Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY GAMING

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

Despite the fan base not being filled to the brim with lovers of the game, Halo: Reach remains in the hearts of many of us gamers who dumped a considerable amount of time into the game itself. One thing that might stand out, especially for those of us in the veteran community, is how the game itself depicts war.

Halo: Reach was released nearly a decade this upcoming September, and this campaign still gets a lot of us excited. It had some good characters, each with unique qualities, and the story was amazing. The gameplay is another story, but what we’re focusing on here is the biggest thing that stood out: this game is about war.

Here’s why Halo: Reach was one of the best:


Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

You were also, for the first time, surrounded by other Spartans.

(Bungie)

Nerfed Spartan strength

Throughout the original Halo trilogy, you fight as Master Chief, the only Spartan in sight, which makes you an absolute force of nature on the battlefield. You’re essentially unstoppable, with your only purpose being to bring judgment down upon the Covenant that stands before you.

Reach took that and essentially made you just slightly weaker, but it was noticeable. Stronger than the average UNSC Marine but just on the same level as the best the Covenant has to offer. This made you feel more like you couldn’t just steamroll into battles, bringing death on a silver platter to the Covenant.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

There are plenty of shots in the game that show the planet’s destruction.

(Bungie)

Depicted a losing fight

Most of us who knew the lore of Reach before the game’s release knew it was a doomed mission. You were fighting a losing battle because the Covenant hits the planet’s under-manned military defenses with an all-out attack force with the intent to reap every last soul upon its surface. That didn’t stop you, though.

It really showed the tenacity that troops bring to the battlefield. Knowing you could lose doesn’t matter, you’ll fight to the death anyway and make the enemy work for every life they have to take – and suffer the consequences of taking it to begin with.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

Prime example: Jorge.

(Bungie)

Showed the tremendous sacrifices that were made

One thing that the original trilogy doesn’t take much time to do is to show the sacrifices of individual soldiers. Reach absolutely does that. With Noble Team, you see each of the team members die in some way or another, a couple of them choosing to die so that others may live.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

Seeing mega cities like this getting torn apart was devastating.

(Bungie)

The devastation

Reach takes a lot of time to show us how destructive the Covenant is and the devastation of that destruction in context with what they do to the planet. Most of the other games you don’t get that sense, with Halo 3 being the obvious exception since part of it takes place on Earth.

But what we got in Reach was an entire game of trying to save a planet only to fail.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Where the middle finger got its meaning & a great POW use of it

Jeremy A. asks: How did flipping the bird come to mean fu?

While some common gestures, such as the high five, have pretty well known and surprisingly modern origins, it turns out one of the most popular of all has been around for well over two thousand years, including having various similar connotations as it has today.

Unsurprisingly once you stop and think about versions of the expression’s meaning, extending the middle finger simply represents the phallus, with it perhaps natural enough that our forebears chose their longest finger to symbolically represent man’s favorite digit. (Although, there are some cultures that instead chose the thumb, seemingly preferring to have their girth, rather than length, represented here…) It’s also been speculated that perhaps people noticed that the curled fingers (or balled fist in the case of the thumb) made for a good representation of the testicles.


Either way, given the symbolism here, it’s no surprise that the expression has more or less always seemed to have meant something akin to “F*k You” in some form or other, sometimes literally.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

(Photo by Natã Figueiredo)

For example, in Ancient Greece, beyond being a general insult, in some cases there seems to be a specific implication from the insult that the person the gesture was directed at liked to take it up the bum. In the case of men, despite male on male lovin’ being widely accepted in the culture at the time, there were still potentially negative connotations with regards to one’s manliness when functioning as the bottom in such a rendezvous, particularly the bottom for someone with lower social standing.

Moving on to an early specific example we have Aristphanes’ 423 BC The Clouds. In it, a character known as Strepsiades, tired of Socrates’ pontificating, decides to flip off the famed philosopher.

Socrates: Well, to begin with,
they’ll make you elegant in company—
and you’ll recognize the different rhythms,
the enoplian and the dactylic,
which is like a digit.
Strepsiades: Like a digit!
By god, that’s something I do know!
Socrates: Then tell me.
Strepsiades: When I was a lad a digit meant this!
[Strepsiades sticks his middle finger straight up under Socrates’ nose]

For whatever it’s worth, in the third century AD Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, we also have this reference of a supposed incidence that occurred in the 4th century BC, concerning famed orator Demosthenes and philosopher Diogenes.

[Diogenes] once found Demosthenes the orator lunching at an inn, and, when he retired within, Diogenes said, “All the more you will be inside the tavern.” When some strangers expressed a wish to see Demosthenes, [Diogenes] stretched out his middle finger and said, “There goes the demagogue of Athens.”

(No doubt water was needed to put out the fire created by that wicked burn.)

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war
Giphy

Moving on to the first century AD, Caligula seems to have enjoyed making powerful people kiss his ring while he extended his middle finger at them. On a no doubt completely unrelated note, the chief organizer of his assassination, and first to stab him, was one Cassius Chaerea who Caligula liked to do this very thing with, as noted by Suetonius:

Gaius used to taunt him, a man already well on in years, with voluptuousness and effeminacy by every form of insult. When he asked for the watchword Gaius would give him “Priapus” or “Venus,” and when Chaerea had occasion to thank him for anything, he would hold out his hand to kiss, forming and moving it in an obscene fashion.

Speaking of the implications of this insulting gesture, it seems to have fallen out of favor during the Middle Ages with the rise of Christianity, or at least records of it diminish. This may mean people actually stopped popularly flipping the bird or may just mean its uncouth nature saw it something not generally written about. That said, we do know thanks to the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville that at least as late as the 6th century people were still extending the finger as an insult, in this reference particularly directed at someone who had done something considered “shameful”.

Moving on to more modern times, the gesture was popularly resurrected in documented history starting around the early 19th century, with early photographic evidence later popping up in the latter half of the 1800s. Most famously, we have a photograph of the gesture flashed by present day Twitter sensation and former 19th century baseball iron man Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourn. Radbourn was a pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters in 1886 when the team, along with the New York Giants, posed for a group photo. In the photo, Old Hoss can be seen giving the bird to the cameraman. (We’ll have more on Charley “Hoss” and his possible connection to a different expression in a bit.)

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

Boston Beaneaters and New York Giants, Major League Baseball Opening Day 1886. Charles Radbourn giving the finger to cameraman (back row, far left).

At this point you might be wondering why we call extending the middle finger today — “flipping the bird” or “giving the bird”. The connection is speculated to derive from the centuries old practice of more or less making bird sounds, particularly owl and geese calls, as an equivalent to booing when an audience is dissatisfied by something. This, in turn, gave rise to the popular 19th century expression to “goose” someone and then a little later led to the expression “give the big bird”, as noted in William Earnest Henley’s late 19th century work, Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present:

Big Bird: To get or give the big bird — To be hissed on the stage…. When an actor or actress gets the big bird, it may be from two causes; either it is a compliment for successful portrayal of villainy, in which case the Gods simply express their abhorrence of the character and not of the actor; or, the hissing may be directed against the actor, personally for some reason or other. The Big Bird is the goose.

By the mid-20th century, this seems to have extended to “giving the bird” not just referring to insulting sounds, but to describe extending the middle finger as well. One of the earliest examples of this can be found in the 1942 animated film A Tale of Two Kitties. In it, the pair of cats attempt to capture Tweety bird. At a certain point, one of the cats implores the other “Give me the bird!” The other cat then turns to the viewers and exclaims “If the Hays Office would only let me, I’d give him the bird alright.”

Bonus Facts:

  • Going back to Charley “Hoss” Roadbourn, he is widely speculated to be the inspiration for the expression “Charley Horse”, indicating a random muscle cramp in the leg. The expression popped up in baseball shortly after his historic 1884 season in which he posted a 1.38 ERA with 441 strikeouts in 678 and 2/3 innings, winning 59 games by modern rules (or 60 by the scorers of the day) despite the fact that his team only played 112 games that year. If you’re wondering how he managed to pitch in so many games, this was as a result of a fight between he and the team’s other best pitcher, Charlie Sweeney, that saw Sweeney leave and Old Hoss offer to start every game for the remainder of the season. He nearly did this, starting 40 of the remaining 43 games that year and winning 36 of them. However, at a certain point he reportedly became so sore he couldn’t even raise his arm above his head without significant warmup that required starting by soft tossing from just a few feet and slowly working back as his arm loosened up. It is speculated that his prolific pitching around this time, and presumably frequent cramps from over use of his muscles, may have inspired the expression. For whatever it’s worth, a 1907 issue of the Washington Post indicates that Old Hoss actually once had a severe leg cramp in a game, which directly gave rise to the expression. Whatever the case, one of the earliest known instances of the expression “Charley Horse” occurred in an 1887 edition of The Fort Wayne Gazette where it notes, “Whatever ails a player this year they call it a ‘Charley horse’…”
  • American seamen captured by the North Koreans in the famous “Pueblo crisis” once used the North Korean’s ignorance of the meaning of extending the middle finger to good use in propaganda photos taken by their captors. When asked, the captured men simply stated that it was a good luck gesture, so were allowed to continue using it in the photographs… at first. When the North Koreans discovered what it actually meant, the seamen were beaten.
  • As we alluded to in the body of this piece, there are several places on Earth where a thumbs up has a similar meaning to extending the middle finger. Why we bring this up specifically is that when American troops first started being stationed in Iraq, some reported being greeted by civilians offering a thumbs up, with the soldiers (and many in the media) interpreting it as most Westerners would — all the while not realizing the people were more or less flipping them off.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Army plans strategic shift to ‘multi-domain’ warfare

The US Army is preparing to more fully unveil its fast-moving strategic shift toward “Multi-Domain Operations” as part of a long-term effort to further operationalize joint-warfare techniques and tactics.

Senior Army strategists tell Warrior Maven this emerging strategic shift, which is expected to fully roll out at the upcoming annual Association of the US Army Symposium, represents a key next step in the strategic evolution beyond the often discussed “Multi-Domain Battle” initiative.

The advent of long-range sensors and precision fires on the part of potential near-peer adversaries has reinforced the need for the US military to operate in real-time across air, sea, and, land domains. Furthermore, the emergence of converging newer domains, such as cyber, space, and the electromagnetic sphere are naturally an indispensable element of this push to operationalize cross domain warfare.


The nuances of this shift toward “operationalizing” cross-domain fires are further explained in an essay by Training and Doctrine Command Commander Gen. Steven Townsend called “Accelerating Multi-Domain Operations: Evolution of an Idea.”

Published by the Modern War Institute at West Point, Townsend’s essay delineates the Army’s transition into a more complex, joint warfighting environment characterized by fast changing high-tech threats, escalating risks of cyber and electronic warfare attacks, and rapid connectivity between air, land, sea, and cyber domains.

“In battles, combatants can win time and space and they allow one side to take ground but they do not win wars. The world we operate in today is not defined by battles, but by persistent competition that cycles through varying rates in and out of armed conflict,” Townsend writes.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

LRASM launches from B-1B Lancer.

Townsend’s essay explores the unambiguous reality that modern warfare is by no means restricted to “kinetic” attacks or linear mechanized formations – but rather a mix of interwoven variables across a wide spectrum of conflict areas.

“Winning in competition is not accomplished by winning battles, but through executing integrated operations and campaigning. Operations are more encompassing, bringing together varied tactical actions,” Townsend writes.

As part of the Army’s pursuit of these strategic aims, the Army and Navy have been operating together in the Pacific over the course of 2018. The services have been collaborating to fire Army artillery from Navy ships, send targeting data to land weapons from Navy sensors and use coastal land rockets to destroy enemy ships at sea, service leaders said.

“The Army is looking at shooting artillery off of Navy ships. Innovation is taking existing things and modifying them to do something new,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview in early 2018.

Ferrari explained that experimental “teams” are combining air defense units, ground combat units, cyber units, and artillery units and putting them together in operations.

“Part of what we do is integrate with the Navy. The Naval threat for the Pacific is one of the major threats, so the Army is doing multi-domain battle. The Pacific is inherently Joint. There is very little that we do that is not done with other services,” Ferrari said.

Much of the ongoing work involves integrating combat units which have historically operated in a more separated or “single-focused” fashion. Combing field artillery, a brigade headquarters, air defense, Navy assets, and ISR units into a single operation, for instance, represents the kind of experiments now underway.

“Instead of having three battalions of artillery, you will have pieces of these things – then go out and use it,” Ferrari said.

Tactically speaking, firing precision artillery from surface ships could possibly introduce some interesting advantages. The Navy is now exploring weapons such as long-range precision-guided ammunition for its deck-mounted 5-inch guns, ship-fired offensive weapons such as the advanced Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), Maritime Tomahawk and an over-the-horizon weapon for the Littoral Combat Ship and Frigate.

Something like an Army Tactical Missile Systems rocket, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems or GPS-guided Excalibur 155m artillery does bring the possibility to supplement existing ship-fired Navy weapons systems.

One senior US military official explained that bringing Army artillery to surface ships to compliment existing Navy weapons could bring new dimensions to the surface attack options available to commanders. Tomahawk and LRASM, for instance, can fly lower and somewhat parallel to the surface to elude enemy defensive systems — something which could potentially be fortified by land-fired weapons.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

Land-fired artillery could also lend combat support to extensive layered defensive weapons on Navy ships such as SeaRAM, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and Rolling Airframe Missile, among others. These interceptors, it seems, could be strengthened by the potential use of land-fired weapons on Navy ships.

“Mixing all presents multiple dilemmas for the enemy,” a senior official told Warrior.

Navy commanders have been “all in” on this as well, previously using F-18s to identify targets for land weapons in exercises in recent years such as Noble Eagle in Alaska, senior military officials have described.

As part of the cross-domain effort, the Army and Navy are looking at improving ways to connect their respective networks; senior Pentagon leaders often say that “joint effects” in combat can be challenged by a lack of integration between different services’ “tactical ISR, target acquisition and fire control systems.”

For example the Navy’s integrated sensor network known as Cooperative Engagement Capability connects targeting and ISR nodes across the force. The emphasis now is to connect these kinds of systems with, for instance, Army weapons such as ground-fired Patriot missiles and Theater High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense weapons.

In addition, the Army’s Integrated Battle Command Systems is itself a comparable combat theater sensor network where various radar, command and control and weapons “nodes” are networked to expedite real-time data sharing. Part of the maturation of this system, according to Army and Northrop Grumman developers, is to further extend IBCS to cue Air Force and Navy assets operating in a given theater of operations.

One senior Army weapons developer told Warrior “it’s about target acquisition and ranges. Maybe target acquisition comes from a ship and I do surface fires on land. We need to experiment with sensors.”

In a previously written Army paper titled “Multi-Domain Battle: Evolution of Combined Arms for the 21st Century 2025-2040,” former TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins writes:

“It (Multi-Domain Battle) expands the targeting landscape based on the extended ranges and lethality delivered at range by integrated air defenses, cross-domain fire support, and cyber/electronic warfare systems. We must solve the physics of this expanded battlespace and understand the capabilities that each domain can provide in terms of echelon, speed, and reach.”

Perkins and other senior Pentagon strategists have explained Multi-Domain Battle, which is now leading to “Multi-Domain Operations” as a modern extension of the Cold War Air Land Battle Strategy which sought to integrate air and ground attacks to counter a Soviet attack in Europe.

“AirLand Battle started developing the concept of ‘extended battlefield.’ Multi-Domain battle endeavors to integrate capabilities in such a way that to counteract one, the enemy must become more vulnerable to another, creating and exploiting temporary windows of advantage,’ Perkins writes in “Multi-Domain Battle: Joint Combined Arms Concept for the 21st Century.”

Army – Air Force

The Army and the Air Force have been working on a new, collaborative war-gaming operation to assess future combat scenarios and, ultimately, co-author a new inter-service cross-domain combat doctrine.

Operating within this concept, Army and Air Force senior Commanders are launching a new series of tabletop exercises to replicate and explore future warfare scenarios – the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.

In a Pentagon report, the joint wargaming effort is described as something which will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”

“The F-35 is doing ISR and could possibly deliver a weapon on the same flight. We can then use what they can generate on the ground, fusing sensors and target acquisition with land-based assets that can deliver effects,” a senior defense official told Warrior.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump hits Turks with sanctions in a row over US pastor

The US has imposed sanctions on two top Turkish officials on Aug. 1, 2018, in a long-standing dispute over Turkey’s detention of an American pastor.

The US Treasury Department targeted Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and its Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu, whom they say played a major role in the arrest and detention of the evangelical Christian pastor Andrew Brunson.


“Pastor Brunson’s unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated the Justice Department’s words at a press briefing Aug. 1, 2018, and said that Trump had personally ordered the sanctions against the officials who played “leading roles” in Brunson’s arrest.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Brunson,50, is originally from North Carolina, and has led a small congregation in the coastal Turkish city of Izmir since 1993.

He was arrested in 2016 and has been accused of orchestrating a failed military coup attempt against Turkish President President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has been imprisoned in Turkey for the last 21 months on espionage charges, though he was moved to house arrest last month because of health concerns.

Brunson has denied any wrongdoing. He faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.

There are suspicions that Brunson’s detention could be politically motivated. Erdogan has openly suggested a high-level strategic swap with the US in exchange for Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish preacher living in Pennsylvania who has been accused of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt.

Since the failed coup, Erdogan has instituted sweeping executive powers, which allow him to select his own cabinet, regulate ministries and remove civil servants, all without parliamentary approval.

Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for 15 years, was sworn in as president in July 2018. Opponents say his newly enforced executive powers have lurched the country towards authoritarianism .

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Marines would stomp the Russians in the Arctic

About 90 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune carried out a mock air assault in Iceland in October 2018 as part of the initial phase of NATO’s largest war games since the end of the Cold War.

The NATO war games, called Trident Juncture 2018, will begin on Oct. 25, 2018, in Norway and include more than 50,000 troops from 31 countries.

According to NATO, the purpose of Trident Juncture is “to ensure that NATO forces are trained, able to operate together, and ready to respond to any threat from any direction.”


But the war games are also largely seen, by the East and West, as de facto training for a fight with Russia.

Along with the carrier USS Harry S. Truman, the US has sent about 14,000 troops to the games, and the initial mock air assault was to help prepare Marines for a large-scale amphibious assault to be carried later in Norway.

But that’s not all the Marines did.

Here’s how they trained in Iceland for a potential cold-weather fight with Russia.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

Marines load onto a CH-53E Sea Stallion aboard USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) while conducting an air assault in Icelandic terrain on Oct. 17, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

The 90 US Marines aboard the USS Iwo Jima were first loaded onto MV-22 Ospreys and CH-53 Sea Stallions.

Source: US Marine Corps

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

A V-22 Osprey departs from USS Iwo Jima for an air assault in Icelandic terrain on Oct. 17, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

A US Marine posts security at Keflavik Air Base in Iceland on Oct. 17, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

Where they set up a security post.

Source: US Marine Corps

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

US Marines post security at Keflavik Air Base in Iceland on Oct. 17, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

“During the air assault we landed on an airfield and immediately set up security which allowed for the aircraft to leave safely,” Cpl. Mitchell Edds said.

Source: US Marine Corps

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

A US Marine aims his weapon while posting security during a mock air assault in Iceland.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

“We then conducted a movement to a compound where Marines set up security to allow U.S and Icelandic coordination,” Edds said.

Source: US Marine Corps

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

US Marines hike to a cold-weather training site in Iceland on Oct. 19, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

A Marine adjusts a fellow Marine’s gear as they prepare to move for a cold-weather training hike in Iceland on Oct. 19, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

Cold-weather insulated boots used by US Marines in Iceland on Oct. 19, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

In fact, they appear to have tried out their new cold-weather boots, which were just issued by the Corps.

Source: US Marines

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

US Marines overlook a training area from a hill in Iceland on Oct. 19, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

US Marines set up camp during cold-weather training in Iceland in October 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

Where they began setting up camp.

Source: US Marine Corps

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

US Marines set up tents in Iceland in October 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

“We’re just getting the gear out — the tents, stoves and stuff like that, making sure we know how to use it … and making sure we know how to use it before we get to Norway,” one US Marine said.

Business Insider contacted the US Marine Corps to find out more about the cold-weather training they conducted, but the Corps did not immediately respond.

Source: US Marine Corps

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

8 books about the Iraq War that will give you something to think about

The morning of March 19, 2003, marked the beginning of the Iraq War that would eventually lead to devastating loss for both countries. With its roots in the first Persian Gulf War, some argue that the Iraq/U.S. conflict was inevitable, while others consider it an unnecessary war.

After dictator Saddam Hussein’s refusal to abandon Iraq in 2003, U.S. and allied forces launched a full-scale attack. What followed were years of American occupation, a large number of Iraqi and American casualties, and a growing tide of opposition to the seemingly unending war. The Iraq War spanned nearly the entirety of two presidential administrations in the United States, leading to shifting strategies and new technologies. Eventually, the Obama administration withdrew the final troops in 2011, but the long years of warfare continue to affect the Iraqi nation. These Iraq War books recount, analyze, and revisit the effects and experiences of a war that some have deemed preventable.


Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

(The Feminist Press at CUNY)

1. Dreaming of Baghdad

By Haifa Zangana

A humane approach to Middle Eastern affairs, Dreaming of Baghdad is a hauntingly beautiful memoir that will leave you with a new perspective on the “War on Terror”. We follow Haifa Zangana’s experience as a political activist during Saddam Hussein’s reign in Iraq. She — along with a small group who resisted Saddam’s rule — was eventually captured and imprisoned at Abu Ghraib.

There is a stark illumination on the psychological disturbances experienced by individuals under dictatorship. Zangana is brutally honest when retelling her story of exile and incarceration; she experienced the agonizing loss of friends and comrades through torture and death in prison. A first-hand account that shifts between time, place, and subjectivity to comment on how the trauma of power and war affect our memory.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

(Skyhorse)

2. Packed for the Wrong Trip

By W. Zach Griffith

The relatively unknown prison at Abu Ghraib garnered global attention once photos of the abuses inflicted on prisoners were released. Abu Ghraib quickly became the focal point of a worldwide scandal. Just a few months after the photographs were released, the 152nd Field Artillery Battalion of the Maine National Guard arrived to serve as guards. Originally trained and meant to serve in Afghanistan, the soldiers were deeply unprepared for the scrutiny they would receive and the attacks they would soon endure. The group of citizen-soldiers were forced to rely on each other in order to survive one of the darkest prisons in the world and change it for the better.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

(Open Road + Grove/Atlantic)

3. The Finish

By Mark Bowden

Get inside the political choices that brought down Osama bin Laden. Bowden’s narrative takes the reader all the way back to President Clinton’s administration to discover the many seemingly minor actions that allowed al-Qaeda to grow. After Bin Laden’s terrorist organization wreaked havoc through the 1990s and early 2000s, taking him down became a top priority for foreign intelligence services around the world.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

(HMH)

4. Why We Lost

By Daniel P. Bolger

Firsthand experience and understanding brings a new perspective to American actions in the Iraq War. With a career as an army general that spanned over 35 years, Daniel Bolger provides a candid look into U.S. led campaigns with an insider look into the meetings, strategies, and key players of the war.

Bolger’s main argument is that we lost the Iraq War because the American forces never knew who they were truly fighting. As Bolger puts it, “Every man shot by U.S. soldiers wore civilian clothes. If he had an AK-47, was he getting ready to shoot you or merely defending his family? If he was talking on a cell phone, was he tipping off the insurgency or setting off an IED, or was he phoning his wife?”

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

5. The Iraq War: The Military Offensive, from Victory in 21 Days to the Insurgent Aftermath

By John Keegan

His background as a military historian with extensive knowledge on warfare gives Keegan’s discussion a refreshing, objective perspective. Keegan collated a well-detailed look into Iraqi history, from its origins in the Ottoman Empire to Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. The Iraq War, despite its broad title, primarily recounts the 21-day invasion by the United States and allies that removed Hussein from power. As an explanation of the factors that led to the war, this is an unmissable resource.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

6. The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan

By J. Kael Weston

This powerful 2016 book examines the relationship between warfare and diplomacy. Like many of the other authors on this list, Weston had an inside look into the U.S. government during the Iraq War. Weston was a State Department official — serving over seven years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Weston uses this experience to show both the war and his own personal journey throughout the narrative. As a firsthand witness, he saw the sacrifice and casualties caused by a devastating war. The book follows Weston as he visits families, memorials, and the grave sites of 31 soldiers who perished in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2005 — an operation he personally ordered. This deeply affecting tale reckons with Weston’s and the country’s actions in Iraq.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

(Bloomsbury Publishing)

7. Run to the Sound of the Guns: The True Story of an American Ranger at War in Afghanistan and Iraq

By Nicholas Moore

This eyewitness account of the Iraq War is presented through a series of vignettes as Nicholas Moore recounts the development of the Ranger Regiment. He chronicles the challenges troops had to face and adapt to while hunting for Iraq’s Most Wanted. Serving in an elite special operations unit, Moore was intimately involved in the war on terror, spending over a decade with the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment.

Moore discusses the search and rescue of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and the devastating loss of the Chinook helicopter crash, which killed 38 men and one military working dog. Moore sees the events both as a soldier and as a husband and father who nearly lost his life in a global war against terrorism.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

(Random House Publishing Group)

8. The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq

By Bing West

This is a straightforward recapitulation of the Iraq War that reconfigures the reader’s understanding of the long-lasting conflict. Whatever your political stance, West puts it all under the microscope and leaves you questioning what you thought you knew. From the United States’s entrance into the war to the brink of defeat in 2006, to the unimaginable turnaround in 2007, West criticizes the Bush administration and Army generals as he travels between the Pentagon and Ramadi. In the end, West asks us to reflect on our mistakes to avoid repeating history.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

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How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

In April of last year — for the third time in two months — Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has discovered a major American warship lost during World War II. The Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS Helena (CL 50) was discovered nearly 75 years after she was sunk during the Battle of the Kula Gulf. According to the announcement, USS Helena lies just over 2,800 feet below the surface of the ocean near the island of Vella Lavella.


Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

USS Helena (CL 50) firing her main guns during the Battle of Kula Gulf. The flashes proved to be an excellent aimpoint for Japanese torpedoes.

(U.S. Navy photo)

In 1943, Helena, her sister ships (USS Honolulu (CL 48) and USS St. Louis (CL 49)), and four destroyers attempted to intercept ten Japanese destroyers. The Americans quickly eliminated one of the Japanese vessels, but Helena‘s guns didn’t have flashless powder, making her a perfect target in the night sky for Type 93 Long Land torpedoes.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

Francis X. McInerney on board the Baltimore-class heavy cruiser USS Helena (CA 75) in 1949. McInerney received the Legion of Merit for the rescue of 165 crewmen from the light cruiser USS Helena that had been sunk in 1943.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Three torpedoes hit the Helena and she quickly sank. Meanwhile, the Americans fatally crippled a second Japanese destroyer and damaged two more. The story doesn’t end there.

Most of the Helena‘s crew managed to escape the sinking vessel. Unlike the commander of the USS Juneau (the wreckage of which was discovered by Paul Allen just a month before finding Helena), Captain Gilbert C. Hoover insisted on rescuing any and all surviving crew. Under the command of Captain Francis X. McInerney, the destroyers USS Nicholas (DD 449) and USS Radford (DD 446) turned around to rescue survivors. In the midst of the rescue efforts, two Japanese destroyers came back. McInerney turned to fight, telling the Helena survivors, “Hang on! We’ll be back for you!”

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It would take 11 days, but McInerney would eventually fulfill that promise. Eventually, over 700 survivors from the cruiser would be rescued. For his actions, McInerney he received the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and the Legion of Merit. The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS McInerney (FFG 8) was named in his honor.

See video of once-lost USS Helena below!

Humor

5 things service members hate on that are actually useful

The U.S. Military is full of rules and regulations, so much so that it gives the lower enlisted plenty to complain about. But some of the things that seem like annoying POG tasks actually make a lot of sense and, in some cases, could be lifesaving.


Here are some of the tasks service members complain about doing that, realistically, make good sense.

Related: 6 ways to be successful in the Marine infantry

5. Boot blousing

This often feels like an annoying task only POGs worry about but, when you think about it, the purpose is to keep dirt and other unwanted particles from getting inside one’s boot.

It gets stupid, though, when higher-ups prefer to see them sit near or at the top of the boot, which may look good, but ultimately defeats the purpose.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war
Airmen don’t really have to worry about dirt getting in their boots, though. (Image via Citizen Airman Magazine)

4. Buckling the chin strap of a helmet

When troops of the modern age wear their combat gear, they like to call back to times of World War II and Vietnam, when troops would go on patrols with the chin strap of their helmets unbuckled.

But, when you look at why those troops did that, it becomes clear that, with the modern helmets and straps, it makes more sense to buckle up.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war
Would you rather be comfortable and lose your helmet or have something to protect your head from incoming shrapnel? (Image via Reddit user 4noteprogression)

3. Police call

This is the practice of picking up every little piece of trash in front of the battalion headquarters until it looks pretty for the base commander — what a beautiful practice. After all, who doesn’t like standing in a straight line and combing the lawn for used gum and cigarette butts? But, when you think about it, this is good practice for when you’re leaving a bivouac site or sleeping area.

You want to pick up every piece of trash — yes, even the gum and cigarette butts — to make sure there’s little to no evidence of human occupation because it makes your unit harder to track.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war
Remember, if you bring it in, you take it out. (Image via Duffleblog)

2. Shaving

This is a common complaint because everyone just wants to be an operator. But the truth is, having a clean shave can save your life. The requirement started during World War I to ensure a perfect seal when the gas masks go on to prevent, you know, dying from a cloud of mustard gas.

These days, having a clean shave is a part of military uniformity and discipline. It takes some discipline to wake up and shave every morning and takes no effort to just let it grow.

On the other hand, special operators are allowed to grow beards because they’re immune to chemical weapons and don’t need gas masks.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war
Shave your face, nasty! (Image via Reddit user SenorWorkman)

Also read: 6 easy ways for a grunt to be accepted by POGs

1. Stand-to

“Stand-to” is a command that means to stand guard or be prepared for an enemy attack. This is especially annoying since it usually happens from before until after dusk, and before until after dawn.

No one likes being woken up half an hour before the sun rises to stand guard but, realistically, these are the times where attacks have been known to happen. The enemy likes to strike when you’re either focused on going to bed or getting up.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war
Marines around their fighting positions as the sun rises (Image via Army Times)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard thinks it can only stop 25 percent of cocaine

During fiscal year 2018, which ended Sept. 30, 2018, the US Coast Guard intercepted just over 458,000 pounds of cocaine. That was the second most in a year on record, behind fiscal year 2017, when 493,000 pounds were seized, which topped the previous record of 443,000 pounds in fiscal year 2016.

“The Coast Guard has interdicted more than … 1.3 million pounds of illicit cocaine in the last three years, and that rolls up to be about $18 billion of wholesale value on American streets,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said Nov. 15, 2018, aboard the cutter James, which was offloading nearly 38,000 pounds of cocaine seized in the eastern Pacific Ocean.


The pursuit of traffickers on the high seas, working with other US agencies and international partners, was part of what Schultz described as a “push-out-the-border strategy” to target the smuggling process at the point when the loads were the largest and most vulnerable.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

US Coast Guardsmen board a narco sub as part of a drug seizure in early September 2016.

(US Coast Guard photo)

“We’re pushing our land border 1,500 miles deep into the ocean here a little bit, and that’s where we find the success taking large loads of cocaine down at sea,” Shultz said aboard the James, which seized more than 19,000 pounds of the cocaine offloaded on Nov. 15, 2018.

“When we take down drugs at sea it reduces the violence. It maximizes the impact. When these loads land in Mexico, in Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, they get distributed into very small loads, very hard to detect, and there’s associated violence,” he added.

But the Coast Guard can see much more than it can catch.

In the eastern Pacific Ocean, where about 85% of the cocaine smuggling between South America and the US takes place, “We have visibility on about 85% of that activity,” Schultz said. “Because of the capacity — the number of ships, the number of aircraft — [we act on] about 25% to 30% of that,” he added.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

A suspected smuggler, who jumped from his burning vessel, is pulled aboard an interceptor boat from the USS Zephyr by members of the US Coast Guard and Navy in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean on April 7, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo)

Schultz is not the first Coast Guard official to note the gap between what the service can see and what it can stop.

In September 2017, Adm. Charles Ray told senators that the service has “good intelligence on between 80% and 90% of these movements,” referring to trafficking in the eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean.

But “we only have the capacity to get after about 30% of those” shipments, added Ray, who is now the Coast Guard’s vice commandant.

The eastern Pacific Ocean from the west coast of South America to the Galapagos Islands and up to waters off western Mexico and the southwest US is an area about the size of the continental US, Ray said.

“On any given day we’ll have between six to 10 Coast Guard cutters down here,” he added. “If you imagine placing that on [an area the size of] the United States … it’s a capacity challenge.”

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

(Adam Isacson / US Southern Command)

Schultz’s predecessor, now-retired Adm. Paul Zukunft, noted a similar gap.

The Coast Guard provides the “biggest bang for the buck,” Zukunft told The New York Times in summer 2017. “But our resources are limited.”

“As a result, we can’t catch all the drug smuggling we know about,” Zukunft added. “Just last year we had intelligence on nearly 580 possible shipments but couldn’t go intercept them because we didn’t have the ships or planes to go after them.”

Schultz acknowledged that with more resources the Coast Guard could stop more, but said the service was getting the most out of its assets and its partners — including the Defense and Homeland Security departments and other countries in the region.

“We have DoD support, we have partner-nation contributions … so it’s that team sport, but there is a conversation about capacity,” Schultz said. “More Coast Guard capability, more enablers like long-range surveillance airplanes and … we’d take more drugs off the water.”

“What I’m proud about is we’re putting every ounce of energy we’ve got into this fight.”

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

The Coast Guard cutter James interdicts a low-profile vessel in the eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 22, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo)

A ‘resurgence’

Booming cocaine production in Colombia has kept a steady flow of drugs heading north. Smugglers use a variety of vessels, from simple outboard boats to commercial fishing vessels. The more frequent appearance of low-profile vessels, often called narco subs, points to traffickers’ increasing sophistication.

The Coast Guard has said it caught a record six narco subs in fiscal year 2016, which ended in September 2016. In September 2017, the service said it had seen a “resurgence” of such vessels, catching seven of them since June that year.

“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels; 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Schultz told Business Insider in 2018.

Narco subs can cost id=”listicle-2620799501″ million to million but can carry multiton loads of cocaine worth tens of millions of dollars in the US.

Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, estimated Colombian traffickers were building 100 narco subs a year and said the DEA believed at least 30% to 40% of drugs coming to the US were moving on those vessels, but authorities were likely only intercepting 5% of them.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

A Coast Guard Cutter Stratton boarding team investigates a self-propelled semi-submersible interdicted in international waters off the coast of Central America, July 19, 2015.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone)

The Coast Guard’s own estimate indicates that it can block only a sliver of the narcotics coming to the US by sea.

Asked what was needed to address the flow of narcotics, Ray in late 2017 pointed to the offshore-patrol-cutter program, which the Coast Guard has said will bridge the gap between national-security cutters like the James, which patrol open ocean, and fast-response cutters, which patrol closer to shore.

The first offshore-patrol cutter isn’t scheduled to be delivered until 2021.

Coast Guard officials have touted the capabilities of national-security cutters, like the James, which were introduced in 2008 and of which six are in service.

But the other cutters that seized drugs offloaded by the James on Nov. 15, 2018, were, on average, 41 years old, “and are increasingly more difficult to maintain and more costly to operate” Claire Grady, the Homeland Security Department’s chief of management, said on Nov. 15, 2018.

“For the Coast Guard to remain always ready to combat transnational crime and conduct its 10 other statutory missions,” Grady added, “it’s imperative to recapitalize its aging fleet.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Canadian military okayed beards and it’s about time the US discussed it

As reported by CBC, the Canadian Armed Forces will now authorize their troops to grow a beard — within certain limits, of course. Canadian service members’ beards must not exceed two centimeters (roughly 3/4th of an inch) in length, must be kept off the neck and cheekbones, and may not be in any non-traditional, trendy style.

This puts our brothers to the north in league with the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and most of our other NATO allies in realizing that beards aren’t as detrimental to troops as once believed. This leaves the United States and Turkey as the last two beardless, major US powers — but the Turkish Armed Forces haven’t yet taken the debate off the agenda.

With the Global War on Terrorism winding down and garrison life becoming an ever-growing aspect of a troop’s career, it’s about time the Pentagon at least entertains the idea of allowing conventional troops some leeway on facial hair grooming standards.


Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

Even a tiny bit of stubble will stop a gas mask from completely sealing and let all that nastiness inside.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton)

The current policy that requires U.S. troops to be clean-shaven comes from the need to properly seal a gas mask in the event of a chemical attack. In World War I and II, such a policy made absolute sense. Chemical weapons were used extensively against Allied troops and anyone fighting in areas where the enemy was known to use them kept their mask close by.

Today, the use of chemical weapons against US troops is not a complete impossibility. After all, Saddam Hussein used nerve gas against Iranian troops and the Kurds in 1987, sarin gas was used in 2013 during the Syrian Civil War, and many terrorist organization — including ISIS, Aum Shinrikyo, and Al-Qaeda — have been known to use chemical weapons in their attacks.

While a chemical weapons attack against U.S. service members could happen, today aren’t taking gas masks with them on patrol. Ounces make pounds and any additional weight slows troops down — especially when the odds of needing a mask are so slight. So, most troops opt to leave their mask back at the tent, unless mission dictated.

But even if the worst should happen, the Canadian military developed a gas mask that fits over the entire face and chin and is designed specifically with beards in mind. In the absence of such a mask, troops can just slather a bunch of Vaseline on their beard before putting the mask on — believe it or not, that does the trick, too.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

Shaving while deployed also runs into the issue of wasting a valuable resource — water — on an arbitrary task.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Rosalie Chang)

The next argument against beards is that they’re not in line with a “professional appearance.” The problem here is that there’s no real, defined standard as to what’s considered “professional.” That being said, we all know there’s a fine line between having a well-kept beard and looking like a bum.

On the same side of the coin, certain Special Operations Command units have turned a blind eye toward facial hair standards. You’d have to be very firm in your convictions if you’re going to call out a Green Beret, a quiet professional, for being unprofessional.

The two loudest voices on the matter are that of Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who opposes beards as he believes it would loosen discipline standards in the ranks, and the Command Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey, who is in favor of beards as long as they are kept to a strict standard. And Dailey supports a caveat that would revoke beard privileges in environments with a high risk of chemical attacks.

There are pros and cons on either sides of the facial hair debate but, as it stands now, the need for a clean-shaven face simply isn’t as dire as it once was. And, as shown in an informal study done by Military Times, a vast majority of troops and veterans are in favor of loosening the grip on facial hair standards now that troops are spending more and more time in-garrison.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How one of the most iconic flags was made in honor of this woman’s MIA husband

On January 7, 1970, Lt. Cdr. Michael Hoff flew his Sidewinder A7A Corsair off the USS Coral Sea on an armed reconnaissance mission over Laos. After completing a strafing run near the city of Sepone, he came under heavy enemy automatic weapons fire and went down. An observer reported seeing a flash, which may have been the ejection seat leaving the aircraft, but search teams located neither a parachute nor a survivor.

Lt. Cdr. Michael Hoff was pronounced MIA that same day, promoted to commander while missing, and, sadly, was declared dead on November 16, 1978. His grieving wife, Mary Hoff, wanted the world to know that he and every other troop captured or declared missing in action would not be forgotten.


Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

Who says randomly cold-calling the right people to get what you want never works?

Soon afterward, Mary Hoff joined the National League of POW/MIA Families, an organization founded by two wives of POW/MIA troops, Karen Butler and Sybil Stockdale. The group was quickly gaining traction in Washington, fighting for the U.S. government’s recognition of the importance of returning troops listed as either prisoners of war or missing in action.

As the group grew larger, Mary noticed that they were missing a symbol — something easily identified and immediately understood. She had an idea: a flag. Instead of going through the proper channels, she simply cold-called Annin Flagmakers, the oldest and largest flag-making corporation in the United States.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

As prominent as the flag is in military culture, it only took two revisions from the original to get the version we know today.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

The vice president of sales at Annin, Norm Rivkees, had no clue who the League of Families were at the time. During the phone call, Hoff explained everything, from who they were to what the flag should look like. Rivkees was impressed by her dedication and brought it up to the president of the company who immediately gave the idea the green light.

Rivkees contracted the job of designing the flag to Hayden Advertising who gave the task to graphic artist Newton F. Heisley. Heisley was an Army Air Corps veteran himself who flew a C-46 twin-engine transport during World War II. He drafted several designs, all in black and white, of a man’s profile with guards behind him.

His son, Jeffery Heisley, was serving in the Marine Corps and had recently returned home on leave. The younger Heisley had unfortunately been struck with hepatitis and was looking very sickly. The elder Heisley turned the misfortune into a positive as his son would make the perfect model for his design. The frail male profile that adorns today’s flag is that of Jeffery Heisley.

Newton, as a pilot, remembered his own fears from his flying days. He added the famous words, “You are not forgotten,” to the flag, to offer the reassurance he wished he had while serving. The design was then ready for approval.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

That also makes the POW/MIA flag the only non-national flag to ever fly over a nation’s capitol building.

(Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson)​

Mary Hoff and the League of Families loved the design and adopted it in 1972. Keep in mind that at this point, the flag was only intended to be used for the organization. Its prominence quickly grew within the military community throughout the 1970s and, by 1982, it was flown over Ronald Reagan’s White House.

The flag became an official national symbol through the 1998 Defense Authorization Act, which requires that the flag be flown outside most major government buildings, all VA medical centers, and all national cemeteries on POW/MIA Recognition Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Chinese military rips scenes from ‘Transformers’ and other Hollywood blockbusters for this propaganda video touting its bombers

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force posted a new video to an official social media page over the weekend touting its bomber force. The propaganda video includes several scenes from big Hollywood films.

The short video — “God of War H-6K, attack!,” a reference to its H-6 bomber — is set to dramatic music and shows an attack on an airbase.


Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

Screenshot of the PLAAF Weibo post. (Weibo)

The scenes of Chinese bomber aircraft in flight appear to be real PLAAF footage, but the combat scenes look like they were taken from the films “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “The Hurt Locker,” and “The Rock.” (The links go to the relevant scenes from the movies)

Here’s the “attack” footage from the new PLAAF video showing scenes from the three movies.

A source close to the Chinese military told the South China Morning Post that it is not uncommon for the Chinese military to “borrow” scenes from Hollywood films.

“Almost all of the officers in the department grew up watching Hollywood movies, so in their minds, American war films have the coolest images,” SCMP’s source said.

SCMP reported that back in 2011, Chinese state-run broadcaster CCTV presented footage of a training exercise that included scenes from “Top Gun.”

The scenes from Hollywood films are not the only notable inclusions in the PLAAF video though.

Included in the airbase attack scene is satellite footage of an airfield that Reuters reports “looks exactly like the layout of” the US military’s Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, an important strategic location for US operations in the Pacific and a likely target in a US-China conflict.

The Chinese PLAAF bomber force currently consists of variations of the H-6 bomber, a Chinese version of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 bomber, though newer aircraft are being developed.

“In recent years, China has fielded greater numbers of the H-6K, a modernized H-6 variant that integrates standoff weapons and features more-efficient turbofan engines for extended-range,” the Department of Defense wrote in its latest China Military Power report.

“The H-6K,” the report further explained, “can carry six [Land Attack Cruise Missiles], giving the PLA a long-range standoff precision strike capability that can range Guam from home airfields in mainland China.”

Among the Chinese military assets available for strikes on Guam are also DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads.

Lately, China’s air force has been focused on Taiwan.

In just two days last week, the Chinese military conducted 37 sorties involving fighter jets, bombers, and other aircraft that saw planes crossing the midline of the Taiwan Strait and crossing into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.

Chinese Ministry of National Defense spokesman Ren Guoqiang said at a press briefing last Friday that the exercises were “legitimate and necessary action taken to safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in response to the current situation in the Taiwan Strait.”

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

Army brigade trains to fight in Europe, right next to Russia

Soldiers and equipment from the US Army’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, from the 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood in Texas, are arriving in Europe in late May 2018, for a nine-month rotation in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Operation Atlantic Resolve started in April 2014, in response to Russian interference in Ukraine, and is meant to emphasize US commitment to European defense through “continuous, enhanced multinational training and security cooperation.”


The Ironhorse Brigade’s arrival is the third back-to-back rotation the Army has pursued in order to have an armored brigade in Europe, where the US has been looking to bolster its armored presence.

But the route the brigade is taking to its base points to another capability the US and its NATO partners are trying to boost: The ability to move around Europe on the ground.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war
US Army armored and support vehicles from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division arrive in Antwerp, Belgium, May 20, 2018.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jacob A. McDonald)

The unit will primarily be based in Germany and mostly operate in eastern Europe, but the first of three ships carrying its tanks, trucks, and mobile artillery arrived in May 2018, in Antwerp, a Belgian port that hasn’t seen a major US military movement of this kind in the past 10 or 20 years, according to an Army release.

Maj. Gen. Steven Shapiro, commander of 21st Theater Sustainment Command, which supports US military operations in Europe and Africa, said the vehicles will move across Europe via convoy, line-haul, river barge, and train. The Army has issued notices about planned movements by road and rail in western and eastern Germany.

“Sometimes what is old is new again, and that is coming in here,” Shapiro said. “Antwerp and Rotterdam were major ports when we were operating during the Cold War … We are coming back to Antwerp in a big way.”

The brigade will send about 2,500 pieces of equipment through Antwerp, including 87 M1 Abrams tanks, 138 armored personnel carriers, 18 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, and more than a thousand other vehicles.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war
US Army combat vehicles assigned to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team unloaded in Antwerp, Belgium, May 20, 2018.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Case)

“It’s a totally different type of deployment,” said brigade commander Col. Wilson Rutherford IV. “We could have gone into the port of Gdansk, [in Poland], which is much closer, but we wanted to exercise this port, exercise the barge movement, the line haul, and the convoys.”

“This is very different from the 2/1 [ABCT] and 3/4 [ABCT] deployments, but the goal is to learn as much as we can,” he added, referring to previous rotations by the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Cavalry Division and the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team from the 4th Infantry Division — the latter of which is known as the Iron Brigade.

Reversing post-Cold War atrophy

The US military’s presence in Europe has steadily declined since the end of the Cold War. The US Army once had 300,000 soldiers stationed there, but that force dwindled to roughly 30,000. In April 2013, the US’s last 22 Abrams tanks in Europe returned to the US, ending the Army’s 69-year history of stationing main battle tanks there.

That absence was short-lived. In January 2014, 29 Abrams tanks arrived in Germany, joining other armored vehicles there for what were to be short stints in small formations. That approach changed in early 2017, when the Iron Brigade arrived with tanks and armored vehicles for the first nine-month, back-to-back rotation.

But the new emphasis on operations in Europe has encountered logistical hurdles.

A tangle of customs rules and local regulations have hamstrung movements across borders. Infrastructure issues — like bridges or roads not built to carry heavy armored vehicles — have also hindered operations, as have shortages of transports.

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war
A German man with an US flag greets vehicles from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division in Germany, April 23, 2018.
(US Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)

These obstacles have created issues for training operations — a convoy of Paladins was halted by German police in January 2018, because the contractors transporting them violated several regulations — and would present issues for any peacetime mobilization effort.

These problems led NATO to conclude in an internal report in late 2017, that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”

That report recommended setting up two new commands — one to oversee logistics operations in Europe, particularly in central and eastern Europe, and another to manage the shipment of personnel and supplies across the Atlantic.

In March 2018, NATO said the new logistics command would be based in the city of Ulm in southern Germany. (The US has volunteered to host the new Atlantic command in Norfolk, Virginia.) That same month, the European Union said it was working to address the conflicting regulations and infrastructure issues hindering military operations.

“By facilitating military mobility within the EU, we can be more effective in preventing crises, more efficient in deploying our missions, and quicker in reacting when challenges arise,” EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini said at the time.

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

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