What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM

Dennis Wolfe, Retired U.S. Army sergeant major, received U.S. Special Operations Command’s 2018 Bull Simons Award April 18, 2018, in Tampa, Florida. His remarkable five decade career in and out of uniform pioneering explosive ordnance and disposal tactics for special operations was the basis for the award. His expertise established a world class program to counter weapons of mass destruction becoming the standard for the United States government and our international partners.

The lifetime achievement award recognizes recipients who embody the true spirit, values, and skills of a special operations warrior. Col. Arthur “Bull” Simons, whom the award is named after, was the epitome of these attributes.


Wolfe was born in Port Trevorton, Pennsylvania and raised in humble surroundings where there was not much of a chance to make a decent living and travel.

“It was 1962 following graduation from high school and there was very little opportunity where I grew up and was raised and I always had this dream of seeing the world and knew there was a lot out there and probably the way to do it was to join the service,” Wolfe said. “I, of course, had no idea what I was getting into.”

During basic training an unfortunate injury would turn out to be a fortunate career opportunity for him.

“My basic training was in Fort Gordon, Georgia and I wanted to go airborne, but I injured my knee so they put me in a garrison unit. The guys in the garrison unit convinced me I should go to explosive ordnance disposal school, which I did,” said Wolfe. “In the EOD field I was on presidential support, VIP support, supporting the secret service.”

After serving more than a decade, he became a mentor in the EOD career field and was teaching future conventional Army EOD specialists. Then his career took an unexpected turn.

“One of my assignments in the EOD field was as an instructor at Redstone Arsenal and that is where I got a call to come to Fort Bragg for an assessment and selection process for a unit that was starting up,” said Wolfe.

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM
Dennis Wolfe

The assessment and selection was for a unit whose mission would be hostage rescue and counter-terrorism. During the assessment and selection process he was noticed right away by future USSOCOM Command Sgt. Maj. Mel Wick.

“The assessment and selection process that Dennis went through was one of the toughest mental and physical selection processes in the world,” said Wick. “There were several reasons Dennis was chosen. We did some psychological testing. We did a lot of interviews with people he had worked with and he had a very important skill that was missing in the group we were assembling. It didn’t take him long at all to earn the respect of the other more experienced Soldiers that he was in the training course with.”

Another famous special operator from that era, former USSOCOM Commander Gen. Peter Schoomaker, and 2016 Bull Simons Award recipient recognized that Wolfe was a unique asset. “Dennis was a little different than most the rest of us because he came with a specialty [EOD] that wasn’t familiar to us which in the long run was fortuitous,” said Schoomaker.

It would not be long before Wolfe would take part in some of the country’s most dangerous missions, among them the invasion of Grenada, and the failed Iranian hostage rescue attempt known as Operation Eagle Claw.

“We got word that the embassy in Iran had been taken over by terrorists. They said that probably was going to be a mission that this unit was going to be involved in,” Wolfe said. “That mission eventually became Eagle Claw where we planned to rescue 52 hostages.”


“When we were preparing for Eagle Claw Dennis was able to provide a lot of assistance there for the planning and preparation for that,” Wick said. “He was heavily involved in figuring out the breaching charges for the walls. He was also going to be key to looking for and disarming booby traps.”

The failed Iranian hostage rescue during Operation Eagle Claw had an impact on many special operators and Wolfe was no exception.

“I think the experiences of Eagle Claw had a deep impact on everyone that was there. I think that was definitely shown throughout the rest of his career with the lessons he learned there,” Wick said. “His ability to analyze things, to anticipate things, to always look forward, and to always be considering the broader picture rather than the small technical piece that he was focused on.”

Wolfe was noted for his calm demeanor in any stressful situation. The years of training dealing with weapons of mass destruction gave him the ability to keep his teams focused.

“In a crisis situation he was also a very steady anchor that people could hang on to, to calm themselves down by looking at Dennis,” Wick said. “I mean if Dennis can be calm in this situation, well the rest had to be.”

Wolfe became much more than an EOD specialist for the special mission unit and learned to master the essential special operator skills.

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM
Dennis Wolfe
(Photo by Michael Bottoms)

“Of course when you learn when someone has this extraordinary specialty you figure that would limit what they do. The truth is Dennis ended up being an extraordinary operator as well,” Schoomaker said. “He went through what all of us went through and became extraordinary operator in the special mission unit. He ended up being a team leader and eventually being the sergeant major of the selection and training detachment.”

Being an operator means you have to take on many personas and Wolfe was very skilled at going from noticed to unnoticed.

“Dennis was able to fit into whatever conditions he was faced with. He could be out in the mud and two hours later he’s cleaned up in a suit in front of an ambassador or a senator giving a briefing. One hour after that he is with a bunch of scientists going through the very technical details of disarming a nuclear weapon,” Wick said. “I’ve seen him sit on the corner in dirty ragged clothes with a bottle of wine while he is observing a target. He could adapt very rapidly in his speech. He could sound like a redneck or he could sound like a scientist and he could switch from one to the other very easily.”

Retiring from the Army, Wolfe became a civil servant and carried on the special operations EOD mission that eventually would have a global impact.

“Even after he retired we retained him in a civilian capacity where he could put his full time effort into developing a full scale program as the field evolved,” said Schoomaker.

In his civilian capacity, Wolfe would go on and write the tactics, techniques, and procedures that would greatly enhance the security of the United States.

“When Dennis Wolfe and I met the Soviet Union recently collapsed and there was a big concern about the loss of control of weapons of mass destruction,” said James McDonnell, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office. “Dennis was the guy that brought EOD into special operations. So he had the vision to understand how the terrorist threat was evolving and that vision was absolutely critical because all the planning had to be done in advance. All techniques, tactics and procedures had to be done in advance and they really didn’t exist.”

Wolfe was a master at dealing with people who weren’t in special operations and incorporating their expertise into a special operations mission.

“So for example, scientists had all kinds of tools they thought were great, but you couldn’t necessarily jump out of an airplane with. You couldn’t dive with them,” McDonnel said. “So what Dennis was able to do was bring that into this national laboratory complex and say ‘if you take this tool and modify in this particular way then we can use it.'”

Echoing Secretary McDonnell’s sentiment, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. James Bonner, who today is the commander of the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Command, and was as an officer who served with Wolfe, thinks he has had lasting, legacy impact on the entire EOD community.


“When we talk about weapons of mass destruction we are talking about chemical, biological, nuclear, it can be radiological, it can have an explosive element to it and when you look at an explosive ordnance disposal technician it takes about one year to go through EOD school, just to be able to work basic EOD problems. Then if you are fortunate to be assigned to the special mission unit, the training plan Dennis incorporated with the national lab takes another year of training before you are ready for a role in the special mission unit. That is the level of expertise and capability that Dennis was able to build.”

“Dennis was able to bring highly technical skills into the special operations community that it didn’t have before and build that capability literally over decades into a national asset that is globally unique,” said McDonnell.

Reflecting on his fifty years of government and in special operations, Wolfe’s humility is readily apparent.

“I never turned anything down. I never planned anything specifically. The unit said they needed me because of my skills. I couldn’t refuse. I’ll go. I never thought I had all those skills people were looking for. Sometimes they had more faith in me than I had in myself. I felt as a Soldier I couldn’t turn anything down,” Wolfe said. “During my time SOF has gone from reactive to proactive. I think we are still there today. At least I hope we are.”

“He had the courage to do some really amazing things and has made contributions that are just unmeasurable to the security of the United States,” Wick said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. subs far better than China’s, but it may not matter

The US and others around the Pacific have watched warily as China has boosted its submarine force over the last 20 years, building a modern, flexible force that now has more total ships than the US.

US subs remain far better than their Chinese counterparts, but in a conflict, numbers, and geography may help China mitigate some of the US and its partners’ advantages.

Naval modernization is part of Beijing’s “growing emphasis on the maritime domain,” the US Defense Department said in its annual report on Chinese military power.

As operational demands on China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy have increased, subs have become a high priority — and one that could counter the US Navy’s mastery of the sea.


The force currently numbers 56 subs — four nuclear-powered missile subs, five nuclear-powered attack subs, and 47 diesel-powered attack subs — and is likely grow to between 69 and 78 subs by 2020, according to the Pentagon.

China has built 10 nuclear-powered subs over the past 15 years. Its four operational Jin-class missile boats “represent China’s first credible, seabased nuclear deterrent,” the Pentagon report said.

In most likely conflict scenarios, however, those nuclear-powered subs would have limited utility, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Budgetary and Strategic Assessments.

“They’re relatively loud, pretty easy to track, and don’t really have significant capability other than they can launch land-attack cruise missiles, and they don’t have very many of those,” Clark said. “They’re more of a kind of threat the Chinese might use to maybe do an attack on a … more distant target like Guam or Hawaii.”

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM

The locations and composition of major Chinese naval units, according to the Pentagon.

(US Defense Department)

Conventionally powered subs are the “more important part of their submarine force,” Clark said, particularly ones that can launch anti-ship missiles and those that use air-independent propulsion, or AIP, which allows nonnuclear subs to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen, replacing or augmenting diesel-electric systems.

Since the mid-1990s, China has built 13 Song-class diesel-electric attack subs and bought 12 Russian-made Kilo-class subs — eight of which can fire anti-ship cruise missiles.

Kilos are conventional diesel subs, which means they need to surface periodically.

“Even with that, they’re a good, sturdy, reliable submarine that carries long-range anti-ship missiles,” Clark said. On a shorter operation where a Kilo-class sub “can avoid snorkeling, it could … sneak up on you with a long-range attack, so that’s a concern for the US.”

China has also built 17 Yuan-class diesel-electric, air-independent-powered attack subs over the past two decades, a total expected to rise to 20 by 2020, according to the Pentagon.

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM

Then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus leaves the Chinese Yuan-class submarine Hai Jun Chang in Ningbo, November 29, 2012.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Sam Shavers)

“The Yuan AIP submarine is very good,” said Clark, a former US Navy submarine officer and strategist.

“For the duration of a deployment that it might normally take, which is two or three weeks, where it can stay on its AIP plant and never have to come up and snorkel, they’re very good,” Clark added. “That’s a big concern, I think, for US and Japanese policymakers.”

Yuan-class boats can threaten surface forces with both torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.

For US anti-submarine-warfare practitioners in the western Pacific, Clark said, “it’s the Yuan they generally point to as being their target of concern, because it does offer this ability to attack US ships and [is] hard to track and there may be few opportunities to engage it.”

Despite concerns China’s current diesel-electric subs inspire, they have liabilities.

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM

A Chinese Yuan-class attack submarine.

(Congressional Research Service)

As quiet as they are, they are still not as quiet as a US nuclear-powered submarine operating in its quietest mode. They don’t have the same endurance as US subs and need to surface periodically. China’s sub crews also lack the depth of experience of their American counterparts.

“Chinese submarines are not … as good as the US submarines, by far,” Clark said.

China’s subs have made excursions into the Indian Ocean and done anti-piracy operations in waters off East Africa, but they mostly operate around the first island chain, which refers to major islands west of the East Asian mainland and encompasses the East and South China Seas.

Chinese subs also venture into the Philippine Sea, where they could strike at US ships, Clark said.

Much of the first island chain is within range of Chinese land-based planes and missiles, which are linchpins in Beijing’s anti-access/area denial strategy. It’s in that area where the US and its partners could see their advantages thwarted.

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM

The approximate boundaries of the first and second island chains in the western Pacific.

(US Defense Department)

“Now the Chinese have the advantage of numbers, because they have a large number of submarines that can operate, and they’ve only got a small area in which they need to conduct operations,” Clark said.

China could “flood the zone” with subs good enough to “maybe overwhelm US and Japanese [anti-submarine warfare] capabilities.”

The anti-submarine-warfare capabilities of the US and its partners may also be constrained.

US subs would likely be tasked with a range of missions, like land attacks or surveillance, rather than focusing on attacking Chinese subs, leaving much of the submarine-hunting to surface and air forces — exposing them to Chinese planes and missiles.

“The stuff we use for ASW is the stuff that’s most vulnerable to the Chinese anti-access approach, and you’re doing it close proximity to China, so you could get stuck and not be able to engage their submarines before they get out,” Clark said.

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM

Crew members demonstrate a P-8A Poseidon for Malaysian defense forces chief Gen. Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, April 21, 2016.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jay M. Chu)

Numbers and location also give China a potential edge in a “gray-zone” conflict, or a confrontation that stops short of open combat, for which US Navy leadership has said the service needs to prepare.

China’s subs present “a challenge [US officials] see as, ‘What if we get into one of these gray-zone confrontations with China, and China decides to start sortieing their submarines through the first island chain and get them out to open ocean a little bit so they’re harder to contain,'” Clark said.

“If we’re in a gray-zone situation, we can’t just shoot them, and we don’t necessarily have the capacity to track all of them, so now you’ve got these unlocated Yuans roaming around the Philippine Sea, then you may end up with a situation where if you decide to try to escalate, you’ve got worry about these Yuans and their ability to launch cruise missiles at your ships,” Clark added.

“As the home team, essentially, China’s got the ability to control the tempo and the intensity,” he said.

The US and its partners have already encountered such tactics.

Beijing often deploys its coast guard to enforce its expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea (which an international court has rejected) and has built artificial islands containing military outposts to bolster its position.

When those coast guard ships encounter US Navy ships, China points to the US as the aggressor.

In the waters off the Chinese coast and around those man-made islands, “they do a lot of that because they’re on their home turf and protected by their land-based missiles and sensors,” Clark said. “Because of that, they can sort of ramp [the intensity] up and ramp it down … as they desire.”

The circumstances of a potential conflict may give Chinese subs an edge, but it won’t change their technical capability, the shortcomings of which may be revealed in a protracted fight.

“Can the Chinese submarines — like the Yuans that have limited time on their AIP plants — can they do something before they start to run out of propellant, oxygen, and start having to snorkel?” Clark said.

“So there’s a little bit of a time dimension to it,” he added. “If the US and Japan can wait out the Chinese, then their Yuans have to start snorkeling or pulling into port … that might make them more vulnerable.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

An ROTC cadet is losing his scholarship because he’s transgender

A student in Texas said he is losing his Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship to University of Texas at Austin because of new transgender military policies.

Map Pesqueira, a freshman at UT-Austin and a transgender man, said he initially received a three-year ROTC scholarship to the school that was supposed to go into effect his sophomore year, NBC News reported.

But he was told earlier this month that due to the transgender military policy that went into effect April 12, 2019, he is disqualified from the ROTC.


Pesqueira, who planned to join the Army as a second lieutenant after graduation, started medically transitioning in 2018, and was told he is now unable to serve because of the new transgender guidelines.

Under the Department of Defense’s new policy, anyone who has already started hormone treatments or gender-affirmation surgeries are unable to enlist.

Transgender UT student loses scholarship after military policy change

www.youtube.com

“Because I’ve already had top surgery, hormone replacement therapy, gender marker and my name changed, that automatically disqualifies me,” Pesqueira told NBC News. “Basically, I’m so far into my transition, I’m unable to serve.”

Lieutenant Colonel Matthew S. O’Neill, who works in the ROTC Department at UT-Austin, tried to save Pesqueira’s scholarship by having him “grandfathered” into the program, according to the Daily Texan, but was unsuccessful.

Pesqueira, who is an American studies and radio, TV and film major, started a GoFundMe to pay for his college tuition because he fears he won’t be able to afford it without the scholarship.

If he doesn’t raise enough funds, he will look for a community college near his hometown of San Antonio, KVUE reported.

In a statement to KVUE, UT-Austin said it could not comment on Pesqueira’s individual case.

The statement said: “We offer many different avenues of assistance for students who undergo sudden changes that might affect their access to a UT education. These resources include our Student Emergency Services office and the Graduation Help Desk, which both work closely with the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid. Our staff are experienced in these situations and stand ready to help students navigate the resources they need to complete their education.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy backed off railguns (and China should too)

The prototype Chinese railgun is the first technical demonstrator of the tech on a ship at sea, but there are real reasons why the Navy is slow-rolling the railgun, and it’s unlikely that China has broken the code on how to make railguns viable.


First, for anyone who isn’t up on what railguns are, they’re a type of naval artillery that uses massive amounts of electricity to propel the round instead of a chemical reaction (read: gunpowder). This would be a major improvement in logistics and safety as the Navy would no longer need to ship bags of gunpowder around the world, but the best advantages come in range and lethality.

Railguns can hurl rounds very far. Navy engineers have said they think they can reach 230 miles with current technologies. And when the rounds hit the target, they’re going so fast that the total amount of damage on a target is like it was hit by a missile or a massive, high-explosive warhead but the fast-flying rounds can also pierce most armor and even underground targets and bunkers.

Oh, and the rounds are super cheap, costing about ,000 dollars per shot while the missiles they could sometimes replace are usually 0,000 a shot or more. Also, this hasn’t been proven yet, but railguns might be able to fire as fast as every 6 seconds.

Rain. Of. Fire.

So, railguns can fire up to 10 times as far as conventional artillery with a safer round that does more damage when it hits the target. And this isn’t theoretical — railguns have actually achieved these things in Navy tests. Time to put them on ships before China can, right?

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM

High-speed photograph of Navy prototype railgun firing.

(U.S. Navy)

Not exactly. Because while railguns are a huge step up from conventional artillery and have a lot of advantages, there are also some serious drawbacks. First, they need a decent amount of deck space as well as a ton of space below decks. That’s because the guns require a ton of electricity, up to 9 kilowatt hours per shot. That’s how much energy an average U.S. house uses over 7 hours. The only surface ships with that kind of power on tap are the three Zumwalt-class destroyers and aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, the weapons have improved in maintenance requirements in recent years, but still need new launcher cores every 400 shots and barrels every thousand.

But the biggest problem is the range. While a 230-mile range is phenomenal for artillery, it’s still a paltry reach compared to missiles. Tomahawk cruise missiles can reach between 810 miles and 1,550 miles depending on the type, and China’s “Carrier Killer” DF-26 is thought to strike at 1,200 miles or more. Meanwhile, a carrier-launched F-35 has a 1,380-mile range that can be extended with aerial refueling.

A railgun fires during testing at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 2016.

(Monica Wood, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

So, were railguns obsolete before they were launched? No. There are still plenty of niche uses for the railgun, and the Navy has slowed development but is still pursuing the weapon. Accurate railgun fire could intercept enemy missiles and fighter jets for cheap, possibly while plugged into the super capable Aegis combat system.

And while railgun-equipped ships would likely be too vulnerable to missile strikes to be “door-kicking” ships that take out enemy defenses on day one of a conflict, they would still be very valuable for shore bombardment, strike missions, and other tasks after the first week or so of a war, after the worst of the enemy’s missiles are taken out.

So why is China pursuing the weapon so hard? It’s unlikely that it has solved the power-generation problems of the railgun. And the U.S. is working hard to get the barrels right so they could fire 1,000 rounds instead of the 10 or less that were standard pretty recently. There’s a chance that China is still struggling with that and similar problems.

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM

An artist’s illustration of a Navy Joint High-Speed Vessel with the prototype railgun installed for testing.

(U.S. Navy)

But being the first navy to put a railgun to sea has already granted China a pretty great and relatively easy propaganda victory. The country has worked hard on their technology in recent years in order to be seen as a great naval power, potentially positioning themselves as an arms exporter while deterring conflict.

And the U.S. will have to prepare for the possibility that the railgun is for real. The first pilots to fly within the ship’s range if a war breaks out have to reckon with the possibility that a 20-pound shell might be flying at Mach 7 towards their aircraft at any moment. Missile attacks against a fleet with the ship will have to decide whether to concentrate on the railgun or an aircraft carrier or another combatant.

But, again, this could all be China exploring the tech or bluffing, but with none of the breakthroughs needed to make the weapons viable in combat. If so, they would be wise to concentrate on the many other breakthroughs their military could use for an actual fight.

popular

4 powerful weapons you didn’t know were built by Ford

The automobile company with the most American of origin stories is way more ‘Merica than you might think. Ford, as a brand, is so well-known for making cars and trucks that it might surprise you to know it also pumped out nuclear weapons and heat-seeking missiles at one point.


Ford Aerospace was established in 1956 and operated until sold in 1990. In that time, it designed and produced some of the Cold War’s most recognizable weapons, laser targeting pods, and even an attempt at a stealthy air-to-air missile.

Here’s what you didn’t know Ford built:

4. AIM-9 Sidewinder Missile

Sure, it was in Top Gun and Independence Day, but once a missile has been featured on The Simpsons, you know it’s made pop-culture history.

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM

The Sidewinder has more than 270 kills over its 60-plus year history and is scheduled to be in service until at least 2055. That’s built Ford tough. Not bad for a weapon that debuted in 1958!

3. LGM-30G Minuteman

First developed in 1962, the LGM-30G is the only land-based intercontinental ballistic missile still in service to the United States. It was the first multiple re-entry vehicle ICBM, which means it releases three warheads with one missile.

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM
Artists’ rendering.

The United States has just under 400 Minuteman III missiles in its arsenal and is a component of the U.S. “nuclear triad.”

2. Trident SLBM

The second component of the American nuclear triad is the submarine-launched Trident missile. Currently in its second life, the Trident missile was first developed in 1971 and is planned to serve until at least 2040.

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM
The launching of a Trident I C-4 missile from a submerged strategic missile submarine and its re-entry as they plunge into the earth’s atmosphere and into the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo)

1. LGM-118 Peacekeeper

The Peacekeeper earned its name because its mission was designed to be a major deterrent to a Soviet sneak attack. It was designed to target individual missile silos, to retarget in-flight, and to survive a first strike.

(jaglavaksoldier | YouTube)

 

Because the Peacekeeper could launch an astonishing 12 warheads on one ICBM, it was given up by the U.S. in the Start II Treaty and disappeared from service in 2005. It reappeared as the Minotaur IV rocket, sending satellites into orbit.

popular

What it was like to be raided by the Vikings

They were some of the most feared and lethal warriors of their time, Scandinavian raiders who were experts in navigation and mobility, armed with iron weapons and advanced tactics, who would bear down on other European settlements for loot and pillage. Vikings were terrifying for all those not protected by high walls or standing armies.


For victims of these raids, death could come quickly and with little warning. The Vikings would raid deep inland by taking their longboats upriver, meaning that death could always be lurking just around the next bend. Towns on the coast were more likely to be raided, but they could at least see ships approaching on the horizon.

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM
Viking shield walls provided plenty of defense while allowing the raiders to use their swords, spears, and axes over the top. (Wyrdlight.com, CC BY 3.0)

Since Vikings could barrel down at around 10-11 knots, though, that only gave them an hour of warning, Not long enough to marshal a defending force, but long enough to crap yourself once or twice and maybe say a few confessions.

Smart victims would then cower and hide, allowing the village to be plundered without resistance or they might even drag valuables out and buy off the Vikings. This might sound like cowardice, but the Vikings were professional raiders who worked hard to ensure that they had the upper hand, partially through reconnaissance.

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM
The Battle of Stiklestad was fought between Norse kingdoms. (Peter Nicolai Arbo)

Yeah, by the time you saw the Vikings, they probably already had a whole dossier on you, complete with whatever it is you did with those kind ladies in the expensive inn.

The Vikings actually took plenty of time to conduct quiet observation when they could before a raid, making sure there weren’t a bunch of enemy warriors that happened to be in town. Once they were sure it was just you and a few farmers and craftsmen around, they would launch their attack, keeping their men in tight formation and eradicating serious resistance before it could prepare.

This was made all the easier for the Vikings by how they organized their forces, employing ranged and melee attacks. Yeah, the Vikings basically had a combined arms team. They rarely had cavalry, though.

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM
Re-enactors pour off of a longboat during a simulated raid. (YouTube/Grimfrost)

 

Viking raiders carried personal weapons and weapons provided by their magnate, a sort of chieftain. Younger and poorer raiders would usually carry an ax from home or a hunting spear, weapons made with mostly wood and a little iron. Shields, made of wood, were easy to get as well. Bows were relatively rare, but available.

Richer or more established raiders were likely to carry a sword and might even have chain mail or other iron armor, making them extremely challenging to kill for startled farmers in England or France.

Archers and spear men would engage any brave defenders as soon as they got into range, and swordsmen and raiders equipped with axes would charge forward with shields for protection.

So, yeah, unless the Vikings stumbled into a fight with the king’s army because of some bad intel gathering, they were going to win. Every once in a while, they’d do something bold like besiege Paris, and even then they’d usually win, because, again, great intelligence and professional are raiders are typically victorious.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Aussie Navy pilots targeted with laser beams in South China Sea

Australian navy helicopter pilots were hit with laser beams from fishing boats during military exercises in the South China Sea in May 2019, an analyst who was observing Australia’s operations said.

Euan Graham, an Asian security expert at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, was observing the Royal Australian Navy’s operation from on board the HMAS Canberra, a helicopter docking vessel, and said that Australia’s helicopters were being targeted with lasers from fishing boats.

He wrote for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank, that the lasers pointed at the helicopters led to “temporarily grounding them for precautionary medical reasons.”


Graham posited that the boats where the lasers originated could be Chinese: “Was this startled fishermen reacting to the unexpected? Or was it the sort of coordinated harassment more suggestive of China’s maritime militia?”

Graham noted to CNN that: “It’s no secret that the broader thrust of China’s approach in the South China Sea is to try to make life difficult for foreign aircraft and warships there.”

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM

China claims the South China Sea, despite competing claims and legal disputes from other countries in the region.

(Google Maps)

He said that it was unlikely to be fishermen using lasers to warn the helicopters away as there was little chance that a helicopter and a boat would be on course to collide.

“That makes sense for collision of vessels, but obviously there is no direct threat from aircraft to vessels in the South China Sea,” he said. “The maritime militia is, I think, not beyond argument as a tactic which is employed deliberately.”

Reports in 2018 said that more than 20 attacks with lasers were made against US military pilots in the East China Sea between September 2017 and June 2018.

Graham told CNN that he did not witness the lasers first hand, but pilots told him that they were repeatedly targeted.

He said in the post for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that the Australian navy was “followed at a discreet distance by a Chinese warship for most of the transit, both on the way up and back, despite the fact that our route didn’t take us near any feature occupied by Chinese forces, or any obviously sensitive areas.”

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM

The HMAS Canberra at sea in 2016.

China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea as its own despite protests and legal battles with other countries in the region. It is a key transportation route for nations in the region, and contains oil and gas reserves. China has staked its territorial claims in recent years by creating manmade islands in the area, some of which are home to airfields.

Graham said said that radio communications between the Chinese and Australian navys was “courteous” during his time with the operation.

Australia’s military was conducting its Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 exercise, which concluded this week. The 11-week operation brought the military to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia to share disaster relief expertise.

Officials from Australia’s military told CNN that they were looking into Graham’s claims.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The day Russia’s White House got shelled by the Russian Army

It’s hard for Americans to imagine the U.S. Army rolling tanks up Pennsylvania Avenue to force a resistant Congress out of the Capitol Building by shelling the building. It’s not that hard for Russians, though, because all they have to do is remember that day in 1993 when the Russian Army did just that to their own parliamentary building.


Nowadays, Boris Yeltsin is remembered by many in the United States as kind of a vodka-soaked buffoon. We don’t know any better — we’re used to hardened Communist leaders pointing nukes at us. Meanwhile, the most widespread video of Yeltsin in America is the one of him dancing onstage at a concert, presumably drunk.

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Yeah, that’s the one.

In Russia, his legacy looms large while inspiring extreme emotions. The provincial politician was bold enough to stand on a tank in front of the white house, Russia’s parliament, as an attempted Communist coup tried to overthrow the democratic government and rebirth the Soviet Union in 1991.

It was Boris Yeltsin that convinced Russian citizens not to throw out Mikhail Gorbachev’s democratic reforms. For that, he was Russia’s first freely-elected President. But that was one of two peaks he would experience throughout his political career.

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TFW you have a few drinks before your White House presser.

Yeltsin instituted economic reform after economic reform, one he thought would turn Russia into a vibrant, thriving, open-market democracy. What happened instead was the massive sale of assets formerly controlled by a strong centrally-planned economy for pennies on the dollar. Yeltsin’s “Shock Therapy” market reforms were definitely a shock to many Russians, who saw their quality of life deteriorate before their eyes.

Just as contradictory was Yeltsin’s other peak. The first President elected by the people of Russia willfully left office, setting a precedent for all who came after him to follow. By then, however, the damage to his reputation was done. His approval rating among Russians was as low as two percent and his successor would never have the same intention of leaving power.

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Raise your hand if you’re an autocrat.

But Yeltsin was a true Russian leader when tested. One such test of Yeltsin’s resolve came in October 1993, when the streets on Moscow saw the worst violence since the 1917 October Revolution that birthed the Soviet Union. Legislators and the president’s office were squaring off over the aforementioned free market reforms that were shocking Russia and the Russian people. In response to the parliamentary resistance, Yeltsin dissolved Russia’s legislative body, something the Constitution didn’t exactly allow him to do.

But the lawmakers weren’t just going to accept what they saw as a Kremlin overreach. They barricaded themselves in the white house that housed the Congress of People’s Deputies and the Supreme Soviet that made up Russia’s national legislative body. Then, they voted to impeach the President.

If you’re familiar at all with Russian leaders, you can probably guess how Yeltsin, the “vodka-soaked buffoon,” responded.

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Yup.

He ordered the police to cut off all access, electricity, water, and communications to the building. When anti-Yeltsin crowds started attacking TV stations and other state institutions, he declared a state of emergency and ordered the Russian military (who until then had been a neutral party) to move on the white house itself.

Yeltsin, claiming the action would prevent Russia from slipping into a Soviet Union-like government, ordered the army to shell and secure the building, then arrest the resisting lawmakers. The Russian army obeyed the President’s orders. Soon after, Yeltsin passed a Constitutional referendum that granted the office of President much more power than before, the powers Vladimir Putin wields like a pro to this day.

Yeltsin was elected to another term in office but resigned the Presidency on New Years Eve 1999, mired in corruption allegations and failing health. He told Russia the new century should start with new leadership and left Vladimir Putin in charge. The embattled former President died in 2007 and Putin is still in charge.

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Trainees get shot in the chest for this insane Russian special forces training

The Russian military isn’t really known for having a gentle touch, so it should come as no surprise that their counterterrorism operations training is really tough. But just how tough is borderline insane.


Russia’s Federal Security Service, called the FSB – and successor to the KGB – shoots their agents center mass to give them confidence in a terrorist-controlled situation where bullets might be flying by their heads.

The trainees, wearing body armor, absorb a few round before fire shots back at the target. In the video below, the guy in front of the target is Andrei, an FSB operator, who doesn’t flinch as three rounds zing by his head.

Andrei has clearly been through this confidence training before. As a member of the FSB Alpha Team, he’s part of Russia’s dedicated counterterrorism task force. If you’ve ever heard about how the Russians respond to terror attacks, you know they don’t mess around. And they train like they fight.

The ammo is standard ball ammunition; the vest appears to be a standard soft vest with ceramic plates. The host of the show, Larry Vickers, is a retired American special operator who is now a firearms consultant and the star of TAC-TV on YouTube.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China passes Russia’s weakened military to be the US’ top rival

Russia, and the Soviet Union before it, always possessed an outsized military and grew quickly into the role of the US’s chief rival after World War II, but despite prioritizing nuclear and military power above social welfare for decades , the Kremlin has been surpassed.

Russia still wields enviable cyber warfare prowess, tremendous conventional military strength, the world’s most dangerous nuclear weapons, and electronic warfare capabilities among the best on earth.


But nobody is talking about Russia as the US’s top military threat anymore. Today, it’s China.

Under President Donald Trump, the US has introduced a new National Security Strategy that lists China and Russia as its main strategic threats, rather than terrorism or climate change. China is listed first, and mentioned more often throughout the report.

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The T-14 Armata, another great idea that never really happened.

The culprit behind Russia’s decline? Stagnation

The Russian threat is a known quantity. NATO exists to counter Russia in Europe. Besides Russia’s 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea, its constant aggressive behavior towards its neighbors hasn’t really changed much over the decades.

Russia’s newest generation of nuclear weapons promises to evade and trick all existing US missile defenses, but that’s also old news. Even the US’s 1970s Minuteman III nuclear missile can likely evade Russian defenses. In any case, nuclear war has been a moot point since the establishment of mutually assured destruction.

Russian systems near Eastern Europe can out-range and in some cases overwhelm its NATO counterpart, but Russia stands to gain little in conventional conflict, and under President Vladimir Putin it’s mainly chosen to engage in hybrid warfare and to push its foreign policy goals with hacking and other nefarious plots.

Where are the real innovations in Russia’s military hardware? Russia introduced the Su-57, supposedly a stealth jet that could take on the US’s F-35 and F-22 fighters , but it couldn’t get the money together to order more than 12 of them. Likewise, Russia’s T-14 Armata tank, framed as a NATO tank-killer, will not see serial production.

For the T-14 and Su-57, economic stagnation caused by flat or falling oil prices and US sanctions likely struck the final blow.

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Aircraft Carrier Liaoning CV-16.

China running wild

China used to buy and reverse engineer Russian weapons systems, which provided it a healthy base to start building its military, the largest in the world, but now it’s clearly surpassed Russia in terms of high-end warfighting.

China, not Russia, provided the first foreign answer to the US’s total dominance in stealth aircraft with the Chengdu J-20 . China has also leapfrogged ahead in software and computing, pursuing both quantum computing and artificial intelligence at a break-neck place.

Just as Putin has changed Russia’s geography by taking Crimea, Beijing changed the very seas they border on by building up military strongholds across the South China Sea and steadily enforcing claims there with a firmer and firmer hand.

China has created a new run of missiles set to give the US Navy a run for its money . China once bought a used Soviet aircraft carrier as a training vessel. Now it has plans to build three or more carriers to project power across the seas. Russia, on the other hand, has had to shelve its sole carrier until 2022, and before that it couldn’t sail without a tug nearby. China has made a show of beating the US in technological races , even when they’re mostly superficial.

China, not Russia, has become the US military’s boogeyman despite sitting half a world away. And with ten times Russia’s population, and an economy set to displace the US as the world’s top, it’s unlikely Russia will hang around much longer in the conversation of top-tier militaries.

Russia can achieve many of its foreign policy goals by spreading its own brand of information in Western democracies and leaning on its smaller satellite states. But China is building an all-aspect military capable of fighting the US military head-on.

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

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A former Navy SEAL commander explains the surprising way he trained his troops to respond to failure

During his deployment in Iraq in 2006, Jocko Willink oversaw about 100 people as the commander of US Navy SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser.


In an episode of his podcast, Willink explained that he developed a habit that could annoy his troops but also serve as a real motivator.

From the podcast:

One of my direct subordinates, one of my guys that worked for me, he would call me up or pull me aside with some major problem, some issue that was going on. And he’d say, ‘Boss, we’ve got this, and that, and the other thing.’ And I’d look at him and I’d say, ‘Good.’ And finally one day he was telling me about some issue that he was having, some problem, and he said, ‘I already know what you’re going to say.’
And I said, ‘Well, what am I going to say?’
He said, ‘You’re gonna say, Good. He said, ‘That’s what you always say. When something is wrong and going bad, you always just look at me and say, Good.’

Willink wasn’t being snide or dismissive. Rather, he was forcing his troops to find a way to grow from a failure or challenge they were having difficulty overcoming.

If they didn’t get the supplies they needed, for example, he’d force them into a mindset where they could excel in spartan conditions.

It’s an approach he’s applied to his entire life, and one he teaches with his former second-in-command, Leif Babin, through their management consulting firm Echelon Front.

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Former Navy SEAL Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink, left, and Charlie Platoon leader Leif Babin. | Courtesy of Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

“Didn’t get promoted? Good. More time to get better,” Willink said, giving another example.

In another episode, Willink explained how one of his friends told him he was able to see this philosophy in action even when his father died. It wasn’t literally “good” that his father died, but when he was done grieving he was able to see that he was presented with an opportunity to take responsibilities in areas that he could normally rely on his father for, and to make the most of them.

The “good” approach is a way to move forward without giving into overwhelming emotions, whether on the battlefield, in the office, or in your personal life.

“That’s it,” Willink said on his podcast. “When things are going bad, don’t get all bummed out. Don’t get startled, don’t get frustrated. If you can say the word good, guess what? It means you’re still alive. It means you’re still breathing. And if you’re still breathing, well then hell, you’ve still got some fight left in you. So get up, dust off, reload, recalibrate, reengage, and go out on the attack.”

We first saw Willink’s monologue in a video produced by his collaborator Echo Charles, when Willink and Babin played it at their “Muster” leadership conference in May. You can watch it below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What US Navy’s visit to WWII hub means for war in the Pacific

When the USS Emory S. Land, one of the Navy’s two submarine tenders, sailed into the Ulithi Atoll on Dec. 7, 2019, it was a return to a major hub for US operations in World War II and yet another sign the US military is thinking about how it would fight a war in the Pacific.

Only four of the atoll’s 40 small islands are inhabited, but they all surround one of the world’s largest lagoons, which was a vital jumping-off point for the Navy as it island-hopped closer to the Japanese mainland during the war.

“It was the logistical hub for the invasions in the Philippines, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa — all of those operations were launched from the base at Ulithi,” Capt. Michael Luckett, commanding officer of the Emory S. Land, said in a release. “At the height, there were as many as 700 ships anchored there in the lagoon, including dry docks, repair ships, tenders, battleships, aircraft carriers, destroyers, and sea planes.”


The Philippines, which includes Leyte Gulf, and the Japanese islands, including Okinawa, are part of the Pacific’s first island chain, of which Taiwan is also part.

Farther east is the second island chain, comprising Japan’s volcanic islands, which include Iwo Jima, and the Mariana Islands, which are administered by the US and include Guam, where the Land and fellow tender USS Frank Cable are stationed.

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The approximate boundaries of the first and second island chains in the western Pacific.

(US Defense Department)

The island chain strategy has been around for some time, developed with the Soviet Union in mind. It has gained renewed attention as China’s influence has risen.

The first island chain is now within reach of Chinese naval and land-based weapons, while the second island chain is an important strategic line of defense for the US. Ulithi, west of Guam, has an important place between the two.

“It’s a convenient place to operate that’s relatively close but not so close that you’re going to be exposed to large numbers of either Chinese forces or Chinese missile attack, potentially,” said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

While underway replenishment is common for the Navy today, calm waters inside atolls like Ulithi still make them valuable spots to resupply submarines and surface ships.

“One thing you can’t do while you’re underway is rearming. So a ship that launches a bunch of missiles … they can’t just send the missiles over and reload them at sea,” said Clark, who was a Navy submariner and led development of strategy as special assistant to the chief of naval operations.

“You pretty much have to pull into port” to rearm, Clark said. “So this would be a way to have the ship pull into the atoll, have the tender load up the missiles in the [vertical launching system] magazine, and then the ship can go back out rearmed,” Clark added.

In a conflict, the release said, Ulithi “could again represent a logistical hub capable of supporting the fleet.”

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Sailors aboard submarine tender USS Emory S. Land look on as submarine tender USS Frank Cable departs Apra Harbor in Guam for sea trials, December 16, 2019.

(US Navy photo by MCS 2nd Class Heather C. Wamsley)

Not just submarines

The Land and Cable, usually working out of Guam or Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, provide maintenance and logistical support to US ships in the 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation.

“They’re designed mainly for submarines because submarines have more maintenance requirements, but they actually do maintenance on surface ships as well,” Clark said.

They mostly do minor repairs, but they can work on more complex systems like nuclear reactors. Tenders also have dive teams that can do perform repairs on the hull and its coating in the water.

“They can do welding. They can do hull repair. They can do replacement of components. They can remove interference that’s in the way of replacing a pump or something,” Clark added. “So they can do lots of relatively heavy maintenance that just doesn’t require dry-docking.”

These kinds of fixes can extend how long a warship is suited for combat before it must return to an industrial hub for an overhaul.

The Land’s visit to Ulithi was meant “to demonstrate the submarine tender’s ability to return to Ulithi and successfully anchor within the lagoon,” the release said. Luckett said it showed the Land could “do all of the things needed inside the lagoon without any support from external sources.”

“The idea,” Clark said, is that the tenders would provide support “not just for submarines but also for surface ships. That’s probably the the bigger purpose of putting it into the atoll … to support surface combatants.”

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An unmanned aerial vehicle delivers a 5-pound payload to the the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii during a training exercise off the coast of Oahu, October 10, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro)

Keeping the fight going

The Pentagon’s shift to “great power competition” with Russia and China has put renewed emphasis on logistics networks in Europe and the Pacific, the latter of which, a vast ocean dotted with far-flung islands, presents a particular challenge for resupply and reinforcement.

The Navy has “been putting time and research into how you might do it. They actually haven’t been making that many investments changing how they do the logistics,” Clark said, but there have “been analyses and studies and some technical research on different techniques.”

One of those was illustrated in October, when sailors used a small drone to deliver a 5-pound package to a sub about a mile off the coast of Oahu in Hawaii.

“What started as an innovative idea has come to fruition as a potentially radical new submarine logistics delivery capability,” a Navy officer said at the time. “A large percentage of parts that are needed on submarines weigh less than 5 pounds, so this capability could alleviate the need for boats to pull into ports for parts or medical supplies.”

The drone’s payload and its range put limits on the additional capability it can provide to the fleet right now, Clark said.

But it would still provide some safety benefit and save time by obviating the need for a sub to sail into port to get those supplies — and in a conflict in the western Pacific, where China could sortie a lot of subs quickly, timing could make all the difference.

Plus, success with a small drone now could lead to bigger advantages in the future.

“If you take that and extrapolate,” Clark said, “a larger drone could cover a longer distance and maybe do the same operation, so now I do get a more distributed supply network.”

“If you had a bigger UAV, like a Fire Scout or something, that could go for three hours and might cover a couple of hundred miles. Well, then maybe … that’ll allow you to spread out your logistics networks,” Clark added, referring to an unmanned helicopter the Navy wants to use aboard littoral combat ships.

“Now the ship with a couple of Fire Scouts can cover a lot more area than it could if it was just doing it by itself.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia has to search for a missing nuclear cruise missile

Russia lost a nuclear-powered missile during a failed test in 2017, and now Moscow is gearing up to go find it, according to CNBC, citing people familiar with a relevant US intelligence report.

Proudly claiming that the world will “listen to us now,” Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted in early March 2018 that his country had developed a new nuclear-powered cruise missile with unlimited range, but each of the four tests between November 2017 and February 2018 reportedly ended in failure, according to reports from May 2018.


“The low-flying, stealth cruise missile with a nuclear warhead with a practically unlimited range, unpredictable flight path and the ability to bypass interception lines is invulnerable to all existing and future missile defense and air defense systems,” Putin claimed.

“No one in the world has anything like it,” he added.

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The reports from testing don’t support the Russian president’s claims.

The longest recorded flight, according to US assessments, lasted only a little over two minutes. Flying just 22 miles, the missile spun out of control and crashed. In each case, the nuclear-powered core of the experimental cruise missile failed, preventing the weapon from achieving the indefinite flight and unlimited range the Russian president bragged about.

The tests were apparently conducted at the request of senior Kremlin officials despite the protests of Russian engineers who argued that the platform was not ready for testing. Russian media reports claim the weapon will be ready to deploy in ten years.

During one weapons test in November 2017, the missile crashed into the Barents Sea. Three ships, one with the ability to handle radioactive material, will take part in the search operations, which have yet to be officially scheduled.

Experts are concerned about the possibility that the missile may be leaking radioactive nuclear material. The missile is suspected to rely on gasoline for takeoff but switch to nuclear power once in flight.

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

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