Long-lost military slang: The dog robber - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

There are all sorts of great bits of military lingo and slang that eventually fall by the wayside. While FUBAR has survived through to modern day, SNAFU and TARFU have been mostly forgotten — even though all three were popular slang and had characters in WWII-era GI cartoons named after them. Snafu was even voiced by Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny.


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One old terms that seems to have fallen out of popularity is “dog robber,” which, today, is occasionally used by a handful of general’s aides and adjutants to describe their own job, though that wasn’t the original meaning of the term.

“Dog robbers” is the U.S. Army equivalent of the British slang term, “batman,” which refers to an officer’s personal valet or orderly, one step removed from the butler. So, while the aides-de-camp were assisting the general with the actual task of conducting battles and campaigns, the batmen and, later, dog robbers, were cleaning uniforms, running errands, and scrounging for any personal items their officer might need.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

Think Woodhouse right before the massacre in the German trenches.

French Foreign Legion Capt. John Hasey was hit by a burst of machine gun fire in his face and had to be nursed back to health. In his biography, Yankee Fighter, he gave credit to his “dog robber” for keeping him fed before the ambush and helping him reach aid after.

My own platoon was there, with Blashiek, my faithful batman — or dog-robber, as he is known in the United States Army; and when I say “faithful,” I mean exactly that. For six months that tough Polish soldier had cared for me as carefully as any Southern mammy, fed me fresh mule meat when I was starved, and tactfully neglected to let me know what it was. He helped carry me back to a First Aid station outside Damascus when my jaw was shot away and my chest and arms were sprayed with machine-gun fire. It was upon him that I leaned when my legs began to wobble.

These were usually enlisted troops, and their assignments weren’t limited to general officers. Lieutenants could have a batman, especially if they were from a rich family and hired a civilian to work for them, but the practice was most common with captains and above.

This makes it obvious why the term began to fall out of use in the U.S. With the country’s generally dim view of aristrocracy, assigning enlisted soldiers to provide hygiene and personal support to officers feels a little against the country’s values. As this position largely disappeared from the military, the term lost popularity.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

This is a photo from when King George V visited the New York National Guard. Guess if the king was visiting, I might want a valet, too.

(New York National Guard)

But it did survive. How? It evolved to encompass more of the staff members around the general, especially the aide. And, it reverted back to its original meaning.

See, the U.S. Army didn’t come up with the term. It started to become popular in the military in the Civil War for an officer’s servant, but its first documented use was actually in 1832 to describe a scrounger.

As the servants disappeared, scroungers got the title again instead. James Garner, a famous actor and veteran, actually played a dog robber in the 1964 movie The Americanization of Emily and later told Playboy Magazine that he had been a dog robber (the scrounger type) in the Korean War.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

And James Garner’s character got to have sex with Mary Poppins. And that was after he admitted to being a dog robber and a coward — not bad.

(Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

According to Garner, he had served in an Army post office and bartered for the materials to make a bar, a theater, a baseball diamond, and a swimming pool.

That would make him a dog robber on the level of Milo Minderbinder (for all you Catch-22 fans out there).

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How concertina wire became such an effective defense tool

It doesn’t seem like much. It’s just a spool of metal wiring, dotted with small, sharp, evenly-dispersed bits. If you happened upon some of it strewn across the ground, you could maneuver around the teeth fairly easily and make your way through, unscathed, with ease. It’s more of a flimsy annoyance than a deterrent — but that’s the beauty of it.

Since the turn of the century, troops have implemented it when setting up defensive positions. It’s only ever placed by itself in training situations — since the worst damage it can inflict is a small cut and maybe a tear on one’s uniform — but when it’s used in conjunction with other defensive emplacements, it becomes substantially more difficult to navigate.

Its relatively cheap price tag has made it the perfect option for training scenarios. It’s become so integral to training warfighters that every troop, regardless of branch, occupation, or era, has had to learn to crawl under it at one point or another.


Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

This was also back in the day when C-wire had to be made by hand. Each and every barb was tied on manually. Thank God for mass-production because that must have been one sh*tty detail.

(U.S. National Archives)

Barbed wire was first created in 1876 for ranchers. Ranchers had difficulty keeping their cattle on their land and the big, lumbering cows could just knock over any puny fence. Then, an Illinois cattleman by the name of Joseph Glidden came up with the idea to cut small strips of metal and tie them to his metal fences to poke the cows when they got too close, deterring them from trying to break through barriers.

It worked and, in just four short years, the U.S. military caught on. They started using it as a deterrent to enemy forces and, seeing the success, nearly every other military quickly followed suit. Barbed wire saw use in the Spanish American War, the Second Boer War, and the Russo-Japanese War.

The heyday of barbed wire was the First World War, the first time it was spooled for quick transport and deployment. This spooled barbed wire became known as concertina wire, named after the tiny, accordion-like instrument the spools resembled. The wiring spread across the vast battlefield, nearly engulfing the entire Western Front. It’s been said that there was enough concertina wire used in WWI to encircle the globe forty times.

The prevalence of barbed wire made it impossible for infantrymen or cavalry to cross areas with ease. In fact, one of the earliest selling points for WWI-era tanks was their ability to roll over barbed wire unaffected.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

From personal experience, I can tell you that the gloves the Army issues to soldiers are garbage when it comes to protecting your hands as you set it up — just throwing that out there.

(U.S. Army photo by Terrance Bell)

Today, concertina wire is much less of a headache to deploy. It comes pre-packaged and simply opening the packaging unravels it from its spool, like a compressed slinky being set free. A single platoon in today’s military can “bounce out” an entire kilometer of concertina wiring in just a single hour — even faster if they unspool it from the back of a vehicle.

You can deploy it in a single row to cover a long distance or place it next to another to create a wider row. Toss a third strip on top in a sort of pyramid shape, anchor it with a post, and, voila, you’ve created and impromptu barrier that no one is getting through any time soon.

Modern concertina wiring is so effective, in fact, that all it takes is eleven rows of it staked down to stop most vehicles.

Sapper Lessons: Counter Mobility – Concertina Wire

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There are three goals when using concertina wire:

  1. It multiplies the difficulty of crossing a defensive position — this is why you’ll so often see it wrapped along the top of a fence line. A normal fence can be easily climbed, but not when there’re little razor blades at the top!
  2. Even alone, it’s great at slowing down enemy movements. Anyone rushing a concertina wire line will have to slow down and watch their step — all while the guards are lining up their shot.
  3. And, finally, concertina wire adds to an intimidation factor. If you’ve worked with the wire up close, you’re probably not very afraid of it — but from afar, those little metal bits can look pretty mean.

To watch a sapper veteran explain concertina wire, check out the video below:

MIGHTY MOVIES

This Netflix show depicts veterans surprisingly well

The popular Netflix show Love, Death & Robots lacks an Oxford comma in the title and gets some details of military service wrong (really wish people would stop having Marines call each other soldier), so you would think a former military journalist would spend the whole time nitpicking it. But it actually portrays vets so well as a whole, that that’s what you walk away thinking about.


Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

Soviet soldiers even get an episode.

(Netflix’s Love, Death Robots)

To understand what’s going on here, you need to understand that the series is an anthology, mostly of science fiction stories but with some entries that would more neatly be classified as fantasy. Most of them are animated, and one of the live-action episodes stars Topher Grace, so you’re going to be rooting for the animated portions.

None of the stories directly feed into each other, and the animation styles are all over the place, but the stories that touch on military service are surprisingly good and come at military service with a real understanding of veterans and military lifestyle. The show isn’t about the military, by the way, but about four of the episodes in it are.

(Note, we’re going to avoid spoiling the ends of any of the stories here, but there are spoilers for the starts and second acts of multiple episodes after this disclaimer, like, literally in the next paragraph. If you want to watch the series and you want to see each episode completely fresh, click away.)

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

The mercenaries continue to make fun of each other even as a centuries-old evil hunts them. Anyone who has patrolled with combat arms soldiers will know this is realistic.

(Netflix’s Love, Death Robots)

Take the episode where Marines are bolstered by werewolves. The werewolves are part military working dog, part racially disparaged service members. A lot of the conflict comes from the tension between humans and werewolves, but the moments of bonding come when the Marines lose men and wolves to a Taliban attack and bond together because, regardless of blood, you do not mess with Marines.

Or there’s the story of accidentally freeing Dracula from a centuries-long imprisonment. At least one of the mercenaries guarding the archaeologists is a veteran. Likely, all three of them are. They make fun of the academics and each other, came to the fight well-prepared for conventional attacks, and quickly improvise while fighting Dracula. And no matter how dark their mission gets, they still work through it with a dark, dark sense of humor.

In episode Lucky Number 13, a dropship pilot bonds with an “unlucky” ship that, when treated right, saves the lives of the pilot, the co-pilot, and the Marines who ride aboard her. As the dropship performs better and better, the Marines love her more and more, and protect her as fiercely as she protects them.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

Marines casually discuss just how haunted their dropship is as they fly into a hot LZ. “We’re gonna die, right?” “Probably.”

(Netflix’s Love, Death Robots)

As mentioned at the top, the series isn’t perfect. The werewolves are offended when senior Marines keep saying they aren’t “real soldiers.” Some of the tactics are sloppy, some of the discipline is nonsense.

But, as a whole, the writers clearly treated their military characters as full humans, worthy of a deep and real look at what fuels them, what lines they would and would not cross, and what motives may have driven them to cross otherwise uncrossable lines.

Even Soviet troops get a deep and respectful depiction as they brave frozen forests in hunt of an ancient evil summoned by the governments past mistakes. Again, there are great moments of dark humor and familiarity with death that are great.

If you have Netflix, there’s a 90 percent chance the service has already suggested the series for you, so just click on it if you want to see what we’re talking about. Just search “Love, Death…” if, somehow, it’s not in your suggested content. It’ll come up quick.

If you don’t have Netflix, well, make your own decisions. The episodes are short, so you can easily binge it in a day. You probably don’t want to buy a month-long subscription for a one-day series.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This soldier just stopped a robbery

While picking up parts for his vehicle at a local hardware store in Fountain, a horizontal construction engineer with Alpha Company, 52nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, recently encountered a unique situation.

“As I got closer to the store, I noticed that the manager was standing in front of the doorway blocking the entrance,” said Pfc. Adrian Vetner, a native of Umtentweni, South Africa. “A man was trying to get past the manager and he had power tools in his hand. He was clearly trying to rob the store.”


The robber was somehow able to get past the manager and ran toward the exit, Vetner said.

“At that moment, without hesitation, I ran — grabbed him — threw him to the ground and held him until the manager took over,” Vetner said. “I didn’t hesitate or think about it twice because at that moment I knew it was the right thing to do.”

Vetner’s personal courage and eagerness to help those around him didn’t stop there.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

Col. Dave Zinn, left, commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, presents a coin to Pfc. Adrian Vetner, right, a horizontal construction engineer with Alpha Company, 52nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd IBCT, Jan. 9, 2019, at the brigade headquarters building on Fort Carson, for his recent actions in helping others.

(Photo by Capt. James Lockett)

Six days after stopping the robbery, Vetner was once again put in a situation where his assistance was needed, this time it involved a fellow soldier.

“I was on my way to work and it was snowing out, and I saw someone had broken down on the side of the road,” he said. “Their tire was laying down a couple feet behind him. I helped him get his new tire on by lending him my jack, made sure he was good to go and went on with my day.”

However, for Vetner, those actions were nothing out of the norm.

He credits his upbringing in a military family and his father, who is a retired colonel in the South African military, for his acts of courage and selflessness.

“I was raised to do the right thing at all times even when no one is watching,” he said. “Sometimes people get the wrong idea [about] military personnel, and if I can do little things here and there to change that mindset, I am happy to do so.”

Capt. Cory Plymel, who recently took command of Alpha Company, said hearing of Vetner’s actions made him feel proud to become part of the company.

“The fact that we have soldiers who live the Army values on a constant basis is very fulfilling,” Plymel said. “To see someone put those values into action and show what right looks like, especially in such a young Soldier, just shows how great our soldiers are.”

Plymel said he hopes that Vetner’s actions send a greater message, not only to junior soldiers but to all soldiers.

“I think it speaks volumes that someone who is not from the U.S. is serving this country and performing these acts of courage and kindness without thinking twice about it,” Plymel said. “It’s very humbling to see that and it speaks volumes about the soldiers we have in our Army regardless of where they are from.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coronavirus: The 17 US states where you must wear a face mask if you want to mix with other people

As coronavirus cases continue to climb across the country, more state officials have made the use of masks or face coverings mandatory in public.

Currently, 46 out of 50 states have some form of face mask guidelines in place, but some are more lenient than others.


The most strict mask requirements exist in a total of 17 states, where residents are required to wear a mask outside at all times when social distancing isn’t possible, and also face penalties if they don’t abide by the rules.

It differs from the more lenient states that, for example, only make people wear masks in certain businesses. Four states — Iowa, Montana, Wisconsin, South Dakota — have no mask requirements at all.

The official guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that everyone should be wearing face coverings in “public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

A recent study found that the use of face masks has been the most effective way to reduce person-to-person spread of the virus.

The US has seen one of its worst weeks since the start of the outbreak, recording more than 2.5 million cases and 125,539 deaths to date, according to a tracker by Johns Hopkins University.

Scroll down to see which 17 states have mandated the use of face coverings in public.

1. California

Gov. Gavin Newsom issues the order to make mask-wearing mandatory in most public places on June 19.

Under the new law, all Californians must wear some type of face coverings in public, including while shopping, taking public transport, or seeking medical care, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The same applies to public outdoor spaces where social distancing is not an option.

“Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered — putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease,” Newsom said in a statement.

“California’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if people act safely and follow health recommendations.”

There were no more details about how the order will be enforced or if violators will face any punishments, CNN reported.

2. Connecticut

Any Connecticut resident over the age of 2 must wear a face mask in a public space where social distancing isn’t possible, according to an executive order signed by Gov. Ned Lamont that came into effect on April 10.

This also includes public transport.

The only people exempt from this order are those with a medical condition, NBC Connecticut reported.

However if anyone refuses to wear a face covering, they aren’t required to provide proof that they’re medically exempt.

3. Delaware

Delawareans are required to wear face coverings in public places including in grocery stores, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and on any form of public transportation, according to a statement issued by Gov. John Carney on April 20.

Only children under the age of 12 are exempted from this rule, due to the risk of suffocation.

“Wearing a face covering in public settings is important to prevent transmission of this disease. But wearing a face-covering is not permission to go out in public more often,” the statement said.

4. District of Columbia

While initially, there was some confusion around face masks rules in the district, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered the use of face coverings when conducting essential business or travel and social distancing isn’t possible.

Masks or other face coverings are required in grocery stores, pharmacies, and takeout restaurants. On public transportation, face coverings are required if individuals are unable to be six feet apart. Children between the ages of 2 and 9 are advised to wear masks.

4. Hawaii

A state emergency order issued by Gov. David Ige on April 20 requires customers as well as employees at essential businesses to wear face coverings, according to local media.

However, masks are not required in banks or at ATM’s. Furthermore, those with pre-existing health conditions, first responders, and children under the age of five are exempt from this rule.

If anyone violates these rules, they could face a fine of up to ,000 or up to a year in prison, according to the order.

5. Illinois

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker ordered the use of face masks for anyone stepping outside their house as of May 1, local media reported.

This includes everything from shopping at essential businesses, picking up food, or visiting the doctor. It is also implemented in any public space where people cannot maintain 6 feet of physical distance.

6. Kentucky

Even though Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed an order requiring all state residents to wear a mask in public as of May 11, the governor also said that those who are caught not wearing one, won’t be fined or arrested.

However, the order does give businesses the right to turn away anyone who does not wear a mask and if law enforcement officers see unmasked people, they will ask them to don a mask.

Not everyone in the state has been following the order.

“It’s a concern,” Judge-Executive Mason Barnes of Simpson County — which has one of the highest infection rates in the state — told USA Today. “I’d say 70% to 80% of the people are not wearing masks when they’re out and about.”

7. Maine

Maine residents are required to wear face-coverings anytime they step foot into a supermarket, retail store, pharmacy, or doctor’s office, according to an order issued by Gov. Janet Mills which went into effect on May 1.

8. Maryland

Anyone taking public transport is required to wear face coverings, according to Gov. Larry Hogan’s order that came into effect on April 18.

Other places where this is mandatory include grocery stores, pharmacies, liquor stores, laundromats, and hardware stores, according to USA Today.

Employees of essential businesses and customers over the age of 9 must also wear them.

9. Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, residents are not only required to wear face masks in public while indoors, but also need to wear them in outdoor spaces where social distancing isn’t possible.

The order, issued by Gov. Charlie Baker, went into effect on May 6.

10. Michigan

According to Michigan state law, “any individual able to medically tolerate a face covering must wear a covering over his or her nose and mouth.”

This also applies to business owners, who must provide their workers with “gloves, goggles, face shields, and face masks as appropriate for the activity being performed.”

Businesses are also allowed to deny entry to anyone who refuses to wear a mask.

11. Nevada

Nevada was one of the most recent states to implement a mandatory mask order which went into effect on June 25.

Face coverings must be worn in public, but also in private businesses. Those who are exempted from the order include people with a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, homeless people, and children between 2 and 9 years old, according to The Independent.

During his announcement last week, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said: “Wearing mask coverings saves lives, period. End of story. We owe it to each other to accept the fact that wearing face mask coverings saves lives.”

12. New Jersey

New Jersey was the very first state to make customers and workers wear face coverings at essential business sites.

Wearing a mask is also mandatory on public transit, and if anyone is seen without a mask, they could be denied entry, according to CNN.

13. New Mexico

Face masks are mandatory in New Mexico in all public settings, except while eating, drinking, exercising, or for medical reasons.

The mandate came into effect on May 15.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during a news conference: “As the state opens up and our risk increases, the only way we save lives and keep the gating criteria where it is is if we’re all wearing face coverings,”

“It’s not a guarantee against the virus, but it really helps slow the spread, and that’s why we’re mandating it,” Grisham added, according to Las Cruces Sun News.

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14. New York

New York, which was one of the worst-affected states at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, made it mandatory for everyone over the age of 2 to wear a face mask in public on April 17.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been very vocal about wearing face coverings while out, regularly reminding residents on Twitter.

15. Pennsylvania

Essential businesses must give their employees masks and are allowed to deny customers entry for those not wearing one, according to an order from Pennsylvania’s Department of Health which went into effect on May 8.

The rule on mask-wearing also applies to people on public transport, according to Pennlive.

16. Rhode Island

Rhode Island residents are required to wear face masks in all public settings, whether these are indoors or outdoors.

Gov. Gina Raimondo told news reporters on May 5: “You don’t leave your house without your car keys or your phone or your wallet, so don’t leave your house without your face mask,” NECN reported.

“We’re trying to strike a balance between compliance… but we don’t want to be overly heavy-handed,” she added.

A few days later, the mayor of Providence, Rhode Island encouraged state residents to “socially shame” people not wearing masks, according to USA Today.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This airman went from Afghan interpreter to the USAF

Imagine having to conceal your identity in order to feel safe and protect the ones you love. Changing the route you take to work, wearing disguises so you won’t be recognized, or reducing the amount of vacation you take because you know it’s safer to be at work than not.


For many of us, this way of life would seem farfetched or unrealistic, but for one Airman, this was his reality. Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad, 60th Aerial Port Squadron, transportation Journeyman, used to be an Afghan national working as a head interpreter with U.S. forces at Forward Operating Base Shindand, Afghanistan. As the head interpreter, Javad was relied upon for his expertise, which meant he was on all the important missions.

Also read: This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

“I would go out on missions and it was like I was actually in the Army,” said Javad. “I would go weeks without a shower, I would carry 100-150 pound bags of ammo, sleep on the ground, walk all day, climb mountains, and jump out of helicopters.”

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber
Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., poses for a photo, Feb. 28, 2018. Javad was a linguist for U.S. forces while living in Afghanistan and fled to the United States in 2014.  (Photo by Louis Briscese)

Despite the constant diligence to remain obscured, in 2013, the locals somehow figured out Javad was working with U.S. forces.

“Once they knew who I was, my family and I were no longer safe,” said Javad. “My life was threatened by the insurgents, my wife was accused of helping infidels and was threatened with kidnapping. I knew after that, I couldn’t work here anymore.”

Thus began a courageous and remarkable journey that led Javad to America and enlisting in the U.S. Air Force.

Javad was born in Afghanistan during the war with the Soviet Union. His family fled to Iran because the war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan made it too dangerous to stay.

“We left in 1989 when I was two during the Soviet-Afghan War because it was too dangerous for my family to stay,” said Javad “We came to Iran under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, so we were discriminated against.”

There were not many educational opportunities for Javad growing up in Iran because of his refugee status. His parents decided to return to Afghanistan in 2004 since it was safer.

Related: 3 fallen JROTC cadets honored for heroism in the Florida shooting

“We came back to Afghanistan so I could seek higher education because neither of my parents had that opportunity,” said Javad. “They wanted that option for me. I got my education, my bachelors and a double major in chemistry and biology.”

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber
Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., poses for a photo with his wife Sara, and three children Sana, Yusef, and Benyamin, March 6, 2018.  (Photo by Louis Briscese)

After completing his education, Javad still found it difficult to find meaningful work.

“Afghanistan had a new government and it was corrupted,” said Javad. “It was difficult to get jobs unless you knew the right people.”

Javad had taken classes on computers, language, and received a certification in accounting. This helped him find a job where he could now provide for his family.

“After graduating college, I worked for an accounting firm,” said Javad. “After a year and a half, I was promoted to general manager.”

Unfortunately, after a horrific motorcycle accident kept him in the hospital for six months, Javad lost his job as a general manager with the accounting firm.

“I knew that without knowing anyone in the government, I was going to have to start from the bottom again,” said Javad. “The only other option I had was to become a linguist with U.S. forces.”

The day Javad applied for the linguist position, over 200 others were attempting the same.

“There’s a written and verbal skills test, interview, and security background check,” said Javad. “Only 10 of us made it through those stages. Once you get through that, there’s another few months of security screening with the Central Intelligence Agency and medical exams.”

Javad’s first assignment was with the USAF at FOB Shindand.

More: 5 more of the greatest military heroes you’ve never heard of

“I was assigned to the Base Defense Operations Center for the Air Force,” said Javad. “I was translating all the daily, weekly, and monthly security reports.”

While assigned there Javad met Senior Master Sgt. Michael Simon II, who was serving on a 365-day deployment as a Mi-17 crew chief air advisor.

“Javad was assigned to the FOB as an interpreter, translating from Dari or Pashto to English,” said Simon. “We worked together on several occasions in support of the Afghan Air Force training and advising missions.”

What Javad didn’t know at the time was that Simon would play an instrumental role years later as he transitioned from Afghanistan to America. During his time at FOB Shindand, the USAF was replaced by the Army, and his duties and responsibilities changed significantly.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber
Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., poses with some keepsakes he collected during his time as a linguist with U.S. forces, March. 6, 2018. (Photo by Louis Briscese)

“We were given the option to resign or accept new roles,” said Javad. “Sure enough, within a month, I was riding in convoys outside the wire. Things were a lot different now.”

Javad spent three years at FOB Shindand and witnessed some horrific things.

“I saw Army soldiers get shot and killed. I saw Afghan civilians get shot and killed,” said Javad. “I was the head interpreter and was always going out with Battalion commanders and other high-ranking officials.”

Despite the difficulties of his job and awful experiences he witnessed, Javad felt something for the first time.

More reading: A former slave and two-time Olympian just became an Airman

“I was a local,” said Javad. “I wasn’t a U.S. citizen, but they never treated me like a stranger. They trusted me, they worked with me. That was a feeling I’d never had in my life before until I worked there.”

After his identity was disclosed and Javad knew he was no longer safe in Afghanistan, he applied for a Special Immigrant Visa so he could come to America. This wasn’t an easy decision because Javad was living as an upper middle-class citizen in Afghanistan.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber
Mohammad Javad, center, an interpreter for U.S. forces in Afghanistan poses for a photo outside Forward Operating Base Shindand.

“I was a homeowner with lots of land,” said Javad. “I owned a car and motorcycle. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sell anything because no one would buy anything built with the money from America. I was choosing between my belongings or my life.”

In the summer of 2014, Javad took his pregnant wife with only the belongings they could fit in a suitcase, the $800 they received for selling their wedding bands and traveled to the United States to begin a new life.

“When we arrived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, we had nothing,” said Javad. “I needed a sponsor for my SIV and Simon agreed. With the help of Simon, we were able to sustain some sort of normalcy until we could get on our feet.”

Simon got donations from his church and the local refugee service in Colorado Springs. Lutheran Refugee Service lined up a starter apartment with basic furnishings.

“My sister had coordinated with a group of close friends and churches to get a lot of items needed outside of the basics already provided,” said Simon. “Then the rest was up to Javad and his determination to succeed.”

Despite having an education, Javad found it hard to find work.

“I had to find a job because I barely could afford a month’s rent,” said Javad. “Nobody would give me a job because I didn’t have a history of work in the U.S.”

After meeting a family who had a local business, Javad found some temporary work, but more importantly, a life-long friend.

“They ended up being like family to us,” said Javad. “They called me son and they were the only ones who came to my graduation at basic training.”

Working in a warehouse didn’t bring in a lot of money for Javad and he struggled to make ends meet.

More: This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

“For the first four months, I didn’t have a car,” said Javad. “I had to walk four miles one way, work eight hours, and walk another four miles back, in the winter, in Colorado Springs.”

After a year in the U.S., Javad felt that serving in the armed forces may provide a better life for him and his family.

“I worked four years with the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan and had a little sense of what life was like in the military,” said Javad. “I know there’s a lot of sacrifices you have to make when serving your country, but in the end, I wanted to give back to the country that helped me a lot.”

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber
Mohammad Javad, center, an interpreter for U.S. forces in Afghanistan speaks with a local national outside Forward Operating Base Shindand.

Javad decided to enlist in the USAF and entered basic training in February 2016.

“I wanted to be part of a really big picture,” said Javad. “I did it mainly because the U.S. military saved my life and I wanted to do my part.”

The decision to join the USAF did not surprise Simon because his commitment, dedication and hard work align with the USAF core values.

For Javad, to start from scratch with just a suitcase and dedicate his efforts to providing for his family is the true American dream,” said Simon. “Now he’s a member of the 1 percent club who voluntarily choose to serve this great nation. To say I’m proud of Javad would be an understatement.”

A week before graduating basic training, Javad received an unexpected gift.

“I was notified that I was officially a U.S. citizen,” said Javad. “I was overwhelmed with pride. When I saw the flag being raised at graduation and we saluted, I couldn’t stop myself from crying because I finally had a flag I could be proud of.”

After basic training and technical school, Javad arrived at his first duty station here at Travis Air Force Base, California. He’s enjoyed the people, mission, and the area.

“My unit treats me like any other Airman,” said Javad. “They don’t see me as a person from Afghanistan, they see me as an Airman.”

Javad has yet to deploy since joining the USAF but said he would like to return to Afghanistan as an Airman and citizen of the U.S.

“I would be happy to deploy to Afghanistan because I know the mission over there is important,” said Javad. “I would love a special duty assignment as a linguist and use my language skills to help my fellow Airmen.”

Javad’s short-term goal is to help his parents get to the U.S.

Related: This Pearl Harbor survivor was buried in the ship he escaped from

“My parents had to escape Afghanistan and flee to another country,” said Javad. “I feel responsible because I come from a culture where your kids are your retirement, so now they are struggling until I can find a way to bring them to America.”

Once Javad secures his family in the U.S., he plans on achieving his long-term goal which is to become an officer in the USAF.

“I couldn’t become an officer when I enlisted even though I had the education because I wasn’t a citizen,” said Javad. “Now that I have my citizenship, I will pursue officer training school and get my commission.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why Apollo 13 astronauts couldn’t just put their suits on to stay warm

Contrary to popular belief, space isn’t actually “cold” per se, at least not in the way often depicted in movies. Space is just mostly empty and all that nothing doesn’t have a temperature. For example, if you were in space without a space suit, the two ways you’d lose heat are just via evaporation of moisture on your skin, in your mouth, etc, and then much slower via radiating heat away, which would take a really long time. In fact, if you were in direct sunlight at around the Earth’s orbit distance from the Sun (1 AU), you’d find yourself overheating pretty quickly, likely with severe sunburns within a few minutes.

This all brings us to the topic of today — if space isn’t cold, why did the astronauts on Apollo 13 get so cold in their ship? And when things did get chilly, why didn’t they just put on their space suits to warm up?


To begin with, somewhat counterintuitively, the reason their ship got so cold so fast is precisely because it’s troublesome to get rid of heat on a space craft. With all the equipment on aboard the ship generating heat, as well as extra heat absorbed when the ship is in direct sunlight, this would normally see the astronauts baking inside the craft. To get around the problem, the ships were specifically designed to radiate heat away very quickly to compensate. Just in case this cooling happened too quickly, for instance when not in direct sunlight helping to heat things up, the ship was also equipped with heaters to keep the astronauts comfortable.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

Apollo 13 launches from Kennedy Space Center.

Thus, during the Apollo 13 mission when all the equipment was off and they couldn’t spare power to run the heaters, they were left with a ship designed to radiate heat away relatively quickly, even when in sunlight, but nothing but their own bodies and sunlight generating heat. The net effect was that it got really cold inside the command module and LM.

This brings up the logical follow up question — when it got cold, why didn’t they just use their space suits to keep warm?

In search of a definitive answer, we discovered a variety of speculative explanations online, many of which get surprisingly technical and ultra specific, despite that nobody was using a definitive source and were simply speculating. Further, nowhere in any Apollo 13 transcripts we read does the idea of the astronauts in question donning their space suits to keep warm ever have appeared to have been suggested or brought up, despite the cold.

Unsatisfied with going with speculative explanations, we eventually resorted to mailing a letter to Fred Haise to get a more definitive answer, with, unfortunately no response.

Unwilling to give up, we continued to dig and finally managed to track down a May of 1970 LIFE magazine article in which all three astronauts gave their account of what happened during the Apollo 13 mission. A fascinating read, most notable to the topic at hand in that article is the following from Jim Lovell concerning the cold, which finally gave us the definitive answer we were looking for:

Eventually it dawned on me that somehow we all had to get some sleep, and we tried to work out a watch system. We weren’t very successful. Besides the inside of the Odyssey kept getting colder and colder. It eventually got down pretty close to freezing point, and it was just impossible to sleep in there. Fred and I even put on our heavy lunar boots. Jack didn’t have any, so he put on extra long johns. When you were moving around the cold wasn’t so bad, but when you were sitting still it was unbearable. So the three of us spent more and more of our time together in Aquarius, which was designed to be flown by two men — standing up, at that. There wasn’t really sleeping space for two men there, let alone three, so we just huddled in there, trying to keep warm and doze off by turns. We didn’t get any sleep in the true sense of the word. We considered putting on our heavy space suits, but the suits were so builky that they would compromise our maneuverability in an emergency situation, and when you put on the suit you were bound to perspire a lot. Soon you would be all wet and cold too, an invitation to pneumonia.

It’s also noteworthy here that in a separate interview, NASA engineer and man in charge of the spacecraft warning system during Apollo 13, Jerry Woodfill, stated that nobody on the ground was terribly concerned about the astronauts being cold or getting hypothermia. With what they were wearing and the temperature inside the spacecraft, they were cold, but not critically so, and everyone had much bigger problems to deal with.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

Astronaut Fred W. Haise Jr., Apollo 13 lunar module pilot, participates in lunar surface simulation training at the Manned Spacecraft Center.

(NASA)

You see, as you might have already gleaned from the previous passage by Lovell, it turns out the otherwise phenomenal Apollo 13 film took some liberties and it was not, in fact, ever cold enough to do something like tap frozen hot dogs against the wall. In fact, according to that same LIFE magazine article, Jack Swigert stated, “Aquarius was a nice, warm 50 degrees.” He further went on to state that “It was 38 degrees in [the Odyssey] before reentry.” To translate for the rest of the world, that means it was about 10 degrees Celsius in Aquarius and about 3.8 degrees Celsius in the Odyssey. Cold, particularly in the Odyssey, but with what they were wearing, not unbearably so for two of the three crew members, especially when spending as much time as possible in the Aquarius.

As for the third, Fred Haise did have a lot of trouble with the cold, likely due to a fever owing to his urinary tract infection. He stated in his own account in that LIFE magazine interview:

I’ve been a lot colder before but I’ve never been so cold for so long… The last 12 hours before renentry were particularly bone chilling. During this period, I had to go up into the command module. It took me four hours back in the LM before I stopped shivering… Because of the cold, during the last two nights I slept in the tunnel between the two vehicles with my head in the LM and with the string of my sleeping bag wound around the latch handle of the LM hatch so that I wouldn’t float around.

Bonus Fact:

  • Speaking of space suits and Hollywood myths, in movies you’ll often see humans exposed to the near vacuum of space doing things like suddenly exploding, instantly freezing in the supposedly extreme “cold” of space, etc. But, in fact, so long as you don’t try to hold your breath, which would result in your lungs rupturing and thus pretty well guaranteed that the incident will be fatal, what will actually happen is you’ll remain conscious for about 10-15 seconds. After that, you’ll be fine as long as you’re placed back in a pressurized environment within about 90 seconds. It’s even possible that some might be able to survive as much as 3 minutes, as chimpanzees are capable of this in such an environment without lasting detrimental effect. For significantly more detail on all this and how we know these numbers, check out our video How Long Can You Survive in Space Without a Space Suit?

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Veterans team up in zombie comedy ‘The Dead Don’t Die’

Marine veteran Adam Driver and Navy veteran Sturgill Simpson are joined by a host of stars in director Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy “The Dead Don’t Die,” out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.

Jarmusch is an arthouse director best known for underground hits like “Mystery Train,” “Stranger Than Paradise,” “Broken Flowers” and the recent vampire satire “Only Lovers Left Alive.” Actors love working with him, and he’s managed to also cast Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Tom Waits, Chloë Sevigny, Danny Glover, RZA from Wu-Tang Clan, Iggy Pop, teen star Selena Gomez and up-and-comer Austin Butler (who shined this summer in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and will next play Army veteran Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming biopic).


That’s a lot of star power for an incredibly dry and low-key comedy about how small-town cops deal with a zombie invasion. The script beats its jokes into the ground, and how funny you find the movie is 100% dependent on how much you like that kind of humor.

YouTube

www.youtube.com

There’s no one better than Driver to deliver a deadpan joke, and he’s hilarious as the dim deputy who works for Murray’s police chief. Not much happens in Centerville (“A Nice Place to Live,” promises the sign on the edge of town) and Driver’s Officer Ronnie Peterson has obviously had plenty of time to read up on the particulars of zombie invasions.

Driver previously worked with Jarmusch on “Paterson,” a character study about a New Jersey bus driver. It focused on the small details of his life and is a celebration of working-class life. It’s slow but beautiful. And it’s the best performance of Driver’s career to date. (You can stream it if you’ve got Amazon Prime.)

The former Marine is having a huge year. He was Oscar-nominated for his outstanding performance in Spike Lee’s 2018 movie “BlackKklansman.” Driver is again on Oscar watch lists as he stars in “The Report,” an upcoming film in which his character leads an investigation into the CIA’s post-9/11 Detention and Interrogation Program. Finally, he repeats his role as Kylo Ren in this December’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the long-promised end to the original nine-movie Star Wars saga.

Sturgill Simpson – The Dead Don’t Die [Official Video]

www.youtube.com

Simpson wrote and recorded the theme song for “The Dead Don’t Die.” It’s a hard-core honky-tonk country song, and it’s constantly playing in the background during the movie, either on the radio or from a bootleg CD purchased from the town’s comic book shop. One of the movie’s running jokes is that one of the characters mentions the song and artist every time it’s heard in the movie. “Sturgill Simpson’s ‘The Dead Don’t Die'” is most definitely the phrase heard most often in the movie. Simpson also appears briefly as a guitar-dragging zombie.

Ironically, “The Dead Don’t Die” sounds like the throwback country hit that fans of his breakthrough 2014 album “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” have long wanted to hear. Simpson won a Grammy for Best Country Album and was nominated for Best Album with the 2016 followup “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.”

SOUND & FURY (OFFICIAL TRAILER)

www.youtube.com

Simspon resumes his music career this Friday with the release of “Sound Fury,” an unapologetic rock album that leaves country music behind, possibly for good. A huge weekend profile in The New York Times suggests that Simpson became disillusioned with Nashville and unhappy with his own country material.

He served in Japan during his Navy stint and developed a love for the country’s manga (comics) and anime (animated films). He completed “Sound Fury” a couple of years ago and decided that he wanted anime films to go along with each song. Simpson enlisted top Japanese artists and sold the finished film to Netflix, where it will premiere Sept. 27, 2019, alongside the LP’s release.

Simpson is obviously both a restless soul and an ornery cuss. Will his country music fans follow him down this new path? It’s a huge and daring risk, one that doesn’t really have a parallel in country, rock, RB or pop music history.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

He also filmed a part in the satirical action movie “The Hunt,” which was also scheduled for theatrical release this weekend before the studio freaked out about recent mass shootings and pulled the movie from release. Will we ever see “The Hunt”? It seems likely that it’ll go straight to home video sometime next year, after everyone forgets the controversy.

Sept. 27, 2019’s still a big day for Sturgill with the album and Netflix film. In the meantime, fans of his earlier music should check out “The Dead Don’t Die” to hear those sweet country western sounds that made him famous.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how a Marine sniper earns a real ‘HOG’s tooth’

When a newly-minted Marine Corps Scout Sniper graduates from the sniper school where they learn their trade, they will be presented with a 7.62 round, the ammunition commonly used by the Marines’ elite scout sniper corps. But earning the actual HOGs Tooth is a much, more difficult task – because a Marine will be squaring off against another sniper looking for a HOGs Tooth of his (or her) own.


Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

Before graduating sniper school, Marines are called “PIGs” – professionally instructed gunmen.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos)

Before we all drown in Facebook comments, let it be known that the point of this isn’t to make one tradition seem greater or more badass than the other. We’re talking about two different traditions that just have similar superstitious origins. It was once said there was a round out there destined to end the life of any sniper – the bullet with your name on it. The idea behind the HOG’s Tooth is that if anyone could acquire the bullet with their name on it, they would be invincible.

For a sniper to acquire the tooth of a “Hunter Of Gunmen,” a sniper must go through three steps, each more difficult than the last. The first step is to become an actual sniper, not just someone who’s really good at shooting. This means snipers need to go through a sniper school and deploy to an active combat zone. Don’t worry, deploying to a combat zone definitely won’t take long.

The third step is a doozy.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

Candidates for Scout Sniper Platoon dig deep to complete the two-week preparation course.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)

The third step to getting that HOG’s Tooth trophy actually has a few sub-steps. It starts with forcing a duel against another sniper (preferably an enemy). Once a sniper defeats an enemy sniper in sniper-on-sniper combat, they must then make it over to the enemy position where they will hopefully find the scene undisturbed. This will likely be difficult because they’re supposed to be in hostile territory. If they get there before anyone else, they should capture the enemy’s rifle. But more important to the trophy process is capturing what’s in that rifle: the round in the chamber.

That round is the “bullet with your name on it.”

If a sniper captures this bullet, superstition says, that sniper cannot be killed by gunfire on the battlefield because no one there has the bullet that is destined to kill them. Separate the bullet from the cartridge and use 550-cord or some other tried-and-true stringing method and feel free to use the round as a necklace. The bullet meant for you will always be around the neck of its potential victim rather than inside him somewhere.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 things you didn’t know about the Battle of Midway

Just six months after the tragic bombing of Pearl Harbor, U.S. and Japanese forces clashed once again in the Pacific. For three days, Navies battled near the Midway Atoll, located roughly half way between Hawaii and the Japanese mainland. From June 4th to the 7th, brilliant minds orchestrated incredible naval feats in hopes of destroying the other side.

Although an Allied victory here is seen as a key turning point of the war, there are so many important details that some are lost even on the most staunch historians. Here are five things you likely didn’t know about this momentus battle.


Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

Adm. Yamamoto saluting his Japanese naval pilots.

Japan wanted to mirror the successes of Pearl Harbor

Japanese Adm. Yamamoto wanted to once again employ the element of surprise to defeat Allied forces stationed at Midway. To distract the U.S., Yamamoto sent many ships toward the coast of Alaska in hopes of baiting American reinforcements to defend against a non-existent attack.

Things did not go as they planned.

America’s code-breakers

Military intelligence had intercepted Japan’s plot, including the time and location of a planned attack. Adm. Nimitz decided to take on the challenge of defeating the Japanese by using his well-trained pilots, launched from perfectly placed ships behind the atoll.

Japan thought they’d catch the Americans off-guard and cornered, but Nimitz had other plans.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

A PBY Catalina scout plane, similar to the one that first spotted the incoming Japanese.

The Japanese had strict radio silence

Japan decided to maintain radio silence as they sent their ships toward the coast of Alaska. During a recon flight, a Naval pilot spotted the incoming enemy while flying through the heavy Pacific fog. The pilot thought he had located the main body of attack — in reality, it was a secondary Japanese attack on Midway. In response, the U.S. sent out nine B-17 Bombers to take out the invading force.

Due to strict orders to maintain radio silence, the Japanese ships took on the American bombers alone, instead of letting superior command know.

The American fighters were outnumbered

The Japanese sought to destroy the installations built on the Atoll by Allied forces with bombers launched from carriers. Navy, Marine, and Army pilots took to the skies to fight off the bombers and their sizable fighter escort. The Americans were extremely outnumbered — still, they held fast.

After 27 minutes of bombing, the Japanese ended their first aerial attack. Then, an enemy pilot broke radio silence to alert command that they needed more fighters to sustain their offensive. Before the enemy could make a decision, knowing that they didn’t have guns in the air, American bombers followed the Japanese back to their carriers and began their air raid.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

What shifted the battle in favor of Americans

American pilots went on an offensive, heading straight toward a reported location of Japanese forces. When they arrived, they found nothing but empty seas. Instead of returning to base, aviators made what Admiral Nimitz would later call “one of the most important decisions of the battle.”

The pilots then proceeded to an unlikely secondary location. There, they found the Japanese carriers — unprepared. Immediately, fighters destroyed one of the four Japanese vessels. Other Americans rushed onto the scene to continue the attack. This event shifted the tide of battle to favor the Americans, wresting victory from Japanese hands.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the Taliban’s special forces unit

On the increasingly crowded battlefields of Afghanistan, a feared, commando-style Taliban unit is gaining attention for a series of deadly attacks on Afghan security forces.


Known as “Sara Kheta” — Red Unit or Danger Unit in Pashto — it is said to be the Taliban’s elite special-forces group. Unlike regular Taliban fighters, analysts say the outfit is better trained and armed and is sent on special operations targeting bases and posts of the Afghan National Army and police force.

The so-called Red Unit’s rise has raised concerns among government forces struggling to fend off the Taliban since the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014 and suffering record casualty rates on the battlefield.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

When did it emerge?

The first mention of a Taliban “special-forces unit” was in June 2015, when Taliban fighters published photos on social media purportedly showing a training camp where recruits were being trained on heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.

In December 2015, the Taliban said it was unleashing its special forces to eliminate fighters allied with the militant group Islamic State (IS) that had emerged in Afghanistan earlier that year.

In August 2016, Afghan military officials confirmed the existence of the Taliban’s Red Unit in the southern province of Helmand.

But the unit has fought its way to greater prominence in the past month or so. On Nov. 1, the Taliban uploaded photos of the unit on its official Telegram account. The photos show members of Red Unit in new uniforms and armed with the kind of tactical assault gear worn by soldiers and law enforcement teams around the world.

Also Read: The Taliban killed 15 Afghan police in separate attacks

Weeks later, Afghan officials blamed it for a spate of attacks on Nov. 13 and 14 during which dozens of Afghan security personnel were killed in the southern province of Kandahar and the western province of Farah.

On Dec. 3, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said the commander of the new unit, Mullah Shah Wali, also known Mullah Naser, was killed in an air operation in Helmand Province the week before.

How is it different from other Taliban units?

“What distinguishes this force from other fighting units is its intensive and longer training, the degree of vetting, its tactics, weapons and equipment, and structure,” says Borhan Osman, senior Afghanistan analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG).

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

“The unit is mainly used for quick interventions, high-value targets, special operations, or offensives such as capturing a highly strategic area, breaking major sieges of regular Taliban forces, jailbreaks, and escorting important leaders,” Osman adds.

Military analysts estimate the size of the unit at anywhere from several hundred to up to 1,000 fighters.

Those tactics and capabilities were on show in the November attacks when Afghan officials said the unit, equipped with lasers and night-vision gear, attacked police checkpoints and army bases and rapidly left the scene to avoid NATO air strikes. On Nov. 14, the unit drove a pickup truck loaded with explosives into a police checkpoint point and then launched attacks on 14 nearby posts, killing over two dozen police officers.

In Farah Province the same day, Taliban units with night-vision scopes killed eight police officers in their beds early in the morning. Three police officers in the province were also killed in night attacks around the same time.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber
Screengrab from released Taliban video.

The U.S. military has equipped many Afghan soldiers with night-vision equipment, but police forces rarely possess them.

“The Red Unit and regular Taliban forces use the same types of weapons: small arms, RPGs, and machine guns,” says Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of the Long War Journal. “Typically, the Red Unit has newer weapons, and is occasionally seen with night-vision devices that have been seized from Afghan forces.”

The unit is believed to equipped with the Taliban’s most advanced weaponry, including 82-millimeter rockets, laser pointers, heavy machine guns, and U.S.-made M-4 assault rifles. They are also known to have used and possess dozens of armored Humvees and Ford Ranger pickup trucks stolen from Afghan forces.

Ahmad K. Majidyar, a South Asia and Middle East expert for the Washington-based Middle East Institute, says it is misleading to call the unit a special-forces outfit because it lacks elite commando capabilities of even the Afghan Special Forces, let alone advanced elite commando units such as the U.S. SEAL Team Six.

“The Red Team is more a heavily armed group used in surprise attacks against vulnerable Afghan security check posts,” he says. “It also has well-trained snipers that aid ordinary Taliban militants in their attack against the Afghan forces.”

The unit has also spread from southern Afghanistan, where it was established, and has expanded into eastern and western regions.

 

 

How much of a threat is it?

“The Red Unit poses a significant threat to Afghan forces,” Roggio says. “It has had great success on the battlefield when going head to head with Afghan units.”

Roggio says the unit operates like shock troops, often leading assaults on Afghan district centers, military bases, and outposts.

The NATO-led mission in Afghanistan has said it has not seen any evidence of the Taliban possessing advanced weaponry like night-vision equipment, which Afghan officials say the militants have purchased on the black market or have accumulated after overrunning Afghan army bases.

But Afghan military officials have confirmed the unit’s capabilities.

Kandahar’s powerful police chief, General Abdul Raziq, has said the Red Unit is part of the Taliban’s “new approach and new tactics,” adding that it was “well equipped and highly armed.”

Majidyar says he expects the Red Unit to come under increasing pressure if President Donald Trump relaxes U.S. rules of engagement.

“The Taliban will suffer more significant losses on the battlefield in the coming months,” he predicts.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US quietly lowers threshold for conflict in the South China Sea

The US has been steadily ratcheting up the pressure on China’s sea forces in a way that could lower the threshold for conflict in the South China Sea, already a hotbed of tension and dispute.

The US is signaling a tougher stance toward the Chinese maritime militia, a paramilitary sea force disguised as a fishing fleet and known to harass foreign rivals to enforce China’s vast sovereignty claims in the contested waterway.

The Chinese maritime militia “thrives within the shadows of plausible deniability,” according to Andrew Erickson, a leading expert at the US Naval War College, but it can no longer hide like it once could.


The Department of Defense first called attention to the maritime militia in its 2017 report on China’s military power. The report explained that China uses its commercial fishing fleet to engage in gray-zone aggression, “to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict.”

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Declan Barnes)

It wasn’t until this year, though, that the US really began putting pressure on the militia forces.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson warned his Chinese counterpart during a meeting in Beijing in January 2019 that the US Navy will treat coast guard and maritime militia vessels as combatants and respond to provocations the same way it would a Chinese navy ship, the Financial Times reported.

In March 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly assured the Philippines that the US would come to its defense in the event that it was attacked in the South China Sea. “Any armed attack,” the secretary explained, “on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations.”

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim clarified the earlier assurances on June 14, 2019, telling reporters that US security guarantees apply to potential acts of aggression by the Chinese maritime militia.

“Any armed attack, I would think that would include government-sanctioned militias,” the ambassador explained, according to The Philippine Star. He did not say what type of behavior would constitute an “armed attack.”

The increased pressure is intended to change China’s strategic calculus in the disputed waterway, experts argue.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Mark Taylor)

“By injecting greater uncertainty about how the US will respond to China’s grey-zone coercion,” Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Financial Times, “the US hopes to deter Chinese destabilizing maritime behaviour, including its reliance on coast guard and maritime militia vessels to intimidate its smaller neighbours.”

At the same time, it potentially makes it easier for a lower-level dispute between China and its neighbors to escalate, especially considering the ambiguity surrounding both the US deterrence posture and the role of the maritime militia.

Incidents involving Chinese fishing vessels, potential members of the maritime militia, are frequent occurrences in the South China Sea. It is unclear exactly what kind of incident might trigger US defense obligations.

For instance, in April 2019, more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels allegedly swarmed Thitu Island, a Philippine-occupied territory in the Spratly Islands.

And, last week, a suspected Chinese vessel allegedly rammed a Philippine ship in the South China Sea, sinking it and then sailing off as nearly two dozen Filipino fishermen fought for their lives in open water.

China has denied allegations of misconduct.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia partially releases stranglehold on Ukraine’s ports

Kyiv says Russia has “partially” unblocked Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov, allowing Ukrainian ships to pass through the Kerch Strait for the first time since Nov. 25, 2018, when Russian forces seized three Ukrainian Navy vessels and detained 24 crewmen.

“Berdyansk and Mariupol are partially unlocked,” Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan said on Dec. 4, 2018, as NATO reiterated its call on Russia to allow “unhindered access” to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov.

“Vessels make their way to the entrance and exit through the Kerch Strait toward Ukrainian ports,” Omelyan said.


The minister said that ships navigating through the Kerch Strait to and from Ukrainian ports “are stopped and inspected by Russia as before, but the traffic has been partially restored.”

Ukraine’s Agriculture Ministry later said that the country had resumed grain shipments from the Sea of Azov.

“Passage of vessels with agricultural products through ports in the Sea of Azov has been unlocked,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The loading of grain to vessels through the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk is restored and carried out in regular mode,” it added.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

Captured BK-02 Berdyansk with a hole in the pilothouse.

The naval confrontation between Russia and Ukraine topped the agenda of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting with their Ukrainian counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin, in Brussels.

After the talks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the 29 members of the alliance called on Russia to “immediately release the Ukrainian sailors and ships it seized.”

“Russia must allow freedom of navigation and allow unhindered access to Ukrainian ports,” he added.

“In response to Russia’s aggressive actions, NATO has substantially increased its presence in the Black Sea region over the past few years — at sea, in the air, and on the ground,” Stoltenberg also noted.

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Russia continues to hold 24 Ukrainian sailors detained in the Nov. 25, 2018 incident, despite demands from NATO for their release from detention centers in Moscow.

Moscow Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Potyayeva was scheduled on Dec. 4, 2018, to visit three Ukrainian sailors who were injured in the Nov. 25, 2018 incident, when Russian forces rammed a Ukrainian Navy tugboat and fired on two other ships before seizing the vessels.

The clash has added to tension over Crimea, which Russia occupied and illegally annexed from Ukraine in March 2014.

It also has raised concerns of a possible flare-up in a simmering war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

The Russia-backed separatists hold parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, including a piece of shoreline that lies between the Russian border and the Ukrainian Sea of Azov port city of Mariupol.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, on Dec. 3, 2018, said concerns that Moscow could seek to create a “land corridor” linking Russia to Crimea were “absurd.”

At their Brussels meeting, the foreign ministers “restated NATO’s solidarity with Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.

“We recognize Ukraine’s aspirations to join the alliance, and progress has already been made on reforms. But challenges remain, so we encourage Ukraine to continue on this path of reform. This is crucial for prosperity and peace in Ukraine,” the NATO chief said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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