Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

The 1968 World War II film “Where Eagles Dare” thrilled some viewers — and scared the bejesus out of others — with its tale of commandos storming a snow-covered mountain fortress and a scene of Richard Burton wrestling with Nazi thugs on the roof of a swaying cable car.


But for an Omaha teen named James Stejskal, seeing the movie inspired his life’s work as an Army Green Beret.

“I was always interested in that kind of life,” said Stejskal, 63, now retired from careers as a soldier and CIA agent and living in Alexandria, Virginia. “A small unit fighting against the bigger enemy (using) a combination of military and intelligence operations, not just brute force.”

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Green Berets standing proud.  (U.S. Army photo)

This spring, Stejskal published a book called “Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the U.S. Army’s Elite, 1956-90,” about the secret unit with which he spent nine of his 23 years in the Army. Its work was so sensitive that the Pentagon didn’t acknowledge its existence until 2014.

“That’s when we finally came in from the cold,” said Tom Merrill, 63, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, who served with Stejskal in Berlin and remains a friend.

Stejskal enlisted in the Army in 1973, a year after graduating from Central High School. Soon he became a Green Beret, serving on small special ops teams. He was a weapons sergeant and a medic, known to his buddies as “Styk.”

“He was the consummate operator — natively smart, well-educated, thought well on his feet,” said Merrill, who lived in Council Bluffs as a boy.

The Berlin unit, created in 1956, was blandly named Detachment “A.” It disbanded in 1990, after the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Berlin Wall, 1989 (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

The soldiers of Detachment “A” didn’t look much like soldiers. They dressed in modish clothes, wore beards and long hair, made local friends, lived in off-base apartments. All spoke German, many of them fluently.

“Working in civilian clothes, blending in with the locals, doing cool stuff in West Berlin and the middle of (Communist) East Germany,” recalled Stejskal, who served in the unit from 1977 to 1981, and from 1984 to 1989. “It was a very ambiguous kind of duty.”

They were expert at soldierly skills like marksmanship, wilderness navigation, rappelling from helicopters, urban combat. But they also learned the tradecraft of spies, including surveillance and secret messaging.

In the event of a Soviet-led invasion of Western Europe, the detachment’s job was to melt into the population of Berlin and engage in acts of sabotage behind enemy lines. In his book, Stejskal describes it as a “Hail Mary plan to slow the (Soviet) juggernaut they expected when and if a war began.”

Each of the detachment’s six teams was to be responsible for sabotaging bridges and railroads, harassing the enemy in designated slices of East Berlin and East Germany.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Berlin during the Cold War.

The work evolved as new threats emerged in Europe, and encompassed training in guerrilla warfare, direct-action precision strikes, and counterterrorism.

As radical groups spread terror across Europe with kidnappings, mass shootings and hijackings in the 1970s, Detachment “A” practiced rescuing hostages from trains and airplanes. Pan Am let them drill using airliners stored in its hangars at Berlin’s Tegel airport.

The detachment’s highest-profile mission had little to do with the Cold War and didn’t even take place in Europe. In 1980, the detachment was tapped to help rescue 52 U.S. diplomats held hostage in Tehran by radical Iranian students.

Soon after the embassy was captured Nov. 4, 1979, the U.S. military began developing a plan to seize the hostages. Most were held in the main embassy compound, but the job of Detachment “A” was to snatch three who were being held separately at the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

The first rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw, ended in disaster when a plane and a helicopter collided in the dark in the Iranian desert.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Operation Eagle Claw ends in failure, 1989. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The military quietly began planning a second rescue attempt, again including members of Detachment “A.” Stejskal and Merrill, who hadn’t been part of Eagle Claw, were involved in the second, Operation Storm Cloud. It involved using Air Force transport planes to fly partly disassembled helicopters into an airfield commandeered in the desert. The helicopters would be quickly reassembled and used to assault the Foreign Ministry.

The team traveled to Florida to conduct live-fire drills and spent weeks rehearsing with helicopter crews. They honed their weapons skills with extra-long hours on the shooting range.

“We were blowing (our weapons) up, we were firing them so much,” Stejskal said.

They ran a dress rehearsal in late November 1980, but soon the word came down: The mission had been scrubbed.

“It was deflating, extremely,” Stejskal said. “It’s like preparing for a big game and then being told you can’t play.”

The hostages were released Jan. 20, 1981, the same day President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
President Reagan’s inauguration, 1981. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Stejskal soon rotated out but returned to the unit in 1984. The 1980s are remembered now as the death throes of the Soviet empire. But at the time, it wasn’t clear whether popular movements like Poland’s Solidarity might provoke a Soviet crackdown.

“No one was really sure how it would all play out,” he said.

Stejskal left Berlin in the spring of 1989, but he flew back in November when he heard that the Wall had fallen. He wanted to see the end of the Cold War icon that had shaped his life.

“In one way, it was a relief: The mission as I knew it in Berlin was over, or soon would be,” Stejskal said. “On the other hand, there was a bit of nostalgia for the way things were.”

Not that his life on the razor’s edge ended when the Wall fell. In December 1992, Stejskal was badly wounded when his car drove over a land mine in Somalia.

Stejskal suffered a serious head injury and a shattered leg.

“I basically had 3½ inches of bone that was turned to confetti,” he said.

Stejskal returned to duty a year later. But he knew he would never regain his former strength. So he retired in 1996.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Green Berets. (U.S. Army photo)

That was the same year he married Wanda Nesbitt, a State Department foreign service officer he had met five years earlier during an evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, in the country then known as Zaire.

At his first overseas posting with Nesbitt, Stejskal said, someone handed him a sticky note with a telephone number on it and said to call if he wanted a job. That led to a 13-year stint with the CIA.

In recent years, Stejskal has attended Detachment “A” reunions, where the stories flow along with the beer.

“Somebody said, ‘We need to get this down on paper. We’ve got a history. Who’s going to write it down?'” he said.

Stejskal volunteered. Merrill said the book, published in March by Casemate Publishers, has taught him a lot he didn’t know about the unit’s history.

“He gave it the respect it deserved,” Merrill said. “He was able to take his insider knowledge and transfer it to something an outsider can understand.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of the pioneers of the Navy SEALs just died

It’s not widely known that Marine Corps Raiders trained operatives for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. The forerunner to the CIA, the OSS would conduct clandestine resistance, sabotage, and intelligence-gathering operations all over the world. One of those operatives was a member of UDT-10, an underwater demolition team, who would play a critical role in the recapture of the Philippines during the war, then help create the foundation of maritime special operations forces for the U.S. military and the intelligence community.

That operative was a sailor named Hank Weldon and he died on Oct. 5, 2018 in his San Marcos, Calif. home. He was 95 years old.


“My point of view of the war is a little different than a lot of people,” he told the Valley Road Runner in 2013. “I let them [U.S. Marines] in and left. I didn’t see a lot of action on the ground. I went in and cleared the areas for the ships,” says Weldon. “Opened the lanes for them. Took care of mines. Or eliminated markers that the Japanese were using as markers for their artillery.”

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Underwater Demolition Teams used surfboards to haul up to 300 pounds of explosives to shore.
(Valley Road Runner)

That was just the beginning of a storied career in service to his country.

Born in 1923 and graduating from high school in 1942, Hank Weldon came of age at the outbreak of World War II. He played football at Villanova for two semester before joining a Navy commissioning program. It was while training for that program that General “Wild Bill” Donovan came looking to recruit strong swimmers for the OSS.

His swimming test involved pulling a manhole cover from the bottom of a pool and putting it in an empty canoe without tipping it. He passed. That’s when he was ordered to Camp Pendleton – but he had no idea what branch of the service he was actually in. The truth was, they were from all branches.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

Weldon and his full UDT crew on California’s Catalina Island during their training exercises.

The OSS recruited men from the Coast Guard, Army, Navy, and Marines to come train with a Marine Raider battalion. When their training was complete, the unit was split up. Some were deployed to hit the beaches at Normandy, while Weldon and others prepared to hit the beaches of the occupied Philippine Islands.

Their trial by fire came when they were sent on the first underwater recon mission of World War II, gathering intelligence on the island of Yap. From there, they saw action at Palau and in five missions in the Philippines – but they didn’t lose a single man there. He even saw General MacArthur as he returned to the island nation, as promised.

When the war ended, so did Hank Weldon’s time in the military.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

But his career in service didn’t stop. He spent 26 years as a beat cop on the Los Angeles Police Department and served during some of the most dangerous times in the force’s history. He served during the 1965 Watts Riots, a six-day civil disturbance that damaged million worth of property and was the most destructive urban uprising of the entire Civil Rights Era. It took a 45-mile exclusion zone enforced by 13,000 California National Guardsmen to quell the violence – with Hank Weldon riding and holding shotgun through it all.

Some 50 years after leaving the military and the OSS Maritime unit, he was inducted into the U.S. Army Special Forces – with good reason. He helped inaugurate the use of fins in maritime clandestine operations and pioneered tactical technology, including the first rebreathers. The tactics, weapons, and hand-to-hand combat techniques he and other OSS operative learned from the Marine Raiders were passed on to other operatives throughout the war and then handed down to new special operations units thereafter.

Members of the OSS were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on March 21, 2018, and Hank Weldon was the surviving member of his OSS team, UDT-10. Weldon’s family turned down an invitation for Hank to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Instead, he will receive a military burial ceremony at home, in the Valley Center Cemetery in California.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the battle of Dunkirk — by the numbers

Everyone knows the basic story about the “Miracle of Dunkirk,” during which trapped British troops were evacuated from the French coastal city. But how much do you really know of this miraculous nine-day operation?


Granted, Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece “Dunkirk” made over $500 million, but it told just a tiny snippet of the tale. What makes the miracle of Dunkirk so impressive are the numbers of people the operation moved out of France.

The evacuation had become necessary because German tanks had attacked through the Ardennes forest – which Allied planners had assumed was impassable terrain for tanks.

There’s a lesson in that, but that is for another time. As a result of the disastrous way the Battle of France unfolded, about 800,000 Nazis had roughly 400,000 British and French troops trapped with their backs to the English Channel, with the safe haven of England being 22 miles away.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
The crew of a fishing boat retrieves British troops off Dunkirk. (US Army image)

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered a maritime evacuation, thinking that perhaps 45,000 troops could be pulled out. However, many British civilians brought their boats, and an armada of over 700 vessels, ranging from warships to rowboats was soon heading for the pocket.

They faced a devastating gauntlet. During the nine-day evacuation, Nazi planes dropped 45,000 bombs. That came down to roughly one bomb every 17.5 seconds. The Royal Air Force sent 16 squadrons of Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes to cover the evacuation. In 2,739 fighter sorties, they shot down as many as 240 Nazi planes.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
The British Army evacuation from Dunkirk (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

The Nazis managed to kill 68,000 troops who were holding the line, along with nine destroyers (six British, three French) and over 200 of the smaller vessels carrying out the evacuation. But that armada – citizens of a free country rising up to meet the call – managed to evacuate 338,226 troops — a figure far higher than the optimistic hopes of 45,000.

You can see a video about this evacuation below.

YouTube, World War Wings

Articles

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

For most soldiers in the Vietnam-era, the time between getting drafted or volunteering and their heading to war was short. The Army had each draftee for only two years. After they were shipped to basic, trained, shipped overseas, plus the time needed to ship home and use their two months of accrued leave, each draftee could expect a year of deployed time preceded by 4-6 months of training.


Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Paratroopers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team fighting on Hill 823 during the Battle of Dak To. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Volunteers, especially officers, had it a little better. They may train for up to a year before deploying — attending advanced training like Ranger School after basic and job training.

Either way, they were expected to grow from boys to men quickly. For the three men in this video, that growth would be harder than most. The veterans fought at the Battle of Dak To, one of the bloodiest American battles of the war. Hill 875, the single costliest terrain feature of the war, was captured there.

A recently recovered film of the Battle of Dak To shows two hours of fighting in and around Hill 724, another tough terrain feature captured. Bob Walkoviak, one of the veterans in the discussion above, fought on the hill and helped find the lost footage.
Articles

Why I’m thrilled Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel

Look, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is really lighting my fires when it comes to their female superheroes.

When Marvel Studios announced they would be bringing Captain Marvel to the big screen, I was thrilled. I was also immediately invested and my expectations shot through the roof.


Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Heyyyyy Valkyrie…
(Thor: Ragnarok by Marvel Studios)

The reasons why are threefold:

www.youtube.com

1. This movie is for *me*

I am the target demographic for this film, and I have been ever since my 8-year-old self cuddled up with nerdy/amazing hero novels, like The Rowan or The Song of the Lioness. I have been devouring epics featuring female heroes for as long as I can remember.

So have all the other women out there thirsting for heroes that look like them. Seeing representation on film and television empowers the people who are watching. This is why it’s so important and exciting to have women and people of color finally stepping into hero roles.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

Full Metal Obsession.

(Warner Bros.)

2. I know the military world

I joined the military after 9/11 (probably as a result of the aforementioned hero literature). I wanted to literally fight evil. I was an Air Force captain, much like ol’ Captain Marvel herself. As a result, I’m very critical of how military women are portrayed in TV and film.

Edge of Tomorrow got it right. My list of who got it so, so wrong is too bitter to share here, but if your character wore a push-up bra, then you’re on it.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F13KRZLObX9B1tK.gif&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.giphy.com&s=916&h=1db67260745ab301eec2b03450ecbef21ad9b78f3782b9426a093d35437277e1&size=980x&c=1121216279 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F13KRZLObX9B1tK.gif%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.giphy.com%26s%3D916%26h%3D1db67260745ab301eec2b03450ecbef21ad9b78f3782b9426a093d35437277e1%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1121216279%22%7D” expand=1]

Yeah, she played Envy. Amazing, right?

3. I know the casting world

I’m an actor and filmmaker. I understand that Hollywood has to take some artistic liberties. I understand that a big name means selling-power for a film. I also understand the work it takes to bring a character to life.

I’d literally stab someone for love the chance to play a role like Captain Marvel — whoever they cast better make me so delighted to watch that I forget my debilitating FOMO about not playing the part myself.

Well guess what, Marvel? YOU NAILED IT.

Brie Larson has been on my radar since the effing fantastic Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

www.instagram.com

She’s been on the world’s radar since her Oscar-winning performance in Room. Larson is the kind of actor who effortlessly morphs into a world. She is extremely natural on-camera.

Also, she’s just cool.

In the comics, Carol Danvers is an Air Force officer whose DNA fuses with a Kree, giving her superhuman powers. I don’t know how the MCU will bring her story to life, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that screenwriter Anna Boden will take a cue from comic writer Kelly Sue DeConnick who pitched “…Carol Danvers as Chuck Yeager.”

Obviously, the filmmakers are keeping pretty tight-lipped about the upcoming 2019 film, but Larson has been sharing little peeks at her training along the way, including work with the actual U.S. Air Force.

www.instagram.com

This is a good sign — whenever there is a military film, my first question is who are the service members involved? (FWIW: I always prefer for the answer to be veterans who have transitioned out of the military and into professional careers in the entertainment industry)

Larson has also shared a glimpse at her physical training for the role.

Pull-ups take me back to jump school. Good times….

I believe that she could be powerful. I believe that she could be a leader.

Larson is lovely, but her looks don’t define her. She doesn’t need to be glamorous (though she surely can be when she wants to). This is the same mindset that women in the military have. There’s a comfort level with sacrificing some femininity for the mission. That’s what Hollywood gets wrong so often when they hyper-sexualize their military roles.

But not this time. Marvel crushed it with Larson, and I cannot wait to see this film.

I’m also going to lose my mind if we catch a glimpse of her in Avengers: Infinity War.

MIGHTY TRENDING

In one year, VA improves mental health services

Just one year after President Trump signed Executive Order 13822, VA has made significant strides forward in its mission to provide mental health care to transitioning service members and veterans during the first 12 months after separation from service, a critical period marked by a high risk for suicide.

The executive order mandated the creation of a Joint Action Plan by the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and VA. The plan was accepted by the White House in May 2018 and has been underway since that time.


According to Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director, suicide prevention for VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, all 16 tasks outlined in the Joint Action Plan are on target for full implementation by their projected completion dates, seven out of the 16 items are complete and early data collection efforts are showing positive results.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

Transitioning service members can now register for VA health care early​

Partnerships within the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Office of Transition and Economic Development, are actively providing, through the Joint Action Plan, transitioning service members with the opportunity to register for VA health care pre-transition during the Transition Assistance Program. This is a new option for service members, who before were provided with information for independent registration, however, were not provided with the opportunity for facilitated registration.

“In a single month, more than 34 percent of the nearly 8,000 transitioning service members who attended the TAP modules in person registered for VA health care before, during or after their class attendance date,” Franklin said. “One of the joint goals of this effort is to reduce barriers to care. By getting transitioning service members registered into the VA health care system earlier, we are able to get them the mental health care they need much quicker.”

The TAP curriculum is also modified to incorporate a new military lifecycle module on community integration resources. This module informs transitioning service members about community organizations as well as how to identify and check them.

“Because of the updates to TAP, 81 percent of the transitioning service members in TAP during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018 said they felt informed about the mental health services available to them,” Franklin said. “This modification reinforces the important role of community partners, such as Veteran Service Organizations.

Emergent mental health care available to more service members than ever before

Through the coordinated efforts of DoD, DHS, and VA, certain former service members may receive emergent mental health care from VA. Additionally, any newly transitioned veteran who is eligible can go to a VA medical center, Vet Center, or community provider and start receiving health care right away.

As part of the effort to provide mental and behavioral health care, VA is using telemental health technology to reach those service members who may not have easy access to a VA facility and implementing eligibility training for employees at the field level.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

“Mental health care is something that we want to make available as widely as possible,” said Dr. David Carroll, executive director, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. “The efforts under this executive order are one way that we can make that happen. We have the greatest respect for the men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces, and we will not relent in our efforts to connect those who are experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis with lifesaving support.”

Looking ahead: Early contact and predictive analytics

While proud of how far the program has come since May, Franklin acknowledged that there is still some time before all of the Joint Action Plan goals will be fully implemented. However, there are several goals underway that will be complete in the coming months, including:

  • Within the next six months, the veterans Benefits Administration will establish caring messaging and reach to all transitioning service members and veterans to inform them about a variety of resources including health care enrollment, education benefits, and more.
  • By April 2019, DoD, DHS and VA will establish a way forward for an integrated data environment and inter-agency analytical platform that can support development of a joint approach to predictive modeling.

“This executive order was established to assist in preventing suicide during a critical period – the first-year post-separation from military service. However, the completed and ongoing work of the executive order and Joint Action Plan will likely impact suicide prevention efforts far beyond the first year,” Franklin said. “We are working diligently to increase coordinated outreach, increase access to care and focus our efforts beyond just the first-year post-separation. We are working to promote wellness, increase protective factors, reduce mental health risks, and promote effective treatment and recovery as part of a holistic approach to suicide prevention.”

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

The efforts created under Executive Order 13822 and the Joint Action Plan are all key components of VA’s public health approach to suicide prevention. Combined with VA’s other suicide prevention programs, these efforts will provide a full continuum of evidence-based mental health care that can help prevent a suicidal crisis before it occurs. Using a public health approach to suicide prevention, VA continues to focus care on high-risk individuals in health care settings, while also encouraging comprehensive collaboration with communities to reach service members and veterans where they live, work, and thrive.

“Just as there is no single cause of suicide, no single organization can end suicide alone,” Franklin said. “We’ve been able accomplish and implement some great things from the executive order and Joint Action Plan in the last year, but there other important and valuable efforts ongoing and in our future, too. That’s why VA is working to educate partners, other government agencies, employers, community organizations, and more, on the available mental health and suicide prevention resources available – both inside and outside of VA.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

These Afghan moms are taking up arms to fight the Taliban and ISIS

As radical terrorist groups continue to wreak havoc around Afghanistan, a group of women are taking up arms against them.


The Afghan National Police have resorted to arming and training local women to fight the Taliban and Islamic State militants. In many cases, the women had lost their sons, husbands, and other loved ones to the ongoing violence.

“If we fear [ISIS] and the Taliban today, our future will be ruined tomorrow,” one unnamed woman told Al Jazeera.

Female members of the Afghan National Police train the local women in small arms and basic tactics, specifically in the northern reaches of Afghanistan.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Army photo by Sgt. Chloé Barnes.

“Every week, around 40 or 50 people join,” said Najiba, a female police officer.

Some Afghans do not approve of women fighting in the army or police, but the increasingly desperate situation has forced the security forces to take desperate measures. Afghan forces only control or influence approximately 60 percent of the country’s districts, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

ISIS’s Afghan branch, known as Islamic State-Khorasan province, holds significantly less territory, but the group has been able to engage in several deadly terrorist attacks across the country.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Army photo by Sgt. Chloé Barnes.

“It’s been forced on us,” Gen. Rahmat of the Jowzjan province police told Al Jazeera in an interview. “It’s not a woman’s job to fight. But that’s the situation now. Women have joined the police and army, too.”

Fighting the Taliban and ISIS is a risky proposition for the women, but many see it as their duty. Sara Khala, one of the women training to fight the militants, lost her son to the Taliban, forcing her to care for his orphaned children.

“I have to take revenge for him,” she told Al-Jazeera. “I’ll cook dinner and give it to them. Then I’ll go wherever the Taliban and Daesh are. I’ll take my gun and fight them.”

Articles

This how the Army introduced the plastic explosive in the 1960s

Today, plastic explosives are a given. But 50 years ago, they were the latest in demolition technology. One of the most notable, of course, is C4.


Officially, it is called the M118 demolition charge, and was called Flex-X back then. Prior to the introduction of Flex-X, explosives had to be secured to what the engineers wanted to blow up.

C4, though, was more like Play-Doh or used chewing gum in that it could be stuck to whatever needs to go away.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Composition C-4 demolition charges await use as explosive ordnance disposal technicians conduct demolition operations supervisor training. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger)

The explosive had some other advantages as well. It could be used underwater, which means that divers could plant it on a pier without having to surface and risk being seen.

The explosive was also very insensitive. The video below shows troops dropping a weight on the Flex-X to no effect. It wouldn’t even go off when shot by multiple rounds from a M14 service rifle or when tossed into a campfire.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Those two shots from a M14 rifle did not set off the M118 charge. The third wasn’t the charm, either. (Youtube screenshot)

It also took much less time to set up – almost 60 percent less – when compared to earlier explosives, thanks to that Play-Doh/chewing gum consistency. That would save the lives of the engineers, who would spend less time away from cover.

Cold weather had little effect on the explosive’s ability to stick to whatever needed to be blown up. Other explosives needed to be taped or otherwise secured to the target.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, the M118 came in a box of 20 charges, each of which had four eight-ounce sheets of C4. A sales sheet from one manufacturer notes that the M118 is intended for breaching, ordnance disposal, demolition, and cutting metal.

The explosive replaced stocks of TNT, dynamite, and PETN in U.S. military stockpiles.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUJd_jKeStY
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what it was like being in the military on 9/10

Picture this: You wake up and the first thing you see is the beautiful sunshine of the Aloha State. The smell of the seawater mixed with the joy of being on your own makes serving your country feel like freshman year at college.


This was reality for me, an 18-year-old airman living the dream in Hawaii on September 10, 2001. As we all know, the very next morning, at approximately 0845 Eastern Time, things would change for the military, the country, and the world at large.

Also read: 6 reasons being E-4(ish) mafia is the best

Here’s what people in the military experienced immediately.

4. Getting on base got harder.

During my first few weeks as a Security Forces airman, I was planted at the gate.

I stood in the center of a three-lane highway, decked out in short-sleeved blues complete with a crisp white ascot, perched in my small, brick pulpit waving traffic in and rendering salutes according to base vehicle decals. It was fun for a while, and all that saluting actually gave me quite the jailhouse pump.

But I digress.

After 9/11, there were entire teams assigned to the gate. Vehicle searches became an absolute necessity and people started to have a bit more empathy for the gate guard.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
What all gate guards used to look like. (Photo from Joint Base Andrews).

3. Separating pretty much stopped.

Two words. Just two words could ruin your day and change your life after 9/11.

“Stop-loss.”

It’s well known that the U.S. Army was heavily affected by stop-loss. What’s lesser known is just how much stop-loss affected the entire military. Suddenly, we found ourselves looking at involuntary active service extensions — we were all stuck in the suck together.

Also, leave was an absolute no-go.

2. Deployments got longer (a lot longer).

Before 9/11, U.S. Air Force deployments were typically around three months — or less.

In the immediate aftermath following 9/11, it wasn’t uncommon for airmen to be gone for 8-12 months at a time. This pales in comparison to our older brothers in green, but it was quite the change of culture for airmen.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
A long way from home? Check. Isolation? Check. Fatigue? Triple check. (Image by Paul Davis)

Related: 7 reasons the Air Force hates on the Army

1. Life got real.

Obviously, life was completely different after the events of 9/11. For airmen, it meant a lot of changes happening really fast.

Before 9/11, the amount of “in-service” friends deploying was minimal, especially if you weren’t SOF, Security Forces, or Civil Engineering. The tempo was such that we could all properly maintain our duties without augmentation.

Suddenly, family members expressed much more concern than they had prior. This isn’t to say that they didn’t care before 9/11, but when a newfound element of danger cropped up and put everyone at risk, you started to hear from loved ones more often.

Since then, every service member (yes, even in the “Chair Force”) has had to face threats and fight for our country, in some way, day in and day out. There was conflict to be had by all.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Some gave all. (USAF photo by A1C Christopher Quail)

Articles

Here are 6 ongoing conflicts the next POTUS will inherit

Whomever America chooses in 2016, among his or her first orders of business will be to spend a lot of time getting briefed on where the U.S. military is deployed.


Service members around the world are currently conducting airstrikes, raids, bilateral training missions, and other operations to help America and our allies. These six ongoing conflicts will certainly still be on the plate when the next president gets up to bat:

1. Iraq and Syria

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
U.S. Marines fire artillery to break up ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Peshmerga forces. (Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Andre Dakis)

Few people need a primer on what is going on in Iraq and Syria. ISIS holds territory and is murdering thousands of people. America’s involvement against ISIS has been slowly growing.

We’ve lost three service members there. Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed while rescuing potential victims of an imminent massacre, Marine Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin was killed in a rocket attack while providing fire support for coalition fighters, and Navy SEAL Charles Keating was killed while rescuing other American advisors caught by an ISIS surprise attack.

While the Obama administration has tried to keep America’s footprint on the ground relatively small, 300 troops in Syria and approximately 4,000 in Iraq, the Navy and Air Force have been busy conducting air strikes to support both American and coalition ground forces.

2. Libya

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
U.S. Marines prepare to evacuate military personnel from Libya at the request of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya on Jul. 26, 2014. (Photo: US Marine Corps 1st Lt. Maida Kalic)

Of course, ISIS operations aren’t limited to Iraq and Syria. Portions of Libya’s coastal areas are controlled by the terror organization. A few dozen U.S. troops, most likely Special Forces soldiers or other operators, are deployed there to help the competing national governments fight further ISIS attacks.

America has launched airstrikes there in the past to topple ISIS leaders, but that was put on hold. According to Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the current nominee to take over Africa Command, no more troops are currently needed in Libya but more airstrikes would be beneficial.

3. Afghanistan

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Cavalry soldiers provide security in Afghanistan during a security meeting Aug. 19, 2010. (Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Nathanael Callon)

While the U.S. officially ended combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014, approximately 9,800 troops are still deployed there. It’s an “advise and train” mission, but reports have surfaced of operators engaging in direct combat.

The Taliban is still the greatest threat in Afghanistan and most coalition missions are aimed at them. ISIS has captured ground in the east of the country, though. America flies drone missions to kill local ISIS leaders while militias provide some muscle on the ground.

4. Horn of Africa

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Soldiers assigned to the East Africa Response Force train for contingency operations on May 30, 2015. (Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook

In addition to working against ISIS in Libya, American troops supporting African forces have been engaged by Al-Shabab terrorists in Somalia and Boko Haram in Cameroon. U.S. troops have previously helped hunt Boko Haram fighters and hostages in Nigeria.

These missions are expected to continue for at least the next few years as both terror organizations have proven resilient.

5. Eastern Ukraine

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
US Army soldiers parachute into Ukraine during a 2011 training mission. (Photo: US Army Europe)

American troops aren’t deployed to eastern Ukraine where government troops fight Russian-backed separatists. But, the U.S. has provided training and equipment for government forces while Russia has provided materiel and troops to the separatists.

A fragile cease-fire from late 2015 has reduced, but not eliminated, fighting in the Donbass region and both sides are violating the cease-fire. Ukraine has failed to remove heavy guns and other equipment and Russia has deployed more fighters and equipment to the area. There’s no sign that this conflict will be done when the next president takes office and most signs point to it actually being worse.

6. South China Sea

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
U.S. Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicles head back to their landing ship during a bilateral training mission in the South China Sea. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katerine Noll)

The conflict in the South China Sea is currently bloodless but has the potential to become the biggest fight on this list. Multiple nations claim territorial rights in the South China Sea, an area that controls a huge amount of sea traffic and is estimated to have large oil and natural gas reserves.

China has built islands that it may or may not hold sovereignty over and is conducting military drills in the area. Meanwhile, American Navy ships and planes are conducting freedom of navigation exercises there, sailing through contested water and flying over contested islands as a way of disputing Chinese claims.

China has conducted dangerous intercepts of these flights and is becoming more aggressive as a United Nations ruling on certain areas of the South China Sea looms. If the conflict gets more aggressive, the world’s two largest navies could end up in combat against one another.

Articles

This is why the Green Berets wear a green beret

It’s well known that in the American military, the green beret is the exclusive headdress of soldiers qualified as Army Special Forces. The only way to don one of these distinctive berets is to complete the arduous “Q Course” and be awarded a Special Forces tab.


In fact, Army Special Forces soldiers are often called “Green Berets” based on that specific Army green “Shade 297” cap.

But how America’s premier unconventional warfare force got that iconic headwear is as much a testament to the force’s tenacity as it is a tribute to the founding soldiers who challenged at Big Army’s authority.

The beret is said to be somewhat derived from America’s ties to the British Commandos of World War II, who wore a green beret as their standard-issue headdress beginning in 1941.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Vietnam-era 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldiers participate in 5th SFG(A)’s flash changeover ceremony at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, March 23, 2016. During the ceremony, 5th SFG(A) reinstated the Vietnam-era beret flash, adding a diagonal yellow stripe with three red stripes to the existing black and white background. The stripes pay homage to the Group’s history in the Vietnam War and its crucible under fire.

So it’s not surprising that according to the official history of the Army Special Forces Association, America’s green beret was first designed by SF major and OSS veteran Herbert Brucker about two years after the unit was formed, likely due to the close work between the OSS — the predecessor to the Special Forces — and Royal British Commandos during the war.

The beret was later adopted by 1st Lt. Roger Pezelle and worn by his Operational Detachment Alpha team with the 10th Special Forces Group based in Germany.

The SF troopers were reportedly not authorized to wear the berets, but being unconventional warriors, they basically gave Big Army the middle finger and wore them anyway.

“The berets were only worn in the field during exercises,” according to retired SF Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Lupyak. “The Army would not allow the wearing of berets in garrison.”

But that all changed in the early 1960s, when then-President John F. Kennedy adopted the Special Forces as America’s answer to the guerrilla wars that marked the first decades of the Cold War. Before a visit to Fort Bragg in 1961, Kennedy reportedly ordered then Special Warfare School commander Brig. Gen. William P. Yarborough to outfit his soldiers with the distinctive caps, arguing these unconventional warriors deserved headgear that set them apart from the rest of the Army.

In a twist of irony, just weeks before Kennedy’s visit, the Army officially adopted the green beret for Special Forces soldiers.

Kennedy was said to have asked Yarborough whether he liked the new berets, with the SF general telling him, “They’re fine, sir. We’ve wanted them for a long time.”

Later, Kennedy sent Yarborough a message thanking him for the visit to Bragg and remarking, “The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one, and I know that you and the members of your command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring. I am sure that the Green Beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead.”

The bond between the late president and the Special Forces community are so strong that on Nov. 25, 1963, as Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, a Special Forces sergeant major placed his green beret on the grave of the fallen president. Silently, steadily 42 other Special Forces Soldiers laid their berets alongside, the Army says.

Since then, the SF lays a wreath at Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery on the anniversary of his death.

Articles

15 Unforgettable Photos From Operation Desert Storm

Operation Desert Storm kicked off 24 years ago on Jan. 17, 1991.


The Gulf War officially lasted from August 2, 1990 to February 28, 1991. It consisted of two phases; Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Desert Shield was the codename used for the part leading to the buildup of troops and defense of Saudi Arabia and Desert Storm was the combat phase by the coalition forces against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

15,000 Western civilians – including 3,000 Americans – living in Kuwait were rounded up and taken to Baghdad as hostages. In this YouTube screen capture, 5-year-old Briton, Stuart Lockwood refuses Saddam Hussein’s invitation to sit on his knee … Awkward.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo: YouTube

700,000 American troops were deployed to the war; that’s more than 2015’s entire population of Nashville, TN.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo: DVIDS

Desert Storm was the largest military alliance since World War II; 34 nations led by the United States waged war in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo: Wikimedia

American troops prepared for every scenario since Iraq was known for employing chemical weapons in the past.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo: DOD

Untested in combat, Desert Storm would be the first time the M1 Abrams tank saw action; 1,848 of them were deployed to the war.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo: Wikimedia

The Iraqi Army used T-55, T-62, and  T-72 tanks imported from the Soviet Union and Poland.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo: Wikimedia

But they were no match for U.S. forces.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo: Wikimedia

More than 1,000 military aircraft were deployed to the Gulf War.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo: Wikimedia

One of the key players in Desert Storm was the stealthy F-117 Nighthawk.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo: Wikimedia

Coalition forces flew over 100,000 sorties and dropped more than 88,500 tons of bombs.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo: Wikimedia

You can’t hit what you can’t see. Iraq’s anti-aircraft guns were useless against the F-117.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo: Wikimedia

Here’s the aftermath of a coalition attack along a road in the Euphrates River Valley…

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo: Wikimedia

The Gulf War was the last time the U.S. Navy used battleships in combat.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo: Wikimedia

The famous oil fires were a result of Iraq’s scorched earth policy –  destroy anything that might be useful to the enemy – as they retreated from Kuwait.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo: Wikimedia

737 oil wells were set on fire…

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo: Wikimedia

The following video is an hour-long BBC documentary of the Gulf War:

NOW: The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke

AND: This Guy Kept Fighting The War For 30 Years After Japan Surrendered

MIGHTY HISTORY

How GIs trained to take out Japanese tanks

American troops in World War II didn’t just face enemy tanks in the African and European theaters. German Panzers get much of the attention when it comes to WWII-era armor, so it might surprise you to learn that Japan also used tanks in both the Pacific and China-Burma-India (CBI) theaters. That being said, there’re good reasons why Japanese tanks haven’t enjoyed the same level of hype as their counterparts from Nazi Germany.

One of the biggest of those reasons is the nature of the theaters themselves. Pacific campaigns were dominated primarily by air and naval battles. Most of the ground fighting there was done on small islands — the terrain didn’t allow for much tank-versus-tank action. As for the CBI theater… well, that was largely a sideshow — and much of the attention there was spent on the Flying Tigers.

But occasionally, Allied infantry would find themselves facing off against a Type 95 Ha-Go light tank — it’s a good thing they were prepared to take them out.


Over 2,100 Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks were produced between 1936 and 1943. As was typical of a light tank in the pre-World War II era, it had a 37mm main gun and two medium machine guns.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

Note the tread arrangement of the Type 95 — it’s one of the tank’s weak points.

(Mkethorpe)

This tank, as it turns out, wasn’t exactly the best of the bunch. While German tanks, like the Tiger, held an edge over many of their Allied opponents in the European theater (a deficit the Americans arguably inflicted upon themselves), American tanks usually had a huge edge over Japanese armor.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

Even when Japan was “running wild” in the Pacific, Type 95s were easy to kill.

(Australian War Memorial)

Although Japanese tanks were able to do real damage to the large but under-equipped Chinese Army, they were quite easy for American troops to deal with. These tanks could be disabled by landing a well-aimed rifle shot in the tread’s front-most bracket. Additionally, they didn’t stack up well against American armor. For instance, comparable M3 Stuart light tanks were nearly 25% faster than Type 95s (the M3 had a top speed of 36mph compared to the 28 of the Type 95), making them easy to outmaneuver and outgun.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

This Type 95 was destroyed and became something for Marines to check out.

(National Archives)

In fact, one of the biggest problems of the Type 95 was its turret design. It had an exploitable gap that an American GI could jam with a canteen, a bayonet, or rock, completely disabling it.

To learn more about how American GIs were trained to take on this tank, watch the instructional video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcwP_CU1pUo

www.youtube.com