The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

During the Cold War, an Army Special Forces unit was tasked with sabotaging Soviet infrastructure and crippling an invasion force to buy NATO time should war break out. The mission was so secret that the entire thing was almost forgotten — until a few veterans of the unit stepped forward.

We spoke to two of these veterans to find out what it was like serving as clandestine soldiers in an occupied city on what was likely a suicide mission if the seemingly-imminent war ever started


The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

U.S. and Soviet forces standoff across Checkpoint Charlie in 1961, one of the many Cold War flare-ups that occurred in occupied Berlin after World War II.

(U.S. Army)

Master Sgt. Robert Charest is a veteran of Detachment A who has started the push for recording the unit’s history. Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Stejskal is the man who literally wrote the book on Detachment A.

The specific mission of Detachment A changed over the years, but the overarching goal was always preparing to counter and stall a Soviet invasion.

“If the Soviets decided to come across Checkpoint Charlie, we would just try to slow them down so that the rest of the folks, they’d get out of Berlin and all that stuff,” said Charest while describing the mission.

This meant that Charest, Stejskal, and others assigned to the unit — which had about 90 people in it for most of its existence — had to know what infrastructure to hit and how best to reach it. They also had to maintain all of the materials and weapons needed to complete their mission.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Berlin was criss-crossed by a network of trains, like this train for travelers on the U-Bahn. Another railway ran around the outside of the city carrying heavy freight, and Detachment A members were prepared to blow up train engines on the railway in case of war.

Some of the targets were obvious, like the railroad that ran around divided Berlin.

“Around Berlin, there was a railway network, basically called the Berliner Ring,” said Stejskal. “It was that railway network that would carry the majority of the Russian forces from east to west. So, you got the guys that are on the ground already and then you got all these troops that are going to be coming from Poland and the Czech Republic and then you’re heading for the Fulda Gap.”

Shutting down the railroad would slow the Soviet advance, but the teams that made up Detachment A needed a way to do it without getting caught. The more stuff they could break before getting captured and killed, the better chance NATO forces would have in building a defensive line and eventually launching a counter attack.

So, they rigged up pieces of coal, filled with explosives. Were these ever loaded into a train, the engineer would eventually blow up his own engine, blocking the rail line with a shattered train until authorities could clean up the mess, drastically slowing reinforcements.

Other targets included factories and other centers of manufacturing, transportation, and command and control.

To supply these missions, Detachment A relied on a series of spy-like gadgets and hidden caches of conventional weapons buried deep all over West Berlin. But the targets were in East Berlin, and Detachment A had to plan on how to strike across the city and, later in the war, across the Berlin Wall, to hit targets.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Special Forces sergeant Robert Charest while assigned to operation in Berlin, clearly rocking a different grooming standard than most soldiers in the Cold War.

(Photo courtesy of Bob Charest)

This required missions deep into Soviet-held Berlin. While Detachment A members usually enjoyed relaxed grooming standards and wore civilian clothes, spying across the wall was done in uniform surprisingly often.

“You put on a uniform, shaved your hair, got in the military vehicles, went through Checkpoint Charlie, and you had access to East Berlin,” Charest said, “Alexanderplatz and stuff like this. You drove around and that was your cover story. The Russians would do the same thing in West Berlin. They had their little system. That was how we conducted surveillance of our targets.”

The men had a huge advantage when spying on the East, though. Thanks to the 1950 Lodge Act, foreign nationals could obtain U.S. citizenship after a five-year stint in the military. This allowed Detachment A to recruit people from the neighborhoods and areas where their targets were without rousing suspicions. These recruits and leaders proved invaluable.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Soviet workers build the Berlin Wall, breaking up the city and reducing Detachment A’s ability to surveil its targets.

(U.S. National Archives)

“Our commander was great,” said Stejskal. “Our commander was Czech Officer who had served in the Resistance during World War II. Our Sergeant Major was a German who had served in the German Army, sort of, at the end of World War II. Just, nothing like you could imagine.”

“… several of the guys that reconned these targets were the actual Lodge Act people that lived in Berlin and had come from Berlin,” said Charest. “They knew where these targets were and the intel, G2 and above, knew what targets would be best to slow the Soviets down if they decided to come across.”

Detachment A practiced crossing the wall, swimming through deep canals with SCUBA gear, or making their way through sewer and water pipes under the city. One recon of the sewer pipes even got a senior officer in trouble.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Allied troops in West Berlin were deep behind Soviet lines. When the Soviets attempted to cut off re-supply to those troops, America launched the massive “Berlin Airlift” to keep them alive. The airlift was a success, but it drove home for many just how vulnerable West Berlin was.

(U.S. Air Force)

“He, along with somebody else, went into the sewer system to check the situation out for crossing points, okay,” Charest said. “Well, little did he know that the CIA had these things monitored with all kinds of stuff. They triggered the alarms.”

While the plans were well laid, they still relied on brave men willing to take on huge risks to make the mission a success. After all, West Berlin was still deep inside East Germany.

“It’s a strange feeling,” said Stejskal. “We were 110 miles behind the East German border, about 12,000 allied troops inside West Berlin surrounded by close to a million Russian and Warsaw Pact soldiers. Oddly enough, I think most of us were very energized to be where we were.”

And the men had a good idea of how dangerous that situation was.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Soviet forces prepare to leave Hungary. If the Cold War had gone hot, Detachment A members, like the rest of the allied troops in Berlin, would have been outnumbered and outgunned over 100 miles from friendly forces.

(RIA Novosti Archive, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

“Well, it was basically a suicide mission,” Charest said. “If we got in and hit anything and then we had to face escape and evasion, all right? You were on your own. There was nothing set up, formally, for escape and evasion, yet. You were on your own. That’s why you spoke the language, that’s why you were familiar with the countryside. You knew, essentially, you had to get to the coast or wherever NATO withdrew to and stuff like this. But, you had nothing formal, you were on your own.”

“I think we would’ve been hard-pressed to survive more than 72 hours, but you never can tell,” Stejskal said. “How did the OSS agents feel when they parachuted France or into Yugoslavia during World War II? Same kind of feeling. You’re anticipating that you’re going in to a very bad situation, but you got the best tools, the best cover, and everything else.”

Luckily, Detachment A never had to slow a Soviet invasion, despite flare-ups, like the tank standoff at Checkpoint Charlie. Instead, they spent their time training and conducting surveillance, preparing to save American forces in a war that never came and quietly saving American lives while building the framework and doctrine for units that followed them, like SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force.

Intel

The Metal Storm gun can fire at 1 million rounds per minute

The highest rate of fire for a machine gun in service is the M134 Minigun. The weapon was designed in the late 1960s for helicopters and armored vehicles. It fires 7.62 mm calibre rounds at a blistering rate of 6,000 rounds per minute, or 100 rounds per second — about ten times that of an ordinary machine gun, according to the Guinness World Records.


Related: This video vividly shows that the A-10 is all about the BBRRRRTT!

The Metal Storm gun, on the other hand, makes the M134 look like a toy. The prototype gun system was rated at 16,000 rounds per second or 1,000,000 rounds per minute. The gun system was developed by an Australian weapons company by the same name. In 2007, Metal Storm Inc. started delivering its gun systems to the US Navy for surface ships. This video shows how the Metal Storm gun achieves its head spinning firing rate.

Watch:

History

Articles

How Rangers ‘left their mark’ on the Italians at Sened Station

In early 1943, the 1st Ranger Battalion, known as Darby’s Rangers, was still relatively unknown and rather untested. All of that was about to change.


The Rangers had been formed less than a year before at the insistence of Gen. George Marshall. Marshall believed that the Americans needed a commando unit and ordered Major Orlando Darby to make it happen. On June 19, 1942, the 1st Ranger Battalion was activated from “volunteers not adverse to dangerous action.”

Though over 2,000 men had volunteered, only 575 officers and enlisted men were accepted into the battalion. The British Commandos then trained these men at their training facility at Achnacarry, Scotland.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
William Darby. (U.S. Army photo)

Less than six months after their formation, the Rangers spearheaded the Allied invasion of North Africa by taking out Vichy French artillery batteries at Arzew, Algeria. In a quick but decisive move, the Rangers captured the guns and some 60 prisoners.

After helping secure the port facilities and a nearby town, the Rangers were withdrawn from action. They began an intense training period, focusing on forced marches and night fighting. Both would prove useful in the near future.

With the rapid advance of Allied forces across North Africa, and commanders unsure of what to do with a specialized raiding force like the Rangers, they were not involved in the ongoing combat.

That changed in February when the Rangers were called upon to conduct raids against Axis forces to gather intelligence and weaken enemy morale.

Darby devised a plan to attack the Italians at Sened Station.

Trucked to within 20 miles of their objective the Rangers set off in total darkness. The Rangers set a blistering pace and stealthily covered some fourteen miles before taking shelter among the rocks for the day.

Word was passed around for that night’s mission — the Rangers would leave their mark.

“They’ve got to know that they’ve been worked over by Rangers,” Capt. Roy Murray said. “Every man is to use his bayonet as much as he can. Those are our orders.”

While his men concealed themselves among rocks and brush, Darby and his executive officer, Major Herman Dammer, conducted a leaders’ reconnaissance of the Italian outpost.

With the final plan set, the Rangers prepared to move out as the sun set. Faces were blackened and anything that jingled or rattled was secured to ensure silence. Helmets had been traded for wool caps the night before.

Once the moon set, the Rangers began their movement toward the objective.

The raiding force consisted of three line companies and a detachment of 81mm mortars. They moved out three companies abreast, toward positions within 500 yards of the outpost.

Darby was able to track the movement of his men by an ingenious method. Using red-lensed flashlights covered with a shroud mounted on the pack of a few men, he was able to see when his units were in position. This also ensured that no man wondered off course.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
Rangers train on the terrain of the 8 November assault at Arzew (U.S. Army Photograph)

When all was ready, Darby sent forward the order to fix bayonets and move out.

Slowly, silently, the Rangers crept toward the unsuspecting Italian garrison.

Some amount of noise must have made it to the Italians at their posts because they became suspicious. With the Rangers still some 200 yards out, Italian machine guns opened fire. In the pitch black, their fire was wild and inaccurate. The Rangers held their fire and continued to creep forward.

As the Rangers made it to within 50 yards of the wire, the Italian’s fire became too close for comfort. Italian sentries called out into the night, “Qui va la? Qui va la?” (“Who goes there?”)

All at once the Americans responded. The Rangers leapt up and charged across the short distance to the Italian perimeter. American Tommy Guns riddled the outpost as riflemen tossed hand grenades and stormed across the Italian defenses with their bayonets.

One Ranger, Cpl. James Altieri, stumbled into a trench and right on top of an Italian soldier. In the brief struggle, Altieri dispatched the man by stabbing him in the stomach. It was his first hand-to-hand kill. He immediately vomited before continuing the fight.

Altieri later described the fighting by saying, “We worked them over furiously, giving no quarter.”

As the Rangers cleared the outpost, the 81mm mortars pounded the Italian positions and cut off their retreat.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
American troops march in the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. (Dept. of Defense photo)

In just 20 minutes, the Rangers were victorious. The Rangers had killed some 75 Italians and captured eleven more from the elite 10th Bersaglieri Regiment. The Italian artillery and machine guns were destroyed in place.

The victory had cost the Rangers one man and another 20 wounded.

As Darby conferred with the assault commanders and consolidated his position, he could hear the distant rumble of tracked vehicles — German armor. This was expected; the raid had been intended to draw out the Germans to help commanders determine their strength. But it also meant it was time for the Rangers to get out of Dodge.

Also read: 8 more awesome nicknames that enemies gave the U.S. military

Retracing their steps, the Rangers set out on a forced march back to the French outpost with their prisoners in tow.

The sudden ferocity with which the Rangers struck earned them the nickname “the Black Death” among the Italians.

The daring raid also garnered Darby and eleven other Rangers a Silver Star for gallantry.

Darby and the Rangers would see more intense combat in North Africa before spearheading assaults into Sicily and Italy.

Their success convinced the Army to stand up four more Ranger battalions in the European theatre.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Men who lied about military service ordered by judge to wear ‘I am a liar’ signs

Yes, you read that correctly. No, this isn’t a headline at The Onion. In what seems like a fever dream cross between “The Scarlett Letter” and a Tom Clancy novel, two Montana men were ordered, by a judge, to wear “I am a liar” signs. Here’s the catch: that’s not the only creative punishment in store for the duplicitous men.


The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Judge Greg Pinski holds up the text for the “I am a liar” signs.

(CBS News)

Judge Greg Pinski, of Cascade County District Montana, delivered the unorthodox sentence two weeks ago. The two men on the receiving end of the punishment, Ryan Patrick Morris (28) and Troy Allan Nelson (33), were also instructed to wear signs saying “I am a liar. I am not a veteran. I stole valor. I have dishonored all veterans” at the Montana Veterans Memorial. According to The Great Falls Tribune, they were also ordered to write down the names of Americans killed in the line of duty.

The two men had recent prior convictions from the same judge: Morris with a felony burglary charge, and Nelson with a felony possession charge. However, the two were ordered back to court for violating the conditions of their release. According to The Military Times, the two men lied about their military involvement in order to have their cases moved to a veterans court. Morris falsely claimed that he had done multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was afflicted with PTSD from an IED that supposedly exploded and injured him. While Nelson was falsely enrolled in a Veterans Treatment Court.

It was then that Judge Pinski offered them early parole, if and only if they cooperated with a slew of stipulations. Pinski stipulated that every year, during the suspended portions of their sentences, they were to wear the signs about their necks, and stand for 8 hours on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day at the Montana Veteran’s Memorial.

Pinksi cited a Montana Supreme Court case that he said gives him jurisdiction for his unconventional punishment on account of his justified suspicion of stolen valor.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Judge Greg Pinski at the Montana Veterans Memorial on Veteran’s Day, 2015.

(Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

In addition, both men were required to hand-write the names of all 6,756 Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as write out the obituaries of the 40 fallen soldiers from Montana.

The buck didn’t stop there. Judge Pinski also ordered the men to hand-write out their admissions of guilt and apologize in letters to: American Legion, AMVETS, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, The Vietnam Veterans of America, and The Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The buck didn’t even stop there. In addition to all of the aforementioned tasks, the men were also required to perform 441 hours of community service each—one hour for each Montana citizen who died in conflict since the Korean War.

The men agreed to the terms, and if they complete all of the given tasks, they will be eligible for early release.

Morris was sentenced to 10 years with three years suspended in Montana State Prison, and Nelson was sentenced to five years, two years suspended.

According to The Military Times, Judge Pinksi was quoted saying “I want to make sure that my message is received loud and clear by these two defendants […] You’ve been nothing but disrespectful in your conduct. You certainly have not respected the Army. You’ve not respected the veterans. You’ve not respected the court. And you haven’t respected yourselves.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army names 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year

After five days, over 70 tested events and hundreds of evaluated standards, the U.S. Army named its top drill sergeant in a ceremony hosted by the Center for Initial Military Training, or CIMT, the lead in the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, for all initial entry training.

Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, representing Fort Jackson, S.C. and the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy, is the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.

Staff Sgt Benhur Rodriguez, representing Fort Sill, Okla. and the Fires Center of Excellence, was named runner up to the 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year and also received an award for the highest physical fitness score during the competition. In the event the primary selectee is unable to perform his duties, Rodriguez will assume the role.


By design, the competition is one of the most physically demanding and mentally tough challenges any soldier may face in a competition. The Army level event tests and highlights the professionalism and readiness of the U.S. Army by testing the drill sergeants that are responsible for training the total force.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, with camouflage face paint at a Camp Bullis shooting range. Knight is the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

The annual event was conducted at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, Texas for the first time since the Drill Sergeant of the Year was established 50 years ago.

Not only did the Health Readiness Center of Excellence, based at Fort Sam Houston, have a candidate in the competition, but the support of their staff and soldiers, along with CIMT planners, were crucial to the success of the event.

Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Specht, HRCoE’s Senior Drill Sergeant and Sgt. 1st Class Gabriel Hulse were the CoE’s lead planners for the event. They were both honored with an Army Commendation Medal presentation during Aug. 22, 2019’s ceremony. Six other HRCoE soldiers were also recognized for their significant contributions to the planning and execution of the competition.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

U.S. Army Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major (right), presents U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy with the Drill Sergeant of the Year award.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Specht, who was recently selected for promotion to Master Sgt. and was himself a Drill Sergeant of the Year competitor in 2018, discussed how HRCoE was honored to conduct the 50th Anniversary of the Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition on behalf of CIMT and TRADOC as the newest CoE within the Combined Arms Center and TRADOC.

“Every Drill Sergeant competitor gave 100% and it was inspiring to see their individual resolve and how each rose to the challenge and represented their respective CoEs and the noncommissioned officer corps as a whole,” said Specht. “Command Sergeant Major Mitchell and his staff outlined the expected standards of excellence and vison and allowed us, the mission command, to take ownership and host this historic event.”

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, firing an M9 at the mystery event.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

The 2017 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Chad Hickey and the 2017 Platoon Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Bryan Ivery, as the CIMT representatives, conducted two site visits, multiple initial planning reviews, and were on site over a week prior to the event validating test components. Specht continued, “The success of the event is really a demonstration of what cohesive teams can accomplish with 61 dedicated support noncommissioned officers, CIMT and our staff.”

The 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year competition was rigorous, highly structured and covered a broad base of subject areas at a relentless pace. The noncommissioned officers were evaluated in marksmanship, unknown distance road marches, individual warrior tasks, collective battle drill tasks, modern Army combatives, written exams, drill and ceremony, leadership, oral boards, and much more for the honor of being recognized as the top drill sergeant in the Army. The competitors, who truly had to be prepared for anything also took the Army Physical Fitness Test that is the current test of record and the new Army Combat Fitness Test that becomes the Army’s physical test of record in October 2020.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy on a ruck march.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major, said each event is designed to stress the candidates and push their limits physically and mentally to determine if the drill sergeant’s performance, abilities or professionalism become degraded.

Mitchell believes the competition is an extreme example of what all drill sergeants face in their daily tasks of training the Army’s newest recruits. He said that though many things in the Army have changed since he was a Drill sergeant from 1995 to 1998, “the soldierization process has not changed in the last 50 years. Drill sergeants are still tasked with turning ordinary citizens into soldiers.”

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
U.S. Army TRADOC hosts the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year (DSOY) Competition

(Photo by Sean Worrell)

On the first day of competition, Mitchell described the logic of putting these “soldier makers” to such an extreme test to determine the best of the best. “The drill sergeant that we select will be the number one drill sergeant in the Army as well as the TRADOC enterprise,” said Mitchell. “Sometimes you are going to be tired from what you do [as a drill sergeant], but we need that individual to still be able to be in front of soldiers and be able to be professional, no matter the conditions.” He explained how drill sergeants across the Army epitomize that type of endurance and professionalism each day.

Knight’s road to victory story makes for a good example. He said, “I started my quest to become the Drill Sergeant of the Year in 2017 when I was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood. I made it to the 2nd quarter Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Competition that year and lost.” Hickey, who helped plan this year’s competition eventually became the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, or MSCoE’s winner that year and subsequently the 2017 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence (right), with Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major, receiving the award for the highest physical fitness score during the competition.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

When he was transferred to Fort Jackson last year, Knight was, once again, encouraged to pursue the top drill sergeant prize through a competition at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy; he won the Fort Jackson competition earlier this year to allow him to compete and win this week.

“I really appreciate moments like that,” Knight recalled, speaking of his original loss at the MSCoE. “As drill sergeants we are expected to be subject matter experts so we can tend to think we know everything. Having a humbling experience like competing against other highly qualified people who just out performed you, leaves you two options: better yourself or just accept that someone got the better of you.”

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, going through the low crawl obstacle at Camp Bullis.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

The 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition began with 12 of the most proficient, determined and rugged drill sergeants in the Army representing Basic Combat Training, One-Station Unit Training, and Advanced Individual Training. There was one reservist, the rest were active duty noncommissioned officers. They had all won division level competitions at their home stations to earn the right to compete at the Army level.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, runner up at the 2019 Army Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition, instructs Soldiers on the correct method of conducting a drill and ceremony maneuvers.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Officially, the competition lasts four days with most evaluated events conducted in a field environment at Camp Bullis beginning on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. The last field event was completed by six o’clock in the morning on Day Four. In actuality, tested events began on Sunday with “Day Zero” elements that included height and weight measurements, written tests and an oral board held at Fort Sam Houston. Board questions, from seven command sergeants major, led by this year’s board president, Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, U.S. Army Medical Command Sergeant Major, were exhaustive on a variety of military and U.S. government related questions.

All of the remaining 10 competitors that outlasted the rigors of the week were honored during the recognition ceremony at Fort Sam Houston mere hours after they completed their last event at Camp Bullis: a 12 mile road march.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey C. Lullen, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, firing an M9 at the mystery event. In this lane while firing from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions the competitors first fired the M4 rifle then transitioned to the M4 pistol.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

When Knight was asked how he thought he was able to win over so many other highly qualified candidates, he said it came down to who was able to be more resilient, the most well-rounded, and maybe even who wanted it the most. Knight said he spent any small windows of free time during the competition studying and refreshing his memory on a wide range of subjects.

Knight explained, “Some [competitors] would take the opportunity to eat, some would take naps or got on their phones. I just spent a lot of time studying during the downtime to make sure I stayed in the zone; I didn’t want to open the door to distractions or self-doubt.” Though the competitors weren’t aware of what would be required of them at any given time, he said that many of the notes he studied ended up being on test events so that made him even more energized to put his time to good use.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

U.S. Army Sgt. Michael B. Yarrington, 108th Training Command, on the reverse climb obstacle during the first day of competition.

(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

“I kept the junior soldiers, the trainees, in mind at all times,” said Knight. Soldiers in training are often in situations where they don’t exactly know what is going to happen next. “They don’t have the privilege or luxury of just taking a nap or picking up their phone when they want to.” He explained that soldiers are always told to study during any break in training, “During downtime a drill sergeant will always tell a trainee, ‘pull out your smart book’ so I just felt like this was a great opportunity to bring myself back to the basics.”

Knight pointed out that this strategy for success is not a technique he invented for this competition, it is in the Drill Sergeant Creed: “I will lead by example, never requiring a soldier to attempt any task I would not do myself.”

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John K. Cauthon, Maneuver Center of Excellence drill instructor, Ft. Benning, Ga., cools himself down after the M4 stress shoot event.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

As the 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Knight will be reassigned to CIMT and TRADOC; he will report to Fort Eustis, Va. in 60 days. Knight, a 25 Victor, Combat Documentation Production Specialist, “Combat Camera” by trade is used to telling the Army story through photos. For 12 months, his tenure as the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year, he will serve as a sort of ambassador, called upon to be the example of the resilient, professional, and highly proficient drill sergeant that he just proved himself to be.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class William Hale (left), Foxtrot Company 232nd Medical Battalion range safety officer, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, hands out ammunition for the M4 stress shoot event.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

List of 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year Nominees in alphabetical order:

  • Staff Sgt. Mychael R. Begaye, Army Training Center, Fort Jackson, S.C.
  • Staff Sgt. John K. Cauthon, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Ga.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Frank D. Dunbar III, Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Va.
  • Staff Sgt. Ariel D. Hughes, Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE), Fort Rucker, Ala.
  • Staff Sgt. Lillian C. Jones, Cyber Center of Excellence, Fort Gordon, Ga.
  • Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, Fort Jackson, S.C.
  • Staff Sgt. Jeffrey C. Lullen, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, Fort Sam Houston, Texas
  • Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Martinez, Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
  • Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Mubarak, Defense Language Institute, Monterey, Calif.
  • Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, Fort Sill, Okla.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Marianne E. Russell, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
  • Sgt. Michael B. Yarrington, 108th Training Command, Charlotte, N.C.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Navy’s newest combat ship

On November 17, 2018, the Navy will officially commission the USS Sioux City, the newest littoral combat ship. It’s a quick and lethal addition to the fleet that can carry missiles, helicopters, and mines, despite being one of the smaller commissioned ships the U.S. Navy has.


The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

The PCU Sioux City will be commissioned on November 17, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Stan Bailey)

The Sioux City is a Freedom variant of the LCS, and it carries a 57mm gun, Rolling Airframe Missiles, .50-cal. machine guns, and the ALEX decoy system by default. The Sioux City also has a Mk. 50 torpedo, a lightweight torpedo that’s great for hitting fast-moving and deep-diving submarines.

The 57mm Bofors gun can fire airburst or conventional rounds at up to 4 rounds per second, shredding small boats or attackers on shore. The RAM allows the ship to engage anti-ship missiles, aircraft, and surface vessels and can even track and engage multiple targets at once. And the ALEX decoy allows the ship to create a massive radar signature to spoof missiles heading at the LCS or a fleet that it’s supporting.

One of its best core assets is the new radar, which can keep track of 1,000 contacts at once.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

The Future littoral combat ship USS Sioux City transits the Thames River as it arrives at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, Nov. 9, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Hoskins)

But all of those are just the ship’s “core” systems. The LCS was specifically designed to carry “mission modules,” which greatly expand its capabilities. There are three modules: surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and mine countermeasures.

The surface warfare module adds an MH-60R helicopter equipped with Hellfire missiles, a Firescout drone helicopter that can be equipped with guided rockets, and a pack of 24 Longbow Hellfire missiles that can be launched in rapid succession if necessary. This allows the LCS to slaughter swarm attacks as well as threaten ships and troops operating near the shore. The ship carries rigid-hull inflatable boats in this configuration which it can launch and recover from its stern ramp.

When the ship is equipped for anti-submarine warfare, it brings an MH-60S and the Firescout, but it pads those out with an active sonar, a towed sensor array, and a decoy system that fools incoming torpedoes. The Sioux City even brings a NETFIRES Precision Attack Munition with it in this configuration, allowing it to punch through armored targets up to 25 miles away.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

The Future littoral combat ship USS Sioux City pulls alongside the pier at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, Nov. 9, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Hoskins)

When working against mines, the MH-60S and Firescout stay, but the ship brings airborne mine detection and neutralization systems, additional sensors for scanning the coastal areas, and multiple drones, including the Knifefish underwater drone.

The ships can reach speeds up to 50 knots, but it tops out at 45 knots in sea state 3. Going that fast drains fuel, though; its maximum range at 50 knots is 1,500 nautical miles. If it slows to 20 knots, it can travel 4,300 nautical miles.

The Sioux City will be the fifth of the Freedom-class LCSs, and the Navy already has 11 Independence-class littoral combat ships.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

The future USS Sioux City is launched into the Menominee River seconds after ship sponsor Mary Winnefeld, wife of retired Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld, christened the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship.

(U.S. Navy)

The LCS add a lot of capability to the fleet in small packages and with small crews — the Sioux City can be fully manned with 75 sailors, and it can do most of its core missions with only 15 to 50 sailors — but they have been critiqued for their high cost and limited survivability systems.

The LCS program has been rife with cost overruns, the ships have needed excessive maintenance, and they’re fragile for combat. They are highly susceptible to damage with little protection for critical ship systems and limited redundancy for propulsion, sensors, etc. This is obviously a problem for ships supposed to operate near enemy shores and mine layers.

The Navy’s Guided Missile Frigate Replacement Program calls for unmanned systems that will operate in the same waters the LCSs are currently tasked to be, so there’s a chance that the LCS will be replaced by more expendable unmanned systems in the coming years.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons miniature wargaming beats a computer wargame

Okay, you just want to play the latest computer wargame. Well, it can be a blast, whether it’s a flight simulator (just don’t strafe the guys in chutes), a first-person shooter, or even just a simulation of a battle. But there are a bunch of wargames you’ve probably ignored.

Yeah, those miniatures rules. It seems antiquated in this day and age when you can immerse yourself into a game on your computer, but don’t knock those paper rules. In fact, just as cluster bombs have got JDAMs beat in under appreciated ways, miniatures rules have computer games beat in ways you may not appreciate. Let’s take a look.


The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

You don’t need a computer to have a good game going – just imagine a few sailors with some Harpoon or Advanced Squad Leader.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tarra Samoluk)

No tech needed

When your power is out, your laptop’s got a finite life. The more performance you want or need for that game, the faster the battery runs down. That is not an issue with miniatures rules. No tech needed. The most important specialty item: Dice — and those are not dependent on electricity.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Pizza and sodas with the buddies – a nice miniatures game can provide the perfect excuse for that, PCs, not so much.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David N. Dexter)

You can throw a party

When you and your buddies get together to play a miniatures game, it can be a real nice party. Get some pizza, energy drinks, throw together some nachos. But you and your friends can have a few hours… or a whole weekend, for that matter. Just make sure you clean up afterwards.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Why is the cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) firing? What will those two Burke-class destroyers do? You could create the scenario…

(U.S. Navy Photo by Chief Damage Controlman Andrae L. Johnson)

Easy to come up with new scenarios

You don’t need much to come up with your own scenarios for a miniatures game. Just a map (doesn’t even have to be real), something to represent the ships or units (either informal tokens, actual miniatures, or even pieces of paper), and you are set to go.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

It will be very easy to incorporate these changes into the miniature version of Harpoon.

(Photo by Harold Hutchison)

You can address variables

The author gets to brag here. In 2004, he asked Larry Bond, the designer of the Admiralty Trilogy wargames, a question about implementing kamikazes into Harpoon. It took a few e-mails, but an article soon detailed how to implement kamikazes into the main Harpoon 4 rule set. Try doing that with a computer game.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Okay, let’s spice up a Cold War scenario of a carrier versus two regiments of Backfires by giving the carrier the Valkyrie from Robotech…

(Harmony Gold)

Custom characters, weapons, or ships are no problem

If you have the blank form, you have the means to add a character, ship, or weapon to the game. Whether your own design, or something from pop culture, you can use it in a minis game. Harpoon has brilliantly done this by providing blank forms, notably for ships. Some computer wargames allow you to do that, but most don’t.

So, the next time someone disses you about liking miniature wargames, you can show them what’s what.

Jobs

This is how military linguists get fluent in just 64 weeks

The job title “military linguist” sounds pretty impressive, right? It should, since linguists work around the world to translate highly classified documents and connect with troops and allied forces.

You don’t have to know anything but English to go into that career, either. That’s where the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center comes in. It’s one of the world’s foremost language schools that can make you fluent quickly, whether you’re learning Arabic, Farsi, Pashto or Mandarin Chinese.


The DLIFLC teaches 17 foreign languages in Monterey, California. Most enlisted students take its immersion courses to go into military intelligence jobs, while federal employees from other agencies, such as the FBI and National Security Agency, also go there.

It’s no cake walk

The courses are intense. They’re six to seven hours a day (NOT including homework), five days a week, and they last for 64 weeks over three semesters.

“Usually starting from the second month of their study, the teachers – we already use almost all of the target language in the classroom,” said Zhenshuai Liu, one of the DLI’s many native Chinese-language instructors.

Utah Army National Guard Pfc. Logan Jensen and Air Force Airman 1st Class Joseph Rutledge are two of the school’s current students. Both loved language and culture going into it, but neither knew a word of Mandarin. Rutledge said he was nearly panicked when his class began having days without using any English.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
A student works with a teacher at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Asian School on calligraphy of Chinese letters as part of activities to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Feb. 15, 2018.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

“You definitely realize how much you do and don’t know all at the same time,” he said. “They do it in such a way that it’s manageable … but you’re definitely out of your comfort zone.”

Air Force Tech Sgt. Benjamin Walton, the school’s chief military language instructor, knows all about that. Walton was a DLI student a decade ago. He was trained in Chinese, too.

“It kicked my butt, but I was able to survive it,” he said. “None of the students are prepared for the amounts of information and the pace of the course and what they’re going to have to go through when they come here.”

That’s not a knock on the students, though, who are very bright.

“Students who coasted through high school and those who even may have coasted through college – they really didn’t have to study much,” Walton said. “They all come here … and think they’re going to jump into this and ace it, despite our repeated warnings.”

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
Students at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center play Chinese games as they immerse themselves in the culture during the Chinese New Year, Feb. 15, 2018.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

But they’re still fast learners. Liu said DLI students only need about one week to learn basic syllables and phonetic sequences to the level of greeting people.

“In a civilian school, this can usually take one semester,” Liu said.

Jensen and Rutledge were about a third of the way through the course when we spoke, and they were learning 25-30 words a day, as well as how to distinguish them – an often confusing task.

“A lot of them sound alike. So, you could say one thing, and depending on the context or tone you say it in, it could have up to five different meanings,” said Jensen, who spent the first few months drinking a lot of coffee and doing pushups to stay awake. “You’re spending so much brain power just trying to understand what you need to do.”

The keys to learning

Liu said the key is to link your interests with the language so you can stay motivated and keep up with the pace. The school incorporates extracurricular activities such as cooking days, storytelling of legendary warriors and heroes, and there are immersion trips to places like a local Chinese market to get the students to appreciate the culture.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
A Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center instructors shows Chinese language students a tea-tasking ceremony as a way to immerse them in the culture.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

“You have to be interested in it in order for it to be successful,” Rutledge said.

And that’s not guaranteed. In general, the success rate for students at DLI is 75 percent. Some can’t keep up academically, while others fail out due to disciplinary reasons. Walton said the students who make it to the end of the Chinese course have one of the highest passing rates – 95 percent – which makes students’ “ah-ha moments” so satisfying.

“To actually be able to get through to somebody – that’s the reason why we [instructors] came back here … to try to impart our wisdom to the students now,” Walton said.

Most of the students who do succeed reach the college level of understanding within a year and a half, which requires a lot of studying. Some students listen to the language in the shower, while others review flashcards whenever they have the chance. Liu calls them “super students.”

“They don’t only take care of their study, they actually have military duty after class hours. They have to go to training and pass all the tests,” he said.

If the students do well, they get the chance to go to Taiwan or mainland China to do a month of immersive language study.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
A student at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Asian School practices calligraphy of Chinese letters as part of activities to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Feb. 15, 2018.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

Jensen and Rutledge still have a way to go before they finish the course. But they’re getting there.

“In some ways, the grammar is similar, even sometimes easier,” Rutledge said. “Sometimes you can express rather complex ideas in very few words or written characters.”

One thing’s for sure: it takes a lot of focus, especially as a military student.

“If you slip up on a test or opt to go out and have drinks with friends instead of study, that can really come back to bite you,” Rutledge said, who will be a cryptologic language analyst when he’s finished at DLI. He isn’t sure if he’ll stay in the military long term, but either way, he’d like to be a translator or do international business, both of which will make the course worth it.

The DLI’s headquarters is in California, but it has the ability to instruct another 65 languages through its Washington, D.C., branch. There are also several language training detachments at sites in the U.S., Europe, Hawaii and Korea.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

8 tips for managing a remote team during COVID-19

These are unprecedented times. Two weeks ago, COVID-19 felt very far away. Monday, we all woke up to a new reality. Schools and businesses: closed. Social gatherings: canceled. Ever-increasing travel restrictions. And the term “social distancing” is already feeling like the phrase of 2020.


This is uncharted territory for all of us and we have to be willing to lend each other a hand, albeit from at least six feet away.

I am honored to lead the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), a national nonprofit that serves military families and advises on military family issues. Partly out of utility, MFAN is a 100% remote organization. All of our team members are military-connected, and that means we move around a lot. As a military spouse myself, it was important to me that we build an organization that could thrive regardless of where the military sent my family and other team members’ families. As a result, we have learned that an organization can be highly effective without brick and mortar, but many of those lessons were learned through trial and error. In the spirit of helping others, here’s what works for us:

Stay connected.

MFAN has been able to achieve a feeling of closeness even though we work across multiple time zones, sometimes even from other continents. When new team members join our organization, they are often reluctant to pick up the phone to call someone and ask a question. Interpersonal relationships and team cohesion are essential, especially when we were dealing with a high-pressure situation. We have to be able to lean on each other without hesitation. A few strategies have helped us overcome reservations.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Schedule video conference calls.

Seeing each other can make a big difference. Set an expectation about attire for these. For MFAN, when it is an internal conversation, we are casual. When we are meeting with partners via video, we do business casual. Setting these clear expectations can help you avoid cringe-worthy moments later on.

Create a virtual water cooler.

Schedule video calls when you aren’t talking about a work agenda. MFAN has been known to host team happy hours at the end of a busy time. This allows us to connect on a personal level. During these happy hours, we talk about life, family, weekend plans, wherever the conversation brings us.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Share calendars.

Many of our team members have children and are juggling demands outside of work. It has always been important to us that we acknowledge and accommodate that. Before the schools were closed, the 20 minutes twice per day when I was doing drop off and pick up at my daughter’s school were on the work calendar I shared with our team. When you are working in an office and you aren’t at your desk, your team members can see you. But when you’re working remotely, no one has any idea if you’re at your desk or not, so it’s important to be transparent and let others know your schedule.

c.pxhere.com

Take breaks.

Whether you realize it or not, when you’re working in an office, you take intermittent mental breaks. Maybe you stop by a colleague’s desk, refill your coffee mug, grab water, or even just walk from your desk to a conference room. You need those mental breaks when you’re working from home, too. Without them, it’s easy to become burnt out and mentally exhausted. To be honest, this is something I constantly struggle with. I regularly have days when I realize at 2 p.m. that I haven’t eaten. Don’t do what I do! Take breaks, practice self-care. Eat lunch!

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Dedicate a space.

This one is especially challenging with schools and childcare facilities closed. Whenever possible, create a space in your home where you will work, and try to keep it consistent. This will allow you to set expectations for yourself and others around you that when you are in that location, you are working. Also, try to practice ergonomics.

Don’t neglect hygiene.

Yes, a perk of working from home is that you don’t necessarily have to get dressed up like you would if you were leaving the house. Having said that, practicing simple hygiene (as if you were leaving the house) can get you in the mindset for work. Shower, change your clothes, brush your teeth. This sounds ridiculous, but those of us who have been on maternity/paternity leave at some point know these habits can be the first to go. Get yourself into as much of a routine as possible — this will help you get closer to achieving normalcy in a completely abnormal time.

Be patient.

This is new for everyone. Be patient with yourself and others. Try to take a step back and look at the big picture. This isn’t permanent; we will come out of this. And, I am confident we will do so having learned quite a bit about ourselves, our colleagues and how we work along the way.

Shannon Razsadin is the executive director of the Military Family Advisory Network, www.militaryfamilyadvisorynetwork.org.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is heading for the worst opening at the China box office of Disney’s new “Star Wars” movies.

The movie had earned $2.2 million in the region by 8 p.m. local time on Friday, according to Variety, and was trailing behind three Chinese movies. The Chinese ticket service Maoyan is projecting “The Rise of Skywalker” to earn just $18 million during its theatrical run in China.

The “Star Wars” franchise has struggled to build an audience in the country, where Hollywood is increasingly relying on its box office to boost its blockbusters. The Chinese theatrical market has been growing at a rapid pace and is even projected to dethrone the US as the world’s box-office leader within the next few years.


Each Disney-era “Star Wars” movie has made less in China than the previous one. Here’s how each of them performed there:

  • “The Force Awakens” — 4 million
  • “Rogue One” — million
  • “The Last Jedi” — million
  • “Solo” — million
The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

(Disney/Lucasfilm)

Despite the lack of enthusiasm in China, all of those movies except “Solo” grossed over id=”listicle-2641661309″ billion worldwide. “The Force Awakens” earned over billion globally and 6 million domestically.

“The Rise of Skywalker” is expected to have a big opening domestically this weekend — despite negative reviews — but still less than the previous movies in the new trilogy. Boxoffice.com is projecting the movie to debut between 0 million and 0 million. “The Force Awakens” opened with 8 million domestically and “The Last Jedi” with 0 million.

“The Rise of Skywalker” so far has a 57% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the worst-reviewed “Star Wars” movie since “The Phantom Menace.”

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

Read more:

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-35 can make China’s carrier killer missiles ‘irrelevant’

As China builds out its network of militarized islands in the South China Sea and expands a sphere of influence designed to keep the U.S. out, the U.S. Marine Corps is putting the finishing touches on a weapon to burst its bubble: the F-35B.


China’s People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has turned out a massive number of so-called carrier-killer missiles, ballistic missiles that can target ships up to about 800 miles out at sea, even testing them against models of U.S. aircraft carriers.

With the U.S. Navy’s longest-range platform — aircraft carriers — maxing out at a range of about 550 miles, this means China could theoretically use the missiles to shut the U.S. out of a battle for the South China Sea.

But theories and lines drawn on paper won’t beat the U.S. military in a battle.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, conducts a vertical landing at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Nov. 15 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Jimenez)

In pursuing the strategy of anti-access/area denial, known as A2AD, China assumes that the U.S. must launch aircraft from bases or aircraft carriers. But the F-35B, the U.S. Marine Corps’ variant of the most expensive weapons system of all time, doesn’t work that way.

“You can fly the F-35B literally anywhere,” David Berke, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, told Business Insider. “If your traditional places of operation are unavailable” — perhaps because Chinese missile fire cratered them, a likely tactic in a war — “the F-35B can be there.”

By taking off in just a few hundred feet or so and landing from a vertical drop, the F-35B frees up the Marine Corps from worrying about large, obvious bases.

If China targets carriers, the U.S. won’t use carriers

Marines have been training for this operating concept in the Pacific as well. In mid-January 2018, they landed an F-35B on a sloped platform, showing that future pilots could land their plane almost anywhere.

Throughout last year, F-35B crews trained on tactics like “hot loading” and “hot refueling,” which aims to turn reloading the F-35 — usually an affair that takes time, space, and a massive air base to support — into the equivalent of a NASCAR pit stop.

For the F-35B, the ground crew runs up to the jet while it’s still running to pump more fuel and load more bombs. In just a few minutes, atop a dirt floor with minimal support infrastructure in an improvised location China’s missiles won’t know to hit, the F-35B can take off again.

Also Read: How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

“Find me 600 feet of flat surface anywhere in the world, and I can land there,” said Berke, who compared the F-35B to the A-10 “Warthog,” the U.S. Air Force flying gun famous for its ability to land on dirt roads and fight on despite getting roughed up.

So while China has focused on pushing back the U.S.’s aircraft-carrier-bound fleets of F-18s, the Marines have cooked up a new strategy involving smaller carriers, like the USS Wasp, and heavy-lifting, quick-flying helicopters for support. Using the V-22 Osprey’s and the CH-53’s extreme-lifting capability, Marines could set up makeshift bases inside China’s supposed A2AD bubble.

From there, the stealth F-35Bs could take out the threats keeping the carriers at bay, poking holes in that bubble.

“If you’re looking at warfare two-dimensionally, you’re looking at it wrong,” Berke, a former F-35 squadron commander, said of the A2AD concept. “You don’t beat me in a boxing match ’cause your arms are longer than mine.”

The U.S. is sending the F-35B to the Pacific ASAP

The U.S.’s faith in the F-35B’s ability to shake up the balance of power in the Pacific is evident in recent deployments. The first outside the U.S. was in Japan.

Now, amid rising tensions with North Korea, an F-35B-capable aircraft carrier will station itself in Japan.

“You’re about to put for the first time ever fifth-generation fighters on a ship at sea and put it into a highly contested area that is fraught with geopolitical risk and controversy and tensions,” Berke said.

“The implications of a fifth-generation airplane being in [the Pacific] is impossible to overstate,” he added. “They’re going to provide capability that nobody knows exists yet.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These high-tech glasses could change how sailors train

Training has evolved over the years but the core elements have always remained the same. There’s an instructor and a bunch of students. They go over material, both in theory and in practice, mastering the skills required by the job. But no matter how good the teacher, students will always need a refresher from time to time. So, that means it’s time to go back to school — or does it?

Now, mixed-reality technology — including smart glasses — could change the way sailors learn the skills they need to serve.


At the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo in Maryland, we got a chance to see the glasses that just might change the face of training for sailors — and, eventually, all other military personnel.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Sailors remove a steam-powered catapult chamber on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). Augmented reality could help train sailors to perform such maintenance tasks.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Jahnke)

A demo program showed how (in real-time) to disassemble a diesel engine. All nineteen steps were shown on the glasses, which rested (a bit heavily) on the nose. The smart glasses in use were Microsoft HoloLens, which work with Windows 10. As the operator worked on the engine, they used voice commands to cycle through the steps displayed, easily allowing trainees to learn as they work.

This new technology, known as Augmented Reality Training, could go far beyond just training sailors on maintenance tasks. Having a few pairs of goggles available while doing maintenance, however, will help keep every single step of a complicated process fresh in the mind of the technician. Anyone who’s dealt with assembling IKEA furniture can relate — wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to drop everything to reference the manual every step? Cheap furniture is one thing, but forgetting a step when doing work on an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer in the middle of the Indian Ocean can lead to disaster.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Gas Turbine System Technician (Mechanical) 1st Class Jordan Urie, assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5, performs corrective maintenance on the aft transmission system of Landing Craft, Air Cushion 31. Imagine if he could see how to disassemble and re-assemble the system while working.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Brock)

With Augmented Reality Training, the classroom can be taken out to sea. Even though most ships have the manuals nearby, this technology is a huge step forward in blending theoretical and practical education.

In short, technology could very well make it easier not only to train sailors before they go out to sea, but it may also help them keep their skills fresh at sea. That is a very good thing.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Interview with this WWII Vet Will Amaze You

This article is sponsored by World of Tanks Console.

We all know Stone Cold Steve Austin from his years when he was the face of World Wrestling Entertainment. “The Texas Rattlesnake” was one of the toughest, most badass wrestlers who left an indelible mark in the ring — both on TV and on the silver screen. Recently, we got to see Stone Cold sit down with some gentlemen who exhibited an entirely different type of toughness and heroism. By partnering up with Wargaming, the company responsible for the hit game World of Tanks, Austin recently sat down to interview three World War II tankers about their experiences. Their stories are powerful, harrowing, and heartbreaking.

The second veteran interviewed is Clarence Smoyer.


Clarence Smoyer served in the 32nd Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division. Hailing from Pennsylvania, Smoyer served as a gunner during World War II. On D-Day, he landed on Omaha Beach. He recounted that, by the time he landed on the beach, things were already under control — but that control didn’t extend far inland. Moving forward, he rapidly found himself in the thick of it.

Smoyer would load his tank’s gun fast and often get blistered up badly as a result. He recalls that once, he went to medical to get the blisters treated and, on the way back, heard a mortar coming in. He ran and took cover just as it exploded nearby. A piece of shrapnel ripped his nose up, but Smoyer didn’t want to go back to medical because, “I was afraid I’d get hit by another mortar,” so he soldiered on.

Austin asks Smoyer if his tank ever got hit. Smoyer tells us that his tank got hit with an armor piercing shell and it took a chunk out of the tank. If it had been six inches over, it would have gone through his telescopic sight and he would have died. It’s a harrowing thought.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

(Photo Courtesy of Clarence Smoyer)

In one of the most heart-wrenching accounts of losing a buddy, Smoyer relates a story about losing his tank commander who was also his best friend. When one of the open-top vehicles was hit, his friend ran toward them to assist — despite Smoyer’s warnings. “He always ran to help someone if they were in need.” Just before he reached the vehicle, he was killed instantly by two mortar shells as Smoyer watched in horror.

Smoyer’s stories are so powerful, in fact, that they’re the subject of a New York Times bestselling book, Spearhead, which is a great read if you’re looking for all the gritty details.

Austin asks Smoyer to recount the first time he took on a German tank. Smoyer tracked down a tank, but it backed off behind a building. Smoyer shot through the building and hit a pillar which caused the building to collapse. Smoyer learned later the building collapsed on the tank and put it out of actions. Years later, on his return to Europe, he met one of the occupants of the German tank after they fished him out from under the building’s rubble. “I hesitated, I didn’t know how he was going to feel about me. After all I dropped a building on him.” The meeting went well, and they shook hands. Smoyer told him, “The war is over now, we can be friends.”

To continue the Tank action, be sure to check out World of Tanks on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One today. Through the World of Tanks Tanker Rewards program, Wargaming offers tons of benefits and exclusive rewards both in-game and in person for all registered players. Be a part of our current WWE season and get endless opportunities to claim WWE and Tanker rewards. To learn more about the program, click here.

This article is sponsored by World of Tanks Console.