harold Hafner, loader Pvt. James Murphy and gunner Cpl. Milton Dickerman. The five men led General Patton’s 3rd Army’s relief of Bastogne on December 26. Driving at full speed and sweeping the road ahead with gunfire, Cobra King made a 5-mile push through intense German resistance toward Bastogne. “I used the 75 like it was a machine gun,” Dickerman recalled. “Murphy was plenty busy throwing in shells. We shot 21 rounds in a few minutes and I don’t know how much machine gun stuff.”

Cobra King came across a team of U.S. combat engineers assaulting a pillbox. The tankers were wary of the engineers since German troops had been infiltrating U.S. lines dressed in American uniforms. Finally, one of the engineers approached Cobra King, stuck his hand out to Boggess and said, “Glad to see you.” The engineers were Americans and part of Able Company, 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. Together, Cobra King and the engineers destroyed the pillbox. The link-up marked the end of the German siege of Bastogne. For its relief of the city and the 101st, the 37th Tank Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

After six weeks in Bastogne waiting for a German counterattack, Cobra King and the 4th Armored Division rejoined the push into Germany. During this time, Cobra King became just another Sherman in the column of armor. Through February and March, the division broke through the Siegfried Line to the Kyll River and battled its way to the Rhine. On April 1, they crossed the Werra River and then crossed the Saale River 11 days later. The division continued to chase the Germans east and crossed into Pisek, Czechoslovakia in early May. After V-E Day on May 7, the division assumed occupation duties in Landshut, Germany until its inactivation the next year.

Cobra King remained in Germany while the 37th Tank Battalion was reactivated in 1951 and re-assigned to the 4th Armored Division in 1953 at Fort Hood, Texas. The 37th would later return to Europe; the division’s 1958 yearbook featured a picture of Cobra King (yet unidentified) on display at McKee Barracks in Crailsheim, Germany. In 1971, the 4th was inactivated and redesignated the 1st Armored Division. In 1994, Crailsheim was closed and all the units posted there, along with Cobra King, were relocated to Vilseck. The 1st was later relocated to Bad Kreuznach, but Cobra King stayed behind.

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

Cobra King had to be refitted with a 75mm gun during its restoration (Photo by Don Moriarty)

Cobra King stood in silent vigil at Vilseck as an anonymous display tank. Jennings credits Cobra King’s discovery to Army Chaplain Keith Goode, who suspected that the display tank might be the famous Cobra King. Army historians in Germany and the U.S. confirmed his suspicion after extensive research and the tank was shipped back to the states in 2009. Though the interior was damaged beyond repair by years of weather exposure, the exterior was given a full restoration at Fort Knox, Kentucky before Cobra King was put into storage at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 2017, the tank was trucked up to Fort Belvoir amidst the construction of the Army Museum. When the museum does open, Cobra King will proudly stand on display as “FIRST IN BASTOGNE”.

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

Cobra King is emplaced on its foundation (Credit National Museum of the U.S. Army)


Articles

This Marine received the Medal of Honor for his skills with a flamethrower

Born out of World War I, the flamethrower could only shoot flames for a matter of seconds, but it was essential for rooting out the enemy from entrenched positions. The flamethrower was a simple innovation – one canister for fuel, one for propellant. Launch fire. Charlie Mike.


The video below outlines exactly how the weapon worked and why it became a fundamental weapon for a World War II unit to have in the arsenal.

This video also introduces Hershel “Woody” Williams, a WWII-era Marine and flamethrower operator who fought on Iwo Jima. (He’s shown wearing the Medal of Honor he received for his actions there.)

What the video doesn’t tell you is that Williams is the last living Medal of Honor recipient from Iwo Jima. He singlehandedly took out seven Japanese pillboxes with his flamethrower that day.

“I remember crawling on my belly,” Williams told Weaponology. “I remember ’em coming, charging around that pillbox toward me. There were five or six of them. And I just opened up the flame and caught them. It was like they went from real fast running to real slow motion. But by cutting out those seven pillboxes, it opened up a hole and we got through.”

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

The humble Marine forgot to mention the seven fortifications he took out were part of a network of hardened, entrenched positions, minefields, and volcanic rock protected by withering machine gun crossfire that held the entire American invasion back.

For four hours, Woody Williams singlehandedly crawled to the pillboxes with only four Marine riflemen for cover. Since his flamethrower only fired for a matter of seconds, he had to repeatedly return to his lines for a new tank of fuel.

“The Japanese were really scared to death of flamethrowers,” Williams recalled.

With good reason.

Articles

9 military ‘ghost bases’ you’ve probably never heard of

During the Wild West, many towns popped up along the trail and eventually went on to become ghost towns. Military bases, though, have sometimes become “ghost bases” – abandoned and left to rot.


Some of these ghost bases are near cities like the Big Apple. Others, like Johnston Atoll, are pretty far off – a nice getaway spot, if not for the history of being used as a storage center for Agent Orange and other interesting stuff.

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units
Barrels of Agent Orange being stored at Johnston Atoll. (U.S. government photo)

The climates can be very different – from the burning sands of Johnston Atoll to the frozen flatlands of North Dakota, where America briefly operated a ballistic-missile defense system known as SAFEGUARD.

One base in Croatia that once was home for almost 50 fighter jets was abandoned during the Yugoslav civil war of 1991 – and the wrecks are mostly used by folks seeking some adventure. That base still gets “official” use for law enforcement training.

A damaged runway at the Zeljava Air Base in Croatia. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

You can even check out one abandoned facility that will soon fall into the Pacific. No, not Johnston Atoll (it was a re-claimed coral atoll built over the years long before China did the same thing in the South China Sea), but instead the Devil’s Slide bunker on the California coast. A lack of maintenance and the natural process of erosion will eventually send this coastal-defense bunker tumbling from commanding heights and into the Pacific.

But if you want one “ghost base” that has captured imaginations worldwide, you can go to either the Ukraine or Siberia to see the Duga Radar Array – an early-warning system meant to detect American missiles. Or just pick up the video games “Call of Duty: Black Ops” and “Stalker” to see representations of the array used.

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units
The Duga Radar Array near Chernobyl. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

So, take a peek at this video that tells more about these and some other “ghost bases” – and tell us which “ghost base” you would like to know more about.

MIGHTY CULTURE

MightyScopes for the week of February 27th

Hey Noadamus, how did you get so wise? Were you always so enlightened? If I study at the feet of the master, can I hope to become as wise as you one day? Should I take up a musical instrument? What sort of stocks should I day trade in?

You ask a lot of damn questions. What are you, Congress?


Enough of that noise; let’s jump into what’s important here: your future.

Pisces

Life is even better than you can imagine and the best part is that it’s only getting better. But alas, nothing is simply all good or all bad, and this time of growth and prosperity will wane. Don’t waste it, because what goes up must also come down. Even though you might have some struggles today, they are minor and tomorrow looks better and brighter.

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

Maybe do this privately. In front of your mirror. Not on the corner at rush hour.

Aries

It is rather difficult to picture how things could get better than they are right now, and if that is your viewpoint then it will be true, but if you can open your mind to the possibility of even greater improvement, you will experience it. Just try not to rub your perfect life in everyone’s face — that’s just rude.

Taurus

You should practice finding peace in chaos because you are about to experience a sh*tload of it. I mean, so much effin’ chaos and discord that it will challenge your deepest well of calm. Best course of action? Remember there are things outside of your control and let them go. The only thing you can control are your choices.

So, you can choose to develop an even deeper well of calm or choose to erupt when angered or annoyed by the almost-unlimited stressors in your life. This week, regardless of what you choose, you will be incredibly successful either way. So, choose wisely.

Gemini

You know what I like about you? When you have something to say, you always say it. Hell, even when you don’t have something to say, you say that, too. You should really try not saying something, and instead, try listening. In fact, you should try to speak less overall this week, you may find yourself revealing things which are completely inappropriate. This is not just a possible embarrassment, but an incredibly damaging event which could ruin your career. If you wouldn’t say it in front of your grandmother or the chaplain, don’t say it at all this week.

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

We get it. You’re sad. Move on.

Cancer

You may find yourself filled with nostalgia for a person or situation from your past. You may even fool yourself into believing that you want this person or situation back in your life, but you need ask yourself this very important question: Do you truly want this back in your life because you miss it from your life or is your current situation not going the way you hoped and are wishing for better times gone by? You may find yourself rethinking the wisdom of returning to someone or something which you have already let go.

Leo

What is a captain without the crew? A star without fans? If the captain neglects the crew, he or she may find himself walking the plank. And a star without fans is a star no more. While you may believe yourself completely independent of others, this is a falsehood to the extreme. Don’t forget about the little people, you depend on them far more than they depend on you. Be extra kind to folks this week, you’ll thank me for it later.

Virgo

My Virgo brothers and sisters, just because you are stressed doesn’t mean you should tear yourself apart for every tiny little flaw. You’re only human. Allow yourself some grace and try talking nicely to yourself once in a while. Financial problems at home cause conflicts with your career. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want the unit EO rep to overhear because this week, everyone will be repeating any dirt you speak aloud.

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

We’re all just as sick of your indecision as you are.

Libra

OMG. It’s hard to be so tall, and attractive, and successful, and, on top of that, you have two incredible opportunities to select from and you can’t decide. You know if you pick one the other option is not possible. Please stop trying to make everyone feel sorry for your dilemma. It’s beneath you. Just shut the F up and make a decision already.

Scorpio

I’m not one to judge people for their deviant behavior, but recently you have been a tad bit out of control. Instead of snowballing, this current pattern of behavior into something worse, you can pull the breaks and save yourself from doing something that will leave a serious lasting mark. Have you ever seen that movie where that dude doesn’t touch himself or anyone else below the belt for 40 days? Try it, but let’s start small and aim for a week. You can do it, I believe in you.

Sagittarius

Seriously, do your effin’ laundry, Private. Just because you fall in a pile of sh*t and think you smell like roses, doesn’t mean you really do. In fact, it means you’re covered in crap. So this week, clean yourself up, hit the laundromat, and try drinking something other than booze. Like, I don’t know, water maybe? Just a thought.

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

Yeah, we see you on your way to ruin everyone else’s lives.

Capricorn

It’s hard to be you, seeing how things should be done and wondering why you have yet to be promoted to Sergeant Major of the Universe so you could implement your plans, but such is life here on earth. Your genius will continue to be unrecognized this week, but you will probably continue to be a terrible human to everyone you meet as the chaos of life overwhelms you. So take a deep breath and try not to such a prick; things will improve, at some point. Okay, that last part about things improving is a lie, but… I got nothing, good luck with that.

Aquarius

Wow, I want to lie say I’m not impressed, but the bylaws of the intrawebs and my contract with the big guy forbids it. So, good job skating through the nonsense of your life relativity unscathed. It is impressive, inspiring even. However, just because your lack of planning and your tendency to wing it has been successful in the recent past, this doesn’t mean that method will hold up this week. Even your luck has limits – don’t test ’em, not this week, at least.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines want anti-tank LAVs fully capable by 2019

Editor’s Note: The original article appeared on Marine Corps Systems Command’s website Nov. 16, 2017. The following article provides an update to reflect the current status of the program.

The Marine Corps continues to upgrade the turret system for one of its longest-serving fighting vehicles — the Light Armored Vehicle-Anti-Tank.

In September 2017, Marine Corps Systems Command’s LAV-AT Modernization Program Team achieved initial operational capability by completing the fielding of its first four Anti-Tank Light Armored Vehicles with the upgraded Anti-Tank Weapon Systems to Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Marines.


The ATWS fires the tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided — or TOW — missiles. It provides long-range stand-off anti-armor fire support to maneuvering Light Armored Reconnaissance companies and platoons. The ATWS also provides an observational capability in all climates, as well as other environments of limited visibility, thanks to an improved thermal sight system that is similar to the Light Armored Vehicle 25mm variant fielded in 2007.

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

The Marine Corps continues to upgrade the turret system for the Light Armored Vehicle-Anti-Tank.

(US Marine Corps photo)

“Marines using the new ATWS are immediately noticing the changes, including a new far target location capability, a commander/gunner video sight display, a relocated gunner’s station, and an electric elevation and azimuth drive system, which replaced the previous noisy hydraulic system,” said Steve Myers, LAV program manager.

The ATWS also possesses a built-in test capability, allowing the operators and maintainers to conduct an automated basic systems check of the ATWS, he said.

The LAV-ATM Team continues to provide new equipment training to units receiving the ATWS upgrade, with the final two training evolutions scheduled for early 2019. Training consists of a 10-day evolution with three days devoted to the operator and seven days devoted to maintaining the weapon system. Follow-on training can be conducted by the unit using the embedded training mode within the ATWS.

“This vehicle equips anti-tank gunner Marines with a modern capability that helps them maintain readiness and lethality to complete their mission,” said Maj. Christopher Dell, LAV Operations officer.

Full operational capability for the ATWS is expected at the end of fiscal year 2019.

“Currently, there are 58 in service within the active fleet,” said Myers. “The original equipment manufacturer delivered 91 of the 106 contracted kits and is ahead of schedule. Now MCSC’s focus is directed at the Marine Corps Forces Reserve, ensuring they receive the same quality NET and support as their active counterparts.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

Ukraine says one of its soldiers has been killed and three wounded as a result of clashes with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Defense Ministry said on Oct. 16, 2018, that separatist fighters violated a cease-fire 37 times during the previous 24 hours by firing machine guns, grenade launchers, and mortars.

It said Ukrainian government forces killed two separatists and wounded six.


MIGHTY HISTORY

How this World War I soldier earned the Medal of Honor in a mustard gas attack

There are few higher compliments for a soldier than when the General of the Armies calls him the most outstanding soldier who fought in an entire war – and the war to end all wars, no less. But Samuel Woodfill wasn’t just a veteran of World War I, he was also in the Philippines and on the Mexican border. He was even around to train U.S. troops to fight in World War II.

But to earn his status as America’s one-man Army, he had to go through hell.


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Mustard gas is not a weapon anyone would want to fight in.

Woodfill was a career military man, spending time fighting Filipino warriors and then guarding Alaska and the Mexican border areas before shipping out to fight in World War I. Though enlisting as a private, Woodfill’s skill and experience earned him a commission before he shipped out to the Great War. The American Expeditionary force needed good officers to fill its ranks as they settled into a defensive position between the Meuse and the Argonne areas of France.

In September 1918, just one month after arriving in France, their defensive position became an offensive move toward the German lines. Woodfill and his company were near the town of Cunel, advancing on the Germans through a thick fog as carefully as possible, when the telltale crackle of machine-gun fire ripped through the fog toward Woodfill and his men.

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Woodfill with President Calvin Coolidge after the war.

Woodfill’s men threw themselves away from the fire to take cover, but Woodfill himself rushed toward the machine gun. He jumped in the trench and took down three German soldiers manning the gun. That’s when their officer starting lunging toward him. He made short work of their officer just as another machine gun opened up on him. He ordered his men to come out of hiding and attack the latest machine gun, which they did, making short work of it just in time for a third gun to open up on the Americans.

Woodfill joined his men in a charge on the third gun position. He was the first to get to the machine-gun nest and, having fired all the shots in his pistol, was forced to fight both Germans at the gun at the same time. In the middle of the fighting, he searched desperately for any kind of equalizer – which he found in the form of a pickax. Meanwhile, the fog that had been growing thicker and thicker turned out to be growing thick with Mustard Gas. The Americans hightailed it out of the gas area.

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You would too.

The American company was knocked out of the war by the effects of the Mustard Gas and Woodfill would deal with its effects for the rest of his life. But his heroics and daring in the Meuse-Argonne earned him the Medal of Honor, which was presented to him in France by Gen. John J. Pershing himself. Later, Woodfill would have the honor of carrying the body of the Unknown Soldier to its final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery, alongside fellow Army legends and Medal of Honor recipients Charles Whittlesey and Alvin York.

Woodfill would stay in the Army until 1943, having stayed on long enough to train recruits to fight the Nazis in World War II.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat Flip-Flops’ latest is a beautiful, uniquely Afghan gift

There is no gift more uniquely Afghan than something made of the mineral lapis lazuli. Since the dawn of human civilization, nowhere was the powerful blue rock more plentiful than in this now-war-torn country. The history of using this stone in jewelry dates back to the days of the Pharaohs of the Nile River Valley, but its time as a mineral dates back much further, to the Archean Eon — before life on Earth.

Now, you can wear a small piece of it while helping the women of Afghanistan put their lives back together. Combat Flip-Flops, the clothing company founded by two Army Rangers with a mission of using business entrepreneurship and women’s education to end the cycle of conflict in the Afghanistan, has a new product: a bracelet made from lapis lazuli. Each is handmade in Afghanistan using stones from the Sar-i Sang Mines — the same mine whose ores have decorated ancient kings and queens across the known world.

Lapis lazuli has a rich history and you can own a piece of it. We’re working with Combat Flip-Flops to give our readers 20-percent off their purchase when using the coupon code at the end of this article.


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(Combat Flip-Flops)

Lapis lazuli dates back some 2.7 billion years — that’s more than half of the Earth’s total age. It wasn’t until well after its formation that the first stirrings of single-celled organisms began to appear on Earth. Humans didn’t appear as we know them until five to seven million years ago.

This stone is, truly, timeless.

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The raw lapis lazuli gives the mask its deep blues.

(Egyptian Musum in Cairo)

Humans in what we today call Afghanistan first began mining and using lapis lazuli around the 7th millennium BC, the same time agriculture began to spring from Mesopotamia. The beauty of the deep blue stones has been found at numerous ancient sites, from the Indus Valley in modern-day India to the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, Georgia, and Armenia. Afghan lapis lazuli was even found on the West Coast of Africa. Queen Cleopatra is said to have used it as eyeshadow and the mineral adorns King Tutankhamun’s burial mask.

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In the middle ages, lapis lazuli was imported through the Silk Road, crushed, and turned into the deepest blue hues of paint available anywhere on earth: the ultra-expensive, ultramarine color. Artists like Michelangelo, Titian, and Vermeer all used the color in their most famous works.

The skies depicted on the Sistine Chapel are all painted with ultramarine, from lapis lazuli of Afghanistan.

For 6,000 years Afghans have mined the Sar-i Sang for lapis lazuli. The deeply blue-hued mineral can be found on everything from Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring, to Fabergé Eggs on display in St. Petersburg.

Now, it can adorn your wrist or the wrist of someone you love. Besides having a rich history laced with historical beauty, purchasing one of the lapis lazuri bracelets from Combat Flip-Flops will fund one day of school for a young Afghan girl, employ an Afghan war widow, and support the relatives of fallen American troops..

Sold in conjunction with TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, America’s premiere nonprofit dedicated to the families of America’s fallen fighting men and women), this lapis lazuli bracelet is made in Afghanistan, shipped to the U.S., and prepared for you by members of a Gold Star Family.

If you’ve never heard of Combat Flip-Flops before now, check out this vet-owned business. They’re doing some amazing things at home and abroad.

Buy your “Perfect Circle” lapis lazuli bead bracelet at Combat Flip-Flops and get 20 percent off with the coupon code: PERFECTWATM

MIGHTY HISTORY

Intense photos show the largest naval battle of all-time

The World War II Battle of Leyte Gulf, a decisive Allied victory that decimated the Japanese Navy, began on Oct. 23, 1944, 74 years ago.

And it’s considered to be the largest naval battle of all-time.

A few days before the battle began, the Allies (and even General Douglas MacArthur himself) had landed on Leyte island to begin liberating the Phillippines, which the Japanese were intent on stopping.

The result was a horrific three-day battle (which was actually several smaller battles, namely the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle off Samar, and the Battle of Cape Engaño) that involved several hundred ships.

In the end, the US had lost three aircraft carriers, two destroyers, several hundred aircraft, took about 3,000 casualties. But the Japanese Navy had lost four carriers, three battleships, six heavy cruisers, nine destroyers, took about 10,000-12,000 casualties, among other losses.

Check out some of the intense photos from the battle.


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The Princeton’s flight deck after getting struck during the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea on Oct. 24, 1944.

(US Navy photo)

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USS Gambier Bay (CVE 73) and another escort carrier, and two destroyer escorts smoke from battle damage during the Battle off Samar on Oct. 25, 1944.

The USS Gambier Bay billowing smoke after likely getting struck by Japanese cruisers, which are credited with sinking the US escort carrier.

Read more about escort carriers here.

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The USS St. Lo (CV 63) burning during the Battle off Samar on Oct. 25, 1944.

(US Navy photo)

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The US escort carrier USS Kitkun Bay prepares to launch Grumman FM-2 Wildcat fighters during the Battle of Samar on 25 October 1944. In the distance, Japanese shells are splashing near the USS White Plains.

(US Navy photo)

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The Zuikaku under attack during the Battle of Cape Engaño on Oct. 25th, 1944.

(US Navy photo)

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

The Zuikaku under attack during the Battle of Cape Engaño on Oct. 25th, 1944.

(US Navy photo)

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

US cruisers fire salvoes on Japanese ships during the Battle of Surigao Strait on Oct. 25, 1944.

(US Navy photo)

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The Fusō under air attack just hours before the Battle of Surigao Strait on Oct. 25, 1944.

(US Navy photo)

Women & standards in special operations and special mission units

The Yamashiro or Fusō under air attack by US aircraft hours before the Battle of Surigao Strait on Oct. 25, 1944.

(US Navy photo)

And here’s a view directly on top of either the Fusō or Yamashiro as it’s bombed by US aircraft from above, some of which were launched by the famed aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.

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

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